Title: Birthday Treats: Hellmouth Style

Author: Michael Weyer
Except for Robin and Liam, I don't own any of them.

Legalese: All characters except those mentioned below with their respective rights, properties and copyrights are the property of their respective creators, authors, owners, producers and agencies. These characters are used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended or meant, and no money will be made from this story. This story may be copied in its entirety and distributed as long as all copyright information remains.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, all rights and properties owned by Mutant Enemy.
The X-Files, all rights and properties, owned by Fox and Ten Thirteen Productions.
Highlander, all rights and properties owned by Rysher Entertainment.
The Shade, all rights and properties, owned by DC Comics and Warner Bros Entertainment.

Steven St. Wolf and Randi Jessup created and owned by Steve Pantovich.
Shaw Hunter created and owned by Tim Knight.
As noted, Robin Goodfellow and Liam Danahure are mine.

To Steve who let me run with the idea, Tim for helping with dialogue and Jack for editing.

SPOILERS:
BUFFY:
1. Buffy died fighting the Master at the end of Season 1 and is now Immortal.
2. Buffy is currently living in Sunnydale, with her lover, the Immortal demon hunter, Steven St. Wolf.
3. Jenny Calendar is still alive and is engaged to and living with Rupert Giles.
4. Buffy's death called Kendra as a second Slayer. When Kendra was badly injured, that activated Faith as a Slayer as well. Kendra and Faith both live in Sunnydale with Buffy's mom. Faith is not going to the dark side.
5. Amy Madison was not turned into a rat and Willow is neither gay nor tempted to become a magic addict.
6. Xander and Cordelia are still a couple, as are Willow and Oz.
7. Joyce Summers is still alive, with her brain tumor cured.
8. Cordelia lost her money due to her mom and family accountant stealing it but is working on a scholarship to attend college with Xander in the fall.
9. Larry Blaisdell is still alive and working with the gang
10. Cordelia, Willow, Amy and Jenny are Amazons, blessed by the Greek Goddess Artemis. Xander, Oz, Larry and Giles have equal empowerments from Robin Goodfellow.
11. Buffy, Xander, Willow, Cordelia, Oz, Larry and Randi have graduated Sunnydale High and are all planning to attend Sunnydale University in the fall. Shaw, Faith and Kendra still have another year of high school.
12. Dawn Summers is here but the others don't know she's the Key. Only the Eternals (Robin, Liam, Aideen, Artemis, etc.) know who she is and are keeping quiet. As far as the others are concerned, she's always been around.

HIGHLANDER:
1. The events of the fifth season finale did not occur and Duncan did not behead Richie.
2. Connor Macleod was the Immortal teacher for Mulder and Scully.

X-FILES:
1.Mulder and Scully were killed in 1996 and became Immortal.
2.The two are now married.
3.Skinner is their Watcher.
4.Melissa Scully is still alive and Immortal, with her teacher/lover Tessa Santiago.
5. Both Scully sisters and Tessa are Amazons, Mulder has an empowerment from Robin.

PRETENDER:
1. Jarod and Parker were killed and became Immortal.
2. The two are now lovers.
3. Sidney Green is their Watcher.
4. The Center believes the two are dead and have given up searching for them.
5. Parker is an Amazon, Jarod has a Robin empowerment.

A little ditty that hit me and thought I'd share. Enjoy.


Birthday Treats, Hellmouth Style

Part one: In which plans are made, unintended effects occur and an unlikely reunion occurs.

Birthdays.

I've never given them much thought before. I had ceased to pay attention to my own. I believe the last time I did was back in 1879. I had just turned sixty and realized with a start that I still appeared to be thirty. It was then that I first realized that it was quite possible I was not going to age, that immortality was a by-product of my…new condition, shall we say. It was shortly after that when I began to shed my memory and connection to my human life. What I once was really had no meaning for me. Not compared to what I had become. So, no, my own birthday was no longer a concern for me. But for others…

My newfound immortality did allow me to observe from afar an interesting aspect of human life. The need to count off one's years. Strange how it changes as one's lifespan grows. Children can't wait to grow old and all the old want to do is to be young again. They should all know that eternal life is not all it is cracked up to be.

Oh, dear, I fear I'm growing maudlin again. Mustn't have that. Well, then, to the point. Birthdays remain quite a tricky business, capable of producing joy and yet melancholy at the same time. I suppose if I must start, it should be with the party. That was where it all went wrong, I believe. Keeping a surprise at any time is bad enough. Keeping them in a town like Sunnydale, well…

Ah, yes, Sunnydale. Strange that this was my first trip there. You would think that a town like that would beckon to…well, to someone like me. And yet I had never been there before this occurred. But if there is one thing that is very dangerous to have in Sunnydale and it is a secret. They lead to pain. They lead to trouble. They lead to quite a bit of bother. And I can attest to that firsthand. Oh, yes, I can…

*****

City Park
Sunnydale, CA
July 10, 1999
1205 Hours PST

A meeting of the female members of the Slayerettes wasn't an unusual occurrence. That it was happening in the middle of the park in broad daylight was slightly different. Given how the subject at hand had absolutely nothing to do with demons or forces of evil was almost unheard of. But it was taken quite seriously by those involved.

"Okay, Shaw, how's the cake coming?" Buffy Summers asked. The Immortal Slayer was dressed in a loose white blouse and skirt, showing off her athletic and shapely form.

"Amy and I shall have it completed in time," Shaw Hunter stated. The half-elven was clad in one of her usual outfits: Dark pants with a long-sleeved but comfortable shirt, her dark hair framing her attractive face. Next to her was her cousin, Amy Madison, the Amazon witch wearing a pair of dark shorts and blue shirt, her blonde hair billowing behind her.

Buffy nodded and turned toward Cordelia. "Cordy, we okay on the presents?"

Cordelia Chase nodded. The buxom brunette's wardrobe was a little more conservative and casual than she would have been wearing only a few months before but was still eye-catching, a dark skirt and lighter shirt with a simple necklace (artificial instead of real gold). "The guys have given me theirs, me and Randi will handle wrapping them up today."

"Good," Buffy nodded. She turned to the woman on her right. "Wills, how's the travel arrangements?"

"Mulder and Scully should be in tomorrow morning, Andrea and Jarod by afternoon," Willow Rosenburg answered. The Amazon Wicca wore an outfit that was slightly less red than her hair, giving her a nice "earthy" look for the day. "It shouldn't be too hard for them to get here."

Buffy turned to the other blonde at the table, Randi Jessup. The other Immortal wore a light yellow vest over a white blouse and skirt, a nice necklace hanging around her throat. "Oz said the Dingoes can do some music."

Buffy looked at her for a long moment.

"Or I could pick up some CD's," Randi stated. She shrugged at Willow, who had a hurtful expression on her face.

"Okay," Buffy nodded. She looked at the final two women. "The decorations?"

"Well, I've been taking up the majority of it since Ken here of course knows very little about having fun…" Faith Pryce said as she threw a smirk at the dark-skinned woman by her side. Kendra McPhearson merely sighed and rolled her eyes, trying to cope with her fellow Slayer's ever-annoying mentality. While Kendra wore her usual dark skirt and darker shirt, Faith was fighting the warm weather by still dressing in dark leather pants and a low-cut shirt that showed off her ample assets.

"We are prepared for the party," Kendra stated. "We shall make the final arrangements at Steve's home tomorrow afternoon and all will be in readiness in time."

Faith shook her head. "Geez, Ken, you make even a party sound like a military campaign! Lighten up, will you?"

"I am merely following Buffy's lead," Kendra said with a light touch of humor.

"She does have a point, Buff," Amy said. "You've been a little overboard on this."

"Hey, I want to give Jenny a nice birthday party," Buffy defended herself. "Is that wrong?"

"Not when you start outdistancing Steve in terms of generalship," Cordelia remarked. "Man, you've been tense ever since your Mom went to Chicago on that trip with-----"

"Don't even say it," Buffy commanded. "If it was up to me and Dawn, we'd be going with but Steve's holding us back."

"For which, Chicago should be eternally grateful," Kendra deadpanned. "It is only a business trip for the gallery, Buffy. It does not mean it will develop into anything more----"

"Kendra, you're my fellow Slayer and I love you like a sis but if you don't get off this topic fast, there's going to be trouble."

Kendra wisely kept silent while Faith chuckled. "Okay, on the subject of the cake, what kind?"

"Well, it'll be low-fat of course," Amy said. "We have to watch our weight."

"I don't," Buffy said. "And neither will Scully or Andrea."

"Or me," Randi added. "So, get it as fat as you want."

Willow held up a hand. "I hereby declare a recess so we can all be screamingly jealous of the Immortal women." Faith, Kendra, Shaw, Amy and Cordelia all nodded in agreement.

"Well, as far as I can see, there's only one pressing matter to take care of," Buffy announced. "And that's to make sure Jenny doesn't find out."

"We've done well at it so far," Cordelia pointed out. "Even Xander and Oz have managed to keep quiet about it."

"And Steve's made sure Dana and Andrea haven't dropped something by accident on it to Jenny during any talks in the last couple of weeks," Amy added.

Buffy nodded as she rubbed her chin. "Yeah, but there's one possible weak spot."

"Giles," the girls all intoned.

Willow looked down at her hands. "I still feel guilty keeping it from him," she admitted.

"It's for a good reason, Will," Amy pointed out. "Come on, you know there's no way Giles could keep quiet about it from Jenny. We're trying to make this a surprise. And we all know how well Giles does with secrets."

"Hey, he kept the stuff about his youth quiet!" Willow pointed out.

"That was when we still thought of him as the stiffy upper lip Brit," Buffy replied. "Now we know there's more to him and we know Jenny would worm the info outta him somehow. So, we keep it quiet."

"Yeah, but I still feel bad about having to blow off Jenny," Willow said. "I hope I didn't make her too suspicious when I said I couldn't go over that computer symposium info with her."

"That's the lovely part of living on the Hellmouth and battling evil," Amy sighed. "There's always an excuse around if you need one."

"Well, then in that case, I hereby declare this meeting closed!" Buffy announced as she stood up. "Okay, I'm going to meet up with Steve and make sure Mom got settled in Chicago okay." Her cell phone rang, Buffy reaching in and opening it up. As she spoke, the other girls separated and began moving away from the table.

"I must confess I agree with Willow on having to fool Jenny and Giles," Shaw said.

Amy stared at her. "Aw, come on, cuz! After all the pranks you've pulled, a surprise party should be a walk in the park. "

"True," Amy admitted. "But having to put Jenny and Giles at a distance in order to make the plans work does not put me at ease."

"Hey, Shaw, trust me, they'll love it," Faith said as she followed them. "Come on, ease up and give it a chance."

"That is easy for you to say, Faith," Shaw barbed. "You have a heart of sneaky scams."

"True," Faith said with a smile. "Course, there's one thing you've gotta remember when pulling them-----"

"FAITH!" The three turned around to see Buffy marching forward, her eyes flickering with fury. "You made my Mom and…him…share a hotel room?!"

"I'm sorry, Faith, what was the important part?" Amy dryly asked. "Wouldn't have anything to do with not getting caught, would it?"

The Boston-bred Slayer didn't reply. She simply gulped noisily as Buffy stalked forward, blood in her eye.

*****

Home Of Rupert Giles
1411 Hours PST

Jenny Calendar sighed as she sat back in her chair. She crossed her long legs, and stretched her arms back, causing the dark shirt she wore to stretch over her shapely torso. She rose from her chair and paced, her dark shorts showing off her legs, a sight that would have pleased her lover, Rupert Giles, had he been there. But he wasn't and that was bugging Jenny. Actually, what was bugging her was that no one was around or had been for the last couple of days.

It wasn't as if Jenny had suddenly attained leper status with the group. However, for the last few days, she had felt that the girls weren't spending as much time as they once had with her. And that was annoying Jenny on a deeper level than one might guess.

Jenny could well remember the last time she had been on the outs with Buffy and the others: It had been right after Angel had turned evil, after Buffy and Rupert found out about Jenny's past and her gypsy heritage. It had hurt Jenny deeply how Buffy and Rupert had both turned their backs on her after finding out that she had been effectively spying on them all for months. It hurt even deeper when she realized just how much she loved Giles after he broke away from her. She had never come out and said it but Jenny had always secretly felt grateful for Steve's arrival in Sunnydale for it helped her reform with the group and heal the broken bonds. Even after the clan cast her out, Jenny still felt lucky to have such a second family to cling onto and help her through that tough time.

And yet in the last few days, Jenny had felt that family slipping a bit from her. She couldn't quite place when it had started but she could tell that the number of times Amy or Willow or even Cordelia were suddenly busy when she wanted to get together with them was more than just coincidence. Something was wrong and Jenny wasn't sure what it was. The fact that she was going to turn thirty tomorrow was hardly helping her mood.

*Thirty* Jenny thought to herself. *Artemis, I'm going to be thirty.* Jenny was amazed by how moody she was getting over the prospect of slipping into a third decade. She'd been youthful at heart for so long, the idea of slipping into what was officially adulthood was throwing her more than she realized. *Of course, Rupert always keeps me feeling young.* Jenny smiled. *In more ways than one.* The smile faded as she picked up the phone. *But I don't like how the girls have been so much harder to talk to lately. It just doesn't seem right, it's almost like…like they're trying to keep me out deliberately.* Jenny knew in her heart this was a foolish notion but it still rankled her.

*Come on, Jenny, why don't you settle this now? Give them a call and get together with them. Just a little practice with magics, nothing major. It'll set your mind at ease.* With that, she moved to the phone, picked it up and started dialing some numbers.

*****

"No, no message, Mrs. Rosenberg. No, I just wanted to talk to her about a computer project she was working on over the summer. Thank you."

*****

"No, Father, I already tried Amy's home, she's not there. I thought she might be with Shaw at the church. You haven't seen them today? Well, thank you anyway, Father."

*****

"Um, hello, Xander, Cordelia, this is Jenny. It's nothing important, no emergency, I just wanted to see if either of you were in. I'll talk to you later."

*****

"Thanks anyway, Brian. By the way, I tried the Summers house and there was no answer. Do you know where Dawn is? Oh, Buffy took her shopping. Well, better that then them hijacking a plane to Chicago. Thanks, Brian."

She sat at the edge of her bed, holding the phone in her hands and taking a deep breath. *This* she thought to herself . *Does not bode well for the year.*

*****

"Jenny?" Rupert Giles called out as he entered their home. "Jenny, are you up there, love?" He frowned as he neatly hung his jacket up in the closet and began walking toward the bedroom. He wore a pair of dark pants and long-sleeved shirt, his glasses off and his face was marked with concern. "Jenny?" he called out as he entered the bedroom.

He paused as he saw Jenny kneeling before the small shrine to Artemis, her head bowed. Carefully, Giles backed out of the room, not wanting to disturb Jenny in the middle of prayer. It had, admittedly, taken him a while to accept his lover praying to a statue of a Greek goddess but Giles understood full well how important Jenny's faith was to her and respected her needs. Thus, when the phone rang, he quickly moved to answer the hallway outlet and make sure it didn't disturb Jenny's prayer. "Hello?"

"Hey, yer Earlship!" At the thick Irish brogue, Giles rolled his eyes and replied. "Hello, Liam. Dare I ask what this is about?"

"Well, we may have the beginnings of a slight situation," Liam Danahure said from the other end of the line. "Me and Rob were keeping our ears t' the ground and heard there may be some ruckers comin' in."

"Ruckers?" Giles asked. As with all Britons, he often had a difficult time trying to decipher the Irish idea of the English language.

"People wantin' to cause a ruckus," Liam explained. "Ye've got t' join this century soon, Rupe!"

"Yes and thank you for not naming what century that should be," Giles stated. "Liam, if we could get to the point sometime soon…?"

"Oh, right," the leprechaun said. "Okay, here's the deal. There could be a spot of bother later tonight. There's these Cankush demons who like to spend a night or two in the warmer climates during the summer. Word has it that a couple of them have been looking around the area and might decide to settle in Sunnydale."

"Cankush demons," Giles muttered, stroking his chin. "Hmmm. I was under the impression they were relatively harmless."

"Well, not the blood and guts type but they could cause some bother around town," Liam clarified. "Listen, Steve's been giving assignments to us all to keep an eye out. He wants you and Jenny to check out Our Lady of Peace cemetery. Make sure you check out the major crypts, they like hiding in there."

"All right," Giles said. "Does he want us to check in with him first?"

"Nah, just give the cemetery a once-over. There's a chance they may not even be coming by but better safe than sorry."

"If that's not a mandate for this town, I don't know what is," Giles said. "Thanks, Liam."

*****

Across town, Liam hung up the phone and turned toward Robin Goodfellow. The faery was putting the finishing touches on a large banner with the words HAPPY BIRTHDAY JENNY emblazoned on it. "All right, they're set."

"Perfect," Robin said with a smile. "That little wild goose chase should keep them busy so they won't notice us setting things up at Steve's house."

"Figured out a way t' keep them busy tomorrow?" Liam asked.

"Well, I suggested simply hitting them with a sleep spell but I was outvoted," Robin shrugged. "I think Shaw and Faith had a few ideas."

"Which will no doubt provide us with hours of entertainment," Liam remarked. He raised an eyebrow at his friend. "What did ye get her?"

"Put together a set of Gypsy history volumes that have been long missing," Robin said. "She may be a cast out but she still has a connection to her past. I thought I'd help her with that."

"Still the caring sort, Robbie," Liam remarked. "Well, me and Shaw put our heads together and got something nice."

Robin looked up with suspicion. "What did you get, Liam?"

"It's a surprise."

"Liam…"

"Oh, come on, Robbie. Trust me, it'll be great."

"Liam, the last time you said that was about the body switch tape and we got run out of town because of it."

"And consider what we did then."

"Point," Robin admitted. "Just promise me it won't cause too much of a fuss?"

Before Liam could reply, the door that connected the living room to the kitchen burst open and Dawn Summers moved through it. The teenager was wearing a light pair of slacks and blouse, trying to balance the tray in her hands that was covered with foil. "Okay, here's the cookies!" she called out as she carefully walked over to the table and set the tray down. She backed up, rubbing at her arms. "Oh, man, I don't know why Buffy made me cart them all the way here!"

"Steve's idea," Robin explained. "He figured there's less chance of any of the gang snagging some for themselves if they're kept here."

"What makes him think you two won't snag some?" Dawn asked with a frown.

"Because we have better self-control," Liam said.

Dawn stared at him, then at Robin.

"What?" the Limerick and Shamrock Connection asked.

Shaking her head, Dawn backed away. "Well, gotta jet. I need to get some more party favors for the gang."

Liam studied her carefully. "Ye're really getting into this, aren't ye?"

"Hey, I love birthday parties," Dawn replied. "You weren't here for my last one."

"Neither were you," Liam muttered softly.

"Huh?" Dawn frowned.

"Never mind, Dawn, just another Liam memory," Robin quickly said. "Trust me, you don't want details."

"Probably not," Dawn agreed. "Okay then, I'll see you guys later!" She gave them a quick wave and walked through the kitchen to the door leading outside. Robin waited until he knew she was gone before turning and giving Liam a dark look. "Liam, you have to watch it with that…"

"I'm sorry, Rob," Liam sighed. "It's just tough."

"Hey, you've only had a few months," Robin pointed out. "I've got a year's worth of memories of times with Dawn that I know didn't really happen. It's a bit tougher on my end."

Liam looked at his old friend and for once, appeared to be totally serious. "We are doing the right thing, aren't we? Not telling them?"

"You know we are," Robin answered. "We just have to buck up, handle the memories we've got and try to keep them finding out the truth."

Liam shook his head sadly. "Strange, Rob. Usually, being sneaky is a fun thing but this…"

Robin gave his old friend a pat on the shoulder. "Join the club, my friend. Join the club."

*****

Our Lady of Peace Cemetery
1854 Hours PST

"Let's check out this one, then," Giles called out as he and Jenny made their way through the cemetery. The sun has just dipped under the horizon and Giles' guard automatically went up. He wore a dark jacket with his previous ensemble, grateful that the summer break meant he could drop his usual tweed. Jenny was wearing a pair of dark pants and a dark shirt underneath a light windbreaker. The Amazon simply shrugged as she followed Giles, not seeming to care that much. Giles gave her a concerned look as they walked on. He'd been worried about Jenny almost since he had told her what Steve wanted. She'd tried to hide it but the telltale redness around her eyes let Giles know she had been crying at least a little during her prayer session. And the way she seemed more withdrawn and quiet than usual when they prepared told the Watcher something was wrong. He had decided not to press on it and hoped she would be able to come out and tell him what was wrong.

Giles paused before the crypt door and carefully pushed it open. He shone his flashlight about the darkened chamber and saw nothing but dust and a stone slab. He entered the crypt, glancing around to see if he had missed anything. He heard Jenny following him with an air of detachment. "Nothing," she remarked sourly as she paced through the crypt. "Just like the other four we've checked out. Absolutely nothing. Perfect." She leaned against the slab and took a deep breath.

Giles lowered the flashlight and gave her a look of concern. "Jenny, what's wrong?"

"Nothing," she muttered.

"Don't give me that," the Briton gently chided. "I know something's been bothering you. It has all day and you've barely said ten words to me since we left, all of them having to do with our search. Come on, love, open up. Tell me what's bothering you."

Jenny sighed as she turned around and leaned against the slab. "It's just that…" She shook her head. "The last few days, I've been feeling…pushed aside by the kids. Amy and Willow haven't been talking to me about magics as much. I tried to ask Cordelia if she wanted to go shopping, she said no…"

"Dear lord, call Mulder and Scully," Giles said in an attempt to lighten the situation. Jenny didn't pay it any attention as she continued. "Shaw, Xander, Oz, Larry, Randi, they've all been busy. Goddess, I even tried to ask Dawn if she wanted to learn any magic spells just to have someone to be with but she was busy too."

"Jenny, it is summer," Giles pointed out. "They all have things to do."

"I know that, Rupert, but…" Jenny bit her lip. "Half the kids are going to college in the fall, where I won't be seeing them all the time. Including Amy and Willow. I just worry that…well that this may be a sign of things to come."

Giles blinked in confusion. "I don't understand."

Jenny rubbed at her face. "I'm worried, Rupert. I'm really, really worried that the girls may be deciding that since high school's behind them, they might not have to be so close with me anymore."

"Oh, now, really, Jenny…"

"I know, I know, it sounds stupid but…" Jenny shrugged. "Things change, Rupert. College is a time when young people grow away from the habits of their youth."

"Jenny, we live on a Hellmouth and battle evil," Giles pointed out. "That's not exactly something that's easily outgrown."

"What if they want to?" Jenny asked. "It's unfair to assume they're going to want to do this for the rest of their lives, Rupert. I mean, do Willow and Amy really want to be witches all their lives? Maybe…maybe they're thinking they don't…need me as much as they once did."

She paused to wipe a tear from her eye and Giles felt a pain clutch at his heart at her behavior. "Jenny, what is this, really? What's brought this on?"

Jenny was silent for a moment before speaking. "I'm going to be thirty tomorrow, Rupert. Thirty. The end of my wild youth. I didn't realize how much I enjoyed being a twenty-something and now that's over."

"Jenny, for God's sake, turning thirty is not the end of the world," Giles said in another stab at humor. "Wait till you hit forty."

"I know," Jenny sighed. "For Goddess' sake, it's a little early to have a midlife crisis."

"Well, considering how few people in Sunnydale actually reach an age to have a midlife…"

"You're not helping, Rupert."

"Sorry."

"It's just…" Jenny bit her lip. "Between that and the way the girls have been acting…I just feel a little lost to be honest, Rupert. I love all those kids and the idea they may have decided to outgrow me…well, it hurts."

Giles stroked his chin as he mulled her words. "I suppose that's what it must feel for most parents," he finally said. "Not a pleasant feeling, to be honest and I'd be lying if I hadn't worried about the same thing with Buffy." He walked over to Jenny and placed a hand on his lover's shoulder. "Listen, Jenny…I can't stop the way you're feeling or your fears. But if there's one thing we've learned in the last couple of years, it's that it's best to be up front and honest about such matters. I'm not the one you should be telling all this to, the girls are. Maybe we should go find them."

"Are you sure?" Jenny asked. "What about those demons?"

"We've checked over the majority of the cemetery," Giles said as he led her away. "If they were here, we'd have found them. If they're in town, they're probably somewhere else." He squeezed Jenny's shoulder as they reached the door to the outside. "Come on, love, let's go. Nothing's going to be happening here tonight."

They exited the crypt, silence left behind. The silence was broken by a dark chuckle as a figure stepped out of his hidden spot in a shadowy corner of the crypt. "Oh, I wouldn't say that," the man said in a dark voice. "I wouldn't say that at all. In fact, Ripper, old mate…I'd say you and your lady love there are in for a very, very interesting------"

"I'm tell you, I heard someone in here…" Giles said as he and Jenny suddenly reentered the crypt.

"Oh,bugger, I thought you'd gone!" exploded a startled Ethan Rayne.

*****

Part two: In which information is shared and sobriety forgotten.

Sunnydale, CA
1911 Hours PST

Giles and Jenny ran a gamut of emotions upon first seeing Ethan Rayne standing there, dressed in black pants, dark shirt and long coat. Surprise. Confusion. Realization. And, finally, anger. "Well, well," Jenny hissed as she and Giles marched toward Ethan. "Looks like I've gotten myself an early birthday present after all."
Ethan gulped as he tried to back away, holding up his hands in defense. "All right, now, look, you could hit me-----"
Jenny's fist lashed out and hit Ethan with a short jab to the chin. He stumbled back, falling against the slab as he rubbed his chin. "I said you COULD hit me…" he groaned.

"Ethan Rayne," Giles intoned as he brushed past Jenny and grabbed his former friend by the front of his shirt. "I don't know how you got out of whatever dimension Robin threw you in last year or what you're doing here. But as it just so happens, I could care less. I think I'll just thrash you soundly and then let Jenny have you."
"Wait, wait, listen, listen, listen, dammit!" Ethan said, holding his hands up again. "I didn't come here for a fight or anything! I came because I needed to talk to you, Ripper. I found out something that you need to know. It's big, Ripper, it's really, really big and you lot are going to have to get a jump on it and I bloody mean now."

Giles' eyes narrowed in suspicion as he took in the frantic look on Ethan's face. With reluctance, he let go of the man's shirt and backed away. "All right, fine," he said. "Let's go meet the others and you can tell------"

"Oh, no," Ethan interrupted, shaking his head. "No, no, no, I didn't come here just to fight myself out of whatever stronghold of yours you've got. This is for your ears only, Ripper. You try and take me and someone's gonna get hurt."

Jenny crossed her arms and glared at him. "Like who?"
Ethan looked at her, then at Giles, then swallowed. "Well, like me, probably," he admitted. He quickly recovered though. "But that's not going to help you lot. You need me conscious not comatose." He saw their uncertain looks and pressed on. "Look, let me explain this to you, then you can do what you want. But I tell my story to you two alone or I don't talk. Okay?"

Giles snorted. "And why should we listen to a word you say?"

"Aw, come on, Ripper, can't you trust me?"

"Ethan, the first time you came to Sunnydale, you sold cursed Halloween costumes to various people, which turned a bunch of children into demons and nearly got Buffy killed. Then, you tried to sacrifice Buffy to a demon that had possessed Jenny. And the last time we saw you, you were going to feed us to a bar full of demons!"

"Okay, my bad," Ethan admitted. "But come on, Ripper, have I ever lied to you?"

Giles gave him a look that basically said "you have got to be kidding me."
"When it's important?"
The look continued.

"When my neck's on the line?" Ethan added.

Giles kept a suspicious gaze on him as he backed up toward Jenny. "What do you think?" he softly asked.

"I think we ought to beat the living shit out of him just for the hell of it," Jenny growled. She looked at Giles and was surprised by the thoughtful look on his face. "Rupert, please don't tell me you're even considering…"

"I hate to say it…Lord knows, I hate to say it…but the desperation in him makes me inclined to believe that he does have something to share," Giles said.

Jenny glared at Ethan. "Should I hit him with a truth or pain spell?"

Giles shook his head. "No. Knowing Ethan, he has some protection spells up. He could be lying through his teeth and we wouldn't know it."
Jenny looked at him carefully. "We can't trust him."
"Oh, I know that," Giles said. "But we've dealt with people that we couldn't trust before."

"True," Jenny admitted. She looked back at Ethan and rolled her eyes. "Goddess, what does it say that of all people, Ethan Rayne is the only one besides you in town who wants to talk to me?"

*****

Mallon's Bar
1942 Hours PST

"Now, this is more like it," Ethan said as he took a long sip of the beer before him. He had led Giles and Jenny to a small bar not far from the local motel, where Ethan had quickly ordered himself a pint, Giles and Jenny taking smaller orders for themselves. The three of them were sitting in a small booth near the corner, Ethan sipping at his drink as Giles and Jenny sat across from him, both simply holding their drinks. "Oh, come on!" Ethan said, waving his hand at the glasses. "I didn't go near the bar! Have a sip already."

"As long as we take them with us if we leave the table," Giles remarked as he sipped at his beer.

Ethan raised an eyebrow. "Such hostility. We used to be friends, Ripper. When did that change?"

"Roughly around the time you started to worship chaos," Giles dryly remarked.

"Ah, religious intolerance then," Ethan replied. "Sad, that. Just look at the Irish Troubles."

"Oh, no, I don't need you starting in on that," Jenny said as she took a sip from her drink. "I'd go to Liam for a discourse on that subject."

Ethan frowned. "Liam?"
"Imagine Robin with an Irish temper."

"Egad!" Ethan yelped.

"Ethan, could we get to the point?" Giles said. "The less time I spend in your presence, the better."

"All right, all right," Ethan said. He sat back in the booth and sighed. "Gotta give it to your pal, Goodfellow. When he wants to drop someone, he picks a good spot. The place I ended up…well, I never got a name for it myself. But believe me, just getting through day to day life was a struggle that involved quite a lot of pain."

"Glad to hear it," Jenny said as she took another drink.

"Well, it took me the better part of eight months to get the energy and magics right to break out of there," Ethan said. "Actually, it was something of a spot of luck to be honest…"
"You came here to give us a travelogue?" Giles demanded.

"Keep it easy, Ripper," Ethan said. "About six months after I arrived there…actually, I'm guessing because time passes differently, days and nights aren't the same, so I'm taking a shot in the dark…"

"Something I wouldn't mind taking at you," Jenny muttered.

"Anyway, this place had a…hierarchy of sorts among the major powers," Ethan continued. "Bunch of wizards, mages, demons, what-have-you, all sharing power, working their influence, the usual. However, without any warning whatsoever, a while back…something came."

"What?" Giles asked as he brought his glass to his lips.

"To be perfectly honest, I'm not quite sure," Ethan admitted. "Not human, that's for sure. Not demon either. No one was sure what he or she or it was. What they did know was that in a matter of weeks, that hierarchy was smashed to pieces and suddenly it's every nasty for themselves. And this guy was responsible. And he's building up power for himself." Ethan twirled the glass between his fingers as he continued. "He hates Earth," he said. "That much I've gotten. He called it by name and he's got a major mad-on for here. And he distinctly uttered the word Sunnydale."

Jenny placed her glass on the table, licking beer from her lips. "You're saying this…whoever is coming to attack us?"
Ethan shook his head. "Not now. Not just yet. He's not ready. He's still building power, whoever he is. But he wants this planet and especially Sunnydale. He could wait a year or two. He could be here next week. When he is ready, you'd better believe that whatever he's got up his sleeve is big. Majorly big. When he comes, Ripper, you are all looking for one bloody hell of a fight." He leaned forward to gaze Giles in the eye. "Emphasis on the blood and the hell."

Giles and Jenny were silent for a moment as they took in what he said. "And you're telling us, why?" Giles asked. "Out of the evilness of your heart?"

Ethan snorted as he backed up. "For your information, Ripper, I might be a Chaos worshipper but I'm not stupid enough to want this entire world totally destroyed. I'd want *something* left to play with. If the Apocalypse happened, there wouldn't be any chaos left for me to start and I'd be bored to tears."

Jenny finished her sip and stared at Ethan. "Your logic is truly frightening at times."

Ethan shrugged and smiled. "Part of my charm."

"Your charm is truly frightening at times," Giles remarked.

"That's as may be," Ethan said. "But I thought I'd share this with you. After all, if it's bad and it wants to get nasty…it comes to Sunnydale."

*****

Alleyway near the Bronze
2006 Hours PST

Officer Terry Farmer glanced at his watch as he walked down the alley. *Five more minutes and it's time to check in at the station, then go home* the young officer thought to himself. Fresh out of the academy and looking it, the blond-haired, well-built young man had only been on the Sunnydale police force for three weeks now. He had heard of the odd occurrences in the town of course, but wrote it off as ghost stories meant to scare rookies. With the kind of money the SPD offered, he figured it was worth a risk or two. He simply couldn't understand why so many of the older officers didn't want to pull night patrol duty.

He figured a shortcut through the alley would bring him back to his car. He had checked out a report about an assault of some kind at the Bronze but when he got there, the teen he had spoken to (an odd girl named Kendra) had told him the situation had been taken care of. Farmer was glad as it hated to be slowed down having to fill out reports. *Get back to the station, file a couple of minor things and I'm home in time for Sports Night!* he thought just as his eyes caught sight of something in the alleyway.

He frowned as he walked up to see the poster hanging on the alley wall. It looked far too new for something in so decadent a surrounding. Also, the image on the poster was odd to say the least. It appeared to be a man caught in the claws of a monstrous creature. The coloring on the poster was red and black, striking imagery that made Farmer more than a little nervous. He looked closer at the man in the poster and was surprised to see he was wearing a police uniform. He leaned in closer to study the poster and failed to see how the outer edges were taking on a red glow.

*Hey, that's funny. That guy looks a lot like me…*

Without warning, the image on the poster blinked out of existence and Farmer felt a blast of heat hit his face. Before he could back away, a large scaly arm shot out of the poster, five clawed fingers clamping around Farmer's head and with a tug, pulled the police officer into the poster before he could even scream. The poster blinked and the image returned and all was silent.

A bald-headed man stepped out of the shadows of the alleyway and walked toward the poster. With no hurry, he peeled it off the wall, rolled it up, tucked it under his arm and calmly walked away.

*****

I got there only a few minutes after he left. I know it. I could feel the telltale traces of the poster's energy. I examined the area carefully, finding no obvious clues. But I know it was him and his cursed poster. Normally, finding him wouldn't be too difficult. I could attempt to focus on the energies of such a dark being. Unfortunately, this was Sunnydale, where dark beings abounded and such energies overlapped. So, my search continued while I had little idea of the unique twist that would soon be thrown into it…

*****

Mallon's Bar
2029 Hours PST

Jenny let out a giggle as she dropped her glass to the table, next to the empty one she had previously downed. "Oh, you're kidding me, right?"

"Nope," Ethan said, his eyes looking a bit glazed as he sipped at his own drink. "No, no, took me and Rip a week to get all the stains out!" He and Giles dissolved into laughter, Giles looking less than alert himself. Jenny threw back another sip and gasped as she felt the hot liquid roll down her throat. "Oh, Goddess, I'm gonna feel like hell tomorrow…"

"Got that right," Ethan muttered.

"Huh?" Jenny asked, her eyes bleary.

"Oh, I'm going by the look Ripper's giving you," Ethan smirked, waving at Giles. "I've seen that one in him before, back in the old days."

"God, don't remind me," Giles groaned as he sat back. He peered closely at Ethan and then blinked in surprise. "Good God, you're old."

"Gee, thanks, Ripper," Ethan muttered.

"Then that means…I'm old," Giles said. "Lord, I'm old."

"And I'm joining," Jenny remarked as she took another long gulp from her drink. "Goddess, I still can't believe it. I get one year older and suddenly, the girls decide to have nothing to do with me. I can't believe they'd just change like that."

"It's the young for you," Ethan said with a shrug.

"But after all I've done!" Jenny burst out, pounding the table and causing the glasses to shake a bit. "I've helped them with magics, with school, with battles, I've been a role model in so many ways and now they feel they don't need me!"
"Oh, preach to the choir," Giles said after throwing back another shot. "I try to give the Slayers guidance but most of the time, they barely listen. You whine about being abandoned? Think of how I'll feel after Faith and Kendra graduate and move on and won't want to stick around that bloody library anymore."
"You know who you two are?" Ethan spoke up. He was resting his chin on his hand and gazing at them both with a stupid smile on his face. "Steed and Mrs. Peel."

Giles and Jenny stared at him. "No, no, it just hit me," Ethan went on. "That's you two. Minus the bowler hat and umbrella and sexy leather outfit."
"I don't know if I could pull that off…" Jenny remarked.

"Who said I was talking about you?"
All three dissolved into drunken laughter, Giles shaking his head. "Don't feel bad, Jenny," Giles said. "People change as they grow older. Well, except for Ethan here," he waved at the other Englishman. "He's still a self-centered, amoral bastard."

"'I had rather be a canker in the hedge than a rose in his grace and it better fits my blood to be disdained of all than to fashion a carriage to rob love from any,'" Ethan burst out. "'In this, though I cannot be said to be a flattering, honest man, it must not be denied that I am a plain-dealing villain.'"
Giles furrowed his brow. "*Hamlet?*"

Ethan shook his head. "*Much Ado About Nothing,* Act I, Scene 3. Don John the bastard, knowing what he is and that it's his purpose to commit evil for evil's sake. Why people were even surprised to learn he was behind the mess in the play is beyond me." Ethan grinned at Giles. "People can miss the obvious, eh, Ripper?"

*****

Steven St. Wolf's Home
2038 Hours PST

"Are we sure this is a good idea?" Xander asked as he helped unwrap a package of paper plates. He, Cordelia, Shaw, Buffy and Steve were huddled around the table, laying out various party plates, decorations and other necessities. The odor of ingredients from the kitchen let them all know that Amy and Willow were managing the cake pretty well.

"Why not?" Cordelia asked her boyfriend as she counted out plastic forks and knives.

Xander motioned toward Buffy. "Well, considering what happened the last time we tried to throw a surprise birthday party…"

"Good point," Cordelia admitted.

"What happened?" Shaw asked.

"It was my 17th," Buffy said simply and Shaw immediately understood what she meant. From vampires attacking her party to the night with Angel that turned him evil, it was not a day Buffy wanted to be reminded of.

"Maybe we better do a demon detection spell…" Cordelia suggested, both as a serious note and to get Buffy's mind off of the memory.

"Let's keep magics to a minimum," Steve announced. "And hope Robin and Liam's spreading the word gets through to the demons to give us tomorrow night off from trouble."

"Oh, before I forget," Buffy said. "Mom left a present for Jenny behind for me to give her. A nice urn containing an image of Artemis she found at a swap meet. She thought that'd be a great present."

"I think she'll like it," Steve said. He glanced to Shaw. "Shaw, will Ulric be coming?"

"I hope so," the Harper replied. "But I am not sure. He still seems a little nervous around Jenny and Giles."

"He's still hung up on that?" Buffy asked. "That was almost a month ago! I thought he got over it!"

Shaw fixed her with a light glare. "Buffy, he insulted Jenny's faith, smacked her, had the library closed down and tried to burn us all at the stake."
"None of which was his fault," Buffy pointed out. "Undue influence, remember?"
"Ulric often holds onto guilt for a while."

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Wonder where he gets that from…"
"Actually, he had it before I did."

Buffy frowned. "What do you mean?"
"I cannot tell you," Shaw said. "It involves a confession a long time ago."

"You holy types are all alike," Buffy remarked.

"Perhaps if it had been your mother on the warpath against magic and leading a murderous mob, your feelings might be different," Shaw pointed out.

"Well, she wasn't and thank Goddess," Buffy said.

Steve glanced over the contents of the table and shook his head. "And we haven't even gotten the pop and snacks yet," he remarked. "There's going to be a lot of garbage after this."

"Faith will take care of it," Buffy brightly said.

"There's going to be a mess in the kitchen."

"Faith will take care of it."

"There's going to be a lot of vacuuming to do."

"Faith will take care of it."

Steve raised an eyebrow at her. "You're really pissed about what she did with your mom, huh?"

"It was Mom's idea," Buffy remarked.

Cordelia smiled as she laid out the knives. "Anyone heard from Jenny and Giles? I want to make sure they didn't figure things out."

"Ah, relax," Xander said. "Knowing them, they cut the search off early and decided to go home and chill out. It's not like there's much else for them to do right now."

*****

Outside Mallon's Bar
2043 Hours PST

Giles and Jenny stumbled onto the street, both laughing and leaning on each other. "Goddess, I've never seen you this way," Jenny remarked. "Can you stand?"

"Relax," Giles said. "I have two hollow legs…" He stumbled over a crack in the sidewalk and Jenny fought to keep him balanced. "Neither of which is working at the moment," Giles said before he and Jenny sputtered and laughed again. Ethan had stumbled ahead of them, waving a hand in a lazy motion. A taxi just happened to be passing by at that moment and moved to the curb. The driver took a look at Ethan, than at the obviously bombed Giles and Jenny and knew what was up. "Where?"
Ethan quickly gave the man Giles' address, then pushed forward a bill. "Here. This ought to take care of the fare and, ah, a little something to keep quiet. They…sort of don't want to remember this."

The driver glanced at the bill and his eyes widened as he realized it was a hundred. "Not a word," he promised. With a smile, Ethan stepped back and opened up the passenger door as Jenny and Giles staggered toward it. "Here you go, Rip. A quick ride home and you two can sleep it off."

"Thanks, Ethan," Giles remarked as he moved forward, banging his head on the roof twice before crawling in. Jenny paused as she looked at Ethan, then to Giles. "Say…" she slurred. "Weren't we going to kick his ash…ass?"

"Ah, later on that," Giles said with a weak wave. He reached forward and pulled Jenny into the cab. "We can party tonight. Tomorrow. Whenever, you know?"

"Oh, yeah," Jenny said with a grin. "It's magic time." She lay on Giles and kissed him deeply. Ethan shut the door behind her and gave the driver a little wave. With a smile and a nod, the driver took off. Ethan watched as the cab vanished and then slowly straightened up, his drunken demeanor suddenly vanishing in an instant.

"Hey." Ethan turned to see the waitress from the bar coming outside. "Did they get off okay?"

"Oh, yes," Ethan said in a perfectly sober voice. "The cab will take them right home."

"Oh, good," the waitress said. She shook her head and chuckled. "Wow, those two just can't hold their liquor. Two beers apiece and they act like they've each downed an entire keg."
"I know," Ethan said. "Don't worry, they'll sleep it off." He pulled a hand out of his pocket and moved to the waitress. "Oh, I almost forgot to give you a tip…"

The young woman's eyes brightened as she hoped for a good payday tonight. She suddenly frowned as instead of money, Ethan pulled out a bright red gem, holding it in the palm of his hand. The sorcerer muttered something under his breath and a beam of red light blasted out of the gem and into the woman's eyes. She gasped briefly before slumping slightly, her eyes staring blankly outward.

"You won't remember me or them," Ethan said in a commanding tone.

"I won't remember you or them," the waitress repeated in a monotone.

"You won't remember who you served drinks to tonight."

"I won't remember who I served drinks to tonight."

"When you go back inside, you won't remember coming out for anything."

"I won't remember coming out for anything."

Ethan was about to send her out but paused as he looked her over. She was in her early twenties with short brown hair and not a bad body. "What time do you get off?"

"Nine," the mesmerized waitress replied.

"Right," Ethan nodded. "Be at the Sunnydale Motor Lodge, room 18, as soon as you get off. Understand?"

"I understand," the waitress said. She turned and walked back to the bar. Ethan rubbed his hands as he turned and swiftly began walking away. *Not as much time to play with but enough,* he thought to himself. He let an evil smile come onto his face. "Well, looks like that little drug I had put in your drinks worked just as I'd hoped," he muttered to himself. The smile grew. "So, Ripper, old mate. I wonder how you and your bird will enjoy the little present I cooked up for you." He let out an evil laugh as he hurried his pace.

*****

Home of Rupert Giles
2109 Hours PST

Giles nearly fell on his face as the front door swung open. He managed to keep his balance as he staggered toward the hallway leading to the bedroom. Jenny entered, a goofy smile on her face as she reached over to her lover. "Come here, you…" she muttered as she pulled Giles into a long kiss. They made their way down the hall, kissing all the while, shrugging off their jackets as they made it to the bedroom and began removing each other's clothing. A tearing sound went out as Jenny pulled Giles' shirt off him so fast seams came loose. Giles returned the favor as he ripped Jenny's blouse off of her, then bit out with his teeth to get at her bra, allowing Jenny's breasts to come loose. The two fell back on the bed as they kept kissing and embracing each other.

*****

Sunnydale Motor Lodge
2111 Hours PST

Smoke rose from the bowl placed on the small dresser inside the small room. Ethan stood before it, carefully dropping some powder into the bowl, allowing it to mix with the dark liquid inside. *To think I imagined a Ferayl demon at first* he thought to himself as he began to mutter under his breath. *This one is going to be wicked even by my standards.* He watched the contents of the bowl turn a dark green and then began to chant under his breath…

*****

Any rational thought had long since vanished from Giles and Jenny's minds. Between the alcohol, the drug Ethan had secretly slipped in and their own hidden lack of inhibitions, the two were going at each other wildly. Giles kissed at Jenny's breasts as he pushed her down onto the bed. Jenny moaned, letting her fingernails rake over Giles' back, actually opening up some light cuts. They rolled about, Giles landing with his back on the shirt Jenny had torn away, not even knowing he was bleeding, let alone had rubbed some blood onto the shirt. The two knew the other wanted this and both were soon going at it wildly.

*****

The contents of the bowl glowed, the glow growing brighter as Ethan's chants continued. The mage waved his hands over the bowl, dropping a silver ball into it. There was a hiss and smoke rose as the ball melted like acid, the color of the liquid growing darker as Ethan's chants continued…

******

"Goddess, Rupert, harder!" Jenny hissed as she arched herself on her back. Giles was ready to oblige and picked up the pace…

*****

Ethan's voice grew as the chants continued, the glow of the bowl growing even brighter as the smoke continued to flow out of it. Ethan knew it was almost time and spread out his arms, his chants reaching a fevered pitch…

*****

"Almost…ready…"

"Goddess…Rupert…."

"NOW!"

*****

"NOW!" Ethan yelled, throwing his hands up. The bowl erupted, a flash of light erupting out from it and shooting towards the ceiling. It passed through the roof and immediately flew toward its targets…

*****

Giles and Jenny's screams had just ended when the ball of light flashed through the bedroom wall and hit them hard. Both of them were still coming off the high from their orgasm and barely even registered what was happening. Each went stock still for an instant. Then, they slumped onto the bed, facing each other, both falling into a deep sleep. Particles of light seemed to flow about them, neither Giles or Jenny aware as the magic took hold…

*****

Ethan lay back on the bed, a wicked grin on his face as he took in the sight before him. The waitress from the bar was at the edge of the bed, gyrating as she threw her bra aside to join her shirt, shoes and pants. A look of lust was on her face, showing the feeling Ethan had placed into her enspelled mind. Ethan had to laugh as he began removing his clothes. *A nice night with a bird who won't remember a thing tomorrow would be fun enough* the Janus worshipper thought. *But when I think of the day Ripper and Gypsy are going to have tomorrow…* He could feel himself become aroused and knew this would be his best trip to Sunnydale yet.

*****

Part three: In which a rude awakening is made, misperceptions take hold and a shadowy figure reveals himself.

Home of Rupert Giles
Sunnydale, CA
July 11, 1999
0927 Hours PST

Jenny slowly opened her eyes and blinked as she stared up at the ceiling. She blinked again and squinted, realizing how bright her vision was. It took a few moments for memories to dimly wash back into her mind and she groaned. *Oh, Goddess, tell me I did not get smashed with Ethan Rayne!* She shook her head and rolled over on her side to look over at Giles.

The face of an elf filled her vision.

Giles' eyes snapped open at the sound of a piercing scream. He stared ahead, his mind taking a moment to realize a female elf was lying next to him, her mouth wide open and howling. He let out a yell of his own as he rolled away, falling over the side of the bed with a loud thump. He leapt to his feet, his fists up and ready. "All right, now hold it!" he yelled. "Hold it right there!"

"Who the hell are you?" the female elf demanded as she slid off the bed and stood up, moving into a fighting position. "How did----"

"All right, hold on, hold on a bloody-----" Giles suddenly stopped as he stared at the elf. She stared back, her eyes growing wide in understanding along with his.

"Rupert?"

"Jenny?"

They stared at each other in shock, taking in the other's new appearance. Each was clad in dark leather, showing the new shapes their bodies had. Jenny was thinner and a few inches smaller, her hair now so long it nearly fell to her waist. Her features were changed as well, her cheekbones tightened, her nose sharp and pointed ears sticking out of her hair. Giles' own hair was a bit longer as well, his features shifted to include a sharp chin with a bit of a goatee, his build thinner and more wiry. Each realized their (currently wide) eyes were slitted, like a cat's. Over all, neither looked anything like their former human selves.

They stared at each other, both trying to comprehend what had happened. As one, their eyes flared with anger as they realized who had to be responsible for this.

"That bloody…miserable…I…I can't even think of the right curses right now!" Giles yelled at the ceiling.

"I'm going to kill him," Jenny said, shaking her head and turning toward her dresser. "I'm just going to kill him, that's it-----" Her hand reached out to the pistol lying on the dresser, gripping the butt. Jenny shrieked as a savage burning pain struck her hand and she let go of the gun and clutched at her hand (which, she dimly realized, had two-inch long nails). "Goddess…" she hissed. "That hurt! What-----"

"Oh, bloody hell."

"Oh, I don't like the sound of that ‘oh, bloody hell,'" Jenny remarked as she raised her head to look at Giles. His eyes were wide with horror as he stammered.

"I…I think I just figured out what kind of elves we are," Giles choked out.

Jenny stared at her hand, then at the gun, then at Giles, her own eyes growing wide. "Pain upon feeling steel…Cold Iron…Unseelie…Oh, bloody hell."

A low growling slowly filled the room. Giles and Jenny kept their eyes locked on each other as each tensed. "It's too much to hope that Salem recognizes us, isn't it?" Jenny asked.

"Considering I'm only getting blank air trying to communicate with him, I'd say no," Giles remarked as he slowly turned his head to the bedroom door. Jenny followed his gaze to see their Guardian hiss as it started to change.

"Jenny?"

"Yes?"

"RUN!" With that, Giles quickly bolted, Jenny following him, both heading straight for the door. Salem leaped forward, changing in mid-air to his full sabretooth tiger form. With a quickness that took them by surprise, the newly made elves dodged the charge, Salem landing hard on the bed. The two stumbled a bit, both still not used to their new bodies but had little time to work out all the bugs. They simply raced down the hallway, Giles tearing open the door and rushing out with Jenny hot on his heels.

"Steve's?" Jenny rasped as they ran down the hallway toward the stairs.

"Best I can think of," Giles replied. "Hopefully, Robin and Liam can fix this."

They made their way to the stairwell and took the steps down three at a time. In the hallway, meanwhile, Salem burst out of the apartment and, not caring about appearances, rushed toward the stairwell, wanting to get at the elves who had suddenly appeared in his masters' home.

*****

Peeking his head out of the hallway corner to make sure the coast was clear, Ethan smiled as he watched Salem try to bang down the door leading to the stairwell. Quickly, he entered the open doorway to Giles and Jenny's apartment, resisting the urge to whistle. *Damn, that waitress was a romp* he thought to himself. *Wish I could have had all night but she did need to get back to her husband. Well, on to the real fun, then.* He paused to sniff at his coat, satisfied that the light exilir he had poured over himself was still working. *This ought to obscure my scent and the cat should be busy for a bit* he thought as he made his way to the bedroom. He glanced at the bed and saw the torn and slightly bloody shirt Giles had been wearing the night before. *You always make it easy for me, Ripper* the chaos mage thought with a grin as he quickly went to work. "Well, except for the part about finding a spell to blind the power of Eternals. But otherwise…"

*****

"AH!" Giles yelled as he yanked his hand away from the handle to his car and rubbed at it. "I'm going to kill Ethan for this," he hissed.

"We've got more pressing matters at hand!" Jenny yelled, motioning toward the entrance to the car lot. Giles followed her gaze to see the door burst open and Salem enter the lot, his head glancing around for any sight of the elves.

Giles hissed as he stepped back. "Jenny, your magics…?"
Jenny paused as she concentrated on her being, then her eyes widened yet again. "Oh, Goddess," she whispered. "I can't…Rupert, I can't feel it. My magics and…." She stared at him. "Artemis," she choked. "I can't feel her in me anymore. Not her empowerment or her presence…"

"I understand," Giles hissed. "My own magics are misaligned and I don't feel anything like Robin's empowerment."

"Rupert, I don't know the full capability of an Unseelie," Jenny said. "I don't want to hurt Salem."

"Neither do I," Giles said, backing up. "So it's back to the running then!" With that, Giles raced toward the exit to the parking lot, Jenny striving to keep up. The two entered the daylight and both cried out and covered their eyes at the sudden brightness of the sun. "Oh, God, I can't see!" Giles hissed as he

kept moving forward, trying to pull Jenny with him. They made their way to a nearby clove of trees and tried to get their bearings under the shade.

"Okay…" Jenny said as she took a deep breath. "It is now official. Buffy can never complain about her birthdays again."

*****

Steven St. Wolf's Home
0951 Hours PST

Giles let out a breath of relief as he and Jenny raced to the front door of Steve's house. It hadn't been easy for the two to make their way to his home on foot while avoiding detection. Luckily, there hadn't been that many people out and about at this time of the day and Giles and Jenny had also realized they were a bit quicker in their elven forms. "All right," Giles said as he pushed the door open. "Let's explain this, get Robin to change us back and then it's time Ethan got a very severe----"

Whatever else he might have said was lost in the piercing blare of alarms ripping through the foyer. Giles and Jenny both yelled, clutching at their ears at the sound, which was even worse for them than it might be for a normal human. Giles actually closed his eyes to block out the pain as the alarms continued to blare, opening them when they finally ceased. "Goddess, I never understood how bad it must be for Shaw…" Jenny groaned as she straightened up to see the figure on the stairs.

"Don't. Move." Steve had Demon Slayer in one hand while the other aimed a pistol right at Giles and Jenny. He wore only a pair of hastily thrown on sweatpants and a muscle shirt, his body tensed for action.

"Steve, it's us!" Jenny yelled as she and Giles raised their hands. "Giles and Jenny! It's us!"

"We ran into Ethan Rayne last night," Giles continued. "And this was the bastard's idea of a prank. Can you find Robin and Liam, we need them to change us back------"

"Buffy!" Steve yelled, his gaze and aim never wavering from the two teachers. "We've got trouble!" Seconds later, Buffy was by her lover's side, the blade in her hands an interesting contrast to the pajamas she was wearing. She took one look at the elves and her sword was up and ready to fight.

"Buffy, relax!" Giles called out. "We're just trying to make this clear------"

"Is it just them?" Buffy asked Steve.

"So far," Steve replied. "We need to call the others."

"Thank you!" Jenny said, throwing up her hands. Steve and Buffy instinctively flinched, the grip on their swords tensing. "Listen, I'm not sure what spell Ethan used but hopefully we can figure it out fast enough and get us changed back with very…little…"

Jenny broke off, taking in the hard looks on Steve and Buffy's faces. She then turned toward Giles, her own face lined with worry. "All right, I'm standing here explaining all this and they look like they don't understand a word I am saying. This is getting worse, isn't it?"

"I think it's safe to assume that Ethan has managed to make it a bit difficult to get the message across," Giles gravely noted.

There was a sudden flash of light that heralded the arrival of Robin and Liam, who were both facing Steve. "Hey, Steve-o," Robin announced. "We just got a 411 from Salem and hustled over here. We think there might be some Unislee in town."

"You don't say," Buffy dryly noted. Robin and Liam frowned, then realized there was someone behind him. They spun around and saw the Unsilee. Any hope Giles and Jenny had that the two might recognize them was dashed by the ugly looks the Limerick and Shamrock Connection showed. "Oh, shit," Giles muttered as he watched the faery and leprechaun both raise up their hands, ready to fight. "I believe a strategic withdrawal is called for here."

"For once, the British instinct to run is dead on," Jenny said as she carefully backed up.

"Thank you for----" Giles stared at her. "Wait a minute, what do you bloody mean, instinct to------"

"Move!" Jenny instinctively waved her hands and drew upon the first magics that came to mind for her. A blast of power erupted outward, smacking into Robin and Liam and sending them flying into Steve and Buffy. "Sorry!" Jenny called out as she and Giles burst out of the house and took back to running.

Steve got to his feet and rushed to the door, his gun aiming at the retreating elves. He raised it up but before he could pull the trigger, the two had vanished from sight. "Damn, they're fast," he muttered as he turned back to Buffy, Robin and Liam. "Spread the word to the others and get them here fast."

"You got it, bossman," Robin said as he got to his feet and made to the phone.

*****

"Son of a bitch!" Jenny hissed as she stumbled in the rushing water. She and Giles were in the one place they could think of to hide: The Sunnydale sewer system which was just as dank, wet and ugly as Jenny had imagined it to be…and she was more than a little unsettled by how comfortable she felt here. "You know," she spoke up. "The first time I ran into Ethan Rayne, he turned me into a demon. The second time I ran into him, he tried to have me killed. Now, I run into him and he turns me into a dark elf. There's a very important lesson here."

"Which is?" Giles asked as he turned to her.

"Next time, just run over him," Jenny remarked as she sat down on the hard ground next to the flowing water. She folded her legs under her as she leaned against the wall, closing her eyes and letting out a giant breath. Giles looked at her, feeling a pain in his heart at the obvious pressure within his lover. "Are you…all right?" he asked even though he knew it was a ridiculous question at the moment.

Jenny was silent for a moment and Giles could now see tears starting to come from her eyes. "I can't feel her, Rupert," she whispered. "I can't…Oh, Goddess, I can't feel Artemis in me anymore." She threw out her hands as she started to cry. "All my magics…all I'm used to…Gone…All gone and what's left is so dark and…Oh, Goddess, Rupert, I'm scared…"

"I know, love," Giles said as he moved in and drew her into an embrace. "I know just how it feels."

"Oh, Goddess, Rupert," Jenny choked out between tears, burying her head in his shoulder. "This is almost worst than Egyhon. Goddess…"

"I know, Jenny," Giles whispered. "I'm scared too, I admit it. It'll be all right, though. I'm here, Jenny. I'm here with you." He moved her back so he could kiss her on the lips, knowing what she needed to ease the terror within her. Jenny responded slowly, her fear melting away as she felt Giles' warm touch upon her. The kisses grew deeper and before they knew it, the two were exploring their new bodies in much more detail.

*****

Steven St Wolf's Home
1223 Hours PST

The party decorations were still up, which gave a somewhat disconcerting air to the proceedings as the Slayerettes gathered around the table. All were grim, having heard from Steve and Buffy what had happened earlier. Salem was pacing by the table, obviously agitated by what was going on as well as what Xander and Cordelia were telling the group.

"Okay, we checked out Giles and Jenny's place," Cordelia was telling the group, trying to hide her nervousness.

"And we've got a torn shirt, a ripped blouse and one of Jenny's bracelets," Xander explained. "All looking worse for wear as if they'd been torn off and…" He trailed off.

"What?" Steve pressed.

Xander sighed. "There's some blood on the floor and the clothes."

"Oh, Goddess," Buffy moaned.

"Okay, don't panic," Xander said, holding up his hands. "There wasn't enough blood to make the wounds serious."

"Unless they dragged them outside to finish the job."

"Cordy, hon, this is no time to slip back into tactless mode."

Shaw impatiently tapped on the table as she glanced over at Steve. "What are our options?"

"Not too many at the moment," Steve admitted. "Since we don't know exactly what is going on. But finding these elves is the key to finding Jenny and Giles."

Buffy turned toward Robin. "Robin, can you sense Giles at all? Through the empowerment connection?"

"At the moment…no," Robin said, rubbing his chin. Seeing the alarm in Buffy's eyes, he quickly went on. "Now, don't freak out. That doesn't mean anything bad has happened. It could be that whoever has them has a spell that obscures my sensing him." He shrugged. "Unfortunately, it also means finding them is going to be a little tougher."
"Not tough enough," Buffy said. "So let's get cracking."
"I hereby declare that I want no surprise party for myself," Xander announced. "None. Just take me out to dinner, let me know in advance about it and I'll be more than happy."

"Hey!" the group looked up to see Dawn enter the room. "I just got off the phone with the Feds," the teenager said. "Turns out they ran into Andrea and Jarod at the airport and they're on the way."

"The more the merrier for the hunting," Randi noted.

"Hey, can I come with?" Dawn asked. "I want to help Giles and Jenny too. Can I come?"

"Yes," Buffy told her sister. "Because Mom made me promise before she left that I would make sure to get you into dangerous situations and risk your life with weapons and that's after I get my lobotomy."

Dawn snorted. "What? And destroy whatever few brain cells going blonde left you?"
"Got a point, B," Faith snickered.

"HEY!" Buffy, Randi and Amy all yelled.

Steve sighed. "Any ideas on what to do first?"

"Putting the cake on ice would be a good start," Cordelia noted.

"And we could use the candles as torches to search the dark places," Xander added.

"Okay, all joking aside…"

"Steve, don't scare me like that," Xander said with mock horror.

Steve rolled his eyes. "Okay, we need to find these elves but try to take them alive. We need to find out what they've done with Jenny and Giles."
Larry coughed and raised his hand. "I hate to be the voice of gloom here…"
"Well, he's in Chicago with Joyce so go ahead and fill out the spot," Randi quipped.

Larry looked at Steve in seriousness. "What if they've…you know?" He couldn't quite finish the sentence but they all knew what he was trying to say. It was just what all of them were thinking but no one wanted to dwell on it.

"Then it's search and destroy," Steve said in a cold voice.

Amy groaned as she looked over all the decorations in the room. "Well, we might as well bring this stuff down while we wait for the Immortal couples."

"Leave them up," Buffy said.

"Huh?" Amy asked.

"Leave them up," Buffy repeated. Her face was tight as she looked over the decorations. "They're coming here," she hissed. "They're coming here and we're having this party and don't tell me differently." She turned on her heel as she marched out of the room. Everyone watched her go before slowly turning toward Steve.

"Okay, I think I speak for everyone here when I say I'd prefer it if we didn't let Buffy handle holiday dinners," Randi said.

*****

1505 Hours PST

The buzz of several Immortals cut through Steve and he quickly made his way to the door. Opening it, he saw the quartet the group had been expecting. "Come on in and make it fast," he ordered.

"Party starting early?" Fox Mulder asked as he stepped inside, his wife, Dana Scully, right behind him. Steve could tell the duo were happy to not be in their usual suits, both wearing slacks and loose shirts with long coats to conceal their swords. Behind them, Jarod Russell and Andrea Parker stepped in. The dark-haired Immortals wore their typical outfits: A light shirt and jeans for Jarod, a dark top and mini-skirt for Parker, both wearing long dark coats.

"Dawn didn't tell you?" Steve asked with a frown.

"Tell us what?" Scully asked with a frown. She started a bit as she saw Xander and Larry walk through the foyer, both carrying boxes of ammo.

Steve sighed and turned toward the quartet. "We've got a situation," he said. "Giles and Jenny are missing. A pair of Unsillee elves showed up here, attacked us and then took off. We've been trying to get a lock on them but it's been tricky."

"Shit," Parker muttered. "Do you know if Jenny and Giles are even alive?"

Steve shook his head as he led the way to the dining room. "No idea yet. We haven't been able to lock on them with locator spells."

"And we've been trying," Willow said. She and Amy were sitting across from each other on either side of a map of Sunnydale. Amy was holding a small crystal over the map, watching as it was tugged to one section of town. The blonde shook her head and looked up. "I've found a dozen vamps, a Heryton nest and a couple of grappler demons but no elves so far," she announced. "And nothing for Jenny and Giles?"

"What about Robin and Liam?" Mulder asked as he made his way into the room, immediately shifting into professional mode.

"Nothing on that score either," Steve said with a sigh. "Robin did a quick call to Artemis but even she can't sense Jenny right now." He bit his lip. "She's not dead, Artemis would know for sure if she was. But as she explained it, it's like Jenny's presence on Earth is muted somehow."

"So, what do we do?" Scully asked, she and Jenny both tense at the thought of their Amazon sister in danger.

"From what Robin, Liam and Shaw say of Unislee, they prefer night attacks," Steve said. "Which just makes it more puzzling why they did it this morning. For now, they're probably lying low with shielding spells."
"So, we wait until night and then try to track them down?" Jarod asked.

"That's the plan," Steve said. "Larry and Xander are getting the arms together and the rest of the kids are getting stuff from their homes to help. Better go check on them." He turned and began to walk off.

"Hey, wait up!" Parker called out. "Where's the new guy?"

"In Chicago on a business trip with Joyce," Steve explained.

"And Buffy's still here?" Jarod noted. "Wow. I'm impressed by their self-control."
"Well, it's not so much that," Steve said. "It's more like I called the airport, bus station, train station and Grail transports and warned them all not to take any either of them on any trips to Chicago."
"As ever, your thinking ahead leaves me in awe, Steve."
"Well, that won't be a problem now," the Wanderer said with a sigh. "Now, I have to go try and stop Buffy from tearing Sunnydale up all by herself."

"Good luck," Scully called out as Steve headed up the stairs.

"He's gonna need it," Mulder muttered under his breath.

*****

St. Christen's Cemetery
1841 Hours PST

The sun was beginning its downward movement, the late afternoon sun giving way to night as shadows played among the trees. It was somewhat ironic that this cemetery was one of the smallest of the seventeen in Sunnydale given the large amount of foliage surrounding it, which allowed plenty of shadow. That worked out well for Giles and Jenny, who made their way across the cemetery. Jenny paused to take a deep breath of air. "Oh, Goddess, it feels so good to get out of that sewer," she sighed. "I wonder if Shaw has this much trouble with her senses."

"She doesn't complain as much about the nose," Giles said. "And I have to agree with you about the ears. Remind me to never roll my eyes when she mentions such problems again."
"So noted," Jenny said with a sigh. She looked about, her elven eyes taking in the darkening surroundings. "Wow," she whispered. "This is truly amazing. I can actually see better the darker it gets."

"Yes, quite charming and all but don't get used to it," Giles noted.

Jenny looked at him with concern. "Do you think they've started hunting us?" she asked with concern.

"Probably," Giles said. "The question is who they're hunting. Us or the elves?"

"The latter is what I'm afraid of," Jenny said with a sigh. "You think this is Ethan's plan? To turn us into elves and have the others hunt us down?"

"Typical Ethan thinking," Giles answered with a snort. "Long on ego, short on substance."

"At least it can't get any worse."

"Oh, God, Jenny…" Giles groaned.

Jenny looked at him in amazement. "Rupert, we've been transformed into elves, we can't be understood, my connection to Artemis is gone, we have no empowerments, our magics are out of whack, touching steel can hurt us and we're being hunted by our friends ON MY BIRTHDAY!! How in the hell can this possibly get any worse?"

"Well, well, well," a deep British accent spoke out. "What do I spy with my little eye?"
Giles and Jenny froze before slowly turning to a nearby tree. There was a shimmering near it as the shadows suddenly seemed to flow about in a man-shaped figure. There was a motion as if someone was stepping through a waterfall and suddenly a man appeared before them.

Ethan's spell had been worked to blind even the powers of Eternals.

And then there are those whose powers the Eternals want nothing to do with.

*****

I've never thought about it much but I suppose I do cut a somewhat impressive figure upon first sight. Tall, thin and carrying a dignified air. That is, once you get around the aura of darkness that I carry with me by necessity. I wore my usual outfit: a suit of slightly Victorian design (what can I say, I enjoyed the style), with a long black coat over it, a top hat covering my head and gloves over my hands. I leaned upon my cane as I examined the two elves before me, my hand tightening over the silver eagle's head handle. I suppose I do get attention for one thing: The fact that from my top hat to my dress shoes, even my hair, I am entirely in black.

I gazed over the edge of my mirrored black glasses as I raised an eyebrow. "My, my, this town does draw an interesting variety of visitors," I intoned as I felt the darkness swell within me. I did not want to cause a fuss but had no problems doing so if necessary.

The male elf rolled his eyes and threw his hands up in the air. "Oh, wonderful. Just bloody wonderful. This I needed! The perfect end to the perfect day."
When one lives for a century and a half, one picks up some talents. Aside from my…well, obvious ones, I've always had a knack for voices. Accents, identifying, inflection, that sort of thing. I still believe George Bernard was inspired by me to create Henry Higgins. Not that George would ever admit it of course. But then, what can you expect from a man who claimed Shakespeare did not have the gifts of a playwright?

Oh, dear, I'm digressing. Have to watch that. To get back on track, I furrowed my brow and took a moment to realize just why that voice sounded so familiar. "Giles? Rupert Giles?"

"Well, come on, let's get this----" The elf paused and stared at me as it sunk in what I had just said. "You…you know me?"

"You're assuming even I could forget our last encounter?" I asked.

"We…we're speaking English?" The female elf asked with such hope that I felt a twinge of guilt over having to dash it.

"No, actually, you're speaking Feryal. I just happen to speak Feryal." I cocked my head to the side and rubbed at my chin. "And at the risk of being personal, dear Rupert, exactly how is it you're now an Unseelie elf who speaks Feryal?"

"Yes, well, it's something of a funny story, really…" Giles said.

"If by funny, you mean horrific," the woman muttered.

Giles sighed and looked at me. "It was Ethan Rayne."

"Oh, dear, tell me the boy still isn't at it," I sighed.

"Rupert," the woman hissed. "Who is this man?"

"I've gone by many names in my lifetime my dear," I spoke up. "But the one that has stayed with me the longest and I have been best known by is…" I paused before finishing. A tad melodramatic, I will admit but then, drama is the spice of life. I let them both hang before completing my introduction.

"The Shade."

*****

Part Four: In which new revelers join the party.

St. Christen's Cemetery
Sunnydale, CA
July 11th, 1999
1846 Hours PST

"The Shade?" Jenny choked out as she stared at the man. "THE Shade?" She spun on Giles, her eyes wide with disbelief. "Rupert…how do you know this…man?"

"Well, it's something of a long story," Giles sighed.

"And one we need not embarrass him with right now, my dear," the Shade said as he stepped forward, flipping his cane back and leaning it on his right shoulder. He studied the two and let out a light chuckle. "Well, well, this is something I didn't expect to see on multiple levels."

"Rupert," Jenny said, keeping her distance from the Shade. "This is the Shade. The Shade! He's a villain, a monster, a killer, a-----"

"Halcyon days, my dear, halcyon days but no longer," the Shade interrupted with a light tone.

Jenny glared at him. "I am not your dear, you black-garbed, black-hearted ghoul."

"Jenny," Giles hissed. "Let's not piss of the only person who knows who we are…"

"Oh, that's quite all right, Giles," the Shade said in a nonchalant tone. "I'm all that she says. And more. But I don't mind. One of the lovely side benefits of not having a conscience is that I rarely have my feelings hurt."

Giles took a careful step forward and gave the Shade a pleading look. "Shade…we need your help. We need you to help us find Ethan so he can change us back, then he needs to die very, very badly."

"Ah," the Shade said, raising an eyebrow. "And I presume I'm supposed to do this out of the blackness of what could be generously construed as my heart?"

"Well, ah, do it and we…we won't kill you," Giles said with a calm air.

"Oh, very convincing, Giles," the Shade said with light sarcasm. "Would you like to try again?"

"We'll pay you," Jenny spoke up.

"I rarely have need for money, my dear," the Shade said as he appeared to examine his gloved fingers.

"Well, considering Rupert's librarian salary, that's helpful."

"Thank you so much," Giles snorted.

"Yes, well, I'm afraid money won't do it," the Shade said. He paused as a thought struck him. "However..perhaps we can help each other in another way."

Jenny peered at him suspiciously. "What do you mean?"

"A little quid pro quo, my dear," the Shade answered. "You aid me with the reason I am in this charming little hamlet and I shall aid you with your problem."

"And what problem do you have?" Giles asked with a frown.

The Shade glanced about. "Is there a café near here? If I'm to tell this tale right, my throat may grow parched and some good absinthe goes a long way toward soothing me. Very little else does."

Before either Jenny or Giles could reply to that, their pointed ears pricked up at the sound of footsteps. They glanced behind the Shade, who turned to see a trio of dark-clothed vampires approaching, Giles and Jenny starting as they realized the sun was now down and the vampires approached. "Damn," one muttered. "Only one guy to feed on here."

The Shade gave a sigh of annoyance as he faced the vampires, his cane placed before him, both hands folded on the handle. "I don't suppose you'll be willing to simply let us be on our way?" the dark-garbed gentleman asked.

"Not a chance, pal," one vamp growled, his fangs showing brightly as he and his companions moved closer.

"Oh, you don't know how right you are," the Shade said, his eyes narrowing at the vampires.

And the darkness came to life around him.

It seemed to seep out of the Shade's body and flowed outward, a jet-ink blackness that soon transformed itself into horrific shapes. A demonic head formed out of one, shooting outward, its mouth clamping right over one vampire's neck and biting down. The vampire never even had time to scream before he turned into dust. Before his startled companions could move, a savage claw emerged from the darkness, ripping at one's chest, then his neck, the vampire screaming in pain. A wave of shadow encompassed the third, who screamed as he felt himself assailed by a feeling of darkness that not even the demon could stand against. The other vampire choked as the shadowy claw ripped into his chest and then withdrew. The vampire had just enough time to see his own heart held in the clawed hand before he, and it, dissolved.

Suddenly, the darkness was gone, absorbed back into the Shade, who had been wearing a nonchalant expression through it all. He calmly stepped toward the final vampire, who was lying on the ground, whimpering in terror and pain over what he had felt. With both hands, the Shade held up his cane, then jammed it into the vampire's chest. The creature's last feeling before disintegrating was one of absolute relief.

The Shade withdrew the cane and brushed off his suit as he turned back to Jenny and Giles. The transformed teachers both stared in amazement at him, Jenny more so than Giles. "Well, that was bracing," the Shade stated. "Let's be off, shall we?" Stepping over the pile of dust on the ground, he paced away with a light jump in his step.

Jenny and Giles slowly turned and stared at one another. "Now, you see," Giles said. "There are some people I'm glad not to admit to knowing."

"Oh, by the by," the Shade said as he turned around. "If we're going to be going out…" He peered at them over the edge of his glasses. "I would recommend a change of clothing."
Jenny rolled her eyes. "It's not like we can just walk into a store and buy something."

"You're Unislee, aren't you?" The Shade asked. "You can change your outward appearance. Both clothing and fixing those lovely ears." He let a small smirk come to his lips. "You were aware of that, weren't you?"

Giles and Jenny stared at each other with wide eyes. They looked at themselves as they tried to focus the new energies within them. There was a blurring motion around their bodies as their clothing and their faces began to shift. When the glow faded, Giles was wearing a dark pair of slacks, light shirt and long coat. Jenny wore a black leather skirt and jacket over a dark shirt. Her hair was a bit shortened and both she and Giles were relieved to realize that they looked slightly more human.

Jenny touched at her ears, sighing as she realized they were now normal and looked at Giles. "Do…do I look like myself?" she asked.

Giles shook his head. Indeed, while now looking more human, Jenny's features were unrecognizable and by the look on her face, Giles could tell he was the same. "Damn," he muttered as he looked his lover over. "Did you get your mind crossed with Faith's?"

Jenny looked at her leather ensemble and grimaced. "Actually, I was trying for a simple dress," she explained. "I guess I still don't have the hang of it."

"Or Ethan is still having some fun," Giles muttered.

"Then let's be on our way," the Shade announced. "So you can return the favor."

*****

Steven St. Wolf's Home
1844 Hours PST

"Anything yet?" Jarod asked as he stepped into the kitchen.

"Not in the last ten minutes, no," Robin said as he popped the lid on a can of pop. "And believe me, we're trying."
"Relax, Jarod," Mulder said. He and Scully were seated at the table, both examining a couple of books Shaw had presented them about elves. "You've done manhunts before and you know how going in blind can do more harm than good."

"I also know the chances of finding whoever you're searching for decrease the more time goes by," Jarod shot back. He crossed his arms and paced a bit more. "Getting information is all well and good but we need to get on the hunt as fast as possible."

"Down, boy," Parker intoned as she leaned against the counter and took a sip from her drink. "You do research all the time before you dive into things and it works out. It will here."
"Hope so," Jarod muttered as he looked around the kitchen. "By the way, where's Buffy? I haven't seen her for a while."

"Oh, she went out," Robin explained. He took a sip from his pop before going on. "She, Faith, Shaw and Willow decided to pay a visit to Willy to get some information."

"In other words, it's time for Willy to review his insurance premiums," Mulder said. "Damn, they never let us in on that fun."

"Wait a while longer," Scully told her husband. "With this town, fun is all you get."

*****

Café on Main
1903 Hours PST

The outdoor café was close enough to the main restaurant so that diners didn't have to worry about vampire attacks. It wasn't too crowded at the moment but Giles, Jenny and the Shade still set themselves as far away as they could, all three sitting at a small table in a far corner. Giles and Jenny simply had tea, Jenny actually wanting something stronger but Giles pointed out how they needed clear heads at this moment. The Shade sat across from them, nonchantly sitting with one leg crossed over the other. His hat, gloves, cane and spectacles sat at the empty space next to him, allowing his face to be shown fully. Somehow, Jenny was utterly unsurprised to see that, while normal, Shade's hair and eyes were both black.

The man brought his cup to his lip and sipped at it, then made a face. "Good heavens, this is their idea of coffee? I swear, when they put a Starbuck's into the heart of London, it's time to kiss the Empire goodbye."

"Actually, I kissed it good-bye when they started a European NFL league," Giles remarked.

"You have a point," the Shade said as he sipped again at his drink, trying to get over the bitterness in it. "I had actually sworn off England at the dawn of the 20th century. I made the mistake of walking the streets of the industry section in 1897." His face grew serious as he tapped a finger on the table. "A child without a jaw, a sight that actually brought a tear to my eye and a pain in my black soul." He shrugged. "But my patriotism, while not a subject I enjoy discussing, is still strong with me so I found myself there during the war. And then, I had to attend there on…other business which was when I met Rupert here."

"And just what was this business?"

"A long and involved story, Ms. Calendar and I believe Rupert is feeling enough humiliation so we'll skip that for now." His dark eyes seemed to twinkle a bit. "Should we get through this, I may relate it."

"A first-class incentive," Jenny remarked with a slight smile.

The Shade looked them both over and sniffed. "It's so intriguing to hear Feryal being used so liberally. Usually, they're more along the lines of ‘want to smash, smash now?' Honestly, they make Solomon Grundy look like James Lipton."

Giles sighed as he shuffled in his chair, still feeling out of proportion. "I hate this body. I thought Steve's was bad but this…"

"At least it spares me the sight of any more tattoos you might have acquired," the Shade remarked. "The sight of them might push me to get one myself and I simply know I'll regret that action in a century or three."

"Can we get on with this?" Jenny hissed. "The less time I spend with you, the better." She turned on Giles. "Rupert, I still can't believe you would ever have anything to do with this…this…"

"Not all demons are evil," the Shade broke in. "Not all men of the cloth are good. Rupert knows this. He knows that the world is not black and white but rather different….grays of shade."

Jenny stared at him for a long moment. "That is the dumbest play on words I've ever heard in my life."

The Shade raised an eyebrow as he lowered his drink. "Pleasant girl, Giles. Just what is she like when she's not an elf?"

"A Gypsy Amazon technopagan and computer teacher," Giles answered.

The Shade took a moment to absorb that before speaking. "Tell me, have you ever had any *normal* lovers?"

"Just who else-----"

"JENNY!"

The Shade had a smile on his face as he sat back and stroked his chin. "Well, there was Lillian. Lovely Aryan lass by Giles' description."

"Lillian…" Jenny turned with wide eyes toward Giles, who had a hand over his face. "You slept with your father's Slayer?!"

"Her death was what started my slide," Giles said with his hand still over his face.

"Still a romantic after all these years, Giles," the Shade remarked. "It's nice to know that some people can still surprise me." His cup was halfway to his lips when he paused to a sudden thought. "I'm sorry," he said with a frown. "Did you say Amazon?"

"Yes," Giles said. "She's an Amazon and I've been empowered by Robin Goodfellow."

The Shade blinked. "I recall when a box of snuff was the worst sort of drug a man could imbue," he remarked to himself.

"Shade, you do know that Robin and Puck are different beings, don't you?" Jenny asked.

"Actually, Puck is an old friend of mine," the dark-garbed man replied.

"We're screwed," Jenny moaned as she lowered her head to the table.

"Now, now, let's get dark," the Shade said. He tapped a finger on the table as he mulled Jenny's words. "Goodfellow is here?"

"I take it you have a past with him?" Giles asked.

"Just an encounter or two," the Shade stated. "At least I can take solace in the fact it's just him and not that insane leprechaun."

"Liam? He's here," Jenny informed him.

The Shade started in his seat. "They're both here? And this town is still standing? Well, Giles, it looks like you're not the only one who has mellowed in old age."

"He's currently seeking the affections to a half-elven Mielikkian priestess from Faerun who has one-eighth Irish-American heritage."

The Shade sighed. "Just when I think you're being serious…" He paused and frowned once more. "Danahure AND Goodfellow. This could be problematic."

"Bad experience?" Giles asked, somehow knowing the answer already.

"There was a…misunderstanding some sixty years ago," the Shade carefully replied. "I had rather hoped they'd have gotten over it by now."

"Is this going to be bad?" Jenny asked.

"Nearly everything involving me is, my dear. Just who else is in this little group of yours?"

Giles and Jenny exchanged a slow smile as they sat back. "Well, for starters, there's the Wanderer," Giles began.

"Yes, you already told me about Goodfellow."

"No, no, the other Wanderer. The demon hunter."

Instead of the shock they expected, the Shade simply nodded as he sipped at his drink again. "Ah, yes, I have heard of him. An intriguing character. I almost hope we get to meet."

"Wouldn't go well for you," Jenny pointed out.

"Perhaps, perhaps not," the Shade shrugged. "The others?"

"Well, there's a few other Amazons besides me," Jenny said. "Two are witches, the other an excellent fighter."

"Also," Giles said. "Robin empowered a few other men. One's a local athlete, the other has the memories of a Special Forces commando and the third is a werewolf."

"Beastly creatures," the Shade sniffed. "In more ways than one."

"This one happens to be a guitarist in a rock band."

"There goes any hope he has taste."

"There is the aforementioned Harper."

"The elf is a Harper?" the Shade seemed intrigued. "Just what sort of woman is she like?"

"Half-human, half-elven…"

"All bitch," Jenny finished with a smile.

"Hmmm," the Shade muttered, stroking his chin. "And Danahure is pursuing her? Whom should I feel sorry for?"

"Finally, there are a few Immortals in town," Giles said. "One carries the sword of Joan of Arc, the other is a Slayer who wields Vampire Slayer. And the other two Slayers have their own skills."

The Shade slowly looked over at him. "Three? Three Slayers are in this town?"

Giles wore a light smile. "Is that a problem?"

"Three women trained to kill nothing but otherworldly forces? Why on Earth should that bother me, Rupert?"

"Because I'm a father to all three of them?"

The Shade raised an eyebrow. "You really have fallen off the fun wagon, haven't you?"

"Was he ever on it?"

"Jenny!" Giles snapped then sighed. "Shade, can we get to the point sometime today?"

"Oh, very well," the Shade said. He sat back in his chair and took a breath. "I first heard the tale of this man from Oscar."

"Oscar?" Jenny asked.

"Wilde," the Shade matter-of-factly replied.

Jenny stared at him. "You knew Oscar Wilde?"

"Ah, yes, fascinating man," the Shade answered. "He stayed rather constant in the time I knew him. Not like Dickens who grew darker as the years went by. Of course, in Charles' case, it hardly helped that he was there to witness my becoming…that which I've become. And I've always thought Andersen based at least one character on me. A dark one, but then I've always found Hans a strange person."

Jenny raised an eyebrow. "I'll let the irony of that statement stand on its own."

"So," the Shade continued. "Oscar adapted the tale he had heard into Dorian Gray."

"*The Portrait of Dorian Gray?*" Jenny asked.

"Actually, it's *The Picture of Dorian Gray,*" Giles corrected her. "Everyone gets it wrong."

Both Jenny and the Shade stared at him. "I'm a librarian," Giles pointed out.

The Shade actually seemed surprised. "Really? You, a librarian. They know of study, not of life, is the line I believed you used on me."

"People change, Shade," Giles replied. He narrowed his eyes at the Shade. "You wouldn't know that."

"No," the Shade allowed. "No, I suppose I wouldn't." He took a deep sip of his tea and then continued. "Well, in the 1860's, an Oxfordian named Merritt made a deal with a demon."

"Who?" Jenny asked.

"I never got his name. He does have that trait that demons have in that he is, if you'll pardon the pun, devilishly good at offering a deal in a way that makes the demon look like the fool. In this case, in return for immortal life, Merritt merely had to carry a poster with him. Merritt took the poster and his life and has done quite a bit in the last century and a quarter." A wistful look came onto the Shade's face. "Adventures, exploring, wars, battles, even politics. He's quite the man." He shrugged. "I'd admire him slightly more if it weren't for this habit he has of putting the poster on a wall and allowing the demon to briefly emerge and devour some passing soul."

"And Merritt and the poster are in Sunnydale?" Giles asked.

"Indeed," the Shade said. "He makes a living, if you can call it that, charging a fee to people who are anxious to have someone disappear without a trace. Not quite murder for hire but still quite bad. So, to make a long story short-----"

"Too late," Giles and Jenny remarked.

"I've been on his trail, on and off, for quite a few years now and I fully intend to ensure that he does not get away now."

"Why?" Jenny asked. "Why do you care so much if he's caught or not?"

The Shade's eyes flickered slightly. "One of the souls he took was of a man I rather admired," he gravely stated. "A man who did not deserve such a fate. I may have my faults, my dear, but I do consider myself an honorable man. And leaving a…friend in a hellish dimension without doing what I can to help him is decisively not honorable." He looked carefully at the duo. "So, you help me catch Merritt and I'll help you find Ethan."

Giles tapped at the table with his fingers, mulling over the offer. He finally took a deep breath and nodded. "All right, Shade. We'll help you find Merritt. But we need to get Ethan too."
"As I said before, Giles, quid pro quo," the Shade replied with a nod.

Jenny dragged a hand over her face. "Wow, Horace is going to freak when he hears this one…"

The Shade threw a light glare at her. "I don't appreciate your taking liberties with my tales."

"I'm an American," Jenny retorted. "We take liberties. We're a liberty-loving people."

"How we ever lost to these people…" The Shade murmured under his breath.

Jenny furrowed her brow as a thought struck her. "Now, wait," she said. "Why don't you just go to Steve and explain this to him?"

"Because you just said you'd help me with Merritt," the Shade calmly answered. "I do hold one to their word."

Giles shook his head. "Shade, you can understand us, you can explain it to them-------"

"A dark and shadowy man with a reputation that is far from sterling pops in suddenly and they'll take my word that the two of you are the elves they're hunting?" The Shade raised an eyebrow. "Even for this town, Giles, that's a lot to accept simply on word. Assuming, of course, they give me the chance to speak before attacking. Oh, and I'm sure Goodfellow and Danahure will be overjoyed to see me…"

Giles sighed as he looked over at Jenny. "Hate to say it, love, but he's got a point. Robin and Liam didn't even recognize us which means we give out elven auras. And no offense to the Shade, but I don't think he can quite persuade them to listen long enough to explain. We need to do this on our own."

"Then where do we start?" Jenny asked.

"Well, I suppose the best place to begin would be checking out the darker sections of town, the areas where good men never go." The Shade shrugged as he sipped at his drink again. "Fortunately, I am not, nor have I ever been, a good man."

*****

Willy's
1946 Hours PST

The way the front door banged open let the inhabitants of the bar know a visitor was on the way. One sight at the quartet in the doorway and they knew this was not going to be a fun night.

Silence reigned as Buffy, Faith, Shaw and Willow marched their way toward the bar. Willy himself took one look at the quartet and made a huge gulp. "Um…hey…Slayer! Slayers! Hunter! How, um, how's it going?"

Buffy marched to the bar, reached over it and yanked Willy up by the front of his shirt. "Talk and talk fast, Willy," she hissed. "Giles and Jenny are missing and there are some Unsilee in town. What do you know?"

"Um, nothing," Willy croaked.

Buffy sighed, placed a hand on Willy's head and smashed it into the counter. She brought him back up and glared at him. "I am not fucking around tonight, Willy," she hissed. "I want whatever info you've got and I want it now or I turn you over to Faith and Shaw."

Willy took one look at the ugly expressions on the faces of Hunter and the Boston Slayer and swallowed. "All right, all right," he gasped. "This is just idle talk and stuff, you know but word is two guys just showed up in town."

"Who and how bad?" Willow demanded.

"One's Merritt and he's bad news," Willy told her. "I mean, really bad. Guy's got a portable demon or something, no one's quite sure what but they're all scared of him."

"And the other?" Shaw asked.

"Well…" Willy licked his lips and then spoke. "I heard from this vamp who was at a bar last night and he saw the two teachers there with…" He closed his eyes and got ready for the blow he was sure was coming. "Rayne."

"Shit," Buffy hissed and Willow groaned.

"Rayne?" Shaw asked in confusion. "Who is Rayne?"

"Major league bad guy," Buffy growled. "If he's in town, then he definitely had something to do with Giles and Jenny." She pushed Willy's head back on the counter, pressing on it hard with one palm. "Where is he, Willy?"

"Last I heard," Willy choked out. "At the Motor Lodge. But with him, who knows?" He gasped before yelling out. "That's all I know, already!"

With some reluctance, Buffy eased up on him and let him rise to his feet, rubbing at his head. Willow walked up to the bar and glared at him. "Put the word out, Willy," she hissed in a dark voice. "If we don't find Jenny and Giles okay…no vamps are safe." With that, she turned and began stalking away, the other three right with her, delivering dark looks at all the demons. The door banged shut and everyone let out a huge breath…even the ones who didn't need to breathe.

Groaning, Willy turned toward the shelf of bottles behind him, taking one with a shot glass and turning around.

The Shade stood before him, a pleasant smile on his face as he stared at Willy. The bartender let out a startled yelp as he dropped bottle and glass. "Jesus!"

"Not even remotely close," the Shade said. He leaned on his cane as he appraised Willy with a detached air. "I've heard that you're the person to talk to about information on the less than reputable habits of this town."

"Um, sure, whatever you need," Willy stammered. "I'm a decent guy for it."

"Actually, from what I hear, you're a crooked guy for it but let's just leave that aside," the Shade said. "I'm looking for Merritt and by the look of shock in your eyes, I can see that the name rings a bell so don't bother trying to say you don't know anything." The Shade peered over his glasses. "Where is he?"

"Um…I can't tell you," Willy stammered.

The Shade let out a light sigh and held out a hand. Shadows suddenly flowed around Willy, hauling the startled bartender up in the air and pinning him against the wall. Willy felt the loss of bowel control as a pair of demonic fangs clamped open and shut before his face.

"Clearly, you are no graduate of the Starsberg School," the Shade sadly intoned.

He turned a head over his shoulder as he saw the room full of demons react to what he was doing to Willy, several rising from their chairs. "Gentlemen, if I may stretch that word to its utmost limit," the Shade announced. "Before any of you get any ideas, as unlikely an event as that may be, let me elucidate you on some matters. You may believe that the occupants of this charming hamlet are a tough case to handle and you may be right. But they hold themselves up by moral codes, codes I do not recognize. I am not a hero, not by birth nor by inclination. I do not have a hero's pristine morality. And do not mistake my gentleman exterior for weakness. I mean to complete my businesses here and move on with no fuss toward the barkeep or yourselves. Let us not make this difficult. Otherwise, I might have to entertain myself and the last time I did that, the streets were awash with blood for days on end."

He watched as the demons all stepped back, more than getting the message. With a nod, the Shade turned back toward Willy. "Now, then, where were we?"

"Merritt's here for the Wanderer and his gang," Willy burst out. "He's setting them up, he wants them to know he's in town and he was here last night recruiting some vamps and low-level demons for back-up and they're all shacked up at this warehouse across town."

"And his goal?" the Shade asked.

"Um…"

The Shade narrowed his eyes. "Shall I show you just how the darkness can devour you?" The jaws snapped open and shut and Willy yelped in fear.

"All right, all right!" he yelled. "Buzz is, he's got a big commission from somebody to open up that poster and get the Slayer, the Wanderer, the whole damn group! He's setting a trap and he wants them in it."

The Shade raised both brows in surprise. "Well, well. I may have underestimated the boy." He turned and began to stroll over to the exit.

"Um, scuse me?" Willy piped up. "Aren't you-----"

The Shade made an offhand waving gesture and the shadows vanished, depositing Willy onto the floor with a yell. "Good evening, gentlemen," the Shade called out as he made it to the door. "If I were you, I'd ensure that things go well for me or I may have to return." With that, he stepped outside, leaving the bar covered with relief for the second time that evening.

*****

The Shade carefully paced toward the bushes near the bar. "Well, that was most enlightening, if you'll pardon the small pun," he stated. "Merritt is here and apparently, he intends to use the poster on your little group…"

He stopped and stared at Giles and Jenny. The two were silent as they rose from behind the bushes, their faces drawn.

*****

The capacity humanity has for change never ceases to amaze me. When we had last met, Rupert Giles was the Ripper, one of the most frightenly antagonistic men I have ever met in my life. Now, he was a stuffy academic turned warrior turned elf. He had also, I just realized, formed a connection to his young charges with a paternal air I would never have guessed he was capable of possessing. I began to wonder if it was true, if the love of a woman truly could change a man like that. But I push such thoughts aside. It is not for me, I know this. I had my chance once. And like so much else in my life, it passed into darkness. I must remember that such a thing is not for me. Not much of what could be termed humanity is.

*****

"What's wrong?" the Shade asked with actual concern.

Giles sighed as he shook his head. "We saw Buffy, Faith, Shaw and Willow exiting the bar. God, I wanted to call out to them but…well, it wouldn't have gone well."

"No, I suppose not," the Shade said as he looked them over. "Especially since it appears your makeup is slipping."

With a start, the duo felt at their ears, feeling them pointed once more. Looking at each other, they could see that the glamour was fading and they were going back to their elven appearances. "Dammit, still don't have the hang of this!" Jenny hissed.

"At least you're still a brunette," the Shade pointed out. "Ethan could have easily made you a blonde and robbed you of twenty IQ points."

"For your information, I am not your typical American woman," Jenny remarked.

"I see that already," the Shade chuckled. "A Slayer and now a New York Amazon. Rupert, you have strange taste in women."

"You haven't met Xander," the Watcher muttered.

"Goddess, the looks in their eyes…" Jenny remarked. "They were so angry, so cold…" She looked at Giles with concern and fear in her expression. "They're going to kill us if they find us," she whispered. "God, I'm going to die on my birthday."

"Well, don't expect me to attend the funeral, I look terrible in black."

Jenny glared at the Shade. "Are you a religious man, Shade?"

"As strange as it may sound, I did partake in the Church in my youth," the Shade easily replied.

"Good," Jenny said with a nod. "Then when I tell you to go to hell, you'll understand the full implications."

"Actually, Hell is somewhat overrated," the Shade noted in a bored tone.

Jenny rubbed at her temples. "Hunted down by my own charges. This is not the way I wanted to die."

"Life is not fair, my dear," the Shade noted. "Why should death be any different."

Jenny stared at him. "You're Irish, aren't you?"

"No, my dear Tuatha du Danaan, I am not."

"Don't start," Jenny groaned as the three began to walk off. "Do you think Ethan and Merritt are working together?" Jenny asked.

Giles shook his head. "No, this strikes me too much as one of Ethan's gags, rather than part of a larger picture. No, I believe they just picked the same time to pull their little plans."

"Sometimes," the Shade remarked. "More often than you might think, coincidence truly is coincidence."

Before Jenny could reply, a figure walking down the nearby sidewalk caught her eye. She blinked and focused on him. "Is that Snyder?"

Giles peered in the direction Jenny was looking toward, his enhanced eyes quickly making out the figure. "Yes, I do believe it is."

The two stopped and turned toward each other. Both knew they really shouldn't be thinking what they were thinking. Both knew they shouldn't be considering what they were considering. Both knew they shouldn't do what they were about to do. As one, they smiled and broke off in a charge toward Snyder, both howling at the top of their lungs.

The principal heard the strange sound behind him and turned. His eyes widened as he saw a pair of leather-clad elves rushing at him, both flaying about their arms and letting out high-pitched cries. With a scream of terror, Snyder took off running. He tripped, fell on the sidewalk, rolled about, crawled for several feet, scampered back to his feet and took off, screaming like a woman all the way.

The Shade couldn't suppress a chuckle as he came up to Giles and Jenny. The two teachers were both howling with laughter, Jenny leaning on Giles for support. "Oh, that was petty and I'll be guilty about it tomorrow but for right now, it felt sooooo good," Jenny laughed.

"Take it from an old debaucher like myself, my dear," the Shade stated. "The greater the guilt the day after, the more exquisite the pleasure."

*****

Steven St. Wolf's Home
2017 Hours PST

"Okay, we've got problems," Buffy announced as she entered the living room. She saw the group look up at her expectantly, Xander and Cordelia by the table going over weapons, Larry and Amy perusing a map of Sunnydale, Steve and Randi cleaning their swords in preparation as Kendra watched and Oz simply sitting and flipping through a magazine. "Where's Robin and Liam?"

"Coming!" The two Eternals entered from the kitchen, closely followed by Dawn. "What's up?" Robin asked.

Buffy sighed. "We found out who brought the elves here and put the snatch on Giles and Jenny."

"Who?" Xander asked.

"The guy we have to thank for your commando training," Willow sardonically answered.

It took a moment for everyone to realize who she meant. "Rayne?" Cordelia asked, her eyes wide. "Ethan Rayne?"

As Buffy nodded, Amy frowned. "Wait a minute. The last we saw him, Robin blasted him to…" She looked at her boyfriend. "Where did you send him?"

"I told you, Amy, even I don't know," the faery replied. "I had a bunch of places in mind when I cast the spell." He shrugged. "Obviously, it wasn't far enough."

"What's bad about this guy?" Liam asked.

Robin turned to his old friend. "Imagine Giles as the Ripper turned evil and a chaos worshipper."

Liam winced. "Thanks fer the image, Robbie."

Xander scratched his head. "I don't get this though. What the hell is Rayne doing with a couple of elves?"

"I don't know but if he's in town, then he definitely has something to do with Jenny and Giles going missing," Buffy declared. "Giles always tops any hit list Ethan has and Jenny must have been with him when he made his move."

"And since nothing's ever easy with us," Faith announced. "Seems some other big nasty is in town, some guy called Merritt."

Robin and Liam both widened their eyes. "Merritt's in town?" Robin demanded. "Shit."

"How bad is he?" Steve asked.

"Bugger made a deal with a demon over a century back," Liam informed him. "He got eternal life and in return, he dragged this poster around that lets the demon snatch people at any time."

"Wonderful," Steve sighed. "Like we don't have enough on our plate."

"Yeah, Merritt's gotten around," Robin said. "Hell, Oscar Wilde actually based Dorian Gray on him."

"Really?" a surprised Randi asked.

"Yeah, he adapted it a bit liberally which I suppose is better than mixing him up totally with someone else and causing four hundred years-----"

"Oh, Lord, Amy, grab the paper bag!" Liam yelled as he gripped the rapidly stressing Robin. He and Amy quickly went about calming the faery down as the others took in what they had just heard.

"So, what do we do now?" Randi asked. "We haven't been coming up with anything for the elves."

"No," Willow said. "But there's a chance, we may be able to find Ethan."

"I don't know, Will," Amy said. "Chances are, whatever shielding spell these elves have, Ethan gave it to them."

"Well, we can still try," Willow insisted. "Maybe altering spells might be able to find him. And get us a lock on this Merritt too."

"Merritt can wait," Buffy said. "I want Giles and Jenny found first."

"Buffy," Steve said with a sigh. "If this demon Merritt has is so dangerous, we might have to make him the priority."

Buffy stared at him. "Steve, we are not forgetting------"

"No, we're not," Steve told her. "But come on, Buffy. You know as well as I do that, if the positions were reversed, Giles and Jenny would put saving innocents over rescuing them."

Buffy frowned and looked at her feet. "Yeah," she softly admitted. "They would."

"But we're still going to do our best to find them all," Steve told her. "Dawn, why don't you go find Mulder, Scully, Jarod and Andrea and let them all know what's up."

"They're not in the kitchen," Dawn said. "I thought they were out here."

"Wait a minute," Steve frowned. "They're not out there?"

"No," Dawn said. "I thought you sent them out for some reason."

A long silence went through the room. "You don't think…" Larry started.

"That they went out and started to hunt the elves early?" Steve said. "Now, come on, they couldn't be impatient and restless and arrogant…" He paused and closed his eyes. "Scratch that. They could."

*****

Sunnydale Park
2023 Hours PST

"A half-elf hunting a pair of humans turned into dark elves," the Shade thought out loud. "It's almost funny in a darkly French sort of way." He tapped his cane on the ground as he walked, Giles and Jenny a few feet ahead of him. Jenny glanced over her shoulder and shot a glare at him. "You could follow a little closer," she called out.

"Actually, I prefer it this way," the Shade stated. "I never know when you'll decide to try and practice some Unseelie magic and I believe I'm safer at a distance."

"It was only one tree," Jenny muttered as she crossed her arms. "You act like I took down a building."

"An explosion is an explosion my dear and if it's all the same to you, I prefer not to press my luck on such things." The Shade stopped and craned his head to one side. His eyes narrowed as he seemed to sense something nearby. He stepped backward toward a nearby tree and vanished into the shadows.

"I'm just trying to get used to it," Jenny said, unaware of the Shade's departure. "I'd like to know just what I can do to Ethan when I find him."

"I don't think we need magic," Giles said, a bit of Ripper coming out in his angry tone. "Just give me three minutes alone and he'll be howling."

"I'll do it in two," Jenny added with a smirk. "What about you, Shade?" She frowned at the silence. "Shade?" She and Giles stopped and looked behind them, then around, both confused. "Now where did he get off to?" Giles muttered. "Bugger popped out without even a word. He's usually a bit more polite than that."

"Rupert, the man is…hell, I don't know what he is," Jenny said. "Why should we be surprised he cuts out on us?"

"Jenny, whatever else he is, the Shade is a…being of his word," Giles told her. "If he said he'd help us, he'll help us and I don't know why he would-----"

"Aha!" Giles and Jenny both started, then spun around to see two familiar figures before them. "Dana?" Jenny said. "Fox, what are…"

"How about that, Mulder," Scully said, lifting up her sword. "Right time on the first spot we search."

"You of all people should know how lucky I get, Scully," Mulder smiled as he held up his own katana.

"Shit," Jenny hissed as she and Giles backed up. They turned around only to see two more people step from behind some trees and make their way toward them, their swords glinting under the moonlight.

"I told Steve we'd be better off hunting them on our own," Jarod said as he pulled off his coat.

"Yeah, we do have experience with tracking people down," Parker replied as she pulled out her sword.

"Well, some better experience than others, hon…"

"Don't start, Ratboy…"

Giles and Jenny each felt a chill as they realized they were surrounded by four Immortals who didn't recognize them, each holding a weapon made of the material that could easily kill what the two teachers had become.

*I swear if I get out of this alive* Jenny thought. *I am enjoying every moment of summer vacation.*

*****

Part five: In which confused struggles occur and things get more complicated before settling down.

Sunnydale Park
Sunnydale, CA
July 11, 1999 - 2026 Hours PST

Jenny slowly circled to see the four Immortals surrounding her and swallowed. "They've got swords and think we're evil. We have no empowerments and are still getting used to these bodies. Not good."

Giles took a deep breath and straightened up. "I think it's time we take a page from the teenagers."

"Which is?"

"Just play it all by ear and hope we're doing the right thing."

"You've been in America too long."

"Don't remind me."

Parker rushed at Jenny, swinging her sword in an arc at her neck. Jenny leaped back, startled by how far she went. Meanwhile, Giles watched as Jarod thrust his sword at him, dodging it and launching a backhand at the man. The Pretender caught the fist and launched a kick at Giles' mid-section. Giles gasped and barely dodged another sword thrust as he spun out of Jarod's grip and managed to get a spin kick to his head.

Jenny sensed motion behind her and dropped down, thrusting a leg backward. She was rewarded with a yelp as her foot connected with a knee. She spun around to see Scully gripping at her leg, her face in pain. Mulder moved in, stabbing his sword downward at Jenny. The transformed Gypsy rolled back as the sword embedded into the dirt. With lightning speed, Jenny rose to her feet and kicked Mulder in the face then held out her hands to automatically block the sword thrust Scully was attempting. The moment her hands closed around the blade, Jenny shrieked and leapt back, feeling the burn. Seeing an advantage, Scully moved in for a swing but suddenly Giles was there, knocking her back with a kick to the chest.

Jenny turned and saw Andrea throw a punch at her. Jenny was briefly distracted by the look of utter contempt on her fellow Amazon's face, allowing Andrea to connect with the punch, sending Jenny staggering back. She felt a pain in her back and dimly realized Scully had kicked her between the shoulder blades, sending her back toward Parker. Seeing the Amazon holding up her sword, Jenny instinctively threw out her hands, a spell coming to mind.

A blast of flame erupted in Andrea's face, the brunette shrieking as she fell back, clutching at her face. Seeing her going down in pain caused a fury to take hold of Jarod and he lunged at Jenny. She reacted instinctively, dodging the blow, grabbing Jarod's arm and yanking back on it. He yelled as he felt at least two bones break, giving Jenny a chance to hit him with a kick to the face.

She spun around to see Giles trying to handle Mulder and Scully, ducking to avoid a swing from Mulder and barely dodging a kick from Scully. Jenny immediately rushed to help her lover. She leapt up and kicked out at Scully, knocking her back as Giles hit Mulder with a punch. The empowered FBI agent spun his sword in his hands and lunged forward once more. Giles held out a hand and hoped to hell he would be able to make this work. A small shock wave hit Mulder in the chest, sending him flying back several feet. Scully made a spinning motion with her sword that forced Jenny back, then tried to attack again with a jab of the blade toward the elf's chest. Jenny fell onto her back, which caused Scully to go off-balance, giving Jenny the chance to hit her with a kick to the gut.

A growl got her attention and Jenny looked up in time to see a sword rushing toward her head. She barely rolled out of the way as the blade hit the ground. She looked up to see Parker standing before her, her face still partially darkened despite her healing factor and filled with pain and rage. With a yell, Parker tried to once more stab at Jenny, who got to her feet and spun around while hitting Parker with a kick to the face. A pain ripped at Jenny's side and she gasped and felt at her midsection as she fell back. She stared at her hand, seeing the blood on it and looked up to see a smiling Jarod, the tip of his sword colored with blood, standing before her.

Jenny's yell got Giles' attention and he glanced back at her. That gave Scully the perfect opportunity to hit him with a kick between the legs. The Watcher gasped with pain as he bent over, giving Mulder the chance to kick him in the face, sending him stumbling back toward the wounded Jenny. The two were frozen briefly, each wounded and realizing how outnumbered they were.

"Let's finish this," Parker hissed as she wiped at her face.

"We need them alive," Mulder pointed out. "To tell us where Giles and Jenny are."

"What?" Parker demanded as she glared at him. "After what they did-----"

"I said, we need them alive," Mulder said, a little smirk coming to his face. "I never said they had to be in one piece."
Parker grinned wickedly. "Ooooh, you've got a nasty side, Fox." She winked at Scully. "Sometimes I envy you, Dana."

"Ahem?" Jarod coughed.

"Not as much as she envies me," Parker quickly said.

"I'm sure," Jarod remarked. "Shall we-----?"

"Allow me," Parker said as she moved toward the wounded Jenny, throwing her sword in a downward arc meant to cut into the elf's leg and render it immobile-------

There was a blur of shadow and a cane blocked the sword. Parker started as the cane swung upward, sending her sword flying back. Parker, Jarod, Mulder and Scully all stared at the dark-garbed gentleman who had suddenly appeared between them and the two elves. "Who the hell are you?" a startled Parker demanded.

The Shade raised an eyebrow behind his glasses. "I have been through many hells in my many lifetimes, my dear lady," he said as he slowly raised his arms. "Allow me to show you some of it." He threw his arms out and shadows flew out from his being and engulfed the four Immortals. Instantly, each of them felt as if they were being struck by razors, tears appearing on their clothes and light cuts on their bodies. But even worse than the cuts was the overwhelming darkness that overcame each Immortal, as old pains resurfaced….

Those years in the Center, kept isolated, alone, no friends, the pain of learning what his simulations were used for, of finding out much of his life was a lie…

The isolation over the years, the coldness of her "father," her mother's death, nothing but the hunt for Jarod, seeing him trying to kill her when under a spell…

Samantha stolen away from him, the loneliness that resulted, the abuse of his father, losing Scully, Maeve…

Her battles with her father, his dying, Melissa dying, her abduction, Maeve…

*****

Giles and Jenny stared with horror as the darkness faded and the four Immortals collapsed to the ground. All were shaking, the looks on their faces showing pain and shock, cuts lining their skin and clothing. The Shade made a "tsk, tsk" sound as he turned to Giles and Jenny. "I do believe it's best we're off quickly," he stated. Giles helped Jenny to her feet and started to lead her away, Jenny holding her side. The Shade made to follow them but paused and turned back to the Immortals. "You'll all live," he announced. "Oh, you'll have some cuts that will need bandages and you'll probably need a drink or two to settle down at the end of the night and one or two of you might need a change of underwear. But you'll live. I let you live. Do remember that." With a twirl of his cane, he was gone, leaving the shaken quartet behind.

*****

"That was rather bracing," the Shade remarked as he caught back up to Jenny and Giles. "And I didn't kill them."

"Actually, you could have," Jenny stated. "They're all Immortal."

"What?" The Shade asked with actual surprise. "Why didn't you mention that?"

"We're trying to curb the blood lust, not add to it," Giles announced.

The Shade peered at him. "You really are less fun these days."

"It comes from having a fiancée and three Slayers to watch over," Giles stated. "The former and two of the latter of which are Americans."

"That explains it," the Shade said. He paused as a thought struck him. "Fiancée?" He glanced toward Jenny and sighed. "Oh, dear. I suppose that will put an end to your fun. As it has been historically proven, women have ever been the death of men's endeavors."

Jenny glared at him. "There was a time…possibly as recently as yesterday…when I would have shot you for that."

Giles looked back at where they had left the Immortals and shook his head. "Good Lord, was that necessary?"

"Would you prefer if I let them kill you?" the Shade answered. "It's why I broke away before. I sensed them coming and felt their seeing me right off might complicate matters needlessly."

"Oh, yes, wonderful, Shade," Giles snarled. "Now, they're convinced we're allied with evil and hunt us down for sure. Beautiful."

"Calm down, Rupert," Jenny said. "We've faced worse than this."

"Yes, but we could touch iron then," Giles pointed out.

"I won't let myself be defeated by small things," Jenny proclaimed.

"Bullets are small things, Jenny," Giles hissed.

Jenny turned toward the Shade. "Was he such a pessimist when you knew him or is it the elf thing?"

"Hmmm," the Shade said, stroking his chin as the three walked. "Compared to other Unseelie or myself?"

"Why do I bother…" Jenny muttered under her breath. She glanced at the Shade and frowned. "This is night. Why are you still wearing those glasses?"

"I have my reasons," the Shade side-stepped.

"What? Your future's so bright, you have to wear sunglasses at night?"

The Shade sighed. "Ms. Calendar, as far as I'm concerned, the 1980's are the absolute lowest nadir of the musical spectrum and are best left forgotten." He paused. "Well, except for ‘We Built This City' by Starship, of course."

"Well, of course," Giles and Jenny both replied.

The three came to a small drainage ditch with a tunnel nearby. "Hold on," Giles said. "Let me see if this leads anywhere." He moved forward and into the tunnel, leaving Jenny and the Shade behind. Jenny glanced at the dark-garbed man and turned away, rubbing her arms. She was still not comfortable around this being, especially after what she had seen. She felt her side and was surprised to feel that the bleeding had stopped. *Did I subconsciously cast a healing spell?* she asked herself, more than a little worried about the answer.

"You do well with him."

Jenny started and turned toward the Shade. "What?"

The Shade looked at her with an expression of utter seriousness. "After what happened with…her, Rupert was much darker, even by the standards of the day." The Shade took off his glasses and looked at Jenny with surprising emotion. "With you…I see a great deal more happiness in his eyes, Jenny. I do hope you help him keep it."

Jenny was silent for a long moment as she stared back at him. "Have you ever loved, Shade?"

For the first time, the Shade appeared uncomfortable. He looked down toward his feet as his hands clutched the head of his cane. "I do not…love. Not as you do. The last time didn't…go very well."

"Why not?"

The Shade tried to put a light air to it. "Oh, she was part of a family sworn to kill me, I ended up killing her. As you can imagine, that tends to put a damper on one's romanticism."

Jenny stared at him for a long moment before shaking her head. "You can't do it, can you?" she asked. "You can't act like a normal human being."

The Shade simply smiled as Giles came back out of the tunnel. "Doesn't look like it goes very far," he said with a sigh. "Damn, I was hoping we could use the cover."

"Shade can cover us," Jenny stated.

"With what, good intentions?" the Shade snorted.

Jenny glared at him. "You can use the darkness to cloak us."

"My dear Ms. Calendar," The Shade carefully stated. "Believe me when I tell you that the darkness I use is not merely the absence of light. It is also the shadows of the soul, bringing to life the dark, hidden parts of oneself, the parts they do not want brought to the surface. Given your current state, I believe that is something you would want to avoid at all costs."

Giles narrowed his eyes at the man. "Don't treat us like children," he hissed. "Don't try to make us feel inferior to you or I'll rip your bloody balls off!"

"I'm going to punch you in a minute," Jenny added with a touch of venom.

"Go ahead, he could do with some color," Giles sardonically added.

The Shade raised an eyebrow. "And what makes you believe my blood isn't black as well?"

Jenny threw up her hands and marched off. "God, I'm pissed. I should have killed Snyder, I know that now, I really should have just…" She stopped, her face dissolving from anger to fear as she realized two things: She had just truly wanted to kill Snyder. And she had said "God" instead of "Goddess." "Artemis, what's happening to me?" she whispered. Giles had a similar look of surprise and fear as he realized his own behavior in the last few minutes.

The Shade rubbed his chin as he studied the two. "If I would hazard a guess," he began. "I would say that you two are beginning to show more of the traits of the dark elves."

Giles' eyes widened as it hit him what was happening. "Oh my God," he whispered. "Ethan. That son of a bitch did worse than I thought."

"What?" Jenny asked, fearful of the answer.

Giles dragged a hand over his face. "He's making it permanent." Jenny's eyes widened in shock as Giles continued. "It's probably a 24 hour window or something similar. If we can't find Ethan in time…"

"Then you'll be permanently shopping at the more risqué boutiques," the Shade said. Although his tone was light, one could still see concern in his expression if one looked closely enough.

"Could you be a little more sensitive?" Jenny demanded.

The Shade gave her a surprisingly caring look. "My dear, I know all about darkness. And believe me when I say I have sensitivity enough for it. At the moment, you and Giles are screaming out with it to the point where you may make a full turn into shadow. A fate I sincerely hope you avoid."

Giles looked up at the Shade. "Shade," he softly said. "I know we promised with Merritt but…we need to find Ethan. Now."

The Shade was silent for a long moment, absently tapping his cane on the ground. "Yes, I do believe you're right," he finally said. He glanced at Giles' face. "I'll still be holding you to your word, Rupert. Expect that."

"I will," Giles said. "As you expect us to deal with you if you break your word."

*The Ripper as an Uniseele* the Shade thought to himself. *There are some things even I do not wish to face.*

*****

Steve St Wolf's Home
2053 Hours PST

"Okay, this may be cause for concern," Larry said as he hung up the phone. "I'm not getting any answer from them on their cell phones."

"Mulder and Scully not answering their phones?" Xander remarked. "You're right, that is trouble." He checked his gun, making sure it was loaded and set. Around him, the others were getting ready to move as Willow and Amy knelt by the map, Amy holding a crystal on a chain above it as she whispered under her breath.

Steve was concerned as he pulled a bulletproof vest over his shirt. "It's not like Mulder and Scully not to keep us informed," he said. "I hope they haven't run into some new trouble."

"This is Sunnydale, Steve," Robin pointed out. "Trouble is everywhere." As if to illustrate her point, the Buzz struck Buffy, Steve and Randi moment before the front door burst open. The group looked over to see Mulder, Scully, Jarod and Parker stagger into the living room. "What in the hell happened to you?" Randi exploded.

There was good reason for her being startled. All four Immortals had torn clothing and patches of blood here and there. But what was more striking were the expressions on the quartet's faces. Every one looked like they had been through hell, with shell-shocked expressions and also a bit of fear mixed in. "Holy shit!" Faith said as she, Larry, Xander and Cordelia moved quickly to help the four. "You guys look like hell."

"No," Parker sighed as she fell into a chair. "No, just looked into it is all." Jarod moved next to her, putting a hand on hers and squeezing tightly. Parker gave him a sad smile, seeing him trying to help despite his own shaken experience.

"What happened to you?" Steve asked. "Did the Unislee do this?"

Scully shook her head. "No. No, we almost had them but then some strange man in black shows up and the next thing we know, we're being attacked by shadows."

"Who was this?" Robin asked with concern.

"Dressed like somebody out of Dickens," Mulder said as he and Scully collapsed on the couch. "Top hat, cane, glasses, all in black…"

"Shit," Robin hissed as he looked at Liam. "Shade?"

"Shade," the leprechaun grimly replied.

"Shade?" Buffy asked.

"Let's just say the night's gotten even more complicated," Robin sighed.

"Why?" Cordelia asked. "Who is this guy?"

"To be honest, no one knows his real name," Robin said. "Or for that matter, how he got to be what he is. Suffice to say, if he's in town, the body count often tends to rise."

"He'll fit right into Sunnydale then," Cordelia snorted.

Steve peered at Robin. "You know him, don't you?"

"Met him a few decades back," Liam answered.

"And what happened?"

"Well, it's a long story-----"

"Oh, great, Steve, NOW see what you've done!" Buffy groaned.

"Okay, okay, to sum up, me and Liam taught him a lesson."

"Oh, God, what did you two do?" Steve demanded.

Robin smirked. "Turned his clothes white for a month."

Steve frowned. "What would that-----"

"Trust me," Robin interrupted. "For him, that was slow torture."

"I'll take your word for it," Steve sighed. "So what kind of powers does he have?"

"Control over darkness," Robin replied. "He can command shadows into all sort of shapes, usually of the wicked and demonic sort. It's not an illusion, these things can really rip you apart."

"We can attest to that," Jarod groaned. "It's not just the darkness either. It's…It brings up the parts of yourself that you'd rather leave buried away."

"The cuts they gave us weren't that bad," Scully said. "It was…It's that they were…"

"Cold," Mulder said. "Cold as ice."

"And he doesn't mean temperature," Jarod went on. "I mean, it feels like he's carved out a piece of your soul and left ice behind."

"No wonder Andrea looks the best off," Xander remarked, earning him a slap against the head from Cordelia.

"Could the Shade be working with Merritt?" Steve asked.

"No, he's too much of a lone wolf," Robin answered. "The few times he has worked with others, it didn't end well."

"Who's Merritt?" Scully asked.

"He's got this poster in town containing a demon," Randi matter of factly answered.

Parker put a hand over her eyes and rubbed her forehead. "We come here for a party and we're hunting down a pair of elves and a demonic poster. Is there no such thing as a normal trip to this town?"

"Tell us about it," Mulder and Scully spoke up.

"It's your job," Parker muttered. "You don't have any right to complain."

Steve rolled his eyes. "Okay. For right now, the Shade has to take a back seat. Finding Merritt comes first, then finding Giles and Jenny."

"Hold up!" Willow called out from her position kneeling by the map. "I think I'm about to have a eureka moment." As everyone watched, the crystal flew downward, impacting on one spot in particular on the map. "Got it," Willow said. "The warehouse district. Merritt's holed up there."

"You sure?" Buffy pressed as she looked at the map.

"If the aura criteria Robin and Liam gave me are right, it is," Willow said as she rose to her feet. "Some nice shielding spells but that's the place."

Steve nodded before he looked over at Mulder, Scully Jarod and Parker. "Are you guys okay to move?" he carefully asked.

"We will be," Scully groaned as she rose to her feet. "I need to wash up quick and I'll be right back."

"Hold on, I need to follow you," Mulder said as he got up and began to follow his wife out. Parker and Jarod weakly rose to their feet and staggered after the two FBI agents as the others watched.

"Amy, follow them up and see if there's anything you can do to help," Steve suggested. As the blond-haired witch followed the quartet out, Steve turned to the rest of the group. "Okay, here's the plan. We go in two groups. First wave takes out whatever support Merritt has set up. He'll probably be making it a little easy to lure us in so the demon can do its worst."

"And second wave gets the poster while first wave distracts?" Xander asked.

"Bingo," Steve confirmed with a nod. He turned toward Robin and Liam. "You two wait for us to get inside, then zip in, grab the poster and zip out. We can take care of Merritt then." He looked over the group. "Any questions?"

"No," Buffy said. "But since the Immortal couples give us more firepower for Merritt, I'm going to find Ethan and beat him to tell me where Giles and Jenny are."

"I'm going with you, Buffy," Willow immediately announced.

"And I as well," Shaw added.

"Count me in," Faith chimed in. "If G and J aren't okay, we're lighting up more than candles tonight."

Steve held up a hand. "Girls, listen, we need------"

"Steve, laddie, it's a hopeless task," Liam said with a smile. "Just let them go."

*****

Buffy stood in her room, her case of weapons brought out from under her bed and lying on top of the covers. She was going through it carefully, trying to pick out the right weapons. "Here," she said, pulling out a large dagger and giving it an offhand toss. "This should work."

Shaw easily caught the dagger and slipped it into her belt. Her face was as serious as Buffy's and Willow was wearing one of grim concentration as well as she plucked a knife out of Buffy's case to use. Faith was feeling slightly uneasy at the looks on their faces. "Ah, you guys gonna be okay here?" she asked. "Haven't seen you all this pissed since the deal with Roz and Zev."

"We'll be okay, Faith," Buffy intoned. "As soon as we find Giles and Jenny and rip Ethan and the elves into little pieces, we'll be peachy."

Faith raised an eyebrow. "Ah, B? You know Rayne's human, right?"

"If he's hurt Giles or Jenny, it doesn't matter," Willow said with a touch of menace in her voice Faith had never heard before. "He won't walk away from this."

The icy tone in the normally reserved redhead's voice gave Faith a slight chill as she swallowed. "Um, guys, I'm worried about Giles and Jenny too but you're taking it a bit harder…"
Buffy looked at her fellow Slayer. "You haven't known them as long as we have, Faith. I know you love them too, but to us, they're not just friends or teachers. Giles…" Buffy took a deep breath. "Well, let's just say he's been a hell of a lot more of a father to me than my real dad has been the last few years."

"Ditto for Jenny," Willow said. "Well, I mean, for a mom, that is. You know. She's like a mom to me."

"I got that, Red," Faith said. "What about you, Shaw?"

Shaw gave Faith a careful look. "As elders and teachers, I naturally give them much respect," the Harper told the Slayer. She looked down at her feet. "But in many ways…I care for them as much as I care for Ulric or…or even the Lady." She looked back up, her gaze strong. "And if anyone has brought harm to them, I will make them regret the day their ancestors were ever spawned."

Faith licked her lips and shook her head. "Damn, I never realized how important those two were to you guys." She paused and closed her eyes. "And to me," she muttered. "I know I needle them a lot but…" She looked at the other three girls. "I've lost a mom twice," she said. "I'm not going to go for a third."

"None of us are," Buffy stated. "So lock and load and let's go hunt some elves."

Shaw was about to go back to the weapons when a voice echoed in her head. /Lass? Ye okay?/

Shaw kept her expression neutral as she moved to the case. /I am trying to keep my mind focused, Liam. You are hardly helping./

/I'd like to do this face t' face as well but I'm a bit busy on my end down here/ the leprechaun replied telepathically. /Listen, lass. This could get bad, ye know that. And I know how important Giles and Jenny are, ye've told me enough times for that. Just remember. The last thing they would want would be for you go over the edge out of worry and grief./

/I know that, Liam/ the Harper replied. /I want to hold back from that but if they have suffered…/

/Shaw…Just promise me that if it comes to it, use that rage against those who deserve it./

/Of that, you may be sure./

/Love ye./

/I love you, Liam. And…thank you./ Shaw went back to checking her weapons, giving no indications to any of her companions of the connection she and Liam now had. And how much more whole she felt because of it.

*****

Parker leaned against a wall in the upstairs hallway, her hands to her face as she sat on the floor. She was trying to keep her breathing steady, trying to block out the memories of the images she had seen in the Shade's embrace. She felt the presence of someone near her and looked up.

Jarod was kneeling down to her, his expression showing that caring look he did so well. "How are you?" he quietly asked.

Parker rubbed at her face. "What I saw…" she whispered. "All the things I've done before I met you…The things I don't want to remember…" She closed her eyes, trying to fight off tears. "The things I don't want you to know…"

Jarod stroked her hair as he felt pain at seeing his lover consumed with guilt. "I love you, Andrea."

"Why?" Parker looked up at him. "How can you love me when you know what kind of person I used to be?"

"Because you changed," Jarod told her. "Because you're not that person anymore. And because you're strong enough not to let what you saw tear you apart. Yes, you've got some darkness in your past, Andrea, but you haven't let that dictate your life. That was your father's way, not yours. You changed. You accepted that change. That's why I love you."
Parker's tears had shifted now to ones of joy. "God, it's times like this I realize how much I need you," she said as she embraced him. "I love you, Jarod."

He simply held her, knowing that every now and then, Parker felt the shadow of her past come over her. At least Jarod knew he was there to help her back into the light.

*****

Abandoned Warehouse
2101 Hours PST

A century and a half of life had done very little to make Merritt look attractive. If anything, the man truly was Dorian Gray, his outer self reflecting his dark nature. He was bald with a dark and bushy mustache and goatee, his dark eyes set deep in his face, illuminated by the glow of his cigarette, and he was clad entirely in black. He took a deep breath of it and then blew it out as he glanced at his watch. "What is keeping them?" he muttered, his deep British accent a raspy growl.

Behind him, a blonde-haired vampire just shrugged. "I don't know. Usually, they can't move fast enough to kick the ass out of anyone trying to have fun in this town. They'll be here though."

"You sure they'll have gotten the word?" Merritt pressed.

"Hey, it's why we told Willy," the vamp sneered. "The guy caves just being sneezed on. They know and they'll find us."

"Good," Merritt said as he turned to face the open area of the warehouse. "Remember, minimum resistance, let them enter easily. I want them all in one place when I make my move." He watched as a group of demons began to drag a curtain over one wall of the warehouse and let an evil smile come to his face. "And make sure there are some cameras around. I think you're all going to want to remember the image the poster is going to show." He let out a low laugh as he prepared for the party that was to come.

*****

Part six: In which the big party comes down.

Steve St. Wolf's Home
Sunnydale, CA
July 11th, 1999 - 2122 Hours PST

Scully brushed back her hair as she looked at her reflection in the mirror. She could see in her own eyes that she still looked shaky and tried to steel herself. She had faced worse than this in her time as an FBI agent and an Immortal. At least she knew she wasn't going through it alone. She opened the door and stepped into the hallway, not in the least bit surprised that Mulder was waiting for her. Without a word, her husband drew her into a hug. Scully closed her eyes and felt his love strengthen her. <Thanks> she thought through their telepathic connection. <It was…rough.>

<Tell me about it> Mulder replied, giving her a quick kiss. The two headed downstairs where they found the group getting loaded for bear in full force. Cordelia was sliding her katana into a scabbard around her hip while Larry was making sure his body armor was on tight. The rest were preparing as well and Scully frowned as she looked about. "Where's Buffy, Shaw, Willow and Faith?" she asked.

"They left to find Ethan with bitches set firmly to ‘on,'" Steve calmly answered as he gave Demon Slayer a little twirl in his hands before putting it away.

Scully shook her head. "Buffy, Faith and Shaw, I can believe on that," she said. "But Willow?"

"She's close to Jenny and the feeling's mutual," Steve answered. "She wants to help Jenny however she can. And if that means kicking the ass of whoever hurt her…I'm not standing in her way."

"Smart man," Mulder intoned. "So, what's the plan?"

"We attack them hard and fast, let Robin and Liam get the poster, stop Merritt, then hope there's still something left of Rayne left after the girls get through with him," Steve flatly answered.

"Is it wrong to be utterly terrified of this man?" Xander openly asked.

"Nope," Cordelia answered as she picked up a gun. "We all feel the same way."

Xander looked over at her, then at Parker, who was sliding her sword into her coat, right next to her gun. "If I didn't feel so sorry for those pointy-eared assholes, this would be very erotic right now," he muttered.

Steve rubbed at his head. "I wish Joyce was here," he muttered. "We could use her calming influence."

"Steve, if she was here, remember who else would be here," Xander pointed out.

"Just as well, then."

Steve was just about to roll his eyes when the phone rang and he quickly moved to answer it. Mulder sighed as he walked over toward the Wanderer and spoke. "Are you sure letting the others leave was a good idea?" he asked as Steve listened to whomever was on the other line. "I know they can be a bit commanding and hard to convince off a track but-----"

He stopped as he watched Steve give a quick nod, mutter something, then hang up the phone with an odd expression on his face. "What is it?"

Steve took a deep breath. "That was Joyce," he said. "I have to call the mayor of Chicago and get him to get the police to release two people who were just found next to a dead body."

Mulder blinked as he absorbed that news. "I'm assuming a horrible death awaits me if I mention this to Buffy."

"Ah, those instincts of yours are wonderful," Steve dryly remarked.

Mulder frowned as a thought struck him. "Well, you know, when they hear what's going on here, they might believe jail might actually be good for them…"

"I don't know what's worst," Steve groaned. "When you say stuff like that or when I know you're right about it."

*****

Four blocks from the Motor Lodge
2131 Hours PST

I was beginning to feel I was in dark company. And for me, that's saying something.

For the last several minutes, I had begun to see a change coming over Giles and Calendar. It wasn't a pleasant sight, to say the least. The duo were apparently, starting to slide further and further into the mentality of the dark elves. As one who had a special connection of his own to darkness, I knew this was not a place either of these people deserved. Rancor is not something I give myself to often but I could feel that rising within me for one Ethan Rayne.

*****

"I am going to rip his balls off," Giles hissed. He and Jenny were stalking toward the Motor Lodge, sticking to the back alleyways and keeping out of sight of people. The Shade was more than slightly disconcerted over the fact that in the last several minutes, the elven features of the duo had become darker, as if they were settling into a permanent position. He tried to keep up with them, his cane clicking against the pavement as he followed the duo.

"And I'll stuff them down his throat just before I separate it from his head," Jenny added with a hiss. She blinked and rubbed her head. "Oh, Goddess, it's getting worse."

"I know," Giles groaned. "I can feel it, the darkness, the desire for violence…"

"Good times, roll with them," the Shade remarked.

Jenny threw him an ugly look. "Sympathy just isn't in you, is it?"

"Oh, it is," the Shade stated. "But like so much of my nature, it's far, far from the surface.

"Just like Ethan," Jenny muttered.

"That is one thing you have to give to him," the Shade said. "He's honest about who he is."

"And you?" Jenny barked as she whirled on him. "Are you a good man or a bad man?"

The Shade rubbed his chin. "Bad men create excuses for their actions. Good men berate and punish themselves for minor sins they believe damn them. Myself…I am what I am, nothing more or less. As for what that is…" He shrugged. "I'm the Shade, my dear. Why should I shed light on my origins?"

Jenny rolled her eyes. "Your puns are worse than Robin's."

"There's no need to be insulting," the Shade sniffed.

"Sorry," Jenny muttered. "I tend to get snitty when I'm turning into a dark elf. And hanging around a creature like you doesn't help."

"And what, pray tell, is your problem with me?" the Shade asked, making a show of being hurt.

"Do you want the list alphabetically?" Jenny said. "I don't need advice from a heartless creature like you."

The Shade fixed her with a dark look. "Call me whatever you like, madam. Heaven knows, I've heard more than my share. But keep in mind what sort of being I am. What sort of company I might keep. What I can do. Call me names if you wish. What I call you can be far more disturbing."

"I still can't believe we're depending on you," Jenny muttered.

"Well, as Oscar was fond of saying keep your friends close and enemies closer."

Giles looked over at him. "That's from *The Godfather.*"

The Shade shrugged. "Puzo had to get it from somewhere. Good writers borrow from other writers. The great ones steal outright."

Jenny rubbed her head. "Suppose we run into some of the others again," she said. "How do we handle it?"

"I could hold them off," the Shade confidently announced.

"Without hurting them?" Giles asked.

The Shade frowned. "Oh. You want to make it less of a pleasure, then."

"Tell you what; we find Ethan, you have my blessing."

The Shade arched an eyebrow at Giles. "Why would I hurt someone who managed to get one or three over on you, Rupert?"

"Because he does it without panache."

The Shade sniffed. "Flattery will get you nowhere."

"He also disses my position as a librarian, a guardian of literature," Giles added.

"But perhaps that might get you somewhere," the Shade allowed.

Jenny felt a rush of excitement come over her as she saw the Motor Lodge only a block away. "There it is. Let's go in, smack Ethan around, and get this over with."

"Provided he hasn't left already," the Shade remarked. "It's very possible he decided to take the better part of…well, valor doesn't really apply to him…and left town long ago."

"Do you work for Dr. Kevorkian?" Jenny demanded.

Giles paused before turning toward the Shade. "Shade, there's something we need you to do for us."

"Oh, certainly, why not add more to my patience," the Shade said with a rare burst of tension.

Giles looked at Jenny, who knew what he was thinking and gave him an assenting nod. Nodding back, Giles turned back to the Shade and spoke. "If it comes to it…kill us."

For one of the few times in his long life, the Shade found himself at an utter loss for words. He actually reached up and removed his glasses to stare at Giles. The Watcher was completely serious as he gazed at the Shade. "If Ethan's not in there…if we can't find him in time…if something goes wrong and the transformation becomes permanent and we become Unislee…we'll be evil. It's happening already, we can both feel it starting to take over. If it does…we need you to kill us."

The Shade blinked and licked his lips. "Rupert…I don't think you two fully understand what you are asking…"

"We'll be a danger to everyone, Shade," Jenny spoke up, a light sheen of tears in her eyes. "And we'll need to be put down fast." She swallowed. "And frankly…I think it's better that you're the one to do it instead of…the others."

"The last thing either of us wants," Giles stated. "Is to have Buffy have to live with the guilt of having to kill us, even if it was for the best."

There was a long moment of silence as the Shade slowly shook his head. "Every now and again, the human race astounds me in ways that defy my philosophy."

"Will you?" Giles said, his face still drawn.

The Shade slid his glasses back onto his nose and nodded. "If need be…I will. But I can assure you both…for the first time in my memory…this will be one killing I will take no pride or pleasure in."

Jenny closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "I can't believe we're asking you to kill us," she whispered.

"Only as a last resort, my dear," the Shade told her with a touch of sympathy. "I would truly hate to have a head so lovely severed from a body of equal attractiveness."

Jenny was surprised at how amused she felt from the remark. "Even when you're being sweet, you leave a sour taste in my mouth."

"It's a gift."

*****

Two Blocks from the Motor Lodge
2152 Hours PST

"Well, I'm looking forward to this," Willow announced. "The last two times Ethan was around, I wasn't able to punch him. Now, I want to." She, Buffy, Faith and Shaw were marching down the sidewalk, all four wearing hard expressions. Buffy's hand was clutched hard around Vampire Slayer as she set her jaw. She had been silent since the four had left Steve's house, her eyes showing the raging emotions within her. Willow could see the look in her best friend's eyes and took a deep breath. "Buffy, we'll find them. We will."

"I know, Will," Buffy said. "It's how we find them is what's scaring me."

Faith shot Buffy a look of mild surprise. "Wow, B. Last time I saw you like this was when your mom…" She fell silent, remembering the look of pain in Buffy's face when Joyce's tumor had become known. She looked down at her feet as she marched along and took a deep breath. "Listen, B, Giles and Jenny mean a lot to me too. But you're the one who's always saying we have to have hope."

"Sometimes it is hard for Buffy to accept hope," Shaw stated. "In that, she takes after her mother."

Buffy looked at her in puzzlement. "What?"

"When you were in Outworld," Shaw explained. "Your mother was frightened for and afraid of losing you. But she managed to hold on and save you. You can do the same with Giles and Jenny."

"They'll be okay," Willow repeated. Her voice lowered, a slight quiver coming into it. "They have to be okay."

Buffy could see Willow was as worried as she, remembering how Jenny was a mother figure of sorts to the redheaded Wiccan. She put a hand on Willow's shoulder and gave her friend a reassuring squeeze. She looked ahead toward the motor lodge and stopped as she saw two figures moving toward it. "Okay, we've got some visitors crashing the party," she announced, her voice all business. "Get ready to move."

Shaw drew out Feasellityar and handed it to Faith. "Here, Faith. In case they use magic on you."

"What about you?" the Slayer asked as she took the blade.

"I have this," Shaw said, holding up her katana.

Willow frowned. "Wait a minute. Why are you using the nonmagical blade against them?"

"Cold iron," Shaw answered in a voice of the same temperament as the object she had just described.

"Shaw, what's the difference between Unseelie and Drow?" Faith asked as she gave her sword a few practice swings.

"Unseelie do not have religious fanaticism as an excuse for their depravity," the Hunter sniffed as the four women broke into a run toward the motel.

*****

Ethan Rayne had an instinct for when it was time to pack up and get the hell out of Dodge. And that instinct was ringing wildly right now.

He had been checking with the more low-key and demonic forces in town and had gotten the buzz that things were more complicated than he had thought. *Merritt* the Chaos mage thought to himself as he stuffed a pair of shirts into his small bag. *Bugger, that bastard would have to pick the same time as me to pull a stunt! He could ruin everything!* He quickly started to gather his magical ingredients as he tried to figure his plan to get out of town quick. *At least Merritt will distract the Slayer and her friends long enough for me to bolt,* he thought. *Wish I could have stuck around to see how it all turned out but the minute they figure out I'm part of this, I'm a dead man.*

He was just about to zip the bag up and leave without paying his room fee when the door burst off his hinges. Ethan shot his head up and saw two dark elves standing in the doorway, both giving him murderous looks. Swallowing, he straightened up and held up his hands. "Okay, now listen, I know you're probably upset right now but let's just sit down and talk and you know, someday, we may all have a big laugh about----"

With twin howls, Giles and Jenny were on him, grabbing Ethan and slamming him down on the floor. Ethan choked as Giles wrapped his hands around his throat and squeezed hard. He gasped for air, his gasp growing when Jenny laid a foot hard into his crotch. "Kill…kill me and…I can't…can't change you…back…" Ethan started to choke out. He felt a chill as he saw the look in Giles' eyes and realized the transformation was taking more than he thought.

Suddenly, Giles was yanked away and flung across the room. Jenny looked up in time to catch a savage kick to the face. Ethan sat up and saw Buffy, Shaw, Faith and Willow in the motel room, all four women wearing expressions of cold anger. "Thanks, Slayer, I-----"

Buffy smacked a fist into his nose, stunning him. "Stay down, Rayne, or you won't live to see what I'm going to do to you!" she hissed.

Rubbing his nose, Ethan hid a smirk as he realized he had a golden opportunity here. "Hey, you want to kick someone's ass, try them!" he yelled, waving at Giles and Jenny. "Buggers double-crossed me! They took out Ripper and the gypsy, now they want me!"

Just as Ethan had hoped, the four women each felt a rage for elven blood overtake them. Buffy whirled toward Giles, who had just gotten back to his feet, and hit him across the face with a savage blow, knocking him back. Faith followed up with a kick to his crotch that bent Giles over. The Boston-bred Slayer moved forward, her hands starting wrap around Giles' head in a position where she could snap his neck but Giles managed to slip away and instinctively hit Faith with a forearm to the chin. "Sorry," Giles hissed as he saw Faith hold back. He barely saw the blur of Buffy's fist before it smashed into his face.

Jenny was having her own problems, letting out a yell as Willow yanked her arm hard, flipping her onto her back. *Goddess, has she always been this strong?* she thought to herself even as she dodged the blade Shaw was thrusting down at her. She got back to her feet and tried a kick to keep Willow back. With utter hate in her eyes, Willow caught it and yanked Jenny off-balance, sending a vicious blow into her temple that rattled her. She fell onto her knees, gasping for breath.

Willow looked at Shaw. "You want it?"

Shaw simply nodded and pulled out a short silver dagger. She grabbed the hair of the elf before her and yanked back as she moved the dagger toward the creature's throat.

Unseen by any of them, Ethan smiled as he tried to imagine the looks on the faces of the four when they discovered they had killed their own teachers.

Across the room, Faith hit Giles with a spinning kick that sent him crashing to the floor. Buffy fell onto him, straddling him and raising her own dagger, holding it over her head. "This," she hissed. "Is for Giles."

Despite the obvious danger, Giles felt strangely touched. "For me?" he asked.

Buffy's body tensed as she got ready to bring the dagger down into the elf's chest. She was gazing right at his face, seeing the obvious fear in his eyes along with…

With…

"Giles?" Buffy whispered.

"B, whatta waiting for?!" Faith yelled. "Kill it!"

Buffy's jaw fell open as she realized what she was seeing. "Oh my God, Giles?"

"Giles?" Faith moved forward, looking down at the elf. "B, have you flipped----" She stopped as she saw something in the elf's expression. "Oh, shit," she whispered. Her eyes widened as she whipped her head around toward Shaw and Willow. "Guys-----"

Just before she had spoken, Willow had looked into the eyes of the elf and her own widened. "Shaw, don't!" she yelled, grabbing the Harper's hand. "It's Jenny!"

Shaw froze in confusion before realizing what Willow had meant. "Jenny?" she whispered. "But…how…"

As one, they all came to the same conclusion and all four women turned to glare at Ethan. He managed a weak smile and a shrug, then turned to bolt toward the open door. Just before he reached it, a dark blur filled his vision and a fist wrapped around the head of a cane smashed into his jaw, sending him down. Ethan shook his head and rubbed his chin as he sat up and looked up at the figure filling the doorway. "Hello, Ethan," he said in a light tone. "It's been such a long time."

"S---S---Shade?!" Ethan stammered. He let out a yell as shadows flew outward, yanking him off his feet and then pressing him onto the ceiling. The Shade stepped forward, propping his cane up on one shoulder and giving Ethan a dry smile. "Now, then. I don't suppose I need to elaborate on what it is I want and what will happen to you if you don't do it?" As if in emphasis, a shadowy claw made a quick pass at Ethan's shirt, causing tears to appear.

"The hell?!" Buffy said, staring in confusion along with the others at the Shade.

"Ah, the delightful Miss Summers, I presume," the Shade said, doffing his hat and bowing. "Rupert has spoken very well of you." He raised an eyebrow as he placed his hat back on his head. "And dare I say, your lover might be just a tad upset about the position you're in?"

Buffy suddenly realized she was straddling her Watcher and with a yelp, quickly got off him. Shaw also realized she was still tugging back Jenny's hair and let go. She, Willow and the Slayers turned toward the Shade, who was quite calm about it all.

"We thought you were a bad guy!" Willow yelled.

"Ah, one does have to live with one's reputation," the Shade sighed. "You'd understand that, Slayer."

Buffy narrowed her eyes suspiciously at him. "Are you saying you're helping Giles and Jenny?"

"I am," the Shade confirmed. "But if we may save the explanations for later?" He turned and looked back up at Ethan. "Change them back, Rayne. Now."

Swallowing his fear, Ethan managed to bark "And if I don't? Suppose I just let them stay? At midnight, it becomes permanent and you'll have to kill them."

The Shade made a tsking sound as he shook his head. "Ethan, Ethan, Ethan," he chided as he raised a hand to remove his glasses. "You don't quite understand your situation. Either you change them back or…"

"Or you'll swallow me up in shadow?" Ethan snorted. "Mate, after where I've been for the last year, that'll be a picnic."

"Actually, I have something worse in mind," the Shade lightly replied. He used his cane to point to the other occupants of the room. "I'll give you to them."

Ethan slowly turned his head to focus on the four young women who were giving him the classic looks of death. "All right, all right, I'll switch them back!" he yelled. "Let me down already!"

With a wave, the Shade called back the shadows, sending Ethan smashing face-first into the floor. "How lovely to see one grows in intellect as time passes," he briskly remarked as he watched the defeated Rayne crawl to his feet.

*****

Warehouse District
2243 Hours PST

"Am I the only one here who thinks this is going a bit too smoothly?" Randi asked as she ducked the swinging arm of a demon, then jumped to her feet and sliced him across the chest.

"Don't knock smoothly," Cordelia returned as she plunged a stake into the chest of a vampire, then kicked another as the first disintegrated. "You ask me, we don't get smoothly nearly enough."

"I seem to remember Amy once asking if we could get to fight an evil idiot, but do you really think this is the time?" Randi replied as she decapitated another vamp. The assault on the warehouse was indeed going rather well. There had been only a dozen vampires on the outside that the team had swiftly taken out, leading to the inside of the warehouse where the major battle was now taking place.

"I'm disappointed," Larry intoned as he hurled a Grappler demon to one side, sending him smashing against a metal pillar. "You'd think a guy with a century or so of experience could have enough cash to hire some decent fighters." A growl came from behind him, followed by a loud scream. Without looking, Xander knew it was Oz in wolf form, tearing the vamp's throat out. A few seconds later, the now-human guitarist was smashing a stake into a vampire's chest.

Steve swung his sword out in a wide arc, neatly decapitating one demon and then plunging it into a vampire, giving Kendra the chance to stake it. He could see there were a few demons near the other side of the warehouse who had evidentially decided that the money Merritt was offering was not going to help them if they were dust or otherwise unable to spend it. He could also see Merritt standing on a small platform set along the back wall, the poster set up behind him. Somewhat surprisingly, the man seemed utterly nonplussed about the massacre of his troops. "Now," Steve whispered, knowing who was listening to him.

A flash of light came behind Merritt and the man spun about to see what it was. Before he had even turned fully, Robin and Liam had each taken a side of the poster and peeled it off the wall. Another flash came and the duo vanished before Merritt's eyes and reappeared beside Steve. The others had finished dealing with what few demons remained and watched as the Limerick and Shamrock Connection proudly held up the poster. "There you go then," Liam remarked. "For once, a job with no muss, no fuss, no-----"

The instant he stopped, Steve felt a sinking feeling in his stomach. The leprechaun was staring at the poster with an uneasy look on his face. "Ah, Rob?" he spoke up. "You see something I don't?"

Robin looked at the poster himself and his own eyes widened. "No. I don't see something you don't."

"Translation?" Steve asked even though he was sure he didn't want it.

Robin looked at him with a grave expression. "This isn't the poster. Not the magical one, not the demonic one, this isn't-----"

"Why oh why did you assume its shape was fixed?" Merritt called out in a mocking tone. "That's the wonderful thing about posters, my foolish friends. They come in a variety of sizes. And I knew for this job, I needed a big one." As he spoke, he had backed up toward the wall and gripped a rope attached to the curtain. He yanked back on it, allowing the curtain to drop away. There, stretched out across the wall, was a massive poster. Every member of the team felt a chill as they saw an image of themselves surrounded by fire and demonic imagery, with expressions of terror on their faces.

The poster seemed to shift, the image it contained twisting as if in a whirlpool, moving inward as a wind seemed to pick up. "Oh, shit," Robin hissed as he and Liam tried to steady themselves. The others felt the wind pick up, appearing to blow from behind them and toward the poster and all realized what was happening. "Everyone grab onto something!" Steve yelled as he made toward the nearest metal pillar, Xander, Cordelia and Kendra with him. Another pillar was soon home to Randi, Oz and Larry, all three holding onto it tight. Mulder, Scully, Jarod and Parker had managed to gather around a caged area to one side, all four holding onto the mesh as hard as they could. Robin and Liam were using their magics to stay to the floor but both could feel the grip giving way. "Steve!" Robin yelled. "There's some serious magic involved here! I don't know if we can hold it!"

"Just hold on as long as you can!" Steve yelled to the group at large. No sooner were the words out of his mouth than Randi's grip on the pillar loosened. She let out a yell as she felt herself give way. With a speed that belied his size, Larry shot out an arm and gripped her tight. Randi tried to hold on even as the wind continued to suck away at the group.

Merritt let out a dark laugh. He was standing under the poster, showing no signs of being effected by the vortex raging within the poster. "Hang on all you want, it won't do any good. I don't know who wants you all out of the way so badly but he paid well enough." She smirked. "Let's see how well you do fighting demons on the other side of the fence."

"Let's not." A whistling sound cut through the air and Merritt felt a savage pain in his right shoulder. He yelled as he fell back, gripping his shoulder and saw a dagger sticking out of it. His head rose toward the catwalk several feet above the warehouse floor. Standing there, gripping at the railing hard, were Buffy, Shaw, Faith, Willow and a now human again Jenny and Giles.

Merritt hissed as he yanked out the dagger. "Do you think this will do anything?" he yelled out. "You think this will stop me?"

"No," Giles shot back. "But I do believe he will."

*****

The plan was a hasty, makeshift one. From what I gathered, it's the sort of thing these people do quite a bit and it's worked out all right for them. I hoped that luck would hold.

In a nice touch I do wish more in life was like, it was much easier for Ethan to undo the spell than it was for him to cast it, returning Giles and Jenny back to their original states. I was afforded a chance to see a rather emotional series of embraces by the quartet of youngsters that would have given Ethan an excellent chance to make his escape had it not been for my presence.

I was pleased to see that Giles had evidentially grown more of an honorable streak over the years as his first thought upon returning to human form was to help me find Merritt. He was rather surprised to have Buffy report that they knew of Merritt and were on their way to track him down. It hardly took the foresight of Sherlock Holmes to deduce that a trap was being laid.

(And a note to myself: Do try to drop by and see Sherlock again. He still owes me a drink for that time in Madagascar.)

We arrived just as the poster was being unveiled (I hardly see why people complain about my method of transportation given how rough that witch's ride was.) And as we had briefly discussed, I waited for their little distraction to make my move.

I stepped forward quickly, feeling the pull of the poster. I had gathered up all the shadow force I could in preparation for what was to come and let some of it flow outward toward Merritt. I was rewarded by the look of utter surprise on his face as I lifted him up and toward the poster.

He knew what I was planning almost instantly and sneered at me. "It won't work, Shade!" he yelled out. "Me alone won't do it! Once that portal's open, nothing can close it until it's tasted someone!"

"I know," I solemnly stated. I looked over my shoulder to where Giles and Jenny stood. "Be ready!" I called out as I stepped forward, pulling the shadows along to drag Merritt toward the portal. I must admit to a twinge of satisfaction at the yell he gave as I prepared to throw him into the portal. I gave my cane a twirl, made sure my hat was on…and then I paused as a thought struck me.

"How queer. This is how a hero acts. Not one such as I."

And then I leaped forward and into the portal and whatever awaited on the other side.

*****

The instant the Shade vanished into the darkness, Giles and Jenny clutched hands and began chanting. Willow joined in, reading off the note she had hurriedly scribbled down in Ethan's hotel room. A loud rumbling went through the building as the poster began to flash darkly. The edge of it started to peel backward, as if tugged away. The peeling continued, the poster beginning to fall in on itself, sucked away in the same strange vortex that it had been producing only seconds before. With a final flash and a loud sucking sound, it vanished, the wind dying away and the Slayerettes collapsing as the force pulling on them disappeared.

"Well, that was a bit embarrassing," Xander announced as he picked himself off the floor. "Some guy we've never even seen before comes in and saves the day. This keeps up, I'm liable to develop an inferiority complex."

He paused and Cordelia stared at him quizzically. "What?"

Xander shook his head. "Sorry. I was just expecting our resident alien to make a crack about how I'm inferior anyway so a complex wouldn't be much of a problem."

The group watched as the people who had been on the railing made it down the connecting stairs and to the floor. "Oh, Goddess, it feels so good to be back," Jenny groaned as she swung her arms back and forth before her.

"I know, I know," Giles added with a smile. "I never knew how good an old body could feel."

"Just where the hell have you two been?" Mulder asked as he, Jarod, Scully and Parker drew forward.

Giles and Jenny exchanged a look and then moved, each delivering a one-two punch combo to the two people before them: Mulder and Jarod for Giles, Scully and Parker for Jenny. The four Immortals all stumbled back, rubbing their chins as the others were taken aback. "What the hell was that for?" Mulder demanded.

"That's for that blow to the shoulder!" Giles yelled.

"And the cheap shot in the back!" Jenny added.

It took a couple of moments before it sank in for the group what the two were saying. "Wait a minute," Scully said, her eyes wide. "You mean, you two-----"

Giles and Jenny grimly nodded.

"Oh," Scully whispered. "Oh, that was…Oh."

Steve carefully walked toward Buffy. "Are you all right?"

"I am now," Buffy said as she smiled at Giles and Jenny. "We'd better get back though. We've got one hell of a story to hear."

"Oh, don't forget to stop off at the motel," Giles announced. "We've got someone still wrapped up there that we really must bring over.

*****

Part seven: In which a party is finally held and a final present is given out.

Steve St. Wolf's Home
Sunnydale, CA
July 11, 1999
2300 Hours PST

"So, to make a long story short-------"

"Too late," half of the team replied as they marched through the front door to Steve's house. Giles and Jenny had been sharing their tale of just what had happened to them during the past day as they walked back from the warehouse. Steve was leading the way while in the back of the group, Shaw and Faith were dragging a bound and (to the relief of all) gagged Ethan along.

"I'm just glad the spell returned us to normal," Jenny said, cracking her head from one side to the other.

"And I speak for myself, Buffy, Shaw and Faith when I say we're glad Ethan allowed you to be dressed when you got back to normal," Willow stated.

"Hey, don't speak so fast for me, Red…"

"FAITH!" Half the group yelled as they entered the house. Jenny threw up her hands as the group came into the living room. She stopped and stared at the various party decorations, a puzzled frown covering her face. "What is all this?"

"Oh, yeah." Buffy coughed and then weakly smiled. "Surprise?"

"Surprise? What do you mean…" Jenny's voice broke off and her eyes widened as the lights for several things that had been happening recently went off at once. "You mean…" she started. "All that…"

"And you didn't bloody tell me?!" Giles said with some rancor, as shocked as Jenny was to all this.

"Oh, like you'd keep it from her," Buffy sniffed.

Jenny looked at Amy and Willow, who were attempting innocent expressions. She put her hands on her hips as she hit them with a glare. "THIS is why you've been giving me the short end of the stick lately?" she demanded. "A party?"

"Well, it was a surprise," Willow said defensively. "We wanted it to be nice and all…"

Jenny closed her eyes and took a deep breath before looking back at Willow. "Willow, I appreciate the sentiment and all, I truly do but…I…The way you kept avoiding me, I…well, I sort of thought you were wanting to do more with magics without me."

"What?" Willow exclaimed, as shocked as Jenny. "Jenny, how could you think that?!"

"Well, considering they were stupid enough to go to a bar with Ethan Rayne…" Larry muttered.

Jenny rubbed her face and then, to the surprise of everyone, let out a short laugh. "Oh, Goddess, it was all just a misunderstanding…" She laughed a bit louder and shook her head. "Oh, leave it to the Hellmouth to make a birthday interesting."

"Preaching to the choir, Jenny," Buffy said with a smile. "Come on, let's see if Dawn left any of the cake intact."

*****

A few minutes later, the living room was showing a party atmosphere, albeit slightly less jovial than it might have been before. After giving the two teachers massive hugs, Dawn had quickly broken out the cake (which was missing a slice), the cookies and the ice cream and the group were enjoying a well-deserved break after the events of the day.

"Man, stuck as elves, us hunting you down," Faith said as she sipped at a drink. "Musta sucked for you guys."
"It was an experience, I have to admit," Giles remarked. He paused, lowering the small paper plate he was holding and looking at Buffy. "Buffy, I have to know," he quietly said. "Just what made you stop?"

Buffy looked down, trying to fight the slight rush of shame over how close she came to killing Giles. "It was your eyes," she explained. "The look in your eyes just before I brought the knife down." She looked up to meet Giles' true eyes. "Only you would have that look."

"The same with Jenny," Willow piped up. "It was a look only you could make."

"A look of love and caring?" Jenny asked.

Buffy shook her head. "No, a look of irritation and chastising us for being about to make a big mistake."

"I'll take it," Jenny chuckled.

"Yeah, but I still feel for you guys," Faith said. "Stuck in those bodies all day, no fun at all…" She stopped as she saw the guilty looks on Giles and Jenny. "No way."

"You didn't," Buffy said with wide eyes.

"Well, I was upset over the change and being cut off from my magics and Artemis and we were in hiding from the stress and I broke down…"

"I was just trying to comfort her and…" Giles shrugged as the others simply stared at him.

"Goddess, just when I think they can't get weirder…" Buffy muttered, a hand to her face.

"Hey, at least they're active for old people…"

"FAITH!"

Giles picked his cake back up and took a bite from it. "I do wish the Shade didn't need to sacrifice himself," he said through his mouthful of cake.

Robin looked at him with surprise. "Giles, come on, you know what kind of a guy he is…"

Giles shook his head. "I know he was no saint, Robin, but without him, we would never have gotten through this." He sighed deeply. "He deserved better."

"Why, Giles, I didn't know you cared," a light voice suddenly echoed through the room. The shadows in the corner suddenly pooled together to form a vortex and stepping from it, his glasses off but looking as darkly immaculate as ever was…

"Shade!" Giles exclaimed, dropping his cake in surprise. "How-----How-----"

"Ah, don't you simply love my dramatic entrances?" the Shade asked as he doffed his hat to the group.

"No, we don't," Parker hissed, moving toward the man, Scully, Mulder and Jarod right behind her with matching expressions of anger.

"Now, now, let's not be hasty," the Shade said as he held up a hand. "I simply had to stop by for the party."

"How did you get in here?" Steve demanded. "I've got so many mystical barriers…"

"Oh, there are very few places I cannot enter, old boy," the Shade lightly replied as he placed his hat back on his head. "Shadows extend to everywhere, you know, even in the quarters of the soldiers of light." His eyes briefly darted to the sword in Steve's hand. "And if I may be so bold as to suggest you lower the sword, please? It's been more than hectic enough for one evening."

Steve narrowed his eyes at the shadowy man. "Why should we trust you?"

The Shade swept a hand toward Giles and Jenny. "They trusted me enough to allow me to help them. And if you have further doubts, you may want to talk to a pair of your comrades from the Grail. They may be able to tell you about the aid I provided for a group of children during that unpleasantness with the international pedophile ring."

Steve frowned. "Are you saying you saved children?"

"Many are my sins, sir, I admit to that," the Shade stated. His face grew dark. "But never have I been the type of man who would condone the ruining of a child's innocence. There are some things in this world even I hold sacred and that is high upon the list." A thin smile broke the scowl. "As the hundred or so corpses of pedophiles I left behind might attest to."

A silence went over the room as everyone was struck by how serious the Shade was. He let his eyes travel along the group, briefly touching upon Larry. "My, my, I simply know Oscar would have had a ball with you," he murmured. He found his way toward Robin and Liam and smiled. "Ah, Goodfellow and Danahure. So nice to make your acquaintance again."

Robin glared at him. "Just what has your part in all this been, Shade?"

"Merely doing a rare good deed, Goodfellow," the Shade replied. "However you may judge me by my past, you must admit my aid in the travails of this day was invaluable."

"So, we're supposed to be grateful for what you put us through?" Parker hissed.

The Shade turned to look at her. "Yes, I must apologize for that. I have little control over the…emotional aspect of my being."

"Emotional?" Parker demanded with wide eyes and flared nostrils. "You have any idea of the hell we saw?"

The Shade took a step forward and fixed her with a hard gaze. "I live with that hell every minute of every day, madam," he intoned. "Worse than the little nibble you received. If anything, you should be grateful you got off lucky." He straightened himself and his voice shifted slightly. "You should also be proud. Proud that you managed to walk away from your own inner darkness and become a better person because of it." A sad smile covered his face. "A status I only wish I could attain."

Parker stared at him for a long moment before turning toward Giles. Hiking a thumb toward the Shade, she asked the Watcher, "Does he always make it this hard to hate him?"

"It's his gift," Giles answered. He looked back to the Shade and frowned. "Shade, just how did you get away? What happened?"

"I'm would have been here sooner but I had to deal with Merritt's demon." The Shade balanced his cane on his shoulder as he spoke. "Actually, he's quite a nice demon. Well, as demons go, I suppose."

"How did you get away?" Jenny asked.

"Oh, quite easily. It was all part of my plan, really. I simply offered the demon my soul in exchange for the release of all those he had in his possession."

"You did what?" Steve asked in shock.

"Oh, don't worry," the Shade continued with a wave of the hand. "Whatever merit my soul may have had vanished a long time ago." He shrugged. "Besides, I knew that by offering my soul of my own free will, for the betterment of others with no selfish benefit toward myself, I was offering a deal that no demon could accept."

"Why not?" Randi asked.

"There must be some selfish motive involved, my dear," the Shade told her. "Really, when was the last time you heard of someone selling their soul for world peace or an end to hunger? Even those who do it to keep a loved one from dying have selfish motivation, to keep from losing said loved one. By making my offer to free hundreds of people whom I had never met before, I knew the demon could not hold me and as a byproduct, his deal with Merritt was voided.

"So, Merritt is where he belongs, the poster is gone and all those the demon had yanked away over the last 130 years are now alive and well and back on Earth." The Shade reached into his coat and took out an old-style pocket watch on a chain (black, of course). Flipping open the lid, he glanced at the face. "In fact, I can't stay too long. Most of these people have been away for years, decades, even over a century. As you can imagine, they need help…acclimating themselves with the changes in the world and I believe I can help them with that."

"Shade…" Giles said with a serene smile. "You're an amazing man."

"Posh, Giles," the Shade replied. "I'm no man. I'm barely human."

"Bullocks," Giles barked back. "You didn't have to help us to get our help in return. You helped us because you wanted to. You didn't have to take that tactic to get rid of Merritt. You didn't know for sure the demon wouldn't accept your offer so you were willing to cast away your own soul to eternal torment to free hundreds of innocents. You're more human than you care to admit, Shade, whether you accept it or not. Hell, I might even get to call you a friend after a while."

The Shade leaned on his cane and rubbed at his chin as he carefully appraised Giles. "Is my memory becoming cloudy and giving me a more rose-tinted version of the past or are you actually becoming more like your father?"

"I'll take that as a compliment," Giles remarked.

The Shade raised an eyebrow. "My, my, you have changed, haven't you?" He reached into his coat and drew out a thick object. "I have to be going, but before I do…" He handed the object to Jenny. "Happy birthday, Jenny."

Jenny took the object and looked at the cover. Her eyes widened in shock at what she saw. "*A Tale of Two Cities,* first edition, mint condition…" She opened the book and stared at what was inside. "Autographed by Dickens?! Shade, this is priceless, I can't…."

"Tut, tut, tut," the Shade replied, wagging a finger. "It's a gift. Monetary value should not be a question." He smiled. "Besides, Charles gave me more than one copy."

Jenny managed to smile at him. "Shade…Thanks for everything. Frankly, though, you still give me the creeps."

"Perish the day I fail to do so, my dear," the Shade replied. He tipped the head of his cane to the brim of his hat in a salute, backed away and in a rush of shadows was gone.

"Am I the only one who just felt a big chill leave the room?" Larry asked to several assenting nods.

"Giles," Shaw began. "Just how in the world do you------"

"Shaw," Buffy hissed. "If you even think about asking him for the full story…"

The ringing of the doorbell cut off Buffy's rant and the Slayer turned in confusion toward the door. "Who the hell is that?"

Liam and Shaw exchanged wide-eyed looks. "Shit!" Liam yelled. "We forgot to call them!"

"Call who?" Steve frowned as he watched Liam and Shaw quickly moved to the door.

The leprechaun peered through the keyhole, then turned to the gang, who had moved into the foyer. "All right, now, me and Shaw put our heads together and figured out what the best present would be for you," Liam told Jenny.

"One that I personally thought was something long overdue," Shaw added.

"Right, so we made some calls, got the orders right and------"

"Liam!" Giles, Jenny, Buffy, Robin and Steve all yelled.

"All right, all right," Liam said as he reached over and put a hand on the doorknob. He twisted it, turned to Jenny and gave the same wide smile that was on Shaw's face. "Happy birthday," the two intoned as Liam pulled open the door to reveal the two people waiting outside.

"Mom?" Jenny whispered. "Dad?"

"Hello, honey," Terina Calderash said as she entered the house and embraced her stunned daughter. She broke away so Santos Calderash could enter and give his daughter a kiss on the cheek. It was obvious Jenny took after her mother. Terina, albeit having a few more pounds and a bit of gray in her hair, was still a highly attractive woman with dark eyes. Santos' hair was a bit gray as well but his dark mustache was still black and he appeared to be a powerful man underneath the dark suit he wore.

"I…I can't believe it!" Jenny gasped as she stared at the duo. "Oh, Goddess, it's been so long…"

"That it has," Santos agreed. "So we were more than happy when your friends dropped us the invitation to come by." He looked over at Liam. "And may I say, the private jet was a nice touch."

"Private jet?" Steve asked, narrowing his eyes at Liam and Shaw.

"Quiet, Steve, it's my parents," Jenny said. "Oh, yes, I guess it's come to this." She reached her arm around Giles and smiled at her parents. "Mom. Dad. This is Rupert."

Both of the Calderashes raised their eyebrows in surprise. "Really?" Terina said. "Well, this is somewhat surprising. Jenny's mentioned you of course but she never said you were so…" She paused.

"Old?" Giles piped in.

"I was going to give you a break and say ‘mature' but all right," Terina replied.

"Give the man a break, Terina," Santos said as he clasped his hand into Giles' and shook it hard. "A pleasure to finally meet you, son."

"And you as well, sir," Giles said, surprising Santos with his strong grip. He turned toward Terina and shook her hand with less strength. "And may I say, I now understand where Jenny gets her beauty from."

"Oh, he is a keeper," Terina laughed.

"Oh, Goddess, it's so good to see you both again," Jenny said with a light sheen of tears in her eyes. "After Uncle…Well, after what happened…"

Santos moved forward to hug his daughter again. "We couldn't believe the clan would do that either," he stated. "To punish you for attempting to save those you care for…Well, let's just say it's been strained between us and them for the last year or so."

"I could tell from the letters," Jenny replied. She bit her lip. "It…it hurt when they did it. But at least I knew I had you both on my side. That I…I wouldn't lose you."

"Jenny, you will never lose us," Terina said. "Not for this, not for anything. You are our daughter, you are our blood, no matter the elders say, that will never change. And neither will our love for you."

"And even in the unlikely event it had," Santos said as he glanced toward Giles. "I believe you have someone here who could have helped you through it."

Jenny smiled at her father as Steve made a loud cough. "Ah, I think we still have plenty of snacks left," he announced. "Maybe we can continue this in the other room?"

"Sure," Jenny said as the group moved off. "Come on, I'll introduce you all. You can finally tell if I've been exaggerating them in my letters or not."

"For the record, I am far less sarcastic and smarmy than she may make me sound," Xander remarked, earning a smack from Cordelia as the group entered the living room. Robin and Amy lagged behind, however, both crossing their arms and staring at Liam and Shaw. "This was your surprise present?" Amy asked.

"And it worked well," Shaw stated. "We honestly forgot to call the airport and make sure they had gotten in safely admist all the excitement of the day."

Robin shook his head and broke out into a wide smile. "And I thought you two were wicked on your own. Together, you're almost on a par with me."

"Truly?" Shaw asked.

"I said almost," the Goodfellow stressed. He nodded toward the living room. "Come on, let's get to the party."

Amy made a light pout as the group filed out. "You realize, of course, that our presents are going to come off as somewhat feeble compared to yours?"

"Depends on what type of linerege you lasses got for-----OW!" Liam yelled as Shaw hit him across the head. He threw a smirk at her. /What? Wanted to model them all fer me yerself later on?/ he sent her. Shaw whacked him across the head again, then shrugged to a startled Robin and Amy. "Preemptive strike," she intoned as the four followed their way to the party.

*****

"I've got to learn to just do the damage and get out of town, it's the stay and gloat that keeps tripping me up," Ethan sighed as Faith undid his bonds. He was in the dining room, Steve, Robin, Liam, Giles, Jenny, Willow, Mulder, Scully and Buffy all glaring at him, daring him to try something.

"You'll be pleased to know that you won't have another chance to make that mistake," Steve proudly announced.

Ethan scoffed. "Come off it, St. Wolf. Ripper won't let you kill a human in cold blood."

"Care to wager on that?" Giles asked with a touch of menace.

"Actually, it's my parents you'd have to worry about," Jenny added with an even bigger touch. "It's taking all the others to hold them back. Frankly, laying a few choice curses on you would probably be their idea of a nice present."

"We don't have to go quite that far," Mulder said. He looked toward the living room. "Agents?" Two men and two women in dark suits and professional demeanors entered the room. "These agents will accompany you to a safehouse we've managed to keep here in Sunnydale," Mulder explained.

"They'll keep an eye on you until some Grail Knights arrive," Scully added. "They'll be transporting you to Bureau 13, where I'm sure they'll find some use for you."

"Now, hold on!" Ethan said as he was yanked to his feet by two of the agents. "You're infringing on my rights!"

"You're not an American citizen, Rayne," Steve pointed out. "Just be glad we don't just deport you." Ethan was still stammering as he was led out of the room.

"If you all don't mind, I'm going to go watch them shove him into the van," Giles stated as he exited the room.

"I'll be right there," Jenny called out. She turned toward Willow and smiled. She let her eyes go along the group. "Um, can we have a minute?"

"Come on, Scully, let's go make sure they've double-handcuffed Rayne," Mulder said as he left, Steve behind him with Robin and Liam finishing up the exit. Buffy paused, however and moved to Jenny. Before the woman could say a word, Buffy wrapped her arms around her and hugged her tight. "I'm glad you're okay," she whispered.

"Um, so am I," Jenny managed as Buffy broke away.

The Slayer was quiet for a moment before speaking. "I know I've given you a hard time in the past because of…you know…But I didn't really understand how important you were to me before all this." She gave the teacher another quick hug. "I'm glad you're here."

"Thank you, Buffy," Jenny said, truly touched. She turned over to Willow who was licking her lips. "Jenny…I'm really, really sorry for trying to kill you."

Jenny had to fight not to burst out laughing at the earnest and guilty tone in Willow's face and voice. "Willow…it's all right. Really, it is. It was a unique situation. Hell, if it had been reversed, I would have done the same. But you managed to see through it in time and we should be grateful for that." She smiled. "If anything, I'm grateful to see just how you can handle yourself if the worse happens."

"Thanks," Willow answered. "Well, at least I know you can't give me extra homework as punishment anymore."

"Well, I do have friends on the university faculty…" Jenny said with a wink.

Willow sobered slightly, then hugged Jenny desperately. Then she pulled back and looked the surprised teacher in the eye. "Jenny…In all seriousness…It took this happening for it to really hit me that…well, that in a lot of ways, you've been more of a mother to me than my mom has. You listen to me, you help me, you…Goddess, you care for me so much and-----"

"Willow," Jenny broke in and cupped the little witch's cheek in the palm of her right hand.. "I care for you like a daughter as well. And I am overjoyed you feel like that about me. But don't use me to replace your mother. She does love you. Maybe she doesn't always show it but I'm sure she does." She shrugged. "Course, there was that attempting burning at the stake thing…"

"Yeah, let's keep bringing that up," Buffy said. She smiled at Jenny. "Well, after being with your mom and dad for a while, I think I now understand something."

"What?" Jenny asked.

Buffy grinned. "Why you became a computer geek." She, Willow and Jenny were chuckling as Giles reentered.

Jenny raised an eyebrow in surprise. "Did they drag him off already?"

"I was rather hoping it would involve more struggle as well," Giles said as he reentered the room. "Buffy, Willow, the others were hoping you knew where the candles were."

"Oooh, I forgot I hid them," Willow said as she hurried out.

"Don't worry," Buffy told Jenny as she followed the redhead out. "We won't be counting out all thirty."

"Good thinking," Jenny said as the teenagers left. She moved over to Giles, wrapping her hands around his neck and pulling him in for a kiss. They remained lip-locked for long moments before finally breaking away. "Hmmm, it's so good to be able to look into your face to do that,"" Jenny remarked.

"The same here," Giles replied. "Definitely not a birthday to forget, eh?"

"If this is what thirty's going to be like, I may not want to see forty," Jenny quipped.

Giles frowned. "Jenny, in this town, that's a statement you may wish to avoid making."

"True," Jenny admitted.

"Ah, buck up, love. Some day, we'll look back on this, laugh nervously, then quickly change the subject."

"Good plan," Jenny told him. She allowed a sly smile come to her face as she pressed herself closer against Giles. "By the way, where's my present, England?"

"At home, waiting to be unwrapped," Giles returned in the same teasing tone. "Shall we enjoy it?"

"Let's enjoy the party a bit first," Jenny told him. "It's good to know how much I mean to those kids."

"Well, love," Giles said as the two walked off. "Let's look at the one bright spot to all this. Ethan Rayne is out of our hair for a good, long while." He and Jenny shared a kiss as they went out to celebrate a true milestone.

*****

And that is our tale. All's well that ends well, a happy ending for all. Just the sort of tale one enjoys hearing about, isn't it?

Sadly, life is rarely as cut and dried as that. Very rarely. This time was no exception. I have many gifts but sadly, premonition is not among them. So I could not warn Giles and his friends of what was to occur not too much later. An event that would have great ramifications on all of us.

Ah, one can play "what if" and "if only" until they go mad and in the end it hardly matters, does it? No, one can only take what comes as it occurs. Even we of the immortal sect know full well…You can't hide from the future.

*****

FBI Safehouse
Outskirts of Sunnydale, CA
July 12, 1999
0252 Hours PST

"What do I get?" Ethan asked as he stared out from the bars of his cell. It was amazing, he thought. The FBI, like most authorities, ignored the major odd happenings around Sunnydale yet their safehouse was equipped with a small caged area containing a bunk, sink, toilet, table and Ethan. The safehouse was located in a small warehouse on the outskirts of Sunnydale, an area where few people ventured and made a good place to stash someone for a while. The corner of the room was made up by the cell and in front of it, the four FBI agents were seated around a table, playing a round of poker and chewing from various boxes of Chinese take-out.

"You'll get a fat lip if you don't shut up," one of the male agents stated.

Ethan narrowed his eyes at the man. "Have you ever heard of the Geneva Convention?"

The young man frowned, obviously confused. "I don't listen to hip-hop," he answered as Ethan rolled his eyes.

One of the female agents looked over her shoulder at Ethan and then frowned at the senior agent in charge. "Why are we looking after this guy?" she asked. "And what's so important about him?"

"Ours is not to reason why," the agent answered. "Those two guys from D.C. have enough pull to get us here fast so they're connected. Just do what they want and we'll be okay."

"Who are these guys we're waiting for again?" the other female agent, a Hispanic woman, asked as she flipped through her cards.

"Probably some hush-hush black ops thing," her superior replied. "Again, it's all need to know."

"And I need to know when I'm getting fed," Ethan piped up.

"Relax, Rayne," the senior agent said. "You'll get all the bread and water you want later on."

"Good evening, all. I hope I'm not interrupting happy hour."

On instinct, the four agents dropped their cards, unholstered their guns and aimed them at the direction of the cold voice that had suddenly echoed throughout the warehouse. All four then froze and stared in wonder at the person before them.

He appeared to be a man of tall height and thin build dressed in a dark red suit, yellow shirt, black tie and red gloves with a yellow kerchief in his breast pocket. However, all that drew far less attention than the fact that where his head should have been was a red mask floating above the neckline of the suit, the eyes seeming to glow from within.

"If you'll pardon me," the man stated as he calmly walked around the table and toward the cell. Like the four agents, Ethan was completely shocked by the appearance of this…man and had no idea what to say. That was hardly helped when the man, without breaking his stride, walked right through the bars of the cell as if they weren't even there. "Mr. Rayne," he stated in a jovial tone. "A pleasure to make your acquaintance."

Ethan did a stammer that would do Giles proud before he could speak. "W…w…who the hell are you?"

"My name is Johnny Sorrow," the man introduced himself. "I have an offer to make you."

"Here's our offer, pal!" The senior agent had managed to recover enough to aim his gun at Sorrow. Although having no idea what the hell was going on, the other three agents followed suit. "Raise your hands and back out slowly!"

Sorrow craned his head to face them and Ethan started at the sight of the mask simply floating with no attachment. "Excuse me, I'm trying to have a conversation here."

"Turn around and take off that mask!" the agent continued.

"Oh…I don't think you want me to do that," Sorrow carefully said.

"Now!"

Sorrow sighed and the mask shook from side to side. "I suppose this was inevitable." He turned and walked forward, phasing through the bars again and facing the four agents. "Perhaps we got off on the wrong foot," he stated as he raised a hand to his mask. "Why don't we discuss this face…" His fingers clutched at the mask. "To face."

He pulled his mask off and Ethan started as he saw the back of Sorrow's bald head suddenly become visible. A bright light appeared to be coming from his face, right at the four agents. All four stared at his face and then all four let out screams of absolute terror. They all collapsed to the ground, the two men and one of the women all dead with their faces frozen in hideous expressions of horror. The fourth was on her knees, sobbing and screaming, her hands clawing at her eyes.

"To paraphrase Socrates," Sorrow said as he brought the mask back to his face. "I feared that by observing objects with my eyes and trying to comprehend them, I might blind my soul altogether." He fixed his mask back on and his head once again vanished, leaving the mask floating above his suit. He reached down to one of the dead agents and, after a brief search, found the keys to the cell. Turning, he carefully walked over to the cell, unlocking and opening the door.

Ethan nervously rose to his feet, staring in wonder at the sight of the dead agents. He focused on the one live one and stared wider, his finger pointing toward the blood that was beginning to form under her. "She…she's clawing her eyes out!"

Sorrow looked back at the agent and shrugged as if it was no consequence. "Yes, I do tend to have that effect on people."

Ethan stared at him. "What…what do you want with me?" he asked.

Sorrow turned back to face him. "Your aid in a task I have planned," he answered. "I believe you have a quality I happen to be looking for in a little group I'm putting together. For like myself, you have suffered a great injustice. And with your aid, I will balance the scales."

"And what's this aim?" Ethan asked. "Taking over the world?"

Sorrow laughed. It wasn't a pleasant sound and Ethan felt a chill overtake him as Sorrow's mask shook. "Why on Earth would I want to rule this pitiful mudball?" he asked. "I plan to bring chaos to this world, Mr. Rayne. Interested?"

Ethan paused and then nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, I guess I am."

"Splendid!" Sorrow said. "Let's be off, shall we?" He turned and walked away, Ethan behind him, both stepping over the body of the fourth agent, who was now lying motionless in a pool of her own blood. As they left, Ethan shrugged to himself. *You never know, Ethan old son. This could be just the sort of thing the Big Boss wants from you. Better hope it is, he didn't send you back just for random mischief. You need to earn your keep and fast.* He glanced back at the agents and realized that however horrible their fate was, it would be nothing compared to what would happen if he failed his true master….

The End

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