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Hollow Places

Author: Ava
Disclaimer: I own none of it. I am just borrowing them and promise to return them in mint condition. Hopefully.
Spoilers: All of BTVS and Angel. Stargate SG-1 through most of season 7. I.E. Janet is still alive and Hammond runs the SGC.
Authors: This was a challenge posted on one of the lists I am a member of and I give full credit to Kat for getting the plot bunnies hopping around. She's my Muse and thank you again.

Prologue:

Before humanity broke free of their prison of primordial sludge. Myths had been breathed life. Fear walked the Earth enriching the demons and land with its essence. The race of man had yet to be formed but their likeness and emotions were already free to walk the planet’s barren wasteland. In this emptiness two creatures were formed. They walked side-by-side. One slightly before the other. Always leading but never alone. They were sisters. Lovers. Friends. Names lost to time. The rise and fall of nations. Through it all their essence remained the same. Terror and Despair.

They watched the demons fight for domination. Destruction and Chaos chased each other in circles of endless pain and violence. They were amused at our baser urges given form. Living out their own existence. The few mortal creatures given life trembled in their wake. Through the eons mankind began to evolve as Nightmares expelled from cracks in the shell of the Earth. Breathing panic into the minds of their prey.

Terror and Despair became bored. Bored with the constant pulse of fear. The fear their brethren breathed into the mortal creatures a backdrop to their lives. So they decided to create. They had watched the Earth make life for so very long that Terror and Despair united. Then stole pieces of the others to blend. Hate. Fear. Chaos. Destruction. Nightmares and many more. A shuddering creature fell forth from the expulsion of power. As she rose and took her first stumbling steps her Mothers rejoiced. She was prefect. She was the embodiment of them all. She was Evil. The first. The only.

Evil embraced her power. Helped her mothers as they pressed back the pulse of humanity. Driving them to the brink of extinction again and again. They were weak. Futile creatures with powerful allies. The first moment Evil saw The Ancients she was curious. So resembling the creature that she feed upon and yet they seemed to bring light to wash away her darkness. She was unafraid and approached the living things. Their essence burned. Evil had never danced with Pain before and she wrenched herself free.

She watched helpless as her brethren were locked away in stone boxes and the minds of the very creatures she fed from. Her demons wrapped their sharpened talons into the Earth and refused to be diminished. So the Ancients made the Earth that gave them life take them back. A hole was formed and guarded. Evil watched her subjects become ash and memories. Tales to frighten human children.

Her mothers had become nothing more than emotions staining the minds of mortal creatures. Wretched vile creations that no longer feared her glory. She shuddered in revulsion at the worthless chaos they twisted. The last of her subjects created half-breeds in the hopes of allowing her to live. To create. To be free. Their blood mixed with humans and Evil pulled out of the night. She paid attention. She saw that not all of her children had been banished. True only the weak had been allowed to survive the light but she would coddle them. Infuse them with her essence and allow them to grow.

The Ancients realized too late that by sparing some they gave power to their maker. So they created as well. A warrior to fight back Evil’s subjects. A weapon for the Earth and all that derived from her. The Ancients stole some of the essence from Evil’s demons that they had locked away and the wild magic of the Earth, blending it with a human girl.

She too fell from the expulsion of power shuddering and confused. Her first breath shook the core of everything. She was first. She was prefect. She was the Slayer. She fought with the power of the demon, the skill of emotion and the magic of humanity. She pressed back the tides and kept the balance intact. There was only one flaw. She was mortal and like all mortal creatures she would die. As the first Slayer took her last breath the Ancients created a lineage. When one dies the next is called. Gaining the skill and power of her foresisters.

Evil watched her subjects vanquished by a child and became enraged. She began to infuse her essence with mankind. The Ancients watched helpless as the race they had tried so hard to empower became encompassed in fear and hatred. A vicious never-ending cycle. They could aid but not destroy. Trap but not kill.

Evil became less than she was but more. Stronger than her Mothers she lived on with her own consciousness. Watching. Waiting for her chance to avenge her children. As time stretched on the Ancients left Earth. Others had come but few caught her interest like the Goa’uld. A race that preyed on the weak. Lived beyond their intended time. Evil watched and embraced the race. Infusing them with her knowledge and power. They enslaved the Ancients’ beloved humans and Evil rejoiced at the small victory. Though she still waited for them to return and complete their annihilation of the mankind. She was patient. She was evil. She was the only. She was the First.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

One year ago:

Rain poured down in tiny rivulets from Illyria’s ash and blood stained body. She raised her luminous face skyward as the heavens wept bitter tears of lose for her fallen comrades. She felt the shift of air as an axe was swung in a downward ark for her slim neck. A flash of metallic red sparked with the oncoming weapon. The demon tracked a glimmer of blonde hair as the tiny Slayer defended her right flank.

Illyria had been fighting for much of the night when the army of Slayers had appeared and pressed back the tides of the appending apocalypse. They had caused her skin to prickle and hair follicles to stand on end. The memories of her shell, Winifred Burkle whispered that the reaction was called ‘goose bumps’. Charles Gunn had proved her wrong by lasting nearly an hour before fading. His war cry had been proud and inspiring to the remaining three. The White Knight had taken a blow meant for their Leader. She and Angel had watched as his ashes spread across the night sky. Their matching howls of grief had surprised them both.

That was when the battle had turned in their favor. Twenty female children appeared within a flash of white light. The tendrils of energy pushed back the onslaught and the surprise attack had pressed their advantage. The White Witch destroyed the dragon with velvet lighting. The beautiful creature a burnt husk as it fell gracelessly to the Earth. The giants, crushed by little girls with knives as Illyria had watched her Leader fall. His ashes covered the blonde Slayer and her anguished scream had caused her army to pause. Having never heard the broken call of a mated creature losing their other half. The light of rage had bloomed behind her green eyes crystallizing them into jade and she had sliced the demon in two. Her movements had become a barbaric ballet. The Scythe shimmered in the velvet lighting created by the witch. Illyria found herself moving to the blonde’s side to aid her in battle. Each of their movement’s a fluid compliments to other. When one left an opening the other defended her.

Buffy had become the only warrior worthy of Illyria’s presence. They fought side by side until the last of Wolf, Ram and Heart’s minions were nothing but rotting flesh and soot. The power gone Illyria swayed and fell to her knees. Her battle armor torn and broken. She was alone. Again. The glint of silver caught her vacant blue eyes and she reached out. Her deceptively delicate fingers wrapped around a ring shaped like hands holding a crowned heart. Her head cocked in confusion at the feelings the images invoked. Her skin prickled once more as the presence of another shifted to her side.

The immense feeling of unease in the void that had once been her shell’s stomach told her it was the warrior. She could sense the others in her army. Silent. Waiting. The tiny Slayer knelt before her. Their grief filled gazes met and neither spoke. Illyria studied the pixie like face before her. Such a pretty package to hold all of that darkness. They were both deceptive in their forms. It had advantages.

“Buffy.” She offered her hand.

The demon blinked once before pulling on the shell’s memories once more. A small sardonic smile quirked her lips. “I am Illyria.” Her hand grasped the other girl’s wrist and they shook up and down once.

“Dear Lord!” The demon’s gaze flicked to behind the warrior to see one of the few men in her army staring at her in abject horror. He took a step forward as if to aid his Slayer but seemed to think better of it when he saw Illyria watched him. “Buffy, she’s…she’s…”

“An ally.”

The demon’s attention was drawn back to the Slayer before her. “But Buffy, she’s one of the Old Ones. We simply can’t allow her…”

“To spend one more minute out in the rain.” One brow rose in question to the demon. Illyria’s eye’s narrowed but she rose offering her arm to the warrior. “Willow, ready when you are.”

The White Witch nodded but gave the demon a once over before raising her hands skyward and invoking the very essence of the Earth. The tear in space engulfed the battle wary group as they winked from the street.

The flashing blues and reds gave the darkened street a fanatical appearance as the police arrived on the scene. Death haunted each shadow. Decomposing demons filled the night sky with the stench of decay. As the first policeman on the scene lost his midnight snack a slim shadow detached herself from the wall and smiled at the destruction. True she had lost several subjects but the pieces she had placed so long ago were beginning to fall perfectly. The First Evil smiled as the lights of the patrol cars failed to catch her form in their dance. She stepped back and faded into the darkness of the night.

“Check.”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Present day:

The setting sun cast the rocks and ledges into iridescent layers. Each told a story of our history as the Earth gave way to the erosive powers of water. The cascading Colorado River had formed and was still shaping the Grand Canyon, nearly six million years in the making. A young couple, packs strapped to their weary backs stumbled quietly through one of several caves beneath the monument to Mother Nature. They had crossed the ‘no trespassing’ signs two days ago and when they had stumbled onto a group of caves beneath the buttes, Denise Martin had insisted they be explored. She was convinced they were formed by old lava flow and that this was the entrance they were looking for. The soft trickle of an under ground stream was their constant companion.

“Why are we doing this again?”

She turned to glare at her fiancé Alex Darren. “Because we’re going to prove the Ancient Egyptians discover America long before 1492.”

Brown eyes rolled behind her back as he pulled his canteen from his pack and took a hesitant sip. “Same question. Hopefully a different answer.”

She stopped her exploration of a nearby shelf to flash her light into his eyes. He quickly raised an arm to block out the harsh glare. “You agreed with me!”

“Your thesis, yes. To hunt around caves all spring break when Las Vegas is only hours away, no.”

The two undergraduate students glared at one another. One studying Architecture and the other Archeology. Two people who normally seemed to fit into each other’s lives but at the moment they felt a vast space form between them.

Alex stepped forward ducking his 6’1” frame beneath a ledge to meet Denise. He looked down into her puckered brow and reached behind her to pull gently at her raven colored ponytail. The wrinkle lessened until she smiled up at him and pushed his glasses back up his nose. “One more day?”

He grinned and placed a quick kissed on her upturned nose. Alex straightened glancing over Denise’s jacket covered shoulder. As they got deeper into the caverns the temperature had grown progressively cooler. A soft glint caught his attention and he stepped to Denise’s side to move around her.

His fiancé turned with him and tried in vain to see what had caught Alex’s eye. Her hazel eyes sparked with annoyance at their height difference. He was a good six inches higher than her 5’5” form. He pulled away from her and flicked on his lantern. The cave was suddenly illuminated and Denise blinked trying in vain to catch her bearings.

After the blue spots disappeared her breath caught in her throat as she saw the cave entrance before them. A sweeping structure had been carved out of the rock and arched downward. There was a bird shaped into the top of the entrance. Eroded with age but still visible to the eye. Denise move quickly to get out her digital camera. The whirring of the motors filled the sleepy rocks and she angled the camera to take the best shots.

The flashing of the bulb didn’t distract her fiancé as he made his way deeper into the strangely smooth cavern walls. He paused lifting his light to examine the walls more closely. He could hear Denise behind him, “The Phoenix, Gazette was right! My God, Alex no one has been down here since 1909! Do you see these markings? Hieroglyphs! I knew it! MY GOD!”

Her voice held the delight of a child who had gotten everything they wanted for Christmas and more. A small giggle escaped her as she caught more of the structure on her memory card.

“Denise?”

“I can’t believe. Smithsonian wanted nothing to do with this, crazy bastards.”

“Denise!”

“Tried to cover it up! Hah, when I get these pictures published…”

“DENISE!”

She jumped and spun towards Alex. The muscles in his back were tensed as he stared at the far wall intently. “What is it?” There was annoyance in her voice with his interruption of her babble.

“Just look at this.”

She walked towards him, careful to avoid the debris on the cave floor. “What…” Her voice trailed off as she caught sight of the markings before her. “This can’t be right.”

“Isn’t this?”

“Latin.” She paused and leaned forward as she lifted her light and traced a few of the symbols. “Or a derivative of it. I’ve never seen some of these.”

The wall held a large design of a circle engraved with shapes that reminded the undergraduate of Runes. The form of Latin surround the shape in what she would guess was a story of creation if she was translating it correctly. Spinning she raised her flashlight towards the other wall quickly scanning the hieroglyphics. “My God.” Her voice had lost her earlier excitement and filled the cavern with hushed whispers.

“What?”

“If I’m translating this right…” She paused and shook her head. She swung back towards the wall behind Alex. Scanning the work of art quickly she shivered. “They both seem to say something about the…” She paused and went to one knee to the right of the Rune filled circle. She paled and flicked her gaze to Alex. “This civilization seemed to call it the End of Days.”

“Could it be a scared tactic to stop people from raiding this…” He paused unsure what to call the cave.

“It’s a temple and they give a date.”

Alex’s fell to his knees beside his fiancé. The chill of the caves seemed to deepen around them. “They give a date?” The disbelief warred with fear in his tone.

“Well maybe a date. There are numbers.” She pointed to three different symbols as she spoke. “Seven. Three. Zero. But they’re out of order.” Her voice steadied as she swiveled to the left and scanned more of the markings. “I could be translating them wrong.”

“But I thought most ancient civilizations didn’t use zeros?”

Her hazel eyes slide sideways to nervously look at him. “They don’t.”

“Well, shit.”

“Yeah.”

Alex stood his back gave with a slight pop and he suppressed a groan. Reaching around he began to rub absently at the soar muscles. He turned arching his spine and stretched. “So what do we do now?”

Denise leaned her neck back so she could look up and into his face. Her eyes were clouded with worry but she pushed it back. This was one of the greatest archeological finds of the century. She needed to focus. “We need to contact Dr. Daniel Jackson.”

“The guy you based your midterm on?”

“This was his theory long before it was mine.”

“Okay, how do we contact this Jackson guy?”

Denise turned back to the markings and smiled softly. “I think I know.”

Chapter 1: Inner Grounds

Buffy Summers oldest Slayer of this generation sat on the terrace attached to her bedroom. The apartment she occupied sat a few streets from the heart of Rome. A tall sweeping building of arches and power. Older than most of the cities in America and a history darker than hers. Her head propped against one of the marble rails holding people back from taking a dangerous step forward. The sky rolled out beneath her. Buffy’s tan leg fit easily through the rail’s posts and she swung her ankle in a clockwise motion watching Rome flutter around below her. Buffy’s right hand rose over the railing and she opened her palm to watch a trail of silver spin downward like a spider’s web. Unfolding in the predawn light. It shimmered, as the line became taunt and the ring that hung from its chain spun in the morning light. Buffy watched it wink at her and wished for the courage to throw the last tactile memory she had of Angel over the edge and out of her life. Illyria had handed it to her silently. Eye’s older than time and more guarded than Fort Knox had watched the mighty warrior sub-come to tears and thanks. They had shared in lose and pain. Buffy had listened silently as the demon told of her Ex-Watchers death by an aged wizard’s hand. The uncertainty and raw ache in the demons eyes had pulled on the protective strings around Buffy’s heart. She was loyal to a fault and Illyria had proven herself in battle. Something only Faith had done previously.

Buffy’s sigh escaped onto the breeze that chased it’s way down the roads and into her room. The rose colored robe’s collar she wore tightly to her chest, caught the wind and tickled the sides of her face. She watched the bustle of people move about their lives never knowing the danger the world faced on almost a bimonthly process. She focused on a street merchant through the ring and followed his fumbling attempts to entice the few tourists up at this hour.

“Your sorrow grates on my flesh. Why do you torment yourself with that object?”

The monotone made Buffy close her eyes against the flashing of the silver and she pressed her forehead against the cool marble before turning to face her counterpart. The demon wore the guise of Winifred Burkle like some woman wore makeup. A mask she pulled on at will and disregarded it power and potential. Buffy was one of the few in the new Watcher’s Council that did not find Illyria’s true form unnerving. The demon was powerful. Possibly stronger than Buffy. Maybe, that was why the last called Slayers found sparing with her so damn invigorating. She and Faith had taken every opportunity to exchange blows with the Old One. Sometimes taking the demon on simultaneously. The newbies were too cautious. Always fearful that the demon would lose control and destroy them. Buffy pulled her leg back up and onto the terrace. With barely a shift of her weight she stood to gaze at the demon’s façade.

“Morning, Lyri.”

A frown pulled instantly between her doe brown eyes. “You know that I loathe the shortening of my name.” The blonde Slayer winked and Illyria’s eyes widened slightly. “You are attempting to distract me from my previous question.”

“And the demon girl gets it in one.” Buffy slipped the necklace back around her neck and lifted her robe away from her body allowing the cool metal to settle against her skin.

“You side step questions with witty banter and sarcasm.” Her thin arms crossed over her chest. The pale green dress she wore danced lightly in the morning breeze. She had made her hair appear loose and curling around her delicate but angular features. The Slayer wished for the ability to change her form at will and not for the first time since the demon had moved in with her. After the battle of Wolfram and Hart, Dawn had requested to begin study with Giles and help with the good fight. She had made the move to the Watchers Councils new headquarters a few weeks before Buffy had offered Illyria a home. That had been nearly eight months ago.

Buffy cocked her head to the side and took a vacant tone with her own voice. “You state the obvious and ask questions you already know the answer too.”

A small smile quirked the side of Illyria’s lips as she rose one brow in acknowledgement of the statement. Another breeze had them both turning to look out at the humanity stretched out beneath them. Buffy shuddered slightly as the sun, escaped from its space behind the Earth and the warm rays ran freely across the city before them. “Your Watcher has informed me that our presence is requested for the next Council meeting.”

Buffy nodded smiling at the memory of Giles realizing he had an untapped source of demonic information in Illyria. The demon followed Buffy much like she had Wesley. The Slayer was her only connection to this world and she intended to keep this link from decaying like the last. Her eyes had become lost as she recalled with grief her last moment with the man she had seen as one of the few trustworthy mortals. She did ask questions she already knew the answers too. “We should prepare.”

The petite woman nodded and turned her back on the people below. “Not that you need a change of clothes.”

“It would be wise to keep up the guise of Miss Burkle.”

“Yeah, wise. Does it ever bother you?” At the blank look she received Buffy reworded the question. “Having to constantly hide your true self from the world?”
Illyria inclined her head and focused her gaze on the rising sun. “My true form was lost to me when I was imprisoned in the deeper well. This shell is all I will every know, now.” Her vacant eye shifted back to give Buffy a long-suffering sweep before she smirked. “Besides you would cower in terror, were you to see my true countenance.”

Buffy rolled her eyes at the demon. “Pfft! Don’t think so Blue.”

The demon merely shrugged and turned to make her way back into the apartment they currently shared. Buffy stepped back towards the raising sun in the hopes of dispersing the chill she felt settling over her skin. A small smile filled her green eyes as the merchant she had been watching earlier sold a few trinkets and money was gained to feed his family.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Dr. Daniel Jackson rolled his shoulders in an attempt to alleviate some of the tension subletting there. After three hours of translating Goa’uld dialect bent over his desk, his body tended to protest after such blatant misuse. Wishing that for once he had taken his work home with him at least then his chair would have had a back and he could be in his boxers and socks. Not regulation BDU’s and boots. Reaching out he picked up a mug with the inscription ‘Archeologist do it in the dirt’ a Christmas gift from Colonel Jack O’Neill his best friend and the bane of his existence. His face pulled down into a grimace as the lukewarm liquid brushed his lips. Sighing he pressed himself back from his desk and pushed his glasses up and onto of his head. His body rose slowly from the stool to move toward his coffee maker. His hand grasped the pot just as he notice that the rest of the liquid had caked to the bottom and was nothing more than sludge.

“Damn.”

With a dejected droop of his shoulders he replaced the pot and put down his mug. Moving stiffly to his left he opened the cabinets on the far side of his lab in search of his thermos before raiding the mess hall for more coffee. His addiction to caffeine rearing its large and vicious head. The soft ding of Daniel’s email gave him pause and he glanced back to his computer to see his inbox had received a message. His blue eyes traced the door longingly before he turned his back on her. With smooth motions of the mouse and a few strokes on the keys he had bypassed his password and opened the message.

It was from an undergrad who had discovered something ‘up his alley’ in some underground caverns in the Grand Canyon. A Denise Martin, the last name seemed familiar but at the moment he couldn’t place it. There was a folder of photos attached. Daniel scanned them for virus and tracers before opening. He waited impatiently for the program to finish. Once more he glanced at his coffee mug. The machine whirred softly as the folders finally opened and some of the pictures appeared on the screen.

Daniel’s eyes widened and he leaned forward. “Oh, my god.” His right hand grasped the mouse and scrolled downward. His mouth remained opened as his left hand reached for his phone. Pressing a few buttons he silently scrolled through the rest of the undergrad’s photos. “Hello, General Hammond…. Yes…Yes, I know you have to brief SG-4 but I’m going to need a moment of your time…Soon.”

His hand replaced the phone’s receiver and he clicked on one of the photos enlarging it. The lighting, well the lighting was terrible but he could still make out some of the symbols on the walls. The walls themselves were detailed impressions. From the grainy image the archeologist believed them to have been hand carved. Daniel reached out and traced a line along with his slow translation of the bit of text he could see. His mind cataloged more than three subversions of Latin used. He clicked on another picture and watched as hieroglyphs filed the pixels of his computer monitor. Their sudden color and vibrancy though dulled by time seemed eccentric compared to the reserved elegance of the Latin symbols. As he loosely translated the text his hands clenched involuntary. His brow drew downward as his intelligent gaze flick quickly across the screen and his mine processed all that he saw.

“This can’t be good.”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Jack O’Neill pulled his baseball cap further over his brown eyes to block out the harsh UV rays and felt the slow smile spread his lips. Reaching down he slowly cranked the spool of his fishing poll letting the lure trail leisurely through the ponds smooth surface. His eyes followed the passage of a dragonfly as it zipped across the waters edge. The iridescent wings catching the sun’s rays and creating a kaleidoscope effect as they dipped dangerously low to the water. As its agile body flitted across the clear surface Jack leaned his head back and to the side. Once again he gave the poll a soft tug and watched the ripples spread across the calm water. The soft wind brushed across the tops of his bare feet. His flip-flops lost to the grass of his backyard hours ago. Ankles crossed and knees without a brace or ice. Life didn’t get much better.

Jack’s hand lowered to the small table beside him to gasp the neck of the cool bottle of Budweiser. The condensation pooling into droplets on the outside of the brown glass made his smile widen further. Raising it slowly to his lips he took a small sip and his eyes closed in pleasure. Fishing. Cold beer. A lazy afternoon. Life couldn’t get much better.

The muted ring of his cell phone the Simpson’s theme song had his brow drawing downward. He shut his eyes contemplating just ignoring his only link to the outside world. His shoulders tightened in annoyance. He reached smoothly into his khaki short’s side pocket and removed the offending piece of technology. Daniel Jackson’s phone number flashed up at him and he sighed.

“Jack.”

“Hello, Jack?”

The Col. inhaled deeply through his nose and took another sip of the yeasty beauty of beer. “I believe I already said that Daniel.”

“Oh, yes of course.”

There was a pause, “And the reason for calling me when I told you not to, is?”

“Well, you see…an undergraduate contacted me after she found traces of a Egyptian and Roman architecture in the Grand Canyon. While this seems highly unlikely the photos she emailed me show symbols….”

“Daniel!”

“What?”

“The reason you called me is?” He took another sip and savored the cold feeling it made running down his throat.

“Well General Hammond would like us to check out their find.”

“Us?”

“You, myself, Sam and Teal’c.”

Jack shook his head and considered throwing the cell phone into the pond. Pretending he and Daniel never had this conversation and finishing his beer. “When?”

“Uh, tomorrow.”

Jack clenched his jaw and counted to ten. “Jack?”

A calming thought entered Jack’s mind and twirled its way up through his subconscious. “When tomorrow?”

“We depart at 0700.”

His smile slowly came back as he reclined in his chair once more. “I’ll see you then.”

Jack hung up before Daniel could tell him more about hieroglyphs and ancient languages. He had almost seventeen hours till their departure time and at least four hours till sun set. He pulled the lure back up and gently tossed it back out and into the water. Beer by his side. No fish in the pond. There was a soft splash as his cell phone joined the rocks at the bottom of the water. He’d have Carter get him another one tomorrow. With possibly the theme to ‘Mission Impossible’ as the ring tone. Till then they could try the house line.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Major Samantha Carter cracked the green light stick with efficient fingers and dropped the vibrant light to the floor of the cavern. The cool dampness in inside the caves was a relief from the blistering heat they had left only five minutes before. The trail the undergrads had used was steep and open terrain. No shadows from rocks had blocked the harsh UV rays from hitting the team as the made their way towards the cave network. Her eyes adjusted slowly to the dim light the stick offered and motioned the others forward with a flick of her wrist. Her Colonel, Jack O’Neill sidestepped her form and slipped past to gaze around at the low shelf that blocked their path to the entrance of the ‘temple’ the undergrad had sent Daniel information on.

Said Doctor was as giddy as a schoolgirl on prom night in Jack’s opinion and Sam wasn’t much better at the thought of Ancient doodads that she could deconstruct. Teal’c was the team’s only saving grace when it came to coolness. The Col. shook his head, wished for a beer and checked his perimeter before he motioned the others the free and clear.

Daniel’s camcorder was out and he had begun to tape the entrance. His voice soft with excitement and what Jack determined was rapture. Daniel needed a lady friend in the Colonel’s humble opinion. As his voice went into a giddy description of firebirds and their significance to different civilizations through out the ages the Col. took the time to study the cavern walls surrounding them.

The group was some 67.5 kilometers from El Tovar Crystal Canyon how the hell those kids stumbled across it was beyond Jack. The entrance was blocked from the river by a shelf of rock that ran twenty feet up and six feet wide. If Daniel hadn’t been given the exact location by the undergraduate they would have never found it. The passage itself was only four feet wide but widened to about nine in height and five around once you passed ten feet. The rock around them held a burgundy tint that was common with the depth they were at in the canyon but the floor was relatively smooth for a natural cave.

Jack leaned over and rubbed his left knee. Trying to ease some of the stiffness that had formed during their long trek to the sight. With a sigh he allowed his pack to fall to the hard rock beneath his hiking boots.

Placing his hands at his lower back he stretched. A low crack escaped from his bottom vertebra and he winced as the sound echo slightly in the damp air. Carter made her way slowly towards him and Jack reminded himself to keep his gaze at face level. In an attempt to look like tourists the team was dressed in civilian clothes and with the temperature when they started being around 105 Carter had worn shorts. Since Jack was alone in his head he acknowledge that Carter had nice legs. And a nice face. The quickest mind. Regs! His left hand rose to pinch the bridge of his nose slightly. Suppressing the urge to strangle Daniel for making him cut short his leave Jack smiled at his subordinate.

“Yes, Carter?”

“It looks like Daniel’s earlier assumption was right. This place was built by the Ancients.” She looked round at the cave. Eyes sweeping over the rock in the hopes that it would let their secrets just jump out.

“Sweet.”
The corner of Carter’s lips twitched at her CO attitude. “Do you want to make the call into General Hammond?”

Jack smiled. “I dropped mine.”

Carter’s eyes narrowed but she managed to hold in her snort of amusement. Knowing full well the Colonel had not dropped his cell phone and that he had more than one. “You could use mine.”

“Nah, you call and give him the good news. I’m gonna…” He paused and looked around. “I gonna go bug Daniel.”

“Yes, Sir.” Her blue eyes widened as she nodded and pulled out her cell phone. Speed dial two was pressed and she waited for the connection to take.

Jack nodded to Sam and slowly made his way toward the entrance of the temple. The opening stood seven feet in height with smooth columns carved into the tinted rock. The phoenix symbol swept elegantly upward away from the entrance. Its wings in an arch above it head adding a regal appearance to the impression. His eyes swept over every darkened corner in search of threats.

Past the columns the archway opened up into a rectangular room with perfect 90-degree angles. The ceiling rose above him about twenty feet with doom like ceiling. Unlike the rock from the cavern the walls were made of limestone. Smooth and almost luminous in the soft light from Daniels lantern. He could already hear the good doctor speaking into his recorder. The Colonel walked up slowly behind the archeologist and shook his head at the man’s total lack of awareness when engrossed in ruins. A thought that had been nagging him since he left the base finally came forward and he winced.

“Ah, damn it!”

Daniel jumped up from his kneeling position in front of a wall of Latin symbols and knocked his head against a low lying outcropping from the wall resembling a shelf. Jack winced in sympathy and stepped forward to help steady his friend. “Jack, what…” He shook his head and pressed his fingers against his right temple lightly. “What’s wrong?”

“Forgot to tape the Simpsons.”

Daniel opened his mouth as if to speak but seemed to think better of his words and turned back the carvings in the wall. His right hand traced a few of the symbols while his left held his tape recorder.

“So…find anything interesting, yet?”

Jack watched his friends shoulders tense with annoyance and suppressed the urge to smile. “Jack, I’ve been here less than twenty minutes.”

“Right.” He shoved his hands in his pocket and rocked back on the balls of his feet. “So what have you got?”

The linguist raised his shoulders upward as if taking a deep breathe and counting to ten at the same time. Jack’s smile spread. His friend turned around to face him and motioned to both sides of the room. “As far as I can determine these are stories of creation, sort of.”

“Sort of?”

Daniel sighed in exasperation. “Well since I don’t believe our world was once a breeding ground for demons. I’m going to go with sort of.” Jack merely stood patiently waiting to him to continue. He motioned with his tape recorder to the wall he stood in front of. “This wall dictates the arrival of the Ancients. A race that came from heaven and pushed back the darkness and demons. Freeing mankind from their slavery.” He paused and took a few steps into the center of the cave. His eye tracing the hieroglyphs behind Jack. “These tell the of their arrival from the darkness’s point of view.” Daniel meet Jack’s gaze and the Col. almost winced at the excitement he saw there. “I don’t even think these texts were done at the same time! Some one came in after this temple was built and added their version! That’s…”

“Daniel!”

“What?”

“That’s fascinating.” His tone implied it was anything but.

Daniel nodded and motioned Jack back to side of the cave that was in a form of Latin. “You’re going to find this interesting.” Jack looked at the symbols Daniel pointed to and wondered how he thought a bunch of lines that vaguely resembled a dead skunk would be interesting. Though knowing his luck it would be profound.

“This entire section of text tells of the Ancients creating a being called the ‘Chosen One’. A human given the power to protect the Earth and all that derive from her. He’s supposed to keep the darkness in check. Sort of a balance.”

“There’s that phrase again.”

Daniel rolled his lips inward and closed his eyes before continuing. “This is the part you’ll like…”

“I doubt it.” The archeologist stopped and simply looked at him. Jack’s forehead wrinkled slightly. “Sorry, I’m waiting with bated breath”

Daniel ignored his sarcasm and stepped a few feet further into the room focusing his lantern a section of text that reminded Jack of a rabbit jumping a low fence. “This temple was created for the ‘Chosen One’ to use as the Ancile and sword for the Earth. To protect it from the darkness.”

“Incredible.”

Daniel paused to look at him thoroughly stunned. “Jack, the Ancile was a shield used by Ares. It had supposedly fallen from heaven and was impenetrable. Every war Ares won he used the shield in battle!”

“Sweet! What does that have to do with this temple?”

“Jack, these text suggest that this temple is a shield or sword for Earth to use against the darkness. The Ancients and other races call the Goa’uld the darkness in some text.”

His eyes narrowed as understanding began to filter though his mind. “You’re saying this temple is a weapon?”

“Yes, but…”

“No, no, don’t say but just say yes or no.”

Daniel’s brow drew down and his eyes narrowed. “Yes.” Then added quickly, “But we would need this ‘Chosen One’ to control it.”

“Aw, Daniel.” Jack winced and looked around the dank cavern. In search of signs of an on switch. Nothing was ever simple. “So we find this ‘Chosen One’…” he frowned. “What is it with alien races and using the term ‘Chosen One’ I think its become trendy now.”

Daniel raised his hand to push up his glasses to the top of his head and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Jack, the Ancients are older than most of the races we’ve encountered. I think its safe to say they used it first.”

“Okay so they’re the trend setters. Good for them. We’ve still got to find the ‘Chosen One’ out of six billion people. Hello needle this is my friend the hay stack.”

The archeologist shook his head. “I remember the phrase from some of my other studies. I’ll research it more but until then I’ll begin translation of the rest of these text. This is just the entrance. I’ve just got to figure out how to open the door.” He replaced his glasses and waited for Jack to go.

“Okay. I’ll leave you to it.”

“Thank you.”

“Bye.”

Daniel frowned. “Bye, Jack.”

The Col. watched him turn back to the wall of lines and Jack began making his way out of the entrance, in search of Teal’c. Maybe the Jaffa would want to play chess. The colonel had brought his travel set with him.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

One week had passed and Daniel still had not solved the puzzle of opening the temple. His patience was short as he made his way beneath Cheyenne Mountain in Stargate Command. The smooth walls of cement reminding him of the room he had spent the better part of everyday and usually night for the last several days. His coffee was at least hot. That was the only saving grace as he entered the main conference room of the SGC. Carter was already seated his notes in front of her and a sympathetic smile of her lips. Daniel returned it with a tentative one of his own.

“Hey, Daniel.”

“Morning Sam.”

They sat in companionable silence. Neither feeling the need to fill the space between them with pointless chatter, they sipped their coffee and reread the team’s assessment of the ruins beneath the Grand Canyon.

“Major Carter, Daniel Jackson.” Teal’c incline his head forward in greeting to his two teammates. The gold emblem on his forehead caught the dim light of the room and flashed slightly. Reminding Daniel of the Phoenix engraving above the temple’s entrance. He closed his eyes and let his head fall back in defeat. He was not going to this puzzle get the best of him.

The two returned the greeting and then stood when General Hammond entered shortly after the Jaffa. “Morning, Sir.”

George Hammond smiled at Sam and nodded in return to the other two men. His gaze flicked around the room and he frowned slightly. “Where is Colonel O’Neill?”

“Right here, Sir.” Jack quickly took his seat beside his CO and smiled slightly in apology.

“Alright, now that we’re all present and accounted for. Care to update me on the ‘Phoenix’ site?”

“Yes, we should have named it…”

“Jack, I don’t believe Shelbyville is an appropriate name to give a temple built by the Ancients.” The General managed to keep a straight face while addressing his second in command. Oh, the strength of will power.

Jack shrugged and leaned back in his chair. “Just saying.”

“Well, Sir. According to some of the EMF sensors I ran the area does give off a low electromagnetic field. It pulsated to a rhythm similar to the human heart. About seventy pulses per minute. But I haven’t been able to pinpoint a location that the signal originates from.”

“Any luck in opening it, yet?”

Daniel shook his head. “No, not yet but I was able to translate more of the text and I’m certain that the temple is supposed to be used in a battle referred to as the End of Days. Both texts use that exact phrase.”

“Gives you that warm feeling, right here.” Jack rubbed his stomach in emphasis. Sam suppressed her smile and Teal’c merrily raised his right brow.

Daniel cleared his throat and grabbed the remote for the projector from the center of the table. “Yes, well…Anyway, the text also has three symbols in reference to when the End of Days will occur. Denise Martin thought it was a date or the numbers seven, three, and zero but she translated the symbols incorrectly.”

A sweeping carving in the limestone filled the wall. “The seven was in reference to the seven chevrons you need to dial for the Stargate to connect in our galaxy. It gave coordinates but three symbols have been destroyed.” Another picture showed four chevron symbols in the center of a Chappa’ia carved into the wall spanning eight feet in diameter. The three symbols appeared to have been craved out of the limestone. The edges of the space they vacated were jagged and crumbling.

“The three I believe has significance with a trinity of some kind and the last isn’t a zero. It’s actually the symbol for Omega…” He stopped on the Omega.

“The last letter of the Greek Alphabet?”

Daniel smiled and nodded to Sam. “Yes, but it also means roughly the end.”
“In regards to this End of Days the text mentioned?”

Daniel shook his head at Teal’c. “No, it’s not. I thought so to at first but it’s actually in regards to the ‘Chosen One’.”

“The warrior?” Daniel nodded his agreement with the Jaffa.

“Have you gotten any further in your search for this Chosen One?”

“Actually, yes. I found references about a Chosen One through out history. A city or village is being over run by darkness or demons the Chosen One comes and stops the carnage.”

“Okay mentions in the past how about the present?” Jack leaned back and swung the chair form side to side with his foot.

Daniel clicked the projector and picture of a large gothic building fills the far wall. Elegant with several stories and a large tower in the far left. Built out of stone and brick it appeared to have celebrated at least its bicentennial. “They were called the Watchers Council. Studied the occult and the Chosen One extensively.”

“Where?”

Daniel nodded and clicked the picture to newspaper article dated two years ago. The headline read, “Horrible Gas Leak Kills Over Two Hundred!” The building gracing the front page of the paper had been gutted by the flames. Only the framing remained resembling the bones of an animal carcass having been picked clean by scavengers.
Daniel flicked through several more headlines and bylines. Each depicting a human death by accident and unsolved murder. Until finally he was only scrolling through obituaries.

“The Watcher’s Council was destroyed and the few members who were not caught in the ‘accident’ seemed to have died mysteries deaths afterwards. No one was ever caught.”

“How convenient.”

Daniel’s gaze flicked to Jack before he pressed the next button to bring up another photo. A man in his late forties early fifties filled the wall. Glasses helped camouflage the lines around his hazel eyes that showed he was more likely to smile than frown. “This is Rupert Giles, the only member I can find that’s is still listed. He inherited the funds and opened a school when Quinton Travers the head of the Council died in the gas leak.”

“School?”

Daniel nodded at Sam’s question and flicked to another picture. A large building scanning probably two acres filled the wall. A large ten-foot privacy fence enclosed the area surrounding the school. “Just outside Liverpool. A private school for young women from all over the globe called Pandora’s Children. I’ve made an appointment with his personal assistant, surprisingly an American named Dawn Summers. She’s going to fit me in sometime next week. I should be hearing back from her today.”

“Good, you and Jack will go to Liverpool and Sam and Teal’c will head back to Arizona and continue to try and gain access to the inside of the temple.”

Jack sat forward then. “General, Sir I’m sure Daniel can handle going…”

“Yes, General I’m perfectly capable…”

“That was an order not a request, gentlemen. I’m sure nothing will happen but the deaths of all the other Watcher’s Council is beyond suspicious and I would prefer the two of you went rather than just Dr. Jackson. Unless you believe you could do the interview over the phone here in the states?”

“No, I think we should talk to Mr. Giles in person.”

“Very well then. Have a nice trip.” The General stood and the others followed suit. Sam ducked her head to hide the small smile playing across her lips. Jack scowled at her.

“I believe General Hammond has correct assumption in being mistrustful of the Watchers Council. The destruction of their headquarters is most convenient.”

“Thanks Teal’c.” Jack shook his head. “Daniel you make the arrangements.” The linguist nodded. Jack watched the others begin to depart and called out, “Carter!”

She paused just at the doors entrance. “Sir?”

Jack made his way quickly towards her. “Do you think you can come over and show me how to program my VCR again?”

The smile she had been fighting for most on the debriefing finally broke free and filled her eyes with delight. “Yes, Sir.”

“You’re the best.”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Buffy watched in amusement as Rupert Giles her Watcher and only real father figure, fluttered about his office. His movements usually gracefully were jerky in the confined space. The school Xander Harris had taken to calling ‘Giles’ School for the Gifted’ had only opened six months ago and Giles had been more worried about getting the girls set up than his office. Which was currently in a state of disarray. The school had been Xander’s idea. A place where the newly called Slayers could be free to be themselves. With the girls coming from all over the world some for the entire year. Others only for ‘summer vacation’. The old Watchers Council’s contacts had proven invaluable. Allowing the new figureheads of the Watchers Council to become acquainted with the political leaders of different countries.

Xander was in Africa researching the origin of the First Slayer. His influence over the past year invaluable to the reconstruction they were still in the middle of. Willow Rosenburg had been in South America but had come back with her lover Kennedy to help teach and train the newest recruits to the school. Her love of teaching filling her with the happiness and babbles that had been sorely missed in resent years. Robin Wood was in Cleveland with Faith and had his first meeting with the President was last week. Faith’s pardon already pushed in the process of becoming a fact. Buffy was only slightly jealous. She voted for him. She saved the world. Okay a lot jealous. When was she going to get to meet the President of the United States?

Her attention was once again drawn to Giles by a loud crash. She shook her head at the broken urn now littering the floor. Dawn had forgotten to inform Giles of a meeting she had scheduled with some archeologist from the States. She suppressed the urge to role her eyes at his reorganization of his desk once more and snuggled deeper in the couch that sat on the far side of the room. Small but functional was the only way to describe the twelve by ten room. Though the office would have seemed larger had he not shoved every book he had ever bought into it. The stacks were over flowing with the works from Dante to Ritual Blood Magic and everything your nightmares could imagine in between. Buffy propped her chin on her right palm and held back her laughter. Barely.

“Is this your first date since, Olivia?”

Giles stopped his motions and turned to stare at his charge blankly. Understanding slowly filled his eyes and he gave her his patent ‘very funny’ glare. She beamed. “Shouldn’t you be…” He paused unsure where to go with his question.

“Tormenting you? Yep, already in the process.” At his look of annoyance she stood and took several books from his busy hands. “Come on Watcher-Mine, how often do I get to bug you nowadays?”

His gaze softened as a small smile brought the lines around his eyes into focus. “Not often enough it seems.” The light reply had her nodding in agreement.

“See, you know you missed me terribly.”

The door to Giles’ office opened and a teenage tornado usually referred to as Dawn Summers blew in. Her green eyes widened in alarm at the state of her new boss’s office. “Dr. Jackson’s here and he brought a friend. Jack O’Neill.” She fidgeted with the knee length skirt she wore. Her long legs encased in stockings and her cocoa colored hair pulled up into an intricate bun had her looking older than her seventeen years. Buffy felt a small tug in her stomach wishing her mother had lived to see the woman Dawn was shaping into. Though still a little scattered brained.


Giles sputtered and glared at his personal assistant. “Dawn you told me two o’clock!” He glanced to the large wall clock handing behind his desk. The Roman numbers clearly stated it was only 12:45pm.

The younger Summers winced. “Did I say two?” At his glare she swallowed as a blush quickly stole up her cheeks. “I meant one.” She quickly ducked the book aimed at her head and darted back behind the door. “I’m so sorry!” She now tugged at the sleeves of her matching jacket.

Buffy moved quickly between Giles and her younger sister. Eyes shinning brightly with delight. “I’ll distract the good doctor and give him the fifty cent tour of the school. While you and Dawn get the office set up.”

Giles looked at her with such relief Buffy couldn’t help but laugh. “Give us a half hour.”

One brow rose in question. At the pleading look for her sister she nodded and slowly picked her way through the debris on the floor. “Have fun!” Her cheerful farewell was met with a few choice words from Dawn but she just smiled and closed the door behind her.

Giles sighed and watched as Dawn knelt to pick up the broken pieces of urn from the pine floors. The school had originally been Travers’ home and it tended to lean towards lavish. Pompous prick. Money flowing out the arse and never once giving any to the girls who deserved it. His left hand reached out to pick up the phone from the side of his desk and pressed line three.

“Hello?”

The Watcher smiled in relief. “Ah, yes Willow. Good you’re in.”

“Hey, Giles. How’s Buffy and Illyria?” The happy sound of her voice eased some his tension instantly.

“They’re well. You’ll see them in a few hours when you come for dinner. Right now I need you to run a background check on two individuals as quickly as possible.”
“Sure, when do you need it?”

He winced. “Twenty minutes.”

“O-Kay. Who?”

“Daniel Jackson and Jack O’Neill.” He watched Dawn’s head come up and her eyes narrowed on him. “They live in Colorado Springs, Colorado.”


He heard hear her already taping her away at the keys of her computer. Probably already netting her way through that blasted Internet and pulling up information. “Do you think you could call me…”

“As soon as I have something I’ll give you a ring.”

“Splendid. Thank you Willow.”

“You’re welcome but I want the reason behind this impromptu background check afterwards.”

“Of course. Goodbye.”

“Bye, Giles.”

He replaced the receiver and began to help Dawn straighten his office. They worked in silence and he felt her urge to ask about the background check like a tangible weight in the air. Her hands were quick and sure as she replaced items and stacked books. Her quiet was the true testament to the fact that she thought he was invading someone’s privacy. The tightness in her shoulders another.

“Dawn…”

She shook her head. “Dr. Jackson is interested in the Watchers Council and the first thing you do…”

He held up a hand to silence her tirade. Then removed his glasses to polish the lenses against his striped business shirt. The sleeves had been rolled up sometime during the morning and he had never bothered to straighten them.

“His very reason of interest means we should be cautious. Dawn; have your forgotten what happened to the last Council headquarters? We have over a hundred young women living in this establishment. Had you told me of this meeting earlier the checks would already have been done.” He replaced his glasses and looked into her young face. A look of horror was slowly filling her pale green eyes.

“I didn’t think. I’m sorry, Giles.”

He nodded. “Dawn one of the reason I wanted you for an assistant is that you are young and still have the ability to look at the world threw rose colored glasses. It is refreshing but I in the same moment will put the girls safety first above all else.”

She bit her lip and stood with her stack of books. Balancing their weight against her chest she smiled tentatively. “Yes, sir.” Her voice was soft.

“Now lets just hope Buffy doesn’t scare them off.”

Dawn face brightened. “As long as she doesn’t bring Illyria along to give them the tour I think we’ll be fine.” Giles stiffened and turned slowly to look at her. “No. She wouldn’t.” At the grimace she watched play across her mentor’s face she closed her eyes tightly. “She would.”

~~~@~~@~~@

Jack raised his left hand to comb through his graying hair and pressed it lightly against his ear to check if it was bleeding or possibly thicker pieces were leaking out. The thin teenage girl who had become their companion while waiting for Rupert Giles to see them had not stopped talking in nearly seven minutes. Even Daniel’s eyes were starting to glaze and he had the patience of a saint. Unless Jack was annoying him. The colonel smirked slightly as Daniel tried once again to interrupt their newest friend.

“Vi, we can come back if Mr. Giles is busy.”

The pretty red head beamed at them, “Oh, no don’t worry Giles is very punctual. Never late. Did I mention that we have an art room?”

Her voice faded to the back round as she leapt into another rousing speech about how great the school was. Jack’s attention was quickly drawn to the approaching pair of woman. They were casually making their way down the hallway that separated the schools entrance from the main area. Though Jack suspected this mausoleum had been someone’s personal home before being transformed into a school.

The grand scale of everything from the wood floors to the thick carpets in the rooms branching off from the main hallway gave hint to lavishness this place had once possessed. It appeared to have been gutted and reworked to add more function to the flowing space. The smell of new paint and wood told of remodeling.

Jack focused back on the pair making their way slowly towards them. One was taller and thinner than the young woman explaining the architecture of the building to Daniel. In excruciating detail. Long brown hair fell to the middle of her back and she appeared to watching the woman beside her with great interest. Words that he couldn’t hear were exchanged and her companion paused and stared at the other woman in disbelief. Jack’s brown eyes quickly ran over the small female that now glared at her counterpart. She was delicate. Nearly, half a foot shorter than her companion and blonde with impish features. Both dressed in casual sundresses that in Jacks opinion showed more than they covered. Not that he was complaining. Nothing of the sort, probably because the two woman currently occupying said dress were prettier than most.

The sudden silence startled him and he glanced back to see Daniel and Vi following his attention to the pair who where once again making their way towards them. Jack watched his friend’s attention settle on the little blonde and a light of appreciation for the female form fill his gaze.

Unable to stop himself, not that he’d want to mind you. Jack leaned into his friend and whisper conversationally. “Might want to close your mouth there, Danny boy.”

The archeologist’s eyes narrowed. “Jack…” He paused and then shrugged. “Shut up.”

The friendly smile that had been plastered to Vi’s face widen with real pleasure at the sight of the other women. “That’s Buffy.” She motioned to the small blonde and then with considerably less enthusiasm she pointed to the other woman. “And that’s Il…Er…Fred.”

Jack frowned at the slip but simply catalogued it for further study later. He did comment on their names. “Buffy and Fred?” Daniel shot him a dirty look clearly telling him to not piss anyone off.

Vi smiled at him. “Yep, Buffy Summers and Winifred Burkle. Their consultants and private investors for the school.”

“Consultants?” The disbelief must have been evident in his voice because Daniel quickly slipped in and over him.

“What areas of study are their expertises?”

The teenage girl shot Jack a considering look. Unsure to talk about her hero and Illyria in front of him. She glanced at Dr. Jackson and saw the smile that he allowed to quirk his lips. Her heart melted just a little. “Fred has either a Masters or PHD in physics and math sciences. She’s also proficient in several languages. Buffy’s sorta a therapist for us girls. She’s been through a lot and helps us get through the tough times.”

Daniels smiled at Vi but his attention was once again drawn to the small woman now only about ten feet from them. She gave the group a welcoming smile and she captivated his attention. Her face was delicate, elfin. Her body curved lines and lithe form. He failed to notice her companion watching him with avid interest as he drank in the sight of her guide, transfixed.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Buffy had retrieved the demon from her study of the French Revolution in the main library of the second floor. The over throw of the monarchy seemed to amuse her. She informed Illyria she was to be given the chance to test her ‘making nice’ skills. They made their way down the hallway in a compatible silence. Illyria’s attention focused on the Slayer beside her. As they had turned into the main hallway of the buildings structure both had begun studying the pair that were to be given a tour of the school.

Illyria’s gaze narrowed on the female waiting with them. “The incessant one is with them.”

Buffy’s lips quirked. “Her name is Vi.”

“I am aware of her name.”

The demon continued her perusal of the males just behind the annoying one. The one with the gray hair had his hands shoved absently in his pockets and had notice their entrance into the hallway. His eyes trailed over them with slight appreciation and Illyria cocked her head slightly. His stance was sure and legs slightly bent. His eyes stayed friendly but there was an alertness there. He was either a soldier or paranoid. By the muscles that played under his khakis and casual button up shirt Illyria labeled him a soldier and kept her attention slightly on him even as she dissected the male next to him.

He was slightly taller than the Alpha male beside him. His chinos seemed tailored to fit his legs while the green shirt he wore had the sleeves rolled back exposing the muscles of his forearms. Corrective glass perched on the center of his face and Illyria wondered at the human race that spent time fixing such things. If a demon was born incorrect it would be destroyed and the creators would try again. Her shell had worn the same glass, though the body had been cleansed of such imperfection when she took control. Though flawed, he was not unattractive. The intelligence behind the glass was a force to be dealt with. His body showed a stance accustomed to defending ones self. He did not however cry soldier to the demon like his counterpart. He was accustomed to battle but not to war. Something else about him pressed at the back of her consciousness. It scratched along her spin and temples like broken bone shards.

Illyria felt Buffy’s focus shift to the scholar like a weight against her body. She was encompassed with heat and she smirked at the blonde’s affinity with the Beta male. “Your body warms at the sight of him.”

The blonde stopped in her stride to stare at her ally. “What?” Her voice was several octaves higher than normal.

A brow quirked above brown eyes. “You are attracted to the Beta male.”

“No, I’m not.” As the other brow rose to join her sister Buffy scowled. “Shut up!”

Illyria simply began to walk back towards the trio at the end of the hall. Buffy glared at her back for a moment before she quickened her pace to catch up. The finished the short distance to the group in silence. Buffy heard Vi’s explanation of what they did with a wince but brought forth her best fake smile to welcome the males.

Vi beat her to introductions. “Buffy! This is Dr. Daniel Jackson and his friend Jack O’Neill.” She motioned to the honey with glass as the doctor and the attractive man beside him as Jack.

“Hi, I’m Buffy Summers.” She offered her hand to Daniel first. Her smiled warmed becoming real, as his large hand engulfed her smaller one. His thumb absently rubbed the top of her palm.

“Nice to meet you Miss Summers.” Her eyes sparked with interest as they locked with a pair of the bluest eyes she had ever seen on a human. Heat spread slowly up from her fingertips to tease her senses.

Jack watched his friend smile at the tiny blonde and glanced to the brunette that had walked up with her. She appeared to find as much amusement with the pair as he did. Hoping for a coconspirator he smiled and offered his hand to her. “Jack O’Neill.”

She turned to him a calculating look that switched to a friendly smile. “Winifred Burkle but you can call me Fred.” She shrugged her thin shoulders slightly. “Everybody does.” Her hand was smooth, cool in his own and he nodded to her before flashing a grin. His eyes slid to the pair whose hands were still clasped. Lost to a world of their own making.

She leaned in and whispered softly. “I think my friends attracted to your friend.”
Jack refreshed by her Texan accent smirked. “Looks like”

The pair dropped hands and glared at their counterparts respectively. Buffy smiled and offered her hand to Jack. “Mr. O’Neill.”

“Jack, will do.”

Their hands clasped and raised once before they let go. “Then please call me, Buffy.”

Jack contemplated how to do that with a straight face while Daniel and Illyria shook hands as well. The doctor enamored by her shy smile the same way the Colonel had been.

Jack glanced over to see the dark look that Vi was giving Illyria and became confused. He opened his mouth to speak but Buffy had followed his gaze and addressed the other girl. “Vi, why don’t you go help with…” She trailed off and then sighed.

“Going away?” Buffy glared at the demon. Jack contemplated hugging her.

Vi’s eyes narrowed and she glanced to Buffy who nodded and shot her a reassuring smile. “Well, okay.” She turned to the two men. “It was nice to meet you.” Her eyes trailed over the brunette darkly once more before she turned and made her way back down the hall.

Illyria watched her leave with barely suppressed mirth. “She can be a hand full.”

Buffy’s green eye’s narrow. “She means well.” Her attention went back to males. “Really she does. Its just that she can be…”

“Annoying?” Illyria smirked at the glare Buffy shot her but she merely raises a brow in question.

“Perhaps over-informative is a good phrase to describe, Vi.” Jack grinned at his friend. Ever the peacemaker. Not that the two women in front of them were going to come to blows. The Col. cocked his head to the side in thought. If they did maybe cake batter could be involved somehow.

He shook his head. “So, are we going to get to meet Mr. Giles anytime soon?”

Buffy grinned from ear to ear. “Do you want the truth or the elaborate save-face story I concocted on my way to meet you?”

“The truth would be splendid.”

Buffy nodded to Jack. “Are you sure? The story I’ve thought up is much more interesting with a small kitchen fire and a cross dressing Elvis impersonator.” The Colonel laughed but shook his head in the negative. Buffy sighed. “Spoil sport. Well, Dawn is new to being a personal assistant and forgot one of the important things about the job is to let your boss know when you’ve set up a meeting for them to meet with someone.”

Daniel winced. “He didn’t know we where coming?”

“That would be a negative.”

“We can come back…”

Buffy shook her head interrupting Daniel. “Nah. I was sent to give you a tour that’s suppose to take.” She glanced down at the thin silver watched adorning her left wrist. “Twenty minutes.”

“A tour of this place will only take twenty minutes?”

Buffy smiled at the tone of Jack’s question. “No a real tour would probably take a week but I can give a let’s kill time sightsee.”

The Colonel grinned. “That works.”

Buffy nodded and motioned them to walk with her and Illyria. The men fell instep beside them and the group fell into silence as they passed underneath the archway. A staircase swept up their right side and a hallway with what seemed like never ending doors fell along the other length of the hall.

Illyria pondered the lack of conversation and waited as her shell seeped the knowledge into her consciousness. Her voice was pleasant as she spoke, “Well this is awkward.”

Buffy blinked realizing she was supposed to be giving a tour. As a blush colored her cheeks a light pink and she nodded. “The stairs lead up to the first floor of offices and libraries.”

“Libraries? How many?” Daniels voice had become animated.

Buffy sent him a sideways glance recognizing the tone in his voice as one that Giles got after finding a new prophecy. Made her feel a little dirty just hearing it. “Four not including Giles’ personal one in his office.”

“So five.”

Jack rolled his eyes at his friend. “We can just drop Daniel off on that floor and then we’ll finish the tour from there.” He leaned into the women. “ He has a thing for books.”

Daniel scowled at him. “I’m not completely infatuated with books.”

“Good to know.” Daniel’s gaze flicked to the blonde who sent him an impish grin and began a slow trek up the stairs with Illyria. Her hips swung gracefully from side to side and he watched her calf muscles bunch in fascination.

Illyria felt the stirrings of lust from the male behind her and turned to see his intense gaze fixated on Buffy’s rear. She frowned not understanding the male fascination with that part of the female anatomy. Her voice was amused as she called back to the duo. “You boys coming?”

Her voice drew the Beta male from his perusal and he blushed as Buffy had moments earlier. Illyria turned back to continue her accent of the stairs Buffy’s amusement clear as she whispered to her comrade. “You’re evil.”

Illyria smiled and in the shells voice answered, “It is a way to pass the time.” The tiny Slayer snorted in response.

Daniel felt Jack lay a hand on his left shoulder companionably. “Smooth Danny.” His hand clapped lightly against his back before he too began to ascend the staircase. “Real smooth.”

The linguist shook is head and quickly followed the trio up the flight of steps. He paused at the landing to stare in awe at the doors just before him that were opened wide as sunlight streamed through several opened windows. Casting the room in brilliant colors. Though the illusion of a rainbow was not what had given him such joy. It was the bookshelves lining the walls. They rose high and noble nearly to the ceiling. Filled with books and pieces of history. He took a small step forward and then another till he was just outside the threshold.

Buffy shared an amused glance with the doctor’s friend before she stepped forward. “You can go inside.”

Daniel blinked coming to himself and grinned sheepishly. “Sorry…it’s just all that knowledge at your disposal. I don’t think I’d ever leave.”

Illyria allowed a smile to quirk her lips. “You think this ones big you should see the other three.”

Daniel turned to her excited. “They’re bigger?”

“The biggest.”

Jack stepped between them and casually steered his friend from the library. “As much as the thought of all those boring books fills me with joy. What else does your school have to offer?”

Buffy grinned at a kindred spirit. “Well, there’s the gymnasium, art and music rooms, math and science halls, dorms and so on and so forth.” She rolled her wrist in emphasis.

Jack nodded. “Sweet. So where are the students?”

Buffy smiled. “We’re on summer recess. So there are fewer than usual but some are still lurking around the buildings.” She stopped and inclined her head in thought for a moment before continuing, “I think our summer school count was around 120.”

Daniel raised his brows. “That’s a lot of girls to take care of.”

Illyria nodded. “Oh, don’t worry these a fully trained staff here at all times.”

“Most of the girls are in their afternoon classes. We offer extracurricular studies after summer courses lets out. Kick boxing, Tia Chi, Ti Kwon Doe…”


“Big on the self defense.” Jack frowned at the thought of little girls being trained for something less than noble.

Buffy smiled sweetly. “We want our girls to be prepared to face any situation. Academic or gangs on PCP.” She shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly. “You never know what they’ll have to face in the real world.”

Daniel frowned at ‘gangs on PCP’ comment but chose to ignore it to ask a question that had been bothering him. “The schools called Pandora’s Children.”

“And you want to know if it has anything to do with the myth about Pandora’s box.” Buffy watched Jack as he silently searched the corridor. To any normal person it would have looked like a casual interest in the architecture. But Buffy noticed the subtle way he searched for easy exits and possible weapons. Daniel’s answer to her question brought her attention back to him.

“Well, yes actually.” The linguist had noticed Buffy watching Jack with a slight frown and tried to steer her attention back towards him.

She nodded but before she could answer Illyria interrupted them. “It was an urn.”

Small lines appeared between Daniel’s brows as his eyes narrowed behind his glasses. “What?”

“Pandora did not have a box it was an urn.” Illyria shrugged lightly at the Beta a male’s stare.

Daniel cocked his head to the left and opened his mouth slowly, “Well it is described in some text as an urn but the basic concept is still the same.”

“A box implies structure and order. The curved facets of an urn allow the chaos inside to fold over and over on its self becoming more powerful before its destruction is released.” Illyria’s voice had become dull, hollow. The demon caught Buffy’s sharp look and sighed. The archeologist aggravated her sense of self. His presence was like a metal blade piercing her abdomen. Sharp. Irritating.

“Okay.” Jack interrupted the two brainy people of the little group. “So where’s Giles office?”

Buffy caught his not so subtle attempt to abandon this conversation and latched onto it. “Yeah it’s right over this way.” She motioned the others to walk ahead of them and caught Illyria’s arm lightly. “What was that?”

The demon blinked at her. “I am disquieted by the Beta male.”

Buffy frowned. “He’s human.” Illyria inclined her head in agreement. “And he has a name.” Illyria smirked at the Slayer. Buffy sighed. “Why don’t you go finish your reading of the French chopping off heads and I’ll take them to see the all powerful Oz.”

Illyria nodded her brown hair fell forward caressing her face in soft cascades. “I will linger in case you are in need of assistance.”

Buffy smiled. “Thank you.”

The demon nodded and turned her back on the males. Illyria’s neck and shoulders were straight with pride as she glided away from them.

Buffy turned back to the duo that stood about ten feet from her waiting for her to catch up. She flashed them her best fake smile and walked purposely towards them. She saw Jack watched her with narrowed brown eyes and Daniel looked slightly uneasy.
“She seemed to leave in a hurry.”

Buffy side stepped Jacks unasked question. “She had an elsewhere to be”
“I’m sorry if I offended her in someway…”

Buffy raised a hand to silence Daniel’s apology. “Not a problem. Fred’s a little superstitious. That’s all.” She walked quickly past them and towards Giles door. The hallway was slowly falling to shadows as the sun was hidden behind murky clouds. Buffy frowned as a chill of unease filled the hallway.

She paused outside the last door on the left side and knocked softly. A female voice called from inside breathlessly. “Just a minute.” There was a slight crash followed by a “Damn it!” The doorknob jiggled slightly before it opened revealing a teenage girl smiling widely.

“Hi!”

Daniel’s unease faded with her exuberant welcome. “Hello. Dawn Summers?”

She beamed at him and nodded her moss green eyes flashing. The linguist paused and glanced at Buffy seeing the same shade in her gaze. Their last names clicked and he nodded to himself. Both girls watched him with nearly identical looks of amusement.
Dawn offered her hand, “Dr. Jackson?”

He took it her hand shook it still smiling at his discovery of their relationship. He turned and introduced Buffy’s sister to Jack. “Dawn Summers this is Jack O’Neill.”

Jack nodded and accepted her offered hand and then his lips quirked in laughter as the apparently younger sibling gave her sister a pointed look and inclined her head.

Buffy’s eyes widened. She turned to the men. “I believe that’s my not so subtle clue to skedattle. So this would be were I depart.” She smiled at the two men. “I’ve had fun being your tour guide and now I leave you in the capable hands of Dawnie.”

The younger sibling’s eyes narrowed in annoyance at the nickname but she still smiled at the two men and waved them inside the office. Daniel sent one last look toward the tiny blonde. Wanting. Well he was unsure what he wanted but Buffy staying in close proximity to him for the next couple of years seemed like a good start. The linguist shook his head to clear his thoughts and focused on his reason for coming to Britain in the first place. To speak with Rupert Giles about the Chosen One myth.

The gentleman currently in question was on the telephone and smiled at them in welcome will Dawn seated Jack and Daniel on a comfortable coach just across from the desk. The doctor was once again caught up in the knowledge this one room possessed. Jack marveled that there was another person on this planet that may be a bigger pack rat than Daniel.

“Would you like something to drink?” They both answered negative and she nodded.

“Thank you, Willow. Yes the information will be most helpful.” His eyes flicked up to them giving the duo a slight study. “Yes, dear girl. Thank you again. Goodbye.” The phone receiver was replaced and he stood making his way to them from behind the desk. As they began to rise to meet him he motioned them back down.

“Dr. Jackson, Mr. O’Neill.” Jack was slightly surprised by the first accent they had heard at the school up until this moment. He nodded with his name while the owner of the school leaned against his desk and watched them silently. No one spoke for a few moments and Giles smiled indulgently. “Did you come all this way just to tour the school?”

Daniel shook his head. “I’m sorry Mr. Giles. Well you see….” He paused unsure how to approach the subject of Watcher’s Council.

Dawn watched the doctor fumble and stepped in. “He was interested in finding out more about the Watcher’s Council and what they studied isn’t that right Dr. Jackson?”

Daniel shot the teenager a grateful look. “Yes, I am but mostly I’m curious about the Chosen One myth.”

Jack watched Dawn’s eyes widen slightly but she remained quiet as Giles inquired, “Really, may I ask why?”

Jack answered giving the story General Hammond had okayed before they had left for the Mother Country. “We’ve located some ruins that make reference to the myth.”

The older man inclined his head. “Where?”

Daniel frowned at the man’s closed off persona. “I was just hopping for the chance to talk to you about the legend behind the Chosen One he seems fascinating.” Dawn bit back a giggle. Daniel turned to her confused. “What?”

Her eyes were bright with contained glee. “The ‘Chosen One’ is a legend about a female warrior.”

Daniel’s eyes narrowed as he processed that bit of information. He would have to consult the video’s he made to see if that changed any of his translations. “A…A female really?”

“Yep, the Chosen One also known as the…”

“Dawn!” Her head jerked up to look at her mentor. His hazel eyes had narrowed but he kept his attention of the two males currently in his office. “Can you tell me where you located this text about the Chosen One?”

Jack leaned forward and placed his hands on his knees. “I’m sorry that’s…”

“Classified?” Jack and Daniel both stiffened at the word and Giles smile vanished as if it had never been. “Tell me Colonel O’Neill what does the U.S. Air Force have to do with ruins and a mythical creature called the Chosen One? Especially since the official area of study for your base in Colorado Springs is deep space radar telemetry.”

Daniel blinked and opened his mouth but Jack was already standing. “Come on, Daniel.”

The linguist winced trying to save the situation. “Mr. Giles, please this text also mentions an End of Days.” Both the older man and Dawn stood fully at his words. “Please, help me I just need more information.”

Giles’s eyes narrowed. “In exchange for the location of the site.”

Daniels shoulders dropped as he sighed. “I’m sorry I can’t.”

“Then we have nothing more to say.” The Watcher walked quickly to the door and opened it. “You will not be welcomed here again.”

Jack pulled Daniel to his feet. “Make sure you spell my name correctly for the do not enter list. It’s O’Neill. With two L’s.”

They quickly made their way down through the door and Jack paused when he saw Buffy standing slightly down the hall with a young girl of about twelve talking quietly. Her eyes widened at the anger she saw on his face and she ushered the child away and cautiously made her way towards them.

“That was a short meeting. Everything okay?”

Jack opened his mouth to answer but Giles voice cut over his own. “Buffy, please come here!” Her green eyes widened even further until the white around her iris showed and she shot the duo a questioning look. “Dawn, do escort these men for the premises.”

The brunette nodded and stepped forward. “Please follow me.”

Daniel shook his head, “That won’t be necessary. We can find out own way out.”
Dawn’s gaze narrowed and she shook her head. “I’ll see you out.” She left no room for argument her lithe body stepped between the two men and began to make her way down the long corridor. Daniel turned back to watch the Buffy close the door with one last confused look shot to him. He winced and fell in step beside Jack.

“Well that could have been worse.”

Daniel glanced at his friend brow drawn downward in annoyance. “How? How could that have gone any worse?”

“They could have shot us.”

Daniel opened his mouth but then closed it with a shrugged. Dawn’s pace never faltered and she was quickly making her way towards the stairwell. Her heels making angry clicks on the hard wood floors. Daniel couldn’t help but make one last attempt, “Miss Summers, please. I can understand your confusion as to why we’re interested but…” He sighed as she continued her pace as if he had never spoken.

The men began to slow as they reached the stairs but Dawn continued past them and further down the corridor into a part of the second floor that Buffy hadn’t shown them. Jack glanced to Daniel and shrugged as if to say ‘what do we have to loss’. Dawn turned and spoke, “Hurry up.” Her 5’7” frame made quick work of the last of the hall and she stopped just outside one of the paintings on the right side. There was a door the same color as the pale yellow walls, camouflaged. Blending almost completely with the drywall unless you took the time to look for it. There was a small panel beside the door that she swiped an access card threw and entered a six-digit code. The door gave a soft hiss and slid open. Dawn stepped to the side allowing them entrance.

Jack entered slowly eyes sweeping for any possible threat before he allowed Daniel through. Dawn rolled her eyes at the man’s paranoia. Daniel looked to the teenager as he stepped into a small room with muted lighting. He walked along the edge of the room. Noticing the parchment on the walls he paused and stared at them in amazement. Some of the paper was tattered and aged. A few had smoke damage and some burns. “These are…” His voice trailed off softly.

“They were in the safe of the last Council Headquarters.” Dawn walked to the far wall containing a large bookshelf. She had begun to read through the titles and she knelt as she found a particular section.

“Daniel, translation please.”

The linguist looked to Jack excited. “They describe the beginning of the line of the Chosen One. How the lineage was formed. Who and were she fought in battle.”

“They’re called the Slayer.”

“What?” Jack turned to look at the young woman who had pulled a book from the stack as was slowly walking back towards the two men. Her face guarded as she contemplated how much to tell them.

“The Chosen One is also refereed to as the Slayer.” She looked to them for a moment. “You said the text mentioned the End of Days.”

“Yes, do you know about it?”

The brunette nodded and held the book in her arms tighter to her chest. “It’s the last battle. The Armageddon. Capital T. Capital A. It’s outcome decrees that which will inherit the Earth. Good or Evil.”

“You believe in all this?”

Dawn glared at Jack. “You’re here asking me the questions doesn’t that mean you believe too?”

Daniel smirked slightly at Jack’s annoyance. “What can you tell me about the Slayer?” The archeologist tested the weight if the word on his tongue. Rolling the sound around in his head and found it interesting. A female warrior to stand between the Earth and utter destruction. It had an ironic poetry to it.

Dawn glanced down at the book in her arms and back at Daniel. If what they said was true then they would need help but if not. She winced and slowly handed him the leather bound pages. “Please don’t let me regret this.”

The hiss of the door drew their attention and only the men relaxed at the sight of Buffy smoothly entering the small library. The door closed behind her with a soft click. “Hey, Dawnie I think you’re already gonna regret this.”

Her eyes narrowed on the book that Daniel held in his grasp. He pulled it up closer to his chest protectively. “Dawn, why don’t you give me a few minutes of alone time with the fly boys.”

The teenager’s eyes widened in fear for the two men. “Buffy, please, their ruins mention the End of Days. Only a few text talk about the battle…”

“Dawn. This isn’t open for debate. Leave.” The older Summers took a step further into the room.

“Buffy, please…” Jack frowned at the girl’s fear and the fact that it seemed more directed towards him and Daniel than for herself.

“Get. Gone.” The brunette swallowed and bowed her head to her sister’s glare. She glanced back once more at the two men. Then quietly left the room. “So Colonel O’Neill is it?”

Jack warily watched her walked towards Daniel her gaze locked on the book he cradled it like mother holding her small child. Careful. Protective. “Yes.”

Her eyes narrowed further and she stopped just before the doctor. Her hands came up and she held them out. “The book Dr. Jackson.” Her voice was eerily controlled. Almost threatening.

Daniel clutched the leather tighter. “Buffy…” At her frown he amended, “Miss Summers, we came here to learn about the Slayer.”

“Why?”

Daniel latched onto the small glimmer of interest. “While excavating some ruins the text mentioned the Chosen One we wanted to learn more about the mythical figure. I found mentions of them in text through out history and…”

Buffy shook her head mentally wincing at how much Daniel already knew. “Why is the United States Military interested?”

Jack stepped up to the pair. “That’d be classified.” He sent Daniel a suffering look.

Buffy’s head cocked to the side. “And yet you expect us to give you information.”

“On a creature of myth and legend.”

Buffy crossed her arms around her ribs and shook her head. “Smooth but not quiet true.” Her gaze locked with the Colonel’s in defiance.

Daniel winced as the hostility mounted inside the small room. “Miss Summers if you could just…”

She held up her right hand to stop his flow of words. “I’ll tell you what. Let me show you something and then you tell me if you’d be all share-y with info?”

“You’ll answer our questions?”

She glowered at the doctor’s eager voice. Buffy noticed how his skin flushed with excitement and cursed her hormones. “One question. One answer.”

Turning her back on the duo she made her way the few feet to the door. It opened with the same hiss of air as before. Buffy shuddered as the temperature climbed several degrees from the climate-controlled room. She was going to kill Dawn for showing the men the archives. Sure Buffy thought blocking them out completely was a little hard handed. The Slayer rolled her shoulders in an attempt to ease the tension she felt building in her muscles. She needed a fight. Maybe after the pow-wow she could talk Illyria into a few rounds of sparing.

The two men stayed silent behind her but she felt their anxiety as they made their way slowly towards the stairs. Buffy turned away from the gliding steps and made her way into the large library that Daniel had drooled over earlier. At that moment she had been sure he and Giles would get along like a house on fire. Showed what a great judge of character she was. She walked to the far wall and opened one of the large windows spacing the shelves. She stepped to the side for the men to look out at the quart yard beneath them.

The sun was still shrouded in gray clouds. Though rain hung heavy in the air not a drop had fallen yet and several of the students were sprawled out over the lush greens. Buffy counted about twenty girls ranging from the age of ten to sixteen. A small group of five had set up a Double Dutch competition. The rhythmic clicks of the jump ropes floated up to the trio and Buffy smiled as the girls chanted along with the steady beat. Their enthusiasm and life never failed to raise her spirits. Even in the face of arrogance.

Daniel watched the girl’s gossip and play as children often do and his forehead creased in confusion. “I don’t understand how this pertains to you helping us?”

Jack turned with the Doctor to watch Buffy gaze out at the girls with a sad smile. Her hand absently tensed on the windowsill she still grasped. Her eyes flicked to meet their gazes. Jack frowned at the grief he saw in her face. “The last Watcher’s Council was blown up by a group wanting to know more about the Chosen One. By coming here you’ve drawn attention to this school and everyone affiliated with it.”

Daniel let out a deep breath and shook his head. “Miss Summers what we’re doing is important…”

“More important than their lives?”

Jack shoved his hands deep inside his pockets. “Listen, I can understand that some fanatical group attacked your people but we’re not them. We wouldn’t…”

“Can you speak for everyone in your organization?”

“Well, no.”

Buffy felt the headache she had been fighting since Giles revelation began to pierce threw her defenses. “Never mind. Please just go.”

“You said you would answer one question.” Daniel realized his error as a coldness seeped into her eyes and she regarded him silently before her slim throat arched in question.

“Is there a Chosen One?”

Buffy felt the smile pull at the corners of her lips and she embraced the smug feeling of satisfaction, as she answered truthfully, “No.”

The Colonel watched her suspiciously but shrugged and turned his back one her to leave. “Come on, Daniel. I think our welcome’s just wore out.”

“Oh, its long past.”

Buffy watched the linguist stare at her for a few more moments his soft blue eyes willing her to talk to him. Share anything. A small tug of guilt pulled at her conscious. She shoved it back ruthlessly. The girls were hers to protect. Daniel’s lips thinned slightly and slowly followed his friend. As he passed a small chair he stopped and placed the book Dawn had given him on the cushion.

He turned his head to the side to speak back at her. “I’ll find another way to get the information we’ll need.” He straightened his shoulders and left Buffy alone in the darkened room.

She shuddered as thunder rolled its way across the sky and rain began a light dance against the windowsill. She stood motionless as the wetness trailed into the soft carpet at her feet. Her gaze never left the book laying lost against the soft fabric. The tight feeling of dread pressed against her stomach and pushed her forward. Following her instincts Buffy scooped the book up and rushed through the doors and into the hallway. It lay empty and barren. She had waited too long.

Her heels made a rapid beat against the wooden floors of the hallway and stairs. The floor below was stretched out alone and silent. Swearing softly she pushed herself forward with a burst of endurance and speed. Her long blonde hair a blur behind her slim frame as she shoved the front door of the school. Book firmly clutched to her chest she felt the rain pelt the bare skin of her shoulders as she caught sight of the men halfway down the walkway. Heads bowed against the falling shower.

“DANIEL!”

The linguist stopped and turned eyes widening at the sight of her rushing to meet him. Her hair already becoming thick golden ropes as it absorbed the rain. Her eyes searching his for something he couldn’t grasp. She pressed the book to his chest.

“Don’t make me regret this.”

“You won’t.” He clutched the book tightly to his side. “Thank you.”

The smile Daniel had received when they first shook hands graced her lips once again. He caught himself staring at the smooth line of her slightly fuller lip and would have bet that she had pouted to get her way when she was younger. Rain slipped for her scalp and trailed along her jaw line to trembled on the downward slop of her chin. Daniel reached out gently to brush the drops from her skin. His eyes locked with hers threw the rain speckling his glasses.

Her smile softened as his fingers pressed slightly on her chin before letting go. His skin felt flushed. Warmed by the casual contact. “You’re Welcome.”

She nodded and watched him turn away for her. Jack had been watching them with his eyes narrowed but his chin dropped slightly in recognition of her help. She returned his nod with a small wave. Praying she hadn’t put her people in danger even with every fiber of her being telling her she had done the right thing.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Chapter 2: Widdershins and Deosil

Giles paced to and fro as the Summers sisters sat their eyes downcast. Their mentor was currently working himself into a frenzy and his anger was something neither sister abide well. Dawn winced as he pierced her with a particularly nasty glare and began to fidget under his stare.

“Giles…”

“No, don’t talk.” He looked to Buffy, “Either of you. You will listen right now.” He stopped and stared at them his gaze confused and exhausted. “What possessed you to give those…those…” He yanked the glasses from his face and knelt before them. Searching for the proper word to describe the two men. “Those… amateurs the book The Rites of Passages for the Chosen One? Do you know what that tome contains?”

“Rites and Passages?” Buffy winced at the narrowing of her Watcher’s gaze. The man in front of her still had the uncanny ability to make her feel like a child.

Dawn spoke over her sister. Her voice clipped, self-assured. “It mentions in passing certain tests and challenges that the Slayer should face. No names or dates are given. Dr. Jackson could get the same information from, demonsfrombeneath.org.”

“That is not the point, Dawn. I still do not understand what could have possessed you both to act to so rashly? To give them anything?”

Buffy answered for them, “Giles, Illyria said that the End of Days has begun or is about to. We can’t sit back any longer. We need to start an offensive.”

“Yes, the information Angel procured.” The disdain for her ex-lover thrummed through his tone.

“Yes, Angel. You know the vampire who sacrificed himself to give us the upper hand. An advantage that we have be wasting.” Dawn shifted uneasily in her seat beside her sister. Buffy’s voice was too calm. Too sincere.

“We are losing Giles.” Dawn looked to her mentor for guidance.

“You do not know that.” His gaze met Buffy’s unflinchingly. “You can not know that.”

The Slayer broke eye contact and shook her head. “Yes, I do. I feel it. Like a weight in my chest pressing down. It started a few months ago. I thought maybe it was just the funk. But I can’t shake it. Illyria says she’s felt a shift in the balance. The power struggle is falling out and into the real world.”

“Now Buffy, I do not dissuade your instincts. But perhaps you are merely feeling this way because of stress or homesickness?”

She sighed and sat back. Putting some distance between herself and her watcher. “I haven’t you noticed a trend in the world lately? Hurricanes that shift course, typhoons that eradicate cities, Record highs and lows. Maybe…” She trailed off at the look of disbelief on his face.

“Buffy, these are natural disasters.”

“Are you sure?”

Dawn flicked her gaze between the pair. Their gazes locked and focused. “I felt compelled to help them.”

Her soft voice broke their contest of wills. Buffy smiled at her sister. “Me too.”

The Summers women shared a smile and a moment of understanding before Dawn ruined it, “Oh, I thought you did to impress the hottie Doctor.”

“What?” Buffy’s gaze narrowed on her sister.

“Please, I totally saw you checking out his rear.”

“That had nothing to do with helping them.” Buffy then coughed into her hand, “Mostly.”

“Buffy be serious for just a moment, please. You and Dawn went against my expressed wishes. Helped the military with finding information they have right to or the comprehension, to understand.”

“Giles, I want to know where that sight is that mentions us.”

The older man stopped and stared at his charge. “Why?”

Dawn leapt into the conversation, “If what they say is true then it talks of the End of Days. Giles you heard them. Few texts mention that battle and the U.S. military may have found ruins that deal…”

“Dawn the key word is may. We have no idea what they’ve uncovered…” His face showed a dawning understanding of the girls’ point of view. “Dear Lord, they may have opened…”

“A big ol’can of worms. Yep.” Dawn shrugged at the look of annoyance from her boss. “What?”

Giles stood and replaced his glasses. His eyes lost in thought. “I need to consult my books.”

Buffy glanced down at her watch. “Damn, over ten minutes. I owe you twenty.”

Dawn beamed at her older sister. Giles glared at them. “You do realize that the world could be in peril and your making wagers on my reaction.”

Both girls gave an elegant shrug of their left shoulder. Perfectly in sync and Giles coughed to cover his smile. Mustn’t encourage insubordination. Though with the two Summers woman in the same room keeping order was very nearly impossible. “If you’ll both give me some time I’ll look into the situation and…”

“Why not ask Illyria?”

Giles sighed and shook his head; “I don’t believe there is any reason to involve her at this time.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Giles, please she is a font of information and you barely ever talk to her unless the situation becomes critical. She won’t bite. Let her help before you flat line this time.”

“Buffy, you know how the rest of the council feels about her. She is liability at best.”

The Slayer’s spin straightened and she rose from the couch. Her legs make quick work of the floor separating her from Giles. Green eyes ablaze. “She was good enough to send on her own against the Torto.”

The image of the creature when Buffy had finally made it threw the network of caves after Willow had told her of Illyria’s assignment flashed in her mind. It’s body draped in human flesh. Thicker pieces hung from his waist. One larger oblique eye had been pierced by a short sword the demon had stolen from her victim. She had been gravely injured but persevered. Much to males of the newly formed Councils irritation.

Buffy shook her head. “I want a team of five to have access to the excavation site.”

Giles shook his head. “Five?”

Buffy nodded. “Willow, her shadow, Illyria,” A smile pulled at her lips as his gaze narrowed at the demon’s name. “Myself and…”

“Me.” Dawn stood to stand beside her sister before Giles. Buffy glanced to her and nodded.

“Buffy, I don’t think…”

“She’s an asset Giles, just like Spike was.” Buffy turned her back on her mentor. Her temper simmering just beneath the surface. “Get us access. I’ll go call Willow and Kennedy.”

The door to his office shut and the resounding shudder of the wall contested to Buffy’s agitation. Giles sighed looking to Dawn. Her eyes were as cool and remote as her sisters. “Illyria’s proved herself. When are you, Wood, and Xander going to see that?”

“Dawn.” The teenage raised one brow in question. “She is an Old One. We cannot simply trust her with all our secrets. She could turn on us at any time.”

The brunette grimaced. “She’s been with us for a little over a year and she follows Buffy around like a lost puppy.” Her eyes widened, “Don’t ever tell her I said that. Besides I like her. Though, the looking like human Fred thing is kinda creepy.”

The Watcher ignored her rambling thoughts. “We’ll discuss this at another time. I still need to find a way to gain access to this site. If there is one.”

Dawn shrugged. “Why not speed dial one and contact the British Prime Minister. I’m sure he’ll pull some strings for you.”

“Actually the Prime Minister is speed dial two.”

“Who’s one?”

Giles sent her a look that she should have already known the answer, “Buffy.”
Dawn grinned. “Cool.”


~~~@~~~@~~~@

Robin Wood leaned back against the headboard of his king size bed and smiled in satisfaction at the pale arm draped across the dark plains of his taunt stomach. A lock of raven hair was curled across a slim shoulder and it brushed his chest with every breath the woman in his bed took. She gave a small sigh and tightened said arm considerably. Her face rolled inward towards his body. Seeking the warmth that he radiated.

The apartment they shared never went above 76 degrees at Faith’s instance. When he had questioned this preference she had mumbled something about not having air conditioning when she was younger and clamed up. He had never broached the topic again. Robin draped his hand across her shoulder and absently rolled the lock of hair that lay there. Once again thanking the founding fathers of our country for adding Article II: Section 2 of the Constitution. ‘The President shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment’. A wonderful standard in his opinion. If a little dangerous.

His head dipped and he brushed a gentle kiss across her crown. She gave an unlady like snort and his smile stretched to one of pure happiness. Her head lifted slightly and she blinked doe brown eyes at him. “What?” Her voice was deep with sleep. Like a well aged whiskey. Thick, rich, something that would be smooth in your mouth but burn on the way down. She was stunning.

“Morning.” His own voice deepened with want for her slim body.

A smug grin split her full lips and she winked. “You woke early.”

“Giles called this morning.” Faith was known to wake at the first sign of trouble. Swing or pull a weapon of any kind and she would be at your throat, mind clear. Spoiling for a fight. But if the waking instrument was an alarm clock or phone she slept right through it. The dark Slayer extracted herself from his embrace and came to a kneeling position beside him. Mindless of her nudity.

“Anything serious?”

Robin kept his dark gaze at eye level. “He wants me to call in another favor to the President.”

The brunette frowned. “You, think that’s a good idea. Being indebt to him this early in the game?”

“Giles believes that the Air Force has stumbled on some ruins that mention an End of Days and the Chosen One.”

“Shit.”

“Exactly, he’s going to go through his channels and I’m gonna hit mine.”

“Alright and then what?”

He nodded. “Buffy, Dawn, Willow, Kennedy, and,” He winced. “Illyria.”

Faith’s brow arched in amusement. “What’s with the boys and their penis envy of Ill?”

Robin frowned at her. “We do not have penis envy. For one she lacks a penis for us to envy.”

“You know this for a fact?”

He shuddered. “No, not for a fact but since she’s in the body of a human female I’m gonna assume.”

The dark Slayer’s smirk spread wider. “You know what they say about assuming.”

Robin rolled his eyes at her. “Yes, that was a snappy retort.”

She crawled over him and straddled his waist pressing her nude body to him through the sheet. The warmth of her simmered across the tops of his thighs and he swallowed. Her eyes traced the bobbing of his Adam’s apple. “How soon till you have to call the Big P?”

“An hour or two.” His hands came up to either hip and pressed lightly against the curve there. His thumbs tracing both hipbones idly.

She leaned over his face and pressed her check to his. The stubble abraded the satin skin of her jaw and she smiled at the slight pain. Her lips brushed the shell of his ear as she breathed into it, “Wanna play Rock’em Sock’em?”

His hands came up to either side of her neck and guided her face to his. She chuckled against the seal of his mouth. Taking the pressure of his lips for a yes.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Daniel sat at the laughable excuses for a table that the Holiday Inn granted him. His laptop sat across from him. His notes lay in haphazard piles across the floor. His complete attention lay just beneath his nose. Glasses were perched on top of his head forgotten for the moment as his brow pulled together over his blue eyes. The tome that Dawn had picked out for him borrow, Rites of Passages for the Chosen One, all 967 pages had been finished by the time he and Jack’s plane had touched back down in the states.

His mind continued to play the information in his head over and over in the hopes that the pieces would fall together and not just make a pretty colored mess inside his mind. Daniel reread the rite of passage for the Slayer on their eighteenth birthday. The Cruciamentum. A barbaric test where they stripped her strength, stamina and pitted her against a demon. She was pushed into adulthood with a rain of violence and blood. The very essence of the Chosen One was draped in death and pain. Daniel shook his head at the thought of some poor girl having the responsibility of the world shoved on her too young shoulders.

Replacing his glasses he ran a hand through his hair and scratch the back of his scalp in annoyance. The tome in his position was filled with information. But he still didn’t know how to compare it to the temple’s secrets. The lock remained firm and all attempts at opening the greater part of the temple had been met with failure by both himself and Sam. She was confounded by the temples low EMF and still searched the caverns for the source. The fruits of her labor empty and tasteless.

He stood and glanced at the bedside clock wincing at the crimson lines that read 2:03am. His breath came out with a heavy sigh and he arched his back. Pressing his hands into the deeper lumbar vertebra and stretched. He glanced up and frowned at his ceiling fan. Two of the three lights surrounding the fan had gone out and he made a mental note to get the bulbs fixed. He was on his last one. Of three. He frowned as the neurons inside his mind snapped a connection, creating new passageways for the information he was processing.

The last three. Three. Trinity. Daniel fell to his knees and shuffled through the pictures of the wall of Latin symbols his mind still rolling over three. He found the four-foot section with the three and Omega. Trinity. His mind fumbled over that word chanting it. Screaming it. The Chosen One was a trinity of power. His eyes widened and he picked up the pictures and his notes opening the door to his hotel room.

Mindless of the hour and his lack of shoes he rushed down the empty corridor to Sam’s room. The hall stretched out bright and chilled before his quick steps. The pale muted orange giving it a slightly western appearance. Daniel stopped outside her door and his fist rapped quickly. Echoing in the empty space around him. He heard a mumble and a slight bang followed by soft cursing. He winced in sympathy and waited for her to check the peephole before opening the teal door.

“Daniel?” The door opened and Sam’s blue eyes were dulled with sleep as she absently ran a hand through her short hair. He suppressed his smile at her slight bed head.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t think you’d be asleep…I’ll just go.”

He had already turned slightly to head back towards his room when Sam called out, “Daniel! Come on in.”

Her body moved to the side and she motioned him inside. He nodded to her. “I think I’m onto something and I wanted…well I wanted a second opinion.”

Sam smiled slightly still blinking at the harsh florescent light of the hallway. She watched him quickly lay out the photo’s he carried on her barely slept in bed. With only a small arch of her brow she closed the door and stepped up beside him waiting as he prepared the photos across the bed spread.

“Well, I was thinking.” He paused and drew her attention to the symbol of the Omega. “What if this symbol is in reference to the three? Or better yet the three stands for a trinity.”

Sam narrowed her eyes and studied the pictures lining the walls around the two symbols for a moment. “Okay, I can follow you so far.”

Daniel grinned. “The three if switched with trinity could stand for the Chosen Once or Slayer. When you switch them through out the text. It begins to make sense.”

“So how is the Slayer,” She smirked at the name both in amusement and pride. Her elation when Daniel had told her the Chosen One had to be female had held no bounds. Shaking her head she pulled her thoughts back on course. “So how is the Slayer a trinity?”

Daniel nodded and grabbed his notes. Flipping through several pages he stopped and scanned his writing quickly. “Well according to the book Dawn gave me the Chosen One was created by merging the essence of a demon and magic from the Earth into a human body. So the Chosen One would be…”

“Demon, Earth and human. A trinity of power and elements. Alright, so where does that lead us?” She picked up the picture of the Omega and studied the smooth facets as Daniel flipped through his notes once more.

“This temple was built for the Chosen One to wield against the darkness but it was specifically created for a power focus in the End of Days.” He shook his head. “So if the Omega is in reference to the Chosen One…”

“Then the temple may only work for the last Chosen One.”

“Exactly.”

Sam winced. “Didn’t you say Buffy Summers said there wasn’t a Chosen One?”

Daniel thinned his lips in thought. “Well, yes but she may have lied. Maybe she was protecting the girl.”

“Daniel you believe there really is a Chosen One?”

He released a breath and tossed his notes to her bed. The muscles in his back tightened as he turned and began pacing the room. “Do I believe in demons and vampires? No, or at least I hope that part of the myth is false.” He reached up and scratched the back of his head. Some what revolted by the thought of sending a young girl to the front lines of a demonic war. “But what if it’s a genetic memory built into a family? Or perhaps a marker left behind in her DNA to allow this girl access to the temple?”

Sam nodded following his thought process. “Alright I can buy that and this Watchers Council built up a myth around the truth or maybe the carry of the code has superior strength, agility, and so forth because of her genetic make up and not due to some mystical turn of the wheel.”

“Apparently.”

“So the questions become. How do we locate her?”

Daniel opened his mouth and then closed it. His brow came down and he meet Sam’s gaze slightly annoyed.

“I have no idea.”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Buffy sat back and contemplated standing up to leave the meeting she was currently being tortured with. It had been only one day since the Daniel and Jack’s visit and a full fledge Council meeting was in effect. Illyria sat to her right in all her blue and marble glory. Eye’s merciless and bored as she sat motionless in her chair.

Dawn was to her left. A conflicting power of activity to the demon. Her hands were in constant movement. Arguing her point to Giles and Willow who sat across from the apparent antagonists of their common sense. Though Willow seemed to be waning more towards their point of view with each passing minute.

Faith, Wood, and Xander where on speaker phone and the men were up in arms at the Summers women’s audacity to hand over Council information without the backing of said Council. Xander was at the moment talking over Dawn and belittling her decision.

Buffy rolled her eyes and would have bet money that Faith was doing the same at that very moment.

“Hey! Sir won’t shut the fuck up! Shut the fuck up and let Little D talk.” Buffy smirked at the flaring of Giles’ nostrils at Faith’s outburst. She kinda loved her sister Slayer. When she wasn’t, you know, trying to kill her. But that was in the past. Water over the bridge. Buffy frowned. That last thought hadn’t made sense.

“Thank you, Faith.” Dawn beamed at the phone.

“Not a problem.”

“As I was saying we have very little information on the End of Days and Dr. Jackson mentioned the battle more than once. If they’ve uncovered ruins that even mention this battle in passing we should be using our resources to either help or if need be take over the excavation. They have no idea what their dealing with and we would have a better chance at figuring it out.”

Wood cleared his throat. “Taking over their site will be next to impossible Dawn. Apparently Colonel O’Neill is well liked by the President.”

Dawn’s shoulders dropped and Buffy shifted her focus forward. “Are you saying you can’t get us onto the site?”

“No, Buffy. What I’m saying is that you can’t take over but you and four others may join Dr. Jackson’s team in the Grand Canyon.” Dawn’s sudden squeal of joy had Wood chuckling softly. “The President would also like to send an open invitation to Buffy and Faith to come and visit the White House any time.”

“What?”

“Huh?”

Giles sat forward. “Both excellent questions. The President wishes to meet them?”

“Yes, whenever it’s convenient for them.”

“Cool!”

“Wicked!”

Buffy smiled spread to a grin and Dawn gave her a half hug in congratulations. Willow laughed and shook her head. “Buffy and Faith in the White House. Anyone else think that’s a little…Well, scary?”

Buffy stuck her tongue out at the witch and Faith’s honey warmed voice called over the line, “Red I’m flicking you off right now.” Yeah, Buffy loved her sister Slayer.

Dawn still grinning for her sister tried to steer the topic back toward the End of Days. “So we can get on the site?”

Buffy blinked focusing on the middle of the table towards the phone as Xander spoke, “I’m going on record as saying this is a really bad idea and I reserve the right to say I told you so.”

Dawn rolled her eyes. “Dually noted, Xander.”

Willow nodded. “I’ll be there to keep them out of trouble and we’ll have Buffy, Kennedy and Illyria as muscle. I think we’ll be a safe as houses.”

“Yeah, the one made out of straw.”

“Shut up X-Man.”

“Faith don’t you have a meeting with your payroll officer you’re running late for?”

“With a pardon there is no payroll, dumbass.”

“Sorry, not a criminal. Wouldn’t know.”

Illyria’s monotone broke across the aggravated voices. “Your pointless bickering is tedious. I grow weary of it.”

Giles shook his head, “I am in complete agreement with Illyria.”

“A sure sign of the apocalypse if I’ve ever heard one.” Buffy winced at Giles’ death glare and pantomimed zipping her lips and throwing away the key. Illyria merely shook her head.

“So we’ll leave tomorrow for Arizona.” Willow grimaced at the blank looks she received from the others. “The site is in the Grand Canyon.” Again she received their confusion. In exasperation she threw up her hands. “Was anyone else paying attention to Robin?”

Dawn grinned at her. “Of course.” Her smile faltered. “We’ve been given the go ahead by the President but won’t we need documentation to go along with it? You know, papers? I don’t think us walking up and say, ‘Gee, the Prez said we could,’ will get us very far.” She paused. “Maybe the nut house.”

“I’ll be emailing Willow the proper credentials as soon as we’re finished here.”

The younger Summers could barley contain her glee. “Are we done? Cause the we need to pack if we’re gonna be leaving tomorrow. We need our Passports, tickets, credentials,” She paused after the words revealing in the sound of it. How it was being attached to her name. “We should start getting ready.”

Buffy laughed at her sister’s enthusiasm and nodded in agreement. “So we go in and make sure the military doesn’t bring forth an apocalypse.”

“Should be simple enough for the crack team you’ve assembled.”

Willow, Buffy, and Dawn glared at the phone after Xander’s statement and then the witch’s sea green eye’s widened. “You just jinxed us!”

“I did not!”

“You did too!” All three girls shouted at once causing Giles to cover his ears and Illyria to roll her eyes in annoyance. Marveling at the fact that the world was not over run by her brethren in the face of such youth.

“That’s it I can’t take this abuse. Bye everyone.”

As Xander hung up Faith called out, “Hey B! Pick up the line for a sec.”

Buffy shrugged at the questioning looks she received and picked up the line breaking the speakerphone connection. “What’s up?”

“Little D’s, eighteenth is next weekend right?”

Buffy smiled. “Yeah.”

“You’re gonna be like two hours from Las Vegas and mini you is hitting the legal limit. I say I meet you guys there in a week and we paint the town red.”

She cocked her head to the side watching Dawn talk quietly with Giles and Willow making arrangements. All grown up. “I don’t know…”

“Come on B! Didn’t you tell me about you running off with some guy named Pike when you were sixteen and hittin’ Sin City?”

“That was different! We were hunting vamps!”

The dark Slayer chuckled. “So we’ll make it a none slay field trip. No killing or maiming unless absolutely necessary.”

Buffy bit her lip in thought. Faith, sensing her will crumbling pushed on. “Think about it, B. We have Red and her shadow play nice with Little D. Tuck her in at decent hour and then me, you and Ill can burn the town to the ground.”

“Okay.”

“Oh come on Buffy…did you say yes?”

Buffy grinned at the utter shock in the dark Slayer’s voice. “Yep.”

“I knew you had a pair on you!”

“Thanks, I think.”

Faith laughed. “Well then. I’ll see you in a couple of days. Try not to have to much fun without me.”

“We’re going to a excavation site. How exciting could it be?”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

The Grand Canyon stretched out vast and deep. The russet colors of crimson and gold blending together molding around each curve of the river cutting a path through the Earth’s shell. The slanted hike to the temple had been tedious at the best of times. The group of five hiking packs strapped to their backs had cut a path through the canyon. The hike it’s self took a little over an hour by day and with two humans. As they had reached the opening of the caves two men, military types, had materialized from behind a large rock. The Slayer had smiled in welcome and introduced herself. It had gone steadily down hill from there.

Buffy winced as the harsh rays from the sun beat down on the top of her head. Right hand raised to shadow her face she waited impatiently for the two men to make up their minds on if she had the ability to enter the cavern that housed the site.

The red eye they had taken had only landed six hours ago. She and Illyria had taken it upon themselves to check out the surrounding area last night for possible a demonic presence. With just the two of them the hike had taken only twenty minutes and no demonic energy was found. Though both had felt uneasy around the site and the Colonel’s men that were supposed to be guarding it, liked to do so with their eyes closed. Amateurs. She had less than three hours of sleep before a hike that should have taken only twenty-minutes in over a hundred-degree dry heat. She was annoyed and parched.

The petite Slayer cocked her head to the side in study. Wondering why the two males screamed military to her. They were dressed normal enough. Khaki shorts and gray tank tops. Although they did have nifty vests on with all sorts of doodads. Maybe it was the hair. Short and no nonsense. In other words boring. Yeah it was probably the hair. Buffy heaved a small sigh causing her chest to press against the thin cotton of her tank top and the apparently in charge soldier’s attention was drawn there. Again.

She contemplated flashing him to see if it hurried the process. “Why don’t you get Dr. Jackson or Colonel O’Neill out here and have them make the decision for you.” She smiled sweetly and spoke slowly as if he were a small child.

“We’re not supposed to disturb them unless absolutely necessary, ma’am.” He returned her tone in kind.

“Listen…” She may have been nasty first.

Willow stepped forward and pushed her shoulder length red hair nervously behind her ears. “Hi! Maybe you could get them. It would speed things along and help clear up some confusion.” She smiled sweetly at him. Hoping that eased some of the friction between the two men and their group.

The soldier flicked his gaze over the five women standing in front of him. All annoyed and red faced save one. He thought she said her name was Dr. Burkle but who knows. She seemed unaffected by the heat and that in its self, made him suspicious. Only Teal’c had been calm and serene after the hike to the site. He shook his head and reached up for his walkie at the corner of his jacket.

“Colonel, this is Wilson. We’ve got visitors.”

There was a pause until an annoyed voice crackled back, “Send them packing this is a closed site.”

“I’ve tried Sir but they insist on seeing either you or Dr. Jackson.”

A loud sigh was heard, “We’ll be right there.”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Daniel and Sam stood their voices hushed in the chilly air of the temple entrance. Only two other field operatives where in the room with them. Gathering samples and photos for further study back at the SGC. The discovery from two nights before had them both going through Daniels’ notes and shifting through the information they already had. Sam was slowly making her way through the book Daniel had gotten from the Watcher’s Council. She was amazed at how egotistical and long-winded the men who had written the tome were.

“So if we changed this text to Slayer here…” Sam’s voice was cut off by Captain Wilson’s voice breaking over the line. They listened to the exchange with a wince. Hikers on government property shouldn’t take to long to shove off.

“Daniel!”

Jack’s voice was annoyed and coming closer. The linguist met Carter’s gaze and shrugged. “He bellows.”

She smiled and nodded. “I’ll try to start the deconstruction of the text. Hurry back.”

Daniel rolled his eyes and moved towards the cave that Jack was just poking his head from. “Lets go turn away our guests.”

“Jack, let me talk. You tend to antagonize people less when your mouth is closed.”

“Hey!” Jack tried for affronted as they fell in step towards the sunlight. He reached up and pulled his sunglasses from the front of his green tee and pushed them onto his face as they stepped out of the cooling shelter of the cave and into the sun.

As they turned pass the large shelf of rock blocking the entrance to the cavern Jack caught sight of his men and five female forms. Three of which he recognized instantly, “Oh, for cry’in out loud!”

Daniel paused as the group turned at the sound of Jacks voice and he watched a satisfied smirk pull at the corners of Buffy’s lips at the Col. outburst. Dawn gave an enthusiastic wave that the archeologist returned dazed.

Jack crossed to the group quickly, “What are you doing here?”

Before Buffy could open her mouth to create a bigger situation. Willow sensing the up coming battle stepped forward and offered her hand. “Willow Rosenburg.” Jack took it without thinking. The red head turned and motioned to a pretty brunette who stood just behind her. “This is Kennedy Wallace. I believe you’ve already met Buffy, Dawn, and Fred.”

Each girl nodded to him with her name but he narrowed his gaze at the smug satisfaction on Buffy’s face. “Nice to see you again. Now what the hell are you doing here?”

“Jack.”

The group turned towards Daniel who was quickly getting over his shock and trying to defuse the situation. Willow smiled at him in welcome. “Dr. Jackson?”

Daniel nodded and accepted the offer of her hand. The girl behind her looked no older than Dawn shook his hand as well, her grip had been just a little too firm and he frowned at her look of satisfaction when he winced.

“Hi, Dr. Jackson.”

A real smile pulled at his mouth at Dawn enthusiasm. Something about the teenager’s energy was infectious while Jack on the other hand looked ready to blow as Daniel cleared his throat, “Well…Not that it isn’t nice to see you again…”

“It really isn’t.”

Daniel glared at his friend before beginning again, “But Jack has a point. In a rude sort of way. What are you doing here?”

Willow smiled at and offered him a large manila envelope. A frown drew down Daniel’s brows as he opened it and he wished for his sunglasses as the bright white paper was exposed to the sun. He quickly scanned the documents and his back stiffened, wordlessly he handed them to Jack.

“Son of a bitch.”

“Language.”

The Colonel’s head shot up to glare at the older Summers woman. His gaze narrowed. “How?”

“You’re not the only one the President has a thing for.”

The two soldier’s looked to the CO in confusion. Jack glared at the five women and shook his head. “Come on.”

Willow, Dawn and Kennedy stepped forward to follow the Colonel’s retreating back. The muscles of his back tight and steps hurried.

Wilson stepped to the side absently hitting Buffy’s shoulder as she passed. A verbal smack to her face was added as he mumbled a snide apology. Her green eyes narrowed behind her sunglasses and she lifted her left leg slightly before bringing her hiking boot down on his instep. She contemplated throwing her elbow into his jaw but figured the Colonel wouldn’t believe clumsiness after that.

His face crumpled and his fellow guard coughed to cover his laughter. Buffy gave Lt. Marx a quick smile and then turned back to Wilson. “I’m so sorry.” She side stepped his grimacing form and followed the linguist. Normally her maturity level was a little higher but after the hike. Plus the creepy feeling she had been having for the last half hour didn’t make her feel all that generous.

The Captain took a step to follow her but a slender hand snaked across his bicep and halted him in his tracks. “I would not accost her if I were you.”

The pleasant Texas accent veiled the subtle threat but Wilson felt the hair on the back of his neck raise at the look in the thin brunette’s dark eyes. He subconsciously reached for his weapon. Illyria’s hand tightened and she knew she could remove his arm before he raised it.

Daniel realizing that two of the group had not followed turned around. Buffy was also in motion watching the soon to be train wreak and gently laid a hand on her companion’s wrist. The demon turned to her guide blinking in annoyance.

“Is there a problem?” The two women looked to Daniel. Both shook their heads in the negative and quickly made their way to him.

The trio caught up with Jack and the others, Willow sent her best friend a questioning look and Buffy mouth ‘later’ to her. The witch narrowed her gaze but gave a sharp nod.

“How about the grand tour.” Buffy smiled saccharin sweet at the Colonel.
Jack pulled off his sunglasses. His temper just beneath the breaking point. “We need to call these in first.” He motioned to the documents and then walked away from them without a backwards glance.

Buffy flicked her gaze around the unimpressive cave and felt Daniel move to stand beside her. Keeping her gaze occupied with dank red walls and not hottie archeologist was damn hard in her opinion but she felt she should get oodles of brownie points for effort. The cool atmosphere of the cave sent a small chill across her skin. Raising goose bumps in its wake.

A feeling of serenity pulled at the back of her mind. Willing her to go further into the barely lit cave. Steeling her will she pushed her focus to Daniel. Hoping his pull was the lesser of the two evils. “So how have you been?”

Her sister snorted at her lack of conversation skills and she repressed the urge to stick out her tongue. Being the mature one sucked sometimes. “Uh…good and yourself?”

Wow, this tête-à-tête was just slightly awkward. Willow saved them from the polite small talk. “When was the cavern discovered?”

Daniel frowned unsure if he could give any information yet. With a small lift of his shoulders more for his own indecision than an answer he spoke, “About two weeks ago.”

Dawn smiled at him and motioned to the packs they girls carried. “Can we take these off somewhere?”

He opened his mouth and then quickly closed it with a snap. With a flick of his wrists he motioned them to follow him deeper into the cave. As they came closer to the temple entrance Teal’c stepped from one of the smaller caverns that branched off from the main entrance.

Illyria paused in her movement and simply stared at the possible threat. He felt wrong. Her head inclined as he in turn studied the group just as thoroughly. The Beta male introduced him as Murray and Illyria watched him nod to his other introductions. One eyebrow rose when he had met her ally’s gaze. The arch met with the black beanie pulled low over his forehead.

He was a threat. Illyria shifted to Buffy’s side and smiled warmly at the tall black man. “Hi there!” He cocked his head to the side when his attention was drawn to the demon. His eyes flickered with confusion for a moment before he nodded to her as well. Illyria leaned slightly into Buffy. Her voice dropped low, “He is not human.”

The Slayer turned to her. “He’s not evil. Wrong kind of vibe.” Their hushed voices eased around the group. Though, none could hear them.

“Its not polite to whisper.”

Buffy and Illyria glanced up in unison with nearly identical looks of irritation. The Colonel smiled at them. “So apparently we’re going to be sharing our site with the Watcher’s Council.”

Both of Daniel’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “You’re part of the Watcher’s Council?”

Dawn smiled indulgently at the doctor. “Willow and myself are acting members.”

Buffy sent Dawn a sharp look clearly telling her to shut it. “Now that our credentials have check out can we see the temple?”

Jack nodded. “You can leave your packs here.” He turned and made his way deeper into the cave his unhappiness was all too apparent to Daniel as he reached the temple entrance.

Dawn stopped and took in the smooth columns her eyes widening considerably. Willow moved up beside her gaze drawn to the elegant phoenix arching above the entrance. “Milcham.”

Daniel’s eyes lit up at her. “The Jewish legend of the phoenix.”

Kennedy frowned and shifted between her lover and the linguist. Catching Willow’s hands she smiled at her a question in her eyes. “What, baby?”

The witch looked to her girlfriend and shook her head at the display of possession but answered her question anyway, “The Jewish legend differs slightly from most calling the phoenix the Milcham. Supposedly Eve, jealous of the other animals’ beauty and immortality in the Garden of Eden convinced them all to eat the forbidden fruit. Only the phoenix refused and was granted immortality. She would live for a thousand years and then be reborn. The Angel of Death could never touch her.”

“Immortality, not really a great reward.”

Dawn flicked her gaze from the temple and Willow’s tale to look to her sister. A frown was drawing her brow downward and her hands where wrapped tightly around her waist. A trickle on unease swirled in Dawn’s stomach.

Daniel blinked at the bitterness in the blonde’s voice but not knowing her he might be reading something that didn’t exist. With a shrug he waved his hand forward so that the others would follow.

Illyria shivered as she felt a shift in the flow of power around the room. Like a vacuum sucking the air out of her and then shoving it back in too quickly. Her back stiffened her eyes narrowing as she passed the threshold into the temple. Large and unimpressive it stretched out before her gaze. Her head cocked to the side and she moved further into the structure. Spin straight, proud, her chin up and gaze sweeping the thin walls in contempt.

Her eyes trailed over the easily read hieroglyphs becoming bored. She moved past a startled female that cried soldier to her senses. Like the Alpha male that stood beside her. She gave the woman an indulgent study.

Instantly judging that her and the Alpha male should procreate. The offspring would be most efficient. Powerful, strong, and by the notable intelligence pressing from behind the females gaze they would be proficient as well.

Illyria scanned the wall directly to her left and stilled. Her body lost all function for a brief moment as the Ancient’s language, though butchered by human hands and thoughts, assaulted her gaze. Eyes narrowing she moved towards it. The aggravation she had been feeling since their arrival in the caves became tenfold when she stood only inches away from the wall. From what lay behind it.

“Fred?”

Buffy’s voice cut hesitantly into her silent perusal. The demon inclined her head to the side and focused on the carving dominating the wall. “It is a Chappa’ai.”

“What!”

Buffy frowned at the Daniel’s shout and she shot him an annoyed look. “What is it?”

“A Chappa’ai is a portal between worlds.”

SG-1 exchanged worried glances as Willow stepped up to Fred and looked at the giant circle with rune like shapes engraved into it. “To different dimensions?”

“No silly.” Illyria pulled on the Fred guise hiding her unease. “To planets.”

Dawn gawked at her. “Planets?”

“Don’t tell me you’re arrogant enough to think we’re the only intelligent life in this universe?”

Kennedy rolled her eyes at the demon. “Aliens? Come on Fred you can lie better than that.”

Illyria shook her head. “I am not lying.”

Buffy watched the uneasy glances the military presence was giving each other and decided to cut in. “Fascinating as interstellar travel is. Lets focus on the here and now.”

Willow looked to Buffy who flicked her gaze back to the group behind them. They were all watching the demon with somewhat startled expressions. The blonde woman looked ready to jump into their conversation and interrogate Illyria.

Daniel stepped forward and caught Illyria’s eye. The demon turned to him and inclined her head. “How do you know all this?”

She blinked and lied. “I’m fascinated by portals and different dimensions. When researching those I stumbled across a few books who’s basis was the Chappa’ia.”

“Can you get me a copy of those books?”

Illyria nodded to him and looked up above the archeologist to watch as a delicate line of silk spun downward from the ceiling. Willow and Dawn were already speaking in soft whispers about the numbers seven and three and the character for Omega. Daniel moved to help with their discussion. The intelligence of their combined forces should be enough to open the temple.

The line of silk arched when he left. Causing a tremble to flow up it and the spider currently dancing down to pause. The demon moved forward and gently grasped the spun web and held it steady for the creature. It’s limber legs shifted downward until they gently brushed her fingertips. Its body was devoid of all color. The exoskeleton glimmered in the soft light of the lanterns that were in each corner of the room.

Its oblong body white as marble and delicate nimbly legs tapped against her fingers and onto her palm. Kennedy stood just to her left watching her hold the arachnid in disgust.

“What are you doing?” At the sudden echo from her voice the entire room turned to watch Illyria cradle the spider.

The demon’s gaze narrowed on the insolent Slayer. “It was disturbed from its perch, Kennedy.” She spoke her name like an insult.

“It’s a spider, Fred.” The young Slayer returned the favor.

One brow rose at the disgust in Kennedy’s voice. “Their kind is older than humans.” At the narrowing of the brunettes gaze she added, “Cleaner too.”

“Whatever Little Miss Muffet.”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Buffy had made her way to the far corner of the room avoiding all contact with the walls around her. A steady pulse was beating against her senses. Beckoning her. Sweeping her thoughts with warmth and protection. Engulfed in soft winds and muted sounds. It felt like heaven.

Shuddering she wrapped her arms around her body trying to suppress the feeling of euphoria. It tickled her throat. Candy coated her mind. With a resolute shake of her head she paused staring up at the wall filled with hieroglyphs.

Brilliant markings caved with the smooth movement of hands. Not necessarily human. Her attention was drawn to elegant figure of a woman in profile. A regal red crown perched on a high head. She held a bow and crossed arrows. A shiver of unease crept threw the warmth as Kennedy’s annoyed voice molested the older Slayer’s hearing.

Buffy turned with the others and half paying attention to the exchange between Illyria and Kennedy. The spider drew her attention and she took a few hesitant steps forward.

The young Slayer insulted the demon. The demon insulted mankind. Same old story different time. The spider hobbled hypnotically along Illyria’s palm. The demon turned her wrist in time with its stumbling steps.

“Whatever Little Miss Muffet.”

The elder Slayer froze. Her eye’s widened and her breath stilled. The feeling of peace fell away as dread filled the pit of her stomach and rose steadily upward. Her breath burst from her throat in a dry pant. The Colonel paused in his annoyance to look back at her. The blonde female shifted her focus with Jack.

His eyes narrowed on her ashen face. A slight sheen of sweat glistened along her exposed skin. “Hey, kid. You okay?”

Buffy blinked as a thundering roar filled her senses in time with the pulse that beat in her throat. She tried to swallow around the steady thrumming. Shaking her head the roaring began to echo through the cavern but no once else seemed to notice.

Jack moved to her side and gently touched her shoulder. She turned her head towards him, her eyes vacant. She blinked at him and the Colonel watched a shadow fill her hazel gaze. Like a cup over flowing, darkening them. “Summers?”

Buffy absently laid her hand across Jack’s and the he winced at the cool touch. Expecting a slight fever with her skin, he cringed at the clammy texture. Her voice was soft and small. Uncertain. “Miles to go, Little Miss Muffet counting down from 7,3,O.”

The petite woman took a deep breath and her eyes lightened. Shaking her head she took a step back from the Colonel. Whose brown eyes now watched her with a mixture of concern and trepidation. Knowing she spoke in code and unsure how to translate it.

“Sorry, must be the heat.” She ducked her head and stepped around him to make her way back towards her group of people. Her face still drawn and pale. Dawn meet her half way and offered her a canteen of water. She took it gratefully. Taking small hesitant sips. “Fred, Kennedy and I will explore the other caverns. You and Willow work on the translation.”

Dawn nodded but narrowed her green eyes at her in worry. The Slayer offered her sister a small smile. Still not convinced but at a loss as to how to approach the subject Dawn simply nodded. “Be careful.”

Buffy flicked her eyes around the assembled military force in the room. “Watch your back.”

“Yes, ma’am”

Buffy contemplated hugging her sister but held in the urge, shouldn’t embarrass her. Reaching up she pushed a loose strand of hair that had escaped her ponytail back behind her ear. With another smile not quite reaching her eyes she nodded and simply spun on her heel and left.

Illyria placed the spider along the far wall and followed her retreating back without comment. Kennedy squeezed her girlfriend’s hand and followed her general.
“Okay, what was that?” Jack asked the two women left behind.

Dawn and Willow exchanged nervous glances. Neither having the ability to explain without telling the whole story. Not that either of them knew the whole story. The teenage girl shrugged.

“Exactly what Buffy said, the heat got to her.”

“I do not believe that is entirely true Dawn Summers.”

The younger girl glanced at Teal’c but shook her head. “Believe what you want.” She turned her back on the Jaffa and motioned Willow forward. The red head beamed at her and Dawn felt some of her tension ease away.

Together they began to study the wall containing the Chappa’ia.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

“Daniel.”
The linguist looked up form his notes to see Jack beckoning him towards him and the other members of SG-1. With an apologetic smile to Dawn and Willow he stepped around the kneeling pair and walked toward the trio.

“What is it?”

Jack narrowed his gaze and nodded his head. The group moved to the farthest corner of the temple entrance. Speaking in a hushed whisper the Colonel spoke, “How about we don’t share everything with this group.”

Daniel frowned at him, “Can I ask why?”

“Daniel.” The Colonel closed his eyes taking a deep breath before continuing in irritation, “We know next to nothing about their organization other than it was blown up a few years ago.”

“Sir, why were they even granted access?”

Jake nodded to Carter. “Seems it’s a personal request by the President that they be allowed full discloser to this site.”

“Buffy did say you’re not the only one the President has a thing for.”

“Anyway, they do not have clearance to know about our other activities.”

“How was Winifred Burkle aware of the Chappa’ai?”

“Good question T.” Jack glanced over at the two girls taking a few photos. “We should try finding out.”

Daniel followed his gaze and shook his head. “They seem very protective of each other.”

“There’s always a weak link.” Daniel shook his head at the Colonel’s parting shot. “T, you and I will feel out Summers, Fred, and…” He paused stumped by the other girl’s name.

“Kennedy, Sir.”

Her CO smiled at her and nodded. “You and Daniel work on the other two.”

Sam nodded her agreement and Daniel frowned at the intrigue of the situation. Though he was dieing to pick Dawn’s brain about the Chosen One myth. Maybe she even knew who the girl was. That thought had his eyes widening.

He turned to Sam, “They may have more information on who the Chosen One is.”

The Major grinned at him. “That would be helpful.”

Jack nodded. “Okay, get to it campers.”

The group split to the separate assignments and Sam cautiously walked towards the two girls. Pushing a friendly smile to her face she gained their attention. “Hi I’m Samantha Carter.”

The younger of the two paused in her photography to send her a quick smile. “Hey, I’m Dawn Summers and this is Willow Rosenburg.”

The red haired girl turned from the wall to give a pleasant little wave. She looked the other woman over slowly. She was tall, probably 5’7” at the least. Pretty with angular features but her eyes were solid. The very force of her personality leapt out to the witch and caused her reach out. Offer her hand.

Sam slightly surprised by the gesture took the offered hand. A spread of goose bumps chilled up her wrist and the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. Her hand was quickly released and she resisted the urge to rub it on her shorts. Keeping a pleasant smile was a force of sheer willpower.

“So how do you know Dawn?”

Willow frowned slightly. She hadn’t been able to read her aura. Something about the woman had blocked her and sent both of them off kilter.

Dawn answered for her, “Her and Buffy were best friends in high school and she let me hang out with them. We shared a common love.”

Daniel smiled at the teenager. “What?”

The brunette grinned. “School.”

Willow looked over at the pair and nodded. “I was a nerd.”

“Was?” The red head turned to mock glare at Dawn’s teasing face.

“This from the girl who learned ancient Sumerian because she was bored one month”

Daniel looked to the younger Summers in interest. “You learned Sumerian in a month?”

Dawn blushed. “I’m good with languages.”

Willow smirked and looped an arm affectionately across the girl’s thin shoulders. “She’s being modest. Dawnie, knows at least six languages.”

“You know eight.”

Willow winked at her. “But I’m twenty four and you’re only seventeen.”

“You’re only seventeen?” Daniel’s voice had risen slightly and he winced at the sound. He and Sam shared an apprehensive look.

“I’ll be eighteen this weekend.” Dawn growled between clenched teeth. Shooting Willow an annoyed look she turned her back on the ‘adults’ and went back to taking photographs for later study at the hotel.

Willow smirked at her agitation and turned back to Daniel and Sam. Their combined faces made her smile falter a little. “How do her parents feel about her being involved in your organization?”

Willow shook her head at Sam’s question. “Mrs. Summers died a few years ago and the sperm donor hasn’t looked in on either of his children in over six. Buffy has been raising Dawn.”

“She’s done a good job.”

Willow looked Daniel over and couldn’t help herself, “Buffy mentioned that about you.”

Daniel blinked. “She mentioned…me…I mean…” He paused and shook his head trying to clear it. “What did she mention?”

The red head’s smile had spread to her green eyes as he stumbled over his words. “That’s good to know.” With that said she spun and went to help Dawn.

Sam watched the small frown pull between Daniel’s eyes and couldn’t help her chuckle. He watched her move up and engage Willow in a conversation about the symbols the girl was currently in front of and shook his head once again. Still wanting to know what Buffy mentioned.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Buffy closed her eyes and let her head fall forward. The simple movement stretched the tight muscles of her neck and upper back. Rolling her head from side to side help alleviate more of the dense connective tissue. She stood with Kennedy and Illyria in one of the caverns connected to the main cave. It was small. Probably only five feet in depth but it rose at least ten upward.

With another sigh she raised her head to look the other Slayer. “When you were by the temple did you feel anything?”

The brunette nodded. “Yeah, like a warmth. It made me feel safe.”

“Me too.”

Kennedy rolled her eyes and crossed her arms under her chest. “So why did we leave?”

Illyria allowed one brow to arch at the child’s arrogance. “Such euphoria can be addicting.”

Buffy’s gaze slid to the demon. “You felt it to?”

Inclining her head she frowned. “I felt assaulted. As if my presence was an affront to that place.”

“Well aren’t you?” At Buffy’s sharp look the young Slayer quickly amended, “I mean if this temple was built for the Chosen One. Then having a demon. Especially one of Illyria’s caliber may be an insult.”

Illyria acknowledge her point with a small nodded. Her hand came up to halt any more comments. “Water carriers approach.”

Kennedy rolled her eyes. “Would you stop calling humans that?”

“Your kind is mostly water.”

Jack stops just outside the cavern opening over hearing Illyria’s last comment. He glances back at Teal’c whose face has fallen into a slight frown. Buffy stepped out from the small opening and stood before them. Her arms were bent. The muscles playing delicately beneath the skin. Hands fisted and resting on her hips. Jack took a moment to acknowledge for a short person she had nice legs. Especially with her shorts being nonexistent and all. Oh the fearlessness of youth.

“Didn’t your mother teach you it’s not nice to eavesdrop?”

Jack smirked at her as her two companions eased their way out of the opening to stand at her back. “Must have skipped that lesson.”

The blonde rolled her eyes. “Yeah, sure, you betcha.”

Jack pulled up a little straighter at his own phrase being thrown at him. He hadn’t realized how annoying it could be. He should use it more. “So find anything of interest in the tiny cave?”

“Not so much tiny as room for improvement.”

Teal’c raised his eyebrow. “How would one improve an insufficient cave Buffy Summers?”

The blonde blinked at his question and then grinned. “Some throw pillows. A nice rug to bring out the rust color in the walls. Someone tiny could call it home.”

“Like yourself.”

Buffy’s eyes narrowed on Jack. “You and I are not nearly buddy-buddy enough for you to mock my height.”

Kennedy sighed at her mentor. “Buffy, shouldn’t we be checking the perimeter?”

“Go. Do that.”

The young Slayer glared at Illyria. “Do you want to have a confrontation?”

Illyria shifted to face the insolent brunette. “Sure you’re up to it.” Her voice was honey sweet and full Fred.

“Girls.” Buffy’s voice as soft and completely emotionless. The gape between wisdom and youth spread. “Kennedy, why don’t you make sure Willow and Dawn have everything they need.”

“You want Fred to stay with you?” The astonishment filled the younger girls voice. Making it higher.

“Yes, Kennedy.”

“Fine!” The girl brushed past the two girls and SG-1 team members. Her steps making angry crunches across the rock floor.

“That was neat.”

Jack turned back towards the smartass before him. “Yeah, not awkward or weird at all.”

Illyria smiled and shook her head. “You keep deluding yourselves.” She stepped around Buffy and grinned at Teal’c. “So Murray, wanna give me the grand tour?”

Teal’c looked to O’Neill who gave a small nod. “Indeed.” He shifted with her movement down the cave. Bodies side by side. His impressive height and muscle helped add to Illyria’s appearance of frailty.

Jack turned back to Buffy. “So.”

The Slayer flicked her gaze to his. “So.”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah.”

They stood silent, looking around the cavern in search of a common ground to start a conversation with. Jack flicked his gaze to the tiny girl again. Her youth and stature screaming at him to keep her away from the work that he did. Tensing his shoulders he tried to let go of some of the apprehension he had felt since he caught sight of her outside the caves.

“Like the Simpsons?”

Her laughter was surprised. As amusement sparked in her eyes. She was prettier when she smiled and Jack had a moment of understanding for his friend’s distraction with the girl before she answered, “Does any sane person, not?”

Frowning at her slice and dice of the English language he asked, “Does that mean yes?”

Her smile widened. “Yep.”

Jack grinned back at her. “Cool.”

She laughed again. “Maybe you’re not entirely write-off-able.”

Jack shook his had and wondered how long Daniel’s interest would last when he actually got to spend time and speak with her. Though she did pose an impossible challenge to his linguist skills when she made up every other word in her vocabulary. Grinning evilly he drawled, “So, you and Daniel?”

Her smile faltered and a crease formed between her brows. “What!? Me and…that’s not…wait…no.” Her eyes narrowed. “You did that on purpose.”

Jack shrugged. “Good to know.” He turned and began to make his way deeper into the caves. His steps were light nearly skipping.

Buffy stared after him confused. Her and Daniel? It was way to soon for a call. Sure he was a honey but that didn’t mean he wanted…. Could he want? A warm blush spread across her cheeks. Ducking her head she moved to follow the Colonel to pick his brain about the site and hopefully steer clear of the minefield of Daniel Jackson.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Illyria’s cool gaze swept over the cavern walls. Searching for possible signs of the Ancients. The nonhuman beside her was silent and watchful of her every move. “So you’re the strong silent type?”

His head swiveled to watch her more closely. “It would appear so Winifred Burkle.”

“You can call me Fred.” She shrugged her shoulders and forced a blush up her cheeks. “It would make talking to you less intimidating.”

Teal’c inclined his head towards her. “Your accent it familiar. You are from Texas, are you not?”

Illyria nodded her head. Allowing the soft curls of her hair to hide her profile for a moment. “Yep, born and raised. Both my parents are still there. I should visit them more but you know…Growing up. Moving out. You lose touch….” The demon peered out at the Jaffa through her veil of hair. “And I’m rambling on here. Sorry.”

“There is no need to apologize.”

“So where are you from?”

“Colorado.”

She smiled allowing the shell’s memories to fill her. “I’ve been that way once. With my Dad when I was about fourteen. We went skiing. First time I’d ever seen snow. White and beautiful. Purest thing on the face of the Earth.”

Teal’c inclined his head. “Indeed.”

Illyria felt a spark of irritation at his lack of speech. He was polite and courteous but distant. It was unusual for anyone to ignore her shell’s charms. “Am I making you feel awkward?”

“Not at all Winifred Burkle.” His he tilted towards her again and she frowned deciding to switch tactics.

“What can you tell me about the caves?”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Buffy sat her back propped against the corner farthest from the Latin wall with the big circle carved on it. Willow and Dawn had promised her fifteen minutes and then they would be ready to go. That had been forty-five minutes ago. Her legs stretched out before her crossed at the ankles. She casually studied her new hiking boots. They made her calves look shapelier. Cool. Kennedy snored softly with her head propped against the older Slayer’s shoulder.

The steady thrumming warmth was wearing her willpower down. She shifted searching for a more comfortable piece of rock and then snorted at her thoughts. Dawn glanced up and held up five fingers. Buffy rolled her eyes and held up one.

Dawn glanced back at Willow. Who was in deep conversation with Daniel and Sam. She called out to her, “I think we’ve pushed Buffy’s breaking point.”

The witch looked up and glanced at her unhappy friend. Buffy had closed her eyes and was absently banging her head against the rock wall behind her. Willow grinned. “Okay, we can get going.” She stood and smiled at two of the smartest people she had ever met. “We’ll get an early start in the morning.”

Hearing Willow’s words Buffy gave her shoulder a small jolt. Kennedy jerked up eyes blinking quickly scanning the surrounding area for threats. “I’m awake.” She yawned and raised her arms towards the doomed ceiling. Her back arched and her tank rose slightly momentarily distracting Willow.

Buffy caught her best friend’s eye and winked. She pushed herself to her feet and repeated the same process as Kennedy. Grasping her hands above her head she rotated her hips forward and bent. Pressing her hands against an unseen force of gravity before straightening.

She strolled forward and smiled at the pretty blonde named Sam. “So you guys gonna call it quits for the day as well?”

Carter looked to Daniel before shaking her head in the negative. “We’re gonna try and get a few more hours in before we head out.”

Kennedy stepped forward and took the pack from Willow. Donning it she took her girlfriends hand as the pair left through the opening to the caverns. Buffy watched them go and turned back to the SG-1 team members. “It’ll be dark soon.”

Sam smiled at the concern in the girl’s voice. “We’ll be fine.”

She frowned and shook her head. “You should head back before nightfall.”

Dawn stood next to her sister and nodded in agreement with her. “Why not leave now. Willow and I were planning on going over the notes during dinner…” She glanced at her watch and winced. “Make that a late snack. We could do it together.”

Daniel smiled indulgently at the Summers women. “Thanks but I think we’ll pass on it tonight.”

Buffy sighed and glanced around the room. With its muted age and chilled setting warring with a feeling of contentment, she shuddered. “Are you sure?”

“We’ll be fine. Thank you for caring.”

Buffy shrugged self-consciously at his sincere thanks. “Be safe.” With that last thought for the two scientists to think over Buffy shifted and turned pulling Dawn with her.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Willow and Dawn sat across from each other on a double sized bed. Buffy and Dawn were sharing the small room at the Holiday Inn, only a twenty-minute drive from the excavation site. Ten if they let Buffy at the wheel. She wasn’t a bad drive. Just aggressive. Very aggressive.

Their heads together and scanning over the notes Dr. Jackson had let them borrow. They had finally gained his trust after three days of pleading by Dawn he relinquished them to the duo. His neat hand writing but horrible organizational skills seemed to repeatedly get the better of the two women. Willow tossed his notebook to the bed and rolled her shoulders back. Blinking her eyes to bring them back into focus she watched Dawn begin to study the pictures they had taken with the digital camera.

The steady hum of the TV had been a constant backdrop as Buffy flipped from channel to channel. In search of something interesting and Dawn’s notes beside her long forgotten.

Flicking her wrist at the television set she shut it off and tossed the remote aside. “I’m gonna go swimming.”

Willow shared an amused glance with Dawn at Buffy’s outburst. The witch turned to her friend, “You do realize it’s nearly midnight?”

The Slayer arched an eyebrow. “Cause I’m such an early riser.”

Dawn shook her head. “We’ve got to be up by six to be at the site by seven.”

“Either I swim or I patrol.”

“Swim.” Dawn threw at her sister. If Buffy went patrolling now they’d be lucky if she got in before the sun rose. Two nights before she had disappeared for more than six hours and Dawn had tossed and turned till she came in just an hour before daylight. When her sister had questioned her Buffy had simply shrugged away her concern.

The witch picked up one of Daniel’s rubbings and narrowed her gaze at one of the corners. “Did you see this?” She placed the paper between her self and the younger Summers.

Buffy rolled her eyes at the two began an in depth discussion of the big round thingie. Grabbing her carry on she slipped into the bathroom and closed the door gently. She let the small bag fall to the floor and leaned forward over the sink to peer at her face. She needed eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. She’d settle for three. Lifting the silver necklace that she always wore from her neck. She placed it on the robe hanger on the back of the door. Closing her eyes she knelt and began rummaging through her carry on.

Having learned from luggage debacles before. She knew to pack at least four days worth of clothes inside. Including all her essentials. Bypassing her smaller bag of toiletries she had forgotten about and tossed it on the left side of the sink without thought because Dawn preferred the right. Made her mouth cleaning rituals easier or some equally weird explanation. Plus little sister had been complaining about Buffy using her shampoo and stuff.

She smiled at Dawn’s happy exuberance a just being here. Part of the team. A ghost of a smile graced her lips. Dawn would be heading off to college after the summer and with her intellect she was going to be admitted to any school. Her Dawnie was brilliant.

With a small sigh Buffy extracted her simple black bikini and quickly began to undress. She could her hears sister and Willow’s muted voices through the door. Something about the seven number, being the key. Shaking her head at their insight and feeling just a little unneeded she tied the stings to her triangle top in place. Straightening the cups she bent and quickly pulled on the bottoms.

The two behind the door were the best the Council had to offer. Dawn already spoke six languages and was quickly translating ancient Egyptian. Her and Willow were on equal footing with Sam and Daniel. The petite Slayer had been in the room more than once while they discussed unbounded references to history that she couldn’t even begin to follow.

Daniel was way above her in the IQ department. Light years ahead. Shoving herself to her feet she grabbed a scrunchie and pulled her hair up into a haphazard bun on the top of her head. Willow had mentioned Daniel spoke twenty-three languages. Twenty-three! She barely spoke English. With a deject shrug of her shoulders she straightened her spin and decided to not dwell on the impossible. No matter what the Colonel had implied. They were here to stop the government from making another colossal mistake. See Initiative.

She bent and grabbed her bag before exiting the bathroom. Willow looked up and gave a low whistle. Buffy frowned at her best friend, “Shut up.”

The witch smiled at her best friend. “Going to sneak into a certain archeologist’s hotel room?”

“Sure and what would I say after he called security?”

Dawn glanced up at her sister. “If you lost the top I’m sure he’d let you stay.”

Buffy’s mouth dropped open. “Dawn Marie Summers!” She tried to close it.

Willow was giggling uncontrollably and tried in vain to stay seated on the bed even as Dawn continued, “What? He’s a male hottie and you’re an attractive female. Both of consenting age. Go. Have crazy monkey sex.”

Willow lost her war with gravity and the floor came up to kiss her ass as her laughter threatened to wake the guests on the floor beneath them.

Buffy blinked rapidly before a smile began to break through her annoyance. She coughed to cover her merriment and ducked her head so Dawn couldn’t see. “You are so not allowed to call Faith anymore without parental supervision.”

“Please, Faith would have said you should just go fu…”

“DAWN!”

Her sister’s serene face split with a grin and she beamed at Buffy. “Have fun.”

Willow was still trying to catch her breath so that she could fight the effects of gravity and take her seat back up on the bed. “I think you broke Willow.”

The brunette leaned over the side to peer at the tiny red head. “Nah, she’ll be fine.”

Buffy shook her head and went to the small closet the room had to offer. Pulling a light strappy dress from inside she slipped it on. With her head high she sat on the edge of her head bed and slipped on her sandals. One more quick trip to the bathroom for a towel and she was ready to go.

Humming off key to herself she waited patiently for the elevator to chime. She watched her reflection in the glass doors. Her eyes still shown with happiness from her sister’s antics. Cocking her head to the side she realized she had forgotten to take out her earrings. With a small shrug she decided to risk them. They were Dawn’s anyway.

The bell above her gave a perky chirp and the doors slid open noiselessly. Stepping gingerly inside she winced at the small space. A phobia she and Illyria shared. Enclosed spaces, like elevators, coffins, sarcophaguses; tended to freak them out just a little. Well they freaked Buffy out and Illyria would narrow her eyes.

As the metal box began its decent of death Buffy wished once again she had taken the stairs. She had energy to burn. That’s why she was going swimming in the first place. As the elevator made her stomach drop as it came to a stop she breathed a small sigh of relief. The doors slid open and she stepped out, once more assuming her humming.

“Summers?”

Buffy stiffened and slowly counted to ten. She had thought Willow and Dawn were teasing her. Not that the military group was actually staying at their hotel. They had been here for three nights already and never seen them. She spun on her heel, eyes wide at Jack, Sam, Teal’c and Daniel. They all appeared tired and just this side of grumpy.

“Colonel, you’re staying here too?”

“Yeah.”

“Hello, Buffy.”

The petite Slayer repressed the warm feeling she got when he said her name. “Hey Daniel.”

Sam smiled at the younger woman who nodded to her in return. “Hey Sam. How goes the translating?”

“Slow.”

Buffy smiled in sympathy. “Willow’s camped out with Dawn in our room going over the notes Daniel let them borrow. If you’re not too exhausted you could probably join them.”

Sam smiled. “Maybe, what room?”

“Third floor, 314.”

“We’re on the sixth.”

Buffy took the information from Sam with a raise of her brows. Then they fell at Jack’s mumble of, “Our floors higher than yours.”

Daniel shot his friend an exasperated looked. Buffy smiled sweetly at him, “Did you need both hands to figure that out?”

Sam coughed into her hand and at her CO’s glare she suppressed the smirk and nodded, “Sir.”

Buffy looked at her a moment. “You’re in the military too?”

Sam winced slightly having hoped to keep that to herself for a few more days. Dawn and Willow seemed to become closed mouth when Jack or any of the other military personal was around. “Yes.”

Buffy cocked her head to the side and studied her. “How high do you rank?”

“Major.”

“And you have a PhD?”

Sam nodded her head.

“Nifty.” The two women shared a smile and Jack rolled his eyes.

“That’s a double standard!”

Buffy looked to the Colonel and shook her head. “Nah, I just like her better.”

Ignoring that minefield Jack notice the towel draped across her shoulder. “Where are you going?”

“And that’s your business, how?”

The Colonel took a deep breath and pictured the beer he had stashed away in the mini-fridge in his room. “Call it morbid curiosity.”

“Going swimming.”

“At midnight?”

Buffy rolled her eyes and smiled at Teal’c, “Hi Murray, and how are you this fine evening?”

“I am well, Buffy Summers.”

Refreshed by the polite tone she continued. “Fred’s having a great time on your tours.”

“Winifred Burkle is most pleasant to accompany.”

The elevator door was beginning to close and Sam reached out to catch it. “I think that’s your clue to go to bed. Night.”

As the others climbed into the metal box Daniel hesitated and watched Buffy stroll away. “Coming Danny?”

“Uh…I’m gonna…”

He trailed off and Sam smirked. “Go for a swim?”

Jack joined her in the ribbing. “Yeah, you should go. You need a good…” At the linguist sharp look he finished lamely. “Swim?”

As the door slid shut cutting off his teammates amused expressions Daniel saw Buffy’s retreating form in the mirrored panels of the doors. Once again distracted by the way her hips cut through the air. Her walk was predatory. The smooth liquid grace of a dancer and he wondered if she had ever studied ballet. Shaking his head he spun and called out to her just as she reached the exit that lead to the back patio.

“Buffy!”

Stopped just before the door and looked over her shoulder. A soft smile graced her lips and Daniel returned it in kind. She turned fully to him and began a to walk back her head slightly inclined towards him.

“Yes, Doctor Jackson?”

He frowned slightly at the use of his surname but pushed on. “Isn’t the pool closed at this hour?”

Buffy glanced over at the empty check in and took another step towards him before whispering conspiratorially, “That’s half the fun.”

He couldn’t help the spark of amusement she caused with her hushed voice. Lowering his voice he leaned in as well, “What’s the other half?”

Buffy looked up at him for a moment. Debating on how far she wanted to tempt herself. How much she was willing to put on the line. With a mental shrug she reminded herself of her first words of advice to Willow. Seize the day. “Getting someone else to break the rules with you.”

Daniel blinked. She was flirting with him or at least he thought she was. He was too far out of practice. She was too young. Too feminine. Too breathtaking. Too much of everything that caused him to become tongue-tied and fifteen again. Taking a deep breath and acknowledging he was going to go back to his room to kick himself later he began to shake his head in the negative.

Buffy sensing his emanate retreat gave one last try. “Come on Dr. J, make my rule breaking twice as fun.” Her hand came out and playfully tugged at his shirtfront. Her fingertips brushed his stomach and he pulled in a breath at the warmth that spread for that one simple contact.

It was a bad idea. Horrible really. His will crumbled just a little when her lower lip came out. He had been right. She had pouted as a small child to get her way and she still used the exceptional weapon today. “I don’t have a swim suit.”

She smiled sweetly. “With you or on?”

Daniel cleared his throat. “Well…on.”

“Not a problem we just shimmy up to your room and get your suit and then rule breaking will ensue.”

She left no room for argument as she grasped his hand in her own and gently steered him back towards the elevators. His hand felt warm and strong wrapped around her own. Light calluses rubbed deliciously against the smooth skin of her palm. Her steeps faltered the closer they got to the mirrored doors and he could see her give the stairwell a caressing glance.

“Are you afraid of elevators?”

She stopped just outside the doors and turned to him surprised. “Is it that obvious?”

He reached out and pressed the button. Trying for truthful, “A little.”

She gave a derisive laugh. More for herself than anything. “Not a big fan of tight places. They give me the wiggins.”

Daniel raised a brow. “Wiggins?”

She looked at him sideways in the mirror. “You know wiggins. In the dictionary alongside creeps, hebegebies, and phobias.”

“Ah.” His smirk was hidden from her view as the doors opened and he stepped into the metal coffin. It was his turn to lead her gently through the doors. Her spine straight and chin came up. “You’re very brave.”

“You’re very condescending.” Daniel coughed to cover his laugh but it faltered as the elevator gave a small jolt and her hand tightened in his own. Her voice was breathier this time around. “You could be a gentlemen and distract me.” Her eyes closed as the death ride gave another jerk. It had to act up when she was in the damn thing with someone.

Daniel turned his head to her a smirk already pulling at the corners of his mouth. “How would you like me to distract you?”

At the tone of his voice one eye cracked open and she mock glared at him. “You took that to an entirely different place than I meant to.”

His brows rose in surprise. As the elevator gave a particularly shifty shake in Buffy’s opinion she flinched. “Hey, we’re almost there.”

His tone sounded concerned and Buffy glanced up to see the digital face flash a six at the pair. As the doors opened Buffy quickly exited the shady box and fell instep alongside Daniel.

“So you don’t like elevators any other dislikes like flying, stairs…”

Buffy shook her head. “Not the height thing that scares me. It’s the small coffin like box.” She ducked her head sheepishly. “I have a small fear of being buried alive.”

“You do know that, that’s next to impossible in this day and age, right?”

Buffy sent him a not so friendly look as he paused out side his hotel room. “Not the issue with the whole it being an irrational fear and all.”

Daniel let her hand drop as he pulled out the access card for his room and slipped it into the small slot above his doorknob. The light blinked yellow twice before flashing green and emitting a small beep. Opening his door for her to enter first he nodded to her assessment.

“Point taken.”

Buffy looked at him out of the corner of her eye. “Did I just win our argument?”

Daniel closed the door and shook his head. “We were having an argument?”

“Don’t side step. I just won.”

Daniel rolled his eyes at her. “Yes you won.” He let his pack drop unceremoniously to the floor. She hadn’t noticed he was carrying one until that moment.

“But you’re a linguist and I’m…well I’m me.” She trailed off as she realized she was in his hotel room. Dawn’s earlier comments caused a blush to make it’s way delicately up her checks.

“Penny for your thoughts.”

Her eyes widened and she looked up to see him holding his swimsuit and a very masculine smile on his lips. “Penny is nowhere near enough. Change doctor and then we make with the swimming.”

He smiled at her and went into the bathroom quietly closing the door behind him. Buffy took a moment to study the single. Noticing a few books along dresser top she walked over and studied the titles. Mostly about ancient Egypt and a few Latin volumes. Giles would possibly drool at the sight of.

A small flash of gold caught her attention and she glanced at a small round medallion lying next to the volumes. It had a larger eye impressed into it and several hieroglyphs or what Buffy assumed were hieroglyphs. A beaded necklace was attached to the top. Her hand came up hesitantly and she traced the faint indentations surround the center.

As the bathroom door opened Buffy glanced up and blinked. Daniel with clothes on had been yummy. Daniel with nothing but swim trunks was bordering on dangerous. She coughed and averted her gaze. “Ready?” She winced at the throaty tone her voice had taken on.

He watched her duck her head as another blush painted her throat and chest a soft rose. He wondered vaguely if she would stop him if he pulled her hair down from the messy bun. If he traced his hands along her back. Blinking back a small frown at his own hormonal thoughts he shook his head, “Uh…yeah. Just let me…” He walked over and grabbed another shirt for a drawer and pulled it on over his head.

Slipping his room key into the side pocket of his trunks he grabbed a towel and turned back to her. “Okay.”

She nodded and they exited his hotel room without further incident. The elevator ride was smoother this time around but Buffy’s hand had snaked its way back into Daniel’s grasp again and he couldn’t help the small smile that pulled at the corners of his mouth. They made their way quietly through the lobby and onto the patio.

The moonlight spread the coble stone walkway in dappled shadow. The pool lay calm and placid behind a small fence. Her smooth surface beckoning the pair seductively. Buffy made her way to the gate and reached her thin arm through. With a flick of her wrist the latch released and they were inside the pool deck. Buffy stifled a small giggle as they tiptoed across the coursed concrete surface.

“You know this is something teenagers would do?”

Buffy flicked her attention back around at him and grinned at his hushed question. “Yep.”
He shook his head as she stepped away from him and slid her sandals off beside a lounge chair. Her towel and room key were dropped one after the other. With a smooth continuous movement of her arms she grasped the bottom of her dress and pulled it up and over her head. Without looking up she folded it and placed it along side her towel. Reaching up she grasped the hair tie holding her hair up and yanked it free.

Daniel removed his shirt and paused as he brought it down as he caught sight of Buffy. Her body arched slightly as she pulled her hair loose. The soft golden waves caught the moonlight and shimmered hypnotically. Her body bathed in starlight and the shadows of the night. She was stunning.

Blinking rapidly he tried to push the vision out of his mind. It stuck. Tightening his stomach and drying his throat. She took small delicate steps to the pools edge and looked back over her shoulder at him. Her hand came up and she quirked a finger. With one last impish smile thrown his way her body leapt into a graceful arch. She cut through the water nearly noiseless. Her head broke the surface a few feet from her entry point.

“Coming?”

Her voice held laughter and a few darker shades. Daniel took a deep breath and then removed his glasses and room key placing them on top of his towel. With his sandals left beside hers he padded silently over to the pools edge. Her movements were causing ripples of light across the surface.

He made his way to the side of the pool and slid in. The water was a tepid 80 degrees. He felt rather than saw Buffy shift to his side. A small blur was outlined in moonlight. He shook his head. “I’m sorry to say I can’t see much without my glasses.”

Her laughter caressed his senses. “How much?” As he made his way from the side of the pool she darted out of his sight again.

“Very little.”

The water shifted behind him and he had moments warning, “This could be fun.” Was whispered in his ear. A warm bust of air to tease him and then tiny hands wrapped around the slop of his shoulders and he was pushed under the water with surprising force. His own arms shot up and he grasped her delicate wrists but she twisted free. He broke the surface to the sounds of her laughter.

“You have an unfair advantage.”

She giggled again. “I could blind fold myself.”

Daniel’s eyes narrowed as he saw her shadow just to his left. His arm shot out and grasped her wrist while she gave a startled yelp. Daniel turned towards her and pulled her flush against his chest. Her wide startled eyes looked up at him. “How about we try blind folds another time?”

She ducked her head and had begun to twist away when he spun them both and pinned her against the nearest wall. “You are entirely too dangerous to allow free roam of the pool.”

Buffy glanced up into his smiling face and felt one of her own pull at the corners of her lips. His arms lay on either side of her head and the tops of his thighs brushed hers tantalizingly. She shuddered and reveled in the fact that she could break his hold at any time. But she didn’t. It was nice being with a guy that thought of her as just another girl. One that was attracted to just her. Buffy.

“Chicken.”

Daniel chuckled at the pout pulling at her bottom lip. “Does that work for you every time?” Her lip quivered just a bit and a shine of tears filled her wide green eyes. Daniel laughed harder. “You’re good.”

With a Cheshire cat grin she switched tactics and her hands traced their way up his back. Rubbing the soar muscles from carrying a pack and being bent over his books. Deft fingers found his tight rhomboids and stretched them out before sliding lower to push into the lumbar curve of his spin.

His head fell forward and he pressed his forehead to hers. With his eyes shut tight and body humming in pleasure he almost purred.

“Will you marry me?”

Buffy laughed, “If I had a nickel for every time I heard that…” She paused and he felt her frown against his forehead. “I’d have maybe fifteen cents…Maybe.”

“They’re all fools.” Buffy looked at his serene face and didn’t suppress the urge to tilt her head to the side. Her lips brushed his. A quick sweep of skin meeting skin and then she was gone.

Daniel’s stomach clenched when her lips touched his and his eyes opened quickly to watch her dart out from under his grasp. She was surprisingly agile too.

“Buffy?”

Her laughter was behind him again. Tickling along his spin and he spun trying to keep her within his sight. Though limited, he tried. “I’m pruney.”

He heard her climbing out and moved to the side of the pool a frown drawing down his brow. Wondering if she was suddenly regretting the closeness that had been forming.

“Buffy?”

He shifted his weight to his arms and lifted his body easily from the shallow water. He could make out Buffy’s vague shape by their belongings. Her head was covered by her towel as she vigorously dried her hair. His hands came up and stilled her movement.

He pulled the towel from her hands and dropped it back on the lounge chair. “Daniel?” Her voice was breathless as he traced the contours of her face with his fingertips.

Daniel lifter her chin and angled his face above hers. His head stroked from side to side. Dancing along the seal of her lips. Teasing. Tempting. Her choice to deepen. Her choice to step away. Buffy made a low noise in the back of her throat and arched up pressing her body against his.

Her mouth parted and she traced the seal of his lips with her tongue before he opened for the delicate invasion. Their mouths met. Tongues embraced and the spark that had been building since they had met. Ignited.

Daniel traced the smooth contours of her back with one hand while the other fisted in her hair. Buffy stroked his throat, chest. Touching. Memorizing. It burned between them. Filling them up and pressing them closer.

Buffy pulled back, her breaths coming as harsh heated pants against his chest. “We need to slow….” Daniel nodded in agreement and tried to swallow past the lump in his throat.

“Down. Of course.” His hands came from around her back and rested lightly on her shoulders. His thumbs absently smoothed the edge of her collarbones.

Buffy traced his upper body with her gaze. The gentle slop of his chest and indents of his abdomen. He was smooth curved muscle formed from movement and life, not a sterile gym.

“We should probably…”

Daniel nodded and pressed one last kiss to her forehead before reaching for his towel and drying himself off. His movements jerky and quick as he worked of some of his pent up emotions. Buffy slide her sundress back on and felt it mold to her damp skin. Wincing at her hyper awareness and promising herself a very cold soothing shower she watched Daniel pull on his shirt and replace his glasses.

The moisture of his shirt had the same effect as it did with her dress. The thin cloth no longer covered his upper body so much as framed it for all to see and admire. His face had drawn down in a slight frown and Buffy pulled him down to her.

Pressing a chaste kiss to his lips she whispered, “You have serious face.”

Daniel felt the frown recede somewhat but shook his head. “Sorry. Just not use to an instant attraction being reciprocated since my wife.” He winced at the shocked look that slapped across Buffy’s face realizing how bad that sounded. “She died.” He cringed that sounded worse. “She was killed a few years ago.”

Buffy looked at him saddened. The opposite of Sha’re in almost everyway but she had the same life to her that Daniel could never hope to possess. A constant motion. The brilliance of their essence making both of them a work of art.

“As trite and useless as the words are. I’m sorry.” He stopped in his perusal of her to see the understanding in her gaze. No one should ever have to have that perception and Daniel was saddened by that fact, that Buffy had lost someone close enough to her to leave such a crater in his or her wake.

He reached out and grasped her hand. “I’ll walk you to your room.”

She smiled her eyes still shadowed like his own and nodded. “Thank you.”

The finished the walk in silence both lost in their own pain and sadness. Their paths shifted and left the others presence. Neither noticing the connection that had formed or the pain the others departure added to the current one engulfing their senses.

Buffy curled her self against the showers cool spray. Her body wracked by sobs as she clutched Angel’s ring in her clenched fist. Body shaking and shoulders slumped in defeat. She let the grief roll over and through her. The tempest of emotion breaking her just a little bit more.

Daniel rolled and punched his pillow once more before falling back against it. He blinked as the ceiling fell out of focus more and he threw an arm over his forehead. The tears leaking from the corners of his eyes. His throat constricted and he rolled onto his side as pain gripped his chest and tightened.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Chapter 3: Elder Seal

Buffy watched Dawn as her sister slept peacefully; it was 5:45am with fifteen minutes till their wake up call. The younger girl shifted in her sleep and mumbled unintelligibly. The back of her eyelids flickered as she dreamed of hopefully sweet things. Laying diagonally across the bed her face serene with her long hair falling around her pillow like a dark halo, she resembled a fallen angel.

Shaking her head at the sappy thoughts the blonde rose from her bed and moved towards her suitcases. The team of five had packed for two weeks and clothes that could be washed easily and reused. Pulling out a pair of cargo khaki shorts, another tank top and underwear. She stood a moment debating between sports bra and regular before finally grabbing the sports. Better support. Not that she was large enough for it to matter. With a mental note to eat more and get her weight up she entered the bathroom to change.

As the phone rang precisely at 6am Dawn winced and rolled towards the nightstand housing the instrument of her irritation. She picked it up and informed the too cheerful woman on the other end that she was indeed up. After the phone was slammed into its plastic housing she rolled onto her back and stared up at the ceiling fans slow circulation.

With a snort of annoyance she sat up and pushed her hair back from her face. The running water in the sink informed her of Buffy’s early rise. She’d probably be chipper and bright, dirty older siblings.

As the water shut off and the door opened Buffy glanced at her sister and then quickly away a slight blush coloring her cheeks. The brunette’s eyes narrowed and then widened. “You got smoochies!”

Buffy’s spin stiffened and she spun on her sister. “What?”

Dawn leapt from the bed and Buffy frowned at her yummy sushi pajamas on her sister’s body. “You’re glowing.”

“I am not.”

“You are!”

“Not!”

Dawn circled her sister grinning evilly. “Right.” She stretched the word out for three syllables.

Buffy sighed and rolled her eyes. “How do you do that?”

“The monks made me out of you. I have better insight than most.” Her voice held a sing song quality that never failed to set Buffy’s teeth on edge.

“But you haven’t been able to tell since Angel or Riley.”

Dawn blinked at her. “You’re right.” A slow smile spread her lips. “You like, like Daniel.” She paused and then widened her eyes. “It was Dr. Jackson, right?”

Buffy winced and sat on the edge of the bed nearest the door. “Yes it was Daniel, and I don’t know if I like, like him.” Then she rolled her eyes. “What are we in grade school? Maybe you can pass him a note for me in fifth period. Do you like Buffy? Circle yes or no.”

Dawn grinned. “Nah, bad idea. He’s one of the smart ones. He’d probably write in maybe.”

“Thanks.” The Slayer reached back for a pillow and lobbed it at Dawn’s head.

The younger Summers winked at her sister. “I live to torment you.”

“Go get ready so we can eat.”

“Right away Mrs. Jackson.” The second pillow struck the bathroom door with a dull thump as Dawn darted behind it.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Several layers of rich textured cloth housed the essence of Anubis. The robe barely shifted as he moved from the balcony over looking the sunken craters breathing fire and soot into the gray skies of Tartarus. His warriors chanted his name in respect from the plummet below.

“How’s my boy?”

The once Ascended turned at the sound of a low feminine purr. A delicate Tau’ri woman stood before him, her figure encased in brown calfskin slacks and pale yellow top. Her feet were bare as she strolled leisurely toward the Goa’uld. A glint of gold danced on the top of one of her toes.

“You wear the flesh of a bovine.”

Her laughter was sweet and innocent as she glided even closer to him. “I can wear nothing if that pleases you.”

Her clothing melted back into her form and she sidestepped his robes just as they would have brushed her calves. Humming softly she looked around his newest achievement. Her eyes bright with some untold emotion as her figure glided across the smooth tiled floor.

“Why do you wear this from?”

She shifted away from him to look out at his warriors stretched beneath their feet. The First Evil turned and smiled sweetly at her favorite. “She is a champion for the Tau’ri.”

“Do you bid me to hunt her for you?”

Her head fell back as she laughed once more and the sound deepened becoming sinister. “Pretty to think so but not yet.” She stepped back from the window and turned back to him. “The primitives have located an Ancient’s outpost on Earth. Haven’t figures out how to open it yet but…” She trailed off and raised a delicate shoulder.

“My forces are not yet strong enough for a full strike against the Tau’ri. I do not wish to fail you like those before me.”

The First Evil stepped forward and raised a hand to trail it through the hood of his robes. Her essence sparked with his. Flooding the robe with light. “Anubis I have been guiding you for over a thousand years. It’s been a long while since anyone was before you.”

The hood inclined in his acknowledgement of her words. “I do not wish to lose my position at your side. I enjoy being your favored.”

A small smile graced her lips. “That would be like losing my right hand. I would find it very difficult to function without you.”

“You lost your left not long ago.”

Her eyes clouded with rage. “Caleb.” The temperature of the room dropped several degrees. “On second thought if you see this body. Destroy it. Eviscerate it. Make it quick but painful. Horribly painful.”

“As you wish.”

The First stepped closer still to the robes surrounding Anubis’s essence. Her limbs became lost into the thick cloth. “Since you’ve been such a good boy. I thought you deserved a treat.” She took another step forward and they merged.

The robes flared as a brilliant white light danced with darkness beneath them. The hood revealed a swirling black ink that burst with white stars. The universe stretched out beneath the robe and inverted on its self.

The First stepped out the back of Anubis who raised his arms skyward as he reveled in the power flowing through him. “The Tau’ri have found the Earth’s Ancile. It would be wise to stop them now before they have devised how to access it.”

“You shouldn’t read your mother when she’s feeding you.”

He turned to watch her nude form walking away from him. “You taught me the trickery I used to Ascend. Giving me the ability to read you.”

“Very well but leave the Ancile to me.”

Anubis bowed his head in agreement and watched his guide wink from his chambers. His consciousness shifting through the new information the First Evil had left inside of him. Her form was that of the Chosen One and she was the key to the end of everything.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Willow and Dawn sat beside Illyria just outside the cave entrance the sun was high and bright above their heads. The teams had decided to break for lunch and the two humans were currently feeding themselves while the demon watched.

“What do you mean you can open it?” Dawn coughed as Illyria had let this little tidbit fall while she took a sip of water.

“I possess the knowledge to opening this temple.”

Willow blinked and shook her head. “How?”

“It was built by a race that I am familiar with.”

“Demons?”

Illyria frowned at Dawn. “No, they are called the Ancients by some and the Powers that Be by others.”

Dawn’s eyes widened. “The temple was built by the PTB?”

One brow rose as Illyria answered her. “Them and their followers, yes. They also created the Scythe.”

“Why?” Willow asked.

Illyria frowned. “Why does the Slayer exist? To maintain balance.”

Dawn took another bite of her apple. “Wait. So you’re saying that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, right?”

“Newton was correct on that aspect.”

“Then doesn’t that mean the bad guys have or are gaining something in equal power to what we’ve found here.”

Willow winced at Dawn’s deduction. “If this temple is a shield or weapon for the Slayer to use in the End of Days then the bad guys have something similar. That is a really bad thing.”

Dawn sighed. “Uber bad.”

Willow looked back to Illyria, “When can you open it?”

“At any time.”

The witched nodded, silent a moment while she mulled over this new information. “Wait a day or two.”

Dawn frowned, “Why?”

The witch sent the younger girl an exasperated look. “We’ve been here less than a week and suddenly we’ve solved the puzzle then Daniel and Sam have been working on for three weeks? I don’t think so.”

Dawn shrugged. “So we continue on and keep trying to figure it out on our own.” She brightened. “Maybe we’ll figure it out and we won’t need you, Fred.”

Illyria simply shrugged. “That is highly unlikely,” Her voice brightened as she added, “ but you can hope.”

Willow’s brow wrinkled at the switch to Fred’s speech pattern but looked up to see a shadow falling over them. It was Teal’c and his focus was on Illyria.

“I had hoped that you would be inclined to teach me of these inter-dimensional portals you spoke of yesterday.”

The demon switched the persona of Winifred and smiled in welcome at the Jaffa. “I said I would, Murray.” She rose from between the two girls and stepped over their lunch. Her hand came out and pressed lightly on his arm. “Where do you want to start?”

Teal’c inclined his head as the two began to walk away from Dawn and Willow, who were sharing an amused look behind their backs.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

As the sun began it’s decent back behind the Earth, Buffy slowly made her way into the temple’s entrance. She had managed to avoid the area of the caverns all day. Mostly because of the freaky feeling this part of the caves invoked and if she was being completely honest with herself the ‘smoochies’ as Dawn put it so eloquently this morning with Daniel were weighing on her mind as well. With a large sigh and a shove at her pride she walked through the entrance.

Dawn caught sight of her sister and her eyes widened till Buffy feared that they might roll out. “BUFFY!” The shout of her name in a high-pitched squeal was the first clue that her sister was not well and her quick skips towards her were, the Slayer’s second.

“Buffy! We’ve found the most interesting stuff! Fred figured out that the people mentioned in the walls are really the PTB and that they created the Slayer and this temple for a balance and that they’re going to be used for a big apocalyptic battle, possibly the End of Days but not only for the End of Days….”

Buffy grabbed her sister’s shoulders gently. “Dawn! Breath!”

The brunette blinked rapidly and shook her head. “I am breathing.”

Willow hurried up as well. Her eyes as bright and glazed as the younger Summers. Buffy glanced behind them to see Sam laughing at her and Daniel avoiding her gaze.

“Dr. Jackson did you happen to give them coffee when I warned you from it?”

Daniel blushed and looked up to see the annoyance on her face. “Just a little.”

At Sam’s snort Buffy’s eyes narrowed. “How little?”

“A thermos.” His voice was soft.

“A thermos?” Her voice was doubtful.

Sam’s smiled widened and she flicked her gaze between the pair and added, “Each.”

“EACH!”

Daniel winced at her shout. “Well I thought you were exaggerating when you said they…”

“Have a low tolerance for mind altering substances?”

Daniel winced again and shook his head. “I’m sorry?”

Buffy rolled her eyes as Willow and her sister pulled her towards the temple both rambling at speeds nearing light. The feeling of euphoria engulfed her so quickly she shuddered and stumbled back. Willow’s grip on her arm was the only thing that kept Buffy up right.

“Are you okay?”

The Slayer took a deep breath and forced a calm smile for Sam. “Yeah just relearning to walk.” She rolled her eyes to add to the lame joke.

The blonde smiled wanly but seemed unconvinced. “Do you need some water?”

“Nah, I’m peachy.”

She lost her ability to speak with the Major as Dawn flooded her sense of hearing with one continuous sentence about the Powers that Be being a race called the Ancients. The Ancients created the Slayer, the Scythe and apparently this temple.

“Well not them specifically, their followers built the temple but they did create the Slayer line and the Scythe.” Dawn finished her thought with a deep inhalation.

“What’s a Scythe?”

The brunette’s eyes widened and panic filled her face as she met Willow’s gaze over Buffy’s head. They both felt the blonde stiffened between them and shoot her sister a ‘you are dead’ glare. The caffeine was replaced in their system with adrenaline as they fought for a plausible lie.

Buffy turned back to the two brains of SG-1 with a small smile. “According to legend it was a mythical weapon forged by the Powers that Be for the Chosen One.”

Willow and Dawn stared at the tiny Slayer as if she had just leapt into a tank of water with cement boots. A tank that had live piranha inside. And a shark.

“The tome you loaned me doesn’t mention a Scythe.” Daniel’s voice was very certain as he stepped forward and met Buffy’s gaze.

“That book was on Rites and Passages.”

He blinked at the blunt answer to his statement. “Well, yes… but …I guess that’s not my point…” he opened his mouth and then closed it simply watching Buffy confused. She had never implied that she knew extensively about the Slayer. She had seemed to be here as merely support for the two other girls and Fred.

Buffy crossed her arms over her chest and cocked her head to the side to study Daniel’s confused face. “What is your point, Dr. Jackson?”

Willow and Dawn shifted their focus fully towards him as well flanking the smaller woman. “How…what is the extent of your knowledge about the Slayer?” He stressed the word your.

Buffy blinked at the random question and shrugged. “A little…”

Dawn rolled her eyes at her sisters down play of her intelligence. “She’s been studying the myth since high school.”

Buffy’s eyes narrowed and Daniel’s widened. “If you’re familiar with this subject why have you been hiding it?”

“I haven’t been hiding.” Her voice was indigent.

“You haven’t been sharing either. If you’ve been studying this subject since high school you’re bound to have better understanding of the text. You should be in here with us. Helping…”

“You didn’t ask.” The statement caught Daniel by surprise and his ramble trickled to a stop.

Sam frowned. “Buffy, we didn’t know to ask.”

The blonde sent her a tired smile. “I know. You met Dawn, Willow and Fred. Their intelligence way outshines my own.” Buffy stopped and shook her head. “I’m not having this conversation.” She stepped back and around her sister and best friend with practiced ease. Ignoring their concerned looks she exited the temple and made her way towards the cavern entrance.

Her head was high as she felt the suns warm embrace while she left the dank caves behind. Without even glancing at the jerk Wilson she began to make her way down the now worn path from the temple. With quick easy steps she put a hundred feet between herself and the deceptive warmth. It was making her head fuzzy.

She winced at her outburst and wondered how she was supposed to rectify the situation, she shouldn’t have snapped at Daniel and Sam. They had fallen for her dumb blonde routine hook, line and sinker. She should be happy. It was easier when people expect less of her, especially when the world already expected so much.

Her shoulders slumped and she sat across a large flat rock, her back to the path. She heard the crunching of boots across the rocks and dirt. Leaning back she braced arms on the smooth russet surface encircling her. Expecting Dawn or Willow she was more than a little surprised to see Daniel walking towards her. He had been as effectively avoiding her as she had been him, since last night.

“Hello.”

She shifted her weight to her right hand as she brought the other up to block the sun’s glare. “Hey.”

He tried for a hesitant smile. “Can I sit?”

She blinked at him and shrugged. “Help yourself.”

He nodded, not warmed by her response but she hadn’t sent him away. That had to count for something. Right? “I seem to be apologizing to you a lot today.”

“No biggie. Use to the whole genius best friend and sister. They’re prodigies or something.”

“They are rather intelligent.”

“Yep.”

Daniel let them fall into a small silence before asking. “How old are you?”

Buffy stiffened and turned to him with a laugh. “That came out of left field.”

He blushed and winced. “I’ve been wondering since…”

As he trailed off Buffy turned her body around so that she was facing him fully. “Last night?” Folding her legs up and under herself Buffy brushed a smudge of dust on her left knee.

“Well…yes.”

“Twenty-four.” He winced. She laughed. “I take it you wished I was a older?”

Daniel met her amused gaze. “I am somewhat older than you.”

She waved her hand in the air. “Pfft! Age is so a non-issue.” She gave him a casual once over. “Besides you’re what like a decade or two?”

“Or two.”

At his bitter tone she laughed again. “Okay, so you buy the movie tickets when we go out.”

He looked up at her affronted. “Excuse me!”

She smiled and reached out to pat his knee affectionately. “No, it’s a good thing. Pretty soon you’ll be able to get your coffee at most places for only ninety-nine cents a cup. Free refills.”

Daniel’s brows drew downward as he frowned at her. “You’re enjoying my discomfort a little too much.”

“Nope, just enough enjoyment is being had by me.”

“Do you even speak English?”

Her mouth dropped open and it was his turn to give a triumphant smirk. “You’ve got the PhD, figure it out.”

“Have dinner with me.”

“Huh?” She stumbled over the switch in conversation.

He ducked his head. “I want to know about the Chosen One and you need to eat…”

“Hey!”

He stopped and looked at her confused. Running over the last sentence his eyes widened. “No, no, I didn’t mean it that way…” He trailed off at her amused look. “You did that on purpose.”

“Yes-indeedy.”

“Tomorrow night?”

She inclined her head to the side in thought. “Sure, but we can’t be out too late cause, you know. School night and all.”

He glared at her, “Funny.”

“I thought so.”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Illyria stood beside Buffy the next morning. The cavern entrance yawned before them as the demon watched Buffy’s merry expression. The way her eyes shone just a bit brighter and her smile stretched a little wider. The Beta male had been warmer than usual and his presence twice as grating. Strong emotions on his part seemed to heighten her unease around him. She rolled her eyes at human attraction.

“So you can open it?”

The demon stopped her study of her guide’s emotions to hear her words. “Yes.”

“So why don’t you?”

“The White Witch would prefer I wait.”

Buffy frowned and folded her arms over her chest. “I wouldn’t. If they haven’t figured it out by noon.” Buffy glanced at the demon meeting her gaze. “Open it.”

The Slayer shifted her pack into a better position along her spin. Willow’s laptop pressed none too gently into her lower back. She suppressed the urge to hurl the offending apparatus at the rock walls surrounding her. She looked quickly around the caverns entrance in search of her current mission. She had begged and pleaded with Dawn this morning, even promised her first born, to be able to make peace with a certain stick up the butt leader guy and she was not letting it go to waste.

Her eyes lit up as she heard a familiar voice growling in annoyance into a cell phone. She quickly followed the sound until she stood just behind the agitated man. His voice was deep and vibrated along her spin as she grinned.

“General, I do understand the position your in.” He paused and his shoulders tightened under the black tee he wore. “No of course I don’t want an incident.” Another pregnant pause. “Yes, I understand. Good bye, Sir.” His phone closed with a snap and he shoved it into the cargo pockets of his shorts. Spin still ramrod straight he ran a hand through his salt and pepper hair in frustration.

“Morning Colonel!” Buffy’s cheerful voice seemed to send a shot of ice down his spin as he spun to glare at her.

“What is it, Summers?”

Buffy grinned and inclined her head to the side. “You look good.”

Jack’s frowned at her. “You’re laying it on thick.”

She nodded her head, “You and I have gotten off on the wrong foot and I have a peace offering.”

“What kind of peace offering?”

She smirked at the suspicion in his tone. She motioned him to follow her. With another glare shot at her retreating back he shrugged and followed his orders from the General, to try for peaceful interactions with the Watchers Council. He rolled his eyes. Fat chance.

Summers ducked into one of the side cave branching off from the main one. She slid her pack gingerly from her shoulders, allowing it to gently fall to the cavern floor. She knelt beside it and began opening the top flap. Her back remained firmly to him as he ducked beneath the small shelf just before the opening.

As he straightened he saw two thin boxes arching towards him. He caught them both smoothly and stared. The chrome silver and teal coverings were very familiar. His gaze flew up to meet Buffy’s.

Her smile stretched from ear to ear and she held up a laptop. “Battery life will last four hours. I brought three extra.” Her other hand reached down to pick up another battery.

Jack felt a slow smile pull at the corners of his mouth. “Have I mentioned how much I like you, Summers?”

Buffy laughed and shook her head. “Nope.”

“Well, I’m saying it now.” He walked towards her his hands already opening the first DVD boxset. He knelt next to the tiny Slayer as she placed the laptop on the ground and booted it up. As the machine hummed to life he prepared the first DVD of the Simpsons.

“You and me are gonna get along just fine.”

Buffy nodded. “We should have pizza and beer but we’ll have to settle for water and potato chips.” She pulled the other items from the bottom of her pack and tossed Jack the bag. At his slow smile of appreciation for her words, Buffy silently thanked her sister Slayer for reintroducing her to the wonders of beer and a worry free night.

“Oh yeah, just fine.”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Dawn followed the demon as she entered the temple entrance. “But Willow said…”

Illyria shifted her focus from the wall of Latin to Dawn. “Buffy said if you hadn’t figure it out by noon to open it.”

Willow and Sam looked up from the Major’s laptop. The duo had filed the text on a quick reference cd-ram. Willow frowned at them. “What’s wrong?”

Illyria ignored her question and addressed Carter. “Sam, do you have a stool or ladder?”

The blonde cocked her head to the side in question but shrugged. “Sure.” Turning she went to the far side of the room and the SG-1’s supplies. Lifting several cartons before she located the small step stool underneath. She straightened and walked back towards the trio of women who were now involved in a heated debate.

“Is there a problem?” Her voice had them stiffening and turning towards the Major.

Illyria smiled at her, “Not at all Sam. Thanks.” She quickly grabbed the stool and placed it before the eight foot Chappa’ia.

As the thin woman climbed up, Sam glanced to Willow and Dawn. “What’s going on?”

Willow frowned up at Illyria’s back. “Fred thinks she’s figured out how to open the temple.”

Sam blinked and turned back to watch as the woman’s thin arms began to push in a chevron symbol. “Wait!”

Illyria stopped and turned back to the blonde. “Yes?”

Sam raised a hand and grasped her walkie, “Daniel, I need you in the temple entrance.”

There was a small pause, “I’ll be right there.”

“Can you explain to me how you figured it out?”

Illyria arched an eyebrow and looked down at Carter from her perch on top of the stool. The wall behind her thrummed at her back, forcing her body to become attuned with the agitation, she felt it settle in her core pulsing outward and over her shell. She shuddered.

“I’ll talk while I move.” She waited a beat as Daniel hurried in. His were eyes curious and his presence added to her irritation.

“The number seven is only used this once by the Chappa’ia.” Illyria motioned to the smooth figure and then to the circle engulfing her form. “You need seven symbols to dial to another planet in this galaxy.”

Daniel and Sam shifted away from the other their gazes locked before both turned back to the demon transfixed by the fact that she knew so much.

“Four are already given to you.” She motioned to the four runes carved into the center of the circle. She reached out and pressed the four symbols. The stone beneath each rune shifted and released. Her shell tightened at the touch of the cool limestone.

“You said you need seven. You’re missing three.” Dawn watched the tension in Illyria’s shoulders shift with each movement of her frail arms.

“You were given the other three.” She began to press the other symbols.

“Seven, three, Omega.” Daniel watched as she pressed the seventh symbol and the third.

She turned to give him a snide smile. “Not Omega. O as in origin.” Her hand pressed the last symbol. The symbol of the Tau’ri. The symbol of Earth. Her hands came up and pressed into either side of the center carving. It condensed and the temple gave a soft groan.

Illyria leapt from the stool as the eight-foot section of the wall that had housed the Stargate compressed inward several inches and began to rise. Dirt and rock fell from the opening as the section of wall rose into itself. The agitation she had felt earlier swarmed her and she spun on her heel. Her body sidestepped Willow, in her hurry to separate herself from the structure.

“Fred!” Daniel called after her. “Dr. Burkle!” Her form continued its retreat and he stopped to stare at the dark opening standing before the best minds the SGC and Watchers Council had to offer but hadn’t been able to figure out a simple puzzle.

Sam grasped her walkie-talkie once more, “Colonel, Murray. The temple is open.”

“Hold position until we arrive.”

“Understood.”

Daniel looked to Sam his face a mask of glee as he nearly bounced from foot to foot in anticipation. He glanced to Dawn and Willow, “Why did Fred leave?”

Dawn meet his gaze and shrugged.
Willow looked back to the younger Summers and grabbed her hand to pull her slightly away from the others. Kennedy, the Colonel and Teal’c entered the temple entrance with their backs to the two girls.

Jack glanced back at them, “Stay put.”

Kennedy moved to stand next to the duo. Placing herself between them and the dark opening as Teal’c and Jack began to shine lights into to the room before them. “Fred’s with Buffy.” Her voice was a soft whisper.

Dawn and Willow moved to either side waiting as SG-1 began a small sweep of the room. The witch stepped forward to place herself parallel with Kennedy. Her mind focused inward as she drew on the strength of the Earth and wrapped a tight cocoon of light around her essence followed by a network of stars. Focusing on keeping the negative and false from her body. She felt a tug along the shield and turned her attention to Kennedy.

The young Slayer was engulfed in pale blue light. It swirled around her, protecting. Warming. A blanket of defense against the forthcoming darkness, Willow followed the trail back to the chamber opening.

It was no longer engulfed in darkness; a pale illumination had lifted the din. It pressed back on her and she stepped forward as her eyes were drawn into a small room barely twenty by ten. In the center stood a dais. It rose out of the Earth as it carved from the limestone, flat with several raised squares breaking up the monotony of the smooth surface. They hummed along her vision, filling it with their power and essence.

She traced the pedestal just before the dais with her enhanced gaze. A large dome lowered from the ceiling above it. It’s smooth arch breaking up the prefect angles of the room. She stepped into the chamber and felt the attention of the others people focus on her.

She could see them for what they were. A warrior, Murray was not human but he was pure, focused, centered and powerful. A sage, Willow would have though it to be Daniel’s title but it was Sam’s. She was a merging of heart and mind, blended, clean. A soldier, Jack was the leader, proud, strong and a force to be reckoned with. Bits of the temple were sown within him. He belonged here. He was a part of the grand plan.

“Willow?” Daniel’s voice brought her focus and his body hummed like the temple. Faint and shallow but still there. He was the Alchemist, the bridge between Heaven and Earth, Matter and Spirit.

The witch blinked and pulled her shields tighter while she focused back onto the world that wasn’t betwixt and between. The dimension that matter lived.

“Didn’t I tell you to stay put?” The witched frowned still muddled by the temples power and the combined essence of the SG-1.

“I’m sorry.” She shook her head and felt Dawn’s presence. Her familiar tune was like a warm balm on her shields, soothing the frazzled witch.

“Everything alright?”

Jack rolled his eyes. “Was I speaking to myself when I said stay put?”

“Apparently.” Jack glared at the Slayer’s sister. Dawn’s gaze was traveling over the walls her interest peeked, as she noticed the new form of writing. “This is different.”

Willow followed her gaze and cocked her head to the side at the symbols adoring the walls. “Its like a form of Celestial, Latin and Malachim all mixed together.”

“And Daggers.”

The witched nodded at Dawn’s mention. “Possibly.” She stepped forward and reached out with her hand.

“Hey! Don’t touch anything!”

She froze at Jack’s outburst and turned her head to him. “Why?”

He glared at her. “Just don’t.”

“Okay.” She shrugged and replaced the hand back to her side.

Jack stared at her a moment in disbelief then spun to Daniel and Carter. “Why can’t you two listen like that?”

Teal’c placed his lantern in one of the corners and the other members of SG-1 followed suit. Willow and Dawn stayed in the center beside the table of blocks. Kennedy hovered just along the threshold, her features both peaceful and stubborn, Dawn hadn’t thought the face possible till that moment.

Daniel’s brows drew downward as he translated the Ancients writing. The smooth columns of words drawing his attention to the pedestal as the others simple waited for him to speak.

“Daniel?”

The linguist looked back at Jack. “Yes?”

“What is it?”

He blinked and stepped forward reading the symbols of the far wall. “A preparation chamber...I think.”

Sam shifted her walked around the room to study the pedestal and platform. It reminded her vaguely of P3X-367, where Nirrti was experimenting on the local population to create a Hok’taur, an advanced human who would be the perfect host. The Major was relieved that the Goa’uld had no knowledge of the Chosen One when she was still alive to act on the information.

She ran her fingers along the dais and the room flickered and a slow hum began from beneath the pedestal. Carter stepped back from the low table and winced at Jack’s glare in her direction.

“I positive I said.” He raised both hands to either side of his head in frustration. “Don’t, touch anything?”

At the same moment Sam stroked the dais Kennedy took a shuddering step forward through the warmth that engulfed her senses and slowed her momentum. The room began to hum and it flashed at her presence. The dome above the platform in the center of the room released a bass hum. It traveled over her spin and she gasped at the pleasant feeling it evoked as a pale blue glow began to eminent form the center of the lowered circle.

As the hum flowed over and through her the room began to power down. Its presence receded from her and she frowned at the loose.

Willow’s eyes narrowed as she watched the room flicker off and become quit once more. The blue light surrounding Kennedy slowly faded as well.

“Kennedy, get Buffy for me.”

The brunette shivered at the suddenly cool atmosphere. “What?”

“Get Buffy.”

The young Slayer blinked at her girlfriend but seeing the resolve face she decided to argue later. Behind closed doors. With a small nod of her head she turned and left the chamber.

Dawn stood at her side. “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

The witch glanced at the members of SG-1 still gathered around the dais. Smiling at their misunderstanding of what happened she whispered back, “This temple was built for the Omega of the Slayer line.”

Dawn’s eyes widen in understanding, “The last Chosen One.” Her brows drew downward, “Wouldn’t that be Faith?”

Willow shook her head, “No. Think about it. When Buffy came back the first time she was made the Slayer line split.” The witch looked around the room with avid interest. “If something happened to Buffy then Faith could step up.”

Dawn nodded. “But didn’t,” She stopped speaking to check on the others in the room. They were still engrossed with the table of cubes. “Didn’t Illyria tell you, not to let Buffy in here?”

Willow rolled her eyes. “She’s being paranoid. The room didn’t harm Kennedy.”

Dawn shrugged. “Still, shouldn’t we error to the side of caution? I mean this may have been built by the PTB but they also chained down and shoved the essence of a demon into the first Slayer.”

Their conversation was cut short by Buffy appearing in the chamber’s entrance. She stood just outside her face pulled down in a frown as her gaze flicked around the room.

“What’s the stitch?”

Her voice drew the attention of SG-1 and Jack stepped around the group to walk towards Willow and Dawn. “Summers?”

Buffy shuddered as the euphoria whispered along her consciousness. Pulling at her will. Pushing her forward. She straightened her spin and rolled her shoulders back watching the Colonel as he frowned at her. “Kennedy said Willow needed me.”

Sam and Daniel shared a confused glance as Willow stepped forward, “Come in.”

“Not a good idea.”

Teal’c inclined his head at her answer, “The room is free of danger Buffy Summers.”

The tiny Slayer warped her arms around her middle and shook her head from side to side. “I don’t think…”

“Please, Buffy.”

Jack turned to frown at the red head, “Why are you so excited to get her in here?”

Willow flicked her eyes to him but ignored the question. She met Buffy’s gaze and sent her pleading look. “Please.”

The blonde’s shoulders dropped and she took a deep breath. “I’m going on record that this is a bad idea.”

Jack shook his head. “Summers, if you don’t feel comfortable…”

His voice trailed off as she stepped over the threshold and the room flared to life, before when Carter stroked the rocky dais it had flickered and died. With the entrance of Summers the entire room buzzed with power. The wall across from the pedestal shimmered and became filled with green writing that scrolled upward.

Daniel and Sam both stepped back from the dais as it began to give off its own soft radiance. The cubes became incased in different colors. All of them glittered and darkened the deeper they were pressed into their respective compartments.

Buffy stood just inside and shivered as the feeling of rapture over took her senses. Her head fell forward and she began to sway. Her hand came up to press lightly to her right temple where she felt a slight pressure there. The steady thrumming she had felt since her first entrance into the temple seeped into her body and made her giggle.

The Slayer felt a deep rumble from further into the room and she took a step forward as her head came up and looked towards the dome in the center. Where it had been a pale blue before, it now blazed a deep sapphire. The steady bass came from inside and blue flowing light that resembled flames began to crawl from the center and flow over the ceiling.

“Ooohhh, pretty.” The Slayer’s voice had taken on a childlike glee.

Dawn winced at her sister’s vacant stare. She shifted and her own eyes widened at the lights dancing across the ceiling. “That wasn’t there before.”

“Sir.” Sam watched the flickering lights with trepidation. They reminded her all to well of P4X-347 were SG-1 had been trapped for three weeks trying to free themselves of the Goa’uld equivalent of an opium den. It had made them fell happy. Elated. Sam started and stared at Buffy her gaze narrowing.

Jack was watching the tiny blonde as well as she slowly walked towards the lights. “Summers, lets get you out of here.”

She paused as she became parallel with him. “No, pretty lights.”

The Col. shook his head and gently reached for her arm to steer her out of the room. She easily grabbed his hand and bent it backwards. He swore as the pain radiated up his wrist and into his shoulder, “Summers!”

“Buffy!” Dawn moved to her sister’s side and gently touched her face. Her eyes still empty looked to the younger woman. “Let the Colonel go.”

Buffy stopped and glanced down at the hand that still grasped Jack’s. Lines appeared between her brows and she released him.

“Sorry.”

As Jack opened his mouth to address her she sidestepped him and once again began to make her way towards the pedestal and the dome above. Teal’c moved up and placed himself in her path.

“I do not believe it wise to allow you farther into this chamber.”

Her head cocked to the side and she watched Teal’c with an amused expression. “I like you Murray.”

“And I you, Buffy Summers.”

She nodded. “Then don’t make me hurt you. Move.”

Teal’c raised one brow in his only showing of surprise at her statement. “I will take your most generous warning in acknowledgement but I still can not allow you to pass.”

Willow and Dawn moved to either side of the tiny Slayer. “Buffy, there’s a cool glowy light in the other room.”

She paused in her sizing up of Teal’c to glance at Willow skeptically, “Really?”

“Truly.”

She spun her head to look at Dawn’s innocent face and smiled. “Okay.”

The two women shared a relieved smile over her head and gently began to guide her from the room. SG-1 watched them retreat with confusion. As they reached the chamber entrance Willow and Dawn took the last step over the threshold and pulled Buffy forward.

As her form struck the brink of the chamber a light burst from the dome and a particle shield flared to life. Buffy struck the field and it shoved her back and into the room. She stumbled and fell under the surprise attach. She laughed uncontrollably as she looked up into Willow and Dawn’s worried expressions.

“I hit a wall.”

Sam and Daniel abandoned the dais to meet Teal’c who had knelt beside Buffy’s giggling form as she rolled from side to side. Basking in happiness. Jack stepped forward and tapped at the shield. His hand passed harmlessly through.

Daniel knelt on the other side of her and leaned over trying to gain her attention. “Buffy?”

Her hands fell away from her face and she opened one eye to gaze up at him, “Hey Daniel!”

He winced at the size of the pupil he could see. He motioned Sam to take a look. “Can you open both eyes for me?”

The Major nodded when she got a look at her dilated pupils. “Explains her fascination with the lights.”

Daniel touched her shoulders lightly, “Can you sit up?”

She blinked at him and smiled wider, “Of course.” Her upper body jackknifed up from the floor and she turned to smile impishly at him, “See.”

Willow frowned at the shield of shimmering green light. She raised her hand and let it trail through it until she reached the other side. She stepped through and shuddered at the tingle it caused across her skin.

Once she was safely across she met Jack’s gaze, “Apparently it only works on, Buffy.”

The Colonel’s brow drew downward. “Apparently. Mind explaining why?”

Sam glanced at her CO, “Isn’t it obvious Sir? Buffy’s the Chosen One.”

Dawn and Willow winced and both opened their mouths to argue the point when Buffy laughed, “Yep that’s me one girl in all the world.” She shook her head. “Not so much one any more.” She leaned into Daniel whispering conspiratorially. “More like a bazillion.” He coughed to cover his amusement.

Jack narrowed his gaze on her. “Okay one question down. Here’s another: what’s wrong with her?”

Sam glanced down at her tiny body that was swaying once more to a beat that no one else could hear. “The temple gives off a EMF. Recent studies have shown that low electromagnetic fields can cause chemical imbalances in the brain.”

“Non-nerd speak, Carter.”

“Scientists have been studying how it can cause a state of panic or euphoria, in Buffy’s case, when applied to different centers of the brain. Lets suppose something in this chamber is emitting a EMF intoned to the genetic code of the Chosen One. A little bit of a stretch. I know but…” She trailed off and shrugged.

Jack closed his eyes and counted to ten. “Okay. Lets suppose. Now what?”

Sam opened her mouth and then closed it. “I don’t know, Sir.”

Dawn crossed the shield hesitantly before moving over to her sister who was once again watching the dome transfixed. “I think the room is trying to draw her towards that thing.” She motioned to the pedestal.

“Yeah, lets keep her away from that, shall we?” He winced at the thought of the little blonde turning into a puddle like Nirrti’s other experiments.

Willow narrowed her eyes at the Colonel. “Why?”

“Will, cause I said so, work again?”

The witch shook her head in the negative and began to walk towards the wall with the green writing. “We need to know what this says.”

Daniel stood and gave Dawn his spot beside Buffy. “Let me have a look.”

Buffy watched Teal’c stand as well and make his way towards the Colonel. Her gaze flicked to Sam who was studying the dais intently. She just wanted to watch the pretty blue fire and the people who were her biggest obstacles were shifting their focus away from her at the moment.

She looked into her sister’s worried gaze and smiled. “I’m fine, Dawnie.” Her sister’s face pulled further downward at the absent tone to her voice.

Buffy rolled away and stood in one continuous motion. “Buffy!” The others turned at Dawn’s shout but the Slayer was already moving towards the pedestal. Her giggles were cut short as Teal’c caught her right shoulder. Jerking her body to a stop only a foot from her elation.

The tiny Slayer’s eyes narrowed and she reached up grasping his hand with both of her own to lifted it up and off her shoulder while spinning into him. She let her left arm release his to bring her forearm up and into his throat. The Jaffa’s eyes widened at her strength but he quickly grabbed the arm that attempted to bloke his air supply. He grasped her wrist and pulled her arm up and away from his throat. She used his grip on her upper body to her own advantage and pulled his torso forward and into her knee.

His breath exploded outward with a grunt and she wretched herself free. She spun and stepped onto the limestone pedestal. The dome above her winked out and another shield rose around the cylinder to close her in. A line of white light traveled over Buffy’s body and winked from sight while the shield blocking the chamber entrance shut off.

She frowned at the lack of entertainment. Her blue flames had disappeared as if they had never been. The dome stopped its steady hum and Buffy swayed as the feeling of euphoria shut off. Her body jerked once before collapsing, like a mandarin whose strings had been severed. She fell into the shield that held her prisoner, making it flicker and buzz like a swarm of enraged bees.

She could hear the other’s words, voices, calling out to her. Pleading with her to answer. A dull ache began at her temples and spread outward. She winced and raised her head as if noticing the force field around her for the first time.

“What the fuck?”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Illyria stood outside the caverns her displeasure with the White Witched masked by the guise of Winifred Burkle. She kept a smile on her face while she spoke pleasant nothings to Lt. who had found such amusement with Buffy’s attitude towards his Captain Wilson.

The insolent Slayer Kennedy had walked off towards the path in agitation. The fact that the temple was built for a Slayer of a higher competence seemed to annoy her. Illyria found some pleasure in that.

Dawn stumbled from the cavern opening. Her breath coming in quick pants halted her ability to speak but she managed to gasp, “Buffy. Trapped. Chamber.”

Illyria shifted away from the Lt. and Dawn her movement a liquid grace as she trailed though the caverns. Her body hummed with alarm as she paused outside the room she had opened.

Buffy stood in the center surrounded by a pale cylinder of light. Her face flushed with anger and fear. Her terror rolled over the demons form and pulled her farther into the chamber entrance. “Fred! Get me the hell out of here!”

“Buffy, you need to calm down.”

The blonde’s eyes narrowed at Sam. “Easy for you to say. You’re not trapped in some blue doohickey.”

The demon took a deep unneeded breath and crossed the threshold. She winced as the temple sent a thrill of fear through her. She was power. A god once feared by millions and one temple was making her skin tighten. Her gaze slowly traveled the walls filled with the Ancients writing. The curves and lines made the center of her being chill and freeze.

She caught the White Witch’s gaze, “I told you not to allow her entrance to this chamber.”

Willow ducked her head as the others turned to stare at her, “It didn’t affect Kennedy I assumed…”

“Your lover is barely a flicker on the Ancient’s consciousness. Her essence could not power a candle. It would certainly not power a temple built by her creators.”

Dawn slowly made her way back into the chamber and in one glance winced with at the mounting tension.

Daniel stepped from behind the dais, “Wait, how do you know all of this? You’ve barely spent any time…”

“Be silent!” Her voice was the lowest Daniel had ever heard it. “You shall not speak to me unless spoken to.” Any trace of a Texas accent had vanished.

He blinked and opened his mouth but Jack beat him to it, “Listen, Fred we don’t need your attitude…”

“HEY!” They all paused to look a Buffy, her face thinned down in agitation and she glared at the occupants of the room. “Can you argue later? When I’m not stuck in a bottle?”

Illyria inclined her head before giving a shallow nod. Her body shifted around the pedestal and her attention focused on the dais. She scanned the different cubes and reached out to lower one that was encased in lavender light.

As it compressed the wall of Ancient writing behind Buffy shifted and began scrolling downwards. The symbols occupying it rotated and became larger.

“How…” Carter trailed off as her CO shook his head once, his intense focused on the demon.
Illyria walked around Buffy’s ceil and gently trailed her hand along the shield. It pulled at her skin and struck her essence like a bow. It thrummed along her back and into her mind. She closed her eyes at the sensation.

“What’s wrong?”

Illyria stopped just before the Slayer and met her worried gaze. “It is transforming you into a conduit for the Earth’s power.”

Buffy blinked rapidly. “Huh?”

“You will become a part of the this temple. Bound to it and all that it protects.”

Buffy shook her head. “Get. Me. Out.”

“Can we shut off the power?”

The demon turned to focus on the Major a small smirk graced her lips. “Can you stop the turning of the Earth or the pull of your moon?”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

Teal’c stepped forward and nodded to Illyria before answering Sam’s question. “I believe Winifred Burkle was informing you that it is impossible to stop this process once it has begun.”

Illyria inclined her head to him in agreement. She turned back to Buffy. “I can try and free you.”

Buffy looked to the others of the group and saw the terror in her sister’s face. “Do it.”

Illyria cocked her head to the side, “I have not explained what it is that I will try. Do you trust me that much?”

Buffy couldn’t help the sad smile that quirked the corners of her lips. “Why do you always ask questions you already know the answer to?”

Jack shook his head, “What do you plan to do?”

Illyria glanced over her thin shoulder to the Colonel, “Free her.”

Daniel shook his head, “How?”

The demon simply turned back to Buffy and raised her right arm. Cocking it back she threw a closed fist forward while meeting the Slayer’s gaze. She struck the shield and it shuddered under the impact.

Jack rolled his eyes at the tiny woman’s attempt and opened his mouth to beret her when a small crack formed under her fist. She pulled back her arm and the crack spread across the shield just above Buffy’s chest. It flared with light as the force field tried to reinstate itself.

The dome above Buffy began to glow and release a bass hum once more. A thin white light began to make its way around the cylinder towards the crack Illyria had formed.

“Hit it again!” Buffy winced as the light that trailed down her prison flared.

The demon nodded and brought her fist up again once more but the beam of white had reached her earlier place of impact and focused there. It spiraled around the small indent and smoothed it over. The crater of light condensed to a pinpoint and then shot out of the shield and struck Illyria in the chest.

She stumbled back from the pedestal, her eyes widening as her torso compressed and her shell shuddered.

“Fred!” The demon met Buffy’s horrified gaze as she fell back farther into the room. She looked down at her arm to watch the guise of Winifred Burkle begin to crack and splinter around her true form. Her true essence flickered beneath the facade.

Buffy watched the brown of her eyes fractured to reveal the vivid indigo beneath. Thin fissures spread across her ally’s chest and rose up her neck. The demon’s cheek cracked and she met her blue gaze. Her own eye’s filling with tears for the demon’s pain.

Illyria’s body bent in half and she groaned. Pain radiated from the inside of her shell. She could feel herself being pulled back. Buried. She met Buffy’s gaze once more. Her voice gasping and filled with anguish.

“I have failed you.”

The power that had been building behind her façade splintered and exploded outward. She fell backwards nude and delicate. The blue of the sides of her body and hair stunning against the pale marble of her flesh. White markings engulfed her body in a geometric design; they spread from her chest outward to engulf every major joint.

“ILLYRIA!” Buffy’s fists slammed against her containment.

Willow grabbed Dawn’s arm. “Help Illyria and I’ll work on getting Buffy out.”

The brunette nodded her gaze landing on the Jaffa. “Can you carry her for me?”
Teal’c looked to Jack, who was still slightly shocked by the unfolding of events but managed to nod his agreement. Buffy watched her sister and ally be taken from the room. She shifted her focus back to the others.

“What now?”

The dome above her head continued to thrum dangerously, the Slayer looked up and winced as the same light from before spiraled downward. As it passed over her body rings of white formed around her. Two encircled her throat, more wrapped around her biceps and wrists. She watched thicker bands wrap around her chest, waist, and hips. The light traveled down the rest of her body depositing two more pairs of bands at her thighs and ankles.

The dais gave a low note of sound before two of the cubes compressed on their own and four more rose up. The words behind Buffy shifted and began scrolling to the side while the dome above her darkened.

The rings of light flared and she felt her body stiffen and freeze. She was absolutely still, pulled taunt. Her shoulders protested as her arms were pulled low and together behind her back. The rings around her throat stretched and her head was angled forward.

“Buffy?” Willow stepped forward as she watched her best friend’s body pulled into a bound position.

The tiny Slayer’s back arched in the air and she rose upward as the dome darkened further and became an ominous black. A composite of her deoxyribonucleic acid flickered to life around her form and began to encircle her. The bases at different levels flared and darkened.

“Screw this.” Willow walked towards the scrolling words and pressed her hand gently to the warm surface. Closing her eyes she let her head fall forward and the network of protection that she had built around herself fall away. Willow felt the brush of power just beneath her palm. Taking a deep breath she centered herself and slowly opened her mind to the knowledge trailing beneath her hand.

Jack, Sam and Daniel looked to each other perplexed. Daniel glanced up at Buffy’s face and winced at the pained expression. She was panting and her body was beginning to bead with sweat. Different markers in her helix flared and multiplied while others continued to darken and die. The strand speed up in its movement around her body.

“Goddess, Cerridwen, hear your child’s call. Bless me with you protection and love.” The witch’s voice was soft and she repeated the chant over and over as her hand simply dissolved into the wall.

Daniel glanced back at his teammates; they were staring at the red head stunned. He turned back to watch the words from the wall begin to travel up her arm and over her face. As the Ancients words struck her head Daniel’s mouth dropped open as the witch’s hair bled to the purest white he had ever seen.

A soft golden glow began to radiate from her core and she stopped her chant to let her head fall back. “Oh Goddess.”

She slowly extracted her hand and walked towards Buffy her face apprehensive. She paused just outside the force field. “I can’t stop it.” The copy of her DNA shut off and her face relaxed somewhat as some of the pain lessened.

Daniel took a step forward. “Are you okay?”

The witch turned to him and smiled sadly. “I’ll be fine.” She shifted her focused to Buffy once more. “But she won’t.”

As the words left her mouth the dome was filled with glimmering white light. Like a million stars filling the night sky. They flickered and winked down at the tiny Slayer held in place by bands of light. The stars that filled the dome began a slow spiral and then trailed down the shield forming pinpoints around Buffy’s body.

The lights jumped from the shields and into her. She jerked as they burrowed through her skin and sinew. Tears fell from her eyes as she felt the energy spread burning her insides and thrusting her nervous system into shock. A scream built in her throat and she forced it back. Clamped it down even as blood slowly began to trickle from the holes the lights had created in their journey.

Willow looked at her best friend and placed her hand against the force field, “You don’t have to be brave, Buffy. If it will help, scream.”

The hushed voice of her best friend broke through the haze of fire and she whimpered. As one of the lights struck her heart Buffy arched her back and allowed a shriek to rip its way from her throat. It fell across the room’s occupants and they winced. She was desolate, broken.

Jack stepped forward his hand on a useless gun. He reached for Willow and spun her to face him. He felt Daniel and Carter flank his sides.

“Help her!” His voice rumbled from his chest.

The witch met his gaze unflinching. “Do you think I would just be standing here if I could help her? My god, are you insane? She’s my best friend! I love her! But I can’t help her.” She looked back to the watch the dome above her flicker and slowly lose its glow. “It’s done.”

The bands around Buffy faded into her form and the she was lowered gently back to the ground. As the force field rose back up into the ceiling, Willow stepped forward and caught her friend’s body. She was boneless in her arms as Jack moved to help get her down from the platform.

They laid her across the smooth floor and she whimpered in pain. Willow trailed a hand over her body focusing on the small pinpricks that encompassed her form. Sam came to kneel on her other side.

“I have medical training.” Her voice was hushed and some what revered.

Willow looked up at her and nodded. Her white hair fell forward blocking her face. “Make her comfortable. The journeys just begun.” With those cryptic words she rose and moved to leave the chamber.

“Willow, where are you going?” Jack moved to follow her as Daniel knelt on the other side of Buffy.

“To see if I can be of use to Dawn.” The Colonel stopped and nodded. His shoulders rolled back and he spun to watch the brains of SG-1 begin work on the tiny blonde.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Teal’c laid Illyria’s lifeless body to the ground just outside the chamber. Dawn Summers had rushed to get Willow Rosenburg’s pack from the main cave. He stared down at the delicate humanoid face. Her translucent skin was encircled by a blue and silver tint. He could make out the delicate vein work beneath but she held no life.

Her body had been light. Lighter than a human form should have been. Her chest did not rise with breath and there was no heartbeat to fill her body with vitality. The Jaffa watched her unmoving body and could not stay silent as Dawn Summers once more entered the temple entrance.

“I believe it is too late for your friend, Dawn Summers.”

The brunette fell to her knees and began unpacking several items from the pack she wore. “No it isn’t.”

His brows pulled downward beneath the beanie he wore. “Her body lacks all appearance of life.”

“It usually does.”

That statement caused him to blink and simply watch her pull out a shallow black bowl from the pack. She placed it beside Illyria’s head and poured water from her canteen into it. Her hands reached back into the front flap of the pack and pulled out a velvet bag. She dumped the contents into the dirt beside her. Shifting through the stones strewed out around her knees. She pulled out translucent quartz, a fossil, and an onyx.

“May I ask what preparations you are making?”

“The stones help me focus and are used to channel a particular energy. The water is to cleanse them before I begin.”

Her clipped tone had him nodding a falling silent once more. He watched her roll the stones smoothly through the water and she spoke, her voice hushed, a small prayer, “In the name of the Lord and Lady, Banba, I conjure thee, O stone of Earth, to assist in my magical working. By the moon and the stars, may you be blessed and empowered to unbind the child of your Earth. So mote it be.”

Teal’c watched her confused by the small chant but he remained quiet. Her hands gently laid the stones along Illyria’s prone body.

“Quartz for healing.” She explained as she placed the first stone across the demon’s forehead. “Fossil for protection.” She placed it in the hollow of her throat. “Onyx for defense against dark magic.” The last was on the abdomen.

She met Teal’c gaze and nodded to him. “I’m going to need to focus can you keep anyone from interrupting me?”

“Indeed.”

She smiled slightly and then pushed the pack from her side. Rising she moved to the top of Illyria’s form and gently raised her head careful not to dislodge the stone and cupped the back of her neck. Her other hand trailed over her smooth shoulder and rested above the space that her heart should have been. Taking a deep breath Dawn closed her eyes and focused her thoughts on the demon in her hands.

She steadied her heartbeat and felt the first presence of the barrier between her essence and Illyria’s. It was like a wall of diamond had been erected around her shell and the power Illyria used to animate it. Dawn’s brows drew downward in concentration as she pressed lightly against it.

She felt the patterns along Illyria’s body like a blanket over a fire. Smothering. The demons shuddering form was just beneath the surface. Enraged. Terrified. She took a deep breath and drew on the power of the stones resting on top of her body. The binding wound tighter at her intrusion.

Dawn felt her essence engulf the bindings and spread over them. She left the power of the Earth guide her and she pushed absently into Illyria’s chest. It brought a small compression of air from her form. The bindings shrank her enclosure tighter.

The teenager frowned at the bindings and opened her mind to them instead. She felt the power, the age and shuddered. It was the great seal of the Old Ones the binding that held them in the Deeper Well. The lock that kept them imprisoned in their sarcophaguses and she was a key. Dawn wished for Willow and pressed on.

Focusing her power around the markings themselves she willed them to disappear. Nothing moved. The temple paused for a moment awaiting her ability. The markings remained just beneath her touch. Pushing down, deeper into her mind Dawn tried to draw on the energy that she knew was encompassed within her form. She wished. She prayed. Dawn pushed herself harder.

Teal’c watched the slight sheen of sweat began to decorate the young woman’s exposed skin. Her arms shook with an exertion that he could not see. Slowly the markings decorating the lifeless body of Winfred Burkle began to smoke. The acidic smell floated up to tease both their senses but Dawn pushed on. Her head fell forward but she remained upright.

The geometric design engulfing Illyria’s body suddenly flickered alive with a delicate green flames. They sparked all over her lifeless body and the markings quickly burned to ash. Dawn’s eyes flew open and turned her head to Teal’c.

“We need to get the ash off of her, now!” Grabbing the bowl she poured what little water it offered over her chest and began to rub the faded marks completely from her body. Teal’c took his own canteen poured the water over her arms and legs. His large deft hands smoothing the symbols to nothing but smears across her blue and white limbs. They rolled her form and repeated the ritual for her other side. As the last of the ash washed from her body she twitched and her back arched away from them.

Dawn helped her roll onto her back, gently. Illyria blinked large blue eyes at the younger Summers confusion marring her usually emotionless features.

“You aided me.” Her voice was as rough as sandpaper.

Dawn gave her a very tired smile. “Of course.”

The demon blinked. “I am indebted to you.”

Dawn sighed and sat back her body exhausted. “Will you be okay?”

Illyria shuddered in the dank air of the cave, weak and powerless at the moment. “I require rest.” Her eyes began to flicker close and Teal’c pulled off his jacket and draped it across her nude form. The demon blinked at him confused but her head slumped to the side and she lost conciseness.

The Jaffa stiffened and turned to watch Willow Rosenburg come from inside the chamber. His eyes widened fractionally at the color of her hair and serene face.

“How is she?”

Dawn glanced up tired and simply stared at her friend for a moment before answering, “She’s asleep or at least whatever sleep is for her.” She frowned confused by her own answer.

“You freed her from the Elder Seal?”

Dawn cocked her head to the side confused, “How did you know what it was?”

“I read the temple.”

Dawn’s eyes widened, as she understood what the witch meant by ‘read’. Teal’c stood from Illyria’s side to face the white haired woman. “How fairs Buffy Summers?”

Willow winced and refused to meet Dawn’s worried gaze. “She’s alive.”

The other woman rose and moved to stand in front of the witch. “Is she okay?”

“No.”

Dawn moved to get past her into the room. Willow caught her arm and spun her as the red began to bleed back into her hair. “We have to let them take her.”

“What?”

Willow grasped Dawn’s other arm and turned them so that they faced one another. “The Colonel is going to want to take Buffy back to his base for medical treatment. We have to let them take her.” Her eyes traveled over Illyria’s form. “Both of them.”

“No! They’re not going anywhere!”

“How do you know this, Willow Rosenburg?”

The witch turned to Teal’c. “I just do.”

Dawn wretched herself free and took several steps back. “No.”

“Dawnie, you have to trust me.”

The brunette’s eyes narrowed. “Like when you said Illyria…Fred.” She stumbled over the name and shook her head. “Screw it, Illyria was being paranoid.” Willow closed her eyes and shifted her body away from her. “Or when you convinced me it was best to have Buffy step down as our leader?”

The witch’s eyes narrowed. “That was a joint decision.”

“And look were it got us!” She spread her hands wide.

“We don’t need tantrums right now Dawn. I need a grown up here, helping figure out what we can do to fix this.”

Dawn took a deep breath and shoved back the tears threatening to fall. She met the other woman’s gaze. “I can’t lose her twice, Willow.”

“Then let them take her.”

Teal’c watched the young woman give a small nod of her head and the other woman step forward and embrace her. They held each other for a moment before stepping back and turning to Teal’c.

Jack, choose that moment to enter the room and flick his gaze around the occupants before focusing on Illyria’s form covered by Teal’c coat. “She’s alive?”

“As alive as she ever was.”

The Col.’s gaze narrowed on Dawn. “What does that mean?”

The brunette returned his glare with one of her own. “What is Murray?”

Teal’c stiffened at the question and his head slowly rotated to the side to watch the younger girl.

“I don’t know what you mean.”

Dawn gave a soft mocking laugh. “Whatever.”

Willow laid a gentle hand on the girls shoulder, “You came in here for a reason Colonel O’Neill.”

Jack frowned at the red head. “I’ve called for a medical transport for Summers and Dr. Burkle. The EPAT is two hours.” The two women looked at him blankly and he winced. “Earliest probable arrival time.”

Willow shook her head. “How can they get here in two hours? The hike alone takes one.”

Jack shook his head, “Not for a Mi-35.” He rolled his eyes at the confused looks on their faces, “Helicopter.”

“Won’t landing a helicopter in the Grand Canyon be a little suspicious?”

He shook his head, “Not when we’re flying through government secured air space. No.”

Dawn shook her head, “Where will you be taking my sister?”

“That’s classified.”

The thin brunette’s shoulders stiffened, “I need more information than that before I let you take her anywhere!” She shrugged off Willow’s tightening hand. “No, god damn it! I will not be left in the dark!”

Jack raised his hand and met the young girl’s stricken gaze unflinchingly. “Here’s how its gonna work, campers. We’re going to follow protocol. Which means we will be taking them to a secure military facility that has the means and capability of handling these kinds of situations.” His voice and stance left no room for argument.

Dawn felt the tears she had been suppressing threaten to fall but she ruthlessly shoved them back. She would not cry. Not now, in front of these people.

“Can I stay with my sister until your transport gets here or is that against protocol?”

Jack sighed at the look of barely concealed anguished in the young girls eyes and stepped aside to allow her entrance back into the chamber. He watched her walk stiffly back inside and turned to see Willow staring at him intently.

“Something you’d like to add?”

“Dawn, Kennedy, and myself will be staying behind to figure out what the happened back there.”

Jack shook his head, “I don’t think so…”

“Colonel,” Willow interrupted, “We will be staying. You can just okay it or you and I can call our respective parties and find out whose classification runs highest.”

Jack blinked at her neutral tone but the threat was clear. She believed hers would win. What the hell was the Watcher’s Council to the United States?

“Murray and Carter will remain behind with you.”

“Agreed.” Jack shook his head but still couldn’t shake the feeling that he had been had.

Teal’c once again lowered himself to sit beside Illyria’s unmoving form. He knew that her chest did not rise with breath and no heart beat beneath, but now there seemed to be a flicker of life under the surface of her skin that had not been there before.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Daniel looked up to see Dawn walking into the room her face as guarded as he had ever seen it. She traced her gaze along Buffy’s still form as Sam knelt over her and checked her vitals. Her eyes became glossy with tears and her face crumpled just a little.

“Dawn?”

He caught her attention and she focused on him a moment. Sam stiffened at her name and turned to watch her take a few more steps forward.

“How is she?”

Sam felt her stomach tighten as the usually self-assured woman reverted to a small-frightened teenage girl.

“She’s unconscious.”

Dawn nodded and came to stand beside Sam’s kneeling form. “Can I sit with her?”

Sam rose and nodded to Daniel. “Of course.”

Dawn let her body fall boneless beside her sister. She reached out and gently pushed an imaginary strand of hair from her ashen cheek. She leaned over and brushed a gentle kiss along her brow. With her lips still pressed to her sister’s forehead she whispered softly.

“Don’t you dare leave me, again. I need you. Illyria needs you. We can’t lose you.”

Daniel shifted his gaze from the painful scene. His eyes meet Sam’s over the pair of sisters and they both winced.

She sat back and picked up her Buffy’s hand. Her other hand absently straightened the tank top Buffy wore. Smoothing wrinkles that didn’t exist. She sat in silence for a few minutes and Daniel shifted back from them and began to rise wanting to give them some privacy.

“You don’t have to leave.”

Daniel paused at her hushed tone. Buffy shifted slightly and let out a small whimper of pain.

“I wanted to give you some privacy.”

“You know she’s the Slayer, now?”

Daniel’s gaze once more flicked to Sam’s. She shrugged unsure as to where the teenager was going with the question.

“Yes…yes we do.”

“And you’re taking her to some top secret military base?”

“Yes.” Daniel’s eyes began to narrow in understanding.

Dawn glanced up and allowed him to see the pain reflected in her gaze. “You’re not going to experiment on her, are you?”

“No! Of course not.” Daniel shot a look to Sam who nodded and stepped forward.

“Dawn, were taking her to doctors who can deal with what has happened to Buffy. We’re trying to help her.”

The brunette turned to pin the older woman with the same heartbreaking gaze Daniel received.

“Promise me.”

“I promise.”

Daniel nodded his head and amended Sam’s statement. “We promise.”

“Okay.” She paused and looked down at her sister once more. Her hand tightened around the limp one in her grasp until if she had been anyone but the Slayer she would have bruised. Buffy didn’t even flinch.

“She hates hospitals.”

Sam gave a very small smile and tentatively moved to stand beside the brunette. “Don’t we all?”

Dawn lost her smile and once again traced her sister’s check with her fingertips. She watched the rapid rise and fall of her chest with trepidation.

“She’s a fighter.” Her tentative voice had Daniel nodding in agreement.
“She is.”

Sam knelt beside the teenage girl and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. “She’s strong willed.”

Both SG-1 members wished they could comfort the teenager. Tell her what she wanted to hear. That her sister would be all right; that she would be better in no time at all, but neither of them could bring themselves to lie.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Chapter 4:Why the Old Ones do not Die

Major Janet Frasier chief medical officer for the SGC had seen many things in the past seven years while working with this particular military unit. SG-1 usually brought back the most peculiar but she had never before seen anything remotely like Winifred Burkle. Janet was not referring to her appearance but to the fact that Dr. Burkle had no vital organs. None. Not a brain or heart. Not to mention that she lacked lungs, she shouldn’t have been able to speak.

The fact that Daniel and Jack both contested that this woman had been up and walking only hours before at the ‘Phoenix’ site baffled the doctor. Everything in her medical teachings and subsequent crash course in alien technology could not explain how this woman functioned.

“What is it that you are trying to tell us Doctor?”

She blinked and looked up at the General, Colonel O’Neill and Dr. Jackson her face determined. “She’s hollow, Sir.”

“Hollow.” Hammond cleared his throat and repeated, “Hollow?”

Janet nodded. “Yes, Sir.”

Daniel opened his mouth and then closes, a clear look of confusion on his face. He blinked several times before speaking, “In what way?”

“She has no organs of any kind. There are the remnants of a circulatory system but she has no heart or brain to tell them how to function.”

Jack coughs. “Okay…” They look to him, waiting for him to continue. He frowns, “That’s all I got…okay.”

Janet shakes her head, “Her skin seems to be an exoskeleton of some kind. Impenetrable.”

“Impenetrable?” Jack spun his chair towards the doctor.

“Yes, Colonel. Though I haven’t tried a titanium tipped dart yet.”

“Lets not and say we did.” Jack shakes his head and frowned while turning to the General. “I recommend we place her in confinement, Sir.”

“Jack.”

“Daniel.”

The two men stare at one another before the linguist broke the contest of wills by looking to their leader. “General, she hasn’t harmed us…”

“Yet.”

He shot a glare at the Colonel. “Ever. And I don’t think the best way to start peaceful relations with a possible new species is to lock them up after they were trying to free one of their friends.”

“Daniel, She cracked one of the Ancients’ force field with just her fist. One blow. We should have armed guards on her now!”

“I’m afraid I’m going to have to agree with the Colonel on this one Dr. Jackson.” He raised a hand as the doctor opened his mouth to protest. “I would prefer to be on the side of caution from here on out, gentlemen.” He turned to the two soldiers waiting at the door. “Have Dr. Burkle moved to the stockades. Make her as comfortable as possible.”

The men nod their acknowledgment of the orders and left the SGC briefing room. The group sat around the large rectangular table faces pensive.

“Doctor, what can you tell us about Ms. Summers condition?” Hammond turned back to Janet expectantly.

She took a deep breath and met the General’s gaze. “She has several what I’ve deemed entry points from the Colonel and Daniel’s reports of the events in the temple, that appear to be healing abnormally, quickly. She seems to have been injected with a large amount of naquadah, much more than any Goa’uld host. It’s been introduced to every major circulatory system in her body; lymph, nervous and blood. I’ve also found traces in her bone marrow.” She shook her head.

“Illyria said that she was being made into a conduit for the Earth’s energy. Now I’m not sure what that exactly means, but naquadah we know reacts with neutrinos to store and conduct energy for the Stargate. Maybe the Ancients devised a way for a human body to harness that energy.” Daniel looked around the room as the others simply stared at him. “What? I pay attention when Sam talks.”

Jack shook his head. “Illyria?”

“It’s what Buffy shouted when Dr. Burkle…”

“Exploded?”

“Gentlemen.” Janet interrupted the two and turned to address the General, “The naquadah is not the issue. It’s the fact that it’s being steadily attacked by her immune system, is. She begins with a fever to try and combat what her body is deeming an infection. It raises her core temperature to 105 degrees. When I try to bring her temperature down her blood pressure drops. She then falls into Hypotension and her body begins to systematically shut down. The sedatives I am being forced to use to keep her calm are only adding to the stress her body is enduring. ”

“Doctor what are you implying?”

Janet closed her eyes a moment before opening them. “General, at this point. All I can do is try to make her comfortable.”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

General Hammond sat behind his desk as the head of Stargate Command. His face pulled down in a fierce frown. In his right hand he held a practical red telephone receiver and his face flushed as the person on the other end speaks.

“Yes, Mr. President I understand perfectly.” He paused and lifted his free hand to rub at a spot above his left eye. A sharp pain had begun to from there soon after the Colonel’s emergency phone call six hours before. Then after the meeting with Dr. Frasier, he had locked himself in his office and pressed speed dial two.

“No Sir, I was not aware that she was to be deemed a national treasure…Yes of course we are doing everything in our power to help her recover…I thought it pertinent for you to know…Yes, Mr. President I will keep you posted… Of course, Sir. Goodbye.”
His hand was slowly replaced the receiver into its cradle when the intercom on his desk buzzed. Reaching out he hit the red button. “Yes?”

A disjointed voice answered him, “General Hammond, you said you wanted to be informed when Dr. Burkle awoke.”

“Have Colonel O’Neill and Dr. Jackson meet me in the monitoring station immediately.”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Daniel was looking down at a tiny form framed by the gurney. Thick leather straps encompassed her wrists and ankles with another around her waist. She thrashed slightly caught in throws of a nightmare. He reached out and brushed a strand of blonde hair from Buffy’s damp forehead. Her face pulled down into a frown and she whimpered in pain. She had seemed so much bigger when she was awake and you could focus on the force of her personality. Janet came to stand beside him in his silent perusal.

“We did this to her.”

She turned to face him, “Daniel, we didn’t do this. It was an accident.”

He shook his head. “I sought them out in the hopes of gaining something that would help us in the fight against the Goa’uld. I wanted it to be something important that could help keep mankind safe.”

Janet laid a gentle hand on his arm. “You have hope, Daniel and the ability to see the world as it should be.” She glanced down at her patient. “She came to the temple of her own free will. As I understand it, she pulled her own strings to be allowed access.”
“She would never have known it existed if it weren’t for me.”

A sound crawled from low in Buffy’s throat and her back arched off the bed. Her restraints pulled taunt and the one around her left wrist snapped.

“Damn.” Janet moved quickly to the cabinet beside the blonde’s bed and pulled out small vile of Zolpidem and needle. “Her system goes through sedative like nothing we’ve ever encountered before.”

As she pressed the now filled needle into her IV Daniel glanced down to watch the rapid movement beneath her eyelids. She gasped in her sleep, shifting her head from side to side before she began to relax.

There was a soft knock on the wall beside the door. Janet and Daniel turned to see Jack his eyes fixed on Buffy’s now still form, his expression unreadable. He looked up to meet the linguist’s gaze.

“Fred’s awake.”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Jack and Daniel rode the elevator up to level 16 in silence. Their journey to the monitoring station was uneventful and they reached it without comment. As they entered they could see the two soldiers currently stationed watching the center terminal intently with the General standing just behind them. Hammond turned to them his expression grim.

“Gentlemen.” He stepped to the side to allow them a clear line of sight to the terminal screens. Daniel’s brows drew downward as he caught sight of Illyria standing in the center of stockade her body encased in some sort of armor; it was a deep burgundy in color and hugged her form like a second skin. Her once brown hair was now streaked with blue and the limited skin that was revealed by her suit was pale and polished. She stared straight ahead, lacking all movement.

Jack’s voice was annoyed when he asked, “Sweet outfit, how’d she get it?”

One of the soldiers looked back to him and shook his head. “You’re never gonna believe this Colonel.” He reached out to hit several keys on the keyboard in rapid succession. The set to the right of Fred’s cell winked off before showing hers from twenty minutes before.

Jack watched transfixed as she rose from the cot she had been placed on encased in the hospital gown they had put on her slim frame. Without a care she tore the garments from her body as if they were paper and raised her left hand. The blue encasing the outside of her limbs seemed eccentric in the dim lights of her cell as her head fell back and an ink-like stain began at the tips of the fingers and rolled across her body until she was sheathed in armor. It appeared dull and muted compared the bright contrast of her flesh.

“Care to explain?” Daniel and Jack both looked to the General at a lose for words. He sighed and shook his head. “I suppose it was too much to ask that you know what’s going on.”

“I don’t…but I’d like to.” Daniel glanced to their leader. “With permission General I’d like a chance to speak with Dr. Burkle.”

“Granted. Jack will go with you.”

He turned back to the terminal giving the duo no room for argument. The looked to each other and Jack shrugged, shoved his hands in his pockets and inclined his head for Daniel to lead the way.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Illyria stood her body motionless as she watched the door to the room that housed her cell open while the Alpha and Beta males entered. Another male closed it behind them but not before giving her body a long warm sweep with his eyes. Hers narrowed in annoyance.

“Hello, Fred.” She remained silent and Daniel tried again, “Or is it Illyria?”

Her head angled and inclined towards them awkwardly. She focused her now vivid eyes directly on the linguist, “You presume to speak my name.” She took a halting step forward, “As you presume to think this cage can hold me.”

“Held you so far.”

She turned her gaze to Jack, “Because I have allowed it.”

“A likely story.”

Daniel let out an exasperated breath, “Jack.”

The Col. shook his head at his friend. “She’s worse than Anise.”

“Let’s try to be civil.”

The demon watched their byplay with interest as she focused back on Daniel. “You question your Alpha.”

“My Alpha?” Daniel frowned at her moment before understanding lit his gaze. “Uh no…he’s not my Alpha.”

“You follow his orders, do you not?”

“Well…yes…but…”

“And yet you disregard his authority in the face of your enemy.” Illyria took another step towards the bars that separated them.

“You’re our enemy?”

She blinked and focused on Jack, “I am your prisoner. Does that not make me your enemy?”

“No, it doesn’t.”

“Probably.”

“Jack.”

“Daniel.”

Illyria rolled her eyes at their childish antics before looking towards the Beta male, “You question him again. In my day you would have been gutted for your insolence.”

Daniel ignored the threat and focused on a key phrase, “Your day? When was your day?”

“I grow tired of your presence.” She turned to Jack, “Where is my guide?”

“Guide?” Jack looked at her blankly.

“Do you mean Buffy?” Illyria merely inclined her head in acknowledgement of Daniel’s question. “She’s resting in our infirmary.”

“Take me to her.”

Jack shook his head. “Not gonna happen.”

“I am not asking.” She took another step towards the bars. Her movements no longer graceful but hauntingly jerky. She seemed to become more agitated with each passing moment.

“Too bad.”

Her hand wrapped lightly around the bars of her cell and she pulled her face to rest between them. “You are the reason she is unwell. You and the White Witch.”

“Willow’s a witch?”

The demon gave the Beta male a long-suffering sweep with her ageless eyes. “Perhaps your intellect is not as vast as I first perceived.”

Jack took a step forward as well. Placing himself just before Daniel. Illyria noticed the protective stance and catalogued it. “Insulting Danny is not going to get you very far with us.”

“Is it an insult when I speak the truth?”

Jack gave an exasperated sigh, “I take it back she worse than a Goa’uld.”

The demon shoved herself back from the bars of her ceil and they gave a soft groan in protest. “You try to offend feelings I no longer have by comparing me to a parasitic race of lowly worms.”

Daniel and Jack stiffened and stared at the demon for a moment. “How do you know about the Goa’uld?”

She ignored his question and her gaze flicked around her ceil. “You imprison me in Earth and shadows with futile attempts to interrogate.” She focused on the camera just behind them and raised her voice. “Is this all you have to challenge me?” Her gaze swept over the two men once more. “A primitive descendant of the Ancients and a once Ascended. Feeble.”

Jack’s spin stiffened and any trace of amusement left his face. “That’s it. Lets us talk to Fred.”

Illyria paused confused. “You can not.”

Daniel shook his head reeling from the fact that this woman knew or saw so much. “But we have.” Her head inclined towards them. “Haven’t we?”

Jack shook his head, “Of course we have.” He stepped towards the bars. “Why don’t you take a little nap and let the nice lady that shares your body come out and talk with us.”

“You seek to speak with a carcass. Winifred Burkle was destroyed when I came forth. As her brain collapsed, electrical channels were filtered and stored in my basic function system. Her memories. Thoughts. Belong to me, now.”

Daniel shook his head, “You’re saying that we have been talking to you this entire time. You are both Winifred Burkle and Illyria.”

The demon’s eyes narrowed. “I am Illyria! I was a god to a god! Your Goa’uld bowed before me.”

“So you’re from another planet?”

She stepped back and shook her head at him. The blue streaks of her hair shimmered in the dim light. “I am natural to this planet.”

Jack opened his mouth to argue the natural part but Daniel beat him to speaking, “How old are you?”

“Time has no meaning unless it fractures or folds. Your kind does not even realize it exists unless you have run out. Then you beg for more.”

Jack rolled his eyes. “We were asking your age.”

She blinked. “I do not know.”

“Rough estimate?”

She glared at the Col.’s apparent mockery of her. “When I was young you were the muck at our feet.”

Daniel and Jack glanced at each other; both mouthed the word ‘muck’. Shaking his head the linguist’s brows drew downward, “But Winifred Burkle is only 26. If what you’re saying is accurate than…How?”

“You were once Ascended. You already possess this knowledge.”

Daniel took several steps forward and placed himself just outside her ceil. “No, no…I really don’t.”

Her gaze traced Jack’s from, “His ancestors buried my kind. Imprisoned us in the Earth.”

Daniel looked to her excitement shining in his eyes. “The Ancients imprisoned your kind?” At her nod, he frowned, “Why?”

“They seeded your form of existence in this galaxy. Mortal creatures flourished. My brethren did not mind you at first. Your flesh made vivid colors when struck and your screams were like music.”

Daniel winced at her description. “The Ancients came to out aid.”

“They decimated my race.”

Jack smirked at her. “I knew I liked them for a reason.”

“You seek to mock me. Your better.”

“Better?” Jack narrowed his gaze on her. “Remind me, whose ass got kicked by whose ancestors?”

Illyria’s movement was a blur as she grabbed Daniel’s throat through the bars. She wretched him forward and his body slammed painfully against the metal. Jack pulled his gun and steadily pointed it at the demon’s head. The door crashed inward and two soldiers rushed forward weapons drawn.

“Fear for my guide curls off you like smoke.” Her whisper sent a chill of fear up Daniel’s spin as she pulled his body tighter against the metal containing her. Daniel placed his arms up in an attempt to alleviate some of the pressure. His air supply was diminished greatly as her grip tightened.

“Let him go or we find out how impenetrable you really are.”

Her gaze flicked to the Alpha. “I could tear his throat before your bullets hit me.”

“But you’d still be dead or you would have done it by now.”

Her eyes meet Daniels for a moment before she shoved him backwards and into Jack. She let her body fall flat against the cool cement floor as bullets tore into the wall and cots behind her. They came to a sudden stop as the humans realized she was not being struck. The two primitives lowered their weapons to aim at her still form.

“Everybody stop!” Jack sat up and gently pushed his friend from him. “Nobody shoot!”

Illyria rose regally from the ground. A small smile played across her lips as her watchful eyes caught every movement.

“Daniel?” Jack stood and offered his friend a hand up. A half circle of raw skin was exposed around his neck.

“I’m…” He trailed off and coughed. “Fine. I’m fine.”

“Pity.” The linguist glared at her.

“We’re done here.” Jack motioned for Daniel to follow.

“You may leave but know this,” They turned back at echo in her voice. “If my guide fades. This universe is not large enough to veil you from my wrath.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Buffy’s eyes slowly opened to see the bright rays of the sun shining through her bedroom window. The striped wallpaper and delicate tissue butterflies shimmered in the morning light and she winced at the colors. Rolling toward the nightstand beside her bed she blinked at the time 7:30am.

“When did it get so late?”

The covers beside her shifted and a smooth arm of blue marble encircled her waist from behind. She lifted the covers to see Illyria curled along her body. Eye’s closed and a steady rise and fall to her chest. The lids of her eyes flickered as she winced, caught in the talons of a nightmare. A shuddered wracked her thin frame and shook the bed.

“I thought you didn’t sleep?”

“I do not.”

Buffy turned her head towards her nightstand again. The demon stood beside her, lithe body encased in armor and her face grim. The Slayer winced and looked back to her bed to see Illyria’s form wink from sight.

“You’ve left my side.”

“Not by choice.”

Buffy nodded her in understanding and stood from the bed. A soft wind trickled through her opened window. She glanced out at the vast desert held back by brick and mortar.

“I should be home by now.”

Illyria took her wrist and pulled her forward. Buffy stiffened as she realized she was in her bedroom back in Sunnydale, the room that no longer existed.

“We don’t belong here.”

Illyria opened the door to her room and smirked down at her. “No you don’t.” With her grip on Buffy’s wrist she threw her through the doorway and Buffy stumbled down a plank into a bare room of concrete. It shuddered and clanged with her impact.

She winced and looked down at the metal grating biting into her bare feet. Her body hummed with essence of the thing behind her. Buffy shifted her shoulder to the side and glanced back. The rune circle from the temple stood massive, towering; a ripple of light and water spiraled down the center.

A frown drew her brows downward. Illyria had not followed her through. She moved to go back for her ally. Friend?

“Is she?”

Buffy spun to the sound of another voice. Cordelia Chase hair in soft ringlets around her face and body encased in a soft golden glow stood at the end of the ramp. Buffy took a hesitant step towards her, face puzzled.

“Cordelia?”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“What?”

“Is Illyria your friend?”

“Yes.” Buffy paused at how quickly she answered the ex-cheerleader and a slow smile filled her face. “Yes, she is.”

The brunette nodded and took a few steps forward. “You’re going to have some tough choices soon.”

Buffy blinked. “Choices?”

Cordelia’s smile was wistful as her gaze traveled the circle behind Buffy. “I shouldn’t be here.” Her eyes turned to meet Buffy’s and the Slayer was stunned at the sadness held in their depths and she wondered if she had ever really known the other girl. “But you were in such pain.”

The blonde winced as the memory of the temple and all the transpired there filled her mind. She fell to her knees in agony.

“Oh god.”
Cordelia was there at her side and she laid a soft hand against the Slayer’s face. The pain vanished as if it had never been. The other woman comforted her as best she could.

“I thought you died.”

“Almost but not quite.”

Buffy shook her head at the riddle. “Are you sure you’re Cordelia?”

The brunette gave a small snort, “You still haven’t got the foundation thing down yet cause I can really see the oil now that you’ve gotten older.”

Buffy gave a derisive laugh. “Its good to see you again, Cordy.”

“Hard to believe, but I do watch out for you.”

Buffy stiffened in the other woman’s arms and pulled back so their gazes could lock. “You gave me the dream to go and help Angel.”

“Not in time.”

They both paused; sharing a moment of grief and understanding for a man they had loved.

“I’m working on getting you out of here.”

Buffy nodded and stood; suddenly feeling that she should move on. Cordelia rose as well. “I’ll come back when I can.” The glow surrounding her brightened and her form faded into a soft mixture of gas and light. It glittered and winked at Buffy. Long tendrils of its radiance floated and bobbed in winds of pure power. It was beautiful and too heartbreaking to watch. Buffy closed her eyes even as tears fell from them. Warmth brushed across her face and she smiled into it.

“Summers?”

She opened her eyes slowly. The rune circle was gone replaced by cavernous room encased in black. The only light came from a large rectangular table that had the ability to seat twelve comfortably. Jack and Daniel sat at the far end a bowl of fruit and a chess set between them. She frowned wondering where the light was that illuminated the table.

“Don’t worry about the trivial things.”

She cocked her head to the side at Daniel’s words. “Can you read my thoughts?”

“Can you read your own?”

She blinked at his answer and moved through the black towards them. It shuddered and rippled as she stepped on it, folding over her bare feet and trailing up her calves. Jack reached out and took one of Daniel’s black pawns with his white knight, knocking it casually from the set and into the darkness just beneath the table.

The chess set was carved from marble of black and white with veins of silver and gold. It was functional and beautiful. Perfect.

Daniel reached out and took one of Jack’s pawns with his black bishop. The white piece rolled mournfully from the table and into the dark.

“You’re evenly matched.”

“Just here, kid. Daniel usually wins these things. He’s brilliant you know.”

Buffy stepped up and looked down onto the set. The texture of the marble slowly became brittle and cracked. Until the next time Jack took a pawn, it shattered as he knocked his white queen into it.

“He is?” Her voice was uncertain when she asked.

“I am.” She turned to watch Daniel use his black queen to take one of Jack’s pawns. It broke apart and became dust on the air.

“I thought the queens were the important pieces. Should you be wasting them on pawns?”

“Its just a game to them, Summers.”

Daniel reached for the bowl between them and pulled out an apple. He rubbed the fruit on his shirt before offering it to her. Buffy stared at the pure white skin. The fruit was dull and oblong in shape.

“Try it.”

She reached out a tentative hand to the apple and plucked it from his grasp. It felt warm and heavy in her hand. She stared down at the unblemished surface with a slight angle of her neck.

“They’re good for you.” Daniel beamed at her and his glasses reflect the lights of the room making the glass into mirrors above both his eyes.

“Remember, Daniel is brilliant.” Jack gave her double thumbs up.

She shrugged her left shoulder and raised the fruit to her lips. Wincing at the warmth that seeped into her skin from it, she bit down gently. Blood filled her mouth. Coated her throat. Trickled from her lips. Gasping, she let the apple slid through her fingers and it plunged towards the darkness beneath.

As it slowly fell the room shrank and became lit by florescent lights that hummed above her. The walls that surrounded her now were made of concrete and paint. A map of stars on glass stretched along one wall and she frowned glancing down at the still plummeting apple. As it rotated away from her it shifted into the Earth and shattered against the hard floor. Blood and thicker things covered her ankles. Crawled up her calves to encircle her thighs.

“NO!”

Her shout leeched the blood from her skin and pulled the pieces of the world back together. It began to fall upwards into her grasp and she caught the fragile object. Buffy hugged the tiny globe to her chest. The warmth of it made sense now. She looked up to the two men were both frowning at her.

“Are you sure you should be protecting it like that?”

At Daniel’s question she looked down to see a snake coiled in her arms. It hissed at her and unwound. The delicate scales of white and gold flattened around its head and the Cobra darted forward to strike.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Major Paul Davis Pentagon liaison for the Stargate program, waited impatiently for first elevator to reached level 11 so that he could make his way through the third and final security checkpoint. As it slid into the last floor noiselessly the Major shifted the package he carried in his arms and stepped through the opening doors. His quick stride led him to the isolated checkpoint and he ignored the pointed glances to his side. Setting his briefcase into the x-ray machine and placing his right palm on the hand-scanner he nodded to the two Air Force personal working the station.

He had been introduced to them before but at the moment failed to recall their names and they were both repressing smiles at his ‘special package’ for the SGC current guest. Picking up his briefcase and rewarding the two soldiers with a quirk of his lips he stepped into the second elevator. As it began its decent further into the Earth, Davis opened his mouth to help alleviate some of the pressure building in his eardrums. With a small wince they popped and he closed his eyes to await level 27 and the small briefing with General Hammond and SG-1.

As the elevator pulled to a stop with only a barely felt jerk he opened his eyes to watch the doors slide open and Colonel O’Neill greet him.

“Davis, good to see you!” Jack looked over the package in his arms with interest.

“Colonel O’Neill.” He smiled and stepped from the elevator.

“Nice flowers.”

The Major coughed, “A gift for Ms. Summers from the President.”

“Oh…huh?”

“A small token of thanks.”

“For?”

Davis shook his head; “I’d prefer to speak with everyone at once. If you don’t mind.”

Jack shrugged and followed the other man into the SGC briefing room. Daniel and Hammond are already seated at the table but rose when Davis entered.

“Major Davis.” The General gave the dozen white tulips an amused glance.
“General Hammond.” He glanced around the room. “Do you have a place for these until we’re finished?” He raised the flowers for emphasis.

Daniel glanced around the room and settled his gaze on the water pitcher in the center of the table. He picked it up and walked to the Major with just a trace of enjoyment flickering across his face. “Hello, Major Davis can we ask who, the flowers are for?”

Davis took the offered pitcher and set the tulips’ stems in the glass container. He replaced in the center of the table and before he could answer Jack stepped in.

“They’re for Summers, from the President.”

Daniel frowned. “The President sent her flowers?”

Davis nodded and lifted his briefcase up and onto the table. With a slight compress of either side with both of his hands the lid released and he extracted several plain manila folders. “I was hoping Major Carter and Teal’c would be present but I can fill them in later.” Opening one of the folders he pulled out a few legal documents. He passed them to the three men now seated at the table. “Everything I am about to disclose gentlemen is highly classified.”

“What’s this?” Jack flipped through the six-page document.

“Standard Confidentiality Agreement.”

Daniel’s brows drew downward as he caught sight of the words Watchers Council and Slayer. “I thought you were the SGC’s liaison to the Pentagon?”

Major Davis shook his head. “The liaison for the new Watcher’s Council is no longer in the position. It was deemed that I step in after she failed to inform, General Hammond of the fact that Ms. Summers and her associates were to be given access to the ‘Phoenix’ site.”

“So that’s what happened. Someone ‘forgot’ to tell us that they were going to be allowing civilians into a military operation.” Jack narrowed his gaze at the paper in front of him before he scrolled his name across the doted line.

“Unfortunately, yes.” Davis collected the papers from the other two men before opening another folder.

Hammond cleared his throat, “Major, would you be so kind as to explained why we need to sign another confidentially agreement.”

He smiled at the General and handed them each a manila folder. “Inside these folders in information on a high security endeavor done by our government nearly six years ago. It was called the Initiative. It was an experiment by the our armed forces to control and harness the sub-terrestrial menace.”

Daniel flipped several pages ahead and his eyes widened. “By sub-terrestrials you mean?”

Davis took a deep breath and answered. “Vampires, demons, werewolves, and so and so forth.”

“What!”

The Maj. flicked his gaze to Jack. “Pages 23-31 are photos.”

The other men turned to them and a small silence fell over the room as they studied the pages. Hammond’s head was the first to rise and meet the Major’s gaze.

“These photo’s are accurate?”

“Yes, Sir. The previous liaison offered me video footage, that I was not permitted to take from the compound. I could request they allow you access to it, if you need more proof.”

“You’re telling vampires are real?”

“Yes, Colonel.”

“Really, real?”

“Yes.”

“As in I could go out and touch one, real?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Cool.”

Major Davis coughed into his hand and motioned their attention back to folders. “The Initiative was created to study and neutralize this threat but the experiment ended after unforeseen problems arose and the consequences that followed made the committee change their views.”

Daniel flipped through the colored photos of some of the more interesting things he had ever seen. Though not the most mind you. One in particular made him wince. A thin skeletal like body dressed in a very nice pinstriped suit lay crumpled in what looked like an abandoned attic. Its head had exploded and thicker things were leaking out. He swallowed and turned the page.

“What kind of consequences?”

Davis smiled at the doctor. “Their experiments turned on them and we suffered a forty percent casualty rate.”

“Forty percent?”

“Yes, Sir.” He nodded the General. “If you’ll turn to page 43.” They did as requested and all three stiffened in their seat. “Buffy Anne Summers also known as the Slayer was recruited into the Initiative by one of their agents. Apparently a few doctors were performing unsanctioned experiments. They created a prototype solider referred to as experiment 3-14. Please turn to the next page.”

The General’s eyes narrowed at the creature depicted in his folder. Experiment 3-14 appeared to be a mixture of man, demon and machine. “He was designed and created by Dr. Maggie Walsh, a rogue NID agent. She was subsequently killed by her creation and he took control of the Initiative base beneath Sunnydale University. He was destroyed by Ms. Summers and group of civilian insurrectionists.”

Daniel shook his head. “How did the government become aware of the Slayer?”

“They’ve always been aware of the Slayer but is was not until recently with the destruction of the old Watcher’s Council have we been this close to creating an understanding between out two groups.”

“What kind of understanding?” Hammond shook his head as the information he was receiving began to sink in.

“As far as either party can recall, we have had a less than stellar relationship with the Watcher’s Council. When Rupert Giles replaced Quentin Travers we offered an olive branch that was accepted and returned. The President would prefer that we keep the channels open.” He closed his folder and met each of their gazes. “Gentlemen, we do not want this Council to pull its support from the United States.”

“They’ve threatened us?”

Davis inclined his head to Jack, “Not yet, no. But the President wishes to avoid a confrontation with them at all costs. So it is needless to say he is less than pleased with the report of Ms. Summers being injured.”

Daniel winced. “How long has Buffy been the Slayer?”

Davis cleared his throat and averted his gaze before answering, “According to our records, nine years.”

Daniel’s eyes widened after quickly doing the math, “She’s been fighting since she was fifteen?”

Davis recalled his own displeasure with the facts when he had been briefed by the former liaison before coming. “Slayers are called a young age, Dr. Jackson. Usually they only last a year or two. For Ms. Summers to have lasted nearly a decade is a true testament to her abilities.”

“She’s just a kid.”

Davis turned to face Jack. “She hasn’t been a kid since she was fifteen, Colonel and I would suggest treating her with the utmost respect from here on out.”

Hammond closed the folder and shook his head. “We’ve allowed children to fight this war?”

Davis’s brow pulled down over his green eyes and he pulled his shoulders back. “Sir, with all do respect. The ‘children’ as you put it, are the only thing that saved us from having a hundred percent casualty with the Initiative experiment. We are not equipped to fight this particular battle.”

“And teenage girls are?”
His gaze was drawn to the Colonel as he slammed his folder closed. “They are given heightened strength, agility, stamina. When Buffy Summers allowed Maggie Walsh to test her, it took a team of her Special Ops, 47 minutes to track her and she neutralized them in 28 seconds.”

“But she’s so tiny.” Jack stood and began pacing the room.

Davis raised an eyebrow. “I believe she uses that to her advantage.”

“Huh?”

Daniel answered Jack’s mumble, “People under estimate her.” He stopped and looked across the table to Davis. “Can you tell us more about these sub-terrestrials as you put it?”

Davis smiled somewhat bitterly. “Think the Goa’uld but more evil…”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Sam and Willow stood over the dais both silent as they studied the limestone object. Randomly they would press in one of the cubes and watch the words across from them shift and change direction. It was interesting and completely useless.

It was 8pm and they had been locked in the room for nearly seven hours now. Teal’c and Kennedy had taken an exhausted Dawn back to the hotel in the hopes that she would sleep. Willow wished her sweet dreams or at least a night without nightmares as the Major was shooting her curious glances out of the corner of her eye.

“Is there something you want to ask me, Sam?”

The blonde stiffened and turned to face her. Willow watched her try to think of a polite way to ask what she was and smiled.

“What are you?” Her smile wilted at the less than stellar wording.

“What are you?”

Sam jerked back from her. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“I think you do.” Willow shook her head and stepped around the older woman to walk around the pedestal. “When we first meet I tried to read your aura and something shut me out.” She paused and caught Sam’s eye. “Most humans can’t do that.”

“Read my aura?”

Willow smirked at the disbelief in her tone. “You don’t wince or freak at me putting my hand into a wall but you stumble over the use of the term aura.”

Sam blinked. “Well, yes.”

“Why? To hocus pocus for you?”

The Maj. brows drew downward and she inclined her head to the side. “Okay, fine. Do you know what happened to Buffy?”

Willow winced. “We screwed up.”

“How so?”

“The temple was preparing Buffy for the transformation. I think we interrupted the process.”

“So it didn’t finish.”

Willow shook her head. “No it finished. I just think it skipped several steps.”

“Great.”

“Have you heard anything back from your people?”

Sam winced, she had heard back from the Colonel but she wasn’t sure she was authorized to share the information. Shaking her head she decided to risk it. “I have.”

Willow’s eyes widened. “How is she?”

“She’s stable at the moment.”

Willow moved back towards the dais. “You have but face.”

She nodded. “The temple injected an alloy into her system that her body is trying to fight but there appears to be too much of it for her immune system to handle.”

The red head sighed. “That makes sense her body is created to starve off any foreign substances.”

Sam nodded her agreement naquadah did fit the bill of foreign substance. “Our doctors are working on it.”

Willow frowned as something pulled at the back of her memory. While Buffy had been in the pedestal a copy of her DNA had come up. The witch shook her head trying to focus on that thought. Expand on it. Her eyes widened and she moved to stand in front of Sam.

“A copy of Buffy’s DNA circled her for a moment, right?”

Sam blinked and quickly caught Willow’s train of thought. “What if it was rewriting it so that it wouldn’t attack the alloy?”

The witch glanced back at the dome. “Maybe it was able to somewhat.”

“But we sped up the process and it didn’t take.”

“Exactly.”

The two women shared a smile and Willow reached for her notes that lay spread across the dais but a soft wind brushed them to the floor. She and Sam both frowned and glanced around the room.

“Where did that come from?”

The witch shrugged and knelt to pick up the loose papers. One piece fluttered along the floor and danced farther from her reach. She swore and followed after it on her hands and knees. As her fingers brushed the paper her focus narrowed in on the wall before her.

At this level she could see a small change in the smooth wall of limestone. There was a square of rock just a few shades darker than the surface surrounding it. Without thinking her hand rose and she brushed the seam with her fingertips. At the slight pressure the wall opened outward as if pulled by unseen hands. Inside several multicolored crystals laid, that reminded Willow of quartz but one of them was a small clear and round. It reminded her of a river stone, smooth and flat except for a few markings craved into it.

“Uh…Sam?”

The blonde turned to see Willow kneeling beside a foot wide square that had expanded from the wall, resembling a dresser drawer. She walked quickly to her and knelt on the other side of the crystal panel. She quickly scanned the formation but felt her shoulders drop as she realized she didn’t recognize it. Her gaze was drawn to the smooth stone in the center of the crystals.

Her brow drew downward at the Asgard technology in the very center of the Ancients’. That wasn’t right. She reached out and tentatively touched it. It was cool but warmed at the contact of her skin. The crystals surrounding it began to glow softly and Carter jerked her hand back.

Willow turned back to grab her camera and stilled. Her breath exploded outward in a startled yelp. A very small. Very gray. Very big black-eyed person was standing right in front of them. Maybe they were a person. They didn’t look human.

“Greetings, I am Thor, Supreme Commander of the Asgard Fleet. You have located the Ancile…”

Sam stiffened at the sound of Earth’s ally and stood. “Holly Hannah.” He trailed off as his sensors picked up Sam’s form beside Willow.

“Major Carter.” Thor’s head inclined to the right. His image flickered but remained intact.

“Thor.”

Willow’s gaze shifted between the two of them. Her head hurt just a little. She turned and focused on the little one. “Hi, I’m Willow Rosenburg.”

The alien blinked and turned his head to her. “Greetings, Willow Rosenburg.” He appeared to looked around the room, “Where is the Chosen One?”

Willow’s mouth dropped open, “You know Buffy?”

“We have been aware of her for sometime.”

Sam took a step forward. “Do you know what this temple is suppose to do?”

Thor frowned or at least Willow thought he did. She couldn’t quite tell. “The information should have been downloaded into the Chosen One’s mind during the initiation process.”

Willow winced. “Well you see…the process was sorta interrupted.”

Thor’s head pulled back slightly. “How was it interrupted?”

“We tried to free her from the…” Willow trailed off and motioned towards the pedestal.

“You should not have been able to stop the process once it had begun.”

“Well we didn’t.” Willow met his dark gaze or his holograph’s gaze? “An Old One did.” She pressed a hand to her temple.

Thor’s eyes widened. “That is not possible. The Old Ones are locked in the Deeper Well.”

“Not this one.”

Sam shook her head. “This conversation is fascinating and all but we still have the small problem of Buffy’s body attacking the alloy that the temple placed inside of her.”
“When was the process interrupted?”

Sam glanced at her watch. “About nine hours ago.”

Thor’s image flickered. “Then she does not have much time.”

“Can you help?”

“I can.” His image disappeared.

Willow blinked and looked around the room. Sam pulled out her cell phone and pressed speed dial three. As she waited to be connected with the SGC her gaze met with the witch’s. She raised her eyebrows and offered her a sheepish smile.

Willow’s shoulders pulled back and her head came up as she focused on the other woman.

“Asgard?”

~~~@~~~@~~~@
Janet frowned as Buffy’s EEG monitor began a dangerous and uneven spike. Her spin bowed up from the gurney and she began to shake. The doctor went to the cabinet to grab another dose of neurological suppressant. There was a crash and the blonde’s monitors began a loud uninterrupted rhythm of warning.

Janet spun and found herself shoved back into the cabinet. She winced as her head connected with the metal frame and it bit into her scalp. She looked into the confused eyes of her patient as sweat beaded along her forehead and rolled down to gather in the hair at her temples.

“Where am I?” Her voice was rusted from lack of use and the fever that flushed her body.

Janet met her eyes unflinching and spoke softly as if the young woman before her were a caged animal. “You are in an infirmary run by the United States Air Force.”

Her patient’s eyes narrowed and she inclined her head to the side as if listening to something or someone beside her. She shook her head suddenly fearful and dropped her hand from Janet’s shoulder.

“No, she’s human.”

The small brunette frowned at the statement. “Ms. Summers why don’t we sit down for a moment.”

As the words left her lips the two soldiers who had been assigned guard duty to Buffy Summers choose that moment to figure out what the hell was going on. They entered the room M18-L tasers drawn, not pointed; their fingers rested beside the triggers, not on but all Buffy saw were two large men suddenly barging into the room with weapons resembling handguns. They followed their orders to detain not harm and she reacted on instinct.

Throwing the petite woman behind her she grabbed the edge of her bed and shoved it across the concrete floor. Though lacking wheels, it collided with the waist of one of the men doubling him over and she pressed down on her edge to shove the other end of the gurney up into his chin. He collapsed forward.

The other soldier tried to raise his stun gun as she vaulted the hospital bed legs coiled and shoved them forward to collide with his chest. He stumbled back into the hall but his weapon had already begun an arch to bring her body mass into range and utilize the compressed nitrogen to send the two metal prongs into her chest. She rolled to the side of the bed and out of his line of sight. A shrill siren began to fill the room and she spun to see the other woman standing along the far wall with a telephone to her ear. A flashing red light began to spin above the exit and she watched the door roll close of its own accord.

Buffy leapt forward mindless of the soldier with a weapon and grabbed the metal with her left hand as it began to seal her in. It groaned in protest as she bent it back and slipped through the ten-inch opening. The man on the other side stared at her stunned and she used his distraction to send a right hook into the side of his jaw. His green eyes rolled back and he collapsed unconscious to the ground.

She stepped over his body and began to pad bare foot down the hall watchful of more interruptions. Her head and body protested the use but she had to get free. As the fever raged on inside of her she slipped deeper into delirium.

“Pet, where are you going?”

She spun to see her vampire lover kneeling over the fallen soldier. He hovered just above the unconscious man.

“I have to get out of here.”

His blue gaze sparked with laughter and a smirk quirked his lips bringing tears to her eyes. “Of course you do but don’t you think you should at least arm yourself?”

She blinked and followed his gaze to the man’s sidearm. She shook her head. “I don’t like guns.”

He rolled his eyes at her. “For protection.” She winced and began to shake her head but a wave of pain rolled down from her temples and fell into her stomach. “Take the gun, Pet and I’ll lead you to Illyria.”

“Illyria?”

At his nod she leaned over the soldier and noticed for the first time that he wasn’t a man but a boy. Probably just a little older than Dawn. Freckles were sprinkled across his nose and cheeks. He looked like Howdy Doody’s best friend. She closed her eyes for a moment before she bypassed the stun gun and unholstered the unconscious man’s Browning P-35. She shoved the weapon into the back of the hospital scrubs she wore. Her spin straightened and she followed the platinum blonde head as he wove her in and out of shadows.

 

~~~@~~~@~~~@

“It’s been nearly a half hour. How have we not found her yet?”

General Hammond nodded his agreement with his second in command and turned to the group of men assembled before. SG-3, 4, and 17 stood at attention. Tranquilizer rifles strapped to their backs and amused smirks on their faces. They were hunting a tiny blonde woman.

“I want Buffy Summers apprehended unharmed gentlemen. She is a guest of this facility and is to be treated as such. Use physical force as a last resort.”

The Marines shared an amused expression and snort of laughter with one another and before Jack or Hammond could comment SG-3’s commander rained in his men. “Maj. Warren and Lt. Latona was I alone in watching Ms. Summers escape from the medical isolation room?”

Latona stiffened and rolled his shoulders back while meeting his CO’s eyes. “No Sir. Col. Reynolds, Sir.”

“Then care to explain yourselves?” Latona and Warren shared a glance before shaking their heads. “Good.”

General Hammond nodded to the assembled group and they filed out of the briefing room to begin their in depth search of the SGC. He turned back to the last three men loitering in the room.

Jack stood beside Daniel their heads bowed together in discussion and Major Davis was flipping through his notes before he glanced up to meet the General’s gaze.
“Dr. Frasier said she seemed to be suffering from delusions?”

Hammond sighed, “An aspect of her fever, apparently.”

“Illyria!” The two men turned to stare at Daniel. He blushed slightly and shrugged as Jack arched a brow at him. “Think about it. If you were trapped alone in a fortress like building. Wouldn’t you search out any ally’s you had?”

“How would she know she’s here?”

Davis answered Jack’s question. “Slayers have a sixth sense that they rely on in battle.”

“Sixth sense?” Jack shook his head.

“Why not?” Daniel met his gaze.

“Gentlemen, I don’t believe it will hurt to test Dr. Jackson’s theory.”

Jack shrugged. “I’ll go.”

Daniel nodded. “So will I.”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Jack’s a hand came up to make a tight fist beside his temple and Daniel halted behind him. The Col.’s eyes narrowed at the two forms slumped to the side beside the far wall directly across from the metal door leading to Illyria’s confinement. He reached up and grasped his walkie, “Col. Reynolds?”

“Yes, Sir.” The line crackled in the silent hall making both men wince.

“I need SG-3 at the stockades…” He trailed of as the metal door swung open and Illyria stepped into the empty hall. He swore and ducked back behind the wall blocking them from her view. Daniel sent him a confused look and he motioned him to stay quite. His fingers flick off the walkie-talkie in the hopes to keep radio silence and not draw the women’s attention towards them.

“The primitive Ancient and Beta male play children’s games.” Damn.

Jack and Daniel locked gazes and the linguist shrugged. He moved around Jack and stepped out into the hall. The Colonel reached for him and he side stepped his grasp.
His gaze fell on the Old One and then to the shaking form of the Slayer, who swayed to the right heavily as she stood just outside the entrance to the stockades. Her ashen face was turned to the side, as she seemed to be in a heated discussion with nothing.

Illyria’s brows drew downward as she shifted back to watch her guide. Buffy shivered in the cool air of the compound causing her teeth to chatter as she spoke, “No they’re good people.” She paused before shaking her head. “NO!”

The demon stepped to her and laid a cool palm across her flushed cheek. “You speak to the air in riddles.”

Buffy blinked and focused heavy lidded eyes towards her ally. “He’s here.”

Jack eased around the corner and pulled back his zat to lay along the side of his body as the demon addressed her guide. “Who is here?”

“Buffy you need medical attention. Let us help you.” Daniel’s voice was calm as her confused gaze slide to his.

“He wants you dead.” Her head fell forward and she pressed both hands to either temple. “You challenge his claim. You’re pawns. Black. White. All yield before the Queens.”

Illyria other arm snaked out and she gripped both of the blonde’s shoulders while meeting her gaze unflinching. “You are unwell.”

Buffy blinked and Spike whispered along her throat. No breath teased her senses and she knew that was wrong. Spike could draw air into his dead lungs if he wished it. He could pull the cool winds cross her skin and down her spin but at the moment he was curiously still.

“Free yourself, Pet.”

The Slayer lowered her head and she resisted the thought. Pressed the image of Illyria broke and bleeding, from her mind. It left a stain in its wake causing her to shudder and reach out to grasp the frail shoulders that rose slightly above her own. She pulled the other women forward and viciously slammed her forehead into her chin.

Illyria’s grip loosened, in the surprise attach and Buffy shoved her away. The Slayer reached behind her and grasped the gun at her lower back. She stepped away from the trio and pulled it before her frame. Her right hand was steady as it aimed into the center of the Old One’s chest.

Jack raised the zat and freed it from its confined shape. It released with a soft fizzle and blue lightning arched across the tip.

“Drop it, Summers.”

Buffy flicked her gaze to him for only a moment before she shifted her aim to Daniel’s chest. The Colonel would risk the demon but not one of his own. Spike chuckled into her ear and urged her further down the spiral.

“Hurt me. I hurt him.”

Jack’s eyes narrowed and his hand flexed against the zats grip. “I don’t like threats.”

“You do not harm humans.” Illyria stepped to the side and placed herself between her guide and the Beta male. The Slayer was too gracious to kill another primitive without the heat of battle filling her blood.

Lines appeared between her brows and sweat pooled at the base of her spin as Buffy felt unease swamp her senses. This wasn’t right. Nothing was right anymore.

There was a sonic pop and a woman stood beside the Slayer. Her body encased in a white tunic and a pale golden glow. Her head was held high and she traced the small woman’s form with her eyes, sadness etched in every feature of her stunning face.

Illyria stiffened and her eyes narrowed to slits as she hissed, “Ascended.”

Daniel and Jack exchanged a surprised glance but the other woman did not even spare Illyria a thought. When she spoke her voice was calm, soothing and directed to the fevered Chosen One.

“Buffy, lower the gun.”

The blonde blinked and seemed to finally notice the other woman. “Cordy?” Her face crumpled as Spike faded back into the shadows.

She smiled. “You’ve looked better.”

The gun inched down slowly and Buffy turned her head to her. “I thought you were just a dream.”

“I was.”

Daniel shook his head at the thought of the woman standing beside the blonde. She was an Ascended? They weren’t allowed to interfere this grand a level. Or was it this low a level? His bitter thought was interrupted by the words whispered by the fevered Slayer.

“What’s wrong with me?”

“You’ve been tainted.” She took another step forward. “I can help.”

The Slayer nodded and the gun fell to the concrete floor with an echoing clatter. Jack kept his zat aimed at the tiny blonde but some of the tension in his shoulders eased.

“Please.”

Cordelia smiled as she raised her hand to the side of Buffy’s temple and smoothed it into the line of her jaw. Her fingertips compressed into her skin and a soft glow flickered along the Chosen One’s exposed skin. Her eyes rolled back and she pitched forward, Illyria caught her body as it fell. They both collapsed to the floor and the demon pulled her flushed form closer, worry marring her features.

Daniel stepped around the huddled pair and up to the brunette. “I thought you couldn’t interfere.”

“I had a good teacher.”

Her gaze met his and he blinked confused. “Oma?”

“No.” A small twitch formed at the corner of her lips. “You.” His mouth dropped open and hers split into a grin.

“Hey Daniel, How’ve you been?”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Chapter 5:When the World Falls Away

“Uh…good.” Daniel stared at the woman watching him. His mind trying to recall any information on her while she stood smiling so serenely. “We’ve met?”

“Not here.” Cordelia’s enjoyment doubled with his confused gaze.

He frowned at the lack of help from that answer and was about to ask another question when Buffy and Jack disappeared within a flash of light. He turned to where his friend had been standing only a moment before. That wasn’t a good thing.

Illyria rose and crossed to the other woman as Colonel Reynolds and his men began to fill the hall. Her eyes narrowed as she flicked them across Cordelia’s appearance she ignored the weapons pointed at her and spoke to the vile creature.

“Where is my guide, Ascended?”

Cordelia rolled her eyes at the posturing. “Take a pill, demon. She’s on the helpful end of a superior intellect.”

Several rifles aimed at the two women conversing and Illyria angled her head to see the primitive’s pathetic attempt to subdue her. She felt her power just out of reach pressing back from the dimension that Wesley had thrust it into so many months before. Her eyes widened and the Ascended’s narrowed as she realized she could reach through the barrier and pull a minute portion of her essence back, not much but enough.

She raised her arm and slowed all movement in the hall as a dart of sleep was expelled from its metal containment with a harsh burst of air. The Ascended watched her, face neutral as Illyria glided through the throng of human males and grasped the Beta’s shirtfront. With her touch he was pulled into her time stream and he shuddered as the backwash of power rolled down his body.

Daniel blinked and flicked his gaze around the nearly frozen men. A dart that had been released from its rifle tip, inched sluggishly forward in mid air. He gave a hesitant laugh.

“What’s going on?” Illyria shot him a withering look. “Right, you don’t like it when I talk.”

The demon rolled her eyes. “I have pulled you from their time stream, because I may require your intellect. Until then, remain silent.”

“Can I ask how we’re not in the same time stream?”

“No.” He opened his mouth and she twisted her form to glare at him. He closed it with a snap.

Cordelia shook her head. “Then I will. How are you able to use your power? It should be lost to you.”

Illyria flicked her gaze over the supposed higher power in distaste. “I was under the impression that the Ascended’s knowledge was infinite.”

Her brown eye’s narrowed and she shook her head. “We understand all, but even infinite is too grand a word for us.”

“You were once someone my shell called friend and now you believe yourself my better.”

Cordelia stilled and inclined her head to the side studying the Old One. Her brows drew down as she shifted her focus back to her earlier question. “How are you able to fold time?”

Illyria felt the male behind her shift in his vigilance of the Ascended, to her. She shrugged her frail shoulders and answered, “The binding that held me back from my power has fractured. I now possess the ability to pull bits of my splintered self back from the void.” She blinked and raised her head to the Ascended. “Though, I am merely an echo of my former glory.”

“An echo is impressive.” She turned back to the Beta male; he winced. “I know. I know, shut up.”

The other woman laughed. “Don’t be scared of her. She won’t kill you.”

Daniel flicked a disbelieving gaze to Cordelia before focusing on Illyria. “You won’t?”

The demon shrugged one shoulder. “Your death would cause me little emotion.”

“Except for the annoyance she’d feel from pissing off Buffy.”

Daniel blinked and decided to avoid the topic of his death by looking to the Ascended. “You speak her name like you know her.”

She smiled at him and avoided the unasked question. “I have to go.”

Illyria shook her head. “Where is my guide?”

“She is on a long road that has no turning.”

With those words, Cordelia vanished and Daniel found himself turning toward the demon. Trying in vain not to look out at the frozen men around him, their lack of movement becoming unnerving.

“Can you…uh, unfreeze them?”

Illyria turned and looked out at the primitives, her gaze cold. “They threaten me. Seek to cause me harm.”

“Not purposely…they were…well, worried about Jack and myself.” He pressed his hands to his chest to help with the explanation.

She tilted her head to watch Daniel. “They care for you?”

“Yes.” His brows drew down in thought. “Yes, I suppose you can look at it that way.”

She arched an eyebrow before she grasped his shirtfront once more and waved her hand. Daniel stumbled as he fell from the time void. He winced when her grip released and she caught the dart aimed for his chest. She crushed the offending plastic and metal with a delicate compression of her fist, a smile pulled at the seam of her lips as her essence filled the void of her shell. She was not the elegance she once was, but she could again hear the greens just outside the well of dirt. They rose proud and strong beyond her sight beneath a black sky of glittering diamonds.

The Old One dropped the broken object to the floor and angled her body beside Daniel. “I will converse with your king.”

He motioned the surrounding soldiers back. “I’ll need to ask him to speak with you…first.”

“I will not be locked in your tomb of metal and rock.”

“Alright then…” He caught SG-3 commanding officer’s gaze and smiled. “This is Col. Reynolds and his men. They’ll take you to our guest quarters for you to wait.”

Daniel took a step away from her and then winced as her delicate hand gripped his wrist.

“Your breed is filled with lies and half truths. If I have not spoken with you in one of your hours I will not be pleased.”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Major Michael Johnson stumbled under the onslaught of Anubis’ warriors as they pressed his people back and were effectively butchering them. SG-18 had been on a standard recon; checking ruins of an Ancients’ Temple on P8X-321 had seemed simple enough. Hell, even the binary code for the planet had been easy to remember. He should have realized that was a bad sign. Horrible even.

Another blast of blue energy encompassed one of his people. Dr. Sarah Evans fell beneath the discharge and collapsed to the ground, her body withered in pain even as she lost consciousness. Johnson rose from his place behind a slab of broken ruin and tried to return fire. The bullets bounced harmlessly off the two Kull Warrior’s onyx armor.

He glanced over to see his second, Captain Erica Wilson belly crawl toward the doctor and check her vitals. Her face filled with determination as she looped an arm around the taller woman’s neck and began to drag her back to safety. No one gets left behind.

Johnson rose once again to draw their fire away from the two women. His aim was true, but it only seemed to slow the seemingly unstoppable threat. His shirt and jacket formed to his sweat slicked back as the sun beat mercilessly down on the ambushed group. His eyes squinted as he thought he caught sight of a woman spinning off in the distance.

Ignoring the mirage he flicked his gaze back to the two warriors. His Lt. fell beneath enemy fire as he was stuck simultaneously three times, his body dissolved into nothing and Johnson spun around from his cover to return fire. His gaze landed on Wilson who received a blast from one of the enemy’s weapons causing her to fall forward and drop Evans’ body.

The warriors ceased fire and stood motionless, their weapons pointed at the Major, but they refrained from discharging. He glanced back, his breathing labored and painful. He could feel the sweat making dirty tracks along his cheeks and throat. The gate was only one klick away and the enemy had paused in fire. He flicked his brown eyes toward the horizon blocking his view of the towering ring and shifted his focus back to the two unconscious members of his team. He kept his weapon trained on the enemy as he rolled away from his cover and began a hesitant crawl toward the two women.

The hair on the back of his neck rose on end, as a soft feminine voice caressed his fatigued nerves.

“Run and catch, run and catch. The lamb is lost in the blackberry patch.”

He shivered at the singsong voice and angled his head behind him to see the beautiful spinning woman from before dancing toward him.

“Oh god.”

She turned to face him fully and he was struck by the childlike delight on her porcelain features. Long ebony hair shimmered in the sun’s radiance as she gave a small hop and landed beside Johnson.

“Hush now, dear heart. Mummy will make it all better.”

He stared into her murky eyes and winced at the darkness he saw beneath. His face pulled down in a grimace as he jerked back. The warriors moved up behind her and he opened his mouth to give warning, but she rose and turned to them.

Her form shifted into that of a delicate blonde woman, her face upturned and smiling brilliantly. “Take them into the lower temple.” She motioned to the two women and the warriors turned back to the members of SG-18 and began to do as their mistress bid. As they passed him Johnson rose and fired at their backs.

One of them spun and struck his right leg. He cried out as the femur shattered beneath the blow and he fell forward. He stiffened as he heard a soft chuckle to his right.

“Does your kind ever give up?”

He looked into the smiling face of the blonde and fired. The bullets passed harmlessly through her form and his mouth tightened into a grim line.

“Apparently not.” She smiled and tisked him, “I mean come on. You’ve lost! Let it go!” He fire into her again and she rolled her eyes at him. “You’re wasting ammo.”

Johnson raised his weapon skyward and watched the creature before him cautiously. “Where are you taking my people?”

“Now there’s a rational response.” She smiled and took a step closer to him and laughed as he flinched. “Yes, its good you realize that I’m a threat. Your kind has forgotten their place in the order of things.”

His gaze narrowed on her face. “Our place?”

“Humans. Primitives. Worthless. You’re beneath us. You and your kind belong in the dirt with worms crawling through your decomposing cadavers.” She cocked her head to the side and sent him a sweet smile. “Don’t worry. I’ll be showing you soon enough.”

He raised his gun once again and she shook her head. “Now don’t go getting antsy, you get to live. I want you to deliver a message to the one that looks like me.”

“Screw you bitch.”

Her head lowered and she stared down at him through hooded eyes. He shifted, as the sun seemed to shrivel and fade behind storm clouds that seemed to have materialized out of nothing. Thunder rumbled from above and lightning arched across the graying sky.

“Deliver the message or I have my pets carve it into your chest.” He nodded transfixed by the fact that her eyes began to resemble the storm bleaching the sky of life behind her. “Smart choice.” She leaned over his face and whispered along his jaw. His eyes darkened in fear and he stiffened trying to avoid her.

She turned to gaze at his face in profile and a slow smile split her lips. “Bring the cavalry. Save your people.” The mocking tone to her voice filled his stomach with unease and he swallowed around his terror.

Several moments passed before he could summon the courage to turn his head and look to where she had been beside him. His gaze fell on the entrance to the Ancients temple. He was alone. The blonde was gone, his people were prisoners or dead and he was without help. He looked up to see one of the Kull warrior’s heavy steps bringing it closer to where he lay. It raised its weapon and fired. As the blue electricity arched through his body the same mantra played over in his mind, no one gets left behind.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Giles watched the clock behind his desk as the seconds hand began the deosil arch back to the twelve and closed his eyes to block out the motionless arms. He had always believed that time stilled when you most wanted to rush her, like any proper woman, she made you wait.

He angled his arm and brought the warm glass of well-aged Calvados to his parched lips. The amber liquid shimmered in the moonlit room and his brow wrinkled as the brandy slid down his throat. Aged but lacking none of the fire of its youth, it created a flush of warmth inside his chest that spread outward to his arms.

Dawn’s tear filled voice that had woken him from a sound sleep, echoed in the still room and he raised the glass to drown out the sound of her sobs. She had been distraught and powerless, much like he was feeling at the moment and he didn’t particularly like the remnant of dried tears on his face.

Buffy was incapacitated and in the arms of the United States Air Force. Dear Lord, he placed his thumb and forefinger under his occipital brow and pressed inward. Dawn trusted the doctor with her sister but she, like him believed he held very little sway. The head of the new Watchers Council had instantly contacted Wood and set him on the case of keeping his Slayer safe. The older man ran a hand over his features and pulled the skin, down and tight. She was still his Slayer. His charge. He carried a father’s love and pride for her.

Giles rose from his slumped position and pushed himself up from the straight back chair. His wrist flicked and the glass tumbler bounced along the floor, spilling its contents onto the Oriental rug. He ignored the sound, the mess and made his way from the room.

His bare feet were silent as he made his way across the polished floors and his shadow stretched out tall and thin before him. He ignored the ominous darkness and stopped before the archive entrance. His card slid seamlessly through the access point and his shaking hand steadied as he entered the six-digit code. The door opened in the hushed hallway with a whispered hiss and he entered the library.

His gaze traveled over the dried parchment and tomb lined shelves with disinterest. He crossed to the left wall and flicked his wrist across a first edition of the “Brothers Grimm book of Fairy Tales”. Grasping the volume with one hand, he tilted it up and the shelf before him compressed into the wall behind it and another rose in its place. Giles’ gaze filled with promise and his hand bypassed the box of Rune Stones carved with the grain from an apple tree and blessed with the blood of a true fey, to press against the smaller shelves in the back. With only his touch guiding him, he trailed his hands across the wax seals on the multiple scrolls lying along the back of the shelf.

As his fingers brushed the curved lines of two crescent moons arched together, he grasped the parchment and pulled it from its confines. The tip brushed against a vial of Asp’s venom and he paused a moment allowing the container to steady before he freed the scroll completely. His breath was labored as he walked to the simple writers desk and picked up a letter opener.

With careful precision, he laid the blade against the brittle paper and eased the seal from the grain. It released with a chill to fill the room and he shuddered. His hands were revered as he unrolled the parchment to read and to do something he had almost forgotten how too. Trust his Slayer.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Daniel shook his head in amazement as he made his way deeper into the SGC and towards General Hammond’s office. He paused outside the opened door when he heard the CO conversing with someone on the telephone. He sounded elated and with a few more words of gratitude he finished the exchange. Daniel rapped lightly on the wall.

“Come in.”

Hammond smiled in welcome as he passed under the entryway. “That was Major Carter on the line. Apparently the Asgard have been keeping an eye on the temple.”

Daniel nodded. “Would explain Jack and Buffy’s sudden disappearance.”

The General smiled. “They do have a tendency to abduct our people when they feel the necessity to.”

“Are we still on Def-Con 1?”

The General sighed and lowered his head. “I’m afraid so, until we have concrete evidence that the Asgard are the ones responsible for their sudden disappearance.”

“And Major Davis?”

Hammond rose and walked around his desk to meet Daniel at the door. “Is going to hold off on updating the President of this new development until we know more.”

“Probably for the best.” Daniel shoved his hands into his pockets and glanced around the room. “Uh…” He cleared his throat at loss for how to word his next questions. With a shrug, he gave up. “Illyria would like to speak with you.”

The General’s brow rose, “Any particular reason why?”

“Well, I’m not sure but she seemed very unsettled by the fact that ‘her guide’, Buffy had disappeared,” He added the air quotes around Illyria’s name for the Chosen One. “Ah…you should also know that she can stop time.”

“Excuse me?” His brows drew downward.

Daniel coughed to clear his throat, “Um…not exactly stop so much slow it down…a lot. She wanted to speak privately with myself and an Ascended being.”

“An Ascended being?”

Daniel blinked at him and winced. “I didn’t mention that?” Hammond’s gaze narrowed and he cleared his throat. “Oh…well yes an Ascended was here. She seemed to know Buffy and Illyria or that’s what I grasped of their interactions. She genuinely seemed like she was trying to help.” He flinched at agitated spark in the Gen.’s gaze.

“Dr. Jackson, I’m going to need you to write a full report on what transpired in the hall.”

“Of course, Sir.”

“General?”

Both men turned to see Jack’s image standing before Hammond’s desk with his back to them and absently waving his hand.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Jack stumbled and swore as he spun to find himself nowhere near Daniel and the SGC. His gaze flicked around the smooth passageway of alloy and crystal. The metal ribs of the hall looked iridescent in the dim lighting the Asgard provide their ships. Jack began to stroll slowly forward, watchful of replicators and little Asgard scientists feeling the urge to clone him.

“Greetings O’Neill.” He turned around to see emptiness. His eyes traveled over the space he had left and his brows drew downward in confusion.

“Thor? Little buddy?”

The wall to his right separated and revealed windows spanning the far wall giving Jack an uninterrupted view of the Earth and her clouded skies. He glanced from side to side before cautiously stepping inside. A smile broke across his face at the sight of his favorite alien.

“Thor! Good to see you. Bad timing.”

He walked over to the chair that sat in the heart of the room. It cupped the small form reclined in it like a hand. Two high arches overlapped one another to form the back and base, while two more lifted out of the floor to create the arms and control panel. Jack watched a delicate gray hand move one of several clear crystals along the chromo surface.

“On the contrary, O’Neill. We are just in time to save the life of the Tau’ri’s Chosen One.” His eye’s gazed at best the humanity had to offer with gravity. “I brought Heimdall in the hopes that we would not be too late.”

Jack stopped at stared at him. “You know about Summers?” He stopped and his brain caught onto the information Thor had supplied. “You can help her?”

“We can. Her body is fragile at the moment, but she has a strong will and mind. Much like yourself, O’Neill.”

Jack grinned. “Ah, flattery. This is were you usually ask a favor.”

Thor inclined his head in acknowledgement to his words. “Once we have repaired the damage to the Chosen One’s form, she will require guidance. With our war with the replicators at such a critical stage, we can not keep our pledge to the Ancients and you must take our place as her educator.”

“Uh…huh?”

“Her journey has just begun and you will be her guide.”

“Me?”

“You.”

“Isn’t this more Daniel’s thing? You know, he can offer knowledge and patience and I can…not.”

“Buffy Summers’ temperament and humor are more closely related to yours and your vast experience will aid you in gaining her respect.”

“Again with the flattery.” His voice dropped in irritation.

“Will you not aid your champion?”

Jack frowned. “No offense little buddy, but she’s not my champion.”

Thor shook his head. “You are correct.” Jack began to nod his head when the Asgard added, “She is our champion.”

“What?”

Thor inclined his head to the right. “You are aware of her calling?”

“Yeah sure, she’s a super hero.” Jack didn’t bother to hide his sarcasm.

“Buffy Summers has saved your planet from its eminent destruction numerous times and the universe twice that we are aware of.”

Jack closed his eyes and shoved his hands into his pockets. “The universe?”

Thor nodded. “The last being at great cost to herself.”

“She lost a shoe?”

“Her life.”

“Oh.”

One of the crystals on Thor’s armrest blinked rapidly and he shifted his focus there a moment giving Jack a chance to catch up. His head hurt and he wanted a beer. Summers had died saving the universe and she was still up walking around, maybe her and space monkey were meant for each other. Daniel! He needed to check in with General Hammond and let him know what was going on in his neck off the woods. He glanced around the ship and vaguely wondered if he could still use that analogy.

“Thor, good buddy. I need to check in with the base, if you don’t mind.”

“Of course.” He moved a smaller crystal and a circle of light appeared three feet behind Jack and he quickly walked over to it. As he stepped into the sphere, he shivered at the static charge that always ran across his body, as his image was project several thousands of miles away.

“You may begin.”

Jack nodded and called out, “General?”

General Hammond shook his head at the clear image of his second in command. “Colonel?”

Jack spun at the sound of Hammond’s voice and pondered how the Asgard had created a machine that let you know where your audience was when you weren’t really with them. Not that he’d ever ask mind you. That would more of a Carter, with her big squishy nerdier than thou brain, kinda question.

“Hey, Sir.” He looked to the right. “Daniel.”

“Jack.” The linguist smiled, “I assume it’s safe to say you’re with the Asgard.”

Jack nodded. “Yeah, Thor says hi.”

“And Ms. Summers?”

The Colonel shifted his focus to Hammond. “They’re working on her. They should be able to help…I think.”

“Major Carter informed us that the Asgard were monitoring the ‘Phoenix’ site and that she spoke with Thor briefly.” The General took a step closer to the hologram.

Jack shrugged. “Apparently they had an agreement of some kind with the Ancients to guide the Chosen One when she was…” He trailed off looking for the right word. “Uh… initiated? But they’re a little busy with the replicators at the moment so…” He shoved his hands in his pockets and cocked his head to the side.

Daniel frowned, “So?”

Jack’s shoulders dropped as he sighed. “They asked me to help her.” At their startled looks, he rolled his eyes. “Thor likes her. Apparently, she’s a champion to them too…hell the whole universe.”

The General inclined his head at the annoyance in Jack’s tone, “The universe?”

“Yep. She’s saved it once or twice.”

Daniel shook his head. “She’s saved the universe twice?” Even with all they had been told by Major Davis, the archeologist had trouble wrapping his flexible mind around that tidbit of truth. She was just so tiny.

“And died along the way.”

Daniel stiffened. “She’s died?”

Jack sent him a look that clearly said he of all people should not be shocked by those turn of events. “Yeah, Danny boy. Maybe you two can get together. Compare notes.”

The General interrupted the two men, “Do you know when you will be able to return?”

“Hopefully soon. It’s kinda chilly.” He paused and looked beyond the two men. “No Thor, I was kidding you don’t need to…never mind.” He turned back to the General, “Sir, I’m gonna go check on Summers, so…bye.”

His image flickered from sight as Hammond and Daniel exchanged glances. The General cleared his throat and motioned the other man to lead them from the office. “You said Illyria wished to speak with me?”

“Yes, Sir.”

As the men began the short trek to the elevators he added. “On the way, you can tell me more about this Ascended being that made an appearance.”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Jack shifted his focus to Thor and rolled his shoulders trying to release the tension he felt collecting there. He just knew he was going to have a massive headache by the time he got back to the base.

“So you want me to guide her?”

Thor slid off the chair and was forced into a small hop to get over the edge. Jack suppressed his smile of amusement at the vertically challenged alien and Daniel said he had no tact. Okay not just Daniel.

“If you will follow me, O’Neill.”

He raised a brow, but fell into step besides the other being and Jack shortened his stride to accommodate Thor’s.

“Buffy Summers was brought to our attention when she saved the universe approximately seven years ago. Our sensors around your planet singled out a considerable surge in your planets’ magnetic field around the city of Sunnydale, California. The field your people have termed the Van Allen Belt bowed inward for a ratio of 6.52 of your linear minutes.”

Jack shook his head. “Pretend I’m not Carter for a second.”

Thor paused to gaze at him. “The field protecting your planet from the sun’s solar radiation concaved over the city and began to spiral downward into a particular point of origin.”

“That sounds…bad.”

“It was.” Thor resumed his walking. “When we arrived to investigate, we observed Buffy Summers leaving the site of the anomaly. After further study, we deemed that she was the Chosen One.”

“So you guys knew that vampires, demons and bears were real?”

“Yes, O’Neill.”

“And you were going to tell us when?”

“The Ancients gave your planet a built in defense against the threat they possess.”

“A teenage girl?” Jack clenched his hands.

“Your race scarcely lived to the age of thirty when the lineage was created. The young women called had already reached the middle of their life expectancy.”

“And when we began to live longer? They couldn’t have changed it?”

“They realized that by interfering on such a level again could disturb the balance that they had strived so hard to create.” Jack ignored that cop out answer and stopped alongside Thor.

The alien paused along side a panel of blinking stones. He raised his hand and impressed one of the crystals. A line of light appeared diagonally before them as the wall separated. Jack flicked his eyes quickly around the room for signs of a threat before cautiously stepping across the threshold.

The room was wide and circular. It spiraled around glass panels that encompassed the center of the room, separating them from the laboratory beneath. Thor moved forward and gazed down at the movement below.

Jack stepped cautiously toward him and scanned the room. Summers lay across a metallic table with three green orbs being presented in a delicate dance above her still form. Thin bands of light encircled her wrists and ankles holding her to the smooth surface beneath. He watched Heimdall move to the table and shift several stones across the surface and lights above Summers faded to blue and hovered a moment.

“What are you doing to her?”

Jack jumped as Heimdall answered him. “Altering her genetic code to disregard the naquadah permeating her system.”

“Oh…why?”

The alien looked up form his current work to meet the Col.’s. “Her system will eventually fail if it continues to futilely bombard the alloy. I am impressed that she has managed to live this long with her system as weakened as it is.”

“Go Summers.”

“Yes, go Summers indeed!” Heimdall resumed is work once more and the lights began to corkscrew around her head.

Jack glanced down at Thor. “Are you sure this will work?”

The lights vanished and Buffy’s eyes opened. She blinked confused by her surroundings and when her gaze landed on Heimdall, her mouth dropped open in shock. Jack watched her try to sit up and when she came in contact with the restraints, she sent the little alien a withering glare.

“My anal is probe free, right?”

Jack laughed and she glanced up to see him and her eyes widened before they narrowed to slits.

“Colonel, get me the hell out of here!”

“Oh yeah, it worked.”

Thor gazed down at her before he nodded. “Of course.”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

The General nodded to the two airmen posted outside the guest quarters. He and Daniel waited as they opened the door and positioned themselves inside. Daniel raised a brow at the precaution and then winced raising a hand to his bruise throat. Maybe extra guards inside with them wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

Colonel Reynolds stepped forward as they entered, his face confused. “She’s stood in front of the Ficus since we placed her in here.”

Daniel glanced over to Illyria her back to the room and her thin neck inclined listening to the tall plant as if it spoke.

“Thank you, Colonel.” The General nodded to his men and they stepped back to allow them room, but remained vigilant of the threat the Old One posed.

“Illyria?” Daniel watched her stiffen and turn to them slowly.

Her gaze swept over the General, “You are their king?”

Hammond frowned, “I am General George Hammond of the United States Air Force. The person in charge of this base.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Your kingdom is small.” She took a step forward and the men behind the General and Daniel raised their weapons. “Your pets challenge me.”

She raised her arm and Daniel stepped forward with his hands up. She had simply waved her hand before and the room had slowed to a stand still. He wanted to avoid that if he could.

“Illyria, no!” She paused. “They don’t challenge you. They seek to keep their king safe.”

She addressed General Hammond, “Is this true?”

“Yes. My men do not intend you harm unless you show hostility towards myself or my people.”

“I offered no hostility towards your people and yet you imprisoned me.” Her gaze slid along the walls surrounding her. “You imprison me still.”

“You possess a sizeable threat to this base and the people who work here. I must take certain precautions to insure the safety of my personal.”

She accepted the explanation with a shift of her gaze to Daniel. “Where is my guide?”

“She’s with our allies. They’re helping her.”

“Who?”

Daniel and Hammond shared a glance. The linguist shrugged and his CO answered, “The Asgard.”

She inclined her head. “The gray ones.”

Daniel frowned at her. “You know the Asgard?”

“They are weak. Easily broken.”

Hammond shook his head. “Their intellect compensates for any short coming their physical forms may have.”

“You speak of sciences.”

“Yes.”

She shifted her focus to Daniel. “Your sciences are meaningless to me.”

The General inclined his head, “What do you mean?”

“Your laws of physics and matter have as much weight as dust to my kind. They are merit less thoughts of grandeur.”

Daniel latched onto a key phrase, “Your kind? What exactly are you?”

She took a halting step forward and angled her head to the left. “Your Ancients called us the Old Ones.” She paused in thought. “Or perhaps not. Their language was far superior to yours. The true translation was lost several millennia ago.”

Daniel ignored the insult. “You were called the Old Ones, but that name doesn’t mean anything to us. What are you?”

She blinked at him and turned to the General. “You wrapped yourselves in these sciences to forget the magnificence that came before. I walked this planet as the ground cooled and the air stunk of acidic carbons.”

Daniel stilled. “Before all life.”

Her lip curled in disgust as she corrected him. “Before all mortal life.”

Hammond cleared his throat before speaking. “Are you saying you are old enough to have watched life form on this planet?”

Her blue lips twitched in amusement with their shock. “I am and did. My brethren and I called you ‘the ooze that eats itself’. “ She angled her head as she studied them for a moment, “You were pretty in the moonlight.”

“How is that possible?”

She pulled back and her smiled spread. “When I came forth, the world shuddered and knelt at my feet. I was a god.”

Daniel shook his head. “You are not a god.”

“Your Goa’uld set themselves on pedestals high above your kind in the hope that you would not see their treachery, their lies. They used your sciences against you.” She stepped forward and several weapons rose higher to aim at her chest. She ignored them for the moment. “My kind did not lower themselves with lies. We were power. I was the embodiment of war, the power and ecstasy of death. Your kind worshipped us.”

Daniel frowned. “Things change.”

“Change is the only constant and yet your breed still remains much the same.” She stepped closer to the Beta male. “One of your kind brought me forth, destroyed the woman who owned this carcass and set me free to eradicate your world. This, because he worshipped me.”

Hammond stepped forward and gently grasped Daniel’s arm to pull him away from the Old One. “What stopped you?”

She angled her neck and catalogued the king’s reactions. “I was imprisoned for too long. My army was nothing but ash.” She turned and began to pace the room. “My first guide made me take an oath not to destroy your world or kill your breed.”

Daniel brows drew downward in concentration. “In exchange for what?”

“Guidance.” She flicked her eyes towards the guards in agitation. “To teach me how to walk in your world.”

“Ms. Summers made you take the same oath?”

Illyria gazed at the king before answering. “She did.”

“And if Ms. Summers dies?”

“Then nothing will prevent me from exacting revenge against those I deem responsible for my loss.”

Hammond frowned. “I can not allow that to happen.”

She shook her head. “You have little choice.” Her chin rose. “I will decimate all that stand in my way.”

“And if your guide lives?”

Illyria’s focus shifted back to Daniel. “Then I will be bound by my oath.”

“You won’t kill anyone?”

She rolled her eyes. “I will not kill you.”

“Well that’s good to know.” Daniel raised his brows at the General. “Can you explain what you are…besides being a god? What have you been called?”

“The White Witch calls me demon.”

Daniel’s eyes narrowed, “White Witch, you mean Willow?”

She cocked her head to the side. “Yes.”

General Hammond shook his head, “You’ve been called a demon and a god. Are there any more names we should know of?”

“My previous guide would drink a great deal of poison and call me a smurf.” Daniel coughed to cover his laugh, but amusement still filled his gaze. “You react much the same way he did when I told him of his actions.”

“Sorry.” The General sent him a suffering look and he shrugged.

Illyria stepped haltingly forward. “You have echo’s of him in your person.”

Her voice had softened and she moved to stand directly before the linguist. Daniel stiffened with having her so close to his body, but motioned the soldiers behind him to stand down for the moment. She raised a hand to hover just above his heart her gaze searching his face.

“You reek of humanity and morals.” She leaned closer to his face. “Your intellect gives your gaze weight. It presses along my shell.” She laid a gloved hand across his chest. “Your heart beats, fills your with body with its essence, so easy to spill.” Her chin rose so that their gazes met. “To kill. Your breed is so fragile and yet you preserver.”

“Its something we’re good at.” Daniel took a small step back from her, but kept their eyes locked. “We over come…”

“Your betters?” Her brow drew downward in confusion.

Daniel frowned as well. “I wouldn’t call them that.”

“But we are. I am.” She jerked back from him completely realizing she was speaking to a primitive as he if mattered.

General Hammond shook his head. “I don’t think we’re getting anywhere with this conversation. I believe we should reconvene at a later time.”

Illyria shifted her intense gaze to the king. “You seek to order me?”

“While you are a guest of this compound, I will have you restricted to this room.”

“I will not be your prisoner.”

“You are not a prisoner, ma’am. Merely a guest with limited mobility until your guide returns.”

Illyria’s eyes widened. “You dare mock me!” She took a step forward and every weapon in the room trained on her. She listened to the safeties click off and her shoulders stiffened in indignation as her shell whispered what the noise meant. “I will stay here until my guide returns because it suits me but if she does not return.” Her last sentence was pushed from between her clenched teeth. “Then I will make you pay for every insult you have dealt me in kind!”

Hammond’s gaze narrowed at her statement. “I do not take threats to my people or myself lightly.”

“Take my words however you wish, king.” Her gaze narrowed as she glared at the primitive.

The General’s spin straightened and he spun on his heel to leave the room. “Dr. Jackson?”

Daniel’s eyes had softened as the demon continued her threats that rang hollow to him. Grand standing. “Sir, I’d like a moment with Illyria.”

The Old One swung her head to look at him perplexed.

“Are you sure?” Daniel nodded to the General and he frowned, “Very well.”

Col. Reynolds and Lt. Warren remained behind in the room with them, but they stepped back and allowed the pair some privacy at Daniel’s pleading look. The linguist turned back to the demon that was watching him with interest.

He cleared his throat, “Your previous guide, what happened to him?”

Illyria stilled and the creatures around her breathed. Lived. Her chest ached. “He was lost to me.”

“I’m sorry.”

She jerked and her body shuddered in anger. “I do not require your pity. Nor do I request it.”

Daniel shook his head, “It wasn’t pity. I was offering sympathy.”

She blinked. “I do not understand. The words mean much the same.”

“Uh…yes but their intentions are different.” He caught onto her confusion and tried to explain. “Uh…Well, you see pity is usually meant to be condescending and can entail feelings of contempt and rejection. While sympathy is making yourself feel or having felt similar emotions as the person you’re sympathizing with.”

Her head angled toward him. “You wish to teach me.”

Daniel opened his mouth and then closed it. “Well…yes. I suppose I do.”

“Why?”

“It’s who I am.” Daniel glanced around the room and shrugged. “I want to know you or at least talk with you.”

“To become closer with my guide.”

His brows rose in surprise at her statement. “Uh…not the first reason, but I suppose in a Freudian way you can add that to the list.”

“Sigmund Freud, the father of your psychology. You speak of incest.”

Daniel’s eyes widened. “What…no! I was referring to his study of the subconscious.”

“You are…odd.” Her head inclined in thought.

Daniel laughed and she raised an eyebrow. “I’ve been called worse.” He motioned to the table set across from the bed. “Do you mind if we sit?”

She nodded her agreement and turned to take the chair facing the room. Placing her back to the wall, she had an uninterrupted view of her prison’s occupants. Daniel was given a surprised look from Col. Reynolds and he shrugged in response as he took the seat across from her to give the room his back.

“I have harmed your person and yet you still wish to converse with me?”

Without thinking, Daniel’s fingers traced the bruised flesh around his throat and he met her gaze unflinching. “I think your knowledge could give me a better understanding of human nature.”

“I am not human.” Her gaze trailed his hand as it encircled his neck and was annoyed with the fact that she felt pity for the injury she had inflicted.

Daniel watched her face become more approachable. “That’s come to my attention but you still have been around for apparently some time and you’ve seen the rise and fall of nations.”

“Some at my hand.”

“Really?” Daniel couldn’t help the smile that spilt his lips and he leaned forward to brace his arms against he table before him. She raised her chin in acknowledgment of his question. “That’s fascinating.”

She blinked. “You thirst for knowledge is similar to Wesley’s.”

Daniel shifted in his seat and his brows drew downward. “He was your first guide.”

“Yes.”

“How did you meet?” Daniel winced at the absurdity of the question. He felt like he was at a college mixer, still sixteen and completely out of his depth.

Illyria’s gaze slid to the side and her focus was lost to inside her own consciousness. “I was brought forth in the body of his love.”

Daniel winced, realizing he and Wesley had more than a shared passion for knowledge in common. “And he still agreed to be your guide?”

She blinked as her face pulled down, still confused by how her previous guide’s emotions that had always been chaotic, like mating snakes. Balls of frenzied muscle rolling over upon one another, until you did not know where one stopped and the other began.

“His anguish for her hung from him like strips of rotting flesh. He was the first human to greet me as I woke in this time. This place. The first I spoke with.” She frowned slightly and shifted her focus back to Daniel, breath ragged as the pain of loss gripped her chest and tightened. “His death caused me grief.” She gripped the sides of the table. “It caused an ache.” She slammed a palm against her chest. “Here. It still aches.”

“Time heals most wounds.”

She blinked startled by his words. “You do not comprehend what I am saying. This ache is new. It persists. Engulfing my form like molted rock.” She rose and began to pace the confined space of the room. “She is not lost and yet I grieve.”

“You mean Buffy.” Daniel rose, tried to gain the demon’s attention. “It’s not grief you’re feeling. Its worry, fear for her safety and well being.”

“They are insignificant emotions, not worthy to fill my shell. My essence.”

“But yours none the same.”

She paused in her movement and Daniel caught the almost frantic gleam to her eyes. “What would I do if she were gone? She gives me purpose, identity.” Her voice was barely above a whisper as she spoke. “I would be less then nothing, a lone memory on a forgotten mind.”

“You could never be nothing, Illyria.” Daniel frowned at his use of a double negative. Shaking his head, he pushed his focus to the emotionally unstable Old One.

She glanced around the room. “Your world is so small, trapped in rooms smaller still, sheltered in rock and earth. This is just another well.” She flicked her gaze to her two jailers. She stepped forward, baring her teeth and growled as they raised their weapons. “I should gut you both. You defy me, mock me.”

“Illyria!” She ignored the linguist shout and took another step towards the soldiers who clicked the safeties and aimed for the center of her body mass.

“Pathetic apes! Weak. Useless.” She no longer knew who her words were for.

Daniel ignored the warning in his mind and grabbed her arm, she spun and raised her other to strike him down. The determination in his gaze gave her pause.

“Illyria. Stop.” His voice was soft. Calming.

She let her head fall back and she closed her eyes against the false brightness of electric light. Daniel let his hands fall from her shoulders and waited for her chest to stop its rapid compressions.

She took a shuddering breath and focused on the male before her. “You would have made a good Qwa’Ha’Xhan.”

Daniel frowned at the change in topics, but allowed the shift. “What is a Qwa’Ha’Xhan?”

“My priest.”

“Ah.” He paused and met her gaze. “Does this mean you won’t kill us?”

She raised a brow. “As long as my guide lives.”

Daniel shook his head. “You don’t give an inch do you?”

“I am still learning the concept of compromise.”

“Maybe I can help.”

She met his gaze. “Perhaps.”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Buffy flicked her gaze to the little gray person standing alongside the extremely cold table her body currently filled. A shiver trailed is way from her scalp down to her calves as she glanced back up at Jack, her face flushed in agitation. The sterile room surrounding her reminded Buffy of a hospital and she and hospitals were not on speaking terms.

“Little help?”

He grinned at her. “Relax, kid.”

“Bite me.”

Heimdall shook his head and shifted a triangular stone to the left. The lights around her wrist flickered before dispersing backing into the smooth surface. Buffy shifted her body weight and rolled off the table to the side not occupied by ET. Her gaze met the large oblique eyes of her savior.

“Greetings Buffy Summers. I am Heimdall!”

Her brows rose at the chipper voice. So not the sound she was expecting. “Uh…hi?”

He nodded his head. “If you will follow me, we can meet with Colonel O’Neill and Thor.”

She blinked startled by the name. “Thor? As in the god of thunder, guy?”

“Thor is the Supreme Commander of the Asgard Fleet.”

Buffy’s brow wrinkled in confusion. “That sounds real important, but I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

The alien simply turned and made his way across the room toward a wall that shimmered in the dull lighting. It rose proud and tall before the tiny silver body with glittering lights that resembled stars. Buffy flicked her gaze back up to Jack and the little gray guy beside him that she guessed was Thor. Then she frowned, it was kind of disappointing if he was the Viking God that her history professor had droned on about for forever back at Hemery.

Jack motioned her to follow…what the heck was his name? Damn. With a shrug, she turned and watched him press a few pretty lights along the far wall and a small opening appeared. She frowned at the thing that looked suspiciously like a death trap. What was the little guy’s name? Was it guy? Ugh! Henry…No that wasn’t it… Kendoll…Nope…Heman…Uh huh…Heimdall!

“Uh…Heimdall?” The alien turned to her and she suppressed a smile at how cute he was. “Is this an elevator?”

“No.”

“Oh.”

She watched him step inside and flicked her gaze around the cylinder closet with interest. The metal or she guessed it was metal had a purple sheen to it and looked smooth and perfect. She took a small step inside and moved to stand along side her new friend.

“Okay we’re inside what…” A brilliant flash of white light blinded her a moment and she closed her eyes against the glare. When she opened them, she stood before Jack and Thor. “Now?” She looked around the new room, her attention was instantly drawn to the circular windows and the area she had just vacated. Her eyes widened. “Can I get one for these for my house?”

Jack laughed and took a step forward to wrap an arm around her shoulders, relief for her well being filling his conscious mind. “I knew I liked you for a reason Summers.”

She eyes still traveled around the room in wonder. “I’m on a spaceship?”

“You are, Buffy Summers.” Her gaze was drawn to alien before her. “I am Thor.”

She couldn’t help the smile that pulled at her lips. “Hi.” She leaned into Jack’s form and whispered under her breath. “They’re the good guys right?”

“Yes.”

“Hi!” She repeated with more enthusiasm. “So you’re aliens, but you speak English?”

Thor inclined his head and Heimdall moved to stand beside him as he answered. “We have learned all of the languages of your planet so that we may better communicate with your species.”

“Nifty.” Her gaze met Heimdall’s. “I’m guessing the pretty light show did more than make me dizzy?”

“I taught your base Genes to recognize the naquadah now found in your bodies basic function systems. The alloy will no longer be recognized as a threat to your immune system.”

Buffy frowned at the thought of a metal now floating around in her body. She shook her head, apparently the little fellas were being nice, but just to make sure. “Oh…so you helped me?” At his nod she grinned. “You guys are my new best friends.”

Thor blinked. “An alliance between our two parties would be most beneficial.”

Buffy shook her head at the utter adorableness of the two beings standing in front of her. “That would so be of the good.”

Both aliens inclined their head in unison and stared at her. Jack coughed to cover his amusement. “That’s Summers speech for good idea.”

“Hey!”

The Colonel set her a saccharin sweet smile. “You’re the one butchering our language.” He shook his head. “How are you and Daniel ever gonna work if you can’t speak proper English?”

“What?” She sputtered and flushed with embarrassment.

Jack leaned toward his allies. “Her and Daniel have a ‘thing’.” He formed the shape of a heart with his pointer fingers simultaneously with the word ‘thing’.

Buffy glared at him and gently elbowed his side. “Shut it, Colonel.”

He doubled over grasping his ribs and relearning how to breathe. Thor angled his thin neck to better watch their interaction before commenting on O’Neill’s announcement.

“Should you and Daniel Jackson procreate your children would be most proficient.”

Jack began to chuckle as Buffy blushed a deeper shade of red. Her gaze narrowed on the man beside her who was just beginning to rise. “Funny. Illyria said the same thing about you and Sam.” Jack’s amusement faded and hers grew before her eyes widened in alarm. “Illyria! I mean Fred.” At Jack’s raised eyebrow, she sighed. “How is she?”

Jack winced. “A pain in the ass.”

Buffy felt some of the tension release in her chest. “She’s okay?”

“She’s…arrogant, annoying and threatening me with bodily harm until your safe return kind of fine.”

“Good to know…so?” She flicked her gaze back to the two aliens. “What’s the what?”

Heimdall shook his head and Thor answered her. “We will place you in Stargate Command’s adequate care for the remainder of your teachings and studies. Colonel O’Neill has agreed to be your guide.”

She glanced at Jack confused. “Huh?”

He shrugged. “They had a deal with the builders of the temple to teach you everything you would need, but at the moment they can’t.”

Thor nodded. “O’Neill is correct. While we are at war with the replicators, all of our focus must be placed on defeating this threat. For if we fail, then your galaxy may be next to fall victim to their destruction.”

Buffy flinched at the fifty-cent words of terror. “Okay so the replicators are bad and you need to fight the good fight.” She glanced to Jack. “I’m taking a lot on faith here.”

He grinned. “I know.”

Heimdall stepped forward and addressed the two humans. “We must leave and aid our race.” He turned to Buffy. “It was a honor to meet you Chosen One.”

She blushed and ducked her head. “Thank you.”

“You are most welcome.”

She shifted in embarrassment with their praise. Jack watched her curiously and felt some of the strain ease from his chest with the realization that she wasn’t conceited.

Thor nodded with his companion’s assessment. “You are a true asset to your planet.” He raised his and Buffy gently grasped it to shake. “We have much to discuss when time permits.”

Buffy grinned at him. “I’d like that.”

“As would I.”

Heimdall moved to the wall that housed the entrance that Jack and Thor had used to remove a crystal from the center formation just beside the opening. The formation its self was series of circles intertwining and overlapping in a geometric design Buffy had seen on one of Dawn’s math books. He walked quickly back and offered the smooth stone to Buffy.

“If you require assistance, you may use this to contact Thor’s ship.”

She knelt and smiled at her savior before pulling him into an enthusiastic hug. His eyes widened, but his thin arms rose to encircle her when she whispered, “Thank you for saving my life.”

Jack shook his head and Thor stepped up to his side. “She shows great potential.”

He looked down at his little buddy and then forward to watch Summers pull back from her new friend as tears of happiness shown in her eyes and she smiled brilliantly at the Asgard.

“I guess she does.”

“As do you.”

He flicked his dark gaze to Thor before he dropped his chin at the compliment. Buffy rose and offered another beaming smile to the Supreme Commander of the Asgard Fleet.

“I figured being head guy and all you probably wouldn’t welcome a hug.”

Thor inclined his head. “You are mistaken.”

Jack raised a brow as Buffy smiled and engulfed his little buddy in her arms. “How come I never got a hug?”

“You did not ask.” Thor stepped back from the Chosen One.

Jack shook his head and motioned Summers to stand by him. She nodded and clutched the crystal to her chest. “Thank you again.” Both nodded and Heimdall gave a small wave. “How are we getting…” Another flash of white light and Buffy looked around the room from her dream of Daniel and Jack. Three men glanced up at them from the head of the table surprised. She waved to the only one she recognized.

“Hi, Daniel.”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Dawn rolled onto her back to help alleviate the pressure she felt building behind her sinuses. Her face was tear stained and more made tracks from the corner of her eyes to fall silently into the feather down of her pillow. She watched the fan above her create lazy shadows across the ceiling and pulled Buffy’s lambswool cardigan closer to her chest.

She brought the cardigan whenever they traveled. It was pink and soft, easily stuffed into her carryon. She hadn’t had a chance to wash it yet and her scent still clung to the fabric. Breathing in the aroma of lavender and vanilla, Dawn felt more tears glide across the valley above her cheekbones. Moonlit Paths, Buffy’s favorite perfume and the one Dawn stole constantly when she had a date. She still had a bottle back at the school that had originally belonged to her sister.

Sitting up, she glanced around the empty room and slid the sleeves of the sweater up her arms to pull it tight across her chest. Giles’ words for her to stay safe still played around in her mind. He was the best non-dad a girl could ask for. She shivered in the air-conditioned room and stood to cross to her bag.

Kennedy had locked herself away in her and Willow’s room just a few doors down. She had pouted the entire trip back to the hotel, annoyed that she had been sent home to ‘baby-sit’ the younger Summers. She rolled her eyes and contemplated Faith knocking Kennedy off a cliff and into one of the many convenient gorges that the Grand Canyon offered. She allowed a small smile to twitch her lips as she imagined herself handing the young Slayer an anvil before she plummeted to her demise.

Dawn opened her travel bag with a hiss of the zipper releasing and reached in beneath her jeans and socks for the large crucifix that she knew lay at the bottom. When her fingers wrapped around the carved wood, a small sigh of relief expelled from her throat and she rose drawing the religious symbol out. Without a glancing in the mirror, she moved to the side table and grabbed a room key and her cell phone to shove in her back pocket and the crucifix slide into the space were her shorts met the small of her back. She opened the door and stepped hesitantly out into the hall before allowing the door to close behind her.

“Dawn Summers?”

A startled yelp escaped her lips and she spun to watch Teal’c rise from his seated position just outside her door.

“Murray, what are you doing here?”

“Colonel O’Neill requested that I watch over you until his and Buffy Summers return.”

Dawn shifted at the thought of the Colonel caring, but decided to ignore it in the face of bigger concerns. “When they return? Don’t you mean if?”

Teal’c inclined his head to the left. “I believe your sister will be returned to you.”

She blinked and gave him a small smile. “Thank you.”

He nodded to her.

She glanced up and down the vacant hall. “Do you wanna go for a walk with me?”

“That would be a sufficient way to pass the time.”

She nodded and they began the small trek to the elevators and Dawn watched him out of the corner of her eye. “Can I ask you something?” He angled his neck to look at her. “What’s your real name?”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Daniel sat across from Major Davis who was informing himself and the General of the Presidents elation with the turn of events. Hammond was currently standing and staring at the glass wall with his back to them.

“The President wishes to send his complements in regards to how this situation was handled and to inform us that the NID have shown a great interest in testing Ms. Summers abilities.”

Hammond turned around and his gaze narrowed on Davis. “I don’t think giving Ms. Summers over to the NID is the best course of action.”

“Neither does the President, but Senator Kinsey is throwing his support behind the civilian run organization, of course.”

Daniel stiffened. “Kinsey knows about Buffy?”

Davis shook his head, “At this point no, but it’s only a matter of time before he is given access to the information.”

The General sat at the head of the table and glanced between the two men. “Is the NID aware of Illyria?”

“No. According to all records, Dr. Burkle is alive and well, living in Rome with Ms. Summers. Though they are curious as to why she was granted access to the compound. I hoped to keep her involvement top-level clearance only.”

Daniel flicked his gaze to the pitcher of tulips and sighed. “She would not go peacefully if they tried to extract her.”

Major Davis nodded. “Exactly why her involvement should stay undisclosed…” He trailed off as Jack and Buffy appeared inside the room within a flash of light. He marveled at how tiny the little blonde was as she gave the room’s occupants a thorough once over. Her gaze brightened when it saw Dr. Jackson and she gave a frantic wave.

“Hi Daniel.”

“Hello Buffy.” He rose from his seat followed by the other two men.

The older man at the head of the table smiled at her and walked around to stand before her. “Hello Ms. Summers, I’m General George Hammond.”

She took his offered hand and offered him a tentative smile. “Hello.”

Davis stepped forward as well and she flicked her gaze to his. “Major Paul Davis. It’s good to see you well, Ms. Summers.”

She nodded. “Just Buffy and its good to be well.”

They stood awkwardly for a moment and she began to shift under the weight of the groups gaze. She took a small step back toward Jack who reached out and laid a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“Summers was just greeted by our friends the Asgard.” He rolled his eyes. “She hugged them.”

Buffy shot him a look over her shoulder and glanced back to see the amused faces of the males in the room. “They were cute!”

“You hugged them!”

“You’re not getting over this soon any time soon are you?” At his nod, she sighed. “You’re just jealous cause I got a little toy surprise.” She held up the crystal and it shimmered in the florescent light.

Daniel stepped forward and looked down at the Asgard technology. “Can I?” He reached out for it and she shrugged letting him take it from her grasp.

Jack shook his head and looked to his CO. “It’s a communication device. If she has any problems, she can contact them.”

General Hammond gave her a considering look. “The Asgard gave you a communication device?”

She shrugged. “Is that a biggie?”

Daniel shook his head while flipping the cloudy crystal over in his hand. “Jack’s never gotten one and he’s their favorite.”

Once again the males looked to her and she began to fidget. “Maybe they gave it to me because I’m pretty?”

Jack squeezed her shoulder once more before letting on. “Please…I’m way prettier than you.”

“Not quite.”

Jack sent Daniel an annoyed look. “Traitor.”

Major Davis stepped forward and tried to steer the conversation to a safer topic. “Ms. Summers I was supposed to give these to you as a small token of thanks from the President.” He motioned her to the tulips.

She gave a small gasp that only girls are allowed and stepped forward to touch one with her fingertips. As they grazed the satin skin of a petal, she almost purred. “Tulips. My favorite.” She looked back to Davis when he politely cleared his throat.

“The President wishes you well and hopes to meet with you in the near future.”

Her gaze traveled back to the others. “So everybody here knows about me being the Slayer?”

Davis shook his head. “Everyone in this room knows, not everyone on this base.”

“Oh.” Her voice was small as she considered complete strangers, her gaze shifted to Jack and Daniel, or nearly strangers knowing her secrets. She felt a little anxious. Okay, a lot anxious.

As if sensing her unease, Daniel stepped forward. “Would you like to see Illyria?”

Buffy nodded and glanced to the General. “Can I call my sister first?”

He turned to his second in command and Jack inclined his head in agreement that she could be trusted to use a phone. “Of course, Dr Jackson if you’ll take Ms. Summers to my office so that she can have some privacy.”

Daniel didn’t miss the meaningful glance sent his way. The General wanted privacy with Jack, as well. He nodded and led her to the adjourning room. She winked at him.

“Let me guess. Don’t tell her about aliens, no matter how adorable they are.”

Daniel laughed. “Correct…did you really hug them?”

“Yep. Heimdall and Thor.” She met his gaze unflinching. “I’m going to have to tell Dawn what happened eventually. I don’t lie to her.”

“But not tonight.”

She sighed and shook her head. “No, not tonight.”

Daniel lifted the receiver and handed it to her while she rattled off the phone number. It picked up on the second ring and Buffy closed her eyes at the confused sound of her sister’s voice.

“Hello?”

“Dawnie?” She whispered her name like a prayer.

“BUFFY!”

The Chosen Once yanked the receiver from her ear as the piercing shriek echoed in her eardrum.

“Hey Dawn, so how are things?” Try for casual.

“You’re okay? Alive?” Okay, casual wasn’t going to work.

Buffy frowned. “Of course I’m alive. How else would I be talking to you?” She rolled her eyes as her sister began to inform her of how ghosts have used electrical devices to speak with the living before. Didn’t she remember the movie ‘White Noise’ that Dawn had dragged her to last summer?

“Dawn! Not in the need for a lesson at the moment.”

“I’m sorry. I ramble when I’m nervous. When are you coming back?”

Buffy covered the mouthpiece with her palm and addressed Daniel. “When are we heading back to the site?”

He looked at her startled. “Uh…probably a day or two.”

She arched and eyebrow at the use of the term probably. “I’m not a prisoner.”

“No! Not at all…we should go see Illyria soon.”

Her gaze narrowed at his instant switch to her ally’s name when the word prisoner was used.

“Dawn? A day or two.”

“Who’s with you?” Her voice was curious.

“Daniel.”

“Tell him I say hi!”

Buffy tucked the phone behind her chin, “Dawn says hi.” She rolled her eyes and finished the conversation. “Let the others know I’m okay, will you?”

“Of course.” She paused. “Don’t scare me like that again.”

“I’ll try not to refrain from exploring ancient ruins. From here on out, I’m excavation site free.”

“Ha ha.” She could hear her sister’s eyes roll.

“Nobody likes a sarcastic laugh.”

“I’ll let the Giles know you’re okay…and still as annoying as ever.”

Buffy grinned in spite of her situation. “Let him know I’ll contact him in the morning, if permitted.” She sent Daniel a questioning look. He shrugged. She sighed.

“Hurry back.”

“Will do. Dawnie, I have to go check on Illyria.”

“Oh…be careful.” Her voice filled with worry.

“I will Mom.”

“Shut up. I love you.”

Buffy smiled and felt her throat constrict, “I love you too.”

She hung up the receiver and smiled at the linguist who offered her a hesitant one in return. Then her eyes widened in alarm. “I pointed a gun at you and sorry does not even begin to describe the guilties!”

Daniel blinked having forgotten about incident earlier with everything that had occurred. “Don’t worry its not the first time that’s happened.”

“That’s not very comforting.”

He winced and took a step forward his gaze searching hers. “How are you feeling?”

She shrugged. “In less than twenty four hours, I was nearly killed, had my DNA re-modified if I understand the cuties correctly, and found out we are absolutely not alone in the universe.” She cocked her head to the side as if considering. “Not the worst day I’ve ever had.”

“The most interesting?”

Her brows drew down. “Nope.”

Daniel’s rose and he took another step forward. “No? Is it at least in the top ten?”

She gazed up at him as he invaded her personal space and grinned. “Maybe.”

“We were…I was worried about you.”

His hand reached out to trace the side of her cheek. Her eyes drifted close and she let her head fell into the touch until his palm was cupping the side of her face. The warmth of his hand seeped into her chilled skin.

They separated with a jolt at the sharp rapping of knuckles against glass and both looked up to see Jack shaking his head at them.

“Come on, love birds.”

Buffy followed Daniel out of the small room and glared at the Colonel. “What is it with you and my love life?” At his confused look, she rolled her eyes and then frowned. “Where’d the Major go?”

“After your meeting with Illyria, I thought it best to allow everyone to call it a night and we would reconvene tomorrow morning after you under go a complete physical with Dr. Frasier.”

She winced at the mention of a doctor and sent the General a pleading look. “Do I have to? Can’t you see?” She gave a little spin. “Perfect health girl here. No need for doctors. Really.”

“After your ordeal, I would prefer to be cautious.”

“Fine.” Her arms crossed under her chest and she followed the men out of the room. Her pace slowed until she dragged behind them when she saw the elevator just ahead.

Daniel glanced back at her and then forward realizing her agitation. She sent him a fearful look as she flicked her gaze around. “Where are we?”

The General paused to glance back at her. “Just outside Colorado Springs, Colorado in a base beneath Cheyenne Mountain.”

Buffy stiffened searching the concrete around her. “Beneath?” She glanced up at the ceiling and could feel the earth above her. She shuddered and took another step forward. “As in we are under ground, beneath?”

Daniel’s eyes widened as he remembered her fear of being buried alive. He moved to her side and gently touched her shoulder.

“Yes.”

The color drained from her face. “How far beneath?”

Jack frowned at her sudden anxiety. “What’s wrong?”

Daniel glanced down at her, “I’ve worked here nearly eight years and there’s never been a cave in. Ever.”

Buffy took a shuddering breath and nodded before she motioned him forward. Daniel turned and gestured for the other men to continue walking. His brow drew down as her hand reached out to grasp the middle finger of his left hand. He gently extracted him self and then grasped her hand, intertwining their fingers and placing his wrist protectively over hers. She sent him a grateful smile as they stepped into the elevator and it began a steady rise up through the Earth.

She swallowed as her ears popped and winced as it came to a quick stop. Buffy was the first to exit the evil apparatus and she gently let go of Daniel as the essence of the Old One thrummed over her body and the fine hairs along the back of her neck stood on end.

She hadn’t noticed the difference while delusional, but Illyria now made her skin ache instead of crawl. The Slayer pushed her way through the din and followed the trail back to a thick metal door with two guards posted outside.

One of them opened it with a nod from General Hammond and Buffy stepped in. Her gaze was instantly drawn to Illyria who stood beside a plant. The demon stepped forward and Buffy felt relief flood her body.

The Old One’s eyes narrowed at the look of elation on her guides face as they were brought together.

“You wish to embrace me.”

Buffy took a few steps toward her and nodded. The demon rolled her eyes and walked around the bed separating them. She gave a small grunt as the Chosen One leapt at her and squeezed with all of her impressive strength.

Daniel, Jack and the General watched stunned as the demon’s eyes fell closed and she wrapped her armor-encased arms around Buffy’s waist. The ache in her chest eased at the contact of her guide and she pulled back to examine Buffy’s face.

“You are well?”

Buffy smiled. “Right as rain.” She paused. “Whatever that means.”

“It’s a play on words with right implying that something is satisfactory or comfortable…” Daniel trailed of at the looks of amusement he was receiving. “And that was a rhetorical statement.”

Buffy grinned, “Your brain is larger than most brains.”

Jack rolled his eyes. “Big and honkin.”

She turned her attention back to her ally. “I was worried about you.”

Illyria’s head angled. “I…grieved and threatened the Beta male.”

Buffy’s eyes widened and she spun back to give Daniel a once over her gaze focused on his bruised throat. She turned back to the demon eyes narrowed in irritation.

“What did I say about making nice?”

“They caused you harm.”

“It was an accident!”

Illyria smirked and flicked her gaze to the men in the room. “And if you had died, they would have had…accidents.”

Buffy’s lips quirked as her nostrils flared in a vain attempt to reign in her snort of laughter when she saw the amusement on the demon’s face. “Did you just make a funny?”

“A small one.”

Jack shook his head. “Yeah, jokes about killing me and Daniel are always hilarious.”

“Yes. They are.”

Jack glared at the demon and she smirked in return.

~~~@~~~@~~~@


Daniel leaned over the desk in his lab only minutes before midnight and he knew he should head home or at least to his private quarters to get some sleep before the meeting at 0900. A little less than an hour before, Illyria had once again returned to her study of the Ficus and he had left Buffy at the infirmary for over night observation. His mind would not slow down long enough for him to ponder sleep, so he contemplated getting up in search of coffee.

With a sigh, he pushed himself from his desk and pictures of an Ancient’s temple SG-18 had sent through on their last check in. He wanted a chance to see the ruins for himself, but the General had informed him that Dr. Evans could handle the preliminary recognizance on her own. The team was due back tomorrow he would have to wait until then.

There was a soft knock on the wall behind him. He spun to see Buffy standing just outside the room, her eyes scanning his lab with interest.

“Buffy?”

“Hey Dr. J.” She glanced back at her two-soldier escort and shrugged stepping into his space. Her hair was hung around her face damp from a recent shower and combed straight while her body was fitted with a tank top and drawstring pants with USAF insignia imprinted on them. She took another step towards him. “I was bored and kinda friendless. My new buddies thought you might be here.” She glanced behind him to see his workspace cluttered with paper. “Are you busy?”

He cleared his throat and shook his head. “No…I was just translating…uh things.” He moved forward and watched the two soldiers move to either side just outside the door.

“Frick and Frack get to be my shadows.” She put her hands behind her back and rolled to the balls of her bare feet.

Daniel glanced to the door again and shoved his hands in his pockets. “They’re for…”

“My protection. I know.”

“Actually, they’re for our protection.”

“Oh.” She paused and stared at him a moment. “You think you need protection from me?”

“More Illyria than you…but you have knocked four of our people unconscious.”

Buffy winced and took a small step back. “I plead extenuating circumstances. The First…” She trailed off and closed her mouth, eyes wide.

“The first what?”

“Not a big.” She wrapped her arms around her thin frame in a defensive motion and Daniel bit his lip.

“I could send them back to the infirmary to wait for you and then walk you back when you’re ready.” His offer made her face brighten.

“You’d do that?” Maybe he wasn’t afraid of her.

He nodded and walked out into the hall to converse with the two men. Buffy walked forward and gazed down at his desk. Her eyes were drawn to the colored photos decorating the surface as she scanned the ruins her features pulled into a frown at the destruction of the smooth arches of stone and marble. Her gaze traced the writing on one of the walls and she spoke the words without thinking. As her eyes focused on the rectangular symbols, her minds was already translating them into a language she understood.

“The Elder Things were, the Elder Things are and the Elder Things shall be.”

“What did you say?”

She glanced up and quickly stepped back from his desk. His gaze was too intense, too focused. She shifted under his study.

“I know what the ruins say.” She motioned to the pictures and then stiffened shocked. “How do I know what they say?”

Daniel frowned. “I don’t know. A byproduct of your…”

“Please don’t say transformation.”

“Uh…initiation?”

She blinked and then smiled at him. “Do I get a pin?”

He leaned back against the table and crossed his arms in a position that Buffy had come to call his ‘self hug’. She angled her head and waited for his brows to draw downward and she wasn’t disappointed, but had to hold back her snort of laughter.

“The temple made you a conduit for the Earth’s energy and put the information of how to use the temple in your mind. So it’s logical to assume the Ancients gave you the ability to read their language as well.”

She nodded her face solemn. “Completely logical.”

“And now you’re mocking me.”

She flashed him a smile and moved up to begin looking at the pictures again. “But I’m agreeing with you.”

“While mocking.”

He looked at her over the rim of his glasses and she groaned. “Don’t do that.” She tapped his arm. “That’s the same look Giles gives me when I tease him. Next you’ll be polishing your glasses constantly and telling me my music is nothing but noise.”

“It probably is.” His lips pulled back into a completely false smile.

She rolled her eyes and began to shuffle around the pictures on the desk and placed them in the order the ruins would stretch out on the planet’s surface. Her brow drew together and Daniel watched her silently. As the pieces of the puzzle filtered through her brain she flicked some pictures upside down and studied the writing intently. She angled a few pictures and over lapped others as she made shapes he hadn’t seen before come alive before their gazes.

Daniel couldn’t help stop his lips from quirking with delight when her tongue peeked out of the corner of her mouth after a few minutes of absorbed study. Her eyes were scanning the photos intently and her concentration was wholly on the task before her and he wondered again why she hadn’t bothered to help them with the puzzle of the temple. He must have made a noise of amusement because she glanced up and blushed under his perusal.

“What?”

His smile spread. “Nothing.”

Her eyes narrowed in annoyance. “Yah think if I ask the General’s permission to beat you, he’d give it?”

He rolled his eyes at her sarcasm. “You and Jack…” Buffy angled her body to face him. “Uh…you have very similar personalities. It’s kind of creepy.” She frowned at him and he cleared his throat. “Disturbing?”

She sighed and her shoulders dropped with the movement. “That’s what Thor said.”

“Really? What else did he say?”

Buffy opened her mouth and then snapped it shut with another blush staining her cheeks. “Ask your friend Jack.”

He raised an eyebrow at the term ‘your friend’. “What did he do?”

She shifted uncomfortable with the question. “Jack mentioned there being a…thing between me and you to the Asgard.” Daniel’s other brow rose to meet his brother as Buffy finished in a rush. “So Thor said that if you and I procreated we would have proficient children.”

“That’s…” He cleared his throat and closed his eyes for a moment before speaking. “Uh…interesting.” His eyes were unconsciously drawn to the slope of her tan shoulder and the hint of collarbone that peeked out from beneath the tank top.

She gave him a very sweet smile. “I got him back by telling him Illyria said the same thing about him and Sam.”

Daniel gave a startled laugh. “She did?”

“Yep.” Buffy leaned into him slightly. “Lyri is a little empathic.” She inhaled the scents of clove and juniper. It filled her senses and made her head swim.

He stared at her. “Empathic? So she can sense what we’re feeling?”

She nodded and shrugged. “She finds most things amusing, including human attraction.”

“That’s…scary actually.”

“Just a smidgen.” She gave Daniel a considering look. “Though you seem to bug her more than most.”

“I do?”

Buffy raised a brow and shifted her attention back to the ruins stretched out beneath her gaze. “It’s the chamber for the Elder Things.” Trying to focus on something other than the man standing beside her.

Daniel shook his head and gently turned her from the worktable. “I’m not sure if you should be reading those.”

“Okay.” She flicked her gaze away from his and tried not to feel the warmth his body emanated. She had been so cold since her return from Thor’s ship.

Daniel felt the shift from casual to hyperawareness and swallowed around the lump that filled his throat. His hands rested on both of her shoulders and watched as his thumbs without his minds consent gently swept along her collarbones.

Her eyes flicked close at the simple contact and her breath eased out across his cotton-covered chest. Her stomach tightened as his hands rose to her throat and his thumbs treated her jaw line to the same sweeping caress. She opened her eyes and placed her hands to either side of his waist as their gazes met, locked.

The slow burning embers of desire sparked between them as Daniel lowered his head and Buffy rose to meet him. Their lips met. Brushed. They danced along each other waiting until one or both gave and the heat crashed through them. With a nearly desperate cry, she opened for him. His mouth ate at hers, devoured her whole and she arched against him craving more.

Her hands pulled at the hem of his shirt yearning for the feel of skin. Warmth. Vitality. Her finger skimmed along the contours and valleys of his bare back memorizing the texture, the play of muscles. She felt his lips glide across hers; open wider and she swallowed his moan as she pulled herself flush against his body. Pressing them together in a curved line from chest to hip.

Daniel’s hands lowered from her hair and throat, back to her shoulders and he reluctantly pulled back from her embrace. She blinked up at him, eyes clouded with desire. Her cheeks and throat flushed as she relearned how to breathe.

He reached out and pushed the damp hair from her shoulders to lie against her back. His fingers pressed into the rise of her shoulders as he watched Buffy hesitantly raise her eyes to meet his.

“That was…is wow a descriptive word?”

He smiled at her and stole a page from Jack’s book. “I could go for some pie.”

She cocked her head to the side. “Pie?” At his nod, she grinned. “I could eat pie.” She motioned him to lead the way.

As they left his room, the silence between them was less strained but still unnerving. Buffy fidgeted with the silver chain encircling her throat, tugging it into an unending spiral around her neck.

“Do we have to take the elevator?” Daniel paused and sent her, a considering look before taking the next right that led them toward a door labeled stairs. Buffy sent him a grateful smile.

“Have I mentioned yet, that you’re the best?”

“As of yet? No.”

“Consider it mentioned.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Well, thank you.”

“So how do you know Cordy?”

The question caught him off guard and he tripped on one of the steps. Her arm shot out and grasped his, steadying his balance.

“Thanks.” He coughed and glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. “Would you believe me if I said I didn’t remember?”

She inclined her head. “If you don’t remember, how do you know you don’t remember? And was that my single most sense lacking sentence ever?”

“It’s a long story and no.”

She heard the tone in his voice that maybe this subject was taboo, but she shrugged her shoulders as they passed another landing. “I have some long stories of my own.”

“Thor mentioned to Jack that you’ve saved the universe twice.”

She considered that thought for a moment before answering. “The universe? I never thought of it in those terms before.” She cocked her head to the side. “Huh.”

Daniel let her ponder as they passed level 21, only one more flight to go. “And that you died.”

She glanced at him. “Which time?”

He stopped in mid step and watched her back as she continued down the stairs. He shook his head and hurried to catch up. He knew his shock should not be as engulfing, but the thought of her dead was doing interesting things to his chest compressions.

He motioned her to stop and opened the door for her and was still trying to wrap his mind around her dieing as he led her to the mess hall.

“I didn’t mean to make you go all nonverbal.” She paused and sent him a teasing look. “At least not with this conversation as the reason.”

Daniel blinked and decided to ignore the information about her death and ask something else that had been nagging at the back of his mind.

“What’s it like being a mythical…uh, being?”

Her eyes narrowed. “You were gonna say creature, weren’t you?”

Daniel coughed into is hand. “Well…uh…that’s neither here nor there.”

“Uh huh.”

“So…what’s it like?”

“You’re a little peculiar.” She smiled. “I kinda like that.”

Chapter 6: Older Men declare War…

Older men declare war. But it is the youth that must fight and die.
Herbert Hoover

Faith contemplated grabbing the back of the soldier’s head and bringing it forward into his security desk. Her fingertips tingled with the urge to do just that, so she shoved her hands deep into the pockets of her jeans. Though with her jeans as tight as they were, she was forced to shove the hip huggers down lower and expose the smooth line of skin between her hipbones. The soldier’s gaze was drawn there for a moment and she felt Wood stiffen beside her. She sniggered at her own train of thought.

“Major Davis cleared our entrance last night. We are to be given full access to your base.”

The airman shook his head with the phone still pressed to his ear, “You have to wait for an escort.” His tone implied how little he thought of him and his female companion.

Faith’s eyes narrowed as she reached out and tore the receiver from his grasp. With a small compression of her fist the plastic cracked and exploded into smaller fragments and wires.

“Let us see B or the next thing to explode is gonna be your face.” The soldier’s eyes widened and he reached for his weapon as the elevator doors retracted and two men stepped into the hall behind the security desk.

Faith felt the men that had been watching the first checkpoint move to stand behind her. She slid onto the balls of her feet and loosened the muscles in her thighs in preparation to beat the shit out of someone.

The two men from the elevator frowned at the situation they had walked into. The one that was slightly shorter and had green eyes shook his head as he stepped forward.

“Stand down gentlemen.” His voice was soft but rang with authority. Faith smirked as the men to her back shifted away and the guy behind the desk frowned.

Wood looked to the two newcomers and offered them a welcoming nod. “Hello, I’m Robin Wood and this is my associate Faith.”

Green eyes nodded in return. “Major Paul Davis and this Dr. Daniel Jackson.”

Faith flicked her gaze to B’s new love interest and couldn’t help the throaty chuckle of approval. His chinos and hiking boots made her think little D was right, he did make you think yummy college professor and the glasses only added to the image. Not that she had ever gone to college, but she had seen pictures... and those movies on Lifetime.

Wood stepped forward and offered his hand to the two men who smiled and gave back meaningless pleasantries. Her gaze flicked to Davis and she smiled in appreciation of the little hottie. His face was, oh so serious, and if she hadn’t had Wood in her corner she might have made a play for him. She scratched might and made it a definite when he gave her a hesitant smile causing his eyes to get the friendliest little lines around them.

She took his offered hand with a slow smirk in return. “Hey.”

He sent her a confused look and she felt Wood’s annoyance with her flirting. It made her smile widen. She flicked her brown eyes to Daniel and shook his hand as well giving her grip an extra squeeze for measure. He frowned and flinched, but refrained from rubbing the sore skin and she nodded in approval.

“Interesting shirt.”

She glanced down and smirked at the gothic scrawled words of “pardons rock”, a gift from Andrew.

“Thanks.”

“Shall we?”

Faith grinned at the little Major. “Lead the way, Stud.”

He blinked and shook his head before stepping back into the elevator. Faith felt Wood place an arm around her shoulders and she looked up to see him giving her his patent ‘behave’ glare. She chuckled and waited for the fun to begin.

The fun was a no show— or waiting in the wings— as Wood and Faith waded through two more security checks and one pat down. The dark Slayer had threatened broken skulls if the guy brushed her ‘secret no, no touch’ spot. The airman managed to contain himself and avoided searching that particular area.

As they began their second and final descent in yet another elevator Faith glanced around the confined space.

“How’d you get B in this thing?”

Daniel glanced back at her. “She was unconscious the first time.”

Faith raised a brow. “Does she know she’s underground?”

Daniel winced. “She’s aware, yes.”

The brunette sent him a thoughtful look. “B told you about her phobia.” She made it a statement but he nodded anyway, and Faith’s eyes widened. “Don’t take this the wrong way Professor, but that’s kinda impressive.”

Daniel frowned at the nickname, “How so?”

“You’re grunt worthy and all, but B doesn’t usually share that info with just anybody.”

Davis flicked his gaze between a blushing Daniel and the amused Slayer. He shook his head and directed his question to Robin. “How many members are there in your Watcher’s Council?”

He inclined his head before answering. “Five main and two subs are the heads of the Council, but there are over nine hundred sanctioned members worldwide, and we’re a growing community.”

The Major nodded as if already aware of the information and he had just wanted it confirmed. “Only the heads have been given clearance.”

Robin met his gaze. “I understand that you would prefer we not disclose any information pertaining to the temple to anyone outside of our top branches. However, you should understand that I am only acting as a stand-in for Rupert Giles. He is the leader of our organization and will be updated accordingly.”

Faith rolled her eyes at the legal garble and let the elation at the thought of sparring with B and Ill fill her face with delight. Her gaze flicked around the small elevator and she absently counted the floors they passed. There had to be an open space they could loan to the Senior Slayers for an hour. Or three.

As they pulled into a seamless stop on level 27, Faith exited the elevator and paused at the chill that swept over her skin. A familiar ache told her B was nearby, but the steady hum of power wasn’t coming from her sister Slayer.

The Professor lead them down a narrow corridor of dull concrete and boring BDU wearing, cookie cutter men. Faith rolled her eyes at the lack of imagination their armed forces had when it came to fashion and then winced at how very Buffy that thought was. They really needed to stop having post-slayage phone calls, as much fun as they were. Buffy did wonders for Faith’s morale, but there really wasn’t enough room in her brain to remember why Prada was a godsend.

As they reached the far end of the hall, blue eyes paused and motioned her and Robin in first. She crossed the threshold only to be stilled at the sudden ache pulling at her core. Her gaze traveled the room of four men and Ill. Her eyes widened as she realized that it was the Old One causing her spider sense to jump from tingle to purr. The demon met Faith’s gaze and rolled her eyes at the two soldiers stationed behind her.

“Ill, have you been eating your Wheaties?”

The demon inclined her head toward the brunette Slayer as she tried to comprehend the question. “I have not retained sustenance since my arrival.”

“Do you require food?”

Faith flicked her gaze to the important looking guy at the head of the table as the Old One answered. “I do not.”

Faith frowned as she came to a realization. “Where’s B?”

Illyria merely raised a brow, “She is undergoing experimentation.”

“What?!”

The important guy rose from his seat and glared at the demon, “Ms. Summers is receiving a complete physical to make sure she is in perfect health before we proceed with our conference.”

Faith let out a breath and Robin stepped forward. “Hello, I’m Robin Wood.”

“General George Hammond and this is Colonel Jack O’Neill.” Robin exchanged handshakes with the two men and they both turned to Faith expectantly.

She rolled her eyes. “Faith.”

“Do you have a last name?”

She arched a brow as her gaze flicked over the Colonel. “Yeah.”

He frowned. “What is it?”

“None of your damn business.”

He raised a brow at her. “Is that all one word, or does it have a hyphen?”

Daniel cleared his throat and stepped further into the room. “Why don’t we all sit and wait for Buffy to arrive.”

Robin nodded and followed Faith as she took a seat beside the demon. His gaze narrowed at the Old One. “Illyria.”

“Wood.”

The members of the SGC exchanged glances at the less than warm welcome between the two. Daniel found his people looking to him to break the ice and he shrugged.

“Uh…so Mr. Wood, how did you become involved with the Watcher’s Council?”

He arched a brow at the man’s obvious attempt at peace and smiled. “My mother was a Slayer.”

Daniel smiled in return clearly fascinated. “Really?”

“Yes. When she died, I was raised by her Watcher.”

The linguist’s exuberance wilted at the edges as he came to the realization that Slayers did die. Usually young.

“I’m sorry.”

Robin gave him a small nod in return. “Can you tell us why you required our presence here?”

Davis answered. “If you don’t mind, I’d prefer to have Ms. Summers present so that we won’t have to go over everything twice.” He offered them a pleasant smile and Illyria’s eyes narrowed.

The demon turned to the brunette at her side. “I am uninterested with their hospitalities.”

Faith raised a brow. “Bored?”

“Immensely.”

Robin cleared his throat. “Ladies.” They both sent him an irritated look that he pointedly ignored to ask the Major, “How many in your operation are aware of Buffy’s Slayer stasis?”

“The people in this room and three others.”

Robin nodded. “Good. We would like to keep this information to top ranking officers only.”

General Hammond nodded. “Understandable. Though you should know that an organization known as the NID have shown interest in speaking with Ms. Summers.”

Wood frowned. “The NID? How did they become aware of her?”

“The National Intelligence Division is a civilian run government operation that uses less than honorable methods to gain access to important information or technologies…”

“They’re slimy bastards with no sense of right or wrong.”

Hammond sent his second an amused glance but continued on, “We believe Ms. Summers was brought to their attention by a Dr. Maggie Walsh, a rogue NID agent who was based out of Sunnydale for a short time.”

“She was also the one in charge of the Initiative project beneath Sunnydale University.” Robin arched a brow at the surprised looks he received. “Rupert briefed me on the operation and Buffy’s history with the military before we came.”

Daniel shook his head. “Everyone in your organization knows about the Initiative?”

“The heads of the Council.”

Davis frowned, but nodded his head in understanding. “Before you brief you’re council, I’ll need them to sign disclosure agreements.”

“Of course.” Faith snorted and Robin glanced over at her. He frowned at what he saw. “Are you and Illyria thumb wrestling?”

Jack laughed and watched the brunette send her escort an annoyed look. They placed their intertwined hands on the top of the table and he watched the demon win with a smirk gracing her lips.

“How old are you two?”

Faith arched a brow at Jack. “Twenty three and old enough to have eaten cave people.”

The Old One flicked her gaze to her. “I have never consumed your race. Though your taste has been compared to chicken by my brethren.” The demon shifted her focus to the entrance of the briefing room.

Faith grinned and opened her mouth, but trailed off at a familiar tingle, and looked toward the door expectantly. Her sister Slayer was coming.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

“I did mention I was sorry about your head, right?”

Janet raised a brow at the tiny blonde who sat with her legs swinging over the side of the gurney. “Several times.”

“Good.” Her eyes widened at the sight of a large needle being aimed at her arm. “So I’m forgiven?”

The doctor sighed and paused with the vial hovering over Buffy’s brachial artery. “Is something wrong?”

The blonde’s eyes were locked on the needle glinting in the bright lights above them. “I’m just having a tiny problem with someone who’s mad at me drawing my blood. Those two things should never mesh. Ever.”

Janet coughed to cover her laugh and met her gaze solemnly. “Do you know what makes me agitated?”

Buffy closed one eye and winced. “What?”

“Someone asking me the same question over and over.”

“Oh. OH!” The needle pressed into her skin and she watched her blood slowly fill the plastic tube.

“Your blood pressure is fairly low for someone who’s nervous.”

Buffy sent the woman an indignant look. “I’m not nervous. I just have a healthy respect for needles and those who wield them.”

Janet smiled and placed a small cotton swab against her skin and gently removed the offending metal from her flesh.

“You were very good. Do you want a sucker?”

Green eyes narrowed on the doctor. “Funny…do you have any Blow Pops?”

“Did Colonel O’Neill put you up to this?”

“No.” Buffy cocked her head to the side. “Why?”

The doctor smiled, even more amused than before. Remembering the secret candy stash that Jack always stole from, she nodded. “I might have some Blow Pops. What flavor?”

“Sour Apple.”

Janet swabbed the endangerment zone with antiseptic once more and wrapped a brilliantly pink band-aid over the puncture. “We’ll stop by my office on the way to the briefing and your done, for now.”

“For now?”

“For now.” Her voice held no room for argument and Buffy contemplated making a face at her back but refrained. She had that mom vibe and stare, the one that could pause a misbehavior at twenty paces.

She hopped from the gurney and sighed at the heavy sound her regulation boots made against the concrete floor. She frowned down at her green fatigues and black tank top. Buffy winced at the lack of statement and the fact that, like any emergency room, the infirmary here had cut off the clothes that got in their way, instead of pulling them off. Apparently, they had lost her hiking boots in the transfer and she was more than a little peeved at that fact. She had grown fond of them in their so few days of service.

Her head came up as Janet motioned her to follow and the two women fell into a comfortable silence. Only pausing in their quick strides to stop by Janet’s office as requested and pick up a Blow Pop. Buffy had grinned and quickly unwrapped the treat to place it on her tongue.

Her face remained impassive on the elevator ride down, but Janet could have sworn she crossed herself. They exited and made their way toward the briefing room only to share an amused glance at Jack’s loud bray of laughter.

Buffy arched a brow as her two escorts moved to either side of the door and allowed her entrance. Her gaze traveled the room and lit up when they landed on Faith.

“B!” The brunette stood and quickly walked to the door. Their eyes locked and neither knew if they should embrace the other. “Screw it.” The dark Slayer pulled her forward into a massive bear hug. Buffy laughed and squeezed her back. Faith pulled back and locked her eyes on the Blow Pop stick.

“Hey, how come you got a sucker?”

The blonde showed her the small pink bandage around her arm. “I gave blood and got a treat.”

The brunette glanced to the woman in the white coat. “You the doc?”

“Janet Frasier.”

She raised brow and continued, “If I give blood, can I get a beer?” Jack’s head perked up at just the sound of the word.

“Faith! It’s nine in the morning.”

Faith glanced back at her with a wink. “Damn B. Hospitals. Underground. Military. It’s like they rolled all your worst nightmares into one neat little package.”

The blonde shuddered. “As long as they keep out drowning, we’ll be good.”

Daniel opened his mouth, but Jack beat him to speaking, “For a Superhero, you’ve got a lot of phobias.”

Buffy narrowed her gaze on him. “I never said I was a Superhero, dork.”

Jack sat up a little straighter and leaned into Daniel. “Did she just call me a dork?”

“Yes.”

He nodded and grinned. “Just checking.” His list of reasons for grudgingly liking Summers was slowly growing. Damn.

Faith swung an arm around her shoulders and began to lead her to sit on the other side of Illyria. She smiled at Robin. “Hey Wood.”

He rose and gave her cheek a gentle kiss. “I’m glad you’re okay.”

“Me too.”

General Hammond smiled at the young woman as she sat. “How are you feeling today Ms. Summers?”

“Peachy, with a side of keen.”

Daniel frowned when he realized that the Watcher’s Council was seated against the far wall with the table between their two parties. General Hammond sat at the head, but his body language was shifted toward his second who sat to his right, with Buffy to his left. Imaginary lines, drawn through the sand.

“Hello, Ms. Summers.” Buffy sent Davis a weak smile as he removed several documents from his briefcase. “These are Standard Confidentiality Agreements. I’m going to have to require all of you to sign before we can begin.” He handed them to the members of the Council and Robin flicked his gaze to the two men behind Illyria.

“I would prefer anything that we discuss be between the main members of our parties.” He nodded his head to the two men.

Hammond frowned. “They are here for our protection. Illyria has threatened bodily harm to my people on more than one occasion while a guest of this facility.”

Robin nodded. “If she was not a part of this meeting…”

“Then neither am I.”

Faith nodded at Buffy’s interruption. “Damn straight.”

The demon raised a brow and sat back at the familiar dissension among the ranks. “Buffy, Faith, I don’t mean any disrespect to your friendship, but she is not a member of the Council.”

“Are we?”

Hammond stiffened at the question coming from someone he thought held one of the highest seats. Buffy’s eyes flicked to Robin and she shook her head before signing the document and meeting the General’s gaze.

“If she gives her word that she won’t harm any of you...?”

Hammond glanced to Jack who was frowning at the people across the table. His brown eyes flicked to his commander and gave a barely recognizable nod. He sighed and lifted his gaze to Dr. Jackson who nodded as well.

“Very well.”

Buffy sent him a beaming smile that he couldn’t help but return. She turned to Illyria and whispered into her ear, the demon raised a brow and nodded.

“King, no harm will come to you and your people by my actions this day.”

Jack shook his head. “This day?”

Buffy coughed and lightly touched her arm, Illyria rolled her eyes and spoke again. “No harm will come to you and your people by my actions while my guide still lives.”

Faith laughed and Jack glared. “Do you have to keep saying it like that?”

The Old One inclined her head. “Like what?”

“Leaning toward the fact that one day you will harm us.”

“If you see my words as a threat O’Neill, you are incorrect. I am merely striving for honesty. I know how much your breed prefers it.”

He opened his mouth to comment on the ‘your breed’ part when a realization dawned on him. “Are you yanking my chain?”

“Yes.”

Faith shook her head and signed along the dotted line as the General excused Ill’s entourage of armed guards. She was about to pass it to the Major when Jack snatched it and read her last name.

“Smith! You were hiding the last name Smith?”

She smirked as Robin handed his own in, and then proceeded to flick the Colonel off.

Davis shook his head and looked to the demon sitting between the two Slayers. “Ms…Illyria, is there a problem?”

She glanced up at him her blue eyes clouded. “Do you wish me to sign as my shell or bind myself to your contract?”

He blinked and looked to the blonde beside her. Buffy pulled the green sucker from her mouth, “Bind.”

She inclined her neck and flipped the papers to the last page. As her right hand rose over the line, blue electricity arched between her fingertips. Janet felt the small hairs on her arm rise in the suddenly static charged room and watched as a small bolt of lightening struck the paper and a blue flame flickered for a moment before dousing itself. The doctor blinked at the display and sat up straighter in her chair.

Smoke curled delicately up from the document and Daniel reached across the table to pull it before him. A diminutive crescent with a horned tip leading from one end and a triangle with symbol he had never seen before attached to the other was burnt into the paper and possibly the table. Jack leaned over his shoulder and gave a low whistle.

“How’d you do that?”

Wood’s eyes had narrowed during the small display of power that should not have been possible. “Yes, Illyria, how did you do that?”

“I am an Old One.”

His face pulled down, “That’s not an answer.”

Buffy sighed and removed her Blow Pop, “Giles is in the know, so drop it.” Her gaze flicked to Davis. “The floor is yours.”

He raised a brow but nodded his head. He moved to stand beside the wall across from General Hammond and he flicked a small remote in his hand. An insignia filled the far wall and Daniel watched the expressions across from them.

SGC’s crest was fairly unimpressive with the basic concept of the USAF behind the chevron symbol for Earth and a circle acting as base with a vague reference to the Stargate.

“Welcome to Stargate Command.”

Faith arched a brow and waited for the picture to become more interesting. Her brows drew down when Major Hottie flicked his little button and a metal circle filled the wall. She traced the three-tiered ring with her gaze in surprise. The outer layer was thick with seven large triangles lying in perfectly spaced increments from one another with the inner layer having geometric type shapes drawn along it. The center ring appeared to be just for stabilization.

“The Stargate.”

“Chappa’ai.”

Buffy meet Davis’ gaze and shook her head for him to continue on around Illyria’s interruption.

“The device was discovered in Giza, Egypt in 1925 where it had laid buried for several thousands of years. The device works as a transportation device between planets…”

“What?!” Buffy reached around Illyria and pulled Faith back into her seat. The brunette Slayer spun to meet her gaze and stopped when she saw her face. “B, please tell me you didn’t hop the nut job train.”

“We can ask questions when he’s finished.”

“But…”

“Wait ’til the end.”

Faith slumped back in her chair and crossed her arms as she glared up at the offending picture.

Buffy turned back to the Major and was offered a grateful smile. “Thank you, Ms. Summers.”

Jack and Hammond exchanged a glance at how easily she calmed the outspoken woman. They shrugged to one another and returned to their study of the other members of the Watcher’s Council; Illyria appeared bored, while Buffy and Robin listened attentively.

“As I was saying, the Stargate acts as a transportation device between worlds by establishing and maintaining an active wormhole. The seven chevrons around the outer layer act as destination codes. You enter in seven of the Glyphs from the inner ring and it activates the Stargate of the planet you’re dialing.”

Illyria addressed the band of primitives. “How did you decipher the conundrum of the Chappa’ai?”

Davis turned to the demon. “That would be Dr. Jackson who successfully interpreted the symbols on the gate and allowed us to begin a routine exploration of alien worlds. Since that time, we have explored hundreds of worlds and thousands more remain.”

Robin shook his head. “This is all fascinating, but how does it pertain to our organization?”

Daniel turned a questioning gaze to Davis who nodded and gave him the floor. “The Stargate was built by a race of aliens we know as the Ancients. They came to our galaxy as explorers and…”

“Seeded life in the Milky Way.”

The members of the Watcher’s Council turned to Illyria. Robin shifted in his seat so he could stare at the Old One. “What did you say?”

“The Ancients came to this world and brought forth mortal life. Helped your kind push back my brethren and locked us in the Deeper Well, sheltering your breed from our true nature. They tore our Lords from this planet and imprisoned them in another so that we would not be capable of aiding them.”

“So they gave humanity a fighting chance.”

Illyria arched a brow at Faith’s comment. “They created your lineage.”

The dark Slayer stopped and shook her head. “Huh?”

“They made us to fight a war they started.”

Faith turned to Buffy. “You believe this?”

“I’ve had a little longer to let it sink in.”

Daniel leapt into the conversation. “The temple that was discovered was built by the Ancients as a type of defense against enemies to our planet. There is a race of parasitic aliens called the Goa’uld. They inhabit humans as hosts against their will and are inherently evil.”

“And we’re currently on their hit list.” Jack sat forward and Davis turned the projector off and the lights on. His show and tell was useless at this point as the questions flew about the room.

Faith shook her head, “Let me get this straight. You found a gate that goes to other worlds. Pissed off some badass aliens from said worlds and now they want to come to our planet and destroy us.”

Daniel and Jack glanced at one another before the Colonel nodded. “That about covers it.”

“Son of a bitch.” Her was voice faintly mocking.

Robin cleared his throat before speaking. “I’m still unsure where we fit in.”

“They want to destroy the world. We’re in the world, yo.”

Buffy sent Faith an amused look. “The temple was built for the Omega of the Chosen One line to use in the End of Days or whenever. Apparently I’m the last Chosen One, but should anything happen to me, Faith can step up.”

The brunette’s eyes widened. “Have the buck stop with me? Hell no. B, don’t die…again.”

The blonde rolled her eyes. “Thanks.”

Janet sat forward then and aimed her question at Buffy. “You’ve died?”

“A time or two.”

Faith snorted and sat back, enjoying her sister Slayer’s squirm. “I thought you’d hit three by now.”

“I have not died three times!”

“Pfft!”

“Faith.” The blonde’s voice lowered in warning and Daniel shifted at how similar she and Jack became when provoked. Then he frowned as his mind processed what exactly the two women were talking about.

“You’ve died three times?”

Jack coughed at the slight upward pitch to Daniel’s voice, with his not-so-subtle question. Buffy glanced around at the expectant faces and sighed.

“Can we not talk about my deaths?”

“Afterwards.”

Buffy met the doctor’s gaze and her shoulders dropped. “Fine.”

Faith shook her head. “Aliens are real?”

Davis nodded. “Yes.”

“Really real?”

Daniel and Hammond shared an amused glance as the Major smiled. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Like I could go through your Stargate and pound one?”

Jack smirked, beginning to like the brunette. “Yeah, kid.”

“Wicked.”

Robin shook his head. “I’m going to need more information.” He met Major Davis’ gaze. “May we speak privately?”

The Pentagon representative inclined his head. “Of course.” He looked to the General who nodded. “If you’ll please follow me.”

The two men exited the room and Janet rose while meeting Buffy’s gaze. “My office, 1600.”

Buffy blew a bubble with the gum from her sucker and popped it at Janet’s back.

“Damn B, interstellar travel. Who’da thunk it?”

The blonde arched an eyebrow. “We fight demons on a nightly basis and you’re blown away by aliens?”

General Hammond smiled to the two women. “I need to make a few calls if you ladies will excuse me?” Jack rose with his General, who nodded respectively and left.

Faith nodded, still dazed, and Buffy waved. Daniel met her gaze, amused, and she offered him a tentative smile while Faith pulled herself from her stupor.

“I feel the need to pummel something. Ill? B?”

Buffy grinned. “Haven’t had a good brawl in days.”

Illyria simply rose from her seat and waited for the two women. Faith turned her attention to Jack. “Colonel, you got a large open space around here where I can kick their collective asses?”

Jack frowned. “We’ve got a gym.”

“Perfect.”

Buffy stood and gave her sister Slayer a disbelieving stare. “Kick our ass?”

“B, you and Ill have gotten soft in your old age, just admit it.”

Buffy turned to Daniel and Jack with a smile. “Wanna tag along?”

Both men exchanged a glance and Jack shrugged before nodding to the linguist. “I’ll lead the way.”

“I’d follow that tight behind anywhere.”

Jack stopped and turned back to the dark Slayer. “Are you going to critique my backside the entire time?”

“Probably.”

“You need me to drop something and pick it up?”

The brunette grinned and moved forward to link arms with him. “Is there any way down here I could get a beer? Possibly some J and D?”

“Faith, still in the a.m.”

Buffy let Illyria stride through the door and watched, slightly amazed, as Jack completely dismissed her and Illyria’s entourage. They exchanged surprised looks, but nodded to their CO and left the hall in the opposite direction of the mismatched group. Illyria inclined her head in thanks, but refrained from speaking. Buffy rolled her eyes and fell into step beside Daniel after he left word with one of the guards to inform Major Davis and Robin where they would be.

“Hey there, Sunshine.”

He blinked and sent her a look out of the corner of his eye. “Morning.”

“So, that was the most fun you could have had without actually having any.”

He mulled over the sentence for a moment before he deciphered it. “It could have been worse.”

“Someone could have died.”

“Exactly.”

She smiled at him, “You still owe me a dinner.”

He nodded. “Pie, notwithstanding.”

She linked her arm through his, just as Faith had done with the Colonel. Daniel couldn’t help the warmth that spread from the casual contact and he glanced down to see if it had the same effect for her. The slopes of her cheeks were flushed, but he reasoned that could have been due to the thought of impending violence.

“Do you spar with each other often?”

Buffy glanced up, catching him in his perusal. “Whenever we can.”

“This should be interesting.”

Buffy glanced up at the sound of Faith’s throaty laugh and saw the smile on Jack’s face as he turned to her. Her brows drew downward and her voice became soft, considering.

“Yeah, interesting.”

Faith paused outside the elevator doors and glanced between Jack and Daniel. “So this place is like that ‘Wormhole Extreme’ show?”

Jack raised a brow at her. “You actually watched that?”

Buffy frowned, glancing between them. “What show?”

Jack shook his head. “That’s sad.”

“Hey, prison is boring.”

“You were in prison!?”

Illyria’s own gaze narrowed as she placed her form in the farthest corner of the elevator with her back to the cool metal. She ignored the inconsequential banter of her guide and her allies as the confined space moved her through the earth. She loathed the metal box of death.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Willow sat across from Dawn and beside Kennedy as the thin brunettes shoveled massive quantities of waffles doused in syrup into their mouths. She sipped her orange juice and winced at the bitter aftertaste. Her eggs and sausage lay untouched across her plate as she contemplated the fact that aliens were real and she had sorta met one the night before.

Dawn’s green eyes were bright and clear as she sipped her water and sent the redhead a smile. Her sister was alive with Robin and Faith as back up, not to mention the power of an Old One at her disposal. Things were looking up.

“Are you okay?”

Willow flicked her gaze to Kennedy who was watching her, concerned. She offered her a hesitant smile.

“Yeah.” She paused and picked up a piece of sausage, taking a small bite. The warm meat made her stomach roll and she placed it on her plate without finishing. “I guess I’m not very hungry.”

Dawn looked up at her, “Maybe toast?”

She nodded and silently promised herself to order some when the waitress made her rounds for drinks.

“So Buffy and Illyria were okay?”

Dawn lowered her fork before she answered, “Buffy was upbeat this morning after her phone call with Giles. She was getting a physical from the base doc and she seemed normal…well, as normal as Buffy can be.”

Willow frowned and couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong with her friend. “Did she say how they healed her?”

Dawn shook her head, “Nope, she vagued up that part of the story.”

Kennedy shrugged, causing her shoulder to brush Willow’s. “Does it matter how? She’s okay.”

Dawn blinked at the conviction in her voice. “You were worried?”

The older brunette flicked her gaze to the window beside her and she squinted against the bright sun. “Maybe.”

The younger Summers shook her head at the thought of Kennedy showing emotion for anyone beside Willow and offered her a tentative smile. “She’s good now.”

“Yeah.”

Willow laid a comforting hand on her girlfriend’s thigh under the table. The younger Slayer shifted her focus to the witch and nodded before picking up her fork once more. Kennedy’s gaze traveled to Dawn’s plate and her last waffle.

“Are you gonna finish that?”

Dawn glanced down at the plate and cocked her head in thought before looking up, “Half?”

Kennedy nodded and lifted her plate to accept it and began to engulf the half of waffle with a sea of syrup. Dawn smirked and bit into hers with a happy little hum. Willow glanced between the two and couldn’t help the smile of contentment. Soon, however, a shudder chased its way through her spine as the sun fell back beneath a roll of clouds outside the building’s walls. A tingle of unease swept up from her stomach to tickle the back of her throat and she squeezed Kennedy’s thigh.

Her lover lowered her hand to cup the top of hers and wrapped her fingers loosely over her palm. Willow’s gaze was drawn from the oncoming darkness and she smiled at the cross-eyed face of her girlfriend. Kennedy stuck her tongue out the seal of her lips and her piercing winked in the dim lights of the restaurant. She smiled in return when she was rewarded with a soft chuckle. The redhead leaned to the side and brushed her lips across Kennedy’s.

“Have I mentioned yet that I love you?”

“Not today.”

“Consider that rectified.” Willow pressed her forehead to Kennedy’s and met her brown eyes. “I love you.”

The warmth that spread beneath Kennedy’s face at those three simple words gave Dawn pause as she watched the tender moment. She coughed and the two women separated with a slight case of the guilties and she offered them a triumphant smirk. Kennedy rolled her eyes and Willow blushed.

“Who wants ice cream?”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

The two warriors stood side-by-side, silent and motionless. Their armor of onyx darkness glittered like broken glass in the torchlight. They watched the rapid rise and fall of the two women’s chest and listened to the frantic beat of their fragile hearts. A fever crawled it’s way through their twisted bodies and minds as they bent and broke under the strain. The magic that threaded through their forms thrummed through the dank air around them. It strengthened their shells, deadened the core and hardened the casing that would house the essence of true power, true magnificence.

Sweat beaded along their flesh and fell in rivets to dance with the dust beneath their bodies. A figure slid away from the shadows and stepped forward to study their quaking forms. She strolled along the sarcophaguses that stretched out beneath them as her steps made no sound on the shattered remains of the crystals scattered across the stone floor.

Her emotionless gaze flicked up to the Kull warriors and motioned them from the chamber. “Return to your master.”

They never spoke as they shifted on their heels and left the room, shadows chasing the sun. Her focus shifted to the thrashing forms of the two women and a slow smile spread her lips.

She walked along the side of Erica Wilson and studied the woman of small stature who couldn’t leave her teammate behind. Her face, pinched and delicate, resembled the form the First Evil currently found such enjoyment in replicating. She didn’t look like a soldier. She smiled as the human’s mouth opened in a silent scream and her mind shattered a little more.

A gasp of pain shifted her focus to the right and she flicked her cool gaze along Sarah Evan’s tall frame. Her stature and muscled tone made you think warrior. Powerful, sleek, she ran five miles a day to chase away that imaginary five pounds she saw when looking in the mirror. Her knowledge of ancient dynasties and her thrill for adventure had been what attracted the SGC recruiter. See new places. Meet new people.

The First snickered and glanced around the tomb of her ancestors and allies, long forgotten. Bits of them had been locked away inside the minds of useless mortal creatures that didn’t even know when to roll over and die. The chamber held the last of their pure essence, it’s location locked against her searching until the one called O’Neill was filled with the knowledge of her greatest enemy and died at the hands of a useful ally. She needed to thank Ba’al, perhaps a fruit basket.

A smile flickered across her features at the curiosity of mankind and how it would always be their down fall. Free will was such a magnificent invention and she was opportunistic.

Evil glanced back at the two women once more before she grinned and her whisper fell on deaf ears.

“Trap. Set. Bait.”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Jack sat, legs straddling a weight bench and his eyes narrowed as the three most agile women he had ever met beat the crap out of each other and enjoyed every moment of it. The two Slayers had paired up and were trying their damnedest to break through Illyria’s defenses. The demon’s armor-covered body bent backwards at her hips at an impossible angle, allowing Faith’s right cross to pass harmlessly over her.

Buffy took advantage of her sister Slayer’s distraction and placed a well-aimed kick toward a leather-encased side. The blow had the desired effect and knocked her to the padded floor. Illyria used the momentum of the impact to roll herself out of their reach and pressed her upper body to the mat in a show of submission.

Buffy and Faith exchanged a confused glance and stepped forward in unison to check on their ally. Illyria felt them hover just over her stilled form and pushed the weight of her shell to her arms as swung her left leg in smooth arch knocking both women to the ground. She rose and smirked down at their annoyed faces.

Daniel shook his head and leaned back on his own bench. “They’re amazing.” He frowned as a chill chased its way down his spine. He glanced back, searching the room for the source of his sudden unease.

Jack nodded. “It’d be more interesting if we had a kiddie pool and jello.”

Faith snorted as she rose from her position on the floor. “Keep dreamin, yo.”

Buffy turned her head to gaze at her darker half. “If we sold tickets?”

A mischievous light flared in her doe eyes. “Bikini clad or nubile and nude?”

“I vote nude.”

Buffy and Faith turned to Jack who had his right hand raised halfway and Buffy’s mouth dropped as Daniel’s hand inched up as well. Faith’s laugh was warm as she tossed her arm across Buffy’s shoulder.

“And the Professor shows his kinks side.”

Buffy rolled her eyes as Illyria moved to stand beside the two women and studied the males before her.

“I would not be averse to watching the Alpha and Beta battle for dominance.”

Both Slayers arched their necks and studied the two men with interest. The SG-1 members shifted under the females’ gazes. The wicked gleam in Faith’s had Jack contemplating making a run for the exit. He turned to see Daniel with the same ‘deer caught in headlights’ look and wondered if he should forget the ‘no one gets left behind’ motto so that his retreat would run smoother.

“How sweet.”

Jack stiffened as he recognized Summers’ voice and turned toward the closed door of the gym. His body rose in smooth line with his left knee protesting weakly at the quick movement. It was ignored for the moment because of the fact that Summers was in two places at once. He jerked his attention back to the three women who were staring at the intruder with a mixture of annoyance, unease and boredom; the latter being Illyria, of course.

“The white hats are gathering an army.” The Summers look-alike smirked at them. “Lucky for me, it’s an incompetent one.”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Sam sat with her back pressed to the wall of hieroglyphs, her eyes tracing the far wall with interest. Where the Latin dialect was engraved into the wall, she noticed the slight incline of the right side. The words gently sloped up and she had taken several measurements to test her hypothesis. The right side of the wall was indeed crooked. Now she just had to figure out why.

“Hey, Sam.”

Her blue eyes rose from her notes at the sound of Willow’s voice. The redhead stood in the entrance of the temple, her gaze steady. She rose from the hard ground and began to walk toward the younger woman.

“Willow.”

The witch offered her a hesitant smile. “Did you ever leave?”

She glanced down at the clothes she had worn the day before and winced. “No, not really.”

“Thank you.”

She blinked, surprised by the gratitude. “No need to thank me. Daniel said Buffy regained consciousness and was doing better.”

The redhead nodded. “She called this morning.” She meet Sam’s gaze. “She mentioned meeting the little people.”

Her eyes widened and she angled her neck to see behind Willow. “Where are Dawn and Kennedy?”

Willow’s lips pulled back on one side and she walked closer to her. “They’re giving us a few minutes.”

The Major nodded. “I know you must be curious, but I can’t discuss…”

She raised her hand to stop the flow of words. “Top secret James Bond stuff, I know. Buffy tiptoed around the subject earlier this morning, but she mentioned a book we had both read.”

Sam inclined her head and closed the distance between them. “A book?”

“Yeah.” She slid her left arm from her pack’s shoulder strap and swung it to the front of her body. She pulled a thin plastic folder from the inside and offered it to the other woman. “I didn’t have it on me, but I found references to its contents on the net.”

Sam opened the folder and frowned down at the first words ‘Creatures of Faery’. Her eyes flicked up to meet Willow’s, confused. “I don’t understand.”

She smiled. “The terms fay and faery entered the English language through the Normans. The Asgard’s name was Thor and…”

“Thor was a god in Norse mythology.”

The witch nodded. “The modern version of fairies and sprites has been over-dramatized. They were originally described as a race of small humanoids with large heads and eyes.”

Sam flipped through some of the pages and narrowed in on the section of why the faery took humans: to help bring life back into a dying race. She shifted, slightly uncomfortable with the changeling theory and how similar it was to Loki’s experiment on Jack.

“We just thought you and Daniel might find it interesting.”

Sam looked up at her and smiled. “Yeah, actually I do.”

Both women shared a moment of understanding before Willow nodded and shifted the to a topic they could discuss without borders. “So how far did you get with the translations?”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

The First watched three of the most powerful creatures on the planet battle for dominance from the shadows of the gym. The delicate balance of their relationships were laid out for all to see as they struck one another. Illyria was alone in her defense against the two champions. The Old One withstanding their advances with practiced ease and discipline.

The ebb of their power ate along her consciousness and burrowed deeper. She watched the two Slayers as they danced together in the ballet of destruction. The dark Slayer had held such potential until the Omega destroyed her spark. The mortal bitch had become the largest obstacle the First had ever come up against. It was aggravating.

She shifted her focus to the members of SGC. The Ancients’ descendant was a nuisance and hardly fit to be called her enemy, while the once Ascended posed a substantial threat to her. She inched further into the room and watched him shiver and send the shadows a passing glance. His gaze was sharp, but soon distracted by the banter passing easily through the room.

They were forming a bond, an attachment, which was never good. The First Evil pushed herself from the shadows and allowed her corporeal form to take shape and molded herself in the image of her rival. She smiled into the stunned faces of the Earth’s newest champions.

“…lucky for me, it’s an incompetent one.”

Illyria detached herself from her allies’ side and strode toward the creature her brethren had once called god. Her brows drew downward in confusion at the lack of scent and she reached out to pass a hand through the First Evil’s form. It shimmered where her limb intercepted its image.

She inclined her head. “Evil.”

“Illyria.”

“You have changed much in the years I slept.”

Evil smirked with the guise of Illyria’s guide overlapping her true features. “So have you, child.” She shifted and began to circle the Old One. “You reek of humanity.”

Illyria’s eyes narrowed. “You call me child.” Her chin rose and she spun to meet the First’s gaze. “You, who’s being was created with fragments of our essence. Who watched us, jealous, from the shadows, as we speared and decimated humanity with our grace.”

Buffy watched, stunned, as the First’s appearance rippled and rage bloomed across her features. “You insolent…”

“You stank of weakness then.” The Old One flicked her gaze disdainfully across Evil’s form. “You still stink of it.”

The First’s fury built beneath her façade and she arms crossed as she glared at the creature that should have been bowing in her presence.

“You worshipped me once.”

Illyria raised a brow, her voice disdainful. “I followed Chaos. I thought your beliefs petty.”

Jack shifted closer to the two Slayers and frowned as the two ‘women’ traded insults. “Huh…friend of yours?”

Buffy shook her head. “That’s the First Evil.”

Jack pulled back from her and shook his head. First Evil? Evil had its own body? Summers had taken a lot on faith and apparently it was his turn. He frowned at her look-alike. “And she looks like you?”

Faith kept an eye on Ill and answered for her sister Slayer. “It can take the form of anyone that’s died.”

Daniel watched as the two creatures circled one another, looking for a weakness. “The First Evil?”

Buffy nodded. “She’s…”

“Going to kill you all.”

The group looked up from their side conversation to see the First staring at them with a slightly annoyed expression.

Jack rolled his eyes. “So it’s not just the Goa’uld that use cliché one liners.”

The First appearance shifted and the Colonel found himself staring into his own brown eyes. “Sticks and stones.”

Daniel flinched at the smirk that flashed easily across the First’s façade. “So you’re…Evil?”

She stepped casually through Illyria’s form and strolled toward the foursome. The amusement artfully painted across Jack’s features as she mimicked his mannerism and casually shoved her hands into the pockets of his slacks. “I’ve gone by many names, Danny.” The face of his best friend lowered and the smirk spread into a truly malevolent grin. “The Goa’uld called me Nephthys.”

Daniel frowned at her. Or was it him, now? The Linguist shook his head at the androgynous-like creature. “Nephthys?” His eyes widened at the name’s meaning and his voice lost all emotion. “The mother of Anubis.”

Buffy and Faith frowned as both men stiffened and began to treat the First as a possible threat. It smirked at their sudden unease and winked at Daniel.

“Very good, Daniel.” It shifted its focus to the Colonel and morphed back into Buffy. Her voice took on a childlike tone as she sang, “Four little soldiers jumping on a the bed. One fell off and lost his head…”

Jack stepped forward. “Is that suppose to be a threat?”

Summers’ counterpart cocked her head to the side. “A threat? No, but you might want to check on SG-18.” Her eyes narrowed even as amusement filled them. “Soon.”

Jack narrowed his gaze. “Where are my men?”

“You think you’re intimidating? To me?” The First stepped forward and placed herself directly before the impudent child. “There were three members of your team still alive when I left them. You should go…save them before there are none.”

With those words the First disappeared within a flash of light and Illyria stepped forward toward Jack.

“It is a trap.”

Buffy and Faith exchanged worried glances at Jack’s determined expression, both recalling the last time they had lead their girls into the First’s clutches. The Colonel made his way toward a red phone that hung on the far wall. The muscles in his back were tight beneath the lines of his standard issue jacket as he picked it up and gave clipped orders to the person on the other end.

Buffy turned her attention to Daniel. “Who’s Anubis?”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Faith shook her head and continued to pace before her sister Slayer and Illyria. Her mind was still reeling with frightening info about the universe that she could have lived without. Ascended beings? Little gray men? Ancient aliens that had more juice than Red? Christ, she needed a smoke.

“I’m not leaving you.”

Buffy rose from her seat at the small table set up in VIP quarters and grabbed the dark Slayer’s arm on her next pass. “With the First brought into the game. I’d feel safer with another pair of eyes on Dawn.”

“B…”

“Faith, I trust you to keep her safe.” The brunette’s argument deflated with those few words. B trusted her with little D?

“I don’t like it.”

Buffy nodded. “Jack’s called Sam and Murray…” She paused correcting his name, “Teal’c back and I’ve arranged for you to be flown to the site as soon as they arrive.”

Faith shook her head. “B, tell me you’re not taking part in the search and rescue.”

She averted her gaze and shifted around the other woman. “Robin is trying to get me…” She flicked her gaze to Illyria and amended. “Us on the CSAR.”

She blinked. “Huh?”

“Combat search and rescue.”

“Combat?”

Buffy flinched. “Assume the worst.”

“Not words I like to live by.” Faith sighed and sat on the edge of the bed. Her head rose and she met Illyria’s gaze head on. “Keep her alive, will ya?”

The Old One nodded and Buffy looked affronted. “Hey!”

The dark Slayer smirked to cover her unease; this whole plan seemed off. “You do have a track record of dying and I, for one, still want to see the lights of Vegas.”

Buffy smiled at the hint of concern in her voice. “We will.”

Illyria rose from her seat and stopped just before the brunette. “I would prefer you to stay alive as well.”

Faith snorted in amusement. “Me too, Ill.”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

“No way in hell.” Jack flinched at how that sound and hastily added. “Sir.”

General Hammond sat in the briefing room of the SGC for the second time that day, with the members of his best team surrounding him. Major Carter and Teal’c had arrived an hour before and Ms. Smith had been sent to the sight as extra security along with SG-6. They were uncertain if the ‘Phoenix’ site was a target but the Watcher’s Council had insisted. The headache that had begun to recede when Ms. Summers became well was back in full force and pressing behind his temples

“Colonel, I understand your reservations, but the President has made his thoughts abundantly clear.”

Sam cleared her throat. “With all due respect General, you’re asking us to take two civilians into a potentially hostile situation when neither have had any combat training or experience.”

Daniel shook his head. “Don’t they?” At Jack’s glare he forged on. “I did a quick base search on the name Illyria last night and apparently she was a War Monarch for demons. And Sam, you read the tome the Watcher’s Council loaned us. Buffy is the Chosen One and has been since she was fifteen. She’s also the last Slayer to ever be given the Cruciamentum.”

Sam paled at the mention of the barbaric test. “She passed?”

“She’s still alive isn’t she?”

Teal’c raised his brow. “What is a Cruciamentum?”

Daniel winced and met the Jaffa’s gaze. “A rite of passage for the Chosen One. On their eighteenth birthday they are stripped of their powers and forced to fight a demon with only their intelligence and ingenuity to aid them.”

General Hammond shook his head at the thought, but some of the tension in his neck lessened at the assurance that Ms. Summers may not be a complete hindrance. “The enemy you maybe facing on P8X-321 is best understood by the Watcher’s Council. Therefore, Ms. Summers and her…companion will be accompanying you and SG-3 on this mission, once they have passed their Gate certification.” He shook his head at the term companion and silently prayed for an aspirin.

“Sir…”

“Colonel, that is a direct order. You depart at 1400, giving you more than adequate time to brief Ms. Summers and Illyria.”

Jack’s gaze narrowed as the General rose and left the briefing room. His nostrils flared as he took a deep inhalation and counted to ten before addressing his team.

“Well, this sucks.”

Teal’c inclined his head. “Do you believe Buffy Summers will be a encumbrance during our mission?”

“Yes.” Jack frowned at the Jaffa’s raised brow. “Maybe.” The other brow rose to meet its sibling just beneath the symbol of Apophis. The Col. sighed and muttered under his breath, “No…son of a bitch.”

Daniel shook his head and began to gather his notes while Sam still sat, her mind amazed by the archaeologist’s report of the events that she and Teal’c had missed. Her blue eyes widened as he rose and she stood, catching his attention.

“She stopped time!?”

Jack turned toward the pair as the linguist shook his head. “Not so much stopped, as slowed. Five minutes for us was less then two seconds for Colonel Reynolds and SG-3.”

Sam blinked, stunned. “That’s impossible!”

The Colonel sighed as the two brains left, discussing ‘Back to the Future’ theories or something along those lines as Teal’c nodded to him and left Jack alone in the silent room. The Colonel spun his chair and stared at the shatterproof glass that separated the far wall from the invocation room of Stargate Command. His gaze swept over the large ring and his shoulders drooped. Jack was being forced to pull a twenty-something kid into his world and damn it, he was pissed.

Summers should be in college or off on some shopping spree that her father couldn’t afford. Not risking her life to keep the world running as usual. Of course she had been doing just that since she was fifteen. Jesus.

The Colonel leaned forward and braced his arms against his shady knees and closed his eyes against his agitation. He acknowledged that he was angrier with the world at forcing a kid to fight its battle and then forcing him to help her. And he would help.

Jack propped his elbows up on his thighs and dropped his head into his hands. After a few muffled curses, he winced. The Asgard wanted him to teach her and Jack had no idea what he was going to do. Once again he inhaled and counted to ten before allowing the breath to expel from his lips.

He’d teach her how to survive, it was what he did best.

With the resolution fresh in his mind, he rose and turned to gaze around the empty room before asking out loud to no one. “Does Summers even know how to use a gun?”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Daniel watched as Buffy absently banged her forehead against the tiny table in Illyria’s quarters, making her boredom quite clear. The pair had passed a quick, but thorough Gate certification and Buffy had shown a high aptitude with handguns that seemed to smooth away some of Jack’s earlier reservations.

Illyria had avoided all contact with the primitive’s weapons, she had her own arsenal once again. The Old One raised a brow at her guide’s antics and continued to study SG-18’s debriefing files and notes that had been sent through on their last transmission. Her vivid eyes traced the curves and lines of human language as her shell processed them into knowledge.

A thought that had been aggravating her senses throughout the day suddenly took shape in her consciousness and she turned toward the Beta male.

“What day is this in your linear progression?”

Daniel blinked. “Uh…Thursday.”

Buffy’s head shot up, her eyes wide as they locked with Illyria’s. “The Burkles!”

The linguist frowned. “Am I missing something?”

The Old One turned toward him. “I require a telephone.” At Buffy’s pointed glare, she rolled her eyes. “Please.”

Daniel shrugged and motioned her toward the far wall where the phone hung. The demon followed his progression and he turned toward her. “Any particular number?”

She arched a brow at his sarcasm, but rapidly announced the eleven numbers that would connect her to Winifred Burkle’s parents. He handed her the phone as the tone began to ring and stepped back.

A warm smile spread across her face and Daniel frowned when she spoke in the thin Texan accent she had possessed when they first met. “Hey Ma….I know, I know, I’m a little late calling this week…No, it’s not a man keeping me away….” The demon laughed, a high delighted sound. “Yes Mom, alone with cats.” She rolled her eyes. “That’s where I’ll be.”

Daniel stepped back, his face unreadable as he stared at the Old One. Her tone was animated as she spoke to who he assumed was Fred’s mother and his stomach tightened at the deceit. He turned to Buffy who was watching the demon with a sad smile on her face. He cleared his throat, drawing her attention.

“Fred’s parents?” At her nod, he frowned. “Why?”

“Why cause them the grief of losing a child?” He blinked, knowing the situation was wrong but unable to come up with an argument. If only Jack could see him now.

Buffy shook her head. “Illyria is the closest they’ll ever get to their daughter ever again.”

Daniel’s brow drew downward. “But it’s a lie.”

“Some lies are better than the truth. I learned a long time ago that the world is never simply black and white or good vs. evil.” She nodded her head toward the demon, who gave a girlish giggle that had him stiffening. “I think she cares for them, or at least she has memories of caring for them.” Buffy met Daniel’s gaze unflinchingly as she spoke her next words, “Fred’s parents believe their daughter is alive and well. Living a wonderful life in Rome with a sweet, but dim girl named Buffy.” She shook her head. “I won’t take that feeling of security from them.”

Daniel flinched. “It’s wrong.”

“Could you tell them?” She touched his arm so that their eyes met, locked. Daniel winced at the intensity of her gaze. “Everything that was Fred was consumed during Illyria’s resurrection. Everything.”

Daniel frowned. “What are you trying to tell me?” He tuned out the demon as her voice brightened and said hello to Fred’s father.

“Fred’s essence, her soul, was absorbed into Illyria.”

“That’s impossible.” The linguist stiffened as he realized he and his team members had been using that phrase a lot to describe the Watcher’s Council, Illyria especially.

“In your world maybe, but not in mine.”

He stopped and turned toward the demon as she spoke into the receiver. She cradled the phone in the crook of her shoulder and her hands were in motion as she spoke. Her eyes no longer appeared dull and aged. They shone with life as she told Fred’s father of a night on the town that she and Buffy had recently been subjected to. Daniel cocked his head to the side as her face became alive as she laughed.

Even with her skin tinted marble and her eyes a shade of blue that no mortal creature had ever possessed, she appeared almost human. Her features were still striking to look upon but not nearly as intimidating. She glowed.

Daniel sighed as his line between right and wrong blurred just a little bit more.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

After several attempts to communicate with SG-18, at 1400 hours the MALP showed that no hostile forces awaited them on the other side of the gate so General Hammond gave SG teams 1 and 3 a ‘go’.

“Godspeed.”

Buffy stood between Illyria and Jack as the Stargate expelled outward with a spectacular flourish before folding back in on itself. She stared at the puddle as her body stiffened and her head fell forward. This place officially sucked beyond the telling of it.

“I quit.”

Jack’s brow arched at her mumble. “There a problem, Summers?”

She flicked her gaze toward the Colonel and smiled faintly at his all green jumpsuit. “Cliff notes?” He nodded. “Prophecy foretelling my death, plus hungry master vampire, add with a tiny pool of water, equals me kinda dying…for the first time.”

Jack blinked. Trying for unfazed, he asked another question. “And the second?”

“Shimmering cloud of energy ripping through dimensions and about a three hundred foot drop.”

Daniel, Sam, and SG-3 were looking toward her, horrified, and she blushed, realizing they had been listening. Jack frowned at them, his gaze clearly challenging them to comment on the small tidbit of information she had shared with him. One day he was going to get the full story from her, but until then, he motioned to his people to get going. Buffy found Teal’c meeting her gaze and giving her a small drop of his chin. She returned the nod as Jack spoke.

“Alright campers. Let’s get a move on.”

Buffy watched him step forward and then turned toward Illyria. She flicked her gaze over the Old One’s armor with a frown. “Lyri, maybe you should change into something less conspicuous.”

The demon angled her thin neck to watch the band primitives before her. With her attention focused on their attire, she allowed the façade of Winifred Burkle to emerge and flow over her form.

Sam’s eyes widened as Illyria’s skin literally faded into a more human shade and her armor dissolved into military issue garments. She duplicated Buffy’s green slacks and tank top; even the regulation boots would have passed inspection.

“How?”

The Old One flicked her gaze toward the Major. “It is a simple molecular modification of my form.”

“You’ve changed at the molecular level?” Sam’s voice rose and she took a step toward the two women.

Illyria cocked her head to the side and raised her left arm. She pinched the skin just enough to draw it upward so that the tissue took a moment to smooth back to its natural shape. With barely a focus of her power, she shifted the same arm back into the impenetrable housing of her true form and tried to repeat the experiment. The slight pressure of her fingers held no effect.

Sam watched her, wide eyed with excitement. “Can I try?”

The demon angled her head to the side and laid both arms before her. The scientist stepped forward and first pinched her human façade, the skin indented easily and formed to the pressure she invoked. With nod to herself, Sam allowed the epidermis to conform back to its shape and repeated the process with the tinted limb. Or tried to repeat the process.

The Major frowned at the fact that her fingers could not compress or contort the flesh of the shell. She flicked her gaze to the demon who watched her impassively and lightly rapped the limb with her knuckles. They scraped the smooth surface and she winced at the slight sting.

Staring at the two arms in bewilderment she spoke, her voice hushed. “That’s amazing!”

“Thank you.” Sam looked up at the demon’s dry tone and couldn’t decipher if she was being mocked. Shrugging her shoulders, she turned and began to make her way up the plank. Her mind was whirling with possibilities of harnessing or mimicking Illyria’s abilities and how much of an advantage they would gain with it in their fight against the Goa’uld.

Illyria allowed her arm to fade into the façade of humanity as it fell back to her side. She turned to Buffy and motioned her guide to precede her through the event horizon.

Buffy watched as Jack, Teal’c and Daniel walked effortlessly through the shimmering water. Her gaze narrowed as she took a deep breath and stepped through the sideways puddle. She felt every fiber of her being tighten and contort as she was pulled forward.

She stumbled over the threshold onto the other side. Buffy felt her senses expand and shudder as she tried to regain control. The world tipped around her and she faltered. Illyria moved forward smoothly and caught her as she fell to her knees. The tiny Slayer was deaf and blind to the world around her as she scrambled to find her equilibrium.

Buffy trembled as she came back to awareness and Jack was on one knee before her, his face concerned. She blinked and tried to focus her blurred vision.

“Summers?”

She felt Illyria to her right, the familiar essence a constant presence in her life. She shifted toward her and the demon raised her arm to circle Buffy’s shoulder, as if sensing her need for physical contact.

“I’m good.” She frowned at the tremor in her voice.

Jack flicked his gaze to the demon. “What happened?”

“I am to blame.” The demon frowned. “I had forgotten the effects of the Chappa’ai. A Slayer’s senses are ten times that of a primitive. You do not feel the true power of the compression as you are transformed into energy.”

Sam shook her head as she stepped forward. “It’s not possible for the human body…”

“She is not entirely human.”

Sam blinked and opened her mouth, but it quickly snapped shut at the pleading look from her Colonel, clearly telling her ‘not now’. Jack shifted his focus to the little blonde who was slowly rising to her feet.

His gaze widened as she flicked her attention around the small clearing the gate occupied. It was a look he understood, one he hoped to instill in Daniel one day. He watched her steady gaze sweep the area for possible threats and some of the tension in his shoulders eased.

Buffy quickly noted the strategic placement of SG-3 and Teal’c. They held their weapons at the ready, their eyes trained on the slope of forest to their left and a beaten path to their right. Their walkie-talkies buzzed with static as they tried to contact their fellow members of the SGC. She frowned at the chill that swooped down her throat and had taken up house in her abdomen. She shuddered in the bright sunlight and vaguely noted there were two pale moons on the distant horizon. The fear settled over her senses and her gaze was drawn once again to the beaten path.

Illyria followed her perusal. “There is a presence.”

“Yeah.”

Jack looked between the two women and shook his head at how quickly Summers had regained her footing. “What is it?”

Buffy flicked her gaze to him. “There’s something that way.” She pointed toward the path that led to the small village. A village that was in the exact opposite direction from where they were headed.

“The temples thata way.”

He hooked a thumb in the direction they would be heading, Summers frowned. “Something is that way.”

“Something?”

Illyria raised a brow at his annoyance. “A presence.”

“A presence?”

Buffy sighed at his irritation. “You go to the temple. I’ll go that way.” She pointed toward village.

“No.”

“Colonel…”

“No.”

Reynolds stepped hesitantly forward. “Sir, it could be a good idea to check out the village while we’re here. For all we know, SG-18 could have gone there for shelter.”

Jack blew a harsh breath outward before he gave a reluctant nod. “Take your team and the spook squad.”

Buffy raised a brow. “Scooby gang.” The Colonel looked at her, dumbfounded, so she explained. “We’re called the Scooby gang and I would prefer Illyria went with you.” The demon stiffened and turned to her guide. Buffy sent her a small smile. “Keep them safe?”

Jack snorted and Illyria gave a brief nod. “I have grown accustomed to the Alpha’s presence.” She flicked her gaze over him as she passed. “I will attempt to keep you from harm.”

The Colonel rolled his eyes at the Old One and ignored his team’s shared amusement before his mind processed one word, “Attempt?”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Buffy rolled her shoulders and the skin on the inside of her left wrist brushed the barrel of the Berretta, safely holstered for a right cross draw. O’Neill had vehemently insisted she carry a ‘real’ weapon. She rolled her eyes at the memory as the contact of the metal sent a thrill of goose bumps up her arm and across her shoulders. Her gaze slowly traveled around to the soldiers currently watching the tree line with practiced ease.

A small smile quirked her lips as Col. Reynolds’ hand motions mimicked the ones Riley had used with his commando buds. SG-3 had been more than a little stunned when she followed them easily and silently, for now.

She felt almost at peace with the thought that the four men surrounding her were trained to deal with the real craziness the universe could throw at you. They weren’t teenage girls trying to prove themselves or cannon fodder. They were trained soldiers and a small part of her had missed the team camaraderie that tight-knit groups possessed. Like the beginning of the Scooby gang.

Buffy shook her head and focused back on the task at hand, but not before she made a mental note to get together with Willow and Xander, just the three of them and tell them all about her first trip to another planet. Xan would be so Star Trek jealous. Or was it Star Wars now? Buffy shrugged at her own thoughts and was sent a questioning look by Warren.

The Slayer offered him a sheepish smile before her stomach rolled as the wind switched course and brought with it the stench of decay. Buffy glanced around at the other men but they were either unfazed or hadn’t yet caught the scent. Her green eyes flew to the head of the group as Reynolds raised his left hand in a closed fist and the group paused in unison.

His neck craned to the left and Buffy’s abdomen tightened painfully. She winced and watched Latona turn to her, his gaze neutral as he raised a brow. She shook her head and mouth that she was fine. His gaze narrowed, but he turned his attention back to the path and tree line.

As they passed the crest of a small hill, the Slayer’s gaze swept across the village stretched out beneath them. It was small, barely forty cottages made of logs and stone. She frowned at the lack of movement. The air around them seemed to still and Buffy flinched as the stench of death rolled over the group once more. There were no birds. She paused and flicked her gaze along the forest around them. There were no animals at all. That was bad.

The men around her finally seemed to take notice and she watched them stiffen and raise their P-90’s just a little higher. Their gazes became sharper and more focused as they began to react to the slightest stimuli.

Reynolds took point and once again the team surrounded Buffy, but she ignored the chauvinism and focused on the fact that she felt evil all around them. She tried to calm her speeding heartbeat as the adrenaline rushed to fill her blood stream in preparation of fight or flight.

They reached the first cottage and SG-3 remained vigilant as Reynolds placed himself along side the door. He sent the team a few hand motions that Buffy didn’t recognize, but she followed the team’s example to lay low as Latona stepped up, raising his P-90.

They knocked on the door with no answer before they pushed it open and swung it back to slam against the cottage wall. The two men disappeared inside and Buffy and Warren waited a moment before following. The Slayer allowed herself to swept in with them and tried to focus on the presence she felt. The familiarity of it.

She nearly gagged at the sight of a family lain out on the floor of the, what she assumed was a living room, dead. A woman sat in a hand carved chair before an ash filled fireplace. Her throat gaped open where a serrated blade had bit through the flesh and exposed the severed muscles beneath. The knife had been forced deep enough into her neck that Buffy caught sight of the glistening bone of exposed vertebra buried in the blood and tissue.

She averted her gaze only to see the crumpled form a small child lying on its side, his sightless eyes staring back at her, accusing. The wound in his chest was obscured by his pleated shirt and leather vest. He was no older than seven. Buffy made a small noise in the back of her throat and pushed her way out of the house.

The scent of rot lessened and she inhaled past the death to focus on the vegetation around her. She felt one of the men follow her out and she swallowed the bile building at the back of her throat. Her gaze watered and she pressed a hand to her forehead before taking a breath and pulling herself back up.

She turned around to see Major Warren sending her a concerned look. She nodded to him and did one of the bravest things she hoped she would ever have to do. With a deep breath and silent prayer to anyone who would listen, she walked back into the cottage to search for clues.

The clues never came, but the team found seven more bodies as they searched four more homes. Buffy repressed the despair as Reynolds reported to Jack the fruits of their search and what their orders would be. The last cottage they had entered had been empty with the lady of house outside, alone in the grass. Her freshly washed sheets were still hanging in the backyard, swaying in the breeze.

Buffy shifted away from Reynolds as he was asked rapid questions by the other Colonel and placed herself against the large window just beside her. Lt. Latona moved to her side and offered a small nod. Apparently, she had done well so far. With a shake of her head against the destruction, Buffy shifted to look out the window. The clean glass had one small hand print in the far corner and she shuddered as she realized that when they began to search this house, they would probably find other children. Her brows creased at the thought of their empty eyes. God, she hated death.

The dirt street before her gaze was quiet and lifeless. The bodies had been left in places not easily seen by the road. The peace around them seemed obscene next to the horrible death. All the women and children…Buffy frowned and spun to look around the empty room she and Reynolds occupied as the rest of the team searched the premise. She thought back to the people…bodies they had found. No men. Where the hell were the men?

She opened her mouth to call out to Reynolds when the familiarity of the evil she felt hit home and she spun to find the sightless face of a Bringer standing to her left. She heard Reynolds call her name as the Bringer’s tongueless mouth opened in a pant and he leapt at her, knocking them both through the glass window and into the street.

They fell backwards and her back broke through the feeble support of the porch’s railing. The cry of pain was knocked from her lungs as the hard ground rose to meet her back, she mentally winced as it was abused twice in such a short time. The Bringer used her moment’s distraction to straddle her thighs and raise a curved blade above his head. The Slayer bucked her hips during his downward swing and caught his wrists throwing him to the side and off.

He crumpled to the ground beside her and she shifted away, rolling to her feet in a movement that was barely contained fury. Finally, an outlet for her horror, her grief. Buffy felt the slow smile spill across her face and she embraced the primitive battle cry thrumming through her veins.

Her hardened gaze swept across the street in search of weapons. She stiffened at the sight of twelve more Bringers making their way quickly down the dirt road and her smiled faded, but the spark still remained with the thought of approaching violence. Her eyes narrowed with the knowledge of where the men of the village had gone as she contemplated finding a way to make the First corporeal just so she could kick her ass.

“Fuck.” With the muttered curse and silent promise to hunt down the Powers That Be and kick the crap out of them Buffy pulled the small knife at her waistband, completely ignoring her gun.

Colonel Reynolds and the other two members of his team poured out of the cottage door to watch Summers engage the hostile in hand to hand combat and watched twelve more of the creatures making their way toward the group from the west.

Reynolds motioned them into a split formation as Buffy flipped the charging man over her shoulder and into the ground just before SG-3. Warren blinked at the fact that the hostile had markings carved over his eyes but appeared to be fully capable of seeing them as it stood and charged the Slayer once more.

Buffy nearly rolled her eyes at the Bringer’s less then stellar fighting techniques. Then she remembered they usually hunted in packs and brought their victims down with numbers, not finesse, like hyenas.

She sidestepped his next assault, caught his right arm and swung him into her, pressing her front to his back and Buffy pulled her blade across the Bringer’s throat. A gurgle escaped his lips and she watched his body drop to the compacted dirt.

“Summers?”

Buffy looked up to met the Col.’s gaze. “I’m good.” She turned toward the oncoming Bringers and wondered why they weren’t rushing them.

“Colonel, check your six.”

The Slayer spun with the groups CO and winced at the sight of ten more Bringers blocking the road and any chance of a smooth retreat.

Reynolds turned to Buffy, “What are they?”

“The men of the village.” She winced at the stunned faces of the team. “They’re called Bringers. Lapdogs of the First. Easy to kill, as tenacious and annoying as a Chihuahua.”

Latona frowned and remembered the blonde’s crash course in ‘Vamps and the Demonic 101’ as she had so cheerfully called it. “Do bullets work on them?”

Buffy blinked as the men moved in formation with her at point and frowned. “I have no idea.” The Bringers were within thirty feet on both sides and closing. Their deformed faces were devoid of emotion and they held weapons of various cliché horror movie props at ready. I.E. pitchforks, knives, an ax or two, Buffy shook her had at the fact that her life constantly mirrored the classics of Freddy and Jason.

Reynolds nodded and allowed his P-90 to fall to his side as he pulled his Beretta and took aim between the carved markings of nearest one. Sensing the threat to its person it darted forward toward the Colonel.

Col. Reynolds’ voice was utterly calm as he said, “Let’s find out,” and fired point blank into the Bringers’ face.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Illyria’s vivid eyes tracked the shadows that the sun’s light created across the stones of the hallow place that stretched before her gaze. The power contained within hummed along her shell’s form and warmed her deadened core. The band of primitive warriors pressed themselves along the rock walls containing perfection and the Alpha gave intricate hand motions for his team to follow. The Old One arched a brow and stepped around the humans’ offended forms to enter the temple.

Her gaze quickly catalogued the warning left behind by her enemies as she walked down a thin corridor that her previous form would have decimated. The dankness around her sent a chill over her bared arms and crystallized her useless breath as it expelled from the remnants of her shell’s lungs. Her body quivered as if strummed by some unseen hand and she scanned the narrow passageway that cut sharply into the planet’s surface.

The walls around her were carved by human hands and pressed with symbols of power and subjection. Illyria stiffened and stopped before one of the markings. Her gaze widened and she felt the humans’ unease at her pause in movement. She ignored their questions and pressed a delicate hand to the wall on her right. The Old One traced the geometric design and flicked her eyes back toward the frowning Alpha male.

His dark eyes were searching her face, “What?”

She traced another marking. “This is the Temple of Mist.”

Daniel stiffened behind Sam as the linguist turned toward the demon. “Did you say ‘Temple of Mist’?”

Jack sighed, “Someone want to explain?”

Illyria ignored his agitation and ran another hand along the wall. Her eyes shut with the pull of her creators and she purred.

“The Ancients,” Her gaze flicked to Jack, “Your ancestors buried six of our seven Lords of the Old Ones, bound them with science and magicks. Veiling their location from my brethren.”

Sam frowned, “Lords of the Old Ones?”

“Our gods.”

Jack winced, “They’re not gods.”

Illyria arched a condescending brow toward him, “How do you describe the term god? They created us in their image. Forged life from nothingness and space. Their power is immeasurable.” She turned back toward the carvings, transfixed.

“I’m a monotheist.” The Colonel narrowed his gaze at the bespelled demon.

Illyria felt the first stirrings of antagonism with the human’s youth. “Be silent.”

“Uh…no.”

The Old One spun back toward the band of primitives, “Desist in your mocking of that which you have no comprehension.”

Teal’c’s head angled at the tension that sparked between the two leaders and calmly spoke, “Are we not here for the same purpose? To save the lives of SG-18.” At Jack’s sharp nod, the Jaffa continued. “Then we should proceed.”

The Old One shifted back toward the darkening corridor and Jack allowed the impenetrable one to take point. Annoying as she was, the demon made one hell of a shield.

The Colonel studied the ever-narrowing hall as the air became colder and dew collected along the walls around them. He reserved an eye for Illyria’s back as she kept a swift pace without the aid of a flashlight. His own eyes strained to see beyond her human façade as she halted and inclined her neck to the right. Jack saw the corridor had split and they had to make a choice in directions.

Illyria paused only a moment before taking the left hand path and Jack snorted at the concept of her taking the right. He glanced back at his team who seemed willing to follow the demon and shook his head. They were following a demon, albeit an intelligent one, but she was a demon, for cryin out loud!

His P-90, held at attention at chest level as he swept his gaze along the cavern walls, rose higher and he began to recognize a few of the markings from the ‘Phoenix’ site. Jack frowned at the fact that he remembered obscure markings and could in fact, actually distinguish them from other scratches on the wall.

Illyria shut out the irritation of the humans that followed her as she heard three distinct heartbeats as she neared the source of her elation. Her stride increased in pace and she focused on the apparent signs of humanity. Her gaze caught movements in the shadows ahead of them and the light from the Alpha’s weapon cut across a body propped against an opening in the corridor.

Someone had cut through the rock with explosives and the dank cavern had been exposed to the elements of the planet. She knelt beside the human male and lightly probed his chest with her fingertips.

He gasped and raised his weapon, with little difficulty Illyria disarmed him. His head rolled from side to side and she flicked her gaze across his battered body. His right leg was twisted and a mockery of its true form. His inability to raise his head told the demon he would fade quickly.

“His limb has rotted through.” She raised her head to meet the Alpha’s gaze. “This one requires medical attention or he will expire.”

Jack knelt beside Johnson and gently touched his shoulder. “Mike?” The man flinched as he called his name.

“Not real.”

Sam stepped to her CO’s side and offered her canteen. As soon as he took the offered item she moved to the other side of the entrance and flicked her light in a high sweep.

Daniel winced at the tell tale signs of Gangrene beginning were Johnson’s leg had been broken. The bone protruded from the open wound and his thigh was swollen thick with Edema.

Jack nodded as Teal’c took point and the linguist allowed the better fighters to form into a tight group around him. The Colonel flicked his gaze to the demon who was studying his injured man with interest.

“His struggle with consciousness should be impossible.” Her ageless eyes met his. “Perhaps your breed is underestimated.”

Johnson, becoming more roused by their voices, blinked and tried to raise his head. “Colonel?” His voice came out as a harsh bark of noise.

Jack shifted forward and helped the soldier raise his head. He pressed the canteen to his lips and the Major took a long pull. Johnson tried to focus outside the haze of fever and pain. He willed himself to deliver the message. In a hauntingly pain-ravaged voice he whispered, “As the fires fade, the darkness devours the light.”

Daniel frowned at the cryptic words and he watched as Jack unsuccessfully tried to revive the wounded man. Johnson had lost his tenuous hold on consciousness. The Colonel leaned back as Illyria rose and watched her face as she studied the broken man.

Her eyes flicked to his and he met the demon’s gaze as she inclined her head to him. The soft brown was pitiless and completely void of human emotion as she awaited his next move. The Colonel rose as well and motioned Teal’c to lead them into the newest edition to the cave, slightly unnerved by the Old One’s ability to turn on and off her humanity at will.

Illyria watched the humans as they followed the Jaffa into the opened tomb and paused to once more glance down at the defenseless man. She moved swiftly and replaced his weapon at his side, should he need use of it.

Daniel paused just outside the opening and watched silently as the Old One aided Johnson. She turned back to him, her face blank, and waited to follow him through the opening.

His mind stored the moment of consideration for another and Daniel entered the chilled room. He stiffened at the sudden drop in temperature and Jack’s inventive curse.

He opened his mouth to ask what was wrong but his gaze landed on the six sarcophaguses shaped in a circle in the center of the low-lying room. His breath eased out from his blue tinted lips in a fog of air that rose slowly upward.

On two of the sarcophaguses that sat side by side, lay Cap. Erica Wilson and Dr. Sarah Evans. Their bodies had been burned with an intricate design of shapes and symbols that mirrored the markings along the far wall. Both whimpered in pain and withered against the cool stone beneath them.

Sam moved forward and gently checked their vitals as Jack and Teal’c kept their attention focused outward. The darkness of the room dispersed as the cylinders adorning the walls sparked with blue flame and brought light to chase away the fear. SG-1 was surrounded in markings of the Old One and the stories of their true power. Daniel’s gaze widened as he recognized some of the symbols, but he knew it would take him days to decipher them all.

Jack spun to see Illyria with one arm extended to the wall. Her eyes were alight with the same blue flame, though her appearance was still that of Winifred Burkle. She trained her gaze on the two tainted humans, her eyes narrowing.

She was surrounded by the remnants of her Kings and she shuddered at the realization of the humans’ predicament. Evil was trying to raise her mothers. Bring forth their power and decimate the Earth and those that derived from her. The Old One scanned the bodies of the infected humans, the markings used could harden those bags of sticks enough to hold her Kings’ magnificence. That did not bode well for mankind.

Sam flicked her gaze to Jack, “They’re alive, Sir. Barely.”

Jack nodded and swung his P-90 to his side and moved forward to place one of the women in a firemen carry.

“You can not take them from this place.”

“Why?” Daniel turned back toward the demon. Her face was neutral as she stepped forward.

“You must destroy them now, before your breed has lost all hope.”

Jack shook his head. “We don’t have time for this. They need medical attention.”

“They will die.”

Jack let out an exasperated breath and hefted Wilson across his shoulders. “Which is why we need to get them back to the base, ASAP.”

“You grasp at shadows.” The Old One blocked his path as Teal’c picked up Dr. Evans. “And damn your own planet.”

“Move.”

Daniel watched the demon’s eyes shift toward the Jaffa. “They have been infected.”

Teal’c paused. “Of what do you speak, Old One?”

Illyria acknowledged his show of respect with a nod. “Evil has begun their transformation. She has tethered their essence to those that created her. You must destroy them now, before they have gained a true foothold in this place and time.”

“Sir?” Sam flicked her gaze between Jack and Illyria who, at the moment, were having a stare off. Jack broke first and shook his head.

“We don’t leave our people behind.” Jack moved around the demon and the Jaffa followed.

Sam and Daniel shared a look of trepidation before following them. Illyria flicked her gaze around the contained ashes of her gods. As the demon’s eyes fell closed, she shook her head at the recklessness of children.

She found the team just outside the entrance to the tomb and interrupted their discussion of who could carry Johnson by simply picking up the man as if he wasn’t twice her size and moving carefully through the corridors.

They reached the sunlight without incident and had nearly finished the trek back toward the Chappa’ai when their radios crackled to life and Reynolds informed them of his team and Buffy’s discovery.

Illyria raised a brow as Jack swore, “Son of a bitch!”

Chapter 7: The Truth to Fables

Their essences shifted in the hollowing vessels that would sustain their magnificence. They shuddered at the humanity surrounding them, binding them to hollow shells of life. Their power rolled and stretched at the barriers, causing the vessels to whimper in pain.

They ate away the soft tissue that inhibited their growth and fed from the emotions fluttering through their vessels’ minds. Images of lives not their own bombarded them, made them weak.

Their essences rebelled at the invasion and the perverse seduction of humanity. Their grace speared through the shells’ psyche, trying to sever its connection to them. The images melded together, planted themselves on their essence and tainted the clarity of their sight.

Revulsion rolled through the pureness as one watched a man with shiny eyes and a saccharine smile fall to one knee and offer up a token of metal and rock. The tender memory made her essence flinch and strive to warm herself within the fires of her rebirth as the shell whimpered in agony.

Her sister felt the cool shift of wind as her hand grasped another stone and pulled the vessel’s form upward and onto a shelf of mountain. The emotion of excitement without Destruction in her presence confused the essence. She pulled back from the spark of humanity and delved deeper into the chilled waters of her own resurrection.

They felt the mortal presence in their chamber and the essences of the other Lords’ whispered names, thoughts. A warrior and a descendant of the Ancients lifted their vessels and pulled them from their imprisonment. The other Lords shifted in their contentment but remained in the peace of rest, ignoring the sacrilege of humanity in the Temple of the Mists.

Their vessels shuddered with the movement and the creators of Evil shifted inside their new forms. They awaited their rebirth and the new worlds that would bow before their power, their grace.

Terror and Despair rejoiced.

~~~@~~~@~~~@


The bit of metal and gunpowder spiraled through the air and connected soundly with the Bringer’s forehead. The bullet bit into the soft flesh and bone as it pressed its way out the back of the creature’s skull. The body collapsed to lay in the way of its brethren. Buffy blinked at the blood and darker matter spreading over the compacted clay road. It filled in the tiny cracks and quickly moved toward the tip of her unattractive boots.

“Well I’ll be damned.” She pulled her Beretta and took aim at the now rushing Bringers. She fell two before Warren shouted to her.

“Summers, down!”

Without questioning the order, her body dropped and she flattened her petite frame to the dirt as a spray of bullets cut through the charging mass. She winced at the meaty sound of the marks hitting home and the morbid way their forms danced. The P-90s did most of the work for the soldiers and Buffy rose to stare down at the bodies, horrified.

“Move out.”

She flinched and watched as the men began to fall into formation around their leader. Buffy took a step forward, and then another, trying to ignore the waste of life around them as they quickly made their way through the broken forms. Reynolds was back on his walkie and updating Jack of their status.

The once-humans lay in ever-widening pools of blood; it stained the ground and marked the planet as the First’s. Her green eyes swept once more over the darkened cabins and lifeless town. A familiar pull in her lower stomach stopped her mid-stride. She angled her head toward the nearest cabin. It lay vacant and dark on a slight rise above the street.

Buffy blocked out the sound of the men and focused her senses the way Giles had taught her so many years ago. A ghost of a smile traced her lips as she recalled wondering if he was taking funny pictures. With a mental shove to concentrate on the here and now, her eyes fell closed as the scent of rot overpowered her for a moment. She repressed the urge to heave and refocused three of her six senses. The same bristle she felt in Faith’s presence, albeit weaker, was coming from behind the cabin.

The thin membrane surrounding her eardrum suddenly thrummed with the faint echo of a crying child. Buffy’s eyes opened and she ignored the worried glances from her teammates as she ran for the cabin.

Her body flattened with her lithe movement along the side of the darkened home and she paused to sweep her gaze across the backyard. Ignoring the fallen form of a teenage girl, Buffy caught sight of two slanted doors embedded in the ground. She moved toward the cellar and gripped the battered entrance, noticing and cataloguing the dents and slash marks of an axe used on the weathered wood. A few of the Bringers had come from this direction. They had wanted inside and the Slayer had a sinking feeling of what the hole contained.

The muscles in her upper back tensed before she tore the wood from its hinges and broke the chain on the inside holding it in place. The frightened scream of a child met with her actions as Buffy leapt into the cool darkness of the shell of the planet. Her eyes adjusted quickly to the change in light and she saw the broken body of a woman and a huddled form in the far corner.

“Hey, its okay.”

Her voice echoed in the dank room and the small form shrank in size as the little girl flinched. Buffy moved swiftly toward the corner and paused as she heard the soldiers making their way to the cellar.

“We’re here to save you.” Buffy softened her voice as she knelt beside the shaking child.

A filthy face lifted and frightened brown eyes stared at her. “Be quiet! Momma, sleeping.”

Buffy swallowed the ball of grief threatening to choke her as she ignored the body at her feet and focused on the little girl.

“I’m here to help.” She opened her arms to a child no older than four.

“Funny-face made Momma bleed. She fell. Won’t get up.” Tears filled those wide eyes and shattered the Slayer’s heart as a too young sister-in-arms grieved.

“Let me take you from here.”

The girl blinked and she glanced down at the tiny bundle in her arms. Buffy watched the ball of fur shift, and the yellow eyes of a kitten owlishly stared at her.

“Can LeeLee come?”

“Of course.”

“Can Momma?”

The Slayer winced. “Maybe later. We’ve got to get you out of here now.”

The little girl blinked before hesitantly crawling into Buffy’s arms. The familiar warmth confused the small child but the pretty lady felt like home, almost as good as Momma.

Buffy looked down at the precious package and felt rage fill her stomach and begin to seep into her blood. Her eyes sparked, but her voice remained even for the little one.

“You hold onto LeeLee and I’ll hold onto you.”

The child nodded and Buffy rose. She turned back toward the entrance and Col. Reynolds as he watched her silently bring the kid forward.

“Summers?”

She heard the question in his voice and shook her head. “Don’t tell me to leave her behind.”

“I wasn’t, actually.” She stared at him. “I was going to ask if we could get going?”

She sighed in relief. The little girl shuddered against Buffy at the same moment she felt the cramping in her lower stomach. Bringers. Dammit.

Buffy met the Colonel’s gaze. “Let’s motorvate.”

~~~~@~~~@~~~@


“Dial us home, Daniel.”

The linguist nodded to the Colonel as he turned toward the DHD as the first of Reynolds’ men spilled into the clearing. His hand moved rapidly over the symbols and the Gate gave the same brilliant flourish as always. He entered the code for the G.D.O. that would inform Stargate Command of their immediate return.

Daniel looked back and felt a flicker of relief as Buffy and Maj. Warren brought up the rear. His brows drew downward at the small child the Slayer protectively carried in her arms.

He watched her angle her neck to glance behind them. Her head swung back around, eyes narrowing.

“GO!”

Sam and Daniel looked to their leader and Jack’s face thinned with his frown but he nodded in agreement with Summers’ shout. The linguist and scientist stepped through the event horizon.

“Should we not aid them, O’Neill?”

Jack shifted Cap. Wilson and her body rolled boneless in his arms, as if she had already passed on. She gave a small gasp and Jack felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise as a spark of fear lit in his chest. He pushed the useless emotion aside and waited for the rest of SG-3.

Reynolds nodded to him and they shifted forward, allowing Summers and her bundle through first. The Colonel raised a brow at the little girl but wisely kept his mouth shut at the challenging glare in the Slayer’s eyes.

“Let’s go home, campers.” His usually sarcastic line came out tired as he stepped through the sideways puddle.

Buffy watched Teal’c with his victim follow the Colonel and Illyria turned to her. A large man lay across her shoulders as she waited, she would always wait. The blonde adjusted the child whose grasp around her neck tightened in fear as the Bringers’ presence moved closer. The kitten gave a mewl in protest.

The Slayer took a deep breath and stepped through the shimmering azure light. Her senses stretched outward and the same tightening bombarded her once again. Her world shifted forward and she stumbled slightly as her boots hit the metal walkway.

Teal’c’s grip on her arm was the only thing that kept Buffy upright as Illyria followed her through the Gate. Reynolds, Warren and Latona brought up the rear. Buffy winced as the little girl in her arms hiccupped.

The child’s chest compressed and the Slayer had only seconds’ warning before she, the little girl and the kitten were covered in the kid’s vomit. Buffy’s face scrunched up at the smell and felt the hysterical laughter building at the back of her throat at the farce of her life.

Airmen relieved SG-1 of their rescues and Illyria placed the form of Major Johnson on the emergency gurney, allowing the concerned humans to remove him from the room. Her doe eyes swept over the contained confusion and her head angled as a small woman issued orders to those around her with effective precision. She blinked as her consciousness revealed her name—Frasier, the leader of the medical section of this compound.

She shifted back to watch as her guide tried to disengage herself from the Slayer child. The tiny primitive’s essence scraped along her senses and her grief drenched the demon with the chemical compound of fear.

Illyria moved to place herself at her guide’s side. Ignoring the Jaffa’s raised brow, she effectively extracted the child from Buffy’s arms. The little ape wailed but the Old One pulled forth a minute tendril of her power from the void and sent a sweeping chill over the tiny Slayer’s mind. It calmed the torment of emotions, lulling her into a false sense of peace. Heavy-eyed, the Slayer child went into the waiting arms of Frasier and was taken from the room.

Buffy held the kitten away from herself and glanced down at the bodily fluids staining the front of her ugly but functional outfit. The day’s events collected to rest snuggly onto her shoulders and she forced the urge to ask Lyri how she calmed the kid down to the back of her ‘To Do’ list.

Tired eyes looked to Teal’c, “Is there somewhere I can get cleaned up?”

The Jaffa nodded. “I have private quarters on this base that I would be honored for you to use, Buffy Summers.”

The Slayer nodded and looked to the expectant faces around her. “Give me a few?”

Jack frowned at the desolated light to her gaze and wondered what the hell had happened in such a short time to neatly siphon her energy. She appeared smaller; the green of her eyes was darkening, making them harder to meet. The Colonel nodded to Teal’c and watched as the larger man led her from the room. Jack noticed the wiggling ball of fur in her left hand as they reached the metal door.

“Ah Summers, the kitten?”

Buffy glanced at it and then back to him, “I’m gonna keep it with me.” She looked up at the Jaffa. “If that’s okay?”

He nodded his consent. “Of course.”

Daniel frowned at the tone in her voice and looked to Illyria as the members of SG-3 came to stand around them. The Old One felt their stares as she watched the retreating form of her guide.

“Would someone care to explain, what the hell is going on?”

Illyria inclined her head at the raised voice of the King and turned to watch Hammond make his way toward his subjects.

The General listened, stunned at the quick recollection of events that had passed in only a few short hours. “The village was void of all life?”

SG-3’s Colonel nodded. “Summers found the kid holed up in a cellar with what I’m assuming, was the body of her mother.”

Jack winced at Reynolds’ explanation and added his own bad news, “There was no sign of Lt. Williams.”

Hammond closed his eyes and counted to five before speaking, “SG-3, I’d like reports on my desk by 0600 tomorrow. And SG-1, clean yourselves up and meet me in the briefing room within the hour.” The General moved to leave the room but paused at the entrance. “Illyria, I would appreciate your and Ms. Summers’ presence there as well.”

The Old One nodded. “I will come to your conference, but my guide will require adequate time to grieve.”

Sam arched a brow in question. “Grieve?”

“The loss of life this day will have stained her conscience. My guide will deem herself responsible for the villagers’ deaths and the deaths of the people under the command of this compound.”

The Major felt her lips thin in confusion. “Because she’s the Slayer?”

Illyria sighed at the ignorance and her voice lowered in agitation with the humanity that surrounded her at all times.

“The essence of the demon would not invoke pity for the death of primitives.”

Sam frowned at her but surprisingly, it was Jack that answered the unasked question as they watched Illyria follow the medics out of the room.

“Buffy will mourn them because of who she is, not what.”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

The Old One stared at the withered forms of Wilson and Evans. Their minds all but lost to the flames of her Lords’ resurrection and their vital signs had begun to waver erratically. They should destroy them now before their grace released itself upon the Earth.

Two armed guards stood to either side of the hospital beds, given explicit orders to shoot the Old One if she approached the two women. Illyria’s eyes narrowed in understanding at the fear that rolled off their nearly dead forms. And they would die; releasing the only pureness this world had ever known.

A part of her rejoiced in the thought of her Kings’ rebirth. They would rule this pathetic world overrun by primitives. She could aid them, swear her allegiance, and watch, as all that her shell cared for became utterly theirs. Humans would once again know their place, bowing before the only truth known to her kind.

The spark of humanity flickered and warmed her deadened core. She knew if she were to aid them, Illyria would lose the world she had created for herself. A world in which she once again knew unimaginable beauty and human pain; where her guide was to have been her greatest enemy, but instead was cared for as if the Slayer mattered. In a place where she understood the emotions that bombarded her senses and they were not merely another tool to manipulate her victims.

The Old One recalled the words of her dead leader as she struggled to choose between the life that she had created and the one she knew long ago. The God-King no longer faced being destroyed holding onto what she once was, but she could not stand idly by as her guide perished.

Illyria remained motionless as she watched the human shells succumb to the rage of her Lords and remained uncertain of her place.

“Penny for your thoughts?”

Illyria turned to her guide’s favored and inclined her head as her shell whispered the meaning of the phrase. Her eyes glinted with understanding as she answered him.

“Destroy them.”

Daniel winced and ran a hand through his hair. “That’s not really an option.”

Illyria turned back to the women. “Then they will rule this planet.”

Daniel moved slowly toward her. “With you by their side?”

The Old One’s brows rose with the clever question. Perhaps the Once Ascended was as intelligent as she first perceived.

“I do not know.” Daniel raised a brow at the uncertainty in her voice and Illyria shifted back to face him. Her arm rose, still the pale imperfection of Winifred Burkle’s image. “The humanity of this shell has tainted my grace. I may be nothing more than prey to my Kings.”

“Is that the real reason you’re willing to help us stop them?”

“Nor do I wish to watch another guide fade.”

Daniel looked back at the injured members of the SGC, his brow furrowed. “Maybe they’ll be like you.”

“When I first awoke, I attempted to raise my army and wipe the plague of Man from this planet.”

Daniel winced. “Okay, hopefully they’ll be nothing like you.”

A smirk lifted the corners of Illyria’s lips and she allowed the façade of Winifred Burkle to fall into control.

“Jeez, you keep talking all sweet like that and I might try and keep you for myself.” Daniel stared at her, stunned. “Anyone ever tell you, you look kinda funny with your mouth hanging open all the time?”

He cleared his throat and ignored the amused looks sent his way by the two airmen. “Has anyone ever told you that your ability to mimic humanity is more than a little unsettling?”

“I have been told it is one of my greatest weapons, to those that knew my shell.” Illyria shifted back from the two women and looked to Daniel, “I will check on the Slayer child.”

The linguist frowned at her wording. “Did you say ‘Slayer child’?”

“Yes.”

“The little girl is a Slayer?”

Illyria rolled her eyes. “Yes.”

“How is that possible?”

The Old One ignored him and stepped around the primitive to move toward the exit of the isolated section of the infirmary. Daniel turned back to stare at the two women who had apparently been infected by ancient demons capable of wiping out mankind. His brow drew down as a spark of memory slipped through his metaphysical fingers and glided away from his conscious mind. He spun on his heel and shoved his hands into his pockets as he followed Illyria.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

A small head peeked out from the corner of the blue towel as it was rubbed vigorously over a furry body. The kitten gave a mewl of pleasure as Buffy hit the section of fur just before its tail. He gave a small sneeze and LeeLee’s body shook with the forceful burst of air from his tiny lungs.

The Slayer smiled at the cuteness of the ball of fur and shifted him onto his back as she rubbed the last of the water from his coat. Needle sharp claws dug into her wrist as she cupped him and rose from the closed lid of the toilet.

Buffy cradled the kitten under her chin and slowly looked at her reflection above the sink. Her eyes appeared dark with repression as she tried to keep her focus on the task at hand and not on the broken bodies. The desolate waste of human life. Tears gathered at the edge of her eyes.

A sharp knock made her jump and turn toward the closed door. “Is your new attire suitable Buffy Summers?”

The blonde took a deep breath and opened the door to offer the Jaffa a small smile. “Super.”

His face remained neutral even as his brow rose. “Indeed.”

“You really like that word.”

“General Hammond has requested our presence at the briefing.”

Buffy buried her chin in LeeLee’s warm fur. “Wanna play hookie?”

Teal’c inclined his head in confusion. “I am unfamiliar with the term, ‘hookie’.”

A smile peeked at the corners of her lips. “Never you mind. It’s probably not in the world’s best interest anyway.”

Teal’c inclined his head in agreement but was more than a little confused by her speech. He moved toward the door that would lead them out into the halls of the SGC. Buffy followed slowly behind him and her grip on the kitten tightened, causing a small growl to escape LeeLee.

“Sorry, little guy.”

He blinked up at her and opened his mouth with a yawn of boredom. If only her life could be that uneventful—though the sharp teeth peeking out were reminiscent of it.

The unlikely pair stopped before the deathtrap as Buffy hugged the kitten closer, giving him a scratch under the chin with her index finger. He gave an uneven purr and settled in her hands as the door opened to reveal Jack giving them a raised brow.

“Hello…you.”

Buffy frowned. “Hey.”

Jack looked to Jaffa, “T, ya think you can catch the next one. I need a little one-on-one time with my protégé.”

“Your protégé?”

The blonde rolled her eyes and took the hesitant step that would trap her in the coffin and turned to watch Teal’c lower his head. The metal doors seamlessly closed and Buffy stared at her blurred reflection as the elevator groaned its way through the Earth.

“So.”

“So?”

Jack winced, “This is awkward.”

“Kinda.”

Buffy angled her head so she could see the Colonel with her peripheral vision. He was rocking absently back and forth on the balls of his feet and watching her much the same way.

“You wanted to talk?” She reminded him tiredly.

“Yeah,” Jack cleared his throat. “Ah…SG-3 said you did good.”

Her brows drew down. She was positive that wasn’t what he needed alone time for, but lifted one shoulder half heartedly. “Reynolds thought of using non-medieval weaponry against the Bringers, not me. He gets the shiny gold star for saving the day.”

“Even so kid, the team said you held your own.”

A small smile chased away some of the darkness in her eyes. “Let them know I said thanks.”

“Consider it done.” She nodded and turned back to her distorted reflection. “It’s not your fault.” She stiffened but kept her gaze straight ahead. “I just thought you should know that.”

She suppressed the urge to cry. Instead, she embraced the small warmth the words brought forth in her mind and turned to face him. “Thank you, Colonel.”

“No need to thank me, Summers,” Jack shifted on his feet and met her gaze, “For stating a fact.”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

The First watched as Rupert Giles shifted back in his chair and tiredly rubbed the back of his neck. The character lines around his eyes became more prominent as he removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose in concentration. The black-lacquered phone vibrated as it was brought to life with the electrical pulse of a ring. The flash of impatience and the growl to Giles’ voice made the First smile in amusement as she reminisced about ‘Ripper’.

The Watcher had been such a bad boy; and Rayne had proven himself a wonderful conduit for her first love, Chaos. The pair had become thick as thieves and brought forth so much misery to their lives and those of their parents and friends, that the First had taken an interest.

The male that was to be a Watcher had hated his calling and proved himself a marvelous pupil to the darker urges of his psyche. He and Ethan had become a monument to other such children and poor Rupert wasn’t even aware that he had become the Pied Piper to several young lads as they experimented in the dark arts and became lost within her open arms.

The muscles in his neck corded as his voice lowered considerably and his hand flexed as he gripped the receiver. Not for the first time, Evil wished for the ability to merge with a subject before their death; to understand them as breath still filled their lungs and aided the decomposition of their cells. Humans were vastly more interesting alive.

His arm lashed out, slamming the phone into its cradle. He shoved his leather chair back from the desk, his abrupt movement rocking the recently abused instrument. Evil shuddered with his ire. Delight pulsed through its essence as the First detached itself from the darkness and melted into the form of the Watcher’s beloved, Janna.

Giles’ eyes widened until the First noticed the green flecked through hazel of his irises. His glasses were quickly replaced and the anger that had been sparking in the back of his mind blossomed into rage.

“Get out!” The pitch to his voice was several octaves lower than when he had been speaking with Andrew.

“Rupert, is that any way to speak to the woman you love?”

“You are not Jenny.” His voice became flat as his head rose and pinned the First with a rather impressive glare.

The image of the dark haired gypsy raised her brow and took a step forward. The small silver bells attached to the belt wrapped around her slim waist gave off a soft harmony, mocking the steps that the woman would have taken; the steps Jenny should be taking.

“Aren’t I?” The First smiled softly at his distraction.

“No, you’re not. You’ll never be her.”

Her image strolled around the desk and Giles’ rose from the chair and stepped back. “I am Janna’s thoughts. I am her dreams, her desires. I become everything she was.”

The Watcher stopped in his retreat and allowed the First to stop before him and offer him a smile Jenny had whenever they were alone. A smile of promise, and the barest hint of longing.

“You are nothing more than an echo.” The First’s eyes narrowed. “A pathetic creation that should have been buried at the dawn of humanity with your forefathers and brethren.”

Giles stepped forward and through the First, his back straight as he rolled the sleeves of his mint green business shirt up and replaced himself behind the desk once more. He realigned his notes and the parchment from the school’s vault and glanced up to meet the hateful gaze of the incorporeal nuisance.

“I believe Spike said it best,” Giles stared into the face of the woman he had loved and smiled darkly. “Get bent.”

The First shifted forward, her image melding into that of Drusilla, and lowered her upper body over Giles’ desk. He raised a brow at her new countenance

“Ripper’s teeth are sharp, pointy. Like little needles piercing the flesh of the pocket-sized girls. They whisper and giggle.” She rose up and ran her hands over the smooth curve of her hip. “I loved to giggle and wiggle.”

A slow smile lifted her lips and she spun away from the desk, arms spread out as she spun and flickered through the objects in her path. Her dark hair flowed outward like a dark cloud chasing her thin form as she dipped and bent. The empire waist gown that billowed with her movements exposed the ethereal shine of her arms and feet. Giles frowned at the beautiful ballet and felt a trickle of unease at the fact that the First Evil felt she could waste her time here, distracting him.

His gaze fell on the telephone to his right and his hand flexed with the urge to pick it up. Contact the SGC and his charge to reassure himself that she was all right.

“We’re going back, Ripper. Back to when the night sky wept pretty tears and humanity was merely a matchstick to the darkness of my children. We’d snuff you out.” Her hands clapped loud and sharp, causing Giles to stiffen and meet her crazed eyes. “Your smoke curled upward and we gobbled the souls that shimmered there.”

Giles shook his head, “Are you quite done?”

Her image melded again and the human male flinched at the sight of the Master as his crimson eyes crinkled while he smiled. “Welcome the night, Watcher. Your charge died at my hands once, and shall again.”

The leather of his body suit creaked as he casually strolled forward and pinned Giles with a bored look. A harsh pant of breath eased out from his reddened mouth and deformed teeth. The Watcher stared at him, morbidly intrigued by the deformities the demon brought forth in a human shell. He found himself preferring Illyria’s perfection to the monstrosity before him.

The Master’s smile stretched, distorting his features even more. “Their time is at hand, to go back to the beginning. Before the Turok-Han. Before Illyria. Before me. They are perfection, well beyond the grasp of mortal thoughts.”

The Master melded into his charge, her hair swept upward, exposing the mark of Angelus still faint against her neck. Her eyes were lighter, happier and reminiscent of when she had first arrived in Sunnydale. The First offered him another smile he had not seen since before Jenny’s death, a smile with the barest hint of innocence. Buffy had lost all of hers at the hands of her love. Her Angel.

“Time for me to roll out the welcome wagon, Watcher-mine. If the Apocalypse comes, beep me.” She winked at him and spiraled downward into a pinpoint of light before it flared and disappeared.

Giles lunged for the phone.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Daniel followed Illyria as they entered the main briefing room of Stargate Command. She had remained silent against all of his attempts to draw her into conversation as she had watched over the little girl from P8X-321.

For a creature trying desperately to separate itself from its humanity, she seemed to care for her guide with a devotion most people only dreamed of. Her voice had been matter of fact as she informed Janet to cease in her constant need to lower the child’s temperature. She calmly stated that Slayers’ cores usually reached 112 degrees before causing them serious harm; the fact that the child’s was at 102 was normal for the called ones.

Janet had then switched to rapid-fire questions about the Slayer physiology and was instantly ignored and soon became as irritated as the linguist. They had both watched warily as Illyria stepped toward the thrashing child and laid her fingertips along the hollow of her cheek.

The little girl had calmed immediately and stilled. Her hands falling to her sides, she allowed the nurse present to restrain her wrists and ankles. Janet had moved forward and began to apply antiseptic to the small wounds the child had given herself during her attempts to flee or attack. A moment of discomfort passed over the demon’s features but it was once again replaced by her mask of boredom and she finally met Daniel’s gaze, requesting—see ordering—that they adjourn to the forum of his King.

The linguist nodded to his teammates and the General, who raised a brow at his choice in companions. He offered him a reassuring smile and moved to one of the two vacant chairs at the table. He left the one beside Buffy for Illyria and sat between Sam and Teal’c. His brows lowered in confusion as he realized Jack held the other seat beside the Slayer, who currently held a mewling gray ball.

The General nodded slowly to the Old One who inclined her head in acknowledgment of his greeting, but remained oddly quiet. The unquestioned leader of the SGC turned to the telephone placed in the center of the table and addressed the machine.

“Mr. Giles, Dr. Jackson and Illyria have just arrived you may now proceed.”

Daniel eyes widened and he caught Jack’s eye, who shrugged, his face clearly telling the linguist his guess was as good as any.

“Ah yes, hello Dr. Jackson,” He paused and Buffy raised a brow before he added, “Illyria.”

The Old One blinked, “Watcher.”

“Hmm…yes, as I was saying before, the school received a visitor an hour or so ago. I’m aware that your base, General, has also been visited today by the First.”

Buffy sat forward, the kitten cradled in her lap. “Are you alright? The girls?”

“All fine, Buffy. We both know the First Evil is incorporeal.”

Sam watched the small blonde react to a change in the man’s cultured voice that no one else recognized as she addressed him, “Not the kinda fine I meant, Watcher-mine.”

Jack watched Summers stiffen as there was a catch in the stuffy guy’s voice as he cleared his throat and continued. “That is not why I contacted you, Buffy. The First mentioned going back to the beginning, before her and while we know how much she embraces her megalomania,” His voice dropped with his agitation. “I fear she was not just feeding me lies or half-truths. If she is truly trying to bring forth creatures far older than herself, then we must stop her at any cost.”

General Hammond’s face remained neutral as he watched the diminutive blonde wince. “She already has.”

“What did you say?” The question came out as a hushed whisper.

Jack placed a hand on Buffy’s shoulder and eased her back as he addressed the black speakerphone.

“The First has taken two of our people and, according to Illyria, already begun the process of transforming them. How do we reverse it?”

Giles ignored the Colonel’s question, “Illyria, is this true?”

The Old One sighed, “The Alpha male is correct. They have brought the vessels back to their compound and are currently being treated for the incurable contagion in this kingdom’s sanatorium. Evil has taken the proper precautions so that the Elder Lords do not suffer the same fate as myself.”

Sam leaned forward and caught the demon’s gaze. “What types of precautions?”

“The proper rites and rituals have been preformed on the carcasses to ensure their stability.”

Sam shook her head, “Stability?”

Jack shot the Old One a glare, “They’re not dead yet!”

“The pureness to be brought forth inside of your people are like Ichneumon Wasps. That which has been placed within your people will pupate and devour all that resides within the shells. Nothing but echoes of your personal will survive, and the process will cause them unimaginable pain.”

“Like you did yours?”

The narrowing of Illyria’s gaze had Jack almost wishing he could take that question back. Almost.

Annoyed with their complete lack of understanding, Illyria allowed her head to cock to the side and she raised a hand. As blue lightning arched between her thumb and index finger she allowed them a small lesson in the torment that was befalling their people.

Her voice laced with pain as her breath came in uneven pants and Illyria mimicked Winifred Burkle’s last words, “I’m not scared. I’m not scared. I’m not scared. Please…Wesley…why can’t I stay?”

Daniel flinched at the mention of the Old One’s first guide, remembering the fact that Wesley had loved the woman she had once been. And apparently held her in his arms as she died.

The Old One’s hand fell to rest on the table as she unflinchingly met the Colonel’s gaze. “My shell expired and I came forth to a world vastly inferior to the one I left. Those that awaken will act as true rulers and destroy anything that is not utterly theirs.”

Giles cleared his throat, “How powerful are they?”

“Do you find me powerful Watcher, a threat?”

“Do not be obtuse Illyria, you know that I do.”

The Old One turned her impressive stare on the General who nodded his assent that she was to be considered a substantial threat. Her eyes narrowed, “I am an echo of my former glory.” She flicked her attention to those surrounding her. “A child to those that are to awaken. Even if I were the true grace of my former self, I would be but a fraction of their magnificence.”

Daniel watched Jack’s eyes harden with knowledge that their people were slowly being eaten alive and they needed to stop these creatures before they could be brought forth.

“What can we do to stop their resurrection, Mr. Giles?”

Teal’c frowned as the warrior beside O’Neill flinched away from the speakerphone and pulled the kitten tighter to her chest. The Jaffa leaned forward and folded his arms across the desk as he felt Daniel Jackson straighten beside him as he too caught the change in the demeanor of Buffy Summers.

“You must destroy the vessels.”

“No way in hell!”

“Colonel.”

Jack sighed and turned to Summers, whose eyes had closed with her Watcher’s revelation. “You knew,” he accused the woman beside him.

“Do not accost my guide when I informed you of this within the Temple of the Mists.”

“The Temple of the Mists?” Giles’ voice tilt with his amazement, “You actually found the Temple of the Mists?”

Hammond’s blue eyes sparked with irritation. “Mr. Giles, would you please refocus your attention onto that fact that you’ve just informed me to kill two of my personnel.”

The speakerphone crackled as he cleared his voice, “General Hammond, I do apologize. Though I am not asking you to destroy them. I am asking…”

Sam shook her head and finished for him, “Buffy?”

The blonde across from the Major winced, “Giles, I can’t take a human life; not like this.”

“‘Not like this’? You’ve taken a human life?”

Buffy sent the General a not entirely friendly look, “Have you?” She directed her gaze around the table at the members of SG-1. Sam and Daniel had the grace to look away, while Teal’c bowed his head in acknowledgement of her deduction.

Jack winced at the fact that the little blonde had been forced to do things no civilian should ever be asked to. She had seen the inside of the beast and come out not entirely unscathed, but still fighting. With a shared look with his CO, Jack laid a light hand on Summers’ shoulder. She glanced up at him to offer tired eyes.

“As I was saying, I am not asking Buffy to take a human life. I am asking Illyria.”

The room stilled at Giles’ next statement and Hammond recovered first. “I can not allow that.”

“Then you are damning humanity, General.”

Hammond shook his head, “I’m sorry, Mr. Giles. I can not believe the fate of this planet rests on the deaths of these two women.”

The little blonde gave an embittered laugh and shook her head at the older man’s apparent ignorance. She felt Jack flinch at the sound beside her and Illyria stiffened to her left. The demon turned to silently gaze at her.

Sam cringed at the broken tone and watched as Buffy calmly placed LeeLee in Teal’c’s crossed arms. The Jaffa held the kitten awkwardly as the blonde shifted back from the table and rose to separate herself from the people with a shred of decency left, and an ignorance she wished she shared.

Buffy winced with the knowledge that the person in the room she related to best was Illyria, a demon. They both felt misplaced, useless; as if the reasons for their existence had become lost as the Powers reshuffled the hierarchy.

She blocked out the heated voices coming from the table and the way that Giles’ voice was lowering in desperation. She couldn’t let Lyri kill two innocent women, could she? Buffy had asked the Old One to swear to never again take a human life, except when in self-defense. This didn’t count, it couldn’t. The stupid PTB were stripping away her humanity, bit by bit. She knew if Giles were here, he wouldn’t hesitate. He would snuff the life out of the two women if it meant the world would be safe.

She understood his viewpoint: two, for millions. And now that she knew the full scope of the human races’ population. The fact that they were spread across this galaxy and the next meant even more lives saved from the creatures that would be unleashed. Could she allow herself to be responsible for that many deaths?

An intangible wind swept through the room and brought with it the scent of rainwater. Buffy stumbled against the wall as her body was bombarded with ice. It dove into her chest, tearing her lungs and shoved her to knees. Goose bumps spread over her exposed flesh and fear wrapped a tight cord around her throat, constricting her breath. Jack knelt at her side, his voice muffled by the pain rushing across her temples and she groaned against the onslaught as he helped her to stand.

She sagged against the Colonel as Daniel made his way toward them. They could all hear Giles’ frantic voice, but Illyria’s statement overrode him.

“They awaken.”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Faith shoved her hands into the lumbar curve of her spine and arched her body backwards. Her dark eyes closed in pleasure as she stretched out the kinks from her less then stellar sleeping position; caves just weren’t made for siestas. Pulling herself upright, she reached upward into a pulling stretch and silently thanked Dawn for the loan of her shades as the sun beat mercilessly against her pale shoulders.

With a quick smile to the soldiers watching her from the temple entrance, she bent at the waist and grasped her left ankle, and then her right. A smirk split her lips at the intake of breath from behind her.

A tingle spread up from her stomach as she straightened and Faith turned to watch Kennedy move toward her. The younger woman slid her own sunglasses down to protect her sensitive eyes from the ultraviolet rays. She stopped just short of Faith and inclined her neck to the right.

Faith nodded and followed Kennedy’s bobbing ponytail as she made her way from the temple and far from the hearing of the soldiers. The shorter brunette shrugged and, for once, wished she owned something other than jeans as the sun began its descent over the surrounding cliffs.

Night was only an hour away and little D and Red had been working on solving Major Blondie’s temple riddle. Apparently, they agreed with Ill that the temple had more to offer than just reworking B’s DNA. And no matter how Faith worded or changed the last few days’ events in her head, they just sounded wrong. Bad even. Some aliens from a galaxy far, far away—God help the Council when Andrew heard of this—decided to wage war on the demons on this planet and created her lineage to fight them.

Damn, with a side of ‘what the fuck’?

Kennedy’s steps halted and she turned toward the other woman with a frown, “What’s going on?”

The older brunette winced; Kennedy was not a member of the Council and was definitely not privy to the info given by the SGC. “Ken…”

“Don’t. Don’t lie or placate me. I know what the others call me, Willow’s Shadow. I’m her pet.” The younger woman crossed her arms as if warding off a chill as the temperature around them stayed at a steady 104. “I’m not a Council member and probably never will be, so everyone just leaves me in the dark…”

“Ken, shut up.” Faith looked at her sadly for a moment, “Yeah, we call you Red’s Shadow mostly to annoy you. But in the same token, we’re trusting you to watch her back.”

The other woman blinked, stunned, “Maybe you, but Buffy…”

“B’s never said a bad word ’bout you to me.”

“Then why does she always pick Illyria to watch her back?”

Faith sighed and glanced around at the layers of shimmering rock before answering. “Ill’s the only one in our little club that hasn’t betrayed her.”

“That’s not…” The younger Slayer frowned.

“What? True? Come on Kennedy, you’re smarter than that. I mean think about it. I’ve tried to kill her plenty of times. Granted, I’ve changed and been tryin’ to walk the straight and narrow.” She shook her head and tried to focus, “While Giles did the whole Cruciamentum on her 18th, even Red’s gone homicidal…” Faith trailed of and winced, realizing she was badmouthing Ken’s woman. “Look, what I meant…”

“I know what you meant, but Dawn, Xander…”

“Did you forget about you guys voting Buffy out of the club? No offense Kenndy, but you were one of the loudest voices in the crowd.”

“And you stood up for her.”

Faith sighed and shoved her hands into her jeans. She shifted her neck to the side and cracked it effortlessly, the tension between them slowly easing off. “Yeah, I did. She’s earned that and a whole hell of a lot more from me.”

“She forgave you.” The words were a softly uttered accusation.

“Ken, there’s nothing between you two for B to forgive. You’d only known her a few months—and she wasn’t at her best—when you put in your two cents.”

The younger woman shifted and looked out at the rock towering above them. Her thoughts jumbled inside of her mind and the feeling of being swallowed was ebbing away. With a small shrug of her shoulders, she tried to release all of her unease.

“I feel like I should be...forgiven, ya know?”

Faith nodded. “And I feel like I shouldn’t.” She glanced over at her. “There’s been talk around the Watcher’s Council water cooler. They’re thinking of making another two seats at the big table at Pandora’s. Your name’s been tossed.”

Kennedy arched a brow and slowly turned toward her to skeptically ask, “By Willow?”

“By Dawn.” A smile broke across Kennedy’s features and Faith was startled by the woman’s prettiness for a moment before she added, “Tell anybody and I make it look like a horrible accident.”

“Understood.”

“Good, then let’s head back to B’s temple.”

Kennedy frowned, “It’s kinda your temple too, Faith.”

“She’s the last Chosen One…”

Kennedy interrupted Faith, adding her own thoughts, “You’re both the Omega of our line. The last of the Chosen.”

Faith smirked, “Don’t you mean you and the other minis are the last of the Chosen?”

She shook her head, “You and Buffy were chosen by some higher power. We were chosen out of desperation.”

“No, you guys were chosen by B with the help of Red.”

The brunette smiled, “We were chosen by Buffy…I can live with that.”

“Damn straight. Now take me back to the well-built eye candy.”

Kennedy shook her head as they began to make their way slowly toward the temple. “It’s not fair. Our eye candy left when you arrived.” At Faith’s raised brow, she smirked, “Come on, Major Carter is hot.”

“You do have a thing for strong, intelligent woman.”

“I should look into a patch of some kind.”

Faith laughed and wrapped her arm over the other woman’s shoulders. “According to Red, they never work.”

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Janet watched as her patients’ health spiraled frighteningly out of her control. The sudden and unexplainable onslaught of chronic Scleroderma, the autoimmune disease, caused a hardening and tightening of a person’s skin and connective tissue. The excess of collagen that should have taken years to accumulate had taken only hours, at a rate previously unheard of in the medical community. Even with the administration of the calcium channel blockers and medication used to block constriction of her patients’ blood vessels, their lives had been painfully pulled from her scope of understanding. Janet’s voice hardened as she ordered the nurse at her side to gather supplies.

The two airmen guarding Wilson and Evans flinched as a fellow soldier’s heart began an uneven chirp and the screen monitoring the muscles’ progression began a static rhythm. Their CMO rushed over, her voice sure and direct as she ordered Evans’ stretcher moved. Her nurse followed the orders with a precision the men had never seen off the battlefield.

The defibrillator was brought forward and the nurse, Lt. Michelle Connors, Erica’s best friend and confidant, charged it to 200 joules. Her delicate features were pulled down as she watched one of the strongest women she knew fall into V-fib. Sweat beaded across Erica’s forehead. As Janet announced ‘clear’, her chest heaved upward and she began to violently convulse.

The thick leather straps holding her limbs snapped as if they were made of tissue paper as the last of the woman’s neurons were engulfed by demonic fire. Her spine bowed and her arms lashed outward, knocking Dr. Frasier and Connors out of the airmen’s line of sight. The gurney rocked as her body gave one last spasm before she stilled.

Her head shifted to the side and a sigh escaped Erica’s paling lips as her eyes fell closed. Both soldiers glanced at one another as Janet began to pull herself to her feet, gaze locked on the motionless form. Her brow drew downward as the symbols they had been unable to treat on the two women began to disappear from Erica’s exposed skin.

The raised shapes of burnt tissue faded, the blistered flesh smoothing outward like a fast moving picture. The only proof that the markings had existed was the shimmering pink scar tissue that was evaporating faster than the human eye could process. The cells of her epidermis multiplied and spread like a virus, consuming the destroyed flesh, perfecting it, forming it into reusable waste that her vessel absorbed. Janet blinked and the exposed skin appeared new, vibrant.

Connors rose on the other side of the hospital bed between Evans and Wilson. Her brown eyes widened as she watched her friend’s flesh begin to lose all pigment. The creature beneath brought forth the calcium from her bones as they dissolved and pushed it into the husk’s lining, helping the magic that bound it harden the vessel.

With each passing moment, the carcass before them evolved and the color tainting the perfection was absorbed. It was as if fast moving water lay just beneath Erica’s flesh and it flowed over the contours of her body, making it into a faultless white void.

The airmen raised their Berettas and pointed them directly at the creature’s forehead as the once blue eyes opened wide and Capt. Erica Wilson did not rise. Something far more pure awoke in her stead and blinked a gaze darker, more infinite than a night sky devoid of stars. The sclera of the eye was no longer visible; the shadow that stretched from the center engulfed all space until it met with pale white lashes.

She pulled her vessel upward and blinked those startling eyes at Janet, her pinched features a mask of confusion. Her mouth opened and the same darkness of her gaze had been transferred to the crevice as an onyx tongue darted outward, as if tasting the humans’ scent.

Janet watched the being narrow those frightening eyes and incline her head as she pressed her fingers into sides of her jaw. The mouth opened again, giving another peek into the bottomless void as a whisper escaped her throat.

“I have form.”

She blinked, startled by the words that fell from her translucent lips. The creature raised her hands before that limitless gaze and watched in amazement as she bent the fingers, separated them, as if transfixed by the simple movement. The limited mobility of the Scleroderma had disappeared. Or perhaps the creature wasn’t restricted by its vessel’s frailties.

Terror’s eyes watched the crevices of her hand as she curved and stretched the minute appendages attached to her palm. The tiny valleys that formed with the movement intrigued a creature that had never before held shape.

Had never been corporeal.

She felt the brush of straw as she inclined her neck for a better vantage point. Her hands rose and she brought forth the hair that fell around her shoulders like thin ropes.

The texture of the rows of dead cells was coarse and bent with the movement of her fingers. Awe spread over her consciousness as she pressed a coiled strand to her cheek, ignoring the mortal life that was frozen in her namesake.

Confused by the speech inside of her, Terror allowed the waves of hair to fall where they wished and shifted forward, placing her lower limbs over the gurney’s edge. She met the dark eyes of the petite woman before her; a slow smile spilt the Lord’s lips at the flicker of unease with her very presence.

“Hello, I’m...”

“You speak.” Terror cocked her head and eased closer to the female. “How do I know your words?”

Janet blinked, startled by the question. “I don’t know.”

Her neck turned slowly and she stared at the two men guarding her; a whisper flickered across her aged thoughts. “Weapons.” She turned back to Janet. “Whispers of children.”

Frasier frowned but shook her head, trying to understand. “They’re here for our protection, and they are only to be used if you mean us harm.”

Janet nearly flinched at the light that filled the void of the creature’s eyes. “Your breed has grown bold.”

The airmen shifted and raised their weapons higher. Terror rose from the hospital bed and took a step toward them. The younger of the two swallowed and spoke, his voice surprisingly steady.

“Stand down.”

“Orders?” Terror’s eyes narrowed even as her lips quirked with amusement.

The man flinched as a sliver of fear pricked his subconscious and spread outward with a wash of burning cold. His arms began to violently shake as he heard his father’s voice, screaming at him to be a man. His mother’s broken cries assaulted him, pulling him downward into his own memories. ‘Stop whimpering you pathetic, weak…’

“STOP IT!”

His spine straightened and he glared at the creature smiling before him. His mother’s voice still chased him, her pleading. That night drenched him now, tainted the shadows of the cavernous room around them.

His frantic gaze swung to each corner. His brother in arms, Lt. Walker, tried to call him back, bring him forward into the present. But his father was there now. The night his world crumbled wrapped around Jaxon, saturated him with all of its pain-inducing glory. He turned back to the creature wearing Erica’s face; his father’s mocking eyes stared back at him.

The bullet struck Terror’s just above her right eye and her head ricocheted backward with the impact of the small projectile. Janet’s eyes widened as the creature made of marble brought her face forward. The offending metal fell to rattle against the concrete beneath her bare feet. She raised a delicate hand to press where the bullet had struck; her fingers smeared the powder charge left by the pointblank firing of the weapon.

“That was irritating.”

The airman’s eyes widened as he realized what he had done, the scope of his own weakness, stupidity. The panic that had been drenching him was fading with his shock, but it roared back to life with the creature’s calculating look.

Her hand lashed out, the movement a blurred memory. One moment she had been watching him amused, the next she gripped the hand holding his weapon and was wrenching him forward. The power behind her controlled actions brought him to his knees or Jaxon risked his shoulder’s dislocation.

The bones in his hand snapped as she compressed the limb that had been an instrument in her attempted destruction. Terror turned as the other male brought his 9mm’s handle down on the back of her head. Walker winced as his arm jolted from the impact with an immovable object.

She spun, bringing the younger male up against his will and grabbed the Kevlar vest of the human behind her. Without taking her eyes from the whimpering child, she effortlessly threw his partner over her head.

“Pathetic.”

He impacted with the far wall and slid boneless to the ground. As Janet quickly moved to his side, her eyes never left the creature that continued to hold Airman Jaxon in her grip. Blood seeped from the powerful vise made of her fingers and the unforgiving metal of his Berretta.

“Please.”

Terror frowned at the irritation burning along her thoughts. A spark of pity flickered in the depths of her vessel’s lost mind. Her eyes narrowed as her grip tightened.

“Oh God, please.”

The metal groaned and his bones began to shatter and grind into the tissue. Blue eyes opened impossibly wide with the painful lacerations. The creature listened, pitiless, her eyes alight with emotions the human psyche had no hopes of understanding. With a disgruntled sigh, Terror shoved the worthless excuse of a challenge from her.

Jaxon fell to his side, his right hand cradled to his chest. Janet gently felt the pulse at Walker’s throat and let out a relieved sigh as she stood to face the creature that placed her people in jeopardy. She frowned as her head nurse stared at the being with a mixture of fear and hatred. She tried to gain Michelle’s attention to no avail.

Connors took a step back from the creature that wore Erica’s face; tears filled her eyes as she stared at the thing that killed her best friend. The words left her mouth before she could stop them, a hateful accusation thrown at the creature sitting comfortably in her best friend’s body.

“You murderous bitch.”

Terror’s brow rose as she turned her neck painfully slow to stare at the mortal filth, a primitive of ill breeding and thoughtless knowledge, who dared to judge her. An amused sound fell from her colorless lips even as her gaze narrowed. Her movements were awkward as she took halting steps toward Connors and stopped just before the taller woman.

Her head angled upward, a creature older than the universe she currently occupied studied the small step in human evolution and found her lacking. She raised her hand and gently passed a finger over the quivering seal of Connors’ lips.

“And all was silent.”

Michelle’s brows drew down and she began to tell the creature to get the hell away from her when her jaw locked. Her eyes widened as she tried to open her mouth, but the muscles ignored her orders. She rolled her tongue along her teeth only to feel the enamel fusing together. The seal of her lips melded and rolled inward, completely disappearing from her lower face. Connors’ hands flew to her jaw, tears falling freely as she tried to her feel where her lips should have been.

Her tongue swelled, filling the remaining space in her mouth, gagging her and causing the frantic woman’s breath to expel harshly through her nose. She stumbled back from the creature watching her as a scientist would watch the gestation of a fruit fly; calculated boredom. Her pain meant nothing to it. She was merely a nuisance that had needed to be taught her place.

Connors turned and fled the medical isolation room. The heart within her chest beat frantically as she slowed her steps the further she was from the creature. She slapped her palms to the concrete beside the elevator and pushed the button rapidly in the hopes that it would bring the haven of the metal box quicker.

She sank to her knees and pressed at the fused tissue. Terror engulfed her world and she began to gently rock as she pushed her nails into the membrane that shouldn’t have been there. Blood began to trickle from her chin and create tiny snakes along the floor as Michelle’s eyes darkened and she fell deeper into Despair’s awakening arms.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Janet swallowed her fear and ignored the impulse to chase Connors down and help in any way she could. Instead, she did the braver of her two options and approached the creature watching Jaxon as he rocked on the floor. His eyes were open but his sight was turned inward as he begged his father—in a small, childlike voice—to stop, over and over.

Her jaw tightened as the creature turned that considering look on the doctor and Jaxon quieted with the shift of her focus. Janet shivered as she was drenched with a rainfall of fear and she tried to ignore the sudden cold engulfing her mind. It pressed her down, willing her to fall to her knees and beg forgiveness for defying. Janet blinked and shook her head. That wasn’t right; the creature before her slight frame was not her leader. She didn’t follow its orders.

Frasier’s mind stilled as she rolled her shoulders and pulled herself up straighter as she asked, “Why are you doing this?”

Intrigued by the mortal’s ability to resist her power, Terror took a few halting steps forward, unsure. Her bilateral symmetry made her vessel’s movements lethargic as she studied the doctor. The human female’s will was vastly more impressive than the others surrounding them. A spark of interest chased over the Elder’s consciousness.

“You are their guardian?”

Janet blinked at the question, “I care for the people of this compound.”

“They are not of your blood.” Janet noticed Terror’s voice was lower than Erica’s had ever been. It sounded strained, as if unused to the sound coming from the dark crevice of her mouth.

“No, but they are my people. I am the Chief Medical Officer of this base, Dr. Janet Frasier.”

Terror’s head angled as her vessel whispered its understanding, making her aware. “You heal the dwellers of this city beneath rock?”

“Yes.” Simple answers seemed safe at the moment and she hesitated before asking, “What is your name?”

“How do you name that which is older than spoken language?” The creature raised a brow. “Those that came before referred to me as…” She stilled and listened to her shell’s translation of her label. “Terror.”

Janet visibly flinched as Terror took another step toward her.

“Why have I been awoken?”

“I don’t know.”

“Where are my children?”

“I don’t know.”

Frustration tainted Terror’s emotions and colored her voice with darkness. “Do you comprehend anything?”

Janet sighed with the same emotion. “Of you and your people? Not much. Your very existence is a little beyond my understanding at the moment.”

“At the moment?” Her head cocked in question.

“I adapt very well.”

Terror frowned at a word that meant nothing to her aged mind. Her vessel once again ground out the meaning. “Adaptation is for the weak.” Her head rose and she stared at the other woman. “Do the feeble rule this planet now?”

Janet instantly opened her mouth to argue, but paused and tried to look at the world through this creature’s ideals, thoughts. With a shudder, she answered, “From your perspective, I would say yes.”

“Perception is irrelevant.”

“I don’t think…” Her voice trailed off as the creature moved toward Wilson’s quivering form.

Terror’s eyes softened slightly as she raised a hand to hover just above the vessel that would house the pureness of her lover. She walked around the human shell and felt Despair’s power thrumming beneath the appearance of humanity. Her essence pulled along Terror’s and pushed back the wave of emotions drenching her with confusion.

An echo of pureness darted across her consciousness and Terror turned toward the large entrance to the concrete room. A smile pulled at the seam of her lips as she felt the first trace of one of her children.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

The spiraling tier pierced the rolling clouds. The only thing that blocked out its magnificence from the worshipers below was the occasional Al’Kesh as they graced the planet’s service.

The humans of the city of Bubastis worshipped their Goddess as any true follower should and they rejoiced at the thought of catching a glimpse of their Lord. The streets flowed outward from her palace, the heart of their city and the most beloved of Bastet’s homes.

Children roamed the streets as freely as her cats. Both creatures possessed curiosity and made for mischief as they darted about their lives. Their benevolent Goddess allowed them free will, for now.

Onyx painted nails wrapped around the brass railing and Bastet leaned forward to inhale the perfumed scent of her home. Her dark eyes flared as she watched a child strike one of her pets and was instantly captured by the Jaffa. The insolent waif would pay for the thoughtless act with his life. Pity, he was one of her favored priestess’ children. With an elegant shrug of her shoulder, she shifted back and moved toward the focal point of her private chambers, the bed with its overflowing of silk.

Her arms stretched upward, exposing her tanned skin inch by glorious inch as the sleeves of her royal robe folded back to reveal a small offering of flesh to Bastet’s current lover. Her Lo’taur watched as she moved effortlessly forward, the pure white of the cloth contrasting perfectly with her Goddess’ skin. The collar of the robe fell in a point to just below her navel and exposed the valley between her breasts as she took another tempting step toward the bed.

Her ebony hair hung straight beneath a thin crown of precious metal and stones. The gems burned coldly above her eyes and she paused just beside the bed to roll one shoulder, and then the other. Her robe fell to form a silken pool on the floor and she lifted her knee as she braced her arms against the bed. Her dark gaze locked with her Lo’taur’s as she pulled her body forward in a sweeping play of human muscles.

The smaller woman shivered beneath the heated gaze of her Goddess, and at the beauty of her nude form. Bastet watched as her servant lowered her eyes in submission and smiled at the blush staining her pale cheeks. She preferred lighter or darker skin than her own when the Goddess took her pleasure. Bastet enjoyed watching the play of their flesh as they coupled together. Her current host’s golden tone was like a star to the paleness of an orbiting moon, or the darkness of space as it engulfed her.

Bastet softly smiled before grasping the back of her most favored’s neck and pulling her lips to meet hers. She swirled her tongue into the human’s mouth, reveling in the simple pleasure of a kiss as she brought a hand up the outside of a curved hip.

“She’s prettier than the last one.”

Bastet stilled at the amused sound of a voice she had thought long dead. She lifted her body upward into a towering creature above her human servant and spoke, “Leave us.”

Her Lo’taur’s eyes widened before tears filled them as she hastily grabbed at her own cotton robe and fled the room. Bastet leisurely turned, careful not to tangle her feet in the linens around her.

The beautiful Goddess before her smiled, causing her kohl lined eyes to crinkle at the edges. Vibrant blue eyes watched Bastet from a face she had helped destroy. There was only one way for the dead to come back to life without aid of a sarcophagus.

“Nephthys.”

The First Evil smiled at the welcome. “The oath I swore you to, when you were still a lowly servant to Ra on the home of the Tau’ri,” Bastet’s eyes narrowed but she nodded her head with Evil’s pause, “I ask your favor, now.”

Bastet sighed and gracefully leapt from the bed to stand before the ally that had helped her overthrow Sekmet, as Ra’s favored. A smile still pulled at her lips with the thought of her counterpart’s entombment for a disservice she had never committed.

“What do you ask of me?”

“The Tau’ri have become powerful and tiresome. I wish to deliver them a message and have deemed you worthy of being my envoy.”

Bastet raised a brow and flicked her gaze over Sekmet’s last host’s form. “How very sweet of you, but the Tau’ri are part of the Protected Planets Treaty. Were I to strike at them, I would be in direct conflict and the Asgard would retaliate.”

“You will have the full backing of Anubis.”

“Yes, you are his mother.”

Evil’s gaze narrowed. “Do not mock me, false one.”

Bastet smiled sweetly. “I would never dream of that, Nephthys. But how am I to overcome such odds?”

“Anubis will give you an army of Kull Warriors, two hundred strong.”

Bastet’s eyes widened before she countered, “Four hundred.”

“Done.”

The Goa’uld’s brows gradually lowered. “What message am I to deliver?”

“The humans have found an Ancients’ outpost and I’d like it destroyed. Sooner, rather than later.”

Bastet shook her head, “I require adequate time…”

A brilliant flash of light engulfed the Goa’uld’s world and she raised an arm to cover her eyes. As she did so, she noticed that the walls surrounding her were no longer covered in gold. A frown brought forth a crevice between her brows as she turned to Nephthys and sighed at the robed form beside her.

To mask her unease at their mastery of the Asgard’s teleportation technology, Bastet folded her arms beneath her bared breasts and waited for them to break the silence. Her gaze shifted between Nephthys and Anubis as the chill of the room seeped into her skin and she forced her host’s body to take notice and regulate itself.

The First Evil smiled at her stubbornness and refusal to show weakness, even when at such a disadvantage. Taking pity on one of her followers, she moved forward and metamorphosed into the form of her nemesis.

Bastet raised a brow at her shift, but allowed a pleased look to enter her eyes at the contours of the new body.

Evil smiled. “There is another vessel much like this one that will be loaned to you during the duration of the mission.”

Anubis raised a gloved hand and the area between them became lit with a 3D illustration of an advanced flagship, similar to a Ha’Tak, but lacking the most distinguishable of its features. Bastet cocked her head; a ship without a pyramid, Ra would have been so very displeased.

“Two hundred of my warriors await you on this vessel. Two hundred more will be delivered after your completion.”

Bastet narrowed her gaze on Nephthys at Anubis’ words. “You knew I would ask you to double the offer.” With a dejected sigh, she shrugged. “I should have tripled it.”

“Once you have destroyed the outpost, return here and we will discuss further relations.”

Bastet uncrossed her arms and strolled forward through the ship’s image, placing an extra sway to her host’s curved hips. “Is it true you have no form outside of the cloth housing your form?”

Anubis raised his head and allowed the Goa’uld to see into the hood of his robes. She gazed into the light-filled darkness with trepidation, but allowed amusement to lace her voice with the thought that he was pure energy, pure power. “It is… What would you feel like inside of me?”

Evil rolled her eyes and shifted away from the children. “Must you always turn everything into sexual innuendo?”

Bastet blinked and smiled. “I am the Goddess of Sensual Pleasure.”

“You are not a God.”

She smirked into the mask above her. “Neither are you.” She flicked her gaze to Nephthys to include her in the accusation.

Evil nodded. “True enough. I have one more favor.”

Bastet ran a hand down the front of Anubis’ robes before throwing him a promising smile and turned back toward Nephthys. “Which is…?”

“I wish you to take a new host.”

Bastet frowned, “Why?”

Evil stepped forward and allowed the dressing robe engulfing her petite form to fade into nothing. The image of the Slayer was bare as she opened her arms to give a delicate spin.

“This is the form I wish you to take. Is it so terrible?”

Intrigued by the idea, Bastet unhurriedly sauntered around her. Her dark gaze was calculating as she swept it over the muscled flesh. “She is rather attractive. But if you wear her image, than she is of no use to me.”

“She has been resurrected.”

Bastet frowned. “The Tau’ri have mastered the building of the sarcophagus?”

“Not quite.”

Anubis moved forward, his robes dragging over the polished floor. “I have downloaded her specific genetic code into one of the crystals of your vessel. Once you have orbited the planet, you will have the ability to instantly bring her into a containment cell.”

Bastet paused in her study of Nephthys’ image. “Why would I need to contain a human?”

Evil turned to meet her gaze. “Because she is a hok’taur.”

The Goa’uld raised a brow. “Do not try and sway me with lies. I am not Nirrti. I only wish for my hosts to be beautiful.”

“Then do it ‘'cause I’m pretty.”

Bastet’s lips quirked with Nephthys’ words, “I agree to your terms, but I will require comforts at some point.”

Anubis nodded. “Your wardrobe has been brought into one of my cargo holds. I will deliver it to you chambers once we have reached our destination.”

A shiver chased up the Goa’uld’s spine as she felt the small quiver of the craft as they left the orbit of her favorite planet. She moved forward toward the wall of shielded openings to watch the galaxy fall into blurred lines of light.

Her sensors had never picked up this vessel and yet it had been only thousands of miles away from her palace. Her eyes flared as she began to grasp the scope of Anubis’ advantage. Her Jaffa were used to her leaving at a moment’s notice without their knowledge. They would hold her subjects to her laws until she returned. And when she returned, she would have a new host to embrace her subjects with.

Evil watched the play of muscles beneath the tanned flesh of Bastet’s back and turned to Anubis, eyes alight with a dark joy. Her plans were falling perfectly in place and everything was as it should be.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Teal’c moved his powerful body slightly behind General Hammond and Major Carter as they made their way toward sub-level 28 and the SGC base’s self-destruct control room. His dark gaze swept over the empty hallway as the warning lights of an enemy attack brought the hallway in and out of red-lit shadows. The only level spared from the warning was 21 where Daniel Jackson, Buffy Summers, O’Neill and the Old One were headed.

They were moving against this newest threat alone. The petite warrior had insisted on it, reasoning that the humans of this compound would only use the resources that they employed against aliens and humans. The creatures being birthed into their people were neither. According to the Old One, they were power onto themselves and could not be treated as False Gods, for they were not.

Hammond held his P-90 with a competence Teal’c had seen in few of the soldiers that followed him. He was a worthy ally and, in this moment, the Jaffa was more than proud to stand at his side should this confrontation be their last.

The Old One had informed them that a nuclear blast would not destroy her Lords, but the General believed that it might give the rest of the planet time to form a more productive attack. At the moment, the base was on lockdown, with no one getting in or out until the General gave the order. The Watcher’s Council was forming a second front should it be needed.

Major Carter swiped her access card and Hammond punched in the nine digit code that would allow them into the room surrounded by three feet of concrete. The five inches of metal began to roll back on its tread to reveal the entrance. They both moved quickly inside and Teal’c followed as the door began to fall back into place.

With a groan, the door shifted and locked. As Major Carter sighed and rolled her shoulders back, she allowed her P-90 to fall to her side. The heaviness of her vest and the additional weight of the gun helped to focus the blonde as she realized Daniel and Jack were facing these creatures on their own. She narrowed her gaze but understood the General’s orders that they split up. For one, it required two sets of codes from ranking officers to begin the base’s self-destruct. And second, if they failed, then they would be all that stood between these creatures and the planet.

Jack and Daniel had twenty minutes for radio contact before Sam and the General began the five-minute countdown, hopefully delaying the infiltration of Earth. They had headed to the main control hub of the nuclear warhead in case the creatures had the ability to stop time in the general vicinity as Illyria could. They were taking every precaution, but in the same moment, Sam felt as if it wasn’t enough.

Hammond watched the worried faces of his people and wished he had been permitted to keep his best team together to face this threat. His blue eyes clouded with the fact the Jack and Dr. Jackson had a demon—who had once worshipped the creatures being brought forth—as back up.

He took a deep breath and checked his watch. Nineteen minutes and counting. He glanced at the door, and then his watch again.

Teal’c felt movement in the pocket of his cargo pants and looked down to watch as LeeLee’s head peeked out from the opening. The kitten gave a soft mewl before burrowing back into the darkness of his pocket. Hammond allowed a small smile to befall his lips and he shared an amused glance with Maj. Carter as Teal’c raised a brow in question.

~~~@~~~@~~~@

Daniel flicked his gaze to his friend as Jack shifted the strap of his P-90 and tilted his head to the left in a telltale sign of his mounting aggravation. Daniel’s own weapon hung at his side, solid and real, as he turned his focus on the two impromptu members of their team. Illyria had allowed her true countenance to come forth as she stood motionless. Her armor covered form was both comforting and disturbing to Daniel as the elevator began to slow its momentum. Thoughts of the metal apparatus brought his gaze to Buffy.

Her face was emotionless, eyes closed. She held her arms loosely at her side as the elevator pulled to a smooth stop. He watched her eyes slowly open and Daniel frowned at the person that looked out. The green irises had crystallized and she stared straight ahead, her features falling into a grimace of pain.

“There’s only one.”

Illyria nodded her head. “Only one of the Lords has awoken.”

Jack sighed and stepped out first, nearly stumbling as a frantic Lt. Michelle Connors leapt at him. He caught her arms and gently shook her, gaining Connors’ attention. The lower portion of her face was nothing more than deep lacerations. Daniel’s eyes widened as he realized she had no mouth.

Jack let go of one of her arms to gently grip the bloodied chin and raised her face into the hallway’s lighting.

“Dammit.”

Illyria’s gaze narrowed as she caught sight of the melded flesh and the scent of terror permeating the primitive before her. She moved to O’Neill’s side and removed the human female from his grasp.

She placed one hand on the woman’s arm and another at the base of her neck to steer her horrifying form back toward the isolation ward. Connors began to violently struggle and Illyria twisted her arm sharply to still her movements.

Jack raised his P-90 and his voice lowered several octaves as he ground out, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Illyria never stilled in her steady progression as she simply asked, “Do you wish this one to speak again without the aid of your corrective surgeries?”

Jack’s shoulders dropped and he lowered his weapon before quickly moving after her. Daniel glanced back at Buffy who was curiously quiet. Her face was grim as he met her stare head on. He tried to prevent the seed of fear in the depths of his mind from blossoming, as a darkness that mirrored Illyria’s, peered out of what should have been an innocent face.

Buffy had allowed Daniel to see the shadows, and a part of her died at the flash of fear in his blue eyes before he quelled it and followed Jack. She sighed out her frustration and pulled herself out of useless thoughts. Thinking of a possible romance being snuffed out at a time like this was so going to get her killed; and there was no Xander present to bring her back.

He was really good at that.

Thoughts of her friends were like a rock and flint as they sparked the fire of her humanity. They bought forth her will to live and small smile to the Slayer’s lips. The terror pulling at her consciousness was easily ignored as Buffy pretended to be Peter Pan and wished for her own Tinker Bell.

A hand full of pixie dust at the moment couldn’t hurt.

TBC

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