Part twenty-two: In which the darkest day becomes a dawn of glory.
May 26th, 1999
0002 Hours PST
The sky was turning dark and red as the plume of flame blasted upward. The demons on the steps whooped and high-fived each other, several giving Roz congratulatory slaps on the back.
The woman just smiled and laughed as demons began to emerge from the pillar, spreading through the town and toward the stunned fighters.
"Oh, God," Steve murmured. His grip on his sword increased as Buffy instinctively put a hand to him. The Slayer's own face was tight with fear and shock, a hollow feeling in her stomach as she saw the horror of the Hellmouth begin to emerge. Several vampires and demons were already moving forward, eager to taste the blood of those who had kept them underfoot so long.
"Hell is empty and all the devils are here," Torc whispered.
"Willy always did take Robbie's best material," Aideen automatically commented.
Randi glared at Roz. "You said you were going to do it at midnight!"
The alien shrugged. "I lied. I'm evil and insane. I do that."
Zev swallowed as he allowed his spikes to spring out. "Ladies and gentlemen...I hope you find the right afterlife."
"Well, it's been a good life, can't complain, three hundred years, not bad," Sparrow intoned sardonically.
"It can't end like this," Marc whispered, shaking his head. "It can't."
"Oh, but it can," Roz laughed. "Kiss your planet goodbye, folks! You don't expect a cavalry to just come barging in now, do you?"
On that brilliant cue, a flash of light erupted between the demons and the Section fighters and two figures materialised out of nothing. It took a moment before the eyes could clear enough to show Robin and Liam, who immediately threw up their hands and yelled out. "HERE WE COME TO SAVE THE DAAAAYYYY!"
"Hooray, we're dead," Cordelia sardonically observed.
Roz frowned as she saw the two new arrivals. "Who in the Nine Pillars..."
The two ignored her and focused on the gathering demons. "Lads and lassies, I'd recommend you all turn right around and get going while ye still can," Liam announced.
The demons all laughed in disbelief, Roz with them. "Oh, please!" she yelled. "What the hell are you two going to do to defend this town?"
Robin smiled broadly. "Well, first of all...hasn't it occurred to you how odd it is that no one's come out to investigate the big wall of fire, let along two armies of demons and fighters?"
There was a long silence as both sides suddenly realised he was right. Even for Sunnydale, ignoring such a massive event was unheard of.
"Yep," Robin added with his smile broadening. "Made a call to a...friend of mind and he's arranged a little stasis time for the Sunnydale population. They can be put back without even knowing they were gone. Which means, we've got the whole town to work with without the fear of collateral damage."
Roz snorted. "Whoop-de-shit. I'm about to wipe out your damn planet, remember?"
"Actually, no, ye aren't," Liam stated. "Because the lad responsible for the mass exodus is also responsible for the people who are coming down here to kick all your asses straight back below." With that, he and Robin both looked up.
Roz stared at them in confusion, then did the same. So did the majority of the gathered warriors, all wondering what they were looking for. Marc peered upward, trying to gauge what was going on. A bright flash caught his eyes and he focused on it. It took a moment to realise what it was and his eyes widened. "Oh my God," he whispered.
There was a loud shriek as a glowing figure streaked through the sky and smacked right into a pack of demons. There was an eruption of dirt as the demons were sent flying in all directions. Everyone ducked away and then stared at the crater that had formed from the object. One demon leaned over the edge to look into it. A second later, he was sent flying back, a gaping hole in his chest as a figure rose from the crater and hung in the air about twenty feet over the ground.
She grinned wildly at the stunned stares from all sides, spinning the staff in her hands as she looked to the demons and vampires. "Evening, you murdering sons of bitches." Seeing some female vamps, she amended "And just plain bitches. My name's Astra and I don't think I've ever hated anyone in my life as much as I hate all of you right now." Her face grew hard. "This is my planet you bastards are trying to kill. And I don't like that. I don't like that one bit."
"Neither do I." Everyone turned at the strong voice but saw no one. Then they looked up to see the golden figure standing in mid-air, arms crossed before her. "I'm Apalla. I'm the Queen of Light and I don't appreciate you ass holes stepping in my kingdom."
A vampire scoffed. "Nice trick with the flying, bitch. But you don't-"
Apalla looked at him, her mirrored glasses flashing and a blast of energy erupting from them. It struck the vampire, along with the two behind him, incinerating them before they could scream.
"My God," Xander whispered. "She killed those guys just by looking at them."
"She's got style," another female voice came. "But so do I." They all turned to see Elementra striding forward, wind whipping at her clothing and hair. Her face was hard and her hands seemed to crackle with power. "I'm Elementra. And as of right now...you bastards are at war with this planet."
She stamped her left foot on the ground and instantly, the ground shook. Shock waves moved forward but they only seemed to effect the vampires and demons, throwing them about while the Section Seven fighters stood, frozen in amazement. Elementra spun on her heel and raised her hands. The street to one side flew up in a tidal wave of rock, dirt and pavement flaring up as bodies flew about.
"Holy shit," Faith spoke for most of the fighters assembled. Before anyone could react, the sky suddenly flared with a bright green colour. It flew about like a dome, arcing downward, the edges burrowing into the ground around the city limits. Lowering himself from the sky, his staff held high above his head, the crystal on it glowing brightly, Shamaran levitated above the ground and threw a dark grin at Roz.
Merlin stared in amazement, feeling the incredible magical power coming from the man, power that was almost at his own strength. "The Master Mage," he whispered.
Roz blinked in disbelief at the black man. "What did you just..."
"Little spell to seal this town off," Shamaran answered her. "As of now, only way anything inhuman is getting out of here is if we want it too. And we don't." He spread out his arms and made an evil grin. "Welcome to Thunderdome, bitch."
"What the hell?" Buffy yelled as the demons scattered. Astra and Apalla immediately flew into the hordes and began attacking.
Even as she tried to figure out what the hell was happening, Roz let out a yell. "What are you idiots waiting for? GET THEM!" Realising their cue, the demons began to spread out on the attack. An attack that was joined by fighters no one could possibly expect.
<Shamaran, how many have we got to face here?>
<You want general counts or by demon type, sex and astrological sign?>
<Hey, I like to be thorough.>
A pack of demons were rushing toward the main street toward several Knights. The Knights prepared themselves for the attack...only to have a blast of energy knock one demon right off his feet, a gaping hole in his chest. The Knights turned to see Imator hop down to the ground, a large gun in her hand, the barrel smoking. The woman's outfit had shifted into a dark green, almost metallic outfit, her grin showing amidst her large headgear.
"Who the hell are you?" one demon demanded.
"Your worst nightmare, buddy," Imator stated, bending her hand back with the gun clutched in it. "A Cartoon Network junkie with the power to make anything I want come to life." She threw the gun up in the air in a wide arc. At the very height of it, the gun suddenly transformed into a robot with a cannon on his arm and an odd purple symbol on his chest. The robot landed, held up his cannon and blew the demons away.
The head of the Knight unit simply stared in disbelief as one of the younger members muttered, "Megatron?"
"Yeah, yeah, I know he's a baddie," Imator shrugged. "Hey, but he is cool as hell. Gotta count the style."
"Just who the hell are you?" A knight choked out.
"Ever read Henry V?"
"I am the muse of fire they're asking for at the beginning."
<Hey, Im> Shamaran's voice broke in. <Tempted to move out here?>
<And do what?>
<Well, we could put Industrial Lights and Magic out of business.>
<Imator> Apalla's voice came to her mind. <Got some nasties trying to move in the alleyway near town centre.
<On it.> Imator thought and found the perfect character...
The demons and vampires had actually managed to work out a strategy of sorts to spring on the Section fighters once the Hellmouth was opened. It called for strikes at them from multiple directions, too many for them to fight back. While the sudden appearance of these new fighters had thrown a wrench in things, they were ready to go through with the attempt.
They were about two dozen in all, a mix of vamps and several demons, moving through the alleyway with speed and stealth and not at all prepared for the figure that suddenly appeared before them.
He was tall and dressed like an Old West gunfighter with dark overcoat over denim pants, shirt and jacket, a battered galleon hat on his head. His face was a dark grey, craggy and seemingly stuck in a perpetual scowl. His eyes were as black and cold as the Arctic, motionless as he stared down the group before him. When he spoke, it was with a voice of age that carried the air of death. "Get going before you can't."
"Who the hell-"
The man was holding up two antique Colt .45 pistols in his hands. No one had even seen him draw; one second his hands were clear, the next they were holding the guns, guns that would never run out of ammo, whose bullets would always find their mark.
"Ain't nothing in hell worse than me, boy," the man intoned. "Go and have a look."
With that, the Saint of All Killers opened fire.
Mulder, Scully, Tessa and Melissa were running down one of the streets, swords out and looking for trouble. It wasn't hard to find as demons and vamps were beginning to flow out of the Hellmouth and into the town itself.
A couple of vamps saw the group and started to move in. Before they got far, however, there was a screeching sound and suddenly a pack of squirrels leaped out of nowhere to latch at them. The vamps yelled as the animals clawed and bit at them. Before their demon partners could join in, several hisses rang out and from seemingly every alleyway nearby, cats suddenly launched themselves at them.
"What the hell is going on?!" one vampire screamed as he crushed a cat's neck before throwing it aside. There was a whisper of air and suddenly, an arrow ploughed into his chest, turning him to dust. Flipping through the air, crossbow still in hand, a male figure landed before the vamps and made a sardonic smile.
"I'm the hell that's going on. I'm Pretor and I just told the wild kingdom of Sunnydale not to take any more shit from you pissants." He lifted his crossbows back up and fired more arrows at the demons, taking out two more vampires and a demon.
"What is that?" Tessa gasped.
"Dr. Doolittle on steroids?" Melissa asked.
Mulder and Scully were backing away when they felt a presence behind them. They spun around to see two Grappler demons behind them, snarling. Before either agent could move, two tendrils of black energy seemed to come out of nowhere, wrapping around the demons' throats. A yank and two snaps went out. Mulder and Scully stared at the figure that flowed upward over the corpses. He smiled and nodded. "No need to thank me."
"Who the hell are you?" Scully demanded.
"Darknighter?" Mulder expressed. "Nice. You a demon?"
The man smiled. "You must be Mulder. Robin told us there was one guy who could be counted on to be suspicious of someone even if he just saved your life."
He turned as he saw another group of demons heading in. The minute they were under the light, Darknighter snapped his fingers. In mid-step, the demons were yanked in their tracks as their own shadows reared up to attack them. Mulder and Scully blinked and turned to look at the man. "How long have you known Robin and Liam?" Mulder asked.
"Couple of days."
“You’re a quick learner.”
Tessa had managed to recover enough to pull out her ever present bullwhip. She uncoiled it and lashed it forward, driving a demon back. She caught the slight smile on Pretor's face and paused. The man looked the whip over and nodded. "Not bad."
Tessa sniffed. "You can do better?"
Pretor looked at her and holstered his crossbows. He reached to his belt and pulled out his own whip, stepping forward at the demons and vampires still standing. He lashed it outward, the tip suddenly glowing as if electrified. It hit one vamp, who howled as his body was rocked with electricity that soon disintegrated him. He swung the whip around as the tip turned into a spiked bola that slammed into a red-skinned demon's head. Pretor leaped up as he swung the whip underneath him, the long tendril igniting with flame. He seemed to hover in the air as the whip circled around, striking all the vamps and demons about him, sending them back screaming and aflame. He landed on his feet, yanking the whip back into a coiled position on his belt. He paused to give Tessa a wry smile before launching himself at the demons.
Tessa did a slow burn, muttering under her breath in a rapid-fire rant of Spanish that would do Desi Arnaz proud. All Melissa could understand was "show off gringo" and was a bit grateful for that.
The main street of Sunnydale was the site of most of the fighting as Immortals, Amazons, Knights and other warriors tangled with the slews of demons and vampires in the area. So close was the fighting that many of the Immortals barely registered the addition of another Buzz.
Giles and Jenny were back to back, the MacLeods and Amanda nearby, swords and stakes swinging as they tried to fight back the demons around them. Giles swung at an orange skinned hulk, who ducked the axe and swung out with a fist that knocked Giles back into Jenny. The two fell back, off-balance, both looking toward the demon who moved in for the kill. Suddenly, it straightened up, gasping in pain as the edge of a sword poked from his chest. He collapsed to reveal a beautiful red-haired woman behind him, smiling. "God save the Queen," she announced in a chipper British accent.
Duncan and Connor both turned at the familiar voice, spinning about and staring in amazement at the figure. "Elizabeth?"
Elizabeth Corday nodded. "Duncan, Connor, Amanda, good to see you all again."
"What the hell are you doing here?" Amanda gasped.
"Well, let's just say I ran into Robin and Liam and things sort of got out of hand from there," the surgeon shrugged.
"How well we know the feeling," Giles muttered. His eyes widened as he saw a vampire lunge at Elizabeth. "Behind-"
Without even looking, Elizabeth snapped her foot back to catch the vampire in the chest, then spun around to kick him in the face. She glanced up to see a trio of demons on a rooftop of the store next to them. Tucking her sword under one arm, Elizabeth tensed and leaped upward, spinning about, her hair whirling about her face as she flew twenty feet in the air. She landed on the roof and immediately began attacking the demons with a wild series of kicks, flips and slashes.
The Immortals, the Watcher and the Gypsy watched in mute amazement as Elizabeth back flipped, kicking one demon in the face and slashing at another in mid-air. "Amazon?" Connor asked.
Jenny shook her head. "No. A bit too wild for us."
Giles sighed. "Robin."
A Buzz cut through the air, every Immortal reacting to it. All were struck by how it seemed so strong, stronger than a single Immortal would be. The gallop of hooves struck the ground as a figure flew down the street behind them. He was astride a powerful Spanish steed, the horse's nostrils flaring as it drove its owner on. A pair of demons tried to get before him but with two powerful sweeps of his arm, the rider beheaded them both.
Torc and Kate both stared at that move. The way the armoured man carried himself, his stride, his skill, his technique which they found so familiar. "Maximus," both whispered.
Soldar leaped off his stead, feet slamming a pair of vampires back. They tried to rush them and his actions were a blur, a flash of darkness and steal and before they even knew it, the vampires were ash on the ground. Soldar swung his blade outward to decapitate another demon before turning to the fighters nearby. His eyes landed on two and a smile grew under his helmet. "Torc. Kate. Good to see you both again."
"It is you," Kate whispered. "How...how did you..."
"Fight now, talk later," the Roman general bit out. He looked over to where Sonya and Jax were brawling with some vampires who apparently liked kung-fu. "You two! Get to the west side and reinforce them there!"
Sonya kicked a vamp down and threw a glare at the figure before her. "Excuse me but just who the hell do you think-"
"I SAID NOW, SOLDIER!"
"SIR, YES, SIR!" Sonya yelled back, immediately snapping off a salute and rushing off, Jax hot on her heels. Soldar smiled. "Still got it..."
Roz had no idea what the hell was going on but she knew it wasn't good. She had tried to run back into the school but the rush of demons into the battle had carried her to one of the smaller streets near the school. She managed to break free, running across the alleyway and was almost at the end when a fist lashed outward and knocked her back. She staggered backward and saw Buffy, a hard expression on her face as she marched forward. Roz turned just in time to see Joyce throwing a fist of her own. Roz staggered back, turning so Buffy punched her again. She staggered, turning the other way in time to catch a blow from Joyce. This kept up for several turns as she seemed to bounce from one blow to another before another figure seemed to materialise and punched her in the face, sending her down.
"HEY!" Buffy and Joyce both yelled.
Zev shrugged. "Sorry, the whole thing was giving me a headache."
Roz got to her knees, growling and taking a deep breath. She opened her mouth and unleashed a scream. Unlike Zev's, which had acted like a concessive force, hers was high pitched and was like a piercing pain to anyone who heard it. Buffy, Joyce and Zev all yelled and covered their ears, falling to their knees under the wave.
Roz shut her mouth, smiling as she saw the stunned figures before her. She flexed her arms and her own spikes came popping out. She moved toward Joyce, deciding she would be the first to die when a pair of hands suddenly grabbed her by the shoulders and yanked back. With a yelp, Roz went sailing right through the wall of a store, landing hard on the ground with a cracking in her back. She moaned as she tried to roll up and saw two figures leaning down to her, evil smiles on their faces.
"You must be Roz," Robin said.
"Nice to meet ye," Liam said.
"The people you used and abused and humiliated are considered family to me."
"The elven lass whose trust ye twisted about is close to my heart."
"Her cousin is the woman I love."
"Ye realise, of course, that your days as a bipedal vertebrae are now officially over."
Roz shook her head as she tried to sit up. "What do you expect me to do? Beg?" She felt herself slammed back without warning, pinned to the ground as if by a massive weight. She gasped as she looked up at the two faeries, their eyes glowing with dark energy.
"Fetch," Robin told her.
"Roll over," Liam added.
"Play dead," they both intoned before descending on her.
Zev got to his feet, shaking his head. "Jurden, that hurt." He looked to the hole where he could hear some screams coming out. "What in Surton...?"
Buffy drew a grim smile as she realised what had happened. "Sounds like Robin and Liam are checking her into the penthouse suite of the Smackdown Hotel."
"Shouldn't we doing something?"
"Well, normally, I'd say get some popcorn and watch," Buffy replied as she held up her sword. "But we've got other work to do." With that, she took off into the battle.
Zev looked to Joyce. "I take an earlier comment back. I do see the family resemblance."
Elementra flipped backward, levitating over the heads of a dozen demons and floating upside down. She waved her hands toward the area where two demons had congregated and yelled, "You two trees! Down, damn you!"
There was a loud cracking and splitting as the trees collapsed inward, smashing onto the demons between them.
"Did those trees just fall because she suggested they do?" Xander stated in disbelief.
"Who the hell are these guys?!" Cordelia yelled.
Elementra clenched a fist at the trees and loud cracking sounds could be heard. She spun and waved her hand outward and a slew of branches, twigs and shards of wood flew up and outward, slamming into the a squad of demons nearby. Vampires turned to dust as demons yelled out from mortal wounds.
Elementra held up her hands to the sky. The clouds above rolled as lightning flashed about.
Willow and Oz were as stunned as the others at the sight; Oz actually raised his eyebrows a full inch. "I don't believe this," Amy remarked as she watched lightning cross the sky at Elementra's wave. "I just do not believe this."
"She's like a one-woman Weather channel!" Xander exclaimed.
"They do put the 'oy' in 'flamboyant' don't they?" Tarring asked as he stepped up.
"Who the hell-" Cordelia broke off when she saw the collar around Tarring's throat.
"Father Bernard Tarring," the priest introduced himself.
"And what do you do?" asked Xander.
Tarring let a small smile come to his face as he reached into his robe and removed a cross.
"Elementra!" he called out. "Some rain?"
Nodding, the red-haired woman snapped her fingers and the clouds began to pour down on the demons in the area while the Scoobies remained perfectly dry. Tarring suddenly began to yell out in Latin, making the sign of the cross before him. A series of loud shrieks went out as the demons suddenly began smoking as if acid had been dropped on them. The vampires began disintegrating as other demons tried to stagger away.
"What the-" Xander started
"Just a routine blessing," Tarring said with a smile.
Willow stared at him for a moment. Her eyes widened as she suddenly got it. "You...you blessed...the rain..."
"Holy water downpour," the priest confirmed.
Amy and Willow exchanged stunned looks. "Why didn't WE ever think of that?!"
As Methos sliced down one demon, he caught a flash of a reddish-brown mane that seemed so familiar. He turned to see Elizabeth twisting about as she cut down a vampire with her blade. She had a wild expression on her face, all vestiges of the proper lady she had once been now gone, replaced by a warrior who would take no prisoners. Methos had seen that look many times before...including on a face that looked exactly like Elizabeth's.
"Boudica?" he muttered in puzzlement. He shook his head and quickly went back to the battle.
Elizabeth had just cut down a vampire and spun about when her blade met another. She stared at the man before her who managed a smile. "Well, well, it's been a while, Moll-"
Sparrow went stumbling back as Elizabeth smacked him across the face. "Right, I did deserve that one..."
Giles cut a demon down and glanced up. His eyes widened as he saw several flying demons starting to move in. They varied in size and shape, wings flapping, jaws gaping, claws at the
ready. "We've got incoming."
"Don't worry," Elizabeth smiled. "Air support is on the way."
"Air support?" Jenny frowned. "What do you mean-"
The sky erupted with bursts of light and howls of rage and pain. The group looked up to see Apalla, Astra, Pretor and Shamaran flying in, coats and hair billowing as they unleashed energy blasts, light bursts, arrows and spells at the demons. Apalla back flipped to unleash double blasts that incinerated two demons while Astra smacked another back with her staff. The youngest member of the Pantheon looked down to see a green-skinned demon with no mouth but rather sharp claws moving toward the group on the ground. With a spin and kick downward, she flew down and smashed the demon in the face with her staff.
"Good Lord," Giles whispered. "Are Robin and Liam responsible for this?"
Elizabeth shook her head. "From what I've gathered, the man responsible for these people makes Robin and Liam look like the epitome of restrained and graceful gentlemen." She glanced to the group and saw the shocked and slightly horrified looks on their faces. "Yes, a chilling concept, I know."
Spinning her staff in one hand, Astra reached down to heft the demon up with her free arm. "Nasty looking sucker." She let a wide smile come onto her face. "Think I'll drop you on the Sea."
"Good Lord, don't do that!" Giles broke out. "It's an Aquan demon! It gains strength in water!"
"Oh, don't worry. There won't be any water in this Sea."
Giles looked sceptical. "And what sea would this be?"
Astra smiled as she slowly began to float up. "The Sea of Tranquillity." She sped upward, the demon clutched in one hand as she streaked to the heavens.
Steve sliced his bade outward, a green-skinned demon screaming as he was bisected by the cut. He turned to see Soldar kicking a vampire down before plunging a knife into its heart. The vampire screamed before bursting apart. "Blessed," Soldar explained to the Wanderer. "Makes it a bit faster."
<And it's still sharp enough to slice a tomato!>
<SHUT UP, IMATOR!>
Steve nodded, sizing the man up. "I know you?"
"We've never had the pleasure," the armoured man answered. "General Maximus Decimus Meridas."
Steve's eyes widened in shock. "You? I...didn't know you were Immortal."
"Surprising how something like that fails to get around," Soldar remarked. "We need to contain these demons with a two-pronged attack.
Steve shook his head. "As long as the Hellmouth is open, we're still going to have more coming."
Soldar nodded. "I'll have that handled. In the meantime...get me everyone who can ride a horse."
Steve stared as the general ploughed into battle. He became aware of Kate next to him. "Horses? Does he want to do a cavalry charge?"
"Wouldn't be at all surprised," the blacksmith said.
Steve stared at her. "Is he that crazy for a scheme?"
A small smile came to Kate's lips. "If you or I had thought it up, it'd be a crazy scheme. Maximus thought it up. That makes it a plan." She moved back to the fight as Steve tried to fight off a sudden feeling of inadequacy.
Apalla spun about as she let out a blast of light at a flying demon. She looked down to see Willow, Amy, Jenny and Cordelia standing by a somewhat human-looking demon in robes. The man was standing behind a glowing white field, smiling as the witches hurled magic at him to no effect. The policewoman landed next to them and looked at the demon.
"Looks like," Jenny said. "Dammit, we can't dent the thing!"
"I can," Apalla replied.
"How?" Willow demanded.
Apalla smiled. "Well, I can see him. And, more importantly, he can see us. Which means there's one thing that can get through that field."
She raised her arm and pointed her index finger at the shield. The wizard frowned in confusion as the tip of her finger glowed. A beam of yellow energy flew outward, hitting the shield, flying through it and smashing into the mage's right eye and out the back of his head. A surprised look came over his face just before he keeled onto his back.
The witches all stared at Apalla. Milking the moment, the blonde brought her finger up to her lips and blew it. "I love being me," she remarked. With a smile, she then took off high into the air.
Willow looked at the others. "Why didn't WE think of that?"
Jax danced back as he tried to avoid the swipes of the large demon moving in on him. He was smaller than the two winged creatures which gave him mobility but lowered the impact of his blows. One demon swung its tail outward, taking Jax's knees down. He grunted as he slammed
onto the ground, looking up to see the two demons leering at them.
Two streaks of green light flew out, hitting each demon and incinerating them. Jax turned to see Shamaran floating down, his staff still glowing. He looked down at the other black man and raised an eyebrow. "Jax, right?"
"Yeah? Who are you?"
"Name's Cal Reynolds. But in the union suit, I'm Shamaran."
"Thanks." He paused to look around, then turned back to Jax. "Say, is it me or is this town just not the haven for brothers?"
"Well, the only black guys on our side are you, me and Ivar, who's actually from Africa."
"Haven't noticed many on the other team. And I mean black skin, not scales."
"Sorry, pickings are slim."
"Tell me about it. I really wanted some ass holes I could turn loose on."
The two turned to see a dozen vampires standing before them. Most were out of shape and smelled even worse than a vampire would. What made them notable was that they all wore the hoods and robes of the Klu Klux Klan.
Jax and Shamaran stared at them, then at each other, then looked up. "Thank you," they both said. They turned, wicked smiles on their faces as they strode forward. "Mind if I join?" Ivar asked as he strode up to join them.
"Hey, the more brothers the merrier!" Shamaran called out.
Ivar frowned as Jax leaned in to the mage. "He doesn't like being called a brother."
"I'm 1400 years old and African," Ivar answered.
"So why help us here?"
"I spent eight fun-filled months as a plantation slave in Louisiana in 1843." Ivar hefted his trident. "Ever since I've wanted payback."
Jax frowned. "How could they bring you here that late? Even I know history."
"Smuggling," Ivar shrugged. "They caught me in the village I was visiting."
Shamaran spun his staff in his hands. "Well, Kunta Kinte, let's kick some ass!" He spun his staff in his hands and let the crystal tip glow. One vampire yelled as his form shifted into a flaming cross. The other vampires yelled as they fell back.
"That's low," Jax intoned. He smiled. "I like it." He glanced at Ivar and saw the Immortal was looking at Shamaran in fascination. "What is it?"
"How'd he know I was Kunta Kinte?" Ivar asked. He saw Jax staring at him. "What? Do you think Angus was the only one who had famous figures based on him? Read Othello some time." Hefting his trident, he charged into the fray, Jax taking a moment to shake his head before following.
Shamaran swung his staff out, smacking two vampires back. He spun around in time to see a black-skinned vampire staking one of the Klan ones. "How about that?" Shamaran announced. "Brothers stick together, even if they are undead."
The man smiled. "Actually, I've got a soul. Name's Charlie."
"Cal," the other returned. "Come on and fight the power, pal!" He waved a hand to turn one vampire into a cloud of dust as Charlie followed him in.
Apalla twisted in the air, flying past a lightning bolt that streaked down to incinerate a group of vampires. <SHAZAM!>
<Always liked that guy> Astra stated.
<Captain Marvel. He's the guy who said Shazam to turn super-powered and everything.>
<Actually, I was going more for Storm> Elementra explained.
<Really?> Darknighter chimed in. <I thought it was Thor.>
<I think I know how Charlie Brown must feel when his team would launch into a theology discussion in the middle of a ball game> Soldar remarked.
<I get to be Lucy> Imator announced.
<She was the hard ass, holder for the football team, outfielder and psychiatrist. A real Renaissance woman.>
<Okay, I get to be Sally> Astra piped up.
<I'm Franklin> Shamaran chimed in.
<Why do I bother...> Soldar sighed.
As the chaos continued, a group of burly demons tried to make a run for it only to have Pretor block their way. He smiled wickedly at them. "Hello. Allow me to introduce a couple of friends of mine. Perhaps you've heard of them."
From behind him materialised two shapes. Each was four-legged and large, golden fur seeming to glint in the light, along with their claws and fangs. "Say hello to the Ghost and the Darkness." Pretor nodded to the terrified demons. "Sic 'em, boys."
With stereo roars, the two lions lunged forward and into the pack.
<Nice job, Imator> Pretor thought as he watched the slaughter.
<You know, if you went to the Field Museum, you'd know they weren't that big didn't have manes.>
<Artistic license.> Imator replied as she looked about for another fray to throw herself into. Her eyes fell on Sonja and Gabrielle, the two Amazons slashing out at a back of demons.
Grinning, Imator reformed her outfit into an extremely formfitting leather and armoured bustier and skirt, with plenty of leg and cleavage on display. She dashed forward, a pair of swords appearing in her hands as she bounded up and flipped through the air.
Sonja and Gabrielle were both taken aback at the scantily-dressed madwoman who fell among the demons, slashing left and right with a wild grin on her face. She gave each sword a slight twist with her wrist, then let go. The blades remained in the air, still on the attack, cutting and piercing demonic skin. "Always wanted to do that," Imator muttered.
"That's incredible," Gabrielle gawked.
"That? Nah," Imator said with a shake of her head. "Driving the Dan Ryan in the middle of February, now THAT'S skill!" She turned to face the blonde and redhead, a smile on her face as she looked them over. "Ladies. How's it going?"
"Who are you?" Sonja demanded while Gabrielle gave Imator an appreciative look.
Imator leaned in and winked. "A lady who's ready to give you two one hell of a ride later tonight." She moved away to fight elsewhere, leaving the two thrown at such brazenness.
Gabrielle looked to the redhead. "You think that vampire Willow has a cousin?"
Merlin could feel the magic swirling about the town, a mix so chaotic even he had difficulty managing through it. His staff flashed as he ignited a fireball into one demon and watched it catch alight. He turned toward a rushing trio but before he could do anything, they froze in place, their bodies turning from skin and scale to stone. Merlin blinked and then looked up as Shamaran floated to Earth.
They stared at one another. The two most powerful wizards on the planet, each seeming to feel the other out. Merlin slowly nodded. "The Master Mage. I felt your arrival."
"And you're the big, bad wizard," Shamaran said, leaning on his staff. "Funny...always figured you'd look like Gandalf."
"A curse I've had to bear," Merlin dryly stated. He glanced to where a hulking demon was starting to come their way. "Can you handle that?"
A sly grin came onto Shamaran's dark face. He pointed a finger downward and a small ball of energy appeared hovering a few inches off the ground. He lowered his staff, the crystal aiming to the ball. He spread his legs slightly, reared back and then swung downward, sending the energy ball slicing toward the demon. It struck it head on, causing an explosion that took off its head and most of its torso. "Eat your heart out, Tiger."
Shamaran balanced his staff on his shoulders as he turned to a surprised Merlin. "Here it is, senior," he said. "You may have the experience. You may have power. But I've got two things
you don't. Rhythm and style."
He spun around and pointed his cane at some large demons nearby. He concentrated and the demons suddenly found themselves rooted to the spot. Seconds later, their legs became actual roots as they were transformed into trees.
<Whoa> Elementra's voice cut in. <The environment here just took a rise. What happened?>
<I reforested the town.>
<Ask a stupid question...>
<Shamaran> Soldar's voice came in.
<Get to the high school. Pretor, give him cover. I need you to do whatever it takes to seal up the Hellmouth.>
<Seal up the mouth to Hell. Just like that. Just like it's normal. Man, I love this gig.>
<Astra, can you back him up?...Astra? Astra, are you there?>
Astra was standing and staring in absolute wonder at the beautiful sight of Earth floating a few thousand miles away. The demon was lying behind her, senseless after the wild trip. She paid it no mind, her eyes glued to the sight she always dreamed of.
<I'm on the moon> she answered dreamily.
<Get back down here.>
<Boss. I'm on. The. Moon.>
<Send me a postcard. Get back in the fight.>
<You're no fun> Astra pouted as she took off.
<I'm the leader. I'm not allowed.>
The Spirit Guardians were having their own time with some of the demons. All were in their supernatural forms, biting and clawing at anything in their path. Lassie tore a demon's throat out while Arial's claws slashed through a vampire. /We're still out numbered here!> Blackie threw in.
<Allow me> a voice suddenly cut in. A slew of arrows streaked outward and quickly turned the vampires to dust. A whip carved through the air, the flaming tip burning several demons before turning into a spike to cave in another's head. The animals all turned to see Pretor step
/Is that.../ Patches started.
/It is/ Duke said in shock. /Him. The Avatar of Animals./
Pretor smiled as he took in the shocked Guardians. <Seeing as how you're all animals now, I could command you fight these guys. But, given your unique abilities, I thought asking first would be more appropriate.>
/What can you do?/ Sherlock asked.
Pretor smiled. /Let's just say a little trick to make you a bit more like your owners.../
As the animals stared in confusion, Pretor smiled more. "I love being me." He paused before contacting another Pantheon member.
Fox Mulder and Dana Scully's home
Tigger fought back a yawn as he stretched in his small basket. He was used to lonely days with Mulder and Scully off on assignments so their sudden exit hadn't bothered them. He simply did what a cat did: Sat around and took some naps.
He was just about to nod off from one when a flash of light filled the apartment. Instantly, he was up and ready to turn into his tiger persona as a figure materialised. He was a black man in a dark coat clutching a long staff. He looked at Tigger and raised an eyebrow.
Tigger stared, stunned to hear the stranger's voice in his mind. /Who...who are.../
<Name's Shamaran. There's a party in Sunnydale, we're kicking demon ass and I've got a buddy who can give you and your pack the animal equivalent of the empowerment deal your owners have. Interested?>
Tigger didn't even think about it. /Lead the way./
Shaw's blades flashed with fire as she swung outward, cutting down a pair of demons. Behind her, Faith and Kendra were trying their best to fight off the horde of demons that had started to surround them. They were cut off from most of the other fighters, in a playground with little cover. The three were back to back as the vamps and demons started to close in on them.
Kendra kicked one vampire back and glanced at her friends. "We're outnumbered!" she pointed out.
"So what else is new?" Faith replied as she punched a demon in the face. "We're Slayers, we're always in over our heads!"
"They will be on our heads momentarily!" Kendra yelled. "We need-"
There was a blast of wind and suddenly Astra landed between the three, her staff held over her head. "Get down," she commanded in a tone that Marybeth Andrews wouldn't have thought herself capable of only days before.
Faith, Kendra and Shaw exchanged glances and then knelt down. Astra planted one end of her staff on the ground and raised her body up, legs beginning to pump out. She began to spin around and around, holding onto the staff as she spun about in a wide circle, legs kicking back at every demon that tried to get near, forcing them back. She spun a few more times before jumping back to her feet and swinging her staff out in a wide arc to knock even more demons back. She threw her staff outward and it flew about, spinning with both ends glowing with energy. Howls of pain emerged as the staff smacked into the demons, boomeranging around and into Astra's hands.
"And they gave me a C in gym," the teen laughed as she blasted a bolt of energy from her staff.
A large bulking demon snarled as he got back to his feet. Astra paused, her head cocked, then let a burst of light out of her staff. The demon yelled and covered his eyes as his shadow was illuminated behind him. Without warning, the shadow suddenly reared up and attacked, its claws as sharp and savage as the demon itself. The beast died without even realising his killer was himself.
Astra nodded as Darknighter appeared from the shadows. "Good one."
"Thanks." Darknighter glanced about. "Seen Apalla?"
Astra nodded to the distance. "Just follow the light bursts and screams, I figure."
Darknighter glanced to where the stunned demons were starting to get back to their feet. "You wanna handle them?"
Astra smiled. "I think Imator has something better."
The demons were starting to reorganise when a small figure materialised before them. They all stared in disbelief before bursting out laughing. "You have GOT to be shitting me!" one vampire howled. "I mean...come on!" He shook his head and walked forward.
The small green figure waved one hand and the vamp was suddenly thrown back as if yanked by a bungee cord, smashing into a wall. The other demons were taken aback as they looked once more to the small figure before them. The figure himself drew back the robe he was wearing to reveal a small metallic cylinder on his belt. It flew off and into his waiting right hand. The flick of a button produced a bar of green light as the figure moved into a fighting stance and spoke. "Open a can of whoop-ass, I intend to."
With a howl, he leaped upward, light sabre swinging as he ploughed into the demons. Faith, Kendra, Shaw, Astra and Darknighter simply stared at the sight of the small green gnome slashing them apart. "Yoda flipping around with a light sabre," Darknighter remarked. "That's something you'll never see in the movies." His eyes focused on a vampire who had been wandering about. The demon swallowed as he saw the dark-garbed warrior coming forward.
"Please," he whimpered. "I've got kids out there who are still alive."
Darknighter swung out his arm, a blade of shadow bisecting the vampire's neck to decapitate him. "They're better off without you."
Faith had a wide smile on her face. "I'm liking these guys."
"You would," Kendra muttered.
Imator flipped back to avoid a demon's charge, landing near where Randi was. The older woman looked her over, saw the sword, remembered what Robin had told her and smiled. "Hey, blessed gal! Check this out!"
Randi blinked at the bizarre woman whose outfit had suddenly changed to a suit of armour. She then heard the whiny of horses and looked up to see two figures charge forward. Both were young women, both clad in light armour, both swinging swords that looked a lot like Randi's.
The blonde blinked as they charged into the demons and it took a moment to realise what had happened. She stared at Imator, who just shrugged. "Hey, I liked the mini-series and the Besson version looks cool. So why not both?"
"Not bad." Imator turned to see a glowing woman behind her. "Personally, I think Sobeski is a better likeness."
"How would you know?"
The woman simply smiled, her mind briefly touching Imator's. The woman's eyes widened in shock. "Oh my God."
Joan of Arc laughed. "Merely one of his humble servants." She gave a wink and then vanished, leaving Imator gaping. "I love being me." She danced off, humming "When the Saints Go Marching In" under her breath.
"What's our situation?" Giles asked as Jenny came back up to him.
"I don't have a damn clue," the gypsy replied. "I just cannot believe these people..."
A large grey-skinned demon marched toward them. The two teachers immediately held up their weapons but before they could do anything, the sky above let loose with thunder and lightning. The demon threw up his head and howled loudly at the air.
"Okay, buddy?" Elementra asked as she came up. "You cannot intimidate a thunderstorm by growling at it."
"He's not trying to intimidate it," Jenny explained. "He's in pain."
"That's a sonar demon," Giles went on. "Their eyes are photosensitive, they hunt by their fine sense of smell and hearing. They can literally hear a pin drop. But it also makes them vulnerable to sonic attacks."
Elementra rubbed her chin. "So the lightning and thunder can pretty much drive him mad."
"The more light and extreme sound, the better," Jenny confirmed.
<Way ahead of you.>
From nowhere and yet from seemingly everywhere, there came music. A loud, boisterous symphony from what sounded like a fifty piece orchestra. It took Jenny and Giles a moment to realise it was the 1812 Overture. At the moments when cannon fire would sound out, claps of
thunder ripped across the sky along with loud lightning. The demon howled, hands over his ears, screaming with every burst as he fell to his knees.
"Now, I see Shaw's point," Jenny stated as she stared at the creature collapsing on the ground.
"What's that?" Giles asked.
"She told me she wouldn't go to the Fourth of July fireworks because it would pale compared to anything nature could come up with."
"Smart girl," Elementra remarked. She looked down at the gasping demon. "You ass holes are making my blood boil." She reached out a palm. "Let me return the favour." She knit her brow and concentrated as the demon let out a long shriek. He fell onto his back, withering, his veins standing out blood red as if being shocked. Smoke literally flew from his ears and nostrils as he finally collapsed, his eyes turned blood shot.
Jenny worked her jaw. "You...heated him up from the inside?"
Elementra nodded. "I prefer to stick to the more obvious uses of nature. But...what can I say? Had a whim."
Jenny and Giles looked at each other. "Even for Americans," the Englishman said. "These people are insane."
Inside the library, the flames of the Hellmouth were growing, the room filled with unearthly light. Garrow was facing the cone of blasting energy, smiling at it. Ulric was trying once more to get out of the chair, to little success. He looked up at Garrow, his face tight. "Conrad... please...stop this now..."
"It's too late, Ulric," the other priest said, a warped smile on his face. "It's far, far too late." He swept out his hands and laughed. "Look at it. Whoever knew the end of the world could be so beautiful?"
"It's time, old friend," the corrupt priest said. "It's time to end it all. It's time to start a new world amidst the ashes of the old."
"I believe only one being has that right."
Garrow frowned and turned just in time to catch a fist in the face. He went staggering back, shaking his head to see Tarring before him, his eyes flaring with anger. "Who are you?"
"The exact opposite of you," the man bit out. "Someone who knew of sin before he took his vows. Someone who does not at all approve of what you are doing."
Garrow snarled and threw himself at Tarring. With a move that belied his size, Tarring dodged the charge and threw Garrow forward. He went sailing off balance and into the chair Ulrich was in. They both spilled to the floor, the chair breaking and freeing Ulrich. He immediately shoved back and sent his former friend to the arms of Tarring.
Tarring threw Garrow back at the edge of the howling abyss. The treacherous priest snarled and reached under his robes to pull out a short knife. He slashed out at Tarring, the blade aimed at his throat. The Chicago native expertly caught the blade between his hands and pulled it forward. Garrow tried to pull it away and a brief tug-of-war broke out.
Getting back to his feet, Ulric grabbed a piece of the broken chair and threw it at Garrow's back. It hit him right between the shoulder blades, stunning him and causing him to lose balance in the fight with Tarring. The blade twisted between them as Tarring suddenly let go. Garrow was pulling back so the knife ended up becoming embedded in his own chest. He gasped in pain as he staggered back.
Tarring grabbed him by the front of his robes, his expression cold. He reached under his robes and took out the object he'd had Shamaran get him earlier. He pushed it into Garrow's hands, the small bag clattering. Tarring pulled him in close. "There's thirty pieces of silver," he hissed. "To give to your master. When you meet him in HELL!"
He gave a massive shove and Garrow felt himself falling back. He clawed out but was unable to keep his balance as he fell back into the waiting fiery maw, his screams echoing for a long time.
Tarring stepped back, taking several deep breaths as he realised how his body now ached, reminding him he was no longer a young man. He turned to see Tarring staring at him, then at the pit. His expression was sober as he looked away. "He was my friend," he softly said.
Tarring gave him a soft smile as he clasped a hand on his shoulder. "You just made a new one."
"Hey, padres." The two men turned to see Shamaran entering the room. He looked up at the flaming column and blanched. "Damn, boss would send me to a nasty one." He looked at the two and hiked a thumb back. "You two better get out of here. I'll be handling this."
"Can you do that?" Tarring asked.
"My grandma always said, 'Boy, when the day comes you meet the Devil, you look the Devil in the eye and give no fear and he'll back off!'"
A blast of flame erupted and nearly singed his head. He brushed at his head and rolled his eyes up. "My grandma was a raving fool is what she was!" he yelled as he walked toward the column. "She was nuts, everyone in the neighbourhood knew it!"
The two priests needed little urging to run out of the library and head down the hallways.
"By the way, Father Bernard Tarring," the Chicagoan introduced himself.
"Glad to meet you," Ulric nodded. "How bad is it out there?"
"Could be worse," Tarring said as they burst through the doors. Ulric stopped momentarily and stared in utter amazement at the wild battle going on through the town.
"Are...are those people...flying?"
Tarring nodded. "You get used to it amazingly fast." He urged Ulric onward toward the steps leading away from the school. The other priest followed as they tore off and around the school. Just as they were coming up to the steps, a pair of large demons moved in on them.
"Run," Tarring hissed as the two dashed the other way. The demons ran to chase them as the priests did their best to get out of the way.
A blur of motion came before them and suddenly, Shaw was there Her sword was in her hands and her mouth was already moving, making the incantation that would allow her sword to do its work. She pointed it outward and let a flame strike burst outward at the demons.
The burst struck the demon in the front but merely bounced away. The creature made a hideous grin as he took in the Harper. "Fire won't hurt us little half-breed."
Shaw's face was marked in cold anger. "I prefer the direct approach anyway."
"Aye but brute force can take on so many forms," an Irish accent filled the air. The second demon turned just in time to see Aideen hurling a burst of energy into his chest that sent him flying backwards. He went through six walls of the school before finally landing in a heap.
The other demon was surprised but quickly recovered snarling as he glanced from faery to elf. "I will kill you and then feast on the priests."
"Oh, shit," Aideen muttered. "You shouldn't have said that, laddie..."
Shaw's eyes narrowed in anger as she charged forward. She ducked under a swipe of the demon's claws and lunged forward with her sword. She thrust it into the demon's neck, then had the blades divide through his throat and jaw. She yanked it out and let the demon collapse to the ground, half his throat and lower head sliced away. Shaw spun her sword in hand and drove it into his heart. She twisted it savagely, twisting the blade in quarter-turns again and again and again...
"Shaw! SHAW!" Aideen yelled as she yanked the woman back. "He's dead!" She pulled back again to look the Harper in the face and was stunned by the tears flowing down her angered face. "It's over," she said, gripping Shaw by the shoulders. "He's dead, lass. You got him."
"He said he would kill Ulric!" Shaw shouted. "He...He..."
Aideen placed a hand over Shaw's and held it tightly as she looked the woman in the eye. "He's safe, lass. Not a mark on him." She nodded over Shaw's shoulder.
Shaw turned to see Ulric stepping forward and immediately rushed toward him. She almost tackled him, her arms wrapping around him as tears of joy and relief flew down her face. "I have been going mad with worry," she whispered into his shoulder.
Ulric nodded as he brushed at Shaw's hair. "I understand, child...I do..."
Shaw managed to compose herself as she broke off from Ulric and smiled at Tarring. "Thank you."
Tarring nodded. "My pleasure."
A hissing sound caught the attention of the four and they turned to see several vampires moving along either side of the stairs leading up to the school. Before Shaw or Aideen could react, a hail of rain came flying down straight at the stairs, flooding them. The faery, the elf and the two priests looked up to see Elementra floating down, her hands before her, her face marked with concentration. The air chilled along with the rain, a process that would normally take hours at the least occurring in seconds as the stairs became covered with a thick layer of ice.
Elementra lowered her arms and backed away, a smile on her face. From behind her, Pretor came bounding up leaping over his wife's head and somersaulting through the air. He landed at the top of the iced stairs and began to slide down, both of his hands holding a crossbow. He slid down, spinning as he did as he fired arrows in all directions. Every one hit its mark and howls of pain went out as each vampire was struck and turned to dust that covered the stairs. Pretor landed on his feet at the ground below and threw Elementra a quick smile before he dashed back into the main fight.
"Damn," Aideen muttered. "Eat your heart out, Legolas."
There was a rumble as the demon Aideen had blasted into the school emerged, shaking out of the dust and rubble. Shaw howled as she stabbed outward, slicing the demon's head off his shoulders. She looked to the side where Elementra was raising an arm up and calling down a swarm of rain. She turned her hand to the side and the rain transformed into hail. Shaw's eyes widened and she stormed forward. "You cannot do this! The balance of nature-"
Elementra turned to her and Shaw froze at the look in her eyes. They surged like a storm and when she spoke it was in a voice that made even Shaw chill. "I am the balance of nature. Don't make me turn that balance on you."
She floated upward and away from a stunned Shaw, her eyes scanning the town. She focused on an armoured quartet and floated down next to them. "Anyone up for some fun?"
The Mystic Knights stared at her in bewilderment. "What do you mean?" Rhoan asked.
Elementra motioned toward their weapons. "Each of you has the power of an element. I can control all the elements. Anyone like to see their weapons become three times as powerful?"
Angus smiled behind his face guard. "I like this woman."
"I'm married," Elementra informed him.
"Like that's ever stopped him," Ivar scoffed.
"My husband can send a pack of wolves to rip you apart."
"That'll stop him," Dierdre remarked as the Knights hefted their weapons and moved them together. Elementra spread her hands, concentrating as a light glow covered each weapon. She
nodded and stepped back. "Let 'em rip."
Dierdre hefted her crossbow, turning to aim it at a pack of demons that were moving in. She pulled the trigger and a blast of air ripped outward and smashed into the creatures, sending them flying back, a couple with chests caved in from the impact. Dierdre let out a yelp as she flew backward, landing about fifteen feet away.
"Oooops," Elementra muttered.
"It's okay," Dierdre gasped as she got back up. "Just need to brace myself more."
Angus got an evil look on his face as he hefted up his mace. Eyes wide, Dierdre rushed up to grab his hand. "Angus, NO!"
He looked at her in confusion. "What?"
"Angus, think!" Dierdre hissed. "We're in California! Earthquake central? Dropping the state into the middle of the ocean is not the way to solve this. You want to send the San Andreas fault off?"
"Oh, let him go," Elementra waved. "I've already told the fault lines to keep quiet."
The Knights all stared at her. "You told the fault lines..." Rhoan began.
"Buddy, haven't you been watching me the last twenty minutes?" the redhead laughed. "When it comes to nature, I can do most anything. This planet listens to me so go ahead, let it rip."
The Knights exchanged dubious looks. "Is she serious?" Ivar asked.
"Well, if I recall," Rhoan pointed out. "Her first act on getting here was to rip the entire main street up and put it right back. If she says it's OK, I think it's OK."
Elementra smiled. "I love being me."
The night was filled with bursts of light as energy whipped about in various directions. Several of the winged demons fell out of the sky as burning corpses as others tried to organise into an attack formation.
"Let's see," Imator muttered to herself, tapping her chin with a finger as she saw one group coming in. "What should I take this bunch out with? Tie, X-Wing, White Star, those fighters from ID4?"
<Hold that thought> Pretor told her. <Literally.>
There was a series of loud caws and cries which brought Imator's attention. She saw a flock of birds flying toward the demons, claws and beaks flashing as they tore at the forces. <Low-Quality finish, Pre.>
<I thought you'd like it.>
<And you call yourself a Hitchcock fan.>
<Pretor?> Soldar's voice cut in.
<On their way.>
The battle continued to be high on the main street as Grail Knights and the MacLeods were the major players against the demons. Richie and Maxine were working back to back, slicing a pair of vampires down when a rumble got their attention. They looked up to see that a full two
dozen demons had formed a makeshift cavalry and were storming down the street. "Oh, shit," Richie remarked. "Guys, we've got-"
Subzero was suddenly before him as if he had appeared out of thin air. He held out his arms and peered at the demons, legs extended beneath him.
"Um, dude, now is now the time for Tai-Chi," Maxine pointed out.
Subzero straightened as the demons approached. Without warning, there was a loud shattering sound as the demons collapsed to the ground, some bouncing off the wall of ice that had appeared before them, some smashing through and falling.
"What did you..." Maxine started.
"An ice wall is a simple thing," Subzero said. "Squeezing out every inch of air so there is not so much as a bubble to make it visible..." He let out a large breath. "That is skill."
Maxine and Riche exchanged a look. "Damn, and I thought Methos was full of himself," the young man remarked. He and Maxine turned only to find Subzero gone. "How did he do that?"
Apalla spun about as she unleashed a ball of light that incinerated another vampire. She panted a bit as she twirled to smash a kick that sent a demon flying back several feet. Jenny blinked at her. "Are you all right?"
Apalla sighed. "Yeah...just hitting the reserves of my light here. Probably need a recharge."
Shaw straightened. "I believe I can help." She muttered under her breath and waved a hand toward Apalla.
A globe of light immediately engulfed the blonde woman. "Thanks," Apalla said. She paused and her eyes widened. "Nice. Continual light spell, sticks around until someone dispels it."
Shaw raised an eyebrow in mild surprise. "You know your magics."
"I know my light." <I like the way this kid thinks.>
<You ain't seen nothing> Imator informed her.
Pretor glanced to where some demons were heading toward the school. <I'm going to need some more soldiers.>
<Any ideas?> Imator asked.
<Well of Souls?>
The sky suddenly began to rain down long grey objects as dozens of asps fell onto the demons, hissing and biting at them.
"How the hell does she think up this stuff?" Shaw demanded.
Elementra shrugged. "She's Irish."
Buffy spun about to kick one vampire in the face as Zev's spikes flew to decapitate another.
Joyce was doing her best with a large staff she had borrowed, pushing some demons back.
"One thing about you people, you're always easy to find." The trio looked to see Spike and Drusilla appear out of an alleyway. The female vampire seemed to be lugging something under her arm.
"Better late then never," Buffy said as she nodded to Spike. "You guys here to play?"
"Actually, Dru's got a new toy she's been dying...more...to try out." Spike turned to Drusilla. "Go get 'em, ducks."
With a smile, Drusilla pulled off the green covering to reveal a large 5.56 mm chain gun with a long chain of bullets hanging from it. She cocked it, hefting the weighty weapon in her arms as she planted her feet and aimed it toward a congregation of demons.
"Say hello to Miss Edith," she hissed as she pulled the trigger and sent a slew of tracers to rip through them all. Spike stood by her, arms crossed with a wicked expression on his face that said "that's my girl!"
Joyce was covering her ears against the roar of the gun as Zev simply rolled his eyes. "God help the poor alien race that tries to invade this planet."
As the chaos unfolded around the town, no one was in any position to notice the dark- garbed figures making their way into the local branch of the Sunnydale Bank. As it happened, a stray energy blast had blown in one wall, making their egress easier. They were packing the bills into bags in a hurried manner that suggested they had done this before.
The building shook a bit from rumbles of the battle outside.
"God, I can't believe we let him talk us into this!" a grey-haired man muttered as he threw a sack to a younger man nearby.
"Have to admit, it does make for a good distraction," noted an attractive looking black woman who was directing the operation. "Let's hustle it, people! No telling how long until-"
She broke off as a figure came to view and held her breath. She let it out as she recognised the odd walk. "Shouldn't you be...oh, I don't know...fighting?"
Sparrow smirked as he flicked some blood off his sword. "Plenty of people for that as it were," he intoned as he watched his crew go to work. "Just take what you have and get it to the ship, lads! We don't need all of it."
"Are you sure this isn't just a little immoral?" the woman asked as they moved the bags out.
"Robbing allies in the middle of a battle?"
"Not robbing, love, simply taking our rightful payment," Sparrow pointed out. "As for allies...well, they've made it clear they're not happy about my being here so why should I owe them anything?"
"As ever, Jack, your logic never ceases to amaze," the grey-haired man stated.
Sparrow smiled and began to move off. "Load up the ship and await my arrival, Mr. Gibb!" he called over his shoulder. "Anna Marie, be ready to cast off upon my arrival!"
"Aye, aye, cap'n," she stated, saluting him as he left.
Sparrow darted off into the battle, his sword flashing now and again to slice down a passing demon. He felt a presence behind him and turned, his sword clashing with another's. He stared at the armour clad man before him, the eyes which seemed so familiar...
"Captain Sparrow," Soldar spoke up.
"Captain Aubery," Sparrow replied, recognising the voice. "Well, well...it has been a time, hasn't it?"
Soldar glared at him, his blade still held up. "Do yourself a favour, Sparrow. Don't be where I can find you when this is over."
Sparrow made a show of being hurt. "Still angry over that little misunderstanding we had?"
"I lost good sailors to that 'misunderstanding,'" Soldar went on, his tone cold. "I'd like to settle things now but I have something more important to do." He backed away as he kept Sparrow in his vision. "Don't make me put whatever gift you have for life to the test." He finally turned and rushed away.
Sparrow sighed as he lowered his sword. "There's just no pleasing some people..."
Several flying demons saw Darknighter dashing across a side street, appearing to be an easy target. They started to swoop down toward him, claws and fangs ready to cut him to shreds. It never occurred to them how obvious a target he was or that he was running to a dead end.
Darknighter turned a corner, the demons right behind him, almost close enough to strike. In the space of a footstep, he melted into the shadows, leaving the demons stunned. Too late, they saw how they were in a small cul-de-sac...which just happened to be filled with what appeared to be several hundred pounds of high explosives.
A fireball filled the air, followed by a rain of body parts. Nearby, Imator turned to the figure who stood among several empty boxes, each bearing the word ACME on them. "Nice one, Wiley."
Lowering the remote control in one hand, the coyote nodded in appreciation.
The small group gathered on the hill didn't know what they were doing. However, one look at the steady face of Soldar quieted any questions they might have. He was hard and strong as he looked off to the distance toward the town. He glanced back to where the Mystic Knights, Steve, the MacLeods, Kate, Marc, Elizabeth, Tessa, Sonja, Gabrielle, Amanda and several Grail Knights stood, waiting.
Soldar's eyes fell on one armoured figure and he straightened. "Arthur. They told me you were back."
Arthur smiled and bowed his head. "A pleasure to meet you again, old friend."
Soldar smirked. "Let's hope you've managed to improve in the fighting department."
"Maximus...I am a king."
"Who was once the whelp whose ass I put onto the ground on more than occasion, you'll recall."
Elizabeth glanced about until her eyes fell on the armoured quartet. She peered carefully at the woman as her eyes widened. "Dierdre?"
Dierdre glanced at her, then did a double-take in surprise. "Elizabeth?"
Elizabeth looked at the other Knights in amazement. "Rhoan, Angus, Ivar? Good Lord, is that you under all that?"
Dierdre smiled. "I did say I had a unique upbringing."
Elizabeth shook her head. "And I thought Dunkirk was a mob scene."
Nearby, Tessa looked up at the sight of the Apalla and Astra flying overhead before glancing to Methos. "And you said my outfit was outrageous."
"Listen up," Soldar called out to get their attention. "The plan is a classic pincher movement. The fighters in the town cut them off from one end. We cut them off from the other."
"How?" Steve asked.
A roar of hoof beats came to earshot and the group looked over to see a platoon of horses galloping up to them. "Are you serious?" Tessa asked.
Soldar threw himself up onto his horse and gazed at the warriors. "Get on."
There was a rush of movement as they obeyed. Soldar watched them get on, swords and other weapons at the ready, then raised himself up to speak. "A man I once knew said that we are but shadows and dust. But as long as you are alive, I know you are more than that! I've said this before. In Germany. In France. In England. In Africa, Japan, China and America. And it's always been true. What we do in life...echoes in eternity!"
There was a roar of assent from the riders as Soldar prepared himself. <Shamaran? How are you?>
<Just...peachy...> Soldar could "hear" the obvious strain and agony in Shamaran's answer.
<Are you all right? Are you being pushed to the limit?>
<Nope...nowhere near my limit...>
<Nope...I hit my limit five minutes ago...I'm now working...bout 150% above my limit...>
<You can do this, Cal. I believe that.>
<Thanks...hey...let the mages know...I'm cutting off their access to magics in about a minute...I need everything I can get.>
Hovering within the column of dark energy erupting from the Hellmouth, Shamaran clenched his teeth and tried to ignore the bleeding from his nose as he called upon every one of his new found gifts.
Bureau 13 Headquarters
"What the FUCK is going on in Sunnydale?" Horace yelled out at the top of his lungs. Several technicians cringed under the sheer volume of his voice but no one had a ready answer.
He waved at the screens. "We're seeing energy levels unlike anything we've seen before on all categories. The Hellmouth is threatening to burst open, we've got a force shield over the town even we can't penetrate and the Richter Scale keeps going wild then stopping for no reason. So could someone mind explaining what is going on?!"
One tech swallowed deeply. "Sir...all we can tell you is that right now, all hell is breaking loose...and as impossible as it sounds...someone's actually in there trying to stop it."
Horace closed his eyes and took a long breath. "I swear, St. Wolf, you get out of this alive," he muttered. "I am so kicking your ass."
Cordelia instinctively ducked as soon as she let the grenade fly. She covered her ears as it detonated, sending a squad of demons flying in pieces. She looked up and saw Imator stepping in, her suit shifting to an outfit that looked like something out of "The Untouchables." "As much as I love conjuring stuff up," the woman remarked, her hands dripping into her jacket. "I think it's time to take a hands-on approach."
She pulled her hands out and within them were two massive cannons. Each was about eight feet long, a massive cannon lined with various smaller funs, missiles and grenade launchers, chains of ammo hanging from them. Planting her feet squarely, Imator aimed down the main street and pulled the triggers. Both cannons erupted with fire, explosions ripping the area as vamps and demons were sent sailing in all directions.
Imator held up her smoking weapons and winked at Xander and Cordelia. "No matter what they say...the size of your gun always counts."
"Oh, Goddess," Cordelia moaned. "It's JP Withers' sister."
"She has her moments," Elementra agreed as she stepped up. She turned to where some demons were still gathered about. She narrowed her eyes, concentrating and stretching out her hands. A rumble and shake went out through the street and then every fire hydrant exploded outward, water shot into the street. Elementra closed her hand and the water congealed into a ball that completely enveloped the demons.
"That's my wife," Pretor smiled. "No one rocks like a redhead."
"Amen," Oz chimed in.
"Um, lady?" Xander spoke up. "You know a lot of them don't need to breathe, right?"
The redhead just smiled and for the first time, Xander noticed the piranha and alligators inside the ball of water. Bubbles burst around, the demons howling in muffled pain as the animals went to work on them.
<Fins to the left!>
<Fins to the right!>
<Feeding Frenzy in Sunnydale tonight!> the husband and wife chimed in.
<Jimmy Buffet fans...knew I liked these guys!> Imator broke in.
"Wow," Willow whispered. "You get all that from the aquarium?"
"The piranha, yeah," Pretor said as he landed next to his wife. "Not the gators."
"You know all those stories about what happens when baby lizards get flushed down a toilet?"
"I can talk to any animal and fly, my wife is one with the Earth, I'm standing here with an Amazon witch with a werewolf boyfriend empowered by a faery, we're fighting vampires and demons and you're going to mock an urban legend?"
Pretor nodded and then fixed a look on Oz. He narrowed his eyes at the young man. Oz's body shook, his eyes taking a surprised look before he transformed into wolf form. Pretor pointed his finger at a squad of demons and Oz immediately charged at them. "What the hell?!" Willow exploded, shooting Pretor a glare.
"All humans have animal tendencies," Pretor replied. "With him, it's a lot more pronounced."
"You could have warned him!"
"We're in the middle of a battle. Manners take a back seat."
"Oh, that is such a guy thing."
Elementra glanced to the side where a Grappler demon was about to move. She waved a hand and a sinkhole suddenly sucked the demon into the ground. "I love California. You can do almost anything here."
"How are we doing?" Giles asked as Xander, Willow, Cordelia and Amy moved near him on the main street.
"Up to our eyes in weirdness that's even weirder than our usual weirdness," Xander told him.
To illustrate his point, a wave of shadows reached out to swallow two demons, causing them to yell before they were pulled away into shadow. A dark-garbed figure stepped into view and threw the group a nod.
"Let me guess," Giles said, remembering some comments he'd heard. "You must be Darknighter."
"I must be," the man answered. "All the other cool names for kick-ass dark heroes were already taken."
"You know, I finally figured out our weak point," Xander announced.
"Oh?" Steve asked in an offended tone. "What's that?"
"Well, you can call in the Green Berets, Army Rangers, Marines and SEALS, right?"
"We forgot the Air Force."
"Yeah, dog fighter would be good now," Willow agreed.
"Oh, don't worry, I've got it covered," Imator announced. She narrowed her eyes and smiled as her clothes shifted, becoming a uniform with a long red scarf and goggles. "Thanks Xander and Willow."
"Huh?" The two asked.
The sound of an incoming plane made everyone instinctively duck. A blast of bullets ripped into the demons, cutting them down. As the plane raced off, the group got back to its feet and stared at it, then at Willow and Xander.
"Xander, I know your sense of humour is...strange," Giles began. "But when Willow said dog fighter, she didn't mean it literally. Especially a white cartoon dog flying on top of a red doghouse."
"Giles, that wasn't a doghouse," Willow said. "That was a Sopwith Camel."
"And that was the World War I flying ace," Xander said with a grin.
Imator grinned. "Gotta love people who appreciate the classics."
Two vampires lunged outward and Willow turned to blast at them. To her shock, nothing happened. Instead, Apalla fired out twin beams of light that incinerated the two vamps. Willow stared at her hands in shock. "I...I can't feel...what's happening?"
"Oh, that must be Shamaran," Darknighter replied. "Think he needs to cut off all your magical access so he can get as much power as he needs to seal up the Hellmouth."
"He can't do that!" Amy yelled.
"Yeah, he can," Apalla returned. "And if you want that little dike in the Hellmouth to be sealed up before it gets too bad, you'd better give the Dutch boy all the help he needs."
Melissa ducked a swipe from a demon and slashed outward. Behind her, Dana was using both gun and sword to keep some vampires back. Mulder was backing her up with his own strokes of the blade.
Apalla appeared suddenly, blasting at one demon with a burst of light and unaware of the large furred one that leaped at her, his claws extended. From the demon's shadow, spikes shot upward, piercing it just before it could hit Apalla, then ripping it in two. Darknighter formed up from the shadow, glaring at the corpse. "That's my woman you were going after," he intoned before melting back into the shadows.
Melissa and Dana both exchanged looks of dismay. "Did you hear that? 'My woman?' What a pig!"
"That was incredibly possessive," Dana agreed.
The two looked to Apalla and saw a wide smile on her face. "He called me his woman. He does love me."
The two sisters looked at each other and sighed. "She's got it bad."
Robin let his first smash upward with such force that Roz's jaw literally cracked in half. She let out a muffled howl, withering on the ground as she held her mouth. Robin let out a burst of magic and the jaw stitched itself back together again. Before Roz could realise she was healed, the faery punched her again.
It had been going on like this for the last few minutes. It was bad enough that Robin and Liamwere attacking Roz with such viciousness that she had already broken half the bones in her body. What made it worse was that the faeries would use their abilities to heal her immediately just so they could hurt her all over again. It was a dark step but then they were in a dark mood.
Liam reached over to grab Roz by the left leg and threw his friend an evil grin. "Care to make a wish?"
Matching the grin, Robin grabbed Roz's right leg. In unison, he and Liam leaped back and pulled, yanking Roz's legs outward with a savage crack filling the air as thigh bones and pelvis shattered. Roz's screams of pain increased as the Limerick and Shamrock Connection snapped both of her kneecaps so hard bone protruded.
The two got back to her feet and took a moment to watch Roz wither on the ground in agony. "Don't pass out yet," Robin said with a laugh. "We're just getting started."
"HOLD THE LINE!" Maximus yelled as the horses charged forward. "STAY WITH ME!" Beside him, the other fighters fought to match his strong strides as he surged forward, leading them closer to the field of battle.
Johnny Cage couldn't help but grunt as he slammed a kick into a burly demon. Behind him, Jax and Sonya were working as a team, smashing two demons together and then punching them out. One vampire was working her way toward Sonya from behind when a shadow fell on her. The vampire looked up just in time to see Astra flying down toward her. She flipped upside down to allow her feet to smack into the vamp's jaw, shattering it and sending her flying back.
The teen gazed over at the fighters and smiled at Johnny. “Wow. Johnny Cage. This is so Cool.”
Ever grateful to meet a fan, Johnny flashed a smile at her. "You like my films, huh?"
Astra shrugged. "Well...no offence but you don't have the same appeal any more."
Johnny's face fell. "What? I'm not a big star?"
Astra laughed. "Sorry, buddy, but compared to the real thing? Nope."
Sonya couldn't help smirking. "Finally got put in your place, huh, star-boy?"
"Ah, go find that armoured dude and let him boss you around again."
Cordelia hurled one vampire in the air as Xander kicked another down and then staked him.
Amy and Shaw were behind, each doing what they could to attack as Larry threw a small demon into a trio of vamps. Without warning, several demons suddenly started to break apart, be hurled in the air or otherwise act as if they were being punched but no one was around.
"What the-?" Larry started as the air seemed to shimmer and Apalla, Darknighter and Astra strode up. "I thought you guys didn't do magic!"
"Not magic," Apalla corrected. "Science. Sight depends on light, remember? Just bend light a little and you can be unseen."
Amy slapped her head. "Now why didn't WE think of that?!"
"I should not have to think of it," Shaw piped up. "Invisibility is in your school of magic."
"What about you?" Amy shot back. "Light and darkness spells?"
"Only to blind an opponent so I can strike without being seen for the opponent to strike back."
The pain was excruciating and like nothing Shamaran had ever felt before. He bit his lip, trying to block out the pain, using every bit of magical know-how he had. He could feel blood coming from his nose and ears and even his eyes. He could feel the powers of hell pounding away at him and hit back. Hard. He felt the magics rush in as he cut off access and built them within him. He held it in, his mind focusing, knowing he had enough for one last blast.
"All right, you big ugly fallen son of a bitch," he rasped. "Eat this."
He threw himself out and howled as he erupted with a massive burst of magic in all directions. He felt himself shot upward as the world around him went white...
He was staring up at the ceiling, taking a long breath as he realised where he was. He sat up and looked at the spot where the Hellmouth was. A charred circle and broken panelling were planted around a small mountain of dirt. With a grin, the Master Mage shakily rose to his feet. He reached into his coat and pulled out a cigar. Planting it into his mouth, he flicked his fingers a couple of times before he created a flame. He took a long drag on his stoogie and blew out a cloud of smoke. "Shamaran 3:16, ass hole. Mess with the best...lose like the rest."
The howl of the flame cut off before vanishing completely. All eyes that could turned toward the space where it had once been, all realising what had happened.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the Hellmouth is closed for business!" Astra laughed.
"How did you guys do this?" a stunned Faith asked.
"Chicago style, hon," Astra said with a grin. "Pure Chicago style." She paused, her eyes looking far off, then took off. Apalla was right behind her as Elementra moved forward. As the others watched, the three began strafing runs at the remaining demons. <We've got this side.>
<I'm herding them here> Pretor added.
<I've got 'em running from shadows here> Darknighter informed.
<Block 'em off, hon?>
<On it.> Elementra hovered in the air, fixing her hands together as she found the right elements to mix together. There was a spark and then a roar and a wall of flame ignited upward, cutting the demons off.
<We've got 'em> she reported.
Pretor was smiling as he unwound his whip. He looked behind him to where the other fighters were gathering. "Okay, folks...this ain't no party, this ain't no disco, this ain't no fooling around!" He threw the whip forward at the oncoming vampires as the group fought their way in.
There was an onrush of movement as several four-legged shapes charged outward and into the fight. Duke bounded forward and then leaped up, tackling a flying demon nearly twenty feet in the air to bring him down to the ground. Sarah and Tigger both dashed along a wall, running across the surface before ploughing into several vampires. Arial took a charge, her head drawn low as she smashed into a parked car. The car flew outward to crush two demons.
"What the hell?!" Cordelia shrieked at the sight.
"Did Robin do another empowerment deal?" Larry asked.
"I was under the impression he couldn't do that with animals," Mulder said. "Where is he, anyway?"
"Busy, no doubt," Pretor said. "As for the animals...well, I thought it was about time your Guardians got a little taste of the boost you've all enjoyed."
Mulder stared at him, then to Xander. "This guy's been hanging around Robin too long."
"And loved it." He watched the animals go at it and smirked. "I've always wanted to say this." He held out a hand and closed his first. "Cry havoc! And let slip the dogs of war!"
<We're not all dogs> Tigger reminded him.
<Don't ruin it.>
<Who let the dogs out?!> Imator called out. She paused as she mulled that sentence over. <There's a song in that, somewhere...>
Pretor looked up to a flock of flying demons moving toward them. "Ah, looks like another kamikaze brigade."
Giles was with Parker and Jarod, looking at him. "I assume you have Imator cooking up another wild fighter?"
"Nope," Pretor replied with a smile. "Ready, hon?"
"Ready." Elementra threw up her hands and earth and trees began to fly upward. At the same time, Pretor concentrated and a flock of birds swooped down like a wave, slicing at the demonic creatures. Those who weren't sliced and bit were sitting ducks for the boulders and
trunks that Elementra sent flying up.
"In the immortal words of Charlemagne," Pretor announced. "Let my armies be the rocks and the trees and the birds in the skies. Good advice then, good advice now."
"Nice," Jarod said with approval as he watched the winged forces go at it. "If only we had some Wagner."
The teenagers around him looked at him in confusion.
"Ride of the Valkryes?" Jarod tried to explain. "Opera?"
The blank stares continued and Jarod sighed and began to sing. "Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit..."
"OH!" They all said with understanding.
The roar of galloping hooves could be heard over the sounds of battle. As the demons turned, the Guardians leaped over the flames and charged them. The wall of fire seemed to lower suddenly, revealing a line of horses charging at the demons, their riders holding swords at the
ready. "ROMA VICTOR!" Soldar screamed as the cavalry overran the demons. The rest followed him, slashing left, right and centre.
Elizabeth stabbed down on one demon as she glanced to her left where Sonya was back flipping to catch another with a flying kick. "I assume you've been to Stonehenge too?"
Sonya looked up and smirked. "Amazon equal empowerment without having to suck up to a Goddess?"
"God bless the Goodfellow," Elizabeth remarked as she dismounted and went on the attack.
Between the slash of the swords, the skill of the fighters and the trampling hooves of the horses, only a handful of demons and vampires were able to escape. Those not caught in the trap decided to take the better part of valour and took off. It took a few moments for it to sink in that they had won.
"So, for all those keeping score," Astra announced, her staff balanced on her shoulders. "That's Pantheon 2, Ass holes that fell out of Satan's buttocks, 0."
An eerie quiet came across the town as virtually everyone turned to look at the Pantheon.
"Who the hell are you people?" Steve whispered in utter disbelief.
Darknighter smiled. "You're the Lakers of the '80's. We're the Bulls of the 90's."
"Faster, meaner, stronger," Apalla added.
"And we look a lot better doing it," Imator laughed.
There was a brief flash and then Shamaran appeared, leaning on his staff and taking a few deep breaths. "Okay," he rasped. "Good news and bad news." He slowly straightened up. "Good news is, Hellmouth's sealed right up."
A massive roar shook the entire area, blasting overhead with the force of a sonic boom. "What the hell was that?!" Buffy yelled.
Shamaran sighed. "The bad news."
There was a crushing sound as a shape materialised in the hills around Sunnydale. It was a monstrous shape, nearly five stories high, four-legged and with a long tail. Slowly, it raised a head upon a long neck. And then another. And another, five in all, each one more hideous and beastly than the last.
"Oh, dear God," Giles whispered. "Tiamat."
The demonic creature roared its delight at once more being able to roam the world, its ten eyes focusing on Sunnydale.
"Oh, shit," Astra hissed as she held up her staff. "This...is not gonna be easy."
Tiamat moved forward. Her every footstep shaking the ground, its heads whipping about in a frenzy as she focused on her prey.
"Oh, no, I don't think so, sister." Imator strode forward, a wicked smirk on her face as she took in the approaching creature. "Is this all you got? Just the big heads and the roaring?"
"Um, Shirl, what are you doing?" Shamaran muttered.
Imator ignored him as she yelled out. "You think you're tough? You think you're nasty? You think you're the Big Bad?" She spun around. "Yo, Michael! Introduce the champ."
From nowhere, Michael Buffer strode out, tuxedo clad and holding a microphone as his famous voice began to boom out. "From the Islands of Japan..."
A rumble began to form in the distance.
"Standing at 700 feet with tail length of one mile..."
The ground trembled as what sounded like claps of thunder sounded out.
"Weighing in at approximately 27 metric tons..."
A loud roar came over the town as everyone turned toward the source.
Claws glinted under the moonlight...
Dark eyes swept the area, focusing on Tiamat...
"Undeniable King of the Monsters! The one...the only...GODZILLA!!"
Rising up on his legs, the legendary monster let out a mighty roar, his arms stretched out, his tail flickering behind him, seeming to not even notice the tiny figures staring at him from the ground below.
"You have got to be fucking kidding me," Marc managed to get out.
"Ladies and gentlemen...leeeeet's get ready to rummmm-" Buffer's famous intro was cut off as Godzilla's massive foot squelched him. Several shocked looks were thrown at Imator, who just shrugged. "Relax, it wasn't really him. That whole thing just gets really annoying."
Soldar turned to her. "Godzilla?"
"Hey, it was him, Voltron or the Power Rangers," Imator replied. "He's better known than the former and a hell of a lot cooler than the latter."
Roz gasped as she fell to the ground, her kneecaps shattered with bone sticking out of the skin. With a hand, Liam healed them up, then launched a kick to her ribs. He was rearing back for another when he and Robin heard the roar and looked toward the street.
"Well, that's a sight," Liam said. "I always said there was one thing this town needed and it was a good old-fashioned monster fight."
"Shall we take a break?" Robin asked, crossing his arms.
"By all means," Liam grinned back.
Roz moaned as she stumbled onto her feet. Without looking, Robin and Liam lashed their fists back, smashing her nose in and sending her down and out.
As the lizard stalked past them, the group simply stared, some more shocked than others.
"Well," Darknighter stated. "What's Godzilla going to bring into this fight?"
"He brings the legend that IS Godzilla!" Xander bellowed.
"Well, he's the enforcer," Larry added. "I don't always agree with his actions, but I respect him."
Godzilla paused, pointing a finger at Tiamat and roaring. Under his head, words appeared in the air as if they were subtitles:
I'M HERE TO KICK ASS AND EAT SUSHI AND I'M ALL OUT OF SUSHI!
"Nice," Xander said with admiration to Imator.
"Quick question," Mulder asked. "Why didn't you use the one from the recent version?"
"Because that wasn't Godzilla," Imator answered as if it should have been obvious. "That's eight bucks and two hours of my life I'm never getting back."
Godzilla pointed at one of Tiamat's heads and roared again. I LIKE YOU! I THINK I'LL KILL YOU FIRST! With that, he ploughed into the creature, smacking two heads and smashing his own into a third.
"Now why doesn't he go straight for the flame?" Cordelia asked.
"Because the man is a professional," Darknighter put in. "The man is a class act, he knows just what needs to be done to finish him off."
Tiamat reared back and smashed her front two legs into the lizard's chest, sending him back. One head smashed out to hit him in the stomach, the other in the neck, stunning him. Backing up, Godzilla's hands closed around a large tree and then swung it outward to connect
with one head.
"He's got a tree! He's got a tree!" Xander yelled. "This isn't the Godzilla we know, he's fighting dirty!"
Tiamat struck outward with deadly speed, sending blows and slices along Godzilla's back. The mighty lizard let out a great roar as he was sent down, Tiamat kicking away at him. Two of her heads swept down to bite at the scaly torso.
"Come on..." Imator whispered, her eyes narrowed. "Come on...don't you dare embarrass me..."
With a roar, Godzilla suddenly swung his body away. His massive tail swept outward, connecting with one of Tiamat's heads with such force that it was ripped away. Four howls of pain ripped through the air as the demon screamed in agony. Godzilla got back to his feet and slashed out with claws and fists, raining blows back on all four heads. "Hey, Big G's pulling a Hulk Hogan!" Apalla yelled.
Godzilla grasped one hand and pulled it in, opening his mouth to unleash a blast of red-hot fire that blasted at the head. Again, a multiple howl rang out as the one head fell away, singed to almost nothing. Godzilla grasped the remaining three necks in his hands and pulled back on them. He swung about, around and around, holding out the heads as Tiamat whipped around in place.
"I don't believe this," Steve muttered. "I just do not believe I'm seeing this."
"This is a battle unlike anything I've ever heard of before," Sonja remarked.
"Hey, did you hear that, guys!" Astra called out. "We just invented a new kind of combat!"
By this point, Tiamat's legs had left the ground as she was swung in a wide circle by Godzilla. Finally, he let go and the demonic creature spun about as she was hurled upward. At she reached the height of her arc, Godzilla reared back and unleashed another burst of fire that struck her right in the midsection. With a last howl and a massive explosion, Tiamat burst apart, hunks of flesh falling in fiery sections all around the town.
Godzilla threw up his hands and let out a victory howl as he danced a bit. Suddenly, he was gone as Imator let out a loud sigh and rubbed her head. "Wow," she gasped. "That one...that took a bit out of me."
Steve simply stared at the entire group. "How...how did you..."
"Here's what it is, buddy," Darknighter stated. "You guys are tough. You guys are rough. You're all pretty bad."
"But when you want down and dirty nasty," Apalla added. "You come to Chicago."
Amy suddenly looked about as a thought struck her. "Say...where did Roz go?"
"Robin and Liam wanted her," Soldar explained.
The entire Sunnydale group looked at him with horror. "You...you let them have her?" Xander asked.
Soldar frowned. "Is that bad?"
"Ever heard of Faces of Death?'"
"They consider that amateur night in Peoria."
A loud yell caused everyone to look up as a shadow crossed over the group. Roz suddenly struck the ground, bouncing across it and landing in a heap with several broken bones. She got to her feet, moaning as she spat out blood. There was a loud cry as Liam materialised, running at high speed and lashing out with a boot right to her face. Roz sailed upward, flipping around in the air, landing on her back and spitting out three teeth.
As she tried to rise, Roz popped her spikes and did her best to build up enough strength to attack. Before she could, Robin's foot smashed down on her arm, pinning it to the floor. With a sadistic grin, he began to bring his other foot down on each spike, breaking them off in turn. "One potato, two potato, three potato, four..." the faery laughed over Roz's screams.
"Oh, shit," Apalla whispered. "Those two are scaring me."
"Lady, when they're like this, they scare us all," Buffy informed her.
Robin stepped away and let out a laugh. "Well, this has been fun. But I think it's time to end it." He looked to Liam. "Would you like to?"
Liam grinned back. "No, I think you can do it better. Leave at least some of her left to kick around."
"Hold it," Steve announced. "What are you two planning?"
The Limerick and Shamrock Connection looked at him with surprise. "I would have thought that was obvious," Robin stated. "I mean, come on, don't pretend she doesn't deserve it."
"Um, hold on a second," Apalla spoke up. "Now, killing in battle is one thing but cold blooded murder is not something I'm open for."
"Me neither," Darknighter chimed in.
"Yeah, guys, come on," Buffy spoke up. "This is not a humane thing."
"Yes, well, we're not human," Liam shrugged as he turned back to Roz.
Both Robin and Liam turned in surprise as Shaw came forward. Her eyes showed strength and conviction as she looked at the two Eternals. "You cannot do this."
Robin frowned as Liam licked his lips nervously. "Shaw...Look...What she did to ye..."
"I am well aware of what she did," Shaw shot back. "And after a great deal of thought...and talk...I have concluded that we do not need to sink to her level. We do not need to be savages. To be enough of an animal to kill her like this. We are better than her. We have to be."
"Oh...oh...I forgot...just how Hallmark moment...some people can be." Roz fought back up to her feet, a warped smile on her face as she staggered about. She shook her head and laughed again. "You people...Oh, Jurden...I knew you people don't have the guts to do what it takes... none of you do..."
"Don't be so sure about that, bitch."
Roz turned to see Shamaran, who had unexpectedly appeared behind her. With a wave of his hand, the Master Mage froze her in place and stepped close. "Ready, Merl?"
"Ready," Merlin replied with a smirk.
Shamaran leaned in toward the immobilised psychotic and slowly raised his glasses. His orbs seemed to glow with energy as they locked on Roz's. For a moment she was motionless. Then, she let out one long and agonising scream that chilled everyone who heard it.
Shamaran lowered his glasses and raised his hand to release Roz. She instantly fell to the ground, still screaming, her legs curling up to her chest. She withered in place as Shamaran stepped over her and nodded toward Merlin. "Not bad for an old-timer."
"Not bad for a young punk," Merlin returned.
"Wha...what the hell did you do?" Amy asked.
"The Images of Ikon," Shamaran answered. "Me and Merl formed a connection between her mind and the lands of the dead and brought her face to face with the spirits of every single being she's ever murdered."
Zev's eyes widened. "That's 26 worlds. Untold tens of billions of people."
"All screaming at her, accusing her, haunting her, every minute of every day for the rest of her life," Shamaran confirmed. "Trust me, ain't nothing you can do to her now that can be any worse than what she's going through."
Shaw made a grim smile as she turned to Amy and Faith. "Now that is justice."
"So...what do we do with her?" Marc asked. "Insane or not, she could still be a danger."
"I've got it handled," Robin announced as he knelt by Roz. There was a flash of light and they were gone.
<Did he go where I think he went?> Aideen asked.
<Aye> Liam answered.
<Damn. Liam, old son, just how much room is there in that trophy?>
Liam spoke out loud. "Well, we should enjoy the break."
"What break?" Buffy demanded.
"Well, we just trashed a couple hundred vampires and demons and got Godzilla to kick Tiamat's ass. I don't think the underworld community is going to be popping back up for a while now."
Buffy's face split into a grin. "Party time!"
"Who are you people?" Steve broke in. "From the beginning."
"The beginning? Well, I was born on a cold, rainy night in April to then-loving parents. The first thing I remember seeing upon opening my eyes..."
"Great, it's a running gag now," Elementra muttered.
Xander stared at them and then faced the Sunnydale group with an expression of mild horror. "Okay...and these are the GOOD guys?!"
Part twenty-three: In which a celebration is held, new connections made and new beginnings embraced.
Sunnydale High School Gym
May 26, 1999
0146 Hours PST
It had been a busy hour for the Section fighters. With the aid of Merlin, Shamaran and the Eternals, they'd managed to put the town back to somewhat normal. As promised by Robin, the citizens of Sunnydale were returned with no memory of ever having been gone. All that left was for a massive meeting at the gym, where refreshments were already on hand and Robin and Liam were standing centre stage.
"So," The Goodfellow was finishing. "To make a long story short..."
"TOO LATE," half the crowd shot back. Even the Sunnydale crowd had been tired out by the amazingly long explanation the two Eternals had just completed.
"So what you're saying," Steve spoke up. "Is that you two are responsible for this?"
"Feel free to applaud at any time," Liam grinned.
"Great, like they weren't insufferable before..." Buffy muttered.
"Now, it's about that time that you all got to meet and greet with the world's latest saviours," Robin announced. "And as it just so happens, we have someone who can do them justice..."
"Back from his ten thousand year engagement in the distant reaches of space..."
"With stops on Varra, Gallifrey, Bajor, Narn and the Badlands..."
"The sultan of swing, the jivin' king, the ruler of the ring, the best of every-damn-thing..."
"The man who makes galactic empowerment worth having, you know him, you love him, put your hands together for ROMINO!"
They backed away and allowed the centre spot of the stage to be empty. There was a flash of light and puff of smoke and Romino was there, arms outward and grinning wildly. "Somebody give me a HEY!"
"Huh?" Cordelia said.
"That's close enough!" Romino laughed as he stepped forward, twirling his cane in his hands.
"Wow, it's great to be here folks, how you all doing tonight?"
His eyes fell on Oz and narrowed. "Buddy, I knew the great and Powerful Oz. The Great and Powerful Oz was a friend of mine. You, sir, are no Great and Powerful Oz. Oh and stop ripping off Michael Landon."
He glanced over toward Steve and Buffy and grinned. "Oh, yeah, George Lucas called and he wants his swords back for the next movie."
His eyes fell upon the Grail Knights. "Hey, you guys still have that old mug of yours?"
Marc's face glowered. "You are talking about the Sacred Chalice of our Lord!"
"It's just a cheap cup, pal," Romino said. "It's not holy. It's what it holds that is."
"The essence of Christ?"
"No. Your faith and love for him. That's more important." He paused and then shook himself. "Whoah, where did that come from?"
He looked to Cordelia. "Ah, the leader of the Tactless Brigade."
"Now that's the Romino we all know and love!" Robin announced.
"We do?" Liam frowned.
Romino danced over to where Giles and Jenny were, humming "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves."
"Good God," Giles muttered.
Romino immediately began looking around. "Where?" He laughed. "Relax, your Earlship. It's time you all met the latest, greatest and wildest group of fighters to hit this little planet so with no further ado, the intros!"
He spun his cane as the lights darkened with a spotlight highlighting him. "First off! The lady with the mind of a NASA geek and the soul of a comic book one, the honey of the heavens, from geek to so, so chic, the Mistress of the Stars, Marybeth Andrews!"
Marybeth floated down from above, arms crossed, a smile on her lips, dressed in a light blouse and dark skirt, looking more attractive than she ever had before.
"Next, the lass of luminesce, the natural blonde with the unnatural shine, the brightest star of the Chicago Police Department, Detective Kim Wagner!"
Light flared about as Kim arrived, dressed in light jeans and blouse with light vest. Her long blonde hair billowed about loose around her as she took her spot.
"And her balance, the man of her heart, the duke of darkness, the most black a white man can get, Detective Sean Cavendish!"
Sean strode outward, dressed in dark jeans and sweatshirt with leather jacket, standing next to Kim and placing a hand around her hip.
"Now, the cool cat with the pointed hat, the suave with spells, the hip-hop of the magic pot, the dour power, Cal Reynolds!"
Cal strutted out with a wide grin on his face, his dark coat fluttering behind him, wearing black leather pants and shirt with dark glasses.
"A brief break to introduce the non-Pantheon aids here. The doctor of desire, the sexy surgical sword-swinger, the curls that twirl, Moll Flanders herself, Elizabeth Corday!"
Elizabeth threw him a glare as she stepped up, clad in light pants and an elegant blouse, her hair billowed around her.
"Next up is the padre with panache, the minister who is not sinister, Father Bernard Tarring!"
Tarring simply smiled and bowed his head to the crowd as he stepped, a bit behind the others.
"Now back the fun ones with the man who makes monkeys go funky, apes go ape, fish go in a frenzy and who always hits the mark, especially in the love department, Nicky McDaniels!"
Nicky flipped to a spot on the stage, rising to his full height, clad in a pair of designer pants, nice shirt and blazer.
"And now, in the immortal words of the Boss from Jersey...Brunettes are fine and blondes are fun but when it comes to getting the dirty job done, you need a..."
"Redheaded woman!" Mulder, Oz and Gabrielle all shouted out.
Romino laughed as he held up his cane. "Here she is, the scarlet-hued mistress of the earth, the sultry soul of the ecosystem, the MILF of nature, Katie McDaniels!"
Katie floated down, her red hair fluttering in the wind she created, brushing at her elegant dress as she landed next to her husband.
"Of course, who can forget the lady who defines description, the dancer of dreams, the id with the ego, the she's not in her right mind because her left mind is so full, the lady who thinks the Kama Sutra is a beginner's manual, Shirley Denvers!"
Shirley danced outward with a huge grin on her face. She wore a bright red and green blouse with a pair of pants littered with multicoloured spots, a coat with rainbow stripes and a beret.
Cordelia started choking as if she was having a seizure. “That...that...clothes...hair...I..."
Xander held her tight as she tried to calm down at the sight of the walking fashion disaster before her.
"And last but in no ways least," Romino called out. "Here he is. The soldier's soldier, the commander of all chiefs, the warrior, the sailor, the gladiator, the slam-dancer! Ladies and gentlemen...Maximus Decimus Meridas!"
Maximus strode out, looking almost regal in a nice cut of pants, dark designer shirt and coat. As he strode out, the Pantheon turned to face him and broke out in a chant. "MAX-IMUS! MAX-IMUS! MAX-IMUS!" Torc and Kate took up the chant as well, followed by several of the Grail Knights as they called out the general's name.
"Now that the intros have been made," Romino announced. "Ladies and gents...it's party time!" He swung his arm to a nearby boom box to let it start to blare out a pulsing tempo. He threw his scarf around his neck and threw the group a smile as he turned away. "Did you ever get the feeling that you wanted to go, but you still had the feeling that you wanted to stay..." With his trademark flash of light and smoke, he vanished.
"I LOVE that guy!" Shirley called out.
Robin and Liam waded through the crowd before they came to the two women they were looking for. "Hey, hon," Robin said, moving in to give Amy a kiss. "Have I mentioned how I love your hair like that?"
Liam looked at Shaw's shorter hair and nodded. "That suits ye, lass."
Shaw rolled her eyes while Amy smiled. "Good to see you two."
Robin smiled to Liam. "Knew they wouldn't be mad at us forever."
"Not so much since we got the director's cut," Amy smiled back.
"I am pleased to see you both as well," Shaw interjected.
"Can't stop thinking of me, eh?" Liam asked with a wink.
"Yes. And of all the ways to get even for giving the others the tape."
"Pissed someone got one over on ye, eh?"
Maximus smiled as he approached the Knights. "Torc, good to see all of you again."
"And you, old friend," Torc said, clasping his head. Maximus looked to the other Knights and exchanged looks of recognition with all of them. "How have you all been?"
"Keeping busy, best we can," Ivar replied. "I'm a teacher now."
"Me too," Maximus said. "I feel educating people can help them avoid mistakes of the past."
"Just the reason I had," Ivar told him. He paused before speaking. "By the way...what side did you fall on for the Crusades?"
"Actually, I was in Japan at the time," the Roman told him. "And trust me...you people didn't have the monopoly on senseless wars."
Ivar sniffed. "Too bad my people didn't have nature on our side."
"Don't go there. You have no idea how hard it is to fish in a hurricane."
Zev was sitting near a corner of the room, absently sipping at a drink and staring off in space. He was only just aware of Joyce coming up to him. "Hey," she said. "What are you thinking of?"
"Sorry," Zev sighed as he looked at her. "It's just...I've spent so long with nothing on my mind and no goal in life but stopping Roz. Now that I have..." He shrugged. "I honestly have no idea what to do now."
Joyce was quiet for a moment before she replied. "Do you have any...business experience?"
Zev peered at her with mild confusion. "What?"
"Well, I figure I could use a little help around the gallery," Joyce said. "Finances, stocking, and all that. An extra pair of arms can't hurt. I mean...if you want to stay."
Zev let a tiny smile come to his face. "Why not? Not like I have any other place to go." He nodded to Joyce. "You've got yourself a partner."
"You're staying?" Joyce and Zev looked up to see Steve and Buffy approaching, the Slayer wearing a slightly worried expression.
"For now," Zev confirmed. "I'll be needing a place to stay of course but..." He shrugged. "I've spent too many years doing nothing but chasing. Maybe it's time I settled down for a while."
"Well, if you want to help us, you're welcome to it," Steve said. "You're damn good in a fight and we could always use that."
"Certainly," Zev said. "From what I've seen you people need all the experience you can get."
Buffy rolled her eyes. "Oh, great, just what we needed, another ego in the house."
"Oh, Steve," Joyce spoke up. "This was on your doorstep." She handed the man an envelope. Steve took it with a frown and opened it to remove a piece of paper which he began to read from.
"Dear Master St. Wolf. I do hope you forgive how my mates and I took time out to liberate the local bank of a couple hundred thousand dollars. As far as I'm concerned, we are more than even for my services. Best of luck to you all and smooth sailing. Sincerely yours, Captain Jack Sparrow. PS. What do you expect? I'm a bloody pirate."
Steve closed his eyes and shook his head. "I hate that guy."
Shirley was humming to herself as she passed by Elizabeth. She was sipping at a drink with a troubled look upon her face. "Why so bummed, Doc?"
Elizabeth sighed. "I just realised that not only do I have to come up with an explanation as to where I've been the last few days, I have to explain what happened to Lucy's body."
"Oh, that's no prob," Shirley said with a wave of her hand. "I can create an exact duplicate of it, Cal can make it last longer and you just have to make up an excuse as to it being misplaced and no one will know the difference."
Elizabeth's face brightened. "Well. This knowing you might not be a massive disaster after all."
Shaw was quietly sipping her drink when Marybeth passed by. "Um, hey... Shaw?"
The Harper glanced at her and Marybeth went on. "Look, I know we really don't know each other but Robin and Liam told us a lot about you and..." She took a deep breath. "Listen...The other day..." She stopped and shook her head. "God, has it been that long? The other day, I was hurt by a guy so bad I wanted to kill myself. Robin and Liam stopped me and showed me more kindness than I've seen in a long time outside my family. And now I'm with a bunch of guys who help me and respect me and have helped me get over that pain. You've got people even closer to you than that, Shaw. Let them do the same."
Shaw slowly nodded. "You wise beyond your ears, Marybeth. Tell me, what kindness did Robin and Liam show you?"
"Well, they doused the senior class at a dance and then I kicked the guy who messed with me in the crotch."
Shaw smiled lightly. "They have that effect on people."
"Definitely with you, I can tell."
"So, how did you two meet?" Ivar asked.
"Oh, she spent a few years trying to track me down and kill me," Jarod answered.
Ivar closed his eyes. "I have to start meeting a healthier group of people."
"Jarod?" Jarod and Parker turned around to see Sean and Kim staring at them. "Jarod, is that you?" Sean asked.
"I don't believe it!" Kim laughed. "I knew you were too good to be a real cop!"
"Well, I'm a man who gets into a few habits," Jarod modestly said.
"Most of them good," Parker added.
Kim peered at her. "Say, aren't you the woman who showed up the day after he broke up that coke ring and left town? You were looking for him."
"And I found him," Parker said with a smile and hug around Jarod.
Kim smiled. "Girl, let's dish." She took Parker's arm and led her away, leaving Jarod and Sean behind.
The Pretender looked over at the cop. "So, you finally saw her, huh?"
Sean threw up his hands. "Did everyone but me know?"
"Sean," Jarod began. "You're a great cop but you were so oblivious when it came to her feelings for you. I'm glad you finally recognised them."
"Better late than never, huh?"
"Pal, half the people in this room will agree with you there."
Shirley smiled as she walked to where Oz, Willow, Larry, Cordelia and Xander were. "Nice to meet and greet you all."
Xander looked at her outfit and shook his head. "My God. Someone who makes Cher look underdressed."
"Why thank you," Shirley laughed. She looked to Larry. "Hmmm...hmmm...very nice."
Larry shook his head. "Sorry, gal. I'm gay."
Shirley's face fell. "Damn." She shook her head. "You sure? You're not bi, are you? I mean, I can help you work on that."
"Oh, not again!" Willow moaned.
"What?" Shirley frowned. "You have a problem with bisexuals?"
Seeing Willow about to descend into babble, Cordelia went to the rescue. "Uh, actually, Will only has a problem with one bisexual. Herself."
Shirley nodded and looked at the redhead. "Hey, Willow, it's okay, it's nothing to be ashamed of..." Shirley grinned. "Hey, you're sleeping with a werewolf. I mean, I thought I was kinky..."
Xander bit his lip to keep from crying as Cordelia smacked herself on the head, realising too late her error. "She doesn't mean ME!" Willow yelled.
Shirley put an arm around her shoulder. "Kid, trust me, denial is not healthy for you..."
"No, see, I didn't mean Willow," Cordelia tried to clear up. "At least not our Willow."
Shirley blinked before her eyes widened. "Ooooh, wait a minute...The vampire Willow from the other universe Robin and Liam was talking about, right?"
The three nodded.
Shirley smiled. "Hmmm...would like to know more about her."
"Oh, well, Sonja and Gabrielle knew her best!" Xander said, pointing to the two Amazons.
"You should talk to them."
Shirley turned to look at the duo, both now wearing more conservative, but sexy, outfits and her eyes took on a predatory gleam. "Hmmmm...thanks for the tip." She sauntered off toward
Willow gave Xander a quick hug. "Thank you so much."
"I'm trying to think faster." Xander grinned. "And hey, we do have one bright side!"
"What's that?" Cordelia asked.
"Well, no prophecy involved in this one!"
"Hey, that is good!" Cordelia agreed.
The two looked up to where Marybeth was passing by, shaking her head and their faces fell. "Prophecy?"
Shirley was pushing past people when she bumped into a shapely figure. "Hey, Faith, right?"
"Yeah," the Boston-bred teen said. "And you're Shirley." She looked the woman up and down.
"I assume you're a freewheeling gal?"
"I play both sides."
"Kinky. You know you got company here, right?"
"Oh, yeah, heading that way myself."
"I leave you to it," Faith stepped aside so Shirley could pass. She turned to see Larry coming up. "Thank God," the jock muttered.
"What?" Faith asked with confusion.
"I got here before you could talk her into conjuring a version of myself who'd go to bed with you."
Faith's eyes widened and she turned around only to have Larry grab her and whisper in her ear. "You try and I'll make sure Buffy knows just who it was who paid a waiter fifty bucks to try and make Joyce and Zev's dinner run long." He relaxed his grip as Faith sighed.
Shirley sauntered over to where Gabrielle and Sonja were standing. The two Amazons saw her coming and instantly recognised the lustful look in her eye. "Hiya," Shirley began. "Nice to meet you two again."
Sonja looked her outfit up and down. "What an outfit."
"Hey, you don't like it...I'm willing to change," Shirley replied with a wink.
"You don't waste time, do you?" Gabrielle asked.
"Shouldn't we at least have dinner first?" Gabrielle asked. "I'm a good cook."
"Nice. I'm a good desert," Shirley said with a wink.
Gabrielle coughed as Sonya gave Shirley a more lavascious look. "I hear you're an artist?"
Shirley nodded. "Yeah. Nude."
The two stared at her. "What?" Gabrielle said. "You paint in the nude?"
"No, I cover my naked body in paint and slam it against the canvas," Shirley answered as if it was normal. "You'd be amazed what pops up." She let a slow smile come to her face. "Wanna see just how creative I am?"
The two Amazons slowly smiled.
"So, still in Chicago?" Duncan asked Elizabeth.
The Briton nodded. "Yes. Been rather quiet there. Yesterday was the first time I'd gotten in a duel in years."
"Lucky bitch," the other Immortals muttered.
Methos looked at Elizabeth. "So...what name are you going under?"
Elizabeth frowned. "Elizabeth Corday."
"Yes, but what name are you using?"
Methos rolled his eyes. "Wonderful, you're spreading your suicidal measures onto your students now, MacLeod."
"Actually, Darius had been doing that pretty well for 3,000 years," Elizabeth sniffed.
"And he spent 1500 years on Holy Ground, afraid to show his face, you want that?"
"Give me your hand."
Methos was confused. "What?"
"Give me your hand."
Still unsure, Methos held out his right hand. Elizabeth took it in her own and pressed down in two spots. With a yell, Methos fell to his knees as Elizabeth leaned in and hissed in his ear. "I believe you were once a doctor so you know about nerve clusters. I can assure you, a lot more of them have been discovered over the last century and I know them all. I know how to use them. Say anything against Darius again and I'll show you each and every one of them." She rose up and threw away his hand, pacing away.
Methos rubbed his wrist and looked up at the smiling Duncan. "She's a bit protective when it comes to Darius."
"And you couldn't have mentioned that before?"
"I could have. But then I would have missed this."
Methos was just getting to his feet when a voice spoke out. "Well, look who dropped by."
The world's oldest Immortal moaned. "Dear gods, not you."
Maximus smiled as he watched Methos rise to his feet. "It's been a while. China, wasn't it? The Boxer Rebellion?"
Methos narrowed his eyes. "I swear to God, Maximus, scroll or no scroll, I will take your head if you continue."
"Methos, remember what you saw out there. You wouldn't last five minutes." Turning to the others, Maximus went on. "Well, it appears our friend needed to get the hell out of China fast and so, devious bastard that he is, he knew there was one way to get out without being pressed by soldiers."
"What was that?" Connor asked.
Maximus smiled at Methos. "You know, the dress was quite lovely but the make-up just didn't suit you."
A burst of laughter went out as Methos dragged a hand across his face. He looked at them all and started to back up as he spoke. "I don't want to see any of you for a whole year. A whole year, do you understand that? Do not write me, do not call me, e-mail me, fax me, do not even...knock on my door. For a whole year, you understand?"
"Now, Methos, I'm sure you were a lovely woman..."
"Leave me alone, do you hear me? Leave! Me! Alone!" Methos backed away as fast as he could.
"So you used to wear glasses as well?" Giles asked.
Marybeth nodded. "Yep. The empowerment fixed my sight."
"I can relate."
"I doubt it. Not unless you can look up and count the grains of sand on the moon."
"I have to talk to Robin..."
"Um, Marybeth?" the teen turned to see Willow behind her. "I'm Willow."
"Oh, yeah, Rob was telling me about you," Marybeth said. She smiled. "Those two do have a way of getting into things."
"How'd you meet them?"
Marybeth took a breath. "They stopped me from killing myself." At Willow's shocked expression, she elaborated. "See, the school hunk asked me out to a dance but it turned out to be a joke. Well, short version is Robin and Liam kept me from jumping off a roof and did a big
'Carrie' number on the whole senior class. That's where I met Mel and things sort of snowballed from there."
"Yeah, when Robin and Liam are around, trouble makes it a threesome," Willow observed. "So, you can go into space?"
"Oh, yeah," Marybeth confirmed. "To almost any planet I'd want. And I've done some hacking now and then."
Willow's eyes lit up. "Really? What's the best hack you've ever done?"
"Oh, Chicago PD, NYPD, Visa once."
"Hey, the stars are my first love. What's your best?"
"Me, Jenny and a friend got into a Keyhole Satellite from NRO so we could use the infared," Willow answered in a nonchalant tone.
Marybeth's glass froze halfway to her lips as she stared at Willow. "You hacked the NRO? Oh...my...God, that must have been so cool!"
"Not really," Willow said dejectedly. "I didn't even get to shoot the laser."
Marybeth just stared at her open-mouthed as Willow sipped her drink. "So, what did you enjoy the most out of this?"
Marybeth recovered as she realised she could outdo the redhead. "Being the first woman to walk on the moon."
It was Willow's turn to be shocked. "Wh...what were you doing there?" she managed to eke out.
"Dropping off a demon."
Willow's eyes widened. "You left a demon on the moon?!"
"Marybeth, we have satellites in orbit."
"Yeah, I know, I had to dodge a couple on the way back."
"Satellites with big, powerful cameras."
"Big, powerful cameras that can take pictures of the moon and what's on it. Like a demon."
"And if they snap a pic of the demon..."
"Walking on the moon..."
"They won't think it's a demon..."
"They'll think it's an alien..."
"And we'll have UFO nuts going on about it..."
"And the tabloids will be all over it..."
The two were silent before Marybeth spoke up. "So, what are we going to do about it?"
Willow stared at her. "We?"
"Well, I can get us there but you'd know better than me where to send him."
Willow furrowed her brow. "Yeah, I could send him to Hell with the right spell and...Wait a minute! He's on the moon!"
Marybeth shrugged. "Yeah, I know."
Marybeth smiled and threw an arm around the Amazon's shoulder. "Come on, Willow. Think about it. How would you feel about being the second woman on the moon?"
Willow stared back before returning the smile. "Let's go."
Jax smiled at the other man. "So now you can make money, huh?"
Cal shook his head. "Buddy, the magics I draw on were created millennia ago in a distant galaxy. Do you think the guys who did it cared about pieces of coloured paper from countries that didn't even exist yet?"
"Cal!" Cal turned to see Willow and Marybeth coming up. The brunette took him by the arm and pulled him away a bit. "Listen, we need you to put a spell on Willow here."
"Um, ain't she a witch?"
"Yeah, but you're a lot more powerful and we need that. We have to go to the moon."
Cal looked at her, then at Willow, then chuckled and shook his head. "It's when I hear crazy shit like that that I realise how much I love this gig."
Merlin was sipping his drink, his eyes fixed on Cal as he walked by. Steve was next to him, and peered at the wizard. "Not still mad he showed you up, are you?"
Merlin shook his head, his face serious. "No, it's not that. That man...he's holding back."
Steve raised an eyebrow. "Merlin, he sealed the Hellmouth and cut off access to magics to do it. He had enough for all sorts of trick, you're saying he's even more powerful than that?"
"More than I can tell, Steven," Merlin told him. "Maybe even more than he knows. Maybe he's got a block of some sort on him, something preventing him from going all the way." His face was grave. "But I can sense power, Steven. And that man can possibly be more powerful than even me if he pushes himself. And I don't mind telling you that scares the hell out of me."
Steve took that in. "And if that magic goes bad?"
"God help us."
Elizabeth was coming up to the punch bowl when she froze, staring at the two figures standing next to it. "You," she hissed.
Spike and Drusilla both looked up at her. They appeared confused at the angered expression on the Immortal's face. Then, they realised where they had seen her before. "Oh, damn," Spike muttered. "I remember you."
Elizabeth's hand reflexively went to her sword as Spike and Drusilla both held up their hands. "Whoa, whoa, hold on!" Spike yelled. "We've got souls now!"
Elizabeth stopped and stared at them. "Souls? You think that changes what you did to me?"
"Yes," Drusilla said, her face dour. "Because now we feel it. Every ounce of pain we've ever given and all the guilt that goes with it."
Elizabeth looked at her, then at Spike and realised they were truly remorseful for their past actions. She let her hand fall away and bit her lip. "I...I'm sorry..."
"No," Spike said. "We are. For everything."
"Is it...hard?" Elizabeth knew it was a stupid question but had to ask.
Drusilla slowly nodded. "Some days, yes. Others...we just try to live with it."
Elizabeth slowly nodded. "I think we should talk."
The surface of the moon was quiet, as should be expected for a place with no sound. The demon was sitting on the grey sand, still not believing what had happened to him. His musings were interrupted by a flash of light as Cal, Marybeth and Willow appeared before him. Both Cal and Willow had a nimbus of energy surrounding them that protected them from the freezing vacuum around them.
"Okay, there we go," Marybeth said. "Do your thing."
Willow nodded and put her hands together. She thrust out her hands and a burst of energy rammed into the demon, sending him sailing off the surface and hurtling toward Earth. With amazing speed, he hit the atmosphere and was soon burnt to a crisp.
Marybeth whirled on Willow. "That's it? That was all? I could have done that! You just wanted to go to the moon, didn't you?"
Willow looked down with a guilty smile as Cal shook his head. "That was sneaky, underhanded and devious." He raised an eyebrow. "Interested in going in business together?"
Marybeth looked away, pausing to truly take in her surroundings and sighed. "Why did we ever stop coming to a place as beautiful as this?"
"The lack of oxygen might have been an issue."
"Cal, I've dreamed my whole life of being here. Don't spoil the moment."
"Wow," Willow whispered. "Great view."
Marybeth glanced at Cal. "Did you really have to come here to keep the spell going?"
"Nah," the man shrugged. "But I wasn't going to pass up the chance to become the first brother on the moon."
Willow paused and looked at Marybeth. "Okay, he has the spell over us but what about you? Don't you need to breathe?"
"Oh, that's no problem. I just don't breathe in space."
Willow blinked. "Why not?"
"Well, I'd look pretty stupid if I tried to breathe in space, wouldn't I?" Marybeth said as if it was obvious.
Willow rolled her eyes. "I give up." She knelt down and let her hands pick up a rock.
"Here we go. Little souvenir."
"Hey, you could always grab that," Cal said, pointing over Willow's shoulder. She and Marybeth both turned to see the American flag stuck in the dirt behind them.
Marybeth broke into a wide grin. "Oh, man. I so wish I could tell my family about this."
"Why?" Willow asked.
"Because my uncle has always believed the moon landings were faked," Marybeth answered. "I'd love to be able to prove him wrong."
Robin was mingling with the crowd when he heard some raised voices. Curious, he walked over to where Xander, Cordelia, Giles and Jenny were surrounding Shaw. "Shaw, the bitch got blasted!" Cordelia was saying. "She's toast. Lizard meat. Or maybe sushi, I don't know."
"I know that, Cordelia," Shaw said. "But I am telling you, we may have to face Tiamat once again someday."
"Um, Shaw, she's not gonna do the JC Superstar 'rise again in three days' bit," Xander informed her.
"Because she is not dead," Shaw stated.
"Excuse me," Robin piped in. "But just what is the argument here about?"
"Ms. Hard Head here says Mrs. T isn't dead," Cordelia said.
"She's right," Robin replied with a nod.
Everyone stared at him. "Huh?" Xander and Cordelia said. Even Jenny and Giles seemed confused. "Robin, Tiamat was destroyed," Jenny said. "We all saw it."
"Her physical body was, but not her spirit," the Eternal explained. "You see, mega-level demons like the T-Girl aren't killed when you destroy their physical bodies on the material plane. Their essences are dispersed and immediately sent back to Hell or their natural plane of existence where they reform their bodies."
"Oh..." Xander paused for a long moment as he mulled over Robin's words. He let his gaze slide along to the garishly dressed woman nearby. "Great...Just what we needed. Her to come up with something even wilder for the rematch."
It was silent in the church as Ulric knelt by the altar. His head was bowed, his face marked with dried tears as he tried to cope with all that had happened. He didn't register the footsteps coming behind him until the figure was right behind him. "May I join you?" Tarring asked.
Ulric nodded and the other priest knelt and crossed himself. There was a silence before Ulric spoke. "I'm praying for him. For the man I used to know."
"To each their own," Tarring said without judgement. "I'm sorry for what I had to do."
"I understand. And I forgive you for it." He sighed. "I couldn't have done it..."
"I took no pride in it," Tarring informed him. "It was a duty. One I thought I had forsaken long ago."
"The past is difficult to rid oneself of."
"Amen, my friend. Amen." Tarring paused before glancing back at Ulric. "For him to do what he did...to hurt children...to lose his faith. It hurts, I know. But, as you said, he made his choice. Don't blame yourself for that."
Ulric sighed. "I worry sometimes. About whether I could end up the same. He was a good man, once. Before his love of power overcame his power of love. He was like me." He closed his eyes. "How do I know I won't end up on his path?"
Tarring placed a hand on his shoulder. "Faith, my friend. Trite as it sounds...you need to have faith."
Maximus was sipping at a drink and gazing over at some of the teenagers when Elizabeth came up. "Shilling for your thoughts," she remarked. Maximus seemed to ignore her, staring out. Elizabeth followed his gaze to find Shaw and Faith. She glanced at Maximus. "A tad young for you, aren't they?"
Maximus shook his head. "No, it's not that. I've just realised where I've seen them before."
Maximus looked at her. "Remember that tale I told you about the two sisters I met when I was in the army?" At Elizabeth's nod, Maximus pointed at Shaw and Faith. "There they are."
Elizabeth stared at him, then at the two, then back at him. "I...I don't understand..."
Maximus smiled. "When you get to be my age, Elizabeth, you'll be able to recognise the same souls in different bodies. Trust me, it's them."
Elizabeth blinked. "Are you...going to say anything?"
Maximus shook his head. "No. No, I see no reason to drudge it up for them. If they find out on their own...perhaps." He paused and looked at the two with a smile. "It does feel good to know they finally got reunited."
"Say, Shaw, can we talk?"
Shaw paused and turned to the blond policewoman. "About what?"
"Look, I know we don't know each other that well but can I give you a piece of advice?" Seeing Shaw nod, Kim went on. "Tell him how you feel. Soon as you can."
"I do not know-"
"Shaw, I spent half my life in love with Sean but could never get the guts to tell him until we nearly got killed. From what I gather, a few other couples here had the same experience. Tell him, Shaw. Trust me, it'll save a lot of time and trouble."
"How can you be sure-"
"I know a woman in love, lady. And brother, have you got it bad."
Shaw watched her walk away and shook her head. She needed some air quickly and made her way to the back. She emerged into the night and taking a deep breath, walked a bit further. She crossed her arms as she tried to gather her thoughts and emotions of the last few hours.
However, her senses were still alert enough so that when she heard a sound behind her, she whirled around, her sword stabbing at the direction of the noise.
She stared at the red-haired woman in her path, the blade bisecting her but appearing as if it was caught in a cloud of vapour. The woman looked at herself, then at Shaw and smiled. "Joanie told me you were a little trigger-happy."
Shaw peered in confusion. "Who are you?"
"Kathleen Harris Danahure," the woman introduced herself.
Shaw's eyes widened in surprise. "You are Kathleen?"
"Aye. And I thought it was time we talked."
Shaw frowned. "About what?"
Kathleen slipped away from the sword, her ghostly form coming together. "First of all, ye have to let this whole Roz thing go. It's not your fault, you know that? Not a bit of it. Ye trusted her, that's all. Everyone else did too."
"But she used me-"
"Aye, but if you don't stop blaming yourself for it, she'll have won. If you stop trusting people because of what she's done, she's won. If you distance yourself from others because of her, she's won. Don't let her win, Shaw."
Shaw was silent as she absorbed Kathleen's words, letting the ghost go on. "Ye know, Shaw, we see a lot up there. Not just what can be seen but what can be felt. And what I felt from you when Roz opened the Hellmouth was that you were wishing with all your heart that Liam was there." As Shaw opened her mouth, Kathleen cut in. "And not because of his power. Cause you wanted the man you loved there."
Shaw shut her mouth and looked down as Kathleen stepped forward. "Shaw...you've lost people you've loved in yer life. A lot of them. The last man ye gave your heart to died in your arms. So I understand you're afraid..."
"I am not afraid," Shaw broke in.
"When it comes to your emotions, yes, you often are," Kathleen fired back. "You're making progress but you still have trouble opening to people, lass. And you're afraid that doing it too much will end up giving you more pain. You don't want to risk losing people again. Well, guess what, Shaw? Love means risk. It means chancing you may lose someone. That's what love means, Shaw. You can't play it safe. But it can be more rewarding that way."
Shaw closed her eyes and shook her head. "I just...I do not know how I can...even say..."
"Hmmm..." Kathleen tapped her chin. "Maybe I can help you practice."
Shaw was confused. "How?"
"Meet me at the library in twenty minutes," Kathleen said. "I'll be looking like Liam and you can say what you'd like to say to him."
Shaw took a moment to think about it before nodding. "All right. I shall see you there."
She turned and walked off, missing the wicked smile coming onto Kathleen's face.
"Mulder, right?" Marybeth asked, sticking a hand out to the FBI agent. "Pleased to meet you. Heard good things about you."
"They meant Mulder, right?" Scully kidded.
Marybeth nodded. "Yep. And trust me...alien life? It exists a LOT more than you could imagine."
"To bad we won't see it for a while," Melissa remarked. "Damn technology. I sometimes wonder if we really did go to the moon, the way space stuff drags."
Marybeth's smile widened. <Oh, Cal...>
Steve was talking to Marc when Buffy came up, a worried expression on her face. "Hon, what is it?" he asked.
Buffy sighed. "I just looked in on the Guardians. They're hungry. I mean, they are *hungry.* They've gone through a whole bag of what food we've had and I can sense they want to get at the local butcher shop."
Steve looked worried as he glanced around for Nicky. Seeing him nearby, he quickly moved to talk to him. "Excuse me, Mr. McDaniels?
"Call me Nicky."
"Nicky...just how much of an empowerment you give to our Guardians?"
"Oh, the animal equivalent of you lot," Nicky nonchalantly answered. "I know, Shaw doesn't have one but I figured I might as well include Brianna with the rest of the set."
Steve slowly nodded. "So...I take it that means...increased appetite?"
Nicky smiled. "Well...no one said saving the world wasn't going to be cheap." He kept himself from laughing out loud at the groan Steve let out.
"Maximus," Arthur said as he came up to the Pantheon. "I must take my leave. It was good to fight by your side again."
Maximus shook his hand. "And yours as well, your Majesty. It's been a long time."
"This another Immortal?" Cal asked.
"No," Elizabeth told him. She seemed confused. "But he does appear...old."
Maximus smiled as he faced the group. "Ladies and gentlemen...allow me to introduce Arthur Pendragon, formerly King of Camelot, holder of the blade Excalibur."
The entire group just stared dumbly as Elizabeth looked absolutely poleaxed. Arthur gave them a short bow, a final nod to Maximus, then walked away.
Elizabeth's jaw was jumping up and down. "That...that was..."
"That was," Maximus said.
"What a bunch," Kim sighed. "You guys meet Faith? She's pretty wild."
"Yeah, she's okay for a Red Sox fan," Nicky said.
"I know," Kim sighed. "I mean, honestly, how those guys can just keep deluding themselves year after year after year that they have a chance..." The Chicago residents all nodded in agreement as Elizabeth and Maximus shared bemused looks.
Shirley grinned. "Wild week, huh?"
"I got superpowers and the man of my dreams," Kim answered with a smile. "Still figuring out which is better."
"So...fond memories of it all?" Tarring asked.
"I felt the world become a better place because of Cal's tree planting efforts," Katie spoke up.
"You're welcome," the magician said. "I got to close the doorway to Hell in Satan's ugly face."
"I got to see the old alligator in the sewers legend is true," Nicky offered.
"Hey, I got to be the first woman to walk on the moon!" Marybeth chimed in. "Top that!"
"I met Joan of Arc," Shirley nonchantly answered.
Everyone stared at her in confusion. "Wha, you called her up from someone's dream?" Cal asked.
"No, she met Joan of Arc," a soft voice came from behind them. The Pantheon turned to see a young teenager standing before them, a slight glow about her.
"Uh, who are you?" Kim asked. "And why are you glowing?"
"Guys, meet Joanie," Shirley said. "The glowing is an angel thing."
"Hello," the others said in dull surprise.
"Hello," Joan answered back. She turned to Shirley and gave her a mild glare. "And do not call me Joanie." She turned back to the group. "I merely wished to give my congratulations. You have done well in your first battle and He looks forward on your future endeavors."
"He who?" Nicky asked in confusion.
Joan smiled and pointed to the ceiling. As the group gaped at her, she focused on Tarring.
"Oh and Father? Your beliefs are quite true. It is a shame more of your kind do not appreciate our Lord's love for all as you do." Her eyes twinkled with warmth as she stepped away. She paused and turned toward the Nicky and Katie. "Nicky? Katie? Could you come with me, please?"
Exchanging a confused look, the two followed the angel as she led them to a quiet corner.
"There's someone who wanted to meet you," Joan explained.
"Who?" Katie asked.
The two turned to see a young woman glowing from within, wearing plate armour and realised it was another angel. "Who are you?" Katie asked.
The woman looked at them both and calmly answered. "Jamie McDaniels."
Katie and Nicky both dropped their jaws in utter shock. "What?" Katie whispered.
The angel nodded. "Yes, Mother, I am."
As the two just stared, Joan placed a hand on Katie's shoulder. "Because you gave her a name in God, she was granted entrance into Heaven. She would have been a warrior as you are in your own way and so that is what she is."
Nicky gaped at her. "You're...her teacher?"
"I am," Joan confirmed. "And you should be proud of her. As you fight for the Light here on Earth, so your daughter will do in Heaven, for our Father." She smiled as she stepped away and vanished.
The McDaniels simply stared at their daughter, not able to fully believe this. "You've... grown," was all Katie could think of to say.
Jamie smiled. "In Heaven, you get to be what you always imagined yourself being. You'd be amazed how many infants are grown up there."
"What about...your life here?"
"It would have been wonderful. And that's because I would have had the two of you as parents." She sighed. "But God had other plans for me. And part of that has included always being able to watch you."
"Are you...happy?" Katie softly asked.
Jamie paused to consider. "I have angels, I fly amongst life and battle for a God who loves me." She smiled. "But, contrary to opinion, Heaven isn't perfect."
"It's not?" Nicky asked with surprise.
"No." Jamie's eyes were glistening. "It doesn't have either of you."
Katie couldn't hold back any more and instead moved in to embrace Jamie, tears streaming down her cheeks. "Mom..."
"No," Katie interrupted, choking on her sobs. "No, don't say anything. Not a word. Just...just let me hold you. That's all." She tightened her grip and her husband was soon with her, crying as well. They stood there, holding their daughter as they felt the long-time pain in their hearts finally heal.
Shaw paced the ground carefully, her eyes cast downward. She still wasn't entirely sure about this idea but figured anything that could end the storm in her heart was a good thing in the long run. She looked up as the door opened and the image of Liam stepped in. They stared at each other as she walked forward, dead silence between them. Liam finally cleared his throat as he spoke.
"Shaw...I'll be honest with ye. When I first met ye, I thought you were the typical Faerun elf, despite Robbie's opinion of ye. You were arrogant, superior, rude, condescending...I thought that was what ye were." He coughed. "But as I got to know ye, as I watched ye in action, as I saw yer passion, yer love for the others..." He licked his lips and looked up. "Lass, I fell in love with ye that day. It was yer fiery spirit I fell for. But I held back because of Kathleen and her memory. I was afraid of violating that." He swallowed as he stepped forward. "But these last few weeks, I've fallen even more in love with you. I never thought I could love a woman as much as Kathleen but I do. I love you, Shaw Hunter and me heart is yours for as long as you'll keep it."
A quiet set in as Shaw took in his words. She took a deep breath to steady herself before speaking up. "When you first came here, I believed you to be as arrogant as you saw me. But, as the crisis with Outworld went on, I saw the man beneath the brashness and humour. You are a good man; you simply choose to hide it from the world." She brushed a hand through her hair. "But, the timing of our meeting was not the best. I was still getting over the tragedy of Raidon, the others had been captured and we were facing the end of everything. And Callie's vision did not make it better." She shook her head. "Much of my early life here, I felt manipulated by outside forces, which made me feel as if the choices in my life were being made against what I wanted. Raidon's death...was nearly the final blow for my spirit. I had my home and family ripped away from me for a second time and even though it was so that I could ensure part of the past remained the same, I hated it...because I fell in love only to have it ripped away from me before I could truly experience it. I actually questioned whether it was worth fighting any more before I realised it would dishonour Raidon's memory. But with Callie, everyone continued to tell me how her visions came true and I simply could not stand to have choices made for me any longer. But Amy and Robin continued to talk to me and convinced me to see what might develop between us. And the last few weeks, even with the switch with our bodies, I have tried to determine what I feel for you, Liam. It was something I could not understand...until you returned. Until I saw you back...what I felt upon your return..." She closed her eyes and slowly whispered. "I knew I loved you." She looked up at him, tears in her eyes. "I love you, Liam Danahure. I love you more than I have ever loved anyone, even Raidon, even Amy, my grandparents...anyone, save the Lady Herself. And I say that visions be damned, I love you, Liam by my choice and with all my heart."
There was silence and Shaw was surprised to feel tears coming down her eyes. She looked at Liam and saw a confused expression on his face. "Kath? Kath, why are ye crying?"
Shaw blinked. "What? Kath? Kathleen, what are-"
It hit them both at once and their eyes widened in shock. A burst of laughter rang out and Kathleen materialised, a wide smile on her face. Belatedly, Shaw realised that she must have told Liam the same thing she'd told Shaw...which meant she really had poured out her heart and admitted her love to the leprechaun.
Liam stared at Kathleen before bursting with laughter. "Oh, Lord...now I remember why I love ye."
Kathleen laughed again. "Sorry about the trick. But I just had to settle this once and for all." She looked to Shaw and smiled warmly. "Make him happy." She looked to Liam. "You too." With that, she vanished away.
Liam shook his head. "And I thought Robbie had matchmaking power."
Shaw looked at him. "Well...now what?"
Liam smiled and leaned in, taking her in his arms. He let his face move to hers and slowly kissed her. Shaw was hesitant but soon felt herself giving in to the kiss and as it deepened, knew she had made the right choice.
They finally broke apart and Liam smirked. "No punch. Guess I'm improving."
Shaw gave him a hard look. "Time well tell." She smiled. "So start telling."
And they stood there and kissed for quite a while.
Unseen by either, two figures quietly watched from outside the room. "Thanks for the tip, bro," Robin said. "I needed to see this."
"I know," Romino said. "That's why I did it."
Robin watched the two and felt himself smile proudly at the sight of his best friend and adopted sister together.
Romino smiled at Robin. "Well, hopefully this makes us square for..." He stopped as he took in the faery's expression. "Rob? Are you crying?"
Robin looked up at him, wiping his eyes. "I'm just so happy. For both of them."
Romino shook his head. "I've never understood what you see in Liam and Shaw is the same." He broke into a smile. "But if you're that happy for them...Then they're obviously worth it."
Robin shrugged. "She's my little sister so I have to watch out for her. He's my best friend so I have to watch out for him."
"So you've going to rub it in and make them miserable when the truth comes out."
"Of course. That's what best friends and big brothers are for."
"Ah, better than my romantic history, that's for sure..."
"Rom, you gotta let that go. You just can't keep on dwelling on that for centuries..."
A ringing sound went out and Romino reached into his pocket to pull out a cell phone. Clicking it open, he spoke into it. "Yeah? Uh-huh. Yeah, he's right here. Right. Ok, I'll tell him." He clicked the phone closed and turned to Robin. "That was the pot. He wanted you to know you're black. Puck."
Robin stared at him. "That was a damn long way to go for a cheap laugh."
"I can go further."
Robin smiled at the other man. "I missed you, Rom. It's been a little too quiet since you left."
"Missed you too, bro."
"Do me a favour? Call Mom, she worries."
Romino smiled and tapped his cane to his hat before vanishing. Robin coughed as he waved away the smoke left behind. "He never could do teleportation right," he muttered.
"Mulder, Scully, Melissa and Tessa were making their way through the party when they saw Willow excitedly talking to some of the Sunnydale residents. "Hey, what's up?" Melissa asked as they joined.
Willow beamed. "Me."
Xander sighed. "Seems that Astra lady took Willow to the moon."
"I got a rock! See, a moon rock!" Willow proudly held it up.
Mulder seemed impressed. "Really? Maybe you can appraise these then." He, Scully, Melissa and Tessa all held up rocks of their own. Willow's face fell in shock, her jaw dropping. "How ...how?"
Marybeth was passing by and smiled. "I just couldn't resist."
Mulder laughed. "Everyone at the FBI says I've got my head in space. About time I proved them right."
Marybeth chuckled before moving to the Sunnydale ladies. "Hey, listen, R & L gave us a heads-up so I wanted to touch on this. We don't want any matchmaking from you guys."
"What makes you think we wanted to do matchmaking?" Cordelia asked.
Marybeth snorted. "Hey, I may not be the social maven but I know how these things work. Listen, we don't need. The McDaniels are together, Kim and Sean are a couple, Elizabeth has someone, Cal has a way with the ladies already and do you want to put Maximus on a bad date?"
"What about Shirley?" Amy asked.
Marybeth raised an eyebrow. "She plays for both teams and she can whip up fictional characters. You're out of your league."
"Point," the witch admitted.
"Plus, let's face it, if we want matchmakers, we'd want ones with better track records than you guys."
"Hey!" Cordelia yelled.
"Does the name Jack ring a bell?"
"Robin's got a big mouth," Cordelia muttered.
"Tell me something I don't know."
The instant Shaw saw Ulric and Tarring enter, she broke off and rushed to them, embracing Ulric. "I was so worried about you," she sighed, fighting back tears.
"I know, child," Ulric said, stroking her hair. "I know. It was difficult for me too." He broke off the hug and tried to inject some humour. "Not the least of which is the fact that after all the spells you placed on my person and home, I ended up being knocked over the head with a candlestick."
"I believe Giles may understand that feeling," Shaw said with a smile. It faded as she looked at him. "I...I am sorry. For Garrow."
"It wasn't your fault," Ulric said. "Nor mine. He made his choices. In the end, that was what punished him."
Shaw nodded and turned to Tarring. "Father...again, I must thank you for aiding Ulric. And with the fight."
Tarring shrugged. "One does one's best in such a situation," he stated. "Garrow was one of our own. I needed to take care of him myself."
Shaw stared at him for a long moment, seeing a familiar twinge of guilt in his eyes. "As you said, Father...he made his choice. Do not blame yourself for what you did."
"I shall remember that," Tarring said with a smile. He looked about. "Well...enough gloominess, this is a party, isn't it? I assume you have something to drink?"
Ulric smiled. "I have a private stash at my church."
"That's all right." Tarring's eyes glinted. "I've got a wine cellar in my basement."
The Amazons had gathered with the women empowered by Robin, the conversation ranging from politics to the past. "I must say," Elizabeth said. "This empowerment Robin gives is something of an experience."
"So," Willow began. "You didn't want to become an Amazon?"
"No, unlike you, I decided not to tell God to take a flying leap off the cliff."
The Amazons stared at her, stunned. "Excuse me?" Tessa asked.
"You don't think much of being Catholic, do you?" Elizabeth said in a chipped voice. "And Willow, I assume you just got tired of all that Hebrew rigamore?"
"How dare you-" Jenny started.
"Well, let's be honest here, ladies," Dierdre broke in. "When you pledged yourself to Artemis, you made her to one God you care about, above all others. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't there a 'thou shalt not' about that sort of thing?"
Scully was sputtering as Xander, Jarod, Giles, Oz and Mulder came up. "Hon, what's wrong?" The FBI agent asked.
"Oh, nothing," she snapped. "These women are just saying that when I became an Amazon, I kissed off all my years of Catholic faith!"
"That's totally unfair!"
"You kissed off your faith long before you became an Amazon."
Elizabeth looked Mulder over. "I'm taking a wild guess you were never much of a church goer so I suppose this doesn't effect you so much."
"Wait a minute," Parker said. "You're saying you're more connected to God than us just because you don't have a shrine in your home?"
"You have shrines?" Elizabeth snorted. "How avant garde."
"Look," Dierdre began. "When you die, you go to the Elisyan Fields, which, while I'm sure it's nice, probably sits a little low on the afterlife scale. Whereas we get to go to the big one,
"I wouldn't be so sure of that," Jarod said.
Sonya glared at him. "You want to add something?"
"Look, I've checked out a lot of religions, and to me, it doesn't make a difference what faith you are, as long as you have one."
"Thanks, hon," Parker said, giving him a peck on the cheek.
Elizabeth was not deterred. "Listen, if you'd ever been a priest-"
"I have been a priest."
"Fine, if you've ever been a rabbi."
"I have been a rabbi."
"Is the set-up to every bar joke you've ever heard or what?" Xander said.
"Now wait a moment," Giles said, breaking in to face Elizabeth. "Let's discuss this, Briton to Briton."
"Everyone, run for the exits while you can," Xander said.
Ignoring him, Giles went on. "I really think you're being unreasonable about this whole thing. While it is true that the ladies here do give their blessing and prayers to Artemis, that's only to keep their empowerments."
"Ah, I see," Elizabeth said, nodding. "So, basically, you don't give her what she wants, when she wants and how she wants, she'll cut you off? Well, isn't' that just a loving deity?"
"I don't see how she's much different from yours who allows babies to die in cribs and murderers to prosper," Maria snapped.
"Point to the Amazons," Xander declared.
Dierdre shook her head. "It's still wrong, sorry. To just not pray to God? How is that possible?"
"I've made do with it," Mulder answered with a shrug.
"Oh and you're a lovely example," Rhoan scoffed.
Mulder's eyes narrowed. "Are you saying you feel that because you don't worship like the Amazons, you're spiritually better than they are?"
The Knights all exchanged looks with Elizabeth, then nodded. Mulder's jaw set as he stepped forward. "I love my wife more than life itself, Rhoan," he bit out. "I love her and I support her and she has been happier as an Amazon than I've known her to be. If you think I'm going to deny her that...you don't know a thing about marriage."
"Ooooh, them's fighting words," Jax declared upon seeing Rhoan's face go red.
"This could get nasty," Johnny remarked.
Sonya glanced at him. "Aren't you getting into this?"
"I stay out of religious debates," Johnny told her. "Besides, my family is of Swiss descent."
Sonya blinked. "So?"
"So, I'm Swiss. I'm neutral."
Oz was a bit more animated than usual as he got into this. "We don't act like this about the Amazon thing. Why should you?"
Elizabeth glared at him. "You support them turning their backs on God?"
"Okay, who knocked you with the Dr. Laura stick?" Xander demanded. "Lady, where the hell do you get off telling us about God or yell at the women here? We've got the empowerment same as you but we're not rah-rah for the cross." He paused. "Well, except when we're
"There you go," Elizabeth said, pointing at him. "Try throwing a statue of Artemis at a vampire and see what happens. That just proves which religion is finer."
Giles raised an eyebrow. "I somehow doubt the proof as to superiority comes down to a game of whoever has the best toys wins."
Nearby, Robin was with Fathers Ulric and Tarring and turned his head toward the heated argument. "What is that?"
Aideen had come up, shaking her head. "Ah, Elizabeth and the Knights are going on about how they're a bit better in God's eyes since they're not Amazons."
Robin stopped in place before his eyes narrowed in anger. "Oh, did they?" He set down his glass and turned to Ulric and Tarring. "Fathers? I think your input might be needed here." The two nodded and followed the faery toward the group.
Aideen sighed. "Oh, Lord, here we go..."
Robin made his way to the group and pushed himself in. "Okay, let's talk."
"Robin, this doesn't pertain-"
"Oh, it sure as hell does," Robin cut Elizabeth off. His face was set with a look of restrained anger that the Sunnydale residents knew too well. "My empowerment, Elizabeth. Mine. I gave it to all of you to help in a fight. I didn't do it so you could get on your moral high horse and dictate to other people. Allow me to let you in a secret, Elizabeth. We of the Faery Kingdom have our own spirits, our own gods, if you will. Those are the ones I called upon to empower you, the Knights and the guys here. So, in a way, you owe what you are now to a pagan religion. You don't like it? Fine, I'll yank it back and you can go back to breaking a toe with a kick."
"Robin, we can't just-"
"Dierdre, shut up and listen," Robin cut her off. He pointed to the Amazon mates. "These guys I empowered because the Oracles told me I should, to make them equal and I did. They already loved and supported these woman, my empowerment simply did away with any possible resentment they might have. Them, I did it for a mission. You guys, I did for a favour, to help you out and give the world some more fighters. I did not do it so you could think you were better, I did not do it so you think you have a better destiny, and I certainly did not do it so you could all become bigots. I have known Artemis for a very, very long time and we may not be best friends but we respect each other and she has never, ever asked these women to do anything they wouldn't have done anyway. She has always done her best to be there for them and has only been held back by Zeus' decree and even then she was worried as hell for them. Oh, and don't go knocking the Elisyun Fields. That is one heaven of a Heaven and while the guys can't automatically join them when they go, Arty is very open to conjugal visits. If God didn't want Artemis to make them Amazons, trust me, He would have done something about it. But He didn't find any fault with it so I don't see how you can. So don't you dare, DON'T YOU DARE, use that I've given you to think for one minute you're better than they are. Not once."
A long silence filled the area as everyone gaped at him, shaken by his speech. "Damn, he's good," Aideen whispered as she downed her drink.
"If I may interject?" Ulric spoke up.
Robin looked at him and backed away, hands outstretched. "By all means."
"Thank you." Tarring stepped up beside Ulric, cleared his throat and spoke. "I was just on a planet where several different tribes held themselves apart because of long-standing differences, including religions that kept them from working together against the common threat. But they got over those differences. Why can't you?"
"And Sonya, I do not like your berating Maria for not being Catholic," Ulric added. "I don't see any cross around your neck. Not that I hold it against you. Unlike some I could name, I don't use my faith as a putdown to others."
"Elizabeth," Tarring said to her. "You may have lived with a priest but you obviously didn't learn much from him as you could have. Respecting others is a tenement to our faith, one that too few of us truly practice. You don't see me kicking down a Star of David or cursing a Jehovah's Witness, do you?"
"Ivar," Ulric broke in. "You're Muslim. In the 1400 years you've known them, have your fellow Knights ever talked down to you because of your faith?"
Ivar bowed his head. "No."
"And yet, they do to the Amazons. So you respect one religion besides yours but not others?"
"And it's interesting you bring up the Catholic superiority argument, Dierdre since that's what kept most of your country in civil war for the last century."
"Point to the Cloth Combo," Xander observed.
Tarring brought himself up. "Faith is faith, no matter what it is. You believe in your God, they believe in theirs. We believe in the God who will forgive you for your sins and will look beyond your faults. Perhaps, you should try following His example."
A long silence filled the air as Elizabeth absorbed his words. She bit her lip and took a deep breath before facing the Amazons. "I...I am sorry," she softly stated. "Sometimes, my... upbringing gets in the way of my common sense." She sighed. "I have seen a lot over the last
two hundred years that I should be able to alter my perceptions."
"Same here," Dierdre said. "And I've been alive 1200 years more than you and seen a lot more of the world." She shook her head. "When you're brought up in royalty, it rubs off on you. Particularly the arrogance and the mentality of looking through tinted lenses."
Jenny slowly nodded. "It's all right. It was...a bit difficult to adjust for us at first. And we've made some incorrect assumptions about people ourselves so I suppose we can forgive you for this."
Robin smiled. "Well, that's settled then. Back to the party, all." He turned and walked away as everyone stared after him.
The entire argument had been completely ignored by the McDaniels, who were too busy holding Jamie. The angel finally broke out of her mother's grasp and stepped back, Katie gazing at her with sadness. "Do you have to go?"
Jamie nodded. "I'm afraid so. But I'll always be there watching."
"Will...will we see you again?" Katie asked.
Jamie nodded. "Someday, we're going to be together. And you'll love it there." She smiled. "But not yet. You two have a lot to do here first." In a bright light, she vanished, leaving her parents behind.
Katie became aware of someone behind her and turned to see Tarring. The priest wore a knowing smile on his face as Katie wiped her eyes. "How did you know?"
"Faith, Katie. Nothing more."
The party was beginning to wind down as Maximus moved near Cal. "Have you seen Shirley?"
Cal shook his head. "No...think last time was by the side hallway."
Maximus nodded and moved his way down to the side hall. He looked around, his eyes falling on a door to a small room. He opened it a crack, just enough to see the flash of three naked female bodies and to catch a yell of "DO YOU MIND?!"
Maximus shut the door and walked away. He let a tiny smile come to his lips. "Well, well. Looks like Shirley will find out just how delectable those two are." He smiled as his own memories of them flowed into mind.
It was twenty minutes later when Shirley, looking a tad dishelved, came back to join the rest of the Pantheon. "Well, don't know about you guys, but this has been one damn good trip," she announced with a laugh.
"So glad you approved," Maximus remarked. "Well, we'd better be off then."
"Leaving already?" Steve asked.
"We're born and bred Chicago, pal," Kim said. "It's a little dull around here for us."
Buffy shook her head. "I gotta tell you...with you guys around, the side of Light just got a lot more firepower."
A mirthless smile came to Maximus' face. "The 21st century is going to be a bad time to be a bastard."
Steve had a matching grin. "Now that, my friend, is a sentiment worth getting behind."
"I like those guys," Shirley remarked as the Pantheon walked out to the courtyard of the school.
"Of course you do," Marybeth said. "They're the only ones on the planet who approach your level of madness."
"I don't know," Nicky said. "I sort of got the feeling they resented having us around a little."
"They're probably jealous," Cal sniffed.
"I doubt that," Maximus said.
"No, Cal may be right here," Sean put in.
As the words left Sean's mouth, Cal stopped in place and turned back toward the house. A sly smile came over his face as he slowly raised one hand and placed his fingers together. He snapped them at the same time his eyes flashed and then crossed his arms.
The rest of the Pantheon stepped behind them, all with wary expressions on their faces. "What did you do?" Marybeth asked, not sure she wanted to know.
"Wait for it..." Cal answered, his smile broadening.
A massive scream suddenly went out from inside the house. Three seconds later, the doors burst open and the angry horde of Section Seven came storming out. It took a moment for the Pantheon to truly accept what they were seeing: With the exception of Robin, Liam, Joyce and Tarring, every person was now head to toe solid green, including clothing.
"You didn't..." Elizabeth gasped.
"Technically, they did," Cal explained. "Feelings have colours, you know. I just cast a little spell to turn them into the colour of the feeling they all shared about us."
"Which in this case was..."
"Green with envy."
Robin broke apart from the crowd and strode up to look Cal in the eye. He paused for a long moment, then embraced the younger man with tears in his eyes. "I'm so proud of you...so proud..."
<Hate to burst yer bubble, laddie> Liam told the mage. <But Shaw can use glamour to fix herself.>
<No, she can't> Shamaran replied. <You guys taught me to be thorough.>
<So how long are they going to stay that way?>
<Well, it'll wear off in an hour> Cal replied. <But, they're think it's still in effect through tomorrow so people will be wondering why they're acting so weird and wearing a lot of makeup.>
Robin shook his head. "I have no more to teach you, grasshopper."
Zev sighed as he closed his eyes and his skin returned to normal. Cal blinked at him. "Whoa! I thought you weren't magical!"
"I'm not, it's genetics," the alien answered. "I can alter the pigmentation of my skin, hair and eyes."
He became aware of everyone slowly glaring at them and innocently shrugged. "Sorry. But it's what I am."
Steve glared at him, then at the Chicago group. "You people...you people...you are all insane!"
Shirley smiled. "Uh oh...don't you know...we're all crazy in Chicago. People say...everywhere we go...we're all crazy in Chicago..."
"WE'RE ALL CRAZY IN CHICAGO!" The Pantheon chimed in before turning and strutting away. Before anyone could react, there was a flash of light and they were all gone.
Robin and Liam turned and shared a long grin. "Liam, my friend," the faery said. "There goes one group we know has the world in good hands."
In memory of Tim Knight who helped immensely with dialogue.