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Phoenix Rising

'In every generation, there is One Girl.
'Only she can fight the vampires, demons and other forces of darkness.
'She is the Slayer.

'They are the Children of the Atom, Mutants,
'born with powers that set them apart from the general run of humanity.
'Gathered by Professor Charles Xavier, they now fight to protect a world that fears and hates them.
'They are the X-Men.

Buffy sat in a chair in her lounge room, thinking. How will they pay the bills, what kind of jobs are there for a Slayer?

How can she be alive?

She thought back to the night where she had given her life to save this world. Or so she thought. Then their had been that strange orange light, a pull back the way she came, a sudden rush of heat . . .

And life.

She also remembered the one thing that she hadn''t told her friends. The voice. She closed her eyes, remembering what had been said.

""Return, Slayer. Return to the life you are leaving behind. You are needed yet."

' "Who are you?" She had asked, not expecting a decent answer.

""You shall find out soon enough. Call your cousin Scott, he will be able to explain." That had been a week ago. She still hadn''t called. Scott had a relatively normal life (besides the fact he lived at a school). He didn''t need the complexity that is the life of the Slayer.

At least one member of Summers clan should be able to live a normal life.

Scott Summers, however, was anything but normal.

Born a mutant, with powerful and uncontrollable concusive blasts generated from his eyes, cursed forever to view the world through a visor of ruby quartz. He was also the leader and mainstay of the team of mutant heroes, the X-Men. But right now, he was worried.

It had been a week since the dreams had started. His cousin, Buffy, surrounded by a flaming shape he knew all to well. He had told his wife, Jean Grey, of the dreams, hoping she might have some ideas. He had asked Professor Xavier, the founder of the X-Men, for some advice. Being two of the premier telepaths on the planet, he had hoped they one of them could shed some light on the subject. Both had answered in the same way.

"Scott, if you''re worried, call her."

He looked at the phone, thinking.

"Ya gotta pick it up and put it to yer ear if ya want to use it." The voice was deep and rough. Just like the man it belonged to, thought Scott, rough around the edges.

"Thanks for the advice, Logan. I''ll try to remember that." He turned to face the speaker, the X-Man known far and wide as Wolverine. "Is there anything in particular I can help you with?"

"Look, Cyke, if ya really that worried than call her, for cryin'' out loud, put us all out of yer misery."

"What are you ……?"

"Ya think yer the only one Jean talks to around here, bub? She''s worried about ya."

Of all the people Jean could tell, Scott thought, she had to tell Logan. Out loud, he said, "I''m sure everything''s fine, Logan. If there were any problems, she''d call." Scott remembered her mother''s funeral, and conversation they''d had after it. She said she would call if she needed anything, but ……

"Why don''t we go an'' check on her, then?"

"What?" Scott looked at Logan with a look of absolute shock.
The feral X-Man always liked teasing their visored leader, but this time he was serious.

"Look, Slim, we''ve both got time owing over that whole thing with Apocalypse, an'' if one more kid asks to see my flamin'' claws, I''m gonna do somethin'' drastic. So why don''t we go ask Chuck for some time off and see this flamin'' cousin a'' yours."

"Logan I ……

""I think that would be for the best. I approve your requests for time off." The disembodied voice of Professor Charles Xavier rang in the minds of both men. ""You can''t lead the X-Men with a family matter weighing on your mind, Scott. Go make sure everthings alright, and by all means, take Wolverine with you, just in case."

"But Professor, I……"

""No arguments Scott, I insist."

""And so do I." Jean sent mentally. ""We still have a lot of catching up to do and I won''t have you worrying about your cousin the whole time."

Behind his visor, Scott rolled his eyes. This was unbelievable! All three of them were ganging on him! "Look guys, I appreciate, what you''re trying to do but……"

"Ahh, Scott, Logan, there you are." The blue, shaggy form of Dr Henry McCoy walked through the door behind Logan. "I have your tickets here."

Scott looked at the former Avenger known as the Beast. "I know I''m going to regret asking this, Hank, but what tickets?"

"Your plane tickets." Henry somehow managed to say with a completely straight face. Logan, however, was in a fit of histerics. "The Professor told me the both of you were going to Sunnydale to visit that branch of the Summers family tree and I took the liberty of booking your flight. Your plane leaves in two days." He handed him the tickets he had been carrying in his furry paw. "Enjoy your trip." Logan, who had almost stopped laughing, doubled over once more, roaring with laughter.

""Thank you, Hank. I''ll start packing for you, Scott." Jean sent, and Scott knew she was trying not laugh herself. Even Xavier was indulging in a little mental laughter. He groaned audibly and shook his head.

"Alright, alright, I''ll ring her now and tell her we''re coming over." He shook his head again. Actually, it would be good to see Buffy and Dawn again. He picked up the phone and dialed the number. At least they hadn''t been here to see witness this, he thought thankfully.

Rupert Giles, watcher, was just picking up another book when the phone rang. He had been hard at work researching Buffy''s rather explosive return from the dead, but so far had come up with nothing but a migraine. No prophesies, no nothing. The phone call was a welcome distraction.

"Summmers residence."

"Hello can I please speak to Buffy or Dawn?" Giles could here some rather uncontrollable laughter in the background, and could only guess it was some sort of prank call.

" Um, and who can I say is calling.?"

"This is their cousin, Scott. Could I……uh, excuse me for a moment." Giles heard a hand covering the mouth piece followed by a very muffled "Logan could you please SHUT UP!!""

"Just a moment, I''ll see if either of them are home."

"Thank you."

Giles walked into the lounge room we''re Buffy was still staring out the window. "Um, Buffy, there is a young man on the phone. He says he''s your cousin Scott." When he saw the look on her face, he wished this Scott had called earlier. The look on her face at the mention of this cousin was the closest to a smile he had seen in a week. It was also the fastest she had moved in a week.

For Buffy, it was happiest she had been since her should have been death experience. "Scott?"

"Buffy, hey, how are you?"

"Oh you know, same old, same old. How about you?" She hated lying to Scott but it was necessary. Besides, she could talk about the Voice with him when Giles wasn''t watching her like a hawk.

"Well, that''s kind of what I''m calling about. A colleague and I are thinking of coming for a visit." There was a rueful sigh on the other end of the line. "Actually I''m being kind of forced. I hope you don''t mind. The headmaster of the school we both work at kind of insisted. We leave in two days. I know it''s short notice but……"

"No, no, that''s fine." She felt like doing a backflip. No, three backflips. And a triple somersault at the end. "Do you know when you''re arriving? Do you want us to meet you at the airport? Is there anything in particular we need to know about this colleague? Is he a criminal of some kind? Oh God, I can''t believe I just said that."

At the other end of the line, Scott was smiling. Some things never changed. "Buffy, calm down, alright, deep breaths. No, he''s not a criminal. His names Logan. I''d love to meet you at the airport. We arrive at eleven thirty in the evening, is that alright?"

"That''s fine. We''ll see you then, okay?"

"Alright, Buffy, see you in two days then. Bye."

"See you then." As soon as she hung up she did exactly what she planned. Three backflips and a triple somersault.

Straight into Spike.

"Hey watch it, will ya?"

"Are you alright, Buffy?" Giles asked "I haven''t seen you this animated in ages."

At this point the rest of the Scooby Gang arrived and Dawn came down from upstairs. "What''s all the noise down here. I was trying to sleep."

"Yeah, what''s up, Buff?" Xander asked, Anya hanging of his arm as usual.

"Scotts coming down coming for a visit." Buffy burst out.

"Scott? Cousin Scott? Teacher cousin Scott?!?" Dawn said excitedly.

"That''s the one." Buffy said, beaming.

"Wow, Buffy, that''s……um……" Began Willow, not sure what to say. Anyone who could get Buffy out of the hole she''d been in the past week had to be amazing

"Who is this guy, any way?" Asked Spike, picking himself up off the floor.

"He was basically my favorite cousin when I was younger. Then, the day before Dawn was born……"

"By monk implanted memories." Added Dawn sarcastically

"……there was plane crash and we lost contact. We all thought he was dead until he showed up one Christmas with his new wife."

"Well, that explains the talk about meeting him at the airport, but what about this colleague he was talking about?"

"Yeah, is Jean coming?" asked Dawn. Although she hadn''t actually been there that Christmas, she remembered it as if she had been, and what she did remember was a kind, caring young lady with fiery red hair.

"No, he said he was bringing a colleague from the school, some guy named Logan." The name of Scotts ''colleague'' sent Spike''s mind reeling. If that was who he thought it was, this was going to get interesting.

"This is about to get interesting." Said Scott as they approached the metal detectors at JFK airport.

"It seems that I may have made a slight error when I made the travel plans." Hank agreed, who had come, using an image inducer to hide his fur, with Jean to see them both off. "I neglected to specify that one of the travelers had a adamantium laced skeleton."

"I could try to blind everyone in the airport to the alarm going off telepathically." Suggested Jean. Logan shook his head and began moving towards metal detector.

"Relax, Jeanie," he said confidently "I got it covered."

As was expected, the detector went off as soon as he walked through it. But as the guard moved towards him with the portable detector, he whipped out a set of keys and exclaimed, in his calmest voice "Sorry, bub, flamin'' keys set it off every time." The guard laughed and waved them through.

"That was close." Said Hank.

"You said it, Hank." Said Scott "Good thinking, Logan."

"Congratulate Cable next time you see him," The feral X-Man replied, with a grin "that''s his trick."

As they approached the gate, it was time for good-byes. Jean embraced both men, wishing them well, Hank merely shook their hands. As the plane took off, Jean sent a message to them both telepathically.

""Behave you two."

"Can you see him yet?" Dawn asked nervously. They were five minutes late, and she was afraid they may have already left.

Buffy, who was standing on a seat, scanned the airport one more time. "Not yet. I……Wait!" She squinted wishing she had brought binoculars with her. "There he is. Scott! SCOTT!" She yelled across the terminal. Jumping off her seat, she sprinted towards the young man who was, in many ways, her very best friend.

"Buffy!" he said with a smile, as reached him, and held her in a fierce hug. This is it, the young man known in certain circles as Cyclops thought to himself, this is one of the only times he was ever going to get close to being normal.

"Its so good to see you." She said happily. She pulled away to have a really good look at him, then noticed the rather rough looking man sanding behind him. "Who''s this, your bodyguard?"

"Huh? Oh," Scott realized that he had been completely ignoring Wolverine since they''d arrived. "This is Logan. Logan, these are my cousins, Buffy and Dawn." He said as Dawn ran up and embraced him as well.

"Pleased ta meet ya." He said with a grin. "Jean''s a bit busy preparing for the next semester, so she sent me ta keep an eye on this mug." He shook hands with Dawn then Buffy, a bit taken aback by the pressure she was able to put into it. "Whoa! Nice grip ya got there, darlin''."

"Yeah, well, I''ve been working out a bit lately." She said smoothly as Giles caught up. "This is Rupert Giles. He''s a friend we met when we moved here. He''s been helping me look after Dawn since mom……" she trailed off, thinking of the last time that Scott had come to visit.

"Good to meet you. Buffy has been availing us with stories of your antics as children." Giles said, realizing that this was still a touchy subject.

Logan instantly saw possibilities. "And what kind of ''antics'' would these be?" he asked.

"Logan," Scott suddenly found himself regretting bringing him. This holiday was going to get very difficult. "maybe we should keep this until we get settled down."

"Whatever you say, Shades."

"Alright then, uh, shall we?" Giles said lead the way as the Summers began their family reunion.

"You sure we''re all gonna fit in there, darlin''?" Logan asked, looking up at the house.

"Sure we will." Said Buffy "We''ve already sorted out the rooms, it''ll be fine. Oh," she added, "call my sister ''darlin'' again and I will rip your arms off." Giles gave Buffy a look of ''watch what your saying''. Logan, however, just shock his head and laughed.

"Whose ta say it was aimed at her?"

"Because," she began, grinning Scotts way. "now that I think of it, Scotts mentioned you in his letters, so I know you weren''t speaking to Giles, and calling me ''darlin'' is a good way of loosing something else." She gave him a warning glance before finishing. "I''ve had a bad week, so back off!" She picked up Scott''s bags and headed inside, Giles and Dawn following closely behind her.

"You just had to push, didn''t you?" Said Scott, "Well, I hope your happy."

Logan watched. He wasn''t happy, and he wished he had gotten the chance tell him why.

Scott's dreams had come true.

Buffy Summers had become the Phoenix.

"Buffy?" Scott blinked, trying to see through the flames that engulfed her. Flames that shaped themselves like a bird of prey.

"Scott, watch Dawn for me." She said, tears streaming down her face.

"Buffy, NO!" he screamed at her. Not again, he prayed silently. Please God, not again.

"Goodbye Scott." She said, calling all the power around her, within her.

"NO!!" Not again.

"I have to do this."

"NOOOO!!!"

Scott sat up in bed, heart pounding, cold sweat pouring down his body. It was a nightmare he had experienced repeatedly after Jeans apparent suicide on the Moon all those years ago. Only this time it was Buffy that gave her life.

And there was nothing he could do about it. He got up and went down to the kitchen. Nothing? He thought. No, he refused to believe that. He couldn''t believe it. There had to be something.

He walked into the kitchen and saw Buffy coming in through the back door. He looked at the clock. 2 AM.

"Out for a walk?" He asked calmly.

"Scott!" She exclaimed, surprised to see him at this time. She couldn''t sleep and had done a quick sweep of the park to clear her head. Now it was time to tell him what she had wanted to tell him since he had arrived. "We need to talk."

Scott sighed. "I guess we do."

Over the next couple of hours, they both spilled their respective beans. She told him about her being the Slayer, saving the world, dying.

And coming back.

He told her about him being a mutant, an X-Man, of saving the world, of merging of the force of pure evil he had fought near his entire life.

And he told her of the dreams, and what he feared they meant.

Buffy shook her head slowly. "Call your cousin Scott, he will be able to explain." She repeated what she heard a week ago from a voice she now knew to be a force of the cosmos. She looked up at him, and in that moment she looked older than anyone her age had a right to look. "So, what happens now?"

"We appraise everyone of the situation and figure it out from there." Buffy looked at him, seeing a side she had never seen before, as her cousin switched from Scott Summers to the X-Man known as Cyclops.

The next day, at the Magic Box, Buffy and Scott explained what was going on to the Scooby Gang. Logan sat to one side. He, Dawn and Giles had already been brought upto speed. The watcher was tearing through what seemed to be mountains of books with Dawn as the others sat and listened intently to what was being said. Logan looked over at Buffy. She seemed to be taking it well, but he knew better. Like last night, he could smell more than anyone else could see. The red headed witch smelled of worry, for her friend, the one beside her trying hard to comfort her. There was definitely something between those two, but he wasn''t going to make any assumptions. The guy sitting on the other side of the red head had the same feelings; the blonde behind the counter was looking in that direction. Don''t need a scent to figure that one out, thought Logan. Everyone else was basically the same.

Except Buffy.

That girl was pumped, scared, alone, angry and a dozen other emotions all at once. And through it all, the scent of the Phoenix was present. He felt sorry for her. Surrounded by others, yet all alone.

Just like the other one.

Madripor, sixteen years ago.

Logan sat on his favorite chair in the Princess'' Bar and took in the surroundings. He needed this break. From the X-Men, from Summers, from life in general. He took in a drag from his cigar, and then his nose got another scent. Familiar. Not the same……

But it was enough for the man known here by another name.

Wolverine.

He stubbed out the cigar and headed for the back door. The barkeep stopped him.

"Careful out there Logan." He said. "Somethin'' strange out there."

"Bub, strange an'' me have been friends for a long time." He said with a grin.

As soon as he walked through the door, a scene that beggared description greeted him. One teenage girl verses six seemingly human adversaries. That alone would have been enough to get him involved. These, however, were no mere humans.

"Ya''d think you blood suckers woulda'' learnt a lesson by now." He said, surprising the six vampires.

The girl also turned towards him. Red hair was the first thing he noticed, followed closely by the shard of wood clutched in her hand.

"What were you plannin'' ta do with that, girl?" He asked, hoping she would take the opening.

"Oh, I don''t know, maybe something along the lines of ……THIS!" she plunged the stake into the heart of one assailant, who promptly burst into dust. The remaining five turned back to her, ignoring Logan entirely.

Logan chuckled. "Amateur." He said, popping his claws and going to work.

Cameron heard the sound of what she though was a sword being unsheathed. She looked towards the new comer and noticed six small blades being held between his fingers. Then she realized. He wasn''t holding them. They extended from his knuckles.

Two vampires went down in rapid succession. Cameron calmly reached behind a trashcan as the remaining three gaped in amazement. Producing a kitana, she decapitated one vampire, then another. The last vampire decided that discretion was indeed the better part of valor, and ran. Cameron ran after him, Logan in hot pursuit.

The next few months were some of the happiest in his life. Even Cameron''s watcher, Jonathan, approved of the two''s partnership, on the field.

And off.

Six months later, Cameron was dead. A vampire named Spike had led her straight into a trap, and then disappeared. Logan had vowed that he would not get away with it.

Today

"Hey, Logan." Logan jumped with a start. Buffy was leaning over him, waving her hand in his face. "Hel-LO, are you awake?"

"Yeah, just thinking."

"Hasn''t anyone ever told you how dangerous that is?" said a voice from behind her.

Logan's eyes widened as Buffy moved out off the way. It couldn''t be. Sixteen years of searching……

The reactions were, needless to say, immediate.

"YOU!"

"Ah, bloody hell." Spike said as Logan's claws flew from their flesh sheaths.

"I''ve been waitin'' for this day, bub!" Logan snarled, flying towards the blonde vampire with a ferocity he could never have equaled even on the best of days. And with the chip in his head rendering Spike unable to defend himself, he took the only option available.

He ran. Logan followed.

"Here we go again." Said Scott as ran after him. Buffy was about to join him when she heard Giles groan, "I was afraid this would happen." Buffy reversed motion.

"What did you say?!?"

"Logan has met a Slayer before. Spike and Drusilla killed her. As I remember the story……"

"And when were you going to tell us this little tid bit?" Buffy looked at her watcher, the man who had been like her father, and she was not happy. Why did he always withold information like this?

"Well I only found out this morning." Giles looked at the flames forming around her. It did not look good.

Logan was about to round the corner after Spike when he ''heard'' Jeans voice.

""Scott, Logan, get back to the Magic Box, Buffy''s manifesting the Phoenix."

"WHAT?" Scott said from behind him, turned and headed back to the shop.

Logan looked down the street Spike had just run down. This may be his last chance, and yet……

"Help her Logan. She has to be stopped, before she destroys her friends and herself."

Logan looked around him. It couldn''t be. "Cameron?"

""Help her Logan." He looked down the street one more time, then headed back to the Magic Box. Spike could wait, this was more important.

Cameron looked to the man at the head of the table, eyes pleading. "You see, there is hope."

""I cannot allow the Phoenix to lose control again, I cannot take that chance." He shook his head. "I''m sorry, but there is nothing else that I can do. With Angel gone……"

""Please. Just give Logan a chance, I know he can help her."

He sighed. Odin knew that without the Phoenix, Midgard would fall, and yet……. "Very well, but one chance only!" Why he had chosen to observe the proceedings in Valhalla, in the presence of this Slayer in particular, was beyond him.

""Thank you, they won''t let you down." Cameron looked towards the pool. "Come on, Logan," she whispered "Don''t make a liar outta me."

The scene that met Logan was unbelievable. Her friends were strewn around the shop, alive but unable to move. Buffy floating, The Phoenix flaming around her. Not even Cyclops could calm her down.

"WHY?" she screamed, the cry of the Phoenix audible in the background. "WHY MUST EVERYONE KEEP SECRETS FROM ME?"

"Maybe you should be more open yourself, darlin''." Logan yelled over the noise. Buffy turned towards him as he continued. "Maybe if you''d called Scott, hell, maybe if you''d told him you''re the Slayer, we coulda helped ya earlier. Maybe if you''d told your friends the whole truth, we coulda been here earlier. Maybe if you told us about Spike, we wouldn''t be in this mess."

"HOW…… I……" the firebird faded from sight as she looked around. Her friends, her family, she could of killed them! "Oh God, what was I thinking? What……" She fell toward the ground, exhausted.

Logan caught her, cradling her like a child. "It''s alright darlin''." He said as she began to cry. "Logan's here, everything''ll be fine, you''ll see. I''ll look after ya, promise."

Scott watched on, as Logan showed a side rarely seen. Maybe bringing him wasn''t such a bad idea after all.

Odin looked at the scene as it unfolded. "Well," he said at last, looking directly at Cameron, who was beaming with pride. "It wouldst seem that thy assessment of Wolverines ability was correct."

"Told ya." she said with confidence, remembering her own experiences with Logan, hoping Buffy would soon know those feelings. The fate of the world was counting on it, and both needed a little happiness

"The path of the warrior is oft times lonely." Odin said, looking at her from his throne.

"Not necessarily."

Back at the Summers house, Logan placed Buffy lightly on her bed. He stood and looked down at her. She had fallen asleep in his arms, and every one had reached the conclusion that she should return home to rest.

She looked happy, at peace, so much like……

No, he thought roughly, not goin'' down that line o'' thought. And yet……

""And yet what?"

' He moved out of the room and down the hall towards the attic turned bedroom. "It''s nothin'', Jeanie, just……painful memories."

""If you want to talk about it……"

"I don''t, but thanks anyway." He lay down on the bed and slept, dreaming of happier days.

Buffy looked around. All she could see was gray mist. "Hello." She cried out, not expecting an answer. This was probably one of her prophetic Slayer dreams.

' "Not quite." She turned around to see a young red head, about her age, staring back at her. "We need to talk."

'

Spike leaned against a tree outside the Summers house. Somehow he had managed to lose Logan, but managed to end up here! He looked around and saw that he wasn''t the only one watching the house.

Let it go, he thought, it''s not like she can''t handle herself. He began to move towards stranger. As he did, he noticed he was talking into a cell phone. He decided to listen in on the conversation.

"……the house." The figure said. "She seemed to be unconscious……no, I cannot be sure……Yes, inform the Lord Dragon that his bride will delivered shortly."

Bride? thought Spike, well guess I''m gonna have to deliver him to the Slayer, she will want to know about this.

Inside, Logan was just getting a glass of water. He couldn''t sleep properly. Partly because of ……

"Oh great, here we go again." He turned towards the door to see Spike holding a limp body. "Now before you loose it again, one, I''m allowed in because, two, I can''t hurt anyone because I''ve got this flamin'' chip in me head."

"If you can''t hurt anyone, then what''s with the trash?"

Spike lifted the limp figures head to show a green, ridged face. "He''s a demon," he explained, "it''s humans I can''t hurt."

"It''s alright, Logan." said Buffy as she walked into the kitchen, Scott trailing behind her. "He''s telling the truth." She looked at the demon Spike was carrying. "What, you want a bounty now?"

"Hey, lay off. I only brought this guy in ''cause he''s alive. He was hangin'' around outside. Said somethin'' about a bride for some Lord Dragon. I''m presuming he meant you." He thew the demon on the floor, turned around and walked out.

"Your just lettin'' him go?" Logan asked incredulously. "I thought Slayers were supposed to, gee, I dunno, slay vampires?"

"You''d know, wouldn''t you?" she shot back, and moved over to the unconscious demon. "Let''s see what our friend here has to say for himself." Slapped him in the face. "Wake up."

"Huh……where……?"

"Isn''t inside so much nicer than the outside?" Buffy said cheerfully.

"Lady Phoenix!" The demon exclaimed, and promptly threw himself on his knees in front of her.

Buffy made a face and looked at Scott. "What, the Phoenix is some kind of royalty?"

"Well, it 'is a cosmic entity. Maybe there''s some Phoenix worshipping demon cult or something."

"Great. I think I prefer it when they just hated me." She rolled her eyes and looked down at the still bowing demon. "So exactly why were you watching my house?"

"Orders of your past and future lord, the mighty Dragon."

Buffy felt a shiver go up her spine. Dragon? In the back of her mind she heard the Phoenix screaming. ""I will not submit to him again! Never again!"

' "Never again." Buffy repeated in a whisper. Then she looked at the demon. "Take a message to the Dragon." She said. Scott and Logan glanced at each other, clearly worried. The temperature in the kitchen had risen, and both men could hear the Phoenix in her voice. "The Phoenix will never again submit to him." She picked him up by the collar. "Now, go, and never enter this house or my sight again!" she commanded and threw the demon out the door.

As the demon ran from view, she took a few deep breaths. It had almost happened again. She had almost lost control. What would have happened if she had? Who would she have hurt? She looked towards Logan and said, "Well now that''s over, I''m going back to bed."

Logan followed her towards her room. "Buffy, hold on." She turned around. "What did you mean when you……"

Buffy cut him off. "I had a visit from Cameron." She said.

Logan''s breath caught in his throat. "Cameron? But why?"

"Don''t ask me. She just explained to me what Giles didn''t get to." Buffy stopped and looked at him. "I almost killed him today, and the others. What if it happens again? What if……"

"Don''t waste your time on what if and maybes, kid. Doesn''t help, and it just wastes time." Logan thought about his own life. "Trust me, ya start saying what ifs, we''re gonna be here all night."

Buffy started to laugh, then stopped, and looked Logan squarely in the eyes. "Back at the Magic Box, after I……" Her breath caught as she pictured the scene in her mind, Giles, Xander and the others strewn all over the store. "Did……did you mean what you said? When……" Logan stopped her.

"Do you remember what I said? Exactly?"

"Yeah."

"Did the word promise come outta my mouth?

"Yeah."

"Then there''s yer answer, darlin''." He looked at her, and knew how she felt, tired, alone, desperately trying to find something solid to cling to. He''d been there often enough. "Trust me, Buffy, I don''t break my promises. Ever."

"Thank you."

"Don''t mention it." He said and walked back up to the attic.

Once he arrived, he sat on the bed. What was goin'' on? Why couldn''t he stop thinking about her? What he''d said was true enough, he''d look out for her. At first, he''d said it because he felt that he owed it to Cameron for letting her down. But now, he just wanted to hold her, comfort her, whisper that everything would be fine. Why?

""Maybe it''s love." said a familiar voice in his head. He whirled around and came face to face to an astral projection of Professor Charles Francis Xavier, founding father of the X-Men. ""Your not immune to it, Logan."

"I''ve been in love before, Chuck. This feels……different."

""Maybe it is different. Logan, you can''t hold on to memories and say ''that was nice, but it will never happen again.'' Your not made of stone, any more than the rest of us."

' "Yeah, maybe." He said half heartedly.

""Maybe you should talk to her." It wasn''t a suggestion. '"You don''t settle your feelings for her soon, your going to come back worse than Scott was before you left."

"Alright, I''ll talk to her tomorrow."

"How about now?" Buffy said from her position in the doorway. She turned toward the image of Xavier. "And I really don''t see that it''s any of your business, who''s got who''s eye!"

""Please, Buffy try to understand, Login''s my friend. I……"

"Exactly. Friend, not child who doesn''t have a clue. Maybe you should leave his personal life to him. That''s why it''s called a personal life."

""I''ll try to keep that in mind." Said Charles, and began to fade away.

Logan looked to Buffy, with a surprised smile on his face. "Don''t think anyone''s given Chuck a tellin'' off like that in a long time. It was interesting to watch."

"Don''t be to pleased yet, Logan," she said, turning towards him. "It''s your turn."

The Dragon watched the proceedings, not at all pleased. Phoenix was getting entirely to comfortable with this……Logan. He turned to one of his agents, a thin, displeased smile on his face. That business with Mayor Wilkins had gotten rid of Angel and getting Riley……addicted to the bite of a vampire had dealt with that threat to his plan.

' But now there was this new threat, this……Wolverine. "I think it''s time to remove a player." He said, pointing to the vision of Logan.

' Sabretooth grinned with anticipation. "It''ll be a pleasure ta deal that runt out for ya, boss."

' "Then go," he said, using his power to send Sabretooth to the Summers house. "And don''t fail me."

'

Logan looked at Buffy, realizing that she may have heard a great deal more that would have been healthy. For him, he thought. But before she could start, their was an explosion of green fire behind him, followed by a very familiar shape.

"How ya doin'', runt?" Sabretooth asked, grinning, "Not that it really matters much, ''cause when I''m through with ya, yer gonna be dead!"

"Where''ve I heard that before? Oh yeah, from YOU!" Logan through himself at Sabretooth, claws out. Buffy looked on with horror as, in mere moments, Logan was brought to his knees.

"Surprised, runt? Dragon''s treatin'' me real good, made me stronger ''n ever. Oh yeah," he said, turning to Buffy. "you don''t want this to happen again, Dragon says to turn yourself in to him, else I get to start on everyone close to you, startin'' with yer little sister! HAHAHAHAHA!"

Every part of her vibrated with rage. The Phoenix wanted release, to smash this upstart and his master. But the Slayer held back. It was obvious that the Dragon had prepared for an attack on his minion, but maybe……

She gathered the Phoenix Force around, heeded its instructions and reached out with her mind towards Wolverine.

""Logan, I can''t attack Sabretooth directly, Dragons expecting that. What I can do put you on equal footing with him. All you have to do is say the word."

' Logan looked past Sabretooth at Buffy, clenched his teeth……

And nodded.

"YYYYEEEEEESSSSS!!!!" sreamed Buffy/Phoenix in exultation as the firebird manifested around her. Wolverine felt the change in him instantly. Wounds closed and exhaustion faded. He felt his muscles expand as he dodged Sabretooths final blow a split second before it hit. He rolled to his feet, claws extended.

"Get ready fer round two, bub." He growled, feeling power like he''d never imagined. "''Cause I can guarantee one thing." He leapt forward once again, feeling more than seeing his claws slice through flesh. "THERE AIN"T GONNA BE NO THIRD ROUND!!"

Victor Creed had known Logan longer than anyone alive. He had seen him in all sorts of moods, all sorts of roles, all states of mind. But he had never, ever seen anything remotely like this. The cuts he had received from Logan's claws were healing, but slower than they should have. He realized immediataly that the Phoenix had boosted Logan the way the Dragon had boosted him. He also realized Logan was defending some he loved and cared for deeply, even if Logan himself didn''t fully realize it. That was always going to be one of the most dangerous time to face him. It was also painfully clear to him that Buffy's cry would bring Cyclops from below. Two X-men and the Slayer/Phoenix? Not likely. He turned and jumped out the window. He''d try again when Logan was alone.

Logan felt the extra energy flow from him, and yet he didn''t feel tired. He looked to where Buffy stood, and realized she had collapsed. He rushed over to her side. Stupid, stupid, STUPID! The pain and exhaustion had to go somewhere. Buffy must have taken it into herself. "Buffy?" he said softly.

"Ohhh……Logan? Did……"

"Shh, settle down, it''s alright. Creeds gone. Ran for it once he realized he was outnumbered." A small grin played on the feral X-Mans face. "All the years I''ve known that freak, he''s never run once. That''s gotta be eating ''im up." He looked down at her, worried. "You gonna be alright, darlin''?"

"Think so." She said. "Logan, the Phoenix, it……she……spoke to me. There''s more to this than meets the eyes. The Dragon, he……"

"Just relax, it''ll be fine."

"No, Logan, you don''t understand, he''s……weaker than he was when he had the Phoenix enslaved."

"Enslaved? How……"

"He uses the Phoenix''s own power against her. That''s why I couldn''t use the Phoenix against Sabretooth directly."

"He would''ve been ready to grab the Phoenix and you if you had." Logan realized how close they had been to losing it all. How close he had been.

"There''s more. He uses the connection with the Phoenix to charge himself up. That''s why the Slayer was chosen this time around. I can merely use the Phoenix to increase my own natural abilities."

Back in Valhalla, Odin stared at the image incredulously. In two days, Buffy had discovered the plan it had taken him centuries to formulate. But she was still missing a vital piece of the puzzle. It was time to reveal himself.

'

Back on earth, Logan was still troubled. "So what yer sayin'' is that this Dragons gonna be throwin'' who knows what at ya, while yer gonna be restricted to hands and feet? Yer not gonna get near this freak!"

"Fear not, Wolverine. There is still much more that the Phoenix can do, things not even she realizes." They both looked up to see an old man dressed in some kind of old armor. In his hand was a staff, covered in strange symbols. At closer inspection, Logan realized that he was missing an eye. He bent down and touched his hand to Buffy's forehead. "Rest now, Phoenix. This night has been tiring, and thy strength is still needed. We shall speak anon." Buffy closed her eyes, and slept. The old man looked to Logan. "Let us put her to bed, for she is not the only one I need to speak to this night."

They placed Buffy in her bed and made their way down to the kitchen. Dawn was spending the night at Giles'' place after what happened at the Magic Box that day. Logan found a note from Scott on the side. 'Doing Buffy''s patrol for her tonight. Logan looked towards the old man. "So, you gonna tell me who you are, bub?"

"I am Odin. It is I who was chosen as Guardian of the Slayers, this one in particular."

"Whatever. So, what did you need to see me for?"

Odin looked at the man Cameron had assured him would be able to help keep the Phoenix from losing control like she had on the Moon. He was an arrogant, hard man who tried to keep everyone from getting close to him. And yet, despite this, Odin saw that Logan was more capable of doing what needed to be done than any other, including Angelus. Still, a test was needed. "I have the ability to derive the Phoenix of her will to live, but……"

"Hold on just a sec! You sayin'' that, at any moment you choose, Buffy could just choose to die? Hell, that''s not even her choice!" Logan looked at Odin with an anger he never knew he could muster. "You almost did it today, didn''t you?"

"Had thou have been unable to get through to her, it would have been necessary……"

"Necessary? Just because she might, what, choose to join this Dragon?"

"It is possible that……"

"Bub, you ain''t keepin'' a very close eye on her, are ya?"

Odin was starting to get very annoyed with this mortal, and they had only been speaking for a couple of minutes. How dare he speak like that to him? "Take heed mortal, thou art trying my patience……"

"Ain''t that a flamin'' pity. Listen up, bub, and listen good. I don''t care who you say you are, there ain''t gonna be any need ta pull the rug from under Buffy. She''s stronger than that, an'' the Phoenix ain''t gonna sit idly by an'' get caught by the Dragon again.!"

"Should it come down to it, there may be no choice for any of us. It may be necessary for the Phoenix to die……"

"There won''t be!" Logan walked right up to Odin and looked him in the eye. "I made a promise, bub, an'' I aim ta keep it. You think you can choose……" Logan stopped, Buffy the foremost thing in his mind. It wasn''t down to a promise any more. Chuck had been right. "Ya think ya can choose the when, how and why the young lady I love''s gonna die?" At this Odin started. Had he actually said……? "Well ta hell with that bub, and ta hell with you!"

Odin looked down at the feral X-Man. "Dost thou realize what thou hast just said?"

Logan glared at him. Did he? Was what just came out of his mouth his true feeling? "Better believe old man. Just stay the hell away from her."

Odin chuckled. "Cameron was right about thee. Thou art truly a noble soul."

"Yeah, just don''t spread it around, might ruin me rep."

Odin walked past him and towards the back door. There was still much to do. "Guard her, Logan. She will need thy help. A time is coming when she will have no one to turn to, when those she has relied on for so long will be unable to help her. Thou shalt be the only one she can turn to."

"I ain''t goin'' anywhere, bub." said Logan confidently. "You can bet on that."

"Ensure that it is so." he said, and disappeared.

Logan stared at the space where he had been, then turned around and headed back upstairs.

Scott entered the house quietly. How did Buffy do that every night? He had done a sweep of the cemetery with Giles. During the time, he had tried to get a handle on what Buffy had been doing these past few years. He had gone wearing his visor instead of his civilian glasses. He grinned as he remembered the first attack of the night. The vampire had jumped out of its grave before Giles had convinced him to take a stake.

"I''m sure your ability has proved effective against human opponents, but vampires are……" At this point the vamp had jumped up to grab Giles. Scott calmly lined it up and showed why he didn''t need a stake.

Scott made his way towards his room. As he passed he looked in on Buffy. The sight that greeted him was surprising, yet in some ways……comforting. Buffy was asleep, with Logan seated next to her bed, also sleeping, her hand in his.

As he entered his room, he sent a mental call to Jean.

""Is there a problem, Scott?" Jeans image appeared in front of him, and he realized how much he missed her.

"Not a problem, per se."

""Oh?"

"Take a peek in Buffy''s room. You''ll see."

""What are you……OH!" she stopped. ""Oh my! I see what you mean." Jean grinned. ""It''s a good thing your no telepath, otherwise you might get real worried. Let''s just say there are some emotions screaming from both sides that you may not be comfortable with."

"Actually, Jean, I''m not to sure this is a bad thing." Scott said, and detailed what had happened in the Magic Box. "Honestly, Jean, if Logan hadn''t walked in……we may have lost her. And with this Dragon wanting to claim the Phoenix, I feel better knowing she has Logan to back her up." Scott shook his head. "I came here for a holiday and……"

""Warren''s passing down that way this week. Do you want me to ask him to swing by?"

"Shouldn''t be necessary, but I''ll keep it in mind." Scott looked over at the image floating across the room. "She''s still the same Buffy, just……harder, I guess."

""Maybe you should have warned the professor about that." She said, and outlined the encounter between Buffy, Xavier and Logan.

Scott chuckled. "She always had a problem with people butting in." He looked up at Jean again. "I miss you."

""I know. I miss you too." She said, and began to fade away. '"If you need anything……"

"I''ll call."

Buffy looked down the long hall. There were people everywhere dressed in costumes from different eras. She noticed a fair few females her age, most of them with stakes strapped around arms or legs, or attached to their belts.

""It''s something else, isn''t it?" She whirled around to find Cameron. "Welcome to Valhalla. Come on, he''s waiting for you." She turned and walked towards the other end of the hall

""Who?" Buffy asked, falling in behind her..

""You''ll see." She said with a mysterious grin. As they walked down the hall, Buffy noticed many of female warriors were having a good look at her. "All the ones staring are former Slayers. They''ve heard stories and want to see what''s so special."

""Who''s here to tell stories about me?" Buffy asked, trying to think who might be here.

""Her." Cameron said, pointing towards a familiar face.

""Kendra? Compliments are the last things I expect from her."

""Yeah, well, you did something to impress her."

""Wow." They walked a little further before Buffy turned towards Cameron. "What was Logan like when you and him……?"

Cameron grinned a little. "About the same as he is now. Doesn''t like getting too close to people. No manners that I can see. But he has a kind heart……among other things." She looked at Buffy. "Any particular reason for asking?"

She looked a bit sheepish. "Not really."

They reached the end of the long hall and came face to face with the same old man that she had seen after Sabretooths attempt on Logan''s life.

""Greetings, Buffy. I am Odin, the Guardian of the Slayers. We needed to talk, And this is the safest place to do so." He looked down at her from his seat. "There is a strength in thee I have not seen in any other Slayer. This is why thou wast chosen to bear the Phoenix Force."

' "Did you……?"

' "No. The Phoenix is a sentient entity, and makes her own choices. Thou was not chosen merely because thou art the Slayer. There is a strength of spirit and will within thee that is unequaled by any mortal I have met, and yet, thou art, perhaps, the most vulnerable to an attack by the Dragon."

' "Run that one by me again?" Buffy asked, confused. "You say I''ve got one of the strongest wills you''ve seen, and then you say the Dragon could grab me at any time?"

' "Thy experiences with love have been hard, harder than most. Those thou hast loved the most have left thee for various reasons. The Dragon will offer thee stability. In this, thou may fail. Thou must remember others who love thee, thy sister, thy friends……"

' "Logan." said Cameron.

' "What?" said Buffy. "Logan? He''s just……a colleague of Scotts, they barely get along."

' "And yet, he hath placed himself forward as thy protector." said Odin. "He is not unknown to me. I have already spoken to him. He will be needed when……"

' "NO!!" Buffy screamed suddenly. "I can''t take him to battle the Dragon, I……" she lowered her head. "I can''t."

' Cameron walked up behind her. "Buffy, Logan''s stronger than he looks. He''ll be fine."

' "You don''t understand. The night before I……faced Glory, I had a dream. I didn''t tell anyone because……I didn''t know him." Buffy felt her eyes fill. "I saw him, in front of a green flame. It was shaped like a dragon." Cameron and Odin looked at her sharply. "He was broken, bleeding. I couldn''t tell if he was alive. There was nothing I could do. He was totally……" By this time, she was crying. Odin looked at her. Such a vision as this and yet...

' "Had that been the only reason, thou wouldst have told your……Scoobies." he said to her with a wry grin. Why the Watchers Council insisted that the Slayers kept their identities a secret from family and friends was a mystery to him. He cupped her chin in his hand. The Phoenix was a power of the cosmos, yet it had chosen this Slayer as its host. Why? What was so special about this one? "There is another reason."

' "Not a reason, more a feeling." She said. "Like something telling me it wasn''t time. At first, I thought I was going crazy. Now……" she turned away.

' Odin took her by the shoulders. "Thou are not crazy." He said sternly. "Come, it is time to return to thy body. Tell Logan what hast transpired here. ALL of it." he said, seeing her about to argue. "And remember, thou art more capable than the Dragon, more than even thou art aware of. Go with thy instincts, they shall show thee the way." She nodded, and left the hall.

' Odin turned to Cameron. "What dost thou make of this?" he asked.

' "One: she''s for more powerful than even you realized, with or without the Phoenix. Two: There''s another force at work here that none of us were aware of." She turned and grinned at him. "And three: Logan''s gonna be there whether she wants him to or not."

' "Even after he hears of her dream?"

' "ESPECIALLY after she tells him the dream. He won''t let her go face something like this alone, especially after what he let slip in front of you."

' "So the dream shall have the opposite effect."

' "I''d bet on it." She said. They''d both realized the same thing, that this dream was meant to keep Logan out of the contest.

' Odin looked through a window towards Midgard. It was clear to him that he would have to take steps.

'

Buffy woke to feel a hand gripping hers. She turned to see that Logan had pulled a chair next to her bed, and had been holding her hand while she slept. She smiled. It felt……nice. Like Angel was there only more of a……comfort, she guessed. It felt good that she had someone to count on. She thought of her dream and Odins orders. She squeezed his hand. "Hey." She said quietly. Logan opened his eyes.

"What time is it?"

"About ten." Said a voice at the door. They both looked to see Scott standing at the door. "Which begs the question ''what were you two doing after I left?''"

"Not much," said Buffy with a slight grin. "We talked……"

"Told off the Prof.…….," followed up Logan, grinning at Buffy.

"Got attacked by Sabretooth……"

"Beat Sabretooth……"

"And had a chat with a Norse God." They both finished up.

"Why did I even bother asking." Scott said, rolling his eyes behind his glasses.

"Now, if you don''t mind, I need to speak to Logan."

"Okay." Said Scott, not moving from the door.

"Alone!"

"Okay." He said again, still not moving.

"NOW!"

"Okay."

"SCOTT!!"

"What?" He asked innocently, then was forced to dodge incoming pillows. "Okay, okay, I''m going. I''M GOING!"

After he left, Logan looked over at Buffy. Damn, he thought, she''s good ta look at in the morning. "So, what did ya need to talk about?"

Buffy''s ever growing Phoenix abilities allowed her to pick up his thoughts. She didn''t show it on the outside, but inside, she was glowing. He actually thought about her like that. Wow. "I need to tell you about something. It''s about this dream I had, before we met."

She finished telling him about the dream, them looked at him. Her eyes were brimming with tears. It hurt her to even talk about it. If it actually happened…… "I talked to Odin last night, he said he''d already talked to you, And that I should tell you about the dream." She looked away from him and closed her eyes. "I wanted to tell you, as well, so you would understand when I said……"

"I know exactly what yer going to say, darlin'', an'' I ain''t stayin'' behind just because a'' some flamin'' dream!"

"But……"

"No buts." He cupped her chin with his hand, and turned her head to look at him. "You''re the best thing to happen to me in a long time." he said, as he moved closer. "I ain''t lettin'' you out of my sight, an'' that''s final!"

"Logan……" Buffy said before their lips met briefly.

For Logan, the rough, tough feral X-Man known as Wolverine, it was like the end of a lifetime of woes and trouble. Every bad thing that had ever happened in his life seemed insignificant.

And for the first time in a long time, he was truly happy.

For Buffy, it was a revelation. Logan wasn''t going to back off just because things get tough. He was going to stay by her side, the kiss, plus the thoughts and feelings screaming out from his head told her that.

And for the first time in a long time, she was truly happy.

Scott walked in, to ask what they both wanted for breakfast. When he saw the scene taking place, he merely grinned and shook his head.

"About time." He said, and broke down in a fit of histerics as they pulled apart hurriedly, both their faces bright red.

The second the three of them walked in, Dawn knew something was up. She watched Buffy the whole time she was recapping the battle with Sabretooth and what she had learned during and after. She moved next to Giles so she could talk to him.

"Hey, is it just me or is something up between Buffy and Logan."

The English man looked over at the girl, with a confused look on his face . "What? I''m not sure……" He looked over at Buffy and noticed, for the first time, Logan hovering very protectively behind her. "Oh, yes, I, uh, I see what you mean. I''m sure it''s nothing."

"Yeah, your probably right. Just our imagination." Logan put a hand on Buffy''s shoulder. She smiled and put her hand on his. Dawn looked at Giles again. "Or maybe not."

"Yes. Well. I, uh, I think we need a to have a chat with them."

"Great, I''ll talk with Buffy, you talk with Logan."

"What, me talk to Logan? Maybe I should talk to Buffy instead."

"You want me to talk to Logan? Why? Do you think I''ve got some sort of death wish?"

"Um, no, but……well, it''s just that you seem to get along with him better than anyone else. Besides Buffy at the moment." He began to walk toward the training area in the back storeroom, where Buffy and Scott were having a quick training session.

Dawn walked over to where Willow and Xander were filling Logan in on some of Buffy''s previous exploits. Logan had what dawn could only discern as a look of concern on his face. Anya was, as usual, behind the counter. Tara was gathering some equipment from the dorm room she and Willow shared at Sunnydale U.

"Cripes." She heard him mutter. "No wonder Odin thinks she needs looking after."

"Um, excuse," said Dawn, quietly. "Mister Logan?"

"No need ta call me ''Mister'', kid. How can I help ya?" Logan turned toward her, took one look at her and knew exactly what she was about to ask.

"I just wanted to ask what was going on between you and my sister." Willow looked at Dawn inquisitively, then at Logan, then at each, a look of confusion on both faces.

"What are you talking about?" Asked Willow

"Yeah, Dawn, what''s up?" Xander looked at her as if she had just asked if the sky was blue. What was going on?

"Maybe she''s talking about Buffy and Logan's sudden change in attitude towards each other." Volunteered Anya helpfully. Xander and Willow stared at her, shocked. That she had seen something they had missed…… "I noticed they were very friendly when they walked in. But I could be wrong." She then turned towards the cash register, and began counting the money.

Willow and Xander stared at her dumbly, then turned to Logan. Dawn couldn''t help but notice how much they looked like a two-headed fish demon she had seen in one of Giles'' books. She turned back to Logan. "Well, how friendly did you and Buffy get last night?" She stared at him, and Logan thought how much she reminded him of his young protéégéé, the mutant known as Jubilee. "And I''m warning you if you have or are going to……"

"Relax, kid. I ain''t gonna hurt her. That''s the last thing on my mind."

"Good to hear." Said Xander, still a bit bewildered. "''Cause, I wouldn''t want to hurt you."

"Yeah." Said Willow. The news, and the fact she had missed the signs(in the morning it had been apparent, she thought, feeling a little better it hadn''t been in a longer period of time) had shocked, too, but she wasn''t afraid of sticking up for her friend. "I could turn you into a wolverine for real, or a toad. I can do that, you know."

Just then, they heard Scott explode into laughter. "Looks like Giles just confirmed on Buffy''s side, too." Dawn said as Giles walked out of the training area, slightly flustered.

Months had past. Buffy was slowly getting the hang of the Phoenix Force. Too slowly. She was running out of time.

She had plenty of practice. With both the X-Men and as the Slayer, challenges had cropped up, but not enough. Never enough.

"You all right?" Asked Logan from behind her. She nodded and looked around her. He worried, she knew. It was the reason why he had called in some of the X-Men to help out after Scott returned to his duties as leader of the team. She looked around at the new faces. Willow and Tara were gathered around Willows laptop watching Kitty Pride, AKA Shadowcat, typing away furiously on the keyboard. Dawn and Jubilee were behind the counter while Anya and Giles did a stocktake of what was available, with the help of the acrobatic Nightcrawler, who, with the help of an image inducer, was dressed as normal old Kurt Wagner. Cable was sitting in a corner watching the door. Buffy looked at him the longest. As screwy as her life was now, Nathan Christopher Charles Summers, her time lost second cousin, had had it much harder. Suddenly he stiffened where he sat. Buffy felt Logan do the same. She looked up at him and saw his nostrils flare. He had a scent. "We got a watcher."

"Yes?" Giles said from under a pile of protection talismans of various shapes, sizes and uses.

"No, he means there''s someone outside watching us." Nathan said. He scanned the area surrounding the shop telepathically, then looked at Logan. "I got look at him through the window, but not a good mental lock. His mental signature is to hard to get a good fix on him. It''s like he''s straddling a fence."

"Then I''ll just have ta do this the hard way. Good thing, too," he said with a grin. "I was startin'' ta get bored."

"I''ll have to see what I can do about that." Buffy said with a grin of her own. "In the mean time, do you want some help?"

"Ja," said Kurt, "there is no telling what it might be, especially around here."

"Just make sure he doesn''t get away, elf." Logan said, as he headed out the door.

"Be careful." Buffy cried after him.

"I always am." He said.

"Bull!"

"I will make sure he is." Said Nightcrawler, before he ''bamf''ed into position, leaving his trademark scent of brimstone.

"Does he have to do that?" coughed Dawn.

Logan made it outside to see the stranger walking away. "Hey there, bub!" he cried after him. The stranger moved faster, leaving a scent that Logan knew well. Vampire.

Shit.

The stranger was running. He did not want to get caught, did not want to confront her not now, not after what he just saw. He knew his pursuer was Buffy''s new flame. He did not want a repeat of last time.

"Guten tach, mein herren." Said a German voice above him. He looked up and saw the fuzzy blue……thing. "Might I ask what you''re doing?" it asked as it flipped down in front of him.

"None of your business. Get out of the way."

"Not the most polite way of asking."

"I don''t want to hurt you."

"That assumes you will be able to touch me."

"I warned you." The stranger swung his fists but failed to make contact as the thing disappeared in a smoky, and rather scented, exit. The stranger shook his head. "What was that?" he asked aloud before moving off.

"Not what, mein freund," said the thing, as its tail snaked around his neck in a way that would not choke him. "but who. Now why don''t we get comfy, and wait for my friend, eh?"

"I''ve got a better idea," said the stranger, morphing vamp face, "What say I rip your tail out and see what you can do without it?"

"I got an even better idea, bub." said a gruff voice. The short man he had seen cuddling up to Buffy walked around and faced him. "What say you spill yer guts before I pull them out?" Three blades slid out from the mans knuckles. "Now, who are you?"

"I don''t……"

""Angel, what are you doing here?" Angel turned around (as much as he could in his current position), trying to find the owner of the voice. '"Don''t try to find me, I''m still sitting in the Magic Box."

"Buffy?" he said, "How……?"

""How doesn''t matter, you still haven''t answered my question."

"Willow came down and told me about your run in with Glory."

"You sure took your sweet time, mein freund." Said Kurt, releasing his hold around Angel''s neck. "That was six months ago."

"Better late then never?" offered Angel, "Or at least, so I thought." He turned around and looked at, Logan claws still extended. "Can''t you ever get a normal boyfriend?"

""Why?" asked Buffy, innocently. "Where''s the fun in that?" She sent an astral projection so she could speak to Angel face to face. He noticed there was more anger then anything else.

Logan noticed it too. "Calm down, darlin''." He muttered under his breath.

Buffy nodded at him, then turned back to Angel. ""Nightcrawlers right. Wanna tell me what took you so long?" Images began screaming at her from Angel''s head. Darla, him and Darla, together, Darla pregnant, then giving her existence for the baby. ""Never mind, I got it." Angel looked at her. What…… ""What you''ve been doing the last six months. And before. I didn''t mean to, but the thoughts just leapt at me" She gave a small grin. ""You a father, never saw that one coming." Angel continued to stare. How……? "I''m a telepath now, plus some other things. Long story." She said as the question formed in his head.

"Can we talk privately?" He asked.

""Yeah." Angel looked around, realizing they were no longer in Sunnydale.

' "Where are we?"

' "In my mind. I would have visited yours, but I''d seen enough." She looked at him, a slightly hurt look on her face. "Why?"

' "Why what?" He asked knowing what was coming. If she knew about Connor, then……

' "Why didn''t you turn evil after you and Darla……"

' "Well, you know," He said, cutting her off. "the curse takes my soul after a moment of true happiness. Maybe she just didn''t make me happy." He looked at her trying to figure out how to ask a question he didn''t really want answered. "What about you?"

' "What about me?"

' "What happened to you? This……that……claw guy." He looked at her, wishing she would say she didn''t love him, that he had misunderstood what he had seen. "Does he make you happy?"

' Buffy looked at him, knowing what he wanted to hear, but she couldn''t say it. He had been right that time in L.A. The two of them…… "Yes, he does. I love him, Angel. What''s between him and me……" Angel put his hand up to stop her. He didn''t want to hear anymore, couldn''t hear anymore.

' "We better get back to reality." He said. She nodded and……

'

……They were back. Logan was still standing there, claws retracted. Nightcrawler stared at him inquisitively. Of Buffy there was no sign. As he went to walk past Logan, the feral X-Man grabbed him by the arm. "I take it she explained everything?"

"Yeah, and I''ve only got one thing to say to you. You hurt her……" He left the threat hanging. Let him figure out what it meant.

Logan laughed. "Nice try. Let me show ya how it''s done." He stopped laughing and grabbed Angel by the collar, one fist under his chin. Angel felt the tips of his claws. "Ya come back here with a lame ass excuse again, even think about hurting her, not all the hosts of heaven, or all the demons in hell, is gonna stop me from huntin'' ya down an'' showin'' ya what it feels like ta have a claw full of grade-A adamantium shoved in yer chest." A snarl appeared on Wolverines face. He was serious. Deadly serious.

"I''ll try to remember that." Angel said as Logan released him. As he walked away, he turned towards the wild man who had taken his place with a sad smile. "She has that effect on people doesn''t she?

"Yeah, she does." Said Logan, and watched as Angel walked away.

As soon as they returned to the Magic Box, Logan found Buffy instantly at his side. "Anything thing happen after I left you guys?" She asked.

"The usual threat exchange." He looked down at her, holding her close to him. He looked towards Cable. Neither of them liked each other, but Scott, unable to return to Sunnydale because of his position as leader of the X-Men, had asked Nathan to take his place. He had agreed. After all, he was a Summers too. Someone had to keep an eye on her. "Keep a psychic eye out for ''im. I got a bad feelin'' about this." Nathan nodded.

"It''ll be hard," he said, "but I''ll do my best."

"Usually enough." Said Logan.

"Wow." Said Jubilee. "Don''t hear that very often."

"What?" asked Dawn.

"Logan giving someone a compliment." She said with a smile.

"Very funny." Logan said. "Anyway, we''re gonna leave you guys to it."

Buffy looked up at him, confused. "We are?" She asked. "Might I ask why?"

"A certain someone said she was gonna do somethin'' about me getting'' bored. Thought we might go an'' explore some ……possibilities."

"WHOA! Too much information!" said Dawn, as Buffy went red.

"WAY too much." Agreed Jubes, as the two lovers walked out of the shop.

Spike lay back in the crypt that had become his lair, sipping at a cup of cow''s blood. Not as good as the real stuff, but……

"Spike?" A voice came from the door way. Had it been beating, his heart would most definitely have stopped, for it was a familiar voice, a voice that held a special significance to him. He looked towards door.

"Dru?" He got up from where he lay and moved towards the door. "Dru, what are you doing here?" He pulled her inside. If Buffy saw her……

"So much pain." She said, as cryptic as ever.

Spike looked at her closely. There was something……different about her. "What pain?"

"The pain I caused to so many people." She looked up at him. "To you. I''m sorry, William."

The use of his pre-death name startled him a bit. No-one called him that. "What are you……?" Then he saw it, the thing any vampire dreaded more than even a army of Slayers.

"I''m so sorry."

A soul. Someone, somehow, had given Drusilla a soul.

"Bloody hell."

Giles was just locking up the shop, looking forward to finally getting some sleep. Kitty stood close behind him, watching for anything suspicious. She saw the chip headed vampire, Spike, walking towards them, his arm around a dark haired woman. Kitty noticed she''d been crying. "Giles."

Giles turned around and saw them heading towards them. "What the hell is she doing here?" He said.

Dru looked up at Giles, and tears filled her eyes once again. "Pain." She said. "Pain, caused to you and the Slayer. I caused it, so much of it my fault. I''m so sorry."

"What are you……" Giles stopped and took a good look at her. He took his glasses off. "Oh, dear God."

"Yeah, that''s what I thought." Spike agreed.

"What''s going on?" Asked Kitty, feeling more than a little out of the loop.

"Drusilla here is a vampire and……" Giles shook his head, where had someone found all the equipment to do this? "And someone''s given her a soul."

Kitty looked at Giles like he had gone mad. Life was definitely easier just being an X-Man.

The next day, they all gathered in the Magic Box to deal with this latest dilemma.

"Personally, I think its none of our business." Xander said, looking directly, at Dru. "I mean, we''re talking cold blooded killer here, people. This isn''t Angel here, this is a vampire that has caused us more pain and trouble than anyone else."

Dru looked back at him, obviously more than a little hurt. Spike glared at Xander. "Listen you little……"

"What? What do you want to say Spike? A threat?" Xander glared back. Buffy could feel that he was enjoying himself a little too much. Emotions were running high, and she couldn''t block it all out. She felt Logan''s arms around her and looked up at him. He obviously realized that she was having problems with the situation. She gave him a quick smile and concentrated on the situation. She went through the exercises that the professor had taught her to block out the thoughts and emotions that were assaulting her. It helped a little, but not much. She looked over at Nathan, who sat as calm as ever. How was he managing that? How could he not feel like he was drowning in all these feelings?

""I''m not as close to them, and I''m more practiced." Nathan sent. He returned her glance, worried. Sure, he was time lost, older than he should be, but that didn''t matter. She was still his second-cousin, and he wanted to help. That was why he agreed to take Scott''s place here, so she had some extra family support. ""Just keep at it, you''ll get there."

""If I don''t go mad before it happens."

""Relax, you''ve got good support here. Just don''t go too far."

Buffy nodded. It was good to have him here. Scott had explained Nathan''s history to her. Almost as screwed up as her present. She snuggled closer to Logan. She wished he and Nathan could get along better. They were as bad as her and Spike. They worked well together, but they couldn''t stand each other. She looked towards Dru. She was jumpy. It was obvious her that she was uncomfortable. She reached out lightly with her mind. Dru looked at her sharply. ""Relax." Buffy sent. ""I''m trying to help."

""Stay out. Please, I don''t want to hurt you any more. I don''t want to hurt anyone any more."

Buffy nodded and pulled back. "Maybe we should let Dru talk." Buffy said out loud. "After all, this is her we''re talking about. She should have some say in what happens."

They all looked at her stunned. Of all people……

"Finally the voice of reason." They all turned to the door. All except Buffy. She knew who it was. Hard to forget the voice of the man who tells you that you have to kill your boyfriend.

"Whistler. What are you doing here? Do you remember what I told you what would happen if I ever saw you again?" The messenger of the Powers That Be suddenly found himself floating above the ground in front of the Slayer the Powers had such high hope in.

"Steady on, Slayer. I''ve actually got some good news."

"That''d be a switch." Said Logan. Buffy had filled him in on what had happened last time Whistler had visited Sunnydale. He glared at the man floating in front of them.

"Your Logan right? Just relax, I''m not going to hurt anyone. Actually, I''ve brought backup." He looked at Buffy. "Well, news of. Odin wanted to bring in someone with more experience with the Phoenix Force."

Nathan looked up. "Rachel?"

"Bingo. She''s already been alerted and should arrive……"

"Now." They looked towards the door to see a red head about Buffy''s age standing in the doorway. Nathan got up and walked towards the one person whose life was almost as screwed up as his. "Hey, bro." Said Rachel. "How ya goin''? I was told you might be here." She looked around, seeing some familiar faces. "Kurt, Logan, long time no see."

"Rachel!" Kurt looked at her, surprised. He had heard she had managed to escape the time stream after she took Brian Braddocks place there, but he hadn''t expected to see her here. "Mein Gott, it''s good to see you."

"How ya goin'', kid?" Logan said simply.

"Nice to see some things don''t change." She said. She looked towards Buffy, and found what it was like to be on the outside looking in. It had been months since Cable had returned her to this time, since the Phoenix force had left mysteriously. To see this one, this Slayer, shining with the power she once possessed. "You must be Buffy. Hi, I''m Rachel Summers."

Buffy looked at her as if she were nuts. "She''s from an'' alternate reality, where mutants are hunted down and exterminated." Logan explained. "Think Nazi Germany on a global scale, with sentinels and mutant hounds doin'' the huntin''."

"So she''s Scott and Jeans daughter?" Asked Buffy, still looking at the red head. What was it with Summers that they could never do anything normal?

"Yeah. She was sent to our time to help make sure that her future would never happen." Logan looked down at her, still holding her tight. He knew she was worried about the Dragon, that she wouldn''t be ready. This may be the break she was looking for. "It took us a while to find this tidbit, but she was somehow born with a fragment of the Phoenix Force within her. So she maybe the best bet for getting'' ya ready."

Buffy looked back at Whistler. "Backup, huh? Anyone else we should know about?" She turned to Rachel. "Not that I don''t appreciate the help, but trying to get a straight story out of this guy……

"Is nearly impossible. So I noticed. He didn''t tell me you knew my……Scott and Jean." Even though she had not been born here, she hadn''t known her parents in her time and she couldn''t help but think of them as her Scott and Jean.

"Actually," Buffy said, not knowing how she would take this. It was obvious they hadn''t met in her time. "we''re related. I''m Scotts cousin."

Rachel shot a look at Whistler. "Thanks for the warning."

"Well……" Whistler paused. There were a lot of pissed off people in the room and what he had to say next wasn''t going to improve their moods. "Actually, Dru was sent here to help to, and……" This was going to hurt. "Faith''s got an early release for good behavior. She''s on her way to help too." The Scoobies, those who had been here when Faith had gone renegade, looked at him in horror. Buffy looked at him with a look that spoke volumes. She was pissed, royally.

"What?" She didn''t sound it, though. She was keeping her temper under control. Rachel shook her head. This Faith was obviously a problem she had dealt with before, but Buffy was holding in the anger that was obvious to her and Nathan. And Logan, She thought, noticing that he was whispering into her ear. Probably trying to calm her down. Not that she needed it. Rachel was impressed. She probably would have incinerated the jerk. "Faith? Here to help? Why……

"That wasn''t Odins idea." Whistler said hurriedly. "That was the Powers That Be. They want a Slayer here, just in case. Don''t worry," Whistler added hurriedly. "Odins sending someone to keep her in line. I don''t know who, but……" He suddenly found himself outside the Magic Box. The sun was shining. He breathed a sigh of relief. That had gone better than expected. Suddenly he realized that people were staring. That was understandable, he''d just appeared out of thin air. But he also felt cold like……no, she wouldn''t have.

Would she?

Whistler looked down and saw his worse nightmare. She had. Buffy had used the Phoenix Force, not only to kick him out of the store, but to strip him of his clothes. Whistler ran into a near by alley. Maybe she should have just killed him.

Back in the Magic Box, Buffy had just told the gathering exactly what she had done with Whistler. The resulting hysterics was exactly what everyone needed. Even Drusilla had indulged in a little laughter, and it surprised her how good it felt. She looked around the store, and her dark mood returned. So many people, so much pain, so much caused by her. How could she ever make it up?

""Whistler said you were sent to help." Said Buffy''s voice in her mind. Dru looked over and saw the Slayer looking back. So much power, she could kill her in an instant ""True," Buffy sent, ""but I need all the help I can get. We''re facing a crisis of apocalyptic proportions. Helping us might help redeem yourself." Dru nodded, understanding. She could help. Perhaps working with the Slayers friends to save the world could help them to forgive her.

And, perhaps, then, she could forgive herself.

"So it''s settled then." Buffy said out loud. Everyone stopped laughing and looked at her. "We all work together, ALL OF US," she looked around the store. Everyone nodded, Spike and Dru included, "to stop the Dragon once and for all."

"Time to raise some HELL!" said Spike, excitedly. Dru nodded. It was indeed.

"Avengers Assemble." Said Xander with a grin.

"I do believe that has already been taken, mein freund," said Kurt with a grin of his own, as he shut off his image inducer, revealing his blue furred form beneath, "but the sentiment is there."

"Yeah." said Willow, "I mean, we''ve faced end of the world before. This is just, business as usual."

"Yeah," Tara took up Willows idea, as she often did, and took it further. "and besides, this time we''ve more firepower than ever. We can handle it."

"I''m sure it''ll all be fine." Said Anya in her usual cheery form.

"Yes, well then. Shall we?" Giles said as he picked up a book. "I''ve managed to find a reference to the Phoenix and Dragon this book, both together, in battle or one enslaved." He said, enthusiastically. Everyone rolled their eyes, save Rachel and Dru..

"Here we go again." Said Anya reaching for a book.

"What?" Asked Rachel, as she followed Nathan to the table where they were all congregating."

"A reference in a book means only one thing." Said Nathan, as he handed her a particularly dusty old tome from the book shelf.

"Research mode." Groaned Spike.

"Ugh." Agreed Jubilee.

"Research mode?" Dru said, looking confused.

"This is where the best laid plans of gods and vamps have come unraveled." He explained. "We all gather around the books, looking for references to the current crisis, get all excited when they find something, then try find out how to stop it." He shook his head. "It''s bloody pathetic."

"Spike. Stop complaining, grab a book." Buffy handed him the biggest, thickest book she could get her hands on, then handed a thinner one to Dru.

Xander grabbed Anya and headed out the door. "Where''s he goin''?" Asked Spike.

"Going to get coffee, blood and doughnuts. That''s my job. I being doughnut guy." Said Xander as he and Anya left.

It was getting dark when Dru found the Book. The first thing to grab her attention was the strange design on the spine, like a dragon curled around a bird of some kind. Phoenix, she thought. When she pulled the Book out, the cover screamed importance.

Staring right at her was the symbol of the Phoenix. Her talents as a seer told her that it meant something. She felt a powerful force emanating from it. "Oh!" She said. "I think I''ve found something."

"What''ve you got, luv?" Spike asked as moved beside her. He took one look at the Book. "Bloody hell!" He breathed. "I think the others should see this." Dru nodded, feeling slightly pleased. Maybe she could earn forgiveness.

The others acted with the same shock, all except Buffy and Rachel. The moment Dru pulled the Book from the bookshelf, they had felt its presence. They all looked at the book as it sat on the table.

"Where''d that come from?" Asked Logan.

"Well, um, I''m not exactly sure. I……" Giles stared at the book. "I don''t even remember acquiring it. I, uh, well this is perplexing."

"It''s not in the inventory." Said Anya, helpfully.

Buffy stared sat the Book. She felt a very strange feeling, like she was supposed to open it. She looked over at Rachel, who shook her head. She had never seen it before either. That was a worry. Aside from Odin, who was giving her some advice……

Then it hit her. Of course. Odin. He always said that if she needed assistance, he''d be happy to help. Now, if she could just get in contact with him.

""Not so hard, Slayer." His voice echoed around her head. '"What is the problem."

""There''s something you need to look at, something Drusilla found in the bookshelf. Giles doesn''t even know where it came from. All we know is that it has a Phoenix on the front, and……"

""A dragon wrapped around a bird on the spine?" Odin asked, surprised at what they had found. It couldn''t be……

""How''d you know?"

""I had expected this, but not so soon. I''ll be there shortly."

""Thanks." She turned her consciousness outwards. The others were still talking about the Book. She felt Logan squeeze her hand. She looked over at him. "I''m fine. Just had a chat with Odin." She looked over at the gathering around the table. "Hey guys, you can relax. Odin''s coming around to have a look at the Book." They all looked at her.

"You mean that this, this, ''Guardian of the Slayers'', is coming here?" He looked over at Dru, who was clearly having the same thoughts. "Maybe we should……"

"There is no need, Spike." They all looked at the door and saw the All-Father of Norse myths standing there. "I know thy history, and that of Drusilla. That thou art here gives good enough reason for me not to disintegrate the both of thee. But be warned, should either of thee betray her……"

"Save the threats," Said Spike, holding Dru close. She was shaking, and he knew why. This one god represented, to her, every Slayer she had ever hurt. She started muttering under her breath. He didn''t need to hear her to know what it was. She was apologizing, burying herself in regret and insanity. "I already heard them from him." He gestured towards Logan, who was sitting close to Buffy. Ever since Sabretooth, Lady Deathstrike and Omega Red had attacked those closest to him at the behest of the Dragon, he had tried harder to keep her safer than ever. Taking patrols, jumping into fights he knew she could handle. He couldn''t help himself, he couldn''t lose her.

No matter the cost.

Odin looked at him. He knew the problems recently, knew how Logan felt, but he said nothing. He had to let them figure it out, as much as he wanted to help. "I see thou hast decided to stay."

"I told ya, bub. I ain''t goin'' nowhere." Logan glared at him. He still remembered what Odin had said at their first meeting, and still looked at him with suspicion. With a thought that old man could take the one thing that was important to him. Buffy looked over to him. She knew what he was thinking, she didn''t need to be a telepath to figure that one out. She took him in her arms and gave him a squeeze. Now it was her turn to comfort him.

"Relax Logan, he''s just here to look at the Book." She felt his arms go around her, and snuggled in close. She always felt so safe like this.

Kitty sat in one corner and watched the display. Everyone knew how she felt about Logan. The only reason she was here was because he asked her to come. She got up and headed towards the back door. She couldn''t watch this anymore.

"Are you all right, Katzchen?" Asked Kurt as she headed for the door.

"Yeah, I just need to go for a walk."

"Need some company?" He asked.

"Nah, I''ll be fine. Just need some time alone, y''know, to think."

"Very well. Be careful out there. Sunnydale isn''t exactly safe out at night."

"I''ll be fine. I''m no spring chicken. Besides, I''m armed." She pulled back her sleeves to show the bone daggers she had strapped on the insides of her arms. Before Logan had regained his adamantium, his bone claws had been broken. She had gathered them up and fashioned them into the daggers now strapped to her arms. She had two more in sheaths strapped to ankles, and another two strapped behind her back. The full compliment. She walked out the door and towards the park. She needed to work off some frustration and with no Danger Room, it was either the park or the cemetery.

Angel watched from his post in his car across the street. Cordelia''s vision had said that he was needed, and at the moment he was willing to believe that. Spike and Drusilla. Had Buffy lost her mind? He shook his head. He should never have left after the battle against the Mayor, and yet it had felt like the good idea at the time. Maybe if he had stuck around……

He shook his head again. Don''t be stupid, he thought, you would''ve ended up hurting her again. He noticed a dark haired girl walking out of the alley leading to the back door to the Magic Box. Another new face. Things were getting complicated. He shouldn''t be here

In Los Angeles, Cordelia was going through the usual paperwork for Angel Investigators. Bills, invoices, ancient prophecies. The usual. She looked towards the stairs as Fred walked down with Connor in her arms. She pulled herself from the desk and began to walk over to the other woman. Then she stopped as she was hit by yet another vision. "AHH!" Her screams brought Gunn and Wesley from the office. Fred stood by with Connor.

"Cordelia, are you alright?" Wes asked.

"I''ve gotta call Angel." She said and headed back to her desk.

Angel reached for his phone as it started to ring. Anything to stop him thinking.

"Yeah?"

"Angel, has anyone gone past you?"

"Depends who your talking about."

"Brunette, about my age headed for the park?"

Angel sat up straight. "Another vision?"

"Yeah, but this one affects you directly. I don''t know why. All I know is that you have to get to the park, fast!"

He started the ignition and gunned it towards the park. "On it."

Kitty walked slowly through the park. Where were the bad guys when you wanted to hit something?

"Well, well, not who I expected but you will do for a test." Kitty turned to see a man about Giles'' age holding a rather odd staff.

"Who are you, the big bad wolf?" She asked in her typical smart ass fashion.

"My name is Ethan Rayne, not that it matters much. When I''m finished, my dear puppet, all you''ll call me is master."

"Not likely, bub!" Kitty flipped out the two knifes at her wrist.

"Such spirit. A pity I have to destroy it, but I can''t have the Slayer knowing that I''m back in town, now can I?" A beam of light shot from the staff. Kitty dodged it and threw one of her knives at him, knocking the staff out of his hand. He reached into his jacket and threw a knife of his own, which Kitty promptly phased through.

"Well you are a prize." She turned and saw that Ethan had regained his staff and was now at point blank range. "I should have grabbed you when I first saw you a couple of weeks ago. Ah, well, time to rectify that mistake now." Suddenly a hand griped Ethan's wrist.

"Not so fast, Ethan."

"Angelus, what a surprise."

"This isn''t. Why am I not surprised to see you here, Ethan?" Angel pulled him around to face him and morphed vamp face. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn''t drain you now."

"Your one of the good guys and you don''t work that way?"

"I''ll make an exception with you."

"I don''t taste very good?"

"I''ll be the judge of that."

Kitty began to pick herself of the ground. So that was Angel. Pretty cute for a blood sucking parasite. "How about I just take out your heart?" She offered, stepping up to Ethan

"My dear, sweet girl, you shouldn''t go making promises you can''t……" Ethan''s voice faded as he felt her fingers brush his heart. "You haven''t got it in you." He felt her hand begin to close around his heart.

"Wanna find out?" Squeeze.

"Alright, alright. I was expecting Buffy."

Kitty gave Angel a look that said it all. "That was obvious." He said, translating her look. "Why?"

"I can''t tell you." Squeeze. "He''ll kill me."

"Who?" Angel asked but Kitty had already guessed.

"Dragon. He''s been trying to get his claws on her because she possesses the Phoenix now. I''m guessing Ethan here was supposed to make her docile, and deliver her to the Dragon. That explains what he said when he attacked me." She looked over to the staff, still lying on the ground.

Angel released Ethan, walked over to the staff and picked it up.

"I see you again……" He began, then snapped the staff and quickly threw the pieces to the ground. They promptly disappeared. He looked back at the man, still held in place by the girl''s apparent ruthlessness. He could tell she was bluffing. At least partially. "Get it?"

"Why let him go? Why don''t we just…… take care of him now?" Kitty threw a grin Angel''s way. Ethan being in front of her, didn''t see. He thought she was serious.

"No." Angel said. "Leave him alive. I think he''s learnt his lesson." He morphed back to human face. "Let him go."

Kitty sighed and pulled her hand out of his chest. She walked over to the knife she had thrown and picked it up. When she turned back, Ethan had already run for it. She turned to Angel who was looking at her. She didn''t like the look.

Angel couldn''t help himself, she was a lot like Buffy, though she probably wouldn''t appreciate it. "That was cold." He said approvingly. She looked at him with daggers. "I''m……"

"I know who you are. Logan told us to keep an eye out for you, Angel."

"It figures." He looked back at her. What was wrong with him? Was this what Cordelia meant? He couldn''t do this again. "And you are……"

"No friend of yours so I''ll keep my name to myself." She began to walk back to the Magic Box. Angel started following her. "Is there a particular reason your following me?"

"Well there''s two. One: you might get attacked by actual vampires and two: my cars this way."

Kitty grinned despite herself. He really 'was kind of cute. Except for the blood sucking thing. "I''m no cream puff."

"That''s obvious, but beating Ethan and beating a vampire are two completely different things." He said then found one of her bone knives pointing into his chest.

"Really? Doesn''t seem that……" She suddenly found herself pinned to a tree. After a brief struggle she was on the ground, Angel leaning over her. He hadn''t really hurt her, but she was a little out of her breath.

"You were saying?" Angel leaned closer.

"I was saying you gotta get a Tic-Tac or something, ''cause your breath stinks." She planted a quick kiss on his lips before fading into the ground. "''Bye." Angel stared where she had been laying, unable to stop thinking how much further that may have gone. What was he doing? He couldn''t go through that again. He couldn''t become attached, he couldn''t.

So why was it happening?

Kitty looked back to where Angel was laying. What the hell possessed her to kiss him, even a quick one. She shook her head. "Get a grip, girl!" She whispered to herself. She wished she could get in touch with Ororo or Raine. She bowed her head. If only Peter were still alive. Hell, she''d be happy if Illyana popped up out of nowhere. Anyone.

""You call, girlfriend?" Kitty raised her head and looked around. It couldn''t be! No way! ""Get serious, Kitty. This close to a hellmouth, even an inactive one, makes it easy to contact you."

Kitty turned around. And she saw her, or at least an image of her. Illyana Rasputin, one of her best friends. Colossus''s little sister. First to die of the Legacy Virus, and the reason Peter had given his life to release the cure. "''Yana? Is it……?"

""It''s me, in the flesh……so to speak." Illyana moved closer to her best friend. ""Your looking good, Kitty."

"Your not looking too bad yourself, for a dead girl." Kitty felt a bit flabbergasted. Logan said to expect the unexpected when coming to Sunnydale, but this……

""So was there any particular reason you needed to speak to someone, or were you just lonely."

"Well, actually," Kitty looked over to where Angel was now standing. He hadn''t noticed her. Good. Maybe. "He is the reason I need to talk to someone." Illyana followed her finger until she saw Angel.

""Hello! Kitty, God, where did you find him, he is gorgeous!"

"He found me actually. We only just met and……he''s a vampire." She remembered what Logan and the Scooby''s had told her and added, "With a soul."

""So he needs someone to warm his coffin?"

"ILLYANA!"

""What? That''s Angel right?"

"How did you……"

""EVERY one is talking about him. The word around Limbo is that he''s the only vamp to get the favor of the Powers That Be. They say he''s got some reward coming to him. Maybe that''s you."

"Excuse me? I am no ones prize." She looked towards him. "I''m so confused. I mean, he had me pinned on the ground a few minutes ago. Did I knee him in the groin? NO! I kissed and phased out. Illyana, I KISSED HIM! I don''t even know him!"

""Tongue?" Illyana said with a grin.

"What?"

""You said you kissed him. Tongue, or no tongue?"

"Illyana, be serious!"

""I am being serious. Kitty if……" Illyana stopped and looked towards where Angel still stood. He was obviously as confused as Kitty. She noticed someone walked up to him. ""Looks like he''s got a friend."

Kitty squinted, trying to get a better look. It couldn''t be.

Angel stood there, trying to sort out his head. And his heart. This was impossible. How could this happen again, so soon after losing Buffy. He heard someone coming behind him. He turned and saw a familiar face. He grabbed him by the collar and slammed him against a tree. "Whistler. What do you want, haven''t you screwed up my life enough already?"

"Hey take it easy, Angel. Jeez, it''s impossible to get a warm welcome around here isn''t it?" Whistler said, a little shaken from his collision with the tree.

"Yeah, all things considered, I think life was better before I met you. Why did you get me in with Buffy in the first place.?

"I wasn''t told you guy''s weren''t meant to work out. I was just told to get you on her side. But I do have some good news. Your off the hook. No more clause."

"Yeah, well thanks." Angel snorted in disgust, as he dropped Whistler to the ground. "A lot of good that does me now."

"Hey, hey, there plenty of fish in the sea. You''ll find someone else. Like that girl you just met. Obviously set your head atwirling."

"How did you……? It was a setup, wasn''t it." It wasn''t question.

"Hey, the Powers decided that maybe you need a break."

"Thanks." He said simply. Then he grinned. "She was pretty great though. Pity I stuffed that one up too."

"Don''t be to sure." Whistler pointed over to where Kitty was talking to Illyana. He then began to walk away. "Hey, try not to piss this one off, it''s getting hard to find you a girlfriend."

Angel merely shook his head and began to walk over to her. May as well get the humiliating part over.

Kitty stared horrified as he began to walk over to her. "Oh God, he saw me."

""Is that so bad? He''s looking better with every step he takes towards us." Illyana rolled her eyes. ""Pity I''m dead."

"In case you forgot, so''s he."

""Yeah, but he''s got a physical form. And what a form." She said appreciatively. ""Well, I gotta get goin''. Have fun."

"''Yana!"

"Hello again." Said Angel, trying to be cheerful. Was this going to end the way all of his relationships did? "Where''s your friend? I thought I saw you talking to someone."

"Yeah she''s……it''s a long story." What was she doing? Just about everyone else she''d ever dated had ended up dead. Granted, he was already dead, but that didn''t mean he couldn''t die a more permanent death, or just leave her. "So, any particular reason your still here? Logan told us he told you to stay out of Sunnydale."

"I……" Could he tell her that this was set up by some higher power? "I have my reasons."

Kitty rolled her eyes. "That''s just……"

"Kitty!" They looked ahead to see Logan, with Buffy in tow, running towards them.

"Great." Said Angel, "Here we go again."

"What the hell are you doin'' here? Didn''t I tell you I not ta come back here."

"I remember something along those lines. But I have some bad news."

Logan snorted. "There''s a switch." He looked over to Kitty. If Angel had hurt her…… "You alright, darlin''?"

Was she? She wasn''t sure, but she nodded anyway, thrusting her unsureties to one side. "Yeah, but I''d listen to Angel if I was you. Seems there''s a new player in the game."

Buffy looked over at her, her empathic powers picking up confused feelings from both of them. Great, just what she needed, more trouble. She would have to have a talk to Kitty later. For now…… "Anyone we know?"

"Ethan Rayne." Angel said simply, looking at her face. She knew. She knew about the conflict inside of him.

"Shit." Said Buffy. Angel arched an eyebrow at her. "Don''t start with me, Angel. I don''t want to hear it."

Kitty looked at her. Sure, she didn''t know Buffy real well, but there was something wrong. Angel saw it too.

"Buffy, what is it? Is there something I can do?"

Buffy glared at him. "NOW you ask that? You walk off saying this is best, you come and go as you please without even talking to me and now you want to help?!?" Logan looked at her. This could be trouble. "If you wanted to help, you should have been here while we were facing Glory instead of screwing around with Darla. Just get out of here, Angel, get out of my sight! Leave me alone! It seems to be what your best at!" With that she turned and stormed off. Logan followed closely.

Angel looked at the spot where Buffy had stood. Is that what she thought? A more frightening thought occurred to him. Was she right? Should he have stayed instead of running off to L.A? Could he have helped against Glory? Would anything have changed if he had? No use thinking on it. What''s done is done. But still……

"Hey." Angel started and turned around to see Kitty still standing behind him. He thought about what Whistler had said. "You alright?"

"Been better." He looked back in the direction that Buffy had stormed off in. "Maybe she''s right, maybe……"

"Don''t even think about it. Nothing you can do about it now." She looked at him, wishing she could say ……what? How unfair Buffy had been? How sorry she was for getting him into this situation?

How much she felt for him?

No, not that. To close to that other thought. The one that kept invading into her thoughts, and she REALLY didn''t need that grief. "Anyway I''d better get after them, before they think you''ve gone bad." Angel grinned. That did seem to be the automatic assumption people had when they saw him. "You gonna be alright?"

He turned around and found her much closer than she had been. Too close, maybe. "Yeah, I''ll be fine."

"Okay. ''Bye."

"See ya." Angel watched her walk away. Stop her you fool, He thought, before you lose her too. Then he turned and walked towards the old manor. Tomorrow, he''d leave.

Yeah right.

When Kitty walked back into the shop, the first thing she noticed was that Buffy was still fuming. The second was that Odin was gone, as was Spike and Dru.

"What were you doing?" Buffy looked her, a look of rage on her face. "Why were you even talking to him?"

Kitty looked at her What right did she have to question her? "Well excuse me, but we''d just had that encounter with this Ethan Rayne character he told you about, I thought I at least owed him some company back to his car. Who do you think you are asking that question anyway, my mother?"

"Ethan''s back?" Giles asked, looking at Buffy. "What''s he doing here?"

"Working for the Dragon. He had some staff that, as far as I could tell, was supposed to make Buffy docile for delivery. When he saw me on patrol instead, he decided he''d try it out on me. That''s when Angel came in."

"Oh dear God." Giles sat down and began cleaning his glasses.

"So Angel just showed up and came to the rescue, huh?" Buffy said in a calmer tone of voice.

"Yeah, pretty much."

"Some things never change. Just watch it, okay? If history does repeat itself, things might get a bit hairy for you."

"Thanks for the advice. I''ll keep it in mind." Kitty looked towards the Book, which remained unopened. "So, what about that? What''s the deal?"

Buffy walked over to it and brushed her hand over the cover. It was practically screaming to be opened. "It can only be opened by the Phoenix during the day, and the Dragon at night. Supposedly, it has instructions for both."

"In other words, keep it away from the Dragon." Xander said with his usual levity.

"Once again, Xander, you''ve managed to state a difficult task in its most simplistic form."

"That''s what I do. That and fetch doughnuts."

Nathan stared the scene. How could they work together with so many differences? Then he thought of X-Force, the team he himself had led for so long, and understood the why they made such a team.

""About time." He looked over at Buffy, who was talking to Rachel. Smiled at him. ""Sometimes, you don''t have to get along perfectly to be a team. Xander and Giles have arguments every other minute. Takes some of the pressure from the apocalyptic prophecies we come across." She turned to the others. "Anyway, we''d better get home and to bed." She scooped up the Book. "This should stay with us. Rachel, um……" She looked at the other time traveling Summers. Where to put her.

"Don''t worry about me, Buffy. I''ve got a room at the local hotel."

Nathan looked over at his little sister. "You sure, Rachel? We''re all bunked at the old manor. There''s plenty of room."

"Thanks Nate, but I''m fine. Besides, I''ve already paid for a week."

"Okay, just be careful."

"Yeah," Xander put in. "I think they''ve got a room set aside for vamps."

Rachel smiled. "I''ll keep that in mind."

Angel looked around from the doorway, since he couldn''t walk through the door. Looks like someone had moved in. Maybe he should check into the motel. Or he could speak to Willy. "Looks like I''m sleeping elsewhere today."

"Before you leave, mein herren, I suggest you tell us why your going through our stuff, ja?" Angel turned around and saw a couple of familiar faces.

"Well, well, look who''s here. Hello furball." He looked in Kitty''s direction. Had he had a heart beat, it would have skipped. "Hi."

"Angel, right? What are you doing here?" The blue furry thing looked at him. Kitty stood behind him. Her own heart skipped a beat. Why was this happening to her?

"I needed a place to stay for the day. I used to sleep here, but if you''d prefer……"

"Personally, I say we dust ''im now." Said Jubilee, pulling out a stake that Buffy had given her.

No! Kitty thought. Come on, think of something. Nathan looked at her, then said out loud, "Well, we do owe him for rescuing Kitty. Maybe we should leave him alive." Thank you, said Kitty silently. He look at her again, then sent ""We should talk."

"I think we should get to sleep." Said Kurt, moving inside. Jubilee saw Angel looking at Kitty in a weird way. As she moved past him whispered a warning.

"Go anywhere near her, and there won''t be enough of you for Logan to deal."

"You related to him?"

"Logan trained me, and Kitty. Touch her and……"

"JUBILEE! I don''t need Logan''s or your protection. I''m older than you, So don''t try to play protective sister with me, is that clear?" They both turned to see Kitty closer than Jubes thought.

"But……"

"But, exactly. BUTT out, got it?"

"Yeah." The younger girl mumbled, and followed Kurt inside. Nathan stared at Kitty. Where had that come from?

"Sorry ''bout that." Kitty said to Angel, the mixture of emotions flaring up again.

"No problem. Used to get the same kind of thing from Xander."

Kitty grinned at the thought. "Well that must have been scary."

Angel grinned back. What a smile! "Terrifying."

"Anyway, I''d better get to sleep. ''Night."

"Sweet dreams." Angel watched her go upstairs. Man, she was hot. He shook his head in dismay. He couldn''t believe he just thought that.

"Neither can I." Angel spun around and noticed Nathan standing there for the first time. "It''s easier to read your mind the closer I get. Still a lot of static, but I picked up on that last thought."

"You read minds? Great."

"Look, Angel, Kitty''s had a rough time of late. Her last boyfriend tried to kill the team of X-Men she was with at the time, and recently, her first love gave his life so that he could release the cure for a virus that only attacks mutants. She doesn''t need the grief."

"I understand that, I''m not trying to cause anyone any grief."

"From what I''ve heard, you may not be able to help it."

Angel stared at him. What had Buffy told these people? "If you''re referring to the clause, that''s no longer an issue. I found out tonight. Finally, The Powers That Be have let me off the hook. No more clause. I can get as happy as I want, so don''t try warning me off."

Nathan stepped forward, his one fake eye glowing like the sun. "I grew up two thousand years in the future, in a time ruled by an immortal despot. You''re not an issue there. Wanna make that a more immediate situation?" He removed the illusion surrounding right arm, showing the techno organic virus that had ravaged his body since he was a child.

"Nathan. that''s enough. God, does everyone think I''m a child that need''s protecting?" Kitty was standing at the top of the stairs, fuming. This was getting ridiculous.

Angel turned towards the gate. "Maybe I should sleep elsewhere."

Kitty looked at him. What was wrong with everyone? "Are you sure?"

"Well, if I stay here, I''m gonna wake up with a stake in my chest." He turned and walked away. Maybe he''d visit Willy.

Odin looked on. He knew that if his counter parts, the Powers That Be attempted to move on with their plan, there could be trouble, but this was amazing. Angel had helped one of their own, and they were treating him like a leper. If he didn''t know any better……

Then it hit him the third player. Of course, who else could it have been.

""Hey." Odin looked up from the image and saw Cameron near by. She had, of course, taken an interest in the proceedings, and was often nearby. "You alright?"

""No. I believe I have figured out who the third party is."

""Who?"

Odin looked down once more to Midgard. It would seem that he would have to take more serious steps than he first thought.

""Loki."

She walked up to the steps, wondering what kind of reception she would get. Not a warm one, that''s for sure.

After being released from jail a week ago, she had been told that she had to help the one person who hated her more than anything else in creation. It was understandable. She rang the bell.

After all, she had tried to ruin her life on more than one occasion.

The door opened and her stomach dropped to ankles. She was rather hoping Buffy would be on patrol.

"Faith."

"Hey, B, how''s things?"

Logan watched as Buffy showed the new arrival in. He''d heard Buffy address the girl as Faith and, judging by the smell radiating off her, realized that what she had told him was only the half of what had happened between the two of them.

Buffy looked at Logan, who looked back with a carefully guarded face. She knew he was worried. He knew it. His hyper senses had told him that there was more to this than what she had told him. She sighed inwardly. May as well get this over with.

"Faith, this is Logan. Logan, Faith." Logan nodded towards the girl. Faith gave a crooked smile.

"So, B, this your new man, or are you hiding Angel or Riley somewhere?"

Buffy gave her a horrified look. "Faith, you have not changed one bit!"

Logan simply smiled. "No Angel ''round here, girl, but I''m a little more dangerous than him or that army boy from what Buffy told me." To punctuate the point, Logan extended one of his claws and began to pick his teeth. Buffy grinned inwardly. Trust Logan.

Faith stared for a bit, then turned to Buffy with a grin of her own. "So, does this mean Angels fair game?"

"Only if yer quick." Said Logan still grinning. It was obvious that Angel was one of the things the girls had a falling out about. "Think a friend a'' mine might beat ya to it, though, judgin'' from what we saw tonight."

Buffy caught on quickly. She knew there was probably more to it then either of them knew, judging from what she felt from them earlier, but since they were just picking on Faith…… "Yeah, things seem to be going pretty fast there. They only met today and……"

"Alright, I get the point." She looked around. Nothing much seemed to have changed. "Sooo, where''s Dawn and Joyce?"

Buffy felt her heart constrict, the way it always did when her mother was mentioned. "Dawn''s upstairs in bed and mom''s…… dead. She died of cancer last year."

Faith felt her stomach drop for the second time that night. Joyce had been kind to her while she was hanging with Buffy, and after how Faith had treated her after waking from her coma……

She walked over and dropped onto the lounge in a daze. This was so unfair. Joyce was one of the main people she had needed to apologize to. To find this…… it wasn''t fair. Joyce had been a good person. She didn''t deserve to die of some stupid disease, any more than she had deserved to be treated the way Faith had treated her that night.

"Hey." Faith looked up. Buffy was standing over her. "Come on, let''s get you settled in."

Didn''t even ask what was wrong. Can''t blame her, Faith thought. "What your actually gonna let me stay here?"

Buffy grimaced. "Well no one else would take you, and besides, I want you where I can keep an eye on you. Just stay away from Dawn." ""And Logan." She added telepathically. Faith''s eyes widened and she stared at Buffy. How……? "Grab your stuff. You''re in my old room."

"Where are you?" Faith asked, still trying to get over Buffy''s new ability. How had she done that?

"In mom''s room with Logan." Faith raised her eyebrows. "Don''t even think it."

"What?" Asked Faith innocently.

They reached the room. Buffy turned to her. "Look, in the past, you have given me precisely zero reason to trust you. I''m only doing this for that reason. I don''t trust you to sleep anywhere else. Stay out of trouble, understand?"

Faith lowered her head. "Yeah." She mumbled. "Look, B, I……"

"Don''t say it, Faith. I don''t want to hear it." She turned and walked back down stairs where Logan was waiting.

Faith walked into the room, and dropped her gear on the bed. She didn''t want to show it in front of Buffy, what the attitude, the way she spoke to her, it hurt, more than she thought it would. She sat next to her bags, then pushed them onto the ground. No use unpacking, she''d probably be out on her ass tomorrow morning. She kicked off her shoes and stretched out on the bed. So much had changed. Buffy had a new boyfriend who, as far as Faith could see, was a living weapon. Joyce was dead, and Buffy could read minds. Faith shook her head. That one was hard to get over. She closed her eyes. How had that happened?

""That is part of the reason why thou art hear." Faith opened her eyes to see……nothing. A large empty space greeted her where she should have seen the roof. Then she realized she was standing up. Her reaction, needless to say, was understandable.

""What the hell?" She turned to find the speaker, an old man with a long gray beard, standing behind her. "Who are you, Santa Clause?"

The old man shook his head. "I am Odin, Guardian of the Slayer, and I know all about thee, renegade." He looked at her with what could only be contempt. "We need to talk."

Next day.

She stepped off the bus, and looked around. What a dump. Still, there were supposed to be Slayers around. One in particular, a renegade was the one she was interested in. This was the one she had to watch. And if necessary, kill. She began to walk towards the center of town. She had to find the……Magic Box, some kind of shop. Sad, but descriptive. In a childish way. "Hmph." The sooner she was done……

"Blondie? That you?" She turned. It couldn''t be.

"Logan? What are you doing here?"

"Been awhile, Zannah. What ya been up to? Besides maimin'' yer ex''s."

The ex-Coda, ex-WildC.A.T known as Zealot grimaced. Of all the people she could have met it had to be this……man. "So, you''ve been in touch with Cole?"

"Yeah, he asked if we could help track ya down. Didn''t think I''d actually find ya." He looked at her as if trying to fit together the pieces of a puzzle. "What''re ya doin'' here, anyway?"

"I do believe that I asked you first."

Logan chuckled. "Cash was right. Still a bitch. Actually, I''m kinda livin'' here now."

"Now what could possibly……" Zannah looked at him. "Could there be a lady in your life?" Logan nodded slightly. "Well, wonders will never cease."

"Now I''ve answered your question, it''s your turn." He motioned her to follow. "What''re ya doin'' here, Blondie?"

"I''m here to……visit a……friend." She worded her answer carefully. No need to tell him the real reason. But he had already figured it out.

"Faith." He said simply.

Zealot stopped and glared at him. "How do you……?"

"Simple, I''m datin'' Buffy. In here." Zannah looked and saw that they had arrived in front of a magic shop. Of course. They stepped in side and were greeted by a rabble gathered around a Book.

A petite blonde ran up to Logan''s side. "Logan!" She threw herself into his arms. Memories came up unbidden. She pushed them aside. Buffy looked at her inquisitively. "Who''s this?"

"An old friend. She''s also here ta watch Faith." Buffy made a face.

"She''s out the back."

Zannah nodded and headed in the direction she pointed. Buffy and Logan joined the others around the table. "You ready?" Asked Rachel. Buffy nodded and looked around the table. Friends and family, all worried for her. She squeezed Logan''s hand and moved towards the Book. She reached out, brushing her hand across the Phoenix motif, took hold of the cover and opened the Book.

Light and fire exploded into her head.

""You know what must be done."

She hears many voices, screaming to be heard.

""Our powers maybe used as a mirror is used to reflect light."

Visions rush her head. The Dragon, the Phoenix. Dark, Light. The Truth.

""For the Phoenix to lose would weaken the Light. This must not happen."

Power fills her. Death and rebirth

""Do not fear him, for he has not the knowledge of what you can truly do."

Voices retreat, leaving the aftertaste of power.

""We shall speak again."

As she collapsed on the floor, no one but Rachel noticed the Book close of it''s own accord. She stared at it. What are you?

Zealot moved into the training area. As she did, she noticed a short brunette circling the room. Going through kata. She thought.

Faith completed the kata, then turned toward the door. "Who''re you?"

"My name is Zannah. I have been sent here to ensure you do not betray the Slayer."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence." Faith bent down to pick up her towel. Zealot placed her foot on it. "Hey!"

"The two of you could have been allies but for your lack of discipline."

"Thanks for telling me what''s to late to act on. Can I get my towel?"

"I''m telling you this for your own good." She moved her foot. "You have been given a second chance, as have I. They don''t come along often."

Faith picked up her towel and glared at the woman who had been given the position of her parole officer. "What have you got to make up for?"

Zannah looked away from the girl. "I am a member of a race called the Kherabim, from a planet far from here. Thousands of years ago, while we were at war with a race of parasites called the Daemonites, our ship crashed on this planet." She bowed her head. "Thousands of light years from home, cut off from all I knew, I attempted to recreate a sisterhood of warriors that I had found so much happiness in back home, the Coda."

"Whoa, the Coda?" Faith stared at her. "I had a run in with a few of them on the way here."

"And you survived, amazing." Zannah looked at the girl she had been sent to watch. Perhaps…… "The Coda is not as it should be. They have taken the precepts I taught, and perverted the Warriors art. They have become mercenaries, working for little more than to line their own pockets." She looked away again. "They have caused the death of many innocents merely because they got in their way. This is what I have to ''make up for''."

"Wow." Faith walked up to her. "But you know, you haven''t taught them very well."

Zannah raised her eyebrow. "Really?"

"Yeah, well besides the fact that the one I met at the airport back in LA was dressed completely in leather," She grinned. "they couldn''t even take down one lousy renegade Slayer."

Zannah chuckled. "You remind me of one of my other students, the only male to receive Coda training. He too is a mercenary, but at least he has some sense of honor."

"I remind you of a man, huh? I suppose I could take that as a compliment, just keep your hands to yourself." They walked back in to the shop and found Buffy sprawled on the floor, the others gathered around her. Faith sprinted to her side. "B? What happened?"

"We don''t know. She opened the Book, then collapsed an instant later." Nathan said. Zannah walked up to the group, and noticed Logan holding the unconscious Slayer close. She knelt beside them and put her hand on the girl''s forehead.

"She''ll be fine Logan." She said with confidence, reassuring one of the few people left she could call ''friend''.

"Yeah, sure. In the mean time, we burn that damn Book." They all stared at him. "What ever happened happened because she opened that damn thing. I say we destroy it now before it can hurt her any more."

Jubilee walked over to him. "Logan, are you sure? I mean, Odin said we''ll need it."

"I don''t care. Somebody get me some petrol." He placed Buffy''s head on the floor and walked towards the book with his lighter out.

Kitty ran up to him. "Logan, this is not the time for you to go scitzo on us. I''m sure there''s an explanation for what happened."

"Yeah, she''s probably just tired, from……whatever happened." Dawn put in. That Book was the only good news they''d had in conjunction with the whole Slayer/Phoenix thing. She wasn''t going to lose her sister because of her over protective boyfriend.

Logan lit his lighter, and placed it on the pages of the Book peeping under the cover. "This thing ain''t gonna hurt her again." The Book caught light easily.

The Dragon sat up in his lair. The Book. Some imbecile had exposed it to flame.

This was bad.

Odin watched on as the Book burst into flames. Was Logan insane? What did he think he was doing? "Stupid, ignorant……"

""Hold on, Odin. Don''t blame Logan for this. He……" Cameron stopped as she watched the Book come out of the flame unchanged.

Unchanged? No there was a difference. It HAD changed. But……

Odin stared at the image. It wasn''t possible. "The Book……of the Phoenix."

"The HELL?" Logan stared as the flames died down. The Book seemed untouched. "Knew I should ''a got some petrol." He began to walk outside. It was Faith that noticed it first.

"Hold on a minute, Logan." Willow moved closer, and bent beside the table to check the Book. Nathan moved beside the still unconscious Buffy. "It''s changed." She picked it up gingerly and showed it to him. There was no trace of the Dragon on the spine, or anywhere else.

"So?" Logan looked at the Book with suspicion.

"So, the Dragon won''t be able to get any information out of it." They turned as the Book floated out of Willow''s arms.

And straight to Buffy.

Logan raced straight to her side, heart racing. If anything happened to her…… "You alright, darlin''? What''d ya mean?"

"By exposing it to flame, you released the Book of the Phoenix. Dragon can''t use this. He can''t even pick it." She looked down at the Book, which was glowing softly. "It''s mine." She looked over at the man standing next to her. He was worried, that much was obvious. She moved closer to him, and felt his arms go around her. "Thank you." Now more than ever, she needed him, and he knew it. He held her closer.

"Yer welcome."

Spike looked over at Drusilla''s semi-sleeping form. This was as close to asleep as he was able to get her. She was mumbling under her breath names of people she''d hurt and what she''d done to them. It was like she was doing some kind of penance. He wished there was something……

Penance! That was it! Dru had been a Catholic before Angel turned her; she was even in a cloister trying to become a nun. Maybe……

He raced over to his phone and dialed a number. He just hoped the old codger was still at the Church.

Father Kern walked up to the crypt that had become Spikes lair and knocked on the door. It had been six months since Spike had walked into the church office and told the old priest his story. If Kern''s sister hadn''t been the Slayer twenty years ago, there would have been no way he would have believed a word of it. But he had, and told the vampire that if he ever needed anything, to call. Spikes call today was not what he had expected.

"Come in." The priest opened the door and walked in. Spike ran up to him. "Thanks for comin'', father. I know you''ve probably got more important things to do."

"Nonsense, my friend. I''m actually quite curious, I''ve never met a vampire with a soul before."

"Remind me to introduce you to Angel one time. Through here. But, uh, be careful what you say, hey." Spike lowered his voice. "She was tortured before she was turned. Sent her insane. Recent happenings haven''t improved things any."

"Thank you for the warning."

They walked towards the bed where Dru still lay. "Dru. We got a visitor."

"Mm?"

"This is Father Kern. I figured it might help if you talked to him about, you know, whatever it is Catholics talk about. Thought it might help……" He didn''t get to finish his sentence as Dru threw herself in front of the priest.

"Bless me, Father, for I have sinned." Spike left them to it. No need to listen in. He already knew half of it.

Father Jeremiah Kern listened in shock. When Spike had asked him to listen to the confession of a vampire with a soul, he didn''t know what to expect. Half the time she was incoherent with grief and guilt. During these times, he gave her time to recover before continuing. It was quite a shock.

By the time she had finished, night had fallen. She looked up at him, hoping for some comfort. He thought for a moment, planning his words carefully. "It would seem to me, my child, that you are already living the ultimate penance. But," he said quickly, seeing the look on her face. "if you would like, my door is always open if you need to talk." He cupped her chin in his hands. "You have a great potential for good within you. Don''t let you''re past make you''re future impossible. Live, and live well." He stood and helped her to her feet. "God has not forgotten you. I believe He has allowed this to happen so that may you earn your way back into His favor. Do not forget this. There is always a reason for things to happen, alright?" Dru nodded dumbly. What he said made sense. It was like Whistler had said. "I think we will talk again. Until then, take care of yourself."

"Thank you, father."

"Your welcome, Dru. God bless you."

"And you."

Father Kern sat back in his chair, grateful for the escort Spike and Dru gave him back to his home. He thought about what Dru had told him. Amazing. All that and the current Slayer was still willing to help her earn her forgiveness. Kern got up. That reminded him. He had something for her. He walked over to the phone and dialed the number Spike had given him.

Spike and Dru sat quietly as they heard what had happened during the day. Dru shook her head. She knew there was something else about that Book, but this was amazing. The phone rang. "Ah, Drusilla?" Giles looked up from the counter. There had been a sudden influx of customers. "Could you get that?"

"O-okay." She walked over to the phone. She had always hated these things. "Hello?"

"Drusilla, is that you?" Dru brightened up.

"Father Kern. You have present?"

Kern inwardly sighed. He wished there were something else he could do for her. "Yes, but not for you I''m sorry. Our meeting reminded me, I have something for the Slayer."

"Slayers not here right now, on patrol. I''ll send her over to see you when she gets back."

"No hurry. It''s just something……a friend asked me to give to the next Slayer I met."

"Alright. Good to hear from you."

"Good to see you''re working on what we were talking about."

"Hmm, I''m trying, I''m trying real hard."

"I''m glad to hear that. I''ll speak to you later. Don''t forget."

"Alright. ''Bye."

"See you later, child."

Dru hung up the phone with a smile. "Who was that?" Asked Giles walking over to the phone, where Drusilla still stood.

"Nice Father Kern over at the church. Got a present for the Slayer. Said there''s no need to hurry, but I got a feeling it was important to him."

"Oh well, um……"

"Hey guys." They all turned to the door to see a familiar form standing there.

Kitty jumped to her feet, her heart skipping. "Angel!"

Dru rushed over to her sire. "Daddies here!"

"Hey, Dru." Angel caught the child like vampire as she threw herself at him.

"We got something to talk about."

Angel looked at her for a few seconds, and then saw the light in her eyes. A light that hadn''t been there since the night he turned her. "You have a soul?"

"Yes. I''m helping the Slayer, too." She flashed him a smile, one that shined with happiness instead of dripping with malice. "Like my daddy." Innocence shone like a lantern. Angel felt weak at the knees. Just like a child, now. She can live her life the way she should have.

Dru giggled. "She likes you."

Angel stared. "Who?"

"Her." She pointed at Kitty, who was trying to hide the fact that she was watching them by straitening a shelf. Dru giggled again.

"Alright you." He said, playfully shoving her away. She giggled again, shoving back.

"What are YOU doing here?" Angel looked up to see Jubilee staring at him. Her we go again, he thought.

"I''m here to help. Why, going to threaten me again?"

Dru looked at them both. "Oh. Something happening."

Angel grabbed her as she fell. "What is it, Dru?"

"Darkness. Surrounding……the church!" Dru''s eyes went wide. "Father Kern''s in trouble. Got to help him."

"Alright Dru, let''s go."

Kitty flew to her feet, checking that she still had her knives. "I''m coming too."

Jubilee followed the group out the door. "Same here."

Giles and the Scoobys watched as Angel, Dru and the X-Men leave the store. Xander turned towards the ex-watcher. "There''s a familiar scene."

"Um, yes, yes it is. As strange as this may sound, it''s……well it feels good to have Angel on the job again." As Giles finished, they heard an animal roar, followed by the sound of a vampire dusting from outside.

"Oh yeah," Xander said, with a lopsided grin, "Dead-Boys back in town."

As they made their way to the church, Kitty jogged up to Angel. "What do you think it is?"

"Could be anything. Dru visions have always been a bit vague." He thought about Cordelia''s visions, and grinned. "Least she doesn''t suffer form migraines." Looked at him strangely. "Long story."

"I''ll believe it. Got a few of them myself."

Behind them, Dru giggled a bit. Jubilee scowled at the back of Angel''s head. Dru looked at her. "Don''t be mad. He really is nice when he''s not Angelus." She shivered a bit. "I remember Angelus. Evil, darkness all around. Knew it from the first. Not like Angel."

Jubilee looked at the vampire. "The way you''re talking, it''s as if they''re two separate peopled."

Dru nodded. "They are. Angelus was the scourge of Europe, the murder with the face of an angel. Angel is what he could have become if he hadn''t been turned. He deserves to be happy." Jubilee thought about this as they approached the back of the church, where the priest lived, and saw the house was on fire. "NO!" Dru moved towards the inferno. Angel grabbed her by the arm.

"Dru, it''s too dangerous."

"But Father Kern is in there."

"I''ll get him." Kitty dived through one of the burning walls. Angel clenched a fist. There had to be something he could do. But what? He watched in amazement as the wall that Kitty had walked through exploded in a flash of light and sound. He looked over at Jubilee, who was unleashing stream after stream of her fireworks into the blaze.

"Of all the stupid, idiotic, brainless, stupid, incredibly stupid, moronically heroic things she could do……" She muttered under her breath, as the flames where Jubilees fireworks landed shrank and extinguished.

"You said stupid three times." He said casually, looking for a hydrant or something.

"Lardy frikkin'' dah, Dead-Boy can count. You wanna try doing something helpful?"

"Like what?" Angel shot back, trying to hide the fact that he wanted more than anything to dive into the blaze after Kitty. He looked around. "Where''s Drusilla?"

She walked into the church almost in a daze. What was she doing? She was surprised that she didn''t burst into flames for daring to walk into the holy place. She could hear the voices of those she had killed.

""How pathetic!"

""Useless little girl!"

""You don''t belong here!"

""Get out!"

""Murderer!"

"STOP IT!!" She collapsed into a heap. She had to get out she had to……

"Get up!" What? "You came in here to find a fire extinguisher right? It''s right beside you."

"Who''s there?" Dru looked around, searching for the owner of the low, gravelly voice.

"Doesn''t matter who I am. Let''s just say, I''m in the right place at the right time. Now stop your blubbering, get off your ass, grab the extinguisher, go out and help your friend."

Dru did what the voice instructed. "Thank you." She said as she headed out the door.

The man stepped out of the shadow. Another vampire with a soul. This was getting ridiculous. At least this one had a good start. He shook his head. Kind of similar to his reaction when his immortality manifested itself, all those years ago in the highlands of Scotland. Well, he couldn''t stay here any more.

Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, Immortal, walked out the door, down the street and into the night.

Dru rushed over to the blaze, and added the extinguisher''s foam to Jubilees fireworks, in an attempt to control the flame. Angel stood by, praying. "Come on, Kitty." He said under his breath. "Get out of there." He stood there, not moving, until he saw her walk out of the fire. Only then did he move, spreading his jacket over her and Father Kern, trying to hide the relieved smile that came out as she did.

Father Kern sat on the grass, looking at the smoldering flames that had been his home, and the young mutant that had saved his life. "Thank you." He said, his dry throat making it impossible for him to say anymore.

She nodded and got up, cursing her unsteady legs as she did so. She then walked over to the young man in whose jacket he had found himself unceremoniously wrapped in as he and the young girl walked out of the fire. Father Kern closed his eyes. He was too old for this sort of thing. Far too old.

He opened his eyes and found Dru sitting next to him. It had been her abilities as a seer that had saved him from being a barbecued priest. She beamed at him. "Alright?" She asked, in that childish manner that he had already gotten used to. He could not imagine an evil version of her. So much like a child. He nodded his answer. "Good." She sat there next to him, looking at him like a little girl about to ask her father a question. "Where is it?"

"Where is what?"

"Silly." Dru pushed him lightly, and he fell on his back. "The present for the Slayer."

Father Kern sat up, and tried unsuccessfully to get to his feet. He''d almost forgotten. "Have to get to the church." He tried again, and Dru caught him as he fell.

"It''s there?" Asked Dru with a shudder. "Went in to find a fire extinguisher. Heard voices. Nasty voices, told me I was evil, shouldn''t be there." She bowed her head and began muttering, withdrawing into her insanity.

"Drusilla." Jeremiah took her by the shoulders. His voice was still croaky from the smoke, but something had to be said. "Look at me, child. No matter what you heard, no matter what you''re told, you must remember one thing." She looked up at him as he continued. "You have been given a second chance, to help right the wrongs you have done in the past." He looked her in the eyes. "The first thing you need to remember, is that to earn your forgiveness, you must tell the ones you hurt the true story."

"What……?"

"Why you were given a soul, what caused it. These things have to be brought to light." He tried and failed to get up again. "I can''t go. You''ll have to fetch it. There is a hidden panel, at the back of the cross. The code is zero-one-zero-five."

Dru''s eyes widened in horror. "No. I''ll get Jubilee or……"

"No." Kern said. "You go get. Please?"

Drusilla sighed, got to her feet and headed for the church. As much as she feared going in, Father Kern was her friend. She had to help.

Jubilee noticed Dru walking away. "Where''s she going?"

Dru walked through the door. Once more the voices were there, but she pushed them to one side. She had to keep going. As she got closer, the voices got louder, until she could ignore them no more.

""Murderess!"

""Get out! You don''t belong here!"

""Leave, demon!"

She had to keep going……

""You will fail!"

……Had to prove……

""They will never trust you!"

……That she had changed……

""You haven''t changed!"

""You will betray them!"

""Demon!"

""Murderer!"

"NO!"

Jubilee walked in to see the vampire on the floor, crying. "Dru?" As she got closer, she could hear her mumbling.

"Icouldn''tdoitIwantedtohelpbutIcouldn''tdoittheykeeptauntingmeteasingmegetoutgetougetout……" Over and over, lost in her guilt and insanity, Drusilla gibbered and muttered. Jubilee felt for her, but wasn''t sure if she could help.

"Dru?" Jubilee reached for her hand. "Dru, if you can hear, you don''t have to be afraid."

"……BetrayyouIwillbetrayallofyoutheyarerightIamevilnomatterwhathappensnomatterwhatIdo……"

"Dru, snap out of it!" Jubilee slapped her savagely across the face. Dru looked at her hurt but silent. "I know you''ve got a lot on you''re mind, and I know that no matter what I''ll never understand, but you have to listen. Whatever you were before this happened, you''re not anymore. You can help, you''ve proved that. YOU found the Book, and if it weren''t for you, Father Kern would probably be dead. And, if you need someone to talk to……I''m here."

Dru looked up at the girl. "You are?"

Jubilee smiled. "Yeah, that''s what friends are for, right?"

Dru nodded, slightly amazed, but thankful nonetheless.

"Alright, let''s get you out of here."

"Not yet." Dru said getting to her feet. "Got to do something first."

"You sure?"

Dru nodded. "Voices gone now. Do what I came to do."

"Alright, I''m right here."

Dru nodded, and headed toward the cross Mumbling a prayer for forgiveness under her breath. As she reached the cross, she hesitated. "Problem?" Jubilee asked.

"Panel in cross. Can''t touch without burning." Dru said, sounding disappointed. She had failed.

Jubilee handed her the gloves she had been wearing. "These help?" Dru nodded and put the gloves on, walked up to the cross and pulled lightly. It swung away, revealing an analogue keypad in the back of it. Jubilee let out a low whistle. "Holy secret panels, Batman." She quipped. Dru giggled. "What? It wasn''t that funny."

"It''s not that. I''ve never been a safe robber before. Feels kind of exciting. Usually Spike would do this." She giggled again. "What would he do if he saw this?"

"Probably pull you down before you hurt yourself." Jubilee said with a grin. "Come on, finish up. The others are probably waiting."

Dru nodded and entered the code as per Father Kern''s instructions. The panel swung open revealing a long, wooden box. She lifted it out gently. "Time to go home." She said, as if speaking to a child. "New home with new Slayer." They walked back outside, Dru holding her prize tightly in her arms. Jubilee looked at her. She wasn''t so bad, once you gave her a chance. Maybe she should give Angel a chance too, maybe.

There was a whirlwind of activity once they walked into the shop. Angel sat off to one side. He used to be part of this, now he felt like a stranger. He slipped out the door while no one was looking. He didn''t belong here, not any more. Time to head back to LA. No telling how the others were going in his absence. Plus, he had a son to look after.

He got as far as the park before Kitty caught up with him.

"Hey." He turned to see her standing behind him, his jacket in her arms. "You forgot something."

"Thanks." He said, taking the jacket from her.

"So, headin'' back to the hotel?" She asked.

"Nope, home. Got a son to look after, city to protect. You know, the usual." Angel felt his unbeating heart slip down to his ankles. He had been hoping not to go through this. He didn''t want to say goodbye, not to her.

"You sure?"

No, he thought, I''m not sure. I want to stay, want to tell you…… "Yeah, I''m sure. Got some things to take care of. I''m sure the guys have some cases for me."

"Oh……okay……if you say so." They stood there, both thinking the same thing. Say it, say it. "Well, I……should be going back inside."

"Yeah, I should get going to if I''m going to get anywhere before sunup." Silence. "Well, maybe we''ll meet again."

"Maybe." Kitty stood there. Tell him. "Well, bye."

"See ya." They turned and walked in their opposite directions. Both wanted to tell the other, but couldn''t.

Both withdrew into themselves, kicking themselves for not saying anything.

Buffy watched on telepathically. Kitty had hoped that Angel would say something, Angel that Kitty would. Both were disappointed, but Buffy wasn''t going to let it end there. Both she and Logan had agreed, grudgingly, that if they couldn''t stop them feeling for each other, they might as well help it along. And there was only one thing that was going to help.

""Where do you think you''re going?" Angel turned to see Buffy''s astral projection floating behind him.

"Home." He said. "Not that it should matter to you."

Buffy fumed. He hadn''t changed. He could still be a major jerk when he wanted to. "Yeah, well, when you''re going to leave another broken heart when you leave, that''s when I''m making it my business."

"Who?" Angel looked at her. She couldn''t know. There''s no way.

""Kitty." Angel swore silently. Buffy raised her eyebrows. ""Nice language." Angel gave her a withering look. Buffy gave one back. ""Look, it''s obvious, even without telepathy, that you''ve got you''re eye on her, and it''s even more obvious that she feels the same. So that begs the question: why are you leaving?"

"I''ve got work to do, Connor to look after……"

""Angel, that is the worst excuse I have ever heard. You can call Cordelia and co. to bring Connor down, and we could probably use the extra man power." She looked at him coldly. ""And if you think you''re gonna leave Kitty, the way you left me, think again. Now get back in there and call the other''s down." As she faded she left one more message: ""Oh, and try to take off, and Logan''s going to come after you."

Angel stared at the spot where Buffy had been. Some things never change.

"Wishing you''d taken off sooner?" Angel whirled around and saw Faith standing behind him.

"Faith? What……"

"Got time off for good behavior. The PTB sent me down as back up. So……how''s things?"

"Been better. I suppose you heard that?"

Faith looked at him. "Hard not to, didn''t exactly try to whisper. So why not go back? The clause?"

"No longer an issue. I just……"

"Scared?"

"No."

"I think you are. I think you''re scared that something''s going to happen." She grinned at him. "I don''t blame you. Does seem you can''t hold down a relationship."

"Hey! Not my fault." He grinned himself. "As I remember, my breaking up with Buffy was you''re fault."

"Oh, yeah. So that means you''ve got no excuse, huh?" Angel glared at her. "What? If it was my fault last time, and I''m one of the good guys, what''s stopping you?"

"Do not attempt to force him. The decision is his, and his alone to make." He saw a warrior woman, dressed in red armor, sword sheathed by her side. She had red war paint on, and platinum blonde hair. "Greetings, Angelus. It has been some time."

Angel grunted. "Not long enough, Zannah."

A snarl reached Zealots lips. "I should have killed you when I had the chance, murderer!"

Faith looked at them both. "Am I missing something here?"

"Zannah was taking shelter with the gypsies that cursed me."

"THEY HAD EVERY RIGHT! You took the most important thing in the world to them! If they had not begged me, if they had not told me there was a better way, you would not be standing here! As for these ''Powers That Be'' Faith told me had been watching over you," She snorted, "they are soft. Hecate, I cannot believe they let you go so lightly."

"Lightly? I have spent these last centuries with the people I hurt running through my mind twenty-four seven. Because of my fear of myself, that I would hurt someone I cared about, I''ve lost Buffy, and now probably Kitty because of the way I''ve treated her. Lightly?!" He brought out his game face. "Get over here, bitch, so I can show you ''lightly''!"

Zealot grinned, a smile full of malice, and drew her sword. "Gladly, monster. I''ve been waiting for this!" She brought her sword up to strike……

……And fell on her face. She got to her knees, and looked back and noticed that her foot had been pulled under ground with no sign of any digging. "Shadowcat!" She spat.

"You called?" She asked innocently as she rose from the ground in front of her. "Sorry about that, Zannah, but everyone else''s had their shot at running my life, now it''s my turn." She turned to Angel, who had switched back to his human face. "We need to talk." She said as she dragged him away.

Faith watched as they walked away, a large smile on her face. "Well, that worked."

"Indeed." Zannah said, as she tried to dig away the dirt surrounding her ankle.

Once they were far enough away, Kitty stopped. Angel looked at her. She was mad. No, not mad. More towards enraged. She glared at him. "So, any reason why you didn''t tell me?"

Angel looked at her. "What?"

"Any of it!" She screamed. "I want to know why I was the last know. I want to know why you were leaving. I want to know why you didn''t tell me the clause no longer existed."

"Well you know now." He said calmly. Let her down. He thought. Disappoint her, there''s no reason to make her live the life I live.

"Bastard!" Kitty punched him in the face. Angel recoiled. He hadn''t been expecting that. "I don''t get you. How can you be so callous? How did I ever……" She stopped, turned around and walked away. "Forget it. It''s not worth it. Perhaps Buffy and Logan were right. Maybe you are no good." Angel stood there. Two hundred plus years, no one had said anything that hurt him as bad as that. He started to run after her.

"Kitty, wait!"

"Why the hell should I? So you can hurt me some more? Go away, go back to LA, I don''t care, just stay away form me!" She started to walk faster, trying to hide her tears.

He grabbed her by the arm. "Would you listen to me for two second. You''ve made a bunch of assumptions based on someone else''s experiences, without hearing my side."

"I don''t care! Just leave me alone." She phased through his hand and continued to walk, tears welling in her eyes.

"I was trying to protect you!" Kitty stopped. Protect her? "Yeah I know, stupid me. I just……my life is basically chasing demons, protecting innocents. Plus, the fact I''m a vampire. I……didn''t think you would want anything to do with me." He walked towards. He didn''t want to tell her, but he didn''t want her to hate him. "I do love you, Kitty, but my life……is just a little complicated. I didn''t tell you because……" He stopped, turned and began to walk away. "But I guess that doesn''t matter anymore, huh?"

"What about me?" She said suddenly. She turned to face him, tears streaming down her face. "What about what I thought? You say your life is complicated, yet I do something similar. I protect those who need it, human and mutant both, sometimes from my own kind. I''ve been doing that since I was Dawns age. I''ve come up against demon sorcerers, vampires, hell, I was with the X-Men when they took on Dracula, and I survived. You don''t need to worry about me." She turned away once more. "But maybe you''re right, maybe it doesn''t matter anymore." She began to walk again.

Angel took a few more steps. "Who the hell am I kidding?" He turned and started to run after her. "Kitty, wait up!" Kitty sped up a bit. She didn''t need anymore of this. "Kitty!" Just keep walking. "Would you wait up a minute?" She kept going. "Please, Kitty, wait. I''m sorry. I know I was wrong, I didn''t mean to hurt you. It was the last thing I wanted to do." She started to run. She reached the street and turned the corner. Angel continued to follow her.

She could hear him behind her. She kept moving. She wasn''t paying any real attention to where she was going. She ran into a large object.

"Where''re you goin'' to, little Kitty cat?"

Kitty backed off. "Sabretooth." She breathed. "Back off, Creed, I''m not in the mood."

Sabretooth grinned. "Don''t matter none to me, girl. Boss wants me ta take ya in, an'' there ain''t no Logan ta stop me."

Kitty pulled out two of her knives. "I can take care of myself."

He laughed out loud. "Always liked you girl." He guffawed. "Pity Logan found ya first. We could''a had some good times. Although, I could always show ya what that could''a been like." He began to move closer.

"Maybe you should just back off instead." Sabretooth looked up to see a man dressed entirely in black standing at the corner Kitty had come around. He snorted.

"Stay out of this, bub. It''s none of your business."

Angel grinned, and morphed full vamp face. "I''m making it my business."

Sabretooth shoved Kitty to one side. "Wondered when I''d run into one ''a you blood suckers."

"I''m not exactly what you expected." He looked towards Kitty. "You okay?"

She looked at him. Even with his game face on, he was strangely attractive. "Yeah." He nodded and looked towards Sabretooth.

"Sorry to disappoint you, but this ones mine. Now, back off!"

"You gonna make me?" Sabretooth grinned.

Angel grinned back, showing a mouth full of fangs. "You think I''m scared of an ugly freak like you. I terrorized Europe for centuries. Compared to me, you''re a child."

Sabretooth let out an animalistic roar and lunged at him. "Call me a kid? I don''t know who ya think you are, but when I''m done with ya, they''ll need a vacuum to pick up yer remains."

"How rude." Angel remarked, ducking to one side. "Names Angel." He slammed a roundhouse into Sabetooth''s stomach. "You''re history."

Sabretooth staggered to his feet. "Angel? Well, well." He chuckled. "Looks like I get ta take yer girl AND give ya the message."

"I don''t think so." Angel rammed him against the wall, and then found himself on the ground.

"Looks like ya need a bit of work." Sabretooth laughed at the prone vampire. "Now were was I?" Sabretooth turned on Kitty, to find her gone. "Haven''t we played this game before, Kitty cat?"

"Not that I remember." Sabretooth turned, but instead of seeing the prone Angel, he found a standing Faith. "But I''m sure you can teach me the rules as we go."

"Who''re you?"

"I''m Faith." She said, landing a kick to his gut. Sabretooth doubled over. "Now I''ve heard that you''re bones are supposed to be unbreakable. Let''s find out how they go against a Slayer." She slammed her knee into his forehead. Sabretooth went flying. "Ouch!" Groaned Faith, rubbing her knee. "Damn, that hurt."

Sabretooth went to get to his feet. "I suggest you stay down." Said a voice. He looked up and saw the most beautiful vision he had ever witnessed. She was holding a sword to his throat.

"Please tell me yer on my side, darlin''." His eyes followed the contours of her body.

"Thankfully, I''m not. You are the most pathetic specimen I have ever seen." She pressed her blade against his throat.

"Can I at least get yer name?" He asked, hopefully. This girl could be some fun.

She gave him a disgusted look. "Must you men ALWAYS flirt during battle?" She picked him up by the collar. "I am Zealot, former Majestrix of the Coda, now sworn to their destruction." She tossed him like a rag doll. "Remember that. Next time we meet, you die."

"Coda?!" Sabretooth dragged himself off the ground just in time to see her saunter off. "Oh yeah. I''ve DEFINITELY gotta have THAT!"

Angel moaned. What had happened? Then he remembered.

"KITTY!" He sat up and looked around. He was in the manor. How……?

"Angel!" He looked towards the door and saw Kitty enter. Thank God. He said in his thoughts.

""Thou art welcome, Angelus. Treat her well." No problems there. Angel thought, followed by the obvious who are you? But there was no answer. He turned his attention to more important matters.

"Are you alright? What happened?" He asked, checking her quickly to make sure she was all right.

"I''m fine. Faith and Zannah showed up to pull our fat''s out of the fire." She looked at him, something weighing on her mind.

"What''s wrong?" She looked at him suspiciously. "Come on, you can tell me." He moved a little closer. "I think we''ve kept enough secrets. Now come on, tell me."

"Why did you follow me?" She blurted out. Angel stared at her.

"What do you mean?"

"Why did you follow me? Why couldn''t you just leave me alone?" Tears started welling in her eyes. She blinked them away. "He could have killed you. It would have been easier if……" She was silenced by the sudden sensation of his lips on hers. She struggled for an instant, and then gave into the feelings she had been fighting since their first meeting.

He pulled away and looked at her earnestly. There was concern in those sad eyes. "I followed you so I could do that, and……" He paused. Could he keep the promise on his lips? "To tell you that……no matter where, no matter when, if you need me, call. I will always be there for you." He stared into her eyes. They were filling up with tears again. He brushed them away. "Always. I love you. I know this, with all my soul."

"You loved Buffy……"

"Not like this." He said quickly. "Never like this." He held her close, felt her heart beating. "I will always be there for you, my love. I am yours, now and forever."

"As I am yours." She answered, still holding his eyes, grasping him close, as if letting him go would mean to lose him forever. "I know I said things that hurt you, and I am sorry. I do love you, and will always be by you''re side. Even after my body fades, I will be with you, always."

""Done, and done!" The voice boomed through both their heads. They pulled back, and looked at each, then shrugged and got close again, savoring their first real moment together.

"So," Angel said, "how long have I been out?"

"About two days." Kitty answered. "I was worried. Scared that I was going to lose you before……"

He tightened his grip about her shoulders. "Never."

They sat there, holding each other, hoping that it would never end.

Buffy sat on the bed, staring at the box Dru had brought in.

""It belonged to my sister, Christine. You are not the first Slayer to arrive in Sunnydale, and you certainly will not be the last." Father Kern had explained, but had refused to explain what was inside. She reached down and opened the box. Inside was a book and another package, wrapped in cloth. She reached for the book and opened it to the first page. 'The journals of Christine Kern, Vampire Slayer. Buffy began reading it. She was not surprised to see that their lives were similar. While she was reading, Logan walked in.

"You alright?" He sat down next to her.

"Yeah, just……she died, four years after starting. She lasted longer than most, but still……" She looked up at him, thinking how lucky she was. "That could have been me. Maybe……"

"Hold it. Stop right there." Logan grabbed her by the shoulders. "I know where yer goin'', an'' I don''t wanna hear it. This is what was supposed to happen. You, here, alive. With me." He looked at her, eyes full of love. "Now, you look about finished with that. Finish up, an'' let''s get some sleep."

"Sleep is the last thing on my mind." She said mischievously, as she turned to the last page. She stopped, hands shaking, and dropped the journal.

Logan stepped towards the book. "What is it?" He asked, as he retrieved the book off the floor. He looked at the page she had stopped at, and read.

' "……And so," He read, ""my life as a Slayer. If my dreams are correct, as they usually are, I die tonight, defending my brother, Jeremiah, from a vampire of great strength. He will lock this journal, plus a few other things, away for the next Slayer in Sunnydale. For you, if you''re reading this. For I am not entirely like other Slayers. I am a seer, and I know of you, Buffy Summers. I know of the dangers you face. Trust your friends, and yourself, for without this belief, you will fall, and the earth will follow. Take care, and may God be with you.

'Christine Kern, Vampire Slayer.

'First of May, 1982."

"Cripes." Said Logan, after reading the final message. "She knew. She knew it was comin''." He looked towards Buffy still visibly shaken. She reached towards the cloth wrapped package, and began to pull back the wrapping. Inside was a silver colored sword, with crosses down the hilt, and a plain sheath. At the tip of the blade was a phoenix.

"Logan……" She breathed. Logan came over and looked at the sword.

"Bloody hell."

"Yeah, that''s what I thought." She looked the sword up and down, then reached for the sword. As she picked it up, a note fell from the wrapping. She picked it up.

'"Buffy," it read, ""a small gift for you. Anton, my Watcher, thought that blacksmithing might be a handy skill, and insisted I learn. This is the last weapon I made, started after I had the first vision of you. My brother, to keep it out of demon hands blessed it. The phoenix on the blade is designed to be a focal point. I don''t know what you''re capable of, but I''m sure that this will help.

' Well, that''s it. God bless.

' Christine." Buffy looked at the note one more time, and then put it down. She hefted the sword, and gave it a few careful practice swings. It was well balanced; it fit her hand like it was made for it. She noticed it had an inscription on both sides. It read Serve on one side, and Protect on the other.

"What, I''m a cop all of a sudden?"

"Well, ya do kinda the same thing. Only your perps are a bit weirder." Buffy began to walk to the door. "Where''re ya goin''?"

"Christine''s journal reminded me of something I''d forgotten." She grabbed a large coat and a belt. She placed the belt through the loops on the sheath and strapped it around her waist. She slid the sword into the sheath, and put the coat on over the top of it. "I''ve got job to do. I''m the Slayer. I can''t have other people doing my job all the time. I have a responsibility, and I have to meet it, no matter what." She headed downstairs.

Logan followed her. "I''m comin'' too."

She turned to face him. "No. I have to do this myself." She placed her arms around him and snuggled close to him. "Wait for me?"

He cupped her face in his hands. "Ya don''t even have to ask, darlin''." He took her in a long, passionate kiss. "Be careful."

"Aren''t I always?" She asked him innocently, and headed out the door.

Dawn came out of her room. "Where''s she going?"

Logan stared at the door. "Patrol. Something she has to do alone."

"Oh." Dawn walked up next to him. "You alright with this?"

"No." He admitted. "But she feels she has something to prove. I know that feeling enough to giver her the space she needs. Besides," he said with a grin, "someone has to remind the vamps who''s in charge around here."

Dawn laughed. "Good point." She began to head towards the kitchen. "I''m going to get some ice cream."

"Not if I get to it first." Logan said. Thus began the mad dash for the freezer.

Buffy walked down the street. At first, she thought about checking in with Giles, but she wanted to avoid his worried father routine. As she was walking, she heard a scream coming from an alley just ahead. She quickly turned the corner. A bunch of vampires were gathered around a very scared young man and his girlfriend. "I hate to interrupt," she said calmly, amazed how easily she slipped back into Slayer mode, "but, in case no one told you, Sunnydale''s a bite free zone." The vamps turned from their intended victims.

"Who are you?" One asked.

"Oh, I''m sorry, you must be new. Let me introduce myself. I''m Buffy, The Vampire Slayer."

He gave a silent chuckle as the scene unfolded. You could say one thing about her, she never missed a beat. It had been months since she had last gone on patrol by her self, but it was like she had never left. She might actually be able to beat the Dragon. He continued to watch.

Buffy ducked the wild swing as she decapitated the first vampire. Christine''s sword was amazing; she had never had one like it. It was like a missing part of herself. She took out two more and rounded on the last one. He had picked up the girl and was holding her by the throat. "One move, Slayer, and she''s and dead!"

"Jeez, can''t you geeks come up with a better line?" She lowered her body, sword back.

"I''m serious!"

"Your kind always is." Suddenly a gunshot rang out. The girl screamed as the vampire turned to dust. Buffy spun around. Standing behind her was a tall, dark stranger. Her Slayer sense was telling her there was something strange about him. He stood there, dressed in a black overcoat, gun in hand. She could see a number of silver stakes on his belt, as well as a shotgun, a sword and a vest of some kind. His dark sunglasses completed the ensemble. "Who''re you, and why are you dressed like Angel?" Stranger looked at her, strangely. The would be victims took the opportunity to run for it.

"Follow their lead, little girl. Go home. You got lucky here, but your luck won''t last."

"Lucky?" Buffy stared at him. "You''re the lucky one. Lucky I don''t beat the crap out of you."

He grunted. "I doubt you could even touch me." He suddenly found himself on his back.

"You were saying." The stranger began to laugh. Buffy tightened her grip on her sword. "I don''t see what''s so funny."

He picked himself up off the ground and retrieved his gun from where it fell. "Whistler was right." He said, putting the gun away. "You Slayers really are something."

"Whistler? Short, annoying messenger for the Powers That Be?"

He looked at her. "Wrong Whistler."

"Good." She said, putting her sword away. She held out her palm. "I''m Buffy." He looked at the hand.

"Blade." He said simply. He turned and walked away.

"Hey!" She shouted, startled. "Where''re you going?"

"I came here hunting vampires, but it looks like the towns in good hands. Don''t worry, I''m sure we''ll meet again." Buffy watched as he disappeared into the night. She shook her head and headed to the park. This place kept getting weirder.

The rest of the patrol was uneventful. She swung by the Magic Box to see Giles about Blade. As soon as she walked in, Giles rushed up to her. "Buffy, are you alright? Logan said……"

"I''m fine." She said. "I just needed to vent some anger. Though I did run into something interesting." She recounted her run in with Blade. Willow looked up from the spell books she was poring over.

"Did you say Blade?" She asked, surprised.

Everyone looked at her. "Do you know him, Willow?" Asked Giles.

"Well not personally." She turned to Tara, who was going trough some other books at the counter. "Pass my computer for me please, Tar." Tara walked over to the table, carrying Willows laptop. They watched as she hooked it up.

"Willow? With her computer?" Xander stared, then a grin spread across his face. They hadn''t seen this in a while. He wondered is she was rusty……

"Here we are." She said, as if answering his silent question. "Take a look at this." They gathered around her. On the screen was a Web site called ''Vampire Kill Board''. At first, Buffy thought it was an Internet game. Then Willow went into a section called ''Approximate Vampire Activity Table''. On top was Sunnydale. "I found this accidentally a few weeks ago." She went to the ''Kill Board''. "This is a list of known vampire hunters, and the number of vamps they''ve dusted." On top of the board was ''Slayer''. They all looked at Willow. She grinned sheepishly. "I got sick of all the wannabes boasting, so I entered Buffy under ''Slayer''. I think that numbers right." Buffy checked. If it wasn''t dead on, it was pretty close.

"Looks good, but I think you might be counting demons, and hell gods in that number." Willow looked at the number.

"Oh, yeah." She said, amending the number and adding the reason for the update. "That better?" Buffy checked the number and nodded. Then she looked at the name beneath hers, and gasped.

"That''s him." She said pointing. Willow clicked on ''Blade''. A list of known achievements came up. Buffy''s eyes widened. "And I thought I had it tough." They all nodded.

"This is……um……" Giles stared at the screen, speechless.

"Scary." Put in Xander. "I mean, look at this. Anyone would think he was a Slayer himself."

"Yes. Yes, well, we know that''s impossible. I think." Giles squinted at the screen.

Buffy straitened and shook her head. "Alright, I''m heading home."

"Yes, well keep an eye out, alright?"

"''Kay." She said, and waved as she headed out the door, leaving the others to stare at the screen.

"How''d it go?" Logan asked as she walked through the door. He was just finishing the dishes after the ice cream pigout. Buffy looked at him.

"Alright. Minimal weird. For change." She looked at the dishes in his hands. "What''s this, then?"

"Dawn came down just after you left. We had some ice cream." He neglected to mention the race to the kitchen, and the glass that had been broken.

"What, without me?" She pouted playfully.

"Don''t worry." Logan said with a grin. "I got somethin'' better than ice cream waitin'' for ya."

"Better than ice cream?" She remarked, in mock shock. "Is that possible?"

Logan moved up close to her and picked her up. "You''ll just have to come with me and find out." He planted a kiss firmly on her lips and carried her upstairs. Buffy snuggled into his arms. This was as good as her life was going to get. No complaints here. She thought, as Logan carried her into their room, and closed the door.

"Kitty still watching Angel?" Asked Buffy as they walked into the Magic Box the next morning.

"Actually, she''s keeping him company." Said Jubilee with a grin. She quickly cleared a space at the table for the two lovebirds. "He''s awake. They had a Hallmark moment last night. It was worse than you two."

"Hey!" Buffy said, with an expression of fake hurt on her face. She looked around. "Where''s Xander?"

"He said he had something he had to do." Anya said. She walked over to where Buffy was sitting. "He''s been acting weird. I mean, weird even for Xander."

Willow agreed. "He has been acting strange. Like attacking Spike and Dru the way he did."

Buffy nodded. "There is definitely something strange. Maybe I should talk to him."

"It''s probably nothing." Logan said. As for as he was concerned, the kid had every reason to attack the two vampires that way. He had been right about how they used to be. Buffy looked at him.

"Right or not, there''s something weird. I tried to quickly scan him yesterday, but I couldn''t. Some thing was blocking me." She got up. "Anya, where did he say he was going?"

"He didn''t." She said. "I don''t know where he could be."

Kurt stood up. "I''ll check the construction yard where he works." He ''Bamf''ed to the site. Buffy reached into the bag she was carrying and produced the Book of the Phoenix.

"I''m going to see if there is anything in the Book about tracking someone." She had quickly discovered the Book''s purpose: to show the Phoenix what she could do and how to do it. She opened the Book. She already had what she needed to beat the Dragon, plus a few other helpful tips. She turned the pages carefully until she found what she was looking for. "This one." She placed her hand on the page. A warm sense of power traveled up her arms. It wasn''t a violent shock anymore. She was getting used to it. "So that''s how it''s done." She said, removing her hand, and closing the Book. She reached for the Phoenix. She came easily, and slowly, careful not to over load the one she was coming to regard as her Slayer. Buffy held her arm out, like she was waiting for something to land on it. An instant later, the firebird manifested there, like a hunting hawk. "Go." Buffy whispered. "Find Xander." The bird took flight, passing through the door. Buffy watched it leave. "And now we wait."

The Phoenix sped through the sky, thinking of the Slayer she had chosen. Her Choice had perplexed everyone, including the Dragon, which was a good thing. They couldn''t know. Not yet.

She was about to pass over the cemetery, when she felt it. Xander. He was……THERE. She sped towards the mausoleum, passing through the walls easily. She saw two Xanders. One was chained to the wall and the other was……changing. Into a blue skinned female with red hair, dressed in a white gown of some kind.

Buffy looked up where she sat. "Found him." She said, and then disappeared in blaze of fire.

Xander looked at his prisoner. "All comfy are we?"

Xander looked at his evil twin, the person who had taken his form, his life. "You won''t get away with this."

Evil Xander began to melt away, leaving his kidnapper visible to all that saw. "My dear boy," said Mystique, "I already have. They have no idea, and soon I will take the Book, and deliver it to my Master."

"I think not." Mystique turned to see Buffy, floating behind her, surrounded in flames.

"Phoenix! But how? My disguise was perfect."

"You had Xanders attitudes and personality, and you moved like him yes, but you were missing something. His heart, how much he cares for us, as a friend. His love for Anya."

"And the original was definitely better looking." Xander interjected with a grin. Buffy/Phoenix grinned at him, then looked back at the shapeshifter.

"I cannot attack you directly, this I know. However," Xander felt the chains holding him fall away. He felt something in the back of his mind, flaring. "I think Xander can handle you rather well." Xander got to his feet. He called for the pseudo soldier memories from that Halloween, years ago, when they had become their costumes. He took up a basic fighting stance, trying to get the feel for memories and skills he had tried to keep buried.

"Bring it on, bitch!"

Mystique looked at the boy, at the sudden change within him. She took up a stance of her own. "I think your faith in him is misplaced, fool. This will be easy." She threw a punch at him. Xander blocked it and feigned a right, then kneed her in the gut. As she doubled over, he brought both fists down on the back of her neck, just below the skull.

"Well that was easy." He said, looking over at Buffy. The flames had died down, leaving only the young woman he knew. "Was that……?"

Buffy smiled at him. "Nope, that was all you. Well, you and those pseudo soldier memories of yours." She looked down at the prone mutant. "That''s three directly, and another one of my friends placed in danger. This has to end."

"Buff, you alright?" Xander moved beside her.

"I''m fine. Let''s grab Red here and……" They watched as Mystique disappeared in a flare of green flame. "Or we could just go back to the shop."

"Sounds like a plan." Xander walked over to the door and opened it. "Ladies first."

"Always a gentleman." She walked out. Xander followed, seeing the sun for the first time in what seemed like ages.

"Ah, Mister Sun. It''s like greeting an old friend." He said, in his carefree manner.

He watched from his post as the two friends left the cemetery. She was a resourceful girl, he could see that. It was possible that his help would not be needed. Still, he would stay, just in case.

Nathan stood at the mouth of the cave. According to Buffy, these had been an entrance to a top-secret military facility. This ''Initiative'' had captured and experimented on demons and vampires, something that had come around and bitten them on the ass later, the form of one of their experiments, a human-demon-robot mix named Adam. It had taken a spell that had combined Buffy, Willow, Xander and Giles to defeat him. Supposedly, the government had filled the compound with cement, but if he was right……

"Hey, you." He turned around and saw Rachel come out of the bushes. "What are you doing here?"

"Something I remembered, something from history. If I''m right, there''s something here that could cause some problems soon." Suddenly there was an explosion from the cave. They watched as the strangest creature walked out. Part man. Part machine. Part demon.

Adam.

"I hate it when I''m right." Nathan let go the illusion he maintained, let go the flesh on his right arm, the look of normal clothes and revealed the truth. A warrior from the future. The Askani''s Son. Cable. "You will cause no more deaths, creature."

"And who is going to stop me. You? I don''t think so."

Cable grinned, calling forth his psimitar. "Come and get it, freak. I''ve taken down creatures more powerful than you. You''re a worm. Prepare to die like one."

Adam pulled up the two-gattling guns on his arms. "Prepare to die, fool." Adam fired, and then watched as the bullets bounced off a telekinetic shield.

"Pathetic. I thought you were supposed to be tough." Cable pulled back his psimitar, holding it high on the haft. "My turn." He launched himself forward, then over Adam, landing behind him. He turned and shoved the Askani weapon through the creature. "What you''re feeling is a combination of mental and physical pain." He twisted the weapon, and for the first time, the perfect soldier screamed. "There are tales in my time of you, the creature who brought the X-Men to their knees as Death, a servant to Apocalypse. I will not allow that. There will be no return this time." With that, he launched Adam into the air. He was about to finish it when Adam exploded into flames.

"That ends that, permanently." Cable turned to see Buffy, Xander in tow. The Phoenix floated around her. "I should''ve done that sooner."

Cable walked over to her. "You alright?"

Buffy looked at him, her little second cousin. The temptation to help him was great, but it was something for another time. "I''m fine. I just……" Something clouded over her eyes. "I heard……something, someone, scream. Like they were in pain. It sounded like Scott." He looked at her. It couldn''t be. "I knew the cause came from here."

"Precognition." Said Rachel. "Never did that."

"Well, no offense, but didn''t you only have a portion of the power Buffy has?" Xander pointed out.

Cable walked towards the Initiative caves. "Something wrong?" Asked Buffy.

"Just checking." He looked around. "There''s no hole."

"What?" Buffy, Xander and Rachel ran in after him. Buffy ran her hand over the wall. "Nothing."

"Hmm. And it didn''t look like on of the Dragons flames."

"Doesn''t feel like it either." Buffy closed her eyes, feeling the surroundings of the cave. "Something……bigger than anything I''ve ever faced."

Xander looked towards his friend. "Any ideas?"

She scanned the area, searching for some type of clue. Then she found it. One word. "Loki."

"Yes?" They turned around to find a man dressed in green, gold straps and gold horns. "I must say, Slayer, I am suitably impressed. Unfortunately, I cannot allow thee to interfere in my plans. Do not fear, I have already prepared a partner for thy new life." A green flame grew behind him, and the Dragon stepped out, wearing a form Buffy knew well.

"Riley?"

"Surprise, Phoenix. I picked your ex up during his mission. Thought you might want to get reacquainted." The Dragon laughed. "You truly are a fool. Thinking that you would be able to defeat me. You are mine, it will always be like this."

"I don''t think so, bub." Dragon and Loki both turned to see Wolverine, claws extended. "You aren''t getting Buffy. Not now, not ever."

"You are a fool. You can''t beat me." A fireball built in his hand. Then launched towards Wolverine. "I warned you, Phoenix. This will happen to all those who think they can take you from me."

Buffy watched in horror. She wasn''t ready. And because she wasn''t, Logan was going to die. " No." She was going to lose him. "No!" And there was nothing she could do.

"NO!" Flames exploded around Wolverine, reflecting the Dragons attack back at him.

"What?" Dragon held out his hand, snuffing out the fireball. "How is this possible?"

Loki drew his own hand back. "I am impressed. You are stronger than I thought. Unfortunately, Wolverine must die." He released an energy beam of his own, but once again, it was deflected. But not by Buffy. "Who?"

"Thy attempts to kill the Slayers love shall fail, Loki." Another form dropped next to Wolverine. He was tall and blonde, wearing what seemed to be some kind of ancient armor, including a winged helmet and a flowing, red cape. In one hand he held a large hammer. He was built like a god. But then, that''s what he was. "I shall not allow it. Wolverine, and all the Slayers friends and family, are now under the protection of Thor, God of Thunder." He looked towards Buffy. Her eyes were flaming with barely contained power. "Thou may continue. I will care for them."

"Thank you." She stared at the Dragon, leering with Riley''s face. "It''s time to end this, Dragon." She called forth all the power the Phoenix Force contained. The firebird exploded into being around her. She felt her natural Slayer strengths grow, her senses enhance. "I will not submit. I will end your existence."

"Hahahahahaha." Dragon laughed. "You are fool. Have you forgotten how easily I claimed you last time?"

Buffy/Phoenix snarled. "No, but you have forgotten something."

Riley/Dragon sniggered. "What might that be?"

"This body was capable of far more than I was aware of before the Phoenix. Now," She sniggered. He had no idea! "you have no chance." She rushed forward, too fast for any of them to follow, and connected with a sledgehammer right, followed by a roundhouse that connected with a force unequaled.

Cable watched on. "Oath!" He had never seen anything like this. Dragon was already on the ground. He pulled himself from the ground, blood leaking form his mouth.

"I am impressed." He said. "Not that it matters." He released a hail of chain shaped flames. "You are mine, you and this new strength. No one will be able to stop me."

Phoenix curled into a ball as the chains approached. "I will not be taken." She whispered. The chains connected.

And all hell broke loose.

The chains exploded, the force throwing Dragon past Logan and Thor. "Flamin'' hell."

"Unbelievable." Agreed the Thudergod.

Phoenix floated up beside them. "He underestimated me." She said simply.

Dragon staggered to his feet. Anger contorted his stolen face beyond recognition. "I gave you a chance, and you fought me. Very well, bitch." He raised his arms. "I will take you, whether you are whole or in pieces." H released several large fireballs. Phoenix stood there. Wolverine watched, horrified. There was no way she could stop that. They were going to connect. And he was going to lose her.

He couldn''t let that happen.

He threw himself into the path of the projectiles, taking the full force on his own body.

"LOGAN!" Buffy caught him as he fell and lowered him gently to the ground. Thor watched on, shocked.

"I am sorry. I did not realize he was going to try that." Buffy didn''t hear him. She was holding her love close, rocking him gently.

"Bu……ffy……"

"Shh." She whispered gently. "I''m here. It''s alright." Tears started streaming down her face. "What were you doing, you big dork?"

"Couldn''t……" He winced, pain shooting up his body. "Lose you."

"Shh. Just relax. It''ll be all right. I''m here. Everything will be fine."

"Not……this……time." Logan tried to move his arm. His healing factor wasn''t working. "Look''s like……I……pushed to……far……"

"No, don''t talk like that. We''ll get you fixed up, just hold on."

"I……love……you……" Wolverine said, and then lost consciousness.

"Logan?" She checked his pulse. Weak, but steady. Rachel, Cable and Xander raced up behind them.

"Is he……?" Rachel began.

“Is he…?” Rachel began.

“He’s alive.” She kissed him lightly on the forehead. “Hold on, love.” She placed his head on the ground, and rose to her feet. “Watch him for me.” She began to move towards the grinning form of Dragon. Loki stood behind him, pleased with the way things had worked out. Soon.

“Buffy, hold.” Thor took her by the arm. “Art thou sure thou art ready for this?”

Buffy glared at Dragon, determination burning in her eyes. “He has to pay. He WILL pay.”

“In that case, thou may need this.” He handed her a bag. “Logan asked me to mind this for him. It is thine, I believe. Thee may need it.” Buffy took the bag from him and opened it. Inside was Christine’s sword. She unsheathed it and threw the sheath to one side.

“Thanks.” She brought the blade up in front of her. The phoenix on the tip glowed slightly. “Ready, Dragon? Today, I’m taking you out. You’ll pay for all the pain you’ve caused. It ends now.”

 

“Uh, guys.” Dawn stared at the Book of the Phoenix, which sat on the table back at the Magic Box. It was glowing like it was on fire. “I think something’s happening.” They gathered around the Book.

“I think that is an understatement, mein freund.” Kurt said as he came over. “It wasn’t doing that earlier.” Suddenly it exploded, transforming into a bird of pure fire. It took to the air and disappeared. “Mein Gott.”

Giles removed his glasses. “I don’t like this.”

Anya started towards the door. “Maybe we should follow it. Xander may be trouble.”

Dawn looked at where the Book had sat. “Guys, what if the Book went because it was needed?”

“You mean…oh dear God.” Giles started for the back storeroom.

“Where’re you going?” Asked Jubilee. Giles walked out, dragging the weapons chest behind him.

“Grab a weapon. If the battles started, Buffy may need our help.” Kurt switched off his image inducer and rifled through the chest. He pulled out two swords, and gave them practice swings.

“These will do me just fine.”

“Let’s hurry.” Said Giles moving out the door.

 

Phoenix moved forward, fire blazing around her. She held her sword out in front of her. He would pay. She wouldn’t let him get away with this. Her Slayer instincts warned her to hold back, keep it physical. She agreed. No need to give Dragon what he needed.

“You think that little pig sticker’s going to stop me? It was your own fault. I warned you not to get him involved.”

“The dream.” She said, tonelessly. “That was you.”

“Me actually.” Said Loki. “And now it’s time to finish it.” He raised his arm, then went flying back. The hammer flew back to its owner.

“You will interfere no more.” Thor said. Buffy continued her approach. The Dragon threw several fireballs, smaller than the ones that hit Logan. She deflected them easily.

“You’re getting tired.” The Phoenix spoke through Buffy. “Riley’s body can’t handle your energies.” She lowered the sword. “That is why the Slayer was chosen. Her body can handle much more energy than an ordinary human being, mutant or otherwise.” A grin spread along her face. “It…” She pulled the sword up, pointing the blade in his direction. “…is…” The firebird the Book had become flew down to the tip of the blade, entering the symbol at the tip of the blade. “…OVER!” Flames burst from the blade. It hit the Dragon square in the chest. He tried to establish a link, but it kept slipping through his grip.

“How did…? The Book.” He felt his grip on Riley’s body slipping. “It’s not possible. NOOOOOOO!” He screamed, as he faded into the darkness, banished to the ethereal plane for all eternity.

 

“And so it ends.” Buffy turned to see a firebird behind her. They were no longer by the Initiative caves. They were in the now familiar black zone. “I, and all that live, owe you much.”

“What about Logan. Is he…” She lowered her head. “I can’t lose him.”

“I can help him, if it is your wish.”

“Please!” Buffy begged. “Don’t let him die. I don’t care what I have to do, but…”

“You need do nothing. You have done enough.”

 

Buffy looked around. They were back at the caves. She saw the Phoenix fly from her and hover over Logan. She watched as his wounds knitted together. “Rise Logan. You have done well this day, but now is not your time to die.” Buffy rushed to his side, as his pulse and breathing became stronger. His eyes opened.

“Buffy?” He breathed.

“Logan.” She looked up at the firebird floating above them. “Thank you.”

“It is done. I leave you now.” The firebird headed skyward.

“What happened?” Logan asked. “Did you…”

“He’s gone. He’ll never hurt you again.”

Riley woke, hearing Buffy’s voice. “Buffy?”

“Hey, Corn Boys awake.” Xanders voice echoed above all the others.

“What happened?”

 

Riley sat to one side as Buffy explained. The story was unbelievable, but he bore the bruises, and missing teeth to prove it. He looked in her direction. She was cuddling up to the guy he had seen on the ground. From Buffy’s account, he’d almost killed the guy. He almost wished he had. At least it wasn’t Angel, he thought grimly.

“Hey.” He turned his head slightly. Faith had moved next to him. He remembered the last time they had met, when she had swapped bodies with Buffy. “You alright?”

He winced as he moved his arm. “Been better.”

“Least she didn’t put you in a coma.”

“True.”

“So,” She looked over at Buffy and Logan. “What’re you going to do now.”

“Not sure.” He said honestly. “Probably head home.” He got up. “Whatever happens, I’m not staying round here. See ya.”

“’Bye.” Faith watched him leave. “Poop.” She said.

“Forget about him. We have other things to do.” She turned to see Zannah behind her.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You have great potential. You just need discipline.

“So you’ve mentioned.”

“I…” She stopped. She could ask Cole. No, better this way. No distractions. “I cannot destroy the Coda alone. I realize this. I will need help. You need somewhere to go.” She looked at the girl. “What I am suggesting is a partnership. I will train you in the true ways in the Coda and, together, we will dismantle the twisted version that has formed.”

“I was hoping you’d offer something like that.” Faith stood up and offered her hand. “You’ve got yourself a goofy teenage sidekick.”

Zannah grinned. “I can see we have some work to do.”

“So when do we start?”

 

Kitty sat in the front seat of the car, Angel driving next to her. They had said their good-byes, and were half way to LA. She looked over at the vampire that had won her heart. It had taken a while, but she had finally found someone for her. The facet that he would live a lot longer than her had not come up, but then, it didn’t really matter. They had this moment. That was all that mattered.

 

He sat outside the Magic Box. Everything had gone as planned, despite the Powers That Be trying to ‘help’. Kitty was on her way to LA with Angel. Buffy and Logan were about as happy as a couple could get. Zealot had agreed to train Faith.

Piccolo took flight. He was no longer needed here. Time to head home.

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