Part 9: Allies

"The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

--Ancient Proverb

Santa Carla, California
8 August 1998

"AAAUUUGGGHHH!!!"

The vampire shrieked and bubbled as if drowning in acid from the sheer amount of holy water drenching it. The two young men watched the skin boil off of the vampire's bones, and shouldered their Super Soakers. They turned to each other and grinned.

"Good shooting, Alan," the older one said.

"Not too bad yourself, Edgar." Alan replied.

"And as the song says, 'Another One Bites The Dust.'" came a voice behind them.

Both Edgar and Alan turned, seeing a younger man holding a high-tech compound bow.

"Hey, Sam." Edgar called. "Find any?"

"Got one. That the last one?" Sam asked, indicating the pile of goo.

"Yep. Let's head back to the store." Alan said.

"Good, the new issue of Tomb of Dracula came in today." Sam said. "And we could finish that argument about red kryptonite..."

As the three men walked away, joking with each other, they failed to notice a solitary figure watching them from the shadows.

And the figure did not see the man watching her.

*****

Sunnydale, California
9 August 1998

WELCOME TO SUNNYDALE

Light flashed on the sign, and the sign exploded as a DeSoto Sportsman plowed through it. The Sportsman swerved back onto the road, continued about fifty yards, then pulled over. A truck behind them pulled up and stopped.

Angelus climbed out of the car, swearing fluently. As Spike got out of the car, Angelus turned on him.

"Shit, Spike! Just announce to the world that we're here! I wanted to keep a low profile!"

"Sorry, mate, but trashing that sign's sort of a good luck ritual. And I know you wouldn't want me to break with tradition."

"So what did Willy tell you when you called yesterday?"

"He said that the Slayer and company left about a week ago, and haven't come back. He's got no idea when they'll be back."

"Good. I set up a place for us to stay." Angelus remarked. "We're going to keep a very low profile, and slowly build up our numbers. Once we do, we'll start working out a plan to eliminate the Slayer. And I want to pay a visit to Willie when we're set up."

"What makes you think he won't blab to the Wanderer?" Spike asked.

"He knows what I would do to him if he does."

"True. So where are we headed."

"You know that old mansion that some old silent movie star owned? It was recently purchased by a 'Mr. A.'"

"You're serious? We're supposed to be coming back to raise some serious hell, and you want to play Howard Hughes?" Spike bleated.

"Would you rather go back to that condemned factory?"

"You know what they say: there's no place like home."

"And I say we deserve something better. Trust me on this."

"Spike?" Dru called from the car. "Are we at the pretty new house? I want to have a party. Ms. Edith says that we can invite everyone. Even the Pin Man."

Spike looked at Angelus. "I do NOT like the sound of that."

"Forget it. Dru, do you want to go to the factory instead?"

Dru wailed. "No! We have to go to the pretty house!" She looked over at Spike. "Please, Spike? Pretty please?"

Spike moaned. "Oh, all bloody right."

*****

Santa Carla, California
10 August 1998

The vampire dropped in a heap as Sam's wooden shaft pierced its heart. Sam turned and ran to where Edgar and Alan were checking their equipment.

"I'm down to two arrows, guys." Sam admitted.

"I've got two stakes, and my Soaker's empty!" Edgar shouted.

"Three stakes, quarter load of water." Alan finalized.

"Dammit, Sam, where's your brother?"

"Uhm, at dinner with Star."

Six vampires appeared at the entry of the alley. One vamp, apparently the leader, stepped forward with his game face on.

"Well, if it isn't the mighty hunters? I must say, I'm not impressed."

Edgar smiled. "With a face like yours, it must not take much to impress you."

The vampire growled. "Kill them."

All three men shouted "AAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!"

The leader suddenly was thrown backward by an impact, an arrow sticking out of his chest. As the rest started forward, a second vampire suffered the same fate. A third jerked and screamed, another arrow jutting from his forehead. As he howled in agony, the three vampire hunters saw another arrow enter his chest, causing him to fall to the ground screaming and writhing in his death agonies. The remaining vampires looked uncertain until Alan's shout of "DUST 'EM!" sent them scrambling in retreat.

Edgar and Alan exchanged high-fives and shouted, "Mess with the best, die like the rest! Frog brothers rule!"

Alan turned to Sam. "Good bluff, Sam." He raised his voice into a falsetto. "I'm down to two arrows."

Sam was holding one of the arrows. "These aren't mine, guys. Look."

The shaft was wooden like Sam's arrow, but the arrowhead was metal. Edgar whistled. "Is that what I think it is?"

Sam nodded. "Yep, silver."

"We could sell those and buy some supplies."

"But that raises one question: Who do these arrows belong to?" Sam asked.

Alan shrugged. "Kevin Costner?" Seeing the looks from his companions, he said, "What? What?!?"

*****

Frog Comics
Santa Carla, California
11 August 1998

Edgar was emptying the cash register while Sam and Alan loaded stock in the back. Another five minutes, they'd close up the store and take a well deserved night off by going to Mickey D's for a quick dinner, then heading home.

<Even bloodsuckers take a night off once in a while.> he thought as they watched the sun set over the ocean.

As he finished counting the money, a young woman walked in, wearing black sweats and running shoes, with long black hair, hazel eyes and ivory colored skin. She had some kind of carrying bag over one shoulder, and she was carrying a cloth sack in her right hand. Edgar swore he could hear the clink of metal.

"Uh, I'm sorry, Miss, but we're closed." he informed her. <Too bad, she's cute...>

"You are the one called Edgar Frog?" she asked in an accented voice.

"What? Oh, yeah, I'm Edgar. Can I help you?"

"Actually, I came to help you." she countered. "At least, for a short time."

"To help me? We're not hiring, I'm sorry."

"You hunt vampires in this town."

<What?!? UHOH...> "I don't know what you're talking about."

The woman smiled, raising an eyebrow. "Then you would not mind returning my property to me?"

"What property?" Edgar asked, growing nervous.

"Four longbow arrows with silver-crafted arrowheads."

The blood drained from Edgar's face as he realized what she was talking about. He started to back up against the wall, stammering. The woman looked concerned. "Edgar Frog, are you ill? Perhaps I can help." And she began to move forward.

Edgar flipped. "AAAAAHHHH!!" He grabbed a small liquid-filled bottle from under the counter and threw it at her. The bottle flew straight at her head, and Edgar thought <YES!> until she reached up with surprising reflexes and caught the bottle out of midair. She looked at the bottle curiously.

"That was not kind of you, Edgar Frog." she said in a neutral tone.

"Freeze, bloodsucker!!"

The woman turned and put herself on guard, then froze at the sight of Alan and Sam aiming weapons at her, Alan a Super Soaker and Sam his bow, an arrow aimed directly at her.

"Get away from him! Or you'll get a holy water enema!" Alan ordered her.

The woman narrowed her eyes. "So that Sam can shoot me with his arrow? I think not, Alan Frog."

"What makes you think I can't hit you from here?" Sam asked.

"I know you could, Sam. Your archery skills are..." she paused, as if looking for a proper word, "...adequate."

"Adequate?" Sam looked confused.

"Yes. Not up to my level of skill, but decent enough."

"Oh really. How good are you?"

"Those were my arrows that you picked up last night. I would like them returned to me."

Sam and Alan exchanged glances, and Alan spoke up. "YOU killed those vamps?"

"Yes, I did." she confirmed, very matter-of-factly.

"Uh, guys?" Edgar piped in. "Remember me?"

The mens' attention returned to the situation at hand.

"Get away from him. Now."

"He seemed to grow pale. I was merely offering assistance."

"You were going to bite me!!" Edgar protested. "Spray her!"

"You would shoot me with a water gun?" she asked, obviously amused.

"Holy water gun, sweetheart." Alan retorted.

"Alan Frog, I am no one's 'sweetheart.' Do not suggest such a thing again." she told him in a cold tone. "And what good would holy water do?"

Sam smiled grimly. "You're a bloodsucker, figure it out."

Understanding dawned on her, then she looked at the bottle in her hand. She glanced at Edgar. "Holy water, as well?" she asked, indicating the bottle.

Edgar nodded.

"Then watch very carefully."

She opened the bottle, and moving slow to show she posed no threat, proceeded to drink the contents without a pause for breath. When she finished, she put the top back on the bottle and easily tossed it to Edgar, who fumbled it before finally holding on.

"Was that a sufficient demonstration, gentlemen?" she asked with mock courtesy.

Alan stuttered. "Uhm, I, uh, I suppose so." He nodded to Sam, who lowered his bow.

"What do you want?" Sam asked the woman.

"You three hunt vampires. I came to offer assistance, perhaps an alliance."

Edgar took up the questioning. "You hunt bloodsuckers, too?"

She paused, considering her answer. "Not hunt, not anymore. I will fight to save lives, like I did yours last night."

Alan laughed. "We did just fine last night, thank you very much."

"With two arrows, five stakes, and a quarter-load of water?" she asked with a raised eyebrow. "You must be deadly to take out six vampires with just that."

Sam chuckled, but Edgar spoke up. "Let's say, for the sake of argument, we decide to accept you into our organization. How long will you be around, and what do you bring to the table?"

The woman looked confused. "Bring to the table?"

"Yes. What skills do you have?"

"I see. To answer your first question, two weeks, after which I will leave for Sunnydale to attend school. For your second question, I have years of experience fighting vampires. I also have knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses."

"We have that, too," Sam put forth. "We have good sources of information."

"Such as comic books, Sam?" she said, waving her hand around.

"And library cards, lady."

"Very well. To continue, I have had some training in karate, tae kwan do, and judo, as well as intensive training in various weapons. Finally, I do have some friends who know of these creatures, and have experience hunting them as well."

Alan and Sam looked impressed, but Edgar remained skeptical. "Tell me one more thing. What's your preferred method of killing vamps? Super Soaker? Stake?"

"I find decapitation works best."

Alan's eyes went wide. "You cut off their heads?!? HOW?!?"

The woman looked at him as if he were stupid. "With a longsword, of
course. And you have seen the evidence of my archery talents."

Edgar walked over to the other two. They talked for a few minutes, then Sam came over and extended a hand.

"Welcome to Santa Carla,..." he waited for a name.

"Hunter. Shaw Hunter." she supplied, taking his hand.

"Well, Shaw, we're heading for dinner. Want to join us?"

She nodded. "Very well, I shall."

As the hunters were sitting at their table, the Frogs were trying to pry information out of their new ally.

"So, Shaw, why are you here in Santa Carla?" Alan asked.

"I was journeying to Sunnydale to attend school. I am an... exchange student. But I noticed what was going on here. I could not simply pass on."

"Where are you from? I can't place the accent?" he prodded.

"I am from Scotland."

Edgar looked dubious. "Uhm, I don't mean any offense, but you don't sound Scottish."

Shawukay lowered her eyes. "My father was a... soldier."

"Military brat." Sam concluded.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Your father was sent everywhere, never in one place for a long time?"

She regarded Sam. "Yes. You are quite correct."

"So why'd you start huntin' vamps?" Alan asked her.

A look of pain crossed her face. "A vampire killed my grandparents. I sought revenge, but that was a mistake. I now fight to save lives. Please, Alan Frog, I am not comfortable discussing this."

The brothers were silent, but Sam apologized, then jumped in. "So why us? Why get in contact with us?"

"Because you know what is out there." she said, nodding outside. "And while I find your methods... unorthodox, I must admit you are effective. If I help you now, perhaps at a later date I can count on your assistance."

Edgar pursed his lips. "A 'scratch my back' arrangement?"

Shawukay gave him a killing look. "Edgar Frog, I am not that type of person." she told him coldly, then turned back to Sam. "Sam, do your friends always think in such a manner?"

Sam laughed. "You don't handle slang very well, do you?"

"No, I must admit that I do not. Why?"

"What Edgar meant was to ask if you wanted a 'I help you, you help me' situation."

Her face flushed. "Oh. Please forgive my mistake."

Sam smiled. "So we'll meet you at the store tomorrow night?"

Shawukay agreed, and excused herself. After she left the McDonald's, the three men looked to each other.

"What do you think, Edgar?" Alan asked his brother.

"Considering she's only here two weeks, we could use the help."

"I meant her story."

"Guys," Sam interjected, "did you see the look in her eyes when she mentioned her grandparents? You couldn't fake that kind of anger, man."

Edgar looked thoughtful. "What about that 'fighting to save lives' line of hers? Do you believe that?"

Sam sighed. "Guys? In one word: Batman."

Edgar and Alan nodded in sudden understanding. <And who says you never learn anything from comic books?> Sam thought.

"Sam," Alan began. "Should we bring Michael and Star into this? We could use backup, just to be safe."

"Already did. They'll be tailing us tomorrow."

*****

Santa Carla, California
12 August 1998

Shawukay showed up right at sundown. She came in the back door, carrying Soulreaver at her hip, and her other sword on her back, as well as numerous concealed daggers. She was wearing black sweat pants, a black loose long-sleeved shirt, and her boots. Also, she was wearing a pair of black shades.

Edgar looked at her in confusion. "What's up with the shades, Hunter?"

She looked at him strangely. "To reduce glare from artificial sources of light. It allows me to retain my night vision, Edgar Frog."

"Oh, of course. I was just testing you." he offered, meekly.

"Of course you were. You do not know me. I would do the same if the situation were reversed."

<She BELIEVED me?!?> "Yeah, you're right."

"You ready, Shaw?" Sam asked readying his bow. "Where's your bow?"

"That is your area, Sam." she replied, touching her sword.

"All right, let's hit the road." Edgar told everyone.

They came across a group of seven vampires while walking the back alleys of Santa Carla. The Frogs drew their guns, but Shawukay stopped them. Edgar looked at her.

"What are you doing? We got the drop on them."

"Give me two minutes, Edgar." she said urgently. "Please?"

He saw the honesty in her face. "Okay, hurry."

She ran off. The others waited two minutes, but she didn't come back.

Alan cursed. "I knew it! She took off!"

"Oh well." Edgar said, then shouted. "BLAST 'EM!"

The yell caught the vampires' attention, but it was too late as Sam shot one in the heart, causing him to begin to disintegrate. The Frogs drenched another. That vampire fell to the ground, screaming pitifully. the other five vampires ran for their lives, attempting to escape through the other side of the alley.

Four of them stopped short as a figure stepped in their way, wielding a flaming blade.

The fifth couldn't stop on time, and the figure used his momentum to swing her sword cleanly through his neck. She recovered into an en garde position before the victim completely disintegrated.

Edgar and Alan kept spraying their target, but noticed the figure. "Who the hell..." they began.

"Hunter." Sam finished as he fired an arrow into a vampire's back. However, he missed the heart, the arrow sticking out of the vampire's ribs. He dropped with a shriek.

A second vampire charged Hunter, but she spun to the side and crouched, extending her right leg and tripping up the vamp. As he tried to rise, she gutted him with the flaming sword, and he was bathed in a bright white glow. Before he faded, she slashed him across the throat, finishing the job. He disappeared in a flash.

Two vampires rushed past her, escaping the alley. She walked up to the remaining vampire; the one Sam had wounded, and stabbed him through the heart. He died with a deafening scream.

Edgar and Alan staked their vampire, then started walking towards Hunter.

Sounds of a scuffle sounded nearby.

"What are you waiting for? They are fighting someone else!"

She turned and ran for the source of the noise.

The Frogs and Sam followed, coming up upon the last two of the original seven struggling with a man and woman, who failed to notice a third vampire, with a tangible aura of age around him, looking on in rage.

"Michael! Star!" Sam shouted, unable to get a clear shot.

Shawukay sized up the situation and charged in between the fighters, intercepting the older creature. He backed off, allowing her to approach. This vampire had his demonic visage showing, and he was not happy. He nodded in grudging respect.

"Greetings. I am Slava, the leader of these Brethren. I will have satisfaction over this outrage."

"I will give you one chance to withdraw, blooddrinker."

"I do not think so." he remarked, and drew a wicked looking rapier. "I challenge you."

"I accept your challenge. I am Shaw Hunter."

As the two opponents circled, the Frogs fired at the vampires fighting Michael and Star. The vampires shouted in agony.

Sam turned to see the final healthy vampire engaging Hunter. Sparks flew as their blades met.

Slava sent a series of highly skilled blows at his opponent, who either parried them, or dodged them so that there was nothing but empty air where she had been. Slava was certainly short on patience; after three minutes of battle, he was visibly frustrated.

"Is this how they teach Slayers how to fight these days?" he taunted.

She shook her head. "As I am not a Slayer, I would not know, Slava."

His eyes betrayed his surprise as their swords rang out as they met. "Then what are you? You are more than human, I know that."

Shawukay grinned, and let her shades slip, so that he could make out her glowing eyes. "Tuatha du Danaan."

His instant of shock was the opening she needed. She raised his sword, and unleashed a vicious front kick into his groin. The Frogs had finished their opponents by now, and both said "oooohhh" at the sight of her undignified, yet effective maneuver. As he bent over with a shout, she drove Soulreaver into the front of his throat, driving it all the way to the hilt. She withdrew the weapon, and he vanished in a burst of light.

She slowly sheathed her sword, and looked around to confirm that he was the last. She walked back over to them.

Edgar stepped over to Alan and Sam. "That is one cold, sword-swinging, ball busting bitch." he muttered.

Star sent a wicked glare at the brothers, and cleared her throat with an "Ahem."

Edgar had the grace to look embarrassed. But Shawukay favored him with a glance.

"I shall take that as a compliment, Edgar Frog."

Sam and Alan laughed at the surprised expression on Edgar's face.

"Are you alright?" Michael asked, walking up and shaking her hand.

"Yes. Thank you for the concern." she said, then looked at the three friends. "And you three?"

"We're fine." Sam told her.

"Whoa. That was intense, Hunter." Edgar said. "Although you could have saved some for the rest of us."

"And what's the business with the flames?" Alan asked.

"That is my business, Alan."

"I didn't think we were keeping secrets." Alan said. He didn't see the looks that passed between Shawukay and Michael and Star.

"Such as your friends?" she countered. At their looks, she relented. "The sword is enchanted. The flames however, are illusion. Totally harmless. Although I have never needed to inform my opponents of that fact."

"Cool." Sam said, impressed.

"As for your first question, Edgar, you and Alan were taking your time with your target."

Edgar and Alan looked insulted.

"But I commend your teamwork. Will you introduce me to your friends?"

"Shaw, this is my brother, Michael. His wife, Star." Sam produced the names. "Michael, Star, this is Shaw."

Michael nodded. Star said, "Hello, Shaw."

Shawukay nodded to both of them. "Is that all for tonight? Or do you plan to stay out?"

Edgar shook his head. "That's all for tonight. We'll see you tomorrow?"

She nodded, but Star stepped forward. "Shaw, do you want a ride?"

She looked at her and Michael, and nodded. "I shall see you tomorrow, Edgar. Alan, Sam."

As the three left, Shawukay watched them until they were out of sight, then turned to Michael. "I assume you wanted to talk in private?"

Michael nodded approvingly. "You're quick. Let's get everything out in the open. I saw the looks you gave us."

"Your strength and eyes are like them." she stated. "What are you? I know you are not vampires, you are alive."

"Star and I survived attacks by the same group of vampires ten years ago. We were tricked into drinking their blood, but we never died. Somehow, we gained many of the physical abilities, such as strength, speed, and senses, but without any of the weaknesses or the need for blood. But we aren't invulnerable, we can die just like you can."

"You said senses?" she repeated, seeing the direction this was going to take. "Then you heard."

"Yes, Shaw." Star said softly.

"Yeah, we heard. So you're a..." he stopped. "What term do you use?"

"Elf. But understand, I am only half-elven. What you call a Faerie. And I have not told the others. You saw their reaction to my sword." she said, stating the obvious.

"Shaw, what is your other half?" Star asked. "We saw the glow in your eyes."

"Human. My father. The reason my eyes glow is because I see in what you call the infrared spectrum in an absence of light. That... was why I am wearing these ridiculous spectacles. So that they would not..."

"I see." Michael said with a chuckle. "I can't blame you, knowing Edgar and Alan. Why are you here, though?"

"I assume your brother told you the story I gave them?"

At their nods, she continued.

"I told them the truth. In two weeks, I go to Sunnydale."

"So you are here to help them?"

"I have done so twice already, Michael."

"Good. Maybe now Star and I can take some time off."

*****

Santa Carla, California
22 August 1998

The vampire exploded into a cloud of green smoke as two arrows pierced its heart at once. Two others turned and ran.

Sam stared in shock at the pile of dust. "Uh, Shaw, whose kill was that?"

Shawukay walked over and picked up both arrows. She placed hers into a quiver, and handed Sam his.

"Does it matter, Sam? That creature will no longer take lives, no matter who ended his existence."

"I suppose it doesn't. I see your point."

She simply nodded.

Edgar and Alan walked up. Both had their faces smothered in dust.

"Sorry we're late," Edgar said. "Coupla lady vamps wouldn't take no for an answer."

"You two?"

"One killed, two retreated." she reported. "They have too much of a start on us. They are gone. Although the actual kill is in question, as mine and Sam's arrows penetrated the same location simultaneously."

Edgar looked at her, then at Alan, and back to her. "I think it's bad when you have to ask someone from England to say something in English."

"Shaw and I pulled a Robin Hood." Sam translated.

"Showoffs."

"Oh well, let's call it a night." Edgar said. "See you tomorrow, Shaw?"

"Edgar, I leave tomorrow morning."

The brothers slapped their heads. Sam's face fell.

"I forgot." Edgar admitted. "We've come to think of you as one of the guys."

"One of the guys?" she repeated.

"Yes."

"I was afraid of this." she muttered. At their looks of confusion, she clarified. "If you cannot tell a female when you see one, you are working much too hard."

As she started grinning, Sam got the joke and stared laughing.

Edgar groaned. "That is not what I meant."

"I know. But the look on your face was worth it, Edgar." she said. "I have come to see you as... comrades, as well."

"Oh. Like Batman and Robin?"

Shawukay's only reaction was a blank look.

"Never mind." Sam said.

"Well, Shaw, you've got our number. Give us a call if you need us. Except on Sundays. Even vampire hunters need a day off." Edgar quipped.

"If I encounter any vampires in Sunnydale, I shall ask them to reschedule their rampages," she said in a dry tone.

She shook their hands in turn, and walked off into the night.

"Think we'll see her again?" Alan asked his brother.

"Of course. And she'll have us in more trouble then we could get into ourselves."

*****

Part 10: Mission

"I'm goin' deep, deep, deep, DEEP undercover."
---Axel Foley
Beverly Hills Cop

Sunnydale Bus Depot
Sunnydale, California
22 August 1998

Shawukay stepped off of the bus, and took her first look around Sunnydale.

<Less than impressive.> she thought. <Mielikki, please let this town be better than the one I just came from.>

Shawukay threw the sack containing her swords over her right shoulder, and picked up a bag in each arm. She walked into the bus depot. Looking around, she attempted to get her bearings.

<First order of business, contacting Jonathan's friend. And quickly, there is only about an hour worth of daylight left.> She ran the thought through her head again, and shook her head, laughing silently. <Paranoia
will drive you insane. And if not for Jonathan and Mark, you might have already been.>

She saw a line of telephones on one wall, and started to move towards them. A man walked towards her, blocking her path. The man was about fifty, with graying black hair and blue eyes, and had a ramrod straight posture. He was wearing black clothing, and had a white collar around the front of his neck. She stopped short, instantly on guard.

"Excuse me, miss." he started, in a concerned tone. "did you just arrive from Santa Carla? I'm looking for someone that was supposed to be on the bus."

"What was this person's name? I might know him."

"Her name is Shaw Hunter?" he asked.

"You are Ulric Johansen?"

"Yes," he answered, surprised. "How did... Ms. Hunter, I presume?"

"You may call me Shaw, Father Johansen."

"I was worried. From Jonathan's description, I was expecting someone more... delicate."

"Delicate?"

"Yes. Jonathan informed me of your... background. I am afraid it was my own preconceptions. I apologize for any offense."

"None is taken, Father Johansen." she assured him.

"Please, call me Ulric."

Shawukay hesitated. "Father Johansen, you are a priest. I use your title as a token of respect."

"I see. If that is how you feel..." he said. "In my homeland, Finland, we have legends of the alfar, the elven people."

Her eyebrows rose in interest. "Would you consent to tell me of these stories? I know little of my mother's people on this world."

The priest smiled, pleased to find a common interest between them so quickly.

"I would be honored, Shaw."

They turned and left the station.

*****

Johansen Residence
Sunnydale, California
22 August 1998

"This is your room, Shaw. I use it as a guest room, but not very often."

Shawukay looked at the bed, as well as the small clock radio and dresser. She nodded in satisfaction.

"I realize it is somewhat empty..."

"It is more than sufficient, Father Johansen. I find it... comfortable. Uncluttered."

"Oh, I see." Ulric said. "I keep forgetting you appear younger than you
are."

"I understand, believe me. Mark always called me 'Kid,' as a joke." she replied with a small grin. "I referred to him as the 'Old Man.'"

Ulric burst into a gale of laughter, deep and bellowing. After a few seconds, he looked to her.

"You certainly know how to relieve tension." he commented. "You must tell me how you met them."

They sat down in his living room and Shawukay related her relationship with Jonathan and Mark. She told him of St. Louis, Paris, Pennsylvania, and Santa Carla. After she was done, Ulric waited a few moments before speaking.

"Shaw, would you mind a small observation?"

"You may proceed."

"You stated your desire to stop hunting the nosferatu, yes?" A nod. "Yet you keep encountering them. Have you considered the possibility that your experience in this area is a reason you are here?"

A burst of surprise registered on her face as she considered that statement. "No, I had not. I hope that is not the only reason. I would hate to think I was chosen for the empty quest for revenge I was on for so long."

Sensing her discomfort on that topic, Ulric switched to her plans.

"The school term begins Tuesday, the first. You will report the second. Will you be ready by then?"

"Absolutely," she said with conviction. "Although I admit to a certain reluctance to this approach."

"I know. What will you do to perform this mission Jonathan mentioned?"

"I am not sure. I will patrol this town at night, after returning here from the school." she said, then shrugged. "I am supposed to find allies here, to fulfill a prophecy. I also have..." she stopped.

"What is the matter, young one?"

"There are things I have learned about my past, which I am not supposed to discuss until the time is correct. Yet I wonder how others will respond to what they will surely see as a deception."

"I see your dilemma. How about this; when you reveal this information, tell them who gave you the information. It might redirect any anger towards you."

"Perhaps. I will consider you advice. Thank you, Father Johansen."

With that, Shawukay excused herself and went to bed.

*****

Weatherly Park
Sunnydale, California
26 August 1998

"So did you enjoy the movie, Cordy?" Xander asked.

"I would have liked it more without your smart comments," she said flippantly.

"What? It's always better if you can laugh during the film."

"Xander, Titanic's a ROMANCE!"

Xander grinned. "That's my point, sweetheart."

Cordelia shot him a withering glare. "I swear, Xander, I can't take you anywhere. I--Xander, look. At the park."

Xander looked, and nodded, his eyes narrowing. A woman, wearing a trenchcoat, her long black hair in a tail, was entering the park. From across the street, a pair of men watched her go in, then quickly crossed the street, and followed the path she'd taken.

"Cordy, did you get a good look at the girl?"

"Why do you always look at the women, Xander?"

"Just answer the question."

"No, I didn't. I was too busy watching the men NOT cast a reflection in a store window. I'm sure YOU got a good look at her, though."

"I didn't see her face. That's why I asked you." Xander elaborated.

"Oh. Well, let's break out the firepower. We've got to save someone again." she mumbled. "And the last week before school starts." Cordelia pulled the car to the side of the road, and the two headed for the rear of the well-equipped vehicle.

"Look at TV heroes. They don't get days off, either."

Cordelia and Xander each broke out a nine-millimeter pistol, armed with special wooden rounds capable of penetrating a vampire's heart. Checking the weapons, Cordelia parked her car across from the park, and the quickly walked in.

A loud scream pierced the air, forcing the two Slayerettes into a run. They found their quarry, but were not prepared for the scene before them.

In a dark area, the woman they'd seen enter the park was twisting and turning, swinging a shining sword, white flames dancing along the blade. One vamp kneeled on the ground, bathed in a white light. The two vampires that had been following her were attempting to get inside her defenses. Cordelia and Xander watched as the kneeling vampire disintegrated.

The woman gutted a second vamp, and quickly drew her sword out. She turned to the last one, who decided that he wasn't hungry after all. As he took off, Cordy and Xander each squeezed off a round. The vampire burst into a cloud of smoke.

Xander turned in time to see the sword wielder behead her opponent. As the dust settled, she quickly looked around for the other.

"You okay, lady?" Xander called out.

"Let's see if she... Oh shit!" Cordy shouted.

The woman had turned towards them, sword at the ready. Apparently, she decided they weren't a threat, as she lowered the weapon. But the two members of the Scooby Gang only noticed her eyes.

Which were two dots of red in the darkness.

Cordelia was quick. She promptly pointed her gun at the woman. Xander followed suit a split second later, but their new target was quicker still.

"Dulak!"

An impenetrable darkness shrouded the Slayerettes. Cordy quickly moved to the left until she emerged, but the woman was nowhere to be seen.

"Uh, Cordy, I can't see. Where are you?"

"Move forward Xander, she's gone."

The globe moved forward, and Cordy jumped. "Xander, stop. Move backwards."

"This is not the time for the Hokey Pokey."

"Just do it!"

The globe moved back.

"Stop, lame-o. She pulled a good one on us."

"How?"

"She cast a spell of some sort. She centered a globe of darkness over you."

"Great. So until it fades, I'm literally in the dark."

Cordelia laughed. "So it's nothing new."

"Ha, ha. Let's go see Giles. I'm sure he'll get a jolly over a new research project."

*****

Giles Residence
Sunnydale, California
26 August 1998

"What can you tell me about this woman?" Giles asked. "Height, weight, for example?"

Jenny brought him a cup of tea, which he gratefully accepted.

Cordelia nodded to Xander, who spoke up.

"Okay, she was about five-five, five-six. Long hair in a ponytail. And the speed she swung that sword with, sheesh." he said, shaking his head in remembered amazement.

"She was good?" Jenny asked.

"Yeah. It wasn't ten seconds from the time we heard the scream, 'till we got there. One vamp was going, seconds later she gutted another. We popped the last one when he tried to make a break for it."

"You're quite sure it wasn't Buffy?" Giles asked.

Cordelia was offended. "Hello? We know the difference between blondes and brunettes, also, the difference between flaming longswords and blue Katanas. And Buffy's eyes don't glow red in the dark."

"And she might be a witch." Xander added. "She cast some kind of darkness spell over us. Then she split the scene."

"She didn't attack you?" Jenny put forth.

"She cast a spell on us!" Xander protested. "She literally turned the lights out!"

"No, Jenny's right." Cordelia realized. "Remember, she turned around and lowered her sword. She cast the spell after we pointed the guns at her. And she ran."

"Whatever. She isn't human. That's all I need to know."

"Perhaps." Giles remarked. "I shall have to..."

"Consult my books." the two teenagers finished.

"Quite right," he said with a wry grin. "Good night, you two."

After Xander and Cordelia had left, Jenny watched Giles finish his tea, a concerned look on his face.

"Penny for your thoughts?"

"Hmmm? Oh, forgive me, Jenny. I was just thinking. If this woman, if that is indeed what she is, is here to kill vampires, what exactly is she? The fact that her eyes are red would suggest a non-human origin, and in my experience, beings of a non-human origin tend to come to the Hellmouth to cause problems, not to solve them."

"Well, that can wait. School starts next week, and I want to spend the remainder of our free time thinking about something other than school or the Hellmouth." she finished seductively, and left for the bedroom.

Giles didn't keep her waiting.

*****

Outside Johansen Residence
Sunnydale, California
26 August 1998

<What in the name of God have I gotten myself into?> Enrico wondered. <A flaming sword. Teenage vampire hunters? I wish Joe Dawson would catch up with his e-mails.>

The last four weeks, Enrico had been sending numerous reports to Dawson, but he hadn't received a reply. He was growing short on patience. <She goes to Santa Carla, and joins up with vampire hunters. Two weeks of beating vampires around, she leaves and comes here. She's here four days, kills two vampires, and when two children show up, she runs! She doesn't make any sense!>

Enrico pulled out his laptop and filed a brief report.

To: Joe Dawson, Director, North American Branch, Society of Watchers
From: Enrico Marquez
RE: Current assignment: Shaw Hunter

Dear Mr. Dawson:
Have followed subject to Sunnydale, California. After four days, was approached by three vampires. Subject killed two, third was killed by two teenagers apparently following vampires. Subject ran off rather than confront others.
Additional information: weapon of choice appears to be longsword, although subject is deadly with longbow. Unusual properties of sword: flames, white in color, along blade when wielded. Possibly enchanted? Will attempt to learn more.
Still awaiting further instructions.
Enrico Marquez

*****

Sunnydale High School
Sunnydale, California
2 September 1998

Shawukay was stunned at the sheer number of students running around the school grounds. Many of them were talking, discussing how they'd spent their summer vacation. The amount of noise was difficult to deal with here outside. She winced in anticipation of this volume of noise confined indoors.

<I will commend Earth people on one thing. They allow their children to be children. That, at least, is good.>

As she walked in, she continued to pick up pieces of conversation. She couldn't pick out specific ones, but suddenly something caught her attention.

"new exchange student... Scotland..."

<How did they find out? I had better learn quickly.>

She looked around, and identified the source of the voice. A small group of girls, draped in cutting edge fashion styles, were animatedly gossiping. Their exquisitely manicured nails were wrapped around the hottest trend in binders.

"So, Harmony, what else did you find out?" one girl asked, a conspirital grin on her face.

"She's an orphan, Aura. She's actually staying with Father Johansen from the First Catholic Church."

Aura laughed derisively. "I wonder if she plays the bagpipes?"

The girls giggled, their perfectly conditioned tresses moving like multihued waves breaking in the surf. In Shawukay's mind, it sounded like the chatter of songbirds in the morning just before the sun rose. In other words, it was somewhat irritating.

"And she'll come in wearing a kilt!" Harmony added.

<I am going to straighten these women out right now.>

Shawukay walked up to the group. "Excuse me?"

The girls looked her up and down, staring at her blue jeans and shirt with a thinly veiled envy at her artless style.

"Yes?" the girl named Harmony asked, her shiny immaculate lip-gloss not moving an inch.

"Pardon my interruption, but I could not help but overhear your conversation. Were you talking about Shaw Hunter, by chance?"

"And what business is it of yours?" Auras asked haughtily, just as she tossed her hair back a bit. She attempted to intimidate Shawukay with her gaze, but her dark blue eyes were much too soft, in the half-elf's opinion, to wage such a battle.

She shrugged. "I simply thought I could separate truth from rumor for you. I have knowledge of the student in question. Factual knowledge." she finished with a grin.

The girls were now interested, and they started sharing evil grins at the thought of hearing the truth about the new student. "C'mon, girl, dish the dirt." Aura demanded, avarice gleaming in her eyes.

"I beg your pardon?"

Harmony smiled brightly, her perfect teeth almost blinding, as she was humored by the unknown girl's confusion. "Details! You know, spill the beans."

"Ah. 'Spill' I understand. Shaw Hunter is an orphan, that much is true. She has an interest in fantasy fiction and ancient mythology. She is also a considerably talented archer. And I know that she can speak six languages to varying degrees."

"SIX languages?" Aura asked, stunned. "A farm girl from Scotland?!?"

"Yes. And one more bit of information you might be interested in..."

"What?" Harmony asked, hanging on her word, glossed lips trembling slightly.

Shawukay's grin widened. "I play the flute, not the bagpipes."

And she walked away, leaving not one jaw closed.


"Well, Hunter, you chose our school to attend in America?"

Shawukay nodded. "Yes, sir. I am not.. comfortable in larger urban areas. My guardian graciously consented to take me in."

Snyder glared at her. "And just who is your guardian?"

"Father Johansen from the First Catholic Church," she replied, trying to act humble. <What a despicable person to place in charge of this school.>

Snyder appeared surprised. "Well, let me lay down the law for you; no loitering in the halls; no loitering after school hours; no smoking; and I will not tolerate boys and girls groping in this school."

Shawukay shuddered. "Principal Snyder, that image is not pleasant."

"What?"

"Acting in such an undignified matter as you suggest they do."

"Are you saying that you wouldn't do the same thing?"

She put a mock look of disgust on her face. "Sir, I have taken certain vows. I intend to actively serve my religion for the rest of my days." <The literal truth.>

Snyder started to look uncomfortable. "Oh. Well, just don't let me catch you violating the rules."

She nodded slightly. "You have my word on this, sir." <Especially if you are as stupid as you appear.>

Snyder sniffed. "I have usually found students to be less than trustworthy."

The half-elf lowered her eyes. "Sir, are you suggesting that I would lie? I would not disgrace my sponsor and guardian in that manner."

He nodded with satisfaction. "See that you don't." <At last, ONE student with some respect.> "Here's your schedule. I'll have someone show you the location of your classes. You can start attending tomorrow."

She accepted the sheet. <Math. English. World history. Lunch. Hmmm. Beginning computers. Free hour? Comparative literature.>

"Sir, may I ask a question?" she said hesitantly.

"Quickly."

"This free hour? Could you clarify this?"

"Study hall. Unless you have another idea."

"The library? Would it be acceptable to work there?"

Snyder got a speculative look on his face. <Why do I not like that look?> she thought.

"Yes. There are other students who do that. Maybe you can be a good influence on them."

<Are they that bad, or do they simply not fit your idea of the 'proper' student?>

Snyder called his secretary. "Send him in."

A young man entered, looking nervous. Shawukay had to work to hide her reaction.

<He is one of the ones from the park. Is he a potential ally? Of course, he did point one of those disgusting Earth weapons at me. Goddess, why is nothing on this world ever simple?>

"Yes, sir, Principal Snyder, sir. How may I be of assistance this fine day?"

"Save it, Harris. This is our new exchange student, Miss Hunter. You get to escort her around campus today." he said with a sneer. "Show her where her classes are, as well as the rest of the school. And... she's the new Sixth hour library assistant. You get to introduce her to Mr. Giles."

"My pleasure, sir. If the young lady will follow me." Harris said.

"Don't start, Harris. She, at least, shows proper respect. Don't you, Hunter?"

Shawukay slowly rose, and nodded. "Yes, sir." she said meekly.

<Damn, he's got this poor kid whipped.> Xander thought with sympathy.

As they exited the office, he looked at her face for the first time. "Uhm, uh, Hunter, is it?" <Wow!> Uh, can I, uh, like, see your schedule? I, uhm can tell you about the teachers."

"Of course, Harris." she said, handing him her schedule.

"Uh, actually, my name's, uh. . Xander."

At her look of puzzlement, he added, "Xander Harris. My name."

"I am Shaw Hunter." she said, not looking him in the eye.

"Okay, Shaw." He looked at her papers. "You've got Jen... Ms. Calendar for computer class. You're lucky. She's good."

Shawukay nodded. "Xander Harris, thank you for your help. I am quite certain you did not volunteer for this duty."

"No prob. It's, well, not every day I get to, uhm, escort an attractive young woman..." he hesitated at the look of concern on her face, as she stopped walking.

"Xander Harris, are you attempting to, as your people say, 'pick me up?'" she said with a trace of anger. "You think that I am..." her voice faded a bit, "what is the human word... 'easy?'"

A look of confusion, then worry crossed his face. "No! No, I just," he sighed, "thought you could use a compliment after your 'encounter' with Snyder."

"I see." Shawukay decided to take a chance. "Xander Harris, what is your opinion of Principal Snyder?"

"Uh, well, he works hard. He's in a position of authority..."

"Yes. I also find him to be an arrogant, incompetent toad, as well."

Xander smothered a laugh. "We usually call him the 'troll.'"

"He is not tall enough. His height is closer to a goblin than a troll."

"What?" he said, dumbfounded. "How would you know?"

Her face froze. "I have an... interest in fantasy and mythology. I have seen pictures, read stories."

"Oh. Well, it's time for lunch. You want to go?"

"Are you asking me to lunch, Xander Harris?" she asked, with a speculative eyebrow.

"Yes. I mean, no! That came out wrong. I.."

"I was attempting humor, Xander Harris." she assured him.

His face flushed with relief. "Good. I have a girlfriend. She tends to be the jealous type."

Xander showed her the cafeteria, where she looked at the food with little interest, more concerned about her classes. She chose a light meal, and set down with him.

"So, Shaw, where're you from?"

"Scotland, Xander Harris."

"Your accent's different."

"I know. I am, what was the phrase... a military brat?"

"That would explain it," he agreed, then waved his hand to someone. Shawukay turned, and saw two more teenagers approaching. A petite girl with auburn hair, and a thin red-haired male, approached the table and sat down.

Xander smiled. "Will, Oz, this is Shaw Hunter, our new representative from Scotland. Shaw, Willow Rosenberg, and her boyfriend, Oz."

The three shook hands, and Shawukay looked at the man. "Oz?" she said.

"Yeah. Just Oz." he said calmly.

Shawukay nodded, but felt something strange. She recognized it as her empathic ability. <An animal nearby? That is not possible.>

Oz noticed the look on her face. "You okay?"

She quickly nodded.

"So, Shaw," Willow began, "what do you think of Sunnydale High so far?"

"Not too much, to be honest." At the look on their faces, she smiled. "That is, if the principal is any indication."

A laugh passed around the table, but was interrupted by a loud "Xander Harris!"

Xander buried his head in his hands. "Oh, no..."

A brunette walked up to the table. "Where the hell were you! We were supposed to meet for lunch!"

Shawukay recognized her at the other person from the park. <This must be the jealous girlfriend.>

She stood up. "Excuse me... may I ask your name?"

The brunette glared at her. "Cordelia Chase. And who are you?"

Xander looked up. "Cordy, I can explain."

"No, Xander Harris, permit me. Cordelia Chase, I am afraid this is my fault. Xander Harris is acting as my escort for the day."

Xander moaned.

"Oh, he is, is he?"

"It is my first day, and I did not know the location of my classes."

Cordelia switched her gaze to Xander. "You actually fell for that pickup line?"

Shawukay stepped between them, looking Cordy in the eye. "Cordelia Chase, if you wish to direct your anger, direct it towards me. Or at your principal, who forced Xander Harris to do this."

Cordelia was stunned. "Snyder?"

"Yes. I am sorry if this angers you. But I will not see this person accused of something of which he is innocent. Nor will I be accused of something similar. In fact, he was quite vocal about his emotions for you."

Shawukay sat back down, watching Cordelia for her reaction.

"Xander, I'm sorry," she said, the anger melting away. "Can you forgive me?"

"Of course. Can I meet you later?" She nodded and walked off. Xander turned to his savior. "Thanks, Shaw."

"I did not do it for you. I did it for her."

"Wha.."

"She is a fighter, I can tell. She would fight for you, and I would be forced to defend myself. I have no wish to hurt her over a misunderstanding."

"If you say so."

"I do."

"Shaw," Willow asked, "I see you have Ms. Calendar?"

"Yes, Willow Rosenberg. Xander Harris has a high opinion of her."

"She's great. If you need any help, I'd be glad to help you."

"I... appreciate the offer."

"Get this, Will. Shaw's gonna be a library assistant for Sixth hour. Scotland meets Britain."

"What do you mean?" Shawukay asked, sincerely confused.

"G-Man's the Englishman's Englishman." Xander said.

"Rupert Giles," Oz translated. "He's the librarian. He's from England."

"I look forward to meeting him." <Especially if this library is as Jonathan told me.>

Oz looked at his watch. "Will, we gotta jet. Pleasure meeting you, Shaw."

Shawukay nodded. "Xander Harris, I am finished with this meal. Shall we go to the library?"

As they walked to the library, Xander was giving out information on Giles.

"I call Giles G-Man. Drives him crazy."

"Then why do such a thing?"

"It's in good fun. We're friends."

"I... understand. I think."

"Here we go." he said, indicating the doors.

"Thank you, Xander Harris."

"Shaw, my friends call me Xander. Without the 'Harris.'"

Shawukay turned to him. "You think that we are friends?"

"Sure, why not?"

"Because a relationship of one hour is not enough time to form a friendship."

"You're sure about that?"

"Except under extraordinary circumstances."

"So how about it?" he asked.

"About what?"

"Are we friends."

She appeared to consider it for a couple of seconds. "No." At the hurt look on his face, she added, "But I do not object to the possibility." She then turned and entered.

Xander followed her in. "Yo, G-Man!"

A middle-aged man walked out of the office. "Xander, I have asked you not to... oh, hello. Can I help you?" he asked, looking to Xander for an explanation.

"Giles, this is Shaw Hunter, your new assistant for Sixth. A match made in Heaven."

"May I ask how?"

"She's from Scotland."

Giles' face registered surprise. "Welcome to America, Miss Hunter."

She nodded a greeting. "Thank you, Rupert Giles."

"Well, if you'll follow me, I'll show you some of the duties you shall have."

"Excellent. I am anxious to begin."

Giles smiled. "Quite good. Xander, I shall see you later."

Xander nodded, despite the look of surprise on his face.

*****

"Xander!"

Xander turned and saw Willow and Oz coming. He stopped to let them catch up.

"Hey Will, hi Oz."

"So how did Giles react to his new assistant?" Willow asked.

Xander shuddered. "It was creepy. Very."

"What?"

"Giles actually smiled. Way scary."

Willow giggled. Oz just cracked a slight grin.

"So what do you think of her?" Oz asked. Willow gave him a quizzical look.

"She gave you a case of the Wiggins, too?"

"A little, yeah." Oz said with a nod.

Willow stepped in front of them and stopped. "Wait. She gave you the Wiggins in one hour?"

"Just from some things she said. For example, she said that Snyder was closer in height to a goblin than a troll. And the fact she thought she could hurt Cordy."

"That could just be confidence." Willow pointed out.

"I felt it too," Oz said. "Or, I should say, the wolf did. Something's different about her. It seemed that she might have sensed the wolf in me. Like, recognizing another predator nearby."

"Well, I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Since she's staying with a Catholic priest, of all people."

Xander stared at Willow. "How do you know that? Witchcraft, again?"

"No." she said, pointing. "Eyesight."

The boys turned to see Shaw get into the passenger seat of a Chrysler LeBaron being driven by said priest.

*****

Part 11: Prophecy

"I have often found that prophecies make a great deal of sense after the fact."
---Elminster the Sage
Spellfire

Willy's Alibi Room
Sunnydale, California
Early hours
3 September 1998

Willy was polishing the shot glasses when he heard a voice from the past, a voice that chilled him to the core.

"Hello, Willy. How's business?"

Willy slowly turned, and blanched. Sure enough, Angelus was standing at the bar.

"Uh, business is good, Angel. When did you get back?"

"Couple of weeks ago. I've been lying low, getting a feel for the current situation. What's the grapevine say lately?"

"Nothing good for the 'nightlife' if you take my meaning."

"Tell me. Start with what happened in L.A. with the Slayer and company."

Willy proceeded to tell what he knew [Author's note: Steve Pantovich's Calling Out the Clan covers those events.], leaving Angelus shaking his head.

"Who the hell is this guy?" King frickin' Arthur?" Noting Willy's look of surprise, Angelus said, "What?"

"Arthur was actually under the Wanderer's command."

"WHAT!"

"Yeah. I told Spike this a while ago."

"You... that son of a bitch!" Angelus shouted, punching a hole in the bar. "No wonder he didn't want to come back here."

"You want to hear the rest?"

"Yeah, go ahead."

"Wanderer took in two kids, whose folks were killed in L.A., and he set them up in schools here. But I got two pieces of good news for you."

"Don't piss me off, Willy." Angelus warned with a growl.

"Chill, Angel. It turns out that the Jamaican Slayer, Kendra, was severely injured in Los Angeles, and will be out of action for at least two more months."

"That still leaves another Slayer..."

"Who happens to be on vacation with a certain paramour as we speak."

Angelus broke into a grin, which sent more shivers into Willy.

"So Sunnydale's open, right, Willy."

"I wouldn't go that far. The Slayer's friends have been keeping 'undesirables' under control, and there's a new player in town."

"Information?"

"Female, about your ex's size. Wields a flaming, and I mean flaming as in fire, longsword. Killed vampires left and right in Santa Carla, including Slava, of all people, over a two-week period, and now she's here. And she's a dead shot with a longbow."

"She killed Slava? Don't tell me there's a THIRD Slayer running around!"

"Nope. Rumors say she calls herself the 'Hunter.' More rumors say that she got that tag from YOU guys."

"Brethren named her the Hunter?" Angelus attempted to digest that piece of information. "Hmmm, if I could turn her..."

"Angel, last rumor. The Hunter ain't human. Nothing confirmed, mind you, but still, be warned."

"Thanks, Willy." Angelus said, laying two hundreds on the bar as he walked out.

*****

Angel's Mansion
Sunnydale, California
Early hours
3 September 1998

"SPIKE!"

"Oh, hell. He found out." Spike muttered.

Angelus stormed over to him. "Why the hell didn't you tell me this information two months ago? The personal enforcer for Merlin, of all people!"

"Because you wouldn't have believed me, that's why!"

Dru looked up from stroking Ms. Edith's hair. "Spike, Angel, please play nice. You're upsetting Ms. Edith."

"Sorry, luv. Just a difference of opinion, is all."

"We have to play nice. So we can fight the pin man." Dru said with a distant look in her eyes.

"Spike, I did find some good news. Remember the second Slayer?"

Spike brightened a bit. "She's dead? Couldn't happen to a nicer mortal."

"Not dead. Hospitalized for at least two months."

"So let's finish the job. Slowly."

"She's in L.A. Little far for my purposes."

"Uh oh. Just what is your purpose?"

"The Slayer and Wanderer are out of town at the moment. We could eliminate the Slayerettes before they get back."

"And wait for two vengeful lovers to return?"

"Not necessarily. But if they're alone..."

"No." It was Dru who contradicted him. "We will need them to fight the pin man. We will need the fairy lady, too." Dru stood up, set Ms. Edith in the chair, and started drifting over to Angelus and Spike.

Spike doubled over in laughter. "So much for your purposes, mate."

Angelus howled in frustration. "Pin man! When are we supposed to fight this pin man, Dru?"

Dru ran a hand down Angelus' cheek. "Soon, Angel. Very soon."

Neither Angelus nor Dru noticed the dark look that passed over Spike's face.

*****

Sunnydale High Library
Sunnydale, California
3 September 1998

"I'm glad you're all here." Giles said to the assembled Slayerettes. He looked around, noticing Jenny, Xander, Cordelia, Willow, Oz, Robin, and Amy. Randi Jessup, Sonja and Gabrielle were on the speakerphone from Steve St. Wolf's house.

"What's up, G-Man. The Apocalypse?"

"Possibly. A prophecy, but somewhat different than normal."

"How different, Rupert?" Jenny asked.

"Well, it says that the 'warriors,' as it says, will emerge victorious. However, the prophecy as a whole is somewhat vague."

"That's news?" Sonja muttered over the phone, drawing soft laughter.

"It also has no mention of the Slayer."

"Wait a minute, hold the phone, whoa Nellie!" Xander cried out.
"Averting the end of the world without a Slayer? That is a new one."

"Quite. I was hoping all of you could listen to this, and perhaps come up with ideas. Youthful idealism, mystical expertise, and Immortal experience, all poring over this. Hopefully, we'll come up with the solution."

Gabrielle's voice sounded. "So read it."

"Oh, yes. Well.." he paused, looking over the relevant passages in the Tiberius Manifesto. "Ah, here it is...

Four sides, six times,
Equals Hell
The mouth of Hell
Makes Hell twice over.

Three warriors shall defeat the forces of Hell.

The First, the Guardian of the Third,
Daughter of two races
Born of two worlds
Shall defeat Hell's assassin.

The Second, Daughter of the Night,
One becomes Three
To defeat the nightmare
Solving the puzzle,
To close the Gate.

The Third, one of the Undying,
Wielding the five-in-one,
Shall kill the Demon,
And keep closed the Mouth.

There was a moment of silence as they digested the words.

"Not exactly Dickinson." Xander muttered.

"And people take issue with my rhyming," Robin Goodfellow added from the opposite side of the library. "This guy's poetry really needs some work."

"Don't start, you two," Cordelia warned, sending a glare Xander's way, drawing a waggle of his eyebrows. She let out a long-suffering sigh.

"Giles, I think some of the passages are obvious." Sonja suggested. "If you'll permit me.."

"Of course, Sonja."

"The Third? Undying. I think that's an Immortal. I have no idea what a 'five-in-one' is, but it's a start. It's the passage on the Second I don't like."

"Why's that?" Willow asked to the air.

"Daughter of the Night. Like Children of the Night?"

"Vamp." Oz stated the obvious conclusion.

"Yes, that would seem to be accurate. Thank you. I think it's also clear that the 'Mouth of Hell' refers to the Hellmouth."

"You think?" Cordelia asked with an innocent face.

Giles gave her a look. "That's all I have. Go ahead to class."

The students filed out, but Jenny stayed behind.

"What didn't you tell them, Rupert?"

"I came to the same conclusions as Sonja did, but I wanted confirmation of my theories. But without Buffy or Steve present..."

"It may be better this way."

"Jenny, I fail to see.."

"The kids will participate, yes? And the prophecy says we'll win. This will show them they don't always need Buffy or Steve to be here. That they can stand on their own."

"I can see your point. It will at that. But this First? Two races? Two worlds? It seems impossible."

"Nothing's impossible, Rupert. You know that."

*****

Sunnydale High Computer Lab
Sunnydale, California
3 September 1998

<This is amazing.> Shawukay wondered. <Obviously, there are some advantages to Earth technology. And I must apologize to Jonathan if I ever get the chance.>

Shawukay, much to her chagrin, had been wrong about the school idea. In one day, she had learned things that she would never have learned on Toril.

"You seem to be enjoying yourself, Ms. Hunter."

She looked up at Ms. Calendar, the instructor. Unlike most of the teachers, she was closer in age to the students she taught. <Most of the others, anyway.>

"Yes, Ms. Calendar. This is new to me."

"I guessed as much. You're doing alright for a beginner."

She gave a small nod. "Thank you."

It had taken her some time to get used to the "keyboard," but she had understood the principles once they'd been explained.

The bell rang, signaling the end of the class. As Shawukay prepared to leave, Ms. Calendar called her over. "Shaw?"

"Yes, ma'am?"

"You're heading for the library this hour, right?"

"That is correct." she said.

"Would you return this book to Rupert for me?" she asked, handing Shawukay a thick book.

She glanced at the title. "History of the Romany?"

"Yes. You might like it."

"What are the Romany, if I may ask?" she said, with obvious interest.

Jenny smiled. "Romany are commonly known as gypsies."

Shawukay's smile froze, as she processed the answer. Slowly her smile was lost.

"Did you say Gypsies? Those with, shall I say, special gifts?"

"Yes. You know of them?"

"I have... heard stories." she said with a bit of resentment.

"Shaw, are you okay?"

She looked at Jenny. "What do you know of Gypsies, Ms. Calendar?"

"I have a... personal interest in their history." she replied.

"I see. If you will excuse me, I must go."

As she left, Jenny was left wondering what that had all been about.

*****

The Bronze
Sunnydale, California
4 September 1998

Amy was walking home from her date with Robin, when she got the sense of someone, or something, following her. She began walking faster, and quickly whispered a spell for the detection of any form of magic.

<Sure enough,> she cursed. <Why me?>

Amy slowed her walk to a normal pace, and waited for the vamps to try something to trap her, all the while laughing to herself.

<Let's see how you do against an Amazon witch, you idiots.>

The four vampires watched as the girl walked out of the Bronze. As she crossed the street, they waited until she was a block away before jumping out, and surrounding her.

"Great. This is not how I wanted to finish my Friday night," she grumbled. "Of course, my boyfriend's walking in the other direction. Robin's such a brave man."

Amy pulled out her Glock .45 and shot one of the vamps, the silencer working perfectly.

A vampire clubbed her from behind, stunning her. As she fell to her knees, shaking her head, the vampires argued over who would feed first, until one of them noticed a figure approaching.

"Well, a second course."

The figure slowly drew a sword, which lit in white flames.

"The Hunter! Kill her!"

The woman known as the Hunter hurled a dagger into one vamp, the blessed blade sending shots of agony into his stomach. She severed the left leg of a second, a female, who had charged. That vamp fell to the ground, screeching.

She turned to the last, who had the idea of using Amy as a hostage. She started stalking forward.

"Stop, or I'll break her neck."

The Hunter spoke softly, then shouted, "Release her!"

The magical command compelled the vampire to let go. Amy turned around, her eyes growing black.

"Hecate, work thy will! Let the flames of Tarterus ignite!"

The vampires wailed, as they were all immolated in orange flames. They were all burned to ashes in forty seconds. Amy turned to thank her rescuer, but she was nowhere to be seen.

"I don't believe this." she said in frustration.


"You're certain is was her?" Xander asked.

"Oh, yeah. Flaming sword, red eyes, ran roughshod over three vamps, and quickly." This time everyone was present in the library. "They called her the Hunter."

"Can you give us the details?" Sonja asked.

"Sort of. I was clearing my head, but one had a dagger smoking in his gut, a second had her leg severed by that sword..." a chill ran through the room... "the third was magically commanded to let me go. That's when I toasted them."

"Anything else?" Giles asked. "You're sure she used magic?"

Amy smiled. "I'm sure. I had a detection spell going at the time. Her sword's magical, I'm sure of it. Not quite half as powerful as Steve and Buffy's swords, but still strong. Some other magic, I didn't have time to get specific. She definitely used a spell of some sort, but I haven't felt the type before."

"Amy, what about that dagger you mentioned?" Randi asked.

In response, the witch pulled out a lump of melted metal. She dropped it onto a table.

"Silver blade." Oz commented. "Silver doesn't affect vampires, does it?"

"It had a minor enchantment on it." Amy said mysteriously.

"Come on, Amy, don't leave us in suspense." Willow prompted.

"It was the magical version of a religious blessing."

"Wha' do that meen, en Inglies?" Xander said in a bad Spanish accent.

"It means it was as good as holy water or a cross." Jenny observed, to which Amy nodded.

"So that leaves the question, who, or what are we dealing with?" Giles put forth.

Surprisingly, it was Xander who spoke up. "G-Man, I came up with a few options, if you don't mind the long version."

"We must be getting desperate when Xander gives a long version." Cordelia whispered to Willow, who giggled.

Giles motioned for him to continue.

"Door number one, the obvious; vampire. Pros: Appears at night, fast, glowing eyes. Cons: She's using blessed weapons, and she's killing vamps."

"What was your second choice?" asked Gabrielle.

"Second possibility, Amazon." Ignoring the looks from most of the women present, he continued. "Pros: Speed, agility, skill with weapons, which Cordy, Amy and I have witnessed first hand. They might be a better judge than me, though."

"Negatives?" Jenny pitched.

"Glowing eyes. Not an Amazon trait, except when Cordy's on the warpath."

That earned Xander a slap.

"Please continue, without the antics if possible, Xander."

"Sure, Giles. Third, what if she's the opposite of a vamp?"

It dawned of Giles first. "You mean a new Slayer?"

"Yeah, but I rejected it quick. No one died."

"Very good, Xander. State the obvious." Cordy said.

"Any others, Xander?" Amy asked.

"Two. First, one of the sword swinging club. Haven't been able to rule it out." he said, looking at Sonja and Gabrielle.

Gabrielle shook her head. "I haven't felt anyone? Sonja, Randi?" They both shook their heads as well.

"But still a possibility. Last choice, a demon. Because of the eyes, but still..."

"A negative, Xander?"

"Yeah, Amy. She failed the Xander Test when Cordy and I saw her."

When no one else rose to that bait, Cordelia finally did. "Okay, lame one, what's the Xander Test?"

He ticked off on his fingers. "Praying Mantis, Inca Mummy Girl, Amazon...."

"Very funny."

"Thanks, Cordy, I thought so."

"I was being sarcastic!"

"Excuse me!" Jenny snapped. The two fumed at each other.

"I will admit, it was an excellent, if strange, analysis, Xander." Giles commended him. "Do we have any ideas as to an identity for this... person?"

Xander and Oz exchanged a look that Willow caught.

"Oh, no, you two. Don't even suggest it."

"Suggest what, Will?" Amy asked.

"They're thinking about Shaw Hunter."

"Are you quite serious, Willow?"

"Yeah, G-Man. She gave me the creepy crawlies."

Giles turned to Oz.

"I felt... something. Don't ask me what."

"That isn't enough for a suspicion, gentlemen."

"I might have one, Rupert." Jenny murmured.

"You, Jenny?"

"She's in my beginners' class. I asked her to return a book on the Romany to you. She seemed to have genuine interest until she learned that Romany were Gypsies. She grew distant in a matter of seconds."

"Anything else?"

"She asked if the Romany had 'special gifts.' I think you understand what she meant by that."

"I see. Perhaps I should talk with her on Monday."

"Giles, can I be here when you talk to her?" Willow requested.

"Might I ask why?"

"I think she's innocent. I hacked into her school records. They came back clean."

"When did you do that, Will?" Cordelia asked.

"After Xander and Oz talked the first time. I trust their judgement, but I think they're wrong."

"Very well, Willow. I shall arrange it."

Randi raised a hand. "Don't forget that Frank and Cassandra are coming in this morning. Should we include them in on this?"

"Good idea, Randi," Giles said in approval. "We can continue this in the morning."

As the group headed out, Robin came over to Amy. "So, I seem to remember offering to walk you home. Did you and your playmate have fun?"

Amy gave Robin a cross look. "Don't start with me, Robin. I got knocked on the head, and the four vamps that pissed me off were just a warmup if I'm messed with any further."

Robin shrank back from her, as her eyes started to go black. "Okay. Okay. I just wanted to make sure you were all right. Remember, I can use my magic to fight evil, correct?"

The witch considered his words, and nodded. "Okay. You're right. I just got the Wiggins from those eyes of the Hunter, whoever she is."

"So, you want me to walk you home the second time around?" Robin asked, a shining smile on his face.

"No, I'm a big girl," Amy answered with a laugh, and walked out of the library, leaving Robin to shake in frustration, muttering something about "bitchy Amazon witches."

Shawukay listened in from behind the secret passage. She had been surprised at the existence of such a passage in a school library, but it had proven a bonus here.

<This Randi is the Third that Jehanne mentioned. And if their words hold true, she is like Connor. And the kin she told me about...> She shook her head. <No. Not now. They suspect me. To go to them now would not work. I will have to be careful on Monday.>

*****

Angel's Mansion
Sunnydale, California
6 September 1998

"Pretty box." Drusilla whispered. She ran her finger in a circle around the top, and the box moved.

"See, Ms. Edith? The pin man's coming."

The box moved again.

*****

Part 12: Demon

"I have such things to show you."
---Pinhead
Hellraiser III

Willy's Alibi Room
Sunnydale, California
Early hours
6 September 1998

"Hey, Willy, what's up?"

Willy just grumbled and placed the bottle of Scotch back on the bar. He turned and looked at Xander and Cordelia.

"You two trying to get me busted? You're underage. Get out."

"C'mon, Willy. We're here for info, not drinks." Xander told him.

"Of course, if you want to get busted, I'll be happy to oblige you." Cordelia added.

"What is this, Old Home Week? Fine, what info do you want?"

"The Hunter. Name ring a bell?"

Willy looked nervous. "You're lookin' for her?"

Cordy gave Willy an evil grin. "You might say that."

"Here's what I have. She's female, about five and a half feet tall, possibly not human. She has a serious problem with the Brethren. Killin' 'em left and right in Santa Carla a few weeks ago, now she's supposedly here. Favors a longsword."

Xander leaned over the bar. "Give us everything, Willy. And what's in Santa Carla?"

Willy sweated a bit. "If Sunnydale is New York for the undead, Santa Carla is D.C. The murder capital of the world, they call it. The Hunter was first seen in St. Louis. Just offed two vamps. She killed a leader named Slava in Santa Carla. That IS news. Before he was turned in the late 1600's, Slava was a Musketeer. You know what that means, he even kept his rapier. And this Hunter made him look like an amateur. Drove that damned sword of hers up to the crossguards through the front of his throat. She was watched by one of Slava's people, who had more sense than his sire."

Xander looked to Cordelia. "Okay, Willy. We'll talk to you later."

"Harris, a bit of advice. On the house. Don't screw with the woman. She's got the vamps scared."

"Why's that, Willy?"

"Because they say she makes your Slayer look civilized."

*****

Angel's Mansion
Sunnydale, California
6 September 1998

Angelus and Spike were returning from their nightly rounds when they saw Drusilla waiting for them with a demure smile on her face.

"Well, ducks, you look like the cat that ate the canary."

"Angel, someone's in my room, waiting to see you."

"Who would that be, Dru?"

"The Pin Man."

Angelus sighed, and ran his hands over his face. "Dru, baby, I don't have time for this. I'm tired."

Dru pouted. "Please, Angel. He's waiting for you."

"Oh, all right."

Angelus walked over to the doorway to Dru's room, and froze. After several seconds, he said, "Spike, come here."

"What's wrong?" Spike quipped, walking over. "Big bad pin man too bloody tough... oh, bugger."

Standing next to Dru's bed was a figure, wearing thick black robes, a ghostly white complexion, and no hair. What he did have was a series of pins in a grid pattern sticking out of his head. The pins were arranged in a perfect pattern. The vampires could detect the aura of malevolence surrounding him.

"Who are you, Cenobite?" Angel demanded, switching to his game face as he recognized the type of demon this was.

"Angelus." the figure said. "It is an honor to meet you. Your reputation is quite admirable among my fellows."

"I don't give a damn about my reputation. Why are you here?"

"To bring Hell to Earth, and to bring forth an era of suffering which will have the Old Ones singing praises of glory for eons to come."

"Oh, wonderful. A demonic Jehovah's Witness." Spike cursed. "Say, mate, you do know there's such a thing as TOO MUCH bodypiercing."

"William the Bloody. Your reputation precedes you as well. Killer of two Slayers, quite inventive in methods of torture, which have proven popular in Hell."

"Not to mention my dazzling smile."

The demon turned back to Angelus. "I am here to bring the Old Ones back into prominence. Will I have your assistance?"

"Sure. How can we help?"

"Drusilla must give me the Lament Configuration."

"No!" Dru whined. "This is my toy. Ms. Edith says you can't have it."

"Dru, give the pin cushion the bloody box."

"No. He will destroy us. He'll hurt my Angel and Spike. We will fight the pin man."

"He'll hurt us? I don't like the sound of that."

The Cenobite started to move towards Dru. "I must have the Configuration."

Spike moved to block him. "Why don't you go pierce your posterior?" The demon backhanded him, sending him into the far wall.

"He hurt my Spike!"

Angelus shouted one word. "Kaleda!"

The female vampire ran over, and quickly sized up the situation. She unleashed a fury of hard blows on the demon's face.

The Cenobite didn't even flinch.

He grabbed Kaleda by the throat, and threw her into the same wall as Spike. She landed on top of him, groaning.

"Angelus, I shall give your blood daughter one week to reconsider. The
doorway to Hell will open."

"Yeah, the Master opened it, and died minutes later."

"Thank you for that information."

"They'll fight you. You know that."

"Who would dare try this?" he asked with sincere curiosity. "Who would throw away their lives?"

Angelus smirked. "The Slayer, her Watcher, the Wanderer, his boss Merlin, Arthur Pendragon, plus several witches, for starters."

"We shall see."

The demon walked out of the room, never looking back.

*****

Sunnydale High Library
Sunnydale, California
6 September 1998

Giles and Jenny were still present in the library when Xander and Cordelia arrived.

"Ah, Xander. Did your visit prove fruitful?"

"We got more fruit than Carmen Miranda's hat."

Jenny giggled at Giles' puzzled frown.

"That would be a yes." Cordy supplied.

"Oh, good."

Xander shook his head. "Maybe not."

"What did you learn about this 'Hunter?'" Giles asked, pausing to clean his glasses.

Xander sat on a table. "Rumor mill says; about five and a half feet tall, same as Red Eye. Female. Female WHAT, not certain. Hates vamps. Was in Santa Carla, went through fangs like a beaver through a tree. Likes the sword. One vamp she killed was named Slava."

Giles dropped his glasses. "She killed Slava?" His hands were shaking.

Jenny looked to Xander, who smiled. "Bloodsucking D'artangan. But that's not all."

"What more could there be?"

"Willy says that the Hunter made Slava, quote, look like an amateur, unquote."

"Is there anything else?"

Cordelia frowned. "Just that the local vampires say she makes Buffy look 'civilized.'"

"Perhaps we should approach this woman as a possible ally."

"You want a red-eyed, non-human vamp hunter on our team?" Xander asked, appalled.

"Xander, you seem to think she's currently working in my library, if I remember correctly."

"G-Man, if it's her, you might be next."

"I'm not a vampire. I'm quite certain of that."

"Remember Angel?"

At Jenny's flinch, Cordy punched Xander in the stomach.

"Owww!"

"You deserved it, Army boy."

*****

Johansen Residence
Sunnydale, California
6 September 1998

"So what will you do?"

Shawukay leaned on her dresser. "I do not know. These people are the allies I am supposed to find. I am certain of it. But they are suspicious of me, they think I may be a demon, among other things." she finished with a sharp laugh.

"May I ask who these people are?"

"Please, I do not want to violate their secrets to anyone."

"But again, what will you do?"

"I will go out tonight. Not to fight, but to think. If it comes to it, I will tell them. I cannot think of any course of action." Sighing, "It is strange, Father Johansen. I can sit and wait for hours for game to come inside the range of my bow, but my patience is so limited when dealing with people."

Shawukay looked at Ulric, and shook her head.

"I think I finally understand why I always preferred woodlands to cities. Deer, wolves, even vampires I can understand. They are the same; feed, breed, survive. Human beings are the ones that confuse me."

Both of them shared a mild laugh.

*****

Weatherly Park
Sunnydale, California
6 September 1998

Cordelia, Xander and Randi watched as Shaw walked into the park. Cordelia looked at Randi. "Anything?"

The newbie Immortal shook her head. "We didn't get close enough. I'll have to follow her in."

The Slayerettes exchanged glances. Xander spoke up. "You sure about this? If she's this Hunter, you might be in trouble."

"Xander, Steve's giving me the same training he is you. I can handle myself. What's so big about this 'Hunter' that gives you the Wiggins?"

Cordelia put a hand on her shoulder. "Ever see the Three Musketeers? A vampire that used to be one fought the Hunter. The Hunter made him look like a rookie. No offense."

Randi shrugged. "Thanks for that vote of confidence."

Xander sighed. "Randi, do the terms 'loose cannon' or 'wild card' mean anything to you? That's what the Hunter seems to be."

"I promise I'll be careful. I'll just get close enough to feel a Buzz and run."

She got out of the car and walked in.

She looked for the girl they called Shaw, and picked up a haunting sound off in the trees. Curious, she walked slowly towards the sound. She stopped and ducked behind a tree, then peeked out.

Shaw was sitting on the ground, and her eyes were closed. Randi saw she was playing some type of flute.

<She's sitting in the middle of the park, at night, playing music?> Randi thought. <That IS weird. But she's mortal, obviously.>

Randi turned and started walking back to the car. As she neared the entrance, she chanced a glance back at the trees.

And promptly collided with a young man.

They bounced off each other, and tried to apologize.

"Sorry," Randi gulped. "Should have watched where I was going."

"It's all right. Haven't seen you before. New in town?"

"Uh, yeah." <He's gorgeous!> "Just started at UC Sunnydale."

"Good school. You'll like it there."

"Uh, thanks. Look, I gotta go. Be careful out here."

"No problem. Maybe I'll see you again?"

"I wouldn't have a problem with that." <Yes!>

"Bye. Oh, if you see a guy named Xander, tell him D.B. says hello."

As Randi got into the car, she had a lopsided grin on her face.

"So?" Cordelia and Xander asked at the same time.

"What?" Randi asked, then snapped back to reality. "Oh. I got inside twenty feet, and she never saw me."

"And?"

"She didn't twitch. I didn't get a Buzz, not even a tingle."

Xander looked back at the park. "I don't know if that's good or bad news."

"And as I was walking back, I ran into a hunk."

"Randi!" Xander shouted.

"Get a grip, Xander. C'mon Randi, what's he like?"

"Tall, kinda pale. Sexy look. Said to say hi to Xander for him."

"What?" Xander said, jerking. "He give you a name?"

"Yeah. Initials, actually. Do you know a D.B.?"

"D.B?" he whispered, then his jaw dropped. "Oh, shit!"

"Xander, what?" Cordy asked.

"Randi, this guy. About six-two, brown, spiky hair, wore black under a duster, has a kind of 'I like to brood' look?"

"Yeah, that's him." she confirmed.

"SHIT!"

Cordelia smacked him. "Xander..."

"Cordy, D.B. Tall, dark and brooding. Sound familiar?"

"SHIT!!"

Cordelia peeled off at about sixty miles an hour.

*****

Sunnydale High Library
Sunnydale, California
6 September 1998

Much to Cordelia, Xander and Randi's surprise, the library was packed. Everybody, including Frank Iverson and Cassandra, who had arrived from New York that morning, was present.

"Giles, bad news. Way, way bad."

Giles and Jenny looked up from their study of the Tiberius Manifesto. "How did you know? We couldn't reach you."

"How did WE know? We figured it out."

"Mr. Harris, what are you talking about?"

"Our stakeout, of course."

"I was referring to the prophecy." Giles pointed out.

"Uh oh. What's your bad news."

Jenny cleared her throat. "It seems that the prophecy is due to come to pass in the next ten days. And we haven't gotten any further on the translation."

Willow put it into layman's terms. "We're all stumped."

Amy saw the smug look on Xander's face. "Xander, this isn't funny."

"My bad news beats your bad news."

Giles didn't look pleased. "And what would that be?"

Randi stepped forward. "Shaw Hunter's normal. Mortal, at least."

"And that's bad news?" Cassandra asked with a smile.

"No, the bad news is that Randi met a guy."

"Xander!" Cordelia snapped.

"What's wrong with Randi meeting a guy?" Amy asked with a smirk.

"What's wrong is that he's about six-two, has dark eyes, dark hair, wears black clothes under a black duster..."

"Sounds nice..." Willow added.

"... and goes by the name of Dead Boy."

Silence dropped on the group like a lead weight.

Giles was the first to recover. "Oh, my." he said simply.

Robin looked around in confusion. "Uh, would this be the same, infamous 'Dead Boy' that I've heard mentioned in certain circles?"

"Yep," Amy muttered.

"So," he mused, rubbing his chin, "the rumors were true. Elvis IS a vampire."

Amy smacked the sprite-turned-human on the back of the head, sending him toppling onto the floor and nearly rendering him unconscious.

Xander nudged Randi. "Since you're new, Randi, let me explain. For Giles, that was the equivalent of blind, gibbering panic."

"Who's Dead Boy?" she asked.

Willow answered her. "Angel. A vampire."

"So? What's so bad about him?"

Cordy tapped her on the shoulder. "Imagine a vampiric Ted Bundy."

Randi's face went white. "Oh, shit."

"So what do we do?" Frank asked.

"I don't know. Somehow, I doubt that Angel's appearance is a coincidence."

"No kidding. He was in the same park with Shaw." Xander said.

"You left her alone in the park with Angel?" Gabrielle asked softly.

"Of course. What's wrong..." Xander stopped at the glares he received. "Oops."

Willow and Oz started to move towards the door. "We've got to go get her."

Randi blocked Willow. "I think she's fine. If what she was doing was any indication."

Jenny asked what she had been doing.

"Playing some kind of flute. That's it."

Sonja grinned. "In the middle of the park?"

Randi nodded.

"Great." Xander muttered. "Prophecies, red-eyed vamp hunters, Angel's in town, a crazy flute playing exchange student, what's next? Can it get any worse?"

As everyone stared at him, he asked "What?"

Cordelia smacked him again. "Every time you say that, it DOES get worse!"

*****

Angel's Mansion
Sunnydale, California
Early hours
7 September 1998

"Anyone seen Kaleda?"

"No, mate. Haven't seen her since she got lappy with me."

"Damn. Spike, we've got to find a way to stop that Cenobite." Angelus declared.

"Oh, that's easy. I'll just walk up and ask him, 'Excuse me, lad, can you tell me the easiest way to kill your scrap metal carcass?'"

"I have a better idea. Tomorrow night, you, Dru, and three others sack the Watcher's library. Get some of the books, maybe we'll find something."

"What will you be doing during all this?"

"Making a public appearance to distract attention, maybe give them the job of stopping him. Remember, Dru says you can't kill any of them."

"Can we at least leave them laying about in a twisted heap?"

"Just leave them alive."

*****

Abandoned Factory
Sunnydale, California
Early hours
7 September 1998

"So you wish to help me initiate a new age of darkness."

"Yes. I figure, Spike doesn't like me, sooner or later Angel's going to kill me. And that goofy girlfriend of his..."

"The fair Drusilla. Gifted, beautiful, but insane. Such an attractive combination."

"I've sired eight vampires in the last two weeks. It is a start."

"Welcome to the family, Kaleda Clay."

*****

Part 13: Confrontations

"Your existence as you have known it is now... over. From this moment forth, you will service... us."
---Locutus of Borg
Star Trek: The Next Generation

Sunnydale High Library
Sunnydale, California
7 September 1998

"Is the spell prepared, Willow?"

Willow started packing up her equipment. "Yes, Giles. If she lies about anything, I'll feel it."

"Good. Frankly, I hope our suspicions prove false, but it's better to be certain. Go ahead and work on the computer, see if you can find anything on the prophecy."

Willow nodded and went over to the computer. Minutes after she logged on, Shawukay walked in.

"Hi, Shaw." she called cheerfully. "How are you doing."

"I am well, Willow Rosenburg. And you?"

"I'm cool."

"Willow, I do not handle your American phrases very well." she said with a puzzled look on her face.

"I'm fine."

"Oh. That is good."

Giles decided to exit the office at that moment. "Ah, Ms. Hunter. Could I speak with you for a minute?"

She seemed to stiffen a bit, then turned. "Of course, sir. Actually, I had hoped to ask some advice of you. If you would not mind, that is."

The librarian seemed caught off guard. "You did? I mean, yes, I shall try to be of assistance."

The two walked into Giles' office and sat, Shawukay in a chair and Giles behind his desk.

"So, Ms. Hunter, what is your problem?"

"How... may I ask how you knew?"

"I am seldom approached for advice." he said.

"I see. This is the problem I have. I have certain information that I am only supposed to divulge at a certain point. Normally, I will keep my word. However, this information will affect myself and others, possibly causing some... emotional problems for all involved. But if I reveal this information prematurely, it may have a negative effect on others. Is it selfish of me to want to speak of this?"

"No, it's quite normal. A normal human reaction." Giles said, but pretended not to notice her flinch at the word "human." "I would normally say that the decision is yours, but I think that you are uncertain of your motivation in this matter."

She looked at him in surprise. "Yes, you are exactly correct. I feel that I was... manipulated into this position, but I am unsure if my emotions are affecting my reason."

"I can only say that you should do what you think is right."

Shawukay nodded slowly. "Thank you, Rupert Giles. I hope that I can do that. Now what did you wish to speak to me about?"

"Ms. Calendar was concerned about you. You seemed to have a negative reaction to something she said."

"Did she inform you of the subject we were discussing?"

"In a manner of speaking. She wishes to know if it will cause a problem for you to continue in her class."

"And what is your concern in this?" she asked bluntly.

"I really don't think that's any of your concern, young lady." he warned.

"Very well. Then kindly tell Ms. Calendar that if she wishes to speak with me, she needs only to do so. And my reaction to her was my own stupidity. It is not her that I have a problem with, but someone like her that I owe a debt to. She.. reminded me of a time that I wish to forget."

"May I ask what this debt is?"

"No. You may not." she answered, coldly.

"Miss Hunter..."

"Let us stop this nonsense, Rupert Giles. Speak bluntly and directly. I much prefer it that way."

Giles started to get irked. "Then I shall. Who are you? Truthfully."

"I cannot say. Not yet."

"Where are you from, Shaw Hunter?"

"Shaw Hunter is from Scotland."

"You aren't going to answer my questions, are you?" Giles concluded.

"I will answer any questions you have. At a certain point." she corrected, emphasizing the last two words.

"How about your parents. Your grandparents."

Shawukay hesitated. "They... are no longer among the living."

"Somewhat convenient, Ms. Hunter."

"If you speak like that about my family again, Rupert Giles, I will simply walk out of this room." she told him, watching him under narrowed eyes.

Giles matched her stare without flinching. "Why did you request to work here?"

"I was told that I might find information here. Information that I need."

"For what reason?"

Shawukay just shook her head.

"I see. Then I believe that we have nothing further to discuss."

"On the contrary. This is simply not the time. I... wish it were."

"When will it be the right time?" Giles countered.

"I do not know." she replied in a barely audible tone. She started for the door.

"What is your purpose here, 'Hunter?'"

Shawukay stopped, then looked over her shoulder. "Ask the Vistani. Someone here has a personal interest in their history." She waited a few moments, then spoke again. "And remember why I asked for your advice."

Willow watched as she stormed out of the library. Waiting a few seconds, she got up and walked over to the door.

"Didn't go well?"

"No, it didn't. She was tactless, short tempered, and rude."

"In other words, she has a bit of Cordy in her." Willow said with a grin.

Giles was momentarily perplexed, then he grinned. "Yes, you may be right at that."

"I saw it when they squared off her first day here. Don't ask."

"What about your spell?"

"Nothing. Whatever she said, it was the truth. Not a lie in there."

Giles looked at her. "Then why does that not reassure me?"

*****

An hour later, Jenny knocked at Giles' door. He looked up from one of his tomes. "Come in, Jenny."

She did, and sat in a chair. "So?"

"Well, in a roundabout way, I think she apologized for her behavior towards you. She said you could talk to her if you wished."

"And as for her?"

"She's hiding something. I have no doubt. What's strange is that she seems upset about the fact that she has information that she's not supposed to give out until the time is right."

"So you don't know why she's here."

He let out a sigh. "She said to ask the Vistani. I have no idea--"

"Vistani?" Jenny said in a hushed tone. "She said Vistani?"

"Yes. She said someone here had a personal interest in their history."

"That would be me." she said with a grin. "I think you have your answer, Rupert."

"Could you explain it to me, then?"

"Vistani is an ancient term for the Romany. She said to ask them."

"So, how does that help with us?"

"She knows what I am. If she truly can't tell us, she thinks we should ask someone with 'special gifts.' If you remember that phrase?"

Giles smiled as he realized what she was hinting at. "So, then, she was saying that if she can't tell us..."

"Go to someone who might. Shaw, in effect, gave us a loophole. I'll call my grandfather right now. She might not be what she seems, but I think this indicates she's on our side."

"Perhaps. Maybe this will bring the others onto her side."

*****

Joe's Blues Bar
Seacouver, Washington
7 September 1998

"Mac, we need to talk. Now."

Duncan and Richie looked up at Joe, who was carrying a manila envelope. He set it on the bar and glared at Duncan. "I thought we were friends."

"We are friends, Joe." Duncan said with a grin.

"Then why are you holding out on me? I'm catching up, finally, on the Database since the reevaluation, and it seems there's a young Immortal causing quite the stir among the Watchers."

"What does this have to do with Mac?" Richie said.

"He's keeping secrets. One of Connor's students has one of my best young Watchers pulling his hair out in frustration."

"Connor's student? You can't mean Maxine."

Joe fumed. "Who the hell is Maxine?"

"Connor's new student. Died the first time just before L.A."

"I'm not talking about her!"

"Then who, Joe?" Duncan asked, totally at a loss.

"Shaw Hunter."

Duncan stared for a second, and started laughing so hard he had to hold the bar to stay on his stool. Joe simply waited, then barked, "Don't make me cancel your tab, MacLeod."

"I can't believe you assigned a Watcher to HER!"

"Why not? She killed the man's last assignment."

Duncan was still laughing. "And who was that?"

"Raymond McGuire."

Duncan's laughter ceased instantly. "What? When?"

"In Paris, July 5th. At the barge." Dawson informed him, then took a set of photos out of the envelope. "Here, take a look for yourself."

Richie took the photos, and flipped through them. "Damn, she's a mess. Uh, Joe, where's the body?"

"Inside the barge."

Duncan nearly choked. "They fought IN my barge?!?"

"Yep." Dawson nodded. "Quite a first impression."

"Dawson, she's not an Immortal!"

"You're sure? Marquez noticed an electrical discharge."

"I met the girl. Talked to her, shook her hand. She's mortal, always will be."

"Wait until you hear the rest, then."

"Why don't I like the sound of that?" Richie asked.

"She's enrolled in, and working in the library at..."

"Dawson..." Duncan growled.

"Sunnydale High School."

Now Richie and Duncan shouted, "WHAT?!?"

"Goin' through vamps pretty quick, but runs off into the night when the kids show up."

"Damn. She wanted to give up hunting vampires."

"Duncan, she's been attacking them when they attack others, or attack her, nothing more. She saved Amy Madison's life three nights ago."

"Joe, you've got a speaker phone in your office, right?"

"Yeah, why?"

"I want to call Connor, ask him what the hell is going on here." Duncan said angrily.

"Only if I can listen in."

"Let me do the talking, Joe. I don't want him to know I got the information from you."

"You mean you want to mess with his head."

"It's so nice to be understood."

Duncan dialed Connor's New York number, and a female voice answered the phone.

"MacLeod's Antiques, can I help you?" she said in a thick Jersey accent.

"I need to speak to Connor MacLeod, it's important."

"I'm sorry, he's busy right now. If you call back in an hour, he might be free then."

"I need to speak with him," Duncan tried again. "It's an emergency."

"Sure it is, bustah. Call back later."

"I assume this is Maxine, right?"

"Yep. What's it matta ta you?"

"Maxine, if I'm not talking to Connor in thirty seconds, I will hop a plane to New York, come to the shop personally, and HEADS. WILL. ROLL."

"Shya right. Who the hell are you?"

"Duncan MacLeod." he said with an evil grin.

A loud noise sounded over the speaker. "What the heck was that, Mac?"

"Maxine dropping the phone."

"You're kidding."

"Nope. Five... four... three... two..."

"Damn it, Duncan, what the hell are you trying to pull!!" Connor shouted. "She's not even Immortal two months and you call here pulling that crap!!"

Duncan grinned at Joe. "Then stop making me out to be the Immortal version of the bogeyman to your students."

"Duncan, give me one good reason not to come after you right now." Connor seethed.

"I'll give you several. First, I heard you threw a wild party on my barge."

"I did no such thing."

"I heard you invited Raymond McGuire."

Several seconds of silence passed.

"How did you find out?"

Joe couldn't sit still any longer. "Hi, Connor."

"Dawson."

"Connor, what kind of shape is my barge in?"

"Jonathan took care of the damage."

Duncan's retort froze on his lips. "Fine. Now what's the deal with Shaw Hunter?"

"What do you mean? I haven't seen her since just after she killed McGuire."

"Well, it seems there was something like a Quickening when he died."

Connor chuckled over the line. "That was Shaw's doing. She had to kill him four times before she did it right."

"She didn't know?!?"

"Trust me, she does now. And the ways she took him out..."

Duncan grimaced. "Okay, I know you. In order."

"Electrocution, run through the heart, gutted and sliced his jugular, then the finale."

"My God. She did this? That kid?"

"That 'kid' happens to be over fifty years old."

"Duncan tells me she's not Immortal, Connor." Dawson stated.

"She isn't."

"Connor, now. Talk."

"She isn't exactly human."

"Define exactly." Duncan snarled.

"Fully, totally, completely, one hundred percent."

"CONNOR!"

"She's half human." Connor said, enjoying himself.

Dawson groaned. "I know one of us is going to have to ask, Duncan. Connor, what's the other half?"

"It seems that her mother was of the Under the Hill Folk."

Duncan sputtered. "Please tell me you're joking, Connor. Please."

"No. Jonathan told me himself after Shaw got a concussion from McGuire."

"I'm going to kill him. Jonathan is a dead man. Angel or no, I'm going to kill him."

"Angel? You mean as in wings, halo, the whole nine yards? That's the Jonathan she was traveling with?" Joe asked.

"How did you know about that, Dawson?" Connor said in disbelief.

"It seems they assigned a Watcher to a promising new Immortal, saw Shaw and Jonathan together."

"Who is this Immortal?"

"Shaw Hunter."

"WHAT? ARE THEY INSANE!!!!"

"Joe, don't you just love turning the tables on Connor?"

"Very funny, Duncan!"

"The best part is coming up. Seems Shaw enrolled in school, got an assignment as a library assistant."

"Good for her. She wanted to learn to read English. Where's she going to school?"

"Sunnydale. And if she's working in the library, she's working for..."

"Oh my God." Dawson said. "And I've got Marquez tracking her."

Connor started laughing over the phone again. "Might I make a suggestion, Joe?"

"If it's reasonable and halfway serious."

"Call, e-mail, whatever, Marquez and have him get in touch with Giles. Then have them call you and get the matter straightened out. Do NOT tell them about Shaw, it's her secret to tell, not yours."

"Damn. All right, I'll get on it."

"Bye, Connor. And I'll get that deposit the next time I see you..."

The phone in New York audibly slammed down.

*****

Sunnydale High Library
Sunnydale, California
7 September 1998

"So, was your grandfather able to help you?" Giles asked as Jenny placed the receiver back on the cradle.

"Some. It's cryptic. He says the Hunter is a source of light, fearing her darkness. She protects people from the vampires, and has helped the Vistani in the past. He told me to give her a message, only to her. And, Rupert.."

"Go ahead, Jenny."

"He says one of the Slayer's allies will confirm the truth."

"I don't suppose you know who."

Jenny shrugged. "Absolutely no idea, Rupert. But I think it's safe to say that Shaw's the Hunter. One confusing thing, her eyes aren't red."

"I know. But what is she? She's not a vampire or an Immortal, we're sure of that."

"Why don't we simply ask her." Jenny asked with a grin.

"I tried that a couple of hours ago." Giles replied, giving her a sharp look.

"Then let's find her and ask her to come back. You said yourself she was asking for some kind of advice. I think she needs help, but she's prevented from saying anything. She said as much."

"I'll call the others. Hopefully, they'll convince her to trust us."


An hour later, Giles had everyone in the library, handing out search areas to look for the Hunter.

"Very well, then. Xander, you and Cordelia will search the Bronze. Cassandra, Frank and Randi, the park. Gabrielle and Sonja, the college campus. Oz, Amy, Jenny, and Robin, you check the cemetery. Willow will be helping me here, trying to find out more about the prophecy. And please, keep in mind, Angel is here, which means that Spike and Drusilla are probably around as well."

"No prob, G-Man. We'll just dust 'em like any others."

"Xander, even with Steve's special items, please remember that Spike alone has killed two Slayers."

Xander started to reply, but Cordelia elbowed him in the stomach, knocking the wind out of him. The others laughed as they filed out.

*****

Weatherly Park
Sunnydale, California
7 September 1998

Cassandra, Frank and Randi had been walking for twenty minutes and hadn't found the Hunter, or any vampires at all. Randi still seemed embarrassed about being approached by Angel, although Xander and Cordelia had assured her it wasn't her fault.

"Cassandra, do you think we're wasting our time out here?"

"No, Frank, I think we'll find something tonight. I had a dream to that affect."

"What does a dream have to do with anything?" Randi asked.

Frank snorted. "Cassandra's a prophetess, as well as an Immortal and witch. Why didn't you tell us, Cassie?"

"To see the look on your face." she said playfully.

"So what are we supposed to find?"

"I didn't get that far. Your snoring woke me up."

"Some prophet." Randi mumbled under her breath.

A lone vampire jumped out of the dark. He didn't get ten feet before Frank whipped a wooden knife into its heart. The three never broke stride. That is, until ten minutes later, when both Cassandra and Randi jerked and started looking around.

"Great. I know that look..." Frank cursed.

Cassandra looked and spotted a figure approaching out of the darkness. Cassandra drew her sword and stepped in front of Randi.

"I am Cassandra. This is Randi Jessup, and she is under my protection."

"Hey!"

The figure nodded. "Hello, Cassandra. It has been far too many years since we last saw each other."

Cassandra slowly lowered the blade. "Sinclair? Is it you?"

"Yes, my dear."

"They said you were killed during the Great War." she said. "They never found a body."

"I was sent to a place of great power." he told the trio, and then stepped into the light. "The Old Ones have charged me with bringing back the glory that is their due."

As Cassandra realized the truth of what Sinclair had become, the blood drained from her face. Determination slowly replaced the fear, and she raised her sword again.

"You die tonight, demon. We're going to destroy you."

Randi stared at her as if she were nuts. "Can you define 'we'?"

Frank grinned. "Cassie, dear, did you say demon?"

Once she nodded, Frank pulled out his H & K Ops .45 caliber pistol and began firing at the Cenobite. Pinhead screamed and staggered, but stayed on his feet. He straightened, and the wounds in his chest slowly closed. He watched as the wounds sealed.

"I am impressed. Enchanted bullets, crafted in silver. Simply not effective enough."

Sinclair approached Cassandra who swung her sword. The demon caught the blade in his left hand, and jerked it forward. Cassandra was dragged forward and he grabbed her by the throat. Frank shot him twice more, then Pinhead threw Cassandra into him, knocking them both to the ground.

The demon inspected Cassandra's sword, then turned to Randi. "Hello, Randi. I understand that you are new to this."

Randi gulped. "Something like that."

"Then you understand the rules. There can be only one."

"But it shall not be you."

Randi and Pinhead turned, just in time for an arrow to lodge itself in Pinhead's chest. A second arrow quickly followed, entering his right shoulder.

He staggered, but didn't go down. He dropped the sword, and reached up to pull the arrows out.

"Your blessed weapons cannot stop me, woman."

The hooded figure drew her sword, then used her free hand to drag a second sheathe off her back, which she threw to Randi.

"Here, Randi Jessup. A gift." she said, then turned to address the demon. "Blessed arrows may not work, but how about a disrupter sword... ta'narri."

The Cenobite's eyes rose at the last word. "You are versed in the proper name. What are you, warrior?"

"Cha'Tel'Quessir." she replied grimly.

"Impossible. How could you possibly have knowledge of my and Cassandra's kind."

"Does the name MacLeod mean anything to you?"

Randi stared at her. "You're kidding."

Sinclair looked doubtful. "He would not have told you willingly."

"Killing Raymond McGuire for him may have had something to do with it." She paused. "Randi Jessup, get behind me. I was sent to guard you."

"You cannot interfere with this." Pinhead protested.

The woman hesitated, then spoke. "Tell that to Frank Iverson. Aim for the head!"

Two loud cracks exploded through the night. The demon's head sparked as bullets struck the nails as they entered his head. He staggered, then picked up the sword. The hooded woman moved in front of Randi, and blocked his first strike, then side kicked him. He fell back one step, then straightened. He started to move forward again.

<Screw this!> Randi thought. She drew the sword she'd been given. She moved next to the Hunter.

Pinhead stopped, a sudden look of surprise on his face. "Where did you get that sword?" he demanded.

"From the Hunter." Randi said, nodding to her left.

"Who received it, to give to Randi Jessup," the Hunter said, "from the previous wielder."

The surprise in the Cenobite's face was replaced with a new look: Fear.

He slowly backed off. "The doorway to Hell will open, little half-breed. The Old Ones will return."

He quickly disappeared into the darkness.

Randi turned to see Frank helping Cassandra to her feet. She ran over to them.

"What the hell was that?"

Cassandra shuddered. "A Cenobite, a powerful demon that can only be summoned by one means, the Lament Configuration. We are in trouble."

"A demon named Sinclair? Very cultural." Frank said.

"But he's, you know.."

Frank looked at Randi. "He's what?"

"You know. Sword, heads, buzz?"

"No wonder my bullets did shit." Frank said, then looked around. The Hunter was nowhere in sight. "Damn! If I find that girl, I'm gonna cut her legs off!"

"What happened, Randi?"

"Well, while you and Frank were sleeping on the job, the Hunter shot some arrows into the demon. Threw me this.." she said, indicating the sword, "said she was here to guard me. Said she knew MacLeod. I drew the sword, Metalhead decided not to fight after Frank capped him in the head a couple times."

Cassandra and Frank exchanged a look. "She knows a MacLeod? Who the hell is this kid??" Frank shouted.

"Uh, the demon asked her. She said... tellkisser, or something like that."

"Randi, did she say, Tel'Quessir?" Cassandra asked with the right pronunciation.

"That sounds right. I think that's it."

"You know something, Cass."

"Yes, Frank, I'll tell you when we get back to the library."

*****

The bushes parted as Shawukay quickly moved through the brush, looking for any trace of the ta'narri's passage. She was quickly growing frustrated.

<This is not possible.> she mentally snapped. <He had to have left some kind of trail.>

As she continued to scan the trees, bushes and ground, she felt something behind her. The ranger quickly turned, bringing her sword around in a whistling arc, an afterglow of the faerie fire along the blade being imprinted onto her retinas.

The sword passed straight through Jehanne, who looked faintly amused at Shawukay's reaction.

Shawukay quickly recovered, and started to chant a prayer before she realized who was in front of her. She lowered her sword and let out a brief curse in Common.

"Goddess! Have you lost your senses?!?" Shawukay hissed abruptly. "It is a good thing you are intangible at this moment, Jehanne."

"Because you would have cut me in half with your sword?" Jehanne asked.

"No," the half-elf countered, "because I would have thrashed you for not. . .mentioning your presence."

Jehanne's eyes widened slightly, and Shawukay sheathed her sword. She looked at the angel.

"Where is the ta'narri? I was trying to track him," she said, an embarrassed look coming to her face. "Not that I was having much success."

"The Cenobite can move through shadows, in a form of teleportation, if you will," Jehanne explained. "You have fulfilled the first part of your involvement of the prophecy, Shawukay. But, you are now needed elsewhere."

Shawukay did a double take. "Are you saying I have to leave?" she asked in a tone full of regret. "Jehanne, I have not told my kin of. ."

"You are needed in the library, Shawukay. You have guarded the Third, although she made sure it was not for long," the spirit replied with a touch of dry humor, "and you gave her the sword. But vampires are headed for the library, where Willow Rosenburg and Rupert Giles are currently located at."

Shawukay's face grew pale. "Then why are you here wasting my time?!? I have to get there to protect them!"

The half-elf drew her cloak about her head, and started to take off. But, an impossibly strong hand on her shoulder stopped her.

"Shawukay, the time has come for you to tell them the truth," Jehanne said in a firm tone. "These people will be your allies. And, if you let them, they will be your friends."

"Of course," Shawukay spat. "Xander Harris thinks I might be some form of demon, of all things."

"And he was the first to offer you his friendship," Jehanne said.

"When he thought I was human," the half-elf said, but one corner of her mouth lifted. "Although I did find his guesses somewhat. .amusing."

"Shawukay. ."

"Jehanne, I. . .consider Willow a friend already. She has stood up for me since the beginning. And I will let you know of something else."

"Yes?" the angel asked.

"When I first came here, I considered this similar to a Harper mission. I was pretending to be a student at this school," she said.

"And now?"

"I am . . .no longer pretending. Jonathan was right about my learning here. And," she paused, closing her eyes, "I do not want to stop."

"That choice is in the future," Jehanne said. "But now, you have to help those in the library."

Shawukay nodded, and ran off as fast as her legs could carry her, Jehanne watching her form shrink into the night.

*****

The Bronze
Sunnydale, California
7 September 1998

Cordelia looked back at Xander over near the back door and shook her head. There wasn't any trace of who they were looking for.

She walked over and kissed him. "Should we stay a little longer, or head out."

"She's not coming. I doubt she'd want to, as weird as she seems to be."

Cordelia laughed and they walked out holding hands. They went over to her car, and as Cordy was putting the keys in Xander's door, Angelus stepped into the light on the opposite curb.

Xander immediately drew his gun as Cordelia leaped over the hood and dropped into a fighting stance. Angelus' eyes widened a just a bit at the scene.

"Well. Looks like some Slayerettes have been eating their Wheaties. Or you've been watching too many action films."

One corner of Xander's mouth twitched. "Any last words, Dead Boy?"

"Oh, come on, Toothpick. I let that little cutie go the other night, as well as that musician she was spying on. Good sound, but not too smart, to be in the middle of the park like that."

Cordy laughed. "That musician would have kicked your ass like we're about to do."

Angelus smiled evilly. "How? By serenading me?"

Xander clicked the safety. "That was the Hunter taking a night off."

A ripple of surprise formed over the vampire's features. "That was her? Big deal. We've got a problem."

"You got that right." Cordelia said as she ran across the street. Angelus smirked as he launched a punch intended to send the front of her face out the back of her head.

Imagine his surprise when she dodged and threw a combination chop to the arm and knee to the stomach. Angelus dropped, and Cordelia grabbed him by the hair, pivoting and driving him headfirst into the trunk of a nearby car, causing the alarm to go off.

He staggered back into a kidney punch, which dropped him to his knees. Xander walked up and crescent kicked Angelus in the jaw, laying him flat out on the concrete.

Cordelia picked up his head. "Now, you were saying, Dead Boy?"

"There's a damned demon in town. He wants some toy of Dru's. Called the Lament Configuration. This demon's powerful."

Xander pointed the gun between the vamp's eyes. "How powerful?"

"He sent Spike flying into a wall six feet away with one slap. Knocked him out cold."

Cordelia let his head go, and it hit the cement with an audible thud. She and Xander ignored his yelp.

"A vamp with two Slayers to his credit got that done to him? Oh, crap."

"So, Xander, what do we do with the dipstick?"

"Wait! Dru keeps talking about us fighting this guy! She specifically mentioned your group and us. Said we'd need you to fight him."

"So?" Xander asked with a leer.

"Consider Dru's track record with visions."

"Xander, this could be the demon in the prophecy. Numbnuts could be telling the truth."

Angelus moaned. "Not a prophecy. Please tell me you didn't say prophecy."

"I didn't say prophecy." Xander said.

"Good."

"Cordy said prophecy."

Angelus started to growl. Xander smiled. "Give me an excuse, Fangface."

Cordy grabbed the vampire by the shirt. "We'll leave word with Willy, how to reach us."

Then she pimp slapped him.

And the Slayerettes walked away, leaving Angelus to wonder what kind of steroids they were taking.

*****

Sunnydale High Library
Sunnydale, California
Early hours
8 September 1998

Willow was cursing under her breath, because she hadn't found a single thing on the Net on the prophecy occupying their attention. She was about to try another search when she caught movement out of the corner of her eye. Without reacting, she slowly reached for the gun sitting out of sight at the side of the monitor.

"Excuse me, por favor?" a voice asked in a heavy Spanish accent.

Willow slowly looked at him. "Yes, can I help you?"

"Si. I am looking for Senor Giles? I was told to see him."

She glanced towards the office. "Who sent you, if I might ask."

"I... I am sorry, I cannot tell you."

"Look, I know you're here for a reason. You can tell me, it's okay."

"I cannot. I am sorry."

"So am I." Willow replied. Then she pointed the gun at him. "Raise your hands, please."

A look of fear crossed the man's face, but he did so. As he did, Willow caught sight of the tattoo on the man's left forearm. She sighed, then shook her head and lowered the weapon. "You're one of Joe's friends."

"How did you know this, senorita?"

"I'm friends with Joe, Steve St. Wolf, Buffy Summers, and Cassandra. Buffy's my best friend." she said with a big smile.

The man smiled in relief. "You're one of them, si? One of those who hunt vampires? I am Enrico Marquez."

"Willow Rosenberg. I'll get Giles for you."

She went into the office, and a minute later they came out. Giles went up to Enrico and the men shook hands.

"Mr. Marquez."

"Senor Giles. Joe Dawson sent me."

"How is the man?" Giles asked warmly.

Enrico frowned. "I have been here for the last two weeks, Watching my new assignment."

Giles' smile lessened. "Who is it?"

"Shaw Hunter. She killed Raymond McGuire in Paris, in July. She trained under Connor MacLeod."

"Shaw trained under Connor?" Willow asked. "But she's not an Immortal!"

Enrico looked between the two. "I beg your pardon?"

Giles nodded. "We thought as you did, at first. But a local Immortal walked up to her. Shaw is mortal. But we still have questions about her."

"Senor Giles, I was instructed to tell you that Senor Dawson wishes for you to call him."

"Oh, quite good. Let's adjourn to the office." The three went in, and Giles called Joe on the phone.

"Joe's. Can I help you?"

"I sincerely hope so, Joe. We have a situation here."

"Hey, Giles. Let me guess. A young woman named Shaw Hunter has you running around in circles. Is Enrico there?"

"Si, Senor Dawson." Marquez confirmed. "I am present."

"Yes, Joe, she has us confused. What can you tell us?"

Joe told them most of what Connor and Duncan had told them. After several minutes, Giles was shaking his head in wonder, while Willow and Enrico simply remained motionless.

"Joe, you wouldn't happen to know if she's human, would you?" Giles pleaded.

"She is." Joe said. As they let out breaths of relief, Joe added, "Sort of."

"Joe, please..."

"Can't tell. Connor made me promise."

"Joe, you mentioned a spell she cast. Is she a witch?" Willow asked.

"I don't know for sure, Willow. Marquez?"

"Si, sir?"

"Consider this assignment over. Give Giles whatever help you can, then I'll give you a vacation, then the assignment of your choice. Lord knows you've suffered enough with this one." Joe said with an amount of humor in his voice.

Willow and Enrico both rolled their eyes. "Si, Senor Dawson. You have no idea how right you are."

After breaking the connection, Giles turned to Enrico. "Welcome to the Hellmouth, Mr. Marquez."

"It is hardly boring, I see."

A sound came from the library. Willow jumped up and was out the office in a second. Giles and Enrico brought up the rear. They exited the office to see a group of five vampires trashing the shelves. One of the vamps looked up from the book he was perusing.

"Major Wiggins..." Willow whispered.

"Sorry about the mess, gents, but I forgot my library card." Spike said cheerfully.

*****

Part 14: Surprises

"And now for something completely different..."
---Monty Python

Sunnydale High Library
Sunnydale, California
Early hours
8 September 1998

"Mr. Marquez, go into the office." Giles told the Watcher.

"Senor Giles.."

Willow drew her gun and pointed it at Spike. "Why are you here, Spike?"

Spike grinned widely. "Well, hacker, I always knew that red-headed temper would surface someday." Dru walked into sight, and Willow looked uncertain for the first time. "Dru, luv, you remember the hacker and the librarian."

"Hello," Dru said. "The pin man wants my pretty box."

"I see she's still in the Twilight Zone, huh, Spike?" Willow asked.

Spike let out a low growl. "Don't make me regret Angel's orders, luv. He said to leave you alive. He didn't specify the condition you had to be in. We just came to get some of your books. I'm not supposed to kill you heroes."

"Unfortunate that I am under no such restrictions."

The group turned to see another woman standing at the back of the library. She had on buckskin leathers, boots, and a brown cloak, the hood thrown back. She had one hand on the sword at her hip. Her hazel eyes held an icy glare as she stared only at Spike.

Willow said, "Oh, no. Shaw..."

"Who the hell are you, ducks?"

"Someone who will not allow you to gain the information you seek. I will give you one chance to withdraw."

Spike smiled, apparently impressed. "You're a brassy wench, aren't you?"

The woman shook her head. "No. I am a cold, sword-swinging, ball busting bitch. According to my friends."

Spike's jaw opened a bit. "Your friends? What the hell do your enemies call you?"

"I do not know. My enemies are no longer among the living." Her eyes narrowed. "Or the unliving."

Spike looked to the three underling vamps. "Kill her."

"Spike, we can't." Dru said with a smile. "That's the fairy lady."

"Can't I have any fun in this bleedin' burg?" Spike complained.

"Shaw, you've got to get out of here!" Willow shouted.

Shawukay turned her gaze to Willow. "And why would I wish to do that, Willow Rosenberg?" she asked in an even tone.

"Because they'll kill you." Giles answered.

"Are you so sure of that, Rupert Giles?" she asked, a grin forming.

"Shaw, they... oh, God no." Willow stuttered, coming to some conclusion. "Giles, she's, she's..."

"Rupert Giles, Willow Rosenberg, please wait in your office."

"I shall do no such..."

"Now, Giles. Call the others." Willow said, backing up.

As Giles and Enrico backed into the office, Willow stopped. "You'll have to kill me to get them."

"Allow me, Willow Rosenberg." A quick chant, and a blue glow formed and faded in the doorway. Willow pounded, but an invisible wall blocked her. She turned back to Shawukay.

"How could you?!?" she shouted, pointing the gun at her.

"I like the way the lass works. What's your name, luv?"

Shawukay looked Spike in the eyes. "Shawukay Redarrow, daughter of Trocar Flamingarrow and Miyana Redstar. What is your name?"

"Call me Spike." he said.

"Spike?" she repeated, then lowered her gaze a bit. She raised an eyebrow. "I see."

Dru wrapped herself around Spike. "Spike, why is the fairy lady looking at you like that?"

Spike's face turned pink. "Oh, well, Dru, you see..."

Willow looked sick. "Oh, God, that's gross.."

Shawukay sadly shook her head. "Obviously, some blood drinkers vastly overrate their own attributes."

The red on Spike's face turned a deep crimson. After thirty seconds, he finally found his voice. "KILL THE WITCH!!"

Shawukay calmly drew her sword and a dagger. She threw the dagger into a vampire's arm, and slashed his stomach open with Soulreaver. Willow took the opportunity to shoot a second vampire in the leg, forcing him to drop. Shawukay beheaded her opponent, then ran at Spike.

Willow shot the third underling in the heart, dusting him. She turned back to her first target and repeated the procedure.

Spike dodged a slash from Soulreaver, and kicked Shawukay in the stomach. She rolled in a back somersault, regaining her feet. Spike was quickly on her, but she threw another strike, which he barely dodged. He got inside her arc, and picked her up. He threw her, and she landed through a table, destroying it.

Willow moved to help, but was intercepted by Dru. Willow spin kicked her in the stomach, and then dropped her with one of the simplest moves available to an Amazon; an uppercut. She turned and saw Spike about to drive a table leg into Shawukay's body.

"SPIKE!" she yelled.

He paused, and saw Willow pointing her gun at Dru's temple. "One chance, Spike. Back off."

Spike was astonished. "You hurt her, I'll rip your bloody lungs out!"

"Then leave. I'll even give you a head start."

He never got the chance. The rage came over the half-elf underneath him. She grabbed his duster, and gave the vampire an impressive headbutt. It stunned him long enough for her to roll over on top of him, and she began launching right cross after right cross onto his face.

Blood started to flow from Spike's nose and mouth. Willow ran over to help, but Spike managed to flip Shawukay off of him, her body tripping Willow.

Spike ran for the doors, grabbing Dru on the way out.

Willow and Shawukay jumped up at the same time, one with Amazon skill, and the other with elven agility. Willow pointed the gun at the door, then quickly back at the other woman. Shawukay had a pair of daggers at the ready, rage in her eyes.

"Don't make me do it, Shaw." Willow pleaded. "Please."

The rage slowly drained, and she dropped the daggers to the floor. She slowly turned and walked over to the destroyed table, and picked up her sword. She sheathed the blade, then walked over to an intact table, and sat down.

Willow put the gun away and walked over. "Shaw?"

"Stay away." she said. "I thought it was gone. The rage, the anger. Several months, I thought it was finally gone."

"Your rage likely saved our lives."

"I had hoped you would not see that side of me, Willow."

"It's okay." Willow assured her. "Uh, could you let Giles and Enrico out?"

Shawukay looked at her. "What? They can come out anytime they wish."

"But the spell you cast.."

"Was to keep the vampires out." she clarified. "It only works one way."

"So that was to protect them?" Willow asked, awed.

"Of course. What did you think it was for?"

"I.. never mind." She walked over to the door. "Giles, all clear. Come on out."

Giles and Enrico exited the office, and the spell died. They saw the vampires were gone, and started to relax.

"Willow, where's Ms. Hunter?"

Willow pointed over to the side, then jumped at Giles' shout of "MISS HUNTER!!"

She turned and saw Shawukay taking off her tunic, wincing as she did so. She turned halfway, and saw the two men staring at her. She held her tunic up, despite the chemise she still had on. Her ivory complexion was growing pink.

"You could at least avert your eyes, Rupert Giles." she said in embarrassment.

"Ms. Hunter, young women simply do not.."

"I believe some of my ribs may be broken." she explained softly.

Giles' look melted into one of concern. "Here, let me see."

Shawukay backed off. "I do not think so."

Both looked at Willow as she giggled. "Shaw, he's offering first aid."

"It is not necessary. I would like some privacy, please."

Giles looked dubious. "Would you consent to Willow staying with you? You may use the office."

Shawukay nodded, and the two walked into the office. She sat down on the floor, grimacing and holding her right side.

"Shaw, let me get the first aid kit."

"I need quiet, please." She began a prayer, and a golden glow grew on her hands. She placed her hands over her right side, and the glow flared, then faded out. After a few seconds, she opened her eyes.

"I am finished, Willow." she said. "The healing worked."

"Wow." Willow muttered. "Uh, Shaw, I'm a witch. Can you teach me that spell?"

"No, Willow, I cannot."

Shawukay saw the hurt look on Willow's face, and quickly explained. "You are a witch, what I would call a mage, correct?" At Willow's nod, she continued. "I am no wizard. I have neither the talent, nor the patience. I am a priestess." At the blank look on Willow's face, she pressed on. "Witches, such as yourself, use your spells to tap into the field of magic permeating your world. Imagine your world surrounded by a field of energy." Willow nodded. "Imagine that energy as pure, raw magic, like raw lightning. You tap the energy and form it into the desired spell. Priests, such as myself, receive our magic from the deities we worship. I tap the divine power of the goddess I serve. I am similar to what your Indian tribes would call a 'shaman,' or a... 'medicine woman?' Do you understand? The two types of magic are not compatible."

"Oh. Okay. I would love to cast that spell, though."

"Willow," she said softly. "The spell only works on someone who is injured."

"Oh, yeah." She held up Shawukay's tunic. "Here's your shirt."

"Thank you." As Shawukay turned to don the tunic, she heard Willow gasp.

"Shaw, your back. Those scars.."

"Are none of your business." she replied sharply. She dropped the tunic over her head, and turned back to Willow. "Forget you ever saw them. And I will thank you not to discuss them with anyone else, Willow Rosenberg."

She immediately regretted her words, and ran her hands through her hair in frustration. Willow's eyebrows shot up, then Shawukay sighed. "Please forgive me. I am.. sensitive about areas of my past. Those scars represent one of them. I do not discuss it with others. So please, do not ask."

Willow smiled a bit. "I understand. So are you gonna tell us the truth tonight?"

"Yes. I need help with my mission. Something about a prophecy.." she stopped at the look on Willow's face. "What is it?"

"We've been discussing a prophecy. It's, uh.."

"Let us wait. Then we can discuss those things."

"All right. Shaw, I saw your ears. Are you.."

Shawukay groaned and plopped down onto the chair. She buried her face in her hands. "Please do not say it." she asked. She looked up at Willow. "I do not use logic. I do not have green blood. I am not named Spock. I do not.."

Willow giggled, as she understood. "I was going to say 'faerie.'"

Shawukay simply gazed at her. "You have come much closer than Xander did. Yes, I heard your conversation from the secret passage." She smiled. "You are half right."

Willow frowned. "Half right?"

"Yes. I am half elven. And half human."

"Whoa. Uh, the eyes?"

"An elven gift. What you call infrared is how I see in the darkness. By body heat. Very handy to tell humans from vampires. I must swear you to secrecy on this matter, Willow."

"But, Shaw," she began, "the others.."

"Would you deny me the look on Xander Harris' face when he hears the truth?" she asked, mischief dancing in her eyes.

Willow looked at her, then laughed. "I was right. You DO have a bit of Cordy in you."

The half-elf huffed. "You do not need to insult me, Willow. That is Connor's influence. But enough. I must speak with Rupert Giles."

The two girls walked out, and went over to Giles and Enrico, who ceased their conversation.

"Ms. Hunter.."

"Redarrow. Shawukay Redarrow. But you may call me Shaw, Rupert Giles. It.. prevents humans from mangling my proper name."

"Oh, very well... Shaw." Giles consented. "Can you tell us who you are? Or what you are?"

"When the time comes, yes. I swear. I would rather wait until the others arrive, so I only need speak once. May I ask the name of your companion?"

"Oh, yes. Enrico Marquez, of the Society of Watchers."

Shawukay's eyebrows rose. "The Watchers?" She looked back at Willow. "Willow Rosenberg, YOU are the Slayer?" she asked in disbelief.

"WHAT?!" Willow and Giles exclaimed together.

"Enrico Marquez is your Watcher? Duncan and Connor explained to me about the Slayers. This world is very small at times."

Giles now understood her confusion. "Allow me to clear the confusion, Shaw. The Council of Watchers looks over the Slayer. The current Slayer is... elsewhere at this time, but will return soon. The Society of Watchers, which Mr. Marquez is a member of, chronicles the lives and histories of Immortals."

Shawukay nodded. "Such as Connor and Duncan. Yes, I know of Immortals. They told me after..."

"We know, senorita Redarrow. You saved a great many lives by killing McGuire."

Shawukay glared at him. "Then why did you not stop him?"

"Because it is against our rules. We Watch, and record. Nothing more."

"And how do you know these things, Rupert Giles?"

"I am the Watcher for Buffy Summers."

"I see. Is she the Slayer or is she Immortal?" Shawukay asked, grinning.

"Actually, she's both." Giles said, wondering how she knew.

"Rupert Giles, I was attempting a joke. You can be truthful with me." she said, then glanced at Willow when she started to laugh. "Willow?"

"Shaw, Buffy IS both. She was the Slayer, then became Immortal as well."

She turned to Giles. "I am sure that was the source of much confusion."

Giles smiled. "Absolutely."

"Then who do you watch, Enrico Marquez?"

"Senorita, I am YOUR Watcher. We thought, at the time, that you were an Immortal."

"You have been following me?" she asked, with a slight hint of distaste.

"It was an honest mistake. In fact, since learning of vampires, Watchers now have the option of approaching their Immortals, to offer assistance in the fight."

"I see. Then you have seen me fight them."

"Si, but I thought you were a new Immortal, and unlikely to accept my aid."

"You were probably correct." she said, and looked to Giles. "Are the others coming?"

"Yes, Shaw. Tell me, both of you, what can you tell me about the vampire Slava."

"Slava? A surprise. A vampire who actually challenged me to single combat. But his swordsmanship skills were somewhat basic."

"Slava would be the vampire you fought with the sword?" Enrico asked.

"Yes, I took his rapier as a trophy, perhaps to give it to someone who needed it."

"Miss... Shaw, do you realize what Slava was?"

"I know a vampire when I see one, Rupert Giles. Infrared vision is very helpful in that regard."

"He was a Musketeer when he was mortal."

Enrico gaped. "That vampire was a Musketeer? She embarrassed him! I saw it with my own eyes!"

"Yes. Quite a story, so I am told. Oh, and Shaw, Frank Iverson was not pleased you simply ran off like that."

"I was not pleased with the possibility of him shooting me with one of those disgustingly brutal Earth weapons." she said.

The three other people stared at her.

"Did you say, Earth weapon?" Enrico asked.

"Yes."

Giles looked upward. "This is getting much too complicated."

*****

Frank had found all the others, and instructed them to meet at the library. His group arrived first, followed by Oz's team, Sonja and Gabrielle, and finally Xander and Cordelia. As the latter two walked into the library, they stared at the mess, books and wood strewn all over the floor. Xander looked at Giles standing next to Enrico and Shawukay.

"Wow, G-Man, when you throw a party.."

Shawukay cut him off. "It was hardly a party, Xander Harris."

Cordelia got between them. "Now wait a minute, Ladyhawke."

"My name, Cordelia Chase, is Shawukay Redarrow. And being thrown through a table by a vampire, the one you call Spike, and breaking several of my ribs, is not my idea of a party."

"You look fine to me."

"Healing spells work wonders. Now tell your boyfriend to cease his humor, it is not appropriate."

Cordelia fumed. "No one tells Xander what to do but me."

"Thanks, Cordy. Wait a minute!"

"Be QUIET!" both women shouted.

"Okay, Xander quiet now."

Giles broke the two girls apart. "Cordelia, Shaw, enough! We need to discuss the information we have. Shaw, you swore you would tell us. Why don't you begin."

Robin nudged Amy with his elbow. "This is going to be good," he said.

"What are you talking about?" she asked.

"If you guys had thought of having ME look at her, this mystery would have been solved days ago," he whispered, starting to chuckle. "Good to see I'm not the only one in town."

"The only what?"

"Let's just say that I wouldn't make any jokes about Santa Claus in her presence," he finished as Shawukay backed up against the wall.

Amy looked at him strangely, and over at Shawukay. "You can't be serious."

Robin smiled. "Just listen."

The ranger looked around, making sure that she could address everyone at once. "As I have told Rupert Giles and Willow, my true name is Shawukay Redarrow..."

She proceeded to tell them most of her history, her quest for revenge, and most of the events of the past several months. Finally, she stopped.

"What I have not discussed is why I am here. Before I do so, I will answer any questions you have up to this point."

Cassandra took the floor. "Shaw, are you Tel'Quessir?"

"Cha'Tel'Quessir, Cassandra Hastings." she said. "And... I enjoyed your last book. I found it... quite accurate."

"What book?" Oz asked.

"Elven Blade Masters," both said.

"Uh, Shaw, you're not human, are you?" Xander asked.

"I am not a vampire, Amazon, Slayer, Immortal, or demon, Xander Harris. You never came close with your excellent, if strange, analysis."

"You heard that?" Giles asked as he heard his own words.

"Yes, I found the secret passage. It was quite amusing. If it is any consolation, Xander Harris, you were not the first to think me a Slayer or Immortal. As to what I am, I suppose it would depend on your definition of 'human.'"

"Oh, come on, Shaw! If you were half the human I am--" he broke off as both the subject of his tirade and Willow broke out into laughter, while Cassandra, Sonja and Gabrielle giggled as well. Robin, however, was in full out hysterics. "What did I say?" Xander asked, looking around in confusion.

Willow and Shawukay shared a glance. "Do you wish to tell him, Willow, or shall I?"

"Tell me what?" Xander whined.

"When you said 'if you were half the human I am,'" Willow explained. "She is."

"She's what?" Oz asked, before coming to the right conclusion. "Oh."

"Half human." Shawukay said, nodding as his deduction.

"And the other half?" Giles inquired.

"Elven, of course. Tel'Quessir," she said, enjoying the looks of surprise on most of the faces.

Sonja raised her hand. "Shawukay, I believe you about your race, but I can't believe you're from another dimension. You can't prove it, can you?"

Shawukay started to look nervous, but Jenny spoke up. "Shaw, I called my clan as you suggested. They said a Slayer's ally would confirm the truth. Do you know who that would be?"

"Yes," she said softly. "I only hope she will forgive me for not speaking earlier. I was not supposed to reveal this information until the time was correct."

"So?" Cordelia asked. "Who is it?"

Shawukay looked up. "Amy Madison."

All eyes turned to the witch, who was quite stunned. "Me? How??"

Shawukay waited several seconds. "Do the names Alison and Elminster mean anything to you?"

Amy's face clouded in anger. "How did you know that?"

"Amy, what do YOU know about this?" Giles asked.

"Alison Madison was my great-great-grandaunt. She was a witch like me, met a wizard named Elminster. Her journals say she was going to 'explore' a different place. It was assumed he kidnapped her. The family never found out what happened. Do you know what happened to her, Shaw?"

"Alison came to my world, Toril. Is that the name she used?" Amy looked surprised, but nodded. "Elminster is my world's version of your Merlin." She missed the looks that passed around the room. "He and Alison became friends, comrades. She requested to learn about our cultures, as Elminster does with yours. The reason she never returned was because she met a man from my world, and wed. She... began a family."

"And?" Amy snapped. "You're holding back something. What is it?"

"Alison's line has continued. To my generation." she said, very softly.

"What does that have to do.." Amy stopped as the last three words truly registered in her mind. "Are you saying that..."

"Yes, Amy Madison. I cannot offer any other proof, other than your knowledge of Alison, and my word."

No one said a word, some in confusion, others in shock, until Xander spoke up.

"Talk about the theory of relativity."

"Amy, is she telling the truth?" Cordy asked, somewhat doubtfully.

"She knows too much not to be." Amy said. "But I can't believe.."

"Amy Madison, there are ways of proving such things on this world, through your technology. I would consent to this, but since I am only half human..."

Amy looked the half-elf in the eye. "You're serious. By Hecate, you're serious! Why didn't you TELL ME!"

"I wanted to, Amy Madison. But I did not know at what time I was supposed to do this. I only knew that you could confirm my story. It is part of what I know about my being something called the First."

"You're the First?" Giles asked, stunned. "The Guardian of the Third?"

Shawukay looked at the Watcher dangerously. "How did you gain this information?"

"Shaw, that's the prophecy we're working on." Willow supplied.

Jenny grabbed the Manifesto. "Here, Shaw. Read the prophecy, and tell us what you can."

She scanned the book, then handed it back. "The First, and the Guardian part, I knew. Two races, two worlds, I did not, but is true, as you now know. Hell's assassin..." she broke off, at a loss.

"How about the Third?" Sonja asked. "The one you guard. Is she an Immortal?"

"Yes, Sonja, although I did not know this until days ago. I had an image in my head, but not the name."

Gabrielle looked around the room. "So who is it? Me, Cassandra, or Sonja? Although I can't think of any reason WE would need to be guarded."

"I beg your pardon? Which of you?"

"Yes. The three of us have fifteen thousand years between us."

Shawukay shook her head. "I have already guarded the Third. In the park, earlier tonight."

No one heard Randi mutter, "Uh oh.."

"It's me." Cassandra reasoned. "Correct, Shaw?"

"Of course not."

Cassandra was flummoxed. "Then which Immortal..." she stopped in sudden comprehension. "RANDI?"

"Randi Jessup." Shawukay confirmed. "I interpreted being approached by the ta'narri as needing a guardian. I also discharged my other duty to her."

"What duty?" Randi asked, dreading the answer.

"Giving you the sword from it previous wielder. She was the one who told me you are the Third."

"Congratulations, Randi!" Xander said. "You get to save the world!"

"But, who told you I'm the Third?"

"A spirit named Jehanne."

"A ghost?!?"

"Not exactly. She said that your allies would understand once they saw the sword."

"Let's see it, Randi." Sonja suggested.

She drew the weapon, and laid it on the table. The weapon had a plain crossguard, inscribed with the words "Jhesus-Maria." The blade was highly polished, the only ornamentation a row of five crosses on the blade.

"Oh, my God." Giles muttered. "Shaw, you said this spirit, this Jehanne?"

"Is the one who entrusted the sword into my care, to give to Randi Jessup." she stated, and then added, "And she was the one who told me of Amy Madison. "

"Did she give you a last name, by chance?"

"No, Rupert Giles, she did not."

Giles walked off, looking through the shelves. This drew looks of confusion, until he came back with a thick book. "Jenny, come here. Look at this as I ask a question. Shaw," he started, finding a page in the volume, "is this the woman who appeared to you?"

Jenny glanced at the page, and her face went white. "HER? Shaw?"

Shawukay looked the page over. "Yes." she said with a nod. "This is the woman who gave me this information about my kin and my part in this prophecy. And she chose Randi Jessup to wield her sword, which she wielded six centuries ago."

Giles' hands shook. "You're quite certain."

"I am not stupid, Rupert Giles. This artist was excellent; the hair is shorter, but the eyes, the cheekbones, chin, and particularly the armor. The detail is exact. This is Jehanne. Why does this book say.."

"One moment, please. Amy, Randi, you heard her, and Jenny saw this. Take a look. Randi, you should be honored. This sword was.."

"Rupert Giles, answer my question. Her name is Jehanne. Why does your book call her Joan of Arc?"

After a moment of stunned silence, the library exploded into questions. Giles tried to regain control, but silence didn't fall until Jenny let out a shrill whistle.

Randi looked at the sword as if it would come to life. "This sword belonged to Joan of Arc?"

"Yes, Randi. Shaw said very plainly that you were chosen by her to wield it."

"As well as being the Third," Shawukay said.

"Did she say anything else?" Jenny asked.

"Yes. She said I reminded her of herself when alive. It was insulting."

The others all stared at her. She didn't like the looks.

"She manipulated me for her own ends. Ask Rupert Giles, or Jenny Calendar. I gave them a way to gain information I could not give freely, because I did not know when I was supposed to. I was manipulated into a mission that I would have performed of my own will, had they simply asked. And I have now angered the only kin I have left on any world!" She paused, regaining control. "I did not ask to come here. I was sent here. I was told I was needed. I have fought to regain what is left of my soul from the darkness of revenge. And now the only kin I know of is angry at me for something not of my choice."

"Shaw, who was it that sent you here?" Jenny asked.

Shawukay snapped her gaze to Jenny. "It was your people, Vistani. I saved them from prejudiced bastards, and they gave me the scroll that brought me to this world. But I owe them. I walked a path of vengeance for years, and saving them kept me from losing what was left of my soul to that darkness."

"Giles," Frank inserted, "I think we've covered enough tonight. We can finish this later."

"Yes, I think you're right." Giles agreed. "Kids, go home, get some sleep. We do have school later."

Everyone filed out, except for Shawukay, Giles, and Jenny. Shawukay watched them leave, and noticed the glance Amy gave her before she left.

Robin waited a second, and walked over to Shawukay. "Welcome to Earth, Shawukay."

Shawukay looked up at him. "Why are you welcoming me, Robin Goodfellow?"

"You haven't read Shakespeare yet, have you?" he asked with a cheery smile.

"No, I have not," she answered. "What does this have to do with anything?"

"Shaw," Giles interjected, "Robin is not truly human. He is a member of the Fairy Kingdom, who has taken human form to help in our fight."

Shawukay's eyebrow went up at this. "What is your true form?"

"A fairy, a sprite perhaps," Robin told her gleefully. "Just thought you might like to know that you aren't alone in the 'unique' fighter department."

"I see," she said neutrally, giving him a considering look. "And you are. .connected with my kin?"

"Yes, I am," he replied, his smile growing bigger. "We're dating each other."

"Then why were you not with her the other night?" Shawukay asked, her eyes narrowing. "Oh, also, I heard your comments about her. I do not take such insults to family very well, Robin Goodfellow. If you truly care for her, you should not talk like that."

Robin started sputtering, and looked at Giles and Jenny. "I don't believe this! I try to welcome her, and she turns on me! One of her own kind!"

"I am not one of your own kind, Robin Goodfellow," the half-elf replied, confusion on her face. "You are a fairy, I am half-elven. I would think you would know the difference."

Jenny giggled at that, and Robin glared at her before doing the same to Shawukay. "You're just like your cousin," he snapped.

Shawukay's eyes went wide. "Truthfully?"

"Yes," he snapped again.

Now, the half-elf smiled. "Thank you."

Robin's jaw dropped and closed repeatedly, and finally he just gave up and walked out of the library, muttering under his breath.

Shawukay looked after him in confusion, and turned to Giles and Jenny. "Why is he upset over my thanking him for a compliment?"

"I don't think he exactly meant it as one," Jenny said with a laugh.

"I see. He was insulting me, and by extension, by kin?" she asked, a dangerous sound in her voice.

"Now, hold on a minute, Shaw," Giles ordered, "it would not be wise to go after Mr. Goodfellow in anger. If you want to earn the trust of the others, you have to control your temper. Now, go home and get some sleep. We can continue this conversation in the morning."

Shawukay looked at him and Jenny. "Rupert Giles, I do need to speak with you further. About. .my delay in giving you this knowledge. I did not know. ."

"Shaw, it's all right. We'll talk later," Giles said, sounding brusk.

"But. ." Shawukay pleaded.

"Good night, Shaw."

"Rupert," Jenny muttered softly.

"Very well. Shaw, you want to talk more?"

"Yes. I must ask you," she started, looking concerned, "do you still wish for me to work with you?"

"Of course. You are the First, you will have a role.."

"I meant during the day. Here, in your library."

"Of course. Why wouldn't I?"

"I kept information from you, that you needed. That I did not know you needed it is not a valid excuse. At least, not in my opinion."

"I would appreciate your help. And, Shaw, I can understand your bitterness towards Jehanne. However, would you put aside your animosity long enough to read her history? You will see why she is highly regarded among us."

Shawukay waited a few seconds. "As you wish. I am... appreciative of your understanding of my feelings. I will not openly lie, unless doing so will save lives. I do not like hiding things from those I call friend."

"You consider us friends?" Jenny asked, hopeful.

"Willow, yes. Xander Harris, perhaps. They offered their friendship openly. The others, I do not know them well enough."

"What about me and Rupert?"

"Not friends. Not yet. I find myself considering you... mentors, of a sort. You are helping me learn of this world, which I apparently am descended from. I mean no offense. Connor MacLeod can tell you how seriously I take defending those I call teacher."

"McGuire?" Giles asked.

"Exactly."

"Shaw, my grandfather asked me to give you a message."

"Yes, Jenny Calendar?"

"He says, 'the scales are balanced between us.'"

Shawukay leaned over a table, and sighed. "Are you certain, Jenny Calendar of the Vistani? I have had dealings with your people on another world."

"I'm certain. Take my word for it." she promised. "And if you want help with Amy.."

"No." she snapped, the dropped her shoulders. "I will leave her alone. She needs time to accept this. I am still having trouble with this knowledge, and I have known since the beginning of July. Please, allow me and her to handle it ourselves, in our own time?"

"Okay. If you want to talk... What happens after this mission is completed?"

"I do not know. I... would like to stay. I actually find myself learning here. If it is... permissible."

"We'll discuss that later." Giles said firmly. "Go home and get some sleep. We'll cover the rest tonight. Will you be here?"

"Yes. I will come. No more deception. I will help in any way I can, Rupert Giles."

*****

Part 15: Deductions

"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
---Sherlock Holmes

Sunnydale High Library
Sunnydale, California
8 September 1998

"...and he threw her through the table." Willow said. "I knocked Dru down, put the gun to her head, and got her to back off."

"Spike did that to Shaw?" Xander asked. "Shaw. Killing vamps all over, slaughtered a Musketeer, has the locals wishing Buffy were back from vacation?"

Willow nodded. "He dodged her sword twice."

No one noticed Shawukay walking through the library doors at that second.

"I can't believe it! Spike kicked Shaw's ass!"

"Xander Harris, he did not 'kick my ass.'"

The Slayerettes turned as she spoke, and guilty looks passed around, except for Cordelia.

"Then what do you call being picked up, thrown, and crashing through a table?"

"Painful." she said, drawing some laughter. "But Spike did not 'kick my ass.' I think I would remember a strange move like that."

"Shaw," Oz said with a smile, "what Xander meant was that Spike beat you, handily."

"Another... 'American' phrase?" At the nods, she looked at Xander, who gulped. "In that case, you are quite correct, Xander."

"You admit it?" Cordelia asked with some surprise.

"I was stupid." More looks of surprise. "I failed to anticipate that a vampire would know your martial arts, rather than rely on brute force." Her eyes narrowed. "I shall not make that mistake a second time."

"Then how did you beat Slava so easily?" Willow asked.

"He used a style I faced on my world. I knew how to counter it."

"So what do you want?" Amy asked sharply.

"Rupert Giles suggested I read the history of... the one you call Joan. He thought it might alter my opinion of her." she told the group. "He says she is highly regarded among you."

"Yeah, she is." Willow agreed. "She..."

Shawukay held up a hand. "I would like to.. attempt, at least, to approach this without any preconceptions. To... 'start fresh,' is the phrase?"

"So what are you going to do tonight? Go after Spike for round two?" Xander asked her.

She shook her head. "I will be here, as I promised Rupert Giles and Jenny Calendar." She scanned the group. "I... assume you have questions about me."

Oz pulled out a chair, and she sat down.

"I've got one." Willow said. "How long do elves live? In a lot of books.."

"On my world, seven or eight centuries. For me, two and a half. And to answer the obvious next question, I am fifty-three."

All of the eyes at the table went round. Cordelia stammered, "You're, you're... OLD?!?"

"Hardly. I am quite young."

"But, but.."

"Willow, are you good with mathematics?" At her nod, Shawukay continued. "Divide my age by my expected lifespan. That will give you the fraction of my life I have lived."

After a few seconds, Willow nodded. "Got it."

"Now multiply that by a human lifespan of... eighty years? Is that close to your average?"

"Yeah, about a year off."

"That is my equivalent of a full-blooded human."

Willow added everything. "Okay, that would make you... oh."

"Well, how old would she be?" Xander called.

"Not quite seventeen," Willow muttered.

"You're... a teenager?" Cordy stammered again.

"Somewhat. Any others?"

Oz raised a hand. "The infamous eyes we keep hearing about?"

She smiled. "Infrared vision. It is how I see in the dark."

"The look you gave me in the cafeteria? Some kind of elven magic?"

Shawukay stared at him for a second. "What are you, Oz?" she asked in a neutral tone.

"You don't know?" he asked, quite calmly.

"I have an.. empathic ability, but it is not elven in nature. It is limited to... animals. Creatures of nature, like mammals, birds."

"You used it on Oz?" Willow inquired, looking upset.

Shawukay flushed. "The ability is... inconveniently constant."

Oz and Willow's faces registered understanding, as did Amy's.

Xander looked around. "Translation?"

"No off switch." Oz offered.

"Imagine if I went to your zoo." she muttered.

"Ouch."

"Crudely put, Xander, but accurate. I cannot determine the type of animal, unless I see it." She looked at the table. "I am sorry, Oz. I cannot control this."

"It's cool." he said, then continued. "That means.."

She nodded. "Willow explained that. That phrase, at least, I understand."

Amy took the next question. "Your sword. Magical?"

"Yes. It is enchanted to fight the undead. Lesser forms, like zombies or ghouls, are destroyed instantly. Vampires, about half the time. The stronger the undead, the less chance of destruction on a single hit. Also, the weapon is enchanted so that no one evil can touch it."

"The flames?"

"Faerie fire. Part illumination, part illusion, but harmless. I have noticed an effect however."

"How so?" Cordy asked.

"Imagine an elven warrior charging you with a flaming sword, screaming a battlecry. Most beings fear fire to some extent."

A laugh sounded around the table.

Cordelia stood up. "Shaw, I have to ask this one. Willow said that you, well, lost it."

"I assume you mean the rage?" she said slowly. The Amazon nodded. "It has happened more than once. My survival instincts take over, replacing reason. It... is frightening. It had not happened for some time. I had hoped the hate was gone."

"You could have mentioned it last night."

"Cordelia Chase, Willow witnessed it. It was not a secret, I assumed she would tell you."

"Shaw, do you go 'Hulk Smash' on anyone that makes you angry?"

"No!!" she spurted, then calmed down, "It has only happened fighting vampires, Xander."

"I have one more question, Shaw." Amy said.

"Go ahead."

"Why should we trust you?"

"Amy!" Willow snapped, aghast.

Shawukay waved her down. "No, Willow, this is a valid question."

She stood, looking at all the Slayerettes. "Frankly, I thought that question would be the very first one I was asked, and I am glad someone did ask it."

She turned to Amy. "I cannot give you a reason, Amy Madison. I could point out that Immortals and servants of your God have both aided me and trusted me. I was injured defending Rupert Giles from your enemies, and I attempted to defend Randi Jessup from the demon. On the other hand, I withheld information from your group, and you in particular. I am masquerading as a human, and I have a very negative opinion of someone your people greatly admire. In between these extremes, Willow Rosenburg may in fact have saved my life last night. I freely admit I have held some things back..." a glance at Willow... "but nothing concerning this prophecy. All of that, however, does not matter. In the end, if you are going to trust me, it has to be your choice."

The two gazed at each other for several seconds, Amy's eyes somewhat hostile, Shawukay's more neutral. Finally, Amy nodded.

"All right. I can accept that for now. I wanted to know where you stand."

"When it comes to being suspicious, I believe I have your combined group beaten."

"What makes you think that?"

"When you have seen.." she paused, a haunted look in her eyes. "Keep in mind, I have fought these things for fifteen years. I am not belittling your experiences, but I lived with this every day and night for that long. And I did it alone."

"You were that good?"

"No, Cordelia Chase, I was that consumed with revenge." she said, shaking her head. "I was that lost."

"What changed it?" Xander asked.

"I talked with someone who succeeded where I failed, in avenging a loved one. Three words he used to describe his success helped to... solidify the path I am trying to follow again."

"What were those words, Shaw?" Willow prompted, seeing the effect in her face.

"It changed nothing." she said. "I finally understood, and doing so allowed me to do two things. First, I started putting the past in the past, and I finally allowed myself to mourn for my grandparents. To some extent, I still am."

There was an uneasy silence at the table, and Giles walked in. He took in the scene, and started growing concerned.

"Is everything all right?"

"Yes, Rupert Giles. I believe Xander is attempting to determine whether I qualify as, what is the Earth term... an 'Old Fart?'"

At Xander's look of disbelief, the others lost their composure, laughing greatly, except for Shawukay and Oz, who merely grinned.

"I beg your pardon, Ms. Hunter?"

"A joke, Rupert Giles, or an attempt at one. Willow can explain. I came to get materials on the... person we discussed last night."

"Oh, of course. Well, class is starting soon. Perhaps you should all go ahead."

Amy, Oz, and Cordelia started for the doors, but Xander hesitated, looking at Shawukay, who merely raised an eyebrow. He turned and walked away, shaking his head and muttering something, which caused the half-elf to chuckle.

"Okay, what did he say, Shaw?"

"Something to the effect of, 'why me?'" she said with a smile. "I wonder how long it will take him to figure it out."

Willow looked confused. "Figure what out?"

"He was the one who told me that his friends called him Xander, without the Harris."

Now Willow understood. "You consider Xander a friend."

"Yes. You and Xander freely offered your friendship. But, a certain idiot was too stubborn to accept it for what is was." she stated regretfully. "At least, at first."

"The others?"

"I do not know. Rupert Giles and Jenny Calendar, I have called mentors, and have said as much to them." she said, the closed her eyes. "I killed Raymond McGuire because he threatened one I called friend and teacher. Connor."

"You don't like killing?"

Shawukay looked at her. "The vampires of this world, I understand, are soulless, yes?" Willow nodded. "I have no problem killing them. McGuire killed over a hundred Immortals, Mielikki knows how many others, and tried to kill me. And do you know what was the first thing I did after taking his head?"

"What, Shaw?" she asked, afraid of the answer.

"I spent several minutes vomiting onto Duncan's floor. That was how I felt." She paused, then sighed. "Willow, you are free to discuss this matter with the others. It is... good to have someone I can talk to, to discuss things. I do not give friendship or trust easily, but when I do, I give it totally. I hope you will accept mine."

"I already have, Shaw. Didn't you know that?"

"Probably, but I... wanted to hear it from you. As I said, it is not easy for me."

Shawukay stood. "I need to get those books from Rupert Giles. Will I see you here tonight, with the others?"

"You bet you will. See you then."

*****

Angelus' Mansion
Sunnydale, California
8 September 1998

"Well, what do you think we should do?"

"Jump in the car, and make like Jackie Stewart."

"I'm being serious, Spike."

"So am I, mate."

Angelus paced along the floor. "I see three choices. Give the Cenobite what he wants, help the punks fight him, or stand on the sidelines and watch the fireworks."

"I see three possibilities. He kills us, they kill us, or they all kill us in the bloody crossfire." Spike crushed the cigarette he'd been smoking. "The Slayerettes are on steroids, and now Dru's bloody fairy lady is with them. That Hunter, you call her, who happens to be quite the little berserker." he finished, rubbing his chin.

"Sorry I forgot to mention her." Angelus said with an evil grin.

"Well, the lovey doveys who kicked your ass said to check with Willy, how to reach them. They're less likely to kill you on sight."

"Right." Angelus said with a sigh. "We'll go to Willy's tonight."

Dru, who had been watching from the sidelines, smiled happily. "My Angel and Spike are right. We get to fight the pin man."

"And after we fight the pin man?" Spike asked.

"We go bye-bye. We have fun."

*****

Sunnydale High Library
Sunnydale, California
8 September 1998

Giles had everyone working on research on the information they'd gathered. Frank, along with Cassandra and Randi, and Sonja, teamed with Gabrielle and Jenny, were out attempting to find any sign of the Cenobite. Giles, looking through one text, finally found a piece of new information.

"Well, here is some good news. It seems that the Configuration must be given to the demon. He cannot take it with his own hand."

"Which means we're depending on Dru." Xander summed up.

"This 'Dru' would be the female from last night? The vampire?"

"The psychic, insane vampire." Cordelia added.

"And she is the Second in the prophecy?" Shawukay continued. "We are supposed to ally with blooddrinkers?"

"Apparently so, Shaw." Giles said.

Shawukay started speaking loudly in the elven tongue. Everyone just stared at her, although Goodfellow's face paled, since he could obviously speak that language.

"Why am I glad I don't understand that?" Amy muttered to Robin.

"Because you're smart," he said with a smile, which she returned.

"I know what she's saying."

Cordy gazed at Xander. "Since when do you speak Elvish?"

"I don't. But I know what she's saying."

"And what is that, O Mental One?"

"Something that'd make Steve and Frank blush."

Giles allowed her a few more seconds, then asked her, "Are you quite through, Ms. Hunter?"

"Actually, I have several more minutes of 'thoughts' on this matter, but in the interest of being brief, I do not like this development."

"Let me assure you, we don't like it any more than you do. We try to be tactful about it, however."

"I WAS being tactful, Rupert Giles."

Giles blinked. "Explain how, if you please."

"Quite simple. Would you like me to repeat what I said, only this time in English? As I said, I WAS being tactful."

Xander laughed, then shrank when Giles and Shawukay favored him with icy glares.

"Anyway," Giles said, anxious to change the subject, "the Lament Configuration supposedly can open a doorway to Hell. Quite an interesting story, really..."

He broke off at the stares he received. "Short version, the user can summon the Cenobite, but must give him the box, and he can use it to open the Gate. If the user solves the puzzle, the demon is banished."

"So we've got an Immortal demon on the Hellmouth." Cordelia said.

"Yes, quite right. I think.."

"Excuse me, Rupert Giles."

"Yes, Shaw?" he asked, displeased at being interrupted.

"I have heard references to this 'Hellmouth.' Could you please clarify this?"

"Oh, yes. Sunnydale is built on the Hellmouth, which is a weakening of the dimensional barrier between Earth and Hell. It is the sole remaining doorway for demons to enter the Earth plane. Also, it acts as a beacon of sorts, drawing all forms of paranormal beings to this location."

Shawukay nodded. "Thank you."

The Slayerettes looked at her strangely. "You actually understood that?" Xander asked what they were all thinking.

"Of course. It was quite simple, yet informative."

"I don't believe it. Shaw knows Gilespeak!"

"If you say so," she said with a shrug. "but this.."

Her eyes grew wide as a look of horror came over her face. "Goddess, no. He wouldn't."

"Uh oh." Willow said. "Shaw's Wigging out. That can't be good."

"Willow, Amy, magical theories; why does one not take an enchanted item containing dimensional magics, and insert it into a second enchanted item containing dimensional magics?"

"In theory," Amy started, "it would cause a surge of magical energy that would devastate an area, the size of which would be based on the amount of combined magic in the two items."

Giles nodded. "Yes, but it is only a theory."

"Not on my world, Rupert Giles."

"Uhm, could we have a translation for those of us who aren't witches, elves, or British?"

"In simplest terms, Xander," Willow said, "Boom."

"Ick." Cordelia mumbled.

"Shaw, what does that have to do with us?" Amy asked. "Even if it's a rule on your world.."

"Magical theory; what happens if this ta'narri, what you call a Cenobite, uses this. . . Configuration, which opens a doorway to the Nine Hells, INSIDE the Hellmouth, which IS a doorway to the Nine Hells?"

Robin's eyes nearly popped out of their sockets as he realized what Shawukay was suggesting. "Uh, guys, now might be the time to book a vacation, if what she's suggesting could happen."

"Big boom?" Xander guessed.

Shawukay looked at him. "Very big." The look in her eyes said it all.

"It.. it could destroy Sunnydale." Willow said, appalled.

"Yes. I agree."

"Rupert Giles, Willow, do you not see? If this happens, it could combine the power of TWO doorways. The size of which..." she stopped, shaking.

"My God. She could be right. Demons of all kinds could pour through such a gate. Even.."

Shawukay cut him off. "Beelzebub. Geryon. Asmodeus. Goddess, perhaps even Tiamat."

Xander stared at her. "Tiamat? Five headed dragon? THAT Tiamat?"

"You know of that horror, Xander?"

"Uh, yeah."

She gave him a sad look. "I am sorry you do." she said quietly.

"At least now, we know what he might have planned. But we need to change tactics. If Drusilla is involved in the prophecy, we need to contact her, as well as Angelus and Spike."

He glanced at the half-elf, who didn't notice, still shaking at this turn of events.

"Xander, Cordelia, go to Willy's. Find Angelus, ask him to come here. Call a truce, whatever it takes to convince him." Giles ordered. "Then, contact the others, and have them return here. Ms. Hunter, may I speak with you in the office?"

Shawukay followed him into the office. "Rupert Giles, please understand, this is only a theory."

"Yes, and your experience was invaluable. Thank you. But I wish to discuss another matter."

"My... language?"

"No. The vampires we may ally with are very dangerous, but we need their help. I want to be sure we can count on you."

The half-elf looked puzzled. "You wish me to watch them?"

"I want your word that you won't try to kill them." Giles said, spelling it out.

She closed her eyes. "Is this what you think? That I simply attack any vampire that I see? That, perhaps, I... enjoy it?"

"No, but these three are more brutal than any others. They deserve punishment, but still.."

"You have my word. But I make no guarantees if they attack. One attack upon you or the others, and they die." Shawukay opened her eyes. "That is the best I can offer."

Giles nodded. "It's enough. But you call yourself the Hunter. They may not trust you."

"No, VAMPIRES call me the Hunter. I took it as a last name to fit in here, for lack of something better. I hope that I will never hunt these things again. I would prefer to defend my friends, Rupert Giles."

"Very well. Again, thank you for your help."

The two started to leave, but Shawukay stopped. "Rupert Giles, a question. Unrelated to this prophecy."

"Yes? What would you like to know?"

"Did your people really do that to Jehanne? One who spoke to angels of your God? Including one of his greatest generals?"

"Yes. And we now consider it a tragic mistake. And you seem to have confirmed the truth that she was truly blessed."

"Rupert Giles, I have never done anything on her scale, to rate a comparison to her. Why did she do so?"

"I suppose you shall have to ask her."

*****

Willy's Alibi Room
Sunnydale, California
Early hours
9 September 1998

Spike shoved Willy against the wall. "Where are they, you wanker?"

"I don't know! I haven't seen them since they asked about the Hunter!"

Angelus got into Willy's face, his game face on. "Yeah, and now she's joined them. Let's review that, shall we? You tell them about her, and she's hooked up with them. Strange coincidence."

"I told 'em not to screw with her! And it's YOUR people that say she makes the Slayer look normal, or whatever passes for it in this town!"

Spike smiled. "She killed one of our children last night. Then she tangled with me." He let go of Willy. "I threw her through a table. Quite an impressive sound, all those ribs snapping."

"You killed her." Willy said, making a statement.

"No, she went into 'Hulk' mode," Xander commented from the door. "And truly made him William the Bloody. Made like Tyson on his face."

The vampires whirled on Xander and Cordelia. Angelus switched to his human appearance. "We've been looking for you. What's going on?"

Cordy smiled. "Hunter figured out why the demon wants the box. To open a doorway to Hell."

"We figured that out, luv."

"Call me that again, luv, and I'll finish what the Hunter started."

Angelus smacked Spike. "Enough. We know how the Configuration works. As you would say, 'duh.'"

Xander's grin grew evil. "And if he opens it from inside the Hellmouth?"

The vampires started shaking. "The bloke would blow us all the way to London!"

"And the Hunter mentioned a few possible guests," Xander said. "Beetle Bailey, Crayon, Ala Mode Us.."

Angelus shouted, "We know who they are!"

"... and a certain five-headed lizard on PMS."

"Oh, bloody, bloody shit! Not HER!"

"Yeah, HER." Cordelia snapped. "Hunter made our day with that one."

"You don't like her, eh? Dru does call her the 'fairy lady.' Did she make a pass?"

Cordy ran up, grabbed Spike by his coat, and promptly threw him over the bar. He landed with a loud thud. She turned back to the other.

Angelus raised his hands, chuckling. "I'm assuming she didn't make a pass. But I thought she was more of the 'hack-and-slash' type."

"Yeah, well, half ELVEN vampire hunters are apparently full of surprises."

"You're kidding, Slayerette." Angelus' face was instantly stony from panic.

"She's not, Dead Boy. Seems someone of the ultravioletly challenged persuasion killed her HUMAN grandparents. You might say she took it personally."

"I've heard. I'll come, but not Spike or Dru. I'm not stupid enough to hand you that box on a platter."

"Agreed." Cordelia said. "Giles offered a truce. After the prophecy's over, all bets are off."

"Fine. Anything else I should know about this Hunter, for safety's sake?"

Xander laughed. "No Vulcan jokes. If you say anything that remotely uses the words 'live,' 'long,' 'and,' or 'prosper,' and she'll show you just how illogical she can get."

*****

Ruined Church
Under Sunnydale, California
Early hours
9 September 1998

Kaleda walked through the room.

"What's up with all these chains, Pinhead?"

"Just creating a proper atmosphere, my dear. For any visitors who come to visit."

The Cenobite turned to the stage. He raised his hands and closed his eyes, deep in concentration.

Two ripples appeared in midair, like circles in a pond. Two figures, invisible, seen only as distortions of light, stepped through. The ripples diminished, then disappeared.

"Yes. This will do nicely. Welcome home, gentlemen."

The two figures took in the room. Kaleda regarded both.

The first figure was dressed like a ninja. He wore a full body suit of fighting gear, yellow with black accents. Yellow a color no living assassin would wear. His headgear covered every part of his face, save his eyes and the bridge of his nose. His eyes were white, in the manner of a blind man. Somehow, Kaleda was sure he saw more than most.

The other figure, however, actually frightened her.

He was thin, dressed in normal clothing. A red and green sweater, work jeans and boots, and a hat. Two things made him different. The first was a glove on his right hand, the fingers of which ended in razors extending from them. The second was that his flesh was composed of burn scars. His eyes were normal, but they held gleeful malice.

The demon who'd summoned them inclined his head.

"It is good to see you again. And, on this side."

He turned to Kaleda. "This is my lieutenant, Kaleda Clay. A true
warrior."

She inclined her head at the two. The ninja copied her motion, no other being needed. The other waggled his tongue at her. Kaleda growled, he just chuckled.

The Cenobite glowered at Kaleda, who stepped back.

"You know who you are here to kill. The acts must take place tomorrow night. And you must succeed. Your targets are unknown factors that must be eliminated. Yours, especially, Krueger."

The demon called Krueger smiled slightly.

"Time to plaaayy..."

*****

Place, Unknown
Location, Unknown
Early hours
9 September 1998

"The Prophecy of Lament is at hand."

The warrior nodded. "Yes, my father."

"The One from Hell has returned. The First will need your aid."

"Father, the prophecy says the First shall defeat Hell's assassin."

"And she will. But you must keep her alive after she does so."

"I do not understand."

"You shall. When she defeats the One from Hell, we will owe her a debt for cleansing our honor. You will inform her of this, and in time she will call in this debt."

"And when she does, father?"

"Yin and Yang, my son. A balance to all things."

*****

Part 16: Battleplans

"There are very few problems that cannot be solved by the suitable application of photon torpedoes."
---Anonymous Gamer Button

Sunnydale High Library
Sunnydale, California
Early hours
9 September 1998

Cordelia and Xander walked in, with Angelus trailing behind, a smirk on his face. The rest of the group looked up and visibly tensed at the sight of the vampire.

Shawukay cut the trio off, stepping directly in their path. "Cordelia Chase, Xander Harris, wait. I want your opinion on something."

She took off a pendant shaped like a unicorn's head, and tossed it to Xander. He looked at it and shrugged. "Not bad. Pretty, but not my style." he said with a smile.

Cordelia took it. "No offense, Shaw, but this looks el cheapo. Give me gold."

Angelus chuckled. "You don't know ivory when you see it? Nice craftsmanship." He laid a finger on it, and jerked back when it burned him. "What the hell!"

Cordelia jumped, and tossed the pendant back to Shawukay, who caught it, and put it back around her neck, in plain sight.

"What IS that thing?" Angelus cursed.

"A holy symbol of Mielikki," she answered. "The goddess I serve."

Cordelia understood exactly what had happened. "You don't trust us?" she said angrily.

"You I DO trust. And Xander Harris as well."

"Ms. Hunter," Giles snapped. "You might have let the rest of us know your intentions."

"And if he had turned them, you would have hesitated."

Cordy glared. "But you wouldn't have."

To her surprise, there was some doubt on the half-elf's face. "Less than them."

"And with me, half-breed?"

Shawukay's look became much less doubtful, but the Slayerettes couldn't read the emotion.

Angelus actually looked nervous. "I see."

"Tell them what you see, blooddrinker," she said, with no inflection in her voice.

Angelus smiled at Giles. "This Hunter is aptly named, Giles. You know what I see? A look I've seen in other predators. It doesn't matter to her whether I live or die. She doesn't want to kill me; she doesn't NOT want to kill me. Totally emotionless." He turned to her. "I'd enjoy coming after you."

"I have read of your methods, Angelus." she said. "Three problems. I have no friends. I have no family. And I do not fear death. I know your kind can sense lies." A pause. "Am I lying?"

Angelus didn't answer.

"Ms. Hunter, you agreed. . ." Giles began in irritation.

"Not to attack him, unless he did so first. Being civil is another matter. Although I am willing to make allowances. Very small allowances."

"And what if I turned you? Becoming a vampire doesn't frighten you?"

"It would not be me. My soul would be gone. And I have confidence that these... humans would take care of the rest."

"But, my dear.."

"Give it up, Dead Boy. She's got you pegged."

Angelus and Shawukay turned to Xander. Angelus started to speak, but she cut him off.

"Dead Boy?" she asked, then looked at the vampire. "He called you.. Dead Boy?"

He growled. "Yes."

"I assume that is... supposed to be an insult?"

Angelus grinned. "Pitiful, huh?"

"I was leaning towards pathetic. Xander Harris, when this is over, I must teach you how to properly insult your enemies."

"You think you could do better, Hunter?"

"I could hardly do worse."

"Really." Angelus laughed. "If you were going to insult someone, say.." he switched to his demonic visage, "me, what would you call me?"

Shawukay didn't flinch. "An arrogant sadistic bloodsucking mother-wenching bastard offspring of a whore."

Angelus' jaw dropped as far, as was possible for a vampire so stunned that he actually slipped back into his human appearance.

The assembled Slayerettes simply watched the pair, waiting for the explosion.

Xander leaned over to Cordelia. "Cordy, what scares you more? The fact that she said that, or the fact that she said it so politely."

Angelus slowly smiled. "I can see why Spike was impressed."

"Enough, you two. Shaw, back off." Frank ordered. "We have a Cenobite to deal with."

Angelus started to turn, but stopped. "Did one of your friends really call you a cold, sword-"

"Seconds after I drove my sword through Slava's larnyx."

The vampire and Giles started discussing the prophecy, and Shawukay walked over to Willow.

"Ask Xander Harris to join us in the hallway, Willow Rosenberg. You two have had the most experiences with him." she said coldly. She turned and walked towards the doors. Jenny gave Willow a questioning look, but Willow simply shrugged.

Willow and Xander joined her, the latter clapping Shawukay on the shoulder. "I can't believe he was actually speechless. That was great."

"Xander, did you believe me?"

"Yeah. He IS a..."

"When I said I had no friends?"

"No. I didn't buy the act. Dead Boy did, I think."

She nodded. "Good. I would hate for him to come after you like that." she said. "But will Amy believe it?"

Neither Slayerette had an answer for her. They walked back in, Shawukay quickly donning her colder visage.

"Does he understand the prophecy?"

Giles nodded. "He knows that Drusilla is the Second."

"And you're the First." the vampire commented. "Who's the lucky Third that gets to face the Cenobite?"

"That would be me, D.B."

Angelus turned to Randi. "The rookie? Oh great."

"The one who named me the First named her the Third."

"What idiot was that?"

Randi drew her sword. "The same idiot that chose me to wield this."

Angelus' eyes bugged out. "The Sword of St. Catherine??? But that belonged to..."

"Jehanne La Pucelle of Domremy." Shawukay finished for him.

"Where did you get that?"

Cordelia pointed to Shawukay. "Ask Talks-With-Angels."

Angelus didn't bother. He turned to Frank.

"Just to let you know, one of mine abandoned us for the demon. You'll have some newbies to deal with. Kaleda's dangerous."

"How dangerous?" Frank asked.

"Black belt, tae kwon do."

Cordelia whistled. "You sure know how to pick 'em."

"Here are my terms, Giles. Dru will solve your damned puzzle. Once she does, we leave. You give us a one day head start. We'll leave the box, do what you want with it."

"You do not hunt or feed in Sunnydale in that interval." Giles added.

Angelus hesitated, then nodded. "Agreed. But this changes nothing between us."

"On that, blooddrinker, we are in agreement."

Angelus locked gazes with Shawukay. After several seconds, he turned and exited the library. After a couple of minutes, the tension slowly left the group.

Giles turned to Shawukay. "What in God's name were you doing?"

She looked straight at him. "Trying to protect you."

"How, Ms. Hunter?"

It was Xander who answered. "By lying through her teeth, Giles. She played the loose cannon. To keep Angel from using us against her, also to keep him off guard."

"But you seemed so convincing."

"Because I, for lack of a better explanation, turned off my emotions. Something I learned to do very well when... hunting." she explained. "I now find it... unnerving."

"You had us convinced." Amy said.

"I had hoped that you, of all here, would have seen this for the act that is was." she said slowly.

"Why should I?" Anger and confusion rolled off Amy in waves. Did Shaw really want to be related to her? After all, she talked to angels, how could Amy ever live up to that.

Shawukay gave Amy a rueful smile full of compassion. "Because, Amy Madison, I would protect you above all others, even Willow, Xander, or Jenny Calendar. And if the reason why is not obvious, even to you, then perhaps it was a mistake to ever read the scroll that brought me here."

She turned and started to leave. She stopped just short of the doors.

"Rupert Giles, I will not be here today, at the school. I will be praying, and preparing."

"Preparing for what?"

"Battle."

And she walked out, no one seeing the tears forming in her eyes.

The others looked after her in confusion, and Giles sighed. "Well, we might as well follow Ms. Hunter's example, and go home and get some sleep. We'll discuss this tomorrow afternoon."

As the others started filing out, Robin grabbed Amy by the shoulder. "So, what do you think of your cousin?"

"Oh, come on," Amy snapped. "She's fricking nuts! Don't tell me you're defending her."

"Me?!?" Robin squeaked, his eyes wide. "After what she said to me last night?!?"

Amy snapped her gaze to him, a worried look on her face. "Robin, what did she say? Did she threaten you?"

"Not in so many words," Robin muttered, and both he and the witch turned their eyes on Jenny, who until this point had remained silent, but was now laughing at them.

"What's so funny about this maniac threatening my boyfriend, Jenny?" Amy snapped at her.

"Just that what she actually said to him was that she did not take insults to family very well," the Gypsy answered, and looked at Robin with a smile. "Was that close to her exact words?"

"Close enough," Robin said, and turned back to Amy, who was now giving him a look of pure heat. "What?"

"What did you say about me, Robin?" she asked with fake sweetness.

"Uh, something about not being able to figure you out," he croaked.

"And?"

"Uh, that's more or less it. I might have made a comment about Amazons in general, or witches in particular, but I don't remember."

Amy glared at him for a few more seconds, and nodded. "Fine. I'll forgive you this time, but if I hear one thing about this again, I'll shoot a fireball up your ass."

Amy turned and stormed out of the library. The sprite turned to Jenny. "What is it with her? I told her the truth!"

"Quite the little triangle you have going here, Robin," Jenny said, the same grin on her face. "Not in a romantic sense, but otherwise."

"Uh, what do you mean?"

"Well," Giles said, closing up the office, "if you insult Amy, she's likely to shoot a fireball in an uncomfortable place. That is, if Shaw doesn't already have her sword already lodged in there for insulting Amy."

Robin looked at the Romany and Watcher, and began to look truly frightened. "Uh, Giles, you guys would protect me, right?"

"I don't know, Robin," Giles said in a tone of pure Britishness. "Amazons tend to stick together, and if their mates know what's good for them. . ."

Robin was just left stuttering as the last couple exited the library.

"Oh, Robin," Giles called, "be a good lad and remember to turn off the lights behind you."

*****

Angelus' Mansion
Sunnydale, California
9 September 1998

"So we're gonna be homeless again?"

"They know we're here, they'd find us eventually."

"Fine. What do we do?"

"Dru solves the puzzle, we fight this 'nightmare' in their prophecy." Angelus looked around. "Where is she?"

Spike smiled. "Playing with the puzzle, of course."

"Good. Let's check up on her."

Sure enough, she was turning the Configuration over in her hands. She seemed to be making slow progress.

"Hey, baby, how you doin'?"

"Angel!" she said happily. "We're going to beat the pin man!"

"I know, Dru. And we get to beat the nightmare."

"Ugly man." she said, wrinkling her nose. "Razor hands."

"Don't worry, ducks." Spike assured her. "We'll kick his ass for you."

"My Spike will protect me," she said, dreamily. "We will be good, later."

"You got that right, baby," he said, thinking the obvious.

Angelus and Spike left her alone, not noticing her break into a yawn seconds later. She started singing a soft rhyme.

"One, two, Freddy's comin' for you..."

*****

Sunnydale High School
Sunnydale, California
9 September 1998

Amy was the last to arrive at the Slayerette's usual table. Several averted glances led her to be suspicious.

"Okay, what's wrong, guys?"

"We were just wondering," Willow began, "if you're being too hard on Shaw."

Amy got angry, and her face set in a hard look. "Why shouldn't I? She comes here, with the solution to an old family mystery, and doesn't have the decency to tell me. She used the information to gain our trust. And that's without mentioning that I found out she threatened Robin."

At the others' looks of confusion, Amy related the story of what had passed between her and Goodfellow the previous night. To her surprise, it had the others laughing.

"What, you think that's funny?" she snapped.

Xander shook his head. "Amy, she said that she wanted to tell you. But, she didn't know when to do it. And consider just who it was that gave her the information in the first place. She never knew about you before coming here, to Earth. And obviously, she's very protective," he said, wiping tears from his eyes, before getting slapped by Cordelia, who took up the thread.

"Look, Amy, I'm not saying I blame you. I'm not saying I even like her. But she was sort of caught between a rock and a hard place. And think about this; the first time she saw you, she helped you against those vamps."

Amy considered her words, and turned to Oz. "What does the resident werewolf say?"

"She knows I'm different. But rather than dig, she told us exactly how she knew. She respected my privacy," he said with a noncommittal shrug.

Amy turned back to Willow. "So what do you think I should do?"

"She told Jenny she's willing to give you time and space. Just give her a chance."

"I would also ask this of you, Amy Madison," a voice said.

The Slayerettes were instantly on guard. Xander stood, and put himself between the table and the young woman that had spoken.

"Who are you?" he asked.

"A friend." she replied. "The prophecy will come to pass tonight. The Third must face the Cenobite over the doorway to Hell. You must clear the path for her to fulfill her portion of the prophecy. Which the demon knows nothing about," she added with a slight grin.

"How do you know this?" Cordy asked. "Are you one of those balance demons we've heard about?"

The girl shook her head. "Hardly. Amy Madison, please give your kin a chance. That is all I ask of you." Her face became concerned. "It was not easy for her to learn of you, less than two weeks after starting to put her family behind her."

"And how do you know that?" Amy asked, already suspecting the answer.

"Because I told her."

"Oh, shit." she whispered, and went pale as she realized just who she'd said that to. "Oh my Goddess, I mean God, oh God, I'm sorry..."

"It is quite alright, Amy Madison." she said with a grin.

Willow caught on next. "Oh, wow. Wait 'till the others here about this." She stood and offered the girl her seat. "Here, sit, uh... what do we call you?"

"Joan will do."

Now the others realized whom they were dealing with. Jehanne waved them down, asking them to remain seated.

"I shall attempt to be brief. You must tell your friends everything you have heard. But do not tell Shawukay. She will fight her own battle tonight. It is what comes after that I wish to discuss."

"What comes after?" Willow repeated, not liking the sound of that.

"Preparing for her true mission, which she was brought here to perform. But that is in the future."

"What happens in between?" Amy asked.

"It is hoped that she will remain here. To learn, about Earth, but also to trust, to have friends once again. And to learn things that only certain people can teach her." she said with a pointed look at Amy.

"She said she's held secrets from us," Amy said defensively.

"Things she has buried, and refused to share with others. The first of these was mourning, which she is doing now. She also blames herself for the anger you feel, Amy. I ask that you give her time to speak of these things, as she gives you time to accept the kinship between you."

Jehanne sighed. "Please remember, for all of her training and considerable experience, she is still very young. Help her if you can, as she wishes to help you. She simply does not know how to do this, on this world. At least, not yet."

She stood up, and smiled. "And please tell Randi Jessup that the First was to guard her. The concept usually consists of the guarded remaining behind the guardian. The look on His face was amusing."

"Whose face?" Xander asked.

"His." she said, pointing up. She then turned and left the cafeteria.

The others turned to Amy. "Looks like you're outvoted, girl." Cordelia said.

"No kidding. I can't imagine what she's seen that she would have to bury."

"Remember the conversation in the library, when she talked about what she'd seen, before she broke off?" Xander asked, to which the others nodded. "I've seen that look on soldiers on TV, who'd seen or maybe done things that they weren't proud of."

"We'd better get Giles," Cordy said. "Tell him what's going down tonight."

The Slayerettes got up and headed for the library.

*****

Johansen Residence
Sunnydale, California
9 September 1998

Shawukay slowly opened her eyes. <Mostly offensive and defensive spells. Minimal healing. Either I will not need them, or...> her thought trailed off. She searched her thoughts, but found only acceptance. <So be it. If that is required to defeat the 'assassin.'>

She got up and started dressing for battle. Sword, daggers at her waist, a dagger on each forearm, one down her left boot. She donned her ring and bracers, then started to put on her headband. She hesitated, and looked at the item. She then put it on the dresser.

"Father Johansen." she called.

He came to the door. "Yes, Shaw?"

"There are things we must discuss. Listen, do not speak. First, if I do not make it through this, this headband is enchanted. It translates written and spoken languages. There is a woman, Amy. Give it to her, as well as this." She pulled out her Harper pin. "It was my grandmother's. I wish to keep it in the family."

"That was the information you were given," he said in understanding.

"Yes." she replied softly. "If my sword and other items are recovered, Amy is to determine what becomes of them. Now, I have placed various spells over your home over these weeks. Warding glyphs on doors and windows, as well as protective spells over you. Nothing evil can touch your person. The glyphs are tuned to you, and to anyone you designate."

"I.. thank you."

Shawukay nodded. "Most important of all. Ulric, if I return at night, and do not simply come in, under no circumstances let me in, unless I am wielding my sword. No evil can touch it, any evil. Please promise me this."

Ulric nodded. "I understand. May God go with you, child."

She smiled. "I... believe He is."

She walked out of the room, and then out the back door.

*****

St. Wolf Residence
Sunnydale, California
9 September 1998

"All right, let's break out the ordnance." Frank ordered.

Xander and Oz started breaking out weapons of various caliber. Xander chose an M-14 Paratrooper rifle, as well as a Glock Model 21 .45 caliber. He thrust a boot knife into each leg, and added a single white phosphorous grenade.

Oz also took an M-14, a .45, and a K-Bar, which he thrust into a sheath on his right hip.

The Amazons each took Uzis, Glocks, and swords and daggers of varying sizes, as well as wooden knives for staking vamps.

Cassandra, Sonja and Gabrielle took their swords, as did Randi with the Sword of St. Catherine, nervous knowing that this would be her first battle against another Immortal, even though is was said she would emerge the victor.

Frank took an shotgun with a folding handle, equipped with Dragon's Breath and Devastator shells, his Glock, and several wooden knives for fighting vampires, and packed a couple of magazines of enchanted silver bullets, in case any demons made an appearance.

Giles armed himself similarly to Frank, and carried several vials of holy water.

"Everyone ready?" Frank called.

As everyone checked off, Xander added one final comment.

"Saddle up," he called in a John Wayne accent, "Lock and load."

The Slayerettes took off for the hidden entrance to the Master's old lair, underneath the high school.

*****

Weatherly Park
Sunnydale, California
9 September 1998

Shawukay sat in the park, in the most heavily wooded area, the terrain she had lived much, if not most, of her life in.

<Make the enemy come to you.> she thought. <Make him fight on ground of your choosing.>

For the first time since learning of her empathic ability, she let the emotions of the birds and other wildlife in the area flood in, rather than concentrating on keeping them out.

She allowed everything, no matter how small, run through her mind, savoring the feelings of nature.

Doing so saved her from being ambushed.

Suddenly, the emotions all turned to fear and caution. Blocking out the feelings, Shawukay turned to her normal senses, infravision and hearing at the forefront. The noise she heard, or rather didn't hear, confirmed her suspicion. <Someone is here. Probably looking for me. Well, let us begin. Lady Mielikki, watch over your daughter.>

The ranger slowly stalked off into the brush.

*****

Angelus' Mansion
Sunnydale, California
9 September 1998

"Dammit, she's asleep!" Angelus shouted.

"How the bloody hell can she sleep at a time like this! She needs to solve the bloomin' puzzle!"

"Wait." Angelus said, blocking Spike off. "Didn't the prophecy say we'd defeat a nightmare?"

"Yeah, so bloody what?!?"

"What if it meant literally? A nightmare demon."

Spike caught on. "Makes sense. But it said one would become three, meaning the two of us would get a piece of this nightmare, right?"

"A nightmare demon can be brought into the real world by grabbing onto it when you wake up. That's gotta be it. I feel sorry for that demon when he takes on Dru."

"WHAT?!? A nightmare demon is gonna be stalkin' my luv, and you say it's good? You're insane!"

"And so is Dru." he said, trying to get the point across.

Spike considered that, and a big smile came over his face. "Oh, hell. You are sooo right."

Dru murmured in her sleep. Neither Angelus or Spike could make out what she was saying, but it sounded like a nursery rhyme.

*****

Part 17: Second

"How nice. Fresh meat."
---Freddy Krueger
Nightmare on Elm Street 4

Angelus' Mansion
Sunnydale, California
9 September 1998

Drusilla watched the young children playing. They were all dressed in white, and were playing various games, jump rope, and hopscotch. They kept singing the same nursery rhyme over and over.

"Three, four, better lock your door..."

She hummed along, trying to decide whether or not to feed on one of them.

"Five, six, grab your crucifix..."

"Ms. Edith doesn't like crucifixes." she said. "Where's Ms. Edith's pretty box?"

"Seven, eight,"

SCRREEEEECCCHHHH!!

Dru turned around at the sound of metal. She found herself in the factory that she and Spike once lived in.

"No. I want the pretty house."

The mansion replaced the factory.

SSSSSSSCCCCCCCRRRRRRREEEEEEEEECCCCCHHHHHHH!!!

The factory came back into existence. Dru started to become cross.

"Who's here with me? Angel? Spike?"

"Hellloooooooo, Nurse!"

Dru turned to see a man, wearing work clothes and a dirty hat. His right hand had long razors extending from the glove.

"Ugly man. I want my pretty house."

"Sorry, babe. You're down in the dumps."

Dru walked towards the man. "Go away. I want my pretty box."

"Sorry, baby. Cenobite says no. I kill you, I take the box, he opens the door."

"My Spike and Angel will stop you."

"Not quite. They're working on their tans!" he said evilly.

Angelus and Spike walked into view, both smothered in flames, screaming loudly. Dru watched as the fell into ashes.

"No." Dru said in a small voice. "You hurt Spike."

She ran over and put her hands in the ashes. "You hurt Angel."

She started running. She ran on instinct, going through doors that seemed to lead nowhere. She stopped in one doorway, seeing Angelus fighting the demon.

"Angel!"

Her cry distracted Angelus long enough that Krueger was able to push his glove into Angelus' chest. He pulled out Angelus' still beating heart, and showed it to Dru, while her sire just looked on and smiled at her.

"You always steal my heart, baby."

Dru backed off, shaking her head, mumbling "no" over and over again. She turned and ran once again.

Krueger watched her run and smiled. "I love heart to heart talks."

*****

Angelus and Spike watched as Dru thrashed in the throes of a nightmare. They looked at each other, not daring to wake her up.

"C'mon, baby." Spike whispered. "Kick this wanker's ass for me."

*****

Dru ran on, and collided with Spike. She looked at him, and fell into his arms, crying.

"Spike, the ugly man killed my Daddy!"

"I know, baby. We'll kill the bloody bastard." Spike grinned. "Let's
find your pretty box."

Dru nodded, still sobbing. Spike rubbed her back with his right hand, and brought it up, razors extended.

*****

"Dammit, Dru, that's not me! Break his bloody neck!"

If she heard him through the dream, she gave no indication in her tossing.

*****

Dru cocked her head to one side. "Spike?"

"Yeah, luv?" Spike asked her.

Spike suddenly doubled over as Dru kneed him in the groin. She landed a roundhouse that sent him sprawling. Krueger's true form returned. He stood, but Dru was off and running again.

"I love a woman who knows what I like."

He took off at a leisurely pace.

*****

"Dammit, Angel, let me wake her up!"

"We have to wait, Spike. She'll handle it. Trust me."

<Don't go there, mate.>

*****

Dru kept running, and was suddenly in her room at the mansion.

She saw her bed, her clothes, her dolls, and the Lament Configuration.

"I found my pretty box!" she cried with joy.

She sat down and began working on it.

The sheets on her bed rose, as a quartet of sharp knives rose, and then started moving forward towards Dru's back.

"Dun-dun, dun-dun, dun-dun-dun-dun...."

The razors rose up, tearing through the sheet, and came down hard, ripping bloody lines down Drusilla's back. She screamed as blood started flowing. She fell, and the carpet split, the glove cutting a line of gashes in her right thigh.

Dru screamed again.

*****

"That's it!"

Angelus grabbed Spike and threw him against the wall. "Think! If you wake her up, she'll have to go through this a second time! Maybe a third! Is that what you want?"

"We shouldn't have come back here in the first place!"

"Tough shit, Spike!" Angelus roared. "You follow MY orders."

Spike glared, then looked down. <Only 'til she wakes up, mate. No more.>

*****

Dru sat on the floor, holding her leg and whimpering.

"Angel? Spike?" she cried softly.

Krueger walked into the room. "Sorry, darlin'. No hunk to save the day this time."

He started sorting through the items on Dru's dresser.

"Here we go." he said. "Playing with Barbies, at your age."

Krueger held up a doll. "Trade you for the booooooox." he sang.

"Put her down." Dru pleaded.

"One chance, Dru."

"Put her down." she repeated, her plea becoming a demand.

"Okay." he said, and broke the doll's head off, tossing it over his shoulder. He turned back to the dresser, gazing at the items. "What's next?" he hummed.

"You hurt Ms. Edith."

"And there's a lot more where that came from, doll."

"You hurt Ms. Edith!"

Krueger laughed. "So she lost her head!"

"YOU HURT MISS EDITH!!!"

Krueger's head exploded in agony as Dru unleashed the full power of her psychic abilities in a wave of pure psionic energy, which she could only do in this dreamscape. Krueger doubled over, grabbing his head in raw pain.

"Aaaaauuuuggghhh!!"

Dru got up, and walked over to the demon. The factory was replaced by the mansion, and she nodded.

"Pretty house. Much better."

Dru picked up Krueger, and drove a backhand across his face.

"That's for daddy."

She did it again.

"That's for Ms. Edith."

She grabbed his head, and forced him to look into her eyes.

"Look at my eyes." she commanded.

"I see a tall, dark, stranger..." he mumbled.

Dru switched to her game face, and drove her fangs full force into Krueger's neck.

*****

...and woke up, Krueger struggling in her grip.

Angelus and Spike promptly dragged him off of Dru, and started delivering a blistering beating. Spike pinned Krueger's arms behind his back, while Angelus unleashed a flurry of karate punches to the nightmare demon's gut, chest and head, with the speed that only a vampire, or possibly a Slayer, could deliver them. Krueger's face started growing bloody.

Dru languidly sat up and picked up the Lament Configuration.

"My turn!" Spike called gleefully, and he and Angelus switched places, the older vampire pinning Krueger's arms while Spike danced on the balls of his feet while in a boxer's stance.

"Oh, I'm so pretty! I am the greatest!"

And he started jabbing Krueger's jaw as if it were a heavy bag. After several hard jabs, he started alternating with hooks, crosses, and an occasional uppercut that would have made Mike Tyson proud.

After a few minutes of this treatment, Krueger sagged in Angelus' grip, and he was released, dropping to the floor.

"Down goes Frazier!" Spike shouted.

Spike reached down and picked up Krueger's hat, which had fallen off in the melee. He tossed it to Angelus. "Try it on, let's see how you look."

Angelus did, and spread his arms. "Well?"

Spike pretended to give him a critical eye. "With the duster, not quite the Elliot Ness look. More like Dick Tracy, maybe. Get one of those quirky watches and you got it down."

Krueger tried to get up but was quickly dropped back down with a kick to the temple.

Angelus tossed the hat to Spike, who donned the item. "Well?"

Angelus smirked. "You look like Ed Norton."

Spike rolled his eyes. "Thank you sooo much." he groaned. "Wait a minute, I've got an idea."

Dru kept working on the puzzle.

He reached down and put Krueger into a painful armbar that had the demon screaming in pain. He removed the glove from his right hand.

"You know, Angel, I surely hope this demon's left handed."

Angelus looked puzzled. "Why?"

"'Cause with a face like his, he's gotta be his own best friend."

Krueger started growling, but Angelus and Spike each punched him in the jaw.

Spike donned the glove, and spun in a circle twice, and executed a short moonwalk. "Let's see Michael Jackson top this."

He rubbed his chin with the glove. "Okay, enough horseplay. Where were we?"

"Beating up this piece of demonic shit."

"Oh, yeah. Sorry, I got caught up in my monologue."

Krueger jumped up and connected a left to Spike's jaw, but only staggered the younger vamp. Angelus grabbed Krueger by the left arm and threw him full force into the nearest wall. As Krueger bounded off, Angelus threw a back kick that knocked the wind out of the demon.

"Oh, yeah, you're gonna pay for that, demon." Spike said evilly. "Angel, mate, hold the bugger. I've got an idea."

As Angelus grabbed Krueger, he looked quizzically at Spike. "What do you have in mind?"

"Remember what the Hunter said about me? Gives me an idea." He said as if he were talking about the weather. He reached out and grabbed. "You know, remember when the Cenobite said my methods were popular?"

Angelus nodded.

"Reminded me how much I love my work."

He started squeezing.

Krueger smiled. "Sorry, honey, I'm not the type."

It was the wrong thing to say.

Krueger's scream echoed throughout the mansion.

Angelus smiled. "Save me some fun."

He drew an arm back, and drove it into Krueger's back. He squeezed the demon's heart until it stopped, then withdrew his hand and grabbed Krueger's head, and savagely twisted it, breaking his neck.

"My pretty box is done!" Dru cried out in glee. "Spike, we can go bye-bye! The pretty box is done!"

Angelus turned to her, a smile on his face. "Yeah, baby, we can go bye-bye."

A look passed over Spike's face, and he nodded as if coming to a decision.

Spike clenched his fists together, and brought them down on the back of Angelus' neck, stunning him.

Angelus fell to all fours, and Spike axe kicked him on the back of the head, knocking the older vampire out.

"Spike! Why did you hurt my Angel!"

"'Cuz he don't love us no more, baby. What would happen if we stayed with him?"

Her eyes grew distant. "You would fight. He'd kill me." As that vision sank in, she started sobbing. "My Daddy'd hurt me. You would hurt yourself."

"That's why we're leaving, luv. Grab the puzzle."

*****

Five minutes later, the DeSoto was roaring down the street.

"Spike, where can we go?"

"To help the bloody Slayerettes fight the Cenobite. And we'll give 'em the bloomin' box. Let them do what they want with it." he said. "Sorry, baby."

"We'll be good later."

*****

Part 18: First

"So you knew we'd win."
"Of course not. You humans are so unpredictable."
---Raiden
Mortal Kombat

Weatherly Park
Sunnydale, California
9 September 1998

Shawukay scanned the area, her infravision not detecting any humanoid heat signatures.

<There HAS to be someone out here.> she thought with frustration. <The wildlife is silent, no noise.>

She quietly moved through the brush, looking back and forth, until she heard the form dropping out of a tree behind her.

Reacting on pure instinct, she whipped Soulreaver out of its sheath and swung it around.

And connected with the shaft of a double-bladed battle-axe.

The wielder backed out of the brush, moving into open ground, lit by a lamp. He was dressed in an outfit one might expect of a thief, possibly an assassin, but instead of being dark in color, it was yellow, totally impractical for blending into surroundings.

Shawukay was concerned about something else, however. Before stepping into the lighted area, she had gotten a glimpse of him in the infrared spectrum. He glowed so brightly he was almost blinding.

<That means he is not human. That is good. At least, I hope so.>

Her opponent took up a martial arts stance, holding the battle-axe in one hand. Shawukay realized that his strength must be immense to accomplish such a feat.

Shawukay joined him in the open, and assumed a stance that Connor MacLeod had taught her, her sword parallel to the ground above her head.

The warrior nodded once, recognizing the style. Then, he attacked.

As she expected, his power was surprising. However, she managed to parry a couple of blows from the axe, then began giving ground, trying to find an opening.

He opponent quickly followed with blow after blow, keeping Shawukay on the defensive, not allowing her to make a single offensive move. She finally began to realize that his skill was greater than hers, and that he would eventually defeat her in a straight up fight.

<Fortunately, I do have one advantage.> she thought grimly. <I fight dirty.>

She turned and ran off into the wooded area.

The assassin known as Scorpion widened his white eyes for a split second, then took off after his prey.

Shawukay ran full out, relying on her memories of the scouting she'd done in the previous weeks. As she cleared a log, she hopped over a patch of ground.

Scorpion ran right over it, and fell to the ground as he tripped over the wire she had laid across the path.

He gained his feet almost instantly, but it was enough time for the half-elf to draw her boot dagger and fire it into his gut.

Scorpion staggered, but slowly drew the dagger out.

The woman's eyes grew wide in fright as flames licked out of the wound.

The assassin tossed the dagger aside and charged forward after his target.

The ranger ran again, heading for the next of her little "surprises." When she neared it, she leaped over another log, barely breaking her stride.

Scorpion, recognizing the leap, ran, and leaped higher.

And nearly had his head ripped off as his legs flew out from beneath him as he was clotheslined by the six and a half foot high line.

He hit the ground with a loud crash, and was slower getting to his feet this time. As he did, he turned around to receive two arrows in the chest. He quickly ripped them out, and began stalking his intended prey.

He found her on the path, chanting softly. A dust devil came into being, which she calmly ordered to attack the demon.

The living cyclone charged, but Scorpion removed his hood, revealing his skull-like head. He unleashed a breath of fire, which enveloped the small air elemental, immediately killing it.

He looked around for his opponent, but she had disappeared.

*****

<She has not even slowed him down.> the warrior thought. <But she is destined to win, according to the prophecy. She does have skill, and she is resourceful.>

He'd originally thought her a coward for running, but now he realized the truth.

<She knows the wilderness. She uses it to her advantage.>

He mused a bit further. <In this terrain, she might be as deadly as a Lin-Kuei.>

He began following the combatants again.

*****

Shawukay completed another prayer. As she finished, Scorpion caught sight of her.

He unleashed his fire breath again, this time at her. The flames enveloped the half-elf, and she was shrouded in fire.

The assassin stopped breathing. He donned his mask, and waited for the woman to fall.

Instead, the flames died out, and she emerged, totally unscathed. She had used his assumption to finish another spell.

The sky around Scorpion grew cloudy, and rain started falling. It did not affect him, but his vision was cut off as steam rose around him as the water hit the flames licking out of his wounds.

He felt the impact of another arrow, and heard another fly by his head, a near miss. He pulled the arrow out of his right lung, and broke it.

Suddenly, he was enveloped in darkness. Every way he looked, pitch black.

Another arrow thudded into his body, followed by another, and another. Finally, a fourth.

He staggered, and finally dropped to the ground.

*****

<Amazing! Spells, sword skills, and an archer as well.>

The spectator to the battle raging before him watched with keen interest.

<Her attacks are not doing much damage, however. And she will eventually tire. Scorpion will not. But I cannot intervene, this is her battle.>

*****

Rather than sit to see if she had killed her opponent, Shawukay ran again. She knew the wounds she had inflicted were minor, but she hoped to slow him enough to defeat him. She didn't know how long the fire resistance spell would last.

Reaching a small clearing she'd been to beforehand, she quickly cast the spell she hoped would give her the final advantage she needed.

As she finished, all sound left her ears.

*****

Scorpion followed the trail the woman had left. He had a hard time; the woman knew what she was doing.

He entered the small clearing, but her trail ended. He looked all around, looking into the trees surrounding him. He looked left, right, forward, backward, and even upwards.

He didn't see her rise out of the shallow pit she'd buried herself in.

His back exploded in pain as she swung her sword across his spine.

He screamed, but no sound came out of his mouth. He turned around, swinging his battleaxe, but another slash of her sword sent it flying out of his hands.

He threw several highly skilled punches and kicks, attempting to keep her at bay, but she used her agility to great advantage. Finally, she faked a forward thrust of her sword, and used her forward momentum to connect a sidekick to Scorpion's jaw.

He staggered back, giving Shawukay enough room to deliver a two-handed attack meant to decapitate the demonic warrior.

With inhuman speed, he jumped backward...

...and disappeared.

Shawukay stood, stunned, but still on guard. <Dimensional door! Where is he?>

With the silence spell in place, she couldn't cast any spells to find him. She quickly turned, and scanned for her opponent.

*****

<By my ancestors! I truly thought she had him.> he wondered. <I wish I could help her, but it is forbidden.>

He saw Scorpion emerge from the dimensional door, and all but shouted to warn her. He recognized the pose Scorpion was taking, and dread filled his heart.

*****

Shawukay caught sight of the assassin, who was assuming a stance about twenty yards away, one arm facing palm down, and his right palm facing her.

Something emerged from his right hand, and split into two small halves, barbed hooks on both. The harpoon shot forward.

Shawukay dodged it, rolling to the ground. She quickly stood and swung Soulreaver with all her strength.

Sparks flew as her sword bounced off, a deep dent in the coil.

A flask caught her attention. As she turned, the barbed mouth, which had doubled back, clamped onto her right breast, penetrating into her skin.

Her scream of pain was silenced by her own spell, but became audible as she was dragged, at high speed, out of the spell's radius.

The assassin spoke two words.

"COME HERE!!"

When she closed inside two feet, the barbs withdrew, the half-elf's vision catching the bright red spots marking her blood on the metal.

Scorpion connected with a brutal spin kick, his power sending her over ten feet, landing heavily.

She staggered to her feet, but the ninja drove an uppercut into her jaw, sending her flying again.

Scorpion walked over and picked her up, and the coil emerged from his hand again. He grabbed it with his left hand, and brought it over her head to her neck.

He began to squeeze.

*****

<No! It cannot be! The prophecy was specific!>

The warrior nearly entered into the fray, but his father's words stayed him.

<You must keep her alive after she wins.>

He pondered. <But what can she do?>

*****

Shawukay swung her sword wildly, trying to find a way to hit the man strangling her. She fought with the fury of a wounded bear, but to no avail.

Her breath slowly left.

<There must be a way! I know this!>

The ranger swung her sword back over her shoulder, but it fell far short. The assassin laughed, then brought her body against his, leaning her back into him.

Shawukay began to grow faint.

<Cannot go left, right, or over. In the Goddess' name, Shaw Hunter, there has to be a way!> she berated herself, then came to a realization. <Did I just call myself...>

A grin came over her face despite her predicament.

<Jonathan would have loved to have heard that.>

She snapped back to business.

<Find a way! Think this through, and quickly!> she mentally shouted, her vision fading.

And in that split second, she had it. A smile of acceptance grew on her lips.

<Mielikki, call your daughter home..>

*****

<She's insane! She's dying, and she smiles!>

*****

Shawukay turned her sword one hundred eighty degrees...

*****

<Ancestors! She CAN'T be thinking...>

*****

and drove it at an angle, into her stomach, and out her back, up to the hilt...

*****

<She will die!!>

*****

and UPWARDS into Scorpion's heart.

Flames stared flowing out of the wound, igniting his clothes, but leaving Shawukay unharmed, due to her earlier spell.

Shawukay jerked herself, driving Soulreaver in as far as she could manage.

Their screams combined into one terrifying howl, which was dwarfed as Scorpion exploded, setting the entire clearing and surrounding trees on fire, and sending the woman flying forward, luckily landing on her side.

*****

Sub-Zero quickly gathered his chi, and sent a massive blast of pure ice and cold over the area, snuffing out the fire. He jumped out of his hiding space, and ran over to the wounded victor.

The ninja of the Lin-Kuei bent over, and gently drew her sword out of her body. Blood started flowing through both the entry and exit wounds.

<I must act quickly.>

Sub-Zero called forth a small burst of energy, and froze solid both wounds, and then the wound on her breast. She wasn't breathing.

<Am I too late? Have I failed in my mission?>

*****

Shawukay looked around. She was surrounded by gray mist, which gave off a strange light.

<Where am I?>

*On the Ghost Roads, the area between worlds, Shawukay.*

Shawukay declined to turn around. "Jehanne."

"Hello."

"What worlds am I between? Earth and Toril?"

"Life, and what comes beyond it."

Shawukay's eyes widened slightly, and she turned around. She saw Jehanne as she always had, in full plate armor. She had a smile on her face.

"Then I am dead." she said, with no fear or sadness.

"For now." Jehanne answered. "You were wearing your ring, remember?"

Shawukay's memories flashed through her mind. One corner of her mouth quirked upwards.

"Sometimes that item is more trouble than it is worth."

Jehanne's face went blank.

The half-elf sighed. "And Mark said I needed to loosen up."

Jehanne smiled, as she then understood the jab. "Perhaps."

Shawukay became serious. "The demon."

"Dispersed. His essence is back in Hell."

"Good. Jehanne, I... apologize for my opinion. Understand, I still dislike the circumstances, but I realize it was required."

"Thank you. Shawukay, you must go back."

"I understand. What comes next?"

"You will be called upon to perform your true mission later. Until that time, the choice is yours."

Shawukay nodded. "Jehanne, this next mission?"

"Yes?"

"No riddles. Simply ask me."

Jehanne smiled. "You have a bargain, Shawukay."

"No."

The angel's face dropped. "What?!?"

Shawukay grinned. "My friends call me... Shaw."

*****

<Fare thee well, warrior. May your spirit find peace.> Sub-Zero stood up, having arranged the body of the woman. He turned to leave when he heard a gasp. With surprise, he turned around.

The woman was alive, if weak. Her eyes glowed red in the darkness.

Sub-Zero became grim. "Forgive me, but I cannot allow a demon into the Earth realm."

As he moved forward, she coughed.

"YOU are the one wearing the outfit of the demon, human." she said, weakly.

The Lin Kuei's composure vanished. "Scorpion wore that outfit and color as a mockery of the Lin-Kuei! To shame our clan!"

"And you are the first full-blooded human who is prepared to kill me because of my ELVEN half." she muttered. "My father was as human, perhaps MORE human, than you... assassin."

Sub-Zero heard the insult, but recognized the truth in her words. "My clan kills threats to the Earth realm. We are the sworn enemies of the Outworld, and the Order of Teraka."

She regarded him warily. "Since I do not know who, or what they are, your words mean nothing."

The Lin Kuei snarled. "Whoever you are, I saved your life. I froze your wounds to stop the bleeding."

Shawukay tried to sit up, and the ninja helped her. In great pain, and with great difficulty, she cast a healing spell. It did some good, but healed less than half the damage. She cast the remaining spell. She was still very bruised and stiff, but she could walk.

"Thank you for your aid. I must go."

"You are in no condition to fight." As she started to protest, he put his hand to her mouth. "You are injured, tired, and you have fulfilled your part of the prophecy. The Second and Third must fulfill their destinies without your aid."

Sub-Zero reached into a pouch on his belt, and withdrew a leather thong with a round bronze charm on it.

"This is for you. It marks that the Lin-Kuei are in your debt. Scorpion was once a member of our clan, who betrayed us, joining those we are sworn to oppose. You have defeated him, and cleansed our honor. When you need our aid, break this sword guard in half. I will come."

"I will not employ assassins." she said angrily.

"I did say whatever aid you needed, First."

Shawukay slowly took the necklace from him. "Very well. Farewell until then."

"I would like to know the name of the warrior who has erased our dishonor."

"Vampires call me the Hunter. But you may call me..." she hesitated, then smiled. "Shaw Hunter."

"I am Sub-Zero."

And the assassin faded into the darkness.

Shawukay looked for him, but could not even detect a heat signature. She looked down at the mix of blood and melting ice on her last tunic. She sighed in frustration.

"I have GOT to find a deer to shoot to replace this."

*****

Sunnydale High Library
Sunnydale, California
9 September 1998

Shawukay walked into the library, and saw Enrico Marquez reading several books.

"Enrico Marquez, why are you not with the others?"

He jumped, and turned quickly. "I have no experience with weapons. They asked me to remain." he said, with great embarrassment.

Shawukay looked at him, then at the window to Giles' office. His reflection glinted back at her. She sighed in relief.

He looked at her again, taking in the mess on her tunic, as well as the red line across her throat.

"Madre De Dios!! What happened to you?!?"

"I fulfilled my portion of the prophecy." she said, wondering how he couldn't know.

"No, I mean what happened to you, senorita."

"I won."

Enrico stammered as he tried to come up with another question, but Shawukay walked over to a chair, and laid her head in her hands.

"You must have had a very rough night."

"Enrico Marquez, you have no idea what an understatement that is."

She quickly fell asleep.

*****

Part 19: Third

"When in doubt-- HACK!"
---Dave Bozwell
Knights of the Dinner Table

Sunnydale Cemetery
Sunnydale, California
9 September 1998

Frank, Xander and Cassandra were dividing up the Slayerettes into teams to converge on the cemetery, with the goal of meeting at the mausoleum that led to the former lair of the Master.

"Okay, here are the teams. Alpha consists of me, Cassandra, Amy, Randi, and Robin. Our job is to get to the crypt as quickly as possible. Cassie, you and Amy are the firepower. They won't be expecting witches, or Robin's unique way of doing things. I'm the bodyguard. Randi, your job is to face the Cenobite. Understood?"

Randi nodded, clearly nervous.

"Xander, you lead beta team, which consists of Willow, Oz and Cordelia. You don't have any Immortals, but you have two Amazons, and they need silver to hurt Oz. Plus, you four have been working together the longest, and you've got a good mix of firepower. You can take 'em out at a distance or up close."

Xander nodded. "Got it, Frank."

"Charlie team, Giles, Jenny, Sonja and Gabrielle. Watcher, Amazon and Immortals. Your job is the same as Xander's team; do as much damage as you can, as quickly as you can."

Frank scanned the group. "Any questions?"

Xander nodded. "Last group to the crypt treats to pizza?"

The others grinned. Frank nodded. "That's what I like. A mission with incentive. Move out."

*****

Master's Lair (the Hellmouth)
Under Sunnydale, California
9 September 1998

"They are coming, Kaleda."

Kaleda rose slowly, having just finished the painful transformation from vampire to Cenobite.

"It is time then." she replied. "I shall lead the others."

"Yes. The Slayer, if present, must be your target. Bring her here, and her blood will open the Gate."

"Pinhead, what if the assassins fail? Especially Krueger?"

"This close to the Mouth, I cannot be banished. You have thirty vampires under your command, my dear. Do not fail."

Kaleda nodded, and left to enter the battle.

Pinhead turned to the dimensional wall.

"Let the new age of darkness begin."

*****

Frank led the way through the cemetery, moving quickly, but not becoming careless. Randi was trotting next to him, with Cassandra and Amy on the flanks.

A group of ten vampires emerged from the crypt, and rushed the quintet.

"Only ten? Pathetic." Frank muttered.

Frank killed two with a single Dragon's Breath shell from his shotgun. Cassandra quickly decapitated two with as many swings of her sword, while Amy fried three with her fire spell.

As Amy's victims burned, Robin smiled and snapped his fingers. Suddenly, two vamps went up in the air as a section of grass ripped out from under them like someone had pulled a carpet from under their feet. The two vamps flew upwards, and Robin snapped his fingers again. A section of ground tore up, a perfect cube, near a very large tombstone. The vampires fell in, and somehow, the tombstone fell forward, and the group shuddered when they heard a sick "thud." The section of ground quickly dropped back into the earth, and the vampires were buried.

Amy favored Robin with a dirty look. "You've been watching too many Road Runner cartoons."

"Who do you think gave them the ideas?" he asked innocently. "And they wouldn't add the garlic-laced punji sticks."

Amy stared at him in disgust. "You have to be kidding."

He just smiled mischievously and wiggled his eyebrows.

The last vampire rushed at Randi, but she gutted it with her sword. As the vampire was impaled, the five crosses on the blade started glowing, and the vamp burned as if he'd been splashed with holy water. Randi quickly drew out the sword and stabbed her victim through the heart, dusting him.

She stared at the crosses etched on the blade. "Wow. That I did not expect."

Cassandra smiled at her. "Good form. And remember, that IS a holy relic, like the Shroud of Turin, or the Holy Grail."

"Or that pointy hat John Paul II wears." Amy added.

Randi just rolled her eyes.

*****

Twelve vamps charged Giles' team to the east. Giles and Jenny broke off from Sonja and Gabrielle, who went back to back.

As the first rank charged, Jenny and Giles unleashed a barrage of Uzi and shotgun fire. Six vampires vanished in a large cloud of dust instantly.

The remainder were suddenly more cautious.

"You know, Giles," Gabrielle muttered, "you and Jenny could save some for us."

Jenny smiled. "Rupert doesn't want to pay for the pizza."

Giles sighed in frustration, which caused the three women to chuckle.

The six vamps overcame their hesitation, and charged Sonja and Gabrielle, who had no firearms.

Working as a team, the two Immortal women eliminated five within forty seconds, the sixth being knifed from behind by Jenny.

At Sonja's glare, she shrugged. "You never specified how many to leave for you."

*****

Xander's group hid behind gravestones, smiling to each other.

"You know, this is going to be way too easy."

"Beats doing homework," Oz said.

"True. On three."

On three, Xander and Oz each popped up and shot a pair of vampires with their M-14s. Four bloodsuckers disintegrated. The other six charged when Oz and Xander retreated.

Or, that is, pretended to retreat.

When the six-pack got inside twenty yards, Willow and Cordelia stood up and fired their Uzis.

The vampires never stood a chance.

Cordelia snorted. "Wil, what happened to the days when Slaying was actually a challenge?"

"Blame Steve." Willow answered with a smile.

Cordy considered it. "Nah."

Xander and Oz rejoined the girls. "Shall we go, ladies?" Oz asked with a fake bow.

Willow giggled. "Of course, kind sir."

As they turned towards the crypt, a new opponent blocked their path.

"You will not reach the crypt, mortals."

The woman was tall, black, and covered in black plating and leather. She had razor style blades on her forearms, and on each shin. Thick chains criss-crossed her torso, and spike protruded from her forehead in a manner eerily similar to the Statue of Liberty. She carried a sai short sword in each hand. Her face was in full vamp mode.

"It would be pointless to resist me."

The Slayerettes started laughing, replacing the woman's confidence with puzzlement.

"You think this is amusing?"

Cordelia looked at her. "How many more of you are there?"

"Pinhead. I am the second."

Xander grinned. "Well, Bimbo of Two, you were supposed to say, 'resistance is futile.'"

Kaleda growled. "You will die slowly, mortal."

She leaped forward to attack, but was intercepted by Cordelia. They started exchanging blows, Cenobite and Amazon blocking each other's blows. Kaleda tried a back forearm smash, trying to shred Cordy with the blades, but the Amazon dropped to the ground.

Leaving Kaleda's torso open to shot from the M-14s carried by the boys. The bullets just broke apart against her chestplate.

Cordy swept Kaleda to the ground, but the former vampire kicked Cordelia away.

Kaleda regained her feet, only to be met by a snap kick from Willow. Willow connected with a second kick, followed by a palm strike, which broke the Cenobite's nose. Kaleda grabbed Willow's arm on her next punch, and tossed the redhead into Cordy, who was attempting to join Willow' attack.

However, it once again left Kaleda open to attack from the boys, this time in the form of .45 caliber bullets.

Kaleda screamed in pain, as the enchanted silver bullets shredded her head.

It bought enough time for Willow and Cordelia to recover and add their Uzis to the barrage. Kaleda staggered back, and turned to retreat.

She was not able to outrun the white phosphorous grenade that Xander tossed her way. She went up in flames, shrieking hideously.

She dropped to the ground, thrashing violently. There were loud pops as the seams on her body armor split and peeled back, thick smoke surrounding her.

She slowly regained her feet, but as the Slayerettes moved forward to finish her off, her neck twisted violently, snapping.

She dropped to the ground, and out of the smoke emerged...

...Spike, wearing a look of disgust.

"I knew the bloody kung fu freak would be trouble. But does Angel listen to me? Noooo."

Spike bent over, and lit a cigarette on the Cenobite's still flaming body.

Xander raised his rifle. "Oh, this just keeps getting better and better."

Spike frowned. "I believe we had an agreement, mate."

Xander cursed, but lowered the weapon.

Spike reached into a pocket of his duster, and pulled out a small cube. He tossed it to Willow.

Willow looked at the item in confusion. "What is this, Spike?"

Spike's frown deepened. "The whole bloomin' cause of this whole bloody mess." he said. "Please don't try to figure it out, I would hate to go through this again. Dru and I will take our leave now. Oh, and Angel's out cold at the mansion, if you want his heart."

"You left him??" Cordelia asked, stunned. "Why??"

"'Cause he'd kill us, eventually. Dru saw it. No way I'll allow him to hurt her."

"Why, Spike?" Xander said. "Tell us."

Spike smiled. "Look at your Prom Queen, and you tell me why. Don't think this makes me a good boy. Dru's the only thing I care about."

A look of understanding passed between the Slayerettes and one of their deadliest enemies. Finally, Xander nodded.

"Twenty four hours, Spike."

"Whatever. Go kick that bodypierced moron's ass for me."

Spike turned and walked through the smoke emanating from the dead demon, and it flowed and covered his exit.

*****

Xander was the first of his group to enter the crypt.

"Oh, crap."

Frank made a show of checking his watch.

"I just love the works on my pizza, Xander." he said.

Willow giggled at the look on Xander's face, and handed the Lament Configuration to Giles, who handled the item with great care.

"Compliments of Spike and Dru, who left Angel at the mansion."

"Well, that leaves only Randi's duty as the Third." Giles said.

"And the First," Jenny reminded him.

"Jenny, any demon that takes her on is in big trouble. I mean, she ruins Cassandra's novels."

Cassandra looked at him dangerously. "And how is that, Mr. Harris?"

"By taking your image of the noble, honorable elven warrior, and ripping it to shreds."

Cassandra couldn't help but agree, giggling.

"That's it. I'm going in."

"You seem anxious to fight this demon, Randi." Amy said.

"Can't be worse than Xander's jokes." she said, just before disappearing into the passage leading to the Hellmouth.

*****

Randi descended the stairs slowly, sword at the ready. As she reached the bottom, the sight before her made her pause.

Chains descended from the ceiling, hanging about seven feet from the floor. The only bare area was the 'stage,' a platform of some type.

On that platform stood the Cenobite. He didn't turn around; he seemed to be inspecting something.

"Ah, my dear Kaleda. Did you bring the Slayer with you?"

"Sorry, demon. Slayer's on vacation. Will I be enough?"

The demon turned slowly. When he saw Randi, his surprise turned into a smile.

"We meet again, Randi. Have you seen Kaleda?"

"No. Seems that Spike broke her neck." the Immortal replied.

A bit of actual sadness passed over his face. "Pity. As a warrior, she had such potential." He looked at her. "So you have come to face me?"

"Pretty much sums it up, Sinclair."

"You surprise me, Randi. A young Immortal, such as yourself, coming willingly to her doom."

Randi shrugged, feigning a certainty she didn't feel. "Well, I've got it on good authority that I'm gonna take you out."

"And whose authority would that be?" Pinhead asked.

"Joan's." she said, waving her sword. "And I recall something about a prophecy.."

For the first time since she came down, the Cenobite looked less than confident.

"Shall we start, Sinclair?"

"As you wish, Randi." Sinclair said with a nod, bringing out a wicked looking sword with a kris-style blade from a sheath on his back. He threw a proper salute, then took up a stance. "There can be only one."

"Bullshit. The Game was a ruse."

"I found that out eighty years ago, young Randi," he said. "You surprise me. No jokes, no witty remarks."

"I figured kicking your ass would be enough."

Pinhead smiled. "That is more like it."

Pinhead threw a level slash, which Randi parried easily. He next executed a lunge, which she parried easily again.

She knew what he was trying to do; he was looking to gauge her level of expertise.

Randi went on the offensive, throwing various moves Steve had taught her in the short time she'd been his student. Pinhead blocked these, but seem pleasantly surprised at the variety she showed.

He blocked the final blow of her flurry, and backed off. "Your teacher is very skilled. You chose well."

Randi shrugged. "The Wanderer, who was trained by Duncan MacLeod."

Sinclair nodded in approval. "Both are known to me. A proud lineage. I truly wish it would not end with you."

He launched another varied assault, much more difficult then the last. Randi slowly retreated towards the edge of the platform.

Pinhead brought their swords up high, and in a circular move, disarmed Randi. The Sword of St. Catherine landed a few feet away.

Randi backed up as the Cenobite advanced. "Don't worry, Randi. I will be quick." He started to lunge.

Randi jumped, and grabbed one of the dangling chains, and swung over to where her sword lay. Sinclair flew off the platform, landing on his stomach. He screamed in frustration.

Randi picked up her sword, and started advancing. She stopped when he rose.

"That was hardly an honorable tactic, my dear."

Randi smirked. "Like you said, I'm new to this."

She threw a wicked slash that Sinclair barely blocked.

He countered, and regained the platform. The two combatants exchanged blows, with Pinhead slowly regaining the advantage.

Randi felt a touch in her mind. *Hello, Randi.*

<Are you who I think you are?> she thought, recognizing a French accent.

A laugh. *Yes. Will you accept my aid? It is permitted, as Sinclair is using demonic power to augment his skill.*

<How?>

*Lending you my skill. Nothing more.*

<You have to ask?> Randi thought.

*It is required.*

<I WAS SAYING YES!!!> she screamed.

*You need not yell, Randi Jessup.* a cross thought said.

Randi felt a rush of memories enter her mind. Memories of ancient fights, ancient techniques. She used them immediately.

Sinclair was surprised by the change in her style. He had to change tactics in mid-stroke. It wasn't enough.

Randi's sword cut deeply into his left arm. The crosses flared again.

Sinclair yelled in pain, and backed up. "For that, your brother shall die most horribly."

Rage entered Randi's eyes, and she launched a brutal offensive that had nothing to do with skill, just a desire to eliminate a threat to family.

Sinclair fought with equal determination, but his injury, though healing in an arc of blue sparks, prevented him from gaining the advantage.

They both fought back and forth, fighting for what they believed in.

One, for the Old Ones, the former masters of Earth, all-powerful demons. The other, for a twelve-year-old boy.

Pinhead never stood a chance.

Randi knocked the sword out of his grip, and sliced the sword across his stomach, eliciting a loud scream.

The demon fell to his knees, trying to hold his innards in his body.

"Give my regards to Satan, you son of a bitch."

Randi's sword swung out once more.

As the headless corpse fell forward, Randi panted, sweat dripping down her face.

She turned to leave, but something drew her attention. The Cenobite's body was glowing in a white aura.

<Ooooohhh, SHIT!>

*****

In the crypt, the rest of the group was awaiting the outcome, despite their desire to go down and help Randi.

Suddenly, Cassandra jerked. Gabrielle and Sonja knew what was up. The others looked on in confusion.

"Everybody out!!" Sonja yelled.

Frank looked at his love. "Cassie, what's--"

"Quickening!" Gabrielle shouted.

The others beat feet out of the mausoleum.

*****

Randi backed up a few steps, but stopped as the first streak of lightning arced from Pinhead's body into hers.

Seconds later, a second bolt coursed up her body, followed by a third.

Suddenly, lightning arced from the Cenobite's corpse to the various chains, moving around, joining together into one massive bolt of pure energy.

The energy shot towards Randi, forcing her to her knees.

Vague memories, memories not her own, flooded into her brain.

She screamed in agony, in the voice of dozens of people.

Slowly, the pain faded. Randi staggered to her feet.

*You have done well, Randi Jessup.*

"Thanks for the help."

*You have Sinclair's demonic power inside of you. I must remove it, lest it potentially cause you problems in the future.*

Randi grimaced. "Take all of it. Be my guest. I don't need 'voices' in my head."

*The Immortal part of him will remain. That power is yours.* the voice in her mind continued. *As is my sword. Use it well.*

The voice faded, as did a portion of the power she'd "inherited," in a rush that made her feel nauseous. She clutched her stomach for a few seconds, then looked around.

Randi walked over and picked up Sinclair's sword, and winced in disgust.

<Let Steve do what he wants with it. Yuck.>

She looked down at her clothes, which still had smoke rising off of them. She moaned.

"Now I know the REAL reason they don't play 'the Game.'"

Shaking her head, she walked towards the stairs.

*****

As soon as Randi walked through the doors, she was targeted by several automatic weapons. She jumped in fright.

"Damn, guys! If that's how you're gonna be, I should have let the sucker cut my head off!" she shouted.

"Randi!" Frank shouted, and grabbed her in a hug. "You okay?"

"Yes. I had a bit of 'help.'"

The others looked at her uncomfortably, not knowing what to make of that statement.

"What do you mean, 'help?'" Sonja asked.

"Let's just say I know how Shaw feels about people entering her head."

Giles was the first to catch on. "You mean..." A nod from Randi. "I see. Congratulations, Randi."

Xander grabbed her around the shoulder. He pretended to be holding a microphone. "Randi Jessup, you just won the Super Bowl. What are ya gonna do now?"

Randi took one glance at her clothes, a small amount of smoke still rising off of them, then at Cordy, who smiled and nodded.

"Mall." they said together, prompting a round of laughter.

*****

Part 20: Aftermaths

"Sir, you're beginning to bore the hell out of me."
---Gunny Highway
Heartbreak Ridge

Sunnydale High Library
Sunnydale, California
Early hours
10 September 1998

The Slayerettes walked towards the library, animatedly discussing their victory over the Cenobite. They had just arrived, after stopping by Steve's house to stash the weapons.

"So, Randi," Amy asked. "What was it like getting your first Quickening?"

"Shocking." Randi said dully. "I hope I never have to do it again."

Cordelia smiled at her over her shoulder. "Not bad, your first time out. Save the world, get a shopping trip out of it."

The girls laughed.

"How do you think Shaw did?" Willow asked, concerned about the only part of the prophecy they didn't know the outcome to.

"I'm sure she did fine, Wil," Xander said. "Wouldn't be surprised if she's waiting for us. Probably doesn't even have a scratch on her, the lucky elf."

"If she'd threaten me for saying something, imagine what she'd do to a demon," Robin snapped, which drew laughter from the gang.

There was suddenly a short scream from the library. The Slayerettes ran into the room, where a surprising sight greeted them.

"Miss Hunter!" Giles shouted.

Shawukay had Enrico in a painful hammerlock. Both glanced at the Scooby Gang.

Shawukay nodded. "Hello, Rupert Giles." she said pleasantly.

"Release him, now!"

"As you wish." And she did.

Enrico shook his arm. "I am sorry, senorita Redarrow."

"Hunter."

Enrico looked at her strangely. "Very well. Your wounds are bleeding, senorita."

Shawukay nodded, somewhat unsteady on her feet. The Slayerettes took in the bloody sight on her tunic, and several of them began staring.

"Mr. Marquez, what happened?"

"She came in, and fell asleep for a couple of hours. I noticed her wounds were still bleeding a bit, so I offered first aid."

"I told him it was not required." she added.

"I told her I would help."

"I said no. Enrico Marquez objected." Shawukay said, folding her arms and staring at Enrico. "His objection was overruled."

Robin and Xander started chuckling, which drew slaps on the backs of their heads from their significant others.

"Miss Hunter," Giles started, with a suffering sigh, "when someone offers first aid, it usually means that you need it. It is not wise to attack the person offering that aid."

"I understand. But it would not be... appropriate." she said, then lowered her head a bit. "I do not wish... never mind."

"Shaw," Jenny said. "It's obvious you need aid. You know you can trust us by now."

"Or heal yourself." Willow added. "You don't have to hide your spells."

"I used those spells earlier, Willow."

Willow's eyes went round. "You were hurt that bad?"

"More or less." Shawukay said. "It is a... long story."

"So tell us, girl." Cordelia said. "Or is it another secret?"

Shawukay held up her right hand. "Short form, then. Ring of regeneration. Heals one day's injuries in an hour or two."

"And you're still that bad off." Willow concluded, seeing the obvious.

Shawukay nodded, then grasped a chair for support.

"My God, did you die or something?" Xander asked at an attempt for humor, but it died as he saw the look of confirmation in her eyes. "Oh, shit..."

"For about twenty minutes, Xander." she confirmed.

"Yeah, right. Stop trying to scare us. We're not impressed." Cordy said.

The half-elf looked at Cordelia, then to Jenny. "Jenny, do your people have experience using magic to talk to spirits? Those who have passed beyond?"

Jenny nodded, not seeing the direction this was going. "Some. Why do you ask?"

"Tell me about the Ghost Roads."

Jenny, Giles, and Cassandra paled, while Robin spit up in surprise.

"You remembered?" Cassandra asked.

Shawukay nodded, then sat down. "Jehanne told me I must return. The ring would have brought me back anyway."

Cordelia looked around. "What are the Ghost Roads?"

"The area between life and the afterlife. Very few spiritualists have even written about them."

"So she wouldn't know," Jenny added, "unless.."

The others looked back to the ranger, who looked ready to faint. Willow walked over, and helped her up.

"Come on, Shaw. You need some attention."

She nodded, and slowly followed her into the office.

Once they were out of sight, Giles turned to Enrico. "Enrico, I truly apologize."

Enrico shook his head. "I forgot her reaction after the fight in here."

"Oh, dear. I understand."

"Understand what, Rupert?"

"Well, Sonja, it seems that Shaw is somewhat... modest, I think is the right word."

The younger Slayerettes stared. "Modest?" Cordy asked. "Her?"

"Imagine someone being embarrassed because I saw her wearing a top that left only her arms and stomach bared." Giles said.

"You're kidding." Xander said. "She had everything else covered, but she was embarrassed."

Enrico nodded in confirmation.

"How is that possible?" Jenny asked with a smile.

"Keep in mind, her world is six centuries, perhaps more, behind ours. In more than technology, it would seem."

"No wonder she's so strange." Amy said. As the others looked at her, she shrugged. "Okay, not so strange for this town."

"I can't wait to hear how she beat the assassin." Xander said. "Imagine the shape HE had to be in."

*****

"So? How'd you beat him?"

Shawukay looked at her as she peeled the tunic off, hissing as the dried blood made it stick in places.

"Look at my throat."

Willow saw the red line across it. "He was strangling you."

"Yes. Now... look at my stomach."

Willow looked at the sword wound. The half-elf turned around, showing the witch the smaller, similar wound in her back.

"I don't get it, Shaw."

"He was strangling me from behind. I could not hit him with my sword. Left, right, or over my shoulder. That left... through."

"Through?" Willow looked blank, then got the idea. "Goddess!! You... did THAT!"

"Lives would have been at stake had the prophecy not been fulfilled."

"But.."

"Willow," she said, cutting her off. "For the first time in years, I have true friends. After twenty-five years, almost half my life, I have kin again. I would gladly sacrifice myself to protect that."

"But... geez, Shaw! You're still hurt! Why.. oh. Your back."

Shawukay nodded. "I am simply not ready for that. I do not want to hide anything, but... you understand."

"I do. Now let me take care of those wounds."

Shawukay hesitated, but lifted the undershirt so that Willow could take care of the back wound. Willow heard her curse in the elven tongue softly as she applied peroxide to the cut. She applied gauze and a bandage, and told her patient to turn around.

She did, and lowered the top. Willow applied the same treatment to the stomach wound, finishing fairly quickly.

"I see why you didn't want anyone to see your back." Willow said softly.

"Yes. When I am ready, I will tell you."

"C'mon. Xander wants to know how you won."

Shawukay reached for her tunic, and looked at it in disgust. "It would not be good for me to put this on over the wounds." she said, looking at Willow.

Willow shook her head. "No."

The ranger sighed, and rolled up the ruined garment. "This will be embarrassing."

Willow giggled. "I've seen a lot of girls wear less."

"I have seen those monstrosities you call swim suits." she said with a sick look, which made Willow giggle harder.

"The guys won't say anything. Except maybe Xander. And Cordelia will kick his butt if he does."

"Willow, after this, I... probably will need assistance getting to Father Johansen's."

"Oz and I can give you a ride."

"Thank you. For this and... for being my friend." she said, and got up and walked back into the main room.

Willow and Shawukay sat down, the latter exhaling in pain as she did.

"Okay, Shaw, spill it. How'd you kill Hell's assassin?"

Shawukay looked at Xander. "You truly wish to know." He nodded eagerly. "By driving my sword through my own body into his heart." she said, deadpan.

"Eeeeeewwwww!" Cordelia said. "Stop being gross, Hunter."

"Uh, Cordy," Willow started, but stopped when Shawukay stood.

She pointed at the gauze on her stomach. "Entrance." She turned around. "Exit. Willow can confirm this."

She turned back around at sat down again.

The others looked at the computer expert, who nodded, still looking sick herself, and several of the group began gagging.

"Eeeeeewwwww!" Cordelia repeated.

"WHY?!?" Frank shouted.

"I do not like being strangled from behind. It was the only option that I had."

"You had spells, didn't you?" Jenny asked.

"Not for offense. My spells are more defensive, elemental, or healing in nature."

Giles stared at her. "You were willing to sacrifice yourself to fulfill the prophecy?"

Shawukay simply nodded, looking tired.

"How many spells did you cast tonight?" Amy asked.

She closed her eyes, mentally playing back over the events. After a few seconds, she answered. "Seven."

"No wonder you're wasted! That many spells, plus the combat, you really pushed yourself to the edge."

Again, she nodded. "How are the rest of you? Randi Jessup fulfilled her destiny?"

"Yeah, I did. Cut the demon's head off." Randi answered.

"Excellent." she said, then spoke again. "The vampires? The Second?"

"Done. And done. Prophecy over." Xander said.

"Good. Shall we exchange stories, or save them for later?"

The others looked to Giles, who shook his head. "Perhaps they should wait until later."

"Very well." Shawukay said tiredly. "Willow, may I still receive that ride?"

Oz looked to Willow, who nodded in concern. He nodded back.

Everyone got up and left, save Jenny and Giles.

"I know you. What's wrong, Rupert?"

"She actually died to defeat the demon." Giles said. "And magic brought her back."

"You're wondering if it's really her?" Jenny asked in surprise.

"She seemed more open, almost... friendly."

"And almost tore Enrico's arm off." Jenny retorted. "And she was as blunt as always."

Giles chuckled. "There is that."

"I sense a 'but' coming..."

"Jenny, she's short-tempered, direct to the point of being rude, stubborn, and obviously reckless." Giles snapped, more to himself than her. "She actually stabbed herself to kill an opponent. She has no idea of teamwork..."

"So you, and Steve, will have your hands full."

"IF she agrees to join us."

"You going to ask her?"

Giles realized he'd given something away. "The thought had crossed my mind, Jenny."

"Well, she considers you a mentor, in her own words. Also, consider she has to learn more about us. And, she has more than one reason to accept. But don't be surprised if she's reluctant."

"Meaning?"

"The very reasons she has to accept, friends and family, are new to her again. Give her some time to make her choice, however long she needs."

Giles nodded. The two teachers walked into his office, and Giles moaned at the sight of the rolled up, bloody wet tunic on his desk.

Jenny let out a full laugh. "Rupert, she wasn't in good shape. And if you want something to moan about, wait until she meets Buffy."

The moan grew louder.

*****

As Robin and Amy rode towards Amy's house, Robin gripped his door as Amy tore through the town.

<As if woman drivers weren't bad enough.> he thought. <Amazon drivers are worse.>

"Uh, Amy, could you slow down a bit?" he asked nervously.

To his surprise, she actually did, and pulled over to the curb.

"Thanks," he muttered. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Amy sighed, and nodded, turning off the car. "She died, Robin."

"I know," the sprite said. "I could read it. So if anyone's still dubious about her story, tell them I said it."

"Why did she do it?" the witch asked. "She came here, told us about herself, and she dies to fulfill the prophecy. I can't figure this girl out."

"Why, because she cares. And she's easy to figure out, sweetheart," Robin clarified. "One of your own people said, 'There be no greater love, than for a man to lay down his life for another.' You heard her tell her life story, or most of it. She's had a rough few years, and she's on the way back to the good side."

"She wasn't evil, Robin," Amy said testily. "I do know that much."

"No, but she isn't the way she was originally," he said. "She was on the vengeance kick for a long time."

"I know, Robin," she snapped. "But what happens now that she's fulfilled her mission?"

"Maybe she'll stay, although I don't like the idea of looking over my shoulder, to see if she's gonna run me through if I say the wrong thing."

"That's cold, Robin," Amy said, giving him a nasty glance. "She needs something like us, to give her a chance to stop wandering."

"I'd be careful, if I were you," Robin said, with a smile that told Amy she'd been set up. "You actually sound as if you're defending her."

Amy sat there, her eyes indicating that she was thinking about what he'd said. Finally, she shrugged.

"Maybe I feel sorry for her."

"Or, maybe you aren't so angry at her for not telling you?"

"Oh, I'm still mad, but I can understand. I'm just not too down with the part about the other dimension."

Robin looked at her like she'd sprouted a second head. "What? The ears and eyes don't bother you? It doesn't matter?"

"Of course not," Amy said, shrugging. "I'm dating a fairy myself, aren't I? And having a half-elven cousin from another dimension doesn't sound as weird as some of the stuff we've seen lately, you know?"

"Too true," Robin said. "So, are you going to be able to accept her?"

"Yeah, I think so," she replied, "it'll take some time, though."

"She said she'd give it to you. Now, let's take some time for, ahem, other matters, shall we?"

Amy grinned, and peeled out, leaving Robin shrieking in fright.

*****

Sunnydale High School
Sunnydale, California
10 September 1998

"Would you mind telling me why you were absent, Miss Hunter?"

"Sir, I was..." she started, then hesitated.

"Tell me. I can't wait to hear your excuse." Snyder said.

Shawukay pulled down the collar of her turtleneck. "I was attacked, from behind, by someone. I... defended myself."

"How?" he asked, still somewhat dubious.

"By kicking him in..." she stopped, pretending to be ashamed.

"Where?!?"

"Between his legs." she said meekly. <Think on that, Snyder.>

Snyder took in the mark on her neck, and the image her story presented.

"I see. Uhm, well, uh... two hours detention on Monday, as a warning to have your guardian call."

Shawukay 'perked' up. "Thank you, sir." she said brightly.

Snyder looked shocked. "You're thanking me for detention!"

"I can attempt to make up the lessons I missed yesterday. Thank you for understanding, sir."

"But, I... you... uh.."

A concerned look came over her face. "Are you well?"

Snyder recovered. "Go to class, Hunter."

"Yes, sir." <The look on your face was worth it.>

*****

The Slayerettes were discussing the previous night at their usual table, and laughing at one of Xander's jokes when Shawukay walked up.

"Would it be... permissible to join you?"

At the chorus of surprised affirmatives, she sat down, somewhat hesitantly.

"Shaw, what are you doing here?" Cordelia asked.

"You said I could join you." she said blankly.

Cordy tried again. "Why are you at school?"

"I am a student here, Cordelia Chase."

Cordelia screamed in frustration, causing the group to laugh. Shawukay looked around, confusion evident in her expression.

Xander tapped her hand. "Why are you here today, after your ordeal last night? You were dead on your feet, Shaw. Or, that is.."

She nodded in understanding. "Some healing spells took care of most of the.. problems."

"You call a sword hole in your stomach a 'problem?'"

Shawukay looked sick. "Xander, it is hard enough to eat the food here without you mentioning that."

That set off another round of laughter at the look on Xander's face. The half-elf simply smiled a bit.

The laughter increased as she related the story of her morning meeting with Snyder.

From the shadows, two figures watched intently.

"Well, Joanie, she seems back on the track. You were right."

"It is a.. beginning. And do not call me that, Whistler." Jehanne said.

Back at the table, Cordelia looked at Shawukay. "Shaw, we girls are going to the mall tomorrow, you want to join us?"

"What is the purpose?"

"Randi's clothes got toasted by the demon, so we're using the excuse to go shopping."

"Shopping?" Shawukay repeated, a look of dread coming over her face. "Oh, no..."

Amy took her arm. "Consider it your first step to becoming, well..."

"Human?" she asked, a frown coming over her face.

Amy flinched. "How about, 'modern.'"

Shawukay folded her arms. "Is that a challenge, Amy Madison?" she asked in faked severity.

"You got that right, Shaw Hunter. That Robin Hood look of yours makes us
nervous." she said, trying not to grin.

The half-elf looked Amy over, and saw the first signs of acceptance in her kin. "I accept, Amy."

She turned to Cordelia. "I will.. need help with this. I heard Rupert Giles tell you about.."

Cordy smiled. "One step at a time. I don't want to shock you to death in one day."

*****

Shawukay stacked several books that had been returned recently, and walked over to Giles' office.

"The tomes... I mean, the books have been properly sorted. Is there anything else?"

Giles looked up. "Yes, Shaw. Sit down, please."

She sat in the chair, and waited for him to begin.

"It has been brought to my attention that you met with Principal Snyder, and told him you were attacked."

"That is ALL I told him, yes." she replied. "He did not ask for exact details."

Giles smiled. "I see. Very good. As per your preferences, I shall be direct. Would you be interested in joining our fight? In a, shall I say, official capacity?"

"Rupert Giles, can you define 'official?' It seems to me that you mean more than just this group."

"Yes. Steven, our commander, can tell you more. I can tell you that Cassandra, Frank, Buffy and the MacLeods are members of this group."

Shawukay considered that information. "Can you tell me your... is 'mission' the correct word for this?"

Giles told her everything he could, from Steve St. Wolf's arrival in Sunnydale, to the fight in L.A., as well as other missions that "Section Seven" had performed. She sat silently, her expression never changing.

Once Giles finished, she spoke softly. "You have done this much? For others?"

"Yes, Shaw."

"That is all I ever wanted to do, why I joined the Harpers. Before," she stopped, remembering. "I threw it away for revenge. It is what I am trying to do again."

"I know. But to be honest, Shaw, your style is not compatible with ours. Your are reckless, headstrong, and not a 'team player,' as it were. This would be likely to cause problems that we cannot afford in such a group. Also in question are your temper, and your ability to follow orders. In your favor, however, those who speak IN your favor, from Jehanne to the MacLeods to even Willow, carry some weight. You have skill, experience that only Immortals can match, and you have magical skills, as well as some knowledge of magical theories, despite not being a mage. Also, you seem to be adjusting to life here fairly well. The greatest thing in your favor is your desire to help others, but, Shaw, there ARE limits, which I believe you surpassed last night."

"I exercised the only option available, Rupert Giles."

"Perhaps you did, but that is part of the question of your ability to act as a member of a group." he said. "You need not make your decision now. We know you might need time to think about it."

"I can give you my answer now." she said, surprising the Watcher. "As much as I wish I could accept this offer, I cannot."

"You won't even consider it?"

"Your arguments are valid, and accurate. But what you forget is that I have but the basic training in your fighting arts, as well as my intense dislike of Earth weapons. I would be a liability in most combats, unless the fight would be similar to one on my world. In short, I lack the training and experience that the rest of you already have. That outweighs anything I can offer at this point."

Giles nodded, surprised at her own arguments. "Very well, I concede you the point. What would you like to do, then?"

"I.. would like to join the group here." At his puzzled look, she continued. "Sunnydale. To fight the darkness here. This I can do, and have done for years. Only now, I am again doing it for the right reasons. Also, I have seen the skills the others have. If I can learn these, then eventually I can join your 'Section' without hesitation. If you would allow it, that is."

"You want to start off slow, in other words." Giles remarked.

Shawukay smiled at his understanding. "Yes, Rupert Giles. I have friends, here. Family, however tentative the relationship, HERE. There is also the issue of trust. I trust all of you, but in your own words, I have yet to prove myself. And I see perhaps one benefit that you have not."

"Go ahead."

"Until I am ready, when the others are gone, I could cover for them here. It.. would be a sign that they trust me to keep their home safe."

"A security force, or something similar."

"The Slayer travels, but 'the Hunter' remains." she said, not liking the title. "That would have to be discussed with your leader, this Steven. It must be his decision. Also, I... want to leave the constant fighting behind for a time, to be... normal, I suppose, then take up the fight again."

"So, not Section Seven, but a Slayerette."

"A what?"

"The name Xander gave the original group, myself, Buffy, Willow and Xander himself. It stayed with us." Giles explained. "Welcome to the Hellmouth, Shawukay Redarrow."

"Rupert Giles, as long as I am here, I believe Shaw Hunter is more appropriate. I have... grown used to it."

Giles smiled. "Very well, Shaw. Do you have a middle name?" At her blank look, he clarified. "Earth people often have a name between their given and family name. Often after a relative, for example. It would be good for your identity. And, it should be appropriate."

Shaw considered, and nodded. "I have one. I may regret this choice, but it is all I have."

"What is it? We can have Willow make the corrections via the computer."

She closed her eyes. "Madison."

Giles didn't seem surprised by her choice. "I'll have Willow make the changes. We'll be meeting after school. Will you be here?"

She looked at him with a funny look. "You are the mentor. Of course I will."

He smiled. "I shall see you then."

*****

Epilogue 1: Meetings

"I'm here to make you an offer that you can't refuse."
---Vito Corleone
The Godfather

Sunnydale High Computer Lab
Sunnydale, California
11 September 1998

"Shaw, can I see you a minute?" Jenny asked.

As the class looked at her, wondering what kind of trouble she was in, Shaw nodded. "Yes, Ms. Calendar."

"Good. Saves me running these books to the library." she finished with a grin.

The classmates went back to their own business, as they realized they'd been had in a minor joke.

As the bell rang, the kids got up and left, with Shaw staying behind.

"Yes, Jenny?"

"Before you head to the mall with the others," she said, giggling at the sour look on the half-elf's face, "meet us in the library. Just the girls, no guys."

"Is this concerning... my choice of a 'middle' name?"

Jenny looked perplexed. "What is it, anyway? Rupert and Willow were quiet on that matter, but Amy seemed to think your choice was, well, 'a surprise,' to use her words. She seemed to approve, though."

"It was..." she said, hesitating. "Amy's maternal last name."

"I see. Then I agree with Amy, I approve." she said with a smile. "But the others and I want you to meet someone."

"This 'Buffy?' The Slayer?"

"No." Jenny said with a mysterious grin. "You'll meet her on Monday."

"Jenny, please tell me this is something that will not require swords, daggers, or similar items." she said. "I am finally healed from the other night."

Jenny laughed. "I swear. As a.. Vistani, as you call me."

"That is hardly reassuring, Jenny Calendar." Shaw replied, her eyebrows rising.

Jenny's laugh only escalated.

*****

Sunnydale High Library
Sunnydale, California
11 September 1998

Shaw walked into the library, where Jenny, Cordelia, Willow and Amy were waiting for her. They stopped talking as she entered. They all had grins on their faces.

"Hi, Shaw." Willow said. "Glad you could make it."

"Hello, Willow. Jenny, you wanted me to meet someone?"

"That would be me." a female voice said from behind.

Shaw turned quickly, assuming a defensive stance, before realizing this had been arranged, and relaxed a bit, but stayed on her guard.

The woman in front of her nodded in approval. "Good reflexes, and on her guard, despite the relaxed posture. Very good." she said. "Your stories would seem to be accurate, Jenny."

"Who are you?" Shaw demanded, drawing gasps from Amy and Willow.

The woman laughed. "It seems ALL I've heard is true. Hello, Shaw. So you are the one who these four have been discussing so frequently."

A quick glance behind her, and she nodded. "I am Shaw Hunter."

"I am Artemis,..."

"Greek Goddess of the Hunt and the Moon, known to the Romans as Diana. Twin sister of Apollo." Shaw finished, drawing another nod of approval.

"And our Patron Goddess, Shaw." Jenny added from behind.

Shaw turned. "Truly?" The four nodded.

The ranger turned and bowed slightly, also inclining her head. "Lady Artemis. It is an honor that they think me worthy of meeting you. I wish I could return the favor."

"I have heard good things about you. These four say you are a hunter, like me."

"Yes," she said, averting her eyes. "Deer are my favorite game."

"How about bear?" Artemis asked mischievously.

"I have on a very few occasions, Lady Artemis. I do not do it often. I am not suicidal."

The Goddess giggled. "Enough shop talk. I'm here because these four wanted to make you an offer."

Shaw's guard went up another notch. "An offer?"

"To make you like Jenny, Cordelia, Willow and Amy."

Shaw shook her head. "I have no desire to become fully human."

Artemis let out a full laugh, drawing a look of irritation from Shaw. "No, they wanted me to offer to make you an Amazon, like them."

Shaw turned and gazed at Willow. "Now I can see why I mistook you for this Buffy," she said.

Willow smiled, and said, "I know. I was confused about that at first, too. I figured it out later."

The half-elf turned back to the Goddess. "Lady Artemis, I cannot accept your kind offer."

This drew gasps from the assembled Amazons, which grew louder when Artemis said, "And I wasn't going to make it, Shaw."

Jenny looked at her Patron. "Lady Goddess, we believe Shaw to be worthy of this blessing. We thought you would approve of her."

"And I do. However, my sister Goddess from Finland has a prior claim to her. That's why I can't make her an Amazon."

Shaw looked the Goddess of the Hunt in the eye. "You know the Lady of the Forest?"

"Yes. We sometimes got together for a little fun in the mortal world. It's good to see she still has worshippers as dedicated as you obviously are."

Shaw lowered her head and blushed, which somewhat surprised the Slayerettes, who weren't used to seeing the ranger so flustered. "Thank you, Lady Artemis."

"It's good to see a daughter of Mielikki on this plane again. But there is something we must discuss. Have you noticed the effect on your priestly magic?"

"Yes," Shaw said. "It is about twice as powerful, in effect, and duration, if not in range or level of power, such as the more powerful magics. It was explained to me."

"What will happen is, as you grow more experienced, and as you live here on Earth longer, you will lose the limitations as to the number of spells you can cast each day. You will still have to gain the ability to cast the more advanced spells of your faith, but you will be able to cast more of the spells you are capable of. It's a matter of you becoming more attuned to Mielikki's power on this plane of existence."

"I understand, Lady Artemis. I apologize that I could not accept the offer, had you made it. Mielikki is the Goddess in my heart."

Artemis placed her hands on Shaw's shoulders. "I understand. As I said, I knew Mielikki when she was worshipped here. It is good to see one of her daughters here again."

Shaw looked into her eyes and nodded. "Thank you."

"I would have enjoyed having you serving me."

Shaw smiled. "Lady Artemis, one of my kin does serve you."

The Goddess blinked. "Who?"

Amy groaned. "I'm gonna get even with you for that, 'cousin.'"

Shaw turned, and saw the glint of mischief in Amy's eyes. "You will try, Amy."

Artemis looked between the two of them. "How did this happen, if I may ask?"

"Another long story, Lady." Willow giggled.

"I see. I cannot wait to hear this. Shaw, it was good to meet you. May your Goddess watch over you."

"Thank you, Lady Artemis."

Artemis vanished from the library, leaving the Amazons and half-elven ranger alone. After several seconds, Shaw spoke up, not looking at the others.

"I hope you will not think less of me for this."

"Why would we?" Surprisingly, it was Cordelia who spoke.

"For the fact that I would not have accepted the gift you wanted me to have."

"Shaw," Amy said, "it shows how devoted you are to your Patron. Can't fault you for that."

"She also stood by me, in those... dark years. She forgave me, I must stand by her." Shaw said. "My heart, and soul, are spoken for."

Willow hugged her from behind. "But you're still gonna be one of us?"

"You would not be rid of me that easily, Willow Rosenburg."

*****

Sunnydale Cemetery
Sunnydale, California
13 September 1998

"Who are you, mortals?" the leader of the six vamps asked.

"I would be the Wanderer," Steve said casually.

"And I would be the Slayer," Buffy said, following suit.

The vampires turned to run, but stopped short at the sight of a figure stepping from behind a crypt, with glowing red eyes. She was holding a longbow, and a sword was belted at her hip.

"Oh no! The Hunter!!"

The "Hunter" shot two arrows in quick succession, dusting one vamp, before drawing her sword, which lit in white flames. The five vampires turned tail. . .straight into Demon Slayer and Vampire Slayer.

It took all of twenty seconds to dust them.

Steve and Buffy looked around, but there was no sign of the other person.

"You know, honey, I was kinda hoping to keep it simple our first day back."

"Sorry, Buffy," Steve said. "But you have to go to school tomorrow."

Buffy groaned. "Don't remind me! Let's call Giles."

Steve called the Watcher on his cell phone. "Giles residence."

"Giles, Steve. We got five, number six was dusted by someone else, with a longbow of all things."

"You saw the Hunter?"

"That's what they called her. Any info?"

"I don't want to discuss this over the phone. How about tomorrow, after Buffy makes up her schoolwork?"

"Gee, thanks Giles." Buffy muttered.

"Talk to you tomorrow." Steve said, turning the phone off.

"Wiggins, Steve. I don't like this."

"Don't worry, Buffy. It'll be okay."

As Steve and Buffy left, Xander and Cordelia finally let the laughter out from their hiding place.

"Xander Harris, you are terrible!"

"C'mon, Cordy, this'll top anything Mulder or Casey could pull."

Shaw walked up. "That was sufficient, Xander?"

"You were great. The 'Batman' entrance and exit were perfect."

"Xander, I realize my sense of humor is, what did you call it?"

"A work in progress."

She nodded. "But I do not wish to make a wrong impression."

Cordelia stood up from behind the gravestone. "It'll be fun. Just remember your part on Monday."

*****

Sunnydale High Library
Sunnydale, California
14 September 1998

"Giles?" Buffy called as she and Steve walked into the library. There was no answer. "Wil? Xand? Anybody?"

A student neither had seen before walked out of the stacks. She was wearing a long white dress, with short sleeves, and sandals. She wore her black hair in a plain ponytail that left her ears covered. Her hazel eyes looked friendly.

"May I help you?" she asked in a strange accent.

Buffy smiled. "I was looking for Giles.. ah, Mr. Giles."

"I see. He is taking care of... personal business. May I leave a message?"

"Sure. Tell him Buffy came by?"

Her eyebrows rose. "Buffy Summers?"

Buffy and Steve were taken aback. "Yeah. Do I know you?"

Her eyes grew cold. "You are the Immortal Slayer." She turned to Steve. "The Wanderer?"

Both went into defensive mode. "And you would be?" Buffy demanded.

"The half-human, half-elven warrior priestess from another dimension whose human ancestry originated on Earth and is a blood relative of one of your Slayerettes," she said blandly.

Buffy just stared at her. "Riiiight. Okay. We'll be going now. Bye-bye."

"Buffy Summers."

"Yeah?" the Slayer said with a glare.

"Do you still wish for me to leave a message for Rupert Giles?" she asked innocently.

Buffy replied with a confused, "Uh, no, that's all right." She then turned to Steve and said, "Why do we get all the weird ones?" Both Immortals were startled as a round of laughter broke out from the office.

They looked over, and Xander, Cordelia and the others walked out, laughing. Frank and Cassandra walked in the doors behind them with smiles plastered on their faces. Giles was the last one out of the office, looking somewhat flustered.

"Okay, what's going on?" Steve asked.

"Set up, of course." Frank replied. "You should see the looks on your faces. We hid a camera, so we can show Mulder and the others."

"What's the setup?" Buffy asked, totally at a loss.

Shaw walked up and extended her hand. "Buffy Summers, I am Shaw Hunter. The others speak highly of you."

Buffy just stared at her hand. "Okay, Wil, who is she?"

Willow grinned. "The half-human, half-elven warrior priestess from another dimension."

"Whose human half is from Earth." Xander continued.

"And IS my cousin from four generations back." Amy finished, then looked at Shaw. "Though we're both still getting used to that information." To that, Shaw nodded emphatically, one corner of her mouth turned upwards.

"You're kidding." Steve said, looking at Shaw.

"Duncan said almost the same thing when Connor told him." Shaw said, then added something in the elven tongue.

Steve's eyebrows went up, and he answered. Then he said something, which sounded like a question.

She replied, and Steve's answer was to laugh.

"English, please, honey." Buffy snapped.

Steve grinned. "I can't wait 'till you meet Mulder. He likes that move."

"Giles, what's going on?"

"I'm sorry, Buffy, but the others... outvoted me on this joke. Shaw is the newest member of our group, and her history was the truth. I'll fill you in."

Steve regarded Giles and Shaw. "You signed her up?"

"Not for Section Seven, Steve. She feels she isn't ready. She would like to start with the core group here in Sunnydale, and train under you until she is ready. She has had some training with Connor, which I think she told you, if I'm not mistaken."

Shaw nodded to that. "Yes, Rupert Giles, I did."

"I see." Steve said. "Would you mind if I had Giles tell me your background, rather than you? No offense, but.."

"None taken, Steven St. Wolf. The others speak highly of you, as they do Buffy Summers. You are the warleader, Rupert Giles the mentor."

Steve looked at her in surprise. "That was an elven term. Warleader, one word."

Shaw nodded.

"Welcome to Sunnydale."

"Thank you, Steven St. Wolf."

"Let me guess, you would be the Hunter?"

A grimace at the title, but she nodded again.

"What's with the eyes?" Buffy asked.

Steve and Shaw answered at the same time. "Infrared vision."

Shaw continued. "I see by body heat at night. And since vampires do not generate such.."

"Built in vamp detector." Buffy said with a grin. "Nice system."

Shaw looked at her. "Thank you, but it is simply... genetics, you call it?"

"Why didn't you introduce yourself last night?"

Shaw just looked to her right, with Steve and Buffy following her gaze.

Straight to Xander.

"Oooohh. Now I get it." Steve said.

Xander glared at Shaw. "Traitor." he muttered.

"Work in progress?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.

Cordelia laughed, but the others didn't get it.

"Et tu, Cordy?"

"Yep. Us girls gotta stick together."

"Thank you so much." Xander grumbled.

"Okay, enough." Steve laughed. "What happened while we were gone?"

Giles related the events covering the prophecy, including Shaw's arrival and revelation, the arrival (and departure) of Angelus, Spike, and Drusilla, to the involvement of the Cenobites. Buffy and Steve both shot looks towards Shaw and Randi at Giles' report of their involvement in the prophecy, but both just nodded to confirm Giles' words. Eventually, he finished.

"Questions, Steve?" Giles asked.

"For Shaw, yes. About the rest, nope. You guys did great. I'm sorry we missed the action."

Buffy sent a mock glare at Steve. "Oh, really?"

Steve realized his predicament. "I did say we, Buffy."

She seemed less than satisfied, but dropped the matter.

<Whew.> Steve thought. "Alright, I'd like Giles, Jenny, Buffy and Shaw to stay. Everyone else, enjoy yourselves tonight. You damn well earned it."

Once the others left, Steve broke the uncomfortable silence.

"Okay, Shaw, I have a few questions, if you don't mind."

"Not at all, Steven St. Wolf."

"Did Joan of Arc really appear to you?"

Shaw nodded. "More than once, although I did not know her identity until Rupert Giles showed me her picture. She chose Randi Jessup to wield her sword. Angelus called it the... Sword of St. Catherine? I do not know why, since it was Jehanne's sword."

Steve rubbed his forehead. "I'll explain that later. Do you realize what Connor's going to say when he finds out what he gave you?"

Shaw shrugged. "It was Jehanne's choice. It was HER sword, after all."

"That's not going to help me much."

"If he objects, tell him I have a cloudburst waiting." she said, with a small smile. "He will understand."

"You killed Raymond McGuire."

"Yes," she said uncomfortably. "I gave him a chance to withdraw. It was not pleasing, killing him."

"Okay." Steve said. "Anything else?"

Shaw told him the same things she'd shared with the others, holding back only the things she hadn't shared. Giles and Jenny added their own opinions and observations as well, until eventually Steve nodded.

"I've heard enough. Shaw, as you yourself said, you're not ready for the Section. I see the beginnings, because of your experience, of a position in the future. I think your choice to work locally is sound, given your desire to put the past behind you. I will confess, I do think your idea of staying to cover here while we're on missions has some merit. I won't push you too fast, but you will have to train with us. Also, you'll have to follow orders from whomever I tell you to take them from. Can you do that?"

"I will, Steven. Or I will learn to."

"At least you're honest. Next, when I say to stop training, you rest. Giles talked to Connor, who says you tend to go too far."

Shaw nodded. "I understand. Connor and I discussed that matter."

Steve smiled. "Good. Next, when we train, you hold back a bit. Don't go all out. I'm not saying roll over and die, but don't go lethal force on us."

"Steven, I am used to treating training as if were real."

"Just be careful, is what I'm saying."

"Very well. Is there anything else?"

"I know you haven't shared everything with us. I, and all of the others, will respect your privacy. But if there's anything that we might have come back on us, we need to know now, before we leave."

"You know about my comrades in Santa Carla?"

Steve looked to Giles. "Giles?"

"She told us."

"This." Shaw pulled out the sword guard charm given to her by Sub-Zero. "You would probably know more about this than I. The Lin-Kuei?"

Steve whistled. "Yeah. A debt marker. He explained the purpose?"

"Yes, Steven. I avenged his clan's dishonor, defeating the demon."

"Okay, that brings up another matter. Try not to run yourself through with a sword anymore."

Shaw bowed her head. "I have explained that."

"I just mean we'd rather have you alive and well."

"I understand."

Steve nodded. "Anything else, Shaw?"

"They did not tell you about my empathic ability."

Giles and Jenny looked surprised, which drew a glance at Shaw from Steve. "Explain."

She did, including the limitations, and the fact she couldn't turn it off. "I know Oz is... more than human. I told the others, including Oz, about this, but I have respected Oz's privacy. I, of all people, realize the need for secrets." She looked at Giles. "I thought the others, at least, had told you."

"Thank you for sharing it, though." Giles said.

"Okay. I think we've covered enough." Steve said. "Buffy?"

Buffy extended her hand, which Shaw took. "Welcome to the team, Shaw."

Shaw smiled. "Thank you, Buffy Summers."

Steve looked at her. "Training tomorrow, five p.m. Will you be there?"

A gleam entered Shaw's eyes, and Buffy giggled.

"I'll take that as a yes."

"Steven, one thing that Cordelia could have mentioned, had she been here, that I think you should know beforehand."

Steve nodded. "What is it?"

"According to the local blooddrinkers, I make Buffy Summers look... civilized?"

Buffy blinked, then looked at Steve.

"Oh, great." he mumbled.

*****

Epilogue 2: Practice

"It is SO hard, bein' this pretty!"
---Wesley Snipes
White Men Can't Jump

St. Wolf Residence
Sunnydale, California
15 September 1998

"Okay, Connor, what can I expect?"

Connor laughed over the speaker. "With the sword, frustration. She follows the 'duck-and-weave' method, and has the endurance to keep it up. Dagger, she can put one or more into your chest from twenty feet, and she's ambidextrous, so be warned. Don't even get me started on the longbow."

"Oh, I saw that."

"Exactly. I started her on karate, tae kwan do, and judo. You know about her tendency to push herself. Try to keep a rein on her. She might be fifty-three, but she's still young."

"Got it. I heard she countered one of your favorite techniques."

"Did she tell you HOW she did it?" he grumbled.

"Oh, yes. And I don't want you to tell Mulder."

The two shared a laugh.

"Connor, about that sword you gave her. Seems she gave it to Randi."

"You're kidding. That was kind of her."

"Frankly, Connor, I'm surprised you gave it to her."

"Why?" Connor asked, puzzled.

"Well, it WAS the Sword of St. Catherine, after all."

After a full minute, Connor whispered. "Don't say that, Steven. That's not funny."

"It is true, Connor." Shaw called from the corner.

"And how would YOU know, being from another world."

Steve smiled. "A little angel told her."

"Jonathan."

"No, Connor," Shaw said. "Jehanne."

Connor let out a loud groan. "Oh my God."

"No, JEHANNE."

"Steve, did I really give her Joan of Arc's sword?" Connor whined.

"Does it help that a prophecy said that Randi was destined to have it?"

The phone slammed down. Shaw looked at Steve in confusion.

"That would be a 'no.'" he explained with a grin.

*****

"Okay, Xander, you get to go first, after your little prank. And you can face..." he made a show of looking around. "Shaw."

"C'mon, Steve, she's only got two weeks training."

"Even better, for her, Xander."

"Just be glad we are not using swords, Xander."

Steve laughed. "Point taken. Here are the rules; neutralize your opponent's attack, however possible. Pin, tap out, however."

Shaw looked at Steve. "You are certain, Steven?"

"Literally, Shaw. First round, you attack, Xander defends."

Shaw nodded. She and Xander took up stances. Steve held up his hand, then chopped.

Shaw attempted a front kick, which Xander blocked, she faked a punch, and dropped into a sweep. Xander jumped it, threw a simple punch, which Shaw faded back from. She threw a kick at Xander's head, but Xander dropped, spin swept her other foot, and caused her to land on her back. He turned her over, and locked her into a hammerlock. She tried to break it, and seemed to consider something, but tapped out.

Xander released the hold and helped her to her feet. She looked none too pleased.

"Okay, Shaw." Steve said. "What were you thinking?"

"A headbutt. I did not know if I could hit him, also... the potential injury."

"Good call. You seemed upset."

"Only by my lack of skill. I recognize that Xander is better." she said simply.

"Okay, now you defend. Remember, however you can beat your opponent."

Shaw looked nervous. "Steven.."

"It doesn't matter, Shaw."

"Very well. But I think Xander should know.."

"It can wait. ATTACK!"

Xander threw a punch..

..and doubled over as Shaw executed a split and drove a fist into his groin. Xander fell to the mat.

Shaw cursed in Elvish while Xander lay there. She quickly cast a healing spell on him, and stood up, her face red in embarrassment.

Xander slowly stood up. "That was worth an 'ow,'" he said ruefully, and still a little painfully.

"I attempted to explain, Xander," Shaw said softly.

"Explain what, Shaw?" Steve barked.

"I do not fight fair."

The girls started laughing, except for Shaw, who grew redder. Steve just covered his face in frustration.

"Shaw.."

"It's your own fault, honey," Buffy said. "You said 'however,' and you said 'literally.'"

"But, Buffy.."

"And you said it could wait. She tried to say something."

Steve sighed. "Fine. Shaw, please try to refrain from using such... inventive moves. If you're that dangerous, no one will want to spar with you."

"Amen to that," Frank muttered, setting off another round of laughter.

"I understand, Steven."

"Okay. Let's work on some throws."

The workout proceeded, and Shaw squared off against Cordelia and Steve. She lost quickly to both people, and asked them to show her the moves she fell victim to. She also had Steve frustrated with her defensive style.

Once they had finished, Xander walked over to Shaw. She tensed when he clapped her on the shoulder.

"I am sorry, Xander. I was following the rules as he dictated them."

"Hey, it worked. Just, please don't do that again."

Cordy slapped him. "Xander, cut it out. She feels bad enough already."

Frank laughed. "Don't worry, Cordelia. Tomorrow, he faces her with a sword."

"Uh, Steve, practice swords, right? Her using a magical blade wouldn't be fair."

"Wooden blades." Steve said firmly. "Okay with you, Shaw?"

"I used such tools with Connor."

"Okay, everyone have a good night. Buffy and I will handle patrol tonight."

"Steven."

Steve paused. "Yes?"

"I have a matter to discuss with Jenny, Willow, and Amy, but I thought you should be notified of it as well."

"What is it?"

"The others discussed the... William and Drusilla. I am confused on this, how soulless demons can feel love. Would that have made it wrong to kill him or her if the chance had presented itself in the library?"

"Not if they attacked first."

"I see. I have read about what Angelus did to Drusilla, and have discussed with the others why they abandoned him. I.." she broke off, and picked a scroll out of her carrying bag. She walked over and handed it to Jenny.

"This is a curse that would restore their souls, permanently. However, someone of sufficient skill or power could negate the spell. Also, it is a priest spell, and once cast, the scroll is useless. I thought, if you can find someone to convert it to a version of your magic, you could cast it. Also, you might find a way to make it permanent. That is far beyond my skill, and... I would not cast a curse of any type, unless the situation were truly dire."

"You.. would do this for someone who threw you through a table?" Jenny asked.

"Yes, Jenny. I faced the darkness in myself, if I could remove it from someone else.."

"We'll consider it." she said. "What do you think, Steve? Rupert?"

Steve seemed to be thinking hard. "Spike and Dru with souls. Scary thought. I'll leave it up to you. Shaw, thanks for not going behind my back."

"Behind your back?"

"Thanks for being open about this."

Shaw nodded. "If I am going to be a member of this group, it was only proper that everyone know about this."

"Okay. Get out of here."

The others started to leave, and Willow caught Shaw.

"We're heading to the Bronze. Want to come?"

"Do you know how hard that music is on my hearing, Willow?" Shaw asked worriedly.

Willow's face fell. "Oh. Sorry."

Shaw relented with the hint of a ghost of a smile in her eyes. "I suppose, however, that I could tolerate it for one night."

"All right!" Cordelia said. "Let's go. See you there later, Steve, Buffy."

They walked out in a chattering jumble.

Steve looked at Buffy. "Well, what do you think?"

She grinned. "She's half human, female, from another world, and fights dirty. You're in big trouble."

"No kidding." Steve said as he pulled her into a casual embrace.

"Steve, give her a chance. She's good."

Steve rested his head on Buffy's shoulder from behind. "I just see now the kind of trouble Giles had with you."

Buffy smacked his arm playfully. "What was that for."

"For being a smartass," she said as she turned in his arms to kiss him.

*****

Unknown Ship
Outside Orbit of Pluto
16 September 1998

The creature checked its instruments, which indicated life on the third planet. It turned its ship towards that world. He would land in about two months.

"Ooman."

The End

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