Everything either belongs to Joss or it should, no infringement is intended and no profit is to be made. When you get right down to it I'm not really worth suing anyway unless you want a share of an underpaid civil servants wages and it just wouldn't be worth the hassle trust me.


Wolfram and Hart Building – Rome – July 2004

Despite the excessive flamboyance Ilona Costa Bianchi was tougher, more disciplined and a whole lot more calculating than the casual observer would assume from her appearance and manner. The habitual low cut dress that showed off her impressive cleavage always put men at a distinct psychological disadvantage, at least the straight ones anyway, and her constant gesturing with her hands, over-the-top even by Italian standards helped her to ensure she was underestimated. Rivals often assumed she had slept her way to the top, and to be honest when she started out she was willing to give some head to get ahead as the Americans would say, but you don't become the CEO of a Wolfram and Hart Regional Office just because of that, you need talent in the boardroom not the bedroom to reach those heights.

Unfortunately the black clad cyborgs seemed unimpressed by both her looks and her position as the closest stepped over the body of what had been her last surviving security guard.

'What do you want?' she asked in Italian, backing away as she released the safety catch on the Berretta Automatic she had retrieved from one of the other fallen guards. The intruders had butchered their way through the building in a matter of minutes, heading for her office, undoubtedly wanting her to open the vault saving them the trouble of blowing off the door as they had that of the LA Offices in December the previous year.

The closest cyborg, there were at least six of them on the executive floor now, began twirling a long metal chain with one hand whilst pointing towards the direction of the vault with the other.

'Then fuck you' Ilona said, and spat defiantly.

One of the other cyborgs slid a vicious looking serrated edged knife from a sheaf on his belt. They were more than happy to cut on the woman to get her to cooperate.

Ilona grinned and raised the pistol, but not towards them instead placing the barrel against the side of her own head. 'I'll die first' she said, cocking the hammer.

The cyborg with the knife seemed to look her up and down through his opaque full-faced metallic visor. Ilona got the distinct impression it was about to check if she was bluffing, she wasn't and she hoped that the Wolf, Ram and Hart kept a special, relatively pleasant hell dimension open for employees who entered the afterlife via an act of serous loyalty because she was about to find out she though as she started to squeeze the trigger.

Before the Beretta could fire however the cyborg with the knife soon had another issue to deal with of a more pressing nature, to be precise it became more that slightly fixated by the fist that had slammed through its back and was now holding its powercell in a bloody grip which protruded through the front of its torso.

The gore soaked hand released the unit, letting the powercell fall to the floor with a hefty thump and the cyborg slumped forward freeing itself from the arm that had impaled it as the other hybrid man-machine spun and prepared to attack.

The man stood behind the corpse of the cyborg which was now draining blood and hydraulic fluid into a pool on the floor winked at Ilona. 'Nice dress' he told her in English. 'Would have been here a few minutes ago but the wards on the building stopped me teleporting straight in and then I had to force open the security doors because the silent alarm locked down the building' he explained.

'My Lord Berith' Ilona responded in the same language. Every office throughout the world knew that the Lord of the Covenant was in this dimension, besides which who else had eyes like sparkling red crystal.

The Old One nodded. 'So have you guys heard of me too?' he asked the cyborgs quizzically.

Two of them started spinning their chains, the metal whistling through the air faster and faster as they moved to position themselves. Suddenly in perfect unison they simultaneously whipped the steel links towards the redhaired newcomer.

Berith caught both chains easily. 'I guess not' he said and yanked hard on the chains ripping them from the cyborgs hands despite their own enhanced strength. He smirked and let the chains drop. 'Come on' he said. 'You've got to have more than that' he challenged.

The cyborgs formed into a semi-circle, they did not know what they were facing but had done battle with demonic creatures with enhanced strength before and had always emerged victorious.

The Lord of the Covenant could have easily altered the passage of time, or else overwhelmed them with his almost unmatched physical strength but it didn't feel like an occasion for gimmicks or brute force, sometimes you've got to have some fun and besides which he was still trying to get to grips with being a two-armed biped. Berith reached behind him and unhooked something from his belt bringing out the two hefty wooden sticks and letting one fall to hang freely from the chain that linked them. It wasn't a traditional weapon of his people but the shell had liked Chinese Martial Arts films and starting out slowly, Berith gradually increased the speed he was spinning the nunchucks and smiled because he knew it looked cool. 'Yeah I was sure I was going to like being back in this dimension' he stated happily as the cyborgs moved to attack.

They attacked as one, it wasn't very sporting, they could have at least come at him one or two at a time like in the movies Berith thought to himself as he bought the nunchucks around hard at head height, the far end was moving at barely subsonic speed and only the fact that both chain and wood was enchanted was holding the things together as the weapon smashed one cyborg aside, shattering its visor and sending it spinning away before impacting with a second shattering its skull despite titanium reinforcement.

A third cyborg drew a katana and in the same fluid motion stepped forward like a master swordsman and bought it slicing towards Berith's free arm, the cyborgs speed was very impressive, barely sub-slayer the Old One decided, and their reaction times even faster than the legendary demon hunters. There were no sluggish nerve impulses at work here, wires woven through their bodies into place of their original nervous systems transmitted impulses to their limbs at the speed of light, and they moved smoothly and economically as well as fast as greased lightning.

Of course all the speed in the world isn't much help when your weapon shatters on impact as the long curved sword did, breaking into two large pieces and a tiny shower of steel shards. It wasn't even enchanted like one of the short-swords the slayers carried, not that one of them would have cut the Old One's flesh either, but at least it would have likely remained intact after contact, goddamn third-raters getting involved in things that were well out of their league Berith decided as he took advantage of the cyborgs surprise, they were still partially human underneath, and smashed a fist through its visor and on into its brain.

The remainder fell in quick succession as Berith willed his own reaction times faster to match theirs and abandoning his nunchuks parried sharpened steel and spinning hooked chains with his own inviolable flesh.

As the ancient demon in human form ripped off the head of the last cyborg he cast it aside nonchalantly. Ilona had been watching in increasingly awed silence as Berith effortlessly dispatched the intruders that had so effortlessly themselves slaughtered the buildings security personnel, both human and demon. 'Sorry about the carpets' Berith apologised, 'blood and brains just won't wash out' he told her ruefully. 'Found that out last week when I had to make an example of one of the LA Staff' he told her. The company rules didn't have any particular problem with Eli from accounting sacrificing virgins for fun but Bob the department head had already told him about not doing it on company time and one warning about slacking was all you got. Berith liked to be a hands-on boss, which sometimes meant sticking yours hands into the skulls and entrails of wayward employees, so he liked to handle that sort of thing personally.

'I was thinking about remodelling anyway' Ilona told him. 'If you would like to get washed up I could direct you to the executive washroom while I call in the cleaners to deal with this mess' she told him. 'These cyborgs, they are turning up everywhere' she said. 'I spit on them and will mention them no more' she promised, spitting on the closest of their bodies.

Berith reached down and tore the shirt off one of the dead security guards, using it to wipe himself halfway clean. 'So I hear they do good pasta in this town?' he asked, wiping cerebral fluid off his fist. 'I don't need to be back in LA for a few hours maybe you could recommend a nice restaurant?' he asked. It had been a busy day, only three hours earlier he had been beating the ever-loving crap out of a team of slayers who were trying to break up an Orpheus deal. Between that and this intervention the Circle of the Black Thorn were going to be a great deal more cooperative he thought, not to mention even more deferential he was hoping.

'I will take you to the finest in Rome' Ilona declared. 'Wolfram and Hart always have a private table ready just in case we need to entertain important visitors' she told him, noting that he was quite blatantly talking to her cleavage not her.

'Excellent' Berith replied. Damn she filled out that dress well he thought, before wondering for the umpteenth time if he should have chosen a different shell because this one had landed him with all sorts of socially unacceptable habits which he kept falling into. Ogling human females was bad enough but his playing grab-ass with his vampire PA was becoming a habit, not that the latter had ever objected because she was either too scared of him or maybe too ambitious, but it was just so damn demeaning regardless of the lack of complaints. Maybe Illyria inadvertently lucked out with the barely stable watcher after all he wondered as he washed up, making a vow not to screw the Italian chick even if the possibility came up, it was a test of willpower and if he couldn't overcome his shells asshole personality he was going to have to turn in his membership of the deity club.

Dinner was pretty good though he had to admit, and he bought some zuccotto back with him when he teleported back to LA, Tamika was more than surprised when the Old One deposited the plate of brandy-soaked chilled dessert on her desk and told her to take a break, ignore the telephone for a few minutes, and enjoy it.

Mixing in some blood for extra flavour Tamika savoured both the zuccotto and the looks she was getting from everyone else who walked past. Yep, it had taken her going on six years but she was now firmly ensconced on the best desk in the building and the new boss liked her enough to bring her random tasty treats. She was so going to lord it over Lilah Morgan's secretary at lunch tomorrow she decided, taking another bite.

Sewers – Cleveland – July 2004

Stephen pulled the night-vision goggles down over his eyes and then leaned slowly around the bend in the sewer to take a look before leaning back to face Shannon. 'Bringers' he said, his voice barely above a whisper though the noise they were making as they seemed to be tunnelling into the side of the sewer shouldn't make that necessary. 'I fucking hate Bringers' he declared, a feral grin developing on his face as he slowly began to unsheathe his short-sword. He much preferred a weapon with more reach but the narrow confines of even this main-line sewer didn't suit anything longer, you couldn't swing the damn thing anyway.

'Yeah we know' Shannon replied, looking around. 'Are you sure?' she asked quietly. Kennedy was patrolling another part of town and as the second most senior Cleveland Slayer she was in charge of the group.

'It's either Harbingers of the First Evil or the Catholic Church has a lot of Monks with an unhealthy interest in human waste' Stephen replied, lifting the goggles back onto his forehead. 'I knew we'd find the bastards eventually' he said.

'You should let us handle this' Jackie told the young watcher.

'No sodding fear' Stephen replied, starting to psyche himself up. They could just shoot the buggers down but that wasn't good enough, he wanted to feel the cold steel slide into their guts through his sword hand.

'He means no way' Shannon explained to the other girls, you started to pick up his strange British expressions after a while. Unlike the newer girls she also knew more of the back story and had been with him when they fought the things back in Sunnydale. Bringers had slaughtered his friends at the Watcher Academy, it was probably them that planted the bomb that blew up the Council and his father too and it was definitely them that had hunted him and the watcher girls down afterwards. Basically D'Artagnon had some serious Harbinger of Evil Issues, he wasn't like this with other opponents, not even vampires, but he was clearly relishing the notion of hacking the things to tiny pieces, it simply wasn't healthy.

On the other hand if he was in a good mood he was a lot more likely to let her borrow his sports car, so Shannon decided not to say anything as she took a stun grenade from her jacket pocket. The flash of light wouldn't disorientate them, but the sound of the thing going off in the sewer sure as hell would.

'Pitch it up so it lands on the pipes to the left' Stephen told her. 'Otherwise you'll just get a truly revolting splash' he reminded her. 'And all of you try not to get cut, you might catch something nasty down here even if slayers are tough as hell.'

'What about you?' Jackie asked.

'Try not to cut me either' Stephen replied.

'I meant them cutting you' Jackie told him.

Stephen spun the short-sword in his hand, rolling his wrist. 'Please' he responded dismissively.

'If he gets killed I'm not explaining to Kennedy' Jackie told Shannon ignoring his posturing.

'We'll hide the body and say he went back to England' one of the others suggested. Kennedy was pretty strict at the best of times and even if she wasn't apparently fond of the guy, which she was as they had developed quite a strong friendship, there was no way she was the type to forgive any of her girls losing a perfectly good watcher, especially when they remained so scarce.

'Good plan' Shannon agreed sliding her own night-vision goggles down, it wasn't pitch black but they certainly helped a lot. 'Get ready' she told everyone, 'fingers in ears, eyes closed' she ordered pulling the pin on the grenade before leaning out and underarm pitching the grenade towards the bringers before turning away closing her own eyes and hurriedly putting her hands over her own ears, this was going to be loud.

The sound when the grenade went off echoed for miles down the sewer system of Cleveland and could be heard in the street above, it also had the desired effect on the Bringers who were still disorientated and reeling when Stephen thrust the tip of the sword into the guts of the closest and bought it ripping upwards, tearing both cloak and the flesh underneath. It had been longer than he would have liked since he'd last had sex but he was still sure that was better, in fact it wasn't even a close second, but he still enjoyed eviscerating the thing more than he knew was healthy.

The only saving grace was at least he still had a long way to go to reach the younger Wyndham-Pryce's level of insanity, and he wasn't screwing any of his slayers in direct violation of Watcher Rules and Protocol either so his job should be safe. You had to give it to Wesley, the man had thoughtfully lowered the bar for everyone.

The other Bringers were all cut down barely seconds later as Stephen began wiping the blood from his sword onto the cloak of the one he had killed. 'So after we clear up and get washed and changed who wants to grab a burger?' he asked. 'I'll pay' he offered generously.

The fact that so many said yes demonstrated they were all becoming extremely hardened to violence, as well as used to hanging out in sewers. I'm doing an excellent job, Stephen thought happily to himself as the girls started arguing over whether they wanted MacDonalds or Burger King while they hacked the dead Harbingers into more manageable chunks and stuffed them into black plastic bags for easier transport.

'We should really come back and check what they looking for' Shannon noted, indicating their opponents curtailed tunnelling efforts.

'Good idea' Stephen replied. 'Ground Penetrating Radar' he suggested. 'We'll see if we can borrow one of those things they look for archaeological ruins or bodies with.'

'Beats digging' Shannon agreed. 'Hey we could use it to scope out graveyards too' she said. 'Look down into the freshly dug ones looking for movement, give the vamps a nasty surprise when they climb out.'

'We'll put together a business case and email it to Buffy, see if she'll approve the expenditure to buy one' Stephen told her.

'Better copy in Anya' Shannon advised him as she stuffed an arm into a plastic bag. 'These things smell terrible' she noted with distaste, 'and we've been wading through sewage.'

'According to Illyria they don't taste very good either' Stephen remarked.

'I don't want to know how she knows that' Jackie stated with a grimace.

Hyperion Hotel – Los Angeles – July 2004

'Angel Investigations' Harmony said brightly, holding the telephone receiver to her ear. 'We help the helpless' she added, tacking on the company motto.

'Wrong telephone' Diana told her.

Harmony looked down at the reception desk, yes once more she had given the wrong introduction for the line she had answered. 'Oopsy' she said. 'Slayer Council, Los Angeles Office' she tried again.

Diana rolled her eyes and went back to typing up a report. She may have gotten a lot more used to working with a vampire than she would have ever imagined since Harmony started, but she did wonder if the couldn't have found a less ditzy member of the undead to recruit.

'I could finish typing that up for you' Harmony offered once she finished her telephone conversation. It was only the team which had been sent to Orlando reporting in with a routine update and hadn't been all that important.

'I can manage very well thank you' Diana told her.

'But I can type like at least twice as fast as you' Harmony pointed out.

Diana sighed. 'I am fully aware that your vampiric speed gives you supernatural keyboarding skills but I am producing this for Mr Wyndham-Pryce and I would rather make sure it was spelled correctly in British English as he requested' she explained.

'Oh right' Harmony replied, she knew that the Brits spelled English funny and that Diana had originally worked for Wesley back in 2002 when he had been running his own agency. Cordelia had mentioned that because of that she still largely regarded him as being her employer rather than either the AI or Council organisations.

Angel stepped out of his office holding a file. 'Thanks for finishing off the paperwork' he told Diana.

'Ms. Kendall, did that Mr Angel' Diana replied, 'you should direct your thanks to her' she continued, not looking up from her screen.

'I stayed late to finish it Bossy' Harmony told Angel. 'And I picked up your Dry-Cleaning' she added with a wining smile.

Angel looked at the fifty page document he had in his hands. 'You did it?' he asked nonplussed. 'Um well thanks Harmony' he told her, it really was a quality piece of professional work. Angel hadn't actually believed Illyria when she told him that the blond vampire had been a very good secretary to him in the original timeline and it never ceased to amaze him when something like this happened to prove her correct. Harmony prepared a first rate mug of pigs blood with just the right amount of Otter too he thought, it had to be better than the ones Dawn made up for Spike he decided, only guys with undeveloped palates liked Vole in there too.

'You're welcome' Harmony told him. 'Can I ask a favour though?' she requested.

Angel nodded, if she wanted a few hours off or something to claim back the time for working late that seemed fair. 'What?' he asked.

'Can you ask Buffy to tell the slayers to stop making staking gestures when they walk past me' Harmony asked. 'It's bad enough I'm in a building full of them but they don't need to be mean' she told him with a pout.

Angel frowned. 'I've got a meeting with the Senior Staff scheduled later today' he replied. 'I'll mention it to her then' he promised. Harmony was a soulless vampire but there wasn't any reason to be cruel, if nothing else she hadn't ever been good enough at being evil to necessarily warrant it. Being mean to Harmony was like torturing a puppy which was always trying to make friends with you, he thought. Vampires often kept much of the personality traits of their human days and in her case she had only ever wanted to belong, be that to Cordelia's select little highschool clique, a cult-like vampire pyramid scheme or now perversely a group whose mission statement involved turning people like her to dust.

'Thank you Mr Angel Sir' Harmony told him happily. Her smile was short-lived however as she turned to glare at Drusilla who had just swept down the curving staircase. Drusilla sneered back, her own expression changing to anger when Harmony smirked and held up her bare forearm. Despite the lack of a soul Harmony didn't have to wear one of those metal control bracelets like they had stuck on the Seer vampire and she loved rubbing it in. The only problem was whenever Dorkus, as Harmony called her, was around you were guaranteed that the other crazy one would follow. 'Eep' Harmony cried out in alarm as Dana popped out from seemingly nowhere causing Drusilla to hiss in response and bare her teeth, though only the human ones because if she vamped out Dana was liable to pounce.

Dana bared her own teeth back at Drusilla in return, before growling at Harmony. 'Can you get her to stop doing that?' Harmony asked Angel.

'No she does it to me sometimes too' Angel replied honestly with a shrug, 'and Spike' he added. There was something very primitive about Dana sometimes, primal and dangerous. Buffy had theorised that because of her psychological problems a slayer dream of the first ever slayer had become too imprinted on her and she henceforth channelled the girl to a degree. Certainly she seemed to have more than a few deceased slayer memories stuck up there, in sparring she often shifted techniques randomly, Spike even claimed to have seen traces of Nikki Wood's fighting style in there sometimes and wondered aloud if she might pull a Buffy move one day too.

'They should put her on a leash' Harmony opined, a shudder going down her spine. What could possibly be worse than a certifiably psychotic slayer, she wondered?

'Chain her to a wall' Drusilla agreed, she liked chains and had daydreamed of bringing the nasty vicious Dana-beast to heel.

'Try it' Dana told her. 'Watching both of you' she declared looking from Drusilla to Harmony as she pointed at her eyes with the index and forefingers of her right hand.

'Couldn't you get one of those bracelet things put on her too?' Harmony asked Angel. 'Make it like a special lunatic issue thing?' she suggested. 'If she goes like… harmocidal…' she said, proud of the new word she had just invented, 'I could give her fifty-thousand volts.'

Angel pondered the suggestion. 'Faith would never allow it' he said eventually. Pity because it was a damn good idea too he thought ruefully. He was sorry for Dana, it wasn't her fault she was like this, but she still bothered him immensely. He often worried if it was his inner demon, the little Angelus voice at the back of his subconscious reacting to her.

'Dana we've got training now' a young girl called down from the balcony. It was Jessica Angel thought but it could have been her twin instead, they sounded a hell of a lot alike sometimes too. The different hairstyles was the best identifier and from this angle he couldn't see her.

'Coming' Dana called back. 'See you later' she told the vampires. 'Don't expect to see me though' she added coldly as she wandered off.

'If she spikes my blood with Holy Water or something one day' Harmony said quietly 'Please tell me she'll get in trouble for it' she asked Angel.

'I'm sure Buffy would give her a very stern talking to' Angel replied.

Harmony pouted again. 'I know I only started a few weeks ago but I want a raise' she told him.

'Sounds fair' Angel agreed.

Vahla ha'nesh – Location Inexplicable – Date Irrelevant

'So we're sure Berry-Boy can't listen in right?' Faith asked, looking around. Due to a total lack of seating otherwise most were stood around or else like Faith herself sprawled over the wide flight of stone steps that led to the imposing sacrificial altar that dominated the East Wing of the Temple.

Illyria nodded. 'None can enter Vahla ha'nesh without my assistance and no seer can witness what transpires here from outside' she told them confidently.

'Even a Seer that's related to you?' Dawn checked. She was sat on the step directly in front of Connor who had his arms around her, it looked sweet but if he moved his hand any closer to her breast Buffy was going to thump him she had already decided.

'Berith's people are only a sub-species of my race' Illyria replied. 'We are not of one blood and even another Old One of my own kin could not penetrate this pocket dimension where we now reside' she told them. 'We can talk freely here' she told everyone.

'Good because the idea that the fucker might be getting visions of everything we said and did was creeping me out' Faith declared. 'We need a plan to deal with him before we lose another team.'

'None of them were actually killed' Wesley pointed out.

'No it was a warning' Giles agreed, 'a rather effective one given the lack of fatalities.'

Buffy nodded, leaning back against a stone column that must have been six feet thick. 'Teleport in, beat the girls senseless then afterwards go around and break all their right arms, except for Marnie' she added. 'Girl is a south-paw so he broke her left.'

'Tell the girls they're not even dangerous enough to him to be worth killing' Angel observed.

'Next time he will kill one of the team' Illyria stated. 'It is what I would do.'

'He's telling us to back the fuck off' Faith said, nodding her agreement, 'he'll keep raising the stakes until we do.'

Willow was sat with her legs folded underneath her. 'We shouldn't have any field team without a scythe' she said. 'At least that would give him pause for thought.'

'It would, but only the arrival of you, Glory or myself at the scene of battle would truly concern him' Illyria responded. 'A slayer scythe is a dangerous weapon to even the mightiest demonic creature but even the most skilled slayer is orders of magnitude too slow to confront him in combat.'

'Unless you bring one of us along for the ride' Buffy noted. 'Next time he shows up you portal me or Faith to the scene, make sure we're close enough to stay inside the timewarp you set up and then we'll show him who he's messing with.'

'At which point he teleports away' Willow responded. 'Illyria can't open a portal fast enough to keep up' she noted. 'There's a time-delay.'

'Okay but at least if he runs we've got the initiative' Connor said. He was a great believer in being the one that made the running, he wasn't one of life's cerebral counter-punchers.

'Until the shell destabilises and I cannot portal any longer' Illyria noted. 'Teleportation is far less energy intensive so Berith can do so far more frequently without risking his own shell.'

'And we don't know how effective he is at using the magicks to hold himself together either' Willow noted.

'How about zapping him with the gun thing you did Glory with?' Spike suggested. 'Suck all the mojo out of the bloke then kick his ass.'

'The Mutari Generator has to be specifically tuned to the subjects frequency or it would take too long to work' Fred responded. 'Berith is not going to stay still while one of us "zaps" him' she said. 'That's why it's no use as a field weapon' she explained. 'It worked on Glory because we had spent months analysing her power signature.'

'Isn't Berith's like Illyria's here though?' Angel inquired.

'It would be similar though not identical' Illyria replied. 'Berith can move out of the path of the beam very quickly.'

Buffy snapped her fingers. 'Giles do you remember that spell you used on Willow in the Magic-Shop?' she asked. 'The one that was like a glowing hula-hoop that almost paralysed her completely and left her floating in the air' she continued. 'Use that to hold him still long enough to use the power-vacuum thingy' she said. 'Or just scythe the guy once he's stationary.'

'That was borrowed power Buffy' Giles reminded her.

'I can do it' Willow declared. 'I mean if the Coven that taught it to Giles can teach me, and I don't mind getting close to the edge I think I can do it' she said. 'I might need him distracted though' she added.

'Easy way to test it anyway' Spike said. 'Try it out on Blue here first and see how long it takes her to bust out.'

'Try it out on Glory first' Wesley responded. 'Experiment on the god we don't mind getting hurt, before the one we do.'

'Sorry to interrupt this little discussion from the non-visiony people' Cordelia said speaking up for the first time, 'but just because he can't hear us talking now doesn't mean he won't see it coming when it does' she reminded them.

'Crap' Buffy responded glumly. 'Good point.'

'If we do all the work and testing here and never so much as mention any of it back in the real world we might maintain some of the element of surprise' Angel suggested. 'As far as we know Berith just sees sight and sound visions right?' he asked rhetorically. 'He doesn't read our minds so if we don't do anything out there there's a lot less chance he'll have a vision telling him what's going on.'

Willow grinned. 'I can also do work here in secret to try and improve how effective the glyphs are at blocking Seers' she said. 'He can see through the one's we already have but if I can produce ones with more stealthy goodness…'

'We might be able to catch the bastard on the hop' Giles said, finishing her sentence.

'Glyph up the Mutari whatsit and the plastic scythe so he doesn't see them even if he does have a vision you mean' Buffy said. 'Hey this is starting to sound like a plan.'

'Well it's better than what we had when we arrived anyway' Wesley noted.

'That was bugger-all' Spike reminded him.

'Like I said, it's better than what we had when we arrived' Wesley replied with a smile, 'I never quantified it beyond that' he added wryly.

'Well in the absence of any other suggestions I vote we…' Giles began before he was interrupted by a crack of thunder and the smell of ozone in the air.

'Portal' Fred yelled, pointing towards a spinning vortex that had opened up horizontally in mid air near the bottom of the steps.

'Impossible' Illyria stated. 'None can come here but me' she said.

'Guess you were wrong there Blue' Spike responded.

'Berith, got to be' Angel stated.

'It can not be' Illyria declared.

'Heads up' Buffy ordered as everyone scattered and got ready to fight.

A figure fell from the portal and landed in a catlike manner, as it straightened up the portal closed above and they saw it wasn't Berith, or at least not unless he had undergone the minor-deity form of gender realignment because it looked like a young woman although the hair colour matched that of the Lord of the Covenant, a bright unnatural red.

The newcomer was carrying a large holdall and seemed to have an almost comically oversized handgun strapped to her right leg and a broadsword strapped to her back. She turned and directed crystalline blue eyes at Illyria. 'Hello mother' she said in expressionless frigid tones.

The girl shifted her gaze and now rested it on Faith and Wesley, her straight shoulder-length hair shifted from bright red to a slightly wavy chestnut brown and she closed her eyes opening them again to reveal they were almost the same colour. 'Hey Mom, Dad' she greeted them warmly, with a smile and a little wave. 'My place is a mess and I need to crash somewhere for a while, just until I've finished renovating' she told them. 'I've got money for rent, have you built my old room yet?' she asked hopefully.


Note from the Author:

The story continues, even more epic in scale in Compelled to Play the Great Game.

Best wishes to all my readers.