Chapter 17: A Surprise Meeting
A/N: Just when you thought the story was dead, up pops an update. Can't promise how often they'll come, but Musie and I will try to work on the unfinished fics.
Warning: I don't know; maybe language and innuendo somewhere along the way.
Challenges: #1599 'Queen of Slayers' by Claddagh; #4372 ''Death is your gift' Challenge' by ChaosCarlos; and inspired by #2324 'New Occupation' by raynee.
Thanks to my betas: zigpal, AshDawnSoulmates and ktweaver.
Disclaimer: BtVS characters belong to Joss Whedon / Mutant Enemy. Highlander characters belong to Davis-Panzer Productions. M*A*S*H characters belong to H. Richard Hornberger, Larry Gelbart and 20th Century Fox Television. I claim no rights to any copyrighted material. Please do not copy or take this story without my permission.
When they finally touched down, Phoenix woke up from her little nap during the flight. Cassandra and Tara were chatting about magick or something and she lost interest after the first five minutes or so. Besides, when she closed her eyes, she got to re-live the smoochies she shared with Methos. Mmmm.
But now it was time to be Phoenix, the 'great' Queen of Slayers. She mentally rolled her eyes and stood up to grab her bag. She needed another threat to level at Whistler for that Queen thing. Rolling her shoulders, she prepped herself to be professional and all that stuff.
"Where are we meeting your student, Cassandra?" Tara asked.
"There's a quiet, out-of-the-way park that she and I used to meet at whenever I was in town," Cassandra answered. "Once she feels comfortable that you aren't enemies forcing me to lead you to them, she'll let her former boss know where to find us."
Phoenix's eyebrow raised in surprise. "Wow…they're kind of paranoid, huh?"
"It isn't paranoid if they really are out to get you," Cassandra shot back with a hint of a grin. She was willing to bet that when/if Phoenix ever had to meet with an unknown person looking to talk to somebody she cared about, she'd be just as bad as Mandy, if not worse. In fact, if she wasn't, Cassandra would be terribly disappointed in her. Trust was either earned or for the naïve.
Once they reached the campground, Cassandra told Tara and Phoenix to stay by the car with their hands in plain sight while she approached her student. "Mandy!" she called out, holding her own hands away from her body to show she wasn't a threat.
From behind a nearby restroom where she was watching, 'Mandy' aka Amanda Stetson, formerly Amanda King, stepped out to greet her Immortal mentor, "Cassie! It's so good to see you again!" She had no qualms about going right up to the other Immortal because she knew that Lee had her covered from further away. So did Mr. Melrose- umm, Billy. Even after all this time, she had a hard time referring to him by his first name.
They spent a few minutes getting caught up, then Cassandra turned back to wave Phoenix and Tara over.
To their surprise – and concern – Phoenix greeted Amanda by her old married name, "Hello again, Mrs. King."
Instantly wary, Amanda asked, "Do I know you?"
"It's been a long time, and I was only like 9 years old then so I doubt you'd remember me," Phoenix explained. "My cousin and I were taking a tour of Old Cape Henry Lighthouse?" she prompted, realizing that by doing so, Cassandra would learn her real name if Mrs. King remembered her. She'd have to worry about that later.
Amanda thought back with a pang; Dean had been proven a traitor to the country that day, inadvertently by a young girl named Buffy. She couldn't tell which girl it was though. "Buffy? Or Celia?"
It was Phoenix's turn to wince in pain; Celia had gone into the hospital shortly after that field trip, only to die because of a demon called Der Kindestod. "Buffy," she answered in a clipped fashion. She almost asked about Weatherman Dean and his 'littering', but quickly figured out that given the fact Mrs. King was in Intelligence, that probably was something to do with National Security. If certainly would explain why they arrested Weatherman Dean. "Celia died shortly after we got home from the field trip."
"I'm so sorry," Amanda murmured sympathetically.
In an effort to break the melancholy mood, Cassandra interjected, "Wow, I never expected you two to know each other. This is good though, right?"
"Sure," Amanda agreed. She turned and made a couple hand gestures that obviously meant something to her and the people hiding out of sight.
Within a couple minutes, Cassandra, Phoenix and Tara saw two men coming out of the woods. Cassandra figured they would be there somewhere, but didn't know where. Tara was startled at their appearance. Phoenix had heard them earlier, but figured that it was a reasonable safety precaution on Mrs. King's part.
"By the way, my name is now Mrs. Stetson, but I think you can call me Amanda," the former housewife informed the Slayer Queen.
Phoenix grinned when she saw the handsome man from over a decade earlier. "You certainly have good taste, Amanda," she remarked, pointing to Lee. "I assume he's Mr. Stetson? I remember thinking what a hottie he was back then and he seems to have aged well."
Billy Melrose snickered as he watched his top agent blush at the young woman's compliment. For being such a ladies' man way back when, Lee had settled into married life with enthusiasm that was only matched by his love for being an agent. The only woman he could accept flirting with anymore was Amanda.
Speaking of which, Amanda seemed just as tickled at Lee's discomfort. It was nice payback for all those times she had to put up with his skirt-chasing before they got together. "That he has," she agreed adamantly. "Mr. Melrose, this is Cassandra Grant and her associates…"
Cassandra took over the introduction for Tara and Phoenix, "Tara and Phoebe Nix." Phoenix and Tara decided that since Tara Maclay was technically dead, she should become Phoenix's – and Dawn's by default – cousin legally-speaking.
After they finished shaking hands, Amanda wrapped her arm around Lee's waist and introduced him, "And this is my husband, Lee Stetson."
"Nice to see you again, Mr. Stetson," Phoenix remarked, shaking his hand.
Seeing the confusion on his face, Amanda explained, "She was the girl who told us where Dean hid those papers in the lighthouse."
"Ahh, nice to see you, too, Ms. Nix. I thought your name was something else though," he said, a look of confusion on his face still.
"It has to do with Amanda's secret," Cassandra chipped in to ease any suspicions. She wasn't sure if their old boss knew the secret of not, so she didn't want to be too blunt about it.
"I hear you needed to speak with me for some reason? May I ask why?" Billy finally spoke up, wanting to know more about the request that dragged him out of retirement.
"Well, not you specifically, but somebody in your former position," Phoenix babbled, then smacked herself mentally. So much for cool and professional. "I find myself in a position of authority – quite unexpectedly – and I wanted to speak to somebody objective before I made a decision that would effect dozens of people. I need to be sure that I'm making the right choice."
Billy nodded slowly. Even with training, being responsible for other people was very nerve-wracking…hence his near miss with ulcers just before his retirement. He held out his arm in invitation, which the young lady accepted. "Let's go talk in private, then." He looked at his people and said/ordered, "You two can stay here and catch up."
Lee and Amanda heard the command in his voice and nodded.
"How much can you tell me about your position?" Billy asked to break the ice.
"Depends," Phoenix hedged. "Have you ever been involved in a situation where something happened that you couldn't expain? Like a person who looked like they were in a costume or people showing up after you know they died?"
Billy's eyes narrowed as he considered what she was getting at. "Are you talking about vampires?" Phoenix nodded slowly, hoping he wouldn't think she was a complete nutcase. "Yeah, we came across that occasionally."
Phoenix breathed a sigh of relief; that might make things much easier. "Have you ever heard of somebody call The Slayer?"
He had heard of similar names during his time with the agency, but he didn't think that's what she meant. And oddly enough, nobody had the exact name 'The Slayer'…even agents from other countries. It was as if there was some kind of understood rule about not using that name. "No."
She gave him a brief history of Slayers and how it changed recently, leaving out a few keys points in order to protect the girls. Even though she needed his help, she didn't want to risk gaining the government's official attention where her girls were concerned.
When she finished, Billy inquired, "Just so I understand your dilemma…there are some Slayers abusing their powers, so you have to decide if they should lose those powers? You have the power to do that?"
"I have the responsibility to make the choice and pass it along to my bosses," Phoenix hedged. She also didn't want to give him the impression that she could make an army of Slayers with a snap of her fingers. It was better to let him believe it was in somebody else's control. "But they take my opinion very seriously. Unfortunately, there's a couple girls that I had…personality conflicts with, so I'm worried that might taint my objectivity."
"I'm sure it does," Billy told her bluntly. "The question you have to ask yourself is this: If things were like they were before all the Slayers were called, would you consider the world safe in their hands? There were times when Lee could be very arrogant, but when it came down to it, he had the right to be. He was one of the best agents in our world. Maybe what you see as arrogance is simply confidence."
"And the girls who say they should be the Slayer instead of whoever is best for it?" Phoenix asked.
"It could be their own selfish desire to be The Slayer, or it could be their desire not to put the burden on somebody else," he suggested. "It's your job to figure out which."
"Well, that job stinks," Phoenix complained.
"Leadership often does," Billy confirmed. "But I do think that you will try to do what's best, even if you do happen to make a few mistakes. Can I just ask one thing? Is this change permanent? Or could you take their powers to test them, then give them back to the ones who pass? That way, there's less of a chance that you'll mistake selflessness and confidence for greed and arrogance."
Phoenix smiled at him. "That's a good idea…even if it means I have to confront them before I'm finished setting up my Council."
"Just be careful," Billy warned. "People who lose something they identify themselves with can decide they have nothing to lose by striking out in a way that might help them get that something back."
"Thanks for the advice, sir," Phoenix said. "If you ever need anything – or decide you want to keep busy – give me a call. I'm sure we can find something for you in the Council." She reached in her pocket and pulled out one of the business cards that Radar had made up for her.
He just shook his head ruefully, "Thank you, but no. I had enough stress dealing with humanity's problems with itself. I'm not sure my body could take humanity's struggles with vampires. But I may know a few people who might be interested."
"Sure…as long as they are trustworthy and aren't easily scared; those are the two biggies for us. Physical condition isn't that important since we have support staff positions that need to be filled." And Phoenix wasn't looking forward to advertising for those positions in the newspaper or online.
Additional Disclaimer: Scarecrow and Mrs. King characters belong to Brad Buckner, Eugenie Ross-Leming and CBS.
A/N: Oi! It's such a pain to write when a character's name is changed. I kept typing in 'Buffy' instead of 'Phoenix' throughout this whole chapter.
A/N2: When I was writing my Fic-a-Day for Scarecrow and Mrs. King, I decided to incorporate it as a fun little backstory between Buffy and the other two. Feel free to check out 'August 19, 2012 - National Lighthouse Day'.
Next…Now we should get to the power pulling stuff.