Three Warriors

Summery: Answer to hakuchihirolover's challenge. (Buffy/Highlander/Stargate)
Disclaimer: These characters don't belong to me -- in fact even the idea doesn't really belong to me, because this is a challenge response. I'm borrowing the characters for a bit to play!

Chapter One

(Full moon, three months before Buffy’s 18th birthday)

Xander Harris, were-hyena raced through the wooded property on the eastern perimeter of Holy Innocence cemetery. He raised his nose to the breeze, sniffing both the slayer and her prey a little ways away. Stalking the vampires’ rear, he heard the slayer verbally sparring with the doomed vamps. As the first vampire attacked Buffy, Xander pounced on the largest of the three vampires, heading straight for its throat. As the vampire disintegrated into a cloud of dust, the hyena coughed and sputtered to clear his mouth of dust.

“Good kill, Xander!” Buffy called out as she staked the last vampire in the cemetery, turning to scratch the were-hyena behind the ears. Xander whined and attempted to spit out the last of the vamp dust into the grass, shaking himself as though he were a big striped dog. Buffy sat on a nearby tombstone, looking across the cemetery. A new grave sat fifteen feet away. Xander paced around it, whining and nosing at the grave. Buffy chuckled, popping a bubble gum in her mouth, “He’ll rise, give it time.” A moment later, Buffy stiffened and gave a groan. “Trouble coming.”

“You have no time, youngling. I challenge you.” A tall man in a gray duster stepped out from behind a nearby tree. “My name is Gregory. I will have your head tonight.”

Buffy smiled at him and batted her eyelashes sweetly. “Oh, that sweet talk will get you everywhere,” she said in a saccharine voice. Then she turned serious. “This is hallowed ground, go away.”

The man straightened up to his full height -- six foot four. “You will have to leave, you cannot stay here forever.”

Buffy shook her head, sending her hair flying. “I am not interested in your head. You’re too young. Don’t waste my time.” Buffy sat disinterestedly on the tombstone, blowing a large bubble and watching the wind move it back and forth. Xander went up to her and butted his head on her foot.

“Who says I’m young? I was old when the Highlander was born.”

Buffy cackled. “The Highlander? You mean Duncan McLeod, boy scout? He’s a baby. And you, you’re barely out of diapers yourself. Come back when you outgrow your teddy bear.”

“I challenged you. You cannot refuse a challenge, child. You know the rules of the game as well as I. And I know you are brand new. An easy kill. My kill. If you don‘t have a sword, it‘s not my problem.”

Buffy narrowed her eyes at the man. “Who says I need a sword to defeat you? If you like your head where it is, I suggest you leave now.”

Gregory stood his ground “I will not.”

“Fine.” Buffy slid down from her perch, approaching Gregory. Her head barely reached his chest. “This way.” Buffy threaded her way through the cemetery, headed for a clearing nearby. She looked down at her heels, where Xander followed so close that his nose nearly touched her ankles. “Xander, whatever happens, stay inside the cemetery, and don’t interfere. Do you understand?” Xander whined and backed towards the border of the cemetery, his tail between his legs. He tossed his head up and down in a rough approximation of a “yes”, while continuing his growling and whining. He was clearly unhappy. Buffy withdrew her saber, stepping across the border between the consecrated and unconsecrated ground. When Gregory looked surprised, Buffy smiled. “I said I didn’t need a sword -- not that I didn’t have one.”

“Your sword will be of no use to you, I am older, faster, stronger, and better than you could ever be.” Gregory immediately attacked, launching himself at the young slayer.

It was not a fair fight -- in less than a minute Gregory lay in two pieces on the ground, and the blue lightning began. It shot straight into Buffy’s chest. Buffy fell to her knees, screaming. Xander kept vigil just inside the cemetery wall, watching the scene unfold, as trees were uprooted and tossed about like matchsticks, and the winds blew relentlessly.

An eternity, or several minutes, later, Buffy was wiping her own sword on Gregory’s coat, while retrieving his sword. She searched his pockets for wallets and keys, and once she had taken all the valuables he had on him, she motioned to Xander. “Hungry, pup?” Xander tossed his head and barked once. “It’s on me. Just tell no one what you’ve seen tonight.” Buffy walked away from the scene, leaving Xander to consume the remains.

Chapter Two: Lovers old and New

(The next morning)

Xander slipped into the library as the sun was rising over the horizon. He had cleaned up in the school locker room, digging fresh clothes from the bottom of his school locker. He rarely went home now, preferring to sleep with his packmates, at Willow’s, or, on full moons, out in the forests that surrounded Sunnydale. He had summoned the pack after Buffy left, and the eight of them had completely obliterated the human stupid enough to challenge a slayer. While they usually hunted deer or wild goats, human meat was a precious commodity, always shared and always appreciated. Human meat was usually only available if a vampire drank and dumped, and in Sunnydale, the vampires were mostly so stupid that even the minions turned their meals, rendering them useless for consumption by weres. In the light of the morning, however, Xander was a bit dazed, still high from the full moon, and puzzled -- why had Buffy killed a human, and what was that lightning storm afterwards?

The library was deserted this early in the morning, not even Giles would be here for another half-hour. Xander groaned as he checked his pockets for change. No dice. Two nickels and eight pennies would not a Twinkie buy. He was used to going hungry, and he wasn’t hungry, really, but he hated going to lunchtime with no human food -- it made him feel, well, feral. And knowing that the full feeling in his belly was due solely to a man once named Gregory just gave him the creeps. Xander headed to the back stacks hoping that he could find a book sophisticated enough to make an impression on the English lit teacher.

The doors of the library crashed open, yielding one blonde-maned slayer and one broody vampire. “I don’t know, Angel! He was a headhunter. But he didn’t know he was on a hellmouth. Most of the older ones stay away from these sorts of places.” Buffy stalked around the library counter, reaching for the teapot and heating up water on the hotpot.

Angel grumbled, “I don’t like you stealing. It’s wrong.”

“It’s not stealing -- I have his quickening. By the rules of the game, everything that was his, is mine.” Buffy gave her lover a tweak on the nose. “’Sides, it never bothered you before. And I am now the proud owner of a lovely blue Aston-Martin DB9.” Buffy smiled turned her face up to her lover, “You weren’t complaining this morning. Kiss me.”

Angel obliged, grudgingly. “It was the quickening. You couldn’t help yourself. He was one sick bastard.”

Buffy cursed fluently in some language Xander did not recognize. Then she pulled herself together and put her hand around Angel’s neck and pulled him down so she could lick his neck and whisper in his ear. Despite her words, her voice was breathy and seductive. “I’m a sick bitch, Angelus. If you can’t handle my taste, find someone else to give you your jollies.” Buffy plopped down in the chair in front of the computer. “Xander, come on out. I can sense you, and no doubt you can smell the donuts and coffee I bought you.”

Xander walked around from the back stacks to see Buffy already busy at the computer and Angel scowling angrily a few feet away. He snagged a donut and grinned at Angel. “Rough night, huh, Deadboy?”

Angel seemed distracted by his own anger. “I wouldn’t call it rough.” A barely-there smirk showed under his scowl. “And don’t call me deadboy -- dogface!” Angel stalked around Xander, sniffing. He smiled broadly. “Semen. Someone did a man last night. Always knew you were a faggot.”

“I’m going to eat your dust!” Xander launched at the vampire, his claws out, although he was still in human form.

“Stop it! Both of you.” Buffy stood behind Xander, holding him by the collar of his shirt. “Xander, you know vamps don’t like hyenas, hyenas don’t like vamps. Quit taunting each other! Angel, he’s the alpha of the pack, and therefore, female. That‘s how it works with hyena weres. It doesn‘t matter what his sexual orientation is when he‘s human, he‘s still a female hyena.”

Angel nodded and stepped away from Xander, whose claws were still out. Buffy returned to the computer. Xander perched behind her on the desk, looking over her shoulder. The screen held nothing but column after column of numbers. Buffy‘s hands flew expertly over the keys. “What’cha doing, Buffster?”

“Transferring Gregory’s offshore holdings to my accounts.” Xander watched while Buffy repeated the same process at least four times, then closed the window and pushed away from the desk. “That’ll do for now, Giles is due right about, now.” The library doors swung open, revealing Buffy’s watcher carrying three thick tomes under his arm.

Giles looked up to see Angel in the library and he visibly paled. “Good morning, Buffy. To what do I owe the pleasure of his presence this morning?” Giles’ unhappiness was directly focused on Angel.

“He’s afraid I’m going to go crazy and start chopping heads off everybody in the school.” Buffy replied smoothly, walking behind the counter to fetch Giles‘ tea.

Giles sat in one of the chairs at the big library desk, dropping the morning paper on the table, all the while observing his slayer and taking her words seriously. Angel was looking at Buffy openmouthed. “And why did he think that? Did anything strange happen on patrol? Any strange demons? Are you hurt?”

“Nope, just the usual dumb vamps. Xander took down his first master last night.”

Xander yelped. “That brute was a master?!”

Buffy snagged a donut as she put a cup of tea in front of her watcher. “Yup.” She flopped into a chair next to Giles.

Xander stood up and did a snoopy dance. “I did it! I did it! Took down my first master.” Xander grinned at Angel, “Wanna be number two?” Xander growled. Angel flinched. That earned a laugh from his still-miffed girlfriend and a curious look from Giles, who was used to the two lovers presenting a united front.

“Buffy, were any vamps wearing a locket like this?” Giles opened a book he had brought to the library with him. He handed the book to Buffy, who looked at it, then ran her eyes down the page as though reading it. Giles watched her closely as she studied the page, but since Buffy didn‘t know ancient Sumerian, there was no way she could decipher its contents. “Nope. But I’ve seen it before. Why?”

“It appears to have magical properties if it is possessed by someone with the ability to control it. A prophecy in this book, Giles pointed to another book. ”Seems to indicate that it may appear on the hell mouth in the next few weeks. A demon posing as the Egyptian god, Anubis, I believe, is due to arrive at the hell mouth two full moons hence. The locket is necessary to defeat him.”

“Oh.” Buffy mumbled. “Well, that sounds fun. Perhaps we should throw him a party.” She smiled brightly and looked at her watcher. “Who‘s first in line for rape, torture and mayhem? Xander?” Xander shook his head wildly. “No.” Buffy kicked her boyfriend under the table and shot him a dirty look. “Angelus?” Angel scowled at her. “No? Perhaps I should drop Drusilla and Spike a line. I really hate Egyptian gods.” Buffy popped the last of her donut in her mouth, clearly sulking.

Giles took a sip of his tea, and then sat up straight in his chair. “You’ve seen it? The locket? Where?”

“An old friend has it in his possession. I think he tried to get mom to sell it in her shop once.” Buffy shrugged and snagged yet another chocolate-iced donut. “It’s of no use to use, there’s no chance of finding him, he’s always traveling around. And Mom probably sold it years ago. Besides, you said you need special powers to use it. Who around here could use one of those things? What does it do?”

“As best I can tell, it can open a portal to another dimension -- then we force Anubis through.”

“Lovely. Won’t work.” Buffy scowled. “Nice idea, though.” Buffy straightened in her chair. “Great, he had friends.” She stood up and stalked over to her coat, pulling a saber out of it. She placed the saber on the table, and sat down behind it, proppng her feet on the table. “Guess Angel was right. I will be chopping heads today. There’s a demon coming, Giles.”

“Now?” At Buffy’s nod, Giles paled, pulling a throwing knife out of his boot and holding under the table. Xander went to the weapons cage and grabbed an axe.

A minute later, Principal Snyder entered with a tall raven-haired man behind him. Buffy had her saber at the second man’s throat in an instant.

“Miss Summers, what do you think you are doing?” Principal Snyder hissed at her.

“Business or pleasure, Adam?” Buffy demanded.

“Business.” Buffy tightened her grip on the saber, holding it two handed and nicking him just under the jaw. Adam gave her a wistful smile. “Not that sort of business, love.” He pushed the saber gently away from his neck. “But I’m always willing to mix business with pleasure.” As Buffy slowly lowered the saber until it clattered on the floor, Adam held out his arms, and Buffy launched herself at him like a starving thing. Adam gripped her tight, picking her up so that her face was even with his, and planting a long but tender kiss on her mouth, and peppering her neck with kisses.

Chapter Three: Difference

Buffy hands were making their way under Adam’s shirt when he put one of his hands over hers, stopping her progress. “Missed you, too, love.” He whispered in her ear, “Recent quickening?”

Buffy nodded unhappily as Adam lowered her to the floor. “Last night.”


Buffy‘s voice was low. “Gregory Deitrich.”

“Ah.” The word held a world of understanding and sorrow. Adam pulled Buffy into his chest and she burrowed her way into the warmth of his cable-knit sweater. He murmured several things to her in a second language, one that neither Giles nor Angel recognized, and Giles was surprised to hear Buffy give muffled responses into Adam’s sweater in the same language.

Snyder and Giles both cleared their throats at the same time, then looked at each other with irritation. “Dr. Pierson has agreed to be a temporary assistant in the library while he seeks more permanent employment in this area. I’m sure you’ll find his references impeccable.” Snyder gave Adam a dirty look, not liking that Buffy was snuggled to his chest, nearly hypnotized by his heartbeat.

“I know Dr. Pierson. He took a few of my lecture courses at the University of Durham.” Giles gave a businesslike smile. “He was quite helpful identifying some unusual pieces at the museum also. We should get on well. He‘s the top young researcher in his field.”

Snyder looked at Adam sourly. “I must warn you that Miss Summers is the biggest troublemaker in the school. You would do well to distance yourself from her, especially as she is a student. She is certainly beneath your attention -- a very poor student.”

Buffy laughed in Snyder’s startled face. “Fat chance.” She ran a fingernail down Adam’s throat in an disconcertingly intimate gesture.

“Miss Summers, detention this afternoon.”

Buffy clapped her hands in a giddy imitation of Drusilla. “Oh, goody! Can I have it with Adam? We‘ll have tea and cakes! And sausages and buns!”

At Snyder’s sour face, Adam coughed back a laugh. “I’m well aware of Buffy’s troublemaking tendencies. It‘s one of her more endearing qualities.” He tousled Buffy’s hair in an affectionate manner.

“He taught me everything I know.” Buffy smiled sweetly at the principal, who was turning redder by the minute.

Adam protested. “Oh, no. Amanda should get some of the credit.”

“Oh, I don’t know. She’s good, but I’m not sure Amanda has anything on you. ‘Sides, I taught Amanda, remember?”

“Yes, yes, I remember. What a fool I was to be anywhere near the two of you at the time! Now, remind me why did I do that?” Adam feigned trying to remember and rubbing his chin.

“Because you love me so much, Adam. And you don’t mind Amanda either.” Buffy snuggled into him some more.

“She’s quite the tumble, but now that the damn Boy Scout’s around, I’m not getting any out of her.” Adam chuckled. “Better him than me.”

“I see that the three of you have some catching up to do.” Snyder bolted out of the room, attempting to reclaim the threads of his dignity, his hopes of using the new assistant librarian as a spy squashed.

As the library doors swung shut, Angel walked up to Buffy and grabbed her by the arms. “What is your problem?” He shook her a bit, his expression both angry and afraid. “You haven’t been yourself since you killed that guy last night!”

Buffy peeled Angel’s fingers off her arms. “Demon -- I killed a demon last night, Angel. It was him or me. I chose me.”

“Yes, Buffy, why don’t you tell your watcher what sort of ‘demon’ you killed last night. I believe it was the human sort of demon -- the same sort of demon you are. Feeling guilty, love?” Angel turned his back on Buffy, walking out of the library through the stacks, headed for the sewers. As a parting shot he called. “And tell him why you revealed yourself to Adam here -- a stranger, no less. Though I guess he’s no stranger to you.”

“That soul doesn’t agree with him much, does it?” Adam pointed out.

Buffy sighed. “Not really.”

Xander snagged another donut out of the box. “I can’t tell the difference.”

Chapter Four: Truth Lies and Omissions

As the doors to the library swung back and forth, Adam strode deeper into the library, pulling out a chair to the big study table and collapsing into it like a marionette whose strings were cut. He helped himself to a donut and stretched his long legs under the table, his toes nearly reaching Giles’, who had taken the seat opposite.

Giles cleared his throat, going straight into Watcher mode. “What kind of demon did you kill last night? You said nothing of it to me this morning.”

Buffy was still at the doors and she swung around to stare at her watcher like a deer caught in the headlights. “I don’t know.”

“Buffy, I’ve been your watcher for two years. You are a really bad liar.” Giles crossed his arms over his chest.

“It was some demon with a sword, he came up to me and wanted to fight. We fought. I killed him.” Buffy shrugged. “Demon dead; one point for the slayer.” Buffy crossed her arms over her chest and turned to her attention to Adam. “You’re here on business, what sort of business?”

“A mutual friend tracked me down.” Adam made a face while chewing a donut. “Or, maybe, your friend. She doesn’t like me much.”

“Okay, so not Amanda. That narrows it down.” Buffy walked back to the library table, hopping to sit on it, and grabbing the Starbuck’s coffee that sat on the table next to her. “She, not Amanda.” She counted on her fingers, “Female friends -- did Willow call you?”

Adam smirked. “I don’t know Willow, but I can’t wait to meet the fiery redheaded witch. No, it was another, older witch that summoned me.”

Giles interrupted. “How did you kill the demon, Buffy?”

Momentarily distracted, Buffy answered Giles. “Beheading. Worked like a charm.” Buffy turned her attention back to Adam. “What did she say?”

“After I hung up on her four times, disconnected my cell phone for a week and she finally pinned me down in a bakery on Rue Cler?” Adam grimaced. “I was minding my own business, I tell you.”

“Yup, that’d be after.”

“That I needed to come to the Hellmouth and watch you.” Adam said the statement smoothly, but his expression was grim. “Something’s coming.”

“Something is always coming.” Buffy shrugged. “Never been enough to convince you to enter the fray. Maybe you just missed me.” She winked. “It’s not been that long.”

“I always miss you love. Even nine weeks is too long. And the thought did cross my mind. As much as I enjoy your company, it’s not enough to drag me to a Hellmouth.” Adam shrugged. “But between Her and the Boy Scout, I seem to be developing a conscience.”

“Horrors!” Xander slammed a hand on the table. “A conscience. I hear they’re rather hard to come by these days.”

“I’d rather not have one at all.” Adam sighed. “Much simpler. But someone yanked mine out of the ether and reinstalled it.”

Xander smirked. “Well, last I heard a Buffy-happy can suck your conscience right back out of you. There‘s your answer.”

“Xander Harris!” Buffy’s voice was shocked, Giles’ face was ashen.

Methos, on the other hand, was glib. “Tried that. Several times. Didn’t work. But I had a world of fun trying.” He waved his hand in the air and continued in his Welsh accent. “But that is neither here nor there. As it stands, Buffy, you have somehow lost your customary protections, and have become a target for opportunists. What I don‘t understand is how it happened.”

“Is this a conversation we should be having right now?” Buffy pointed a finger at her watcher.

“He knows, doesn’t he?”

Buffy shrugged. “No. I didn‘t tell him. I told Merrick and Angel. That‘s it.”

Adam flinched. “Do you know why your protections are gone?”

“Probably -- there was that whole dying thing when the Master rose. Xander did CPR.” Buffy took another sip of the Starbucks, giving Methos a pointed look. “Kendra was called.”

Adam looked shocked. “What kind of monster would bring a slayer back? You don’t revive slayers! It’s not done. It’s monstrous!”

Xander answered quietly. “I’m the one who brought her back. And I would do it again.”

Giles shrugged. “You’re correct, Adam, it is unforgivable to drag a slayer back into the battle once her term is over. But that said, I for one am very glad that Buffy is among the living.”

“And where’s Kendra?”

“Remember -- I told you. Drusilla killed her.” Buffy’s expression was pained.

Giles attempted to break into the conversation. “How do you two know each other?”

“I met Adam last Summer.” She slid off the table. “We bumped into each other in Seacouver and spent the summer raising hell with Amanda. Mostly in Paris.”

“You did not.” Giles faced down his slayer. “I would have known. We have operatives in Paris. Half the council is located just outside of Paris.”

“Uh-huh.” Buffy smiled at Adam. “We didn’t get out all that much. And watchers don‘t frequent the circles we ran in.”

“And how did you get the money to go to Paris? Or a passport?”

“I was a kept woman. I helped Amanda with some of her freelance work. She paid me quite well.” Buffy giggled. “As for the passport. If the slayer wants to leave the country for a vacation, do you have any idea how many demons are willing to make falsified papers for free?”

Giles choked on his tea. “I can only imagine.”

“That reminds me, Amanda sent this.” Adam dropped an envelope into Buffy’s hand. “Apparently, she found a buyer for that relic you turned up. That’s your cut.”

“Really?” Buffy smiled and slid one nail under the envelope. “That stinker, she -- oh!” Buffy whipped out the letter, finally cracking a big smile. “She dumped the money in a Swiss account for me. Here are the numbers. Good.” Buffy pocketed the cash that was in the envelope, and popped off the table. “Gotta motor -- it’s time for class. Come on, Xander.” Buffy walked over to Adam and gave him a long kiss that Adam returned enthusiastically. Giles blushed and looked away. “Dinner, tonight. Wear something -- nice. Maybe after we can take the edge off a bit.”

Adam nodded with a tiny smirk. “I’m up to the task.”

Giles watched Xander and Buffy leave with a puzzled expression on his face. “What the hell has gotten into my slayer?”

Adam shrugged. “Two years on the hellmouth? No slayer has lasted even six month on an active hellmouth before. I wouldn’t know. Seems like normal Buffy to me.” Adam looked around the library, “Got any beer stashed, Ripper?”

Chapter Five: Appearances

When Buffy Anne Summers had awoken that morning seven years ago to find that she was no longer cuddled up chest to back to a nude Methos between 500-count percale sheets in their rented vacation cottage in Tuscany, she had been annoyed. When she opened her eyes to find that instead she was sleeping alone on the bottom bunk of an iron camp bed in a drafty joke of a cabin, she had been downright pissed. But when she had visited a mirror to see that her previous voluptuous Italian nineteen-year-old (but could easily pass for twenty-something) body was gone and replaced by that of an eleven-year-old air-headed prepubescent bottle-blonde cheerleader, she had screamed. It had taken all of her willpower (and the fact that her slayer powers were, for the time being, gone) to keep from slaughtering the seven other ten, eleven and twelve year old girls that shared the cabin at cheerleading camp with her. Instead, she had cried.

She had endured, for six years. Celibacy, California, the new and strange people she had for parents, and yet another trip courtesy of the Powers into the entirely over-rated world of childhood -- building a passable excuse for a life, biding her time until she was once more an adult -- or close to it -- and she could return to Europe, find Methos, and once again they could resume their lives together, as they had so many times before. She had lost count how many times she had been picked up and unceremoniously dumped into the life of a youthful Potential. Perhaps four hundred times, or more. Usually she was called as a slayer, on rare occasions she was not. At least in the last few centuries she had been in Europe, and able to locate Methos fairly easily once she turned eighteen or her ‘first’ death occurred at the hands of some demon or another. To find herself in America of all places -- Goddess, she hated America -- and California! Whistler had been wise to stay well out of reach his first few visits to see her.

When she had woken one morning to find that her breakfast juice glass shattered in her hand, and slayer healing kicking in to repair the damage, she’d almost breathed a sigh of relief. She was called. That was familiar. At least now she’d have something constructive at which to direct her screaming rage -- demons. Merrick had said she took to slaying as though she were born to it. She was. In all her long existence, she had been a killer -- and first, before the Game, before the Horsemen, before all the myriad battles she had fought for and against humans -- she had been the Slayer. Merrick had won her trust, and she had told him many -- but not all -- of her secrets. He had believed her. Merrick knew she was an immortal, and he had treated her like the adult she was, not the air-headed teenager she appeared to be.

When her mother had cast her out of the house, she had run. Ran for any hint of those she had known before, and when within a week she had sniffed out the Highlander on the west coast, she had raced to Seacouver, hoping for a whisper of Amanda, Jack, Cassandra, or Fitzcairn, anyone she had called friend before. Anyone who could point her to where Methos was hiding. As luck would have it, he had found her. And for the long wonderful, terrible summer she pretended. Pretended she was what she was before. Before Janna Kalderash, before Angelus, before Merrick had died. Before her failures had resulted in the exposure of her calling to Joyce, the one person she had truly cared for in this incarnation. Joyce’s rejection of her had cut her to the core and destroyed one more tiny piece of the humanity she clung to so desperately.

Methos, or Adam as some called him, had helped. He had welcomed her home with open arms and they comforted each other. She held him on the nights that he grieved Alexa. He had stood beside her without a word of condemnation as she described her doomed affair with Angel. They had both attempted love with others, and they had both lost in devastating ways. To be once again by his side, even in this body that she still despised, six years later, and have him pay the same loving attention to her now that he had years before, decades, even centuries before, had eased a hurt in her she had not recognized until she had found Methos once again. While they grieved, they rejoiced in once again being together. Together the celebrated the joy of reuniting with their other half -- she to the oh-so-familiar and deeply loved body of her longtime lover, and he to the new and different one that housed his oldest and most trusted friend.

It had been a bittersweet parting, as she returned to the hellmouth after a visit from a flustered and cringing Whistler. When Adam appeared at the library doors, Buffy had wanted to touch every part of him to reassure herself that he was really there. The previous night’s challenge had left her feeling raw and half-crazed. She hated challenges on the hellmouth. Even if the Quickening itself were not dark, the darkest portions of the loser’s personality tended to dominate on the hellmouth. And Gregory, she had once called him friend. Actually, in the early 1300s, she had called him Watcher, lover, and husband. Until he had gone mad from venom of a Dra’xmari demon and stabbed her to death before hanging himself from the rafters of their home in Wittenburg. She had been long gone before he rose. That Gregory had wandered onto the hellmouth and challenged her -- well, it was freaking her out to say the least. She wanted to find a place to scream, cry, beat something into a pulp. But it was daytime, and few demons roamed the halls of Sunnydale High. She didn’t feel the strength of will to keep up the appearance of her cover. It had become more difficult to maintain her valley-girl facade after she had returned from her summer in Europe, but with this semi-dark Quickening racing through her body and wreaking havoc with her slayer hormones and emotions, Buffy knew she was lost.

By second period, Sunnydale High School was all a-twitter about the handsome new teacher that had arrived. When Buffy arrived in the world history classroom for third period, the rumor mill was grinding fast and furious.

“I heard he’s getting married to Miss Martin.” Harmony squealed. “He’s so cute!”

Buffy snorted under her breath.

“He’s from France, Harmony, when would he have met Miss Martin?” Cordelia’s voice cut through the crowd.

“Well, that’s what I heard. Besides, Miss Martin spent the summer in the Loire valley.” Harmony pouted. “No one’s said what his name is, yet.”

Willow ducked forward in her seat and whispered in Buffy‘s ear. “Have you seen the new teacher, Buffy”
“Yes.” Buffy pretended to study the history book in front of her, flipping through the pages until she got to ancient Greece, the current topic of study.

“Well?” Willow waited. Xander looked over from his comic book to see what sort of response Buffy gave.

Buffy shrugged. “Well what?”

“What’s his name? How old is he? Is he drool-worthy? Is he?” Willow mouthed the words soundlessly “human?”

“Adam Pierson. I don’t know how old he is, but Giles taught him in college.” She gave Willow an annoyed frown. “Of course he’s human, Willow.”

“I noticed that you didn’t say if he’s drool-worthy.” Xander winked. Buffy glared back at him.

Xander’s comment drew Cordelia’s attention. “You’ve met the new teacher?”

“I said I had.” Buffy attempted to return to her fake reading of the book.

“They were at each other’s throats this morning.” Xander teased. While Cordelia and Willow were watching for Buffy’s reaction, Xander mouthed -- “tonsils.”

“You’ve already fought with the new teacher? He’s not even been here a day!” Even in a hoarse whisper, Willow’s surprise was evident.

“I even have detention from Herr Snyder.” Buffy griped. “It’s not like I did anything.”

“Why are you surprised, Willow? Buffy will fight anyone, she’s a freak.”

“I didn’t fight with Adam!” Buffy whined. “We don’t fight. We never fight. There was no fighting.”

“Since when do you call teachers by their first name?” Willow chided.

“Okay, right. Mr. Pierson, then.” Buffy scowled.

“We never fight?” Cordelia asked. “Sounds like you know the new teacher better than you’re letting on.”

Buffy had been saved from what would probably have been an injudicious response by the appearance of Mrs. Pratt, the history teacher. For the next fifty minutes, Buffy scowled and grumbled her way through the inaccurate retelling of the Peloponnesian War.

Chapter 6:Getting to Know you

It was an unusually busy morning in the library. No less than thirty students had made their way through the library that morning, ostensibly to check out books. With two exceptions, it was clear they were checking out Dr. Pierson. Freshman class treasurer and bookworm Sarah Martinez came to the library every Tuesday morning at nine a.m., checked out four books and returned four -- she did that this morning, not even noticing the new assistant librarian replacing books in the stacks.

Oz appeared in the library shortly into second period, a sheepish grin on his face and pointed to his book bag lying on the floor beside the cage. He went to retrieve the book, and stopped short as he passed near Adam on the way out. Sniffing, he looked the new man in the eye. “You know Buffy?” At Adam’s nod, Oz said, “huh,” and left the library.

To his credit, Adam Pierson handled the throngs of fawning teenage girls -- because Larry and Oz were the only boys to visit -- with great aplomb. He was polite to a fault, but somehow brushed off their clumsy attempts to catch his attention without making any of them feel silly. Giles watched him with awe. Giles had cultivated the stuffy, stuttering British watcher persona to force a distance between him and the nubile young students of the school. Keep them out of reach so you won’t be tempted, he had figured, and it had worked, maybe too well. Over time, he’d come to know most of the teens that had ventured into the library, and his awareness of their childish immaturity had overcome any fleeting purely physical attraction. Adam, on the other hand, could wade well into the deep waters of lithesome California teenagers, obviously enjoying the attention, but somehow immune to their charms. When lunchtime arrived and the adoring throng scattered and Giles and Adam had the library to themselves.

“You managed to fend off those girls quite well.” Giles commented.

Adam shrugged. “They’re not all that tempting.”

Giles gave him an incredulous look.

“Well, the slayer will be in my bed tonight. Why would I be interested in anyone else?” Adam smiled, and Giles felt a brief flash of anger at Adam’s cockiness. “Besides, if she thought I showed interest in another woman, do you think I’d live very long?”

Giles reconsidered. Buffy’s temper was legendary, but she didn‘t kill humans. “I doubt she’d kill you.”

“Oh, I’m quite certain she would. Painfully.” Adam made a face, as if calling up some unhappy memory.

“Whatever happened to that lovely Italian girl you dated in college?” Giles and Ethan had not been particularly attentive to the fraternization rules during their graduate work. There had been an embarrassingly large number of undergraduates of both sexes lured to their bed during his tenure as teaching assistant to one of the professors at Durham. Including Adam. Along with a lovely well-endowed Italian girl who had with few inhibitions and no limits to her willingness to experiment with the three men, although her relationship had been solely with Adam. “What was her name?”

“Isabella Corsini.” Adam answered shortly.

“Yes, Isabella.” Giles answered. “Whatever happened to her?”

“She died.” At Giles’ look of surprise, Adam sighed. “It was seven years ago. We were on an extended vacation after my graduation from the Sorbonne. We had settled in Tuscany for our final stop before returning to Paris. She had an aneurism in her sleep. When I awoke the next morning, she was already cold.” Adam’s face had closed down into an emotionless mask.

“I am sorry for your loss.” Giles felt a sick cold feeling in the pit of his stomach. Isabella had been so very vibrant and alive, it was hard to imagine her dead. And so senselessly. He had become almost accustomed to battle losses -- but to lose a friend to a natural death, it seemed almost mundane, and unfair, that such a brilliant woman should be snuffed out by an accident of nature. “Isabella was an amazing woman.”

Isabella had split and taken Adam with her when he and Ethan began their investigations of Eyghon. In retrospect, that had been a wise move on her part. The day that Adam and Isabella had politely refused any more invitations to join them had been the beginning of the rift between Giles and Ethan. The fallout of the Eyghon incident had widened the gap. His father’s arrival on his doorstep, along with Travers and several Council enforcers, had been the final straw. He had been moved from his home with Ethan and guarded day and night until he finished his dissertation. And he had been tailed 24-7 well into his years at the British Museum.

“Tea?” At Adam’s nod, Giles turned his back on Adam and went to make the tea. “It’s clear Buffy told you she is the slayer. Pardon me if I fail to see how my slayer would begin to approach the appeal of…”

“Isabella?” Adam smiled at him, yet it was a sad smile.

Giles cleared his throat as he returned to the table with two steaming mugs of tea. Passing one to Adam, he sat across from him. He could feel a hot flush creeping up his cheeks. “Yes.”

“Buffy has her own appeal.” Adam gave a slightly sappy smile. That eased Giles’ discomfort that Adam, an acquaintance of his youth and casual lover, there had been no real romantic attachment, was now intimate with his slayer. “She doesn’t need to be someone else.”

“I suppose there’s no way to persuade you to abandon your relationship with my slayer?” Rupert asked.

Adam looked up at him in surprise. “I thought you’d prefer me over Angelus.”

“She’s seventeen. She doesn’t need the distraction of a sexual relationship at this age. With anyone. And she certainly doesn’t need the pregnancy risk.”

“And if I assure you there is no risk of pregnancy with me?”

Rupert shrugged. “She’s still very young. And I’m sure you could find other willing partners.” Giles gave him a knowing look.

Adam smirked at him. “And you’re offering your services. What would Ethan say?”

“Well, if Ethan were around, he’d probably be jumping for joy. But we split up years ago.”

Adam leaned back in his seat, an unreadable expression on his face. “Ripper, it wouldn’t work.”

“Why not?”

“For one, I love Buffy. I won’t violate her trust, and I’m not interested in anyone else. Second, college explorations aside, which were instigated by Isabella, I might remind you, I’m not gay. Third, see the first reason.” Adam put his tea on the table and pushed back. “You were always interested in Isabella, not me. If Ethan had made the same offer, I’d still refuse it, but it would be a little more convincing.” Adam walked over to the coat rack, as if to get his coat. “I know you are her watcher, and I imagine you are protective of Buffy, but I am not the enemy.”

“And what of Angelus?”

Adam shrugged. “I’m here because I was told Buffy needed me here. I’m not concerned with Angelus.”

“You should be.”

“No, he shouldn’t.” Buffy slid into the library bearing several bags, Willow and Oz close at her heels. “Here, Adam. Bought out Wang’s for you. It‘s the real deal. Grandma Wang cooks authentic Szechwan for you, if you order in Chinese.”

Chapter 7: Love and Kisses

Rupert Giles watched the lunchtime scene unfold while musing what tools he had at his disposal to undo the damage already done. His slayer was involved with an older man -- not an older ‘vampire’, thank the Lord, but an older human man. One not that much younger than himself. One he knew in his youth. One without the resources and skills that even Xander had acquired through hard-won experience. And one more person who could be maimed or killed by getting between Buffy and her calling. Buffy and Adam sat next to each other eating Chinese food that he certainly would not recognize as food. It was no Chinese he’d ever seen. And they shared the food in a manner that belied years of intimacy, not a summer fling. In fact, Buffy’s very demeanor had changed. She had a softness of expression that he’d never seen on her before. He knew that she loved Angel -- her actions had proved as much, but it was an thing of quick hot passion, that Giles was sure would have burned out had events played out differently. Her feelings for Adam appeared to run much deeper.

This -- affair -- because it certainly appeared to have more substance than a fling greatly disturbed him. Whatever concerns he may have had about Angelus’ proclivities, nothing he had witnessed from Buffy indicated that the souled version of the vampire indulged the demon‘s darker urges. Adam, on the other hand, was a known quantity. And Adam’s taste for kink in college had far exceeded his own comfort zone, even at his most dissolute. Rupert knew his own tastes had mellowed somewhat since his forced separation from Ethan; he could only hope that Adam’s had as well. But he doubted it. Adam had not had years of council indoctrination poured down his throat. The very fact that Adam was with his seventeen year old slayer made him suspect. Giles groaned inwardly. He had little hope of influencing his slayer one way or another. He had failed in his attempt to warn off or seduce Adam Pierson. He doubted that there was little he could say to his slayer to pry her away from Adam without admitting to some embarrassing behavior that he’d rather keep to himself. Perhaps Joyce could be of some use. Best to observe and consider.

He was interrupted as Xander came through the door to join the group at the table, opening brown paper sack with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple, and two Twinkies. He took a seat next to Oz, the two of them giving each other a brief challenging glance before Oz broke off eye contact and moved his chair another inch closer to Willow. Giles didn’t care much for Xander’s behavior. Xander was still territorial about Willow even though she had shown a clear preference for Oz. Giles glanced at his slayer. She wore the tiniest mirthful smirk.

“So where did you meet?” Willow asked between bites of her sandwich. She leaned over to turn the page of the Egyptian tome that Giles had given her to research Anubis and the medallion. She was still a bit shy and nervous around the new teacher, and hadn’t said much.

Buffy and Adam shared an unreadable look, as if deciding how to answer. Buffy answered. “I was working at a bar. Adam visited.”

“Prettiest girl on the west coast.” Adam smiled gamely, popping another huge mouthful of the dish into his mouth.

“Liar -- but you’re sweet.” Buffy rewarded him with a kiss. “Swept me off my feet. Poor Richie. I dumped him on the spot.”

“The kid’ll live.” Adam rolled his eyes. “He’s probably got another girl lined up. Besides, I doubt he could handle you.”

“He’s dating a girl named Bethany Littleton right now. Met her a month ago in Seattle. He’s over me.” Buffy sighed dramatically. “I’m so forgettable.”

Giles scoffed and leaned over Willow’s shoulder, looking at the tome that seemed to hold less interest to her than the handsome new teacher. So they met in a bar, hardly surprising, Adam drank like a fish. “Where were you working?”

“Now that would be telling.” Buffy answered sweetly.

“And you’ve been so forthcoming with the events of your summer.” Giles retorted with a scowl.

“Until this morning you never asked.” Her expression closed down and turned cold. Buffy swapped dishes with Adam, giving a few comments in that strange language they seemed to share, and continued her destruction of the Szechwan dishes. She bent her head close to Adam’s. “Like it?”

“Excellent. Not as good as yours.” Adam answered, “When are you going to cook for me?”

Xander blanched. “Warning! Buffy doesn’t cook.” He shook his head. “No. That’s a dangerous area, fellow.”

Buffy frowned. “I’ll have you know I am an excellent cook, Xander Harris.”

“Right…” It was clear that Xander did not believe her.

“Fine, I’ll cook for you sometime. What do you want, Italian, German, Greek, Thai, Chinese? I make a fabulous black pudding, believe it or not.” Buffy looked over at her Watcher. “Perhaps I should come over and cook you a proper English breakfast.”

“Oh -- no. That’s quite all right.” Giles stuttered, quite certain that his slayer could not cook.

“Your loss.” Buffy shrugged and looked a little sad. “Merrick loved it when I cooked for him. Always wanted pastries -- he could eat butter croissants and scones all day. And spiced ham!”

“I’ll go to the store if you’ll fix me a proper English breakfast in the morning.” Adam clapped his hands together as if begging. “Pretty please!” Buffy giggled and nodded.

Willow had buried herself back into the Egyptian text. A few moments later she looked up. “Giles, you need this medallion. It’s called the Ring of Isis.” She pointed at the reference. “It’s the only way to defeat Anubis.”

“I know, but the question is, where is it?” Giles mused.

Buffy interjected. “I told you my mother sold it a few years ago -- ask her. Better yet, have Willow hack the gallery sales database. She wrote it, I’m sure she left a back door.”

“Buffy, I sincerely doubt that some cheap trinket that your mother sold years ago is the Ring of Isis. Her gallery doesn’t sell artifacts of this quality.” Buffy shot her watcher a dirty look and made a comment to Adam. If any Scooby had known the language, they would have heard, “See what I have to put up with?” She turned back to Giles. “Before we moved here, Mom’s gallery was in Beverly Hills. She handled plenty of expensive artifacts before my dad took the building and two-thirds of the gallery’s money in the divorce settlement”
“More importantly, Giles, where is this ‘vessel of Osiris’? He’s the only one that can use the medallion.”

“One of us will have to summon the god Osiris and become his vessel.” Giles replied. “There are spells to do that.”

Buffy rolled her eyes and made a few unintelligible comments to Adam, who responded with a laugh. They went back and forth a few times, earning dumbfounded stares from all the others in the room. “Show me the damn book.” Buffy reached across the table, grabbing the book. She and Adam put their heads together and read the passage. “Who wrote this?” Buffy turned the book to its cover and looked up at Adam.

“Cass.” They both swore. “Could it be a fake?” Buffy asked hopefully. Adam began combing through the book, looking for evidence that the book was faked. He shook his head.

“Wills, go look through the database. Mom probably sold the ring, locket -- whatsis at least three or four years ago. The guy that brought it by was named Fitzcairn. F-I-T-Z-C-A-I-R-N. Hugh, maybe?”

Willow went to the computer and started clicking keys on the computer. “Somebody was doing some stuff this morning and didn’t cover their tracks too well.”

“Somebody didn’t think you’d go snooping, Wills. It was me.” Willow’s eyes widened as Buffy approached the computer and looked over Willow’s shoulder. Adam stood behind Buffy, towering over her small frame as the search effort flickered on the screen. Receiving Willow’s resolve face, Buffy shrugged. “So I opened a few Swiss bank accounts last summer. No big.”

“Hugh Fitzcairn. How’d your mother wind up dealing with him?” Adam asked absentmindedly. “He doesn’t do much business.”

“Yeah. Fitz isn’t interested in much but whiskey and skirt. And gambling enough to obtain more whiskey and skirt. I’m surprised he didn’t hit on Mom.” Buffy snickered. “What’s he doing these days, anyway?”

“He didn’t try to seduce you?”

“I was twelve!” Buffy looked disappointed. “’Sides, he’s boring. No…” Buffy made a sign with her fingers and said a phrase Giles didn’t recognize. Adam’s eyes twinkled a bit. “He did want me to swing by in a few years. Maybe we’ll drop by sometime.”

“He’s dead, darling.” Adam leaned down and whispered some things in Buffy’s ear.

Buffy face fell and she sagged back into Adam’s arms. “I want to go home.” She turned back to the computer, watching Willow work, but shiny tears tracked down her cheeks, and she pulled Adam’s arms tight around herself.

“So why Fitz?”

Buffy cleared her throat a few times and swallowed hard. “Connor’s pissed with us. We have -- had -- to use Fitz as a go-between for our stuff. I guess Connor wasn’t interested in the piece.” Buffy shrugged, looking at the screen. “Wills, he’s HFC. Not HF. Mom-logic.” Buffy looked at Adam who was smirking at her. “Besides, I’m sure that Connor researched where the piece came from.”

“And where would that be?” Adam’s voice was amused. Giles glanced over from a Sumerian text that dealt with the ring, attempting to cross-reference the entry with the prophecy from the Egyptian text.

“Egyptian Museum in Cairo.”

“You didn’t!” Buffy turned around to smile brilliantly at him through her tears. “Ah, hell. You did.” Adam looked both disgusted and pleased. “Care to share what the two of you did to piss old Connor off?”

“Uh… No.”

“Come on, pretty please?” Adam’s voice came out as a wheedle.


“Oh, do share!” Xander piped up from the library table.


“Now.” Adam whispered low in her ear. “I promise I’ll do that thing..”

“No fair!” Buffy covered his mouth with her hand. “Don’t say it in front of them.” She rolled her eyes. “Fine. Amanda had a little party a while back with Connor to celebrate a sale.” She gave Adam a nudge. “And there were some uninvited guests.” She held up three fingers. “Care to guess who crashed the party?”

“No way.” Adam laughed.

“Yup,. We warned Connor, but he said he was okay with it. Let’s just say Will got a little overenthusiastic and his teeth wound up where they shouldn’t have.”

“Oh dear.” Adam’s eyes teared up with the effort not to laugh.

“And we girls were too busy admiring the view to realize how upset he was. He had no idea. Never seen a…” Buffy used the Ancient word for ’vampire’ “…before.” Buffy giggled. “’Course, it’s his own stupid fault. Idiot. Connor panicked and yanked his leg out.”

“Oh no.” Adam’s shoulders were shaking.

“Big chunk of thigh,” Buffy held two hands up to make a large circle roughly three inches round. “Gone. Then there was the little problem of bleeding to death. So he was a little put out.”

“I’d imagine.” Adam was laughing so hard, he had fallen against the wall sinking to the floor, pulling Buffy with him. Buffy was laughing too.

“Then, in addition, he had both Winn and Myers on his tail. And you well know how long those bites take to heal. And if you lose half your leg in the bargain.” Buffy shrugged and wiped her eyes. “Funny thing, they both disappeared. Quite convenient, that.”

“You didn’t.”

“Who me?” Buffy did her best ‘I’m innocent’ face. “Well, Connor never would have figured it out if Amanda hadn’t tried to sell Winn’s katana in Connor’s store”
“Love?” Adam leaned against the wall, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Yes, dear?” Buffy turned to in his lap to face him.

“Whatever happened to Yoshida?”

“Oh, please. You know good and well what happened to Yoshida. He wasn’t much of a fight.”

“Come here.” Adam bent over to press a kiss against Buffy’s lips. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Willow, who had been doing her best to ignore the two lovebirds while searching on the web called out. “Hey, you were right! I think I found it.”

Giles stepped over to the computer. “Who bought it?”

“Somebody named Daniel Jackson. Colorado Springs.”

Chapter 8: Invitations

It was a quiet afternoon in the library. Most of the curious girls had seen the new teacher already, Willow was in class the whole day, and Adam gamely wrestled with the infernal machine while Giles attempted to research the prophecy further. “Did you know Daniel Jackson is an Egyptologist?” Adam asked.

“Really? Never heard of him.” Giles pulled another book over to the stack he was working with at the table.

“Wrote a paper on how the pyramids were built by aliens.”

“Ridiculous.” Giles scoffed. “Hope they laughed him out of town.”

“Well, he was at Oxford a little after us, and now he is in Colorado Springs, so I guess so.” Adam stopped when Willow entered the library. “Willow, perhaps you can dig up more information than I can. I have all his credit reports and his address, but I can’t come up with more current information than that Daniel Jackson works for the military as a civilian contractor.”

“Hey, you did pretty good.” Willow looked through the stack of papers, impressed. “There’s not much more you can get on a person without real hacking skills. Wow! He’s pretty accident prone. Scooch over, I’ll see what I can come up with.”

“Hey, Giles! I’m here!” Buffy blasted into the library in form-fitting exercise wear. Giles stood up from behind the counter, about to say something. Buffy ignored him. Spotting Methos, she put her hands on her hips. “Adam, I thought I told you to get dressed.”

“I am dressed.” Adam looked at his clothes. “You made this sweater, I don’t see a problem with it.”

“I made all your sweaters, Adam. Go get dressed. We have reservations at the ‘Bey tonight, it’s black tie.” Buffy sauntered over to Methos and gave him a probing kiss, whispering in his ear. “It’s on holy ground. Even the parking lot. No troubles for us.”

“Ah.” Adam smiled broadly. “I do like that plan.”

“The Abbey is sixty-plus dollars a plate, Buffy.” Giles pointed out. “And it’s thirty miles up the coast. The waiting list is weeks.”

“And?” Buffy tapped her foot impatiently indicating that Adam should leave. “We’re not paying for it.”

“That sounds even better. How’d you manage that racket?”

“Mmm-mmm. Not telling Giles.” Buffy leaned over and whispered in Adam’s ear.

“You are a scheming little wench, aren’t you?” Adam pinched her bottom and dragged himself out of his chair and pointed across the room in an imperious manner. “Go fetch your sword, wench! If we wait any longer you’ll get rusty.” Adam stripped off his sweater and unbuttoned the top buttons of his shirt, pulling it over his head. When he was done, and bare from the waist up, Buffy licked her lips. Adam frowned teasingly and pointed once again to Buffy’s coat which held her sword. “Go!”

“Just admiring the view.” Buffy laughed and went to retrieve her sword. “Who are you calling, wench, Old Man?”

“You! Care to place any wagers on the outcome, wench?” Adam pulled out his sword, swinging it playfully. “I’m feeling lucky.”

“It’ll take more than luck to beat me, Adam.” Buffy saluted him with the sword. Adam returned the salute. “What sort of wager were you thinking?”

“I win, you…” Adam rattled off a few words in Ancient, Buffy frowned. “You win, I do all Ripper’s lovely tricks for you.” Giles looked up, white-faced. Adam launched at Buffy with a quick attack, that she brushed off easily, giving Adam a dirty look.

Buffy parried, jumping over a low swing that Adam aimed at her thighs. She then kicked Adam in the stomach as she came down, sending him reeling back a few feet. “Ripper’s right there, I could ask him to his tricks himself.” Buffy pointed out, indicating her watcher. “Don’t expose your midsection, Adam.”

Adam barked a response in Ancient and fixed his stance. Buffy pulled her elbows in closer to her sides, fixing a problem that Giles was always trying to correct. “You spend entirely too much time with Angelus to convince me that Ripper has ever shown you his tricks.”

Buffy sighed dramatically. “I’ve tried everything. Even this.” She indicated her skimpy outfit. “He doesn’t even know I’m female.” She made some derogatory comments in Ancient about the tiny size of her breasts. “I think he’s gone entirely over to the other side. I’d have better luck with him if I were Ethan.”

“I’m well aware that you’re female, Buffy.” Giles groaned, not liking the turn of conversation, but feeling a half-hearted need to defend himself. The second half of him was shocked that Adam had told Buffy about his times with Ethan. Most of him was entirely fixated on the flashing swords that rained down between the two lovers. He’d never seen Buffy fight so well. They moved as if dancing, not even appearing to think about the moves. Occasionally, Adam or Buffy would bark out a command and the one of them would correct some nearly invisible defect in their stance or hold. Willow had looked up once from the computer to see the fight and returned to work, an intent expression on her face. She clearly was too entranced in her work at the computer to pay attention to the fight or the conversation.

“You inviting the watcher to join us?” Adam smirked as he stepped to one side to avoid a thrust.

“Fine, I win, Ripper joins us. And does all his lovely tricks. And he eats my black pudding tomorrow morning. First blood?” Buffy took a backhanded swipe at Adam, hoping to catch him off guard. Adam used his sword to turn her off balance and barked another comment at her. Buffy swore using words that raised Willow’s eyebrows.

“Sloppy, wench. First blood it is.” Adam switched his sword to his other hand, Buffy did the same. Buffy attacked, lightning fast, leaving Adam completely on the defensive trying to fend off her blows. He finally found his rhythm and pushed Buffy back several feet through sheer determination. Adam’s focus was total, his eyes flat and black. Buffy, on the other hand, seemed completely relaxed, and while she was giving ground, she did not appear to be troubled by it. In a move almost too quick to be seen, Buffy dodged a blow aimed at her head, and twirled beneath Adam’s defenses to nick him in a fine line under the ribs.

“I win!” Buffy jumped up and down. She looked expectantly at Giles.

“I am not agreeing to this.” Giles shook his head.

“See? What did I tell you, Adam?” Buffy held out her sword. “Let me think. I’ll think of something. A third. Oooh. Got it.” She went to her purse and pulled out a cell phone. “Your pick, Will or Ethan?”

Adam barked a laugh. “You’re joking! They‘re both still here?”

“Of course. Will’s camped out in a house five inches outside the city limits since I tossed him out of town. Ethan’s in Anaheim.”

“I’ll take the sorcerer.”

“Oooh. Good choice. Hope he’s forgiven me for beating all that money out of him. Mom made me pay to get the Eyghon tattoo removed.”

“Darling, if I know Ethan, he enjoyed it,” answered Adam. Giles choked on his tea.

“Of course he did. Invited me back a few times and helped me get the job at Joe’s bar. Drove me up there, too.” Buffy shrugged while pushing some buttons on her cell phone. “Amazing the contacts that man has. You’d think he was one of us. It’s a shame, really.”

“So that’s how you wound up there.” Adam mused.

“No. I wanted to go up there, Ethan’s contact was just convenient. I needed some training -- and I heard the Boy Scout was up there. I can’t get used to being so short. I’m a complete klutz. Damn near lost to Angelus, and he’s no swordsman. Ethan just found me the job.” Giles heard the buzz of the phone, a click and Ethan’s voice saying “Hallo!” Buffy’s voice took on a seductive purr. “Ethan, dahling. How do you feel about a little dinner party with Adam and me? Of course tonight, we’re eating at the ‘Bey at seven.… Oh. Lovely. No, no. Ripper’s being an absolute bastard. Well, at least you apologized and paid up.” Giles heard Ethan’s voice making sarcastic comments in the receiver. Buffy laughed. “Of course Ripper knows, he’s standing right here. I want to piss him off.” Giles heard the sound of Ethan’s raucous laughter and he groaned as Buffy winked at him. “Of course I found Adam. What did you think? Oooh. Amanda and I recovered some lovely trinkets over the summer. Wait ‘til I tell you….” Ethan responded and Buffy waited until he was done. “I scored a car, love.” Buffy rolled her eyes and sounded annoyed. “Of course I can drive it.” Adam barked out a laugh. “Au revoir.” Buffy turned to Adam with a smile. “He’ll be there. He says he bought some new toys.”

“Um… Buffy. Perhaps…” Giles wanted to say something about meeting with Ethan being ill-advised and that she should reconsider. Giles felt himself begin to stutter as he looked up at a curious Buffy, realizing there was much to her life that she had hidden from him. And, further, he had just refused an invitation, in fact several invitations, however strangely worded and goading they may have been, to learn more about her. She had thrown down the gauntlet, and he had refused. Buffy raised her eyebrow and looked expectant. Giles sighed. “Never mind.” Buffy’s face fell. Giles felt he that he had failed some test that he didn’t even know was there.

Giles was saved by swinging doors as Oz and Xander came in with relaxed smiles on their faces despite the bandages on their hands. Buffy looked up. “Good meeting, then?”

“Great! Everything worked out.” Xander nodded. “He’s good.”

Buffy looked back and forth between the two of them. “And Willow?”

“It’s fine.” Xander shrugged. “Veruca’s a little upset, but no worries.” At the mention of Veruca’s name, Oz tensed slightly and ran his hand through his green hair. “She can’t do anything to you, Oz. As much as she likes to pretend, she’s not a dominant.” Xander stroked Oz’s back as though comforting him. Oz frowned and nodded.

Oz walked over to Willow, sitting at her feet and putting his head in her lap. Willow ran her hand absentmindedly through his hair and Oz gave a small shudder. “Everything good, baby?”

Oz nodded. “All good.”

“Who’s his sponsor?”

“So you know whose butt to kick?” Xander grinned. Buffy nodded. “Justin.”

“Ah. Good choice.” Justin was a wereleopard that had run away from his pack in Nevada, winding up on Hellmouth. He’d survived three years alone on the Hellmouth before Xander founded the mixed-were pack. Justin was a dominant, but not dominant enough to lead a pack on the Hellmouth. He’d be Nimir-Raj anywhere but Sunnydale. Xander respected him for his good judgement and cool head. “I won’t need to kick his butt.”

Willow was still running her hands through Oz’s hair. Oz appeared to be relaxing somewhat. “Hey, Giles! How much info do you want on Daniel Jackson? I’ve cut through the first four levels of security, but there’s still blacked out info. You want “Eyes Only” stuff, or just the “Top Secret” stuff?”

Giles looked up from his books. “What on earth do you mean, Willow?”

“Well, he works on a top-secret project in Cheyenne Mountain. Officially, it’s Deep-Space Radar Telemetry. But reading through the lines, that’s a cover. And not a very good one.” Willow typed a few more lines. “So I got past that level, and figured out he’s working as a translator for a group called SG-1. It’s booted me out four times. I’m trying to crack this account.” Buffy wandered over to the computer. “Jack O’Neill. Try Bella. B-E-L-L-A.”

“Nope.” Willow answered. “Not enough letters. At least six.”

Buffy turned to look back at Adam. “Adam. If you were Jack, what would you use for your password?”

“D-U-M-B-A-S-S.” Adam answered.

“Adam! No, seriously.”

Adam approached the computer and looked at the screen. “You can’t honestly believe that’s Jack.”

“Colonel in the Air Force? Working at Cheyenne Mountain? That’s exactly where he’d hide.” Buffy leaned over the keyboard, quickly typed ‘Methos’ and hit Enter.

“He wouldn’t use that.” Adam scratched his afternoon stubble. The screen read, “Wrong password, please try again.” “Try M-A-F-D-E-T.” Willow’s fingers flew over the keys. She hit the enter key. The screen flashed and a new screen appeared. The splash screen read “Welcome to the Stargate Program.” Buffy and Adam read the lines of Ancient text that decorated the screen before Jack’s e-mail listing showed up.

Xander heard Willow screech with joy and rushed to look over her shoulder. He glanced down the list of subject topics. He whistled. “Whoa doggies! Are you supposed to be in there?”

“No.” Willow seemed to be a bit shocked at the headlines. “Who are the Asgard? And the Go-ald?”

“That bastard!” Buffy hissed as she stepped back from the computer. “His head is mine.”

Adam’s voice was ice. “Not if I get to him first.”