The Creators

Disclaimers: The characters herein are copyrighted to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, The Sci-Fi channel and other people that can order my death with a phone call…what I'm trying to say is, please don't. I'm just gonna borrow 'em, use 'em for a bit, and put 'em right back…I promise.

Pairing: W/T, B/Sh (Friendship), others as the mood strikes…or not.

Setting: Set After S7 Buffy and During S1 SG: Atlantis. Give me some playing room on the timeframe. Buffy is about to graduate with a PhD and not even Willow could pull that one off in only 4 years…so SG Atlantis is gonna start a little later than scheduled ;-) And since Buffy left in S3, Tara didn't die, because it wasn't Buffy that faced *him*. It was Faith, and she put up with *him* for about two seconds before bitch-slapping his worthless ass into a jail cell. And the First was never awakened, cause Buffy didn't die in S5, so Willow didn't disrupt the line by bringing her back in S6. Dawn went right to Buffy, in Chicago, and Glory never found her in time.

Spoilers: By this time…I hope not. Maybe some Atlantis stuff..


Buffy Summers sat in the cool breeze under the tall trees lining her apartment complex, scanning the book in her lap and chewing on her pencil. It was almost dark out and she had to hurry with the passage before her ride showed up. Looking down at the notes she had scribbled on the pad, she grinned. Quickly turning back to the book, she scanned the page until she found what she was searching for. Scribbling furiously in her notebook, she bit her bottom lip and scowled. "Well this doesn't make any sense…" she muttered, closing the book and turning back to the generous stack she had before her. Picking out another, she flipped through the pages and came to a stop, reading the passage she had marked ahead of time.

"Ok. I understand that." She muttered, looking back at the newest book in her collection, the one she was trying to make sense out of. "But that, doesn't go with that." She said, holding both books up and frowning. "So one of them is wrong."

"Buffy!" a voice split the night air and Buffy immediately jumped up, reaching for her stake. It had been eight years since she left the Hellmouth to the new slayer, Faith, but old habits died hard. Realizing she wasn't in any danger, she grinned at the redhead that ran up to her, almost tackling her in a hug. "Buffy! I can't believe it! You graduate tomorrow!" the redhead squeezed her best friend and danced happily.

Buffy smiled warmly and made a small wave to the blonde trailing behind Willow. "Hey Tara. I'd hug you to, but I may need an oxygen tank after Will's here squeezes the life outta me." Buffy grinned.

Tara smiled and nodded. "I'd say she misses you." The blonde Wicca said.

Willow let Buffy go and stepped back. "Hey. Sorry, I'm just so happy and excited for you! You have worked so hard for eight years…I mean, you're gonna be Dr. Elizabeth Anne Summers." She said.

Buffy smiled. "That's Dr. Buffy to you, Wills." She said, grinning. "Or should I say Dr. Rosenberg. You graduate tomorrow to you know." She smiled.

Willow shrugged. "Yeah, but I only have one doctorate, you have history and cultural anthropology!"

Buffy shrugged. "Basically the same thing. One is what happened, the other is why." She smiled.

Willow rolled her eyes. "A little more complicated than that, don't ya think?" she asked.

Buffy shrugged. "Technically, yes. But Dr. Henson said that was the most succinctly put comparison he had heard in a long time. So I'm sticking with it." She said. "Funny. When I left Sunnydale it was to find out more about the Slayer, about what I am. Of course everything they had on the subject was in either a two thousand year old dead language or carved on a cave wall…" she shrugged.

Willow grinned. "And so getting an education was the way to go, huh?" she smiled.

Buffy nodded. "Yep. And to think that I found all this stuff so boring in high school." She sighed.

"You were kinda fighting to save the world…over and over. But now, well I think we need to have a party. A 'Goodbye-school-we're-finally-graduating' party." Willow said.

Buffy looked at her books and frowned. "I really should finish this." She said at first, and then smiled. "But I guess I do need to chaperone you two." She said.

Willow and Tara exchanged looks. "Uh-huh. I don't recall Tara or I dancing topless at a frat party our freshman year." Willow grinned.

Buffy covered her face. "Beer is bad. Remember that lesson, girls. Beer Bad." She moaned as Willow and Tara laughed. The trio moved off to her apartment to stash her books and then headed out to waste the night away. None of them noticed the janitor sweeping the same spot for almost twenty minutes, or the garbage collector emptying an already empty can.


The shrill alarm clock chirped incessantly in her ear as Buffy slowly opened her eyes. She wanted to stake the clock, but couldn't bring herself to lift her arm. So instead she just stared at the red digits and groaned. She was therefore very surprised to see a slender arm reach over her head and shut the alarm off.

"Time to wake up." She heard a very familiar voice whisper in her ear.

Buffy slowly sat up and turned to see Willow smiling at her. She also noticed Tara snuggled contentedly behind the redhead. Buffy made her best fish-out-of-water face, her moth opening and closing as she tried to form words, but she couldn't put anything together so she settled for scrambling back and falling out of bed, landing on the floor with a dull thud.

Willow raised an eyebrow and grinned. "You ok?" she asked.

Buffy noticed for the first time that she was wearing an old Sunnydale High t-shirt and panties. She also noticed Willow wearing even less. Willow wasn't wearing a shirt.

"W-Willow…what happened last night?" Buffy stammered.

Willow grinned and stretched out, a sound almost like a purr escaping her throat. "You don't remember?" she asked. "Buffy I'm hurt. If I wasn't your best friend, I'd actually be really mad." She said, her eyes twinkling. "We all came back here after consuming a vast quantity of alcohol…your idea, by the way…and you proceeded to show both me and Tara what being a slayer meant in terms of stamina." She said as Buffy's mouth fell further open.

"I…we…me a-and you…and Tara?" Buffy gasped.

Willow turned to look at the blonde wicca behind her and sighed. "You tuckered her out, poor thing." She sighed.

Buffy failed to notice Tara shaking as she tried hiding her laughter.

"B-but…I, I mean not that it's bad, but I'm not…I don't think I…cause Angel…and Mark…Ryan…" Buffy sputtered.

Willow couldn't hold it in any longer. She burst out laughing and that set Tara off. "Oh…goddess Buffy…the look on your face…" she laughed, pulling the sheets up over her head as Tara laughed so hard she fell out of bed.

Buffy, clearly still confused but starting to put things together, stood up. "So we didn't…" she pointed between Tara, Willow and herself.

Willow shook her head. "No Buffy. We all came home last night after consuming a vast quantity of alcohol, that part was true. But you said we should all just stay here and go to commencement from here since Tara and I live over ten miles away. We were gonna sleep in the living room, but you said the California King was big enough, so we slept here." She said, wiping her eyes.

Buffy rubbed her face and growled. "Ohhh….I'm gonna kill ya Rosenberg." She said, chuckling between her fingers.

Willow stuck out her tongue. "That's Dr. Rosenberg to you, Dr. Buffy." She said.

Buffy jumped at Willow, tickling the redhead mercilessly as Tara wisely watched from the doorway.

Shaking her head, Tara grabbed the overnight bag she and Willow had packed and headed for the shower. Entering the bathroom, she started the water and took out her favorite soap and shampoo. She didn't use them very often because they were very expensive to make, but she figured today was special. She had just wet her hair when she felt another presence in the bathroom. The curtain opened behind her and the lithe figure of her lover slipped into the shower behind her.

"Hey baby. I missed you." Willow said softly, her arms snaking around Tara's waist as she laid her chin on Tara shoulder.

"I've only been in here for a few minutes." Tara said, leaning back into Willows arms.

"Yeah. Two whole minutes without Tara snuggles." Willow said, caressing the nape of Tara's neck with feather light kisses. "It was like torture." She whispered huskily, letting her hands slowly roam over Tara's wet body.

Tara gasped as Willows hands found all of her most sensitive areas. "T-torture?" she gasped. "How can I make that up to you?" she asked, a whimper escaping her lips as Willow teased her.

"I'm sure I can think of something." Willow whispered.

Tara grinned as she turned in Willow's embrace. "I just bet you can." She said, leaning forward to capture Willows lips. "Vixen."

Willow moaned into the kiss, her body reacting to Tara's touch. She hoped Buffy wasn't in a hurry.


"Dr. Elizabeth Anne Summers." Buffy walked across the stage as her name was read. "Double Doctorate in both History and Cultural Anthropology." The Dean said, shaking her hand as she paused in front of him and then made her way across stage, shaking the hands of the Board of Governors, the various Administrators and finally, the Governor herself.

Buffy looked out into the crowd and spotted her friends immediately. They were the ones with the banner that read "We Love You Buffy!" in foot high red letters. Giles, Faith, Xander, Anya, and Dawn were all there, cheering for her.

Buffy got off of stage and went to stand at her seat until the other graduates finished their processional. She tried to be patient, but her shaking was so bad now that it threatened to topple her, she was so excited.

The Dean finally announced the last name and looked out at the students. "It has been an honor, and a privilege, to know each and every one of you. I know I speak on behalf of the Administration, the faculty and Board when I say congratulations Northwestern class of 2007." He said as the class erupted with cheers, hat throwing and congratulatory commotion.

Buffy made a beeline for Willow and Tara who were themselves besieged by their friends from Wicca group. Buffy had to squeeze in and was immediately rewarded with a bone crushing hug from a teary eyed Willow. "We did it Buffy, we really did it!" she cried, holding Buffy close.

Buffy felt herself tearing up and decided to just go with it. "We sure did Will's. I love you so much." She said, hugging Willow, and snaking her arm out to Tara, who was smiling at the duo. "I love Tara too." She cried, pulling Tara into the hug. A form collided with the trio as Dawn moved through the crowd.

"Buffy!" Dawn called, slamming into the girls. "You guys did it! You're guys so amazing!" she said, gazing at the three of them. She was starting at Northwestern herself in the Fall. "Come on, Giles has a whole surprise party thing he wants to throw…so act surprised." She said, tugging on the girls.

Buffy looked at Willow, Tara and Dawn. Her life was so good now, and she had everyone to thank for it. She scanned the crowd; looking for the person she owed the most to. "Ok Dawn, act surprised…got it." She said, frowning when she couldn't find the person she looked for. "Surprised. Got it."


Major Anthony Parkinson quietly took out his cell phone and dialed the number. Waiting for the line to pick up he smiled. "Sir. Yes sir. I believe she will do fine. Yes sir. I'll approach her sir. Yes sir." He said, hanging up the phone.

Looking over at his team members, he nodded and four figures walked out after Buffy and the group.


Buffy was taken back to her apartment and looked surprised when she was led to the party, she laughed at the stories, she smiled at all the right times and because she did this, no one was able to discern that she was getting upset. She kept looking for the one person she wanted to see to thank for all of this, but she couldn't seem to locate her. Finally, after everyone had left leaving her, Willow, Tara Xander, Anya and Dawn, Buffy found her. She managed to creep up and bump the leather clad hip playfully, turning on her 1000-watt smile. "Hey there." She said.

Faith turned, munching on a carrot and nodded. "Hey there grad." She said, grinning.

Buffy took Faith's hand and pulled her from the table, Faith frowning and gazing longingly at the buffet. "Faith. I just…I can't even begin to thank you." Buffy said, her eyes misting.

Faith frowned, confused. "Uh…B. It's not like I did your homework." She shrugged.

Buffy shook her head. "I never would have been able to do this if you hadn't taken over for me in Sunnydale." She said. "If I had stayed…I don't know what would have happened." She said. "I owe you more than I can ever repay." She whispered. Buffy took Faith's hand gently, pulling the speechless dark slayer into a hug. "I love you so much, Faith. You are like the sister I never had." She whispered. From the corner, she heard an indignant squeak from Dawn. "Ok. The sister who's a slayer I never had." She said.

Faith stood stiffly for a second before lowering her defenses and hugging Buffy back. "Well, you have Little D to take care of, plus you did die once." She shrugged. "Love you to B." she said softly, holding onto Buffy.

Willow, who had watched the entire scene, suddenly burst into tears, wrapping her arms around Buffy and Faith and was soon joined by Tara, Xander and Dawn. Giles, who stood in the corner cleaning his glasses, coughed politely and sighed.

"Bugger." Giles muttered, joining in the group hug.

"Ok. Somebody has their hand on my ass." Faith said from the center of the group, breaking the silence with everyone laughing.

The group dispersed and Buffy smiled at Faith. "Wanna do a quick patrol? Like old times?" she asked.

Faith grinned. "Could do." She nodded. "But after I eat." She chucked her thumb backwards towards the buffet.

Buffy nodded. "I'll change." She said as she happily headed to her bedroom.


Buffy and Faith said their goodbyes and headed to the door when a crisp knock came from the other side. Buffy opened it and her eyes widened when she saw four military uniforms. She cocked her head to the side and grinned. "Are you guys strippers?" she said, looking accusingly at first Willow and Tara, and then to Faith. All shook their heads.

Major Parkinson reached into his pocket and pulled a card out. "I'm sorry Miss…I'm sorry…Dr. Summers. But we are not." He handed her a card and smiled. "I'm Major Anthony Parkinson, and I'd like to talk to you about a career." He said.

Buffy smiled. "Uh…no thanks. I don't look good in fatigues. Makes my hips look big." She shrugged. "Plus, I can never find a hairstyle to compliment them."

The corner of Major Parkinson's mouth curled into a slight smile. "No ma'am. I'm not asking you to join the military. I'm here to ask you to work for the military." He said. "We'd pay for your school as well as a generous salary." He said. "I have all the information right here." He said, holding out a manila envelope.

Buffy reached for it but Major Parkinson yanked the envelope away and shook his head. "I'm sorry. It is classified. I'd need you to sign this non-disclosure statement. And you'd have to read it alone."

Buffy frowned. "You're joking, right?" she smirked. Major Parkinson didn't smile. "So…if I read it and decide not to work for you, what then?" she asked.

The Major shrugged. "We go our separate ways and if you mention this to anyone the United States government will sue you for every penny you have and then put you in jail forever." He said, straight faced. Buffy just stared. "That was a joke." He finally said.

Buffy rolled her eyes.

"We would just ask that you keep the contents to yourself." The Major said.


Buffy read the papers again and frowned, settling onto her couch with a hot cup of tea, something she blamed Giles for. Flipping through the dossier, she couldn't make sense of half the pages because they had black lines crossing out most of the page. She had one paper that was totally blacked out except for her name.

Sighing, she picked up the phone and dialed the Major's number. "Major Parkinson please." She said to the operator she got talked to. "Major, this is Buffy Summ…" she paused as the Major asked her a question. "I don't know if it's a secure line or not." She answered, getting irritated. This was beginning to stink of The Initiative, the military organization that Faith had to deal with in Sunnydale a year after Buffy left. She would have make sure to get Giles call that Riley Finn guy and see if he can make sense of anything. She paused while the Major put her on hold.

"Can you meet with me tonight?" Major Parkinson asked, coming back on the line.

"I guess so." Buffy said, checking her watch. "I'll have to call someone to come over and watch my sister." She said.

"Meet me at Wilkes Park, under the North Gate Bridge." The Major said. "Say in an hour?"

Buffy checked her watch. It was eight o'clock and she bit her lip. "Eight is fine." She said.

The line went dead and Buffy turned the phone off, then back on, dialing Giles' number.

"Giles. It's me. Can you come over and watch Dawnie for about an hour or so?" she asked.

"Buffy, she is going to be a freshman at University in the Fall, you do realize that, don't you?" Giles asked jokingly.

"And I still remember all the things in the night that want to make a name for themselves by taking me out, and going after Dawn has happened more than once." Buffy said.

"Of course. I shall be over in ten minutes, will that be alright?" Giles asked.

"Thank you Giles." Buffy smiled sweetly and hung up. "Dawnie!" she called, standing and walking to her bedroom to change.

"Yes, Dr. Summers?" Dawn asked, poking her head out of her own room, her hair wrapped in a towel from the shower.

"I'm gonna go out for awhile, Giles is coming over, ok?" Buffy said.

"Don't you think I'm a little old to have a baby sitter?" Dawn asked, frowning.

"Not when there are things that want to kill me and aren't afraid of using you." Buffy smiled. "Remember the Chaos Demon fiasco a year ago, and before that there was a Master Vampire, and before that there was a Fyeral Demon attack…" Buffy said, counting on her fingers.

Dawn just shook her head. "And you think Giles is gonna be adequate protection?" she grinned, knowing full well that where Giles went, Faith was sure to be close by.

Buffy shrugged. "Just promise me you'll behave." She said.

Dawn rolled her eyes. "Of course I'll be good…I'm not twelve anymore." She said, hugging her sister. "You be careful, ok?" she said softly. It still worried her when Buffy went outside after dark.

"As always. I'll bring back some ice cream, ok?" Buffy smiled, hugging her sister back.


Buffy sat silently at the table, staring at her coffee and pushing the remains of a partially eaten piece of pie around a small plate. It had been almost an hour since she got here and there was no sign of Major Parkinson to be seen. Just as she was about to leave, she heard the chimes above the door and saw the Major walk in. He was not in uniform and was flanked by two other men, also without a uniform, who just screamed 'MARINES' to her.

She smiled pleasantly as Major Parkinson sat, tossing a file onto the table. "I take it you're trying to look inconspicuous?" Buffy asked.

The Major smiled slightly. "Trying. Is it working?" he asked.

Buffy shook her head. "Not really." She looked at the folder in front of the Major. "I called because I had questions." She said, staring at the folder the entire time.

Major Parkinson followed her gaze and smiled as well. "I brought this because I figured you'd have questions." He said, folding his hands in front of him and resting them on the folder.

"I guess the first question I have is how am I supposed to make a decision on anything if I have a few pages of material, and most of that is blacked out so I can't read it?" Buffy said.

"I have the un-edited versions here." Parkinson said, tapping the folder. "Hence, the two inconspicuous guards."

"Ok. I'm getting a strong military, 'Top Secret' vibe here." Buffy sighed. "I'm wondering what it has to do with me." She said.

Parkinson opened the file and extracted one sheet and slid it over to Buffy, along with a pen. "This is a non-disclosure form. I'll need you to sign it before we can proceed." He said.

Buffy slid the paper back. "I already signed one, remember?" she said.

Parkinson slid the paper back to Buffy. "That was for the contact packet, not this. This is very serious." He said, his eyes begged no debate from her.

Buffy frowned, but signed the paper and slid it back. "Ok. Now can I see it?" she asked.

Major Parkinson slid the folder to Buffy and waited. After a few seconds of scanning pages, looking at photographs and reading missions briefs, Buffy Summers had an glimpse of the most secure base on the planet; Stargate Command. She continued to read and swallowed hard when she got to the Atlantis proposal.

"I still can't understand why you want me." She said softly.

Major Parkinson flipped through a few of the pages and pointed to some medical data. "You have the genome to operate the equipment left over from The Ancients." He said. "And since you are a Doctor of Cultural Anthropology, the programs director decided to approach you." He said, pausing.

"How long would I be gone?" Buffy asked.

Major Parkinson sighed. "That's the hardest part." He said softly. "We're not even sure if you would ever be able to come home." He said softly. "Hence, the generous salary. You'd never have to wonder if your family was taken care of."

Buffy looked at Major Parkinson, frowning. "There's more to taking care of a family than money, Major." Buffy checked her watch and sighed. "Can I think about it?" she asked.

Major Parkinson nodded. "There's nothing set in stone yet, Doctor. We aren't even sure if there is a departure date yet. This is all still tentative."

Buffy nodded. "Ok. Well…I'll think it over." She said, standing. Buffy looked around and sighed. "Why are we meeting here to discuss a top secret project?" she asked, suddenly aware that the patrons in the restaurant were the same ones from over an hour ago. And all of them were very studiously ignoring her.

Major Parkinson smiled. "Some of our people are much better at being inconspicuous than I am." He said.

Buffy only nodded. "Oh." She said softly, before turning to leave. She had a lot to think about.


Giles heard Buffy's front door open and closed the book he was reading and turned to Buffy. "Everything alright?" he asked.

Buffy sat on the couch beside him and bit her bottom lip, thoughts turning over in her head. She reached beside her to a small book she was reading several days ago and opened the marked passage. She cleared her throat and began to read: "The City is gone now and I am alone. One girl in all the world, left to fight against the oncoming darkness. I shall try to pass on my line, pass on my gift, but there shall always be only one." She finished reading and turned to Giles.

"That sounds very much like the Slayer prophesy." Giles said, reaching for the book. "I can't make out the language." He muttered.

Buffy was staring at the wall, her limbs heavy. "It's supposed to be Atlantian." She muttered.

Giles chuckled. "Buffy, Atlantis is a myth. There is no lost city." He said, closing the book.

Buffy turned to Giles. "This book was recovered in Athens and said to have been a copy of hand written texts made by Plato himself." Buffy said. "Plato wasn't known for his fictional works, Giles." She said, standing. "What makes this text so unique is that it's not a dialogue, like the rest of Plato's works on Atlantis. They were taken from various sources, including the Egyptians. This isn't a dialogue, it's like an interview, or memoirs." She said. "And it sounds so like the story of the Slayer line its almost scary."

Giles pursed his lips. "Alright, let's assume it's genuine." He said, removing his glasses. "How is it that you can read it?" he asked.

Buffy lowered her head and muttered something.

"I'm sorry, what was that?" Giles asked, trying to meet her gaze.

"I said, because I found instructions." Buffy said softly.

"I'm not sure I follow you." Giles said, suddenly worried.

Buffy headed into her bedroom and came back carrying a large suitcase. "Remember that archeology dig Willow and I went on three years ago?" she said, sheepishly. "The one in Egypt?"

Giles closed his eyes. "Dear lord." He muttered.

"What 'dear lord'? I haven't even gotten to a 'dear lord' part yet!" Buffy squeaked indignantly.

Giles looked at Buffy. "If you are about to tell me that the two of you pilfered something from an archeology dig than, yes, that is most defiantly a 'dear lord' action." He said. Staring at the suitcase, he sighed. "What did you find?" he said softly.

Buffy smiled. She opened the suitcase and pulled a small, stone tablet from the case. It was barely a foot and a half long and a foot wide. It was covered in small script, and separated into sections. He saw five distinct alphabets. "Oh dear lord." He said again, taking the stone. He recognized the supposed Atlantian script, but also saw Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Grecian Alphabet from around 340 B.C., Sumerian, and the other language, he couldn't make out.

"I could read the Grecian and Sumerian, the text was the same, so I figured this to be sort of a Rosetta stone." Buffy said.

Giles pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. "And you took this without sharing, why?" he asked. "And how did you manage to get it out of the country?"

Buffy shrugged. "Willow magicked it to here when I found it. Just read it Giles." She said.

Giles put his glasses on and began to scan the text, the Sumerian text, anyway. His eyes widened and he nearly dropped the stone. "Oh dear…"

"Lord." Buffy interrupted. "Yeah. That's what I said." she finished.

"This is the most important discovery in the entire history of the Slayer line." He said. "And I am remarkably surprised at how accurate it is." He said. "There is very little distinction." He said, shaking his head.

Buffy nodded. "I noticed. The biggest difference I found is here…" she pointed to the text. "Where it says ' She Alone Will Stand Against the Demon-Gods…' Doesn't your version just say '' She Alone Will Stand Against the Demons…?'" Buffy said, sitting down.

Giles nodded. "Yes, very much so. I wonder what it could be referring to?" he asked.

"Those were dark times, I'm betting. Demons would love to set themselves up as gods, Giles." She said.

Giles nodded. "Indeed." He ran his hands over the surface of the stone. "What type of stone is this?" he asked. "I've never felt it's like before." He said.

Buffy shrugged. "I dunno, neither does Willow. She said its unlike anything she has ever seen. She could barely get a scraping to test."

Giles turned back to Buffy. "You've shown this to Willow?" he asked, clearly hurt. "Why didn't you show it to me?" he asked.

"Cause you'd get all 'dear lord, you took this from a dig site?'" Buffy said.

"Well, yes, I suppose so. But Buffy, this is an amazing, enormous discovery." Giles said.

"And it belongs to me." Buffy said. "I mean, me and Faith. We're the slayers, Giles. This predates the council, so we're the inheritors." Buffy said, clutching the tablet to her chest.

Giles sighed softly. "May I at least have a rubbing, to see if anything shows up on the other two languages?" he asked.

Buffy smiled, reaching into the suitcase and handing Giles a disk. "This has a scan of the tablet, a scan of my book and a translation, made by me and Willow using the tablet." She said. "I never meant to keep you out, it's just all this school has taught me to wait until you have enough proof to present your case before you make a stand. So I waited." She shrugged. "Besides, I think we need to talk about something else now." She sighed, looking over at the contact packet she got from the Major.


Giles sat in stunned silence, holding the last of the papers in Buffy's packet in his hand. He couldn't read the blacked out sections, but Buffy filled him in on what they said. He was trying to process everything when there was a knock at the front door.

Buffy stood and crossed the room, peeking through the peephole. She unchained the door and waved slightly. "Hey Faith. How's Chicago treating you?" she asked, smiling.

Faith shrugged. "A little colder than Sunnydale, but I grew up in Boston, so I'm adjusting." She said. Turning to Giles, she began rifling her report. "Michigan Avenue underground is clear. I caught some vamps around campus too, so they're toast. I'm gonna head back to the hotel if that's cool." She said.

Giles waved absently. "Yes. That would be fine. Thank you, Faith." He muttered.

Faith shrugged. "Catch ya later kiddies." She said as she left.

Buffy closed the door and sighed. "I wonder if I should tell everyone about this. I mean, it affects everyone." She said softly.

Giles leaned back, removing his glasses. "Well, Major Parkinson did say that nothing was definitive yet." He said. "Perhaps we should wait?"

Buffy shook her head. "No. He said nothing was definitive right now, but who knows, maybe tomorrow night I'll get a call or a letter saying I have 48 hours to make a decision. That's only two days to get everyone used to the idea of me going away, possibly forever, if I decide to go." She said. "That's not long enough, Giles."

Giles smiled softly. "I'm afraid that two days or two years won't make a bit of difference. They…we…will not ever be ready for you to leave us." He said softly.

Buffy sat down and sighed. "Are you saying I shouldn't go?"

Giles shook his head. "I won't say this is not a remarkable opportunity, for both you and I. The creation of the Slayer line is shrouded in half-truths and legend. You could possibly find the key to solving an ancient puzzle." He said. "The question is, are you willing to possibly find nothing and never return home?"

Buffy was staring at Dawn's closed door. "If I go, I will want provisos." She said.

Giles laughed slightly. "I can only imagine." He said. "All I can say is, bring them up. As for telling everyone…I think it should be up to you."

Buffy sighed. "Well…everyone is here." She said. "It'll be like old times."

Giles nodded. "Indeed."

Buffy looked at Giles. "Tomorrow? Say at one?"

Giles stood, hugging Buffy. "One it is."


Buffy looked at the assembled group sitting around her living room. Willow, Tara and Dawn sat on the couch with Giles and Faith each sitting in the two easy chairs. Xander just stood, leaning on the doorframe leading to the kitchen. Buffy was standing in front of her balcony door, pacing back and forth.

"What's the what, B?" Faith asked, leaning forward. "Giles says you have news that could affect all of us. What? You win the lottery and wanna share?" she teased, grinning.

Buffy tried to smile, but the emotion never reached her eyes. "Not exactly Faith." She said softly. She leaned over and picked up the small suitcase at her feet and opened it, pulling out the stone tablet.

Willow straightened quickly and looked at Buffy. "What's that? Whatever it is, I don't know anything about it." She said rapidly, glancing at Giles.

Giles shook his head, grinning. "She's already told me about it Willow." He said softly. "And under the circumstances, even though what you did broke several international laws, several natural laws and indeed may have even broken one or two confidences, I can say that I agree with the outcome." He sighed. "I just wish you had told me of it sooner." He said sadly.

Tara furrowed her brow. "What is it, baby?" she asked Willow.

Willow sighed, looking at the tablet. "Well. Remember the archeology dig Buffy and I went on about three years ago? The one in Egypt?" Tara nodded. "Well. We found something." Willow sighed, remembering the day as if it was only yesterday.

Flashback-Giza Plateau, 2005

Willow wiped the sweat out of her eyes and leaned back over, gently swiping the thick-bristled brush over the foot or so of sandy rock she had been assigned. Another centimeter of sand was cleared away and she smiled. The Egyptian government wanted extreme caution in this dig because of the proximity to the Pyramids. Several weeks ago, when she and Buffy were looking over the sonogram that was taken, they chose to dig because there was defiantly something here. Others chased similar shadows, but Buffy felt certain that there was something of great importance here, so they chose this spot.

Every day since then, they painstakingly cleared the sand away, only a foot or so a day, and now Willow was sure they were getting somewhere. She had surreptitiously used a small spell to push sand away, making the small patch much deeper. Their dig foreman had at first been upset, saying that they had gone to deep to fast and may have missed something. After he checked the sand Willow had piled very laboriously he had to admit that she didn't miss anything and she was free to dig again.

Buffy gingerly slid into the hole, handing Willow a bottle of water. "Here, drink first and dig later. And it's time for more sunscreen." She said, pulling the small bottle from her belt pouch. "Tara will kill me if you get sun stroke." She said, squirting the thick white lotion onto her hand and rubbing them together.

Willow rolled her eyes and pulled the covering and her hair away from the back of her neck. "Tara doesn't have a mean bone in her body. She wouldn't hurt you. Besides, you're the slayer, remember?" she said, lowering her head as Buffy rubbed the lotion into Willow's disturbingly red skin. "That's so cold!" she squeaked.

"And you are as red as your hair, Willow." Buffy said, deciding to apply another coat. "I think it's time you retired for the day." She said, seriously worried for her friend.

"I'm fine. I've been working a little mojo to make the sun a little easier on me." She said quietly. "It's like getting hit by only half the rays." She said.

"And what would Tara think about the use of power?" Buffy asked, knowing Tara didn't like to use magic for trivial reasons.

"She'd be fine with it and probably would have done it earlier than I did. I'm not harming anyone, using the protection only when I need it and also, it's not very strong because you've been coating me in sunscreen every four hours." Willow said. "I'm not abusing any power, and I am using my own strength, not coercing any other power sources."

Buffy grinned. "Alright. How much further?" she asked, kneeling down and handing Willow the sunscreen. "The other teams have all found something and Professor Milkin is thinking about moving us." She shuddered as Willow rubbed the sunscreen over her bare shoulders and exposed back.

Willow shrugged. "About another three or four inches. I'm just being careful." She said. "Wanna speed up?"

Buffy nodded. "Yeah, since I'm not worried about you missing something."

Willow closed the bottle and handed it back to Buffy. "Than let's get to work." She said, taking her small trowel and began to carefully dig a little faster. It wasn't long before she and Buffy cleared an area deep enough to make out an outline of something. Taking her brush, Willow swept it over the flat expanse of the stone tablet they had reached. It was smooth and cool, despite being in the hot sand.

"What is that?" Buffy asked, pointing to a carving in the stone.

Willow leaned closer, trying to sweep sand off of the symbol. She shrugged. "It looks like it may be hieroglyphs, but I can't remember ever seeing anything like it." She said. The carving was of a simple pyramid, with a small circle about an inch and a half over one of the points. The entire face was smooth except for that. "Wanna call the professor over?"

Buffy nodded. "Yeah. We found something." She grinned excitedly.

Willow stood and climbed out of the hole, heading for the professors tent.

Professor Milkin was a short, round, compact man. His eyes always darted around, sparkling with intelligence and good humor. He enjoyed his work, his students and making archeology fun. He was happy, fun and very popular with his students. Many went to lengths to keep in touch with him over the course of their lives. He quickly scribbled his name over a page he was reading and flipped it over, writing a large 'A' on the top and setting the paper aside, reaching for another. The strong scent of coconut hit him and he looked up as Willow stepped into his tent. "Ahh, Miss Rosenberg. How can I help you?" he asked, grinning.

"I think we found something." She said, smiling brightly. "Are those our tests?" she asked, looking at the stack of papers on his small table.

Professor Milkin laughed. "They are indeed. Would you like to know what you got?" he asked, flipping through his Gradebook.

Willow bit her lip. She was very nervous about this test. Instead of studying, she and Buffy had been tracking and killing a Vercosian Sand demon. She was not nearly as prepared as she should have been. "Sure, I guess. If it's not to much trouble."

The professor shook his head. "Nonsense. You are never a trouble. Here." He held the book up, his hand covering the other student's grades'. A bright red 'A' was marked in the little box next to her name.

Willow smiled brightly. "I did a lot better than I thought!"

"You always do very well, Willow. I am not nearly as surprised as you seem to be." He said, closing the book. "Now. You and Miss Summers have found something?" he asked.

Willow nodded, startled she had almost forgotten. "Yeah! It seems to be a tablet, but I can't make out what kind of stone it is." She said.

"Stone, you say?" the professor said. "Not clay?"

Willow shook her head, opening the tent flap as they passed through. "No clay I've ever seen." She said, leading the professor to the dig site she and Buffy shared.

Buffy, in the meantime, had cleared the edges of the tablet away and bug a little deeper. The edges of the tablet were clearly visible and seemed to be only about an inch thick. She was about to try lifting the tablet out when a shadow fell across her hands. Looking us, she beamed at Willow and Professor Milkin.

"Remarkable." He said, squatting down and placing his hand on the edge of the hole, getting ready drop into the hole. He dropped, landing surprisingly light for a man of his size. "Truly amazing. I don't recognize the symbol. Are there any other markings?" he asked.

Buffy shook her head. "None on this side or the edges, not that I could see. I haven't lifted it yet." She held out the small rubber spatula she was going to use to lift the edge of the tablet with.

Professor Milkin shook his head. "Oh no, Miss Summers. I trust you can lit it all by yourself." He smiled and stepped away from the tablet. "Have you been recording?" he asked, pointing to the small palmcorder on a tripod that was aimed at the tablet.

Buffy nodded, kneeling again and working the spatula under the edge of the tablet, millimeter by millimeter. Suddenly, the tablet popped slightly and was free from the dirt. Buffy carefully took the sides with her gloved hands and lifted it gently. The stone was remarkably strong and she turned the tablet over. Handing it to Willow, she took the palmcorder and handed it to Professor Milkin. She climbed from the hole and went over to where Willow was setting the tablet down on a folding table, along with several other instruments. A small pan with water was on the table, along with several brushes with varying bristle strengths, a small canister of compressed air, a small squeeze bottle with a needle-like nozzle and some dry, absorbent cloth towels.

"Excuse me. Ladies." Professor Milkin called. Buffy turned back and dropped down. "Sorry Professor." She said, reaching for his hand.

"Quite alright, Miss Summers. I am eager to see this myself." He said, taking her hand. Having been her professor for almost an entire year at the site, he was not as amazed with her strength as he had first been, but was still quite shocked when Buffy nearly lifted him from the hole. "Now…let's see what we have." He said, smiling brightly and going to the table. He turned the camera on and looked at the LCD display, nodding at Willow.

"Ok. I have already cleaned off most of the loose sand by hand. I've labeled the bag with the date, time and GPS coordinates." She said, looking at the professor, biting her lip.

"Yes, Miss Rosenberg?" he asked. He knew she was worried about something. He had gotten to know all of his students faces, especially the ones that said 'I want to ask something, but am to afraid to because it may sound stupid.' So he always prompted his students when he saw it.

"Well. I was wondering if we shouldn't use foil. I mean, I don't think it's charcoal, but it's also not your typical stone either. What if the plastic has chemicals that could harm it?" Willow asked.

Professor Milkin smiled. "Foil would be fine, I'm glad to see you are being cautious." He said. Foil was often used to wrap any kind of charcoal because the chemicals in plastic bags were often harmful to charcoal.

Willow opened the small box to her left a pulled out several sheets, arranging them on the table. "Should I use water?" she asked, holding the small squeeze bottle.

"Did you test the stone?" Professor Milkin asked.

Willow nodded, pointing to a bottom edge where she placed a single drop. There was no sign of reaction.

"Very well." the professor said.

Willow carefully squeezed, letting the water rinse most of the sand away. She took a towel and patted the surface, never wiping, and soaked most of the water up. There were no visible markings on the tablet.

"Very good." Professor Milkin said. "Now, turn the piece over and tell me what you see." He said.

Willow turned the tablet over, carefully, and set it down. "I've never seen any writing like this, so I am going to say it's not script. I've also never seen hieroglyphs like this. The triangle looks to be perfect, as does the small circle." She pointed at the circle. Reaching for the small box again, she carefully made several measurements and nodded. "They are perfect, as far as I can tell." She said. "Maybe it's a geometric measurement?"

Milkin nodded. "Perhaps. But a measurement of what?" he asked. "That's the question." A chirping on Professor Milkins belt made him start and he reached for his beeper. "Ah. Dinner." He said, smiling. "Secure the piece, be sure to measure which layer you found this piece in, and then let's head back. Very well done, both of you." He said, smiling at Buffy and Willow both. "Very well indeed."

Buffy smiled and moved to help Willow. She was happy she had finally found something.

End Flashback

Dawn furrowed her brow. "That doesn't look anything like what you said you found. What happened?" she asked.

Willow sat back and gestured to Buffy. "She can take it from there, all I did was cast a spell." She said.

Buffy sat on one of the dining room chairs she brought into the living room.

Flashback-Giza Plateau, 2005

Buffy went back to the site where she found the tablet and began digging again, carefully, of course. Willow was going to be running tests for the next few hours and she was also going to try to determine what the mystery symbol was. So she was more than surprised when the redhead dropped into the dig alongside her. "Willow? I thought you were busy with the tablet." She said.

Willow just paced back and forth in the small hole, her hands clenching and unclenching. She was quite upset. "It's gone." She said. "Professor Milkin and I were busy cleaning it, and trying to get a sample for dating when four goons from the US Air Force came in and took the piece. They had letters of consent from the Egyptian government and a signed authorization from the President." She said, kicking the side of the hole.

Buffy just shook her head. "What? They can't do that!" she was getting upset as well. "What in the world could the US Military want with the tablet?"

Willow shook her head. "I don't know. Professor Milkin said we both get 'A's' for the term. I can't believe this." She said, dropping down to sit. "We get an 'A' and I'm not even happy." She sighed.

Buffy looked at the sight she was digging at and frowned. "Great." She grumbled, jabbing the ground with her trowel. She and Willow both stared at the ground when the trowel hit something hard. Both girls began to dig and found another tablet. This one, however, had actual writing. "Willow. That's Sumerian, and that's Greek." Buffy said, pointing to two of the different text's.

Willow peered over Buffy's shoulder. "Can you make it out?" she asked.

Buffy just stared at the tablet, her eyes wide.

"Buffy?" Willow asked, looking down.

"Into each generation a Slayer will born, one girl in all the world, a Chosen One, one born with the gifts to hunt the vampires, the demon-gods, and to stop the spread of their evil. Her power shall be forever until the coming of the next. She shall forever be the protector of humanity." Buffy said slowly.

Willow furrowed her brow. "I don't think that's how it goes."

Buffy pointed at the tablet. "That's what it says, Willow." She said softly. "You have to send this to my place."

Willow shook her head slowly. "Buffy…that's breaking a lot of laws, and I don't think I can anyway."

Buffy took Willows hands. "Willow, please! This is exactly what I have been searching for, exactly what I left Sunnydale for. This has to be ancient, Willow. Ancient!" she said. "Please."

Willow frowned. She rested her hand on the tablet and began chanting something in an ancient tongue. The tablet flared for a second and then the light died out. The tablet was gone and Willow began to shake her head, trying to clear it. A wave of dizziness washed over her and she felt her eyes roll back and the earth under her fall away.

Buffy caught Willow as she collapsed. "Willow? Willow!" she yelled, holding her best friend. "Are you alright? Willow!"

Willow fluttered her eyes and smiled, drunkenly. "What was that thing made of?" she slurred. "Never…felt anything like that…weird." She said, smiling at Buffy.

"Are you alright?" Buffy asked softly. "I'm getting a doctor." She said, standing and reaching for the emergency walkie-talkie.

Willow grabbed Buffy's hand and shook her head. "I'm alright. I'm just dizzy." She said. "The tablet is at your place…I hope." She coughed.

Buffy shook her head. "I don't give a damn about the tablet! Are you alright?"+

Willow smiled. "I'm fine. Just…whatever that stone was…it was weird." She sighed. "I'm gonna sleep now. Ok?" she said before closing her eyes. Willow woke up several days later in a hospital in Cairo, she and Buffy then flew to London and then back to Chicago. Buffy terrified for her friend, who was still dizzy.

End Flashback

Buffy clasped her hands in front of her and waited. Finally, she looked around at the gathered faces and shrugged. "Don't everyone speak up at once." She said softly.

Faith shrugged. "Just taking it all in, B." she said. "You found a totally new version of the slayer prophesy."

Buffy looked at Giles, who silently urged her on. "I found a lot more than that." She took out the tattered, well-worn book she spent the last few years trying to translate. "I found this." She handed the book to Faith.

Faith took the book and opened it, glancing at the pages. "Uh…no idea what this says." She said, looking at Buffy. She handed the book to Tara, who also looked confused.

"It's not any l-language I've ever seen." Tara said, turning to Willow.

Willow only smiled sheepishly and looked at Buffy.

"It's Atlantian." Buffy said softly.

Xander coughed as he tried to take a drink, looking at Buffy. "Atlantian? As in, Atlantis? The city that sank into the ocean?" he said.

Buffy nodded. "Yep. And what is even more interesting, Is this book. It seems to be a sort of history, but not entirely of the slayer. It reads almost like a journal left by someone thousands and thousands of years ago." She sighed. "Apparently, she was Atlantian."

Faith was just nodding. She was a vampire slayer and as such had seen some pretty freaky stuff, so the fact that Atlantis existed, and they were apparently good guys, didn't really shock her.

Xander just stared a hole in the wall before he shrugged. "Ok. Cool. Atlantis was real." He said. "Are you gonna get rich off of the discovery?" he asked, reverting to his humor to cover the unease he felt.

Buffy shook her head sadly. "No. It turns out I have an opportunity to learn so much more, but I didn't discover it." She looked at Giles.

Giles coughed lightly and stood up. "Buffy has been asked to participate in an expedition to explore Atlantis, however, there is no guarantee she will return." He said softly.

Faith laughed. "Please. You can trek anywhere on this planet and make it back, B. Even dying hasn't kept you down."

Buffy closed her eyes, feeling tears coming. She couldn't leave them without knowing, she couldn't leave any of them without telling them the truth. No one had to know. They all had secrets, and they kept hers…for the most part.

Giles reached over and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Perhaps, if we told them?" he said softly.

Buffy looked at Giles. "I can't Giles. They would get into so much trouble…and so would I." She whispered. "Serious, going to jail and getting out when we were 90 trouble." She said.

"Perhaps Major Parkinson can…extend the clearance? This is your family, for gods sake!" he said sharply, feeling angry the Buffy was once again forced to keep a huge secret from those closest to her. Being a slayer was supposed to be a secret, but as it turns out having Willow and Xander by her side was an asset that even The Watchers Council had to admit was huge…after several years of arguing, of course.

Buffy shook her head. "Not until I know for sure."

Dawn, who had been watching the whole talk suddenly stood up. She looked scared and angry at the same time. "You're leaving." She said softly. It wasn't a question.

Buffy looked at Dawn. "I might. I haven't decided yet."

"Well. I'm 18. I'm a big girl now and I can take care of myself." The teen said, trying to sound mature about it. But no matter what she said, how she made it sound, it came out like she was going to loose her sister, the last of her real family.

Willow and Tara each reached for Dawn at the same time. They knew how scared Dawn was of loosing Buffy, and they knew how many times the teen had woken in the night screaming, afraid that Buffy was gone. It happened the most after Dawn came to live with Buffy after Joyce had died, Dawn was afraid that Buffy was gone too and she was all alone. They thought she had gotten past it, but it turns out she was just really good at hiding it.

"Dawn, I haven't made a decision yet. I'm going to go to some kind of…explanatory briefing in a week. They said I can wait to make my decision." She said softly. "I swear to you, I will not make this decision lightly. You mean everything to me, you know that." She said, cupping the teen's face. "I love you." She whispered.

Dawn just glared at Buffy. "Than the decision shouldn't be that hard. Don't go." She snapped. "You're saying that you could go and never come back…ever. That you may walk out the door and I would never see you again." She said, shaking her head. "I hated that feeling when you would patrol and I hate it now." Dawn stood up and headed for her room, slamming the door so hard the walls shook.

Buffy started to go after her when Giles caught her by the arm. "Give her time, Buffy." He said softly. "She's just scared."

Buffy lowered her gaze. "What about the rest of you?" she asked, looking around.

Xander, Willow and Tara all looked at each other. Willow finally broke the silence. "Buffy. I'm not going to lie to you and say that I am OK with this, because I'm not." She said. "I will miss you more than I can ever say if you never come back, but I also understand, sort of, why you feel you need to do this." She said. "Over the last eight years I have seen you grow so much, explore so much and change from the girl who had trouble in English Lit to a woman who holds two PhD's. This is why you went after them, why you went to school. This chance came to you and no one can blame you if you explore it." She said softly.

Tara nodded. "Don't worry about Dawn. I'm sure she will always have a home to go to if she needs it. Willow and I, Xander, Mr. Giles…even Faith…we're her family." She said. "And so are you. Whatever you decide, we'll support you."

Xander just nodded in agreement. "What they said."

Faith was looking at the gathered group and finally stood up. "Can't say I agree with the life you chose. Me, it's about the slaying. I love it, always have." She said softly. "Guess that's why I wasn't all broken up about you leaving. You wanted out, I showed up and you got the chance." She said. "You know my motto, B. Want. Take. Have." She said. "Go for it."

Buffy looked around the room. She felt bad, really bad, about leaving such critical information out of the conversation, but she knew that they might have a different opinion if they really knew the truth. She thought she would too, but she would see in a few days.