The Girls (and Boys) of Summer

Sequel to Immortal Summers

Disclaimer:             Concept of Immortals belong to Rysher Entertainment and creators of the Highlander movies and TV show.  Buffy: the Vampire Slayer belongs to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy Productions.  This is an original piece of fiction based on the merging of these two "universes".  Similarity to other fics, specifically Akraen's "The Immortal Life of Elisabeth Summers", has been acknowledged and in general accepted by the various fellow authors.  Spoilers for mostly Buffy episodes of the third season or prior.

Chapter 1:

Buffy was at home that Saturday morning, taking care of several business things, and helping her mom clean out the Gallery by dragging a shitload of old paintings and the like so she could properly appraise them.  Actually, Buffy was the one doing the appraising, Joyce was just jotting down the notes of comments Buffy was muttering as she looked them over and based more on that than the appearance, attaching a price tag to it.

Another part of the business things was taking care of their taxes for this last year.  Not fun, and something she usually left to Joyce, her mother being the better business woman in all of their opinions, but today there was just so much to do and at the same time so little to do.  So while Joyce was reorganizing her entire Gallery because she had to, Buffy was doing the taxes because she was bored out of her immortal skull.

Lucky for her, the boredom was not to last.  Just as she had finally finished with the last of their "legal" returns and put them away in the folder, Buffy tensed as a dreaded familiar sensation crept up her back and resonated energy inside her mind.  She locked down the energy and focused on it.  A trick she had picked up with Joy, and the added bonus of Greek god empowered psychic abilities, was to identify individual immortals from their "radar" blip.  Instantly, Buffy was alert and ready to kill or at the last resort, run.  The Immortal that was approaching her home was neither Joy nor Faith.

She grabbed her personal-made katana that she hid even from her friends and walked cautiously to the door.  It wouldn't be the first time that Immortals had cheated, killing their opponent so they wouldn't have to fight.  Not even Buffy, as old and experienced and as powerful as she was, was invulnerable to bullets.

However, just before she reached for the doorknob, the Immortal entered "normal" range and Buffy got an instant bead on who was walking up her sidewalk.  Normally she kept her range on extra sensitive, allowing her to detect Immortals nearly twice, if not three times the distance that the other Immortals could sense her.

Buffy couldn't stop the smile that spread to her face if she wanted to as the identity of the unknown Immortal was confirmed.  She hid her katana faster than thought and threw open the door.

The man at the end of the sidewalk halted his progress when he saw the door being opened, and he too couldn't stop the smile spreading to his face as he saw the youthful girl approach him.

"Oh my god, oh my god, Ohmigod, Ohmigod, Ohmigod, Omigawd, omigawd, OHMIGAWD!!" Buffy squealed like the teenager she looked to be as she ran forward until she reached the end of the porch, and then in an unnecessary display of her preternatural strength, she leapt the remaining ten feet from the porch to the man, easily landing herself on him.  Lucky for him, he was strong enough to catch her, as she instantly wrapped her legs around his waist and her arms around his neck and started kissing both of his cheeks.

"Omigawd!  John!!  What are you doing here?  When did you get here?  Amy told us that you wouldn't be arriving until tomorrow evening!  Omigawd, Faith is going to be so jazzed to see you!  I can't believe your here!  What are you doing here?" Buffy squealed once more and easily held herself to John, perhaps squeezing a bit too hard, but she really didn't notice through her excitement.

John Madison smiled affectionately at his old friend.  "Well, that's kind of a long story that would be easier to tell if I could breathe.   Would you mind getting down Beth?  And where is Faith anyway?"

Buffy just kissed John one more time on the forehead and moved her hands from his neck to his shoulders.  "Call me Buffy.  And I have no idea where Faith is right now," Buffy said as she finally let go of the blonde blue-eyed hunk.  "Why?  Are you here to win her back after all these years Mr. Smith?"

"No, I'm not.  In fact I am a very happily married man, I'll have you know.  Anyway, I thought you'd have grown at least some in the thirty years that I've seen you.  What's the matter kid, not eating your veggies?" John teased.

Buffy just smiled up at the former English pirate.  He was only a head taller than her, Xander was taller, and it was a running joke that Buffy was stuck at five foot two, and that John was a ladies man.

"Yes, I've been eating my vegetables," Buffy said tolerantly, as she suddenly took John's hand and flipped him over her back so that he landed quite painfully on his.  "By the way, where's the woman that finally tamed you sailor?"

"That would be me," Buffy heard a sharp voice come from behind her.

Buffy turned around and looked at the intimidating witch that had spoken.  She was about five and a half feet tall, only a few inches taller than Buffy, had neck-length cropped dark auburn hair, had a darker than normal complexion, making her look more exotic than she probably was, and wore simple cut-off denims, a white tank top with a sky blue denim shirt over it, tied with a knot at her waist, and the sleeves rolled up.  Her hands were splayed on her hips, her stance was more tense than aggressive, but her face shown her anger far more easily than any of her other features.

Buffy barely batted an eye at this woman as they studied each other.  Buffy wasn't impressed.

Looking down at her friend, she asked, "Alison?"

Trying very hard not to break out laughing, John nodded as he struggled to his feet and confirmed in as straight a voice he could manage, "Alison."

He turned back to the exotic redhead and held out his arm, which she readily slipped into, as he introduced, "Honey, I would like you to meet one of my oldest friends.  Beth Slayton."

"So this isn't the infamous Faith I've heard so much about from Amy?" Alison inquired as she continued to eye Buffy like a lion looking at the herd.

"Sorry, no," Buffy answered in as pleasant a voice she could manage while being insulted (not very).  "And John, you know that I switched my names a long time ago.  You can call me Buffy Summers.  By the way, Mom should be back shortly.  She was just picking up the last of the paintings while I finished up the taxes for this season," Buffy explained as she led the couple into her home of the past three years.

"Mom?" both John and Alison asked, completely disbelieving what they had just heard with their own ears.

Buffy didn't even try to stop the girlish giggle that rose in her throat.  "Yes Mom," she responded.  "You do remember me telling you about Joy?  In appearance, she's twenty years older than I am.  Besides, she likes playing Mother Goose every few decades."

John and Alison stared in further disbelief as Buffy cleaned up the kitchen table, which had receipts and other monetary documents spread out all over it.  "Uh, no…Buffy," John worked his way out of his stupor.  "I remember Joy, and that's not what surprised me.  It's just…you doing taxes.  I figured you would have had Joy doing them.  You always did say she was better with the numbers."

Buffy just shrugged as she put the last of the papers away, the table clean.  "What can I say, I was bored.  It's been really slow ever since I told Amy and our friends about me," Buffy told them.

Alison tensed and John could tell she was either about to run screaming out of the house, or turn his friend into something neither of them wanted to think about.  So he just tightened his arm around her.  "You…told Amy about…you?" John hesitantly asked.

Buffy just nodded, still looking bored as ever, but inside she was still cheering and shouting for joy.  "Everything…I mean, um everything?" Alison squeaked and then repeated in a deeper voice.

Buffy just nodded at the couple.  Then her head turned to the right at something neither of the two could detect, until about thirty seconds later, when Buffy grinned and John felt the 'Buzz' in his brain.  "Mom's home," Buffy called as though a teenager.

Just before Buffy disappeared out the front door, she turned to the couple and asked seriously, "Hey, you two got any luggage you need unpacked?"

John, startled a little at Buffy's carefree attitude with a nearby Immortal, whether or not if it really was Joy, stuttered in answering, "Uhm, uh no thanks…Buffy.  We're actually staying with Amy's father for the week.  He already approved according to Amy."

Buffy just nodded and headed out the door, presumably to meet Joy.

"Well that was certainly strange," Alison commented to her husband.  "She's nothing like you described.  If anything, this "First Slayer" is just a teenager herself.  Are you sure she's the same Immortal that you knew back in the sixties?  Because she certainly doesn't seem that way to me."

John rolled his eyes in frustration.  "Yes, Ally, I'm very sure.  It is the same girl.  And I think you're forgetting something here.  Bet…Buffy is trapped in the body of a teenager.  In this day and age you have to act how you look.  Sometimes you can look older, others younger, but more often than not, if you died at the age of fifteen, you have to act like fifteen year olds of the era.  And don't start on me about the whole lying thing.  We've covered that."

Alison 'Humphed' and crossed her arms.  "What else bothers me is that she would involve ordinary teenagers in Immortal business.  When Amy called last week, she never mentioned knowing anything about this Immortal.  When she asked for you, what did she say?" Alison interrogated.

John gave his wife a humoring and gentle smile, with just a touch of smugness.  "That, my dearest, is none of your damn business.  Now lets go see if Buffy is okay.  You can never be too careful with other Immortals," John said.

Just as John and his wife reached the porch, Alison still pouting at not knowing anything and still not trusting Buffy after the way she had greeted her husband, Buffy and Joy stepped onto the porch and without a word, went past them into the house.  Buffy came back, still holding her bundle, and said, "Hey you two, grab a painting.  But be careful, they're antiques."

Alison turned wide-eyed on John.  "And you never said anything about physical labor," she snapped under her breath.

John rolled his eyes again.  "Oh get down off your high horse Ally!" John snapped back.  "I know you're uncomfortable being on the Hellmouth and all, but can you at the absolute least possibility, try to be courteous?"

When John began to look at her with those baby blues of his, his lip sticking out like a little puppy dog, Alison knew she'd been had, but she just couldn't raise the necessary anger to be mad at her husband when he was that adorably cute.  Groaning, Alison joined him at the car and muttered, "Fine.  You win.  I will…try and be as courteous as a Lady should be.  Just don't expect an award winning performance."

"Just be nice.  That's all I'm asking," John responded.

With the four people unloading the car, Buffy showing the other two where to place the antiques while Joy went to get more, they were finished in a record time of five minutes.  Once they had completed and Joy had parked the Jeep, Buffy gathered them in the living room for proper introductions.

"Mom," Buffy said, getting her "mother's" attention, who was just wearing comfortable jeans and white T-shirt, "This is John Madison, and his wife, Alison Madison.  They showed up early."

"I figured as much," Joy nodded sagely.  Alison blinked in surprise.  Joy cocked her head to the side and asked, "Is something wrong Alison?"

"Uhm, no, it…its just that you remind me of my sister," Alison answered after a moment.

"Hopefully not Catherine," Buffy muttered.

"Buffy!" Joy snapped.  Alison glared hard at her, daring her to make one wrong move.

Buffy, more chastened by Joy's tone than Alison's glare, shrugged her shoulders and said defensively, "Hey!  She tried to blast me into some other dimension, after trying to kill me with a make-me-drunk-influenza spell.  I have a right to resentment, OK?"

Alison immediately lowered her eyes.  John put a comforting hand on her shoulder, offering his support, both as a husband and a friend.  Buffy saw how Alison felt about her sister that had turned to the "Dark side" as a way of saying it.  She immediately felt regret and tried to apologize.

"Alison…I'm sorry.  I didn't meant to…" Buffy started.

Alison interrupted, "No, it's okay.  You do have a right.  I just wish there was something I could have done about it, is all.  And I was referring to my older sister Buffy.  Catherine was the youngest.  Joan…my older sister is very…well I guess the best term is Zen witch."

Buffy immediately started giggling again, while Joy herself held a humorous smile.

Alison was surprised by their reaction.  "Is something supposed to be funny here?" she asked with a bite to her tone.

Buffy finished her giggle fit and shook her head, shaking the last of the funnies from her.  "Sorry.  It's just…I don't think I've ever heard Mom described quite like that.  Think of her more as a mother hen, and you'll be a bit more on target Alison.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'll call the others and we can introduce the whole gang."

"Actually…Buffy," (it was clear that John was having some minor trouble in handling Buffy's "new" name) John halted her.  "There are some things that I need to discuss with you.  That's why we came here before going to Amy's house."

"And?" Buffy waited with a carefree look.

John decided it was probably best to just blurt it out, knowing Beth…er, Buffy.  "Remember back in the sixties, that…project that we were working on together?"

Buffy's face scrunched in minor confusion.  "Which one?" she asked in all honesty.

John's face became unreadable as he said just one word.  "Nightwatch."

Buffy's face fell into the realm of unread soon after.  She stepped closer to John and whispered, dead serious, "When was it activated?"

Now John's face was confused.  "It wasn't.  Nightwatch has been canceled."

Buffy's face, where he expected confusion and at most total acceptance at least, was leaning more towards outright terror.  "Are-are…are you sure?  I mean, John are you absolutely, 100% dead-on sure about this?  John, this is very, very important.  Are you absolutely sure that Nightwatch has been canceled?  As in CANCELED?!"

John just nodded, not understanding Buffy's vehemence.  Buffy closed her eyes and seemed to be doing nothing but breathing.  After thirty or more seconds, Buffy opened her eyes, and in them was sad acceptance.  She nodded her head.  "Thanks for telling me John.  I appreciate it," she told him in a dead voice.

"Don't you want…?" John started to ask, but Buffy interrupted him.

"No thanks, I already have them," Buffy cryptically answered as she walked into the kitchen, where the phone was.

"What was that all about?" Alison asked John when Buffy had left the room.

"You don't want to know," both John and Joy answered at the same time.

Several minutes of silence later, Buffy returned and informed them, "Willow and Xander are on their way over with Oz.  Cordelia said she couldn't make it, and Amy asked me what you two were doing here so early…and here rather than at her house?"  Buffy gave a meaningful glare in John's direction.

Looking a bit uncomfortable, John just shrugged and tried to start laughing, but ended up trailing off sheepishly, looking like a fool.  Alison too looked like she had something to hide.

"So," Buffy tried to start a conversation, "Ally, is it?"

Alison looked up and at the blonde.  "Yes.  Alison McGregor Madison.  Fire/water practicing witch of the Madison Clan.  And you would be?  Specifically that is."

Buffy looked surprised.  "You mean John hasn't spoken of me?  I'm shocked.  Look John, this is me, shocked!" Buffy pointed at her face, which did look shocked.  Then she broke out in giggles.

John grimaced a little and interrupted the laughing fit the Summers women seemed to have found themselves in.  "Buffy, this really isn't the time for laughs," he muttered.

Buffy and Joyce gained control of themselves and Buffy looked seriously back at Alison, who despite having an annoyed twitch in her eye, was still waiting for her answer.  "I have had many names in my lifetime Ally, far more than I care to go over in a single minute, not that I could in a single minute.  More like thirty to forty-five, but to say the least Ally I am who John has told you I am.  I also don't like to talk about my age, if you know what I mean." Buffy whispered the last with a slight giggle.

Alison glared hard at the blonde.  "Oh yes, I understand perfectly.  You're an Immortal, probably at most only two hundred years old that probably died whoring just to survive.  And since you seem to have perfected that innocent schoolgirl act, I'd say that you probably died your first time with a man.  What happened to your first Teacher?  If he was killed you probably let it happen.  But no one could blame you.  After all, you're still just a little—" Alison never finished.

Buffy's face as Alison continued to speak just kept getting darker and darker, until a single tear rolled down her cheek when she mentioned Buffy's Teacher.  The moment that Alison said the word "little" Buffy reacted.

Moving faster than she thought it possible for a human to move, Alison only saw a blur and then felt her feet leave the ground as Buffy's hand lifted her by her throat.  The look she saw in the blonde's eyes terrified her more than any of the monsters that she had fought as a witch.  If the actions of murder, slaughter, and genocide could ever be given an emotional status, the look in Buffy's eyes was how it would be expressed.

"You know, John," Buffy said in a deceptively calm voice, "When you and Amy described Ally here, I was expecting someone a lot like myself.  Confident, open, friendly and maybe even polite in the modern sense of the word.  Instead, I find an arrogant green-eye clouded amateur whose mouth bites off more than God could chew."

"Buffy, please, calm down," John begged seeing how Alison's jealousy of his past relationship with Buffy's student had gotten way out of hand.  "Buffy, you're choking her.  She's sorry.  Now probably more than ever.  Alison, tell her you're sorry!"

Buffy's eyes gleamed.  "It's a bit late for that John.  Did I ever tell you how I died?  Or what happened to my First Teacher John?  Funny tale.  I was raped by some Chief I had been married to against my will.  I almost killed the bastard myself before he even laid a hand on me.  But in the end he…consummated the marriage."  Buffy spat out the word with a sneer.  "Alaekiam, my teacher, was killed before my eyes by Kronos.  I was busy killing a demon of the 1st circle, so I'm sorry to say that all I could do was leave the son of a bitch with a scar that he'd never forget and trapped him in that valley for at least fifty years.  Yeah that's right Ally, I'm that old!"

Buffy sneered once more and dropped the Madison witch.  "If it wasn't for John, I would have killed you before the first words left your mouth, witch.  Keep that in mind.  Any more inquisitions you'd like to make, Ally?"

Alison decided that it was wisest to stay silent.

Buffy, satisfied snorted and turned and went past the dining room and into the kitchen.  Joyce remained behind in order to introduce herself and to excuse Buffy's behavior to the couple.

"It's very nice to finally meet you John," Joyce stepped forward and shook the blonde man's hand.  "I've heard many things about you.  And before you ask, equally good and bad.  Hello Alison, Blessed Be."

Alison nodded back to the Mother Witch and greeted likewise, "Blessed Be.  Look I'm sorry what I said, I never meant…" Alison trailed off as Joyce waved her argument away.

"Don't worry about it dear, it happens more often than you think.  We don't worry about it anymore," Joyce explained.  "Buffy, while she may look and often act young, is not a person that you want to trifle with.  She's the oldest of us, and the wisest.  She deserves a great deal of respect, even from a Madison."

With that said, Joyce turned around and went into the kitchen to see to Buffy.  Alison turned to her husband and couldn't hide the fact from her face that she felt lower than buried shit.  John just chuckled and sighed at the irony when he saw her face and just held her to him and patted her shoulder, as though saying, 'There, there,' and rather patronizingly.

In the kitchen, Joy walked in just as Buffy was throwing away the tissues she had used to dry her recent tears.  Silently, the Immortal mother came up behind her and just stood there, waiting.  She didn't have to wait long before Buffy turned and reached for her.  Joy easily accepted Buffy into her embrace and cooed soothingly as the Immortal girl cried her fresh tears.  She wasn't about to blame what had happened in the living room on Buffy, but she knew that Buffy needed her for this moment, and she would be that for her teacher.

After a few minutes, Joy looked down at the blonde head and asked softly, "Buffy?  Honey?  Are you going to be ok?"

Sniffling, Buffy stood a little straighter and looked up at the woman holding her.  "Thank you Joy…I don't know how I could have made it through the centuries without you.  You've done so much…helped me so much.  Thank you."

Smiling warmly, Joy reached up and calmly stroked back Buffy's golden locks.  "It was a mutual helping Buffy.  I never would have survived without you.  All that I've done to help is the least that I could do.  I'm glad to have known you Buffy Summers.  Or whatever you call yourself."

The Summers women broke out in another giggle fit and Buffy released herself from the cradle hold Joy held her in and dried her tears once again.  At that moment, both Buffy and Joy felt an electric sensation crawl up their spines and release a hornets nest of energy at the base of their skulls.  "Faith," both women groaned as Buffy went out to the living room to handle damage control and Joy went to warn Faith of what was happening.  Just before leaving though, Joy added a glamour to Buffy's face to hide that she had been crying.

Buffy went straight into the living room, where John was just catching Faith's "buzz" on normal range.  Joyce went straight for the door and opened it and then stepped outside to delay the Immortal Slayer for as long as possible.

"Buffy…?" John started, wondering why she was sending Joy to meet the Immortal rather than go herself.  As though reading his mind, Buffy just nodded and interrupted him.

"I know John.  Look, don't worry, its Faith first of all, and second, Joy is at the least 1200 years old, more than old enough to take care of herself, I assure you." Buffy interrupted.

Alison instantly latched onto the anger that caused her to lash out at Buffy before.  John had hinted that he'd had a relationship with the Immortal called Faith, though he had refused to give any details.  When he'd told her that Faith was actually here in the same town as her niece, the green-eyed demon of jealousy instantly reared its ugly head as Alison began to entertain thoughts of this "Faith" stealing her man away from her.  Even despite John's assurances that whatever relationship the two Immortals had had was long over, that he was in love with her now and only wanted to be with her, Alison still couldn't help herself.

On the porch, Faith wasn't the only one arriving.  Oz's van had just pulled in beside Joyce's Jeep and surprisingly Faith was climbing out with the other Scoobies, save Cordelia and Giles.  Joyce grimaced of what their reaction was going to be once they met both John and Alison.

"Hey Joyce!" Faith greeted with a shout as she bounded for the porch.  "Waz up?" Faith imitated the street slang with a grin.

"Hi Joy!" Willow bubbled, her arm around Oz's waist and likewise with the werewolf.  Xander smiled warmly up at the older (in more than just one sense of the word) blonde and nodded his head as all the teenage (looking) people stepped onto the porch.

"Actually, something is rather up at the moment Faith," Joyce began with some trepidation.  "John is visiting.  And he's brought some additional company.  Alison."

Faith's face fell through the earth.  "Oh shit," she cursed.

"Is something wrong Faith?" Willow asked with concern.  The Immortal Slayer was too caught up in looking panicky and pale to reply.  So Willow turned to Ms. Summers and repeated the question with her eyes.  Then she registered Joyce's words.

"This wouldn't happen to be the same John from your story would it?" Willow asked with a degree of excitement.  She was going to actually get to meet a historical figure.  A very famous historical figure. 

Joyce, again, hesitantly answered, "Yes it would Willow, but…"

Xander interrupted saying, "And this would not also happen to be the same John that is Amy's uncle and married to Amy's aunt?"

Joyce smiled at the boy's perceptiveness and continued where he left off.  "Amy's aunt who happens to be a jealousy-prone redhead of Irish and Scottish decent and a practicing witch of a well-known and powerful witch clan."

"Oh," Willow whispered as she got the message.  Then her mind recalled the three-week-old information that she had left over from Buffy's transfer of memories to her mind.  Her magically altered memory quickly recovered the information about John and Faith's relationship, as well as Buffy's witnessing of several witches that let their emotions, such as jealousy, cloud their minds and actions.  "Oh shit," she cursed after she had processed the information.

With that, both she, Faith, and Oz because he was everything but surgically attached to Willow turned around and started walking off the porch.  "And where do you think you're going?" Joyce asked in a motherly tone.

Looking guilty, Faith and Willow stopped in their tracks and turned to face the Immortal Mother.  And then looked down at the ground and climbed back up the porch steps, looking like chastened children.  "Don't worry Faith," Joyce said gently as she rubbed the brunette's shoulders in a supporting manner, "We're all here, and Buffy's already threatened to kill Alison once, so if she tries anything with you, I'm sure that Buffy will at least let you get to her."

Faith snickered at the joke and nodded her head, admittedly feeling better.  "Thanks Joyce," Faith said with gratitude as she reached for the doorknob.

"Wait, what did she say that would make Buffy want to kill her…?" Willow asked as Faith and Joyce stepped inside.

*                       *                       *

Buffy was just calming John down, who being who he was didn't need that much in calming, just guarantees that his wife would still be alive and that Buffy would hold no ill regards for any of the stupid things that Alison would no doubt say.  To which the redhead witch replied with a loud objection, "HEY!!"

"Well don't blame me," John defended, "You always manage to put your foot in your mouth that gets you into even bigger trouble than you were in, in the first place Ally!  And don't even try and deny it!"

Alison was left looking flustered for several moments, before she was finally force to concede the point and just looked down at the ground, ashamed.

"Don't worry about Faith Alison," Buffy told her, realizing that part of the reason that Alison had baited her so much was that she believed John was the only one who could call her "Ally" and knew that the witch truly felt guilty about the things she said.  Unfortunately, what Joy had said was also true, it happened often enough that Buffy had learned to not let the small things, like people's ignorance of her history that she'd much rather forget, bother her.  "I can assure you that she'll be on her most polite behavior.  And you'll like the rest of the kids.  They're all nice and I'm sure they'll like you right away."

Suddenly, they all became aware of a commotion behind Buffy in the front foyer when they heard a feminine shout, "SHE SAID WHAT?!?"  A bit of silence, that only Buffy's advanced hearing could hear the whispers to the shouted comment.  In the next instant, even Buffy didn't know what happened.

One second she was trying to hear what was being whispered, the next, she saw a flash of red in green and in that same second they all heard the sound of a skin-tearing slap.

Alison staggered from the slap the bright auburn haired teenager hit her with.  Then she heard, with as much venom as Buffy's eyes minutes ago had held, the word, "Bitch!" and when she tried to stand to return the challenge, the teenage girl threw a left that knocked Alison back on her ass, hard.

Before Willow could throw herself on top of the insulting witch, Buffy grabbed her and held her back.  Or tried to anyway.  Willow was more furious than anything anybody could ever remember seeing her.  She was trying to squirm, with moderating success, out of Buffy's grasp to get another hit on Alison.  John quickly tried to get to his wife, but a well timed struggling kick from Willow hit him in the eye, knocking him back with enough force to leave Alison where she lay for the moment.

"Faith!  I could use a little help here!" Buffy shouted as Willow almost got free of her again.

Faith quickly leaped forward and held Willow on the other side of Buffy, but even with the two Immortal Slayers holding her, Willow still gave them a struggle and almost got away several more times, leaping ahead with surprising strength, barely being pulled back by the two warriors enhanced strength.

"You bitch!!" Willow screamed again.  "How dare you!  How dare you say those things about Buffy!  TO Buffy!  I'm going to kill you, you bitch!  Ahhhh!  I'm going to kill you!!"  Willow leapt forward, almost getting to the petrified witch on the floor, but the two Slayers, barely managing, just held her and pulled her back.

'Oh shit!' both Buffy and Faith thought at the same moment that Willow almost escaped them.

Joyce was thinking along the same lines, but thought, 'By the Goddess!  There really is more to that girl than meets the eye, isn't there?'

At that moment, still struggling against the two Slayers, Willow's eyes turned solid black and she began to say in a dark and if possible even more ominous voice, "Soilshey na luach, greiney nell lua—" before Buffy managed to gag her friend with her hand and with that added leverage, and with Faith holding the petite girl's limbs, managed to drag her back several steps further.

"Will?  Willow, you've got to calm down!" Buffy told her friend.  "Come on Red!  Calm down.  Believe me, you don't want to go down that road," Faith added her part.

Finally, after another minute, Willow seemed to have calmed down, or her eyes had turned back to normal and her struggles had more or less ceased, but she was still tense and glaring literal "murder" at the Madison witch.

"Are you okay now Will?" Buffy asked, easing her grip and gently rubbing the girls back in a calming manor.  Tensely, and never taking her glare of the witch, Willow nodded.

Everyone in the room took a sigh of relief and Buffy turned to Faith.

Faith, take her into the kitchen.  Keep her calm.  I'll be in there in a few minutes to explain things to her.  After I explain things in here that is. Buffy telepathically outlined to the Immortal Slayer.

Faith just nodded and took the willing redhead by both arms and directed her into the kitchen.  "Come on Red, it's gonna be okay.  I'll make ya somethin' ta calm ya down.  Maybe a warm glass of milk, that always calms me down."  Oz followed at a fair distance behind the two.

Both Buffy and Joyce looked up in surprise and a little fear when Faith said that, but the two girls were already gone and nothing could be done.  The drink that usually calmed Faith down often had a shot of whiskey or some other alcoholic beverage in it.

Shaking her head in hopes of foregoing the migraine she felt forming, Buffy turned back to see John getting up and helping Alison to her feet.  Smiling sheepishly, Buffy shrugged and apologized for Willow, "Sorry?"

Alison glared hard at her, but remained quiet, knowing that she might get herself in even more trouble if she said another word.  According to her husband that's how she got into trouble in the first place.

"Buffy, I am so sorry about all of this, I never meant to…" John tried to apologize.

But Buffy waved it off.  "Don't worry John.  I actually feel that I should be the one to apologize.  Here you came all this way with your lovely, if not somewhat insecure wife and she ends up getting threatened not just once, but twice in the same ten-minute period.  And thank you for telling me about…  Thank you John.  Will I be seeing you later today?"

John looked out the front window and saw Amy walking up the sidewalk.  He smiled at his old friend and shook his head in amazement at her skill.  "Uh, maybe.  That is if we're welcome to come back…"

"Ofcourse you are!" Joyce exclaimed.  "Why don't you and Alison come over for dinner later tonight?  That is, if you and Amy's father aren't planning something…"

John just shrugged and turned to his wife, who repeated the gesture.  "I don't know, but I'd doubt it.  Tell you what, we'll call if there's still time and confirm with you then.  But right now I think Amy and her dad are both pissed that we aren't unpacking our things, rather than conversing with old friends about dinner plans."

"Ofcourse," Joyce nodded, understanding.  "Then I'm sure that you understand that we have to ask you to leave.  It was good to finally meet you John."

John smiled himself and kissed the woman on the cheek.  "It was a likewise pleasure meeting you Joy.  We'll have to get together later in the week.  Glad I could help you in unloading your car Buffy."  With that, John escorted Alison to the door, and opened it just as Amy was raising her hand to knock on it.

"Uhhh…" Amy was at a loss of what to do, but John quickly "rescued" her.

"Come on Amy, don't want to make your dad any more angrier than he already is.  Shall we go?" John then dragged both Madison women with him to his car, which fortunately wasn't blocked in by any of the others, and a few minutes later they drove off.

*                       *                       *

For the several minutes that the Madison's were leaving, the silence was palpable inside the Summers' house.  Finally, after John and the witches left, Buffy turned right around and went straight to the kitchen, quickly followed by Xander and Joy.

In the kitchen, they saw Willow nursing a mug of what looked like, what Joy and Buffy hoped was just that, warm milk.  Oz was right behind her, massaging her shoulders while Faith was on the other side of the island, watching with concern.  Faith, Buffy and Xander noted, was playing with one of the sharper kitchen knives idly in her hands.

When Willow looked up and saw Buffy enter the kitchen, she instantly dropped the mug she was holding and stood up and practically flew straight for Buffy.  Oz caught the stool, while Faith caught the mug without spilling a drop of the remaining milk.  "Oh Buffy!  Joy told me what that…that…"

"It's okay Willow, don't worry about it.  Really, I'm okay.  And don't worry, Alison was just being jealous.  I'm sure that you remember Faith and John's relationship?" Buffy asked with a smile.

Willow suddenly blushed and ducked her head slightly.  "Did I overreact?" Willow asked softly.

"Considering what Buffy did?  Young lady, you barely lit a spark to Buffy's torch," Joyce commented.

This time both Buffy and Willow blushed in embarrassment.  Faith joined them when Xander asked, "So what is your relationship to Amy's Uncle Faith?  The way Buffy and Joyce talk about it, and that Miss Alison would actually threaten Buffy she was so jealous, it had to be a doozy."

Faith flushed some and just shrugged.  "Ah, it wasn't anything special.  I mean, we broke up when America went to war, so I doubt it would've lasted any longer than it did.  Even though he is a hunk." Faith grinned evilly at the final remark.

"Well, yeah," Xander replied uncomfortably.  "So it wasn't anything special.  Probably just a few weeks of really hot sex and maybe a couple months of romantic dinners and the like.  Just like any other relationship you could have with any other number of normal guys.  I mean, it wasn't like you two got married."

Faith froze stiff, Buffy looked up in surprise and Willow blushed deeper before starting to hide her giggles.  The uncomfortable silence was tangible in the air after Xander's unwitting statement.  "Wait a minute…" Xander began to look back and forth between all the faces in the room.

"You got married?" Oz asked Faith.

The Dark Slayer shrugged her shoulders slightly before nodding her head to the slight.  "It…its not what you think.  I mean, yeah, so we got married.  It's not that big of a deal.  B says that it happens a lot between Immortals that know each other a really long time.  Hell, she even knows a couple of Immortal couples that keep getting married over and over throughout the centuries.  Besides, John wanted to stay as far away from the war as possible and I was more than ready to jump right in.  Unfortunately, the best that I could hope for was a field nurse, which I did for D-day and all that.  After the initial invasion, I managed to get myself involved with some underground movements and I like to think that I saved a lot of lives.  'Sides, B was already in the war, weren't you?"

Buffy glared at Faith, but it wasn't a hard glare and she didn't say anything.  "Uh, excuse, what war?" Oz asked.

"Actually its more accurate to ask 'which war' but in answer Oz, World War 2," Buffy answered him.


"So you're saying that World War Two broke up your marriage to Amy's Uncle?" Xander tried to clarify.

Buffy and Faith shook their heads no.  "Not the point Xandman," Faith leaned back on the counter and quickly finished Willow's warm milk.  "I don't blame my problems on world events way some modern couples do.  Me and John would have broken off anyway, when it was time.  Pearl Harbor just hastened it."

"Wait, when did you guys first meet John?" Oz asked, curious.

"Uh, 1934 I think," Faith answered uncertainly.

"So you were married how many years?" he asked.  Xander, Buffy, and Joyce all looked at Faith expectantly.  She didn't look like she was about to answer anytime soon.

"Five years, 7 months, two weeks and twelve days," Willow answered like a computer.

"Huh," Oz grunted.

"Five years?" Xander exclaimed.  "You were married to this guy for five years!!  No wonder Amy's Aunt was jealous.  Even if the marriage was over fifty years ago."

"Hey, what can I say, I was young, inexperienced," Faith tried to defend her past actions.

"That certainly changed over the next five years, didn't it Faith?" Buffy innocently asked.  Faith blushed deepened to match Willow's hair color.

"Buffy, stop embarrassing Faith!" Willow demanded.  "Thanks Red," Faith replied gratefully.  Willow just smiled at her.

Xander decided that now was the time to step in and be the hero that he always could be, "Mr. Consolation Man."  He walked over to the other side of the island and faced his friends and Buffy's mom, and said, "Okay, I think we've gotten side-tracked here.  Buff, why is it that you called us over here in the first place?  New Big Bad on Patrol last night?  Giles find a new prophesy in his books?"

Buffy looked kind of sheepish as she frowned and looked around for an answer to Xander's question.  Finally, after receiving a reprimanding glare from Joyce, she turned back to Xander and simply said, "Well, I actually asked you all over to meet John.  But Will's tantrum kind of ruined that."  The redhead in question ducked her head in shame.

"Hey!" Buffy reached for her bestest friend since Faith.  "I do not blame you Willow, and I am not angry with you.  In fact I'm actually kinda proud.  It took Faith and me five whole minutes to drag you off of Ally in there.  If someone's to blame, it's Ally.  But everybody needs to stop worrying about that.  We may have a bigger problem heading our way."

"I knew it!" Xander suddenly exclaimed.  When everybody turned and gave him confusing or reprimanding looks, he nervously added, "That there was a new Big Bad.  Or a prophecy…  Or some kind of end of the world thingy…?"

After Xander had stopped speaking, all attention was returned to Buffy when she cleared her throat.  "Actually Xander, it's…more of an 'Immortal' thing than a 'Slayer' thing.  John gave me some information that is, to say the least, greatly disturbing." Buffy said.

She turned to Faith, and a look of embarrassment, or possible anxiety crossed the blonde's face as she asked, "Did I ever tell you about my stint with the CIA?"

Everyone in the room froze and just stared at the blonde.  After no less than two entire uncomfortable minutes of silence, Xander was the one to ask what was on all their minds, "Are you joking Buffy?"

The Eternal Slayer's grimace and slight crease in her forehead gave them all the answer they needed.  Joyce just rolled her eyes, having known that Buffy had been involved with the government in the late sixties/early seventies, but had always assumed the FBI or maybe even the NSA.  Faith just stared wide-eyed at her teacher of the past eighty plus years and was trying to see how long her breath could stop before it became noticeable.  Oz, amazingly enough was reacting much the way Faith was and only Willow and Buffy, one who was holding his hand, the other extremely observant, noticed the fine sheen of cold sweat on his skin.

Xander and Willow however were the ones to just about nearly explode, though for different reasons entirely.  "What do you mean you were in the CIA!!?" they both shouted in perfect unison.

Xander was the first to continue, "You were a spook?  Buffy I knew that there was a whole lot to you, and first I was more than happy just knowing the whole Slayer thing, then there was Angel, and then we find out you're Immortal and are over 3000 years old, nearly four thousand.  And Gabrielle, ancient demon hunter, heck even multi-millionaire, but that you were in the CIA!!  That's just asking too much on faith alone Buff."

And though Willow was a second late, her speech was intermingled with Xander's.  "Buffy I can't believe this!  And how is it that I don't know this from the whole memory transfer thing?  Why didn't I know you were with the government?  I mean, yeah its pretty cool that you were, cause that means that you can probably never get a parking ticket or whatever but telling us, ME, this now, it…this is just taking a lot on faith Buffy."

Buffy, Joyce, Faith, and even Oz just stared at the duo when they finished their unknown bi-play.  Finally, Buffy shook herself out of her funk and answered Xander and Willow's concerns, and hopefully all of the rest's as well.

"Okay, first of all, I was never a 'spook' as the term goes.  I was a field agent and a member of the Files Section, and before you ask it's basically what it sounds like, I was a secretary that filed and documented reports on various missions.  Thing is, when in a position like that, it takes a certain degree of trust, having near-unlimited access to all those classified documents, knowing almost as much as the Directors themselves, maybe even more about their Agency, it can be a liability for them, and an advantage for the right person.  Secondly, no, I don't get any kind of special treatment, and if I get a parking ticket then I actually have to pay nearly double whatever fine or more to make sure that my bosses don't find out about it.  And since I'm more or less "dead" to them then I really don't want them knowing about me, capice?"

Silent nods answered her question from all around the room.  "Anyway, my point is, John was kind of…my partner in the CIA.  We worked on a lot of cases together, but when I joined the Files Section, we lost a lot of contact with each other, but we still managed to get together every once in a while for a cup of coffee or something.  John, today, told me that one of the Intelligence programs I used to work on…has been cancelled."

The silence lasted for barely ten seconds before Xander asked, "What do you mean 'canceled'?"

Buffy rolled her eyes and gave him an exasperated look.  "What do you think it means Xander?  The project has been killed.  Permanently.  And I don't just mean that its funding was cut."

Several faces paled, and Xander nodded silently and muttered, "Oh."

"So what's that got to do with us B?" Faith asked.

Buffy frowned and looked at the ground for a moment.  She looked up and answered, "A lot actually.  But I'll tell you all when you're ready.  Or I guess…when I'm ready.  I've, uh, got to check in with Giles, make sure there's no prophecy or research to do."

Buffy quickly moved past them all before anybody could say another word and grabbed her jacket and was out the door.  "Two guesses as to where she's goin'," Faith quipped, giving a meaningful look at Willow.  Willow matched it and nodded herself.  "Angel's," they said together.

*                       *                       *

Buffy was walking along the street across from 'Restfield' cemetery in the daylight, giving the plot of land a whole new look from what she normally saw of it.  Buffy sighed as she stopped alongside a bench and sat down on it.

Despite all of the terrible things that Buffy had seen in the world over her long, long life, she never stopped appreciating true beauty when she could.  Sitting in the warm sun, looking at the bright green grass surrounding the marvelously crafted white and gray marble headstones, mausoleums, and grave markers, Buffy let her troubled spirit calm.  Her calm had barely started when her subconscious reminded her of what happened when the sun went down.  How this beautiful scenery became a hunting ground.

'53 years in a Shaolin Temple,' Buffy thought to herself, 'and all I get is mastery in Kung Fu, title and wisdom of a Shambalah Master, and a way to keep my cool after a rather intense battle.  Sometimes I envy those with lesser lives that can calm their souls with a single, simple meditation.  It took me ten years of constant self-discipline and even longer meditation to even find my inner calm.  Another twenty to learn how to call on it at will, and then I started learning the ways of the Shaolin.  Wasn't easy, that's for sure.  Women's movement hadn't even been conceived of, and certainly not in China.  I guess I really should be thanking Marlo and his demon monks.'

Buffy laughed as she recalled the memory of how she found herself on the doorstep of the Temple of Light, after more than two hundred years of constant demon hunting and nothing but fighting.

Northern Himalayan Mountains, Southern China:  159 A.D. 

The warrior that had once upon a time called herself "Gabrielle, the Battling Bard of Potadia" now known throughout the lands of Chin and Japa as Shukubuke, "The Blighted Warrior," strode steadily up the mountain.  Her face was set, a grim and hardened image of what it had once been before her teacher, her friend, her true love in a way, was killed to avenge the death of spirits that for as much as she cared, should have gone to hell.

Now, the golden haired warrior had exactly one purpose.  Killing demons.  For the past two hundred years, maybe longer, she had lost count, she had done nothing but scour the lands for evil to hunt and kill.  She had even taken the heads of a few unlucky Immortals that demanded to fight her.  A few were just innocent and thought themselves easily a match for a small girl such as herself, doing only what their teachers had taught them to do.  Many more of her Quickenings however were those of truly evil Immortals, one or two ones that she had hunted down herself.

The warrior once called Gabrielle let her mind drift back into her memories once again, letting her body and subconscious take care of all of her actions, a feat that her teacher had ingrained into her very early on.  The body and the uber-mind are capable of great things when one is not being drowned out by her conscious thoughts.  So Gabrielle learned to withdraw her consciousness and let her body handle the rest.

Her mind, once more separated from the body, quickly drew up her most recent, and her most hated memories.  Her final days with Xena.

Gabrielle didn't drown in her memories, like some older Immortals she had run across did.  Sometimes she wanted to, but it never seemed to happen.  Instead she just lived her memories over again, but again not to where she would get lost in them.  Even before making the pact with the Olympians, Gabrielle was old and had long memories, but she never forgot that she was in the present, and no matter how real her mind could make the memories, they were just that, memories.

So when Gabrielle felt her body stop, she wasted no time on wistful trips down memory lane.  Where she had been constant movement and motion mere moments before, Gabrielle could no longer be told from one rock from another, except that she wore clothing and carried weapons.  Kira-yuurei, the "Ghost Killer," an ancient katana empowered to release ghosts to the afterlife.  Particularly those of evil intent, sending them straight to hell.  Aphrodite's gauntlets, a little something that Gabrielle's dear friend, the Goddess of Love, had ordered her husband to make for Gabrielle, to increase and maximize Gabrielle's already formidable Slayer powers, specifically her speed, agility, and ofcourse, strength.  And ofcourse, the Chakram.  Xena's signature weapon.  Which Gabrielle inherited when the ghost of her beloved friend told her to keep it and use it as it was meant to be used.

Gabrielle hears a few pebbles fall and unconsciously draws the deadly circle-blade weapon.  Her senses are at their peak, drawing upon every lesson she's ever learned in a single instant.  She knows the enemy is there before even they know they are.

Gabrielle jumps straight up some twenty feet and at the halfway point up, she throws, with deadly accuracy, the chakram at a rock where a menacing red-robed figure appears seconds before the flying blade strikes it dead, ricocheting off the corpse onto a nearby rock then to another rock, and then strikes dead three more of the red-robed ninjas, or whatever they were, before sailing up the twenty feet where Gabrielle catches it and draws Kira-yuurei.

Gabrielle lands in the exact spot she left but seconds ago in a crouch, her two blades ready for the combat that is approaching.  She doesn't have to wait long as no less than sixty of the red robes appear out of the rocks themselves and all are aiming to kill her.

'Demon monks,' she realizes as she breaks the chakram in half and pockets one half and uses the other as a cutting blade to her demon-killing katana.  She wastes no more time than that to race forward and meet the monks halfway, taking the heads of two with her first stroke and gutting a third with her half-chakram.

Shortly into the battle, Gabrielle begins to lose herself.  She feels none of the hits the demon monks might have actually landed on her, not that there would be permanent damage, and lets her body go entirely on automatic, her conscious and subconscious merely fueling the power and skills she's using to destroy all 60 of the demon monks.

When there are but a few left, only twelve, Gabrielle snaps out of her trance when she realizes that they are trying to run away.  Angered more by their cowardice than their attack, Gabrielle activates her gauntlets and with a few mighty leaps, she catches up to the running red-robes.  She runs after them at a very impressive pace, catching the last and slowest and barely pausing in decapitating him and opening his torso for all his guts to spill out at a run.

She runs up a large bolder as though it were wooden stairs and leaps some fifty feet straight out across a canyon, which the demons were using a rope bridge to cross.  She waits patiently as the last ten of them cross and then cut the bridge, hoping that it would ensure her inability to follow.  Gabrielle smiled as they still ran up the side of the mountain until they reached a fog bank.

Fortunate for Gabrielle, the path they chose forced them to go single file.  She was able to easily take out all but the last three monks without any sound alerting the ones before them.  When they reached the top of the trail, Gabrielle had tired of her stealth game and made herself known.

*(Translated from ancient Chinese) "Hello there!" Gabrielle called out from a bolder some thirty feet from the demon monks.  They instantly tensed and started looking for their brethren and were extremely shocked when they couldn't find any of them.

"If you're looking for your friends, I killed them all," Gabrielle told them.  She could tell, even though their faces were cowled, they were sneering at her.

"I'm going to kill you as well," she explained, standing straight.  "But first I want information.  Who is your demon lord, where is he, and what are his plans?"

The monks remained silent.  Gabrielle rolled her eyes and sighed.  "Fine.  Have it your way."  And with that, she leaped fifty feet into the air and landed directly in the midst of them, taking down one on her down-stroke landing.

She stood to face the two remaining demon monks and repeated her questions.  Still they refused to even speak, just glaring hatefully at her.  She repeated her questions a third time, and before they would have a chance to answer, she gutted and damn near eviscerated the closest demon before finally just cutting its head off.  The last, seeing this, suddenly shown the fear the Gabrielle liked to see in the demons' eyes.  When she saw that fear, she knew that they now understood what their victims felt and truly knew mortal fear.  She enjoyed showing demons that.

Yet still, the demon did not answer.  Finally, Gabrielle just decided to use her Slayer's gift and try and pry the information from its mind.  Even though Gabrielle had had her Slayer powers for nearly 300 years now, she did not have the experience, nor practice to fully understand her psychic abilities.  But she knew enough to use it at all.

Now she understood why the demon wasn't speaking.  All of them had cut their throats and tongues out, making sure that they couldn't speak.  But the demon's mind was so frazzled with terror that Gabrielle could get no more than the demon lord's name, Marlo.  Deciding to take a brief amount of pity on the demon, she beheaded it with a single stroke that it probably never even saw coming.

The demon monk's lifeless body slumped to the ground with a silent thud, leaving Gabrielle once more with only the winds and the rocks as companions.  Only complete silence was worse, she scowled to herself.  She deactivated her gauntlets and moved off from the site where the demons were slain, planning on working off some of her residual energy by hunting tonight's meal.

Seeing no game for at least three miles in all directions, Gabrielle realized that she might have to head back down the mountain to get anything to eat.  She decided to rough it, because she knew with little doubt that Marlo was in this area.  That's why the demon monks had been heading in this direction.  And she wasn't going to let a little thing like dying of hunger stop her from killing another demon.

Sighing in frustration and annoyance, Gabrielle headed back towards the fog bank, planning on working off her frustration by whittling out a few new bone daggers.  Demon bones were always better to use than human ones, more resilient to heat.

She got the shock of her life up till then however when she came to the spot where she had killed the last of the demon monks.  They were gone.  Well, that wasn't too surprising since most demons either evaporated or disappeared after you killed them anyway, some just took longer.  What was shocking was that where the demons had stood at the edge of the fog, now the fog had lifted and Gabrielle could see massive carved stone stairs, leading up to a temple that really was at the top of the mountain.  She didn't recognize the temple, but she didn't need a sign to tell her that that was where Marlo was.

She quickly set off up the stone staircase, taking them three at a time.  Despite her rapid pace though, it still took Gabrielle the better part of an hour to reach the temple's outer gates.  When she reached them, she stopped.  She felt a slight cramping sensation in her gut, and that usually meant…

Gabrielle jumped back a second before the giant stone club slammed down where she had been standing.  She looked up and actually raised an eyebrow and grinned at seeing a twelve-foot stone giant standing before her.  Stone giants weren't like the ones back west.  These had gray, stone-colored skin, which was actually just as hard, and were taller and far stronger than all of the giants back in Greece.  Gabrielle casually noticed that he had another forty some odd demon monks behind him among the rocks.

"Who are you stranger?" the stone giant asked in his larger voice.

Gabrielle shrugged.  "I have no name.  But you can call me death unless you explain why to tried to strike me with your club." She answered matter-of-factly.

The giant growled and swung his club at her once again.  She had time to raise her eyebrow again, wondering at all giant's stupidity, before leaping up and landing on the club as it passed under her.

Gabrielle had little choice but to hold on for dear life as the giant continuously tried to swing her off his weapon like she might try to swat a fly off of her sword.  Speaking of which…

Gabrielle drew a second sword in addition to her katana and just before the giant was about to overhand slam his club onto the ground in hopes of shaking her off, Gabrielle jumped off the club and onto the back of the giant's neck.  She quickly sliced a bloodless cut in the giant's back with her second sword, and then replaced with the katana to keep it from healing and to help her keep a hand hold as she drew back the second sword and with one gauntlet empowered stroke, severed the giant's head from its body.

She jumped down and ran from the body before it could fall and crush her, no matter which way it would fall and turned to the demon monks while muttering, "They never learn."

The demon monks, still staring in awe at the defeat of the deadliest creature they could have allied themselves with in less time than it took a stone to fall from a hand to the floor the feet were standing on, were torn between running for their unholy lives…or trying to get revenge for their fallen comrades and ally, the Stone Giant.

Gabrielle made the decision for them.  She began to take them apart, almost literally in a few cases, like a madwoman.  The forty demon monks put up a good enough fight to actually make Gabrielle tired after she had killed the last of them.  But she chalked it up to taking out over a hundred demon monks and a stone giant in less than an hour with no food inbetween.

After Gabrielle was sure there were no more threats, she walked up to the Temple's gates and read the writing over the top.  "Huh, Temple of Light," she read aloud.  She shrugged and opened the gates, which were surprisingly unlocked, and stepped inside only to find more steps that led up to the Temple's inner gates, or the front door.  "Well, I guess I can at least spend the night here and get some more supplies before moving on.  Not to mention, if I come across Marlo here, better sooner than later."

Gabrielle took the stairs at a more moderate pace than she had outside, not believing any threat to be close enough to be counted as immediate and took about the same amount of time that it took her to scale the stairs outside, even though these inner stairs were far fewer.

When she got to the door, she was mildly surprised, to say she wasn't expecting it but that's all, to see the doors opening of their own accord at her approach.  Pausing, Gabrielle waited to make sure that there was no trap or monster or troops on the other side waiting to spring out.  Satisfied when the door opened enough to confirm that there was no trap or troops, Gabrielle stepped forward, entering the Temple of Light.

Sunnydale, California:  1998 A.D.

Buffy was drawn out of her subconscious memories by a loud honking directly in front of her.  Surprised, Buffy looked up and saw a bus sitting idle in front of her with the door open.  The driver was looking at her expectantly.

Buffy blushed as she figured out what he was waiting for.  "Sorry, I was just resting my feet.  Sorry!" she called out when he closed the doors in annoyance.

Shrugging sheepishly, Buffy sighed and noticed that it was still another few hours till sundown and she still needed to talk with Giles about her patrol that evening.  She stood up and figured her path for getting to Giles' and started walking, going back into her memories.

Temple of Light, Himalayan Mountains:  159 A.D.

Gabrielle stepped forward, entering the Temple of Light.  It was rather unimpressive, when compared to other temples she had been in over her life, Aphrodite's and Ares' coming to mind.

Simple tiled floors, a brownish/orange earthen color supported on both sides by large identically colored columns and a very high ceiling with slits along the walls to provide light and ventilation.  She quickly walked down the length of the temple to the main alter at the end of the "hall", her hand on the hilt of her sword in case she needed to draw it, in the instance of an ambush.

Gabrielle stopped her progression when she reached the end of the hall.  She turned in a short circle, looking at everything and listening to everything.  Suddenly, the temple doors closed.  Not violently, but closed faster than Gabrielle could have run through them, even if she had.  Instead she just froze and watched the doors shut, listening for movement.  Listening to the movement.

A second later, Gabrielle's blade was drawn and at the throat of a young bald man in an orange robe with several strings of beads around his neck.  "Who are you?" she snapped out in the last local language she'd heard.  Mongolian maybe?  She'd lost track.

Despite his obvious peril, the young man, maybe thirty years old, was extremely calm and merely folded his hands and stared at the girl, but did not answer.

Squinting her eyes in anger, Gabrielle snapped out in Chinese, "Answer me!"  And as luck would have it at that very moment, Gabrielle felt a tingling start at the top of her spine and then travel up her neck and explode energy inside her brain.  'Oh great.  Not now!' she thought.

"He cannot," a heavily accented voice spoke behind her.  Squinting at the man before her, Gabrielle slowly lowered her sword and turned around, keeping the blade at the ready.  Standing at the end of a balcony at the top of a set of stairs was a man that looked as old as he probably was.  He too was bald, his eyes were small and squinted, and he wore the same outfit as the young man did, except that his beads were bigger.

"He has taken a vow of silence," the old man/Immortal continued.  "Who are you and how did you come to be here?" he asked.

"My name is of no consequence," Gabrielle snapped harshly.  "I am a demon hunter, wielder of Kira-yuurei, and student of Xena: the Warrior Princess.  I'm looking for one that calls himself "Marlo".  I wish to kill him."

"What has he done?" the old man asked.

Gabrielle squinted her eyes again in distrust.  She took out one of the throwing stars she had taken from the last Immortal that had challenged her.  She slipping it between her fingers and then jerked her arm out and the star flew and imbedded itself in the wood before another bald man in an orange robe.  He simply stopped but gave no other reaction.  Gabrielle had to respect that kind of bravery.

"You have good reflexes," the old man commented.

"Where is Marlo?" Gabrielle asked harshly.

Slowly the old man descended the stairs and made his way towards the blonde.  When he was inside seven paces, Gabrielle raised her blade in his direction.  He stopped.

"I do not know the man you are looking for, but is your vengeance so great that you must find him at the cost of innocents?" the old man asked, the same way she would have a few centuries ago.

Gabrielle rolled her eyes and snorted.  "I'm not after vengeance.  He's a demon lord.  I ran into his demon monks at the base of this mountain and killed them.  And if you must know, the demon monks had sacrificed everyone in a village before moving up the mountain.  Everyone.  Now, Immortal, where is Marlo?"

"You carry a great anger," the old man/Immortal observed.  "But you are blinding yourself.  Even if you have not one objective, vengeance still drives your soul.  Why must you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders?  Why must you be the one to kill this demon lord?"

Gabrielle kept her sword poised and answered him, "Who else would do it?  You?  You don't even believe that the creature I'm after even is a demon, so how would you handle it?  If I lay down and rest, even for a day, more innocent people will die because I didn't stop the ones that killed them.  So, for this century, its demons.  The next, I don't know, I may go back to warlords and evil gods.  Or maybe I'll finally try and bring down Rome.  You know what?  I really don't care what I end up doing, just as long as the rest of the world wakes up in the morning, that's fine by me.  Now, save your "Holier than thou" crap for someone that actually deserves it.  How old are you anyway?"

The old man suddenly got a twinkle in his eye that made him seem years younger.  "Some call me…Ancient," he answered cryptically.  "My name is Lo Si, and I am the proprietor here.  This is the Temple of Light, and no evil may enter the gates that surround it.  You will not need that," he said, finally giving notice to the katana in her hand.

Gabrielle's mouth twitched back in a possible sneer and she tensed her muscles.  "Then explain the hundred demon monks outside along with the stone giant?" she sneered.

Lo Si frowned a little but remained where he was.  "The stone giant could enter the Temple gates and then "invite" the demon monks inside.  But you say that you killed all the demons.  Then how could one called Marlo enter?"

"Demon Lords are different from their lessees.  It requires more than just holy protection magic to keep them out.  Particularly if they can tempt one of your own on the outside and take over his body.  And I would have known if I'd killed a Demon lord out there.  Like I said, they're different from the rest.  I've already killed two, and witnessed the death of a third.  And until I've got proof that you aren't going to try and kill me and take my head, I'm not lowering my sword.  Now how old are you again?"

"This is holy ground," Lo Si pointed out.

Gabrielle blinked.  Once.  Twice.  Then she lowered her katana and relaxed a great deal.  "Whoops.  My bad." She muttered as she sheathed all of her weapons.

"It is understandable.  I take it then that the Immortals of the world have not yet…quieted down?" Lo Si asked.

Gabrielle shook her head regretfully.  "No.  They all still play that infernal 'Game.'  Gods, what a name for a slaughter that'll more than likely last thousands of years.  I apologize for my rudeness Lo Si."  Gabrielle then clapped her fists together and bowed low before the venerable Immortal.

"You are Samurai?" Lo Si observed.  Gabrielle nodded.

"I know the ways of Bushido, but I only count myself a Samurai in the sword and honor.  I hold to no master but my own." She explained with a bit of a bite.

Lo Si nodded sagely.  "A Ronin then.  You are welcome here 'Tenjikurounin'.  This is a Shaolin temple, and we do not turn away those that need our help.  Even if it may turn out, that we may need your help."

"You haven't told me how old you are," Gabrielle observed.  Lo Si nodded.

"How old are you?" he asked.

Gabrielle looked up at the sky and bit her lower lip.  After several minutes thinking, she answered, "I am over a thousand years old.  I hope you aren't expecting an exact number because I've been wandering for too long to keep track that well.  But at my last count…" Gabrielle began mumbling mostly to herself so Lo Si couldn't understand whatever she was saying until, "Yeah, I'm about 1,200 years old, give or take a century."

Lo Si's eyes went rather wide.  "Then you have the advantage on me in being Ancient.  I am only, at my best, five hundred and fifty years old.  I have lived in this monastery for most of my mortal life, only wandering out for herbs or because we are needed in the villages below.  It is also why I "died" at such an old age.  I am sorry that you were not as lucky."

Gabrielle shrugged as she noticed that the two Immortals were now alone in the temple proper.  "Don't worry about it," she assured him.  "Look why don't—"

She never finished her sentence as at that moment, a terrified scream broke out throughout the entire temple.  Gabrielle no longer let things like fear and worry bother her, she just reacted.  Grabbing her katana and drawing it, she jumped up and leaped onto the nearest pillar and bounced off like her chakram down the passage that sounded like where the screams were coming from.

Lo Si watched her go for a moment before following at his fastest pace.

A few minutes of desperate searching later, Gabrielle came to where the screams had originated from, and where they had stopped but moments before.  All she found was the stains of blood and guts on the floor and walls.  She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, converting her grief into anger to use against the demon that had done this travesty.  Not even pausing, Gabrielle snarled and dashed out of the room, using the sudden cramping feeling in her gut as a homing device.

Barely an hour after the attack, Gabrielle found her target.  It was actually stalking its next victim, another of the Shaolin priests, a young boy that had whites where his eyes should be.  Gabrielle didn't wait for the beast to attack, she leaped up from her hiding place and struck it in its hiding place.  The beast let out a horrible screech, startling the child, who then raced out of the room they were in.

Cursing at the loss of its meal, the demon lord, which looked like a canine's bones made five times as larger, then squished and wrapped in the flesh of a fresh, red, cow's bladder with red bats wings out of its back and a mouth bigger than a Titan's butt, no doubt full of yellowed teeth, turned to Gabrielle who looked just as intimidating as the monster did.

"Who the hell do you think you are, attacking me like that?" the Demon lord asked.

"Are you Marlo?" Gabrielle answered.

"And what if I am?" it asked back.

Gabrielle just shrugged.  "No reason.  Just making sure that I only have one of you to kill."

The demon laughed at the response and answered back, "I am the demon you seek child, but be warned, I am over three hundred years old, and more powerful than you can imagine.  I am the Demon Lord Marlo, ruler of the 8th circle of the Pit!  And what are you and you're little pig sticker going to do about it?"

Gabrielle raised an eyebrow, something she did when considering how truly stupid the creature she was dealing with at the moment truly was.  "Funny.  I was just discussing my age with Lo Si some minutes ago.  I'm over a thousand years old demon, and I only hunted you to stop you.  And my little pig sticker?  Its name is Kira-yuurei."  And with that said, and the Demon Lord's eyes going wide in shock, Gabrielle attacked and cut the Demon Lord's arm off.

It screeched and jumped back, using its wings to further the distance between itself and the Eternal Slayer.  "You…you, you are the Blighted One!" the demon screeched, holding its wound as it flew there in the room.  "You are the Chosen One of the Olympians, the Golden Fire of the planes, the Eternal Slayer!!"

"Yes, yes, yes, and yes.  Now save us all some trouble here and come down so I can kill you already." Gabrielle quipped.  The beast just snarled in reply.

"Then perhaps I can be of some help," an accented voice was heard.  Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, Lo Si drops onto the back of the demon's neck, quickly forcing it to the ground, growling in its rage.

Yet before Gabrielle could do anything, Lo Si began to fight the demon, moving with the grace of a swan on water past the demon lord's clumsy attempts at attacks.  The blonde Ronin stood there for several moments, amazed at the style of fighting the Immortal Shaolin was using.  Finally, the beast had had enough and decided to use its superior size and strength to its advantage by pile driving the Immortal.  It seemed to backfire though when Lo Si stepped casually out of the way and threw the demon past him, straight at Gabrielle.

She was ready, fortunately, and as the demon came flying towards her, she flashed out with her sword and cut the demon's head off with a single stroke, followed by a lightning stab in its heart.  Unfortunately, Gabrielle was unprepared for when the Demon Lord actually fell dead right on top of her, and to add to her luck, it took another five minutes for the demon to decompose completely.

Lo Si helped her out from under the demon's corpse though and, slightly out of breath, Gabrielle collapsed before the Shaolin priest.  "You gotta teach me how to do that!" she told him between raving breaths.

"I can teach you a great deal many things," Lo Si said in reply, "And I imagine the same can be said for you.  You are welcome to stay here…Slayer."

Gabrielle grinned at the old faced Immortal and nodded her head, taking his hand to stand her up.

Giles' Apartment Sunnydale, California:  1998 A.D.

Buffy snapped out of her memories once more when she realized that she was at her destination, Giles' apartment.  She looked down at her condition to make sure that she hadn't been in a car wreck in her hypnotic walk over here.

She noticed the time was just a few minutes after she left the bench by the cemetery and quickly walked up to Giles door and rung the doorbell.  She wrung it again after a silence of thirty or more seconds.  She was about to ring it a third time when the door suddenly opened, and there was Giles looking like he'd just woken up.  Even though it was only 4:30 in the afternoon.

"Buffy?  What are you doing here at the ungodly hour of…" Giles paused as he looked at his watch, and then Buffy got to watch her Watcher as he realized that it was mid to late afternoon.  "Um, well that is…uhm…what can I do for you Buffy?" he finished pleasantly, trying to save as much face as possible.

Buffy just shrugged and entered Giles' apartment and recognized the status of hastily put away research materials, most left out or half covered, and Giles pulling his version of an all-nighter, which usually consisted of two days without any sleep.  "Been busy Giles?" Buffy asked casually.

"Um, as a matter of fact yes.  I've, uh, been going through my books, the uh the…" Giles stuttered.

"The Watcher's Diaries?" Buffy supplied helpfully.

"Um, yes!  The diaries…" Giles trailed off as he walked into his kitchen, presumably to make some tea.

"Giles, is everything all right?" Buffy asked, concerned.

Giles jumped at the sound of her voice and shaking turned around to face her, and if she didn't know any better, she'd say that he had a look of guilt or shame on his face.  Finally, Buffy understood, without reading his mind.

"It's the Cruciamentum isn't it?" she asked softly.

Giles reaction was the same as though she'd just said she wanted to rape him and have his lovechild.  Pure shock intermingled with absolute fear.  "How-how did you know…about that?" he stuttered.

Buffy shrugged and walked calmly, if not somewhat somberly into the Watcher's living room.  "When are they coming?" she asked stoically.

"Answer my question Buffy, how do you know about the Cruciamentum?" Giles asked testily as he stalked up behind her.

She turned around rapidly and stared the physically older man down like he was a two year old.  "How long?" she hissed at him.  Giles unconsciously gulped and took a step back from the Slayer.  An Immortal Slayer Giles found he had to remind himself.  He ducked his head and whispered, "Four days," and then turned back to the kitchen to finish his tea.

Buffy sighed and followed him.  "I know about the Cruciamentum because I've lived through it Giles," she answered his question.  "I know that you've no doubt been looking through all the Watcher's Diaries, looking for all references to Slayers that match mine or Faith's description?"

Giles returned holding one of his fine china teacups in his had.  He took a long swig before finally answering her back.  "I actually only found one reference that matched Faith.  A girl born in Boston, her name was never recorded because her Watcher was killed in active duty that actually died in her Cruciamentum.  Her description and feats perfectly describe Faith."

"As for you, Buffy, I have so far found no less than 49 references that match your description and, how shall I say…prowess in handling your opponents." Giles continued before the Gold Slayer could say anything.  "In fact, I imagine that if I were to look for all of the greatest Slayers in all of history, I would find you at the source of them, wouldn't I?"

Buffy shrugged, but stayed where she was with her arms crossed.  "I've worked under a Watcher…oh I don't know…maybe 79 times, maybe only 78, not including you of course.  Did you know that the Watcher's Council wasn't actually founded until the late 1600's?  It's true.  Before that, Slayers just did what they did best and were meant to do.  Fight and kill demons.  I managed to find several and train them the way that Xena trained the first true Slayer, helped them, and sometimes even learned a thing or two from them.  Back then, before the Watcher's Council, a Slayer's life expectancy was about five to ten years after she gets Chosen.  Now…its lucky if they make it past six months without dying once.  And Giles that was when general life expectancy of the population of the entire human race was less than 35.  Now, your life expectancy is planned into the early hundreds, late eighties on an average.  If I have to take their damn test to make sure that they don't look for other girls to kill…  Giles, just give me the shot and let's be done with it."

"Buffy, I can't…" Giles started to say.

Buffy glared at the middle-aged man.  She stared steadily at him for some time before finally saying, "Just give me the damn shot."

Giles ducked his head and removed his glasses.  He grabbed the bridge of his nose and squeezed, easing the pressure on his sinuses some.  Finally, he simply sighed and replaced his spectacles and then walked up the stairs to his bedroom to get the package he had received in the mail three days ago, along with their instructions of how to use the drug.

He walked slowly back down the stairs, hoping to give Buffy ample amount of time to change her mind and leave.  She just stood there, in his living room, waiting for him.  He stood before her and held the syringe and bottled drug before her.

"Buffy…are-are you sure about this?" he asked with hesitation, and a heavy guilt on his heart.  "I never would have…  They said that they would give you the injections themselves…and I couldn't let them…"

"It is all right Giles," Buffy put her hand on his arm, comforting him with her presence.  "I told you, I've been through this before.  The drug is designed to be temporary.  And along with my Immortal physiology, all traces of it will be gone the day after the test.  Though I should probably admit, sometimes I take this drug myself to maintain a discretion of secrecy.  You understand?"

Giles nodded, somberly, but he did understand.  Just before he could fill the syringe however, Buffy's hand on his arm tightened somewhat, stilling him.  Giles looked up and unconsciously gulped at Buffy's hard stare.

"And one last thing," Buffy said, "if you ever, ever, even think about putting Faith through this…I will kill you, and all of the Council members, do you still understand me Giles?"

Giles nodded tightly, a glint of determination in his eyes.  "If it weren't for you telling me to do this now Buffy, I think that I would either have let the Council kill me…or killed them myself if they had tried to force you into the Cruciamentum."

Buffy smiled warmly at the man that she could not deny she loved like a father.  "I'm glad to see that some of Ripper is still in there.  And don't worry about me Giles.  No one, not even the Gods, can force me to do anything that I do not wish to do already.  Besides, it'll be fun."

Laughing at the concept of Buffy, as a completely normal girl, facing off against a deliberately captured and turned powerful vampire and calling it "fun" well it was just plain funny.  He filled the syringe of the weakening drug and then set the bottle aside.  He turned towards Buffy and was about to ask, when he saw that she had already rolled up her sleeve to present her arm for the injection.  With no more argument, Giles quickly found a vein, popped it, and then injected the drug swiftly, and completely.  He then quickly put all of the equipment away and tried to look useful by shuffling or organizing the papers on his desk.

Grimacing, Buffy rubbed her arm where the needle had punctured and stood up.  "Well, I'm sure you'll understand if I ask Faith and the others to patrol tonight.  I think I'll spend some time with Angel.  What day do they arrive, and have they told you where they intend to 'host' this little powwow?"

Giles shook his head.  "The letter of instructions that came with the, the, the drug said that they would be arriving seven days after its arrival, and that the Cruciamentum would take place precisely on…on, on your birthday."

Buffy sighed.  "And I was hoping to actually get to eat my cake this year," she muttered as she left Giles' apartment.  She quickly stepped back inside though, less than a second after the door had closed and asked, "You wanna come over for dinner tonight?  Joy already invited some other friends, and I don't see why you shouldn't join us Giles, I mean, after all you are like family, and there is no way that I'm going to let this whole no sleeping, no eating, nothing but researching-ness go on for any longer.  Show up at 7 prompt, and…try not to wear tweed.  Please."

That said, Buffy closed the door and headed back for her home on Revello Drive, intent on sharing her new situation with the other Slayerettes.  Luck would have it though, that at that moment her brain suddenly tingles with the faint energy of another Immortal.  She tries to lock it down, but she can get no more than the direction he or she was in.

Buffy sighed, something she seemed to be doing a lot of today, as she considered her options.  Run from the Immortal and run into him or her later in the week, and maybe have Faith, Joy, or even Cordelia encounter them first and run the risk of something bad happening to one of them while she is currently not at her peak.  OR, head towards the Immortal, stay hidden and out of their range, and hope that it is either John or Joy or some other Immortal that she knows is in town or is at the very least peaceful.

Her face set, Buffy makes up her mind.  She's never been a coward, and never when she actively held the advantage, running only when she knew she had a strong chance of losing or getting one of her friends hurt or killed.  At the moment, neither was the case.  Buffy started homing in on the other Immortal.