Joyce, Shaw and Amy stared at the three fairies in shock, not able to accept what they just heard. "What do you mean, you wrote the scroll?" Amy said.
"I don't think our accents are that thick, lass," Liam said.
"Wait a minute, wait a minute, you wrote the scroll?" Amy repeated.
"Well, Robin did the actual penwork, we just helped with the wording," Aideen explained.
All three women looked over at Robin. "Terrific work, I must say. You know, the tricky part was going back every now and then to change to wording to keep up with the times, keep the ink aged, excellent workmanship, if I do-----"
"Robin!" Amy yelled.
"Sorry," Robin sobered. "For God's sake, keep your voice down. The last thing we need is for the others to hear this."
"Robin, what on Earth would possess you to forge the scroll?" Shaw asked in disbelief.
"Well, interesting choice of words, Shaw," Robin said. "Earth had nothing to do with it and yet everything as well."
"Oh, lord, he's gonna get on the podium again," Aideen muttered.
Robin sighed, slowly pacing about. "About four thousand years ago, the Oracles informed the Eternals that if something wasn't done, by the year 2000, using your current calendar, the Game would be over. And that scared everyone shitless."
"Why?" Joyce asked.
"Because if the Game is over, then that means the Prize has been won."
"Then there is a prize?" Amy asked. "What?"
"What it's always believed to be," Liam answered. "Power. The combined power of every Immortal who ever lived. Enough power to rule the world forever. Or destroy it. Power that can't be held, by anyone, ever."
"I do understand that you cannot allow an evil Immortal to gain the Prize----" Shaw began.
"Lass, ye don't get it," Aideen interrupted, shaking her head. "NO Immortal can ever gain the Prize. Or humanity will be ruled over by a dictator who is utterly invincible."
"But, it's someone like Steve or Buffy-----"
"Joyce, your daughter is a wonderful woman and Steve is one of the bravest men I know," Robin said. "But if any member of your race ever knew what he was talking about, it was Lord Action, when he said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. And this is absolute power, Joyce, believe me. It doesn't matter how good a person is, how old he or she is, we are talking power on a scale you can barely imagine."
"I can, Robin," Shaw put in.
"Shaw, what you saw and felt was nothing. Take that and multiply it to the thousandth power and you're nowhere near what the Prize would be. The Quickening alone would destroy all of New York City. I'm not just talking Manhattan, but the Bronx, Queens, the Boroughs and part of Jersey too. There is no way any human mind can handle an influx of power on a scale like that. They would be driven completely and utterly mad and a madman with the power of a god is a dangerous thing. For a prime example, look at yourself."
Shaw went silent, unable to argue with Robin's words as the faery continued. "Needless to say, the Oracles stirred up a shitstorm with that statement. Four thousand years may sound like a long time to you, but to us, it's not a lot. And the Eternals, especially the god ones, weren't crazy about the idea of a simple human suddenly coming onto their level and completely insane to boot."
"Especially given how the Game started," Aideen said. She became aware of everyone staring at her, Robin and Liam with expressions of pain. "Ah, hell, I did it again."
"Nice bloody going, Aid," Liam said. "We could have just gone by on this, tell them it was just to prevent a mad god from rising, but nooooo, we have to tell them bloody everything!"
"What do you mean?" Amy said. "You mean you know how the Game started?"
Robin sighed and nodded. "We do." He took a deep breath as he looked up at the others. "Eight thousand years ago, the Game didn't exist. It wasn't supposed to exist, it was never meant to happen."
"Then why-----?" Shaw started.
"Immortals were always intended to be humanity's defenders," Liam explained. "To be the first line against demons and the like, fighting in small groups and never having more power than each had. Swords were the best weapons then and so the elder Immortals would teach their students that way."
"There were also intended as a sot of last stand defense," Liam said. "Say you've got ten thousand Immortals facing a demon army. Those ten thousand get beheaded, the Quickening is equal to a forty-megaton nuclear explosion and the army's taken out."
"And new Immortals born soon pick up the slack and fill the void," Aideen added.
"A sound tactical maneuver," Shaw said. "So what the hell happened?"
"A demon named Farku hit upon a rather brilliant idea," Robin sighed. "He impersonated Krevar, at the time the oldest living Immortal and told Krevar's students that Immortals were meant to fight to the death and the winner absorbing his victim's power."
"And the two fight and the winner spreads the news and the Game starts," Amy said, shock in every word. "Goddess, this is unbelievable."
"Farku knew full well that the Game would soon whittle down the Immortal population so much that not even new Immortals being born would bring it up to their levels," Robin went on. "And that it would distract Immortals from ever turning their intentions to what should have been their true goal, the destruction of demons."
"Bastard did his job well," Aideen muttered. "You want a reason demons are so prevalent on Earth now? He's it."
"And he knew what the Prize would eventually do to the last Immortal," Robin said. "And he knew there could be no better way for demons to take control than to unleash a mad Immortal with the power of a God on Earth."
Joyce took a breath as she tried to process all this. "So, the...Eternals weren't just trying to protect their own interests. They didn't want the balance of power shifted."
"Shifted?" Liam snorted. "More like blasted to pieces, lass. This would have given the side of evil a major boost, so big that there may have been no stopping it. And to maintain a universal balance, the Eternals thought any means would be necessary."
"The arguments raged over the realms for years," Liam continued. "Finally, me, Rob, Aid and a couple of others got the idea of forging the scroll. We felt if people didn't think their was any point to the Game, it would stop." Liam fixed his friend with a gaze. "Course, we thought he'd leave it someplace where it could be found a lot sooner."
Robin rolled his eyes. "Hey, it had to look real. I couldn't just dump it in the middle of the local library, all right! I really thought someone would have found it a few centuries ago. Actually, it's better that it was found now, with the advances in communications and all, got the word out faster."
"Then what of Krevar,?" Shaw asked.
"Poor bloke just couldn't take how he'd been partially the cause of the genocide of Immortals by themselves," Liam said sadly. "He retired to holy ground for centuries, remained there until he was tricked out and beheaded just as the whole plan was coming together. So, that just played into things, made the whole thing more believable."
"I've always heard people say that the best way to make a lie convincing is to tell the truth," Joyce sighed. "Just switch a few details."
"What of the holy ground rule?" Shaw asked, curious.
"Now that was always in place before the whole Game thing," Liam said. "A little precaution just in case two Immortals ever quarreled."
"Just what would happen if an Immortal beheaded another on holy ground?" Joyce asked.
"The last time it happened was in a temple in Italy," Robin said. "In Pompei. In 79 A.D."
All three women's eyes widened as they realized he was talking about the volcanic eruption that destroyed the city. "So you faked this so the Prize wouldn't be won?" Amy was having a difficult time taking this in. "I can't believe this. So when Steve told Merlin----"
"Merlin doesn't know," Robin said plainly.
It would have been hard to shock the three women any more but Robin did it with that statement. "Yeah, he doesn't know," he went on to their stunned looks. "And neither does JP Withers. Or Horace and Bureau 13. In fact, as far as we know, there isn't a single non-Eternal on Earth that knows the truth."
"Okay, now I can't buy this," Amy shook her head. "How the hell can you keep this quiet >from them?"
"We've been keeping it quiet for four thousand years, lass," Liam said gently. "There was discussion about bringing them in but it was decided not to. That they couldn't know."
"Why not?" Shaw demanded.
"Because they're human," Aideen said gently. "Oh, I know it's hard to think of Merlin and JP in those terms but yes, they're human. And this is purely an Eternal matter. If those two knew the truth, they might tell it, whether by design or letting it out in anger."
"Yes, Merlin has proven capable of that," Shaw said sourly.
Amy shook her head. "What about what Shiva said in L.A.?"
Amazingly, Robin smiled. "Yeah, old Shiv did a nice one there. Almost worthy of me. He always on our side on this, agreed that Immortals and humanity deserved a chance. The Eternals all took a vow-----"
"One we're breaking, keep in mind," Aideen added.
"That we cannot even hint at the truth of the Scroll," Robin continued. "But we never said we couldn't help make it more believable, just like Shiva did then."
"So, you guys figured this was a secret just for your private little club?" Amy scowled, glaring at Robin, who shrunk back a bit from her anger.
"It's more than that, lass," Liam said gently. "It's why the three of ye can never tell anyone what you've heard, especially Steve. Because if he hears, he's going to want to tell and that's going to lead back to the Watchers. And if you think the Immortals are pissed about this being a fraud, think of how these guys feel with nothing to watch. A bunch of them will probably spread the word, get the Game going again just to have something to watch. And by doing so, they'll seal the fate of all mankind."
"What do you mean?" Joyce asked.
The three fairies were silent for a moment before Aideen spoke. "What we did was Plan A. And it took a lot of arguing to get it done and we've had to fight like hell over the centuries to make sure it stayed that way, that the gods wouldn't go off. If you talk, if the truth gets out....then it's on to plan B."
"To the gods, it's very simple," Robin sighed. "No Immortals, no Prize. Kill all the Immortals and there's no Game."
"Now wait a minute," Amy said, holding up a hand. "I know I may not be as big an expert on this but there are new Immortals being born all the time, even if no one knows how. Even if they behead every Immortal on Earth, there are going to be more being created."
"True, lass," Liam nodded.
"Well then, how are they-----" Joyce broke off, her eyes widening as she, along with Shaw and Amy realized what Liam was saying. "No," she whispered. "No, they can't. They can't kill all of humanity."
"They can," Aideen nodded. "Trust me, they have the power and more."
"There are thousands upon thousands of realities out there," Liam said. " Plenty of Earths. The Powers That Be wouldn't have much of a problem yanking the plug on one if things didn't work out right there.
"Wait a minute, wait a minute, what are we talking about here?" Amy asked.
"Armageddon," Liam answered. "Rangorak. Judgement Day. The end of the world as we know and trust me, no one's going to be feeling fine."
"Tthey can't just exterminate all of humanity!" Amy called out.
"For God's sake, and I emphasize that, keep quiet!" Aideen hissed. "And they wouldn't kill everyone. Just the ones likely to come into contact with the conditions that would create Immortals."
"Which are what?" Shaw asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Sorry," Aideen smiled slightly. "We're sworn on our lives to never divulge that."
Sighing, Shaw continued. "So, how many would be destroyed?"
"Well, I actually calculated that once," Liam explained. "Course, it's shifted due to natural balances, population growth, the progression of the game-----"
"How many?" Shaw said in an impatient tone.
Swallowing, Liam looked upward, as if trying to recalculate in his mind. "Five billion, eight hundred and seventy-four million, four hundred and fifty-eight thousand, nine hundred and forty-six. Give or take a few hundred million, of course."
"And there's another aspect," Aideen calmly added. "Something like that would require a razing of the natures of this planet. Including magic. So by the end of it, no more wizards or witches or mages or such. Old Merlin and JP, if they survive, wouldn't be able to do card tricks after it's all over."
The three women stared at him in total shock. They glanced over at Robin and Liam, who just stood there with sober expressions. "Jesus Christ," Joyce whispered, slumping into a chair. "I can't------they can't-----this is----"
"Yeah, it's brutal," Robin said. "That's why we came up with the Scroll idea. They accepted but they've been chomping on the bit since then, demanding it come out sooner or later, particularly as the time limit the Oracles gave kept coming closer. It Steve hadn't found it when he did, they might have taken action."
"Action?" A stunned Amy asked. "What action?"
"The action that will come if you tell anyone what we've just told you," Liam said. "If the truth gets out, the Game will start over again with a vengeance. And thus, the Eternals will go to Plan B. And while they're under oaths even they can't break to not spill the beans, a lot of them want it to happen. Believe me, Ares would jump at the chance to unleash his forces on Earth and the rest of Olympus would be right with him."
"But Artemis would-----" Amy began.
"Amy," Robin said in the gentlest voice he could. "Artemis is a wonderful woman and she loves you like a daughter, she loves all her Amazons like that. But if it came down to you and making sure the Prize wasn't won------she wouldn't hesitate to put a long shaft through your heart."
Amy's shock increased as her jaw dropped at this. Shaw and Joyce were just as taken back by the revelation. "What about the Lady?" Shaw said. "Or Jehanne?"
"They know," Robin nodded. "Obviously, Joanie didn't for a while, this was before she was born, of course. But the angels know and naturally, they don't want to say anything."
"I can't believe this," Amy whispered. She fixed a gaze of anger on Robin. "You've been lying to us. All this time, you've been lying to us."
"It's something I had to do, Amy," Robin said sadly. "I hated it, believe me. But dammit, can't you see how important this is? We're talking about something that can change the world. And not for the better. Believe me, I wanted to tell you at least but I promised I wouldn't. I'm breaking that now because of what you've heard. You've got to keep your oaths, all of you. You can't breathe even a hint of this to anyone or we're all in major trouble with the kind of people you do not, under any circumstances whatsoever, want to fuck with."
"I can attest to that," Shaw muttered softly.
"I have to go," Amy said softly. "I just have to-----" she walked off, heading towards the upstairs. Robin made a move to her, but Joyce put a hand to him. "No. Let her go, Robin. I know how it's like to be hurt by someone you care about. I know you didn't intend for it," she said, cutting off Robin's protest. "But I'll talk to her. Okay?" She walked off, following Amy.
"She's kind of a den mother to all, isn't she?" Aideen asked.
"She has that quality," Shaw said softly. She paused as a thought occurred to her, turning to Robin. "Robin, did the Lady agree to this idea of yours?"
"She was among the other high Eternals, yeah," Robin replied.
"I see," Shaw breathed. "So if the truth comes out, she will side with the Gods to destroy humanity. Including-----Amy and the others."
Robin sadly nodded. "Yes. And you'd have to be on her side when she does."
Shaw stared at him in mild surprise. "You know."
"It's the same with me, Shaw," Robin said. He nodded to his friends. "Liam with McAllister, Aideen with Fin Varra. I love Earth and humans and you know I feel about the guys. But I am a faery and if we go war, I know which side I have to be on. Liam will go against Ireland, Aideen against the Knights. We'll fight together. We'll kill our friends, our second family, we'll help send humanity back tens of thousands of years, we'll fight to save ourselves because we don't have a choice."
"It is not the fight itself that frightens me. It is the idea of living two hundred years with the guilt."
"I'm going to live a lot longer than you, Shaw," Robin smiled softly. "And I'll probably spend the first thousand years cursing the day the Game was created."
Shaw looked at Robin with pain in her eyes. "I don't want this to happen, Robin."
"And I do?"
To his surprise, Shaw moved forward and hugged him tightly. He was taken aback for a moment but then hugged back, remembering that for all her strength, Shaw was still fragile with family connections and knew the thought of losing them tore at her. "Thank you," she said softly. "For understanding."
"I won't tell Amy about Millie," Robin said. "Don't worry."
"Thank you again," Shaw said, breaking off the hug. "Robin----if the worse happens----if the truth ever comes out----what will we truly do?"
"I don't know, Shaw," Robin said solemnly. "Gods help me, I don't know."
Shaw sighed and moved off. "I have to talk to Amy and Joyce. Thank you." She moved off, leaving the three fairies alone.
"Lass is taking it hard," Aideen said.
"Well, I guess we should be lucky Ulric was out of town," Robin sighed. "If he was in danger, Shaw would be ripping apart the walls right now."
"I thought that was what she was like when she was in a good mood," Liam said with a smirk.
"No, when she's in a good mood she plays sadistically evil pranks on others," Robin replied.
Liam stared at him in disbelief. "Don't tell me she managed to get one over on you."
"Oh no, she knows better. But remind me to show you what she did to the little bastard."
"What?" Liam said, smiling.
"Got him in deeper trouble with Obe."
"Deeper than he already was?" Liam said in disbelief. "This I have to see."
"I'll show you the tape when this is over," Robin replied.
"So, maybe now you'll let the whole Midsummer Night's thing go?"
Robin fixed him with a glare. "Don't. Go. There."
"One can dream," Liam smiled.
Aideen sighed as she stepped away from the sink. "You know," she pointed out. "We could have made them forget. About the slip. About all this."
Robin shook his head. "Trust me, Aid, you do not want to see Shaw when someone messes with her head. She's half-elf, she can feel it and it seriously pisses her off." "With the three of us, we could have done it," Aideen said. "I think the loophole in using your powers would extend to this too. We could have done it."
Robin fixed her with a look. "Would you have done it if the Knights were the ones who were here? Or Torc?"
Aideen held his gaze for a long moment before looking down. "No."
"No," Robin nodded. "Well, I don't want to do it to them. They'll help us out, keep any more slips from happening. I hate to throw the knowledge on them but they're strong, they can take it. Especially Amy." He sighed. "Dammit, I hate hurting her like that. I do." He turned to see Aideen and Liam gazing at him with goofy smiles. "What?"
"My god," Liam said. "It's finally happened. You're in love."
Robin let out a short laugh of disbelief. "What?"
"No, no, you are in love," Liam continued. "With Amy. You love her."
"Oh come on," Robin snorted. "Sure, I like being with her a lot and the sex is great, but this-----? Love? Come on, I don't-------"
"Do you feel your heart beat faster whenever she's near?" Liam cut in.
"Do you think of her all the time no matter what you're doing?" Aideen added.
"Does waking up next to her just make your entire day seem worth living?"
"Do you feel a great joy in your heart whenever she walks into a room?"
"Do you actually see yourself spending the rest of your life with her?"
"Would you give your life for her, without hesitation, without question?"
Robin's face took on a look of absolute amazement and realization. "My god," he whispered, sinking into a chair. "I love her." He let out a laugh, a goofy smile coming onto his face. "I love her."
"Ah, it had to happen eventually," Liam said, patting him on the shoulder. "Never thought it'd be a witch, of course. And an Amazon to boot."
"Why not?" Aideen said, smiling. "Everyone goes for the unusual. Me and Torc for instance."
"You always favored the rough types," Liam shrugged. "Ah, it's a grand thing to be in the midst of this romance."
"Yeah, and you're trying to get a bit too," Robin said, recovering a bit from his realization of his feelings for Amy.
"What do you mean?" Liam asked, frowning.
"Shaw," Robin shrugged. "Come on, I've seen the way you look at her. You haven't looked at a woman like that since------"
"Don't say her name." All joviality had left Liam's voice, her face drawn in anger. "You promised me you'd never say her name!"
Robin stared at him in disbelief. "Liam, it's been eight hundred years! You have to let go-- --"
"I will never let go!" he yelled back. "I do that----I do that, then she's gone forever." He turned away, lost to his own memories. Robin stared at his friend's back for a long moment before replying. "Nothing's forever, Liam. Not humans. Not Immortals. Not even you or me. The right thing can come around more than once, Liam. But you only get so many chances to grab it. Think about it."
Liam was silent, leaning against the sink as Aideen sighed, taking a sip from her drink. "It says something when I'm the one with the stable relationship."
"He did not mean to hurt you, Amy," Shaw was saying. She and Joyce were sitting side by side in the small room, Amy between them. "He was only doing what he thought was right."
"What, you agree with him?" Amy asked.
"He had good cause," Shaw nodded. "Think about how he must have felt, Amy, having to carry this around with him all this time. Being around you and knowing he might have to see you all destroyed at some time. It had to weigh at him a lot."
"I know," Amy sighed. "But it still hurts that he couldn't have told me this, considering how close we are."
"Amy, I know about being lied to by a man," Joyce said. "But Robin had a good reason to do it. And he cares for a lot. So give him a break on this."
"God, it's so much," Amy said. "To think about this, that the Gods would destroy humanity if the Game gets going. It's so much."
"I know," Joyce said, rubbing her shoulders. "And Robin has had to carry that secret with him for a long time. Remember that."
Amy smiled at her. "Thanks, Joyce. Look, could you guys give me some time here? I need to think about this, okay?"
Nodding in agreement, Joyce and Shaw stood up, moving to the hallway. "Guess I'll just crash on that cot," Joyce said, yawning. "What about you, Shaw?"
"I am not sleeping," Shaw said, moving towards the doorway. "I need to conserve my strength."
"Shaw, that's not healthy," Joyce said, moving behind her. "You need to rest here. At least a few hours?"
"Perhaps," Shaw said, tapping her foot against the floor. "This is such a difficult thing to take in."
"I know the feeling," Joyce said. "I'm not used to being in the heat of the action like this. I see now why Buffy wants me out of it. I don't have powers or anything, I just can't keep up." She blew out a sigh. "Come on, Shaw, let's get something from the kitchen to drink. I could use my usual."
"I do not see how hot cocoa is going to solve anything."
"That's because you're not a mother," Joyce answered. She paused and looked towards Shaw. "Shaw, why did you come here in the first place?"
"I had no choice in the matter, Joyce Sum----"
"Stop," Joyce said, holding up a hand. "You can just call me Joyce. I know you want to be respectful, but it's okay. Now, why didn't you have any choice in the matter?"
Shaw sighed. "It would seem that no matter what dimensions you live in, one thing is constant; ancient prophecies have the most annoying ways of making themselves come to pass."
"But you fulfilled it months ago, didn't you?" Joyce pointed out.
"Yes," Shaw nodded, looking at Joyce curiously. "What are you trying to ask me."
"Why didn't you try and find a way to get back to your dimension? Buffy told me you could do it. You had a chance to go back to the only home you know. But you stayed here. Why?"
Shaw pressed her lips together, gathering her thoughts. "I spent the first forty years of my life on Toril." It took Joyce a moment to recover from that. Even though Buffy had explained it, she still felt it hard to understand that the teenage-looking girl was over fifty years old. Unheeding, Shaw went on. "On Toril, I was caring, hopeful and a truly good person. But I was naive and too idealistic, without the proper balance of realism." Her expression grew hard. "Then I spent thirteen years in that living hell, trying to do nothing more than survive, becoming so cold and efficient at killing vampires that they feared me. And then, I came here. I wanted nothing more, from the moment I came to Earth, to do whatever was required of me and then return to Toril. But, over my time in Sunnydale, things changed for me."
"What happened?" Joyce asked softly.
Shaw let out a breath. "What happened was that despite all the odds, all the obstacles I faced, from the only family I knew being angry with me, to most of the others being suspicious of me, not due to my origins but because I withheld the truth about myself >from them, I found myself changing." Shaw shook her head, remembering her past.
"Joyce, think about this if you will: by all logic, by all reason, by all conventional wisdom, >from alienating Amy to Cordelia not liking me from the moment we met, probably because we are so much alike, to having only Willow and later Xander accepting me from the beginning for who I was, despite my secrecy, despite what they knew about my past at that point, I had no reason to stay here, on Earth or in Sunnydale in particular. This was before I met Buffy and Steven, this was before my relationship with Amy turned for the better, it was before Robin starting acting like an older brother to me, and it was most certainly before I came to care so much about these people that I do not think of as family or consider family. They *are* family. *My* family."
"You love them," Joyce said, a little surprised.
"Yes," Shaw nodded. "And that is not the only reason, either. I had the choice to return to Toril, my homeworld, where I am known, where my Goddess is worshiped, and where I lived three quarters of my life. Yet I chose to remain on Earth, where I have only lived for a year, only two-thirds of that in Sunnydale. A world where I must hide not only who, but what I am, nearly every minute of every day, where I have to be careful around everyone who does not know the truth about me, where I would most likely be rejected, if not worse, by the very people I fight to protect. And I do this, as the others do this, for what boils down to the greatest reason of all."
"And that is?" Joyce was a little taken aback by how much Shaw had said, the most she'd ever heard her say. Shaw fixed her with a gaze of pure emotion, slight tears in her eyes. "This is my home. And I cannot imagine being anywhere else."
Joyce looked at her for a moment and then moved forward and hugged her tight. "It's my home too, Shaw," she said softly. "And whether Buffy wants me to or not, I want to fight for it as much as you do."
"I know, Joyce," Shaw said. "And that is what makes you such a fine mother."
They stood there, embracing, the elf and the human, the vast distance between them closed in an instant.
Amy shuffled on her sheets as she tried to get some sleep. She was unable to push aside the weight of the massive secret she had found herself becoming part of. She no longer blamed Robin, it wasn't his fault, none of this. Still, that he could care so much for humanity to do something like that made Amy realize more than ever he was far from the joker he pretended to be.
A shuffling sound came and then Robin appeared on the bed. Amy opened her mouth but he lifted up a finger and pressed it against her lips. He moved his hand up, brushing at her hair. "In case I've never told you," he said softly in a voice of pure emotion. "You are the most beautiful woman I've ever known." He moved in and kissed her with a tenderness he had never shown before. Amy closed her eyes as she felt him brush his lips on hers. He slowly began to unbutton her shirt as he lay her down. While the times before had been with passion and raw energy, this was different, this had an emotion that none of their previous times in bed had had together. For the first time in his long life, Robin Goodfellow made love to a woman he knew he had given his heart to.
The mood in the meeting room was dark. It always was whenever Khan entered a room and it spread to his generals. Motaro's tail twitched behind him, he and Sheeva exchanging glances of pure hatred, the natural enmity of their species coming to the fore as they exchanged ugly looks.
"I still believe I should be in charge of the armies, My Lord," Sheeva said. "I proved myself as the personal protector of Queen Sindel."
"Ah, and wasn't it under your protection that the Queen was allowed to kill herself?" Motaro smirked. Sheeva growled at him as Khan shook his head.
"I've had enough of your petty squabbling," he said in an authoritive voice. "You are both far too impetuous for such important work as this. Shang shall remain my second in command until I say otherwise."
"My Lord, you cannot expect me to share command with this Centaur!" Sheeva growled. "He should be behind bars in one of this world's zoos!"
"If those bars could keep me away from you, Sheeva," Motaro hissed. "I would welcome them!"
"ENOUGH!" Khan screamed as the two, stopping them from going at one another. "Kill each other if you wish, but not now and not here! It's bad for morale. For now, you will obey my commands, both of you. After the battle is won-----you can kill each other for all I care. But no one dies in this palace unless I command it!"
With that, he turned and marched off, stomping into the hallway, heading towards the throne room. He sighed as he saw Shang Tsung approach him, giving a short bow to his master. "You should be with the captives," Khan said without preamble.
"I've spent enough time with them," Shang sighed. "I really wish Mider had come up with a way to gag them when he was making that thing."
"At least you don't have to put up with those two," Khan hissed.
"My Lord, why is Sheeva still here?" Shang asked. "You gave the order for the extermination of her race before we started the assault. If her people die, shouldn't she die?"
"I have use for her still," Khan said. "That delays her death. But when this is over, she will join humanity and her own race of scum in the grave." He fixed Shang with a deadly gaze. "Do you have news?"
"Well, do you wish it to be good?"
"That depends on whether you wish to continue breathing," Khan replied in an angry tone.
"Actually, My Lord, you'll be pleased to know that I have managed to get a partial fix on the escapees. It's hard, no doubt those fairies are masking their trail but with the energy of Outworld increasing, I'm confident we can soon get a definite location on them. I've already made arrangements for an extermination squad to go when we-----"
Shang's voice cut off as he looked up and saw the expression on Khan's face. His lips were drawn back so far they looked like they could touch his ears. His eyes lit up with a sudden insane energy with a fire within them that had never been seen before, his partially yellowed teeth exposed as his lips drew wider.
Shang's lips trembled, his voice trying to find itself through the wave of terror that had come across it. "M-m-my my Lord? Your face------What----What's wrong with it?"
"Nothing, Shang," Khan said as his lips split further. "It's a smile."
The car ride started out slow and silent. No one had much to say the next day. Everyone was so lost in their own thoughts they didn't seem to notice how the van was suddenly able to accommodate an extra six people without any problem. Liam was in the driver's seat, Robin next to him. The Knights filled the next row, Diedre and Rhoan holding hands together with Aideen and Torc on the other side. Behind them were Mulder, Scully, Joyce, Amy and Shaw, the elf staring out the window, deep in thought.
Joyce leaned in towards Shaw, trying to keep quiet. "Shaw, did you get any sleep last night?"
"A few hours," Shaw replied. "That is all I needed."
"Are you sure?" Joyce said.
"Yes," Shaw's cool reply came.
"So, Shaw," Angus said in an attempt to strike up some conversation. "I heard you've gotten hooked up with some interesting folks since you came to this world."
Shaw fixed a glare at the faery in the front seat, who slumped a little down. "You could say that," she said.
"You good at fighting, then?" Angus pressed on.
"I had some good teachers," Shaw smiled.
"Connor MacLeod, for one."
"Oh, yeah, I've heard of him," Angus nodded. "Didn't he beat someone big once?"
"He has beaten many. You are probably thinking of the Kurgan."
The five Immortals stared at her in amazement. "*He* took out the *Kurgan?*" Torc said in amazement.
"Yes," Shaw nodded. "And his clansman, Duncan MacLeod, has taken out some such as Xavier St. Cloud and Kalas."
"He took both of those bastards down?" Rhoan said, truly impressed. "Wow." "Shaw, I believe I speak for everyone when I say our estimation of you has gone up a thousandfold," Ivar said.
Sniffing, Mulder leaned towards Scully. "Sure, Connor trains us but do we ever get acknowledged by it? Nooooooo."
"Well, Shaw had a pretty good guide when she first got her," Robin said, smiling.
"Do not tell them about Jehanne," Shaw said in a cooler tone. "They will not believe you."
"Who's Jehanne?" Aideen asked.
"A Frenchwoman," Shaw said quickly, cutting off Robin's possible response.
"Your big hotshot guide was French?" Angus said in confusion.
Shaw shrugged. "She told me why I was here on Earth."
"So, who is she?" Ivar asked.
"She's------" Amy began.
"Deceased," Shaw put in, glaring at her cousin.
Robin let out an evil grin. "Stop cutting us off, Shaw, we're going to tell them."
Shaw rolled her eyes, resigning to the inevitable. "Go ahead. But they will think you insane."
"I'm used to it," Robin smiled.
"Okay, I'll bite," Angus said. "Who's this Jehanne that she thinks we won't believe in?"
"Well, the English translation would be Joan," Robin said, his smile widening.
"And what's the big deal about that?" Aideen asked in confusion.
"Well, she was deceased when Shaw came to Earth. She's been dead a long time."
"Oh, is that all? Your guide was a ghost?" Diedre asked. "Don't worry, we don't think that's crazy."
"You don't?" Joyce said, staring at the Irishwoman.
"Well, when your father shows up at your wedding to give you away two hundred years after he died, it opens your mind a bit," Diedre said matter-of-factly, sharing a smile with Aideen. The fairy smiled back, then turned to Shaw. "So, you got yourself your own private ghost then?"
"Yes," Shaw nodded. "The way she died was bad."
"Really?" Aideen asked sympathetically. "How'd she die?"
"She was burned at the stake," Amy answered. She glanced up to Robin. "When was this again?"
"1431," the fairy answered. "Joanie was nineteen at the time."
It took a moment for Diedre to put it together and her eyes widened. "Wait a minute, you *cannot* be talking about------"
Robin, Amy, Joyce, Shaw, Mulder and Scully all nodded empathetically. "Her?" Ivar asked in disbelief.
"Yep," Liam said. "And from what Robbie was telling me last night, she works for the big man himself."
"Joan of Arc?" Rhoan said. "Your guide on Earth was Joan of Arc?"
"Indeed she was," Shaw nodded back. "Did you know her?"
"Not personally," Rhoan answered. "We were in Spain at the time. But her reputation was impressive even then."
"So, how'd you meet her?" Diedre asked, genially curious.
"She entered my dreams and later appeared to me in person," Shaw answered.
"You saw Joan of Arc in the flesh?" Rhoan asked in disbelief.
"Do not be stupid," Shaw said, missing the eye rolling Amy and Robin did. "She is a divine servant of the Christian God. Flesh is not in the equation."
"You don't have to be rude about it," Rhoan sniffed.
"I apologize, Rhoan," Shaw nodded. "She was the one who informed me about my purpose here and she told me about my Earth ancestry, as well as my duty to meet Amy and Randi."
"Randi?" Diedre asked.
"Randi Jessup," Shaw explained. "She is a young Immortal and Jehanne said that I had to give her a sword to use against a demon and then she was to wield it as Jehanne once did."
Rhoan and Diedre both looked stunned at the proclamation Shaw made. "The sword Jehanne used?" Rhoan choked out.
"Yes, the Sword of St. Catherine," Shaw nodded. "Connor was very upset when she found out he had given me a holy relic. Jehanne entrusted it into my care, to give to Randi. And she has done very well, as has her brother Brian, the reincarnation of Marcus the Valient."
Rhoan and Diedre continued to stare at her in shock. Angus decided to take up the slack for his friends. "Let me get this straight," he said calmly. "You trained under Connor Macleod, you know Duncan Macleod......."
"And I am an adopted member of their clan," Shaw added.
"You fight alongside the wielders of two Swords of Destiny *and* the wielder of Joan of Arc's sword------"
"Jeahanne's chosen heir, yes," Shaw nodded.
"So what else has Joan said to you?" Ivar wanted to know.
Shaw took a deep breath and let it out. "She said I reminded her of what she was like when she walked the Earth as a mortal. I have read her history, and I do not see anything that could compare me to her. Even after a year, I do not rate that comparison."
"Joanie seems to think differently," Robin said from the front.
"Joanie?" Diedre asked.
"Yeah, but don't call her that. Joanie doesn't like it."
"Then why do you do it?"
"I'm the exception to the rule."
"Laddie, you're the exception to *every* bloody rule," Liam grinned at his friend.
"Aideen tells me you don't have any rules," Diedre said.
Robin looked back at Aideen and bent his head in thought. "True," he finally nodded.
Diedre took a long moment to take in all the Americans in the van. "This is the kind of group you hang out with?"
"And damn proud of it," Robin answered. 'And there's still stuff you don't know about Shaw hanging out with Immortals."
"What, there's more?!" Torc barked.
"Well, what she didn't mention was that she fought this guy named McGuire and it was pretty brutal since she didn't know about Immies then. Markham was lucky enough to scratch her, but she took him out pretty quickly. But two months ago, she really pulled it off, much to the surprise of the two Macleods. Puts her nearly in their class-----"
"It does not, Robin."
"Although she'd never admit it."
"In the same class as the Kurgan?" Diedre said in disbelief. "Kalas? St. Cloud?"
"Well, keep in mind that Connor also killed Kane and Duncan killed Caspian and Kronos of the Four Horsemen."
"And Shaw?" Rhoan asked. He looked to the elf, who merely glanced out the window in response. Robin answered for her. "The name Jacob Kell ring any bells?"
All the old Immortals were staring at him in response. "Jacob Kell?" Angus said. "Fought him in 1754, damn tough. Only got away by jumping off a cliff. She killed him?"
"Please," Robin snorted. "She beat, raped, violated and bitch slapped him. Never fight a ranger two-handed style, my friends. Especially an ambidextrous one. Shortens your life expectancy."
"A ranger?" Aideen said, raising her eyes. "She's a bloody ranger?"
"Do I even want to know?" Diedre asked.
"Not really," Came the reply from the stunned fairy.
Diedre leaned to her husband and whispered. "Rhoan, what the bloody hell have we gotten ourselves into with these people?"
Aideen sighed and then looked up to the view from the front. "Pull up here, Liam."
"What, we're there already?" Amy asked.
"No," Rhoan said. "We have to make a stop first."
"We're kind of pressed for time," Mulder pointed out. Rhoan turned and fixed the younger Immortal with a hard gaze that let him know the conversation was closed.
The van pulled off the main road and up a hill, handling the hard terrain with nary a bump, moving to the large structure standing before it. Liam pulled to a stop and parked the van, the doors opening to let the Knights out, all facing the fortress before them.
Castle Kells had seen better days, that was true. Much of it carried moss and vines, walls and towers chipped with sections broken. But it still carried a majesty to it, a feeling that echoed the time when it was the center of a nation long passed into legend and the home to the Knights gathered before it.
"Wait here," Rhoan said. "We won't be long."
"What?" Amy asked as the Irishmen, the fairy and the Moor moved off. "Excuse me, what do you think------"
"Leave them alone, lass," Liam cut in. Amy stared at the leprechaun who looked right back. "This is something they have to do. Trust me, it'll help."
The Amazon witch just sighed and sat back, crossing her arms as she stared at the group that made their way through the gates and into the heart of the castle.
The Knights made their way slowly to the open courtyard. They looked about, each seeing only the memories of the past. What was now just grassy and rocky field and empty windows was once a husting, bustling place filled with people who treated them as heroes.
Diedre broke off from the rest, walking towards a corner of the castle, her eyes looking past the entanglement of branches and grass, pushing them aside to come across a small stone marking little ravaged by the centuries. "Hello, Father," she said softly. "It's been a long time, I know. Sorry I haven't been here more. You know how it is, I'm sure. Having eternity on your hands. Although, frankly, yours is a lot more certain than mine."
She paused and brushed away a lock of hair. "Just like old times, I suppose. The four of us together, fighting Maeve and Mider. Only now so much has changed. I'm not just talking the times or how they pass by so quickly. Like you wake up one morning and there's electricity. No, it's more than that. I don't know quite how to put it into words, but then I never really had to do that with you, did I?"
Diedre paused to wipe a tear away from her eyes, choking a bit as she went on. "I hope we can do this. I hope we can pull ourselves back together again and fight. I hope we win. And more than anything, I hope and I pray I can make you proud of me. I know you always said you were but I still want to feel it for myself. I guess it's part of the whole royalty bit, still seeking approval. I guess it just feels better to know I have it."
The others hung back, watching Diedre at her father's grave, talking softly. "How long has it been?" Ivar asked.
"About fifteen years," Rhoan said. "You know how busy things get. Hope he understands."
"Ah, Conchobar was always a good sport," Angus said. "And a damn good thing for you, if you'll recall."
Rhoan smiled as he did.........
The clash of swords cut through the air, the slamming of steel on steel echoing through the closed room. One combatant leaped back, sword swinging wildly, putting some distance before moving in. The other simply sighed and dodged the strike, his blade moving out and smacking the sword out of the hands of his opponent. A blow to the face knocked the other fighter down and a sword was placed onto the neck.
"I've told you before about overextending yourself," Torc said, the sword firm in his grasp. "You have to use your size to your advantage. You don't have the strength to fight on even terms, remember?"
"You know, I am your princess," Diedre answered. "I think you could show a little more courtesy."
"Believe me, Diedre, most of the Immortals you'll face won't think twice about your lineage," Torc said. "You can't hide behind your crown, you have to fight as best you can." It had been four months since Torc had returned to tell the Knights what they were. After getting over their disbelief, helped by Aideen confirming the existence of Immortals, they had decided to give Torc the benefit of the doubt and let him help. At first, Torc was kept under steady guard, his movements thought the castle restricted by Conchobar. But soon, the king realized that the former Temra general had truly changed or rather changed back into the man who had once served him with honor.
It had taken the Knights a while to get used to Torc teaching them and not trying to kill them but they were adapting quickly. Torc insisted that his training be done in a remote area of the castle, that the secret of the Knights' true natures had to be kept carefully under wraps as long as possible. It would have been hard to keep the Knight's Immortality under wraps considering that Torc was rather demanding in his training, the Knights quickly getting used to their new healing abilities the hard way.
Diedre groaned slightly, feeling the aches in her legs as she stood up, adjusting her cloak. "That's another thing," Torc announced. "Don't have something that can be grabbed that easy. Try to keep your outfits simple when you duel, easier to move about in."
"When I need fashion advice, I'll ask my maids," Diedre sniffed. She glanced over to the side where Rhoan, Ivar, Angus and Garrett were smiling. "Oh, laugh it up, lads. Your turns are coming, remember?"
Torc sighed and rolled his eyes, remembering why he hated teaching new Immortals. Sure, the Knights were good but they were still undisciplined and made it hard for Torc to get their heads on the Game. He was pleased with their progress but knew they were a long way away >from handling their own against a seasoned Immortal. "Right. Brief break before we start again."
"Fine by me," Diedre moaned softly as she reached over and took a flash offered by Angus, drinking hard as she sat down. She leaned her head against the wall, eyes closed, getting used to the odd sensation of a cut on her arm healing up. A slight fluttering sound and a light wind blowing by her ear got her attention. She turned to see Aideen hovering nearby, a smile on her face. "I think you're improving," she said in her light accent.
"Coming from someone who can never hold a sword, I'll take that as big a compliment as I can," Diedre smiled. "It's been rough."
"Ah, Torc's the good sort," Aideen smiled. "Good teacher, good fighter, he'll get you all into shape in time."
"I wasn't aware we were on a timetable," Diedre said, raising an eyebrow.
"Well, it's better if you learn quickly," Aideen pointed out. "Makes your survival rate better."
"I'll take your word for it," Deidre sighed. "I'm still a little angry you never told us, you know."
Aideen shrugged. "Not my place, really. I didn't know when it was going to happen and you needed a teacher before you could really start training."
"A little warning might have helped," Diedre shrugged. "It's a lot to get used to."
"I know," Aideen nodded. "Not dying, the Game, learning the King's not really your father, not being able to have children------"
"What was that?" Diedre said, her head whipping towards Aideen, her face becoming pale. "What did you just say?"
Aideen stared at her in apparent confusion. "What, the part about children?"
"No, no, no," Diedre said. "The part before that. What do you mean the King is not my father?"
"Well, you know," Aideen started. "Immortals are foundlings. They don't have parents, not really. So, your father really couldn't have given birth to you and-----" Aideen's voice broke off as she got a good look at the stunned looks on the faces of Diedre and the other Knights. Diedre stared at her, then at Torc. "Is this true?" she said in a hoarse voice. Torc bowed his head, sorry he had never brought this up before. "Is it true!" Diedre yelled, rising to her feet.
"It's true," Torc sighed. Without a word, Diedre turned and walked out of the room, leaving behind the silent Torc and the stunned Knights. As one, they all turned towards Aideen who gave sheepish shrug. "Oops?"
Conchobar sighed as he flipped through the papers in front of him. The war with the Northmen had died down a bit but there were still various troop movements and matters of state he had to handle. More of the responsibilities of the crown, something he wished more than once he had never achieved. He took another scroll from Cathbad, skimming the contents. "I think we can figure out a way to get this village a well," he nodded.
"The terrain in that area of the nation is tough," Cathbad pointed out.
"I think it-----" Before Conchobar could finish, Diedre stormed into the throne room, fire in her eyes as she glared at the man who until a few minutes ago, she had considered her father. "Who am I?" she asked without any preamble.
"What?" an understandably confused Conchobar said. Cathbad furrowed his brow, having a good idea of what Diedre had uncovered.
"Torc and Aideen just told us that Immortals are foundlings," Diedre said, her voice tight. "Which means you can't be my father. So who the hell am I?"
Conchobar was silent, biting his lip before rising and walking towards the fireplace. He took a few moments to stare into it before speaking. "Your mother made me promise on her deathbed to never tell you. For the first time ever, I'm going to have to break a promise I made to her."
He turned to face Diedre, who simply stared back at him with bristling anger. "Your mother found you in some bushes when she was riding. A beautiful baby girl, just left out in the middle of nowhere, Lord knows why or how. She told me that she fell in love with you with one look. She always wanted a daughter, you know. She preferred it to a son, really. And by that time, we had pretty much given up on being able to have some of our own. She took you back, took you here and told me she was going to raise you as our daughter." Conchobar let out a slight chuckle. "She was always was stubborn and I knew there was no way I could talk her out of it. So, we did it. And it wasn't long before I loved you as well."
"And continuing the line had nothing to do with it, I'm sure," Diedre hissed. She turned her glare over to Cathbad. "You knew."
The druid nodded slowly. "I did. I have been his advisor for a long time, you know. So, yes, I helped them keep it secret. It wasn't hard as you might think. Your mother did keep to herself a lot so hiding a supposed pregnancy wasn't too difficult. We produced you as their natural daughter and you were raised accordingly, with all the rights and privileges."
"Except a chance to have my own identity," Diedre said, tears beginning to strain her eyes.
Conchobar looked to her and stepped forward, reaching out to Diedre. She slapped his hands away and backed away. "Why didn't you tell me?" she said.
"Your mother made me swear not to," Conchobar said. "She felt it would be better if you could think of yourself as a princess, that it made you a better woman. And I think she was right in that. You are a good woman, Diedre. You truly are. And I count myself lucky to have you as------- "
"As a daughter?" Diedre said contempously. "I'm not your daughter. Not now, not ever. You lied to me. All these years, you've lied to me, my entire life has been nothing but one massive lie because of you." Tears were starting to fill up her eyes as she glared at him. "You lied about my birth. You lied about my upbringing. You lied about your love."
"I never-----" Before he could finish, Conchobar was shocked when Diedre's hand slammed into his cheek. Turning, she stalked out of the room, leaving Conchobar to stare after her. He turned to his throne and walked towards it, sinking into the seat as Cathbad looked at him. "Don't start, Cathbad," Conchobar said in a soft tone of defeat. "Please, not now."
The druid looked at his king and saw the obvious pain in his features and wisely decided to keep quiet and hope things could turn out for the best.
Diedre stormed into her room, slamming the door behind her as she marched over to her bed. She sat down on it hard, her breath coming out in ragged heaves, the pain and anger of her discovery tearing at her. She slowly reached up and took off her crown, staring at it long and hard. She moved it around in her hands and examined it, her eyes not really noticing the jewels or embalms. All she saw were the lies and deceit it had carried for her for so long. With a heave, she hauled back and threw it across the room, the action finally releasing the pain of emotions in her and she fell onto the bed, tears streaking down her face and onto her pillow as she let loose all the emotion welling inside her.
She had no idea how long she had been lying there, sobbing, when the feeling of another Immortal hit her, the headache fading but the chill along her spine remaining. "Go away," she got out, having a good idea who it was.
The door opened and Rhoan stepped inside, staring at the young woman lying on the bed. "Diedre, are you-----" He stopped, seeing there was no use asking, he could tell she wasn't okay. "I think we should talk."
"I don't want to talk to anyone," Diedre said.
"Diedre------I do have an idea what you're going through. We all do now. Ivar and Garrett aren't that happy not being royalty. Angus-----well, actually, he never knew any family so it's not as bad as him. Me.....I just barely handled things with Maeve. Frankly, it's not that hard for me to accept this."
"It is for me," Diedre said, still crying. "You never knew until near the end that Maeve was your mother. I've spent my whole life thinking him my father and now----now I don't know what to think."
She let out a short laugh as she sat up. "You knew what you were going to be, Rhoan. You were chosen, remember? It was your destiny to be Dragenta. You were chosen by destiny. Me....my entire life has been one big mistake."
"You're a lot of things, Diedre, almost all of them good," Rhoan answered back. "But a mistake is not in any way one of them."
Slowly, Rhoan moved over to the end of the bed, sitting down and looking at Diedre, fighting the urge to put a hand on her. "He does love you, Diedre. I've seen that. He loves you and he's proud of you just like any father is for a daughter. The sort of love I certainly never received. I know he never wanted to hurt you, Diedre."
"Well, he did," Diedre said, running a hand through her hair. "God, this is too much, Rhoan. I can't take this, I can't take any of this. Mystic armor, conversing with fairies, fighting monsters, warring on other nations, dying and coming back, being told we're going to live forever but have to duel to do it. And now this, this is-----"
She bit her lip before speaking. "I'm never going to be able to have children, Rhoan. Never a son or daughter, never a baby of mine to hold. I'm never going to know that joy."
"Sounds to me like the same sort of thing your mother might have said," Rhoan pointed out. "Maybe that's why she did."
"Maybe," Diedre nodded. "But I still wish she'd told me. Or he had. It was his responsibility, after all."
"Maybe not as big as you might think," Rhoan shrugged. "He did make a promise, apparently. And he loved your mother enough to keep it."
"And not me enough to tell me," Diedre said, wiping at her eyes.
Rhoan sighed. "Diedre, it shouldn't matter how you were raised. It doesn't matter whether you are a princess or not. What matters is what kind of person you are. And you are a wonderful woman, Diedre. You're brave, you're kind, considerate, you put the fate and the welfare of your people above yourself. You give everything your all and you never give up. Never. So whether you have a crown or not shouldn't matter one bit. What matter is the person you are. And the person I see is a woman I am proud to know and I am proud to say has a place in my heart."
Diedre looked at him, her tears back, only now ones of joy. She moved forward and hugged Rhoan hard, the man somewhat taken aback by her show of emotion. He hugged back, feeling himself give strength to Diedre as they hugged. She brought her face around and their lips brushed together briefly. The two paused for a moment, then kissed harder, both still as their lips pressed together.
After a few moments, Rhoan broke off, staring at her. "I'm----I'm sorry," he stammered. "I shouldn't have-----I didn't-----"
"You didn't?" Diedre said.
"Well, I did. I mean, it's just, I-----"
"Rhoan," Diedre said softly in a way that cut through it all. "I know how you feel. I do. That kiss....I felt the same thing you did. Same thing that I guess I always have. Why didn't you say anything before?"
"You're the princess," Rhoan shrugged. "For all my skills, I am just a common man, I can't just say.....Say I love you."
"I'm not a princess, Rhoan. Not anymore, remember? I'm just a woman, with----- " she took a deep breath. "With the man she loves. And hopes he loves her back."
Rhoan looked at her, brushing a lock of hair off her face. Then he pushed his lips on hers and kissed her longer and harder. They moved back on the bed, Rhoan gently pushing her down as they kissed, their hands running over each other as they started fumbling for their clothing, peeling away everything that prevented them from enjoying one another completely.
Rhoan lay her down on the bed, his eyes traveling over her body, the flawless skin laid out for him. "You're more beautiful than I imagined."
"I could say the same," Diedre said and meant it too. She reached up and brought him down into another long kiss as, slowly at first, but then with more passion, the two finally joined together.
The cock of the crow woke Diedre up. She blinked her eyes open, brushing away a lock of her hair before realizing she was lying on top of Rhoan. She looked up at his sleeping face, smiling as she reflected on what the two had shared throughout the night. She trailed a hand along his naked chest, hearing him grunt a bit as he woke up and looked up at her, returning the smile.
"You know," he said. "I thought nothing could equal the thrill of when we put on the armor. Until now."
"Benefits of being common," Diedre said, a flash of pain showing through her smile.
"You know, for a woman who's been raised in a very closed environment, you certainly seemed to know your business," Rhoan observed.
"Well, I have been trained to know everything I can about life before I experience it myself," Diedre calmly said as she shifted beside Rhoan, one breast pushing against his arm.
"Stole a couple of books from the library, right?"
"Well, my fat-----Conchobar was hardly forthcoming about it," Diedre calmly answered. She glanced out the window, seeing the sun start to rise. "You'd better go before my----before the King shows up."
"I'm Immortal, what can he do?" "We have a guillotine, Rhoan," Diedre pointed out.
"Let's see, window would be faster, right?" A knocking on the door got both their attentions and a voice called out. "Diedre? Diedre, I need to speak to you."
The two stared at one another, both horrified at hearing Conchobar's voice come through the door. There was a flurry of movement, as the two kicked off the bed and rushed to throw something on. Without a word, Diedre pointed to a nearby closet as Rhoan rushed in, pants fumbling as he did. Throwing on a robe, Diedre moved to the door, opening it to allow Conchobar to step in.
There was a long moment of silence as they looked at each other. "May I come in?" Conchobar asked.
"Certainly. Sire." Conchobar flinched a bit at Diedre's cool tone as he came in. He looked about, seeing the crown lying on the floor. "You appear to have dropped something."
"Nothing that really belonged to me," Diedre said, shuffling a bit as she moved back to the bed, sitting down. Conchobar paused before sitting next to her. There was another long silence, both lost to their own thoughts before both spoke at the same time.
They paused, looking at one another before Diedre spoke. "I'm sorry I hit you like that. After all you've done for me, to lash out at you like that.....It just wasn't right. I'm sorry."
"I understand," Conchobar nodded. "I'm sorry too. To tell you this, to spring it on you like this. I should never have kept it quiet, Diedre. I'm sorry for that."
He paused before moving a hand forward, keeping it only a few inches away from her hand. "I love you, Diedre. I never lied about that. Never. Your mother never gave birth to you, that's true. But I raised you, Diedre. I raised you and I loved you more than any father could ever love a daughter. I worry for you, Diedre and I worried every time you went into battle. I know this Immortality is throwing you, it's throwing me as well. I can't imagine what your life will be like now. But however long you live and whatever else you do......always know that I will be with you with all my love and all my heart. Never doubt that."
There was a pause before Diedre placed her hand in Conchobar's. He looked up at her as she gave him a smile. "I know that....Father." She moved forward and embraced him, the two knowing the gulf between them was no longer impassable.
A banging sound caught through the room as both father and daughter looked up to see the closet door fly open and a half-naked Rhoan fly out, several pots and vases crashing around him. Conchobar took one look at him, then at the robed Diedre and swiftly put two and two together, raising a bushy eyebrow as the two young people had expressions of pain on their faces.
Before either could speak, they both got an all-too familiar sensation. "Oh, dear God, no," Diedre moaned just before the door burst in and Ivar, Angus, Torc and Garrett entered. "Hey, Diedre, have you seen----" Angus broke off as the four came to a stop, quickly taking in the scene before them. Without a word, Torc turned and walked right back out.
"Ah, sorry," Ivar stammered. "We'd better-----that is-----" With that, he turned and followed Torc out. Angus and Garrett just shared a smile and shook their heads. "Bout damn time," Angus chuckled.
"Out. Now." Rhoan hissed.
"Okay, but we're going to talk about it later," Garrett laughed as the two walked out. Conchobar folded his arms, gazing from one to the other. "Now, Father, before you get upset----" Diedre started.
"I know this looks badly, my Lord, but we do-----" Rhoan began.
"Damn," Conchobar said, shaking his head. "Now I owe Cathbad a shilling."
The two stared at him. "What?" Diedre asked.
"Well, he was sure you two would be together within a year. I thought you would wait a bit longer before telling each other how you felt," Conchobar shrugged. "What can I say? I underestimated your stubbornness."
The two just stared at him, mouths open. Conchobar looked at Rhoan with a gaze of admiration. "You're the son I wish I'd had. And I can't think of anyone else I'd rather see take care of my daughter." He smiled and turned. "We can talk about this later. For now.....I think you two would like to be left alone."
He walked out and let the two just stare at one another before breaking out in laughter. "God, why were we the last ones to see it?" Rhoan said.
"Love's a funny thing," Diedre shrugged. She looked over at Rhoan and a mischievous look he had never seen on her before came over her face. She undid her robe and slid it off, revealing her naked body. "I do believe he's given us his royal blessing. Shall we enjoy it?"
Rhoan grinned as he kissed her hard, then threw her on the bed with a laugh and moved to join her.
"And just when I thought discovering I wasn't a prince was the greatest shock of the day," Ivar said, shaking his head as he, Garrett and Angus walked down the hallway.
"That was a bit of an unexpected development," Garrett sighed. "I'm going to have to have a long talk with my 'parents' when I go back to my own kingdom."
"Ah, it's not as bad as you think, lads," Angus shrugged. "I grew up common and look how I turned out."
Garrett and Ivar stared at him, then each other with horrified looks. "God help us," Garrett muttered.
"Come on, it's got benefits," Angus said. "For one thing, it's doubtful Diedre would ever had hooked up with Rhoan if not for this."
"I don't understand how you two can be so blase about this," Ivar asked. "I mean, I thought you both-------"
"Wanted Diedre ourselves?" Angus answered. "Maybe in the beginning. But Rhoan's my best friend, Angus. I just couldn't hurt him by going after someone he wanted."
"You saw that?" Ivar asked.
"Of course he did," Garrett replied. "What, you think Diedre turned down being married to me just because she didn't like me? It's true I was arrogant and boastful when I came to Kells, but come on, Ivar, it's obvious he's always been the one she's loved. I can't compete with that."
Ivar looked from one to the other, then threw his hands and head up. "Great Allah, what kind of a people have you sent me to live upon?"
It was probably a good thing that his question went unanswered.
Angus smiled as he looked over at Rhoan, who had come up to hug Diedre from behind. "Ah, the perfect couple. Does my heart good to see them still together."
"True," Ivar said. "Which reminds me, you owe me a hundred."
Letting out a groan, Angus moved to his wallet. "It was a hundred pieces of gold, Angus," Ivar said. "Actually, more given 1200 years of interest."
Angus stared at him. "You know how much that is on today's market?!"
Ivar gave him a small, peaceful smile. "A bet's a bet, Angus. How many times have you told me that?"
As Angus groaned, Aideen and Torc smiled at their friends. "Ah, it's lovely to see a love that long-lasting," Torc said. "And to think, all it took was one little comment from you to get it going."
"Yep," Aideen grinned. "One little comment."
Something in her voice caused Torc to look at her, at the look on her face and his eyes widened as it all came together. "You knew it would happen," he said, stunned. "You planned it to happen."
"Well, it took you bloody long enough to figure it out!" Aideen laughed.
"Well, I am surprised," Torc said. "I always thought you had a thing for Rhoan."
"I did at first," Aideen nodded. "But I'm an Eternal, Torc. I see things you don't, feel things you don't. And I know two soulmates when I see them. Whatever I felt for him, I couldn't steal him away from his true love. Besides.....I've got something just as good here."
She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and smiled at him. Her smile suddenly faded as she glanced about. "What is it?" Torc asked, knowing something was wrong.
"I felt something," Aideen said, glancing around the ruins. "A slight spatial shift, local."
Ivar was also looking about, his eyes darting around the castle walls. "Has anyone here ever been to a horror movie or some such and you watch a character go into an obviously dangerous situation and you keep yelling at them that they're in danger?" "Is there a point to this?" Angus asked.
Ivar paused before answering. "Why am I getting the feeling that if someone was watching us now, they'd be trying to warn us we're in danger?"
A massive howl went through the ruins, the Knights glancing up to see nearly thirty black- clad ninjas pour out from the castle walls and openings, a variety of weapons in their hands and hate in their exposed eyes.
"It's bad enough you're such a pessimist," Angus hissed to Ivar. "But do you have to be bloody *right* all the time?!"
"This was the absolute last place you should have come to do this," Diedre hissed, reaching under her coat and pulling out a short sword, throwing her coat off and away as she moved into a dueler's stance. Beside her, Rhoan had pulled out a broadsword, a replica of the Sword of Kells, large but able to do the job.
Behind them, Angus had pulled out what appeared to a regular saber with a rather large handle to it. Ivar had a polished scimitar, the curved blade ready to taste action again while Torc's large sword was ready.
Turning, Aideen let out a shrill whistle that led right to the van. "Right, tea time's over, rock 'em, sock 'em!" Liam yelled out as he opened the car doors.
"Joyce, you stay here," Amy said. "Lock the doors and give a scream if anyone comes close."
"I can handle it, Amy," Joyce said, a bit put out.
"Hey, anything happens to you, Buffy's kicking my ass," Amy said. "This is for my benefit too. Just hang loose." She piled out with the others, Liam locking the door behind them as they took off at a run towards the castle.
"So, what's the plan?" Mulder said, reaching under his coat for his sword.
"Take the offensive," Shaw cooly responded, Feasellityar in her hands.
"You are so predictable," Mulder shook his head.
"Since when?" Shaw replied. Mulder craned his head, thought about it and nodded in agreement.
Amy passed through the castle gates first, heading right to the courtyard. She saw the Knights in the midst of battle, several ninjas already down but more coming from the walls and corridors. Leaping up, she swept through the air, landing a kick onto one ninja's face, knocking him away from Torc. The aged Immortal stared in surprise at the young woman who backfliped, landing her feet on two more ninjas.
Robin smiled as he moved in, the loophole of Oberon's promise meaning that he could feel his old magical powers returning, albeit at a much lower scale than they should have been. One ninja leaped toward him, sword in hand. Without even looking, Robin snapped his fingers and the ninja turned into a glob of jello before plopping to the ground.
Robin looked over at Liam, who was standing over a pair of ninjas who appeared to have lost and solidity to their bodies. "Here's a tip," Liam said. "These guys don't hit as hard after ye've turned their bones into rubber."
"Nah, not original enough," Robin shrugged. "You know I'm better than that." As if to prove it, he glanced towards four ninjas running towards him. A flash of the eyes and the ground below them suddenly vanished, dropping the ninjas in. Robin immediately resealed the hole, trapping the ninjas inside a space rapidly filling with the jello remains of the first ninja he'd dispatched.
"Ah, back to old times," Aideen smiled. She glanced up at a group of ninjas on a turret overhead. With a thought, the turret came apart, sending the ninjas crashing down fifty feet to the hard ground below. The turret then reformed itself perfectly, Aideen shrugging at her two friends. "Diedre likes the place orderly as possible."
Angus swung his sword overhead, expertly spinning the large handle in his hands. He sliced it out, cutting one ninja across the chest and sending him down before moving back and into another. One ninja came up from behind, trying to wrap a chain around Angus' throat. With a grunt, Angus hit a small button on the handle. Instantly, the ninja gasped in pain as a short blade, about two inches shorter than the main one, popped out the other end and impaled him. Pulling his sword out, Angus spun it, letting both blades slice at the ninjas surrounding him.
Diedre ducked a swing by a ninja who was beheaded by Rhoan's powerful stroke. She reached under her and pulled out another sword, a shorter blade of a Spanish design. She used both blades to block a ninja's sword thrust, then slashed out with both, taking two ninjas down. She blocked another sword with her short blade, the other plunging into a ninja's throat. She spun both blades around in her hands, backing towards her husband, who sliced down three ninjas with one swipe.
The two glanced over and suddenly felt their jaws drop as they saw Mulder and Scully heading towards them at a fast run. The thing that threw them was the fact that the duo were running on the wall beside them, Scully above Mulder, the two defying the laws of gravity as they headed towards the ninjas. As one, they kicked off the wall, Scully going high, Mulder low, kicking into the crowd of ninjas before them.
<Shall we show them how we do things in Section Seven?> Mulder grinned as he telepathically talked to Scully.
<Lead the way> Scully grinned back.
Instantly, the two had their swords out and swinging, each easily handling five opponents at a time. Scully's foot lashed out, hitting a ninja square on the nose while a fist slammed into another, her sword slashing into a third. Mulder leaped up, each foot hitting a ninja, then slamming together into another. Spinning in mid-air, Mulder slashed another ninja down.
Watching the two take down the ninjas with ease, the two Immortal Irishmen could only stare at one another. "For the first time, I'm glad the Game's a fake," Rhoan said.
"Why?" Diedre got out as she watched Mulder take out three ninjas with one kick.
"Because we wouldn't last five minutes against those two," Rhoan said.
"We're each 1400 years old, Rhoan."
"I know. That's why I gave us another three minutes."
Nearby, Ivar was getting his own look at a person who was more than they seemed. As he dragged his blade across a ninja's stomach, he glanced over to see Amy leap up and slam a ninja in the face, then spin about in the air, feet lashing out to kick another three down before landing. Waving her hand, Amy spoke and the ground beneath one ninja became ice.
Amy's smirk turned to surprise when the ninja kept on sliding, the ice slick growing far faster than Amy had intended, the ninja sliding along as it grew to a point, the black clad soldier flying up and into the air. A piece of rock from a wall came loose and flew up, slamming right into the ninja and pulverizing him.
Amy looked down to see Robin smirking. "Ah, good to be back in the saddle," he grinned, high-fiving Liam.
"God, and I thought he was bad with the Genie," Amy rolled her eyes as he looked over to where Shaw was. She and Angus were back to back, both of them swinging their double-edged blades in wide arcs, careful not to hit each other but still expertly taking down every ninja sorry enough to get close to them, blood flying about. "Nice sword," Shaw said as she sliced one ninja's throat.
"Made it myself," Angus replied, driving one end into a warrior's chest. "A bit tricky but it's got a few tricks."
"So does mine," Shaw replied. She concentrated and her sword split into two, both ends glowing as she started to slice away.
"Lord, this woman's starting to grow on me," Liam whispered, reaching behind him to grab a ninja. A brief glow flowed around him and when it was over, the ninja had shrunk to the size of a rat, scurrying off like mad.
Aideen moved to where Torc was slicing at some other ninjas. "Admit it," she grinned, letting loose a fireball that incinerated a pair near a wall. "You're loving being back in the middle of it."
"It's got its moments," Torc agreed, spinning about to slam his blade into a chest. He glanced over to where Amy was leaping over a ninja, her hands glowing just before its robes burst into flame. Amy slammed her feet into the ninja's head, knocking him down and out. "Damn, woman's more than she seems."
"Like Robin would put up with anyone else," Aideen smirked.
Amy glanced over to where Rhoan and Deidre stood, staring in amazement at the ninjas being torn apart by Mulder and Scully. Rhoan saw a ninja approaching Scully from behind. He reached into a pocket and pulled out a small handful of powder. Muttering under his breath, he threw it, igniting the ninja's back. "Whoa. How'd you do that?" Amy called out.
"You hang with a druid for thirty years, you pick up a few things," Rhoan shrugged. "I'm no mage but I get by."
"Hey, Shaw, why aren't you doing stuff like that?" Amy called out.
"I must conserve my energy," Shaw replied as she spun one half of her sword into a ninja's torso and gutting him with the other. "These are hardly worth the effort."
"Speak for yourself," Angus barked as he took one ninja's head off. "First decent workout I've had in months."
Mulder and Scully had just finished with their ninja opponents, taking down a dozen in less than a minute as Rhoan and Diedre just stared at them in shock. The two agents looked up to see another wave of ninjas come at them.
<This whole hand to bastard ratio is getting annoying,> Mulder sent Scully. <Shall we break out the hardware?>
<You got it,> Scully replied. <Time to teach these guys not to bring swords to a gun fight.>
Sharing a tired, look, they each planted their swords into the ground and then pulled out their guns, aiming them and fired into the ninja horde.
"Shit!" Diedre said, instinctively ducking as the two kept on firing, bullets striking the walls nearby as the ninjas fell back, several of them going down from the hail of gunfire. By this point, the less than dozen ninjas remaining realized they were outclassed and immediately began to back off. One of them seemed to throw something in the air and a shimmering hole opened up before them. Before anyone could react, the ninjas rushed into the hole, closing behind the last one, the portal immediately sealing.
"Ah, damn," Robin muttered. "Just when I was getting into it too."
"Ah, we let it drag as it did," Liam shrugged. "Could have had it done in a flash."
"And where would the fun in that be?"
"Too true, laddie, too true."
"What the hell were the guns for?" Rhoan asked as he and Diedre faced the two Feds.
Mulder took a look at their swords and raised an eyebrow. "Hey, I appreciate you guys like a trip down memory lane, but this is 1999. Swords happen to be a bit out of fashion against superior numbers."
"And besides," Scully added. "We need all our strength to free the others."
"I'll have to go along with them on that," Angus nodded.
"Angus!" Rhoan yelled.
"Well, come on, face it, you can get more with a kind word and an Uzi than with just a kind word."
"If that's not the philosophy for this group, I don't know what is," Amy smiled. Her smile faded as Diedre marched forward face set, pushing Amy aside to get to Mulder and Scully. "Hey, watch it! Stop acting like we should be treating you like royalty."
"I am royalty," Diedre shot back before facing the two agents. "I can't believe you two!" Diedre howled as she walked up.
"What?" Mulder said in an innocent expression.
"You're trigger happy maniacs!" Diedre yelled.
"These guns were our only major advantage against those ninjas," Scully answered, keeping her voice cool despite Diedre's anger.
"You carry swords for a reason!" Diedre shot out.
"Sword don't do much good against ten to one odds," Scully pointed out.
"We're FBI agents."
"Good point," Angus said, nodding.
"That's not why I'm angry!" Diedre yelled. "You shot up the home I grew up in!'
Mulder took a long look around at the ruins of the castle. "Talk about a fixer upper..." He turned around just in time for Diedre's fist to smash into his jaw, knocking him down. "This is my home, you arrogant bastard!" she screamed at him. "How dare you talk about it like this?!"
Scully moved forward and gripped Diedre's arm hard. "Back up. Now," she said in a tone that left no room for argument. Diedre was taken aback by Scully's strength and how Mulder flipped back to his feet as if nothing had happened, the two glaring at her. Shaking it off, Diedre moved back on the offensive. "You two have no authority here!"
"We work for the government," Scully said.
"American government doesn't carry a lot of weight here," Diedre hissed. "And even if you worked for the Irish government, it wouldn't matter. This is my home, my land, my kingdom."
"Your kingdom?" Mulder asked. "I hate to break this to you but your kingdom fell quite a while ago."
"I know," Diedre said. "I was there. But this land is still mine by my birthright. I may not have been able to take the throne because of what I am, but I was in line to rule. And as the sole surviving member of the Royal Line of Kells, this castle is mine."
"Um, hate to interrupt," Amy said with a cough. "But this place is frankly a ruin. And it really belongs to the county, doesn't it?"
"True," Rhoan said, putting himself into the conversation. "But if you check the records, you'll find that it was bequeathed to the country by a landowner some centuries back on the condition it would never be destroyed."
Amy looked at him, then at Diedre. "Don't tell me......"
"Amazing how cheap land was to buy at the time," Rhoan smiled.
"Best birthday present I ever had," Diedre added. "So I'd appreciate you not ruining it."
Amy took a long look around. "So, a lot of stuff happened here, huh?"
"You have no idea, young lady," Diedre sighed, reaching to touch a stone wall. "If these walls could talk......"
"They can," Shaw said in a off-handed tone. Everyone turned and stared at her.
"I beg your pardon?" Diedre asked, thrown a bit.
"The stone that these walls are made of can talk," Shaw replied. "I simply do not have the power for that spell."
Diedre's eyes narrowed and she took on her angry tone again. "I don't appreciate jokes about this, half-breed. Don't make me angry. An Irish Immortal is not somebody you want to antagonize."
Shaw seemed to shake off the insult as she returned Diedre's gaze. "Irish Immortals have not impressed me in the past, Diedre. Raymond McGuire and Richard Markham antagonized me. Do not make that mistake."
The Knights all stared at her in amazement. "You took McGuire?" Torc said in amazement.
Shaw answered his steely gaze. "I did, Torc. That was before I found out the truth about Immortals. That is what happens when people threaten my chosen family."
"Macleod?" Angus asked. When Shaw nodded, he grinned. "That explains the sick, twisted and sadistic sense of humor."
"You have no room to talk," Shaw shot back.
"True," Angus said, returning her grin.
Diedre sighed as she tried to bring the conversation back on track. "I still don't appreciate you make jokes about my home."
"She's not joking," Robin put in, getting Diedre's attention. "High level priests have the ability to communicate with stone and other elements of the Earth. It's a good way to gain knowledge that no living being, Immortal, God or Eternal might have."
"Elven magic?" Diedre asked.
"No, it's---- "
"A priest thing," Shaw interrupted. "I would love the hear the stone's impressions of the history that you were a part of. Natural elements often have a much more unique view of things, such as your battles, your lives, more."
"Really?" Angus said with a smirk. "How about Rhoan and......"
"Finish that thought and I'll take your head," Diedre said in a cool tone.
"He finished it," Shaw put in.
Diedre gazed at her in astonishment. "You're a telepath?"
Shaw took on an innocent look. "No, but I figured it was worth a try."
"Do you always live this dangerously?" Angus asked with a slightly pale face.
Shaw gazed at him with a look of total professionalism. "I am a half-elf living in a world of humans, attending high school in America."
"Oh, come on, that's not as bad as everyone says it is," Angus snorted.
"How about the fact that I also have to Amazons, one of whom is my blood relative, constantly attempting to match me up with a potential mate."
"Hey!" Amy said, put off by Shaw's words."
"Now that would be a problem," Angus laughed.
"HEY!" Amy yelled again.
Angus looked at the group. "So, women have a Greek Goddess, the men a fairy given free rein by the Oracles. All we had was the Irish equivalent of Orson Welles."
"Hey!" Aideen said, smacking Angus on the arm.
"It is better than what I had," Shaw said in a light tone.
"Not this again," Diedre said, rolling her eyes.
Shaw gazed at her with a look of mild disdain. "Do you have a problem with me?"
"I don't need to hear moaning from some teenager, not here, not now."
"Why?" Shaw said. "Would you prefer doing your own brooding for yourself?"
"If it comes to a fight, I've got ten bucks on Diedre," Liam whispered to Robin.
"You do know Shaw is a half-elven Harper who's close to Millie, right?" Robin whispered back.
"Ever see a fighting mad Irishwoman?"
"Good point. No bet."
"I just don't need to hear you talk about loss," Diedre said, facing the elf. "You think you know loss? I've been alive for a thousand years. I had to bury the man I knew as a father. I saw one of my best friends beheaded and was helpless to do anything about it. I couldn't take the throne because of what I am and had to watch my kingdom and everything I grew up with fade so deep into history that people think it's myth. At least your world gets a line of best-selling books. MY HOME is only supposed to be fiction according to every history book. I've watched as every mortal person I've grown close to grew old and died while I kept going. If it hadn't been for Rhoan, I'd have gone mad. I've been through more wars and revolutions than anyone has a right to. I've had to die and come back and start over again and rebuild a totally new life and it never, ever gets easier. And now I've learned that my friend died for nothing, that I've been killing for nothing, that the last thousand years have been one massive cosmic joke played on me. So don't you dare talk to me about lost. I've lost more than you could ever hope to gain but I don't let it consume me. That's a lesson you should learn."
Diedre took a breath as Shaw looked at her carefully, tilting her head a bit. "Well, how is this for loss," she said in a cool tone. "Do you know how your father died?"
"Of course," Diedre said, thrown by the question.
"I know how my grandparents died," Shaw said in a tone that couldn't hide the pain the memories gave her. "They were sucked dry by a bloodrinking bastard, the ultimate pervasion of the natural order of life. He did not drink their blood. No, the vampires of my homeworld are much worse. They feed by draining your lifeforce, the very energy that keeps you alive. And I know exactly how it felt. I know the pain they felt, the hopelessness they felt. Because it happened to me. Ten years later, I went through the same thing they did, the same horror of feeling your life being slowly drained to feed that monster. The very same monster that killed my family. It is one thing to know how your parents, Diedre. It is another thing entirely to experience it. And another thing again to have to live with that knowledge. And more thing, Immortal. I know what it is like to bury friends. Yes, I am a half-breed. Yes, I am a mortal. But I know that I will likely live long enough to go through what you do. So do not think I do not understand your loss. To be honest, I understand it all too well."
"What is this, dueling soliloquies?" Angus said throwing up his arms.
"Shut up, Angus!" Diedre and Shaw told him, still glaring at one another. "Do you really expect me to believe you could possibly understand what I've been through in my life?" Diedre asked.
Shaw returned her with an equal gaze. "I do not lie, unless lives are at stake, Diedre. And we are not currently trying to save anyone's life."
"That's not the point," Diedre said. "Do you really believe you can understand my pain?"
Shaw turned towards Robin. "Robin, show her."
"Show her?" Robin repeated in confusion. "Show her what?"
"Everything," Shaw replied in a flat tone. "My past, my memories, everything." Robin and Amy's jaws dropped in shock. They dropped lower when Shaw added, "And show her from *my* point of view."
"No, Shaw," Robin said, shaking his head vigorously. "That's too much for anyone else, even an Immie."
"How would you show me your memories?" Diedre asked.
"Telepathy," the faery and the witch replied.
Diedre shook her head. "I don't think so. I've had some bad experiences with that in the past. How could I know they'd be real and not fake thoughts?"
Shaw narrowed her eyes at Diedre. "Oh, she shouldn't have said that," Aideen muttered.
"Fine," Shaw said, her voice ice. "Follow me and I will show you something that cannot be faked, Diedre."
Amy's eyes widened as she realized what Shaw was going to do. "Shaw, you don't have to do this."
Shaw ignored her, looking right at Diedre. "The choice is yours. Princess."
"I'm calling your bluff, half-breed," Diedre replied cooly.
"I do not bluff," Shaw said, walking off to a nearby chamber, Diedre following her. Amy leaned next to Robin, sighing.
"Why is she doing this?"
"To get it through someone's skull what she's willing to do to rescue the others."
"Don't give me that," Amy said. "They know what's at stake here."
"And what do you think about the face she's gotten over that in the last year, that she can show them, let alone talk about it so easily? And you were responsible for that. Like I said, she's making a point."
"Hell of a way to do," Amy sighed.
"Aye," Liam said, coming up behind them. "Putting herself on all the way here. I admire that."
As Amy rolled her eyes, Diedre walked out of the chamber, ashen-faced followed by Shaw, who was tucking back in her shirt, her face neutral instead of the victorious one a person might have expected.
"Well?" Rhoan asked his wife.
"I......." Diedre seemed to be at a loss for words.
"She wasn't bluffing, was she?" Rhoan said softly.
Diedre shook her head.
"So, how bad was it?"
Diedre took a deep breath. "Remember that fire we got into in Germany? 1533 or thereabouts?"
"Yeah," Rhoan said with a shiver.
"Imagine if we couldn't heal and you've got a good idea of how bad it is," Diedre replied, letting her husband hug her.
Shaw moved away from them, coming near Angus and Ivar. Ivar waited until she was nearly past him before speaking up. "I think you were a bit rough with Diedre."
Shaw sighed, not wanting to get into another royal argument. "She needed to learn about my dedication to my friends."
"She knows all about dedication, Shaw," Ivar softly replied. "To her, honor is everything, as with us all."
"And yet she hides it beneath an exterior of superiority," Shaw sniffed.
"Ah, that's just her way," Angus said. "You can't really let go of your upbringing, no matter how old you are."
"Which explains a lot about Angus," Ivar put in to his friend's grin.
"Very true," Shaw nodded. "Still, it does not give her the right to criticize------"
"How old do elves live, Shaw?" Ivar interrupted.
It was Shaw's turn to be thrown by a question. "I beg your pardon?"
"Normal elf life spans," Ivar went on. "How long do they go? Two hundred years? Five? A thousand?"
"Why do you ask?" Shaw wondered.
Ivar fixed her with a steady gaze as he spoke. "You say you understand loss and I believe you. But I don't think you truly understand us, Shaw. We have memories that stretch beyond your imagination. We've seen things other people haven't, things other people can't. We remember when air truly was air, unpolluted and unclouded. We've watched civilization grow in ways we could never imagine and couldn't control. And we've all had to endure loss, Shaw. Not just losing your mortal friends. We've each watched someone we treated like family fall and couldn't do anything about it. You say you understand but you don't. You can't. You cannot begin to understand what it's like to watch a man you've known as a damn good friend for five hundred years be killed before your eyes and you can't do anything but watch it happen. There's a lot about you we don't know. But I can assure you, there is a lot more about us that you cannot begin to understand."
He stood up and walked away, leaving Angus and Shaw staring after him. "You know, I think that's the most he's ever said at one time," Angus remarked. "You should be honored."
A full ten seconds passed before Shaw spoke again. "And perhaps he is right about most of what he said."
"Oh, he was actually wrong about something?" Angus scoffed. "That'd be a first."
"Only about seeing thing that other people cannot or have not seen," Shaw replied.
Angus crossed his arms and leaned back, appraising her for a moment before speaking. "Try me."
Shaw gazed at him, seeing not defiance or arrogance but genuine curiosity. She paused before answering. "I did not come to Earth directly from my homeworld. I was stranded in a dimension before that, for thirteen years. And it was a living Hell that I think you cannot imagine."
"At the risk of sounding like a broken record-----"
"What is a record?"
"Ach, bury me," Angus muttered, rolling his eyes. "Try me."
It took Shaw a few moments to think of an analogy that would get her point across best. "Think of Kells as it was in your mortal lifetime."
"Done," Angus nodded.
Taking a deep breath, Shaw went on. "Now, imagine if Diedre's father was a master vampire that made Dracula look like a saint, the druid who raised Rhoan was a lich, an undead archmage nearly of Merlin's level of power, Rhoan as an undead, twisted and blackhearted version of King Arthur and Deidre herself as a banshee."
"Actually, you're not that far off sometimes," Angus cracked, then silenced at Shaw's glare. "Okay, moving on?"
"Then, imagine being alone and stranded in that kingdom for thirteen years, only surviving because you became just as cold and uncaring as they were, becoming so feared that vampires actually gave you a title out of fear."
"What did they call you?" Angus asked softly.
"Where do you think I got my last name from?"
"Damn," Angus said. He took a deep breath before replying. "But it still doesn't compare to all we've seen in our lifetimes."
"No," Shaw agreed. "But I do know what he is talking about."
"Maybe," Angus nodded. "But what was the answer, anyway?"
Shaw raised an eyebrow at him. "To what question?"
"Seven to eight centuries," Shaw shrugged. "Because of my mixed nature, two and a half centuries for myself."
"So, compared to us you're *still* a rookie."
"Perhaps," Shaw smiled. "But when was the last time you and your companions defeated a God and lived to talk about it?"
"Uh, well......" Angus stammered, racking his brain. "Let's see, a Druid.....no, that doesn't count. Nope, no actual Gods."
"So I thought," Shaw nodded.
"Which God did you kick around?"
"The character or the genuine article?"
Angus let out a whistle. "I'll have to talk with Rhoan about that."
Shaw stared at him in amazement. "You would actually go after a God."
"Hey, like Robin said, I LOVE those kinds of challenges."
His remark happened to carry over to where Amy stood with Robin. The teenager shook her head as she turned to Robin. "Are these guys nuts?"
"No, they're Irish," Robin shrugged. "Which is the closest thing possible."
"Um, Robin, my family's Irish."
"Well, only the one half. The other half probably dilutes the effect. I mean, it could only be worse if the other half was Scottish."
"Robin, they were Scottish."
Robin stared at her. "So, you're a half-Irish, half-Scottish, Amazon witch?" he said in a calm voice.
Amy smiled and nodded.
"I'm doomed," Robin moaned. "Aid will love this."
"What does she have to-----"Amy took a look at him and her eyes widened in understanding. "You and Aideen?"
"It was a long time ago," Robin sighed.
"Rome," Robin shrugged. At Amy's stare, he rolled his eyes. "Come on, Amy, I'm 55,000 years old, you can't believe I've never been with anyone before you."
"I guess," Amy said, glancing towards Aideen. "I guess she and I should talk."
She walked off and Robin closed his eyes in pain. "Please attack now, please attack now, please attack now...." he muttered as Liam gave him a pat on the back in sympathy that didn't match his grin.
Shaw was fitting her sword back together when Diedre came up to her. "Yes?" Shaw asked, not looking at the Immortal.
Diedre took a deep breath before speaking. "My father always taught me to ignore the old rules in one respect. If I was wrong, I should be able to say it. I can't see myself standing here of all places and not heeding his lessons. I'm sorry. For insulting you that way and doubting your commitment. You've been through a lot on your own and I failed to consider that. I am sorry."
Shaw was silent before nodding. "Your apology is accepted."
"Thank you," Diedre said, letting out the breath she'd been holding. "I've been a little on edge the last few hours. Because of Rhoan."
"What do you mean?" Shaw frowned.
Diedre sighed, looking over to where her husband stood with Angus and Ivar. "Maeve hurt him so much, more than he's ever told me. Learning his own mother was a monster, that she knew all along he was her son and still wanted to destroy him and everything he loved and cared for.....That's a lot of pain and it took him a long time to make peace with it. And now, it all gets thrown into her face. I don't know how he's going to get through it."
Shaw paused before putting a hand on Diedre's shoulder. "With your help," she said simply, giving Diedre a look of true respect. Diedre smiled at her and nodded. "Thank you."
"I felt you were a little reckless," Rhoan said as he entered the conversation. "There can be such a thing as overkill."
"I was trying to defeat them quickly," Shaw said. "Do you doubt my commitment now? Because I am prepared to lay down my life."
"I can see that," Rhoan nodded. "However, and as a warrior you have to agree with me, it makes a lot more sense to get them to lay down their lives first."
"I think she can handle them, love," Diedre smiled. "Something tells me this girl's got tricks we don't know about yet."
"There is more to you than I had guessed as well," Shaw said. "I was impressed by how well you handled those twin blades. Not quite up to Harper levels but still very nice."
"Picked it up in Spain almost two centuries ago," Diedre shrugged. "Another student gave me a tough time training, as it happens. Poor Teresa. Hope she worked it out before she died the first time."
<Teresa?> Scully thought to Mulder. <You don't think----->
<Makes sense,> Mulder shot back. <Should we tell her?>
<Nah,> Scully smiled. <Let her find out herself.>
<Amazons,> Mulder shook his head. <Always sticking up for each other.>
"Looks like this empowerment deal isn't all it's cracked up to be," Angus said, nodding towards a tear in Mulder's shoulder, the cut healing under his shirt.
"Glad we borrowed some spares from the house," Mulder nodded."
Rhoan's eyes fell on the marking of what was once a bullet hole underneath. "Nice scar. Pre-Immortality, I assume."
"Yeah," Mulder nodded. "Got shot."
"By me," Scully answered.
Rhoan and Diedre looked at them, then at each other. "And I thought we hit bumpy rocks in our marriage," Diedre said.
"We weren't married then," Mulder shrugged.
"Is this another bizarre Western courtship tradition I've never heard of?" Ivar asked dryly.
"I was trying to save his life," Scully said patiently.
"I feel so reassured around these people now," Diedre said dryly.
"I'm really hoping this isn't how you have fun every night," Angus remarked.
"Thank you, Angus, I really wanted that mental image in my mind for the next few decades," Ivar groaned.
"Hey, Aideen?" Amy called as she walked up to the faery.
"I was wondering when you'd be getting around to this," Aideen smiled as she turned around. She looked Amy up and down. "So, you're Robin's new beau, eh?"
"And you're his old one," Amy nodded.
"Times past, lassie, times long past," Aideen sighed.
"So, what am I in for?" Amy said, not sure if she wanted to know the answer.
Aideen took a breath and let it out. "Laughs. Tears. Joy. A bit of heartache. But he's a good lad underneath it all, really. Very good. He'll treat you right, Amy. Never doubt that."
"So, you and Torc are together now?" Amy asked. "Out of curiosity, what do you see in him?"
Aideen took a deep breath and looked towards Torc. "Once, I had an attraction to Rhoan, when the Knights first got together. Even did a couple of stupid deals with Maeve to try and get him. I guess it started when he came to help teach them. I just saw a side to him I'd never seen before. He really is a good man, just made some bad choices, like everyone does. And, well, it took a while but he finally told me I meant the same to him. It can work, Amy, a relationship between a human and a faery. It's true, it can work."
"Good to know," Amy said. She began walking over towards Torc. "Hang on, where are you going?" Aideen frowned.
Amy turned to her with a light smile. "Oh, I just wanted to exchange notes with Torc. See if sex with a faery is just as good on the other end."
Aideen watched her leave and closed her eyes. "Please attack now, please attack now, please attack now......"
A loud honking cut through the yard as everyone looked outwards. "Oh, yeah, thought we'd forgotten something," Liam said. "Poor Joyce, missed all the fun."
"Liam, do not ever refer to Joyce witnessing fights as fun in front of Buffy," Robin said. "Or you are in for a world of pain."
"Why? She got powers?"
"She's a mother. She doesn't need any."
To say the mood in the throne room was dark didn't even begin to describe. The few surviving ninjas had just given their report and the mood of their master was letting them know that they might have been a lot better off taking their chances with the fighters they'd just faced.
"Outnumbered five to one and they beat you," Khan said in a very low and dangerous voice.
"There more than we expected my Lord," one ninja said. "And they were quite skilled in both fighting tactics and magic."
"I warned you not to underestimate them," Mider muttered.
"We were ready for the ones we had been told about," the ninja said. "But as I said, there were more to their number and-----"
"My orders were short and to the point," Khan said in a low tone. "In fact, I made them that way specifically for you. You were to get the two Immortals and the Amazon. The rest were to be eliminated. And you were not to come back unless you had them. And you ran."
The leader of the ninja hordes swallowed and spoke. "My Lord----"
He was cut off as Khan rose, growling, energy crackling from his hands and striking forth, blasting the ninjas back, their charred corpses falling in a pile before him. Khan stalked down from his throne and spoke. "Tsung, do me a favor and check through my records and see if you can find anyone in my empire who is capable in the least of KILLING THESE PEOPLE!!!"
Tsung took a breath, glancing over at the captives before returning his gaze to Shao Khan. "I have found some people who might be capable of killing these people, my Lord. But...."
"Give me names," Khan said, fixing his glare on Tsung.
"But, my Lord....."
Sighing, Tsung began to speak. "Connor Macleod, Duncan Macleod, Methos, Cassandra...."
A loud burst of laughter echoed from the structure as the prisoners laughed as one, Maeve joining in, which did little to alleviate Khan's anger. He fixed his glare on Maeve who sobered slightly under it. "What is so amusing, witch?"
Maeve stopped laughing but a slight smile kept on her face. "It seems that the only people who are capable of killing the escapees are allied with them."
"Very well," Khan said, gritting his teeth. "Is there anyone who is *not* allied with them that could kill someone even as skilled as the Wanderer?"
"Well, there is a man known as JP Withers. He makes the Wanderer look like----" He paused, trying to think of a fair comparison.
"Mother Theresa," Maeve put in.
"Thank you," Tsung nodded.
"Well, let's get him then," Mider said, clicking his nail in impatience.
"He is also known as Aderron of Atlantis," Tsung spoke to Khan. Instantly, Maeve and Mider's faces went white, jaws dropping in horror at Tsung's words. "ADERRON?!" they both gasped.
"There's more," Tsung said to Kahn, nearly causing the witch and the faery to faint. "What?" Mider cried out.
"It would seem that this....Aderron has a daughter, Adrianna, who was recently reincarnated into a new form."
"So, let us kidnap her and force her to do our bidding," Khan shrugged, missing the grin Buffy got on her face.
"Well, it is not so simple, My Lord," Tsung said.
"Why. Not?" Khan growled.
Tsung took a deep breath. "We already have her."
"WHO?" Maeve shrieked.
"That would be me, assholes."
As one, everyone looked over toward the grinning Slayer. "Oh, sublime, meet ridiculous," Maeve muttered.
"Well, looks like the research needed a bit of work, eh, Maeve?" Mider growled.
"And if you guys know what's good for you, you'll let us go and get the hell out of Dodge before JP hears about this," Steve put in.
"If you are trying to intimidate me, Wanderer, you will have to do better than that," Khan said.
Everyone, including Maeve and Mider, stared at him in shock. "Do you know what this bastard is?" Maeve asked.
"Not really," Khan said. "But I know who I am. I am the man who has ruled an empire of hundreds of dimensions for more centuries than you can count. I have ripped apart armies with my bare hands and built my palace on their bones. And with each realm I conquer, my power grows, physical and magical. And when this realm is mine, he will be merely human. And dead at my feet."
"I don't think you know how bad he is," Buffy said.
"Considering I killed his daughter in less than half a minute, I doubt he will be much," Khan shrugged, turning his back on them.
"Be different if you face him, pal," Xander said.
"Do not fear him, Harris. He is not here. I am. Fear me."
"How am I supposed to fear a guy who dresses like Skeletor?"
Khan stared at him, then at Maeve, who shrugged and shook her head. "No idea."
"Yes!" Xander grinned. "Finally got her!" The grin faded with a yell as Maeve blasted him again. "It was worth it," he grunted.
Hissing, Khan turned back to his chief sorcerer. "All right, Tsung. Amateur night is over! Get our best fighters and get me what I want and get it NOW!"
"Of course, My Lord," Tsung bowed, a slight smile coming onto his face. "It will require one small modification, if you will permit?"
"Get on with it," Khan growled.
Nodding, Tsung turned towards Maeve. "As we discussed? If you please?"
"With pleasure," Maeve said. She spun nicely on her heel and walked over towards the balcony set along one edge of the throne room, facing the column of fire that connected the Hellmouth to the Outworld portal. Aiming the gem-tipped end of her staff, Maeve began to speak in a mixture of tongues, combining her magics with those of Outworld, a beam blasting from her staff and into the column itself. There was a pause, then a ball of fire shot out from the column and flew over Maeve's head, entering the throne room and blasting to the floor before Khan.
The flame soon took on the form of a man, the fires forming into a ninja outfit. Completely black save for the yellow coverings along its chest and back. It's cowl was yellow with a large mouthpiece instead of a mask. In the space between was what appeared to be a normal human face, save for the completely white eyes, which glanced up at Khan as it remained in a kneeling position.
For the first time since the ninjas had returned, a smile came upon Khan's face. "Scorpion," he nodded. "Rise, my loyal servant. It is good to see you in service again."
Scorpion nodded slightly as he rose, fists clenching and unclenching as he took in the group before him. "Very good, Shang. Very good indeed," Khan nodded.
"Thank you, my Lord," Tsung nodded back. He turned to Scorpion, keeping his voice level. "You have been recalled for a mission of the utmost importance."
Scorpion stared back at him.
"The chance to be among us when we merge Earth with Outworld," Tsung nodded although Scorpion hadn't said a word. "You will lead the capture party."
Scorpion cocked his head.
"You shall have your pick of the finest warriors in the Emperor's service," Tsung said. "Take whoever and however many you need. These people are not to be underestimated."
Scorpion nodded and turned his gaze to Mave and Mider.
"An Amazon witch and two Immortals," Maeve answered.
"The witch is a blonde teenager, the Immortals adults, watch for wedding rings," Mider put in. "The rest are expendable."
Scorpion nodded. "Great, a ninja mime," Xander muttered.
"Xander, that's Scorpion," Giles said in a hushed tone.
"Yeah, so?" Cordelia asked. "What's so big about banana boy?"
"Well, he tends to make people do strange things," Giles said carefully.
"Like what?" Xander asked.
"Like driving flaming longswords through their bodies," Steve said coolly.
Xander and Cordelia stared at him, then at Scorpion. "That's HIM?!"
"Oh and Scorpion?" Shang said with a smile. "One of the little expendables is the half-breed who handed you defeat the last time. I would imagine you would want to know."
Although it was hard to tell and harder to imagine, it seemed that Scorpion might have smiled slightly under his mask. His only outward sign was a bow as he suddenly blurred and vanished before them.
"What was that last part about, Tsung?" Khan frowned.
"Scorpion was involved in a battle last year here in Sunnydale," Tsung answered. "The half-elf was the warrior who sent him back to Hell."
"Ah, you've given him a reason to be successful in this mission," Mider grinned. "My compliments."
"What the hell are you two babbling about?" Maeve frowned.
"My dear Queen," Mider smiled. "Scorpion may be a demon but he is still a Lin Kuei. They take vengeance very seriously."
"And if he keeps the half-breed from interfering, it will make an easy mission all the more easier," Shang put in.
"And knowing how the mongrel will feel," Maeve nodded. "Knowing she is the only one left free and unable to take any action whatsoever to stop the merging?"
"Exactly," Shang smiled.
"On that topic," Khan announced. "Since the merger is imminent, I wish to make a list of those who must be disposed of."
"Kings, Queens, Prime Ministers, Presidents?" Maeve asked.
"No. I mean individuals who have power."
"So, who should be the first targets we eliminate?" Mider said.
"Why should we go after specific individuals?" Shang frowned.
"History, Tusng, history," Maeve wagged a finger at him. "Alexander. Caesar. Arthur. Charlemange. William the Conqueror. Robin Hood. Joan of Arc. Washington. Hitler. People with personality and magnetism that just could not be denied, and whom made life difficult for all those they opposed."
"Why doesn't it surprise me that you include Caesar and Hitler to such a list?" Giles sighed from the structure.
"I'm using personalities as an example," Maeve said as if to a child. "Have to take the bad with the good."
Giles snorted. "Hitler wasn't bad, he was a raving psychopathic lunatic!"
"That's not my idea of bad," Maeve smiled. "Actually, I suppose you could say I just rubbed off on him."
Even Khan was taken aback by this. "You----you----you knew Adolf Hitler?" Buffy choked.
"And we're what, surprised by this?" Willow asked.
"Told him his paintings sucked and he was better off trying to get into politics," Maeve shrugged. "We talked a while and I gave him some ruling pointers, how to get into power, hold to hold onto it, how to install terror to keep people under control. Told him all he needed to do was put blame on some group or another, whip people into a frenzy, ruling was no problem." She sighed deeply. "Unfortunately, the old boy just didn't have much control. Invading Russia was a big mistake, even I didn't think the Soviet resolve was going to be that steely. And then declaring war on America? A shame, he could have gone far."
"So, you're an expert at depravity and violence?" Steve asked.
"Of course," Maeve said, raising an eyebrow. "I was at Woodstock."
"That explains so much," Cordelia muttered.
Khan decided to get things back under control. "You make sense, Maeve. We take out those who could act as leaders for our enemies." He stood up from his throne, cracking his knuckles. "I will personally eliminate this Atlantean you speak so fearfully of."
Maeve and Mider stared at him mutely, taken aback by his confidence. "Do you really think you can take Aderron?" Mider asked
"Easily," Khan nodded. "Tsung!"
"Pass the word to all our warriors. When the assault of Earth begins, Aderron of Atlantis is mine." He stared straight ahead, fire in his eyes. "So let it be written, so let it be done."
Maeve's eyes nearly popped out of their sockets as she looked at Khan, then whirled towards Xander, who just rolled his eyes at her.
"Oh, come on," he grunted. "Don't tell me you didn't see that one coming."
His scream of pain gave Maeve a thrill of satisfaction as Khan simply stared at her.
"Didn't we do this scene already?" Mulder muttered as he and the others walked through the forest. "Couldn't we have parked a little closer?"
"Cars and trucks and the sort don't do much good near Tir Na Nog," Aideen answered as she led the group. "Fin Varra likes his privacy."
"So, back to the old homestead for you?" Scully asked as she walked by Mulder.
"Yeah. Been a long while since I was here last," Aideen said. "I asked for human form when I realized how much Torc meant to me, about five hundred years ago. Old Fin, bless him, granted it to me, only been back a couple of times since."
"So, you like Earth?" Mulder asked.
"Aye, I do. But it's not quite Earth I did it for. It's Torc."
"Thanks for the good feelings, lass," Torc smiled.
"It's still weird to see Aideen as a human, especially here," Angus muttered.
"I know," Rhoan nodded. "Remember the first time she did it, when Maeve tricked her into it as one of her schemes? We didn't even know it was her."
"I didn't," Diedre nodded. "Not even when she broke me out of Temra after Maeve had me in a mesmerizing spell."
"We didn't even know she could do it until she showed up at your wedding," Ivar nodded.
"Well, I'm glad she did," Diedre said. "I couldn't have my maid of honor flying about, could I?" She looked over her shoulder to Joyce, who was lagging behind. "Look, I'll hang back a bit. Wait up." She slowed down so Joyce could catch up to her.
"What's that about?" Mulder frowned as he glanced behind.
"Probably the same thing I wanted to ask you two," Rhoan said. "You two worried? About the marriage thing?"
"A little," Mulder admitted. "I mean, we thought we were doing good, then we find out you and her have been married for over a thousand years. It's a little daunting."
"We've never given that much thought to how long we're going to live," Scully clarified. "I mean, it seems so normal now but....it doesn't really seem like we're going to live forever."
"I know," Rhoan nodded. "It doesn't really set in until the first century or so. You make it to that, you've got a better idea of what to expect. And making it together will help all the more."
"You think we can?" Mulder asked.
"You love her?"
"More than anything," Mulder said, looking to Scully.
"You love him?"
"With all my heart," Scully replied, sharing Mulder's look.
"Damn good place to start from. Run with it."
"I hope we can get to that point after a while," Scully sighed.
"When you've been Immortal for a thousand years, then you can talk to me," Rhoan nodded.
"No, I can't," Scully smiled.
"Because then you'll tell me that I can talk to you when I've been Immortal for two thousand years," Scully smiled, earning a chuckle from Rhoan.
"So, either of you ever been married?" Amy asked Ivar and Angus.
"Never got myself tied down long enough for that," Angus shrugged. "I'm just not the type to settle down for the easy life, I guess. Had some long-term girlfriends but nothing permanent."
"How about you?" Amy turned to Ivar.
"Once," he said flatly. "It ended badly."
"How badly?" Amy asked.
"Ever wondered where Shakespeare got the idea for 'Othello?'"
Amy opened her mouth but the glare in Ivar's eyes silenced any comments she might have had.
"Whole conversation give you ideas?" Liam smirked at Shaw.
"It does, actually," she replied in a cool tone.
"Really?" Liam grinned.
"Yes. It gives me ideas on exactly where I can hit you and how hard if you continue on this path with me."
"So, date's out of the question?" Liam asked, taken aback when Shaw glared at him sourly before picking up the pace a bit. "What'd I say?"
"Shaw's had a rough time in Sunnydale when it comes to a love life," Robin smiled. "First, Amy and Cordelia tried to set her up a football player, unaware the guy was gay."
"Honest mistake," Amy protested.
"And before that, they set her up with Jack the Ripper."
"Guy was that bad?" Liam asked.
"No," Robin clarified as Amy moaned. "He was Jack the Ripper. An Immortal."
"Ouch," Liam grimaced.
"So, aside from threatening them with severe bodily harm if they ever tried it again, Shaw also gave me and Xander carte blanche to smack them a bit."
"Payback, I'm assuming?" Liam grinned.
"Yep," Robin grinned back. "Oh, and then Arty helped her by casting an illusion spell that made Shaw look like......Well......" Concentrating, Robin conjured up the image Artemis had made Shaw look like. It wasn't until Liam's face broke into a wild grin and a huge laugh that Amy realized he'd "read" the image off Robin's mind.
"Oh, now that is something," Liam nodded. "Lass ought to try that look out a bit more."
"Yeah," Robin grinned. "You should have seen the looks on Amy and Cordelia's faces when they saw her in the cafeteria looking normal. In fact, I still have the photos at home."
"Thanks a lot, Robin," Amy said crossly. "I so enjoy being reminded of that. Okay, so we screwed up and okay, she got us back for it. Let it go already, will you?"
Liam let out a long laugh as Amy stared at him in confusion. "What?"
Still chuckling, Liam hit her with a grin. "Lass, ye know what he's like when you mention Puck?"
"Unfortunetly," Amy said gloomily.
"He hasn't let go of that in four hundred years. What does that tell ye?"
Amy took a moment to think of it and blanced. "I'm doomed."
As Amy moaned and Robin and Liam laughed, Diedre came up beside Joyce, who had been silent since the encounter at Castle Kells. "You want to talk?"
"Not really," Joyce muttered.
Diedre fell in step with her, the two silent for a bit. "So, your daughter sounds like a good woman."
"I hope she is," Joyce answered. "I've raised her the best I can."
"Good for you," Diedre replied.
"No children of your own?" Joyce asked.
"Thought about adopting," Diedre said. "But it gets a little tough to explain when your child looks older than you do. Always dreamed about it though. Guess it just wasn't meant to be."
"Meant to be," Joyce sighed. "I thought that was what my marriage was supposed to be. It just isn't fair. You've been married for a thousand years. You've been through wars, plagues, cultural changes and you and Rhoan are still together. I couldn't even keep Hank and me going long enough for Buffy to reach senior year."
"Joyce," Diedre sighed. "It's not perfect. It never is. Rhoan and I have had some tough times over the years, times when we didn't think we could make it. But we held on. We fought."
"Are you saying I didn't fight for my marriage?" Joyce said defensively.
"I have no doubt you did," Diedre replied calmly. "But every good soldier knows when it's time to retreat. Did you love Hank as much at the end?"
There was a pause before Joyce replied. "No....."
Diedre put a hand on Joyce's shoulder as they walked along. "I'm luckier than most people, Joyce. I have the time to find everything I want and use it. I was lucky that what I wanted was right with me." She gave a loving glance towards Rhoan before returning to Joyce. "But you still have time, Joyce. Time to meet someone you can spend your life with. Never, ever think it's too late, Joyce. That's one lesson I've learned."
"It's more than that," Joyce sighed. "It's Buffy. Having her in danger like this....I mean, I've always known she's had a dangerous life, being the Slayer and all but....but it really hasn't hit me until now just how bad it is, to face creatures and killers and even being Immortal doesn't make her any safer. I'm afraid, Diedre. Not just about this but that she puts herself through this time and again. I just don't know how to deal with all that. I'm just so scared of losing her, Diedre. She's my baby, no matter how old she gets. And now.....now, I don't know if I'll ever see her again."
Diedre was silent for a moment, trying to think of something to say. "My father worried the same about me," she said. "Even after I became Immortal, he worried every time I went into battle. Of course, being beheaded was a more common occurance in war back then but the point is.....he knew this was something I wanted to do. To fight for what I thought was right, regardless of the cost. From what I've gathered from the others, Buffy stopped being pushed around by this Council of Watchers a long time ago. She wants to do this, Joyce, she believes in it. As for her being in danger, well, I think she can handle it."
"What makes you say that?" Joyce asked.
"Well, you're handling being with us," Diedre smiled. "If you're that strong, then your daughter must be a wonderful woman."
"I don't know if it will be enough," Joyce said. "Not this time."
"We'll get her back, Joyce," Diedre said softly. "I promise."
"Well, that's all well and good, Diedre but promises aren't------"
Diedre stopped in place, grabbing Joyce and turning her to face her. Joyce could see a strength and fire in Diedre's eyes that made what she said to be the absolute truth. "I am Diedre, daughter of Conchobar, Princess and heir to the Royal Throne of the Kingdom of Kells. I swear to you, Joyce Summers, on my name, my crown, my soul and my life, we will get your daughter back alive."
Joyce stared at her, knowing Diedre meant every word she said. "Thank you," she smiled at the other woman and nodded. They both looked up as Aideen called out. "We're here!"
The clearing she led the others into was a large circle, with a series of stones set along the edges, circling a flat tablet. Set in the middle of the stone surface was a bright red gem. "Well, here we go," Rhoan said with a deep breath as he led the others to the stone. They all surrounded it, the Knights looking down with trepidation, the others with confusion.
"Okay, hands above the gem," Rhoan said. The Knights, Aideen and Torc immediately did it, the others pausing before joining their hands with the others, just above the gem.
"I bloody hate this," Angus muttered.
"Ah, is this going to be bad?" Amy asked with a look of worry.
Before Angus could reply, the gem started to glow and then shot out a beam of red light. Immediately, the group seemed to dissolve into trails of magic that swept into the gem. The next thing any of them knew, they were standing inside what appeared to be a large cavern, torches lighting it and illuminating the area before them.
"So, a yes there would be the right answer?" Amy said as she got her breath back from the sudden teleportation. With the exceptions of Robin, Liam and Aideen, the others were a bit shaken by the sudden shift in location and the surroundings before them didn't quite help.
It appeared something of a celebration was taking place, figures only about two feet tall in various dress eating and dancing, barely stopping at the sudden arrival of human figures inside. A series of stone steps led to a large throne, well large in contrast to the people around it. Sitting on the throne was-----well, like Angus had said, it looked like an Irish Orson Welles. Large and plump with a white beard that nearly reached to the floor, an impish grin on his face and the fact that he was only about two feet tall didn't take away from his regal bearing.
"Finally, the Knights have come BACK to Tir Na Nog!" Angus yelled.
Ivar stared at him. "You've been in America too long."
Aideen moved forward and bowed before the figure. "My lord," she said. "Thank you for seeing us."
"For you and the Knights, I always have the time, dear Aideen," Fin Varra smiled. He glanced around towards the Knights. "Well, time hasn't slowed you down any, I see." He looked towards Rhoan and Aideen. "Still together, then? Glad you got the magic touch going."
"Do we have time for meaningless talk?" Shaw hissed.
"Mind the manners before the Lord of Tir Na Nog," Aideen hissed back with a steely resolve that even Shaw was stunned at. Aideen suddenly smiled, the resolve seeming to vanish. "We like our meaningless talk here in Ireland."
She turned back to Fin Varra and bowed again. "My Lord, she is correct. A situation has come up."
"I know of Mider being freed," Fin Varra nodded. "Although I did not know of the Outworld connection until recently. I think I can imagine why you've come."
"You said that whenever we asked for the Mystic Weapons back, you would give them to us," Rhoan said. "Well, we're asking."
"Ah, yes," Fin Varra said, biting his lip. "Well, there might be just the slightest of problems in that regard."
"What problems?" Torc frowned.
"Well, it's in regards to the Mystic Weapons," Fin Varra said. "And the fact they're not quite----available."
"What do you-----" Rhoan asked.
"You lost them, didn't ye?" Liam said in a cool tone.
Fin Varra coughed nervously. "Yes, ah, interesting way to put that, lad. See, a few centuries back, I was getting into a very high stakes card game with some other Eternals and I had what I thought was an absolutely unbeatable hand but didn't have much money left so----"
Everyone just stared at him. "You lost the Mystic Weapons in a card game?" Diedre bit off each word.
"Well, I thought I had the perfect hand!" Fin Varra shot out. "Bastard had a one-in-a-million better one."
"Why the hell have you never said anything?!" Diedre shrieked. "You lost our bloody weapons and you didn't think of telling us?!"
"Well, you only told me to tell if they'd been destroyed or anything like that," Fin Varra defended himself. "I know exactly where they are, they just aren't----easy to get at."
"Okay, fine, who'd you lose 'em to?" Liam asked. "We'll talk to that guy."
Fin Varra sighed as he looked up towards Robin and in that moment, he knew. "Oh, no," Robin said softly. "Oh, no, please no, don't say it, please don't say it....."
"It was Oberon," Fin Varra said.
"Ghaa!" Robin said as he smacked himself on the head. Mulder, Scully and Amy all moaned as the others looked on in confusion. "Why him?" Robin said softly. "Of all the Eternals, why did he have to lose the Weapons to Oberon? What have I done to deserve this?"
Liam opened his mouth.
"Don't answer that," Robin said, holding up a finger.
Liam closed his mouth.
"So, we've got to see Oberon?" Aideen said.
"I'm afraid so," Fin Varra nodded. "So, it looks like breaking out a keg is out of the question."
"Now I remember why I haven't missed this guy so much," Angus muttered.
"Do you have any advice that could actually help us?" Rhoan said dryly.
"Just one," Fin Varra said, leaning forward. "Strength in numbers is wise but numbering your strengths is even wiser."
"Great," Angus said sarcastically. "A thousand years and he's still doing the fortune cookies."
"Well, looks like it's back to the road trip," Aideen sighed. "We'd better get going." She turned to leave but was stopped by a voice. "Aideen!" Fin Varra called.
She turned to face him. "Are you happy?" he asked simply.
Aideen smiled and nodded. "I am."
"You're always welcome to come back, you know that," Fin Varra said carefully.
"Tir Na Nog will always be my home, sire," Aideen said respectfully. She took a look towards the others. "But they----they will always be my family."
Fin Varra smiled. "Then go help them, lass." He sat back on his throne, waving his hand and the entire group vanished.
"Oh, god, I think I'm going to be sick," Joyce moaned, holding her stomach. "How do you stand this?"
"Actually, teleportation isn't part of the regular duties," Amy sighed. "Thank God for that."
"So, we've got to go see Oberon?" Mulder said, not liking the idea one bit.
"God help us all, yes," Robin muttered. "I don't know how we're going to talk him into giving us the Weapons."
"That is the least of your problems," a voice suddenly came from behind them. They all turned to see Shang Tsung step forward. "Shang," Robin hissed. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"Making sure my Emperor gets what he wants," Tsung replied. "By the way, allow me to introduce my colleagues." He made a motion and suddenly a group of eleven figures melted out of the shadows and approached the group.
Instantly, they all recognized one red-clad figure, dreadlock like tubes flowing from his helmet, moving in stiff, robotic motions. It was the ninja who had shot out the missile that had nearly destroyed Joyce's van back in Sunnydale. Beside him were two exact same figures, one clad in yellow, the other in gray. "Sektor. Cyrax. Smoke," Tsung intoned. "The latest in cybernetic assassins. No pity, no remorse, no fear. The perfect killers."
Two of the figures were female, each wearing a tight fighting outfit accenting their beauty but with athletic forms. One had her hair in a bun and was wearing a green outfit with a staff in her hands. The other had brown hair done in a long ponytail with a headband, her outfit purple, waving a pair of sais. Both had masks covering the lower half of their faces. "Jade," Tsung said, motioning to the green-clad woman. "And Millena, half-sister of the traitorous Princess Kitana."
One man stepped forward although "man" wasn't exactly the right term for it. It had dark leathery skin, clad in black pants and a white shirt, totally bald with a slightly pointed head, highlighted by a gaping jaw filled with razor sharp teeth. He clenched his hands and a single solid blade shot out of each forearm, extending over his fists. "Baraka."
The other figures stepped forward, all wearing the same type of dark ninja outfits with different colorings: Red, purple, green, black, yellow. "Ermac. Rain. Reptile. Noob Saibot." Tsung smiled as he looked over towards Shaw. "And I do believe you've already met Scorpion."
He smiled at the looks on the faces of the others, then backed away. "Get the Immortals and the witch. Kill the rest." With that, he vanished and left the group circled by eleven beings out to spill new blood onto an ancient land.
"I do believe they intend to kill us," Ivar said with his standard dry tone.
"Let's disappoint them," Rhoan said. "I haven't missed an Olympics before and I'm not planning to start now." He drew his sword as the group went into defense mode.
"Ah, I'll just be over here," Joyce said, swiftly backing away towards the trees.
"Fill up your dance cards, folks!" Liam said, looking about and finally focusing on Baraka. "All right, Jaws. Let's get down to it."
Baraka snarled at leapt forward, blades extended. Liam waited until just the last moment, then vanished, Baraka sailing through the spot where he had been and collapsing on the ground, Liam appearing behind him to smirk. "All teeth, no brains, I see."
Barka lashed out with his feet, knocking Liam back spinning about with the blades as the leprechaun nimbly dodged the blows. Baraka snarled and struck out, one blade slicing forward and suddenly hitting a slab of salami that Liam held up. "Thanks," Liam said, holding up a head of lettuce. "And this too?"
Nearby, Scully ducked as Jade's staff swung past her head, sword out to block another blow for her. Near her, Mulder leaped up to avoid a fireball thrown by Ermac. He landed next to Scully, the two sharing a quick glance.
<Dance time?> Mulder wondered.
<You lead> Scully replied. Mulder nodded and moved forward, launching a kick that nailed Ermac in the chest. As the ninja fell back, Mulder leaned forward, allowing Scully to move onto him, her back sliding on his as she leaped around and slammed a foot into Jade's face. Mulder grabbed Scully on her way down, picking her up and spinning her about, her feet nailing Ermac in the face, Mulder turning his body so she could do the same to Jade.
<I love that faery> Mulder smiled as he and Scully shared a quick kiss. Rising, Ermac growled and lifted up a hand. Without warning, a force of telekinesis slammed into the two agents, knocking them back. Mulder grunted as he felt Ermac leap down on him, one of his ribs breaking from his kick. Next to him, Scully was barely able to avoid a staff blow from Jade, the staff knocking along her skull, rattling her.
Mileena spun her twin blades in her hands as she moved forward. Amy went towards her but Diedre held up a hand. "Allow me." She yanked out her own two swords, spinning the blades in her hands as she moved forward. "Let's do it, bitch."
Snarling, Mileena moved forward, her sais slamming onto Diedre's swords, the two exchanging furious blows. The sound of metal on metal came fast and furious, the two spinning about to try and get the advantage. Diedre yelped as she felt one sai slash her arm, responding by launching a blow that grazed Mileena on the side, drawing blood and increasing the fervor of their battle.
Amy felt a sound behind her and ducked a blow from behind. She spun about to see the black clad Noob Siabot face her. "Oh, you wanna go there, huh?" she said, launching a kick. Noob avoided it, spinning about to slam the palm of his hand into Amy's chest knocking her down. She kicked out but Noob spun and then suddenly vanished. Amy looked around, trying to sense where he was until a blow nailed her in the face, knocking her down. She fell to her knees and gasped as she felt an invisible kick to her gut, rolling her over. "Okay. That's.....cheating!"
There was a blur in the air and a grunt. Amy looked up to see Robin standing over her, eyes gazing about. He waved his hand and the blur occurred again, smashing into a tree nearby. Concentrating, Robin let out a burst of magic and Noob reappeared, apparently taken aback that his invisibility no longer worked.
"Thanks," Amy grunted as she got back to her feet.
"No prob," Robin said. "You want me to----?"
"Nope," Amy said, shaking his head. "Just make sure he doesn't do the vanishing act again. He's mine."
"Go get him, honey," Robin smiled as Amy launched a blow into Noob's face.
Ivar's sword sliced at Cyrax, the cybernetic ninja ducking the blow, launching a kick that smashed into Ivar's ribs. Ivar backed away, grunting in pain as he launched his sword again. It smashed into Cyrax's upper shoulder but the ninja did not seem to feel it at all, moving forward and kicking Ivar down. It reached up and pulled the sword out, tossing it back to Ivar. Ivar glanced down at the oil on it, realizing he was facing more machine than man. "Shit."
Ivar glanced up to see a panel open in the front of Cyrax's chest, a globe appearing in it. It shot out of Cyrax's chest and fell right before Ivar. It was a simple globe containing a small light that blinked faster as Ivar saw it. "Oh, Hell," Ivar said, knowing what it was. He leaped to his feet and ran, jumping up just as the small bomb detonated, blasting him away.
Rhoan was having the same problems fighting a cyborg himself, Sektor feeling no pain from his blows, the cybernetic ninja nailing him with kicks and punches, knocking him back. Rhoan managed to get in a blow that knocked Sektor back. The ninja steadied itself, a panel in his chest opening to show off what appeared to be a miniature missile launcher. Eyes wide, Rhoan leaped aside as a missile shot out, the flame nearly scorching him as it shot past. Rhoan landed on his feet, facing Sektor, confident he could take him now. The confidence vanished as he turned at a sudden sound and saw the missile streaking at him. He barely managed to dodge it again, the projectile blasting into a tree and blasting it to pieces.
"Stand still, dammit!" Angus yelled, his sword cleaving at Smoke. The ninja didn't move but his body became immaterial, a cloud of-----well, smoke, Angus' sword slicing through it without effect. The mist formed behind Angus, Smoke solidifying and smashing him in the back. Angus sliced out again and again Smoke turned to mist to avoid the blow. "Okay, I'm not the most honest bloke around but this is just unfair!" Angus groaned.
Torc was battling it out with Reptile, the serpentine fighter ducking his blows and striking fast with his own, Torc grunting at the pain as nerves were hit and his reactions slowed. He slammed a punch out at Reptile's face, the ninja jumping back. Reptile hauled back and spat out something from the fang-like mask, Torc barely dodging a steam of green liquid that hit the tree behind him, the tree melting under the acid touch. "Don't even think of trying that with my new shirt," Torc snarled.
Aideen looked carefully at Rain and raised an eyebrow. "A purple ninja? Please, lad, have some sense of style." She reached out a hand and Rain sailed away, smashing into a tree with a grunt.
"Well, that wasn't so----" Aideen turned just in time for Reptile to spray a stream of acid at her face. She screamed in pain at the acid, holding her face as she collapsed.
"Aideen!" Torc screamed as he launched himself at Reptile, attacking with renewed vigor. He smashed his sword into Reptile's face, sending him back in pain. Torc spared a glance at Aideen, seeing her holding a hand to her face, both glowing. He knew she was using her magic to heal herself but also knew it took a lot of concentration, putting her down for a while. Torc glared at Reptile, the old anger flowing into him again. "I'm going to turn you into a new pair of boots," he snarled as he attacked.
Shaw held up her sword as she moved towards Scorpion, who simply stared back impassively. "I believe the saying is once is never enough?" Shaw asked, looking at the ninja.
"GET OVER HERE!" Scorpion let out as his palm shot up, the long line shooting out from it and heading right to Shaw. She was taken aback at how much faster he was, barely able to avoid the line. A pain struck her shoulder and she glanced to see the snapping jaw at the end of the line stuck on her shirt. Batting it aside, she moved forward, spinning her sword into an attack mode.
Scorpion brought the line back into his palm even as he started to block Shaw's blows, avoiding her sword strikes as he matched her. Shaw was again amazed that he seemed much faster than before, a speed she was unprepared for. True, she had more experience than she'd had before after a year of training with Amazons and empowered men but Scorpion's skills seemed to have improved as well. He kicked upwards, knocking Shaw's sword away and moved into her with blows. Shaw could tell that this wasn't duty for Scorpion, this was a matter of vengeance. And that made it all the more deadly.
Mileena and Diedre were still exchanging blows with their twin blades, sparks flashing off the metal. Mileena managed to get one sai past Deidre's defenses, slicing a cut along her cheek. "Not so pretty now, are you?" Mileena snorted. Her laughs faded as Diedre stood up, revealing the cut on her cheek to be already healing, a grim smile on Diedre's face. "You should try it," she said, lashing out with her sword, slicing the mask off of Mileena's face.
Diedre couldn't help but to be stunned by what lay underneath. Mileena's mouth was a horrific jaw, the mouth open wide with several rows of sharpened teeth. "Now why would you hide a pretty face like that?" Diedre managed to get out as Mileena renewed her attack.
Joyce watched the battle unfold, trying to see if either side was making any progress. Amy was holding her own with Noob, despite continuing to tell Robin not to interfere. Scorpion and Shaw were still stalemated, although Scorpion was apparently getting more blows in. Baraka was still slicing out at Liam, who kept throwing sandwich ingredients up for his blades to slice at. Ermac smashed Mulder into a tree with a wave of his arm as Jade hit Scully in the gut with her staff. The cyborgs were getting the most blows in, their inability to feel pain hurting Rhoan, Ivar and Angus. As Joyce watched, Sektor shot out another missile, Rhoan ducking as it blasted a tree behind him. Rhoan let out a yell as a long branch impaled him from behind, sending him down.
Joyce gulped as she felt a hand touch her shoulder. Swallowing, she looked up, afraid to be staring up at a hooded and robed figure. Instead, she was looking up into the impassive face of an attractive blonde-haired woman. "Back up, lady," she said in a hard-bitten tone. "The professionals are here."
She moved and Joyce suddenly saw three men with her. The last one, a Chinese man with a kind smile, nodded at her. "Don't worry. We're good at this."
Amy nailed Noob with another fist and tried a follow-up, only to have him grab her arm. Before Robin could move, a foot hit Noob in the face, knocking him back. The ninja shook his head as he moved back, allowing the kicker to step in. "Hey, how's it going?"
"Okay, I----" Amy's voice trailed as she got a good look at the man. "Holy shit, you're Johnny Cage!"
"Glad to meet a fan," Johnny nodded. He glanced over to Robin. "So, who are you?"
"Name's Robin," the faery replied.
"Like rockin' Robin?"
"No," Robin said, mildly insulted.
"Well, get rocking, Robin!" Johnny yelled, ducking as Noob struck out, the actor dodging the blow and launching a kick at his mid-section.
Jade was preparing another blow with her staff when a pair of hands gripped it and yanked it away. Jade looked up to see a blond haired woman and a black man with metal coverings on his arms glaring at her and Ermac. "News flash, hon," the blonde said. "Green is not your color." She swung out and nailed Jade in the face with her own staff. "Jax, start punching!"
"Finally, after all that shit about dimensions and portals and ninjas, something I know," the black said, launching a metallic fist that smashed into Ermac's face, knocking the red-clad ninja away. "Call the chamber of commerce, this is about to be reclassified a whupass zone."
"Who the hell are you?" Scully asked.
"Sonya Blade, Jackson Briggs, United States Marine Corps," Sonya answered as she dodged one of Jade's blows, kicking her in the gut hard.
"Thought 'call the Marines' was just an expression," Scully said lightly as she watched the two go at it.
"United States Marine Corps," Jax nodded. "When it absolutely, positively has to be destroyed overnight."
He blasted Ermac with another punch as Sonya tossed Jade's staff to her, then kicked her in the face when she couldn't block it. "Hey, Sonya," Jax called. "How come you never said you knew Johnny Cage?"
"Never asked," Sonya replied, leaping to avoid Jade swinging the staff at her legs. "Why, you want an autograph? He's always got plenty on him."
"Business first," Jax said, smirking as he heard Ermac grunt in pain as his foot connected with the metal on Jax's arms.
Aideen had just finished healing herself even though her face still hurt like hell. She looked up in time for Rain's foot to smash into her face, knocking her down. Before he could attack again, the Asian man was upon him, smashing Rain with blows on his chest and face. "Are you all right?"
"Sure," Aideen said, standing up. She turned her head towards where Torc and Reptile were still going at it. "Hold him off. I've got some business to attend to."
Liu Kang nodded, moving back to exchange blows with Rain, the ninja trying to keep up with his lightning-fast moves. Aideen stalked over to where Reptile knocked Torc down, the ninja hauling back to unleash another burst of acid. Aideen grabbed him by the shoulder and yanked him around, allowing Reptile to see her glowing eyes filled with anger as she let loose a single word.
Reptile's eyes went wide and a feral scream came from his mouth as his skin caught on fire, flames bursting through his clothes, ripping all around him, turning him into a figure of flame. He seemed to shrink, his form melting to become a true lizard, shaking and kicking before finally dying out, his charred body smoking as Aideen spat down at it.
She slowly looked up to see Torc staring at her. "Aid," he said in a soft voice. "I love ye....but there are times you truly scare me."
"Sorry," Aideen said softly. "Bastard pissed me off. Deserved a taste of his own medicine."
"A taste is one thing, lass," Torc said. "This was a bit more than he could chew."
"See me crying?" Aideen sniffed as she moved back to the fight. Torc watched her go and shivered a bit before following.
Sektor had moved away from the fallen Rhoan and towards Torc and Aideen. He ducked Torc's blow, his leg kicking out towards Aideen. Aideen leaped back and waved her hands, sending Sektor flying off. "Finally backing off a bit," Torc nodded.
"Never suggest that again," Aideen replied with a smirk.
Cyrax kicked back at Ivar, knocking him down. The cyborg turned to see Diedre and Mileena, pushing their swords hard against one another. Cyrax took a few steps forward and stopped, pushing his arms away as the panel in his chest opened. "Diedre!" Ivar yelled.
Diedre glanced over her shoulder just as Cyrax shot something out of his chest panel. Instinctively, Diedre ducked and leaped away, leaving Mileena staggering off balance. The item from Cyrax's chest seemed to grow, turning into a green net of some sort that smacked right into Mileena, wrapping around her body. Millena shrieked as the wires of the net seemed to cut into her skin and melt it from the inside out. Her scream continued until her skin, muscles and finally vocal cords were melted away. Her skeleton stood in place for a few minutes before falling to the ground, the bones melting until literally nothing of her was left.
"Damn," Diedre whispered. "Well, that's one way to get a facial." She looked up as Ivar smashed Cyrax in the back with his sword, knocking the ninja forward. Diedre struck out with her fist and yelled in pain. "Dammit. I'm going after a ninja who knows when I'm hitting him."
Rain and Liu Kang continued to share blows as Johnny and Ermac's fight led them nearby. "Hey, Liu," Johnny called out, ducking Ermac's blow and kicking him in the gut. "Like old times, huh?"
"I don't know if I'd put it quite that way," Liu muttered, blocking a shot from Rain and punching back. "But we do appear to have most of the gang around."
"Still wish I didn't have to be here," Johnny said. "But hey, I love sequels and reruns."
"How can you be so light going about this?" Liu asked in disbelief.
"I'm an optimist, sue me!" Johnny replied, kicking at Ermac.
"Go ahead, Liu, he's and actor, he's loaded!" Sonya yelled back.
"There's more than we had before," Liu said
"Yeah, including Scorpion," Johnny said. "All we need is Frosty the damn Snow-Ninja and we've got the whole gang." He ducked another blow from Ermac, kicking him away. He glanced up and his eyes widened to see Mulder leaping forward, covering twenty feet with one leap, both feet slamming into Ermac's gut, knocking him back. "Hey," Mulder nodded. "Sorry, but he and I have unfinished business. Find your own partner?"
"Sure," Johnny said, glancing over towards Scorpion. "Got just the one." He moved forward to where Shaw had just ducked a blow from Scorpion and hit the ninja with a kick. "I do not need help!" Shaw yelled.
"Hey, I've faced banana boy before," Johnny said, backing up into a defensive posture as Scorpion prepared his next move. "He's a tough one."
"That he is," Shaw nodded, one hand sliding to her pocket. She glanced up at Johnny, seeming to notice him for the first time. "Are you-----Johnny Cage? I have seen some of your films. Impressive moves."
"Thanks," Johnny grinned.
"Of course, that is mostly technical trickery, not true fighting."
Johnny's face fell. "Okay, forget the autograph."
"If we fight him, try to keep up."
"You wound me."
"No," Shaw said in a cool tone. "When I wound you, you stay wounded."
Johnny shrugged and looked up as Scorpion moved forward, trading blows and blocks with the ninja. Scorpion. The ninja was stuck with anger now, recognizing another foe who had defeated him and renewing his vicious attack. As they fought, Shaw reached into her pocket and pulled out what appeared to be a small charm of some sort. She swiftly snapped it in half, then dropped the two pieces and got into the fight, smashing a kick into Scorpion's back, knocking him into a punch from Johnny that sent him staggering off.
"Damn, he's even tougher than before," Johnny said.
"His powers have increased," Shaw said. "But he can be defeated."
"Better tell him that," Johnny said. "He doesn't seem to be playing according to that handbook."
Smoke had just solidified and was readying another blow against Angus when Jax leaped behind him, smacking a metal arm against Smoke's back, the shriek of metal on metal filling the air. Smoke spun about, fist smacking into Jax's face. "Oh, you wanna go downtown, huh?" Jax grunted. "Let's go." His fists struck out, Smoke fighting back, sparks flying as they traded blows.
Noob Siabot had come to the logical conclusion that he wasn't getting anywhere with Robin and Amy and ducked away, looking for another target. He spotted Sonya, who had backed off when Scully went back to fighting Jade. As the Amazon Immortal and green-clad Outworld warrior traded kicks and blows, Sonya turned to see Noob leap forward, kicking her in the chest. Sonya fell back, gasping as Noob landed before her.
As the black-garbed ninja came towards her, Sonya rolled forward, raising herself up, hands on the ground, her long legs reaching up and hooking around Noob's neck. She flipped back, coming to her feet and pulling Noob off his feet and slamming onto his back. Sonya stood up, feet still around Noob's neck as she came to her full height. With no hesitation, she twisted her feet, producing a sickening crack. Noob twitched a bit, then lay still, his head twisted at an odd angle.
"Nice form," Robin said, raising an eyebrow. "Why didn't you finish him off that fast?"
"I didn't want to finish it that fast," Amy smiled. "Something I picked up from you."
"About time," Robin grinned back. He glanced over towards where Liam and Baraka were fighting. Actually, Baraka was fighting, slashing his blades forward, Liam having used them to chop up various ingredients which he now placed between two pieces of bread. Starting to eat it, he caught Baraka's arm as it came forward and kicked outward, sending him flying off.
"Is he always a showoff?" Amy asked.
"It's part of his charm," Robin nodded.
Liu was still fighting it out with Rain. The ninja kicked him away, knocking Liu off balance as he moved. Suddenly, the air took on a sudden chill and a blast of blue energy seemed to come out of nowhere, piercing Rain. The ninja cried out and then fell forward, allowing Liu to see a large dagger made of pure ice piercing his body. The pillar suddenly grew, forming upwards towards the air. Glancing up, Liu saw a figure slide down the pillar of ice, sliding to the ground, landing lightly on his feet and calmly walking past Liu. He was dressed in the same garb as the other ninjas, with blue colors, ignoring the shock on Liu's face as he moved to the battle.
"Sub-Zero," Liu whispered. "It can't be."
"Friend of yours?" Mulder said, he, along with Ermac, staring at the newcomer.
"I killed him," Liu said, stunned.
"Yeah, I know the feeling," Mulder nodded.
"Ah, jeez," Johnny groaned as he, Shaw and Scorpion saw Sub-Zero. "Doesn't anyone in that damn dimension stay *dead*?!"
"Do not worry," Shaw said. "He is with us."
"Okay, telling me he's with us and then telling me not to worry is just a contradiction in terms."
Sub-Zero moved towards where Angus and Ivar stared at him. He moved back, feet spread, hands making motions, mist beginning to form around them as he backed up. He held his hands together, a pale blue glow turning into a ball between his hands. He threw his hands out, beams of energy blasting forward, shooting past Angus and Ivar and striking Cyrax and Smoke. Immediately, ice came over the two cyborgs, stopping joints and freezing their systems. In seconds, they became two icy statues. Running forward, Sub-Zero leaped up, striking out with both legs, each kick shattering the two fighters into pieces.
"Um, is he on our side?" Jax asked.
"Don't jinx it," Sonya said as she watched Sub-Zero turn around and fix an icy gaze on Scorpion. There was a long pause as the two simply stared each other down. Scorpion gazed at Baraka, Ermac and Jade and made a motion with his head. He spun about, his hand throwing the same strange powder the ninjas at Castle Kells had used to open up a portal in space. He leaped into it, with other surviving warriors following, the portal closing right after Jade, leaving the warriors behind.
"Well, that was fun," Angus grunted.
"Damn, never got a decent shot at him," Johnny said, turning to find himself looking right into a gun held by Mulder. "Whoah. Okay, I've never even seen you and I know my movies can't be that bad."
"What are you doing?" Liu asked as he came up to Mulder.
"Kahn has one shape shifter we know about," Mulder said, his gun tight. "How do we know we can trust you?"
"Mulder," Scully sighed. "If Kahn was going to pick someone to impersonate, do you really think he'd pick an actor with no real fighting skills?"
"Hey!" Johnny said, insulted.
Mulder nodded and lowered his gun. "Yeah, you're right."
"HEY!" Johnny yelled again. He glanced towards Shaw. "Is he always this distrustful of people?"
"Don't take it personally," Scully answered before Shaw could. "I'm his wife and he barely trusts me."
"If there's anyone around here we shouldn't trust, it's him," Sonya said, pointing towards Sub-Zero, who was gazing calmly at the gathering warriors. They were all appraising the newcomer carefully, especially Liu.
"I killed you in the tournament," Liu said.
"No," the ninja replied, his hands reaching up to his mask. Johnny tensed, remembering when he'd seen what was under Scorpion's mask. He relaxed as the mask came off to reveal a young, handsome man with slicked-back dark hair, a large scar bisecting his right eye. "You killed my older brother," he said, fixing his gaze on Liu's.
"And yet you helped us," Liu asked. "Why?"
"I helped her," Sub-Zero said, nodding towards Shaw. "She aided in battle against Scorpion last year. I told her then that if ever she needed the aid of the Lin Kuei, she should call on us using the charm I gave her. She called. I came."
"Good timing," Angus nodded. He paused and looked about. "Hey, where's Rhoan?"
Diedre looked back and muttered, "Oh, no." She moved quickly to a rock nearby, the others following to see Rhoan lying there, a piece of tree piercing his heart. "That had to hurt," Mulder remarked.
Liu sighed as he saw Diedre move to her husband, watching the care as she pulled the bark out, then took his limp hand. "I'm sorry," he said softly. "It's never easy when someone you care for-----"
With a gasp, Rhoan's eyes flew open as he came back to life, clenching Diedre's hand hard as he felt strength returning to him.
"Rises from the dead as we speak," Johnny said, stunned as Liu, Sonya and Jax as Rhoan rose up, leaning on Diedre for support to get up.
"Okay, what are we missing here?" Johnny asked.
Sighing, Mulder decided honesty was the best policy in this case. "We," he said, extending a hand wave to indicate himself, Scully, Torc and the Knights. "We are Immortal."
This naturally was a bit much for the newcomers to take. "Immortal?" Johnny asked, eye raised. "Like, you're what----princes of the universe?"
"Hey......" Angus muttered. "That's catchy." [Author's note: Come on, SOMEBODY had to do that joke sooner or later.]
"Okay, intros first, then explanations," Mulder said. "Fox Mulder, special agent, FBI, this is my partner Dana Scully."
"Partner in more ways than one," Amy smiled. "Amy Madison."
"Shaw," the elven said.
"What's your last name?" Jax asked.
"What do you hunt?"
"Vampires," Shaw replied.
Jax raised an eyebrow. "Vampires? Like Peter Cushing?"
"More like Arnold," Shaw said with a slight smirk.
"What does that mean?" Jax asked.
"Wait till night and you'll see," Robin smirked. "By the way, I'm Robin Goodfellow."
"Hey, neat," Johnny nodded. "You're named after Puck."
Robin sighed and looked to Liam. "You know, it's gotten to the point where I'm just going to have to kill the little bastard."
"Not like he doesn't deserve it," Liam smirked.
Robin sighed and looked at the newcomers. "Let's get this straight now. I'm not Puck, but I am the fairy from Shakespeare."
"Faery?" Sonya said, lifting an eyebrow. "Hey, I respect your sexual preference but I thought you guys didn't like being called that."
Robin closed his eyes and tried to remain calm even as Liam, Aideen, Amy and Shaw all snickered. "It was just too much to hope that was never going to come up, huh?"
"Let me guess," Sonya sighed, looking towards Shaw. "You're a pixie, right?"
"No, I am a half human, half elven warrior priestess from an alternate dimension with one quarter of her human blood being of Earth ancestry, American of Irish and Scottish descent."
Jax shook his head. "I'd hate to see your family tree."
"I have," Amy interjected.
"You have?" Jax asked.
"I gave it to her as a birthday present," Amy nodded.
"We're cousins. Through that one quarter Earth blood thing."
Jax stared at her, then to where Johnny was glancing about all around them. "What are you doing?"
"I figure Rod Sterling's narration should be kicking in about now," Johnny said.
"It's a bitch, laddie," Liam grinned. He turned to the others and made with a bow. "Liam Devlin O'Shauggnessy Patrick Dillion O'Hara Paddywick Mchale Thornton Danahure of the Leprechaun Glens."
"Leprechaun?" Liu asked, raising an eyebrow.
Smiling, Liam held up his hands and let a burst of magic in between them that blew his hair back slightly, showing off his pointed ears. He lowered them as the others just stared.
"Always the show-off," Aideen smiled. "Aideen Jaspern, formerly of the kingdom of Tir Na Nog."
"Rhoan," he said, standing as Diedre helped him up. "Diedre," the Princess identified herself.
"What, no last names?" Liu said, taken aback.
"They weren't as big a requirement in the 7th century," Diedre smiled, getting a kick at how the looks on the four newcomers became even more flabbergasted.
"Who the hell are you people?" Sonya asked.
"We're the Mystic Knights," Rhoan said.
"That's nothing like the Iron Chefs, is it?" Johnny asked.
"Actually, we own a restaurant business," Rhoan said, nodding to Diedre and himself. "Olden Court."
"It figures," Mulder snorted. "Everyone says it's the most authentic medieval theme restaurant around."
"Well, not 100% authentic," Rhoan shrugged. "But animal droppings, no plumbing and not bathing for a while tends to take away from the ambivalence."
"And don't get us started on the language problems," Diedre added.
"What language problems?" Amy asked.
"What, you think we always spoke English back then?" Diedre smiled.
There was a pause as everyone took that in. Finally, Liu spoke. "Well, hope we can be as impressive. Liu Kang, Champion of Mortal Kombat."
"Just the man we wanted to see," Mulder said. "Good of you to drop by."
"I didn't have much of a choice in the matter," Liu said. "When my god drops by and tells me to go somewhere, I go."
"So, you're the guy who kicked Shang's ass," Mulder said with a grin.
"That's right," Liu nodded. "I understand he's back."
"He got better," Mulder replied.
"I hate it when someone says that," Scully muttered to Shaw.
"But who told you about the tournament?" Liu said.
"Robin and Liam," Shaw said, nodding to the fairies. "It seems they know Raiden personally and he explained the entire story of the tournament in very short order."
Mulder and Scully stared at her in amazement. "SHORT?!"
"Yes, it did not take very long," Shaw answered. "Do you feel differently?"
"Shaw, how could you think *that* explanation was short?" Scully said.
"For one thing, you were not there when Liam explained the Knights and their history at the library," Shaw answered.
"Good point," Amy nodded. "That made the Outworld explanation look like Cliff Notes."
"Plus, I work in Giles' library," Shaw said.
Mulder and Scully both nodded, saying "Ah."
"Who's Giles?" Liu said, confused.
"Rupert Giles," Mulder answered. "He can take six hours to say a five word sentence."
"Sound confusing," Liu said, biting his lip.
"Giles defies an easy description....." Mulder began.
"He is British," Shaw interrupted.
".....So to make a short story long....." Mulder went on.
"Too late," Scully muttered.
"Tell us about it," Amy muttered. "Amy Madison, Amazon witch."
Johnny stepped forward, brushing his shirt. "Okay, I guess you all know who I am."
"I do," Shaw nodded. "Indeed, you were an influence in my unofficial designation in our group."
"Unofficial?" Johnny asked, frowning.
"Yes, all the females in our group have nicknames. Amy, for example is 'Sabrina.'"
Johnny looked at Amy, who shrugged. "It's a witch thing."
"That I understand," Johnny nodded. He nodded to Shaw. "What's hers?"
"Officially, Religion Girl," Amy answered. "It's a shaman thing."
Johnny frowned at her smart attitude. "I know what a shaman is. And the unofficial one?"
A small smirk came over Shaw's face. "The Russian ballet about Christmas."
"You mean....." Johnny broke off as he looked at her nervously. "How did *I* influence that?!"
"You know that split you do, into the most powerful punch you can throw from that position?"
"Yeah?" Johnny asked nervously.
"Well," Amy interjected with a smile. "For only weighing a buck oh seven, she packs a *lot* of power."
Johnny was looking sick by this point. "And if *you* did it?"
Amy smirked. "I'm an Amazon. You figure it out."
Johnny stared at her and shook his head. "Well, I wanted to inspire a new generation...."
"Save the ego trip, star boy," Sonya muttered. "Sonya Blade, Jackson Brigs, United States Marine Corps."
"Hey, Marines," Amy said. "Wow, maybe you know a friend of ours. Steven St. Wolf?"
"Hmmm, doesn't ring a bell," Sonya said, shaking her head.
"Perhaps you know him by an alias," Shaw said. "Carlson?"
"Nope," Jax said.
"Cherokee?" Amy put in.
"Haven't heard of it," Sonya shook her head. "Jax?"
"I don't know the dude," Jax said.
"I don't believe this," Amy said. "Military guys who have never heard of Steve."
"Had to happen," Mulder said. "Law of averages waits for no man."
"You always walk around with those things?" Mulder asked, nodding to Jax's arms.
"He has self-esteem issues," Sonya put in.
"So, are you the kind of military guys who go on talk shows to yell at wild teens?" Scully asked, dryly.
"No, we're the kind of guys who'd beat the shit out of those little pissants as a warning to others not to mess up in life."
"I like these guys already," Mulder grinned.
"Our tax dollars at work," Rhoan sighed.
"What are you talking about?" Diedre smiled. "We haven't filed a return since 1973."
"Don't get boys club on me," Sonya said, ignoring the two Irish Immortals. "I had to do a lot to get where I am."
"I can relate," Diedre said, nodding.
Sonya snorted. "Yeah, like you know what's it like to be military. I've been doing this longer than you have."
"No, you haven't," Diedre said. "I was doing this before you were in diapers. In fact, I was doing this before your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great- great-great-grandfather was in diapers." Diedre paused and bent her head a bit in thought. "I might have missed a great or three in there."
Sonya stammered for a minute before answering back. "How old are you?"
"Going on 1400 years now," Diedre answered. "Want my skin cream?"
"Amazing," Johnny said. "I mean, your families, your children....."
"We can't have children," Diedre said sadly.
"Okay, I know it's not advisable but I can't imagine there was much birth control in the middle ages------"
"I don't mean we shouldn't," Diedre said in a crisp tone. "I mean we can't."
"I'll shut up now," Johnny muttered.
"Looks like we mere mortals have a few things on you after all," Sonya smirked.
Diedre took a long look at her. "Ah, yes. I can just tell you're mother material."
The Knights all snickered at the look on Sonya's face. Shaking her head, she glanced towards Shaw and looked her over. "You a fighter?"
"I have....skills." Shaw said, raising an eyebrow.
"Really," Sonya said. "You know, you might want to consider cutting your hair. Long hair can be a liability in a fight."
"Really," Shaw said. "And I take it your exposed midriff is suitable combat attire?"
Sonya looked towards the snickering Mulder and Scully. "Oh and you two have skills?"
"We work for the FBI," Mulder smiled.
"Great," Sonya muttered, rolling her eyes. "A couple of by the book control freaks." She was taken aback when Mulder, Scully, Robin, Shaw and Amy burst out laughing. "She don't know us too good, do she?" Mulder smirked.
"Okay, so you two have anything?" Sonya asked in a challenging tone.
"We're both Immortal," Mulder started.
"We were trained in sword play by one of the best Immortals out there," Scully added.
"We've worked with a veteran Green Beret."
"We've faced several hundred vampires and demons."
"We've handled a variety of weaponry."
"I'm an Amazon."
"I've been empowered by a faery."
Sonya and Jax just stared at them, then at each other, then back at them. "Okay, let's cut the bullshit," Sonya said in a hard tone. "Do you have any real fight experience?"
Mulder and Scully looked at each other and smiled. Exactly five seconds later, Sonya and Jax were lying on the ground, gasping for air. Mulder and Scully calmly moved off as Liu and Johnny came up, looking down at them. "Satisfied?" Liu said.
"What-----what-----what did they do?" Sonya said as soon as she could breathe. "All I saw was a blur, then I'm on my back."
"Sounds like my last date," Johnny muttered. He glanced over towards Shaw. "So, how about you? They've got experience, you got any?"
"I have been fighting evil longer than you have been alive, Johnny Cage," Shaw said in an even tone.
"Riiiight," Johnny said skeptically. "And you're how old?"
"Fifty-four," Shaw answered.
"Riiiiight," Johnny said even more skeptically. "Seriously, you're how old?"
Shaw brushed back her hair and the newcomers all started slightly at her pointed ears. "I have seen fifty-four years, over thirty of which have been spent fighting slaver, evil priests, goblins, orcs, ogres, bugbears, vampires, lycanthropes, walking corpses, soulless demons, alien invaders and a stupid, incompetent, pathetic impotent deity trying to drive me insane. In short, such creatures that would drive you mad with nightmares because none of your Hollywood cinema people could ever imagine such horrors."
It took Johnny a moment to think of a comeback. "Well.. I've fought Scorpion."
"He defeated you," Shaw said.
"Hell, no, I whooped his ass!" Johnny said, insulted.
"Apparently, you did not do a particularly good job of it," Shaw said dryly. "I had to send him back to Hell in September."
"How'd he get out of Hell?"
"It was a prophecy thing," Shaw answered coolly.
Johnny was starting to get a little mad at this smartass attitude. "And you're fifty-four years old?"
"It is an elven thing," Shaw answered and took a slight satisfaction at seeing Johnny's jaw drop at that.
"You're an elf?" the actor asked incredulously.
"No, half-elf," Shaw answered in a matter of fact tone. "My father was human and please do now ask-----"
"How'd it happen?"
Shaw rolled her eyes and sighed. "I am sorry, I do not have time to teach sexual education."
She turned to walk back towards a grinning Amy, leaving Johnny to stammer for a few seconds before responding. "Wait, why are you walking away? You got nothing else smart to say?"
Shaw turned around and gave him an evil little smile. "There is one more thing I can say, to tell you exactly what I think of you."
"And what's that?" Johnny asked, afraid to know. He was answered when Shaw flipped him a middle finger and walked off.
"Shit," Amy muttered. "Cordy was right. Shaw *is* an Earth woman now."
Robin solemnly bowed his head. "Let us observe a moment of silence to mourn the passing of a Torillian maiden....." The moment was broken by an "OW!" when Amy smacked him on the head.
"I still can't believe you're on our side on this," Johnny said, looking towards Sub-Zero. "Especially after Liu killed your brother."
"He had betrayed our clan," Sub-Zero said in an even tone.
"Like Scorpion?" Shaw asked.
"Yes," was Sub-Zero's cool reply.
"Is that a family tradition or something?" Johnny put in.
"Scorpion unleashed dark forces he could not control," Sub-Zero said, a touch of melancholy in his voice. "My brother simply betrayed us."
"So, you're not out for revenge," Liu said, still unsure.
"No, Liu Kang," Sub-Zero said, bowing his head. "The brother I knew growing up was a good and honorable man. The monster you killed was a fanatic whose soul was mired in darkness, killing her only source of joy. My brother died a long time before the tournament. You killed his murderer and for that, you have my thanks."
"Why does this sound familiar?" Ivar muttered.
"'Return of the Jedi,'" Angus answered.
"You avenged my clan's honor and saved the Earth realm with your victory in the tournament," Sub-Zero went on. "I will aid you in this fight."
Robin leaned in to Shaw. "I think he likes you."
"Why do you say that?" the half-elf replied.
"He's not giving Liu one of those cute little bronze charms."
"Why's he give you one, if he's not gonna give one to Liu?" Jax asked.
"Did Liu Kang run himself through with a magical sword to kill his opponent to save the world?" Shaw dryly asked.
All the newcomers stared at her. "Um, no," Johnny finally said.
"What does that have to do with this?" Amy said, staring in confusion at her cousin.
"I have noticed that Earth people do tend to be strange when it comes to matters of romance."
"Give me one example," Amy said, put out.
"Xander and Cordelia."
"Good example," Amy sighed.
"Um, is it okay to come out now?" Joyce said nervously as she stepped from behind the trees she'd been hiding behind.
"Who are you?" Sonya asked. "What are you doing here?"
"Joyce Summers," the woman replied. "And I've been asking myself that exact same question for a while now."
"What do you do?" Liu asked.
"She can fret like no one's business," Agnus said before Joyce could reply.
"You're not a Klingon like her, are you?" Jax said, motioning towards Shaw.
"I am not a Klingon," Shaw hissed.
"She's right, she's more like a Vulcan," Joyce answered. "Maybe a Romulan if the light hits her right." She became aware of everyone staring at her.
"Don't tell me you're a closet Trekkie," Mulder said, grinning.
"Hey, it was the '60's, it wasn't as cool back then," Joyce said defensively.
A sudden whir of mechanical movements caught everyone's attention and they all spun around to see Sektor stumble to its feet, facing them. "Oh, shit, I knew we were missing one," Robin said, watching with the others as Sektor's chest plate opened, the missile ready. Before anyone else could move, Johnny moved forward, breaking into a run, then leaping up and towards Sektor.
Even for the inhabitants of Sunnydale, what happened next was amazing.
It looked like Johnny had been caught in a strobe light, after images of him flowing behind him as he leaped towards Sektor, one foot extended, the other bent, the bottom of the foot against the extended leg. Even Sektor seemed taken aback at how Johnny seemed to be flowing through the air towards him, a trail of green-tinted shadow-like images flashing behind him. Johnny's foot touched Sektor's chest and in that moment, the afterimages seemed to slam together into Johnny's body, adding force to the kick, locking the missile in place and sending Sektor flying back into the woods. Johnny landed on his feet and ducked just as the missile detonated, blasting the cyborg to pieces.
Johnny brushed at his shirt as he faced the others, all of whom were staring at him in amazement. "What the hell was that?" Amy asked.
"Oh, you say you're a fan of my movies and you don't know my shadow kick when you see it?" Johnny asked, truly insulted now.
"Well, yeah," Amy shrugged. "But-----I always thought that was special effects stuff. How do you do that?"
"Just a little trick I picked up," Johnny smiled. "Be nice and I might teach it to you."
"It would appear I may have to reassess your abilities," Shaw said, actually sounding impressed.
"Ah, it's okay," Johnny shrugged. "If I can handle a bunch of out-of-shape critics trashing me, I can take it."
"Great, he's back to reading his own press releases again," Sonya sighed.
"Ah, that's not too bad," Angus grinned, leaning in towards her and leering. "You've got the talent, you flaunt I say." He smacked a hand on Sonya's behind for emphasis. Instantly, her expression hardened as she turned a head towards Angus with a horrifying look. "Oh, shit, he's done it," Jax muttered.
"Tell me," Sonya said, venom dripping with every word. "For you guys, Immortality means death just doesn't take? So you can die but you'll come back?"
"Um, yeah," Angus said. "You want proof, just look at Rhoan."
Sonya did so, seeing the Irish warrior confirm it with his eyes. Nodding, Sonya looked back towards Angus and smiled, then let her leg smash upwards, nailing hm between the legs. Angus gasped for breath as Sonya took his head in her hands and savagely twisted, a cracking sound going out as she expertly broke Angus' neck in three places, letting his body fall to the ground.
Any brief doubt in her mind was assuaged as the others simply sighed, taken aback but not that majorly upset over seeing Angus killed. Sonya shot Johnny a look of warning before backing away.
Robin turned to Shaw and raised his eyebrows. "And I thought you had impulse control problems."
"Um, excuse me," Joyce said. "If I may make a suggestion? "
"What?" Rhoan asked.
"You're all crazy."
"That's a suggestion?"
"No, that's an observation I've been wanting to get out of the way for a while," Joyce answered. "My suggestion is this. There's a good chance that any minute now, those Outworld people may decide to launch a counter-offensive, come here and make us all incredibly dead. So I think it would be nice to cut the talking and try and put as much distance as possible between us and them. Maybe we should consider getting out of here while we have the chance and reviewing notes?"
"I was wondering if anyone in this group had common sense," Sub-Zero said, putting his mask back on.
"Yeah, we should give them the Reader's Digest condensed version of what's going on," Mulder nodded.
"Good points," Robin nodded. "We've got a lot of ground to cover. Hey, blue-boy, are you------" He broke off as everyone turned to see that Sub-Zero had vanished without a sound. "How did he do that?"
"Kind of like a ninja Lone Ranger," Johnny said. Everyone stared at him. "Hey, I liked reading about him when I was growing up."
"You liked the Lone Ranger?" Jax said.
"Hey, we all have our heroes. What about you, didn't you have any heroes growing up?"
"Sure," Jax shrugged. "Shaft."
"Who is Shaft?" Shaw asked in confusion.
"Girl, you don't know who Shaft is?" Jax asked in disbelief.
"I do not."
"Well, Shaft was a complicated man," Jax started as the group started to move off. "And no one understood him but his woman......"
The mood in the throne room had become even darker, if such a thing was possible. Baraka, Jade and Scorpion stood silently before Kahn, the air around him seeming to crackle with hate which, for once, was not directed at the humans. "You couldn't even kill them," he said in a low growl. "Not one."
"Hey, told you our guys were tougher than you thought!" Xander put in.
"Yeah, Shaw's got more skills and even she has more style than these guys!" Cordelia put in, throwing a glance at the direction of the returning fighters.
"Hey, *I've* got more style than those guys," Xander interjected.
"Well, let's not get carried away....." Cordelia rolled her eyes.
Watching, Mider leaned in towards Maeve. "We have to kill those two. Not for ourselves, not for the sacrifice, but for the good of evolution as we know it. *They must not be allowed to breed!*"
"I cannot believe this," Shang said, shaking his head. "A handful of warriors defeated our best fighters?"
"It is a puzzlement," Kahn muttered. He was taken aback when Maeve spun around and blasted Xander. The Irish witch turned to him. "Preemptive strike. Trust me."
Jade swallowed as she stepped forward. "We did our best, my Lord, but we were interrupted," she said. "Several mortals were there, including Liu Kang."
"DAMN!" Kahn bellowed. "Trust Raiden to stick his nose where it doesn't belong."
"Oh, yes, heaven forbid the protector of Earth doesn't do protecting," Maeve said dryly, shrinking slightly at Kahn's glare.
"Ah, jeez, why don't you guys just go on Springer and get it over with?" Xander groaned.
Maeve spun, her staff ready when an *ahem* caught her attention. She looked back to see Kahn staring at her. "May I?"
Maeve looked at him for a moment before backing up, bowing. "Be my guest."
Nodding, Kahn threw out a finger, a bolt of energy striking Xander and causing him to yell in pain. "Well," he said as soon as he could get his voice back. "The emperor instead of the pyscho witch. Guess I'm improving."
Maeve sighed as she looked disgustedly at the surviving fighters. "Good God, I'd get better fighters from the WWF! I'm two seconds away from replacing you lot with creatures from 'Power Rangers.'"
A snort caught her attention and she looked up to see everyone giggling at her. "Power Rangers?" Xander snorted. "You watch 'Power Rangers?'"
"We all have our secret vices," Maeve sniffed.
"My Lord, please!" Jade said, fear in her voice. "Give us another chance-----" Her voice broke into a massive scream as Kahn let loose a burst of energy that engulfed her, melting away her flesh and bone until only a pile of ash was left on the floor between Baraka, who backed away in instinctive fear, and Scorpion, who simply stood impassively staring up at his master as if nothing had happened. "I am not in a giving mood this day," Kahn whispered harshly.
"Okay, now the Skeletor rip off is just getting blatant," Xander said.
"Maeve, I have no idea what's he's talking about but would you-----?" He nodded as a blast of energy produced another scream.
"Xander," Willow said, worry in her voice for her friend. "That's enough. Please."
Xander looked at her, managing to grin despite the pain. "You know what? I think we're starting to wear these guys out."
Ignoring him, Kahn turned to Scorpion and Baraka. "I will let the two of you live with one piece of knowledge. Fail me again and that," he nodded to the pile of ash on the floor, "will be something you wish for." With a simple nod, both left, Scorpion taking his time while giving Kahn that same dangerous blank look.
Maeve came up to the Emperor, leaning to him. "Why didn't you kill Scorpion? He was the one in charge of this debacle."
"Three reasons," Kahn said. "He is well regarded with the Lin Kwai and I must keep good relations with them as they provide me with my finest fighters. Second, he has proven his loyalty before and good commanders are hard to come by."
"And the third?" Maeve asked.
"It's hard to execute someone who's already dead."
"How much longer is this going to go on?" Mider erupted. "This waiting is driving me crazy!"
"Now there's a short ride," Jenny muttered.
"We are working on it," Shang said. "I have my sources out and I will of course report everything to the Emperor first."
No one, not even Kahn, bought the latter part of that statement for a moment. "He reminds me of Iago," Maeve muttered.
"What, he's a big red parrot who won't shut up?" Cordelia said, confused.
Sighing, Maeve let loose an energy burst at her. "Does no one in this cursed century *read* anymore?!"
Cordelia shook off the pain and glared down at Maeve. "Oh, you just made the list, sister. When Artemis finds out about this-------"
"She won't do a thing," Kahn said calmly, earning the attention of everyone. "If she was so intent on saving you, do you think I'd be able to keep her away?"
"She's working on a way to get around dimensions," Willow said. "She won't abandon us."
"Perhaps not by choice," Kahn shrugged. "But Zeus knows of you and your plight and thanks to him, all Olympians are prevented from interfering in this, including your precious Goddess. In return, I will not attack Olympus once the merger is complete."
"You're lying," Jenny hissed.
"Of course I'm lying," Kahn said. "I have no intention of honoring the bargain. Once Earth falls, Olympus will be a nice addition. But the agreement does prevent the interference of Artemis, so I'm afraid your patron has left you to rot."
"I don't believe you," Cordelia said, although her voice hinted she wasn't sure.
Kahn shrugged. "Believe what you will, my dear. Suffice to say, the calvary is not coming and your world dies."
"What of their other allies?" Mider said. "Are we sure they can't interfere?"
"For the hundredth time, they can't," Shang sighed. "I've blocked any ways they might have of communicating conventionally and doing it by magical means will just allow us to find them more quickly. They cannot contact any of these Grail or Buerea 13 or wizards so there is no way they can get here in time to do anything to stop the sacrifice."
"And afterwards?" Mider said.
"Afterwards, the power of Earth will be drained," Kahn said with satisfaction. "Their magical abilities will amount to nothing. Let them rot. Let them rot."
Growling, Mider turned on his heel and marched out. Sighing, Maeve followed him, her staff clicking on the ground as she and the faery left the room. By the door, she glanced towards Sheeva, who growled at her with absolute derision in her features. "What's bothering you?" Maeve called out to Mider.
The dark faery stopped and turned to her, Maeve once again struck by the disconcerting touch of Mider finally being able to look her in the eye at an even height and the madness within him. "Hasn't it hit you how troubling the destinations of these escapees are?" he hissed.
"What do you mean?" Maeve asked, frowning.
"First Castle Kells, now Tir Na Nog," Mider said. "An odd coincidence, don't you think?"
"Good God, you're more paranoid than that Mulder person," Maeve said, shaking her head. "Kells was probably them trying to get some clues on how to fight us. As for Tir Na Nog, well, Goodfellow is a faery, he probably wanted help from Fin Varra."
"It's troubling, that's all," Mider said, biting his lip. "I don't like it. Nor do I like the fact that we may have to fight Kahn before all this is over."
"That will be a problem," Maeve said. "He'll want to kill us both immediately after the merger so we'll have to try and strike him off balance."
"We will need allies," Mider said."
"Oh, right," Maeve snorted. "Like who? Artemis? Oberon?"
"I was thinking of starting with Sheeva," Mider answered.
"What?!" Maeve asked in disbelief.
"Come on, we've seen the way she looks at Motaro," Mider encouraged her. "Their races are natural enemies. And with Motaro higher up in Kahn's graces than her, she'd be more than willing to redeem her Prince Goro's name by taking out the centaur."
"Yes, but there's a problem with that scenario, Mider," Maeve said patiently. "She actually serves Kahn because she believes in honor and loyalty and all that. She could almost be one of those heroes we put up as art deco pieces."
"Well, that's out," Mider said. "Last thing we need is someone with a conscience. What about Shang? If we promised him something to join us."
"Like what?" Maeve asked.
"He is plotting an eventual takeover," Mider said.
"What makes you think he'd do something so openly?" Maeve asked. "He's too smart for that."
"But if he did it from the shadows? Worked from inside?"
"Maybe," Maeve said. "But I don't know. He's still a little too shifty for my tastes." She took on a thoughtful look. "What about Scorpion?"
"He's off getting his chance at revenge right now," Mider said, waving his hand. "Once the bastard is killed, there's nothing we can offer him."
"There's his clan."
"He's a ninja," Mider shrugged. "He's undead and Immortal. He lives in Hell. He's nothing if not patient."
"Then we'll offer him the one thing that even Kahn would never consider granting."
"His mortality," Maeve answered with a raised eyebrow. "Think we can pull it off?"
"Maybe," Mider said. "But let's look at this whole thing logically. We get rid of Kahn, then what? Sure, running a multi-dimensional empire sounds fun, but really, all we'll be doing is painting a big red bulls-eye on our backs for anyone who wants a shot at the throne."
"Then we forget that throne," Maeve said, nodding. "Once we take him out, we separate from Outworld, close up the portal, his minions can fight amongst themselves for the rest of time, I don't care. We can split the world however we please."
Mider looked at her, not even bothering to hide his skepticism. "You an I? Together?"
"It's a big planet," Maeve shrugged. "I can stand to share it."
Mider looked at her for a long moment, his head to one side. "Amazing," he said at length. "You lie with a straight face better than anyone I've ever seen."
"It's a gift," Maeve shrugged.
"How did you refine it?"
"By cutting down on mirrors wherever I lived."
"I'm sorry?" Mider said in confusion.
"It's amazing the things you can do when you don't have to look at yourself in the mirror," Maeve smiled. "Wonder if I'll be able to get a mansion in this new world."
"I worry about you, Maeve," Mider muttered. "You're getting a little too connected to Earth for my tastes."
"You doubt my commitment?" she answered in anger.
"No," Mider answered carefully. "I do worry that you will find yourself unable to let go of the pleasures of this world."
"That's what DVD's are for," Maeve smiled. She looked wistful for a moment. "There will be places I'll hate to never go to again. Paris, Berlin, Rome, Walt Disney World. I suppose I will miss the old Earth after a while." She took on a smile. "Maybe I'll light a candle for it on the anniversary." Her cackle filled the walls of the castle in a way that unnerved even Mider.
"So, to make a long story short......."
"Too late," Sonya bitterly muttered. The group had reconvened at Torc's home, the newcomers (who, for some reason, Mulder had dubbed "the Kombateers") had just listened to the massive story of Sunnydale, Section Seven and the Mystic Knights and Outworld. It was rather a lot to take in but they were doing a good job of it.
"If my agent had brought me a script like this to read, I'd fire his ass," Johnny muttered, shaking his head as he sipped at his drink.
"Sadly, Mr. Cage, we've seen things in our life that not even the lamest hack writer would dare to try to bring to the screen," Ivar sighed.
"So, we're up against the Fab Four," Jax muttered.
"Great," Johnny moaned. "We're fighting the Beatles."
"I thought we were talking about the Temptations."
"I don't believe this," Sonya muttered.
"What exactly don't you believe?" Diedre asked.
"Should I start with the 'A's?" Sonya said sarcastically.
"Damn, if I didn't see that shit you guys pulled out there, I'd be thinking you were nuts," Jax said, shaking his head. "Now......Man, this is big."
"Then grow up," Torc said sourly. "We've got a lot of work ahead of us if we want to stop Maeve and Kahn."
"I agree." Everyone jumped and spun about to see Sub-Zero standing by the bar, arms crossed as he looked at them. "How does he do that?" Amy asked.
"How did you find us?" Mulder asked.
"I followed," the ninja answered. "Your vehicle was not difficult to see. Do you know that it seemed to double in size as I watched it go?"
"It's a new option," Liam said. "Nice entrance, by the way."
"You see how easily I could kill you if I served Shao Kahn?" Sub-Zero stated.
"Oh, that's a challenge!" Joyce remarked sarcastically. "I'm divorced, I'm a homemaker, I own an antique shop, I wouldn't go around patting myself on the back just yet!"
"I merely attempt to show them that my brother's way is not mine," Sub-Zero said, fixing his eyes on the Kombateers. "A fact some of them still have a problem with."
"Hey, you wear your brother's colors, remember?" Johnny pointed out.
"This is a symbol of our clan," Sub-Zero replied. "My father served the Lin Kwai. His father served the Lin Kwai. *His* father served the Lin Kwai. HIS father served the Lin Kwai...."
"Well, maybe they're getting sick of you guys," Johnny said, grunting as Sonya smacked him on the head. "Not so hard! I've got millions in this face!"
"Now there's a vastly overcharged rate," Sonya muttered.
"Oh, gods, it's the adult Xander and Cordelia," Robin moaned.
"This man helped save me once," Shaw said. "I trust him. And he aided us now so you should be able to do the same."
"I give you my word of honor I will aid you," Sub-Zero said.
"And that's something?" Sonya remarked.
Sub-Zero turned to give her a glare that was as icy as his powers. "I am a Lin Kwai. My honor is my life."
"So I break the honor, I break your neck?" Jax remarked.
"Perhaps," Sub-Zero said icily. "You would be surprised how fast metal freezes."
"I hope it does not come to that," Shaw said. "As I said, he has done well so far, we should try to give him the benefit of the doubt."
"How come you're sticking up for him?" Amy asked.
"He aided me in battle," Shaw said. "He saved my life and I repay my debts, something he and I have in common. Also," she said, looking towards Sub-Zero. "I know what it is like to be an outsider, to be regarded by suspicion by those who would be your allies. I know how difficult that is and I wish to alleviate that for you if I can."
"So, you're going to be nicer to me?" Liam grinned.
"Oh, shut up."
"How can you be nice to him and not to me?" Liam said in disbelief.
"I said he is viewed with suspicion, not irritation."
"I have seen Shaw in battle with Scorpion," Sub-Zero said. "I know she can handle herself."
"Hey, I beat Scorpion before!" Johnny said. "And a few of those ninja freaks too."
"Okay, haven't you been paying attention to anything we've been saying about what we've done?" Mulder said, raising an eyebrow.
"Okay, try this one," Johnny nodded. "Goro. The nine time champion of the Mortal Kombat tournament. Eight feet tall, four arms, roughly seven hundred pounds, superhuman strength, saw him beat a dozen guys without breaking a sweat."
"He sounds particularly dangerous," Shaw remarked dryly. "How did you defeat him?"
"Well, first thing I did was give him my standard line. 'Let's dance.'"
"Dance?" Shaw said, raising an eyebrow.
"Meaning, let's start the fight," Johnny clarified, Shaw nodding. "I did that move of mine you like and damn near broke my wrist, mind you. Took off up some stairs to the top of the mountain the whole Tournament was taking place at and when he followed me outside, I kicked him off the mountain."
"Impressive," Shaw said.
Johnny nodded in thanks. "Top that one."
Johnny looked at her doubtfully. "One of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?"
"Then which Horseman?"
"The Headless one," Shaw said. "He was attempting to kill my friend, Connor. Connor was gutted and I was all that stood between him and the Horseman."
Amy took notice of how Shaw failed to mention it was her that gutted Connor and watched Johnny lean forward in interest. "What did you do?"
Shaw took a breath and began to speak. "Gutted him, pinned him to the ground with his own sword, and proceeded to cut off his right hand, wrist and half of his forearm and then I severed his right leg at the knee. Before this, I used on magazine each from my Uzi and Baretta, shot two knives into his body and stabbed him through the heart."
Johnny was looking rather sick but was not willing to give in. "Okay.....Scorpion. The yellow dude we just tangled with. I kicked his ass."
Shaw looked to Amy, who was trying not to smile, then back to Johnny. "How did you defeat him."
"Well, I cut him across the arm with a spear, then I took this razored shield and sliced it across his chest, allowing him to bleed pure fire, then sliced off half his head."
"Is that all," Shaw remarked. "I stabbed him through the heart with my sword."
"Tell him what was between your sword and his heart, cuz," Amy jumped in.
Shaw sighed and looked away. "I do not want him to know about that."
Johnny wasn't about to loose an opening and leaned forward. "No, it's okay. What was between your sword and Banana Ninja's heart?"
"My body," Shaw said quite innocently. "Scorpion was strangling me at the time.
There was confusion at the table as it took everyone a few minutes to process the mental image. Once they did, just about everyone looked sick, especially Johnny who held a hand to his mouth and took several deep breaths.
"What does that mean?" Shaw asked Amy.
"He forfeits," Amy smiled.
"You stabbed yourself through your body to kill an enemy?" Diedre asked.
"Okay, this woman *definitely* has some Irish in her," Diedre remarked to Rhoan.
"I'm starting to like this kid's style," Sonya remarked.
<Rob, is this woman bloody insane?> Liam whispered.
<I believe so, yes,> Robin nodded.
Liam's face broke out into a wide grin. <I think I'm in love. She's all I see in a woman. Tough, uncompromising, wicked humor and she's completely out of her bloody mind." He glanced over to Robin. "Aren't you going to make some comment about how she'd have to be insane to be with me?>
<Oh, please,> the faery answered, rolling his eyes. <I have my standards. I'll leave the dumb puns to Xander.>
"I guess we should get started on planning," Scully said. "What do you think, Mulder?"
"Wait, I thought you two were married?" Diedre frowned.
"We are," Scully nodded. "It's just a habit we have."
"So, you don't take his last name?" Diedre asked.
"No, I prefer using mine."
"And you make her call you by your last name?" Ivar asked Mulder.
"I made my parents call me by my last name."
"How freightenly anit-social."
"To business, all," Rhoan said. "Higher and higher and into the fire, we go."
"You have seen 'The Scarlet Pimpernel' on Broadway?" Shaw asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Actually, we helped back it," Rhoan smiled.
"Seemed the right thing to do," Diedre added. "He helped us out of a nasty meeting with a guillotine at the time."
"Maybe we should figuring out a way to get rid of these Outworld guys?" Aideen pointed out, twirling a pair of sunglasses on her finger. It took Johnny a moment to realize they were his and yanked them away, briefly wondering how she'd gotten them out of his shirt pocket. "Watch it! These things cost $300!"
Aideen stared at him. "$300? They're sunglasses, right?"
"Right," Johnny nodded.
"They don't see through walls or have a mini-TV inside them or something?"
Aideen sighed and shook her head. "I'll never understand humans."
"How do we handle Maeve?" Rhoan frowned.
"Why don't you and your wife book her a vacation?" Robin said brightly. "That should do the trick."
"Oh, you're a bluidy riot," Diedre said sourly.
"Okay, brass tacks time," Sonya said, standing up and leaning on the table. "First thing we have to figure out his possible losses."
"I don't do losses well," Johnny said. "Not that it ever happens to me that often."
"Really?" Sonya said. "And what was 'Hammer Alley?'"
"Hey, that was studio mismanagement," Johnny said. "Look, when you know me better "
"Oh, *there's* something to look forward to."
"You'll learn that I never get lost, I never have to stop and ask for directions, I always find a parking space and more often than not, there's still time on the meter."
"So, what, you're just lucky?" Scully asked.
"Well, up until now," Johnny shrugged.
"Wait a minute, we're not losing anyone," Amy said angrily.
"Funny," Sonya said, then glanced at the table as if not hearing her. "Okay, we have to figure out an acceptable casualty rate."
"I've always felt the supposition that a minimum amount of people had to die to accomplish a goal to be utterly rehensible," Ivar remarked.
"As have I," Diedre said with a glare towards Sonya.
"Look, I'm just trying to figure out acceptable losses," Sonya said defensively.
"No loss is acceptable," Sonya said. "Take it from me."
Sonya looked at them all and shook her head. "This is war, people. And in a war, people die, it's a prerequisite. I'm just figuring out how we can stand to lose."
A palm slammed into the table and everyone looked up in shock to see Joyce staring at Sonya, her features hard. "My daughter is not an acceptable loss," she said, every word dripping with resolve. "All right? Not now, not ever. We are getting her back alive, we are getting them all back alive and if you don't agree to that right here, then get the hell out of our way."
Sonya swallowed, suddenly feeling a tiny twinge of fear at the one normal person in the entire bunch. She shook her head, trying to get her resolve back. "Look, I've been in battle, I've been in wares. It's never easy for me but people die."
"I've been in more battles than you'll ever see," Diedre replied darkly.
"Look, I know you don't like the idea------" Sonya was interrupted when Shaw slammed the tip of her sword into the table, shocking the group into silence.
"I agree with Sonya." Everyone stared in amazement at Shaw. "Really?" Sonya said, smiling. "Thank you."
"Acceptable losses for this operation would probably be equivalent to one arrogant, incompetent American BITCH operating as a special forces operative. All in agreement?
Sonya watched in shock as every hand shot up. She swatted at the metal one in anger. "Jax!"
"Hey, Sonya, this is a different style of combat here," Jax pointed out. "We're facing an enemy we have no idea how to fight, we can't use the same rules. Once we adjust them, we can whoop ass."
"So, you guys have a license to kill?" Robin asked.
"Naw," Jax said, waving a hand. "But we do have a learner's permit to cause mayhem."
"What kind of mayhem?" Robin asked.
"Oh, taking out terrorists, kicking bad guy ass, massive gunfights with bullets filling the air, things going up in tremendous explosions."
"That's it?" Amy asked, sounding disappointed.
"What's your idea of mayhem?" Sonya snorted.
"Using an unmatched combination of ancient magics, unarmed combat techniques and modern firearms on Earth or in alternate universes against massive hordes of vampires, demons, evil wizards, and the occasional Greek or Aztec God," replied Shaw.
Jax and Sonya looked at each other, then back at her.
"You can't be serious," Jax said.
"Actually, the Aztec God was really just a demon that tried to promote himself...." Amy started.
"Wait a minute," Sonya interrupted. "You guys really do that shit?"
"Just a night on the job," Amy grinned.
"What's your day job?" Jax said, afraid to know.
"Duh," Amy smiled. "I'm a teenager. I go to school."
"And I thought *I* came from a tough hood," Jax remarked to Sonya.
<See, this is why I never went into the Army,> Mulder remarked to Scully. <All that macho crap is too much to take.>
<I thought it was because you couldn't get up before dawn,> Scully smiled.
<You've never complained about that before,> Mulder smiled back.
"Look, these guys are close to us," Amy pointed out. "We don't want to lose them."
"Oh, so this is about friendship?" Sonya asked.
"No," Joyce put in. "This is about family."
"Now that I can respect," Diedre said.
"Hey, I've got a cousin who's a SEAL," Scully suddenly pointed out.
"Really?" Sonya asked. "Too bad. I was hoping he'd be a fighter."
"Ah, American arrogance," Ivar sighed. "How I've missed it."
"What's your problem with Americans?" Sonya asked.
Ivar fixed her with a look. "You enjoy sticking your noses where it doesn't belong, using your military to force others to adhere to your own beliefs. Forgive me if that hits a tad close to home for a man who saw his nation wiped out in the Crusades."
Robin looked to Shaw. "Sound familiar?"
"Yes, it does," Shaw smiled.
"Why?" Sonya asked. "You're not an American."
"Worse," Shaw remarked. "I was a Harper. Fourth generation."
"Is that supposed to impress me?" Sonya asked. "I don't even know what the hell you're talking about but I'm with the Marines. I spent ten years training with the best the United States dirty-tricks Army divisions have to offer."
"Yes, but Shaw is a Harper, my dear," Robin pointed out. "And a single Harper could chew up and spit out an entire Special Forces brigade and have room for breakfast."
"I feel very sorry for Maeve and Mider...." Aideen smiled.
Sonya shook her head and looked to Diedre. "Hey, you speak German?"
"Yes, actually," Diedre nodded. "In three dialects."
"You speak it all the time?"
"No," Diedre frowned.
"Know why? Us," Sonya said, motioning to her and Jax.
"Oh, please," Diedre laughed. "Don't start on America superiority. Like you have anything on the Nazis."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Sonya said, insulted.
"They locked up the Jews, you locked up American citizens just because they were of Japanese descent and didn't touch the German or Italian-born."
"Hey, we didn't commit sanctioned murder of a people," Sonya said defensively.
"And what do you call what you did to the Native Americans? Hmm?" Diedre asked, raising an eyebrow. "How about that lovely little civil dispute you had in the 1860's?" She turned to Jax. "How does it feel that the government you defend wouldn't recognize you as an equal citizen forty years ago? Vietnam, Watergate, race riots, Iran-Contra, not the mention that lovely little affair your President had. I've seen plenty of dictators, my dear and let me tell you, the worst of them couldn't hold a candle to your 'land of the free' in terms of damage."
Sonya was sputtering as Jax moved forward. "Listen, our government made mistakes, okay, but we get the job done."
"Really?" Diedre said. "Then how was it that one tiny island held out against the entire Axis regime for two years without the help of the almighty U.S.?"
"Who the hell do you think you are?" Sonya managed to get out. "The biggest military force you've ever had was the IRA, a bunch of rebellious fanatics out to undermine the government."
"Ironic," Diedre said. "That's the exact same thing the British said about the colonials."
"Point to Ireland," Mulder remarked.
"Well, at least we're not drinking all the time," Sonya bit out."
"Actually, I always felt Ulysses S. Grant got a raw deal for his drinking," Torc put in. "I once asked him about it during the Wilderness campaign and he looked at me and asked 'how can you watch such horror and *not* want a drink?' I couldn't think of an answer, so I joined him for a bottle."
Jax looked over to Shaw. "I notice you're not commenting on this."
"Should I?" the half-elf replied.
"No, I am not."
Jax looked her up and down and then back at her. "Then, what are you?"
"I am of mixed race," Shaw replied. "Much more so than what the others would call mixed race."
"I suppose you're right," Jax nodded.
Shaw looked at Diedre and Shaw, now in the throes of a political argument, "democracy versus monarchy" entering into it although it was hard to make out the details since they were both screaming at each other at once. "Sometimes, being from another dimension *is* an advantage."
Jax and Ivar looked to each other and sighed. "White people."
Robin, Liam and Aideen looked at each other and sighed. "Mortals."
"Stop it!" Liu said, coming forward and looking at the two women. "What is the matter with you? This is not the time for differences, it's time to work together! Kahn is the greatest equal opportunity provider there is, people. He will kill us all, regardless of race, creed, color or religion unless we forget this now."
"Thank you!" Joyce yelled. "I didn't want to get into this."
"And she would have, trust me," Amy smiled.
Sonya wasn't done, pushing down on the table and staring at Diedre hard. "Casualties are part of war, lady. Remember your history."
Diedre stared at her, then at Rhoan, disbelief on her face. "Remember my history, she says. I was out killing her ancestors back when being Nordic meant something." She spun on the Marine and matched her glare. "I was planning and winning military campaigns centuries before your country was even discovered so don't try to tell me what to do," Diedre hissed.
"Don't push your royalty in our faces. Remember what we did to the last royal who pushed us around?"
"Yes, but George was an idiot," Diedre shrugged. "I'm not."
"Neither was Anastasia Romanov," Shaw pointed out.
"Whose side are you on?" Diedre barked.
"The right one," Shaw nodded. "Which, at the moment, I am not sure includes either one of you."
"Now wait a minute!" Diedre said, insulted. "It was your friend Robin who brought me and Rhoan here!"
"And Raiden sent us," Sonya pointed out.
"Perhaps so, but instead of attempting to figure out how to defeat Kahn and the others, you are standing here arguing over stations of birth, which has no bearing on the battle we face."
"Well, I'm sorry for being born royalty," Diedre said sarcastically.
"And I happen to be distantly related to elven nobility on my homeworld," Shaw informed them. However, I never cared, because there were things vastly more important. Religion, duty and helping others who could not stand up for themselves and not basking in whatever birthright I might have had." She turned to Sonya. "You are a soldier and a warrior, yes?" Sonya nodded heartily. "Well, I would suggest you act more like a warrior than a spoiled brat who needs everyone's approval. You believe that everyone should be treated equal? Well, I am more than willing to accept you as such, as soon as you show me and the others the qualities that allowed you to survive the tournament. As for being together, if the two of you cannot get along, then at least be silent so that the rest of us don't have to listen to you."
Robin, Liam and Angus burst into applause as Sonya backed away from the two shocked women.
"Who are you to talk to us like that?!" Diedre hissed.
"Ditto," a pissed Sonya put in.
Shaw moved forward, keeping a hard gaze on both women, her voice low and hard. "Someone whose friends are about to be sacrificed and whose world is about to be invaded. And I find it less than encouraging that two warriors who were *born* here and have lived here their entire lives are more concerned with one upmanship that with saving their homes and loved ones." With that, she turned on her heel and walked off towards the back of the bar.
Sonya and Diedre watched her go, then turned to the others, all of whom were snickering at them. Diedre fixed a hard gaze on Amy. "She's your cousin?'
"Yep," Amy said with a proud grin."
"And you put up with her?" Sonya added.
"Yep," Robin answered. "And this is one of the reasons why."
"Come again?" Sonya said, frowning.
Amy elbowed the laughing Robin in the gut before focusing on the two women. "Diedre are you pissed at Shaw now?"
"Of course I am," Diedre said.
"Sonya, how about you?"
"Abso-damn-lutely," Sonya said empathically.
"Are you still pissed off at each other?" Amy had to grin as Diedre and Sonya looked at each other for a few seconds, then back at Amy and muttered "no....."
"So, you were pissed at each other, now you're pissed at Shaw and no longer pissed at each other, right?" Robin grinned.
"And Shaw knows it," Amy pointed out, she and Robin backing away, chuckling as Diedre looked to Sonya.
"We've been had," the Irishwoman said.
"By what passes for a half-elven teenager," Sonya sighed.
"Well, are we going to prove her wrong?" Diedre said, sighing.
"I'd rather not," Sonya said, looking away.
Diedre frowned, confused. "Why not?"
"Because that's exactly what she wants us to do," Sonya pointed out.
Diedre looked over towards where Shaw went. "A two layered plan." She looked back at the smiling Robin and Amy. "She spends far too much time with her cousin and that faery."
"The CIA would love her," Sonya smiled.
"From what I've heard of these people, they make the CIA look like the Boy Scouts," Diedre sighed. "Well, I've never been one to let anyone get the upper hand. You want to come, go ahead." She walked off towards Shaw. Sonya watched her go for a long moment, then shrugged and followed.
"Now there's a couple of gluttons for punishment," Johnny said, sighing.
"Sonya usually goes a little further than she should," Jax agreed. "Gets a little dangerous for her at times. She really refuses to ask for help when she needs it, no matter how bad."
"Really goes all out, huh?" Johnny said, nodding. "Say, you think her and me------"
"Not a chance in hell, pal," Jax said.
"Gee, thanks for breaking it gently," Johnny said, sighing as he watched the two walk out. "Look, I do like her. She's different than other women I've known."
"What, because she's intelligent, hard-working, dedicated and her breasts are real?"
"They are?" Johnny said, eyebrows up. At Jax's rueful grin, he sighed. "Women....."
"Princesses...." Rhoan threw in.
"Amazons....." Mulder said, throwing a smile to Scully.
"Witches......" Robin said with an accompying smile to Amy.
"Half-elven priestess warrior vampire hunters from another dimension....." Liam said.
All the men stared at him for a long moment. "You always have to have the last word," Robin sighed. "No wonder you've been married 287 times."
"You've been married 287 times?" Angus said, raising both eyebrows. He pushed his bottle over to Liam. "Here, you need this more than I do."
"Well, we have the interesting bunch here," Johnny remarked, sighing.
"Well, at least I'm not the only brother on the team," Jax sighed, looking to Ivar.
"I am not your brother," Ivar sniffed.
"Hey, he's stealing Shaw's act!" Amy smiled.
"Hey, we African-Americans have to stick together," Jax said.
"I detest that label," Ivar sighed.
"Why?" Jax frowned.
"Aside from the insulting political correctness of it all, I predate America by several centuries and I'm more Middle Eastern than Africa. But just try explaining that to the politicians." He sighed and shook his head. "You know, I listen to the members of the black community in your country whine about how they're mistreated and put into second class status. Let me tell you something, I watched my countrymen wiped out by the Crusades. I have been sold into slavery more than once. I've seen the murder of a black man or a hundred black man not only legal but encouraged and I'd like to say that those blacks in America today don't know how good they have it."
Jax looked at him for a long moment before sighing. "You'd be a winner at the Apollo, you know that?" He sighed and looked off. "Hey, blue boy, what do you think----" He broke off as they all saw Sub-Zero had vanished.
"How does he do that?" Amy asked.
"I have to know," Angus remarked. "Professional pride."
Rhoan sighed as he took another drink. Angus looked at his oldest friend and knew something was bothering him. "What is it? What Diedre and Shaw were saying?"
"No, I can handle that," Rhoan sighed. "It's just-----I don't know, every time we come back here, I just feel I've failed."
"Failed?" Angus laughed. "Rhoan, you don't fail at anything I can remember and that's a long time."
"I failed to stop Kells from falling, Angus," Rhoan pointed out. "I was Dragenta, I was supposed to bring peace to Kells for a thousand generations, I didn't even get a fifth of the way there."
"Rhoan, no one blames you for that," Ivar said. "Not Diedre, not anyone."
"But protecting Kells was my destiny," Rhoan said.
"Rhoan, I know a few things about destiny," Robin said. "And if you truly had one, than you will fulfill it but you can't expect such things to be so clear cut. For all you know, this battle with Outworld is what the destiny was truly for. At least you're not trying to avoid it."
"I understand what he's saying," Liu nodded. "I knew from the day I was born I was the Chosen One."
"That's funny," Rhoan frowned. "The prophecy about Dragenta said the same thing about me."
"You'd think they could at least tell which Chosen One falls under which prophecy," Angus chuckled.
"Yeah," Johnny grinned. "The first Chosen One for whatever could come back from the dead and sue you guys for copyright infringement."
Liu looked towards Rhoan. "What's it like? Living forever?"
"It's such a mix," Rhoan said with a touch of sadness. "On the one hand, there's the pain of watching those you know and care for pass on and you not aging. The pain of making friends even knowing you're going to bury them all. Having to pack up and move every few years to keep your secret. On the other hand, you see so much. I've seen cultures rise from nothing, Liu, I've seen changes I could never have imagined. I've lived through so much history, I've seen so much, it's almost overwhelming."
"So, is it worth it?" Liu asked.
"Yeah," Rhoan nodded. "Yeah, it is. Every damn moment of it."
"Well, at least we don't have to handle Quickenings anymore," Angus said. "Always hated that part."
"Out of curiosity," Mulder started. "Which of you was first-----"
"Rhoan," Angus and Ivar answered. "He always had to be the first," Angus added. "First to get the weapons, first to get married, first to take a head."
"Hey, Ivar was the first to die," Rhoan pointed out.
"Thank so much for pointing that out," Ivar said dryly.
Shaking his head, Liu sighed as he looked at the group. "I have to say, this Immortality is something I realize I'll have to deal with soon."
"How so?" Scully frowned.
"Guess your friends didn't get to the big part of the Mortal Kombat legends," Liu said. "As long as I'm the champion of the tournament, I'm Immortal."
"How often does this tournament occur?" Rhoan asked.
"Once a generation," Liu said. "So I have a few decades to prepare myself and perhaps others, to fight to defend the Earth realm. It's a destiny I'm proud of."
Rhoan shook his head. "Well, I can tell you one thing, Liu. I was lucky to find Diedre. If you fall in love, it'll be very painful, watching your wife age and die while you stay eternally young."
"I won't have that problem with Kitana," Liu smiled.
"Why not?" Rhoan frowned.
"She's ten thousand years old."
"And still looks great," Johnny put in.
Rhoan nodded, surprised. "You're truly fortunate, Liu. Where's she from?"
"Outworld," Liu answered matter-of-factly. Everyone stared at him in shock except for Jax and Johnny. "What?!" Rhoan let out in disbelief.
"Kahn defeated her home realm and 'adopted' her as his daughter as a means of legitimizing his rule. She was the daughter of the king that Kahn killed."
"Wait a mo, wait a mo," Angus said, holding up a hand. "You're saying that you're the Immortal Chosen One destined to defend your land who's fallen in love with a princess?"
"That's about it," Liu nodded.
Johnny turned to Angus. "So, is the plagiarism suit on or not?"
"That's one more thing we have in common," Rhoan said to Liu. "An irritating friend destined to make stupid jokes at your expense."
"The job's not without risks," Liu shrugged.
"I know," Rhoan sighed. Angus recognized the look and shook his head. "Rhoan, please, you can't still blame yourself for Garrett."
"I should have been there to help," Rhoan sighed.
"It was a duel, Rhoan," Torc said gently. "You know you couldn't interfere, I taught you that. What happened to him, happened. I didn't like it any more than you did. But it was...." he broke off as his words hit him.
"The Game?" Rhoan sniffed. "It's a fraud, Torc, we all know that now, so we all know it was for nothing." Behind him, Amy shared a quick glance for Robin, for the first time realizing how he must have felt knowing the truth and not being able to tell it. His sad smile let her know it was all right.
"I know how you feel, Rhoan," Liu said sadly. "I can understand how you feel about Garrett's death."
Something in the Champion's voice got through to the Knight and he realized Liu spoke nothing but the truth. "What happened to you," he said with compassion.
"I ran from my destiny," Liu said, fighting with the memories. "My brother trained in the tournament to take my place. Shang Tsung ambushed him and killed him."
Rhoan looked at Liu, not wanting to ask the question he had to ask. "Liu.....we heard how Shang operates. Did he....."
Liu nodded sadly. "He took my brother's soul. It was released, or at least I hope it was, when Shang was killed. In a way it was like what you call a Quickening."
"Now, that I won't miss," Angus said. "Never did like those."
"Hey, which of you-----" Amy started.
"Rhoan," Angus and Ivar remarked. "Always had to be the first," Angus smirked.
"Except for dying," Rhoan pointed out as Ivar groaned. Rhoan turned to Liu and gave him a look of understanding. "If you ever want to talk, call me."
"Thank you," Liu nodded.
"Ah, bonding," Angus said. "Leave it to liquor to get people to connect."
"I'm not drinking, Angus," Ivar announced.
"Worth a shot."
Rhoan looked over to Torc and smiled. "Torc, in case I don't get the chance....Thank you. For teaching us, for helping us, for letting us grow and helping make us what we are. I don't think I've ever properly thanked you for that."
"No need to, lad," Torc smiled. "I did all that because I wanted to. To make up for some sins and help you all."
"You did," Rhoan nodded. "We've had our differences over the years, Torc. I've blamed you for some things that weren't your fault and I'm sorry for that."
"I'm sorry too," Torc said. "We've always left a lot unsaid. But I guess that's the way it usually is."
"The way what is?" Rhoan frowned.
Torc put a hand on his shoulder and smiled. "Between fathers and sons."
"Yep, bonding," Johnny nodded.
"It's women like her that makes me glad I didn't have any siblings," Sonya muttered as she and Diedre headed out to find Shaw.
"I had the same problem," Diedre nodded. "Of course, I didn't have parents either."
"What do you mean?" Sonya frowned, the two coming into the large backyard.
"Immortals are foundlings," Diedre said. "We have no parents. I was found lying in a bush by my mother and raised as her daughter."
"Okay, so wait a minute," Sonya said, stopping and holding up a palm. "You mean, after all that crap about royalty and it turns out the king wasn't really your father?"
"He raised me the best he could," Diedre said in a calm tone. "He provided for me, sheltered me, gave me everything I wanted. If that's not the definition of a father, I don't know what is."
"But you're not really royalty," Sonya repeated.
Diedre smiled. "He once told me that being born of nobility doesn't make you noble. I may not be his daughter by blood but I do have a royal attitude."
"I'll vouch for that," Sonya muttered.
"Well, I got the much better shake with parents than Rhoan did," Diedre sighed.
"Say, why didn't your father just ice this bitch and save us all some trouble?" Sonya asked.
"My father believed in being just even to those who probably didn't deserve it," Diedre said.
"Your father was an idiot," Sonya remarked. In seconds, the tip of Diedre's sword was on her throat, freezing her in place. Sonya looked over to see Diedre glaring at her, eyes blazing with anger. She leaned in close, sword still in place, letting Sonya hear every word.
"You can insult me and I will let it slide. You can insult my husband....all right. My friends, my heritage, that's bad but I can deal with it. But if you ever say a word against my father again, I swear to God, I will kill you." She backed away, lowering the sword but keeping up the glare as Sonya swallowed.
"An interesting approach," Shaw said as she came up towards them from her spot near the side of the house. "May I say something?"
Diedre stopped halfway through sheathing her sword, fixing her gaze on Shaw. "Yes?"
Shaw looked at Diedre and the Irishwoman saw a look of true respect in her features. "It would appear we have more in common that we thought. But I would not have killed Sonya for insulting my family."
"Why?" Diedre asked. "Are you more tolerant?"
"No," Shaw said, smiling evilly. "I am less merciful."
Diedre thought about it and nodded. "I suppose. By the way, pardon a personal question but do you play a musical instrument?"
"The pipe," Shaw said, taken aback by the question. "Why?"
"Just wondering," Diedre said. "Musical instruments are an outlet for energy."
"Do you play any?" Shaw asked.
"The harp," Diedre nodded. "And the violin. And the guitar. And piano, drums, clarinet, trombone, trumpet, saxophone, bagpipes, triangle and harpsichord." She noticed Diedre's stare. "You live 14 centuries, you have a lot of time on your hands."
"Look, we have to talk," Sonya said. "I am trying to get a handle on this situation, and you are not helping."
"And you are not helping making it sound like it's better that these people die," Shaw hissed. "These people mean a lot to me, they are my family and for you to say that they mean nothing angers me."
"I can tell," Sonya said. "But I've been military trained, we're taught to put the good of the mission first."
"And does your training make you a stupid, tight-ass, unfeeling bitch as well?" Shaw hissed.
A sudden chuckling got both their attentions and they turned to see Diedre smiling at them. "What are you looking at?" Sonya asked.
"You two," Diedre smiled. "You remind me so much of myself."
The two women looked at each other, then at Diedre in disbelief. "Excuse me?" they asked.
Diedre moved forward, looking to Sonya. "I understand anger and cutting yourself off. I was a princess, remember, taught to believe myself above others. And I know that in battle, it helps to cut off all emotional ties. The trick is learning to turn them back on when the fight is done. You can't got around not trusting anyone Sonya. All that creates is a dark cold pit in your heart and if it gets too big, you'll never recover."
She turned to Shaw. "I know what it's like to love everything. And I understand pain, don't tell me I don't. This is a family affair and believe me, I understand it. But you can't keep yourself closed off either. Open up to someone, Shaw. Your cousin, that faery, hell, even that insane leprechaun but you have to open up to someone. If you keep things inside you, God knows where you'll end up."
Shaw and Sonya looked to each other in silence for a moment. "I don't want to say she's right," Sonya said. "Could you?"
"What do you think?" Shaw asked, raising an eyebrow.
"I didn't think so," Sonya said, shaking her head as she headed back to the house. Shaw looked after her before turning back to Diedre. "You are right, Diedre. Thank you for reminding me."
Diedre was a little stunned as she stared back at Shaw. "About what?"
"About keeping things inside me," Shaw replied. "I thought I had finally learned that lesson. I did not keep things inside when Raidon died....." She sighed and smiled at the princess. "Thank you."
Diedre shook her head in disbelief. "Just when I think I've figured you out, you surprise me. But why did you wait for Sonya to walk away before saying it?"
Shaw smirked. "I do have a reputation to maintain."
"Augh," Diedre remarked, moving back. "Why do I bother?"
"Because you are just as stubborn as I am."
Diedre looked at Shaw and returned the smile. "You'd better believe it, lass."
Joyce sighed as she looked up at the stars, trying to keep herself steady. Being in the heart of the battle like that had made her feel so-----helpless and alone. No one could understand what it was like to have no fighting skills during this. All she could do was sit and worry.
"You are troubled." Joyce yelled as she spun around to see Sub-Zero standing behind her. "God, don't *do* that!" she screamed.
"My apologies," Sub-Zero nodded. "You are worried, I can tell. For your daughter and for yourself as well."
"You're damn right, I'm worried," Joyce remarked. "My daughter is in serious danger and my friends may die and I can't do anything to help. I can't right, I don't have powers, I can't do anything."
Sub-Zero looked at her and for once, it was with compassion. "You can give them your support. Your faith. Your courage. That is worth far more than you can imagine. Help them keep close to their humanity and they will be victorious."
"Easy for you to say," Joyce said, shaking her head. "You're the one with the ice powers. I'm just so worried, is all."
"You should rest," Sub-Zero said, moving to her.
"I can't rest, I can't sleep," Joyce moaned. "I have too much to worry about, too much to think about-----"
"You need rest," Sub-Zero repeated and Joyce felt a sensation on her shoulders and suddenly a wave of tiredness washed over her. She had time for one last thought before sleep claimed her. "How does he do tha......."
"Great, we get the basement," Johnny complained as the Kombateers headed down the stairs to the surprisingly clear area, a set of cots already set up. Sonya took hers and moved it to a corner, grabbing a nearby blanket and throwing it over the cot. "Do not even think of trying to wake me up without permission," Sonya said. "I get irritable if I don't get enough sleep."
Jax spun on Johnny, holding up a finger. "Don't."
"I wasn't going to say a word," Johnny assured him. He moved to his own cot and looked up at the rest. "You guys really think we can handle this? I mean, we only handled a few fighters the last time, now we're up against the whole damn dimension."
"We'll find a way," Liu nodded. "I assure you of that."
"Yeah, but can we handle Outworld?" Johnny asked.
"They're brutal, murderous, demonic monsters with no soul or conscience," Sonya announced. "On the other hand, we were trained by the United States Government." She smirked. "Sounds like a fair fight to me."
"I am pleased by your confidence," Sub-Zero said as he stepped out of the shadows.
"How does he do that?" Jax muttered.
"There is much to Outworld you do not know of," Sub-Zero said. "And to be overconfident can be more dangerous than not having enough confidence."
"I can relate," Johnny said. "I try so bad to keep things out of the spotlight with me."
"Yeah, right," Sonya sniffed. "This from the man with his own fan magazine."
"Hey, Sonya, you don't really know me," Johnny argued. "You don't even know my real name."
"It's not Johnny Cage?" Sonya frowned.
Johnny scoffed. "Oh, like anyone in Hollywood uses their real name. It's Jerome Cary Gerrado. Not everyone can have a cool name like you, you know."
Sonya stared at him for a long moment. She looked upwards and took a deep breath before speaking. "Sonijia Yasmine Bladwin."
Johnny looked at her for a long moment then chuckled as he shook his head. "Damn, you must have driven your mom crazy in the womb." He looked over towards Jax. "How about you?"
"What?" Jax frowned. "Jackson Briggs is my real name. My momma named me that."
"You mother named you Jackson?" Johnny said dubiously.
"You dissing my mama?" Jax said angrily, crossing his metal arms.
"Jax, the day will never come when I lose enough of my self-preservation to diss a black marine's mother," Johnny said honestly, relaxing as he watched Jax lower his arms. Johnny looked to Sub-Zero and spoke. "How about you? You got another name we can call you?"
"No," the ninja said.
"Sheesh, and I thought that Mulder guy was weird with names," Johnny muttered.
"So, when we fight, we're supposed to just yell out 'Sub-Zero?'" Sonya asked.
"You need not call me," the ninja said. "I will know when to come."
"Great," Jax moaned. "The ninja Obi-Wan Kenobi."
"Come on," Johnny remarked. "Go ahead, take the mask off, be yourself!"
"When this mask is on, I am myself."
"Not much on talking, are you?" Johnny remarked.
"In my clan, there are those who believe that to speak is a sign of weakness," Sub-Zero said.
"So, what do they do?" Johnny asked, truly curious. "Wear duct tape all the time?
"Nothing so extreme," Sub-Zero shrugged. "They merely cut their tongues out."
"Ooookay," Johnny said. "That's taking the whole vow of silence thing way too far."
"Hey, it's no more crazy than what these guys do," Sonya snorted, moving to the bottom of the stairs.
"Sonya....." Jax started.
"Come on, look at these guys," Sonya said. "We've got a bunch of whacko Irishmen, some feds, a witch, a divorcee, a lunatic half elf-and those fairies. Oh, those guys are nuts, have you seen them? They were totally out there, they are unpredictable, unrealizable, probably will have no real effect on the fight, can't deal with tactics, won't obey orders and judging by the looks on your faces, they're standing right behind me."
Swallowing, Sonya slowly turned to see Robin, Liam, Amy, Mulder, Scully and Shaw glaring at her and started to back up. "Now, look....."
"They will not hurt you, Sonya," Shaw said.
Surprised, Sonya stopped but looked doubtful. "Oh, right. They look like they love me."
"They would not hurt you," Shaw continued. "They would simply kill you and be done with it."
"That's not much better," Sonya muttered. She did a double take on Shaw. "What about you?"
Shaw smiled evilly. "I can understand your opinions. And more than anyone else, I prefer people to openly say what they think and feel, rather than hide between half-truths."
"So, you wouldn't kill me like these guys," Sonya said.
"Of course not," Shaw smiled. "I am not that merciful."
"Hey, how do you do it?" Johnny broke in.
"Do what?" Shaw asked, confused.
"Keep up with the other members of your team. I mean, Amazons, Slayers, Immortals. How do you keep up with these people?"
"Experience for one," Shaw said. "I am the oldest member of the group, even if I am only equal to seventeen as full-blooded humans reckon their lifespans. Years of training for another. I have magic of my own. Emphatic power, certain integral magics from my mother....spells....."
"Robin said your spells are weaker than the others," Johnny said.
"Perhaps," Shaw nodded. "But the source of my magic is purer. It comes straight from my Goddess. And this allows me to cast spells that the others cannot perform."
"Like?" Johnny asked, actually curious.
"Healing spells, spells to cure diseases and neutralize poisons."
"Oh, you're the team medic," Johnny said in understanding.
Shaw paused and Johnny was nervous he might have insulted her. "Yes, in a way I suppose I am," she said, causing Johnny to relax. "An accurate description, Johnny."
A bit more confident, Johnny pressed on. "What about this hand to hand stuff? You hold your own?"
"In unarmed combat, I cannot match the others. But I do have an advantage."
"What?" Johnny smiled. His smile cut off as a blade slid near his neck. "A magical sword," Shaw replied with an evil grin. "And there is the fact that I fight dirty."
"Uh, I wasn't trying to offend you," Johnny said nervously.
"I was not offended," Shaw clarified. "But the look on your face was worth it."
Johnny glared as she sheathed her sword, moving to the smiling Robin, Liam and Amy as they walked out.
"I like the way this girl thinks," Jax smiled.
"You would," a sour Sonya said.
"Nice job, Shaw," Amy grinned as the group walked down the hall.
"I want to make sure she gets the point I was trying to make earlier," Shaw said. "And impress upon Johnny the importance of this."
"They know." Everyone spun to see Sub-Zero standing there. "They are prepared to help."
"Are you?" Mulder said, still suspicious.
"You can trust me," Sub-Zero replied.
"Can we?" Scully said.
"Well, to be fair, he's about the only ninja who hasn't tried to kill us yet," Mulder pointed out.
"The night is still young," the ninja replied.
"Was that a joke?" Robin asked. "I think that was a joke! Hey, Sub-----" he broke off to see that the ninja had gone. "How the hell does he do that?"
"I am growing very weary, Shang," Kahn remarked darkly, glaring at his chief sorcerer. "I want information on these people and I want it know."
"My lord, I will give it to when I can------" Shang started.
Kahn fixed a hard gaze on his chief aide. "Shang, when I found you, you were hanging in limbo, your soul shredded, your body destroyed, between life and death, pain all you could comprehend. If you do not cease your prattling, I will leave you in worse shape than that."
"You know what you should do?" Maeve said, sounding as if she truly thought she was giving good advice. "You should torture someone. A good-well thought-out torture session really gets all the kinks out of your system. That's why there's no really successful dictators nowadays, no one takes the time anymore to do a really good torture session. I tell you, it's a lost art."
"Excuse me?" Maeve looked up towards Giles. "Let me give you a name," the British man said. "Sydney Green, brilliant psychiatrist, you talk, he'll listen, it'll all work out."
"I don't need a shrink," Maeve sniffed. "I know what I want and I'm willing to do anything to make sure it happens."
"All right, another name," Giles nodded. "Ethan Rayne. The two of you would make a lovely couple."
Before Maeve could reply, Shang looked about as if hearing something. "My Lord," he said. "I have a small fix, not too major. A few hundred mile radius but it's better than nothing."
"Assemble a squad of troops," Kahn announced. "Have them raze the countryside----"
"I don't think so."
Everyone turned to stare in amazement at Maeve. "Excuse me?" Kahn said in a dangerously low tone.
"Well, face facts, lad," Maeve said, stepping forward. "The last few attempts to get them have been one miserable failure after another. Those ninjas just didn't do the job. I think the situation calls for......a woman's touch."
She turned and started to walk out of the throne room. "Where are you going?" Kahn barked.
Maeve barely paused before reaching the exit. "To Hell, eventually."
She walked out, with everyone watching her, wondering what she was up to. It was Mider who broke the silence. "Give her six months and she'll be running the place."
No one was inclined to argue with that statement.