Author: Tim Knight
Title: Pilgrimage

Copyright: May 2002
Rating: PG (Action, Humor, Slayage, Liplocks, UST)

Spoilers:
Buffy: Season 2 until Phases.
Highlander: Season 5 until Season finale. Richie Ryan lives and Season 6 does not take place.

Keywords: Buffy/ Highlander/ Xena/ Red Sonja.

Summary: A young hero decides to take a day out of her summer vacation for a road trip to the last place any sane person would want to go (the Hellmouth) to see things happen, think about what others have said and remembered about those events, and to experience one of their favorite pastimes for herself, just to see if a so-called "legend" lives up to its reputation.

Legalese: All characters except those noted below with their respective rights, properties and copyrights are the property of their respective creators, authors, owners, producers and agencies. These characters are used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended or meant, and no money will be made from this story. This story may be copied in its entirety, and may be distributed as long as all copyright information remains.
The characters Shaw Hunter, Ulric Johansen, and the character formerly mistakenly identified as Buffybot (those who said that, you know who you are...) are mine. Anyone wishing to use them may contact me at doobytim@aol.com.
The characters Steve St. Wolf, Frank Iverson, Randi Jessup, Brian Jessup, Ted the Avatar of the Pizza God, and anyone I missed are property of Steve Pantovich, as is the universe in which this story takes place. Steve can be contacted at steve711@concentric.net.
The characters Robin Goodfellow and Liam Danahure are property of Mike Weyer. Mike can be contacted at SWERJ321@aol.com.
The character Alison Jarman, Coworker of the Avatar of the Pizza God, is property of Anne Parnell. Anne can be contacted at anne@kayleyangel.com.
The character serving as the Watcher for the character formerly mistakenly identified as Buffybot is not mine, Steveís, Mikeís, or NorJCís.
In fact, the only things in this story that are NorJCís are the excellent editing skills, his ability to give certain fanfic authors inferiority complexes, spicing up UST, and certain suggestions of his that I am using in this story <G>. And hopefully for once heíll listen to me and take credit where credit is due for his help!

Author's Notes: This story takes place in August 1999, about a month after In Perfect Harmony and during Dating Blues 3.

Dedications:
First, to Steve, who lets us have fun in his universe. I know heíd probably approve this story so he can leak out that Iím doing a new story and avoid having the readers ask where the finished Libyan Assault/War of the Sections is... And people call Joss Whedon a twisted and sadistic bastard...
Second, to Jack/NorJC, he of the multiple identities (no, not personalities!!!), the first being the editor extraordinaire, the second being the fanfic/published J author <G>. The inspiration for this came from some suggestions for some backstory for the character mistakenly identified by some as Buffybot. Donít worry; I will take all the blame for the readers thinking Iím insane enough to bring Buffybot into the Wandererverse. Now Steve on the other hand...

Here are some changes from your normal shows that may play a part in this story at this time:
Buffy:
1. Due to her drowning at the hands of the Master in Prophecy Girl, Buffy is Immortal.
2. Passion and Becoming never took place, so Jenny and Kendra are alive and well. Jenny is engaged to and living with Giles at this point. Kendra is attending UC Sunnydale and living in the Summers home.
3. Faith is not evil, having faced and kicked the ever loviní s--- out of her dark side in Soul Sisters, our version of Bad Girls. She lives with Joyce, Kendra, Buffy, and Dawn and is going to be a senior at Sunnydale High.
4. Cordelia, Willow, Jenny, and Amy are Amazons. Cordeliaís still with Xander, Willowís not channeling the Emperor (black clothing, varicose veins, and EEEEEEEEEEE-VIL) from Return of the Jedi, Jennyís a priestess of Artemis, and Amy still prefers brownies over cheese, not to mention sheís still blonde (her natural color).
5. Giles and Jenny still are employed at Sunnydale H.S. since the high school was not blown up along with the demonic answer to Ward Cleaver at Graduation. Faith, about to be stuck at SHS for another year, isnít sure this is a good thing.
6. Harmony is not a vampire, thus making the forces of evil that much stronger.
7. Dawn has arrived a year early and as of yet shows no signs of being sacrificed at a construction site or learning the ways of the Five Fingered Discount. Of course, we can only wonder what kind of an influence everyoneís Beloved Bostonian will have on her.
8. Red Sonja (from the franchise of the same name) and Gabrielle (Xenaís little buddy) are now living in Sunnydale, where their Amazon Nation (in the current form of a corporation) is based.


Pilgrimage

Prologue: Volunteering
(In Some ĎHoods, ĎNeighborhood Watchí Means Something Totally Different!)

East Side Teen Shelter, East Side
Los Angeles, California
25 August 1999 - Late Hours

Iím still reading bedtime stories to the little ones when the leaders check in for the night.

I stifle a sigh, gently smile, disengage myself from the tykes holding out against sleep, and stand up. At times I still get some amusement from the way the children stare at me. Youíd think that theyíd be used to someone so attractive as I after eight months. Being runway model gorgeous can be such a bother. No, I am not arrogant about it, but I know how to take advantage of it. As one of my favorite aunts always says, "If you got it, flaunt it."

She certainly does.

I shove the book back in place and walk over to Lily, my boss. Well, sheís technically my boss, since she runs the shelter. But Iím only a volunteer here; I donít do this for money. Part of it is knowing that maybe I can make a difference to those less fortunate than I. Mostly, itís because it helps me learn how things are done here. Sometimes itís not so different, sometimes Iím totally frustrated by the devolution...

"Lily?" I say, rapping on her door with my knuckles. She glances up, looking tired. I know that look; itís paperwork exhaustion. Been there, gotten out of it more times than I care to count. "Theyíre here."

Her drowsy face breaks into a tiny smile. "Thanks." Lily puts her paperwork aside and leaves her office to greet our "visitors." I decide to make myself a not too silent partner and listen in.

Yes, I know about the Lost Boys and their ongoing war against vampires and demons trying to covertly invade the neighborhoods in this section of Los Angeles. How could I not? We arrived here the very night their original opponents were wiped out by...them. I shudder again at the thought of those who helped them that night. But their war did not end there for Charles and his crew; next came the Immortal sword-for-hire trying to kidnap Alexander, followed by the demons opening an automobile theft ring, then the Knights Templar of the demon set; El Eliminati, who bloody came here in April to test their skills against the Lost Boys in some form of stupid honor duels. It seems theyíd heard about Gunnís skills as a "modern day knight errant." Of course, thatís when the Lost Boys happened upon Juan and I holding our own against those idiots and asked us to join up.

Hey, I am a firm believer in honor and the like, but the second lesson I had drilled into me by the original Sword Sister was that honor doesnít mean much if you arenít around to enjoy it. Always use the efficient, clean way before resorting to overkill. I follow that advice most of the time, but sometimes, overkill can be fun, especially if you look good while doing it. Yes, itís that auntís influence again. <Americans,> I sigh with a smile.

The Americans currently in front of me are arguing about the lack of activity the last four nights. My friend Jaina is wondering aloud if we shouldíve let the Japs, never mind that Iím half-Japanese myself, handle the vamps two months ago.

The Japs. Oh Goddess, how could I forget! Oh yes, let us not forget, my having to reveal part of the truth to Minoru Takahashi in June to settle a three way confrontation between us (Juan and I had joined the Boys at this point), a two-hundred vampire strong group establishing a drug ring, and a bloody yakuza clan intent on taking over the vampsí trade! I remember my Watcher cursing the day he was born and every day since (a soooooo long time in itself) when he found out that Iíd revealed the truth (to an extent) to the oyabun. Iím still glad I didnít tell him everything else, like my bluff that was needed to add to my credibility and have that Father Figure cease his attempts to take over the vampiresí drug trade. Weíre still on something of a war footing, but weíve turned the tide in our favor and have no intention of letting it slip away.

I decide to bring up the facts to my flamethrower-wielding comrade. "I think you should know something, Jaina. If those Ďbloody Japsí had continued fighting the vampires, one of two things would have happened. Weíd be caught between two armies and treated as an obstacle to be swept aside, or weíd be allied with the yakuza, and in their debt." I shake my head. "And as Iíve said before... once in the debt of a yakuza, always in the debt of a yakuza."

"Which is why you went and met with him," Charles says with a firm voice. I watch as he looks over my leaders (so to speak) in turn. He turns back to me and again, I feel myself smiling. "Tell me, girl, what do you think we should do? Is this the calm before the storm?"

Not for the first time, I wonder if we shouldíve kept ourselves away from Slaying, since the Boys now know I have some experience with vampires. They think itís from my parents working for secret branches of the UN. If they knew the truth... I surreptitiously glance at my hands, which are braced on the table. As is often the case, my right hand catches my attention. I look over the pink flesh and unpainted fingernails that everyone sees while I consider my answer. Be careful here, Slayer...

I stare back into those beautiful chocolate eyes of Charlesí and give him my patented resolve look. "Iíve been keeping track, Charles." He winces. I smile because he always does that when someone uses his first name. "It seems to me that theyíre either lying low, or getting ready for an offensive." I glance at Rondell, whoís still the only one who gets on my case as an "outsider." I know the truth; heís just kidding and I pretend that it irritates me. After all, I "paid" for my membership with blood. To think I was actually glad that Eliminati stabbed me in the left arm. If heíd stabbed the other... "But with the defenses here and at the hideout, I think weíre more than ready for them."

It still gets to me sometimes, referring to the Ďwe.í For the first time, Iím experiencing more than a family feeling in the fight; Iím sensing the camaraderie that we young people have when fighting for a common goal. Is this what it was like... I correct myself, remembering where I am, when I am. Is this what it IS like for them? I shake it off; hello, business at hand.

"I think theyíre gathering their strength," I finally say after considering the possible paths the future might hold. Wish I knew more about that... "But I think they might finally understand we have the strength to defeat them, especially if we call in the Zombies. They may be bailing on us."

Charles and Jaina look surprised by my observation. Jaina shakes her head. "Sister, you got a lot to learn about vamps. They ainít smart enough to bail when the gettingís good. Theyíre all, Ďfeed, feed, feed.í Youíre wrong about this one, girlfriend."

I smile at her. "Possibly, yes. I am merely offering the scenario." I shrug. "Not that weíre that lucky." Jainaís reply mirrors my own. <No shit.>

"Itís a good idea, though. Good thinking, K-Z." He holds my gaze for a second longer and it makes me wonder; is he just giving me silent congratulations, or is there something more? Och, what I wouldnít give to have it be so. But I still wonder; how would the girls, especially Jaina, react if I acted out on what Juan says is my attraction to the one bloody American in the entire group thatís not intimidated by me being two inches short of six feet tall.

Sorry, too many times Iíve had boys intimidated by my height once they realize Iím that tall without heels or platforms, which I love to wear anyway. Adds more weight to the kicks...

"Thank you," I say with a nod, hoping my eyes donít betray that I want him. I still wonder if he feels the same. Thank Goddess itís not to the point where Iím dreaming about him. Yet. "Charles, you know Iíll be out of town tomorrow. Can you cover it?"

"Geez," Jaina mutters, more to get a shot at me than with real venom, "youíre the confident one, ainít ya Prom Queen! ĎLeast you get a summer vacation! Makes me wonder why you spend it hanging here."

She knows why I do, but being the tough women we are, we donít admit it. Sometimes I think women arenít so different from men in that regard. "Just covering our asses," I quip.

"What ass?" she snaps with a smirk. "Donít see one there, honey! All you got going for you is that Gail Devers sprinter bod with the legs that go on forever and a day. Guys in this hood arenít the legman type. They gotta have bootie!"

Is she telling me I have no chance with Charles? Maybe I havenít hid it as well as I thought. Maybe Iíll talk to her when I get back; I have more important things to handle right now.

Something long in coming.

Charles is speaking to me but my mindís elsewhere; I know whatís going on right now and I remember the effect it had on people. I shake myself and glance back at him. "Sorry, was in dreamland."

"Just wanted to know where youíre headed, in case we need to reach you," he says. I enjoy the concern he shows for me.

<Itís for all the Boys,> I correct myself. I hedge my answer. "Iíll be back the morning after next, Charles. If you need to contact me, just use my cell."

The answer seems to satisfy him, as he turns to other business. I keep a sigh from escaping my lips.

I could hardly tell him Iím going to scope out the Hellmouth. After all, itís high time I discover if the legend Iíve always wanted to experience is true.

*****

Part 1: Keep The Motor Running... Heading Down The Highway...
(Someone Should Never Have To Pick Their Shots To Visit A Tourist Attraction.
Of Course, Some Peopleís Ideas Of Tourist Attractions Differ From Most People)

Revello Drive
Sunnydale, California
26 August 1999

I watch as she enters the legendary Slayer House to talk to her. I see the worry in her body, the tension she wants to unload on some convenient target. Sheís always that way when she has something bothering her; timeís hardly dulled that edge. I feel the longing in my heart again; I want to see them, to interact with them, to tell...

"No!" I hiss to myself, shaking my head. I cannot do that, it might change too much. Even though Aunt Shaw told me that precautions had been taken and that she knew I wouldnít screw things up, I still have to watch myself.

I wonder if the youngest oneís in there as well? I always wondered why she wasnít Chosen like the rest. Of course, there were the differences in her younger years. And at this point in time, they have no idea what... Contemplative much? Iím here for the long haul and I enjoy it here, despite the ancient articles Iím forced to use.

I smile as the dark haired woman struts out of Slayer House. Watching her self-confidence and attitude is inspiring, as it brings back memories of where I come from and what I learned from my teachers. I donít follow heróIím not stupid. I just wait until five minutes after sheís out of sight to turn on my Firebird and drive off.

Iíve only been here an hour and have far too much to observe. To me, this is akin to a devout Christian visiting the Vatican or the Holy Land, or a Muslim journeying to Mecca. Itís something I had to do.

A homecoming of sorts...a pilgrimage.

*****

I prowl through the school grounds and the college complexes. They wonít be here; Iíve studied their patrol routes. Even though itíd be fun to see them in action, just to see what I might aspire to be someday. I always wonder if Iíll be able to measure up to them, but I know itís no more than a pleasant fantasy. Besides, I figure with whatís happening elsewhere, they could use the help.

Yes, rationalizing things can be a good way to do things you want to do. For me, itís spending a night in their shoes. Emulating oneís heroes. Like Iím the only person to do that... well, all right, the only one who doesnít limit it to the realm of imagination.

I fail to find any less than desirable elements seeking knowledge, or an easy meal, in the halls of academia and decide to head for one of the cemeteries. Iíll check one of the smaller ones, since theyíll likely cover the major ones, not to mention the teen scene. This teen for one intends on making her own scene.

Walking briskly and humming to myself, I play bait on the way to the next stop of my spiritual quest.

Please note the sarcasm.

*****

Part 2: Observing How To Score In A Cemetery
(GET YOUR MINDS OUT OF THE GUTTER!!!!)

San Luis Cemetery
Sunnydale, California
26 August 1999

I finally score some action about ten minutes after hitting this cemetery on the outskirts of Sunnydale, near some unincorporated Ventura County property. Iím minding my own business when five Undead American boys and girls decide that Iíd make a dandy meal. Granted, Iím not hard on the eyes in the least, but these are vampires. So of course that means I get to engage in that time honored tradition known as Slayage.

My sense of humor comes from several relatives, clan or no. What can I say? I had good influences in my youth.

The first vampire tries to pretend heís alive. Although, he actually might be trying to... whatís the word in the here and now? Score? Yes. I hardly think so, old chap. I mean, really. What self-respecting Slayer would ever engage in smoochies with a vampire?!

He is cute for a vamp, though, and he had been an African American before he was turned. So, to slake my curiosity, I ask him a question. "I was wondering if you could put my mind at rest about something, if you donít mind."

He smiles gently at me. "Sure thing, girl."

"Is my bum too small? I mean, being a brother and all, do you think I have enough Ďbootieí to satisfy a typical African American guy?"

He is taken aback for a moment before he drawls, "Hell ya, honey! Youíve got a great butt! Itís nice and firm with some wicked muscles back there. Iíd say your cushion is real conducive to pushiní! So, whadda ya say...you want me to take you for a test drive?"

I smile sweetly at him and say, "I am so sorry," I knew my bum was just fine...take that Jaina! Now itís time for me to continue with important things like seeing Sunnydale as it is. "But I have other plans. And getting the hickey that never heals from you isnít on my Ďto doí list."

I wonder what quip will work here. I search my memory for appropriate puns based on the situation; I almost file them like I have a computer for a brain.

The vampire in front realizes I know what he is and charges me, keeping his face human at least. Good, I donít have to see his ugly side. DAMN! THAT line so would have worked here! I am just not as good at being flippant like Aunt Elizabeth...

I decide to get his attention before dusting him. As he tries to send me crashing to the sod, I step to my left, turn halfway, and crouch. I send simultaneous strikes into his torso; an elbow to the gut while my right hand palm strikes his ribs. My superior hearing picks up the slight cracking sound, but I know heís still intact. Pity.

As he staggers back from the sudden ceasing of his momentum, I backhand him across the jaw with my left hand and follow up with a jumping crescent kick that hits him in the same locale. He spits fang as he falls to the ground. His cronies stop in their tracks and eye me fearfully.

I smile. "Oh come now! Donít tell me youíre frightened of little oleí me!"

The lads show some smarts, backing away as their friend staggers to his feet. He warily stares at me and whimpers, "Slayer. I heard there were Slayers in this town; youíre the brunette one."

"In one!" I say happily, reaching over my shoulder with one hand and under my coat with the other. "I suppose my public relations firm is earning its keep since youíve heard of me!"

The vampire peers at me, as if comparing the reality to what heís heard from his peers. <Goddess, do I know that feeling.> Finally he says, "Funny...I thought youíd be...shorter."

"Whatever." I draw my sword and my SPL Mk VI Type B. I hold the sword in a kendo position and point the other weapon at the vampire. Seeing the barrel pointing at him, the lead vampire acts in a typical fashion (i.e., a stupid manner) and charges at me. His bellow is meant to distract me, but fails miserably; Iíve had my backside, however flat Jaina likes to claim it is, verbally chewed and literally kicked by the masters.

A single pull of the trigger sends the ruby-colored beam shooting into Dead Boyís head. After the familiar scattering of dust, his friends react. Two run for their undead lives while the two vampire bitches decide to build a rep by taking down a Slayer.

Funny, this Slayer would hardly add to their reps. I note that it wonít be simple this time; both demons are equally pissed off and determined to end my existence.

Oh well, to work.

I leap into the air and somersault over my playmates, landing on my feet with my back to them. With the precision that comes from years of training with living legends, I execute a reverse kick into a girl vampireís stomach. As she doubles over, I use the extra room vacated by her upper body to swing my katana around. I revel in the feel of the cool, carved ivory dragonís scales in my hand as a simple flick of my wrist and arc of my left arm make the moonlight glint off the 15th century blade. Scratch one vamp.

I turn to face my final foe and put away the SPL; no reason to waste energy like that. Girly vamp goes into demon mode, showing off her game face and snarling. I just punch her between the eyes with the hilt of my sword and watch her yellow eyes cross. I have been known to operate by the KISS principle from time to time. I bring my sword overhead and down, slicing the vampireís head in twain like a cabbage.

I know Aunt Shaw always told me that the human neck is an easier target than the heart, but the headís even larger. The fact it always grossed my fellow students out was icing on the proverbial cake.

As she dusts, I look around and extend my senses again. Sensing no bloodsuckers in immediate range, I relax a bit. I replay the battle in my head and compare it to what I know and heard about them. Of course I come up with ways that they would have done this more easily and taken down all five. I sigh. Sometimes I wonder if Iíll ever be as good...

On the other hand, I do feel a sense of accomplishment; theyíre short handed here and I know what lies under this little town. Goddess knows, maybe I just made it a bit safer for people. When people die on my watch, I take it personally. Say what you will about locking emotions down during a fight, they drive me to be almost as good as them...

*****

Iím completing my patrol (I no longer deny thatís what this is, stepping into their shoes as much as I can, just for one night) of the cemetery when I hear voices. Unfortunately for me, theyíre voices that signal a clarion call to my memories.

I spin on my heel and run deeper into the cemetery. Finding a tree next to a mausoleum, I spring while in full sprint and grab onto a branch. I swing myself up and into the leafy bough, hoping that the hunting skills taught me, by the very people approaching ironically enough, will keep them from discovering my presence.

I focus on the two women that appear from the shadows. Theyíre on guard, discussing the two fleeing male vamps they had dusted (thank you!) and I look for holes in their defenses. Maybe I can learn something before they teach me what they know someday...

I feel the beginnings of a headache coming on as I think about my past, which really sucks a bit because whatís in the past is not in the past... you see, this is why TM was my least favorite class. It gave me migraines.

I watch as the tall, voluptuous redhead talks sweet nothings amidst shop talk to the petite blonde woman next to her. I feel the familiar sense of wonder, just like what I felt at Revello Drive. Of course, these two are the same as always; fierce and ruthless when the need calls for it, but so full of love for their subjects and each other. I especially focus on the deceptive-looking blonde Queen, knowing what lies beneath that sleek, muscular exterior.

No, I have no leanings in that direction. Itís just that I know if push came to shove, sheíd kick my arse if she got the drop on me. Amazons are like that. And this one, with her past... Not for the first time, I wonder if itís a coincidence that I carry her name. I mean, Mum and Da were never involved in the fight like others in the family.

But again, I suppose I might find out someday. Watching Gabrielle again, I reach up and grab the pendant Iíve worn for years. Goddess, I wonder what her reaction will be when she finds out. Of course, the Goddess might have told her already. If not Gabrielle, then I donít see Her telling anyone.

Sonja and Gabrielle pass out of sight but I stay put; Iíve heard too many stories of how these two would sucker opponents into thinking they were gone or falling into a trap, only to get it sprung back in their faces. I smile and hope that Iím more fortunate. Twenty minutes later, her Royal Blondeness (as sheís called by that irrepressible Aunt I mentioned earlier) and the Battle Maiden of the Steppes return. They must have found the cemetery empty. <Gee, how did that happen?> I innocently wonder.

Putting my mind back on business, I pull out the item I carried tonight, just in case Iím discovered. The thought of using it on Sonja and Gabrielle, especially Gabbie, fills me with dread. I donít want to imagine ever causing them any harm. Iíd rather die. Quite different than the government types I took it from when they came to investigate our arrival... Of course, fixing their brains and watching them sing like the Blues Brothers seemed like a good idea at the time...

I barely avoid snorting as I sat in the tree. If youíre going to dress like those prats, you have to expect something of that nature to happen to you eventually. Especially when you try to take my arm off. Literally.

Sonja and Gabrielle stop and talk a bit about their patrol and whatís going on. It makes me shiver to think of whatís happening as they chat. I thank the Goddess when they stop and start making out below me. Unlike some people I could mention, where I come from such things are accepted. They spend four or five minutes kissing and pressing their bodies against each other and I wonder; how can they make it last so long when other romances fizzle out? Iíve never learned their secret, at least not yet.

Headache again, and not from the kissage below. Finally they part and decide to head home for chocolate ice cream. Iím at a complete loss to understand why Sonjaís breathing so hot and heavy while her eyes glaze over at the mention of mere ice cream. Maybe itís the chocolate. Being a chocolate fiend myself, I can sympathize, but I donít get that excited about it!

*****

Part 3: Sacred Ground
(When Youíre Not Into Alternate Religions, You Take Your Holy Sites Where You Can Get Them)

VAN, Ltd. World Headquarters
<<Formerly known as the Cybertronics Building>>
Sunnydale, California
26 August 1999

I gaze at the building with mixed emotions. Awe, since this is where it all started. Frustration, because I canít go in and get another look at the artifacts dug up from all over the ancient world. If it has to do with Amazons (Greek, Turkish, African), itís here. Separated by region to show the individual cultures, yet together to show the sisterhood that bound them together.

I remember what it was like once. I spent some good times with them.

I broke my own, self-imposed rules about following anyone I came across and followed the Royals back here. They stopped by to check on their emails or attend to some affair of state, I suppose. The kingdom waits for no one, not even Her Majesty herself.

I watch for a while before finally saying, "Screw this." I have more to do and only a few hours left in the night to do it. I head out, driving back towards the center of town.

*****

Sunnydale High School
Sunnydale, California
26 August 1999

I stalk the hallways with a cool, deliberate pace, taking as long as I can to soak up the proverbial atmosphere. I feel the ghosts of the past watching me as I intrude here. At least I feel like an intruder; I donít belong here.

I know where Iím going before I even deliberate where to go. I likely wonít even go to the second floor to see the Lab. Thereís one place I have to go; I have to go.

*****

I open the doors and walk in. My eyes slowly pan around and my mind wanders. I daydream about them being in here, talking about this crisis or that Armageddon or whatever monthís prophecy. I imagine myself amongst them, one of them.

In a sense, this is where it all began for me too. It was here that the groundwork for my creation, if you want to call it that, began on that day in February...

Again, I repeat something Iíve said more than once, and my voice echoes in the quiet of the book-filled room. "The hardest part about growing up with your kin being your heroes..." My voice trails off. "Is trying to measure up to their legends."

I feel a lump in my throat as I consider the triumphs and tragedies they suffered here, only to become stronger for it. I havenít had that happen to me yet, not even when Uncle died in the crash and... I look at my arm again, remembering the guilt on my Auntís face, even the glimmer in her eyes when we said good-bye before I came here. To this day, I donít understand why she felt that way; things happen in life, sometimes in the grand scheme of things, sometimes just because they just...happen. Like my coming here. I had to do it to make sure things go right.

No ifs, ands, or buts.

Surrendering to my fantasies, I pick out a random table and sit next to it. I run my hands over the wood, considering how the sensations differ from left to right. I wonder; which of them sat here, how many times, and for what impending doom? I glance over at the archaic computer sitting off to the side and think about how hard it must have been for Willow Rosenburg, having to hack into files with that fossil. Thatís another thing; why do they put up with antiquated equipment when a tweak here or there would have made things so much better? I giggle at the thought of them lumbering through anything. It just doesnít "compute" with the stories I heard as I grew up.

The thought about my own pragmatism makes me wonder about them again. I donít see them being "pragmatic" about anything; they cared too much and tried to make sure everything came out all right in the end. Even though I know differently, I still feel the same way.

I like to think itís how they were at this stage. Maybe thatís one area in which I can be the equal of those who had a hand in creating me; we take each death personally.

I fight the urge to pick the lock on the office door and go through his things. Itíd remind me too much of the Watcher I left behind. Then I shake off the sense of loss and reconsider my urge again. Perhaps just a peek at the old books he has or just to be morbid and take a souvenir, maybe his favorite shot glass. I smile at that fleeting thought, then reject it. Aunt Elizabeth would be glad to know that her most aggravating sister hadnít totally corrupted me.

Taking one final look around the place that will one day become a shrine, I turn and walk out, leaving the library and its ghosts behind.

Now, before itís too late. I have a final appointment to keep. Itís time I experienced the one thing they all called a legend. Unlike keeping Juan and myself secret until the time is right, this is one thing I want to verify to my own satisfaction.

*****

Romeroís Pizza
Sunnydale, California
26 August 1999

I spend five minutes in line, waiting for the girl behind the counter to ring up the man in front of me. Her friend is helping out, twirling the dough and laying out the ingredients. So thatís how itís done! Unlike some misconceptions about England, the one about Britons not being able to make fine pizza is true, at least where I grew up.

I move up and realize that the girl, Alison by her nametag, is waiting for my order. I try to ignore the suspicious look she gives me as I decide to go through with this and experience Aunt Shawís and Elizabethís "legend" for myself. I place my order and wait.

Alison blinks at my voice and I know why; they must not get many foreigners here. She regains her composure with a speed I envy and punches in the order. If sheís not going to comment on a Scot in Sunnydale, Iím saying nothing.

But now Iím going to have the so-called "legendary" Romeroís meat loverís pizza.

Sometimes, I wonder if Iím too much of a smart ass for my own good...

*****

Epilogue: A New Perspective
(Moving On And Putting The Moves On)

Exiting Sunnydale, California
Early hours
27 August 1999

I step on the gas as I pass the sign. I glance at it.

You are now leaving Sunnydale. Come back soon.

I hope so. I sincerely hope so.

*****

East Side Teen Shelter, East Side
Los Angeles, California
27 August 1999

Well, this is my final week before school starts. I canít believe Iím attending bloody UCLA. Itís bad enough what Juan puts me through at the house, but to have to take his classes in Archaeology? To quote Aunt Elizabeth, "This ϋbersucks!"

Donít get me wrong, I like Juan. Especially when he regales me with stories about his last pupil who carries my name. Then again, I think itís just to keep me from becoming too depressed over not being able to join the team myself. He has been concerned about this rise in demonic activity in Central America. The databases weíve hacked indicate something majorís about to happen.

The name Kahad keeps popping up. I know the name from somewhere, but again, my knowledge can be sketchy. I donít have a perfect memory like some librarians or red headed witches.

I let myself drift back to last night. I saw some of them. Of course, while I can see the faces of some of them, others still elude me. I havenít met everyone, even growing up. But I still got a thrill over being that close and, even though it was for but an instant; I saw them in their glory.

Such as it was, considering I did some of their work for them while they were playing hug hug, kiss kiss. But from that I also let myself imagine that I was actually a member of their team. I dreamt about that last night and enjoyed replaying every detail.

As for coming back, I have mixed feelings, although most of them are on the positive side. Juan knew what Iíd done, but rather than mutter under his breath about how stubborn I can be, he listened and understood. It didnít stop him from bringing up how much I risked having Sonja and Gabrielle see me, but on the whole, he approved of how this has satisfied my curiosity.

At least for now.

Itís also made me realize something about myself; Iíve been so blinded by wanting to experience what they experienced, I almost forgot that despite everything, Iím my own woman. I need to live my life for myself and I havenít been doing that, at least not to the fullest. Maybe thatís part of the reason I did it. Maybe, just maybe, it was to see the differences between the others, and myself so I can appreciate what I already have here.

I have a mentor who isnít too old and crusty. I have friends I can be open and sarcastic with. I have my own team and a leader that I actually admire all the more because he doesnít have any paranormal abilities. His normalcy makes what he does all the more special. Maybe in a sense, heís more of a hero because of it.

Then again, heís got a hot body, too.

I watch him talking to some of the people in the shelter. He cares for more than the Lost Boys; he cares for the Ďhood. My eyes narrow at that thought; even though Juan and I live in a nice place, I like it here. I consider this my "íhood," too. Maybe what Iíve been searching for, that connection, isnít to be found amongst legends. At least not yet. Maybe... itís right before my eyes.

I finish my painting and drop the brush in the bucket. I take a quick glance in the mirror to make sure my face isnít too smeared and wipe my hands on my coveralls. Yes, I might take inspiration from fashion knockouts, but I know when to draw the line between form and fashion. I saunter over using the Dark Slayerís walk and tap Charles on his shoulder.

He turns and smiles. "Hey, K-Z! Looking good, girl."

"Sod off," I say good-naturedly. I feel an uncustomary shyness before looking back into his eyes. I feel lost inside those chocolate orbs, so much like my own; dark brown bordering on black. "I wanted to ask you something. A... a question." I realize that I might have to ask another. "Or two. Depending on how you answer the first one."

"Oh?" he asks, cocking an eyebrow. He seems amused. "Whatís the first one?"

I want to thank him for the smile and kick him in the bloody balls for finding this so bloody amusing. "I..." I decide to Hades with this, Iím going for broke. "Are you seeing anyone?"

I wait for what seems like an eternity for his answer. I look over that smooth scalp of his, glimmering in the lights. His eyes, the slim body... Goddess, even absent Slaying my hormones run rampant. Itís almost like Iím the runner and theyíre the bulls in Spain. And I know what thatís like. No, I didnít run with the bulls; I was too busy staking the vampires trying to slurp from the bulls the night before.

Finally the skin around the edge of his eyes crinkles as he smiles. "No, Iím not seeing anyone. And I think I know your second question." I feel myself blushing; itís times like this I hate being pale-skinned. I envy Charles since you canít tell when he blushes. "And yes, Iíd like to go out with you. Hell, I was wondering what your uncleíd say if I did ask you out."

I blink. Goddess, Juanís been all but using shock therapy on me to act and see if anything might actually happen. Iím here for good; I have to make a life here.

I swallow as we stare at each other and wonder; what could happen here? Believe me when I say that this is one time Iím not getting a TM migraine.

I nod jerkily and say, "Actually, he doesnít mind."

"So you wanna go out?" Charles asks.

"I..." Whatís wrong with me? Goddess, if they could only see me now... I stare at the hunk of salty goodness in front of me and gather the courage Iím rumored to possess. "Yes, Charles. That sounds nice."

"How Ďbout tomorrow, then? Weíre on patrol tonight, but the SWAT dudes will handle it the next three nights."

"Iíd like that," I reply. I give him my best smile. I donít think itís too sexy when flashed by someone wearing paint-smeared clothes though. "Patrol tonight, dating tomorrow."

"Fine," he says, his laugh doing nothing to betray his nervousness.

I nod and leave to prepare for our patrol through the Ďhood. As I practically float into our "locker room" and start pulling off my clothes, I wonder how heíd react to the truth if he knew. Since Iím alone, I hold my right arm in front of my face. I concentrate and the pale, Caucasian flesh shimmers to a metallic silver. Other than the color, thereís no difference between left and right; my right hand even has fingerprints and fingernails. They thought of everything.

I change back and decide that whatever the future might hold for Charles or me, it doesnít matter right now. I always did live one day at a time, and that hasnít changed in recent months. But I find myself thinking more and more about the Lost Boys Iíve fought beside all spring and summer. They donít have the same skills that they do. They donít have the same motivations. Theyíre normal people fighting for their streets, not humanity in general. But somehow... I finally realize what it is that makes me feel this way. Iíve always tried to hold myself up to the standards set by them, wondering what it would be like to run with legends. Thatís the difference here, the difference between the Scooby Gang and the Lost Boys. The Boys might not be them, but theyíre mine. Theyíre my team.

Somehow, that seems to make the whole bloody difference.

Mum always liked to quote someone who said, "The destination doesnít matter so much as the journey itself." Well, I made a journey last night and found out things I hadnít realized about my friends or myself. Maybe thatís what the journey, the pilgrimage, is truly about; not seeing the icon of your dreams, but rather knowing that you had the courage to make that pilgrimage. Thatís something to think about, but later.

<Later,> I promise myself as I reach for my tools; katana, shuriken, guns, and other essentials.

Philosophy can wait; I have more important things to do now.

After all, Iím Kenzie the Vampire Slayer, favorite niece of my aunts Shaw and Elizabeth, rumored to be the second coming of both the Dark Slayer and the Dark Amazon, the apple of my parentsí eye, and scion of living legends. But Iím also a Lost Boy.

And my friends are waiting for me.

The End

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