Title:    The Chronicles of Wanderer and the Slayer – Slayer Run, Part 2

Part One:  Libyan Assault

Part Two:  The Long Way Home

Part Three:  The War of the Sections

Epilogue 

Copyrighted : October 2000

Category: Crossover

Rating:   For Mature Readers – Depictions of Violence, Sexual Situations, Foul Language as well as Descriptions of Horrific Acts

Spoilers:      A few, but who cares?

Keywords: X-Files/Highlander/Buffy the Vampire Slayer Crossover with many guest stars.

The following TV series have been included in the story.  Disclaimers appear at the end with the cast list.

Pretender

A-Team

Star Trek the Next Generation/Deep Space Nine/Voyager

Gargoyles

Xena, Warrior Princess

La Femme Nikita

Forever Knight

 

The following novel series have been included in the story.  Disclaimers appear at the end with the character list

 

Casca - The Eternal Mercenary

The Executioner

Able Team

Phoenix Team

Bureau 13

The Destroyer

Conan the Barbarian

Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan

Red Sonja

 

Summary: A madman tries to destroy the world, a Watcher wants revenge against the Slayerettes, a covert government agency is out for blood, and a vampire army wants to kill the Slayer and control the Hellmouth.  All-in-all, it’s just a typical, ho-hum workweek for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Wanderer, and their crew.

All disclaimers appear at the end of the story.

Any character whose names and descriptions are used are the property of their original owners, and no copyright infringement is intended or meant.

No money can be made from this story.  It can be distributed freely so long as it is kept in its entirety, with all notices and copyright information intact.

The characters Wanderer/Steven St. Wolf, Frank Iverson, Brother Aaron, Robert McCallister, The Knights of the Order of the Grail, Randi Jessup, Brian Jessup and this story are Steve Pantovich’s.  Anyone wishing to use them, please contact the Wandererverse panel at the Wandererverse Revival Yahoo Group.

The character, Robin Goodfellow is the property of Mike Weyer and used with his permission.

Comments and criticisms are appreciated; please post to the above referenced e-mail address.

Author's Note's:    When Steve started to write this story, he decided to change some things concerning several canon (characters from TV series, movies, or novels) characters.

X-Files   Mulder and Scully are married and Immortal - so Non-Relationshippers beware.

Highlander:    It was Steve’s view that Richie Ryan shouldn't have died at the end of the fifth season, so here he hasn't.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer:     Buffy is an Immortal and this series splits from the second season show, Innocence.

Casca, the Eternal Mercenary: Various of Casca's friends are Immortal including the love of his life, Lida.

The Executioner:    Mack Bolan is an Immortal.  How else do you think he survived dying all those times?

The Destroyer:  Remo Williams is also an Immortal and the Avatar of the Hindu God Shiva.

Steve's thanks:

I'd like to thank the people who helped me in writing this story.  It took the better part of seven years to complete, but I think that it was worth it.  They stuck with me, helping and encouraging me to complete it.  They are:

Goblin214, Doug Elder, Rebekah Sandell, Mark Safransky, Dalton Spence, Mike Weyer, Tim Knight, and Jack.  Thank you all for your time and input on this story.

I'd also like to thank all those great fan fiction writers out there, whose stories I've enjoyed.  They showed me that I could let my imagination run.  (Where it went I don't want to know :>))

Thanks and here's the Story.  Enjoy.

Relief Pitcher’s note:

In memoriam: It should go without saying that I would like to dedicate this story to a great writer, Steve Pantovich.  Steve passed away in April 2007 due to complications from pneumonia.  Since I worked with him over the years on his stories both as his editor and his friend, I’ve been asked to step in to finish this most-ambitious novel, the sequel to his crowning achievement, Calling Out the Clan, from his award-winning fan fiction universe, the Wandererverse.  Steve wrote over 550 pages of this book…I’m just stepping in to bring it on home for the big guy.  An additional note to mention is that you’ll find that the writing style in this story a bit different from Steve’s.  He was married to the use of present tense in his writing.  However, I never liked his use of present tense due to all the linguistic gyrations it requires when you write something this big.  Thus, I have converted the prose to past tense.  Although the gist of his story has not changed, it should be easier for you to read it.  Another note is that there are some areas that have been enhanced by me that differ from Steve’s previous drafts.  Some items were never completed by Steve and I tried to deal with them based on conversations we had when he was planning these unfinished scenes.  Other changes have to do with making St. Wolf less of a ‘Gary Stu’ (a character that tends to completely overshadow canon characters) than he was in Steve’s previous works.  Steve also had indicated that he wanted to change this aspect of the character and I tried to do that for him in a way in which it would have made Steve comfortable. 

 

Anyway, here’s to you, Steve.  I hope you enjoy it!  With fondest regards, from your friend, Jack.

Also, I would like to add my thanks to Ruth Longhurst, my fabulous beta reader who helped me tighten this work for your enjoyment.  Thank you, love!  Finally, I’d like to thank the Wandererverse Editorial Panel for its encouragement and support.

Incredibly, more than a month and a half later, I’ve completed Part 2 of this story.  Because the transition from the adventure in Libya to the coming storm in Sunnydale was so long, I decided to call the part “The Long Way Home.”  Now settle back and have some fun!

Jack, February 26, 2008.


PART TWO

 

The Chronicles of the Wanderer and the Slayer

Slayer Run

The Long Way Home

Part 19 - Meeting Old Friends

                                                 (I Don’t Think Lazarus Ever Had Any)

July 22nd 20:00 PST - July 23rd - 06:00 Local

Lac Yora

            As the sun rose over the desert to the east, Genevieve Dumas looked to the north, her blue eyes moistened by her concern for her husband of more than twenty years.  At her side was her sister-in-law, Constance La Croix, who said, “If more than a lock of Pierre’s hair is out of place on his precious head, Anton will rue the day that he shanghaied my son into the Legion.”  

            Genevieve turned to glare at the other woman and showed her annoyance.  “Oh, do be quiet, Constance!  Pierre is a grown man!  He decided to become a Legionnaire on his own.   Anton and Sean had nothing to do with it.”

            Constance snorted and shook her head.  “You don’t believe that, Genevieve!  Pierre always looked up to Anton and his pet Irishman like they were superheroes.  How can a mother compete with that?”

            “By allowing her son to live his own life,” Genevieve said.  The two women then turned toward the front door of the Dumas home and went inside.  They entered the kitchen and began to prepare a meal for Genevieve’s three children.  After a few minutes, her youngest daughter, nine year old Claire, entered the kitchen and smiled at her mother. 

“Here’s your cereal, ma petite,” Genevieve said as she passed a bowl to the little girl.

 

            “Thank you, Mama,” Claire said then began to spread some honey on her oatmeal.  “Good morning, Tante Constance.  When will Papa and Uncle Sean be back?”

 

            “I don’t know, honey,” Genevieve answered as she saw her son, fourteen year old Carson, enter the kitchen.  She smiled at her little man and offered him a cup of tea from the counter. 

 

            “Is there any news about Papa?” Carson asked as he sat down next to Claire.

 

            “No,” Genevieve replied just as a man in a Legion uniform knocked on the rear screen door.  Genevieve saw that it was the unit clerk and said, “Please come in, Corporal-chef Kelly.  Would you like some tea?” 

 

            He shook his head and said, “No thank you, Madame Dumas.  I just thought I should inform you that the Libyan’s Third Border Guards crossed over last night.  However, the entire regiment was captured and the hale and slightly wounded Libyans were sent back across the border early this morning.”

 

            “Any wounded on our side?” Genevieve asked. 

 

            “No, only the Libyans suffered any casualties,” Kelly said.

 

            “How many were killed?” Constance asked with a smug smirk on her handsome face.

 

            “The Jaguar only killed six hundred of them, Madame,” Kelly said.  “But the Libyans have claimed over a thousand dead.”

 

            “And we didn’t lose a single Legionnaire?” Genevieve said. “How can that be, Corporal?”

 

            “I don’t know, Madame,” Kelly admitted.  “But the Colonel told me to tell you that he shall return to you shortly and to expect the arrival with him of an old friend.”

 

            “Who could that be?” Genevieve wondered.

 

            “I don’t know, Madame.  But the Colonel seemed to be in a very good mood when he radioed us.”

 

            “What about Lieutenant La Croix?” Constance asked.

 

            “Lieutenant La Croix is on his way back to Lac Yora with the Colonel, Madame.  Now, if you please, I shall return to my duties.”  

 

Genevieve then escorted him out the screen door, thanked the man, and he took his leave of them.

 

            Constance breathed a sigh of relief as Genevieve hugged her tightly.  “Genevieve, did you hear?  Thank God.  Pierre is all right!”

 

            As Genevieve’s eldest daughter, fifteen year old Angelique strolled into the kitchen, Constance’s mood changed like the quicksilver that streaked the edges of her chestnut brown hair.  “When Pierre returns to my side, I believe I shall have a long talk with him.  Perhaps this time he will listen to reason!”

 

            Genevieve cocked a well-manicured eyebrow at her obstinate friend.  Constance, behave!  You cannot embarrass him in front of his men.”

 

            “I won’t, Genevieve.  But I *will* try to convince him to leave this insanity that they call the Legion.  Wasn’t losing my Robert enough of a sacrifice for me to bear?”

 

            Genevieve gave Anton’s brother’s wife another hug and quietly agreed.  “It was Constance.  However, Pierre’s a grown man.  He should make his own decisions.”

 

            Constance snorted loudly.  “Don’t you think I know that Genevieve?  I am not senile, you know!  I simply want him to find love, to get married and have his own family.  I don’t want him to die in a battle and leave a grieving wife to mourn for him in front of their children.”

 

            Moments later, the two women heard the sound of heavy vehicles approaching.  They raced outside and saw Anton’s AFV roll to a stop in front of the nearby headquarters building.  From the distance, Genevieve saw Anton, Sean and a dozen strangers climb out of the vehicle.   “Who are those people who came with Anton?”

 

            “Merde!” Constance muttered under her breath as she recognized their uniforms. < What are *they* doing here? >

 

            Genevieve turned to her and asked, “What is it, Constance?”

 

            “Those people with Anton and Sean.  They shouldn’t be here.”

 

            Constance’s consternation caused Genevieve to feel unsettled in the pit of her stomach.  “Who are they?” 

 

            “They belong to the Order,” her friend hoarsely whispered as Anton and Sean strolled toward them with a young man and young woman in tow.

 

            When the quartet was only a few yards away, Genevieve recognized the young man’s face and whimpered softly.  “It can’t be him!  He died fifteen years ago!”

 

            “Who, Genevieve?” Constance asked.

 

            “The young man next to Anton—it’s Carson!”

 

            Constance gulped.  “N-no…it’s not possible!”

 

            However, when Genevieve realized she was indeed wide awake, her face beamed.  “It IS him!  I can’t believe it!” 

 

            A moment later, Anton grabbed his wife and hugged her tenderly.  When he felt how stiff she was in his arms, he leaned back and looked into her face.  When he saw what had captured her attention, he grinned.  “I see that you recognize our old friend.”

 

            “B-but I’d heard he had died.”

 

            “My death was faked, Genevieve,” St. Wolf said then gave her a hug.  “I now work for a covert operations group called Section Seven.” 

 

Genevieve raised her hands to caress the face of the dashing young man who had served with her husband then kissed him on his left cheek.  Steve smiled at her and returned the kiss in classic Gallic style on both of her cheeks.

 

            “Oh Carson, I’m so happy that you’re still alive.  I cried for a week when I heard how you ‘died’.  Why didn’t you contact us before this?”

 

            “I couldn’t, Genevieve.  My superiors wanted Carson Jamieson dead, so he officially died that day.  I now go by the name of Steven St. Wolf.”

 

            “St. Wolf?”  Genevieve then smiled at him.  “Somehow…it seems to fit you well.  So why have you returned to us now?”

 

            “Anton helped me with a small problem and he asked if I could spare some time and visit you.”

 

            “A *small* problem did you say?  What did it have to do with the Libyans?” Constance demanded. 

 

            Steve turned to the shrill voice that he still remembered from long ago.  “Hello, Constance.”

 

            “So tell me Sir Knight, what are you doing in Chad?” 

 

            “You know who they are?” Anton asked.

 

            Constance fixed the Colonel with a glare.  “But of course, Anton.  The Order is well known to my family,” Constance said with a hint of iron in her voice.  “I’ve lost both my father and brother to it and its knight’s insane quests.”  Then she turned toward St. Wolf and examined his rank insignia.  “So I see you are a Knight Lieutenant—most impressive,” Constance muttered and added, “Although if you are here to take my Pierre into the Order, I shall kill you.”

 

            St. Wolf grinned good-naturedly at the woman.  “That might be a tall order to fill, Constance.” 

 

            Constance responded with a shark’s smile and said, “There can only be one.”  Then she turned away and sashayed toward her son, leaving a disquieted St. Wolf to watch her go. 

 

            “Oh man…she’s one dangerous woman,” Steve muttered.

 

            “What did she mean by saying she lost her father and brother?” Sean asked.

 

            Constance’s family must have served in the Order.  Normally, we aren’t so lucky as to have a mission result in so few casualties.  Quite often, especially if we’re facing a demon or vampire master, many more of us die.”

 

            “Even the Immortals?” Anton asked.

 

            “Even us,” St. Wolf replied.  “When Famine was put down, we lost forty Immortal Knights to him.  Each man and woman freely gave their lives to put that thing down.”

 

            “Immortals?” Genevieve asked, looking confused.  “Whatever are you talking about?”

 

            Anton looked at his old friend and St. Wolf nodded.  Then Anton took Genevieve by her right arm and began to explain what had occurred in Libya.

 

            As the married couple began to talk in earnest, St. Wolf asked O’Rourke, “Can you take me to a telephone, Sean?” 

 

            “Certainly, Carson; it’s this way.”  Sean then led St. Wolf to a nearby office.  When they entered the room, a private snapped to attention.  “Private, please leave this room for a few minutes,” Sean said. The private then nodded and immediately left the room.

 

            St. Wolf picked up the phone and dialed Iverson Air’s Cairo office.  After a few minutes someone answered the phone and said, “Iverson Air Freight.  May I help you?”

 

            “This is Wanderer 7-0-0.  I need my plane at the Lac Yora airfield as soon as it’s ready to lift off.”

 

            “Yes, sir,” the voice on the other end of the line said.  “Your jet will be airborne in approximately two hours.  Its ETA will be ninety minutes.”

 

            “Why the two hour delay?” 

 

            “There is air traffic congestion due to a bomb scare at the Cairo Air Terminal, sir.”

 

            “All right, then.  Please transfer me to Frank’s office in New York via the secure line.”

 

            “Before I transfer you, what is your destination?”

 

            Paris,” St. Wolf said.  The other person confirmed the destination then attempted to connect St. Wolf to Iverson’s personal line.  After a few minutes, Frank Iverson answered the call.

 

            “Who in the hell is this?” Frank boomed while a laughing Cassandra was heard in the background.

 

            “Hello, Frank.  You and Cassie enjoying a well-earned night home alone?”

 

            “Steve?!  What in the hell is going on over there?  I heard from the ops manager in Sunnydale that you took a Fox Jet for a jump into Libya.  What in the hell would you do a thing like that?”

 

            “Some nutcase decided to destroy the world, so we had to stop him.”

 

            “We?  Who exactly is the ‘we’ you are referring to?” Frank asked.

 

            “Merlin and Marc were visiting me in Sunnydale, so I borrowed two hundred knights from them and attacked Corvo and his ‘Swords of Allah’ in Libya.”

 

            “Did any of the kids get hurt?”

 

            “I only brought Buffy along, Frank.  She wasn’t hurt, thank the Gods.  But we lost Francois Renhard when the Libyans attacked us.  I’m taking him back to Paris to bury him next to Yvonne.”

 

            “Francois is dead?  Dammit all to hell!”  Then Frank sighed deeply.  “I’ll tell Jacques and Terry the bad news and fly them home to Paris.”

 

            “Don’t bother, Frank.  Colonel Sanchez has already told them.  However, do arrange that flight so they can get to Mindy’s side as soon as possible.  Now, I just have to explain to Jacques DeClare what happened.  Got any ideas?”

 

            “Yeah, start praying,” Frank said wryly.  “I sure wouldn’t want to be in your shoes when he finds out that you raided Libya, again.”

 

            “Thanks for the sympathy, buddy,” a bemused St. Wolf said, then sobered.  “Will you be at the funeral?”

 

            “I can’t go.  I have to settle some legal matters here with the Navy JAG.”

 

            “Do you need my help?”

 

            “No.  Sydney is already on the case; he doesn’t see any problems.”

 

            “What happened?”

 

            Frank sighed.  “Steve, I’ll never understand this, but Donovan helped to clear me of the Franzetti murder.”

 

            “You don’t mean the same Donovan that tried to beat the hell out of you in Los Angeles?”

 

            “The same.  He and his partner found the evidence needed to clear me and the JAG wants to make it official.  Steve, the Navy even is going to issue a formal apology to me!”

 

            “Good luck my friend.  I’m sure Dana’s mother will be happy to see that you’re still alive.”

 

            “You know,” Frank whispered into the phone, “I never told her that I was still alive.”

 

            “I’m sure she’ll be happy to see you, Frank.” 

 

            “Thanks for the encouragement, good buddy.  Just be sure to watch your neck with DeClare.”

 

            “Thanks, pal, be seeing you,” St. Wolf said then hung up.   Moments later, he dialed another number and waited until Giles picked up the telephone on the other end.

 

            “St. Wolf residence, may I help you?”

 

            “Giles, this is Steve.”

 

            “Steven!  Is Buffy all right?”

 

            St. Wolf grinned at that.  ‘No doubt who comes first in that Englishman’s mind,” he mused.  “She’s fine, Rupert,” he said then gave the Watcher a full report.  “We were able to stop Corvo in time, but I lost one of my knights.  We’re taking him home to be buried next to his wife.”

 

            “Please give my condolences to his family, Steven.  When will you return home?” 

 

            “Sunday or Monday at the latest.  Why?”

 

            “You have some friends visiting.  They are very eager to see you.”

 

            St. Wolf sighed resignedly.  “Who is it?”

 

            “Jack Ryan is here with three companions.”

 

            “Ryan!  What has he told you?”

 

            “I wouldn’t fret about it.  I’m sure it will keep.”

           

“Good, then I’ll see you in three days.”  Then the two men said their goodbyes and terminated the connection.

 

            Steve turned to Sean and said, “My flight will be here in two and a half hours.  Can Francois be placed in cold storage until then?”

 

            “We’ll put him in the morgue until your plane arrives.  Do you want a casket for him?”

 

            “One of the metal ones that the Legion uses to transport dead Legionnaires will do, Sean.  Oh,” he said and snapped his fingers, I need access to a satellite phone.  Can you provide one with a scrambler?” 

 

            “Of course,” Sean said.  “I’ll just go over to the Intelligence Officer and ‘borrow’ his.”

 

            Steve grinned at his old friend.  “I see you’re still the same old thieving Irishman, eh?”

 

            “Now, whatever gave you that idea?” Sean quipped then laughed and gave St. Wolf a hearty slap on the back.

 

*****

 

July 22nd 22:00 PST

Home of Steve St. Wolf, Sunnydale, CA

 

            Giles breathed a sigh of relief, whipped his glasses of the bridge of his nose, and wiped an errant tear from the corner of his left eye. < Thank the Gods, she’s safe! > Then he quickly composed himself and walked out of the office to find a sea of expectant faces. 

 

            “What’s the situation in Libya?” Ryan asked.

 

            “The good news is that Corvo and all of his men are dead.  The virus has been destroyed and Buffy and the rest are safe and sound in Lac Yora, Chad.”

 

            “Why are they in Lac Yora?” Colonel Franklin asked.

 

            “They received assistance from the 1st DREP of the French Foreign Legion.  The Legion Colonel, an Anton Dumas, is their host until their plane lands.  But there was some bad news as well.”

 

            “How bad?” Jenny asked.

 

            “Steve lost one of his men when the Libyan Third Border Guards attacked his column as it fled from Libya.  He also lost Benjamin Armari and his entire family.  They were killed by Corvo before they could rescue them.”

 

            “How badly did he maul the Libyans?” Major Ritter wondered.

 

            “According to the Libyans’ own estimates, his group killed four hundred and wounded another three hundred.  The French Foreign Legion accounted for another six hundred dead and eight hundred wounded.”

 

            Jack glared at Giles, not believing what he’d just heard.  “What in the hell are you people?”  He demanded as he looked around the living room.

 

            Giles sighed and Jenny flashed a look at her Englishman, silently telling him to use their predetermined cover story.  He then turned to Ryan and said, “We’re the latest incarnation of a force that has existed since the dawn of humanity.  This force has protected humanity since the stone age.”

 

            Ryan scoffed at that.  “What!?  You must be joking!”

 

            “At times, I wish I were,” Giles said.  “However, it is all true, Mr. Ryan.  Indeed, the people that you see standing here before you have fought and driven back the ‘Darkness’ numerous times, saving the world in the process.”

 

            “Even these kids?” Walter ‘Gunner’ Sanchez muttered in disbelief.

 

            “Especially these young men and women,” Giles answered.  “They’ve been the guardians of this town for the last two years and have been able to hold their own against the vampires and demons that frequent this town.”

 

            “And Carson lets them fight?” Colonel Franklin asked.

 

            “He doesn’t ‘let’ us do anything,” Cordelia snapped.  “We were here fighting these things long before Steve came here.”

 

            “Look, kid...” Gunner began, but before he could utter another word, he found himself lifted off the floor by Cordelia.  Jack, John and Tex then watched awestruck as the dark haired beauty pressed Gunner’s two hundred forty pound body like it was a bag of groceries.

 

            “Don’t.  Ever.  Call.  Me. ‘Kid,’” Cordelia growled just before she dropped him gently to the ground. 

 

            “W-what are you?” Jack stammered.

 

            “I’m an Amazon,” Cordelia proudly said.

 

            “An Amazon? Why they weren’t real…they’re just a legend,” Bull said.

 

            “No, we weren’t,” Willow noted with a shrewd smile.

 

            “Dammit!” Jack muttered.  “It’s just like St. Wolf to associate with a bunch of Amazons!  I take it that the girl in the picture is also an Amazon?”

 

            “Not exactly, Mr. Ryan,” Giles said with a Cheshire-Cat smile.

 

            Bull, not liking the look on Giles’ face, sighed deeply.  “Okay, I’ll bite.  What is she then?”

 

            “She is the Slayer.”

 

            Jack and John look at each other then look at Giles.  “What’s a Slayer?” Jack asked.

 

            “She is the one girl in the entire world, the Chosen One, born with the strength and skill to hunt Vampires and other deadly creatures, to find them where they gather and to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their numbers.  Buffy is the Slayer for this generation.”

 

            “He just loves saying that,” Xander quipped.

 

            “What’s her connection to St. Wolf?” Jack asked.

 

            Giles stiffened at Ryan’s question.  At first he wasn’t about to violate his Slayer’s privacy, but Jenny gently said, “England, they’ll know soon enough.  Tell them.”

 

            Giles nodded reluctantly and said, “She’s his lover.”

 

            “WHAT!!??” Bull screamed, his fury clear to all in the room.  “Why that son of a bitch!  I’m going to break his fucking legs if he’s romancing that child!”

 

            “You’ll do no such thing!” Cordelia snapped as she stepped into Bull’s face.  “Buffy and Steve have had hard lives and they make each other happy.  If you screw with them, I promise I *WILL* hurt you.”

 

            “Little lady, Carson, or Steve as you call him, is at least forty years old.  He shouldn’t be dating teenagers!”

 

            “Cordelia, please step away from the Colonel,” Giles said simply.  Cordelia listened to the Watcher and moved away from the man, but was sure to keep him pinned by her glare.  “Colonel Franklin, would you please take a close look at that picture of Steven and Buffy?”

 

            The Colonel complied with Giles’ request.  “What am I looking at?”

 

            “Does Steven look like a forty year old man to you?”

 

            “No, no he doesn’t,” a cowed Bull mumbled.  “He looks like he did when he got out of the Army, about twenty-four to twenty-five years old.  Tex, Gunner, take a look at this photo and tell me that I’m wrong.”

 

            After they had examined the picture, Tex said, “Bull, you’re not wrong.  He hasn’t aged one bit!  How is that possible?”

 

            “Before Steven ‘died’ the first time,” Giles said, “he came into the possession of the Sword of Destiny called ‘Demon Slayer’.  When he was ‘killed’, the sword prevented him from dying and healed his mortal wounds within hours.”

 

            “What the hell are you talking about?  Some sword healed him and saved his life?”

 

            “Steven carries a sword that is one of the most powerful mystical artifacts ever created.  It is legend among those who are learned in the ‘arts’ and respected by the forces of ‘Light.’”

 

            “Where did he get this sword?” Gunner asked.

 

            “A dragon gave it to him for saving the life of another dragon,” Giles said.  Then he walked over to the bookcase and took down a photo album.  He turned to a particular page and showed them a photo.  Bull took the book from the Englishman, stared at the photo closely and hissed.

 

            “Shit!  This isn’t a fake is it?”

 

            “I’m afraid not.  That photo was taken seven years ago when Steven led a raid against some white slavers in Libya.”

 

            “What happened?” Tex asked.

 

            “Steven and his friends killed every adult there and rescued four hundred, thirty seven children ranging in age from eight to sixteen years old.”

 

            “What about the Libyans?” Bull asked.  “I’m sure that Khadaffi had some problems with that one.”

 

            “The Libyans tried to stop his team with a company of their special forces.  They failed,” Giles noted. 

 

            “How did they get the kids out?”  Bull asked.

 

            “Another team, working with them, hijacked a Moroccan 747 Jet and landed the plane outside the place where the auction was held.  They rushed the children onboard and flew away from that hell hole accompanied by the dragon.”

 

            “Did they lose anyone?” Bull asked.

 

            “No.  They all got out safe and sound.”

 

            “How does the sword stop the aging process,” Jack wondered.  “And how does it involve that young girl?”

 

            “Buffy is the bearer of ‘Demon Slayer’s’ mate, ‘Vampire Slayer.’  The swords work together to keep them young and fit indefinitely.”

 

            “You mean they’re immortal?” Jack blurted.

 

            “They can be.  So long as they continue to carry the swords, they won’t age.” 

 

            “My God!” Bull muttered under his breath.  “But why…why those two?”

 

            Giles gave them a nonplussed look.  “Why?  Simply because they are the best, gentlemen.”  He then turned to Xander and said, “Xander run the video tape from the restaurant that was taken a few weeks ago.”

 

            “You got it, G-Man,” Xander said while Giles visibly cringed from the boy’s use of that despised nickname.  Xander placed a video tape in the VCR, switched on the television, and started the tape.  Then Ryan and his companions watched as the Slayer and her mate took apart a dozen vampires in a few minutes time. 

 

            “Are you fucking kidding me!” a stunned Bull exclaimed to the TV screen.  “Where in the hell did he learn that shit from?”

 

            “Steven’s been fighting constantly for the last fifteen years.  Imagine the skills he’s mastered during that time.” 

 

            “You’ve seen his files, Bull,” Jack said.  “All of the work he’s done for me only accounts for a short amount of time.  I don’t think I want to know what he did when he wasn’t working for me.”

 

            Bull simply shook his head in disbelief.  “When will he be back?” 

 

            “He shall return home in a few days.  If you gentlemen would like to wait, he’ll be back on Tuesday.”

 

            “I can’t wait,” Jack said.  “Too much is going on and I have to be in D.C. to make sure that everything goes fine.”

 

            “That goes for us, too,” Bull said.  “If he’s pissed off Khadaffi, we’ll be on High Alert for a few days.”

 

            “When he returns, I’ll make certain he knows you were here.”

 

            “All right, Mr. Giles,” Jack said.  “We’ll leave tomorrow and return in a few weeks.  Make sure he doesn’t leave again before we see him.”

 

            “Very well then, gentlemen,” Giles said.  Then Jack and his friends turned to leave St. Wolf’s home.  Giles then turned to Xander and said, “Take a team and make certain they arrive safely at the Motor Lodge.”

 

            “Right, G-Ma—” Xander then stopped himself when he received the ‘hairy eyeball’ from the Watcher.  “Er..um…you’ve got it, Giles!”

 

*****

July 22nd 20:00 PST - July 23rd - 08:00 Local

Lac Yora

 

            Meanwhile, back in Chad, Anton gazed deeply into his Genevieve’s eyes and said, “My love, please understand—Carson is not exactly the same man that we once knew.”

 

            “What do you mean by that, Anton?”

 

            Carson is not exactly…human anymore.”  Before Genevieve could say a word, Anton placed a finger to her lips and shushed her.  “He’s still the same kind, caring man that you loved like a brother, but he’s now an Immortal.”

 

            “How did he become ‘Immortal’?”

 

            “Apparently, he was born that way.  He and his friends were chosen to become the guardians of mankind in a war that stretches back to when our ancestors were still living in caves.”

 

            “That young girl, she is Immortal as well?”

 

            “Yes.  She was a Slayer when she was mortal, Genevieve.  One of the Chosen champions of man.  I’m sure you remember the stories that your grandmother used to tell us of her friend Rachel, the one who had been chosen to be a Slayer?”

 

            “I do, Anton, but Rachel died and she didn’t become Immortal.  Why was this girl given such a wonderful gift?”

 

            “Because she has become Carson’s lover and battle mate, my love.  Perhaps the Almighty felt that Carson needed a love to continue his fight and He chose this girl to fill the void that was left by Katherine’s death.”

 

            “But she’s so young!”

 

            “True, but he they do seem to be a lot alike.  They’re both fierce fighters in the defense of humanity.  I watched them closely while we traveled here.  Trust me, my darling, they belong together.”

 

            Genevieve smiled at her true love.  “You always were such a romantic, Anton.  I hope she makes Carson happy.”

 

            “From the way they were holding hands?  Of that, I have little doubt.” 

 

*****

 

            While her brother-in-law and his wife were sharing their thoughts about his old friend’s new life, Constance was upstairs in her room, arms’ deep inside an old trunk she had removed from the back of her closet.  She rustled through the weapons and armor inside it until she found her father’s journal.  She removed the book, opened it, and scanned through its pages, lost in her memories.  Then she heard a noise and turned to find her son standing in her doorway. 

 

When he saw an armored breast plate inside her trunk, he asked, “Mama, will you tell me why you have armor and weapons from the Order inside that trunk or must I guess the reason for them to be there?”

 

            Constance hung her head in defeat and began to cry.  Pierre rushed to his mother’s side and took her lovingly into his arms to comfort her.  After several minutes had passed, she stopped her sobbing and said, “Pierre…your grandfather was a Knight Major in the Order when he died.  He had given his life to save the world from a monster that wanted to open a gateway to Hell in Greece.  He sent his the knights and squires he commanded back and destroyed the gateway himself, sealing himself inside to die at the hands of the hellish hordes.  Your Uncle Michael also was a knight in the order.  He died during World War Two.  He led a raid against one of Hitler’s death trains.  He was killed when he charged a machine gun nest that had turned its guns on the Jews and other so-called ‘undesirables’ as they were being led from the cattle cars.” 

 

            As her son sat in stunned silence and attempted to take in all that he’d just heard, she turned tear-stained eyes forlornly toward his beloved face.  “Will you now demand your place in the Order, my heart?”

 

            He tenderly kissed her cheek and shook his head.  “No, Mama.  I want to remain in the Legion,” he said and she looked at him with the light of hope in her eyes.  “However, I would like to court a woman from the Order who I met last night.”

 

            “What is she, a squire?”

 

            “No, she’s a Knight Captain.” 

 

            Constance gasped at that.  Pierre, my heart, do not pursue this.  Believe me, this woman is more than what she appears to be.”

 

            “What do you mean by that, Mama?”

 

            Constance sighed then said, “Pierre, your grandfather was one hundred and twenty years old when I was born.”  As her son’s mouth dropped open in shock at her confession, Constance continued to reveal more of the difficult truth to him.  “I’m not forty-five, my heart.  I’m really seventy-six years old.”

 

            “H-how is that possible?” he stammered and stared at her as if she were an alien creature ready to devour him.

 

            “The Order has the Holy Grail, Pierre.  When a man or woman joins the Order, they drink from the Grail as proof of their devotion to the protection of humanity.  Every year, on the anniversary of their birth, they and their immediate family members, drink from the Chalice of Christ.  By doing so, the Grail prevents anyone from being possessed by something evil.  The second thing that it does is it slows down the aging process.  One of your grandfather’s best friends died in battle at the age of two hundred and thirty.”

 

            “S-so, how old would someone have to be for the rank of Knight Captain?”

 

            “Most likely, they are probably in their late sixties, maybe early seventies.”

 

            Pierre laughed nervously at her words.  “Mama…I can’t believe that Jordan is that old.  She doesn’t look to be older than twenty-five.”

 

            Constance cocked a well-coiffed eyebrow at her son and asked, “This woman—is her name Jordan Smythe?”

 

            “You know her?”

 

            Constance nodded at him.  “She’s an old friend of mine.  We grew up together and were like sisters.  After my Papa died, I ran away and haven’t seen her since.”

 

            “How long ago was this?”  Pierre asked.

 

            “Almost forty years ago.  She wanted to join the Order and I…I just couldn’t, not after all that I lost to it and its insane quests.  So I left it all behind.”  Constance then smiled slyly at him.  “So, my son, are you still interested in her now that you know she’s a contemporary of your Mama’s?” 

 

            Pierre didn’t want to answer her at the moment because he was still trying to wrap his brain around the whole concept of all that he’d just heard.  “Mama, this Grail, is that why Carson still looks so young?”

 

            His mother smiled to herself at her son’s attempt to change the subject.  “No.  Carson is what’s called an Immortal.”

 

            “What’s an Immortal?”

 

            “They’re human beings who can only be killed by cutting off their heads.  The Order has several hundred of them as knights.  They usually take on the deadliest missions to protect their mortal friends.”

 

            Pierre’s eyes glowed as he said, “That may be so, Mama, but I think they can handle them if the other have the same powerful allies that Carson and his Lady have!”

 

            Constance rolled her eyes at him and muttered, “And so it begins.”  Then she shot a wry look his way and asked, “By any chance you wouldn’t be referring to the Dragons, now would you?”

 

            “You know about the Dragons?”

 

            “Yes, Pierre,” she said patiently, “your grandfather had several of them as friends.  Fragnar once took me flying on my tenth birthday.  It was the best present my father had ever given me.  My Papa and I rode on his back for hours!” She smiled to herself for a few moments then began to weep again.  Through her tears, she said, “I miss that life sometimes, but I miss Papa and Michael even more!”  Then she brushed away the moisture from her cheeks and said, “That’s why I wanted you to have a normal life, away from the fighting and dying.  I want grand children to spoil and love and I want to help you and your wife raise them.  I don’t want you to spill your guts out on some unknown battlefield and leave me to watch your wife wither away like I did after your Father was killed.”

 

            Pierre tenderly held his mother’s hand and said, “Mama, I didn’t know you felt this way.  I’m so sorry I’ve disappointed you.”

 

            Constance smiled sadly up at Pierre.  “There is no way in the world that you, my heart, could ever disappoint me.  I love you so!” she exclaimed and hugged him to her as if her life depended on him, and in truth, it did.  Then she whispered into his ear, “Your Father loved the Legion so, my darling, nearly as much as he loved us both.  He was a good man who I loved dearly.  If you wish to follow him then I won’t stand in your way.”

 

            Pierre fought back his own tears as he had finally gained his mother’s acceptance of his choice in life.  “Thank you, Mama!  Thank you!”

 

*****

 

            While Buffy and the other Immortals were busy cleaning the battle grime from their bodies, St. Wolf had troubled Sean again to make another call, this time to Paris, France.  As the connection was made, he said “Is Jacques in his office?  This is the Wanderer; I need to speak to him.”

 

*****

 

July 22nd 22:30 PST - July 23rd - 08:30 Paris Local

Office of the Director, Deuxieme

Paris, France

 

            Jacques DeClare stared at the report in front of him and shook his head.  < What in the hell is going on in Chad?  A mysterious group crossed the border into Libya, destroyed the Ma’tan ah Sarah oil refinery, fought the Third Border Guards to a stand still, crossed into Chad and had the 1st DREP attack the Libyans when they crossed over in pursuit!  Who in God’s name are these people?  > Jacques peered up from his desk as his secretary rushed into his office.  “What is Margarete?”

 

            “Sir, the Wanderer is on a secure satellite link.  He wishes to talk to you.”

 

            “Do you know where he’s calling from?” Jacques asked as his stomach lurched. < A thousand francs wager that he has something to do with this! >

 

            “He’s calling from the 1st DREP Headquarters in Lac Yora, Chad.”

 

            “Dammit!” Jacques muttered. < I just knew it had to be that son of a bitch. >  “Put him through.”  Jacques then picked up his phone and demanded, “What in the HELL did you do now, you miserable bastard?!”

 

            “Hello Jacques.  How’s the family?”

 

            “Don’t bullshit me, you son of a bitch!  What in the hell is going on in Libya and Chad?  Have you and Iverson started another war?”

 

            “Jacques, Jacques.  Can’t we at least reacquaint ourselves before we get down to business?”

 

            “I want your report, now!”

 

            “Very well, Jacques.”  Then St. Wolf told him about the entire mission.

 

            After St. Wolf had completed his report, Jacques sat back in his chair and shuddered. < How could we not know that madman was planning this?  Thank God that St. Wolf was able to take him out before he did any damage. > “What are your plans now?”

 

            “One of the men who served on the mission with me was killed in our battle with the Libyans.  I’m taking him to Paris to be buried next to his wife.  The local Legion colonel is providing me an honor guard to escort the body home.”

 

            “Call me when you land at De Gaulle Airport.  I’ll clear you through customs.”

 

            “Thanks, Jacques.  Anything else?”

 

            “Who helped you?”

 

            “Jacques, you know that I can’t tell you that.” 

 

            Jacques sighed resignedly.  “St. Wolf, either tell me or I’ll force you to attend every night of my granddaughter’s violin recital.”

 

            “Is that a threat, Jacques?”  

 

            “No, it’s a promise, mon ami.  Now give!”

 

            “Very well, Jacques.  It was Section Seven.”

 

            Jacques stared at his phone and took a deep breath.  Then he slowly let it out and asked, “I take it that you’re working for them now?”

 

            “I’m their field commander.” 

 

            < God help us all!  The Wanderer has his own private army. What idiot decided to do something as crazy as that?!> he thought, but he asked, “May I ask who entrusted you with such assets?”

 

            “Sorry Jacques, that’s classified.”

 

            Jacques narrowed his eyes in annoyance.  “Fine, then!  May I attend the funeral?”

 

            “Of course, but I won’t have you bother the man’s family.  His children will be suffering enough without one of your flunkies hounding them.”

 

            “I give you my word of honor that this man’s family will not be bothered.”

 

            “Thank you, Jacques.  His family has nothing to do with Section Seven and they’ll be in a very bad way with him dying so soon after his wife.”

 

            “Understood my friend, but you and I shall have a heart-to-heart about this group of yours.”

 

            “Fair enough, old friend.  Goodbye,” St. Wolf said and hung up the satellite phone.

                                                    Part 20 - Truth and Consequences

                                           (Where’s Bob Barker When You Need Him?)

 

July 31st 23:30 PST - July 23rd - 07:30 Local

Office of the Director, Deuxieme

Paris, France

 

            “Only St. Wolf could have pulled this off,” DeClare muttered t himself as he entered President Chirac’s office and took a seat in front of his desk.  When he saw the aides of both the President and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin in the room along with their bosses, he glared at them and said, “Get rid of these people except for the Prime Minister, Mr. President!  We have much to discuss.”

 

            “Since when do you give me orders, DeClare?  You may have been Mitterrand’s pet, but you’re not mine,” Chirac demanded.

 

            Jacques grinned at the President.  “Don’t you want to hear the full report on what happened in Libya?   If so, get rid of your flunkies, especially Chaverelle.”

 

            “This had better be good, Jacques,” Jospin grumbled.

 

            “Oh, it’s good.  Believe me,” Jacques replied with a death’s head grin.  Several of the President’s flunkies immediately began to edge toward the doors, afraid for their lives.

 

            Chirac sighed and said, “Please leave,” to both his aides and Jospin’s.  Then he glared at Chaverelle and said, “That goes for you, too.”  After they had all left the room, Jacques drew a case from his coat’s inner pocket, removed a cigar from it, and offered it to either the President or the Prime Minister.  Both of the men declined it and Jacques simply shrugged, placed the cigar between his lips, lit it and began to tell his tale. 

 

            “As to Khadaffi’s complaints about the Legion killing his troops, tell him to go fuck himself.”

 

            “Cough it up, DeClare.  What happened?” Chirac asked with a wicked gleam in his eye.

 

            Jacques relayed the entire report as it was told to him by St. Wolf and when he had finished, Chirac picked up his phone to contact his secretary and said, “Bring in a bottle of brandy with three glasses.”

 

            Moments later, his secretary entered with a bottle of twenty year old Napoleon VSOP and three glasses on a tray.  She placed the tray on the desk and left the office.   Chirac picked up the bottle and poured drinks for the three of them.  Then he handed the glasses to both Jacques and the Prime Minister and took one for himself.  “A toast, gentlemen, to the men and women who fight for the cause of right and politics be damned!”

 

            “To unsung heroes,” Jacques added. 

 

            Chirac nodded.  “To unsung heroes, may this world never be without them.”  Then all three men drained their brandy glasses and threw them into the fireplace.  When they’d retaken their seats, Chirac asked, “What are you going to do?”

 

            “First, the Legion Commander will receive a letter of commendation for his role in defending Chad from the Libyan invaders.  Second, the commander of the force that invaded Libya and destroyed that madman is burying one of his men in Paris.  I want to make sure that nothing gets in the way of that.”

 

            Chirac and Jospin both nodded.  “Do it.  But I want to know who was responsible for this raid,” Chirac said.

 

            “It was the Wanderer.  He’s now the field commander for a covert operations group called Section Seven.”

 

            Chirac glared at Jacques, poured himself a stiff drink and rapidly downed it.  “Are they insane!?  That man should not be in charge of a private army!”

 

            Jacques simply shrugged in response.  “You know his record.  He’s a boy scout.  Just because he can do the impossible doesn’t mean he’ll try to conquer the world.”

 

            “But he’s insane!” Chirac snapped.  “Remember when St. Wolf and the Black Widow killed over a hundred people to retrieve those nuclear weapons!”

 

            Jacques glared at his boss.  “St. Wolf does not enjoy killing, but he will kill, if the situation warrants it.  I personally checked the identity of each person that they killed.  I approved of each and every killing.  None of those people were innocents.  Each one had something to do with the theft and the placement of the bombs in Paris.  As far as I’m concerned, they did what they had to do to save Paris and over two million innocent lives.”

 

            Chirac sighed.  “So be it.  Who is the man they intend to bury?”

 

            “He’s a Section Seven agent named Francois Renhard,” Jacques replied as he passed Chirac a file.  “He served in our Marines Corps and retired eight years ago with a full pension.  There are no other records of him, nor is there a record of any employment after the Marines, other than the cashing of his monthly pension check.  Our records also show that he and his wife adopted a young girl, seven and a half years ago.  She was severely abused, both sexually and psychologically.  The girl is now in her first year at the Sorbonne, studying architecture.  From her school records, she’s a nice girl who is quiet, but has many friends.  His wife, Yvonne, was killed in a motor car accident last year.  He leaves behind his son, his son’s wife, their son, his adopted daughter and his sister, a respected doctor and humanitarian.”

 

            “Marie Renhard?” the Prime Minister asked.  Jacques nodded.  “I’ve met her.  She’s as bad as Mother Theresa when she wants something for that clinic of hers.  My wife considers her a saint and a treasure as do many of the people of Paris.”

 

            “And her brother died saving the world from a madman,” Chirac noted with a touch of emotion in his voice.  “What else?”

 

            “He served France most of his life and he died fighting for her and the world.  I want you to award him the Order of De Gaulle.  I don’t want his sacrifice to have been in vain.  I want his family to be able to stand with their heads held high and be shown the respect that they deserve.”

 

            “It shall be done,” Chirac said. 

 

*****

 

July 23rd 01:30 PST - 11:30 Local

People’s Palace, Tripoli, Libya

 

            Major Benmari quietly paced the floor in front of the ‘Colonel’s office and glanced at the young Captain who sat in one of the chairs nearby.  “Do you want to tell me what happened?”

 

            “No, sir, I’ll tell the Colonel and he’ll either have me killed or thrown out of the army.  I don’t know which will be worse.”

 

            “Dead is worse, trust me,” Benmari said.  “I know you were the third ranking officer in the Third Border Guards.  Colonel Hakim was your commander and he disobeyed orders by attacking some unknown group that fought back and defeated you.  That the Legion helped the unknown group was a surprise, but considering you went into Chad, not too much of a surprise.  Did I miss anything?”

 

            Jarhem gasped at his words.  “How do you know so much?”

 

            Benmari smiled at Jarhem.  “This is the third time that bastard has been to Libya.  Every time those beasts show up, he shows up.” 

 

            “What beasts?”

 

            “The dragons, of course.  I don’t know how a man can control such magnificent beasts, but he does.”

 

            Then before Jarhem can ask another question, the door opened and one of the ‘Colonel’s’ aides ushered them inside.

 

            Jarhem and Benmari stood at attention as Colonel Mo’amar Khadaffi glared at them through narrowed eyes.  “Did we lose any planes or vehicles. Benmari?”

 

            “Only those associated with the Third Border Guards,” Benmari crisply replied.

 

            Khadaffi then turned to Jarhem.  “Tell me what happened in your own words, Captain.”  Jarhem nodded and gave Khadaffi a full report, including what was told to him by the leaders of the covert operations force.  Khadaffi sighed, tossed a file toward the captain and motioned for the man to open it.  Inside the file were photographs of two men.  “Were these two the leaders of the group?” the ‘Colonel’ asked.

 

            Jarhem pointed to a photo of St. Wolf and nodded.  “Only that man was there.  He had a young woman as his second in command.”

 

            Khadaffi called out to one of his aides and asked, “Mr. Sudzal?  How many Swords of Allah remain within our borders?”

 

            Both officers turned to see the head of Libyan Internal Security approach the desk from the shadows in a corner of the room.  “Forty-three, sir.”

 

            “Kill them all, immediately,” Khadaffi ordered.

 

            “It will be done within the hour!  What about the Wanderer and the French?”

 

            “Have the bounty on him raised to twenty million American dollars.  As to the French, we have no quarrel with them.  Hakim’s mistake resulted in the slaughter of the Third Border Guards.  I can’t blame the Legion for doing its job.  But I want a million dollar bounty on the head of the Jaguar and a quarter million on his pet Irishman.”

 

            “Yes, sir,” Sudzal said. 

 

Khadaffi then turned to Benmari and Jarhem and said, “Major Benmari, you’re promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  You, Captain Jarhem are not promoted, but you won’t be disciplined either.  Thank you for your reports, gentlemen.  Dismissed!” 

 

            “Sir?”  Jarhem asked before he turned to leave.

 

            “Yes, Captain?”

 

            “There was one more thing I learned that I think you should know.” 

 

            “And that is?”   

 

            “That man.” 

 

            “Yes?”

 

            “I don’t know what he calls himself now, but one of my sergeants recognized him from the battle of Four Palms.  He called him Cherokee.  And the man did not dispute the sergeant’s identification.”

 

            “Thank you, Captain.  You may go,” Khadaffi simply said and waved off both men as they salute and left his office.

 

            Mr. Sudzal watched them leave and asked, “Why didn’t you kill them?”

 

            “Neither of them failed at their posts, Sudzal.  I can’t afford to kill good men on mere whim.”

 

            “Should I have them watched?”

 

            “Of course…I may be generous, but I’m not stupid.”

 

            “Very good, sir,” Sudzal said.  Then he added, “Is Jarhem’s statement true?  The Wanderer and Cherokee are one in the same?”

 

            “I don’t know, Sudzal, but it does clear up a few things for me,” Khadaffi said.  “I’m sure that we’ll know for certain, sooner or later.  Yes…sooner or later.”

 

 

                                                         Part 21 - Saying Good Bye

                               (Here Lies A Brave Soul Who Fought and Died For Humanity)

 

July 23rd 02:00 PST - July 23rd - 12:00 Local

1st DREP Headquarters Airfield, Lac Yora, Chad

 

            Buffy, St. Wolf and their friends stood at attention at the rear ramp of the Fox Series Jet as Pierre led an honor guard of eight Legionnaires that bore the casket of Francois Renhard.  As the men slowly marched past the ranks of the Legion’s 1st DREP and the 3rd Pioneer Corps, the men in each unit snapped to attention and saluted the flag-draped coffin. 

 

            A lone bugle in the distance played the haunting sound of ‘Taps’ as the honor guard stepped onto the ramp.  Then as the men entered the belly of the plane, the Immortals solemnly climbed aboard the jet.

 

            Inside, Pierre and his men placed the coffin on the ground behind the rear seats.  St. Wolf, Mulder and Duncan then tied the casket down while the Legionnaires took their seats.  A few minute later, jet engines began to whine and moments later, the plane rolled slowly forward.  Then it rapidly built up its speed and flung itself headlong into the African sky.

*****

 

            Thirty minutes into the flight, Craig Matthews chanced a glance at his co-pilot and said, “Tony, go check on our passengers.”

 

            “You sure about that, boss?”

 

            Craig grinned at him.  “Yeah, I’m sure.” 

 

Tony grunted, got up, and left the cockpit.  After several minutes, he returned and took his seat next to the pilot. 

 

“Back so soon?”

 

            “Everyone’s asleep, including St. Wolf and that little filly with him.” 

 

            Craig noticed the smirk on Tony’s face and asked, “Why are you grinning?”

 

            “You’ve heard all those scary stories that the guys tell about St. Wolf?” Craig nodded.  “It’s just funny to see him act like a normal guy and have a hottie like that Buffy girl by his side.”

 

            “I know!  I’d expected to see him with some dark-haired, Amazon ball buster.”

 

            “Ain’t that the truth?” Tony wryly noted.

 

*****

July 23rd 06:00 PST - 16:00 Local

Charles De Gaulle International Airport,

Paris, France

 

            Paris Tower,” Matthews said, “this is Iverson Flight Fox Tango Two.  Requesting clearance to land at Iverson Aerodrome.”

 

            “Iverson, Fox Tango Two.  You have received priority clearance to land.  Please land on runway Baker 7.”

 

            “Confirmed, priority landing on runway Baker 7,” Craig said.  Then he reached up and flicked on the passenger compartment intercom.  “We’ll be landing in five minutes.  Everyone please fasten your seatbelts.”

 

*****

 

As the plane rolled to a stop, St. Wolf rose from his chair and crossed to the door.  He unlatched it and watched as a set of stairs was rolled up and locked into place.  When he saw an old friend standing next to the Operations Manager at the foot of the stairs, the Wanderer grinned at him.  “Nice to see you again, Jacques!” he exclaimed.  Then he rushed down the stairs into the arms of his old friend who gave him a hug and a two quick pecks on the cheek. 

 

            “Welcome back, Mon Ami.  I hope you had a good flight,” Jacques asked as he watched several people, particularly five lovely women, deplane.  “I would love to be introduced to your friends!”

 

            “In a minute, Jacques,” St. Wolf said.  He turned to the Operations Manager and directed, “Arrange for another plane to take Dr. Stamos directly to our Atlanta terminal.”

 

            “Certainly, Mr. St. Wolf,” the Ops Manager said.  “Anything else?”

 

            “Yes, have the Fox-Jet serviced and put on standby for our use at a moment’s notice.”

 

            “Of course, sir.”

 

            Jacques grinned while St. Wolf had been busy snapping out orders in quick succession.  “I take it that now is a good time?” 

 

            “Of course, Jacques,” St. Wolf said just as Buffy strolled over to the two men.  “This is my second in command, Elizabeth Anne Summers.” 

 

As Buffy glared at him for using her full name, Jacques studied the girl carefully.  “Mon Ami, I suspect there is more to this young lady than meets the eye, oui?”

 

            St. Wolf nodded.  “Your suspicions are right on the money, Jacques.  You see, Buffy is…special.” 

 

            “How exactly is she ‘special?’” 

 

            “Buffy’s the Slayer, Jacques.”

 

            “Mon Dieu!” Jacques whispered hoarsely.  “Please tell me that the Watchers do not know about her.”

 

            “They do, but they’ve been warned off.”

 

            “I hope a few of those bastards are now rotting in Hell after you finished with them!” Jacques growled.

 

            “Sir,” Buffy asked the Frenchman, “you know about Slayers and the things that we face?”

 

            Jacques nodded at her with a grimace on his finely chiseled face.  “My grand daughter, Monique, was Chosen almost seven years ago, young lady.  Before we knew had happened, she was taken from us.  I used most of my department’s resources to find her but it was to no avail.  I then called in Steven to help with the search and he finally found her after a month of searching.  However, we were too late by a week in reaching her.”

 

            Buffy shuddered and hugged herself tightly.  “I-I was Chosen almost three years ago.”

 

            Jacques’ eyes nearly bulged out of his skull at Buffy’s words.  “And you’ve survived for all this time?”

 

            Buffy winced at his question, almost as if it were an indictment.  “I had friends who helped me from day one.  My Watcher cared more for me than he cared for the Council.  In fact, the Council sent him to me to fail and probably die at my side.  He’s that much of a pain in the ass he is to them, I guess.”

 

            “A man is measured by his enemies, mademoiselle,” Jacques noted.  “If this man had been my Monique’s Watcher, she might still be alive today,” Jacques said with a catch in his voice.  Even to Buffy it was clear that he was engaged in a struggle to rein in his emotions.  Then he turned to Steven and asked, “She is a gift to mankind, a sacrifice that we’ve made to hold back the infernal things of the night.  Although I hate it, I know that she is destined for that.  Thus, I must wonder why she was in Chad with you?”

 

            “I already told you, she’s my second in command,” St. Wolf said then added, “And my lover.”

 

            Jacques glared at the other man as if he had two heads.  “The lover part, I have no quarrel with, but subjecting her to the depravity of mankind?  She is meant to not have to deal with those things, Steven!  She is an angel come to Earth for the benefit of mankind, a protector of us all, not a soldier who must do a dirty, brutal job for mundane things like politics or power!”

 

            Buffy moved from St. Wolf’s side and got in Jacques’ face, her voice barely above a whisper, “Back off!  We’re a team.  Live with it.”

 

            Jacques looked into her eyes and saw a young woman in love.  He sadly shook his head and said, “You are too young for this.  You should be concerned about school and the other things that catch a young girl’s fancy.”

 

            “I know,” she whispered then looked down at her feet.  “But I can’t, knowing what I know and doing the things that I’ve done.”

 

            Jacques noted the haunted look in her eyes.  “You have seen much grief, no?”

 

            Her eyes filled with unshed tears as she glanced up at the tall Frenchman.  “I’ve had to kill friends when they’d been turned.  I’ve had to find the bodies of children drained of their blood, sometimes tortured by the things that had preyed on them.”

 

            Jacques smiled gently at her.  “How did you meet Steven?”

 

            Buffy smiled back at the kindly old man, genuinely moved by his concern for her.  “He moved into my town and saved my best friend’s life.  Steve and his friend destroyed eight vampires in less than ten minutes that night.”

 

            Jacques saw his old friend in a new light after she’d said that. < He destroyed eight vampires in less than ten minutes?  Incredible!  I must talk to Henry about this.>  “I think we have much to discuss, old friend,” he said to St. Wolf.

 

            “I’d be happy to discuss it after the funeral, Jacques.”

 

            Jacques nodded in response.  “Now let me get your friend through customs.”

 

            Steve called out to Pierre and when the young officer was by his side, he said,   Pierre, please have the men bring Francois’ body forward.” 

 

Pierre snapped a crisp salute and returned to his men.  Then they carried the casket from the rear of the plane and marched solemnly toward the customs area.  Jacques walked beside the coffin and nodded to the clerk who simply waved the procession through. 

 

            When the coffin passed the customs terminal, two men in dark suits stepped forward and bowed to St. Wolf.  “Mr. St. Wolf, I am Robert Jacobs and this is my son, Joseph.  We were informed that you would need the services of our establishment.”

 

            “Thank you for coming so quickly, gentlemen,” St. Wolf said.

 

            “Our hearse is waiting outside.  We’ll prepare the body and place him in our best coffin.”

 

            “Thank you.”  Steve replied then called out to Pierre who stood nearby.  Pierre, have two of your men escort the body to these gentlemen’s establishment.” 

 

            “Sergeant-Chef Brisby,” Pierre ordered.  “Detail two men to accompany our friend.”

 

            “Yes sir!” Brisby replied and carried out Pierre’s order. 

 

            “Buffy,” he said to the Slayer, “Please take our friends, Pierre and his men, to the Hotel Saxony and get some rooms.  I’ll join you later after I give the bad news to Francois’ daughter and sister.”

 

            Buffy took the credit card, smiled sadly at him, and said, “I’ll take care of everything, sweetie.  You just take care of Francois’ family, okay?”

 

            St. Wolf nodded and swept her up into his arms and deeply kissed her.  Then when he broke off the kiss, he smiled down at her and said, “When Jacques is right, he’s right.  You are an angel!”  Then he sobered and said, “I’ll see you back at the hotel.” 

 

            Buffy nodded and watched him go to talk to his friend Jacques.  Then she turned to Dana Scully and said, “Help me round up the team then we’ll go.”

 

*****

 

            St. Wolf approached Jacques and said, “Jacques, I have to leave now.  Could I see you tomorrow?”

 

            “Of course, Mon Ami, and please bring your charming companion with you.  We shall have lunch and Ann can meet her.”

 

            “All right, Jacques, the usual restaurant?”

 

            “Yes, my friend.  Take care!” Jacques said then he strolled toward his limousine, closely followed by his bodyguards.

 

*****

 

July 23rd 11:00 PST - 19:00 Local

Hotel Saxony, Paris, France

 

            Three hours later, a depressed St. Wolf strolled into the main lobby of the Saxony and sighed.  Telling Marie about the loss of her father was one of the hardest things he’d ever done and the strain from it showed on his face.  His shoulders slumped from the stress of telling a fragile young woman that her father was not coming home as he approached the concierge’s desk.  “Hello, Philipe,” he said.  “Are my friends being well-treated?”

 

            A small, balding man looked up from his newspaper then dropped it.  “Monsieur St. Wolf!  How are you, sir?  As for your friends, we gave them an entire floor of rooms for their use.  Do you require anything more?”

 

            “Yes, have Marcel come by tomorrow morning for several fittings.  We’ll need suits for the men and dresses for the ladies for a funeral.”

 

            “May I ask whose funeral you shall be attending?”

 

            Steve sighed.  “Francois Renhard was killed on a mission and we’re burying him the day after tomorrow.”

 

            “And the Legionnaires?”

 

            “They’re his honor guard.”

 

            “He died fighting for France?”

 

            “He died fighting for humanity.”  Steve said.  “The Legion helped and its commanding officer gave him this honor.”

 

            “Sir Francois will be missed.  My son served as his squire last year.  He spoke highly of him.”

 

            “I know.  I just finished telling his daughter that he won’t be coming home.”

 

            Philipe nodded.  “Your rooms are on the sixth floor.  Have a good rest and Marcel will be by in the morning.  How many suits will he need?”

 

            “Six suits and have Marcel’s wife bring a selection of dresses for six women.” 

 

            Philipe nodded and said, “It shall be done, Sir Steven.”  Then St. Wolf turned and walked toward the elevator.

 

*****

 

            Steve exited the elevator and ambled down the hall.  As he passed a room he clearly heard the bed springs being tested to their extremes.  He grinned and continued down the hall until he came upon a room where some loud rock music was being played.  He knocked on the door and several moments later, Richie answered. 

 

            “Hey, Steve, what’s up?” 

 

            “Which one is my room?”

 

            “It’s the last one on this side of the hall.  Mulder and Scully have the one across the hall from you.”

 

            “Thanks, Richie,” Steve said and he walked to the door to his suite.   He softly knocked on the door and said, “Buffy?  It’s me, honey.”

 

            “Come in,” Buffy said loudly.

 

            Steve opened the door and his eyes were forced to adjust to the low light due to the illumination of the massive room by candlelight.  Then he gasped when he saw the Slayer lounging seductively on the bed, in a sheer black gown. 

 

            Buffy smiled sensuously and purred, “Hello, big boy.”

 

“Dear God in heaven!” was the only thing that St. Wolf could manage to say at the sight of one of his dreams come true.

 

She grinned, obviously pleased with his reaction.  Then she stretched her tiny frame seductively before she gracefully rose from the bed, allowing the gown’s sheer strips to reveal her athletic figure to him.  He watched her helplessly, like a fly caught in a spider’s web, as she strutted wantonly toward him.  Then he meekly followed her as she took his hand into her deceptively dainty hand and led him to the bed.  Then she pushed him down on the bed, stood between his outstretched legs, and untied her gown.  When it fell from her luscious curves, the silk and velvet gown barely whispered as gravity took hold of it.  Then she crawled up his torso and took his lips hungrily with a carnal kiss that lingered for oh so long.  Then, when oxygen had finally become an issue, he broke away from her sweet lips and murmured, “You do know we have to be up early tomorrow?”

 

            Buffy cocked a wry eyebrow at him and purred, “That’s not a problem for me, pal.  Slayer stamina…don’t leave home without it!  I just hope you can survive the night, soldier boy,” she quipped and began to unbuckle his belt and pants.

 

            As the pleasure of being taken by the Immortal Slayer began to sweep him away, he mused that being an Immortal was probably the only thing that would ensure he’d live through her tender ministrations.

 

                                                               Part 22 - Discoveries

(Someone’s Tweed Is Missing in Action and

Operations Experiences Something New - Fear)

 

July 23rd 02:00 PST - 11:00 - Local

Heathrow Airport, London England

 

            Wesley Wyndom Pryce grimaced as he left the main terminal of Heathrow and entered the baggage claim area with the duck that used to be Quinton Travers under his arm.  When the bird squirmed in his grasp, he tried to calm the fowl by petting it.  However, the angry bird took a nip at his hand.  He nearly brought his injured palm up to his mouth but stopped when he saw the look on Owen’s face. 

 

            “I say, old boy, Mr. Travers doesn’t like to be petted?”

 

            “You should take him.  You were his pet,” Wesley groused.

 

            “If anyone was Travers’ ‘pet’ it was Raleigh,” Owen shot back.

 

            However, before Wesley could say another word, the duck squirmed free and fluttered away from him.  “Mr. Travers!” Wesley yelled as Owen, Raleigh and he chased the duck.  Moments later, it landed on the luggage carousel and began to shiver.  Then it began to change and grow.

 

            “Dear God!  He’s changing back!” Owen muttered under his breath while many of the passengers stared at the amazing transformation in fascination.

 

            When the transformation was complete, a woman screamed, causing several Bobbies to rush over and stare in disbelief at Quinton Travers riding on a luggage carousel!

 

            “Here now!!  Get down from there!” the sergeant snapped as Travers looked around, dazed and confused. 

 

Then when he saw his three assistants, he exclaimed, “Carter!!  Pryce!  What in the hell is going on here!?”  A moment later, he chanced a look at himself and added, “I say, where in the hell are my clothes?!”

 

            After the Bobbies dragged Travers off the carousel and Carter gave Travers his jacket, the officers hauled him away while he muttered under his breath, “Giles shall pay for this!  He’ll beg me to end it when I kill his precious Slayer, her friends, and his lover and leave their broken bodies on his doorstep!  Only then will I give that bastard exactly what he deserves, an express ticket straight to the bowels of hell!”

 

*****

 

July 23rd 8:30 PST - 11:30 Local

The Office of Harold W. Smith

Folcroft Sanitarium, Rye, New York

 

            Smith reviewed the latest reports from Libya and shuddered. < My God.  What were they thinking?  A mutated form of Ebola?  How could they release something like that into the world? >  Then he looked up from his computer as two men entered his office.  One, an aged oriental man, was about five feet high and weighed less than a hundred pounds.  He wore a dark blue Kimono and sandals.  The other was a brown haired Caucasian with a hint of Asian descent in his facial features.  They both gazed at Smith with dead eyes and the Caucasian man asked, “What’s up, Smitty?”

 

            “You should not treat the exalted Emperor Smith so informally!” Chiun snapped at his companion.

 

            Before Remo Williams could respond, an exasperated Smith said, “A situation has developed in Libya, Remo.  I want you and Chiun to investigate and terminate a rogue Black Operations group called Section Seven.” 

 

As Remo began to laugh heartily, both Smith and Chiun regarded him quizzically. “Would you be so kind as to let us in on the joke, too, Remo?” Smith asked.

 

            Chiun glared at Remo and added, “The Emperor is quite correct, Remo.  Please enlighten us.”

 

            Remo caught his breath then said, “I can’t do it, Smitty.  I won’t kill my friends.”

 

            “Your friends?  What on God’s green Earth are you talking about?”

 

            “Remember the group that I worked with in LA, three weeks ago?”

 

            “Yes I do, but what do they have to do with this Section Seven group?”

 

            “That was the name that Mulder and St. Wolf made up for our little task force.  I wonder why they would take the group to Libya.”

 

            “We heard it was something about a mutated Ebola virus,” Smith replied evenly.  “Is there anyway for you to get me more information about this incident?”

 

            “Sure.  Can I use the speaker phone?” Remo asked.  Smith turned the phone on his desk around toward his operative and Remo dialed a California telephone number.

 

            The phone rang four times before it was answered by a woman.  “Hello, this is the St. Wolf residence.”

 

            “Hello, this is Remo Williams.  Where’s Steve?”

 

            “He’s not here, Mr. Williams.  Hold on a second,” the woman said.  There was a slight pause before a man came to the phone.

 

            “This is Rupert Giles, Mr. Williams.  May I help you?”

 

            “You’re on speaker phone, Mr. Giles.  My boss wants to find out about what’s going on in Libya.”

 

            “May I ask for whom do you work for, Mr. Williams?”

 

            “My name is Smith, Mr. Giles.  Mr. Williams works for me.  We both work for the United States Government.  Anything else is classified.  Do I need to go any further?”

 

            “No, Mr. Smith, you do not.  I will tell you what you wish to know only because Mr. Williams obviously vouches for you, otherwise, in the vernacular of American teenagers, I would simply tell you to ‘stick it,’ as it were.”

 

            Remo laughed while Smith grinned wryly and said, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship, Mr. Giles.  Please proceed.” 

 

            “I suppose a man who quotes Casablanca so eloquently deserves a most thorough report, Mr. Smith,” Giles drawled.  Then he gave the man a detailed report on the mission and its aftermath.

 

            After the Englishman had completed his report, Smith’s jaw nearly dropped to the floor.  Then he simply shook his head in disbelief and said, “Thank you for your report Mr. Giles.  Should you need our help in the future, please call Remo and request it.  If we can do it, it’ll be done.”  Smith then hung up the phone and stared at Remo with hooded eyes.  “These people have incredible resources.  How do you know they’re not planning something to harm this country?”

 

            Remo shrugged and said, “Turn on your computer, Smitty, and look up a guy named Steven St. Wolf.  Read his file then ask me that question again.”

 

            Smith did as Remo asked and conducted a search of all of the government’s databases.  Five minutes later, the computer beeped and downloaded a large number of files to Smith’s computer desktop.  He then spent the next hour and half reading them.  When he finally looked up, he took off his glasses and cleaned them, revealing a tear that had run down his cheek.  “I’m sorry, Remo.   There is little doubt as to this man’s loyalties.”

 

            “Apology accepted, Smitty.   What do you want us to do now?”

 

            Smith hands them a list of names and addresses.  “These men are confirmed members of the Swords of Allah.  Make sure none of them are preparing any surprises after Corvo’s death.  As luck would have it, most of them are based in and around New York City.  Please remove those first.”

 

            Remo took the list with a wolfish grin.  “Will do, Smitty.  Chiun and I will make sure they won’t be doing much of anything ever again.”

 

            As Remo and Chiun exited his office, Smith watched them leave and sighed as they closed the door behind them.  Then he turned to the open file of St. Wolf on his computer desktop and said, “So, this is where you disappeared to Carson?  I guess that Maggie somehow knew you were still alive.”  Then he picked up a photograph of his sister dressed in a nun’s habit and caressed the frame.  “Maggie, I’m sorry that I never believed you about Carson still being alive.  I hope you can forgive me.”

 

*****

 

July 23rd 10:30 PST - 13:30 Local

Section One Headquarters, Location Unknown

 

            Birkoff studied the reports from the French Security Services and whistled lowly.  He glanced all around the main floor of Section One and saw Operations talking to Michael, Nikita and several other level five agents.  Birkoff took a deep breath to settle his queasy stomach and screw up his courage.  Then he marched over to Operations.

 

            Just as Operations had finished giving his primary assault leaders their orders, Birkoff said, “Sir, I just got this from a tap I have on the French Security Service.  I think you need to see this.”

 

            “Very well,” Operations replied neutrally.  He took the report and read it.  Before long, his face turned red as he crushed the report in his hands.  Then he turned to Michael and ordered, “Cancel the assault on the Swords of Allah; they’ve been taken out by Section Seven.”  Next he turned to Birkoff and said, “I want everything you can find out about this on my desk yesterday!   I don’t care how you do it, but I want it done and I want it complete!” 

 

            Birkoff gulped, nodded, and rushed away.  Meanwhile, Michael and Nikita look at each other for a moment before they follow Birkoff back to his computers.  They found him already hunched over his computers, silently hacking into various intelligence systems world-wide.  Michael placed his hand on Birkoff’s shoulder and quietly asked, “What happened?”

 

            “Section Seven took out the Swords of Allah twenty-four hours ago.  According to the French, the 1st DREP gave them support fire as they got out of Libya into Chad.  The Libyans are fuming, but the French told them to go to hell.”

 

            “Damn, no wonder Operations is angry.  Do you have anything else?”

 

            “No.  And if I don’t get something soon, Operations will have me canceled,” Birkoff said.

 

            “No, he won’t,” Nikita said.  “This isn’t your fault and Operations would be a fool if he did that and we all know Operations isn’t a fool.” < Besides, Madeline would stop him.  I hope. >

 

*****

            Operations stalked into Madeline’s office door and barked, “My office, now!”

 

            She placed the profile she had been reading on her desk and followed him to his office.  As she entered his door, he said, “Close and lock the door.”

 

            Madeline nodded and complied with his directive.  Then she waited patiently as Operations opened the secure channel on his wall communication viewer.  A few minutes later, their superior’s image appeared.  “What is it, Paul?  You look pissed.”

 

            Operations growled lowly.  “Birkoff just intercepted a Deuxieme communique that said Section Seven had taken out the Swords of Allah less than twelve hours ago.”

 

            A plainly startled General George Stockwell merely stared at his top operative for at least thirty seconds before he could apparently find the words to respond.  “Are you certain of this?”

 

            “We’re getting confirmation as we speak, but it doesn’t look good.”

 

            “How does this fit in with Smith and the A-Team resurfacing?”

 

            Operations glanced at Madeline before he responded.  “It’s possible that Smith and his men became the core for Section Seven and they’re running the show.  Can you imagine the damage they could do if it’s true?”

 

            Stockwell visibly shuddered.  “They can’t be allowed to continue.  I find it hard to believe that Section Seven managed to take out the Swords of Allah in less than 24 hours in a foreign country.  No organization is that good.”

 

            Operations chuckled darkly.  “I beg to differ, General, but apparently Section Seven is!  However, they did receive help from the French Foreign Legion as well.” 

 

            “Perhaps, Paul, but perhaps not.  The Legion may have stumbled onto this affair and nothing more.  As for this being Smith and his men, for all we know, they might still be trying to arrange a flight to Libya as we speak, unaware that Corvo has been eliminated.”

 

            “We’ll check all of the charter companies on the east coast and go from there.”  Operations replied.

 

Stockwell nodded and said, “You do that.  We need to get a lid on this, Paul.  Don’t fail me,” he said cryptically just before he signed off. 

 

Operations then turned to Madeline and asked, “Do you think it was coincidence?”

 

            “I don’t know.  I can’t see Smith running a covert operations group and still work in the field.  It’s simply too difficult to manage.”

 

            Operations stroked his chin as he carefully considered her opinion.  “I suppose you’re right.  Well, let’s go and see what Birkoff has managed to dig up on this.”

 

*****

 

July 23rd 13:30 PST - 16:30 Local

Section One Headquarters, Location Unknown

 

            Birkoff looked up from his papers as Operations and Madeline sat in their usual places at the conference table.  “Report!” Operations said crisply.

 

            Birkoff sighed deeply and said, “The French and Chadian governments have sent letters to the Libyans complaining about border intrusion of the Libyan armed forces into Chad.  The French Security Service has already clamped down tight on any intelligence coming out of there and the British report that Khadaffi has that any members of the Swords of Allah on Libyan soil are to be executed immediately.”

 

            “Does that terrorist group have any operatives in the United States we need to worry about?”

 

            An awed Birkoff shook his head and whispered, “They’re already dead, sir.”

 

            “They’re dead?  How?”

 

            “I don’t think you’ll believe me, sir.”

 

            “Try me,” Operations growled, causing the young man to gulp.

 

            “Some of them died from crushed chests.  Others had their heads torn off, their bodies dismembered.  The list is long and bloody, sir.  Do you want me to go on?”

 

            “No.   Were there any witnesses to whom did the killings?”

 

            “There are some reports of two males, a young Caucasian and an aged Asian, in each area at the time of the deaths.  Other than that, there’s nothing else, sir.”

 

            < Damn!  The Masters of Sinanju!  How in the hell did they get involved in this mess? > Operations mused.  “Well, that addresses one problem.  Now for Section Seven’s involvement—what are the French doing about it?”

 

            “They’re doing nothing, sir.  The Director of the Deuxieme has ordered that nothing be done.”

 

            Operations slammed his fist down on the table in anger.  “Damn it!  Who in the hell is Section Seven and how do they rate such consideration from an agency of the French government?”

 

            “It’s just as bad as when they were in Los Angeles.”  Birkoff muttered.  “No one will talk about them, but no one hides the fact Section Seven was there!”

 

            “Birkoff, I want you to try and trace the A-Team.  Check every charter company that they could have used to get to Libya.”

 

            “Yes, sir.” Birkoff replied and knew that he’s going to have a long night.

 

            Just as the hacker rose to leave, Operations grunted.  “Oh, and Birkoff?”

 

            “Yes, sir?”

 

            “Nice job on short notice.  Thank you for such a thorough analysis.”

 

            A tiny smile appeared on the young man’s face.  “You’re welcome, sir.”  Then he raced off to his computer.

 

*****

 

July 23rd 14:00 PST - 17:00 Local

Stony Man Farm, Somewhere in Virginia

The War Room

 

            Aaron "The Bear" Kurtzman swore loudly.  “What in the hell is going on in Libya?!”

 

            “What are you talking about, Bear?” Mack Bolan asked as he walked up to the burly hacker.

 

            Bear glanced up from his computer monitor and muttered, “Some nutcase Cowboy Black Ops group just shitted in Khadaffi’s sand box.”

 

            “What’s the intel?” Barbara Price asked as stood up from her desk.

 

            “Some group that calls itself Section Seven raided the headquarters of the Swords of Allah.  Corvo is confirmed dead as well as two hundred of his most fanatical followers.  After the group burned the Ma’tan Ah Sarah Oil facility to the ground, it escaped south across the Chadian border,” Bear read from his computer terminal.  “As they drove to the border, they were attacked by a regiment of Libyan border guards.  During the fighting, they forced their way to the border and crossed over to Chad.”

 

            “Did the Libyans follow them across?” Mack asked.

 

            “They did.  Then when they crossed the border, the Libyans came under the fire of the French Foreign Legion’s elite paratrooper battalion, the 1st DREP.”

 

            “I take it that the French handed the Libyans their heads?”

 

            “That’s putting it mildly,” Bear muttered.  “The Libyans lost almost four hundred men to Section Seven and another six hundred to the Legionnaires.”  Bear looked up and saw that both Mack and Barbara had sly smiles on their faces.  “Care to tell me what’s so funny?  We have a rogue Black Ops group here and you two are smiling.  Care to share?”

 

            “Let me make a phone call first,” Mack said.  He placed a call on his secure telephone to a certain house in Sunnydale.   

 

            “St. Wolf residence, may I help you?” a woman asked.

 

            “Is Steve home?” 

 

            “No, I’m afraid he’s out.  May I ask who’s calling?”

 

            “Mack Bolan.  To whom am I speaking?”

 

            “Hello, Mr. Bolan, this is Randi Jessup.  Remember, we met at the party.” 

 

            “Oh yes, I remember now.”  Mack thought back to the new Immortal who had been looking for a teacher who’d take both her and her younger brother in. 

 

            “Why are you looking for Steve, Mr. Bolan?”

 

            “I needed to ask him about something that’s just happened in Libya.”

 

            Mack heard Randi curse softly over the line.  “Just a moment, Mr. Bolan.  Giles!  Can you come into the office for a minute?”

 

            A few seconds later, Bolan heard a cultured, English over his receiver.  “Mr. Bolan, this is Rupert Giles, may I help you?”

 

            “Yes, Mr. Giles.  Can you tell me what happened in Libya and what it has to do with Steve?”

 

            Giles sighed and reported his understanding of what had happened in Libya and Chad to Bolan. 

 

            After Giles finished his report, Mack asked.  “Did the group suffer any losses?”

 

            “Benjamin Armari and his family are dead.  Steven and Buffy were heartbroken that they failed to arrive in time to save the virologist and his family.  I had to have a physician from Bureau 13 come and sedate the Armari’s only living daughter who came to Sunnydale with Colonel Smith and the A-Team.  She is resting comfortably but is obviously distraught.  Steven also lost one of his men when the Libyans attacked.” 

 

            “They did a good job.  Tell them I called and if they need someone to talk to, have them give me a call.”  Then both men said their goodbyes and terminated the call.

 

*****

 

July 23rd 14:00 PST - 17:00 Local

White House Briefing Room, Washington, DC

 

            “Can any of you so-called *Intelligence* agencies tell me what the Hell is going on in Libya!?” President Bartlett boomed.

 

Apparently, the Leader of the Free World was fit to be tied as he glared at the representatives from the various intelligence and security agencies that had seats on his National Security Council.  “Someone attacked the Libyans and left behind a few destroyed HUMVEEs that supposedly belong to our military.  Now, the Libyans want to know what we know about this!”

 

            All of the men and women, from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, down to the lowest Assistant Director stared at one another and shook their heads in bewilderment.  Bartlett continued to press and demanded, “By your silence I take it that none of you knows who did what in Libya!?”

 

            When no one said a word in response, Bartlett snidely said, “I hope that you all remember this day when you ask for your next year’s appropriations because if this is the best you can do, I think that they’re going to be cut severely!!”

 

            “Mr. President?” Jack Ryan called out from his position to the right of the CIA Director.

 

            “Yes, Jack?  Do you have the information I’m looking for?”

 

            “Yes, sir, I believe I do,” Jack replied calmly. 

 

            President Bartlett leaned across the table and said, “Well, Mr. Ryan, we’re waiting.”

 

            “Although the ‘why’ is simple, the ‘who’ is a tad…complicated.” 

 

            Bartlett sighed resignedly at that.  “Isn’t it always that way, Jack?  First give me the ‘why’; I’ll worry about the ‘who’ later.”

 

            “The Swords of Allah were using the Ma’tan as Sarah Oil Refinery as a biological warfare laboratory.  Corvo’s men had kidnapped the Nobel Laurent virologist Ben Amari to work for him to create a super virus.  Ben Amari succeeded and had synthesized a mutated form of Ebola.  It was a very contagious airborne virus, and had an almost one hundred percent casualty rate.”

 

            President Bartlett saw that all the faces around the table, with the exception of Ryan’s, mirrored the horror that was on his own.  “Please continue, Mr. Ryan, with your report.”

 

            “A covert group attacked and destroyed the Swords of Allah, the oil refinery and all living samples of the virus.  Benjamin Armari’s notes will be in the hands of the CDC shortly.”

 

            “What was the group?”

 

            “Section Seven,” Jack replied as nearly everyone in the entire room glared at him.

 

            “I knew it!!!  I just fucking knew it!!” Harold Theivelson screamed.  “You bastards started another black ops group without clearing it through this office!”

 

            “Sorry, Harry,” Jack said with a grin, “but the CIA doesn’t control Section Seven.”

 

            “Then who does?” Bartlett demanded.

 

            “I’m sorry, Mr. President, but I wasn’t provided with that information.”

 

            “And who provided the information about the Ebola virus and the other information?”

 

            “Section Seven’s field commander provided it to me.”

 

            “Mr. Ryan, if you don’t control Section Seven then how do you have access to its field commander?” Marine Corps General Wayne Fitzgerald asked.

 

            “We’ve used him as an independent contractor in the past, General.  And I hope that our relationship will continue into the future.”

 

            “And why did he just give you this information?  And can you trust it to be on the up-and-up?” Bartlett asked.

 

            “I’d stake my life that the information provided is accurate, sir.  As for trust, when he worked for me, I had no reason to question his integrity and he never had a reason to believe I would have ever left him to twist in the wind like a few people here who I could mention.”

 

            “Who is this independent agent?”  Leo McGarry, the President’s Chief of Staff asked from his seat near the President.

 

            “His code name is ‘The Wanderer,’” Jack replied as several Directors and a majority of the Assistant Directors stared at him in shock. 

 

Harold Theivelson muttered darkly, “That man is a lunatic!  He should be imprisoned for some of the things he’s done!”

 

            “What sort of ‘things’ has this man done?” President Bartlett asked.

 

            “He worked in concert with the Black Widow, a known Soviet asset, and murdered over one hundred people in Paris.”

 

            “Each person, and I use the term loosely,” Jack countered, “was a member of the Radical Jihad terrorist organization.  That was confirmed by the head of the French Secret Service after St. Wolf and the Widow recovered and turned over to the French four nuclear weapons that the Radical Jihad had placed around Paris.  And if you were interested, they still had nine hours to go on the timers when they were disabled by the French bomb specialists.”

 

            “Well,” Theivelson quickly added, “he invaded Columbia and butchered over a hundred of its citizens.”

 

            Jack scoffed at him.  “Harold, you’ve got to do better than that!  St. Wolf, Mr. President, assaulted a Columbian drug lord’s private estate, killed over a hundred heavily armed members of his organization and rescued three members of the Drug Enforcement Agency and their families who were being held as hostages to gain the release of Hector Cortez.”

 

            Theivelson tried one more time.  “The man violated the borders of a sovereign nation and kidnapped its citizens, all of them children.”

 

            Ryan smirked at Theivelson and said, “He retrieved the children, who are United States citizens, at the request of their mothers.  They were kidnapped by their fathers and taken to a foreign country against their will.  The mothers had been awarded sole custody by the courts in all cases and the fathers had warrants out for their arrests for kidnapping the children.”

 

            “Mr. Theivelson, I’d shut my trap if I were you,” General Hastings Carter advised the clearly angry NSA Chief.   General Carter then turned to Jack and asked, “Any more tidbits on this man or should we just say that he’s too good to be true?”

 

            “His record is available for anyone to review, who wants to see it and has the necessary clearances, Hastings,” Jack said as he placed a folder on the conference table.  The President motioned for it and Jack shot it across the desk to him.  Then the President reviewed it for several moments and whistled lowly. 

 

            “Tell me something, Mr. Ryan.  Why does his record begin in 1983?”

 

            “That was the earliest that I could trace him back, Mr. President,” Jack replied neutrally.

 

            “How do you know that he’s not a wanted criminal or terrorist?” General Carter asked.

 

            Jack sighed and glared at the General.  Hastings, please review his file before you make an ass of yourself.”

 

            General Carter harrumphed, took the file from the President and examined it carefully.  About halfway through it, he stopped and stared at a photo then closed the file.  He looked back at Jack and wondered, “Is this file correct?”

 

            “It is,” Jack replied.

 

            General Carter sighed and pushed the file back to Ryan.   “I’m glad to see that he’s still alive and fighting the good fight, Jack.  Does Bull know?”

 

            “He learned a few weeks ago.  He’s pissed that he never received even a letter, but he’ll get over it.”

 

            “May I ask what you two are talking about?” President Bartlett snapped.  Apparently, he didn’t like to be out of the loop on a matter being discussed at his own meeting.

           

“Just remembering a brave young man that I thought had passed away,” General Carter replied gruffly.  “But I’m happy to see that he’s still with us.”

 

            “You know who this ‘Wanderer’ guy is?” Leo McGarry asked.

 

            “I do, Mr. McGarry.”

 

            “Well, are you going to tell me or not?” President Bartlett demanded.

 

            “No, sir.  He deserves a clean start and I’m glad that Jack gave it to him.”

 

            “General,” Bartlett growled, “I am ordering you to tell me what you know about this man.”

 

            “I’m sorry, sir, but I won’t say anything unless you clear the room of most of the people.  They don’t have a need to know, sir!”

 

            Bartlett studied the General’s eyes for several beats then made up his mind.   “Everyone but Ryan, Carter, and Leo, out!”

 

            Soon, the four men were alone and Bartlett speared both Ryan and Carter with his glare.  “Now tell me what the hell you were talking about just now!”

 

            General Carter looked over to Jack who nodded.  “Jack gave a new start to a man who’d served this country bravely and almost died a hundred times while he was in the Army.  He earned various citations during his tours of duty and after seven years of outstanding and in many cases exemplary service, the young man left the service and married his childhood sweetheart.  They were married for less than a year when his wife was kidnapped, gang raped and murdered by six men.  The young man’s friends in the local law enforcement agencies tracked these men down and arrested them.  They were quickly brought to trial, but their attorney bribed an evidence clerk who screwed up the evidence, so they walked.”

 

            “Oh hell,” Leo whispered.

 

            “A few days later, the young man tracked those bastards down and killed them all on the spot.  He shot each man in the head two times as they sat in a bar planning their next crime.”

 

            “What happened then?” Bartlett asked.

 

            “He disappeared.  He wasn’t heard from until a year later when he supposedly died saving a group of children from a man armed with an AK-47,” Jack said.  “He was supposed to fake his death in another location, but he risked his life to save those kids.  He got shot twenty times.  The rounds broke his sternum and several ribs but the vest that he wore held.”

 

            “You are making this incredibly difficult for me, you do realize this, don’t you, Jack?” Bartlett muttered as Jack handed over another file to the President.  “What’s this?”

 

            “It’s his file from the Army.  You’ll see why Hastings and I both wanted him to have a free pass over killing those six.”

 

            Bartlett opened and read the file.  After a short while, he closed it and noticed that he had shed a tear for the man described by the contents of that file. < He did so much for his country and we failed him when he needed us the most. >  He glanced at Ryan.  “I notice that he’s been awarded the Medal of Honor?  How’d you swing a pardon for him?”

 

            “I just showed Governor Bush his file and explained the situation to him.  He agreed to sign the pardon.”

 

            “I take it the good Governor doesn’t know he’s alive?”

 

            “No, he doesn’t and I want to keep it that way.”

 

            “Why?”

 

            “Bush might try to rescind the pardon for my misleading him.  He’s been known to be touchy about things like that.”

 

            “True,” Bartlett agreed as he shot a look at Leo who silently nodded.  “If that happens, I’ll sign a pardon for him.”

 

            “Thank you, sir.  He deserves his peace and quiet.  He’s earned it.”

 

            “One more thing, who was going to help him fake his death?”

 

            “Another agent who owed him his life had made all of the arrangements,” Jack replied neutrally.  “Steve was supposed to disappear after that and start a new life, with no record, no past.  But he couldn’t stay away.  He came back a few months later, hunting down a several serial child killers.  In 1986, he teamed up with another wronged man, a Frank ‘Two Step’ Scully.  In 1988, they formed an aviation company called Iverson Air.  For all of their activity since then, you’ll find it in their files.”

 

            “Another wronged man?” Leo asked.

 

            “Yes, Frank Scully was convicted of murdering a Lieutenant, Junior Grade, Franzetti.  A Naval Commander named Donovan helped clear him recently.  The Navy is giving Frank a General Discharge and an apology.”

 

            “Isn’t this all a little coincidental?”  Leo noted.

 

            “Mr. McGarry, I didn’t clear Frank, the Navy did.  Frank was innocent of the charges brought against him.  And I wasn’t the one who cleared Steve; I got him pardoned for a crime that he admitted doing.”

 

            “And this Section Seven group?” Bartlett asked.  “What is it?”

 

            “It appears to be a strike force that strikes at various groups we can’t legally touch, such as Corvo in Libya and the vampire cultists in Los Angeles.  They have support from a large group of agents and the ability to work with other agencies and groups both legal and extra-legal,” Jack said.  “For instance, in Los Angeles, some cultists got their hands on a biological/chemical weapon and were ready to use it on the general population of Los Angeles.  According to the reports that Steve provided to me, it would have made LA a cemetery and quite possibly have killed off most, if not all of the population of North America as it spread outward.”

 

            “Jesus Christ!” Bartlett muttered.  “And how did Section Seven get all of the local support?”

 

            “They didn’t try to snow the local officials, sir.  And those folks knew they couldn’t handle it and were glad for the help.  They didn’t ask too many questions so long as innocent bystanders weren’t part of the body count.  In fact, Section Seven rescued over two thousand civilians who were being held as hostages.”

 

            “And this ‘tell them the truth attitude’ got him that much cooperation from the local police agencies?”  Leo asked.

 

            “You’ve never met Steve St. Wolf, Leo.  He’s a leader.  People respect that, especially when he tells them the truth of what’s going on and what will happen if they fail.  He’s never sugar-coated anything for anyone, and people respect that.”

 

            “I agree with that attitude,” Bartlett said.  “But why didn’t the LAPD demand to know who the hell he was working for?  For all they knew he was terrorist himself.”

 

            “Well, he had a pair of FBI Agents working with him and they have a certain reputation in the Bureau.  Agents Mulder and Scully are respectively known as ‘Spooky’ and the ‘Ice Queen’.  Though Agent Scully has also been called ‘Mrs. Spooky’ for some reason.”

 

            “I see…these two agents worked with a group that had no legal standing in the United States?  Do they realize they could be arrested for that?”

 

            “It doesn’t appear to concern them, Mr. President.  Agents Mulder and Scully are the two sole agents in a very specialized division within the FBI.  They handle the cases that the ‘normal’ agents can’t or more likely won’t work.   They have a better than seventy-five percent clearance rate on all of their cases.  Because of their maverick ways, high clearance rate and unusual case load, they are universally detested and feared by the bulk of the FBI personal.  In fact, according to one Assistant Director, working with them has killed quite a few careers.”

 

            “What sort of cases do they handle?”  Leo asked.

 

            “Their division, the X-Files, has jurisdiction over cases dealing with the paranormal, scientific anomalies, alien abductions, and other oddities that can’t be explained by normal means.”

 

            “Don’t we have a group like that already?” Bartlett asked.  “I seem to recall a briefing on an agency called the OSIR.”

 

“We do, but they don’t handle cases that involve possible criminal activity.”

 

            “All right,” Bartlett said as he leaned back in his chair and rubbed his forehead.  “That’s enough for now.”  He then turned to Leo.  “Leo, can you get me copies of Agents Mulder and Scully’s files?  I want it done quietly.”

 

            “You’ve got it, sir.”

 

            Bartlett turned back to Jack.  “I want to meet this man, St. Wolf.  Can you arrange it?”

 

            “I’ll see what I can do,” Jack said. “But please understand this, sir.  If you attempt to incarcerate him, or kill him, his friends and allies will find out.”

 

            “Is that a threat, Mr. Ryan?” Bartlett growled lowly.

 

            “No, sir, it’s a fact.  Steve may be the head of Section Seven’s field personnel, but they follow him because they are loyal to him personally.  His superiors also respect him as do the heads of British Intelligence and the French Secret Service.  If you know anything about those two individuals, sir, you’ll realize that they take their personal loyalties very seriously and damn the politics.”

 

            “Are you trying to tell me that, if I attempt to take action against this man, the heads of our allies’ intelligence agencies will take retribution for him!?”

 

            “I am saying exactly that, sir.  And I’m not including the other ‘independent’ operatives who would also see such an attack as a personal attack upon them.”

 

            Bartlett stared at Jack for a full minute before he said, “I can’t believe that those kind of ‘people’ would go to such extremes for one man.”

 

            “St. Wolf has been known to go to such extremes for his friends, sir.  He’s risked his life numerous times to rescue his friends or help those friends rescue family members and loved ones who were taken by someone who supposedly couldn’t be touched.  Those people wouldn’t stop at anything to get him back alive, or failing that, make sure that his death was avenged to such an extent that no one would ever forget it.”

 

            “Who in the hell is this guy to earn such loyalty from so many people!?”  Leo demanded.

 

            General Carter answered him.  “He’s a man who will do what is right, no matter the cost to himself personally, Mr. McGarry.  I was present when he returned from several of his missions.  I saw the look in the eyes of the men that he led.  Those men would have followed him to the Gates of Hell and back, gladly giving up their lives if ‘he’ asked them to.  When those pieces of shit walked out that Texas courtroom, I had to put Fort Bragg under lock down to prevent men from going ‘AWOL’ to kill those bastards for their friend.  Several other commanders, American, Finnish, German, British and French also had to restrict their men to base because of what happened.”

 

            “I still want to meet him.”

 

            “Why, sir?” General Carter asked.

 

            “Because men like him are dangerous.  And I want to know what to expect from him.”

 

            “That’s one thing that we all can agree on,” Jack said.  “St. Wolf is a very dangerous man.  He’s also loyal, brave and actually gives a damn about people, especially those being terrorized by people in power,” Jack said and stood up to leave.  “With your permission, Mr. President?” Bartlett nodded and Jack and the General both left the conference room. 

 

Bartlett then turned to Leo and asked, “Did you get the impression that they would have killed me if I tried to have this man arrested?”

 

            “That would be the last thing that they would do,” Leo observed.  “They’d first try to free him by using all of their clout.  But I think we may have a problem with St. Wolf.  If he has that much influence over men like Carter and Ryan then he’s a possible threat to this country.”

 

            “What if he’s the opposite, a possible savior?”

 

            “Dante said it best.  ‘The path to Hell is paved with good intentions.’”

 

            “We’re going to have to tread this one softly, Leo.”  Bartlett said.  “Now what’s next?”

 

            “The Libyan Ambassador is waiting in my office for an answer.  What do you want me to tell him?”

 

            “That we have no information regarding what happened in his country.  End of story.”

 

            “That’s a good response, Jed.  It keeps our hands clean and doesn’t piss them off.”

 

            “I’m going to catch a quick nap, Leo.  Call Hal Brognola and have him report to my office in an hour.”

 

            “Will do,” Leo said then left the conference room.

 

            Moments later, Bartlett made his way to his private bedroom and reached for a certain red phone.   He picked up the old fashioned receiver and waited for an older man to answer him.  “Yes, Mr. President?” Harold Smith’s voice said over the telephone.

 

            “I want you to tell me if you can kill a man named Steven St. Wolf.”

 

            “The Wanderer, Mr. President?  Why do you want him killed?”

 

            “Mr. Smith, please tell me that he hasn’t taken over CURE,” Bartlett asked in a hushed voice.

 

            “CURE has aided him in saving the country, if not the world, twice in the last six months, Mr. President.”

 

            “Was CURE involved in the Libya situation?”

 

            “No, sir, we were not.  According to the report that St. Wolf’s people provided to me, he had to move quickly to prevent the disease from being released all over Europe and Asia.”

 

            “How long did it take him to get mobilized?”

 

            “Roughly six hours from threat assessment to actually landing in Chad with the ground forces in preparation for the attack that evening.”

 

            Bartlett stared down at the phone, shocked beyond belief.  “How did he do it?”

 

            “He’s very good at what he does, sir.  As are his people.”

 

            “Does he know that CURE exists?”

 

            “No, he doesn’t, but he has a personal relationship with our main operative, Remo,” Smith replied easily.  “Is there anything else?”

 

            “Yes, how did you obtain your information about what happened in Libya?  Did St. Wolf provide it?”

 

            “Mr. St. Wolf didn’t provide the report directly, sir.  He’s in Paris, attending the funeral of one of his men who died in Libya.  But, his people were more than forthcoming with the information when I requested it from them.  They freely reported everything that happened when I requested it.  Since their initial report, I was able to confirm all of the information provided through independent third party channels.”

 

            Bartlett sighed in exasperation.  ‘Thank you Mr. Smith.  I’ll get back in touch with you if I need anything.”  Then the phone went dead as Smith hung up without another word.  Bartlett reclined on his bed and stared up at the ceiling. < Who the Hell can I call to contain this guy? > His mind drifted back to his first days in the White House and the information that he received while he was taking office.  Then he recalled a phone call he received on his first full day in office and smiled.  < Should I call them?  Maybe they’ll know what to do with St. Wolf. >

 

            President Bartlett rose from his bed and marched to the front foyer of the White House where the portrait of George Washington hung on the wall and called out to the painting, “I need to talk, right now!”  With that, Bartlett turned away from the portrait and headed toward his office.  The Secret Service men looked at one another and shrugged their shoulders, not understanding what was going on.

 

*****

 

July 23rd 16:12 PST

Bureau 13 Headquarters - Location Unknown

 

            Special Agent Cindy Trainer peered at her Kirilian monitor and saw that the monitor located in the portrait of President George Washington located in the White House was beeping.  She turned it on and noticed that the President had relayed a message to the Bureau.  She called out, “Dimitri!!!” and the centaur rushed over to receive her report.

 

            “What is it?”

 

            “The President wants to talk to the boss and he looks pissed about something.”  Cindy said as she played back the President’s message.

 

            “All right, I’ll tell the boss,” Dimitri said and galloped away.   Moments later, the centaur galloped into Horace Gordon’s office and reported, “Sir, the President wants to speak to you.”

 

            Horace glanced up from his paperwork and sighed.  “All right.  Call me when he’s in the Oval Office.”  Dimitri nodded and rushed out.

 

            Several minutes later, Dimitri buzzed Gordon.  “Boss?  The President is alone in the Oval Office.”

 

            Horace thanked the centaur and picked up his phone, dialed the Oval Office telephone number and heard the President answer the telephone. 

 

“Who is this!?”

 

*****

 

July 23rd 16:15 PST - 19:15 Local

White House Oval Office, Washington, D.C.

 

            “Mr. President, this is Horace Gordon.”

 

            Bartlett sat back in his chair, relieved.  “Mr. Gordon, I need your opinion on something.  Can you spare a few minutes?”

 

            “What is it, Mr. President?”

 

            “What do you know about a group called Section Seven?”

 

            “I know quite a bit actually, sir.  What in particular do you want to know about it?”

 

            “Is it a threat to this country?”

 

            “No, it isn’t.”

 

            “What about its leader, ‘the Wanderer’?”

 

            “In two words, Mr. President?  Boy Scout.”

 

            “What in the hell does that mean?” Bartlett demanded.

 

            “It means exactly what it sounds like, sir.  He’s an overgrown Boy Scout.  “He’s a knight in shining armor who loves to help people in need, nothing more, nothing less.”

 

            “Doesn’t he desire power, money, or women?”

 

            Horace laughed easily.  “He’s already rich.  He loves to live simply but comfortably, so his money will last him several lifetimes.  As for women, he’s fallen in love with a lovely young woman and is quite happy with her.”

 

            “You didn’t mention power.  What about that?”

 

            “He doesn’t want it.  He could care less about who runs things so long as they don’t interfere with him doing his job.”

 

            “And what is his job, exactly.”

 

            “That is something you don’t really want to know, sir.  You’ll sleep better at night if you don’t know, believe me.”

 

            “I just want to know one more thing.  My sources tell me that he’s saved the world three times in the last six months.  How many times has he actually saved the world?”

 

            “By himself or as part of a group effort?”

 

            “Just give me an overall number.” 

 

            “Twenty-six times in the last fifteen years.”

 

            Bartlett stared at the desk in front of him and hoarsely asked, “Why in the hell does he do it?”

 

            “Because he sees what would happen if he didn’t get involved.  He cares that much.”

 

            “I can’t believe that there are such selfless people out there.  They have to want something.”  

 

            In a tightly controlled voice, Horace Gordon said, “Mr. President, I can tell you the names of over seven thousand such selfless people who now work for me and serve this country, fighting in a war that you cannot comprehend.  You will never see their names on a report or a commendation list.  I can also give you the names of the nine thousand Bureau 13 agents who died in 1977, saving the world from multiple attacks by multiple groups bent on world destruction.  And I can read to you the names of over sixty thousand agents who have gladly given their lives for this country and the world over during the last one hundred and thirty five years.  None of them will ever have a parade or have their records publicly read, but they still gave their all for the people of this country and the world.  Steven St. Wolf is one such man.”

 

            “Why?  Why do you all do it?” 

 

            “Because we, like Steve St. Wolf, know what’s out there and who the real enemy is, Mr. President.”

 

            “And who is this ‘real enemy’?” 

 

            “You don’t want to know, Mr. President.  You wouldn’t sleep at night if you knew what we know.  Please take some friendly advice; don’t ask or try to find out what we know.  Your predecessor found out; it nearly drove him insane.”

 

            Bartlett’s heart nearly stopped when he heard the line terminate in his earpiece.  He slowly put the phone down in its cradle and looked over to the bar.  Then he sighed as he strolled wearily over to it and poured himself a double shot of bourbon.  As he lifted the glass to his mouth, he wondered, < Who in the hell are they fighting?  What are they fighting?  Who or what is this ‘real enemy’?  And why would I lose sleep knowing what this enemy really is? > He rapidly downed the double shot and refilled his glass with a single shot of bourbon.  Then he took his glass back to his desk and stared out his window toward the Capitol rotunda. < I wonder what the slimy bastards on the Hill would make of these people? > He snorted back a laugh. < Probably stick them with so many rules that they couldn’t act and the entire world would go to Hell in a hand basket. > He took another sip as his office door swung open and Hal Brognola walked inside. 

 

            “Tough day?” Hal asked as he took a seat.

 

            “That’s putting it mildly, Hal.  I know I’m going to regret this, but what can you tell me about Section Seven?”

 

            Hal simply shrugged and said, “Not much.  But Striker knows more.  He and his teams helped them in Los Angeles a few weeks ago.”  Hal watched as the President downed the remaining bourbon in one gulp and threw his glass against the wall in frustration, shattering it.

 

            “Damn it!!!” Bartlett snapped.  Then his door burst open as three Secret Service agents rushed in with guns drawn.  When the President saw them, he barked, “Get the hell out of here!!”  In response, the agents put away their guns and backed out of the office. 

 

            Bartlett then whirled on Brognola and said, “Your organization has strict limitations on when and where it can operate!  Care to tell me why you violated those limitations!?”

 

            “The world would have been destroyed if we had failed to act.  What happened in Los Angeles is beyond anything we’ve ever faced before and it frightens me to the bone, Mr. President!”

 

            “What’s your opinion of the man they call the Wanderer?”

 

            “I have no opinion on him.  But Striker will work with him as well as the rest of the teams.  And for me that speaks volumes to his credibility.”

 

            “Thanks, Hal.  Sorry about blowing up at you,” the President said, seemingly chagrined.  “I need to be alone for awhile, so I can digest all of this.”

 

            “Yes, sir,” Hal said and moved to leave.  Then he turned to regard Bartlett and said, “Mr. President, from everything I heard from Striker, it was the right decision to make.”

 

            Bartlett nodded at Brognola and the man left his office.  Then as the sun broke through a cloud and illuminated the Oval Office with its brightness, he reflected on the fact that today, he’d just learned a hard lesson.  The President of the United States wasn’t the big dog on the block.

 

            Thus, when the cloud covered the sun once again and the light dissolved into shadows, the momentary loss of its heat wasn’t the only thing that made Jed Bartlett shiver.

 

*****

 

July 23rd 10:00 PST - 19:00 - Local

New Scotland Yard, London, England

 

            Quinton Travers stared at the walls of his cell and silently seethed.  “I’m going to kill you, Giles,” he murmured. “Yes, you, your precious Slayer, everyone who had a hand in ruining my life!  They shall all die, especially that bastard who works for Merlin.  Him, I’ll kill slowly and as painfully as possible.”  Then, at that moment, Travers’ reverie was broken as the door to his cell opened and revealed the form of Owen Carter standing in the doorway. 

 

            “Mr. Travers?  I’ve arranged for your release.”  He then held up a suit on a clothes hanger.  “I have one of your suits here.  Could you please get dressed?”

 

            Travers quickly dressed himself, exited the cell, and followed Carter to the sergeant’s desk.  There, he signed some papers and left New Scotland Yard with Carter in tow.  Once they were seated in the Council’s car, Travers demanded, “What in the hell happened to me, Carter?”

 

            “Merlin changed you into a duck,” Owen quietly said.  “He also told us that he would destroy us if we bothered his friends again.”

 

            “Do you truly believe that old man was Merlin?” Travers asked, the scorn clearly evident in his voice.

 

            “I don’t know, sir.  But he obviously does possess impressive magical powers.” 

 

            “What has the Council said about this?”

 

            “Sir William has uncovered more information, sir.” 

 

            “What sort of information, Carter?”

 

            “I believe they have some extensive information concerning Mr. Giles and his Slayers.”

 

            “That bastard!” Travers muttered.  “What is Appleby going to do about him?”

 

            “We are on our way to a meeting, so he can inform you in person, sir,” Owen said as the car made its way through the London traffic.

 

*****

 

July 23rd 11:30 PST - 20:30 - Local

Council of Watchers, Location Unknown, England

 

            “Are you all DAFT!?” Quinton Travers roared before Board of Governors of the Council of Watchers.  “What in the hell did Giles do to youl!?  Did he mystically castrate you!?”

 

            Sir William banged his gavel on the conference table.  “Mr. Travers, have a care!  How dare you address the Council in that manner?”

 

            Travers snorted derisively at him.  “The Council that I serve would not take such abuse from a single man, let alone a gutter-scraping like Rupert Giles!”

 

            Sir William sighed.  “But we are not dealing with Rupert Giles per se.  We are dealing with a man that the Order of Teraka itself fears.”

 

            Travers stared at Sir William.  “Who is this man?  And what does he have to do with Rupert Giles and his Slayer?”

 

            “They called him the Wanderer and it seems that both Rupert Giles and his Slayers are under this man’s protection.”

 

            “Who, pray tell, is the Wanderer?”

 

            “The Wanderer is a demon hunter.  We’ve had reports of him for the last ten years.  Many of those reports are from demons and evil Mages who whisper his name in fear and dread.”

 

            “What is so special about this man that demons and the Order of Teraka fear him?”

 

            “He carries the Sword of Destiny, Demon Slayer.”

 

            Travers stiffened at that.  “You don’t mean…?”

 

            Sir William nodded.  “We believe the Prophecy is in motion.”

 

            “W-what about Vampire Slayer?” Travers sputtered.  “The Prophecy is not complete without it.”  Travers then saw it in the eyes of the other Board members and shuddered.  “She…has it?”

 

            Sir William nodded.  “The Master of the Order of Teraka confirmed it.  And Sam Zabuto also described her having the blade when he attempted to dispose of the Slayer Kendra.”

 

            “Do you realize what this means?” Travers whispered hoarsely. < Rupert’s little slattern doesn’t deserve to be the wielder of Vampire Slayer!! >

 

            “We do.  We have decided not to interfere with Giles or his Slayers.  As far as the Council is concerned, they do not exist.”

 

            “What!?” Travers screamed.  “How can you do this?  The Council is nothing without the Slayers.  What are we to do until another Slayer is called?”

 

            Sir William grinned at the distraught man.  “We already have one, Quinton.”

 

            A stunned Quinton Travers stared at his old friend in disbelief.  “There is now a third Slayer?  How is that possible?”

 

            “We don’t know how, but she exists and she’s now working with Miss Linda Pryce in Boston.  This Slayer doesn’t have a family and we’ve insured that she won’t be working anywhere near Giles’ Slayers.”

 

            Travers breathed a sigh of relief at that welcome news.  “Fine, but I still want Giles stripped of everything that the Council gave him, his credentials, his education, everything.”

 

            “We’ll consider it, Quinton.  However, from this moment onward, the Council will never again speak of or talk about Rupert Giles again.  Is that clear?”

 

            Crystal,” Travers said.    

 

*****

 

            When he left the Board’s chambers, Travers walked over to an unmarked room and quietly knocked on the door.  “Enter,” a harsh voice said through the door. 

 

Quinton went inside and saw three men who sat around a table.   The three men, Collins, Weatherby and Smith were grim as he said, “Collins, I have a mission for you and your team.”

 

            “What’s the mission, Mr. Travers?” Collins asked.

 

            “You’re going to help me kill a rogue Watcher and his Slayer.”

 

                                                     Part 23 - Breakfast Conversations

                         (Never Eat a Large Breakfast - It Might Come Back Up Before Lunch)

 

July 24th 00:30 PST - 08:30 Local

Hotel Saxony, Paris, France

 

            The next morning, most of the Immortals were in the hotel’s restaurant having breakfast.  At one table, Mulder and Scully had joined Buffy and St. Wolf, while at the other, Gabrielle, Sonja, Richie, and Justin dined with Amanda and Duncan.  Apparently, Andrea and Jarod were still in their room. 

 

            As they waited for the servers to bring their food, St. Wolf said, “Since no one had a chance to pack any semi-formal wear, I’ve arranged for a tailor to come by for a fitting for us.”  Then, just as he finished his sentence, the concierge escorted a small, grey haired man to their tables.  St. Wolf smiled as he rose from his chair and shook the smaller man’s hand.  “Marcel, we were just talking about you.”

 

            “I know, monsieur.  I could tell because my ears were burning,” Marcel quipped.

 

            “But of course,” St. Wolf said with a smile.  “We’ll need six suits including myself and six dresses for a funeral.  You see, Sir Francis Renhard was killed yesterday.  We’re burying him tomorrow afternoon.”

 

            Marcel sadly shook his head.  “He will be missed.  What floor are you on?”

 

            “The sixth.  We’ll return to our rooms shortly after breakfast and you can fit us all then.”

 

            “Of course, Sir Steven,” Marcel said then excused himself and left.

 

            “Steve.”  Duncan asked.  “Isn’t that Marcel of the House of Marcel?”

 

            “It is Duncan?  Why?”

 

            “Just wondering who’s paying for all of this?  The House of Marcel is one of the most expensive tailor shops on the Continent.”

 

            “Don’t worry about it, Duncan.  Money’s not a problem.”

 

            Thirty minutes later, after breakfast, most of the Immortals returned to their hotel rooms to prepare for their fittings while Buffy and St. Wolf picked up a few personal items from the hotel gift shop.  Shortly thereafter, when the lovers returned to the sixth floor, they heard Richie yelling as they exited the elevator.   “I don’t care if you’re a tailor!  NO GUY reaches down the there and moves my junk around!” 

 

            St. Wolf and the Slayer both grinned as they entered the young Immortals’ hotel room as Justin laughed his head off and said, “Oh God, Adam’s going to be pissed he missed this.”

 

            “What’s the problem, Richie?” St. Wolf asked.  Then when Richie saw that the Slayer was with the Wanderer, he immediately tried to cover himself and comically knocked over a table as he fought to pull up his pants.  St. Wolf then pinched the bridge of his nose in a passable imitation of Giles and said to the tailor, “Marcel, just get him something that reasonably fits off the rack.”

 

            Marcel nodded in understanding.  “Today’s youth!” he ‘harrumphed’ and turned to face St. Wolf.  “Will you need to be fitted, Sir Steven?”

 

            “Yes, please.”

 

            “And the young lady—where shall we fit her?”  Marcel’s wife, Collette, asked as she entered the room with a rack of dresses and two seamstresses following closely behind her.

 

            “They can use our room,” Buffy said and smiled at the older woman.

 

            Collette smiled at Buffy and liked what she saw. < So the grim one has found a ray of sunshine.  Good!! > she mused. 

 

                                                                Part 24 - Dress Up

                                                     (Ever Felt Like A Barbie or Ken?)

 

July 24th 01:30 PST - 09:30 Local

Hotel Saxony, Paris, France

 

            The fitting went quickly for St. Wolf as Marcel expertly measured him and jotted some notes in his note pad.  “Your measurements haven’t changed much, but you’ve become more muscular.  I should have something ready for you in by this evening.”

 

            Steve sighed.  “Do you have anything for me to wear right now?  I have a lunch date with Jacques DeClare.”

 

            “Certainly,” Marcel replied as he pointed to a plastic-wrapped suit.  “This was waiting for you from a year ago.  Since you paid for it already, I just kept it for you.”

 

            “I forgot all about it,” St. Wolf said as he took the suit from one of Marcel’s assistants.  “I’ll go and change.”

 

            “What about the young lady?  What will she wear?”

 

            “We’ll stop at a store and she’ll pick something out.  We still have two hours before I have to meet ‘The Headsman’.”

 

            Marcel grimaced.  “Monsieur DeClare is well known for his ‘strange’ methods of resolving problems.  Bon chance, my friend.”

 

            “Thank you, Marcel.”  Then he grinned and said, “Now please take care of Justin.  At least he seems to understand how certain things have to be done.” 

 

            Richie laughed as Justin glared at St. Wolf.  “Go ahead, Justin.  I want to watch you being measured for your suit.”

 

            St. Wolf then shook his head and took his leave of them.  Moments later, he crossed the hall and knocked on Jarod’s and Andrea’s door.  Jarod answered the door as Andrea mumbled something from the direction of her bed about Boy Scout Interruptus.  “Hello, Steve!  Do you need anything?”

 

            “The tailor and dressmaker are here, so you two might want to get measured for your outfits.”

 

            “And who exactly are these ‘people’?” Andrea asked as she padded out of the bedroom dressed in a silky robe with a lit cigarette between her sensuous lips.

 

            “Marcel and Collette of the House of Marcel.” 

 

            At that, Andrea’s mouth opened like a fish out of water and her cigarette tumbled to the floor.  Then the stunned woman quickly recovered her composure and picked up her cigarette.  “B-but, they’re the most exclusive House in Paris!” she stammered.  “I couldn’t get in to see them even with all my Centre connections.  And they’re here!?  Now!!?”

 

            “Yeah.  Marcel’s an old friend,” St. Wolf noted evenly as he turned to leave.  “Be nice to them, Andrea.” 

 

            “Don’t just stand there, Jarod!  Haul that tight ass of yours into the shower!” Andrea ordered as the door closed behind St. Wolf.

 

             < God, what a pair, > St. Wolf thought as he entered his suite and saw Buffy standing in her bare feet on a settee.  She wore a fetching black dress that hung just below her knees with a conservative neckline. As he smiled at the pretty sight she made, she looked up and gave him a furtive glare. 

 

“What’s wrong, honey?” St. Wolf asked with a concerned smile.

 

            “She won’t raise the hem,” Buffy complained with a cute little pout.

 

            When he saw her pretty little lips, all he could think about was kissing her senseless.  “Buffy,” he said as he strained to keep himself from acting on his last thought, “this is a funeral, not a dance.  Certain things have to be observed.  And women wearing miniskirts at a funeral is considered bad taste.”

 

            “Steven is correct,” Collette added.  “This is a somber occasion and the family is French.  This dress is fine for the funeral.  However, if you want something else for your date with DeClare, I can call the shop and have them deliver it to you.”

 

            Buffy beamed.  “Could you?”  Then she looked at St. Wolf with her hopeful face.

 

            “Collette,” St. Wolf said, “please have someone bring a dress for a semi-formal lunch at the Café de Seine.”

 

Collette reached for the phone and called her shop.  “Suzette?  This is Collette.  Can you have Reme run over a one of the summer dresses in,” she paused then turned and scanned Buffy’s frame, smiled and said, “Peach, size ten, with a hat, purse and a matching pair of shoes in size eight, American.”

 

            “Oui, Madame,” Suzette said.  “Reme will be there in about ten minutes.”

 

            “Very good, Suzette, goodbye,” Collette said then hung up the telephone.

 

*****

 

            Ten minutes later, a young man dressed in a crisply tailored suit knocked on Richie’s and Justin’s door.  Moments later, Richie opened the door.  “Yes?”

 

“Hello, monsieur.  I am making a delivery from the House of Marcel.  Do you know where I may find Madame Collette?”

 

            “She’s in the suite at the end of the hall,” Richie answered.  Then he was interrupted by Marcel.

 

            “Is that someone from my shop?”

 

            “Yes it is, Mr. Marcel.  Do you want to talk to him?”

 

            “Yes,” Marcel said.  Richie nodded and allowed Reme to enter his room. 

 

            “How may I help you, Monsieur Marcel?” Reme asked.

 

            “Reme,” Marcel said as he looked up from measuring Jarod’s leg, “when you deliver that dress for Collette, please return to me and I’ll give you a list of items I’ll need.”

 

            “Of course, monsieur,” Reme said then left the room.  He strode down the hall to the room that Richie had indicated earlier and knocked on the door.

 

            “Enter,” a stern female voice said.

 

            When he entered the suite, he was graced with the sight of a lovely young blond with a petite athletic build modeling a pair of black low heeled shoes for Collette. < Who is this enchanting creature? > he wondered as he handed the packages to his employer.  “Will that be all, Madame?”

 

            “Yes, Reme.  Please check in with Marcel on your way out and see if he needs anything.”

 

            Reme grinned at Collette.  “He already has a list of things for me to do.  I’ll pick it up when I leave here.”

 

            “Very good, Reme.  You may go.”

 

            Reme nodded and turned to leave but not before he surreptitiously chanced another glance at the blonde enchantress. < I wonder if she’s seeing anyone? > Just then St. Wolf walked out of the bathroom wearing a navy blue three piece suit.  Startled by the much larger man’s entrance, Reme gulped and said, “Uh, hello, Monsieur St. Wolf.”

 

            The Wanderer smiled at the nervous young man and asked, “Hello Reme.  How’s the job?”

 

            Reme shifted nervously on his feet.  “Fine, Monsieur St. Wolf.  Monsieur and Madame treat me well.  Thank you for arranging for the position with them for me.”

 

            “You’re welcome, Reme.  I’m sure you’ll do a fine job for them,” St. Wolf said.  The young man smiled shyly at him then rushed out of the room.  As he watched Reme go, St. Wolf felt a deceptively dainty-looking arm wrap around his waist.

 

            “Is he another old friend?” Buffy asked. 

 

            “Just a street kid Darius and I helped out.  He was a mess, but Darius managed to straighten him out and I got him a job with Marcel and Collette.  When Darius died, he almost fell back into his previous life, but Marcel and Collette got him through it.”

 

            “Reme is like a son to us,” Collette quietly noted behind them.  Both St. Wolf and his lady then turned as Collette opened the package and removed a peach-colored summer dress.  She held it up to Buffy’s body, smiled, and said, “I knew it!  It’s a perfect fit!”

 

            Buffy ran her fingers over the silk and linen material then shot a disbelieving, wide-eyed look first at St. Wolf then at Collette.  “This is for me?” she squealed.

 

            Collette simply smiled at the girl.  “Why, of course, Miss Summers!  We can’t have you going to the Café De Seine dressed in blue jeans and a cotton shirt, now can we?”

 

            Buffy sighed wistfully.  “Who am I to argue with that?  When you’re right, you’re right!!” she happily observed as she snatched the dress from Collette’s hands and raced for the bathroom.

 

            St. Wolf grinned as his young lover closed the door behind her.  Then he turned to Collette and asked, “Why?”

 

            Collette snorted at him.  “Don’t be such an idiot!  We do it because you do so much for everyone but yourself and she makes you happy.”

 

            “It shows that much?”

 

            Collette simply shook her head and patted St. Wolf on his left cheek.  “Of course it does, you darling man,” she teased.  “But don’t worry; from the way her eyes light up around you, you have nothing to fear.  She loves you madly.”

 

            “Yeah, well, I’ve never been lucky in that regard before,” he muttered.

 

            “You had nothing to do with Katherine’s death, Steven.  She was working as a social worker before you married her.  You couldn’t have known that she was going to be murdered.”

 

            “But I do know several gods and goddesses now and even with that, I still manage to get lost sometimes.”

 

            “The more one knows, the more one is lost.”

 

            He grinned at his friend.  “Since when do you quote Confucius?”

 

            “Ever since I’ve known you,” Collette quipped. 

 

Soon, Buffy exited the bathroom wearing the peach silk/linen blend sleeveless shift.  The dress was exquisite and was demure with its crew neckline, yet still attractive.

 

            She stole his breath away as she spun around and modeled the dress for him.  Then she ran to him and hugged him close.  “Thanks honey, it’s beautiful!”

 

            “The outfit isn’t complete,” Collette said to Buffy as she handed the girl a hat box.  Buffy opened it to reveal a large, peach-colored hat with a matching hand bag and shoes.  Buffy threw the shoes down to the floor and slipped into them.

 

            When she was all dressed, St. Wolf placed his arm in hers and asked, “Shall we stroll around downtown until we have to meet with Jacques?”

 

            Buffy smiled winningly at him.  “But of course, kind sir.  But where shall I keep my sword?” 

 

            “That is not a problem, my lady,” he said as he took both swords, opened his jacket and placed them inside only to have them both disappear.

 

            Collette watched in awe.  “How?”

 

            “A little thing the swords can do,” he said while Buffy stuffed a .45 caliber Glock 30 into her purse with four extra magazines, a switch blade, and a collapsible baton.

 

            Collette cocked a wry eyebrow at the girl and said, “I’m surprised that you didn’t toss in a grenade as well.”

 

            “Don’t have any on me,” Buffy mumbled as she checked her appearance in the mirror and straightened her hat.

 

            “I have some extras in my room if you want one,” Andrea Parker purred from the doorway as she sashayed into the room.  “Nice dress, Buffy,” Andrea said as she carefully scrutinized the young Immortal.  “But you need a strand of pearls to make it perfect.”

 

            Buffy turned to give Steve the look and he sighed resignedly.  “We’ll stop at a jewelry shop that I know nearby.  I’m sure we can find you something there.” 

 

Buffy grinned in anticipation and grabbed his arm.          “It’s time to let Collette get to work on Andrea.  Let’s go.”  And with that, she dragged St. Wolf from the room. 

 

Moments later, though, Buffy popped her head back into the door and asked, “Andy, where are those grenades again?”

 

            Andrea grinned at the tiny blond and said, “They’re on top of the night stand.  The door’s open, go right in.”  Then as Buffy flounced away, Andrea smiled after her.  < Damn, but that was so cute!  She’s almost like the kid sister I told Mother I had always wanted! > Andrea then shook her head and turned her attention back to Collette.  “Madame Collette, I hope that I can see you after the funeral.”

 

            “But of course, Ms….?”

 

            “Parker.  Andrea Parker.”

 

            “Ms. Parker!” Collette said brightly and Andrea winced.  Hearing her proper name like that made her think of Daddy and the Centre, and she didn’t want to go there at the moment.  Then she forced herself to put it behind her when Collette asked, “And how long have you known Steven?” 

 

            “About a month or so.”

 

            “Can you tell me about his young lady?”

 

            Andrea sighed.  “I haven’t been with them that much.  I only joined them when they needed some help with a major problem.”

 

            “But you are also Immortal?”  Collette asked.

 

            Andrea stared at the small woman numbly.  “What are you talking about?”

 

            Collette smiled and showed Andrea her left wrist, which bore a Watcher tattoo.  “I’ve known about Immortals since I was a small child.  My entire family has been in the Watchers for close to two hundred years.”

 

            “Then why the twenty questions routine about Buffy?”

 

            “Because Steven is a good friend and Marcel and I care for him.”

 

            “Why are people falling all over themselves for this guy?  What’s so special about him?”

 

            Collette smiled gently at Andrea.  “Beatrice?  Would you come out here for a minute?”

 

            “Yes, Mama?” a young girl called out as she walked out of the bedroom with her sewing kit in hand.  Her brown hair was the same shade as Collette’s and her eyes were the same dark blue.

 

            “Allow me to introduce you to Andrea Parker.  She’s a friend of Mr. St. Wolf’s.” 

 

Beatrice blushed prettily and smiled at the tall brunette.  “It is a pleasure, mademoiselle.”

 

            “How did you meet Mr. St. Wolf?” Andrea asked.

 

            “Seven years ago, I was kidnapped by some evil men.  Sir Steven led the men and women who rescued us.”

 

            Andrea narrowed her eyes at the young girl and asked, “Why is he such a Boy Scout?”

 

            “Sometimes, the world needs a Boy Scout,” Collette observed.  Then she shooed Beatrice back into the bed room.  “Go back and finish the alterations to Buffy’s dress.”  Beatrice quickly curtsied and returned to her work.

 

             “So you really owe Steven?”

 

            “Yes,” Collette simply replied.  Then she took a dress from the rack and held it up in front of Andrea.  “This one should do.”

 

            Andrea took the reverently from the dressmaker and held it up in front of herself as she gazed into a full length mirror.  “Is this one of your originals?”

 

            “Certainly…it’s part of the summer line that I debuted at Cannes last February.  I think it looks perfect on you.”

 

            Andrea smiled like a wolf.  “Yes, yes it does at that!”

 

*****

 

            As Buffy and St. Wolf strolled down the boulevard, she grinned from ear to ear. 

 

            When he saw the good mood plainly on her face, he smiled down at her and said, “A penny for your thoughts, honey.”

 

            “I still can’t believe I’m in Paris!”  A moment later, though, her eyes popped wide open.  “Oh God!  Mom!  I totally forgot to call her!  I am so dead!”

 

            He chuckled at his little drama queen and said, “Don’t worry.  I’m sure that Giles didn’t forget to call her.”

 

            Buffy knew a lifeline when it was offered to her and she hugged him gratefully.  “Yeah, I’m sure that Mr. Reliable called her for me.” 

 

They began to walk again for several more minutes until he came to a halt in front of a jewelry store.  She stared through the window and nearly salivated at the beautiful trinkets she saw in the display cases. 

 

            “This is one of the most exclusive jewelry shops on the Continent,” Steve said as he guided her through the front door.

 

            Buffy slowly panned her head to look at the inside of the marvelous store then leaned back into Steve.  “Isn’t this place too expensive?”

 

            “Yeah, but you’re worth it!” he whispered lovingly into the shell of her delectable ear.  Moments later, a large man, at least six foot eight inches tall, dressed in a dark business suit, strode toward them. 

 

Then he grabbed St. Wolf up in a bear hug and exclaimed, “Steve!!  You old scoundrel!!  Where have you been for the last year?  Paris hasn’t been the same without you!”

 

            “I’ve been busy, Antonio.  Allow me to introduce you to Buffy Summers.  Buffy and I are seeing each other.”

 

            Antonio grinned at his friend and said, “It’s about damn time.  I thought you were going to become a damn monk.  I’m glad to see that Darius didn’t rub off too much on you.” 

 

He warmly welcomed Buffy to his establishment then asked, “So what can I do for you and your lady, Steve?”

 

            “A friend,” Buffy said, “recommended that I should get a string of pearls for this dress.”

 

            “I have just the thing,” Antonio said as he ducked under the counter and brought out a black velvet box.  He opened it and showed an exquisite necklace with matching earrings of white eight millimeter pearls.

 

            “Oh God,” she gasped. “They’re beautiful but I can’t possibly afford them!”

 

            Steve reached over her shoulder and picked up the twenty-inch strand.  Then he opened the clasp, placed the necklace around her neck and closed the clasp.  “Don’t worry about the cost.  Consider it an early birthday present.”

 

            She turned to regard him with tears of joy brimming in her eyes.  “Thanks, honey,” she murmured and hugged him to her.

 

****

 

 

                                                                   Part 24 - Lunch

                            (When Invited to Eat By a Man Who Could Have You Killed, Eat)

                                           (Heartily Because It Could Be Your Last Meal)

 

July 24th 04:15 PST - 12:15 Local

Café De Seine, Paris, France

 

            Buffy and St. Wolf strolled into the Café De Seine’s roof top serving area and passed a window with a breathtaking view of the Seine River and many of Paris’ great architectural wonders.  “It’s all so beautiful!” she breathed.  “Where do we sit?”

 

            “Over there,” Steve pointed toward a glass enclosed booth where three people were already seated. 

 

            “Why there?” Buffy asked as she used her Slayer senses to spot the men standing on several rooftops that surrounded the area with sniper and assault rifles clearly shown.  “Paranoid much?”

 

            “That’s Jacques.  He doesn’t care about his life, but when it comes to Ann, he doesn’t take any chances.”

 

            “Who’s Ann?”

 

            “She’s his wife of forty nine years.  He loves her deeply and considers her one of France’s national treasures.”

 

            “He must love her madly,” Buffy softly noted.

 

            “He does.  They met when both were working as runners for the Underground during World War Two.” 

 

Moments later, St. Wolf and Buffy arrived at the table shared by his old friend, the man’s wife and a stranger.  Both men stood up and nodded to Buffy and Steve in greeting.  Steve pulled out a chair for Buffy and she easily slid into it.  Then he took the chair next to her. 

 

            “Ann, this is Elisabeth Anne Summers, but she likes to be called Buffy,” St. Wolf said. 

 

            “So this is the young lady that has stolen your heart?” the elderly, but still handsome woman noted in a soft Parisian-accented voice.  “My dear you must tell me what your secret is.  I’ve been trying to find a woman for the chevalier for almost six years.”

 

            “Chevalier?”

 

            “It’s French for knight,” St. Wolf said.

 

            “You’re kidding!” Buffy blurted.

 

            “He’s not,” Ann said.  “May I ask why my calling Steven a knight is so funny?”

 

            “She doesn’t know?” Buffy mumbled under her breath toward St. Wolf.

 

            “No, I never told them,” Steve said with a pained expression.  “But from the look on Jacques’ face at the moment, I suppose I’ll have to tell them now!”

 

            Jacques smiled a smile without a modicum of humor in it.  “Of that you can be most certain, old friend.”

 

            “Who’s your friend, Jacques?”

 

            “This is Henry Clay.  He heads another organization and I thought he might be interested in meeting both you and your lady.  But now, I’m not so sure.”

 

            “Jacques!” Ann snapped gently.  “You know as well as I do that Steven’s lady deserves our help!  I simply will not allow your stubbornness to get in the way!”

 

            “But, Ann!  He’s hiding secrets from me!  How can I trust him?”

 

            Ann sighed.  “Do you tell Steven everything?”  Jacques shook his head in response.  “Of course not, darling.  Thus, he is not obligated to tell you everything, either.”

 

            “But I’m his superior,” Jacques groused.

 

            “Only when you ask him for his help.  Otherwise, he works for whom he pleases.” 

 

            The other man chuckled and Jacques predicament.   “Jacques,” Henry said, “face it.  Your charming wife is correct.  Let him keep his secrets and we’ll all be the better for it.”

 

            Jacques glared at Henry and whined, “You didn’t have to face the Prime Minister’s wrath yesterday over one of your agents destroying an oil refinery in Libya.  He also was most curious as how we were able to pull something like that off with such a limited budget.  The finance minister started talking about cutting my budget, again.  Do you realize the pains that man and his cronies have put me through?”

 

            “All for the honor of France, Jacques,” Henry replied with a warm smile.  Jacques simply harrumphed and glared at Steve and Buffy, but didn’t say another word.  Meanwhile, Henry turned to them and asked, “Miss Summers, my name is Henry Clay.  I am the director of a secret group within the French government that deals in paranormal threats to the country and the world.  I would like to offer. . .” 

 

Henry broke off his prepared speech when St. Wolf and Buffy both began to laugh uncontrollably at him.

 

            “Ahem,” Jacques noisily cleared his throat.  “Would you care to tell us what’s so funny?”

 

            St. Wolf grinned as he leaned toward Henry and said, “Two words.  Horace Gordon.” 

 

At that, Henry straightened up and glared at them.  Then he said, “I think that we shouldn’t worry about them, Ann.”  

 

            Ann glared at Henry as if he was mad.  “What are you talking about?  She is in danger from those bastards who murdered my granddaughter!  I don’t want her to end up like Monique!”

 

            “Your friend just mentioned my American counterpart’s name.  He obviously knows about him and his agency.”  Then Henry turned back to St. Wolf and asked, “Do you work for Horace?”

 

            “We have a working arrangement.  If he needs help, we help him.  If we need help, he helps us.”

 

            “And how long ago did you come to this arrangement?” 

 

            “Day before yesterday,” St. Wolf answered him truthfully.  “We also have working relationships with several other agencies.”

 

            “And these are?”

 

            “I can’t tell you at this time.  Security, you understand.”

 

            Henry and Jacques looked at each another and simply shook their heads in disbelief.  “Does he do this often?” Henry asked.

 

            “Too often for my tastes,” Jacques replied ruefully.  “And the man that you’re burying tomorrow?”

 

            “Francois Renhard.  He was an agent for another of our allies. When his superior heard that I needed to stop Corvo, he lent me two hundred of his agents and most of the equipment I needed to complete the mission.”

 

            Jacques sat back and narrowed his eyes at St. Wolf.  “Old friend, you are far too dangerous to be left to your own devices.  Who is overseeing you?”

 

            “No one oversees us.  Buffy is my second in command and our superiors trust our judgment.”

 

            “How old are you Buffy?” Ann asked.

 

            “Seventeen.”

 

            “How long have you been a Slayer?”

 

            “Two and a half years.”

 

            “How long have you known Steven?” Jacques asked.

 

            “Since February.  Almost six months.”

 

            “And how long have you been lovers?” Ann softly asked.

 

            Buffy smiled shyly.  “Less than a month.”

 

            Ann then gently patted Buffy’s hand.  “Long courtships are always the best.   What does your Mother say about Steven?”

 

            “She likes him.  She set us up on a blind date.”

 

            Ann smiled at that. < A Mother truly knows. >  “So the Watchers were not able to take you away from your mother?”

 

            Buffy shook her head.  “I wouldn’t let them.  When my first Watcher, a man named Merrick, wanted to take me away, I refused.  He gave in and died saving my life soon after that.  My second Watcher, Giles, has never once tried to make me leave my mom.”

 

            “Good.  Then I won’t have him killed,” Ann replied evenly.

 

            A wide-eyed Buffy was taken aback by Ann’s ferocity for a moment before she narrowed her eyes and regarded the elder woman.  “Giles is like family to me.  Trust me, I would not take it well if anyone tried to hurt him, got it?”  Then when she saw the pain etched in Ann’s eyes, Buffy pushed her anger down. “Look, I’m sorry you lost your granddaughter.  Hopefully the Watchers will never get their hands on another Slayer.  We’ll do our best to make sure of that.”

 

            “Very well then,” Ann said with a tiny smile.  “Shall we order?”

 

            “Why not?”  Buffy chirped.  “I’m famished!”

 

****

 

            After a hearty meal, the five people at the table were all having coffee when St. Wolf asked Jacques, “How did you find out about Henry and his group?” 

 

            Jacques grimaced and said, “A piece of offal whose plans I ruined tried to have Ann and me assassinated by a group of vampires.  Henry’s people saved our lives.”

 

“Most of their lives,” Henry corrected. “We couldn’t save three of Jacques bodyguards.”

 

            “How did you fight them?” Steve asked.

 

            “Wooden stakes, swords, crosses, the usual?  Why?”

 

            “I can provide you and your people with a supply of wooden bullets in nine millimeter, forty five caliber, and 7.62 millimeter.  The bullets will work in any handgun or rifle of the same caliber.”

 

            “That would be most appreciated, Steven.  But what can we offer you in return?” 

 

            “A helping hand now and then, a safe place to stay while we’re in France.  In addition we can share intelligence, etc.”

 

            “That’s all?”

 

            “Just wait until you get the call at three o’clock in the morning,” Buffy cracked.  “And Steve’s on the line asking to borrow some of your people for a major battle to prevent the world from being sucked into Hell or something along those lines.”

 

            As Henry tried to digest all of that, Ann asked, “So what are your plans for the rest of the day?” 

 

            “Sighting-seeing,” Steven said.  “This is Buffy’s first trip to Paris and I want to show her the sights.”

 

            “Very good.  If you two need anything while you’re in Paris, please call on me or Jacques.”

 

            “Thanks!” Buffy gushed.  

 

            Then St. Wolf asked Jacques, “Will you attend the funeral tomorrow?”

 

            “Of course we will.  A brave man has died in the service of France and the world.  I wish to give his family our condolences and this.”  Jacques then pulled out a velvet case and opened it to reveal the Order of De Gaulle.

 

            “Why, that shore is purty,” Buffy drawled in a surprisingly passable Ozark accent.

 

            “J-Jacques?” Steve sputtered.  “This is very much appreciated, but why?”

 

            “Because the Prime Minister ordered that it be issued to his family.  When he heard your report on what happened, he first cursed you, me and every other spy organization in the world.  Then he calmed down and agreed with me to give your friend’s family this.  Mr. Renhard may have died a member of Section Seven, but he was first and foremost a Frenchman.”

 

            “Jacques, his family would be honored to have it.  Francois was a good man who gave his all to help humanity.”

 

            “Of that I have no doubt, old friend, but let us at least show him that his countrymen will honor his memory and that his sacrifice is not forgotten.”

 

*****

           

                                                       Part 25 - Information Gathering

                                                    (Or What Curiosity Did to the Cat)

 

July 25th 05:30 PST - 08:30 Local

Section One Headquarters, Location Unknown

 

            Birkoff sipped some coffee as he watched the story on the screen unfold in front of him. < I think I’ve got it, > he thought and double-checked various items before he put the finishing touches on some reports.  Then he rushed off to Operations’ morning staff meeting. 

 

            When Birkoff arrived, Operations noticed his entrance and demanded, “So what did you come up with?”

 

            Birkoff cleared his throat nervously and said, “I checked every charter company in the Yuma area that had flights leaving between the times that Cheshire reported the sighting of the A-Team and the subsequent attack on the Swords of Allah.  Only one company had any irregularities that bore further investigation.”

 

            “Go on,” Operations prompted.

 

            “Iverson Air Freight,” Birkoff said.

 

            “Tell us about the irregularities,” Madeline said.

 

            “First, Iverson had a flight leave on an emergency organ delivery to Florida.  I checked all of the hospitals in Florida and found there were no organ shipments scheduled for that day.  The plane also flew below radar for a period of five minutes over Texas, while it passed another Iverson plane headed for Sunnydale, California.  The second plane also dropped below radar during the same five minute interval.  I checked the plane going to Sunnydale and found that Iverson Air had accepted a human heart in New York that was scheduled for delivery to a Miami hospital.”

 

            “They pulled a switch.  Damn, they’re good,” Operations noted with a hint of admiration in his voice.  “What else?”

 

            “A Xanatos Fox Series Jet left Sunnydale approximately two hours after the first plane landed.  Its flight plan puts the plane in Egypt five hours before the Section Seven assault in Libya.  The plane made the trip in less than eight hours.”

 

            “That’s impossible!” Michael muttered.  “The plane would have to fly past the speed of sound to have accomplished that feat.”

 

            “I pulled up the specs on the Fox Jet,” Birkoff said.  “It has a cruising speed of Mach 1.6 and its still in the experimental stage with a limited production run of ten planes.  Six of those planes are owned by Xanatos Air.  The other four were sold to Iverson Air.  One is stationed in New York, another in Washington, D.C. at National Airport, a third is located in Miami and the fourth is stationed in the small city of Sunnydale, California, which is strange in and of itself.”

 

            “How so?” Operations asked.

 

            “Sunnydale doesn’t have a major airport like the other three.  There is absolutely no reason for the plane to be there or for Iverson Air to have an office there.”  

 

            “What can you tell us about Iverson Air?” Madeline prompted.

 

            “The company was formed in 1988 with Frank Iverson listed as the President and Chief Executive Officer.  The books also list a Steven St. Wolf as a thirty percent shareholder and a member of its Board of Directors.  That fact may account for the reason that Iverson opened an office in Sunnydale.  You see, Mr. St. Wolf lives in Sunnydale.”

 

            “Do you have anything else on these two men?” Operations queried.

 

            “Yes, sir and what I’ve dug up is not good.”

 

            “What do you mean by that?”

 

            “Apparently both men were never born; they simply appeared out of thin air, Iverson in 1984 and St. Wolf in 1983.  Both men’s histories begin in those years.  Anything before then is a blank.  Since then, they’ve racked up impressive resumes working for the CIA, Deuxieme and British Intelligence as ‘independent’ operatives.  In fact, Iverson Air has numerous contracts with these agencies to provide transportation.  I also ran a check on the employees working for the company and found out that most of them have extensive military and/or intelligence backgrounds.”

 

            Operations glanced around the table at his operatives then turned to Birkoff asked, “How strong are these men’s ties to these agencies?”

 

            Birkoff thumbed through his notes and said, “According to the CIA’s files, St. Wolf has an ultra red six clearance.  Iverson has an ultra red five clearance.  Both men personally work for John Patrick Ryan, the CIA’s assistant director.”

 

            Operations stared at the folders of the two men that Birkoff had prepared for him earlier for several moments before he slammed his fists down on the table and startled the rest of his staff.  “Damn it!  What do these two have to do with Section Seven?”

 

            “Maybe if we brought them in and questioned them?” Madeline offered with a black widow’s smile.

 

            “Tempting, Madeline,” he cooed, “But we can’t do it.  This pair has too many connections.  If they go missing, a lot of very angry agencies will be out looking for whoever took them.  Birkoff,” Operations directed toward the young man.  “Do you have anything else on these two men?”

 

            “Yes, sir.  Iverson runs his Air Service from a building owned by St. Wolf.  The building is located five minutes from the Marine Air Terminal at La Guardia International Airport in New York.  Iverson owns a house located in upper Westchester which he commutes to and from on a daily basis.”

 

            “That must take him a while,” one of the Level Fives from New York observed.

 

            “He commutes daily in a helicopter,” Birkoff noted.  “He’s presently living with a Cassandra Hastings, an author who makes her living writing fantasy novels.  She is also quite wealthy and is the beneficiary of several trust funds.”

 

            “I’ve read some of her stuff.  ‘Elven Blade Master’ was great,” Nikita said.

 

            “Iverson is also wanted in several countries for various crimes,” Birkoff noted.

“He’s wanted in Libya for three counts of hijacking, fourteen counts of murder, one count of sedition and multiple firearms charges.  In Iran, he’s wanted for violating the country’s borders, for participating in a jail break, thirty seven counts of murder and one attempt at killing the Ayatollah.  These charges stem from two events.  In Libya, he, St. Wolf and seven unknown mercenaries destroyed a white slavery ring and rescued 437 American, British, French, Canadian and Swiss citizens, ranging in age from eight years to sixteen, mostly female, most of them under the age of twelve.  They also got them out of the country and in the process they managed to cripple most of Libya’s air forces.  In Iran, they were hired by a group of American families to rescue children kidnapped by their Iranian fathers and forced to live there.  While rescuing the children, they also rescued three CIA operatives, landed a Lear Jet in the middle of Tehran and managed to escape.”

 

            Operations stared at Birkoff and was simply aghast at all that he’d just heard.  “What in the hell are these two, Batman and Superman?”

 

            “It gets worse, sir.  St. Wolf’s record is even more outrageous than what we found out about Iverson.”

 

            “How could anything be even more outrageous than what we just heard here?”

 

            “During the Gulf War, St. Wolf was ordered by Ryan to rescue two pilots held by the Iraqis.  He rescued the pilots and while getting them out, he and another man, identity unknown, destroyed the El Brogah chemical plant and its stockpile of chemical weapons.”

 

            “Was the unknown man ever identified?”

 

            “No.”

 

            “Could it have been Frank Iverson?”  Michael asked.

 

            “We don’t think so.  At the time, Iverson was delivering a shipment of medical supplies to the Frankfurt Air Base in Germany.”

 

            “Does he live with anyone, St. Wolf, I mean?”

 

            “Not that we know of, sir.”

 

            “Very well then,” Operations said as he stared at Nikita.

 

            “So what do we do?” Michael asked, not liking the way Operations looked at Michael’s most favorite operative.

 

            “We observe and follow St. Wolf.  Nikita, you will go undercover and try to get the information directly from this man,” he said and handed his folder to her.

 

            Nikita opened the file and studied the man’s photo.  Then she smiled. At least he’s attractive, she mused.   “What shall I use for my cover?”

 

            “St. Wolf’s official occupation lists him as an antiques dealer.  You’ll go to Sunnydale and try to worm your way into his life.”

 

            “How far do I have to go?”  Nikita asked, dreading the answer. 

 

            “Whatever it takes,” Operations said brusquely.  “You’ll have backup from six level fours and Birkoff.  Any questions?”  When no one said another word, he barked, “Dismissed.”  As everyone stood to leave, Operations called out to Nikita.  “Nikita, see Walter for some specialized weapons and have Birkoff establish a cover identity for you.  Be careful on this one; this man is extremely dangerous.”

 

            As Nikita left the meeting, Michael caught up to her and quietly whispered,  “Play this one carefully.  This man could be the death of you.”

 

            “I will, Michael,” Nikita said and hurried off to see Walter.

 

            A few minutes later, Nikita entered the armory offices where Walter practically lived in.  He glanced up from his work table and grinned at her.  “Hello, beautiful!  Are you here to make my dreams come true?”

 

            Nikita smiled winningly and gave the old man a hug and a kiss on his cheek.  “Not today, Walter.  Operations gave me a new assignment and I need some specialized equipment for it.”

 

            “Who’s the target?” 

 

            “He’s an independent operative who also doubles as an antiques dealer.”

 

            “You poor kid!  He probably looks like shit!”

 

            Nikita gave him a mischievous smile.  “Oh, I wouldn’t say that,” she purred and showed him the picture in her file.  “He doesn’t look too bad.”

 

            “Holy shit!” he gasped. 

 

            When she saw the shocked look on Walter’s face and his pale features, she helped him into his chair.  “Walter, what’s wrong?”

 

            “That man.  What did he do?”

 

            “He’s a target, Walter, nothing more, nothing less.”

 

            Walter then grabbed her wrist.  “Damn it, Nikita!  I need to know, what does Operations want with him?”

 

            “Operations thinks he might be a lead to Section Seven.  He wants me to try and pump him for information.  Now, what’s wrong, Walter?”

 

            Walter sat back in his chair and sighed deeply.  “Two years ago I was on a dream quest and this man was shown to me.  I watched him fight monsters and defeat them.  My spirit guide told me that he was the man who tipped the balance for good in the world.  Without him, the world would fall into darkness.”

 

             “Walter you can’t be serious!  He’s only a man.  He can’t make that much difference in the scheme of things!”

 

            “I’m only telling you what my dream quest showed me.  You’ll have to make your own decisions about him.  Just be careful, I don’t want you dying on me.”

 

            “All right, Walter.  I’ll be careful.  Now what do you have for me?”

 

            Walter rummaged around under his work table and brought out an old oak case.  He opened for her and passed his hands over it while softly mumbling an ancient Cree prayer.  After he finished the invocation, he handed the case to Nikita and said, “Take this knife and keep it by you always.”

 

            Nikita lifted the blade from the case’s lining and whistled lowly.  “This is a magnificent piece of work, Walter,” she said as she ran her hand across the eight inch long blade and stag horn handle.  “Where did you get it?”

 

            “It was made for a demon hunter by the name of J.P. Withers, in 1830, by Rezin Bowie.  Rezin also created the knife made famous by his brother, Jim Bowie.”  Nikita’s eyebrows nearly raised to the roof at Walter’s revelation while he continued.  “This knife is called Demon Killer.  It was used by J.P. Withers to kill one of the old ones that had escaped from a place called the ‘Devil’s Mound’ by the white eyes.”

 

            Nikita gently caressed the blade and felt an eerie quality to the metal.  “Walter, this metal isn’t steel.  What is it?”

 

            “It’s made from the same meteorite as Jim Bowie’s knife.  Before you ask, I don’t recognize the carvings either, though one guy who saw it told me they were Atlantean.”  Nikita grinned at that and Walter simply shrugged.  “Don’t worry kitten, I didn’t believe him either.”

 

            “So what do you want me to do with it?” she asked.

 

            “Like I said before, carry it with you always.  I have a feeling that this knife will save your life.”

 

            Nikita smiled and said, “For you, Walter, I’ll carry it as if my life depended on it.”  Then she removed it from its case, strapped on her combat sheath and silently slid the knife home inside the sheath.  Meanwhile, Walter added several small handguns and other items to her portable arsenal.  As she walked toward the exit to his room, she stopped, checked out her reflection in a mirror and nodded.  “None of the weapons show, Walter.  Thanks.”

 

            Walter gave her a wolf whistle and said, “For you kitten, anytime.”

 

*****

 

            Minutes later, Nikita approached Birkoff and asked, “So who am I this time?”

 

            “I think you’ll do fine as a wealthy young professional,” Birkoff replied simply.  “Something in the computer field should work well.”

 

            “So what’s my name and background?”

 

            “You’re Nikki Anderson from Sydney, Australia.  You’ve just taken a high paying job with a Silicon Valley software company and you want buy some antiques for your new home in Sunnydale.”

 

            “Sounds good.  But will it work?”

 

            “It should.  I went to St. Wolf’s web site and hacked into it so I could check all of the e-mail there.  There were several pieces from a Mick Dundee of Canberra.  Think you’ll have a problem using him as a reference?”

 

            “Should I?”

 

            “No.  According to his last e-mail, he was going on something called a walkabout with some Aborigine friends of his and won’t be back for at least a month.”

 

            “All right.”

 

            Birkoff scanned the computerized files in front of him and muttered.  “If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear he really is an antiques dealer.  He’s got orders and commissions from a lot of very wealthy people.”

 

            “Should we worry about any of them?” 

 

            “No.  But he does know a lot of powerful people in Washington.  He has three Senators, five Congressmen and a lot of Washington power brokers in his client list.  I wonder if he actually sells antiques to them or does he work for them on the side and they pay him through his antique dealer cover?”

 

            “We’ll find out when we get there.”

 

*****

 

July 25th 06:15 PST - 09:15 Local

Section One Headquarters, Location Unknown

 

            Gabriel stood at attention as Operations studied the assault plans that he’d laid out before him on the conference table.  “I’m sending Nikita to seduce an independent operative.  I want you and your team ready to move if she fails.”

 

            “What are our orders?” Gabriel asked.

 

            “If you can bring him in alive, do it.  If not, kill him.”

 

            “What about collaterals?”

 

            “Bring any live ones in for new material.  But don’t take any unnecessary risks.”

 

            Gabriel nodded and left to prepare his assault team while he mused that it was business as usual for Section One.

 

*****

 

July 25th 07:30 PST - 15:30 Local

Lion’s Pride Pub, Hereford, England

 

            Quinton Travers looked uncomfortable as he glanced about the old pub and asked Collins, “Who are we meeting here?”

 

            “An old friend,” the Wetworks operative said just as an elder man with graying hair and a military bearing sat across from them.  “Hello, Colonel Faulkner.  How are you and the lads these days?”

 

            Colonel Allen Faulkner of Her Majesty’s Special Air Service (Retired) gave a warm look to his former Sergeant and smiled.  “It’s been a while, Collins.   What are you up to these days?”

 

            “I work for Mr. Travers, here,” Collins said and glanced at Travers who nodded in turn.

 

            “Why does Mr. Travers want me here, Collins?” 

 

            Collins grimaced.  “We need some men for a dangerous mission.”

 

            “Where is this mission to take place?”

 

            California.”

 

            “In the U.S.?” Faulkner scoffed.  “Are you daft?”

 

            “Not at all, Colonel Faulkner, I’m very serious,” Travers said lowly.  “We are dealing with a dangerous group that’s lead by a former member of my organization.”

 

            “And what exactly is your organization, Mr. Travers?”

 

            “We’re a historical society that specializes in certain arcane disciplines,” Travers waffled.  “Our rogue member has taken it upon himself to split from us and begin a rival organization.  He took with him certain assets that our organization wants returned to us or destroyed before they become a danger to the public.”

 

            “And how dangerous are these assets?”

 

            “They are quite dangerous,” Travers said.  “Rupert Giles is a very dangerous man and the people that he’s associated with are just as dangerous.  I want them stopped!”

 

            Colonel Faulkner leaned back in his chair and studied Travers’ face.  Moments later, he nodded and said, “I want two million pounds deposited into an escrow account in the Cayman Islands.  The money will be paid to my team upon completion of the mission.  I’ll also need a hundred thousand pounds for expenses and incidentals.  If any of my men are captured I’ll need to get them out of jail, so I’ll also want another five hundred thousand pounds for legal and extra-legal costs.”

 

            “Your price is quite steep, Colonel.”

 

            “Perhaps, but that’s what it will take for us to do this mission based on the information you’ve provided me.” 

 

            Travers glanced at Collins who simply shrugged and said, “It’s your call, Mr. Travers.”

 

            Travers shook his head and said, “I’ll pay it.  But you better have a damn good team, Colonel because Giles and his group will not be easy targets.”

 

            “I wouldn’t worry about that, Mr. Travers.  All of my men are former Special Air Service.  They’re the best.”

 

            “They had better be,” Travers said as he stood with Collins and the two men left the pub.

 

*****

 

            As Travers and Collins exited out the front door, a dark-clothed man approached Travers and handed him a package. 

 

“Is this the item?” Travers whispered lowly.

 

            “It is,” the man said simply then hurried away.

 

            Collins looked at the package then at the back of the man who was soon lost in the crowd.  “Who was that man, Mr. Travers?”

 

            Travers glimpsed into the box and grinned.  “He’s just an insurance salesman, Collins, nothing more.”

 

*****

 

            The dark-clothed man stepped into a nearby alley and whispered a simple spell which caused the illusion of a business suit to disappear and in the garment’s place, the robes of a Black Mage appeared.  Then as the man created a mystic portal, he grinned when he thought about the amount of chaos that little bundle would create. “Let the Wanderer suffer at the hands of that fool!” he quipped and disappeared into the void.

 

 

                                                           Part 26 - Saying Goodbye

                            (Some Say It with Flowers; Section Seven Says It with Explosives)

 

July 25th 10:30 PST - 18:30 Local

Cemetery off Rue Morgan, Paris France

 

            Later that evening, Steve and Buffy stood near Francois’ family as the six Legionnaires brought his flag-draped coffin forward.  Pierre escorted the coffin as the men marched to the dirge of Amazing Grace played by a quartet of men on bagpipes.  After the wailing of the bagpipes had ended, the priest, an older member of the C’est Dei, wearing the vestments of a Roman Catholic Archbishop, walked forward and began the eulogy.

 

            “We stand here this day to say farewell to a good friend.  While Francois Renhard came into his destiny late in life, he embraced it and all it stood for with all of his heart.  While we weep for his family’s loss, we rejoice that he is with God and his beloved Yvonne in heaven.  Few have lived the life that Francois led.  He could have chosen not to follow this path, but he chose to fight the Darkness and gave the last seven years of his life to those who needed his help.  While his last words were of his concern for the men and women who served with him, his heart belonged to his son, daughters and grandson.  He will be missed,” the Archbishop said then bowed to the coffin and quietly uttered a prayer.

 

            After the Archbishop had finished the last rites, the Legionnaires fired three rounds apiece as the flag was carefully removed and folded by Sargent Chef Brisby.  The flag was then folded into a tight triangle and presented to Jacques DeClare, who placed the Order of De Gaul on it.  He turned around, knelt before Mindy Renhard and handed both the flag and medal to her.  She clutched the flag to her chest and began to sob as her aunt Marie hugged her closely.

 

            “A grateful France grieves with you, Miss Renhard.  Your Father will be missed,” Jacques DeClare said while a man garbed in the dress uniform of a French Marine began to play taps as the casket was slowly lowered into the ground. 

 

            Everyone stood by silently as the grave was filled with dirt by the workmen.  Soon after, several people began to leave just as the grey sky opened up and down poured a mild rain shower.  The Renhard family stood together with Steve, Buffy, Colonel Sanchez and Captain Smythe and their friends while they waited for everyone else to leave.  When only twenty people remained behind, a black suited Merlin appeared with Marc Le Chevalier and six Knights in full armor.  Merlin’s party then crossed the grounds toward the Renhards, Mindy, Marie, Jacques and Terry.  Merlin knelt down beside Mindy and said, “He’ll be missed by all of us, Mindy.  But be happy that your father is now in a better place.”

 

            “I k-know, L-Lord Merlin,” Mindy stammered.  “B-but it still hurts.”

 

            “I know, my dear.  But you must go on.  Your parents would want you to.”

 

            Mindy silently nodded as tears trickled freely down her cheeks.  “Thank you, Lord Merlin.  M-may I take my Father’s place in the Order?”

 

            Merlin smiled at the courageous young woman.  “All in due time, my dear.  Ask Jacques in two years then we’ll see.”

 

            “I-I understand, Lord Merlin.  Thank you,” Mindy said. 

 

Then Merlin stood and hugged a weeping Marie, Francois’ sister.  Meanwhile, Marc stepped forward and gave Mindy a fatherly hug.  “He’ll always be with you,” Marc said.

 

            “I know, Knight General, thank you.”

 

            Merlin then moved to Jacques, Terry and their son Francois.  Merlin patted the boy on his head then shook Jacques’ hand.  “Your Father was a good man, Jacques.  The Order could have used him when he was twenty.”

 

            “He loved serving you, Lord Merlin.  He always felt honored that the Order found him worthy enough to be a knight.”

 

            “I feel privileged that he willingly offered himself to the cause,” Merlin said.  Then he walked over to St. Wolf and said, “You did good, kid.  You saved the world again and managed to drive Khadaffi up the wall at the same time.”

 

            “I take it that he knows it was me?”

 

            “Indeed he does.  The Libyans have raised the bounty on your head to twenty million.”

 

            “And what did you do about the bounty, Merlin?”

 

            “Put the word out that whoever tries to collect on that bounty will be hunted down by the entire Order.  Then we’d go to war with Libya.”

 

            Steve grinned at the old wizard.  “I’m sure that Khadaffi isn’t that dumb.”

 

            “No, he isn’t.  The bounty was rescinded shortly thereafter.”

 

            “Good.  I don’t want any assassins trying to go after me around Buffy’s friends.” 

 

            “Say, why don’t you take a couple of days off with your friends, Steve and enjoy your stay in Paris?”

 

            “No can do, Merlin.  We have to return to Sunnydale and make sure everything is all right.”

 

            “I’m certain your friends can handle things for a few days without you.  “Take two days off and enjoy Paris with your friends.  That’s an order, son!”

 

            St. Wolf shook his head.  “I’ll bring Buffy back in a few weeks, but right now, I have to take my friends home and make sure that everything is fine on the Hellmouth.”

 

            “All right,” Merlin groused.  “But I want you two to take at least two weeks off within the next month, or else.”

 

            “Got it, boss.  We’ll take the two weeks real soon.” St. Wolf said.  Then Merlin shook St. Wolf’s hand, turned, walked a few paces and disappeared from view.

 

            “He seemed pretty set on us taking a vacation,” Buffy observed.

 

            Steve sighed then said, “Shortly after I started to work for him I almost burned myself.  I refused to take any rest because I thought I could save everyone and that if I did stop to rest, someone innocent would die that I could have saved.  I gave up after five years and one cold night in November, after I thought I had screwed up royally, I tried to kill myself.  Merlin and Hercules saved my life and showed me that I was needed.”

 

            Buffy gave him a hug.  Then she took his hand and led him out of the cemetery.  “Let’s go home, honey.”

 

****

 

            Finally after finding his courage, Lt. Pierre La Croix of the French Foreign Legion marched toward the tall blonde woman dressed in black who stood next to Colonel Sanchez. 

 

Jordan?  May I have a word with you?”

 

            She whirled to face him and her beauty, even in grief, nearly stole his breath away.  Pierre!” she breathed then masked her excitement with an air of professionalism.  “I mean…hello, Leftenant.  Of course, you may have a word with me.”  Then she turned back to Sanchez and said, “Excuse me, sir.”

 

            Sanchez smiled pleasantly at both Jordan and Pierre.  “But of course, Captain.”

 

            Pierre gently took her by the arm and guided her toward a crypt some distance away from the others.  When they arrived, he came to a halt and faced her.  Jordan…I believe my mother is an old friend of yours.  Her name was Constance Renault then.  She said you two used to play together when you were young.”

 

            A stunned look crossed her aristocratic face.  “Your mother is my childhood friend, Constance?”  When he nodded in response, she closed her eyes and muttered, “Good Lord!  I’m nothing but a cradle robber like that blasted American teacher!”

 

            He chuckled lowly and said, “Well, not really.  I’m long past wearing short pants and sitting at an elementary school desk, mademoiselle.”

 

            It was her turn to chuckle.  “Actually, love, call me ‘madame.’  I have a little girl who’s eight years old.  Her father died four years ago on a mission for the Order.”

 

            He smiled at her and took her hand in his.  “I am certain she is as lovely as her mother,” he said and she blushed wonderfully in response.  “Perhaps I can meet her one day?”

 

            She smiled warmly at him, hugged him close, and whispered into his ear, “Yes, one day soon,” while he marveled at how right it felt to be wrapped in her arms.

 

                                                          Part 27 - Ass Kicking Time

                                (Some Immortal Hotties go Medieval on Some Vampire Butt!)

 

July 25th 13:30 PST - 21:30 Local

Street near Rue Morgan, Paris France

 

            He gasped, even though he didn’t have to breathe, when he saw the piercing sapphire eyes of the petite red head as she strolled down the boulevard with the striking brunette who had legs for days.  Unfortunately, in the view of Michael the vampire, the two beauties were escorted by two men who were clearly out of their league.  The French vampire grinned as he watched the four people pass him by and muttered under his breath as he started after them, “I think I’m going to have a little fun with these ladies!” 

 

*****

 

            Later that evening, Fox Mulder, Dana Scully, Jarod the Pretender and Andrea Parker had decided to walk off all the calories from their wonderful meal at an expensive French restaurant as they made their way back to the Hotel Saxony. 

 

“So,” Dana asked Parker, “your Christian name is Monica?  How come you go by Andrea?”

 

Miss Parker shrugged.  “I never liked the name Monica.  That was the name my daddy gave me.  I always preferred Andrea because my mother told me that it was her mother’s name.  My grandmother died before I was born so I never had the chance to know her.  Somehow, having her name made me feel connected to her, I suppose.”

 

 Jarod smiled and gently squeezed her hand.  “That was the name she whispered to me when we were children, when I knew I loved her,” he mused. 

 

As the two couples continued their romantic stroll, when they were only several blocks away from their destination, Mulder, a/k/a Paranoid Boy as named by the Immortal Slayer, had noticed they’d picked up a shadow. 

 

He hugged his wife close, leaned over and nuzzled her throat then said lowly, “I think we’re being followed, Scully.”

 

            “It might be a mugger,” Dana noted after she caught a glimpse of the man as she chanced a glance over her right shoulder.  He was tall, at least as tall as her husband and wore motorcycle leathers.

 

            “He could be a blood sucker, too,” Andrea offered after she had taken a peek at their shadow and had noted his pasty complexion.  “Oh joy, oh rapture,” she purred.

 

*****

 

            Michael saw his targets surreptitiously glancing at him and shrugged inwardly.  Oh well, he thought, so much for the hunt!  Once he decided that he would disable the men and turn the women so they could stay with him for awhile, he raced forward, almost faster than the mortal eye could follow.  He then stopped on a dime right in front of the tourists and flashed his fangs at them while his eyes shined with a golden hue.   

 

*****

 

            “Oh shit!” Andrea muttered then whirled in the direction of the rush of air that had just sped past them.  “Leather guy’s right in front of us!” she snapped.  Then they all spread apart and drew their handguns from their concealed holsters.

 

*****

 

            A surprised Michael was so stunned by their response he failed to react in time and found himself surrounded by four heavily armed people.  Not wanting to feel the sting of their bullets and have them ruin his new leather outfit, he decided to try and charm his way out of this mess.  He held up both of his hands, gave them a friendly smile and asked, “You must be Americans to be so quick to resort to gunplay, eh, mon amis?  Now, now, let’s not be too hasty.  Just like one of your countrymen, I ask, ‘can’t we all just get along?”

 

            Mulder cocked an eyebrow at the vampire and drawled, “Not really, no.  Though, I’d like to know how you were able to do that impersonation of the Flash.”

 

            Michael simply shrugged.  Then suddenly, before they knew it, he leaped high into the air away from the quartet and landed on a nearby roof.  He glanced down at the street and saw the shocked looks on his targets’ faces and laughed softly. “Now, let’s see if the petite red head is as tasty as she looks.” 

 

Then he swooped down from the rooftop and tried to grab Scully, however Mulder intercepted him before he could reach her.  Annoyed by the man’s interference, Michael flung him toward a building wall and heard the dull crunch of the man’s head as it smashed against the stone facade.  Michael gasped as the man’s body crumpled to the ground.  Dammit, he thought, I didn’t want to kill him!  However, it was too late for recriminations.  In for a penny, in for a pound, as the Americans say, he mused. 

 

He reached for the petite red head and grabbed her.  Then his head rocked back violently as she landed a punch that would have pulverized a heavyweight prize fighter!  Michael dropped to the sidewalk and saw stars for several seconds.  Then his vision cleared and he hissed at the dangerous female.  “Slayer!?” he said, like a curse, while the woman glared at him with blazing eyes.

 

            “Thank your dark gods I’m not,” Dana snapped at him.  “If she were here, she’d have taken you apart piece by piece for hurting my husband!”

 

            “Really?  Well, mon cherie, she isn’t here, is she?  Care to press your luck with me instead?”

 

            She scowled at him and growled.  “Bring it on you dead piece of shit!”

 

            “Any time, Cherie,” Michael crowed as he raced toward her while he mused, < What a woman!  I must have her! > 

 

Unfortunately for Michael, he was so intent on taking her he ignored the two others who fired their weapons at him.  When he felt a fire in his gut, he fell to the ground unable to fly or flee.  As he writhed in pain on the dirty sidewalk, he mumbled, “No fair, you interrupted our duel!”

 

            If a black widow spider could smile, Michael imagined the smirk on the other woman’s face would have been a close approximation of that dreaded arachnid’s grin.  “Section Seven doesn’t play fair with the undead, fang boy.  We just kill you the fastest way possible.”

 

            “A-at least I took one of you bastards with me!”

 

            “Not in this lifetime, blood sucker,” Mulder said as he stood up from where he had fallen.

 

            “How?” the stunned vampire gasped.  Then he realized the truth.  “You’re all Immortals!?”

 

            The dark woman nodded at him.  “Any last words?”

 

            “Yes!” he screamed.  “You’re all dead!  The Enforcers won’t let you leave Paris alive!” 

 

Mulder, Scully, Jarod, and Andrea simply aimed their weapons at the creature, while Mulder said, “Maybe so, but you won’t be around to see it!  Hasta la vista, baby!” he exclaimed then all four of their guns fired and ripped Michael’s undead heart apart in a hail of wooden and silver bullets.

 

            After the smoke had cleared, Jarod glanced at Mulder.  “Who are the Enforcers? And why didn’t he disintegrate?”

 

            As Mulder and Dana put away their weapons, Mulder shook his head.  “I don’t know.  We’d better ask Giles when we get back to Sunnydale.” 

 

Meanwhile Dana knelt down and began to examine the body.  “Fox,” she muttered as she examined the vampire’s fangs, “This thing is not like the vampires that we usually fight.  I wonder if there are more like it?”

 

            “There’s another breed of vamp?  I wonder what Steve and Buffy are going to say about that?”

 

            “Knowing those two?  Probably curse the Powers That Be, shrug their shoulders, and say, ‘bring it on!” Andrea observed.

 

            “Yes, that would sum up their reaction when we tell them,” Jarod added.  “Should we return to the hotel and tell them or wait until morning?”

 

            “I don’t think morning will come for you and your companions, monsieur,” a French accented voice noted harshly. 

 

            The four Immortals turned to find a half-dozen yellow-eyed vampires in the street with them.  “Oh shit!”  Mulder snapped as he drew his handgun.  The vampires watched the foursome closely and one of them, a large male with blond hair, stepped forward.

 

            “Before you die, care to tell us who you are?”

 

            Mulder gave them a lopsided grin.  “Oh, we’re nobody, really.  We just love to kick undead ass, that’s all.” 

 

            “We will kill you all slowly,” the male announced with a hiss.

 

            “I don’t think so, vampire!” a female voice snapped from the darkness of a nearby alley.  Suddenly, a light blue glow is seen in the darkness as a sword was drawn and reflected the moon light with a blue glow.

 

            “Merde!  Not her!” one of the other vampires screamed.  Then a wooden stake found its mark and penetrated the heart of a female vampire, causing the creature to fall to the ground and scream in pain.

 

            A fireball then flew from the alley and completely incinerated the wounded vampire along with four of her fellows.

 

            “Okay.  I think we can assume that whoever did that is on our side,” Mulder reasoned as they raised their guns and fired as one to take out the last vampire. 

 

            Then as the smoke from their gunfire wafted up into the night sky, the voice from the alley said, “I don’t know who you are, but heed my advice.  Get out of Paris while you still can.  Those demons will be back in force!”

 

            “Wait!” Mulder screamed. 

 

            “Yes?” 

 

            “Who are you?  Do you want to work with us?”

 

            The mysterious woman laughed lightly at his question and said, “I think not.  I don’t work with amateurs.”

 

            Before Mulder could respond, he heard footsteps race deeper into the alley until their sound was gone.  “Who the hell was that?”

 

            “The Lone Ranger?” Jarod posited.

 

Immediately, Andrea smacked him upside his head and grumbled, “That’s it!  No more late night television for you!”

 

            “But I like the Lone Ranger,” Jarod whined with a mock pout.  “We have a lot in common!  Say, would you like to be my faithful Indian sidekick?”

 

            She glared at her man and muttered, “If you think we’re going to play THAT game again, you can forget getting frisky with me, Ratboy!”

 

*****

July 25th 12:40 PST - 20:40 Local

Hotel Saxony, Paris, France

 

            “What in the hell is going on?” St. Wolf roared as he flung open his hotel room door.

 

            He was angry because Buffy’s and his intimate moment had been shattered by pounding on their door.  When he saw that it was Mulder and Scully in the hallway, the look of annoyance on his face was plain to everyone within a hundred meters of him. 

 

Mulder simply smirked at him and that served to make St. Wolf even angrier.  Then the FBI agent said, “I just wanted to tell you that we helped take out seven vampires about ten minutes ago.”

 

            St. Wolf narrowed his eyes at the man and snapped, “Look, we don’t keep count, nor do I expect you to.  So, if you don’t mind, we’ll just go back to bed now and see you in the morning.”

 

            Mulder cleared his throat noisily and captured both the Wanderer’s and the Slayer’s attention.  “These weren’t like the vampires we normally take out.”

 

            Buffy nudged St. Wolf aside.  She was dressed in a silk robe and was still in her bare feet.  She shouldered the door open and directed, “You two get inside, now!”  After Mulder and Scully entered their room, Buffy closed the door behind them and said, “Start at the beginning.”

 

            Mulder described what had happened to them and Steve glanced at Buffy.  “Ever hear about these types of vamps?”

 

            Buffy shook her head.  “No.  But maybe Giles knows about them.”

 

            “All right, then,” St. Wolf said as he turned to face the FBI agents.  “We’ll stay in for the rest of the night and I’ll put the hotel staff on high alert.”  He then reached for the phone and dialed the hotel operator.  When she answered, he said, “The sky is clear and the fields are mazes of green.”  Then he hung up the phone.  Two minutes later, they heard a knock on the door.  Buffy opened the door and Phillipe raced inside.

 

            “What is the problem, Sir Steven?”

 

            “My friends ran into a new breed of vampire tonight,” he said and gave Phillipe a description of the vampires.  “I want the hotel secured against all undead visitors.  Warn all of our people on staff and send out a general warning to all of our people in the Metro area.”

 

            Phillipe bowed then clicked his heals.  “It will be done, Sir Steven!” he snapped then he turned and left the room.

 

            Mulder then said, “Steve, care to tell us why you chose this particular hotel?”

 

            “It’s owned by the Order.  All of the staff members are knights or squires or their family members who need jobs.”

 

            Mulder whistled lowly and shook his head.  “Trust this guy to sleep in an armed camp!”

 

            “But it’s the nicest armed camp I’ve ever been in,” Scully quipped.  “I can’t complain about the beds either.”

 

            “Now, if you both will get the hell out of here, we’ll call Giles, tell him what happened then get back to bed.”

 

            “I think Dana and I will follow your lead,” Mulder said with a smirk while Scully took him by the hand and lead him back out into the hallway.

 

*****

 

July 25th 12:55 PST - 20:55 Local

Home of St. Wolf, Sunnydale, California

 

            When the telephone rang, Giles glanced up from the mystical text that he had spent the morning reading and answered the phone.  “St. Wolf residence, may I help you?” 

 

            “Giles, it’s Buffy,” she said.  “Listen up.  Mulder and Scully ran into a different breed of vampire.”  Then she described the encounter as the agents had relayed it to her.

 

            “Good Lord!” Giles said. 

 

            “So lay it on me, Bookguy!  What’s the what?”

 

            “There are rumors, myths of different types of vampires, but they’ve never been substantiated.”  Giles then adjusted his glasses on the bridge of his nose and continued.   “The Council, to my knowledge, has never released any information to the field Watchers about this different breed, so I have very little information to go on.”

 

            “But they could exist,” Buffy concluded.  “From what Mulder and Scully told us of their encounter, these vamps sound much tougher than the ones I usually slay.  If so, how come there haven’t been any reports of them laying whole villages to waste?”

 

            “Well, actually,” Giles noted, “these vampires may not be killers.  They may only drain a little from a person and allow them to live.  If that’s the case, we may not have a problem with them.”

 

            “But check them out anyway, Giles.”

 

            “Of course, Buffy.  By the way, when will you two return to Sunnydale?”

 

            “We’ll leave for home tomorrow.  I can’t wait to see the gang and you, Giles.  Take care and I’ll see you soon.”

 

“You take care as well, Buffy.  Goodbye!” 

 

“Bye bye, Giles!” Buffy said.  Then she hung up the phone, turned back to her lover, and shot a wanton look in his direction.  “So shall we see how well Special Forces training stacks up against Slayer stamina?”

 

            He merely grinned at her, took her hand and led her back into the bedroom.

 

*****

 

July 25th 14:19 PST - 17:00 EST - 22:19 Local

Henry Clay’s Office, Location Unknown, Paris, France

 

            Henry glared into his holographic projector and roared, “I don’t care if he’s busy, Dimitri!  I must talk to Horace immediately!”

 

            “Of course, Mr. Clay, he’ll be with you in a minute.” 

 

            Moments later, Horace’s face appeared in holographic form.  “What is it, Henry?”

 

            “Two names…Steven St. Wolf and Buffy Summers.” 

 

            “How much of Paris did they destroy?”

 

            “You know of these two?” 

 

            “I do,” Horace confirmed.

 

            “What does Merlin have to do with them?”

 

            Horace grimaced then responded.  “He works for Merlin as his personal champion.”

 

            “And what is this merde about Section Seven?”

 

            Horace laughed heartily then said, “That’s a good one.  Want to hear it?”

 

            “I do.” 

 

Horace then told him about what had happened in Los Angeles and what had happened at St. Wolf’s home, five days ago.  When he finished, Henry began to laugh.  “Merlin certainly pulled a fast one there, old friend.  I see that the two of them are not complaining about the way it turned out.”

 

            “They’re not,” Horace agreed with a grin.  “I sent one of my agents with them and he returned this morning with a full report.”

 

            “Who did you send with them?”

 

            “I sent J.P. Withers.”

 

            “Merde!?  What did the grim one have to say about them?”

 

            “He said, ‘Good bunch of kids.  Know how to handle a situation properly,’ end quote.”

 

            “Withers said that about them?”

 

            “Yes.  Want to bet they kicked ass?”

 

            “That’s putting it mildly,” Henry muttered.  “Jacques DeClare gave me a full report from St. Wolf and the Legion Commander who helped him.  They embarrassed Kadaffi’s elite Third Border Guards.”

 

            “Khadaffi should know better than to trust madmen like Corvo.”

 

            “I agree.  Anyway, the Legion Commander and his troops will receive a commendation for their contribution to the battle.”

 

            “What are you going to do about St. Wolf and Summers?  Will you talk to them again?”

 

            “No, I’ll allow them time to enjoy themselves for a few days.”

 

            “Good.  They need some downtime.  Take care, Henry,” Horace said then he terminated the holographic connection.

 

*****

 

Part 28 - Clothes

(Need I Say More?)

 

July 26th 20:00 PST

Iverson Air Freight Hanger, Sunnydale, CA

 

            Even after a transatlantic flight and a cross-country jaunt, Buffy Summers had her proverbial thousand watt grin on her face as she raced down the gangplank into the waiting arms of her best friend, Willow Rosenberg. 

 

            “How was your stay in Paris?” Willow asked, her husky voice breathless.

 

            “Awesome!” Buffy gushed.  “Wait until you see the dresses that I bought in Paris!  “I got a bunch of dresses from the House of Marcel. And I bought a bunch of stuff at Ralph Lauren, Prada and Victoria’s Secrets.”

 

            “I bet that Steve didn’t complain about the Victoria’s Secrets bill,” Xander noted.

 

            “None of the men did,” Dana said.  “Oh, boys!” she announced to Giles, Xander, and Oz, “why don’t you go unload the suitcases.”

 

            “Hey!  Since when are we bellboys?” Xander demanded.

 

            “If you want to see what I got for Cordelia and Willow at Victoria’s Secrets, Xander. . .” Buffy drawled but before she finished, both Xander and Oz zoomed off toward the Fox Jet.  However, Giles stood his ground for several seconds, until Buffy chirped, “Oh, Bookguy, I got something for Jenny, too.”  At that bit of news, Giles grinned at his Slayer and rushed off to help the two younger men. 

 

Moments later, Gabrielle, Amanda, and Andrea walked up behind the Slayer with huge grins on their lovely faces while Sonja hugged Buffy warmly.

 

            “Oh, I’m so proud of you!  You’re growing up so fast!” Sonja breathed then wiped a mock tear from the side of her cheek.  “Soon you’ll have all of your men jumping to your orders in no time!”

 

            All of the women snickered as they watched their chosen mates lug their luggage toward the three cars parked nearby. 

 

            “Do we feel sorry enough to help our men?” Dana asked.  She was immediately answered by a chorus of ‘No’s.’.  “Just thought I’d ask,” Dana drawled as Mulder struggled with a large trunk that Dana had bought in Paris.  “Poor thing.  Sometimes I feel sorry for Mulder when I watch him wrestle with heavy objects.”

 

            “We all do,” Cordelia noted softly.  “That’s why we try to keep our men out of the fighting as much as possible.  I don’t want to lose Xander.  I love him more than my most expensive Prada handbag!”

 

            “Like Duncan and Steve would let us keep them out of the fight,” Amanda said.

 

            “Duncan and Steve aren’t the problems,” Buffy said.  “It’s Xander, Oz, Giles and to a certain extent, Mulder.  They’re not the warriors that Steve and Duncan are.”

 

            “So you try to keep them out of the fighting?” Andrea asked.

 

            “Yes,” Buffy said.  “The girls care for their men and don’t want them hurt.  But you guys need to watch your attitudes around them because they’re going to find out and begin to resent you for shielding them.”

 

            “I hope St. Wolf can come up with something to help the men, and soon,” Andrea said. 

 

            “We all do, Andrea,” Willow said lowly. 

 

            “Have you guys tried to talk to Artemis to see if she could help?” Buffy asked.

 

            “Artemis can’t help the men,” Gabrielle said.  “Her power base centers on women, so she can’t help them.”

 

            “Oh well,” Buffy muttered, “Steve will help us keep them safe.”

 

            “Yes, but for how long?”  Jenny asked as Giles helped Mulder hoist the trunk into St. Wolf’s SUV.

 

*****

Meanwhile, on another dimensional plane, the Greek goddesses Artemis and Aphrodite along with the brother and sister entities known as the Oracles listened to the Amazons talk amongst themselves.  Artemis then looked at the Oracles and said, “You were right.  We have to do something for the men.”

 

            “You can’t empower them, though, Arty,” Aphrodite cautioned.  “Maybe we can get Hercules to empower them?”

 

            “He can’t do it.” Artemis noted.  “His power is severely limited because of his demi-god status.”

 

            “The matter has already been addressed,” the male Oracle announced and pointed at a face that was reflected in Artemis’s scrying pool.

 

            A lazy grin dawned on the Goddess of the Hunt’s face when she saw the figure in her pool.  “Interesting, though, why would he come to our aid in this affair?”

 

            “Because, for all of his faults, he loves humanity and will try to help, if given a chance.”

 

            “Especially if he thinks he can pull a fast one on Obi,” Aphrodite observed and snickered.

 

            “So the matter is settled then.  He shall aid the men and we don’t do a thing other than point him in the right direction.” 

 

*****

 

            Back on Earth, after the men had loaded the vehicle, Buffy pulled her Watcher off to one side and asked, “Do you mind if I run something by you, Giles?”

 

            He smiled down at his Slayer and said, “Of course, Buffy.  How may I assist you?”

 

            She looked down at her feet momentarily, seeming at a loss for words, which astounded the Watcher considering her continually running mouth.  Then she glanced up into his face like a lost little girl and said, “I-I…could…you go on patrol with me tonight?  I want you to take a look at my form to see if I’m still firing on all cylinders.”

 

            Giles was taken aback by that.  “You don’t want to patrol with Steven?”

 

            She shook her head.  “Not tonight.  It’ll just be you and me…that is if you’re okay with it.”

 

            He studied the emotions that played across her face for several seconds before he said, “I’ll be ready at ten o’clock then.  Come by my flat and we’ll start our circuit, all right?”

 

            She smiled wanly at him and said, “That’s fine, Giles.  Thanks a million.”  Then she escorted her Watcher to the waiting SUV.

 

July 26th 22:30 PST

Weatherly Cemetery, Sunnydale, California

He still had a bad feeling about her but he couldn’t for the life of him understand why.

Superficially, she appeared as she always did, carefree, alert, his golden angel with the motor-mouth.  She had met him at his apartment building dressed in casual clothing, which, in and of itself, was strange.  Ever since St. Wolf had arrived, the Slayer and her Slayerettes normally patrolled in lightweight Kevlar™ armor.  Indeed, she hadn’t patrolled in civilian clothes in ages. 

Tonight, as showers threatened to break, she almost seemed normal, yet she gave him the impression that something haunted her.  Giles talked as they strolled along, instructing her quietly on demonology and martial arts technique, hoping she would reveal what weighed so heavily on her thoughts. It was on their way toward the exit of the cemetery as they headed for the docks when the attack came.  They faced five vampires and Buffy, with her unsettling combination of happy-go-lucky and preoccupied, snapped.

She held onto her reason for the first attacker as her stake dropped from its hiding place in her jacket sleeve into her hand.  She had a low buzz in the back of her mind like a swarm of bees and her smile was a fixed snarl as she drove the wood into his chest.

She held on for the second attacker, pivoting like a dancer, still aware that her name was Buffy, daughter of Hank and Joyce.  She flipped the second vampire over her shoulder, dropped on top, and plunged the stake downward.  Before the dust could even settle, she moved like clockwork, having dispatched two of the five before the vampires could respond and Giles could draw his weapon.

However, when the third vampire moved toward Giles, something shut down inside of her. The angry swarm swelled inside her mind and her vision narrowed into redness.  Then what she unleashed was a fury that Giles had never witnessed before and hoped he would never see again in this lifetime.

The third vampire sensed her advance and turned but to him, she was nothing but shadow and form.

Buffy’s hand, though, held no stake.  Her arm rigid as she whirled like a dervish, her hand, in reality, was more like a claw, a cat’s swipe.  Her fingers caught at the bulge of his Adam's apple and ripped through it with all of her might. There was a spray of blood, something white and misshapen in her hand.  Then she discarded it and moved on.

When it was over and the vampires were destroyed, there was nothing in her that Giles could recognize; her breath caught in her throat as she turned deliberately to face him and it occurred to him that he was in a lot of trouble with a Slayer running solely on instinct. His voice sounded like a shot: "Buffy!"

The Slayer swayed, head tilted to the side, as if she’d heard something from a long ways off.

He tried again, more desperate this time and was rewarded by the dawn of reason in her blue-gray eyes.

"Giles?" she queried.  She sounded shaken and unsure of where she was but it was enough, and he approached circumspectly.

The sky thundered and rain lashed down like the sting of a whip.  It was then he realized it wasn’t rain but hail that lashed at them both. 

She was covered in blood and dust, as if birthed from the very bowels of the Earth and her mind kept vacillating between extremes. She was a predator…killer…huntress…no…protector…defender…Buffy…and oh god!  She could *smell* him…hang on…keep me grounded Giles…

“Buffy,” he said.  His eyes were soft and welcoming as he approached her while she stood there trembling. “Listen to me very carefully…”

 

The Slayer almost bolted, her legs wanting to carry her as far from that terrible place as possible.  However, she couldn’t leave because Giles had anticipated her every thought.  He grabbed her by the arm and commanded, “Buffy, look at me!” The little blonde found herself gazing into her Watcher’s gentle green eyes.  “Please listen to me.  It’s over.  You managed to regain control, you didn’t—“

 

“But I DID, Giles!” she wailed.  “I killed those men in Libya!”  She slumped against him as tears streaked down her face.  “We didn’t even try to capture them; we just shot them down like dogs!  They never had a chance against us.  We killed them with no remorse, no regrets just like these things had tried to kill you!”  She then looked at him like he held a lifeline and shouted, “Don’t you see?  I’m just like a demon now!”

 

 “No, Buffy, don’t ever say that!” he snapped.  The effect he’d hoped to bring about occurred when she gave him a stunned look.  “If you were just like a demon, what happened to those men in Libya would not have affected you like it has.  Those men made a choice, a very bad choice.  Although they were misled, they were responsible for the pain and misery they had caused and had to be stopped.  I know we ask too much of you and it is all so very unfair, but know this!  You are the most heroic person I have ever known and even in the face of all of the evil you see, you still manage to be so impressively…human.  I know I’ve told you this before, but to me you’re more than just ‘the Slayer.’  You’re my Buffy.  And I’m so very, very proud of you.”

Suddenly, the rain came to a stop with a sigh, the confirmation of a truth as the Watcher held his sobbing Slayer close that her soul, while a little weary, was still pure.

 

                                                           Part 29 – We Are Family!

                                       (Another Sister Joins the Team Courtesy of Artemis)

 

July 28th 07:00 PST

Home of Steven St. Wolf, Sunnydale, CA

 

            She heard someone clap their hands together behind her and whirled toward the sound.

 

Andrea Parker had been performing a kata in St. Wolf’s gym that Amanda had taught her only last week. She had adapted it to double as a dance routine as well as a martial arts exercise and had lost herself in the movement until the sound of applause had startled her. 

 

She found an unarmed woman standing behind her garbed in ancient brown hunting leathers.  A moment later, St. Wolf’s dog, Duke, wandered into the gym, saw the woman, padded over to her and reclined at her feet.

 

Parker regarded the woman coolly and drawled, “It seems that St. Wolf needs to find a new guard dog.  Now, who in the hell are you and why aren’t you dead?”

 

            “Duke wouldn’t try to harm me, Andrea.  He knows me quite well,” the woman noted with a mischievous grin as she knelt down and scratched the dog behind his left ear. 

 

            “And who might you be?” Andrea wondered.

 

            “Look in the corner,” the woman said simply as she pointed toward the small shrine that sat on one side of the gym. 

 

Parker studied the statue that stood in the shrine and found it bore a remarkable likeness to the leather-garbed woman.  “Oh Shit!!” Andrea snapped and quickly turned back to face the woman.  “You can’t be?!  Could you?”

 

            “I am Artemis,” the woman said.

 

            “Um…er…Cordelia and the other Amazons won’t be here for at least another hour,” Andrea nervously replied.

 

            “I am not here for them.  I am here…for you.”

 

            Andrea gulped and her mind screamed, < Holy shit!  What in the hell did I do? > “Y-you wanted to see me?”

 

            “Yes, my dear.  I am here to make you an offer.”

 

            “An offer I can’t refuse?” Andrea quipped and Artemis smiled at her.  “What sort of offer?”

 

            “The same offer I made to Cordelia, Amy, Jennifer, Willow and Dana.”

 

            “You want me to become an Amazon?”

 

            “Yes.” 

 

            “Why?  I’m not a Girl Scout wannabe like them.  That do-gooder shtick is Jarod’s, not mine!”

 

            “I do not believe anyone would be confused enough to determine that you are a Girl Scout, my dear.  In reality, you are a ruthless, cold-as-ice Bitch who’d shoot a man in the back and walk away without a second glance.”

 

            Andrea cracked a smile and purred, “Do you have a problem with that?  I don’t.”

 

            A delighted Artemis laughed heartily at that.  “I truly must compliment St. Wolf on his choice of friends, particularly the women.”  Then she sobered quickly and said, “The offer is still on the table, Andrea.  Will you accept?”

 

            Parker thought back to what Cordelia had told her about being an Amazon and the sisterhood they all shared.  Then she slowly nodded when she realized that was something she’d always wanted.  “If it’ll keep Jarod and me out of the hands of the Centre, then yes, yes, I accept!”

 

            “Is that all that you want out of my blessing?” 

 

            Andrea glared at the goddess for a moment then sighed resignedly.  “No.  Over the last month, I’ve learned that there is more to me than what I thought possible.  And I like what I found.  I like helping people.  I’ve seen more noble and selfless people since I joined Jarod in assaulting the Forum than I thought existed in the whole world.  I’ve watched kids risk their lives to save mankind without hesitation.  I’ve also come to love a man who loves me completely and that frightens me most of all.”

 

            “Why does it frighten you so?” Artemis prodded.

 

            “Because, he knows what I’ve done for the Centre and he doesn’t care.  He still loves me even after I’ve chased him across the world.  How do you return that kind of love?”

 

            “You return it by becoming his partner in all things, my heart.  You see, your love seeks redemption for the evil of the Centre’s corruption of his genius.  Though none of their evil was his fault, he still feels responsible for it,” Artemis noted.  “As do you because of what the man who called himself your father did with Jarod’s work.”

 

            Confused suddenly, Andrea glared at Artemis and asked, “What do you mean by saying the man ‘who called himself your father?’  Are you saying he’s not my father?”

 

            “What did Duncan tell you about Immortals, Andrea?  Do you not recall that Immortals are born without parents?  None of you is born into the family that raised you.  Often, you are there to replace a stillborn child.”

 

            Stunned by that revelation, Parker stammered, “B-but that c-can’t be right!  I’m a dead ringer for my mother, Catherine Parker!”

 

            “It’s merely a survival trait,” Artemis observed.  “Pre-Immortal children will take on the appearance of the person who is closest to them, whether the person is a surrogate mother, father or sibling.  In your case, Catherine Parker loved you very much so you took after her.  She never knew that you weren’t her natural daughter.”

 

            Andrea hugged herself close while Artemis waited for Parker to process all of what she had revealed to the mortal.  Then Andrea shuddered violently when she felt another pair of warm arms hug her closely.  Suddenly she inhaled a familiar, yet long absent scent from her childhood that caused tears to well up in her eyes.  “Mom?” Andrea croaked.

 

            Catherine Parker smiled at her daughter and nodded.  “Hello, my darling little girl,” she cooed.

 

            “How?”

 

            “You can thank your friend’s wife and Lady Artemis for bringing me here,” Catherine replied with a smile.

 

            “Whose wife?” Andrea asked.

 

            “Mr. St. Wolf once had a mortal wife who died.  She now watches out for him and his friends from heaven.”

 

            Catherine guided her daughter over to a nearby wall with photographs on it.  They both saw pictures of St. Wolf with Buffy and her friends, looking quite happy and content.  Then they saw a recent photo of Andrea and Jarod laughing at a joke that Xander had pulled on his girlfriend, Cordelia.  It captured the glee in Jarod’s eyes, while Andrea had her cheek nestled against his chest, trying to hold in her laughter, but failing miserably.  Then it dawned on her and she gasped, “Oh damn.  You don’t mean…?”

 

            “Yes, Andrea,” Artemis answered, “they consider both Jarod and you as family.”

 

            “What about the Centre?  If they find out that Jarod and I are alive, they might use them against us!”

 

            Catherine smiled gently at her daughter.  “Honey, these people have very little to fear from the Centre or any of its allies.  If my ‘husband’ is foolish enough to attack them then he’ll get what’s coming to him!”

 

            “Mom!” Andrea blurted out, stunned by her mother’s attitude.  “How can you talk about Daddy like that?”

 

            Catherine grimaced.  “I…I never wanted you to know this, baby, but…your ‘Daddy’ approved of Raines’ plan to murder me because I was in his and Raines’ way.  He never deserved your loyalty.  Jarod and your new ‘family’ do.  They will never turn against you like he did.”

 

            “Daddy…turned against me?” Andrea whispered.

 

            “Darling, he would do anything to save his miserable life, no matter the cost.  He ordered Gar to kill Jarod when he felt that St. Wolf would find out about the Centre.  He also told Gar to kill you, if you got in the way.  That’s how much he *cared* for you.”

 

            Andrea stiffened and stared forlornly at her mother.  “I-it, it can’t be true!”

 

            Catherine nodded her head and said, “Unfortunately, it’s all true, baby.  After Gar returned to the Centre, Sydney killed Gar and left the Centre with Angelo.  Raines is searching for them now and their time is short before they’re found and eliminated.”

 

            “Where are they?” Andrea snapped and grabbed her mother by her arms.  “Can Jarod and I get to them in time?”

 

            “What about the rest of your ‘family’?  Are you going to leave them out of this?”

 

            “I can’t involve them!  They have enough to do already.  How can I impose on them to help me save Sydney and Angelo, two strangers?”

 

            “Actually, it’s four strangers,” Catherine replied.  “Broots and his daughter, Debbie, are also with Sydney and Angelo.  Your ‘Daddy’ wanted to make certain that no one could tie him in with your and Jarod’s deaths.”

 

            “Where are they now, Mother?”

 

            “They’ll arrive in Sunnydale in less than ten hours with two sweeper teams closely behind them.”

 

            “Shit!” Andrea shouted.  Then she turned to the doorway and yelled, “Jarod, get in here now!!”

 

            Within ninety seconds, seven people joined Andrea, Catherine and Artemis in the gym, with Jarod being the first person to respond.  The Pretender then pulled up short when he saw the virtual twin of his beloved standing next to Andrea.  “Catherine?”  Jarod stuttered.  “But you can’t be.  You’re dead!”

 

            Catherine walked up to Jarod and took his face into her hands.  “It’s me, Jarod.  I’m back for only a short time.”

 

            “Why?”

 

“I had to tell you that Sydney needs your help.  I also wanted to tell you that both of your parents are alive and you will be reunited with them soon.  Finally, I wanted to tell you that you need make an honest woman of my daughter.”  Then she kissed him on the cheek, turned to her daughter and hugged her gently, then said, “Goodbye,” and faded away, leaving a stunned pair of lovers behind her.

 

“What’s going on, Andrea?” St. Wolf then said after several moments of silence had filled the gymnasium.

 

            “We have a problem.”

 

            Buffy sighed.  “Oh well, it must be another Tuesday night.  What is it this time?” 

 

            “Four of our friends are being chased by the Centre.  Sydney, Broots, Angelo, and Broots’s daughter Debbie are coming to town with two sweeper teams following them.  They want Angelo back and will kill Sydney and the rest for taking him.”

 

Buffy nodded and said, “So, what do you want us to do?”

 

            Andrea smiled warmly at the Slayer and said, “Thank you for being there for us, Buffy.  I mean that.  All right, we start by looking into every motel and hotel in the area.  Four people shouldn’t be that hard to find, especially if it’s three grown men and a twelve year old girl.”

 

            “Not a problem,” St. Wolf said as he unclipped his cell phone and placed a call.  He spokes for several minutes then hung up the phone.  “I just called George over at the Motor Lodge.  He’ll pass along their descriptions to every motel and hotel in the area.  If they check in, we’ll know about it within five minutes.”

 

            Andrea stared at him dumbly.  “How?”

 

            St. Wolf grinned at her.  “Since we’ve cleaned out most of the vampires in the area, the hotels and motels have enjoyed a booming business.  George from the Motor Lodge heads the local Motel/Hotel Owner’s group and he passed the word about us to everyone.  He also acts as our liaison with these people.  We often get some good intel from them about strangers and possible vampire migrations.”

 

            Andrea shook her head and asked, “And these people simply ‘help’ you?  They don’t ask any questions about you or your group?” 

 

            “Nope.  No questions.  That about sums it up.”

 

            “Do you realize that most police agencies would kill for your spy network?”  Jarod noted.

 

            “So what happens when we find out where Sydney and the rest are hiding?”  Andrea asked.

 

            “We pay them a little visit and trap the Sweeper teams in the process,” Jarod replied.

 

            “Yep,” St. Wolf drawled with a predatory grin, “we’ll make sure that those bastards get the proper message.”

 

            “Good.  But Jarod and I want to be there.”

 

            “I don’t think that would be a good idea,” Mulder said.  “The Centre already thinks you’re dead.  What would they do if they found out that Jarod and you were still alive?”

 

            Andrea’s shoulders drooped.  “They would stop at nothing to get us, even if it meant destroying this entire town.”

 

            “So we keep this a low key as possible,” St. Wolf said.

 

            “How do we do that?” Xander asked.

 

            “It is simple, my dears,” Artemis said as a scroll appeared from the ether in front of her.  “This spell should help your friends.”

 

            “Thank you, Lady Goddess,” Andrea said.

 

            Artemis smiled at the former Centre operative.  “Does this mean you have decided to become an Amazon?”

 

            Andrea looked the goddess square in the eye and said, “Yes…yes, it does.”  She stepped forward, handed the scroll to Jenny Calendar, and closed her eyes.  Artemis then gently touched her.  Soon, a golden glow surrounded Andrea’s body and shortly thereafter, she fell into Artemis’ arms.  The goddess gently laid Andrea down as Jarod tried to go to her, but was held fast by both St. Wolf and Mulder.  They watched as Artemis passed her hands over Andrea’s dancer’s body once more before the goddess disappeared from their sight.  St. Wolf and Mulder then release Jarod and he immediately rushed to Andrea’s side.  Jarod leaned over her to check her for her pulse when he suddenly found himself pulled down and his lips ravaged by Andrea. 

 

            “That’s five for si—umph,” Mulder grunted as his wife elbowed him in his stomach.  “What was that for, Scully?”

 

            “Don’t be such a smart ass,” she said while she nodded toward Amy Madison.

 

            When Mulder spied the teen witch, a chagrined look came over his face and he muttered lowly, “Sorry, I didn’t see her.”

 

            “So who are the folks we’re supposed to rescue?” Buffy asked.

 

            Sydney was the man who trained me to be a Pretender.  But he was more like a Father to me,” Jarod said as he struggled to keep from swooning from Andrea’s tender ministrations.  “He and Broots were the only two friends that Andrea had at the Centre.  Angelo is an empath who the Centre uses for certain experiments.  Broots’ twelve year old daughter, Debbie, is also with them.”

 

            “We have to save them,” Andrea muttered from Jarod’s arms as she held him close.  “They were the closest thing I had to family before I came here.”

 

            “Shh,” Jarod whispered.  “Don’t worry, honey.  We’ll save them.”

 

            “You better, Ratboy.  Or I’ll make both your and St. Wolf’s lives a living hell.”

 

            Buffy cocked a wry eyebrow at that.  “Now, THAT sounds like a threat.”

 

            “No, Buffy,” Andrea drawled, “It’s a promise.”

 

            “Sheesh.  No wonder Artemis likes her.  She’s a total bitc. . . Oww!”  St. Wolf yelped from the sharp blow to the back of his head.  Then he angrily turned around and saw Cordelia standing behind him with a scowl on her face.

 

            The former Prom Queen glared at him and said, “Next time you want to comment about Artemis’ choice in women, tell her to her face.”

 

            “Not a problem,” he said.  “Hey, Artemis!”

 

            “What is it, Steven?” Artemis asked as she appeared in front of him.

 

            “I think you like to choose women who are total bitches to become Amazons.” 

 

            Artemis smiled warmly as she approached the Wanderer.  When she was right in front of him, she reached up with her left hand and began to trace a line from the top of his jaw, down to his stomach with her finger.  As her hand reached his waist, she hauled off and punched him in the stomach with her right hand.  As he doubled over, she took his jaw in her right hand and seductively said, “Of course I do.  Bitches get stuff done!” she exclaimed in a passable imitation of a soul sister from the hood.  Then she smiled and said, “If your lady wasn’t a Slayer already, I’d have chosen her as well.”  Then she straightened up, smiled at her Amazons then the Slayer and disappeared.

 

            Cordelia walked toward the groaning Immortal and helped him straighten up.  “That was beyond dumb,” she observed. 

 

            He nodded sullenly, unable to refute her observation.  “I was just curious about her motivations concerning Andrea,” he noted.  “She’s chosen extremely strong-willed women to worship her.  I wonder why?”

 

            “No time for that now!  Let’s take a good look at that spell that Artemis gave you, Andrea,” Jenny said while Willow and Amy moved in with eager eyes.

 

*****

 

July 28th 16:45 PST

Pacific Coast Highway, South of Sunnydale, CA

 

When Sydney took the exit off of the Pacific Coast Highway, Broots read the town’s ‘welcome’ sign and cursed under his breath.

 

            “Is something wrong, Broots?” Sydney asked.

 

            “Yeah.  We’re back in Sunnydale.  Why here?”

 

            Sydney smiled at his companion.  “We are here because we can find help here.  St. Wolf lives here as do many of his agents.”

 

            “Do you really think he’ll help us?”

 

            “I’ve read his file.  He’ll want to know who killed two of his people.”

 

            “But Jarod and Miss Parker weren’t members of his group.”

 

            Before Sydney could respond, Angelo muttered lowly from the back seat next to Debbie.  “Much evil is here, much good, too.  The good fights the evil, holding it in.”

 

            “Is the good winning, Angelo?” Sydney asked.

 

            Angelo zoned out for a second before he spoke.  “Yes!  The evil fears the good.  But the evil is deep and very old here.”

 

            Sydney smiled and reached over to Broots with his right hand and clapped the slight man on his shoulder.  “You see, Broots?  It appears that Mr. St. Wolf has made this town into his base of operations and is using it as a staging area for his war.”

 

            “Syd, do you believe what Miss Parker told you just before Gar killed her?”

 

            Sydney frowned as he thought for a moment before he answered Broots.  “That St. Wolf was some kind of leader in the fight against evil?  Well…I believe that part; however, I don’t believe most of the things I’d heard.”

 

            Broots took in all of what Sydney had just said and simply nodded.  “I know.  Some of that stuff was just too way out there, even for me!  So, where are we going to stay while we’re here, Syd?”

 

            “The safest place for us would be the Motor Lodge,” Sydney said as he wheeled their car into the Motor Lodge’s parking lot.  “I think the manager can tell us where to find Mr. St. Wolf.” 

 

*****

 

July 28th 16:55 PST

Sunnydale Motor Lodge, Sunnydale, CA

 

            George watched as the car pulled up and three men and a young girl got out of it.  He picked up the phone and dialed a memorized telephone number.  When his call was answered, he said, “They’re here.  I’ll give them rooms 102 and 103.”

 

            “We’ll be there in about ten minutes,” Buffy Summers’ voice said to him over the connection.

 

            “Good,” George said and hung up the telephone.  Just then, Sydney entered the office with his three companions.

 

            “I’d like two rooms please.  Two beds in each of them.”

 

            “Of course, sir, Rooms 102 and 103 are available,” George said as he placed the keys on the counter.  “They’ll be sixty-five dollars a night, per room.”

 

            Sydney removed two hundred dollar bills from his wallet and placed them down on the counter.  “Here you are, sir.  Oh, and, do you happen to know where I can find Steven St. Wolf?  I believe he rented a large block of rooms during our previous stay here.”

 

            “St. Wolf?” George asked, pretending not to recognize the name.  “That’s a funny name, sir!”

 

            “Oh, I wouldn’t know about all of that, my good fellow.  However, I am quite certain that he had a large number of his friends staying here.  Would it be possible to get in touch with him?”

 

            “When was this again?” 

 

            “I believe it was the second week of July.”

 

            George checked his ledger book then glanced up at Sydney.  “I’m sorry, but the entry for that week only shows that a Parker party had rented some rooms and that party had six rooms on the first floor.  Other than that party, I don’t recall anyone else being here that weekend.”

 

            Sydney and Broots glared unabashedly at the man.  “T-there were more than a hundred people here that weekend!” Broots stammered.

 

            Sydney then grabbed Broots’ arm and his touch seemed to calm his young friend.   “Broots…we must have been mistaken.  No need to trouble this good fellow.  Thank you for your help, sir.  I think we’ll just take the keys and go to our rooms now.”

 

            George watched as the quartet left his office and grinned. < That guy’s a sharp cookie.  Good for him!  Now let’s see if he can survive a confrontation with Mr. St. Wolf. >

 

*****

 

As soon as the quartet had entered Sydney’s and Angelo’s room, Broots asked, “Sydney what just happened back there?”

 

            Sydney sat down on one of the beds and looked up at his friend.  “This town is in St. Wolf’s hands, Broots!  The manager obviously works for him.  Indeed, I suspect we should see St. Wolf shortly.”

 

            “Are you sure, Syd?” 

 

            “Very,” Sydney said.  “Now let’s relax.  Debbie, do you want to take a nap?”

 

            “No, thanks, Dr. Greene, I’m too excited to sleep,” Debbie said.  “Also, I was wondering…can you tell me a little bit about these people?”

 

            “A friend of mine once told me that the world has lost all of its heroes.  That no one existed who could stand against evil and persevere.  But, your Father and I watched well over a hundred, for want of a better term, heroes gather here to prepare for a battle to save humanity.  We watched as a gargoyle walked among these men and women as an equal.  We also saw a man change into a were-wolf and stand as an equal with these same men and women.”

 

            Debbie’s eyes opened wide at that.  “You’re joking, Dr. Greene?  Aren’t you?”

 

            Sydney tell truth,” Angelo muttered. “Much good is here.  Many good people are here to protect people.  All here for one man.  He’s a light, a flag.”

 

            “What does he mean, Syd?” Broots asked.

 

            Sydney sighed and said, “Angelo knows that everyone came here because of Mr. St. Wolf.  He’s the leader that all those people followed.”

 

            “Why did they follow him?” Broots wondered.

 

            “He’s hero and friend to many.   He lead, they follow.”   

 

            “Who is this guy?  King Arthur?” Debbie quipped.

 

            Angelo’s head snapped up at her question.  “Arthur?”

 

            “King Arthur,” Debbie said to him gently.  “He had this magic sword and all of these knights and a castle.  He tried to protect people.  His Knights of the Round Table fought monsters and dragons and other things like that.”

 

            “Actually, my dear, Arthur and his knights never fought the dragons.  He knew enough not to screw with them,” a voice said from the far side of the hotel room.

 

            The members of Sydney’s party all turned toward the sound of the voice and froze.  They saw a number of people standing there armed with a combination of Uzi and Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine guns.  Sydney recognized two of the three men from the time they had been in Sunnydale before, particularly the leader.  Next to the Kevlar garbed men stood a tiny blonde girl, a petite red head, a slim and reedy blonde, a medium height dark beauty, another petite red head who happened to have an hourglass figure and the tall, buxom brunette that had defeated Gar several weeks ago.  Sydney then shot a wry glance at the leader of the group and barely managed to suppress his grin as he said, “Mr. St. Wolf, I presume?” 

 

            Angelo looked at the nine people with a beatific expression on his face for several moments before he calmly strolled toward the Slayer and St. Wolf.  He reached around each of their sides and drew out Demon Slayer and Vampire Slayer from their hiding places.  Sydney, Broots and Debbie watched in awe as both blades appeared as if from thin air and glowed brightly, while Angelo’s eyes danced with delight.  “They sing to me,” Angelo noted in a hushed whisper.  Then he stared at St. Wolf and the Slayer and said, “They are happy with you two and will be yours forever.”

 

            At a lost for words, Buffy Summers and Steven St. Wolf simply took back their swords from the strange little man and returned them to their hiding places.

 

            “Why does he remind me of Drusilla?” Buffy observed just as Angelo danced back to Sydney’s side.  She shivered and muttered, “This guy gives me the wiggins!”

 

            After she had mentioned the vampiress’ name, Angelo continued to dance and sang, “The Lady of Darkness will become one with the Light.  The Lady and her Gentleman will become one with the Light and everyone will be happy.”

 

            Noting that his charge had made some of St. Wolf’s people uncomfortable, Sydney stepped toward Angelo.  “Angelo, could you please sit down?”  Immediately, Angelo broke off his song and sat down on the bed next to Broots’ daughter.

 

“Dr. Greene?”  Sydney nodded at St. Wolf to continue.  “What brings you to our neck of the woods?”

 

            “We’re running from an organization called the Centre.  I believe you are familiar with it?”

 

            St. Wolf grimaced at the psychiatrist.  “The only reason that place is still standing is because some very powerful people support it and going to war with them would cause too many problems and cost far too many innocent lives.”

 

            “I see that you’ve learned much about the Centre since you took Johnny Fredricks away from them.”

 

            “You could say that,” St. Wolf demurred.

 

            “What happened to him?”

 

            “John Fredricks is now a respected cardiovascular surgeon.  He’s saved hundreds of lives and probably will save thousands of more over the course of his medical career.”

 

            “So you’ve kept track of him?” 

 

            “Of course I did.  Even when I ‘died’, I kept an eye on him,” St. Wolf said.  “But, back to why you’re here.  Why are you running from you former friends?”

 

            “I quit working for them after they had a man named Jarod and a woman named Andrea Parker killed.  Jarod and Parker were the closest things I had to children and those bastards butchered them!  I found out that they were going to kill my friend here,” he indicated Broots with a sweep of his hand, “and I convinced him to take his daughter and run with me.  We took Angelo with us and we’ve been running ever since.”

 

            “Why did they want to kill your friend?” a very pretty blonde girl, the one with the sword, asked.  “Oh,” she said, and looked a bit sheepish.  “I don’t think we’ve been introduced.  I’m Buffy!”

 

            Sydney smiled warmly at the young woman, instantly taken by her seeming innocence.  “Hello, Buffy.  Please call me Sydney.  Well, to answer your question, they feel that he’s a liability.  Besides, they want Debbie for something.”

 

            “What will happen to the girl if they catch you?” she asked. 

 

            “Breeding stock,” Angelo said.  “They want a new Pretender.  They think Debbie will make a good mother for it.”

 

            Broots whirled on his friend and snapped, “Did you know anything about this Syd!!?”

 

            “No, I knew nothing about it, Broots.  I only knew they wanted to kill you and take Debbie.  That’s why I convinced you to run with me.  I didn’t want anything to happen to either of you.”

 

            “So, what are we to do with you?” St. Wolf asked.

 

            “I beg of you to get my friends to safety.  That’s all I ask.  I’ll face my former employers on my own.  My life doesn’t matter any more but my friends here are innocents, especially Angelo and Debbie.  Please don’t condemn them to die.”

 

            “That’s going to be a problem.  The Centre won’t stop hunting for them, even if they have our protection.  Sooner or later, the Centre’s operatives will get them.”

 

            “So what are you going to do?” Broots asked in a hushed voice.

 

            St. Wolf simply smiled at them.  “Simple, we give them what they want and let them kill you.”

 

*****

 

 

                                                    Part 30 – Flim-Flamming the Centre

                                    (The Boys from The Sting Had Nothing on These Guys!)

 

 

July 28th 17:10 PST

Pacific Coast Highway, South of Sunnydale, CA

 

            “Welcome to Sunnydale,” the sign said and Brigitte, the ‘fixer’ for the Centre nearly spat at it in disgust.  < God, how I wish that could just have Mike run that sign over, > she mused.  Then she turned to glance at her head Sweeper, Willie, in the backseat of their sedan.  “Did you locate them?”

 

            “Yeah, although I find it hard to believe that Dr. Greene was so foolish.”

 

            “What are you talking about?”

 

            “He’s at the same hotel that we stayed at when we were here a month ago.”

 

            “Wasn’t there a small army staying there at the same time?” Brigitte sarcastically observed.  “Perhaps, love, he thought that maybe some of those ‘people’ are staying there now?”

 

            Willie blanched at that.  “Dammit!  I sure don’t want to mess around with those people!”

 

            “Why not?” Brigitte asked with a cruel smile on her angular face.

 

            “Well, because the last time I was here, a brunette in a mini-skirt kicked my ass.” 

 

            Brigitte laughed heartily at that.  “Are you kidding me?  A brunette in a mini-skirt kicked your arse?  What was she like?”

 

            “She was young and beautiful, deadly and strong as hell.  That bitch made Miss Parker look like a kitten.  And I don’t even want to talk about her ‘friends’.”

 

            “I read the reports about this town, but you were here, what was it like?”

 

            “Imagine waking up in the middle of a freaking army,” Willie noted with a shudder.  “The night before, it was all nice and normal.  Then the next morning THEY arrived.  First thirty of them came in from raiding four cult hideouts in Los Angeles, armed to the fucking max with enough firepower to level the Tower.  Then more of their friends start to show up.  SFPD, ninjas, mercenary units, covert ops commando teams, a fucking Alien Retrieval and Termination Unit, and more LAPD cops than you can shake a stick at.  And leading them all is the baddest bad ass I’ve ever seen.”

 

            “Er…what’s an Alien Retrieval and Termination Unit?” Brigitte asked.

 

            “It’s a unit from Area 51.  According to the UFO magazine that Broots had, these bastards are supposed to enter a crash site, sterilize the area and kill or capture anyone there, human or alien.”

 

            “You’re not serious?” 

 

            “I’m deadly serious, Brigitte.  That bastard, St. Wolf or Jamieson or whatever he’s calling himself these days, personally led them all.”

 

            “I see,” Brigitte murmured as she brushed an errant lock of blonde hair from her right eye. < If what Willie just said is true,> she mused, < then these people are connected to the max. > “What can you tell me about the man in charge?”

 

            “St. Wolf stands about six foot, two, three inches tall.  According to his military file, he’s a Special Forces Pathfinder and Sniper.  He’s also got at least four black belts and is also considered a light arms expert in all NATO and Warsaw pact weapons.   He’s been cross-trained by the British SAS, German GSG9, Finlandic Special Forces and the French Foreign Legion.”

 

            “My word!” Brigitte breathed softly.  “What else?”

 

            “He’s tangled with us in the past.  St. Wolf or Jamieson destroyed three Sweeper teams, three Cleaners and four of Mr. Raines’ specialists.”

 

            “Not all at the same time?” a shocked Brigitte asked.

 

            “St. Wolf wiped out one Sweeper team and their Cleaner and then, twelve hours later, took out two more, leaving a single sweeper alive.  Raines sent three of his ‘specialists’ against him and he got the third one’s head back in the mail.  Jamieson took out the fourth one after he had taken three bullets in the chest from the specialist.  St. Wolf walked away unscathed; the specialist didn’t.”

 

            At that news, Brigitte flung her head back into her seat’s headrest.  “Oh my fucking God!!  If Sydney gets to this guy, the Centre is bloody toast.”  She reached over and punched the driver’s right arm hard.  “Step on it, damn you!!” she commanded.    Instantly the driver immediately pressed the car’s accelerator pedal to the floor.  The powerful engine immediately kicked in and the car zoomed down the highway exit toward the Motor Lodge.  Shortly thereafter, the pair of Centre sedans roared into the lodge’s parking lot.  Brigitte quickly jumped out of her car along with her men and raced to where Sydney’s car was parked.  Willie then kicked in the door to room 102 while two more Sweepers kicked in the doors on either side of the room.  Willie stepped into the room as Brigitte quickly followed in behind him.  However, before she could see into the room, Willie fired several rounds.

 

            “What in the hell are you doing?!” Brigitte demanded as she stalked around his large frame and peered into the room.  She saw Broots and Dr. Greene lying dead on the bed with several bullet holes in their bodies, while Angelo lay on the floor in a crumpled heap.  Then she saw Broots’ little girl with a bullet hole in the middle of her forehead slumped backward in a chair.  Seeing that, she nearly turned her gun on Willie to blow the bastard away.  Although she was a lot of things, she had never killed a child and had never wanted to be a part of that.  “Damn you!  I wanted the freak and the girl alive!”

 

            “Broots and Sydney were armed.  And the freak came at me,” Willie explained.

 

            “And the girl!?” she snapped and surreptitiously leveled her gun at him.

 

            “It was an accident!  She was sitting near her father,” Willie said as he reached for a Glock 21 that lay on the floor nearby Broots.  “See, they were armed.”

 

            Her finger twitched on her trigger for several beats before she reluctantly holstered her weapon.  “Bullocks!  What in the hell do I tell Mr. Parker?”

 

            “That they were going to tell St. Wolf about the Centre and you had to protect the organization by killing them all.”

 

            Brigitte quietly considered his words then said, “Parker will believe that.  Too bad about the freak, though.”

 

            “Hey, shit happens,” Willie noted as one of the Sweepers rushed into the room.

 

            “We’ve got to go, the local cops are on their way!”

 

            Before they left, Brigitte checked the runners’ bodies to determine if any had a pulse.  Finding none, she got up and exited the room, followed by Willie, who before he left, had dropped his gun in the room after he wiped his fingerprints from the frame with a handkerchief.

 

            Then, moments later, the Sweepers and Brigitte got into their black sedans and drove away.  

 

*****

 

July 28th 17:25 PST

Sunnydale Motor Lodge, Sunnydale, CA

 

            After the Centre team had driven away, St. Wolf removed his hand from over Broots’ mouth while Buffy did the same for Debbie.  Then the Slayer grinned at Willow, Jenny and Amy as they cancelled the spell that had been placed on the room while Sydney stared at them wide-eyed in disbelief.

 

            “What did they do?  And how did they do it?”

 

            “Magic.”  St. Wolf said simply he helped a thoroughly frightened Broots to the bed. 

 

            Broots sat down heavily and simply shook his head.  “I just watched myself get killed.  How?”

 

            “We cast a spell that made the first man in the room have his fervent wish, seeing all of you dead.”  Jenny explained as she checked her Uzi magazine.  “Though I’m glad the spell worked, a part of me would have liked to take that Jersey Bitch apart.  Goddess, that lousy British accent of hers was really getting on my nerves!”

 

            “Miss, that woman is a trained killer.  You wouldn’t stand a chance against her,”  Sydney said.

 

            “I sincerely doubt that,” Jenny said with a smirk.  “Any of us here could take that bimbo apart.”

 

            “Miss, don’t fool yourself.  None of these children would stand a chance against those Sweepers.”

 

            Cordelia snorted at that.  “Those guys aren’t that tough.”

 

            “Miss, you may have surprised Gar and Willie the first time, but now they’re ready for you.  They will not be that easy to defeat the next time.”

 

            A soft laugh rippled through the members of the Scooby gang as well as Mulder and Scully.  Sydney then asked the FBI Agents, “Are you two working with St. Wolf on a permanent basis?”

 

            “Semi-permanent,” Dana said.  “Our boss doesn’t like it, but he can live with it.”

 

            “What happens now?” Broots asked.

 

            “We wait a few minutes,” St. Wolf said as a knock was heard on the door of the connecting room.  “Come in,” the Wanderer called out as the door opened to reveal Constance the maid.

 

            “Mr. St. Wolf, the dark cars have all left the Motor Lodge parking lot and have entered the south bound highway entrance.  Will there be anything else?”

 

            “No thank you, Constance.  Have George repair the doors and bill me for the repair work and any lost business.  Also have Matt destroy the car parked outside.  We don’t want those people trying to track anyone who has it.”

 

            Constance curtsied and left with a faint, “Yes, sir.”

 

            St. Wolf turned to Sydney and said, “You and your friends will be coming with us.”

 

            “What about the Centre?  They will check the local police files for our murders,” Sydney noted.

 

            “Don’t worry about it.  We’ll create a false case file and Mulder and Scully will handle it.  Dana will even perform your autopsies as a bonus.  Now, let’s get out of here before they decide to come back.”

 

*****

 

July 28th 17:55 PST

St. Wolf Home, Sunnydale, CA

 

            Andrea angrily paced the exercise room’s floor and constantly glanced at the clock on the wall while Jarod studied the way she lithely moved, memorizing the sway of her hips and how the muscles played under the skin of her dancer’s legs. 

 

            “I hope they’re all right,” she muttered.

 

            “I’m sure they are,” Jarod said.  Then, moments later, they heard the sound of two cars as they pulled into the driveway.  The young Immortals both felt the ‘Buzz’ of other Immortals and nervously glanced at each other.  Jarod turned around, flicked on a small monitor and breathed a sigh of relief.  “They’re back.  And everyone looks fine.”

 

            “Are you sure?” Andrea wondered. 

 

He felt her breath tickle the back of his neck and he smiled.  “Yes.  There are no sign of bandages and everyone is walking in under their own power.”

 

            “Thank God!”

 

            “Don’t you mean, ‘Thank Artemis’?” Jarod quipped.

 

            Andrea smacked him lightly on his shoulder and playfully narrowed her eyes at him.  “Of course I do.”

 

            “Not to worry, I’m certain you’ll become accustomed to it,” Giles said.  “Even Willow and Amy still use the expression, ‘Oh God!’ on occasion.  Apparently, it seems that Artemis isn’t prone to jealousy.”

 

            Andrea shrugged and said, “Works for me.  So, Jarod, what do you think Broots is going to do when he sees us?”

 

            “Faint,” Jarod replied with a grin.  “I hope the cameras are working.”

 

            “Cameras?  What cameras?”

 

            “I’m sure you saw that video tape of what Mulder did to Frohike?”  Andrea nodded.  “Well they taped it in the living room.  Willow showed me how to operate the cameras and I set them to run, now,” Jarod said as the side door opened wide. 

 

            “Jarod, I hope you haven’t been using these cameras on us,” Andrea growled lowly.

 

            He took her into his arms and kissed her gently.  “Of course not, Andrea.  I know when enough is enough.”

 

            “Are you ready?”  Giles asked as he glanced up at them from his spell book.

 

            “We’re ready,” she said and Giles began to cast the spell.

 

*****

 

            As the team entered St. Wolf’s home with Dr. Greene’s party and introduced the Centre people to Giles, Oz, Randi and her little brother, Sonja and Gabrielle, the Wanderer turned to Sydney and asked, “So Dr. Greene, what are we going to do with you?”

 

            “I don’t know.  I haven’t thought about anything past giving up my life so that my friends could get away.”

 

            “I think we might have some work for you, Dr. Greene,” St. Wolf said.  “But, what am I going to do with your friends?”

 

            “Hey, I’m one of the best hackers out there.  Just ask Mulder and Scully’s friends, the Lone Gunmen.”

 

            “We already have our own hackers,” Buffy noted.  Willow and Jenny are just as good, if not better than the Lone Gunmen.”

 

            Broots bristled at that.  “I can out hack them any day of the week!”

 

            “You don’t say?” St. Wolf said with a smirk.  Willow, Jenny, please show Mr. Broots our computer system.”

 

            Both women escorted the wiry man into the office.  At that moment, St. Wolf tossed a ten dollar bill onto the table.  “I bet he’s a screamer.”

 

            “I bet he stutters,” Xander said and placed his wager.

 

            “He mumbles,” Dana said as she added her bet to the pot.

 

            “Screamer,” Mulder posited as he tossed in a ten.

 

            “Too shocked to talk,” Buffy said and placed her wager.

 

            Suddenly they all heard Broots scream, “Oh MY FUCKING GOD!!” 

 

            Steve grinned, picked up the money, and handed half of it to Mulder.  Dana then promptly took back her ten from her spouse while Buffy did the same to St. Wolf and kissed him on his cheek as she muttered, “This is tomorrow’s lunch money.” 

 

            “Hey, don’t I get my money back?” Xander complained.

 

            “No, because you’re not cute enough,” St. Wolf observed.

 

In the meantime, Broots stumbled out of the office on stiff legs and Sydney raced to his side to help his friend to the couch.  “Broots?  What happened in there?”

 

            Broots’ face got a far away look on it as he said, “It’s incredible, Syd.  The Centre doesn’t even come close to what’s in that office.”

 

            “What’s incredible in there, Broots?”

 

            “A computer, Syd.  A computer so advanced that it could take out the Centre’s main frames in no time at all,” Broots explained as he turned toward St. Wolf.  “Where did you get it?  Can I use it?”

 

            “Why, Brootsie.  I thought you only reacted like that when a woman was involved,” a soft, silky voice whispered behind his ear.

 

            Broots immediately began to sputter and cough.  Sydney turned and stared at him.  “What’s wrong, Broots?”

 

            “I thought I just heard Miss Parker’s voice,” he said as he spun wildly around.  “But it can’t be; I watched her die!”

 

            “The stress must finally be getting to you, Broots,” Sydney observed.  “We’ve been running for almost three weeks.  Now that you are beginning to feel safe, your system is adjusting.”

 

            “Really Syd, you must stop conducting psychoanalytical exams on everyone all the time.  You make people nervous when you do that,” Jarod said from behind Sydney.

 

            Sydney whirled toward the sound of his Pretender’s voice then shot a hard look at St. Wolf.  “What is the meaning of this, sir?  I never thought you’d be the type to torture people.”

 

            “I’m not.” 

 

            “Then why are you badgering us with the voices of our dead friends?”

 

            “Who said I’m the one who’s doing it?”

 

            “Oh, the look on Brootsie’s face was priceless,” Andrea drawled then appeared in the room as if from thin air alongside a now visible Jarod.

 

            “How?!”  Sydney demanded.  “You’re both dead!  I saw your bodies, I checked your pulses.  You were dead!”

 

            “You mean just like when you saw yourself die today?” St. Wolf noted.

 

            “Yeah, just like that,” Broots confirmed.  Then it struck him.  “Oh shit!  You don’t mean?”

 

            Sydney’s heart soared with happiness and he raced forward and hugged Jarod and Andrea as if they were his long-lost children.  “Thank God!  You’re both all right.”

 

            “We’re fine, Syd,” Jarod said.  Moments later, after he released them, Jarod sat down in a chair with Andrea on his lap.  Then she lazily wrapped her arm around his neck and rested her head on his shoulder.

 

            “You’re both still alive?” Broots asked and gulped as he watched Miss Parker closely, not believing that this was the same woman that he’d known before. < What happened to her? >  Then he frowned and asked, “Uhm, Miss Parker?  Jarod?  What’s going to happen to us?”

 

            “Simple, Broots.  You and Sydney have done a lot for the Centre and this is a chance for you two to redeem yourselves,” Jarod said.  “Andrea and I are already working with Steve and Buffy on semi-permanent basis and will probably continue to do so.”

 

            “We’ve also managed to save the world twice this month alone,” Andrea said.

Then she told her old friends about Los Angeles and the recent raid into Libya. 

 

After her story was done, Sydney shook his head in disbelief and turned toward St. Wolf.  “Sam was right.  You are the most dangerous man alive.  How did you manage to form an assault group of more than two hundred in less than twelve hours?”

 

            “I know the right people and got them to lend a hand.”

 

            “And the French Foreign Legion?”

 

            “Old friends, can’t live without them.” St. Wolf said with an easy grin on his face.

 

            “You truly frighten me, sir.  Why do you do it?”

 

            “I possess a major Don Quixote Complex.”

 

            Sydney laughed at that.  “Now that is original, Mr. St. Wolf.”

 

            “Syd?” Broots asked.  “What did he just say and why do you find it so funny?”

 

            Sydney quickly composed himself and noted, “Mr. St. Wolf has just told me that he considers himself a knight errant.”

 

            “That’s my honey,” Buffy chirped and planted a kiss on St. Wolf’s cheek.

 

            “Pardon me, but I have a question for you.”

 

            “Yes, Dr. Greene?” St. Wolf drawled while Buffy made herself more comfortable on his lap.

 

            “Why do you still look like you’re twenty-five?  You should look at least ten years older.”

 

            “What makes you think I’m not twenty-five?” 

 

            “Because you are Carson Jamieson, a man who supposedly died in 1983 at the age of twenty five,” Sydney observed.

 

            Sydney,” Angelo said, “Jarod, Andrea, St. Wolf and Summers…are different.  They will live for a long, long time.”

 

            Steve looked at Jarod and the Pretender grinned at him.  “Angelo knows, Steve.  So you might as well tell them.”

 

            “All right,” St. Wolf muttered.  “Dr. Greene, Mr. Broots, Debbie what I’m about to tell you is very secret.  So secret in fact that if it was ever found out by people like those who run the Centre, a lot of good, decent people would die, including Andrea and Jarod.  Do I have your word that none of you will ever divulge what I’m going to tell you?”

 

            “Yes, you have our word,” Sydney said then he turned to Jarod and Andrea.  “Thank you for continuing to trust me.”

 

            “You kept us sane, Sydney,” Andrea said.  “You kept our secrets and helped us as much as you could.  Of course, we trust you.”

 

            Sydney turned back toward St. Wolf and nodded at the man to continue. 

 

“Dr. Greene, do you believe in magic?”

 

            “Before today, I did not believe in it.  However, I just watched those three young women cast a spell that made it look like we died, so my frame of reference is open to the possibility of it.”

 

            St. Wolf grunted at him then removed a switch blade from his pocket.  He handed it to Sydney and said, “Please examine the blade, Dr. Greene, make sure that it’s real.” 

 

Sydney took the knife from the man, opened it, examined the blade then handed it back to St. Wolf.  “It’s real, Mr. St. Wolf.”  Suddenly, the other man slashed his palm open with the blade and Sydney screamed, “My God!  Why?”

 

            “Now, watch the wound, Dr. Greene,” St. Wolf said.

 

            Sydney, Broots and Debbie watched as blue sparks played across the wound and it began to heal.  Less than a minute later, the wound had disappeared and the blood was absorbed back into the hand.  Sydney took the man’s hand and examined it closely.  He watched as the last of the wound, a pale, pink scar faded away.  “My God,” Sydney murmured, “What are you?”

 

            “I’m an Immortal.”

 

            “Are there any more like you out there?” Broots asked.

 

            “There are eight Immortals in this house alone,” Buffy said.

 

            “Oh my God,” Sydney whispered.  “Which of you are Immortal?”

 

            “Steve, Mulder, Scully, Gabrielle, Sonja, Randi, Jarod, Andrea, and little ole me,” the tiny blonde said.

 

            Sydney stared at his old charges.  “So, you really died in that hotel room,” Sydney said then frowned in thought.  “Why didn’t you come after Gar and the other Sweepers?”

 

            “A friend of Steve’s convinced us to go with him to Seacover and hide out there for a while.  When Gar killed us, the Centre stopped looking for us and we felt that we could start a new life,” Jarod explained.  “Andrea and I were planning on taking on the Centre after Steve had established his organization a little further.  Then we would have the backing necessary to destroy the Centre and punish the Triumvirate and all of its supporters.”

 

            “Since you two ‘died’, your father has been using a man named Mr. Lyle to do most of his dirty work.  He sent Brigitte after us.”

 

            “Never refer to that bastard as my father, Syd.  As far as I’m concerned, he’s a dead man,” Andrea spat.

 

            “Parker, even after all that he’s done, he’s still your father.”

 

            “No, he’s not, Sydney.  We Immortals are born without parents.  Our destiny is to be raised as human and when we become Immortal, we learn our true destiny,” Andrea said.

 

            “Destiny?  What are you talking about, Miss Parker?” Broots asked.

 

            “Run the tape that we took in LA, Xander,” St. Wolf directed.  Then Sydney, Broots, Debbie and Angelo sat and watched the tape, their attention fixed on the battles they’d recorded.

 

            As they watched when Shiva told the Immortals about their destiny, Sydney turned back to St. Wolf and said, “But that’s incredible!  Could that man be lying?”

 

            “I doubt it.  He didn’t remember anything beyond his death at the hands of a vampire.”

 

            “But he was standing there talking to all of you.”

 

            “Remo wasn’t standing there, Shiva was,” St. Wolf explained.  “Remo is the Avatar of Shiva.”  When they gave him blank looks, he said, “His body is the vessel that the God Shiva inhabits when he wants to walk on the Earth.”

 

            “You mean that Shiva is real?  That the Hindu Gods are real?”

 

            “Not only the Hindu Gods are real; the Olympians, Norse and many other pantheons are real, too.”

 

            “What about the Christian god?” Broots wondered.

 

            “He or She exists.  Even the other pantheons respect him/her and his/her angels.”  

 

            “What other gods do you know?” Sydney asked. 

 

            “Ask the ladies in the room,” St. Wolf said.  “Most of them worship Artemis.”

 

            “You don’t mean the Greek Goddess of the Hunt?” Sydney said.

 

            “She’s also the Patron Goddess of the Amazon nation,” Jenny said reverently.

 

            Sydney studied the women in the room, their relaxed postures, the ease of their bearing, even the young ones.  “You all are Amazons?”

 

            “Syd always was fast on the draw,” Andrea quipped.

 

            Sydney glared at Andrea for a moment before he saw it in her as well.  “You’re also an Amazon?  How?”

 

            “Artemis made me an offer that I couldn’t refuse.”

 

            “You spoke with Artemis, the Goddess of the Hunt?” Broots blurted.  “But I thought that the gods didn’t talk to normal people.”

 

            “Oh, but we do, Mr. Broots,” a voice announced from behind him.  Broots stiffened as a woman in brown leather hunting garb walked past him as all of the women in the room bowed to her.  She smiled at them and sat on the couch next to the young man called Xander.  “Hello, Steven.  Sorry about the interruption, but I thought it would be a good idea if I dropped by.”

 

            “Not a problem, Artemis.  Dr. Greene, Mr. Broots, Debbie, Angelo, allow me to introduce Artemis, the Goddess of the Hunt and Patron Goddess of the Amazons, eight of whom are in this room right now.”

 

            “Eight?  But I count ten women here.” 

 

            “Randi and I are not Amazons, Dr. Greene,” Buffy said.

 

            “Then what are you?  I saw the tape from that restaurant.  No normal woman could do the things that you did.”

 

            “I’m a Slayer.  Oh, and I also pray to Artemis.”

 

            “You’re a Slayer?  But they’re an old wives’ tale!” Sydney snapped.  “The Torah mentions Slayers, but I thought it was only a story.”

 

            “The Slayers are real,” Artemis pronounced.  “And my Amazons stand with her in her battle against the Darkness.”

 

            “What about Randi?”

 

            “I’m Steve’s and Buffy’s student.   I’m just learning the ropes,” Randi offered.

 

            “Welcome to Section Seven, Dr. Greene!” St. Wolf announced as Sydney blanched.

 

            “You don’t mean?”  The other man simply nodded.  “But we can’t,” Sydney muttered while Artemis looked at him directly.  Silenced for a moment by her glare, he took a deep breath and realized he didn’t have any choice in the matter.  “What do you want us to do?”

 

            “How would you like to be our shrink?  Some of the things that we face tend to leave psychological scars and talking amongst ourselves sometimes isn’t enough.  You could also help some of the victims that will need a good therapist and I don’t think that anyone outside of this room would believe them and probably cause more harm in the long run.” 

 

            “What about licenses and credentials?”

 

            “Not a problem.  I’ll even arrange for you to buy a house nearby.”

 

            “What about Debbie and me?” Broots asked.

 

            “We’re opening a private investigation agency for our cover.  Would you like to work for us?”

 

            “Will I get a computer like the one in your office?”

 

            “No,” St. Wolf said and Broots seemed disappointed.  “I’ll get a more advanced one for you to use!”  At that, Broots’ eyes lit up with anticipation.

 

            “All right!  Lone Gunmen, eat your hearts out!”

 

            Then St. Wolf turned to the psychiatrist and asked, “What about you, Dr. Greene?”

 

            “I’m in,” Sydney said, “provided that Jarod and Andrea visit me as much as possible.”

 

            “Don’t worry about that, Syd,” Jarod said.  “I’m sure that Steve is tired of putting us up whenever we’re in town.  Now we can mooch off you.”

 

            Sydney smiled at his Pretender and said, “That’s very good, Jarod.  I see you’ve developed a sense of humor.”

 

            “Blame it on Xander,” Cordelia noted.  “Oz and he have taught Jarod all sorts of things.”

 

            “Really?  Exactly what sorts of ‘things?’”

 

            “Guy things,” Xander explained to a confused Sydney.  “Look, Jarod’s been locked up in the Centre for so long he needed to learn how to be a guy.”

 

            “You better not have corrupted him, Nerd Boy.  If he starts to belch the Star Spangled Banner, I’ll neuter you!”  Andrea growled under her breath.  Moments later, her growl turned into a purr as Jarod held her close. 

 

            Sydney watched happily as Andrea melted into Jarod’s arms and mused, < At least they have each other.  I’m truly happy for them. >

 

*****

 

Some Where Else

Some Time Else

 

            Robin Goodfellow floated above the surface that passed for a sort of ‘ground’ here as the Oracles approached.  When they came to a halt in front of him, he waved his hand and created a pair of easy chairs for two siblings.

 

            They both shot hard glares at the seats then the chairs disappeared in a flash of light. 

 

“What was that for?” Robin demanded.

 

            “We desired your undivided attention,” the female said.  “Robin.  We need you to do something for us.”

 

            “What is it?”

 

            “A group of warriors have formed that tips the balance in the favor of the Light.  They are lead by the warrior known as the Wanderer.”

 

            “I’ve heard of that guy,” Robin muttered.  “Why does he need my help?  I mean, he’s stolen my moniker and is supposed to be the deadliest thing this side of Aderron of Atlantis.”

 

            The male said, “The Wanderer has fallen in love with the Immortal Slayer and her battle is now his own.  Her friends have also joined them and those who are female have pledged themselves to Artemis and are now Amazons.”

 

            “Arty has reconstituted the Amazons?  Oh, boy.  I just bet they’re a bunch of man-hating lezbos.”

 

            “Actually, with one exception, her new Amazons all have mated with men,” the female noted.

 

            Robin was surprised by that.  “Really?  Why?  Arty never liked her girls to have steady male lovers.”

 

            “Things change and even the gods can learn from their mistakes,” the male said.  “It is because of the males that we have called you here.”

 

            “Oh?  Am I supposed to give them a love spell to keep the love of their Amazon lovers?” 

 

            “Nothing so mundane, sprite,” the female said.  “We have foreseen that the men shall die in the battles to come, causing their lovers to falter after their loss.  This will lead to the balance tipping in the favor of the Darkness.  We wish to prevent this from occurring, so we’ve asked several of the other deities to bless the men in the same manner as Artemis did for the women; however, none of them wish to be involved in what they consider a purely mortal affair.”

 

            “So what can I do?”

 

            “I suspect you already know what you must do, Robin,” the female said.

 

            Robin grinned broadly at the twins.  “Oberon’s not going to like this.”

 

            “Oberon will come to understand in time,” the male said just before the twins disappeared into the ether.

 

            Robin stared at the spot where the two Oracles had stood and laughed impishly.  “Oh, boy, am I ever going to have fun with this!”  Then he disappeared as well.

 

*****

 

            From their hidden dimensional pocket nearby, the Oracles watched as Robin disappeared before they turned to the two goddesses who stood next to them.  “The stage has been set and the players are in motion,” the female noted with a wry smile on her face.  “Poor Goodfellow, alas, he does not know that he’s one of the players in this tale.”

 

            Artemis laughed heartily at the female Oracle’s turn of phrase.  “Thank you for doing this for my Amazons.  When you told me that their mates would be killed if they weren’t enhanced, I was almost tempted to ask Ares for his help.  But this will be better, much, much better.”

 

            Aphrodite nodded and said, “Robin is in for quite a surprise.”

 

            “Yes, sister,” Artemis noted.  “It is not everyday that a sprite becomes one of the hunted.  Soon, he will fall into our tender trap,” she mused.

 

Part 31 - Moving Day

                                         (Broots and Sydney, Welcome to The Hellmouth!)

 

July 29th 08:00 PST

Home of Steven St. Wolf, Sunnydale, CA

 

            Broots awakened slowly from the first real sleep that he’d had in a long while.  As the alarm clock rang he glanced around the guest room that he and Debbie shared.  He stretched languidly and rose from his bed.  “Rise and shine, honey,” he said and gently shook his daughter’s shoulder.  She sniffed the air as she rolled over and smiled. 

 

            “Dad, I smell pancakes!” she announced and flung herself out of her bed.

 

            Broots chuckled and said, “All right, honey, let’s wash up first then we’ll go and eat breakfast.”

 

*****

 

            Broots and Debbie went downstairs and spotted Sydney talking with Jenny Calendar.  When the psychiatrist saw them, he smiled and said, “Good morning, Broots, Debbie.  Did you sleep well last night?”

 

            “Yes we did, Syd, thanks for asking,” Broots said while Angelo rushed over to St. Wolf’s side as the warrior was busy cooking breakfast for the numerous people in the kitchen and dining areas.  Now, Angelo had a plate with a fresh stack of pancakes on it and he smiled as he tried to pick one of the flapjacks up with his hands. 

 

            “Angelo, you should use a fork,” St. Wolf said.

 

            “No have fork,” Angelo murmured as he blew on his hand in an attempt to cool it off. 

 

St. Wolf then sighed and placed a fork down on the counter next to his plate. 

 

            “East slowly, Angelo, we have plenty of pancakes, so there’s no rush.”  Angelo nodded and picked up the fork.  “Do you want some butter or maple syrup?”

 

            Angelo grinned at the man like a kid in a candy store.  “Both.  Please.”  St. Wolf began to pour a generous amount of melted butter on the pancakes, followed by some warmed up maple syrup from another pan.  Then Angelo dug in and could be heard saying, “Good.  This is good.”

 

            Meanwhile, Broots reached for the coffee pot and detected the brew’s deep roast aroma.  “What kind of coffee is this?”

 

            Jamaican Blue Mountain, mixed with Kenyan and Arabic blends.  Kicks like a mule, but the flavor is exceptional,” Jenny said.

 

            Broots tasted the coffee without any cream or sugar and sighed in appreciation.  “Oh yeah!  That’s the stuff.  I am definitely going to have to meet the guy who sells you your coffee.  He knows his stuff.”  After he had taken another sip, he scanned the area for any sign of his daughter and found her sitting next to Brian on the couch with Duke between them.  He grinned and said, “I’m glad to see her so happy.”

 

            “She’s a good kid, Mister—”

 

Broots then interrupted St. Wolf and said, “Please, call me Martin.”

 

St. Wolf smiled at the small man and nodded.  “All right, Martin.  She’s a good kid and I’m glad that she and Brian like each other.”

 

            “Why is that?”

 

            “Brian doesn’t have anyone his own age to talk to here and I was getting worried that he wouldn’t have any close friends while he lives here because of the secrets he has to keep.”

 

            “With all that you face, why is he here?”

 

            “You know that Immortals are destined to be the defenders of humanity.”  Broots nodded at him.  “Well, Randi and Brian’s family was killed by the vampires in Los Angeles, leaving them alone in the world.  Randi is his only living relative and the social workers wouldn’t let her keep him unless she had a stable home to raise him.  So not only am I training her, I’m also teaching him how to defend himself.  Randi wants Brian to lead a normal life and not follow in her footsteps.”

 

            “Aren’t you going to make him one of your fighters?”  Broots asked.

 

            “No.”

 

            “What happens if he wants to join?”

 

            “I’ll try to convince him otherwise.  I want him to have a normal life, go to school, graduate from college, find a nice girl, start a family and live a peaceful life.  I want him to have the life I always wanted,” St. Wolf said.

 

            “Can’t you have all of that and a bag of chips, too?” Broots queried.

 

            St. Wolf shook his head and said, “Destiny is a terrible thing, Martin.  It saps away all of your freedom.  I hope he can escape it because it can be a harsh mistress.”

 

            Before Broots could respond, Sydney joined them and said, “I couldn’t help overhearing you both.  I find what you just said as quite fascinating, Mr. St. Wolf.  What exactly is your destiny?”

 

            Steve drew Demon Slayer from its dimensional fold and handed it to the psychiatrist.  “’This’ is my destiny, Dr. Greene, to fight the Darkness and prevent it from destroying humanity.”

 

            Sydney studied the glowing blade and felt the sheer power emanating from the sword.  He handed the sword back to St. Wolf who made it disappear before Sydney and Broots’ eyes.  “My God, how did you do that?”

 

            “Dimensional shift.  The sword is still here but it’s phased out of time and will re-phase at my mental command.”

 

            “But that’s beyond anything I’ve ever read outside of a science fiction book,” Broots said.

 

            Steve grinned at his new friend.  “Would you rather have me say it’s magic?”

 

            “No.  But that would also have been just as helpful of an explanation,” Sydney grumbled. 

 

            Meanwhile, St. Wolf turned to the empath and said, “Want to try it with some raspberry jelly this time, Angelo?”  Angelo nodded and the Wanderer spooned out a generous amount onto Angelo’s pancakes.  “Enjoy.”

 

            Sydney smiled as Angelo dug in.  “You’re spoiling him, Mr. St. Wolf.”

 

            “I know,” Steve said.  “But I can see that he hasn’t had much in his life.”

 

            “True,” Sydney agreed and took a sip of his coffee.  Then he glanced at Brian and Debbie and saw the dog sitting next to the children.  “Is that dog enough to protect the house, Mr. St. Wolf?”

 

            Before the man could answer, Angelo said, “Sydney?  This place, protected.  Nothing bad can come in here.  Only good things allowed.”

 

            “What does he mean by that?” Broots asked.

 

            “The house has been spell warded against entry by people seeking to do harm to anyone in the house.  I had a problem a few months back and some friends decided I needed the extra protection.”

 

            “What’s a spell ward?” Broots wondered.

 

            “Think of it as a force field that’s tuned to a person’s intent.  If the person wants to hurt anyone in the house, they can’t come inside.  If they want to help then they may enter freely.”

 

            “And how many of these force shields do you have around this house?” Sydney asked.

 

            “Four.  It would require the power of a god to penetrate them if they wanted to hurt anyone here.”

 

            “May I ask who erected these ‘shields’?”

 

            “You may ask,” St. Wolf drawled and Sydney’s eyes narrowed at the man.  Then the tall warrior grinned.  “I’ve always wanted to say that!”  Then he sobered and said, “Well, the outermost one was a gift from my boss, Merlin.  It’ll stop everything up to a 155 millimeter artillery shell.  The second layer was erected by Jenny, Willow and Amy.  It re-enforces the first layer and is just a strong.   The third layer was a gift from Artemis, it’s a lot more powerful than the first two, but not as powerful as the fourth, innermost shield.”

 

            “And who created the fourth one?” Broots asked.  “Zeus?”

 

            “No.  But you’re pretty close.  It was Michael.”  St. Wolf said as Sydney began to cough.  Broots struck the choking man on his back and cleared Sydney’s throat.

 

            “You mean to say that the Arch Angel Michael, the general of God’s hosts was here, in this house!!?”

 

            “Well, Michael prefers to call his boss, The Creator, since He also created the lesser gods and goddesses.”

 

            Speechless now, Sydney and Broots, slack-jawed and in a stupor, just stared dumbly at the man.

 

*****

 

            Meanwhile, Brian and Debbie looked over to where St. Wolf was talking with Sydney and her father.  “What do you think they’re talking about?” Debbie asked.

 

            “Probably more stuff about Immortals,” Brian noted as he ate his breakfast and watched TV.

 

            “Snore-fest, eh?”

 

            Brian grinned at her choice of words.  “Steve can sometimes get to be a real drag sometimes, especially if he’s talking about history.”

 

            “Is he a nice guy?”

 

            “Yeah, he treats me and Randi like we’re his relatives.”

 

            “Are he and Randi an item?” 

 

            Brian shook his head vigorously.  “Nah!  He’s dating Buffy.” Then he chanced a glimpse at Debbie and asked, “What do you think about all of this?  It’s not causing you to freak-out, is it?”

 

            “It’s weird,” Debbie admitted.  “But I’ve done weird before.  My Dad worked at this place called the Centre and they did weird stuff all the time.”

 

            “Not as weird as the stuff that goes on around here, I bet.” 

 

            “What could be weirder than Miss Parker hunting down Jarod?”

 

            “How about the Gabrielle who was Xena’s best friend in Ancient Greece staying in your home when she drops by for a visit?”

 

            “You have got to be kidding!  The real Gabrielle?  How?  She must thousands of years old!  She can’t be still alive.”

 

            “She’s an Immortal like my sister and Steve.”

 

            “Like, oh wow!” Debbie gushed.  She gave Brian a wicked grin and said lowly, “You know, my Dad always had the hots for the actress who plays Gabrielle on the TV show.  Should we tell him?”

 

            "No," Brian answered easily. "We'll set up the cameras then we’ll introduce them."

 

            Debbie cocked a wry eyebrow at the boy and purred, "Hey, cowboy, I like the way you think!"

 

            Brian gulped at that and thought it had just gotten very hot in there.

 

******

 

            "So what's going to happen to us?" Sydney asked.

 

            "Well, I mentioned that we needed a psychologist for my team. Still want the job?"

 

            Sydney smiled at the man. "I can just imagine the sessions that I'm going to have discussing vampires, demons and other imaginary creatures."

 

            "Say, who are you calling ‘imaginary?’" a deep voice asked from the door.

           

Everyone turned to see a large man who stood in the doorway with a hooded sweatshirt over his head, and smoke rising from his body where the sunlight touched him.

 

            "I thought I told Buffy to park in the garage!" St. Wolf snapped as the large man moved away from the windows.  Shortly thereafter, Buffy entered the home from the foyer.

 

            "Sorry, honey, but the damn garage door opener didn't work."

 

            Steve growled as he took the garage door opener from his lover and examined it closely.  "The damn batteries are dead!? How? I just replaced them last week!"

 

            "Let me take a look," Broots said as he drew a multi-tool device from his pocket. He took the opener apart and examined the circuit board before he said, "Here's the problem. The circuit is stuck open and draining your batteries. I'll have it fixed in a sec," Broots muttered as he used his tool to reset the circuit. "Whoever handled this thing was strong as hell. They mashed down the button and caused the circuit to remain open."

 

            Steve sighed. "Well, that could be a lot of people in this house, Martin, myself and Buffy included."

 

            "Like Bullwinkle said, ‘Hey, Rocky, I guess I don’t know my own strength!" the large African American man quipped.  "By the way, who are the new guys?"

 

            "Martin, Sydney and Angelo are joining us, Charlie. The girl by Brian is Martin’s daughter, Debbie. Sydney will become our team shrink and Martin will lead our IT department for the investigation agency when our new offices are completed." Then St. Wolf turned to Broots and Sydney and said, "Martin, Sydney, this is Charlie Henderson. He handles the undercover missions for Section Seven."

 

            "Team Shrink, huh?" The large man drawled. "This bunch needs a group of guys in white coats and butterfly nets most of the time."

 

            Sydney chuckled easily as he stepped toward Charlie to shake the man’s hand. "You do undercover work, Mr. Henderson? How is that possible? This group supposedly hunts vampires and demons."

 

            Charlie looked at St. Wolf and said, "You didn't tell them?"

 

            "Where’s the fun in that?" St. Wolf demurred.

 

            "You are a sick and twisted bastard, you do know that?" Charlie observed. "But then again, most Green Beanies are twisted evil fucks."

 

            "Who the hell are you calling twisted, jar head?  Everyone knows that Marine Force Recon guys are the most screwed up unit in the world."

 

            Sydney glanced at Buffy and asked, "Are they always like this?"

 

            "Now you know my pain," she grumbled as she placed a stack of pancakes on her plate and began to eat them.

 

            "May I ask how Mr. Henderson works undercover for you?"

 

            "Sure," she said with a shrug.  "Charlie's a vampire."

 

            "Miss Summers, I find it hard to believe that this man is a blood thirsty monster," Sydney said just as he turned to face Charlie and was shocked to see the man’s ‘Game' face. "Dear God in heaven!" he exclaimed while Broots took one look and fainted dead away.

 

            St. Wolf shook his head while Buffy and Randi helped Broots’ limp form into an easy chair. He turned to Sydney who still stared at Charlie and asked, "Well, Sydney, do you still think that vampires don't exist?  Why don’t you go ahead and check his pulse. You won't find one."

 

Sydney did as he was told and quickly snatched his hand back when he felt the cold flesh of Charlie's throat. "Dear God, how can this be?"

 

            "You want to tell him, or should I?" Charlie asked as he grabbed a cup of coffee from the counter.

 

            "I will," St. Wolf said with a laugh. "Like all Marines, you'll make it longer than it needs to be."

 

            "That's because we like to fill in all the blanks. You spook boys always leave something out."

 

            St. Wolf then said, "Charlie got bit, we found him before he could kill anyone, and restored his soul."

 

            Sydney looked at Charlie who then shrugged. "Short and sweet but it left out the drama."

 

            "Like Willow slapping you down?"

 

            "I find that hard to believe," Sydney said as he chanced a glance toward the slight yet lovely red headed girl.

 

            "What do you find so hard to believe?" Andrea asked as she and Jarod entered from the side door.   St. Wolf then smiled at her and handed her a stack of pancakes.

 

            As she began to eat, Broots said, "I've never seen you eat pancakes before. You always said they were too fattening."

 

            "Immortal metabolism," she said between mouthfuls. "I can eat anything and it doesn’t go to my hips."

 

            "Wow. That must be great around the holidays," Broots observed. "You can pig out and not worry about gaining weight."

 

            "Yes, the holidays," Andrea said and smiled warmly…well, that is, warmly for her. "For the first time we'll be together as a family with no worries about the Centre."

 

            "What do you mean by no worries about the Centre?"

 

            "To them, we're all dead," Andrea said as Jarod threw four folders onto the counter.

 

            "Here you are, Syd! You are officially dead, the innocent victim of a gang shootout over drugs. Broots, Angelo and Debbie were also found dead at the scene."

 

            "And the police have handed the case to the FBI because it appears that the drug gang crosses state lines all the time," Mulder noted as he and Dana walked in and handed Sydney four more folders. "These are your autopsies and the results of them. I'm sorry to say that none of you survived your wounds."

 

            "Well, I am impressed!" Sydney gushed as he rifled through the paperwork. "I don't think that the Centre could do any better."

 

            "Oh, it gets better," Dana said as Mulder tossed in another set of documents. "These are the orders of the local health official directing that your bodies must be immediately cremated."

 

            "And this is the icing on top," Jarod said and held up the morning paper so that Broots and Sydney could see the headline. 'Four Tourists Killed In Gang Shootout In Local Motel'. 

 

            Broots peered down at the pile of papers and gulped. "We've been erased.  I've heard some people have had this done, but, man, I can't believe it's happened to me and Debbie."  Then he looked down at the floor and had to choke down a sob.  “Because of me, my little girl will never again be able to see her mother again.”

 

            Sydney pulled his friend into a hug and said softly, "I know it is small comfort, Martin, but she had given up on Debbie a long time ago.  Her gambling problem has taken over her life now.  She has no room in it for Debbie.  Now, you can offer your little girl a new life." Then Sydney turned his friend to see Debbie as she talked with Brian and scratched Duke's ears. "I think Debbie will be happy here."

 

            "Yes, much happiness," Angelo announced seriously. "But there will be sadness as well."

 

            "That's life, Angelo," Buffy said. "You take the good with the bad and hope it doesn’t suck beyond belief. You can't ask for more than that."

 

            Sydney noted inwardly that the petite blonde might be his first patient with an attitude like that.  However, what he said was, "What happens now?"

 

            "First, you go house hunting," St. Wolf said. "I'll float you both no interest loans so you can buy a home. Then I'll arrange for you to get credentials and identification documents. You’ll get the whole line up, birth certificates, driver's licenses, passports, etc."

 

            "Mr. St. Wolf, why are doing all of this for us?" Sydney asked.

 

            "Jarod and Andrea are like family to us and you're the closest thing they had to a family.  So we've accepted you as part of our extended 'family'."

 

            "It can't be that simple," Sydney said. "How can you accept us knowing that we tried to hunt Jarod down?"

 

            "That was then; this is now, Dr. Greene."

 

            As Sydney tried to ponder St. Wolf’s statement, two incredibly beautiful women entered the kitchen.  One was at least six-foot two inches tall with flaming red hair, the other about medium height, with short blonde hair.  As both Broots and Sydney unabashedly gawked at these two visions, St. Wolf said warmly, “Morning, Gabrielle and Sonja!  Would you like some pancakes?”

 

            "I'll take a double stack," the blonde said with a grin.

 

            "I'll have the same," the red head added and glanced at the blonde. "Gabrielle, I do love it when a man serves me breakfast."

 

            "Me, too.  Oh, Buffy?"

 

            "Yes, Gabby?"

 

            "Could you get him to wear a Speedo while he's cooking breakfast?  I think that would be a great way to start the day."

 

            "Oh, hell yeah!" Cordelia agreed enthusiastically.

 

            "Um, sweetheart?" Xander said and Cordelia glanced at him.  “I’m in the room here!”

 

            She smiled saucily and purred, "Don't worry, Dweeb Boy. You'll be wearing a lot less tomorrow when you serve me breakfast."

 

At that, Xander grinned in anticipation.

 

            “However,” Andrea announced, “first things first!  We need to go shopping for two houses and all the furniture needed to fill them both.  We can't have Sydney, Angelo, Broots and Debbie mooch off of the Boy Scout for the rest of their lives."

 

            "Now you’re talking, Andy!" Cordelia exclaimed. "We'll start house hunting right after breakfast.”  Then she thought about something and frowned.  “Say, what will they use for their deposits?"

 

            "I’ll cover them with my credit cards," St. Wolf said.

 

            "Don't worry, Steve," Jarod said. "I'll pay you back for the loans."

 

            "Stealing from the Centre again, eh, Jarod?" Steve asked.

 

            "It's the least they can do for Sydney and Broots after all the things they did to them," Jarod said between mouthfuls. "By the way, these are damn good pancakes, Steve."   Just then, Andrea leaned over and kissed her lover on the cheek, causing him to smile and ask, "What was that for?"

 

            "I love it when you spend more of those bastards' money," Andrea said with a laugh. "I just wish that 'Daddy' could find out where all of his money was going."

 

            "Let's not tempt the Fates," St. Wolf said. "From what I’ve heard, those goddesses can really ruin a person’s day.  At least, that’s what Kevin told me.”

 

            "Kevin?" Sydney asked.  “Who’s Kevin?”

 

            “Kevin Sorbo.”

 

"Sorbo?  Y-you don't mean?" Broots stammered while St. Wolf and the others all nodded. "Oh Shit! And those shows…"

 

            "Mostly true.  They’re a little 'in' joke on humanity," St. Wolf said.  "Every time I see an episode, I can't help but laugh my head off."

 

             "Wow," Broots said. "What else is true about that show?"

 

*****

 

            "Awww, man!" Brian whined.

 

            "What?" Debbie asked.

 

             "Your dad's about to find out Gabrielle’s story," Brian muttered darkly. "And Gabrielle’s going to enjoy every minute of it."

 

            "My dad’s gonna have a cow over this!"

 *****

 

            "The parts about Xena are pretty accurate," Gabrielle said as she took another bite of her pancakes. "Steve, these are good. I've only known a few people who know how to make a good pancake. What's your secret?"

 

            "I use milk instead of water in the pancake mix. Also, a touch of maple syrup in the mix adds flavor."

 

            "How do you know the Xena parts are accurate?" Broots asked the hot blonde.

 

            "Well, I should know because I was there," she said.

 

            "You're an Immortal, too?" Broots asked.

 

            "Yes, I am. And I was proud to travel with Xena."

 

            "You traveled with Xena?  Did you know her companion, Gabrielle the bard, as well?"

 

            "Martin…she is THAT Gabrielle, the Queen of the Amazons."

 

            Broot's jaw nearly hit the floor at St. Wolf’s words. "Wow, you’re even better than a goddess!  Boy, you really do look a lot like Renee O'Connor!"

 

            "Actually, Renee looks like me except that she's two inches shorter than me," Gabrielle said with a soft laugh. "Have you fallen in love with her like so many others?"

 

            "Uhm, well, you see, that is...” Broots nervously muttered before he fainted.

 

            Gabrielle and Sonja then grinned wickedly at each other as the tall red head scooped up the unconscious man and asked her mate, “the old bedroom gag?”

 

            Gabrielle nodded and drawled, “Works for me.”

 

            When he overheard them, St. Wolf sighed resignedly and said, “Just don’t give the poor guy a heart attack, all right?"

 

            As Gabrielle and Sonja turned to leave with their unconscious prey in hand, the Amazon Queen purred, “Steven, you should know by now if we give you no promises, we can tell no lies.”  Then with that, they flounced off and left an anxious Steven St. Wolf in their wake.

 

 

Part 32 – Rise And Shine, Mr. Broots!

(A/K/A a Scene My Editor Wished Would Happen to Him)

 

Broots groaned as he struggled to back to consciousness. "Oh God!  I know I’ve been a bad person but what did I do to deserve this?" Then he froze when he felt a warm body next to him.  That’s when he realized that he was in a bed…a bed with someone else in it.

 

"C'mon Marty,” a sexy, female voice grumbled.  “Stop rocking the boat.  You’ve got to give a girl a chance to recover her strength after that incredible night with you!"

 

Although Broots’ heart nearly seized up in his chest, he screwed up his courage and chanced a glimpse to his right.  He saw a head of luxurious, shoulder length blonde hair and gulped. < Who!!?? > Then he felt someone nudge him gently on his left bicep.  He slowly panned his head in that direction and found a head with dark red tresses cradled against his shoulder.  It was then that he felt a soft but firm hand caress his left inner thigh.

 

"Brootsy, are you awake?" a female voice that rumbled like the purr of a great cat said softly into his ear. "Good, because I’m ready for Round Two!"

 

"R-round T-two!?" Broots stammered as he shot a frightened look at the flushed face of Sonja.

 

"Well, since I’m up now, I want a piece of him, too," a throaty voice said from his right.

 

Broots’ mind threatened to shut down when two sets of hands began to rub him in a lot of very sensitive places. "I’m dreaming,” he panted, trying hard to convince himself.  “That must be it!  I’m dreaming!"

 

"That’s what we thought last night but you can see we’re here…with you, Tiger," Gabrielle said.  Then she planted a gentle kiss on Broots' ear.

 

"H-how. . .d-did I g-get h-here?"

 

Gabrielle chuckled and said, "Don’t you remember, you big lug?  You tossed the both of us on your big, broad shoulders and carried us up to our bedroom."

 

"And then you ravaged us!" a smiling Sonja added.  “Not that we’re complaining, mind you.  Sometimes, force is good,” she breathed.  

 

When they began to caress him again, he was jolted from his stupor and said, "Um, ladies, I don't think that's a good idea."

 

Just then, the door to the bedroom opened and a voice from its direction familiar to Broots asked, "Oh, did you start without me?" 

 

A frightened Broots stared toward the door and froze at the sight of Miss Parker dressed in a black merry widow, black stockings, black pumps, and nothing else.

 

"AAAHHH!” he screamed and tried to launch himself from the bed to flee from the scene even though he was naked as a jaybird.

 

Before he could escape, though, Sonja grabbed him and kept him from running while Gabrielle tried to calm the frightened man down.  “Martin…MARTIN!  Please don’t be afraid.  Nothing happened between us.  This was a bad joke on our part and we’re very sorry.”

 

The wild-eyed man ceased his struggles and peered at Gabrielle.  “N-nothing h-happened?” he croaked.

 

She smiled gently at him and nodded.  “It’s only been ten minutes or so since you passed out in the kitchen.  Although Sonja and I are fantastic if I do say so myself, even we would need more than ten minutes with you to rock your world.  So, yes, nothing happened.  Andrea just decided to play along with our warped sense of humor to help out with our little joke.  We’re sorry that we upset you so.  I promise we’ll make it up to you.”

 

Broots smiled thinly at her.  “T-that’s okay.  I guess when you think of it, it was pretty funny.”

 

Sonja grunted at that.  “No, it wasn’t if you were hurt by it, Martin.  Don’t you worry, when we’re done with you, you’ll be the envy of the men in Sunnydale.  This I vow!”

 

Gabrielle hugged him to her and gently planted a kiss on his lips.  “I’d accept if I were you, Martin.   When Sonja gets like this nothing short of having the opportunity to kill someone will dissuade her.”

 

The uneasy man gave her the look of a deer caught in the headlights of a rapidly approaching eighteen wheeler truck.  “Um, er…okay?”

 

*****

 

Later, inside his room, Broots threw the blanket onto his bed and grabbed some clothes from his suitcase. As he finished putting his pants on, Sydney walked in and asked, "Are you feeling all right, Broots?"

 

Broots looked at his friend and sighed. "I have to admit it was a great joke, Syd, although it would have been nice to have had it all be true…well, except for the Miss Parker part, that is.  I’ve accepted that she and Jarod are meant to be together, so seeing her there, like that, really freaked me out, especially considering how Jarod helped me when I fought my ex over Debbie’s custody.  It made me feel like I was betraying a friend."

 

"Well, they appear to thrive on the jokes and use them as emotional release for themselves. Not quite a normal route, but one I can appreciate."

 

"I just can't believe that Miss Parker joined in like that.  That’s so not like her." 

 

"I know," Sydney said as he leaned against a nearby wall. "She has changed so much in the last few weeks that I wonder what has caused all these changes."

 

"Think St. Wolf used magic on her?" Broots asked.

 

"No. I don't think so.  But I wonder what this Artemis woman has to do with her."

 

"Yeah, what is she, really?"

 

"I am an Olympian, Mr. Broots," Artemis said as she appeared near the window. "I am also the Patron Goddess of the Amazons."

 

"Why are you here?" Sydney asked.

 

"Your concern about Andrea was so powerful I could feel it on Mount Olympus, Dr. Greene. What can I do to convince you of my good intentions?"

 

"All right then.  Give me one good reason why those children out there should have your 'gifts.’ I understand the adults, but most of the women here are still quite young."

 

"Those ‘children’ have protected this town and, on several occasions, the whole world from various malevolent forces bent on the wholesale slaughter of humanity for the last two and a half years. Prior to my provision of my gifts to them, I peered through the veil of time and watched as they fought and almost died fighting a valiant but ultimately futile holding action against the Darkness. And before you ask, yes, they knew that it was only a matter of time before their luck would finally run its course. But they continued to battle on, night after night, to protect others from the creatures of the night."

 

"What turned the tide?" Sydney asked.

 

"St. Wolf moved here," Artemis said. "And with him came his friends, his allies and his tactics. While I don't agree with everything he does, I can't fault his results or the familial love he feels for my Chosen.

 

"A single man is responsible for all this!?" Sydney shook his head. 

 

Artemis smiled and asked, "Do you remember your Homer, Dr. Greene, particularly about the Age of Heroes that he wrote about?"

 

"Yes, I do. The Iliad, the Siege of Troy, the Twelve Labors of Hercules, Jason and the Argonauts, they were all favorites of mine."

 

"Well, the Age of Heroes has been reborn and some of its greatest heroes are down there in that living room.  In time, more heroes will join them. For the first time, I now see why the Oracles have foretold the Darkness shall lose the Final War."

 

"Are you saying that the people here will be remembered like Jason, Ulysses, and Achilles?"

 

"When their deeds become public knowledge, they will become the stuff of legend, Dr. Greene. And I am proud that my Amazons are a part of it."

 

"I can see that. And I think that Andrea is proud of the fact that you've asked her to become an Amazon."

 

"I've done more than that, Dr. Greene. Andrea is more than just an Amazon; she's one of my 'Chosen.’"

 

"What makes your 'Chosen' so special?"

 

"She has enhanced strength, reflexes, endurance and constitution. She's now four times stronger, faster and more agile than a normal human being. She can instinctively use any weapon she sees and I've also enhanced her ability to learn. Now she can practically absorb her lessons at an accelerated rate."

 

"My God! You’ve turned her into a living weapon!"

 

"She is so much more than that, sir," Artemis said coolly. "She is a woman who has a man who loves her without reservation. She also has sisters who look up to her, who love and respect her. She also has the love and respect of the men who are mated to her 'sisters.'"

 

"No,” he said carefully; it didn’t pay to anger a god, after all. “You're right. She isn't a living weapon. But she's become so much more in these last weeks than she ever was at the Centre. How did you do it?"

 

"Andrea and Jarod are together now, two halves that are now whole. That was one of the major things that changed for Andrea. She found she could love a man who loved her. She also helped to save the world twice this month which gave her a sense of duty to a greater purpose than herself.  But what I think was the most important part was when they were accepted by Buffy, St. Wolf and the rest as ‘family.’ It gave them a sense of closure and acceptance."

 

Sydney nodded and said, "Lady Goddess, St. Wolf has offered me a position as his group's psychiatrist. Do you think I should accept?"

 

Artemis nodded. "Yes, I believe you should. There are many here who will need your help. People don't believe in the Darkness any more and treat those that do as if they were mentally ill. You will save the sanity of many here. And your brother Jacob would approve of your change in careers."

 

"Thank you, Lady Artemis. You've given me much to consider." Sydney said.  Then she smiled and faded away on a ray of sunshine that burst from behind a cloud through the window of Broots’ room.

 

 

Part 33 - House Shopping

(Only in Sunnydale Do You Have a 12 Hour Laundry, 24 Hour Photo and An 8 Hour Real Estate Transaction)

 

Later that day, Sydney and Angelo toured a large home with Dennis Kurgens, a young real estate agent based in the nearby town of Oxnard. As they walked around the living room, Angelo sniffed the air and sadly shook his head. "Much fear here. Man die here. Family much fear, but they live."

 

< Mr. St. Wolf and the others probably rescued the family before they could be killed. > Sydney thought he turned to the realtor to find a very shocked look on his face. "How did your friend know all of that?" 

 

"Angelo is an empath; he can feel the emotions of people and places around him." Sydney explained as he turned to Angelo. "Angelo, what do you think?"

 

Angelo nodded and said, "Sydney…this is a good place. Family have long life here, much love, but now they sad and afraid, and they leave."

 

"Shit!" Dennis said in shock as Angelo continued.

 

"Young girl." Angelo held up his hand about four and half feet above the ground. "She sad and angry that people who saved her couldn't save her daddy."

 

"Mr. Greene," Dennis nervously began, "are you certain you want to move into this town? I have a lot of other places in several other towns."

 

"No, Mr. Kurgens. My new employer wants me to open my practice close to his main offices."

 

"Who is your employer, Mr. Greene?"

 

"Wolfshead Security," Sydney offered with a smile.

 

"Is that the company that just purchased the Cybernetics building?"

 

"Yes, that’s the company."

 

"I heard they were having a lot of renovation work done at that place. One of my partners went by there to ask if they were going to rent out some floors to outside companies, but he was turned away by a guard wearing some sort of armor and armed with an assault rifle."

 

"Mr. St. Wolf takes his security very seriously, Mr. Kurgens."

 

"Okay, Mr. Greene. Do you want to put down a deposit on the house? Or do you want it inspected first?"

 

"Angelo, how is the house?" Sydney asked with a smile. 

 

For a moment, Angelo stood motionless before he said, "The house is good, Sydney. Nice and solid. Well cared for and loved." 

 

"Have you chosen a room for yourself, Angelo?"

 

"Yes. I like the one at the top of the stairs. It's nice, many happy feelings there."

 

"Very good, Angelo," Sydney said then he turned to Dennis. "Mr. Kurgens, we'll take it. When can we move in?"

 

"I can give it to you as a rental for a month and we'll process the papers during your rental period.  We can treat the rental fee as a deposit against the price of the home," Dennis said. "You can have your attorney establish the final sales price with the sellers after we finish processing the paperwork."

 

"No, there is no need for that, Dennis.  I don’t want to argue over the price that the family wants for this home. I'll pay in full," Sydney said as Jarod, Andrea and St. Wolf entered the living room.

 

"Sydney, are you buying this home?" Andrea asked as she took a good look around.

 

"Yes, Andrea, I am," Sydney said.  It still took some doing for him to call her by her chosen name rather than ‘Parker,’ but it was far safer for them not to maintain any of the ties they’d had with the Centre.

 

Meanwhile Angelo scampered up to Jarod and said, "Look, Jarod! I have my own room!"

 

Jarod smiled at his old friend and said, “That’s great, Angelo!”

 

"You’ve got good taste, Syd," Andrea drawled.  “You're planning on having your office on the first floor?"

 

"Yes, there's a study off to the right that will be perfect."

 

"We'll have to sound proof it," Jarod said. "Don't want anyone listening in on your clients, Syd."

 

"Of course, Jarod," Sydney said with a grin. "And we'll have to sound proof the guest room that you and Andrea will be use when you visit."

 

"Very droll, Syd," Andrea drawled as Jarod, Sydney and St. Wolf laughed heartily. Then, after the laughter had died down, St. Wolf turned to the realtor and handed him an American Express Platinum Card™. "This should start the ball rolling on purchasing the house," St. Wolf said.

 

"Mr. Greene already agreed to rent the house for one month, with a three month security deposit to act as a down payment. How will the balance be paid?"

 

"Bank transfer whenever the deal is closed," Steve said as Jarod nodded in agreement.

 

"Very good, Mr. St. Wolf," Dennis said as he looked down at the card holder's name. "Any thing else?"

 

"No. That will be all. Would you call in the card please? And then we'll see about getting the utilities turned over to Mr. Greene's name and then we can start the closing procedures. Will the owner be present?"

 

"Ahh, no, sir.  The seller’s husband was killed by a street gang.  Mrs. Kolinski moved her family back east and gave my firm the power of attorney to sell the home for her." Dennis inwardly winced at the slip he’d just made. < Shit!! I hope I don't lose the sale! >

 

"No problem," St. Wolf said. "Mr. Jeff Burgher is my local attorney and he'll handle the closing.”  Then he turned to Dr. Greene and said, "Now comes the hard part, Sydney." 

 

"The hard part?"

 

"Now you have to keep up with Andrea and Cordelia while they shop for all the things for your new home."

 

*****

 

Several streets over from Sydney’s new home, Broots was engaged in touring a very large house. "I know that I'm going to hate myself for asking this, but how much?"

 

Cecelia Porter, an African American realtor who looked a little like Vanessa Williams, glanced down at her sheet. "It's $275,000.00, Mr. Broots."

 

"Oh wow!" Debbie cried out. "It's got an in-ground pool in the back!"

 

Broots winced at that.  "I don't know, honey. It's very expensive.  And we lost everything when we had to leave our last home."

 

"Don't worry about it, Marty," Gabrielle said as she flounced out of the kitchen. "Steven can afford it. Besides, it's got everything you need, renovated wiring, phone jacks in every room, a finished basement, a huge living room."

 

"And best of all, studmuffin," Sonja breathed from the top of the stairs, "it has a master bedroom to die for. Think of all of the fun we could have in there!"

 

Cecelia coughed softly into her hand at that. "Well, Mr. Broots, it seems both your wife and her friend certainly recognize a good deal when they see one!"

 

"Oh, she’s not my wife," Broots absentmindedly corrected the realtor while Gabrielle draped herself over him and nibbled on his ear.

 

"Are you up for breaking-in the bedroom, Marty, after you close the sale?”

 

“That’s a great idea, Gabby!” Sonja exclaimed.  “It'll only take us about six or seven hours to do it right," Sonja noted as she pressed her long and lanky body against his other side.

 

In the meantime, the lovely realtor was flabbergasted that these women who put even her to shame were all over the skinny man.  < I can't believe that these two babes are talking about this dweeb like this!!> she mused.  < He must be loaded to spare. > Then, when she noticed the quiet, unassuming shyness of the man, she gave him a winning smile of her own.  < Well, he is cute...in a nerdy sort of way. I wonder if he's as good in the sack as these two let on? >

 

"Marty!” Gabrielle snapped as she shot a dirty look at Cecelia.  “We can't take you anywhere!" she said and turned back to face Broots with a cute little pout on her delectable face.  "Now you've got the nice real estate lady all hot and bothered!"

 

*****

 

Buffy, Debbie, Xander, and Cordelia fought desperately to rein in their laughter as Sonja and Gabrielle double-teamed Broots and Ms. Porter. "Goddess, I wonder who’ll crack first?" Cordelia wondered. 

 

"My money’s on Broots," Buffy said with a Cheshire Cat’s grin. "But I'll bet that the real estate lady will be a close second."

 

"I can believe it," Cordelia said.

 

"Do they ever stop?" Debbie asked as she watched the two forces of nature known as Sonja and Gabrielle in action.

 

"I don't think so," Cordelia said wistfully. "Goddess, I hope I can grow up to be half the woman they are."

 

"Uhm, honey," Xander began. "You are half the woman they are. They're two women; you're one."

 

*****

 

After she had received a cell phone call from St. Wolf, Buffy called out to Broots.

 

"Yes, Buffy?"

 

"Steve's on his way over here. Sydney and Angelo have found a place on Spencer Street for themselves."

 

"Great," Broots said as he looked around at the large living room and sighed.  "Do you think Steve will mind if I take this place?"

 

"Of course not," Buffy said with a friendly smile.  "You and Debbie deserve to have this house. So I say go for it!"

 

"All rig. . . Aukk!!" Broots said as Sonja goosed him while Gabrielle grinned wickedly as he nearly jumped out of his skin. < Ah, but we haven't lost our touch. > Gabrielle mused as he glared at Sonja who was busy looking innocent as she studied the fireplace mantle.

 

"Hey Dad!" Debbie called out. "If it's all right, I can stay over at Mr. St. Wolf's place while you three have your fun."

 

"W-what!?” he stammered.  “What do you mean by that?”

 

"Well…it looks like Sonja and Gabrielle want to have some fun with you and I probably need to make myself scarce, so I won’t see something that will make me have to have years of industrial strength therapy," Debbie said with shrug. "Besides, Brian's a cutie and it’ll give me the chance to really get to know him better."

 

Broots narrowed his eyes at his daughter and seemed to find his backbone.  “Ha, ha, Debbie, very funny!  I think I’ll need to have a long talk with Brian!”

 

Meanwhile, Sonja and Gabrielle glanced at each other and smiled. "She's gonna be a good one when she grows up," Sonja observed.

 

"Yeah, she shows a lot of promise," Gabrielle said softly. "She's a lot like Heather was when she was a little girl."

 

Sonja’s eyes misted at the mention of their murdered child and she felt Heather’s Quickening touch her own soul.  Then she reached for her lover’s hand and said, "I'm glad Debbie likes Brian.  That boy needs to have friends his own age."

 

"I believe Marty isn't going to like Brian very much," Gabrielle said.  Then she felt the approach of several Immortals and said, "Looks like Steve's arrived with Andrea and Jarod."

 

"Good. Maybe now we can have some real fun," Sonja snickered as she watched the realtor point out various things to Broots. "I think Crystal would be perfect for him, don’t you?"

 

Gabrielle stroked her chin, thought about Sonja’s question, and said, “Perhaps.  We’ll know more after we seduce him later on tonight.  However, I would wager he would be a lot of fun in bed.  If not, after tonight, he’ll have the proper training to satisfy an Amazon like Crystal. "

 

"Yes, she’s a good woman.  Hopefully, he’ll be a good man for her," Sonja said as she smiled warmly at the unsuspecting computer programmer.

 

 

                                                        Part 34 – Balancing the Scales

                                             (Never Drink Too Much On School Property

                                                        Or The Faeries Will Get You.)

 

Author’s Note:             This Part was written by Mike Weyer.  He submitted it to me and I decided to use it in this story.  I’ve made a few changes (Nothing Big) but the Part is basically Mike’s.  And YOU can thank him for introducing Robin Goodfellow into the Wanderer Universe.

 

Editor’s Note:               Although this is Mike’s section as Steve had said above, I have edited it a bit.  However, a big round of thanks should go to Mike for writing it.

 

August 3rd 19:00 PST

Sunnydale High School Library, Sunnydale, CA

 

            There were basically only two places in Sunnydale to go if teenagers wanted a drink. One was the Bronze and the other, Willie's Bar, which was frequented by vampires and demons. Given those choices, it should have been no surprise that the five men had gathered in a place that was perfect for a quiet night.

 

            "I can't believe you keep a liquor cabinet in the library," Fox Mulder said as he sat at the table.

 

            "Believe me, it's the only way I can handle parent/teacher conferences," Rupert Giles said as he poured himself a shot. Across the table, Xander Harris, the man called Jarod Russell and the guitarist known by most only as Oz stared at Giles. "Don’t give me that look," Giles snapped at Xander and Oz.  "You're underage, remember?"

 

            “We're old enough to fight demons and save the world, but we can't have a beer?" Oz asked.

 

            "That’s right.  So, sod off!" Giles said them as he poured another drink for Mulder and himself. 

 

            "You know, your bitterness explains how you can stand being in here night and day," Xander said.  "You do it to drown your sorrows about being hooked up with Jenny!"

 

            "Like you're one to talk," Oz noted with a smirk. He shook his head in disbelief. "Amazons.  We're dating Amazons."

 

            "I'm married to one," Mulder said. "And she's an Immortal to boot."

 

            “I’m engaged to one,” Jarod muttered.  Then he grinned and said, “And it’s fun-freaking-tastic!”

 

            Mulder snorted.  “It’ll wear off.  Just give it a couple of weeks and you won’t be able to keep up.”

 

            "Mine's a witch," Oz said. "And Giles has one too."

 

            "Which is why we're here, isn't it?" Xander said. "While Scully's at the motel, the witches are performing a ceremony, Buffy's with Steve, and we're stuck here, bemoaning lives that most guys would kill for."

 

            "Thanks for the recap," Mulder drawled. "By the way, where're Cordelia and Andrea?"

 

            "Well, it seems that even becoming Artemis’ Chosen doesn’t dissuade them from certain primal urges," Xander said with a grin.

 

            "They’ve gone shopping?" Giles posited.

 

            "Bingo."

 

            "Perhaps we should put all of our cards on the table, gentlemen," Giles said as he placed his glass down on the table. "The reason we're here is that we're facing a situation, one that has plagued men since the dawn of time. Our respective mates are stronger than we are and we're not certain how to deal with that."

 

            "I'm not complaining too much," Mulder said. "I have to admit, this Amazon thing has taken a lot of weight off of me. I know Scully can take care of herself now. It's just . . .”

 

            "You're bummed that she can kick your ass easily, right?" Xander observed.

 

            Mulder frowned. "Yeah."

 

            "I hate it," Oz said, showing more emotion than any of his friends had ever seen before. "She'd never say it, but I know Willow looks at me and thinks she has to protect me now. You guys know how that feels?"

 

            "Oh, yeah," Xander said. "I'm a normal guy, right? You're a wolf whenever you want to be.  Jarod’s a Pretender.  Me?  Steve can only do so much for me."

 

            "Yes, well, Jenny always seemed to have the upper hand in our relationship," Giles said.

 

            "No kidding," Xander, Mulder and Oz simultaneously answered him.

 

            "But now, she's not treating me as an equal and…it hurts."

 

            "Well, no offense, G-Man, but you do have the tendency to get hit on the head a lot.  Kind of lowers yourself in her eyes."

 

            "Thank you, Xander,” he said, the sarcasm of his voice fairly dripping from it.  “I do so appreciate that overwhelming ego boost."

 

            "Women," Mulder said. "Can't live without them, can't kill them.  Well, you can kill Scully, Andrea and Buffy, just not for long."

 

            "Steve's lucky," Xander said. "He's a freaking superman, mega-demon-killer guy, he wastes Terakan assassins without breaking a sweat. He can get along with them because he's as good as them, which is way better than us."

 

            "It's not that I believe we should be stronger than the women," Giles said. "I just want things to be a little more balanced."

 

            Oz shook his head. "Better be careful, Giles. If Artemis hears you, it's a long shaft in an uncomfortable place."

 

            "I'm not worried about the goddess," Giles said.

 

            "Me neither," Xander said.

 

            "Really?" Giles asked, surprised by Xander’s bravery.

 

            "Hell no, I'm stone-cold terrified of her."

 

            "I just wish things were different, is all," Giles said.

 

            "Well, then, Great Brit-Mon, this is your lucky day!"

 

The five men turned to see a figure standing in the doorway of the library. He wore an odd green tunic that appeared to be made out of leaves with a hat to match that fit over a rump of green hair and pointed ears. He was small, his nose and chin almost the same long length and a smile that seemed to reach to his ears. "Good evening, gentlemen. I'm Robin."

 

            "Really? You know, I liked your old costume better," Xander said. 

 

            "But it's a step up from the shorts and stockings," Oz added.

 

            Robin rolled his bright yellow eyes at the youths. "Oh, right, like I've never heard *that* one before in the last sixty years."

 

            “You two know this guy?” Jarod asked.

 

            "Who are you?" Mulder demanded.

 

            "Better yet, what are you?" Giles queried.

 

            "My people have many names," Robin said as he stepped forward and they could see that he walked a few inches off the floor. "The Faeries, the little folk, the changelings, the sprites.  I myself have gone by a few names in my day. For example, a writer to whom I once told my stories, called me Puck."

 

            Giles' eyes widened. "Good lord," he whispered. "You're Robin Goodfellow?"

 

            "Yes, sir, tis right, I am that merry wanderer of the night!" Robin then gave them a small bow. "I am flattered people still remember me.  Makes me glad I invested so much in William."

 

            "You're Puck?" Mulder said in amazement.

 

            "No, I'm Robin Goodfellow. There is a difference."

 

            Giles frowned.  “What sort of difference is that?”

 

            "Well, it seems that old Willie wanted to do a little research after my tale, so he talked to a couple of other Faeries about me," Robin said. "We were on better terms with mortals back then, particularly with the writers.  After all, imagination is our domain. Well, unfortunately, William got me mixed up with a troublemaker named Puck and thought that was the faerie who served Oberon that Mid-Summer's night. It probably didn't help that he was drunk at the time he wrote the play.  So, not only did he get my name wrong but that little bastard has been using it for the last four hundred years whenever he wants to cause mischief so I get the blame for his stunts." Robin shook his head in disgust. "I'm telling you, it's enough to drive a faerie to drink," Robin said as he took a shot glass and poured himself a stiff one.

 

            “So, you're not Puck?" Giles asked.

 

            "Nope." Robin grinned at the Englishman. "Actually, his pranks finally caught up to him. He's currently a human, working as a servant for some billionaire in New York. I pop by now and then to rub it in his face."

 

            "What are you doing here?" Mulder asked. Being an Immortal who had encountered just about every sort of paranormal entity in his time, he was more receptive to the idea of talking with a character of literature than most people would be.

 

            Robin paced, an unusual sight given his predilection to levitate. "I like this realm. I really do.  So many dramas, so many pleasures, it's so wonderful. And from time to time, I can't help but take a personal interest in some cases."

 

            "I'm well aware of your interests," Giles said.  "We shall not be a party to your mischief."

 

            "My dear Giles, you've got me all wrong," Robin countered. "After that whole Midsummer's night fiasco, Oberon put me on probation. So, I cannot meddle without permission."

 

            "What are they talking about?" Xander asked to no one in particular.

 

            "A Mid-Summer Night's Dream," Mulder said.  Jarod, Oz and Xander stared at him blankly.  “You know, Shakespeare?"

 

            "Oh," they replied.  Then Xander leaned in toward Oz and whispered, "Remind me to rent the movie later."

 

            “There’s a movie?” Jarod asked.

 

            Xander smiled at the Pretender.  “Yeah, there’s a good one with Callista Flockhart.  She’s even naked and everything.” 

 

            Oz snickered.  “Better make sure we don’t get caught watching it, dude.”

 

            “Yeah, Cordelia might just cut it off then,” Xander said with a grin.

 

            “Nah, she wouldn’t do that.”  Oz said.  “First, she’d kick you out of bed.”

 

            "So, no mischief or disastrous love spells?" Mulder asked.  He was very wary of the sprite in front of him particularly after his experience with the genie.

 

            "No, falling into love is not the problem here," Robin said. "It's maintaining that love which is the cause of your problems."

 

            "What do you mean by that?" the FBI agent asked.

 

            "Simple, Mulder. You're here because you feel out of place with your Amazon lovers. That is not too surprising, believe me! I know how Artemis can be and she rubs off on her charges. Sure, they're a lot of fun in the sack but you're feeling like the 98 pound weaklings in the relationship now and you want to change that. So, that’s why I'm here."

 

            "What do you mean?" Mulder asked, suddenly suspicious.

 

            "You really have to tone down your paranoia, my friend. It's unhealthy."

 

            "Sorry, but when magical beings offer me something, I'm naturally suspicious."

 

            "Mulder, you're suspicious of your own shadow," Xander pointed out.

 

            "Yes, you notice how it keeps following me?"

 

            "Anyway," Robin continued, trying to steer the subject back on course. "What I'd like to offer you, gentlemen, is a way to put yourselves back on an equal footing with your better halves. I can give you enhanced strength, speed, abilities, enough to put you on a par with any of Artemis’ Chosens."

 

            "And what do you ask in return?" Giles wondered as he narrowed his eyes at the sprite.

 

            "I want absolutely, positively…nothing."

 

            "You would do all of this for us out of the goodness of your heart?" Mulder asked, his sarcasm plainly evident to all.

 

            "I'm not asking for your souls.  All I’m doing is providing you with the opportunity to keep your pride. Believe me, if it saves you a lot of brooding and moaning, it's worth it. Furthermore, I will not only boost your ability to survive but I’ll save you a lot of trouble in your relationships. Believe me, the benefits in both departments will more than answer the doubts you have."

 

            Robin stepped back and crossed his arms. "However, this is a one-time only offer, boys. So, are you in or out?"

 

There was a long silence as the five men looked at one another, each mentally weighing their options.

 

            "If we say no, what happens?" Xander asked.

 

            "Why, nothing will happen. I'll simply leave, go on my merry way, and you can stay here and drown in your sorrows."

 

            "You won't ask us to sacrifice anything, will you?" Oz asked.

 

            Robin rolled his eyes at the boy. "I'm not a god, my multi-hair-colored friend. I'm just a faerie trying to do a good deed. I don't need your worship."

 

            "There won't be any side-effects?" Mulder asked.

 

            "Only the beneficial kind."

 

            "And your spell won't hurt any of our other members?" Giles asked.

 

            Robin raised his hand. "I give you my word, on all the Spirits of the Other World, that no harm will come to you because of my actions. So, is it yes, or no?  I need to know now."

 

            "I'm in," Xander said.

 

            "Me too," Oz chimed in.

 

            "What the hell," Mulder said and shrugged. "It beats sitting around here all day."

 

            “I’m in,” Jarod said softly.

 

            Giles sighed, removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Fine.  It isn’t like I have a ton of other options open to me now."

 

            "Glad to hear it," Robin said. "We'd best be getting started." He raised a hand and snapped his fingers. Instantly, their surroundings changed.  The library was gone, replaced by a large field highlighted by a series of stone circles on the ground. The men all yelped as they went from sitting on chairs to falling to the ground.  They scrambled to their feet as their eyes adjusted to deep dark night that had fallen around them.

 

            "Where are we?" Oz asked.

 

            "Ireland," Robin said, as if Oz should have known. "We’re about an hour from Dublin, nestled deep in the green hills of the Emerald Isles."

 

            "Why are we here?" Giles asked.

 

            "It's been a while since I've done something like this," Robin answered. "I need to check with a few friends, so do me a favor and step back. I need to perform a summoning." He turned and closed his eyes while he stood above the middle of the center circle. "Oh, Lord of the Glens, I have need of thy presence. I summon thee." A deep rumble went through the sky as Robin continued his chant. "Oh, Lord of the Glens, I summon thee." Mulder, Xander, Oz, Jarod and Giles exchanged glances when nothing seemed to happen. "Oh, Lord of the Glens, I summon thee." Still nothing occurred and Robin grew annoyed.  "Will you get your lazy ass out here already?!"

 

            "Temper, temper, laddie," a thick Irish brogue sliced through the air.  There was a flash of light and suddenly a figure appeared in the circle. He was about a foot and a half tall but otherwise appeared to be a normal man. He wore a completely green suit with a long cloak and had a golden crown upon his red hair. He glanced up at Robin and sighed.  "This had better be good, Robbie. Ye're tearin' me away from a lovely dance."

 

            "He can't be what I think he is," Xander said.

 

            "Depends. Do you think he's a leprechaun?" Mulder asked.

 

            "Yeah."

 

            "That's what he is, then."

 

            The leprechaun glanced over at them and his eyes widened. "Have ye lost yer wits, man?" he demanded of Robin. "Ye can't be brining mortals here! Ye know what the rules say!"

 

            "I need your help, Angus."

 

            "What ye need is your head examined! Why did you bring them here?"

 

            "I want to do them a favor and I need your help."

 

            "What's so special about them?"

 

            "Oh, please forgive my manners. Angus, this is Fox Mulder, Xander Harris, Rupert Giles, Jarod Russell and Oz Green.  Gentlemen, this is his Royal Majesty, Lord of the Glens, King of the Leprechauns, Angus McAllister."

 

            "Pleased to meet you," Oz said in a friendly tone.

 

            Angus looked at him. "Dying yer hair green is no way to get on me good side, laddie."

 

            "Testy, isn't he?" Giles remarked.

 

            Angus' eyes narrowed. "You're British. I don't like the British, particularly the stuck up ones. And by the by, the first one of ye who makes a crack about Lucky Charms gets turned into a toadstool." He turned back to Robin. "Make your request and make it quick."

 

            "Angus, I need some of your rootmeg," Robin said.

 

            "Rootmeg?" Angus' eyes widened. He glanced at the five humans, then at Robin. "Wait a minute, yer going t' perform the ritual on them? Mary, Mother of God, ye have lost it, man!"

 

            "Trust me, Angus, it's for a good cause."

 

            "Why should I help ye? Eh? Tell me one bloody good reason why I should help ye?"

 

            "October 31st, 1587,"  Robin said with a wicked grin on his angular face.

 

            Angus' eyes widened comically at Robin’s mention of that date.  "Ye knew about that?" he asked, his voice much softer now.  Robin nodded.  "Why didn't ye tell anyone?"

 

            "I knew it would come in handy to have that info someday. Guess it's now. Give me the rootmeg and Oberon doesn't need to know a thing."

 

            Angus bit his lip and tapped one foot. "All right, all right, but don't be comin' around here anytime soon!" Then Angus waved his hands and a bag appeared and hovered in mid-air right in front of Robin.

 

            "Thanks, Angus, I owe you one."

 

            "Aye, and don't be thinkin' I won't be collecting someday!" Angus snapped. "Now, get out of here before someone else sees me with ye."

 

            "As you wish, your highness," Robin said with a bow.  Robin then turned to his five charges and said, "Let's go,"

 

            "Wait a minute, I want to talk to this guy!" Mulder exclaimed.

 

            Robin placed a hand on Mulder’s chest and brought him up short. "Trust me, Fox, unless you want to spend eternity as a newt, you’d better come along with us." Then he turned and waved to Angus, snapped his fingers again and sent his group elsewhere in a flash.

 

            After they had gone, Angus shook his head and sighed. "Good luck to ye, laddie. Yer gonna need it." Then with that, he flashed away.

 

*****

 

            "Okay, we're going swimming?" Xander's comment seemed pertinent given that the six had materialized at the shore of a large lake.

 

            "Best to keep your tongue still, boy," Robin said as he walked to the shore's edge.  "This guy does not like jokes, especially bad ones."

 

            "Hey, my jokes aren't that bad."

 

            “Yeah, they are," Oz said.

 

            “They're puns and one-liners. They're hit and miss."

 

            "Lord, what fools these mortals be," Robin couldn't help but mutter.  Then he placed two fingers to his lips and issued a loud whistle.  It pierced the quiet over the water and echoed throughout the hills. There was silence for a moment, broken by a rumble beneath the surface of the water.  Then slowly, a large shape began to rise from the lake. It was a huge creature that resembled a dinosaur, except for its sleek silver skin. The creature’s long neck bent down and lowered its large head until it was on an even level with Robin.

 

            "What do you want, sprite?" it asked.  Shockingly, it spoke in plain English even though its voice was guttural.

 

            "Never were one for the niceties, were you, Nessoi?" Robin asked.

 

            "Just hurry up before one of the locals comes by with a camera."

 

            "You never struck me as the shy type."

 

            "You try having your home turned into a tourist spot and see how you feel."

 

            The five mortals stood, mouths wide open and stared at the creature. Oz lowered his head and shook it before he caught sight of the sign posted near the lake. He looked at it, looked away, then did a double-take and read it. Then he grabbed Xander and directed him toward the sign. "Guys?"  Xander said weakly, causing Mulder, Jarod and Giles to turn toward the sign to see the words upon it.

 

            WELCOME TO LOCH NESS.

 

            "Holy shit," Xander whispered.

 

            Mulder stared at the Loch Ness Monster and had a goofy grin on his face. "Second time's the charm," he muttered as he studied the creature.

 

            "I don't know," Nessoi said and shook his large head from side to side. "I've never been comfortable sharing with others, you know that."

 

            "I assure you it's for a good cause," Robin said. "I wouldn't be here otherwise."

 

            "All right, all right," Nessoi said with a deep sigh. He leaned his head into the water and seemed to dig around for something. Then his head rose from the water with a clump of weeds in his teeth.  He dropped the plants at Robin's feet and began to move away. "Make sure you use it wisely. I don't have an unlimited supply of that, you know!"

 

            "Thank you, Nessoi. Give my best to the family, all right?"  In response, the creature bowed his large head and then swam out, sliding back into the cold waters that hid his presence. When it sank below the surface, Robin walked back to the five men who were still in shock over seeing the Loch Ness Monster in the flesh or scales as the case might be.

 

            "I’d advise you to close your mouths; there's no telling what might fly inside," Robin quipped.  "One last stop, boys then we’ll have some fun!" Then, once again, he raised his hand and snapped his fingers, leaving the Loch once more deserted.

 

*****

 

            As his eyes cleared, Giles instantly recognized where they had arrived. "Stonehenge?  You brought us to Stonehenge?"

 

            "Best place for the ceremony," Robin said as he began to pour the powder from Angus on the weeds that Nessoi had given him. He took the weeds into his hands and began to grind them together.  Soon after, a small blue light issued from his hands as he continued to grind the plants together.

 

            "So, of all the places on Earth, you brought us to a pile of rocks?" Xander asked and frowned at their surroundings.

 

            "Don't knock Stonehenge, kid," Robin said as he studied the remnants of the weeds which were now a blue powder in his hands. "I tell you, no one ever truly appreciated my handiwork." Then he turned back to the five, cupped his hands in front of him to hold the powder, and gazed at each man seriously. "This is the moment of truth, mates. If any of you have any doubts, any hesitations, any reservations at all about doing this, this is your last chance to back out. After this, there's no turning back. Are you ready?"

 

            There was a pause before Mulder stepped forward. Giles followed him then Xander, Jarod and finally Oz.  The five men stood in a semi-circle before Robin. The faerie nodded, raised his hands to his mouth and blew the powder toward the mortals. The moment it touched their faces, their eyes rolled back and they fell unconscious to the ground. Robin watched as the powder flowed into a circle around their bodies and smiled. “It’s showtime!” he murmured.

 

*****

 

 

 

 

August 4th 20:00 PST

Home of Steven St. Wolf, Sunnydale, CA

 

            "Will you stop that, please?" Buffy glared at Cordelia, who was busy wearing a path into their padded floor with her pacing inside their gymnasium. "You’re wigging me out!"

 

            "Cordy, I know you're worried about Xander but this isn't helping," Willow said.

 

            "Xander?  What are you talking about?" Cordelia asked. "I'm just breaking in these new shoes I just bought."

 

            Although Queen C had tried to hide her anxiety, the people inside the gym were all very concerned. Besides the Immortal Slayer and her two Amazon pals, Jenny, Amy, Dana, Andrea, and St. Wolf were there as well. They had gathered to discuss the fact that five of their number was nowhere to be found.  And in a town like Sunnydale, disappearances often led to the worst consequences.

 

            "You haven't heard from Mulder at all?"

 

            Scully shook her head. "No, but that's not too unusual. He has the annoying habit of going off on his own with only a cell phone to connect us."

 

            "Yeah, but Xander and Oz just wouldn't go without telling us something," Willow said.  "Even Xander's not that irresponsible."

 

            "Neither is Rupert," Jenny noted.

 

            "Let's not jump to any conclusions," Steve said.  "We made that mistake when Cordelia first became an Amazon.  Maybe they just wanted a guy's night out and simply forgot to check in."

 

            "I hope so," Jenny said and shook her head. "I hate having Rupert out on his own. This place isn’t safe for him."

 

            "Yeah, they're normal guys," Cordelia said. "They don't have our powers to help them."

 

            "Perhaps that's why they split," Steve observed.

 

            The women all glared at him while Buffy asked, "Excuse me?" 

 

            "Look, I hate to reinforce opinions of times past, but if you don't see how hurt these guys are, you don't know them very well."

 

            "You’ve got some nerve!” Scully growled.  “Fox is my husband, pal!  I’ve worked with him for five years now!  I think I know him pretty well!"

 

            "Do you know he's upset that you're stronger than he is?" Steve asked.  "Mulder, Oz, Xander, Giles, and Jarod, they all feel that way. They're just normal men, except for Mulder and Jarod, and even they’re lower on the food chain than Dana and Andrea are now.  You can't expect them to just deal with that like it's nothing. That's just not natural."

 

            There was a silence as the women considered his words. Before anyone could comment, Buffy, Steve, Andrea and Scully felt the presence of several Immortals. Then the doors to the gym slammed open and in walked Mulder, Xander, Oz, Jarod and Giles with a little man in tow. Immediately, one could see a change in the five men. Giles no longer wore his glasses and had a wicked smirk on his face.  Instead of his usual tweed ensemble, he wore a pair of jeans, a black tee shirt and a leather jacket.  Meanwhile Xander wore a stylish outfit that seemed to come from someone else's closet.  Oz's features appeared more handsome, possibly due to the rare smile now plastered on his lips. Mulder and Jarod, though, hadn't changed much, aside from a slight jump in their step.  However, what really captured the women’s attention was the little man who wore a light green suit and a hat pulled down to cover his ears.

 

            "Where the hell have-----" Scully's question was suddenly interrupted when Mulder grabbed her and kissed her senseless.

 

            "Well, that shut her up," Cordelia said just before Xander kissed her, hard. Oz then pulled Willow into a huge embrace, picked her up and spun her around slowly as they kissed passionately.

 

            "Kids," Jenny said with a smile. "No sense of----" was how far she got before Giles grabbed her, dipped her and kissed her so thoroughly she came, hard.  Jarod then pulled Andrea toward him, gently took her into his arms and kissed her gently.  Amy sighed, once more feeling left out as Steve and Buffy shot confused glances at each other.

 

            When Mulder finally ended the kiss, a dreamy-eyed Scully purred, "I don't know where you've been, but I hope you go there and come back to me more often!"

 

            "Just where have you guys been?" Steve asked.

 

            "Oh, we've been hanging with our buddy, Rob over here," Xander said and motioned toward the little man who bowed and smiled at the women. "Quite the experience, I can tell you."

 

            Robin approached St. Wolf and held his hand. "You’re the Wanderer, I take it? It's a pleasure to finally meet you."

 

            "You’ve heard of me?" St. Wolf asked and shook Robin's hand.

 

            "We have some mutual acquaintances," Robin said.

 

            "Just what have you guys been up to all night?" Cordelia asked.  Although she was still reeling from her man’s passionate embrace, she was still a little put off by Xander's new attitude.

 

            "Well, Rob has been showing us some cool moves," Oz said. "He’s been really helpful."

 

            "What, so you have brand new ways of getting knocked on your ass?"  Cordelia drawled and Jenny, Scully, Andrea and Willow couldn't help but smile at her jest.

 

            Giles cocked his right eyebrow at that. "That sounded like a challenge." Then he chanced a glance at his male companions. "Did anyone else think that sounded like a challenge?"

 

            "Oh, that definitely had the challenge ring to it," Mulder said with a smirk.

 

            "Then it is our duty to answer such a challenge," Xander announced.

 

            "Ditto," Oz said simply. "We can't let it go without a response.”

 

            Cordelia rolled her eyes at them. "Come on, guys, I’m in no mood for this!  You really don't want to mess with us now."

 

            Xander smiled at his lover and drawled, "Wanna bet?"

 

            Behind him, Robin slowly smiled. "Let the revels begin."

 

            The five men looked at one another, nodded then sprang into action. Giles launched himself into the air, performed a sensational flip over Jenny’s head, and landed squarely on his feet behind her. He grabbed his surprised lover by her shoulders and fell back and sent her flying.  Jenny was able to save herself with her own agility and recovered quickly by rolling onto her shoulder and springing back onto her feet.  In the meantime, Giles had moved toward a nearby weapons rack and had taken down two kendo swords.  He threw one to Jenny then entered his combat stance.

 

            Xander launched a kick that nailed Cordelia in the mid-section and sent her reeling. She tried to recover by using her motion to fire a spin kick at him; however, as her leg spun around, he used her momentary disorientation to crouch and sweep kick her planted foot, sending her down to the floor.

 

            Meanwhile, Willow was busy blocking a series of punches and kicks by Oz, who delivered them with astounding speed, matching her blow for blow, block for block.  Then when she lashed out with a half-hearted kick, he blocked it, grabbed her foot and sent her spilling to the ground.

            Mulder had thrown a kendo sword to Scully and attacked her with one of his own. His slashes were delivered with incredible strength and speed.  Scully couldn’t believe how good he was.  Scully found every one of her lunges and attacks blocked by Mulder, who didn't even seem to break a sweat. When she got the feeling he wasn't even putting his best effort into it, it infuriated her. 

 

            Although the battles for most in the room seemed friendly, Jarod knew that he was in for a real fight.  When he attacked Andrea, he dropped to the floor and tried a quick sweep kick.  Unfortunately for him, she leaped up into the air and avoided being swept.  Jarod then jumped up onto his feet and suddenly got the air knocked out of his lungs as Andrea reversed one of her legs and kicked up, right into his stomach.  He landed on his butt with a grunt and without thinking launched a kick and caught her just below her knee.  The snap was audible as Andrea cried out and went down.  However, she still had a lot of fight in her.  She landed across his body and struck him hard in his ribs, breaking several of them.  Gasping for breath and trying to deal with his pain, he kneed her in the chest and propelled her into the wall.  As he tried to reset his ribs and waited for his Quickening to heal him, Andrea grinned as she got up from the wall and purred, “Not bad, Ratboy.  Have you been eating your Wheaties?”

 

*****

 

            As the men held their own easily against the Amazons, a stunned Amy Madison, Buffy Summers and Steven St. Wolf stood there with their mouths agape in total disbelief.

 

            "What in the HELL is going on here!" Buffy roared. 

 

When the Immortal Slayer bellowed at the fighters, everyone stopped still and stared silently at her.  It was then that the little man dressed in green broke the silence with his howls of laughter.

 

            “Oh, Gods," Robin cried out. "I haven't had this much merriment in ages!"

 

            Amy stared intensely at Mulder, Giles, Oz, Jarod and Xander and her eyes went from her normal shade of blue to the blackest of night. "Goddess," she whispered. "They've got magic in them."

 

            "Magic?" St. Wolf asked.

 

            "Yeah," Amy nodded. "Serious magic, way beyond anything I've ever seen."

 

            "That might explain it," Willow said, winced as she rubbed her gut.  "I can't think of anything else besides massive steroid use."

 

            Scully moved forward and looked her husband in the eye. "Fox William Mulder, you’ve got three seconds to explain this or I’m going to kick your ass into tomorrow!"

 

            Finally sobering, Mulder motioned toward Robin. "The thanks go to Robin here."

 

            The women turned toward the smiling faerie and stalked toward him.  Then Cordelia grabbed him by the front of his suit and yanked him into the air. "Okay buddy, talk!  What have you done to my boyfriend!?" Suddenly, without warning, Robin vanished, leaving Cordelia grasping thin air.

 

            "You really need to control those violent urges," Robin said as he reappeared behind them in his regular outfit and hovered above the floor. "I know you're Amazons and all, but that's really no excuse."

 

            Everyone stared at him. "Who in the hell are you?" Jenny asked.

 

            "Robin Goodfellow of the Faerie Kingdom at your service, dear lady," Robin said with a deep bow and kissed Jenny's hand. "And as for what I've done, I've balanced the scales between you and your mates."

 

            "I should have known," St. Wolf said. "Oberon’s still up to his old tricks, eh?"

 

            "Actually, no, Wanderer, this is something I've done of my own volition with the permission of the men, of course."

 

            "The permission of the men…for what?" Scully demanded.

 

            "Why, I simply boosted their abilities, my dear Dana. Although they would never have said it, they have felt a little diminished since you became Amazons. And while you'll never say it to their faces, you've felt overprotective and even condescending toward them since you became members of Artemis' little club. The simplest way to get rid of the worries and doubts on both sides was to give them similar strength and abilities to the ones you enjoy."

 

            "Hold on, buckaroo," Buffy said. "You're telling me you made them better than the Chosen of Artemis?"

 

            Robin chuckled at that.  "Please. Although I have my faults, dear Slayer, chauvinism isn’t one of them. No, I simply mimicked what Artemis did for your gal pals. I took their natural abilities and boosted them to an enhanced level. Not better than Artemis’ Chosen, roughly equal to them."

 

            "Sure didn't feel that way," Willow said as she rubbed her back.

 

            "I assure you, the only reason they performed so well here is that they had the element of surprise. In a fair match, things should be a little different."

 

            "Now wait a minute, you're Puck?" Jenny asked.

 

            Robin rolled his eyes at her. "No, I'm not and ask your friends to explain, because I'm not going into it again. I'm not him, I've never been him; I don't even like the little punk."

 

            "But you're a Faerie," Willow noted.

 

            "I should think that would be sufficiently obvious by now," Robin sniffed. Before he could get any further, there was a flash of light and suddenly Artemis stood there in the room.

 

            "Robin," she said, her voice strained. "I believe you owe me an explanation."

 

            "Arty!" Robin said, a wide smile on his face. "It's been centuries! You're looking well, but then Olympus always did have the best cosmetic surgeons."

 

            Artemis' narrowed her eyes as she glared at the faerie. "I hate it when you call me Arty."

 

            "I know.  That’s why I do it!"

 

            "You have no business here, sprite."

 

            "Oh, sure, you can turn the women into your Chosen, yet I can't make things even for their mates? Oh, wait, what’s wrong with me?” he drawled.  “I forgot I was talking to the instigator of female domination."

 

            Artemis couldn't believe this. NO ONE had dared speak to her like this in decades, not even Strife or Discord. "You are out of line, Goodfellow.  Cordelia called to me, no one called to you. Who gave you the right to do this?"

 

            "That is a question I would love to have answered," a voice boomed from the direction of the ceiling.  Then there was a sudden flash of light that heralded the entrance of a large, powerful man with long white hair and beard and a stylish robe.  The man’s eyes flashed as he glared at Robin who seemed to shrink back from him in fear.

 

            “My Lord Oberon," Robin said and fell to his knees. "W-what are you doing here?"

 

            "That is the question I intended to put forth to you, Robin," Oberon said as he marched forward.  "Did you really think I would not hear of this?"

 

            "Well, as they say, ‘hope springs eternal,’ my lord," Robin muttered.

 

            "First you contacted Angus----"

 

            "Who's Angus?" Willow asked.

 

            "King of the Leprechauns," Oz answered matter-of-factly.

 

            "Oh."

 

            Oberon continued. "Then you talk to Nessoi...."

 

            "Who's Nessoi?" Scully wanted to know.

 

            "The Loch Ness Monster," Mulder answered.

 

            Scully stared at her husband. "You met the Loch Ness Monster?"

 

            "Yeah, he’s a real nice guy."

 

            Oberon continued to rant. "Then, you take mortals to Stonehenge and perform a ritual that hasn't been performed in more than five hundred years, against my orders!"

 

            "Man, you guys have racked up the frequent flier mileage tonight, huh?" Cordelia noted.

 

            "Instant magical teleportation," Xander answered. "It's the only way to fly."

 

            "You had better have a good explanation on hand, Goodfellow," Oberon said and glared at him.

 

            "Um, excuse me, sir," Giles said as he stepped forward. "But we did give him permission for this. It wasn't entirely his fault."

 

            Oberon turned and glared at him. His eyes flashed and…nothing happened.  When Oberon realized that the spell he had cast had been blunted his face clouded over with anger.  “What trickery is this?”

 

Artemis glared at the King of the Faeries and said, “No trickery, Oberon.  But, know this!  This home protects all who reside or train here from harm and that protection is more than enough to stop even you.  So control yourself or I and my fellow Olympians will do it for you!”

 

Oberon growled lowly at the goddess then turned his attention back to his subject.  "I do not like having my authority questioned, Robin, you know that. I also know that you would not have done this on a whim. Now, I want the truth and I want it now."

 

            "The Oracles contacted me. They asked me to do this."

 

            Oberon's eyes opened wide. "The Oracles? If this is your idea of a jest, sprite…"

 

            "If it was a jest, it would be far better than this, my Lord!  They told me that it was of the utmost importance that I do this, that I balance the scales and enhance the males."

 

            "We're not in the Faerie Kingdom, Robin. There's no need for rhymes."

 

            "Sorry, I sometimes get carried away."

 

            "GOODFELLOW!" Oberon bellowed.  His patience was at an end.

 

            "The Oracles told me that something was coming, something big, something bad.  They said that the mortal men would probably die as a result of it. And those deaths would tear at their female counterparts, hurt them, distract them and lead to disastrous consequences.  I needed to give them these new powers before that occurred, else catastrophe would befall the Earth.  And things that affect the human realm inevitably affect ours as well."

 

            “I see," Oberon said and rubbed his chin. "And all that talk of ego and love?"

 

            "I had to tell them something." Robin then shrugged. "Surely you know the powers of the male ego, My Lord."

 

            "Wait, if something of such importance was coming, why was I not told?" Artemis asked.

 

            "The Oracles said that I was chosen because of my affinity for this realm and because I could bestow powers without need of sacrifice or worship in return.  Therefore, the gods could not bestow any powers."

 

            "Why would they want this kept so secret?"

 

            "You know the Oracles," Robin said. "They simply live for cryptic answers and mysteries.  They wouldn't give me specifics and I learned a long time ago not to push them."

 

            "Why should we believe this is the truth?" Artemis said. She was still upset that her Amazons had faired so poorly against a group of men, no matter how enhanced.

 

            Robin looked at her, then at Oberon and held up both of his hands.  "I swear, upon the One Who Empowers Us All, The Keeper of All Realms, the Sacred Spirit of Reality, that everything I have just said is the absolute truth."

 

            Oberon and Artemis gazed at one another in mute astonishment. The oath Robin had just spoken was the most sacred one a god, Faerie or Immortal could swear. Even for the most mischievous and duplicitous of creatures, there were some things that were simply not done and lying after swearing such an oath was one of them.

 

            Mulder looked at Robin and asked, “Why didn't you tell us about the Oracles?"

 

            Robin shrugged. "I hoped you wouldn't have to know. I prefer to keep things simple."

 

            "So, if you hadn't done this, Rupert would have..." Jenny couldn't finish the sentence.

 

            "That's what the Oracles said," Robin replied. "And they generally know these things, even if they are so blasted cryptic!"

 

            Artemis sighed. "I'm not happy with this," she announced. "But even Zeus would not go against the will of the Oracles." She then turned to her Amazons and asked, "Is this all right with you?"

 

            The women looked at their new men, at the power they had and the realization that they didn't have to protect them anymore. Cordelia spoke for them all. "Works for me."

 

            "So be it," Artemis nodded. Then she flashed the evil eye at a smiling Robin. "I hope you're pleased with yourself, sprite."

 

            "Actually,” Robin drawled, “I’m quite pleased, if I do say so myself.”

 

            "Too bad we don't have an instruction manual for this," Xander said as he flexed his new set of muscles.

 

            "Oh, but you do, my young friend," Oberon announced as he placed a powerful arm around Goodfellow’s shoulders.  "Robin here will show you how it is done."

 

            "He will?"

 

            "I will?" Robin chirped.

 

            "If the Oracles believe this is so important, who am I to deny them?" Oberon smiled a wicked smile and pronounced, "Henceforth, Robin will stay on Earth to help teach you how to use your new abilities to their fullest and to give aid when needed."

 

            "Now, wait a minute, My Lord-----"

 

            "Of course, he will be a tad conspicuous if he maintained his Faerie features-----"

 

            "Oh, I don't like where this is going," Goodfellow moaned.

 

            "So, by my command, Robin Goodfellow is hereby to take human form and live as a human until such time as I release him. Also, unless it is for the sole express purpose of aiding his charges in a battle against evil, Robin is forbidden to use his magic in any way, shape or form.  However, if you must battle against evil to assist your charges, you may do so using the same level of strength and skill as your charges."

 

            Robin's jaw nearly dropped to the floor as Artemis laughed boisterously upon seeing the tables turned on the sprite. "M-my Lord!" Robin spurted, his face pale. "You can’t be serious!"

 

            "I am always serious, my wayward Faerie.  Do you not realize that by now?"

 

            "You're banishing me from the Kingdom?"

 

            Oberon's eyes darkened at that. "If I had banished you, Robin, you would not be standing in my sight. And if you harbor any hopes of ever seeing the Faerie Lands again, you will accept my decision and obey my command."

 

            Robin opened his mouth then shut it. He closed his eyes, concentrated and a shimmer illuminated his entire body. When it faded, his face now had the look of a young, handsome human male.  His ears appeared as normal as Xander’s, his clothes now appeared to be a regular business suit, albeit with a bright green hue. "Much better," Oberon said. "You know, Puck has accepted his new station in life, perhaps you will, too. Who knows?  You may thank me for this someday, Robin."

 

            "I doubt it," Robin muttered.

 

            "I shall be watching to make certain you maintain our bargain," Oberon said. "Don't make me come for you anytime soon, Robin." With that, Oberon vanished and left Robin Goodfellow behind with his charges.

 

            Then Robin glared at the snickering Artemis and asked forlornly, "You're never going to let me live this down, are you?"

 

            "Not in the least," Artemis said as she began to glow. Her laugh continued to hang in the air long after she had vanished.

 

            Robin sighed and turned to the group. He gazed at them sourly and shook his head.  “So, now I'm stuck here.  The irony of this is just sickening."

 

            “Or, as we say in Sunnydale, ‘it sucks to be you,” Cordelia offered helpfully.

 

            "Maybe you can talk him out of it," Xander said.

 

            "You don't know Oberon," St. Wolf said. "Let’s just say that Robin is going to be here for quite a long while."

 

            "So, where do we start?" Mulder asked.

 

            "With something of the utmost importance," Robin said while he held his growling stomach. "I forgot you people need to eat all the time and I'm hungry as hell." He suddenly brightened. "Hmm. And since dying of starvation or not being able to live would hurt you all..." Then he concentrated, reached into his pocket and drew out a wallet full of cash. "I’ve still got it," he cooed then he glanced up at everyone. "Dinner?"

 

            "You don't have to ask me twice," Xander said as he and Cordelia began to leave the gymnasium.

 

            Cordelia felt at the muscles under his shirt. "This could have some benefits," she observed.

 

            "Yeah, but it'll make the broom closet seem a little tighter."

 

            "So, how different do you feel?" Willow asked as she and Oz followed their friends.

 

            "Let me put it this way. You know how I'm like after the change?"

 

            "Yeah."

 

            "I'm like that all the time, minus the fur," he answered and nuzzled her neck, causing Willow to “Eep!” and grin saucily.

             

            "So, am I still on the couch?" Mulder asked with a grin as he guided his wife toward the exit.

 

            "Nah, but don't think you're off the hook," Scully answered. "After that stunt, you owe me, buster."

 

            "And paying you back will be a pleasure."

 

            "So, you don't need the glasses anymore?" Jenny asked as she and Rupert walked toward the door.

 

            "No, 20/20 vision seems to be a most beneficial side effect."

 

            "That’s too bad, England because I thought they looked kind of sexy on you."

 

            "Well, there's always something for keeping up appearances," he drawled and planted a kiss on the nape of her neck.

 

            “So now you have extra strength and endurance?” Andrea asked Jarod as he led her out of the gym.

 

            “That seems to be the outcome of this.”

 

            Andrea grinned at that.  “Then you better last longer in bed after what you put me through tonight.”

 

            "This is really going to be interesting," St. Wolf said as he and Buffy followed the others out.

 

            "This is Sunnydale, Steve," Buffy said as she hooked her arm around his waist.  "What people in other towns call interesting, we just know it as ‘weird’ here."

 

            Finally, Amy and Robin were left alone and they stared at each other. "You shouldn't look so down," Amy said. "You look good."

 

            “Really?" Robin brightened.

 

            "Yeah. Losing the ears and the chin really helped."

 

            Robin looked at her then offered his arm. "Would you do me the honor of being my first mortal date, my lady?"

 

            "I'd be honored, kind sir," Amy said and hooked her arm in his. And with that, the odd little group left the gym and headed into an uncertain future.        

 

*****

 

            In a nearby dimensional pocket, Artemis stood next to her sister Aphrodite and grinned.  “Well?  Did you do it?”

 

            Aphrodite nodded.  “Of course I did.  I had Eros do it before they knew what hit them.  You did say that Amy needed a boyfriend, so, why not the former sprite who’s now vulnerable to my boy’s power because of Oberon’s edict?”  Aphrodite then snickered.  “Poor Robin, now he’s in love with an Amazon.  Isn’t irony grand?”

 

            “That it is, sister.  That it is,” Artemis said and smiled.  “I believe we shall have a lot of fun with this.”

 

            “I hope you’re not planning on hurting Amy to get back at Robin.”

 

            Artemis shot an annoyed look at her sister.  “Don’t be ridiculous!  The spell you cast only allows Robin’s human emotions to have a little more control over him.  We’ll let nature take its course with these two.  However, if he harms Amy, I will hurt him badly!”

 

            Aphrodite grunted in acknowledgement because she knew when her sister swore an oath, you could take it to the bank.

 

 

Part 35 – Patriot Games Part Deux

(The Scariest Words in the English Language—

“We’re the Government and We’re Here to Help!”)

 

August 7th - 12:30 PST

Home of Steven St. Wolf, Sunnydale, California

 

            Jack pulled their car into the driveway of the house on Bryant Terrace and asked, “Are you guys ready for this?”

 

            “Let us at him,” Bull said with a grin.  “I’m going to rip that boy a new one for keeping us in the dark!”

 

            The four men exited their car and approached the side door.  Then Jack knocked on the door.  Shortly, the door opened to reveal the young woman in the photograph who’d been kissing his old friend while they were on a swing.  “Buffy, I presume?”

 

            “Jack Ryan, right?” Buffy countered with a grin.

 

            “That’s me,” Jack said.  “May we come inside?”  Buffy nodded, opened the door wide and invited the men into the house.  They followed her toward the living room, though except for Jack, they hung back a bit.  When she brought Jack into the living room, he saw that St. Wolf and several other people were sitting around and enjoying some pizza.  “Jack,” St. Wolf said and got up to shake the man’s hand.  “It’s nice to see you again.  Jenny told me that you stopped by.”

 

            “Did she tell you who was with me?”

 

            “No, she didn’t.  I thought it was probably Clay or Patrick.”

 

            “We hate to disappoint you Carson, but we ain’t some wimpy CIA types,” Bull bellowed as Tex, Gunner, and he walked into the living room.

 

            “Oh fucking shit!”  St. Wolf muttered.  “Bull?  Tex?  Gunner?  What in the hell are you three doing here?”

 

            “ATTEN-HUT!!” Gunner snapped in his best Drill Sergeant voice.  Both St. Wolf and Jarod snapped to attention while Gunner glared at St. Wolf.  “Boy, you have caused us a lot of grief and I’m going to make you regret it every day for the rest of your life!” 

 

            When Tex and Bull began to laugh, Mulder asked, “Old friends, Steve?”

 

            Gunner then stared at the FBI Agent and snarled, “I wasn’t talking to you, mister!!”  In response, Mulder snapped to attention as well.

 

            “Want to tell me what the hell is going on, Jack?” St. Wolf asked as he realized that he was no longer in the Army and had no reason to stand at attention.

 

            “We’re just visiting an old friend, Steve.  Or would you rather I call you Carson?” 

 

            St. Wolf sighed and asked, “How did you find out about my past, Jack?  And how did you get involved with Bull, Tex and Gunner?”

 

            “That’s an interesting story,” Jack said and told them about Corporal Reilly’s story during the Los Angeles vampire attack.

 

            When Jack had finished the story, St. Wolf glared at the man.  “So what now?  Are you going to have me arrested?” 

 

Jack simply grinned at his friend and handed him a folder.  After St. Wolf had opened it, he glanced at Jack and asked, “Is this real?”

 

            “It is.  I contacted Governor Bush and he arranged for a full pardon.  I was worried about this Texas Ranger, Cordell Walker.  I thought he would block it but he helped push it through and the Governor signed it immediately.”

 

            “Walker’s an old friend.  He could have caught me, but he never tried,” St. Wolf softly said.  “I haven’t seen him in almost sixteen years.  Cordell and CD helped me survive Kathy’s death.” 

 

            When Buffy drew St. Wolf into her arms and hugged him gently, the four men plainly saw how close the lovers were.  Then Jack cleared his throat and said, “I also brought this for you.” He then opened a medal case and presented St. Wolf with the Medal of Honor.

 

            “Jack, I don’t deserve this,” Steve said in a hushed voice.

 

            “I read the damn reports.  You earned this more than once.  You should have received it while you were in the Army.”

 

            “Jack, Carson Jamieson died fifteen years ago.  That medal should go to the orphanage where he grew up.”

 

            “Don’t give me any of that shit, Cherokee!” Bull snapped.  “You’re still the same man we served with.  What happened in Los Angeles is a damn good example of how much you haven’t changed.  You still care for the innocent and plan your missions for the least amount of collateral damage.  I read the reports.  Almost four thousand innocent bystanders were saved by you and your people.  You have nothing to be ashamed of, son.”

 

            “Bull…I’ve built a new life as St. Wolf.  As far as I’m concerned, Carson ‘Cherokee’ Jamieson died when Kathy died.”

 

            “We can accept that,” Tex said.  “But we still want to be part of your life.  You were once our friend; we hope you will be our friend once again.”  Then Tex smiled broadly and slapped St. Wolf heartily on his back.  “Now that we’ve settled all of that, why don’t you introduce us to your friends?”  Then Tex looked at the Pretender and asked, “Aren’t you the man who was once a lieutenant in the 82nd, Lieutenant Patton wasn’t it?” 

 

            St. Wolf chuckled lowly and said, “Jarod’s one of mine, Bull.  Just leave it at that, all right?”

 

            “Did you give him permission to bust Saunders for murdering a fellow soldier?”  Bull asked with an angry edge to his voice.

 

            “I did,” Steve lied and thought, < What in the hell was Jarod doing? >

 

            “Good.  Saunders was a cancer that needed to be removed.  That bastard deserved what he got.  One more thing, Patton.  Colonel Dancer has been turning CID upside down looking for you.  He wants to give you a commendation for a job well done.”

 

            “Thank you, sir, but it really isn’t necessary.  I was just doing my job,” Jarod said with a lopsided grin on his face.

 

            “Does he do things like that often?” Tex asked St. Wolf.

 

            “Not at the moment, but he’ll probably do it again if I give him some free time.” 

 

            Bull just laughed and said, “Any time he wants to help the Army, feel free to send him to either Tex or me.  I’m sure we can use him.”

 

            “I could also use someone like him from time to time,” Jack said.  “So Jarod, was it?”  Jarod nodded.  “Do you want to work with me occasionally?”

 

            “Only if Steve allows me to go and I agree with the mission parameters.”

 

            “Hey!” St. Wolf bellowed.  “Stop fawning all over Jarod and let me introduce you to the rest of my team!” 

 

And with that, introductions were made and the bonds of friendships, new and old, began to be formed.

 

 

 

 

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