Site hosted by Angelfire.com: Build your free website today!

Search and Destroy!

Author: ArthurHansen
Rating: FR18
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Hellsing are not owned by me. I am just using them for free entertainment.

Master of Monsters

Buffy was looking at the medievial dress at the new costume shop. Xander had wandered off, eyeing a bin with very cheap plastic toys. She let her hand drop off the fabric and look out the front of the shop. Had she seen-? She craned her neck, seeing Mrs. Calender sneaking off with a bag that looked like it contained some sort of costume. Why was she trying to hide it though?

Her attention was brought back, as she was roughly jostled by a taller brunette that snatched her costume off the rack! "Hey! That's the costume I was going to use to get my boyfriend's attention!" she snapped out.

"You snooze, you lose!" the girl replied snidely.

The only thing preventing Buffy from just taking the costume from the boyfriend-plan destroying harridan was that it was herself that would probably end up expelled... or worse! Buffy stared longingly as the other girl paid for her dress and walked out. Sighing unhappily, she continued to look for a costume that Angel would like.

"So does your boyfriend have something that he likes in particular? Or would you just like something that just shows off your figure?" the English-accented shop owner asked.

"Well, I was thinking an older period costume would do it, but that was the last one that she just took," the teenager said in explanation.

"How about a super hero costume. You have the right hair color for Supergirl," the older man said, looking over her speculatively. Though he'd made sure not to enchant that particular outfit.

Buffy shook her head. No super-hero antics. She had enough of that in real life. "No thanks."

"Hmm. How about a vixen of a vampiress?" Ethan had to hide his grin at that thought.

"Eww. No thank. This girl is not for dressing up as an undead blood sucker. I just want something to get him to take me seriously. I think he just considers me a child," she grumbled, trying to explain her hundreds of year old boyfriend problem without mentioning he was a vampire.

"Ah. How about a woman's business suit? To show off your maturity," the shop owner said, while pointing out the pale blue suit. "I even have a set of fake glasses that I'll add for free."

"Well, it's not bad. But it's kind of boring," she said, while thinking it over.

"Well, you can always look to add something to spice it up. Take a look around."

And that was how Buffy ended up with a woman's suit and pants, fake glasses and a last minute addition from Xander of a small pistol and holster. The shop owner even gave her a discount.

-

Integra became aware of the warm air around her. She stood up straighter, unconsciously pushing her glasses further up her nose. She narrowed her eyes and looked around the area with a keen eyesight, even if her eyes were a bit weak. There was an American soldier and a scantily glad girl walking towards her, as the homes were a bit smashed up. Looking closer, she noted that all the cars were parked backwards. Upon looking at the model of the cars in question, she realized that they were actually on the right side of the street, for the United States of America.

How had she ended up her when she had last been in Cheddar? Suddenly, two monsters approached her. Without even a slight bit of hesitation, she pulled out her 9mm pistol. "Unclean souls will be cleansed from this Earth. Amen-" she started to say when the girl screamed out.

"No! Don't shoot him! Their just children!" Willow called out as she jumped in the way. She doubted that any gun could hurt her right now.

"Remove yourself, scarlet woman. I am duty bound to destroy monsters!" Integra said in a chillingly final tone.

"It's magic! Magic has turned them into their costumes! Just like it turned Xander into a soldier and me into a ghost!" Willow was almost in full babble mode. The short, red devil monster behind her swiped at her with a roar.

The soldier started firing off careful shots into the air, finally scaring off the little monsters. "Well, that worked," he said.

"Indeed. You, girl, where are we and why was I brought here?" Integra demanded as she reached into her pocket and pulled out cigarette from a metal case and lit it.

"We're in Sunnydale, California. But you weren't brought here, the person wearing your costume became you! We really need to get off the street. I just don't know how we are going to deal with this without the Slayer," Willow said in complaint.

"What's a slayer?" the soldier asked.

The red-haired ghost nodded at Integra. "She's the Vampire Slayer. Destined to fight evil, blah blah. Giles does that so much better. Super-strength, speed and healing."

"I am in the body a the vampire slayer? How humorous," Integra mused. Feeling very foolish, she holstered her gun and attempted to lift the front of a car. She shifted her grip and tried again, failing. "Obviously no super-strength here. This is not a good situation to deal with for vampires and such."

Willow blinked. "You know about vampires and demons?"

"Of course, it is my duty to protect England against the despicable creatures of the night, whatever their form," she replied with a dangerous glint in her eye. She pulled out her gun and checked her load of ammunition. Blessed silver rounds, bathed in holy water. Adequate for one or two monsters, surely. With her free hand she pulled the cigarette from her mouth and tapped the ash off the end.

"We should get off the street. We are exposed here," Xander said, still looking around.

"We can go to a friend's house," Willow said, after looking around. She pointed towards a house.

"How is that going to help us deal with this magic?" Integra asked.

"Um, keep you alive?" Willow replied inanely.

"While laudible, keeps us alive must be secondary for more information," the blonde began.

"Look, Lady, we can plan your little tea party someplace else. Then we can deal with the weird voodoo hoodoo," the Soldier said.

Integra considered that a moment. They were correct. It was not like they had to stay here to plan. "Where?" she demanded of the ghost.

"Oh, right this way." Willow started walking towards Buffy's house. She then explained how to get in using the spare key.

The Master of Monsters looked over the pedestrian home. Television, couches and pictures on the wall. A small mirror was hidden in the clutter. She moved to look into it, verifying what Willow had said earlier. This was not her body. Pictures showed the blonde girl in other outfits with an older woman. She pulled her gaze away from the pictures. She looked over her companions.

"We must figure out who has caused this change, keep ourselves alive and deal with any creatures. Comments?" Integra asked.

"We can't kill children!" Willow said emphatically.

"That goes without saying," the blonde not-slayer-right-this-moment said.

"But the regular vampires are okay," the ghost replied. "So we need non-lethal weapons for the transformed people."

The Soldier rolled his eyes at that. "And where are we supposed to get said weapons?"

"Oh. Buffy's room has some, I think." Willow pointed up the stairs.

Integra and the Soldier shared a quick look. Then they trotted up the stairs. The british monster hunter grabbed a sword from the sharp and pointy collection, sniffing in frustration that it was just a regular sword. Neither silver nor blessed. The Soldier slung his rifle across his back and picked up a bo staff in the corner.

"Aren't swords fairly lethal?" he asked curiously.

"Compared to guns? It takes a bit more effort, usually. You can disable quite a bit more easily. And worse comes to worse, you can hit them in the face with the hilt."

"Doesn't sound too chivalrous," Willow said uncertainly.

"Monsters have no honor. They are to be all destroyed."

Willow opened her mouth, only to be cut off by a scream. Integra had her pistol out and was running down the stairs, the Soldier only a step behind her.

"Wait! Come back!" the now-ghost yelled, following them back outside.

They all rounded a corner to see a girl dressed up as a cat girl, being followed by what looked to be a furry monster.

"Soldier! Scare it off!" Integra ordered, having her pistol out and pointed at the cat-girl.

A few bursts from the automatic weapon had tall and fluffy running for his folicles post-haste.


"Okay, your name is Cordelia, you're not a cat, you're in high school, and we're your friends. Well, sort of," Willow said, babbling her explanation.

"Gee, thanks Buffy! I really appreciate you pointing a weapon at me. Decided to do frumpy and middle-aged?" She whirled towards Willow then. "And you went mental when?"

"You know her?" Integra said, cutting off Willow.

"Of course. Yeah. Lucky me. What's with the name game?"

Integra and the Soldier shared a look.


"A lot's going on," Willow explained.

"No kidding! I was just attacked by Jo-Jo, the Dog-Faced Boy. Look at my costume! Do you really think that Partytown's gonna give me my deposit back? Not on the likely!" Cordelia complained while showing off her torn costume as they walked back into the house.

"Why are you not affected? Why did you not become your costume?" Integra said, interrupting her tirade.

"Excuse me? What's with the Giles-accent, anyways?" the cat-girl asked.

That was Angel appeared, walking in from the kitchen. "Oh, thank god you are fine. It's total chaos out there."

Willow barely had time to scream out and throw herself, futely, towards Integra as she pulled out her pistol and fired two shots at the vampire that had just appeared. "No!" the red-head screamed. "He's on our side! He has a soul!"

Integra stared at Angel, where he'd collapsed. The trampy clothed ghost had managed to startle her just enough that she had actually missed what she had aimed for. Only the heart shot had hit at all, and that had merely lodged into his shoulder. Conflicting emotions warred within her. "Then I won't finish him off." She snarled and then turned back to Cordelia.

"What? Not a vampire! Promise!" the girl said under Integra's gaze.

"Obviously. And blatantly you have not turned into your costume. We must understand why, right this instant. What is the difference? We must have been given a talisman of some sort. Whatmages hate this Buffy, Xander and her so much to inflict costumes that changed us?" Integra said while thinking deeply. She snapped her fingers. "Did you go with us earlier?"

"No, like I said, I went to Party Town with my friends. I think you losers went to that new place, Ethan's. But we always go to Party Town. Janette had seen this darling-"

"Ethan's?" Integra said, looking over at Willow. "And it was new?"

"Er, yes," she replied. She was worried about Angel's wound. It was smoking slightly.

"You will need to take us there. I think we have some questions of Ethan," Integra said. "Are you with me?"

The soldier nodded. "I think you are right."

At Willow's look at the smoking wound, Integra gestured and then said, "Oh, it's just a silver bullet. As it didn't hit his heart, it shouldn't kill him." She looked disdainfully at the vampire. Suddenly, she heard a noise from the kitchen.

The Soldier and Integra shared a quick look. "Is there anyone else with you, vampire?"

Angel winced, even as his arm continued to scream in agony. "No, I was alone."

That was when a typical Halloween costumed Dracula appeared at the door, leering dramatically in his faux tuxedo.

"Damnation. Another costumed fool," she muttered. She snapped a shot of her precious silver bullets just past his ear. "The next shot of blessed silver will go through your heart," she said dangerously. Her eyes were chipped ice, narrowed in pure righteous fury. "Five. Four. Three."

The Dracula decided not to wait and see if he was immune to silver or not. That was one scary woman.

"I think we had better be getting to that costume store. Before more people show up to irritate the lady with the pistol," the Soldier said with a small smile.

"Angel, will you be all right here?" Willow asked.

"Yes. Just... leave me a sharp knife. Damn... this hurts," Angel managed to say.

"Um, I can't touch anything," she said, even as Integra was dragging Cordelia towards the front door. She hurried to follow them.

"Wait! What are you doing?" the cheerleader cried out, struggling a bit.

"Having you guide us to this Ethan's place. Now, please!"

-

Spike was wary. According to Drusillia, Buffy was not her normal Slayer self. But the little mention that she was both less and yet more dangerous had him a bit worried. He'd grabbed a few goons and then rounded up a few of the mighty small monsters, that were obviously children turned into little monsters somehow.

"Hey, boss? Isn't that the Slayer?" dimwit number one said.

"Of course it is. She must have been affected by the magic, as that isn't her normal outfit. She got a cig?" Spike asked. He turned to his little monster entourage. "Okay, boys! I want you to attack that group in particular! Bill, you follow them in." Spike had decided to watch from the shadows, striking when they were weakened. That goof ball friend ofher's was carrying a semi-automatic rifle, after all.

"Righto, boss!" Bill was entertaining dreams of being famous for killing a slayer.

Integra spotted the larger, very pale figure behind the monsters. "Can you keep the costumed away for a few moments?"

The Solider just grunted as he thwacked the nearest kid as lightly as he dared with the bo staff.

"Unclean monsters of the night shall be expunged from this world," Integra said with a flat voice even as she raised her pistol.

Bill just looked confused. Was that supposed to do anything? That little pistol wasn't going to do- His last thought was lost as a blessed silver bullet turned him into ash.

"Amen," she finished.

The little monsters suddenly decided that the scary man and woman were not worth fighting over. Spike just stared aghast. Since when could bullets do that?

Integra turned and shot Spike's last goon as he was trying to skulk off. Three bullets later, he was drifting ashes in the wind.

Spike just froze. No way was he moving and drawing attention to himself. That might not be the Slayer, but she was damned dangerous, whatever she was.

"Now, where is this 'Ethan's' place?" the blonde asked Cordiallia quite casually.

"Right over there!" the cat-girl dressed teenager said, pointing just down the street.

"Why don't we go get Giles? He should be able to figure out how and what to do!" Willow said, but was ignored thoroughly. It seemed everyone wanted to deal with this right now.

The Soldier kicked the door open to the shop, with his rifle ready.

"My, what noisy and nosy neighbors people here in Sunnydale are!" Ethan said from behind the counter.

"Ah, you must be the mage causing all this mayhem," Integra said calmly while lighting a cigarette. "Why?"

"For fun. For chaos!" he said smugly.

"Shoot his kneecap," Integra ordered.

The Soldier immediately complied with a quiet smile, dropping Ethan to the floor in shock and pain.

"Who the hell are you? I certainly didn't make any costumes with you in mind!" the Englishman exclaimed. He clamped a hand on the bleeding wound. "Bloody hell!"

"My name is Integra Wingates Fairbrook Hellsing, charged by my Queen to destroy all monsters," she replied while pulling her pistol from her holster. "The only reason I have not purified your evil from this world is that I need to know how to break your spell, mage."

"Hellsing? As in Von Hellsing, the vampire hunter from that silly Dracula book? You must be kidding!"

"You still have another knee, two wrists, ankles and elbows. I suggest that you tell me now, before I become perturbed," Integra said while tamping the ash off her smoke. "Otherwise, I will have to inflict pain such as you have never imagined upon your broken and bleeding body."

"The statue! Smash the statue of Janus!" Ethan blubbered. He was hoping to provoke a reaction out of Giles, not this demoness in human form. Ripper would just hurt him, not kill him!

"Take him over by the statue," Integra ordered. She started rousting through the shelves. If he was like most occultists, he would have some salt here. Ah, perfect. The Soldier had dragged the store owner over to the statue.

"What are you planning on doing?" Willow asked worriedly.

"I am going to make sure this mage understands that his fun is going to have consequences. That the pain he visited upon unsuspecting customers will be paid back ten-fold. Shoot him if he tries to escape. Somewhere non-vital," she said, even as she poured a circle of salt around the statue of Janus, leaving herself and Ethan within it.

"Now wait a second!" Ethan tried to protest. Drat it, she just blocked his teleport safety spell. She was a spellcaster?

Integra ignored him, even as the Soldier watched him even closer. Then she started chanting in Latin, even as the salt circle started to glow a bright white. The eyes of Janus grew brighter, seemingly in response.

Finally, Integra finished her chant, pulled out her gun and said, "Amen!" as she pulled the trigger and shattered the cheap statue. With a flash of light, everyone wearing the costumes returned to normal.

So it was Buffy that was standing there, holding a toy pistol at the very shattered remains while Ethan screamed on the floor as it looked like he was being beaten.

She looked over at Xander, who was looking pretty perplexed himself. "Someone mind making with the explainy?" she asked.

"Weird English dude cursed everyone to turn into their costumes, ruining everything! You became some psycho-chick with a gun fetish, Xander becameobedient soldier boy and Willow turned into a ghost. I got chased by Jo Jo the dogfaced monster and you killed a couple of vampires," Cordelia said helpfully.

"Weird. Halloween is supposed to be this boring day for monsters. Why's he acting like he's being beat up still?" Xander asked.

"Buffy did this weird spell to teach that returned all the pain he inflicted ten fold. I have to say that was pretty cool," she supplied with a smirk.

"I did a spell?" Buffy frowned. Oh, well.

"Well, I don't know about you losers, but I'm going home!"

Buffy and Xander both agreed with that. The Slayer was just walking into her home, ready to crash when she heard a very strange voice say to her, 'Well, this was unexpected. I probably should not have tried to tinker with that Chaos mage's spell.'

"Hello? Is anyone there?" she called out.

'Unfortunately, yes. Let us start with introductions. My name is Integra Wingates Fairbrook Hellsing. And it appears I'm stuck in your mind. Bugger,' a mental, female voice said with more than a hint of anger.

"Oh, shit. Giles is going to kill me!" Buffy exclaimed.

Learning and Deception

Buffy had a bad few days, thinking that the Hellmouth had finally driven her insane. Integra had been hard pressed, but had decided to only 'talk' to Buffy when the situation had warranted it. Such as trying to comfort her after the Billy "Ford" Fordham adventure, where Buffy had learned that her old friend had been willing to give her over to vampires for a chance at damnation and immortality. Between her and Giles though, they had tried to cheer her up.

Several days later as the Slayer was walking home from school, Integra finally spoke up again, 'Buffy?'

"Yes?" Buffy replied finally. She was finally to the point of only being slightly wigged out with the voice in her head. She could just barely accept that it was because of magic and not her personal demons of psychosis.

'Have you thought about better tools for your vampire slaying?' Integra said carefully.

Buffy frowned in thought. "Not sure what you mean, Brit-lady," she finally replied.

'My name is Sir Integra Wingate Farbrook Hellsing! Not Brit-lady!' she snapped back.

"How do you rate a 'Sir'? I thought those were always guys?" Buffy asked curiously.

'You are not the first person to ask that. Suffice it to say, it has to do with family honor and duty to my queen.' The Slayer could feel as Integra was thinking, but not her actual thoughts. Was that both ways? Integra's voice interrupted her with, 'Be that as it may, my duty has not changed. Vampires and abominations must be destroyed. The best way to do that is for you to have proper tools, training and mentality.'

"This girl is not giving up dating!" Buffy argued, while keeping an eye out for anyone within listening range.

'I did not mention giving up dating,' the inhabiting spirit said with exasperation. 'But without the proper training, you will be unprepared to do what you must.' Integra's voice changed to a very soft, emotion laden and hurt tone. 'Have your prepared yourself if Willow, Xander or Giles is turned?'

"Not going to happen!" Buffy snapped. She again felt Integra thinking, but again only in the most general manner.

'So, just like your friend Ford's body, you would just hope that you have the will to deal with it then? To release their bodies from the demon that inhabits and contaminates them?' Her tone turned softer as she continued, 'You are not the only one that has had to deal with friends and colleagues that have been turned into vampires and ghouls. It is horrible having to think of it, but not planning for the future means that you will be blind-sided by the unpleasant things that will happen. But that is merely training. I was bringing up tools.'

"Tools? I've got Mr. Pointy!" she argued back.

'And if the vampire is wearing a metal breastplate? Or has a magical ability to cloud your mind in melee?' Integra fired back.

"Crossbow!" Buffy replied smugly. She was pretty happy about her accuracy with the weapon.

'Antiquated, slow fire rate and I've seen vampires catch crossbow bolts.'

Buffy scowled. "Guns are pretty useless though."

"The bullets I used worked fine on your vampires,' she replied smugly.

The Slayer blinked at that. "Say what? How?"

'Blessed, silver bullets bathed in holy water. You are not Catholic, are you?' she asked.

"Not really religious. Huh." Buffy was thinking very hard. "Guns are really loud though."

'Yes, they are. And without official government contacts, you would be questioned. Possibly detained. To be quite truthful, I do not expect you to use a gun regularly or often. You have super-human strength and speed. Guns, holy water, swords, stakes and such will always be there to be used when needed. Having the right tools ready ahead of time will allow you greater flexibility and make it harder for enemies to ambush you.' She could feel a mental frown from Integra. 'We need to find a way to push you to your superhuman limits. Have you ever tried to just rip a vampire apart with your hands?'

"I can do that?" she asked in surprise.

'I believe so. I have seen vampires destroyed by a supernatural creature stabbing them with his hand.' Integra's mental smirk was easily felt. 'You may wish to read up on how humans build up their finger strength to do the knife-hand martial maneuver.'

"That would be cool! I couldn't be disarmed!" Buffy was already thinking it through.

'So we need to talk to a priest.'

"Do we have to?"

'I believe so.'

-

Father Murdoch was writing his sermon for next Sunday's lesson when he heard the door creak open. "Mr. Henderson? Is that you?" he called out as he stepped out from his little office.

"Um, no, Father," a strange young woman's voice replied.

"I'm terribly sorry! I was expecting someone else," the slightly chubby priest explained with a smile as he came around the corner.

Buffy let the door close behind her, shutting out the afternoon sunshine. "Hello! I'm needing help. And you are supposed to be the person that can help my need!"

"I'm always here!" Murdoch said with a smile.

"Father? Do you know vampires are in Sunnydale?" the blonde haired girl asked intently. She seemed to be a teenager, outfitted very fashionably.

Father Murdoch's smile fell. Like most residents of Sunndydale, he did know but tried to avoid thinking about the vampires and demons that haunted the town. "Yes, I do. But they only come out at night. Stay to the light. Early to bed, early to rise. All that good stuff and you should be fine."

Buffy smiled wistfully. "I don't have that choice, Father. I was chosen to fight the darkness."

"Nonsense! You are just a young girl! You should be worried about the latest teen idol, school and dating!" the plump padre expounded with a grin.

"Slayer, comma, The, is me. As in The Vampire Slayer." She was watching him closely.

He paled significantly. "How- Are you sure? You didn't read that in some silly book, did you?"

She laughed harshly. "No, I was Miss Clueless."

"And you are afraid of dying," the priest said sagely with compassion.

Buffy looked away, avoiding the question. Murdoch waited patiently for her to speak.

"Father, would you help me? Vampires don't like crosses and holy water. And I think I need more of those for some weapons against the demons here on the Hellmouth. My watcher provides me with most stuff, but I need more." She looked so earnest in her entreaty.

Father Murdoch swallowed. "I'll see what I can do." A watcher too?

-

Two vampires were stalking a foolish girl at the edge of their favorite graveyard since they arose just a few weeks ago. One of them jumped in front of her, game face out and the other was ready to take her when she ran away screaming.

First thing that that didn't happen was the screaming. The vampire in front heard a metalic shclackt sound and then felt a lot of pain as the blonde started attacking him with some sort of baton that she'd had hidden on herself. Within three seconds, he'd been rendered unconscious and the blonde turned to face his friend that realized something had gone wrong.

"Hi!" the girl said cheerfully.

Nope, not scared at all of his game face. "That's an interesting toy, girly. I'll be sure to keep it after I kill you!"

She just smirked and shook her head. With a roar, the vampire charged her, only for her to slip to the side, rabbit punch him with her free hand and then smash him into dreamland.

"I sure hope this is worth it, Sir Hellsing. Knocking out vampires for their cash and then staking them is a lot of work," Buffy complained as she removed the money from their wallets and then replaced them. Two stakes later and their ashes were drifting in the wind.

'You need the funds for weapons that the Watchers will not provide. Mr. Giles' response to your request for something more modern was very distressing.'

"Yeah, not sure about why he wigged out on that."

'We will have to investigate. I do suggest that you continue to ask for more information about previous Slayers.'

-

"So she's been fine in school?" Giles asked Xander intently, even as he continued to read.

Xander finished swallowing his donught. "Yup. Maybe a little more attentive. Willow and her are making me look even worse!"

The Watcher sighed. "I was just worried. She's been asking questions about the previous Slayers."

"That's good, right?" the young man asked, cocking his head slightly as he considered it.

"Oh, of course. It is just so different. And she's even been reading some of the lore on demons and vampires on her own," he answered as casually as possible. It was her questions on magic that were worrying. The Watchers Council had very strict prohibitions on Slayers learning magic. There had only been limited exceptions for saving the world. And even then, the Slayer had been watched like a hawk.

Not to mention that it was incredibly dangerous!

Buffy let the door close loudly. "I'm hoooome!" she called out as she walked to the back of the library. She hated it when Sir Hellsing was right. Damn bitch.

'I heard that," Integra snapped back.

"Patrol was fine?" Giles asked, happy to see his Slayer back.

"Yeah. Just a couple of young vamps. It was cool." Buffy slumped into a seat and flipped open a book to the silk bookmark, starting to read intently.

Xander was starting to wig out. Buffy, sitting and studying without complaint? "Yo!? B? You feeling okay?"

The Slayer glared at him across. "What do you mean?"

"You and studying? I thought it was your nemesis?" he asked oh so ever over-innocently.

"More I know, the better Slayer I am, right? Besides, what happens if the vampires kidnapped Giles?" she asked, nodding over at the Watcher.

The two males blinked in shocked. Giles recovered quickly. "A remarkably improved attitude, Buffy. What caused you to decide that?"

"Maybe I'm just growing up?" she said while going back to her book. "Hey, Giles? What is this ritual that Liothal used to try and open a hellmouth in 1792? It mentions a dagger, but not a lot other than that. And this picture of the dagger sucks."

"I believe I have that in another reference books. Elzmerkian Diatribes," he replied. "I believe I actually have a copy," he then said after a moment, seemingly in surprise. He stood up and went to his private stash of books of rituals. "Yes, here it is. Not the prettiest of daggers, I have to say." He laid out the book so that Buffy and Xander could see the picture.

"Ewww-yuck!" Xander said, looking at the monsters carved into its hilt.

Buffy started scribbling notes about its looks and what stones were embedded into it. "Should be distinctive enough," she murmurred to herself.

The door slammed open with a babbling Willow following on it. "Hello! Oh? Is there another big bad coming along that we need to research on?" she said quickly as she sat down.

"No, it seems fairly quiet right now," the librarian said with a small smile.

"Just keeping an eye for hellmouthy opening artifacts," Buffy said as she closed the book in front of her and slid it back Giles. She yawned suddenly. "I'm going to head home and sneak in before Mom checks in on me at midnight. I'll see you both in the morning!" she said to Xander and Willow.

She was calm and coolily collected until the library door closed, then she took off at a full run towards her house. "Giles is going to be so pissed off when he finds out I skipped out with his book."

'We need more information than he is willing to provide. We'll just have to assuage him with learning how to counter or disrupt all the dark magics in there. Just don't even joke about attempting any of these spells to him. I think the Watchers like their Slayer as enforcers that don't think too hard about the big picture,' Integra said mentally.

"Giles isn't like that!" the Slayer argued.

'He has conflicting loyalties. The Watcher's Council, the Slayers and then you and your friends. Let's not push him to choose between them. Or to have him replaced by his bosses in London,' the Master of Monsters warned. 'It would be your luck to get someone even worse.'

Schooling and Supplies

Buffy huffed in irritation, blowing a strand of blonde hair out of her way. She wasn't looking forward to this, but Integra was right. While Home Economics might be more useful to a normal life, she no longer had the luxury to be normal.

With a sigh, she opened the door to the class she was transferring to. The sound of saws, motors and drills filled the hallway until she closed the door.

"Ah, you must be Buffy! I'm Mr. Taylor! Welcome to Shop!" the young, gangly man helping a student set up a vise.

"Hi!" Buffy said with a small wave.

-

"So, Buffy? Why weren't you in Home Ec?" Xander asked during lunch. Willow was sitting next to him, reading a book.

"Oh, I transferred out to get into Shop," she replied. "Did you know that a lathe can make sharp stakes super-easy?"

"Why the sudden switch though?" Willow asked.

Xander raised an expressive eyebrow, even as it seemed Buffy was thinking to herself. Finally, she sighed and then explained with, "I decided I needed access to the shop so I can make stuff for slaying."

"What about your grades?" Willow asked in horror.

"I'm sure I can get a passing grade in shop."

-

A man is seen to be pounding on the door to the library, late that night. "Help! Help! Somebody, please!" he cried out. The shambling horror that used to be a friend was almost to him when the door suddenly opened he was yanked inside.

"Giles! Demon at the door!" Buffy yelled out. She was feeling even more crabby than normal. Integra had nagged her into reading some more books on previous slayers instead of this aerobic workout she had planned. Damned Brit seemed to think she didn't need to exercise.

'No, I said you need not slack off with that extraneous exercise!' Integra countered.

"Fighting now, less talking!" Buffy griped even as she ducked the female zombie.

The zombie's eyes glowed yellow for a second, even as it tried to get her hands on Buffy. Said Slayer flipped back onto one hand, even while lashing out with a her right foot across its face.

'It is possessed! And considering the shape of the body, she's probably dead. You need to destroy the body to release it. I would suggest your new sword and some holy water,' the Master of Monsters said analytically.

"Sounds good." Buffy snapped another punch into its face and then charged back into the library.

Right past Giles, who was looking surprised. "Buffy? What is going on?"

"Move it or lose it, Giles! Possessing demon on my tail!" she called back, even as she grabbed her long brown duffel bag. It had been Integra's idea to buy it, with the easy to open zipper instead of the nicer blue color she had wanted. A quick zip and she whipped out her long sword. It had been a pet project that she had agreed with Integra on. Silver inlaid and bathed in holy water for the better part of a week. The silver had come from a few old crosses that Father Murdoch had managed to get a hold of.

Now it was very pretty and very extremely deadly to the unholy.

Giles appeared around the corner, his face pale and contorted to fear. "Eyghon?" he gasped out.

Buffy could feel Integra filing that little tidbit away. "Hey! Ugly! Over here!"

Eyes flashing yellow, the demon charged Buffy headlong. The Slayer flipped over it, even while cutting its shoulder as she went over.

The demon howled, holding its smoking shoulder. With a snarl, it jumped right out of the window and into the night.

'After it! Before it can get away and attack when it wants to!' Integra snapped.

"Yeah, yeah!" she replied, even as she leaped right after it, landing just in time to spot it down by the corner of the building. She poured on her speed.

By the time she made it to the corner, it was already gone.

'We definitely need to figure out how Rhuta managed to outrun cheetahs,' Integra noted.

Buffy was too angry to reply, but had to agree. How that Nubian had tapped that power of the Slayer would definitely have been useful now. "Damn it," she said softly.

'Now we need to get some answers from your Watcher. He knew that demon. He must have run into it in the past,' the Master of Monsters said while thinking to Buffy.

In just a few minutes, Buffy was back in the library. "Hey, Giles! What's the stitch and who's the Mitch?"

"This is... an old friend. Phillip Henry, meet Buffy Summers. That demon was in an old friend of ours. You didn't manage to destroy it, did you?" he asked nervously.

At Integra's prompting, Buffy chimed in with, "Nope, I didn't manage to destroy Eyghon. So what's the history? Some demon you failed to destroy a long time ago?"

Just a little too glibly, he nodded. "Exactly."

Phillip just gave him a strange look. "I haven't found any way to destroy it permanently."

"We'll find a way, Phillip."

"Hey! Slayer here! Demon slaying at your service!" Buffy replied glibly.

"This isn't like other demons, Buffy! You can't just hack it up," the Watcher explained.

'He's holding back. This isn't like him,' Integra noted. 'If it can't be destroyed, we will have to trap it.'

Buffy nodded to herself. "So, any way to ward it off or back?"

"A warding circle might keep it at bay for a while, but it is a pure spirit. It is just possessing that body," Giles explained.

Phillip nodded wearily. "And it's after us."

Buffy pounced on that. "Why?"

Giles hesitated, but Phillip beat him to explaining it. "We were young, foolish and thought we could control it. It got away and is now out to destroy us. It wants revenge."

"That's enough of that. Buffy, I think it is time you headed off. Phillip, let's get you settled in at my place."

And with that, the conversation with the two British men was suddenly over. Buffy found herself outside and walking home. She was quite shaken with the revelation that Giles had been into summoning demons. Did that make him evil?

'I doubt it. By the sounds of it, he got involved in something that he regrets now. But we need more information about this Eyghon first.'

"Right! And if Giles isn't willing to tell us, we'll have to figure it out ourselves. And that means research," Buffy said, scrunching her face in disapproval.

'You should ask Willow and Xander to help you tomorrow.'

-

"A demon is after Giles? Really?" Xander asked.

"Yes, Xander. Like the three other times I told you that," Buffy said with exaggerated patience.

"Eyghon? I don't know. That isn't going to be much to go on," Willow noted.

"And Giles is not being up with the information." Buffy grimaced cutely at that.

'We know it is a possessing spirit!' Integra interjected.

"Oh. Right!" Buffy slapped her forehead. "It possesses people."

"Wonderful! Now I have to worry about it taking me over and ruining my perfect looks!" Cordelia complained as she sat back in her chair, crossing her arms.

"That might help with figuring it out!" Willow said hopefully.

"It's too bad that we just can't research a do it yourself exorcism," Xander glibly quipped.

'Hmm. That's not exactly a bad idea. But instead of exorcising it, we could bind it to an item.'

"Hey, Willow? How about just binding the spirit to something?" Buffy asked nervously.

"Will wonders never cease. Buffy had an idea!" the dark-haired cheerleader said, rolling her eyes.

"Actually, that's not a bad idea. Then we can take the time to figure out how to destroy it later." Willow started trotting down to the library, hearing a somber conversation between Giles and Jenny, where he brusquely told her that wasn't available this weekend. She looked hurt and headed off.

"Hey, Giles! We are so here for the research and then we'll swing by the Hospital to make sure the blood delivery isn't jumped," Buffy exclaimed as she slid into her seat. "So what book should we look for this demon in?"

"Buffy, this is a private matter. As your watcher, I'm ordering you to stay out of this. Phillip and I are looking into dealing with it. I'll meet you at the hospital later?" Not giving them any time to respond, he heads out.

Xander blinked. "Was that a brush off? G-Man just brushed off this whole thing like that?!"

"I think he's afraid. He definitely knows more than he's been telling us," Willow said, frowning in thought. "I think we should look up some rituals to bind a demon now."

"So he's gone sane? What a time for him to realize how deadly these things are!" Cordelia exclaimed.

-

Giles was pacing in his small apartment later that evening. He stopped a second and then tipped his full glass of whiskey down his throat. Phillip was sitting there, watching them.

"I just wanted out of this life, Rupert. Ever since that botched summoning, I've tried to put the supernatural out of my life. And I had, until Deidre contacted me, telling me that Eyghon was back and hunting us. There's only the two of us and Ethan now. And there's no stopping Eyghon!" Phillip said, becoming more agitated as he spoke.

"I know. I know. I have been trying to think of some way to return it, but we botched that summoning up good. I don't think it can be removed without killing all of the marked. And I'm not quite ready to die." Suddenly a crash was heard from the kitchen.

"It's here! Quick, out the front door!" Giles said, yanking his friend up and off the chair unsteadily. He ripped the door open, only to see Buffy, Willow and Xander already standing on his doorstep. "It's here!"

Buffy yanked Giles and Phillip outside just as she saw the remains of Deidre appear in the kitchen doorway, eyes flashing yellow. "Plan B time!" Buffy calls out.

"But we aren't ready!" Willow called out. She started fumbling with her backpack and pulling out a heavy cloth and started laying it on the cement sidewalk.

"Making with the ready now!" Xander exclaimed even as he pulled out a small stone statue from the backpack.

"What are you doing?" Giles asked stupidly, staring as Willow rolled out the cloth covered in arcane symbols in lurid red lettering.

"Doing something constructive!" Buffy snapped back, even as she one-two punched the demon in the face, knocking it back a step.

Willow was quickly setting up a brazier, just dropping a lit match into it to light the incense. She eeped as Buffy nearly collided with her from the force of the demon's punch.

"It's got a strong right-hook," Buffy commented as she wiggled her jaw gingerly with her hand. She looked up just in time to see it get its decaying hands on Phillip. She pulled out her sword from her duffel bag, spilling the contents around, even as she brought a two handed over her head sword strike on Deidre's wrists, severing them completely.

Eyghon looked very, very upset at that, but Buffy didn't give it time to before she she looped her arm over Deidre's shoulder and then kicked the demon's feet out from under. Once unbalanced, the Slayer forced the fall into a roll and then deposited the demon in the middle of the arcane circle with a smear.

"Statue!" Buffy cried out.

"Right!" Xander called, tossing her the statue.

Buffy glared at him a second, then tossed the statue at the demon's head, knocking it silly for a second. "Statue into the circle! Remember?"

"Oh! Sorry!" Xander at least had the mind to look sheepish.

"Buffy, what are you planning?" Giles asked.

"Sorry! Busy chanting! Now Willow!" Buffy and Willow then started chanting. Luckily, Buffy was just following the words that Integra was telling her.

The symbols on the cloth erupted with red light. After a minute or so, Deidre screamed and melted, filling an invisible barrier within the circle.

Giles blinked. That looked like a modified binding circle, but how had they figured out how to do that?

The melted remains of the demon started swirling inside the circle, even as Eyghon's roars could be heard. The swirling started to speed up, matching Willow and Buffy's chanting. At the final cadence, all of the swirling darkness pulled into the little black statue.

"I thought that was going to be harder," Buffy finally said to herself.

"Do you realize what you've done?" Giles asked furiously.

"Saving your life?" Willow said, raising her hand slightly like she was in class.

"Yeah! We figured out that as a spirit, we weren't up to destroying it, so we had to banish it or trap it. Well, Willow and Buffy figured that out. And since we didn't know how it was summoned, we couldn't banish it. So that left trapping it. Hence the ritual they just did!" Xander looked pleased at making sure he understood everything.

"Magic is very dangerous! You could have been trapped in there with it if you had done it wrong!" the Watcher started to say with a scolding tone.

Buffy interrupted with, "Yes, it is! But not doing magic was more dangerous right now! So we figured out the spell and made sure we understood it and then cast it! Why are you so upset?" She had a very upset look on her face. They had done everything they should.

"A Slayer casting magic is extremely dangerous! " he warned.

"Why?" she demanded back.

"I can't say." How was he even going to tell the Council that Buffy had just done a modified demon binding ritual without Travers sending people to remove them both? He was supposed to be the mystical know-how, she was supposed to be the warrior.

"Whatever!" She turned and then stomped off, taking a moment to grab her duffel bag and items. "I'm going to the hospital."

-

Buffy was hanging around the Emergency Room entrance to the hospital, waiting for the blood delivery. She was definitely in a mood to beat up something. Preferably vampires.

'You are being a bit obvious here,' Integra noted. 'Are you sure that you do not wish to paint a bullseye on your back?'

Though bitchy British knights would be a viable target, Buffy thought darkly.

'I heard that,' the Master of Monsters replied tartly.

Yay for sharing headspace. All right, I'll move out of the lights, she thought to the vampire hunter.

'Good. I would suggest a sweep of the alleyways. This would be a good time to practice sensing the supernatural.'

Buffy almost snarled back, but decided it wasn't worth it. The next ten minutes was spent canvassing the area. No vampires were spotted, though there was an illegally parked car. Two figures could be seen in the car.

'Hmm. what do you sense from them?' Integra asked curiously.

She really did not like accessing her supernatural senses. Sensing weird things, bluntly put, wigged her out. A lot. But as Integra had put it, better wigged than buried. And quite snootily too. And then badgered her about it until she agreed to do it. Strangely, her anger made it easier to tell that it was two vampires sitting in the car, watching the ER entrance.

'Let's see how silently you can kill these vampires.'

Buffy had a feral grin as she mentally nodded in agreement. It took a minute, but she finally was close enough for a dash from the shadows. The driver was just starting to stiffen, as it seemed like he had caught her scent just moment too late. She had closed the distance and staked him before he could react.

The passenger turned just in time to get a face full of vampire dust. "What?" he said, blinking the dust out of his eyes. He barely sensed a blur passing just over him and instinctively ducked, getting a stake in his shoulder. "Shit! Slayer!"

Buffy snapped out two quick punches from his side of the car, more to disorient him slightly while she pulled the stake out of him. When his hands moved up to block the next punch, her stake hit his heart.

'Good! Now why are there only two vampires?' Integra mused, thinking more about this situation.

"Probably there are more. But if they aren't in the alleys or skulking in the darkness.... Then they are probably in the hospital."

Buffy's blood was pounding in her ears as she heard the blood van drive up. The driver went into the back to get the carton of blood packs, even as two men in doctor's garb walked out. There appearance jangled on her nerves immediately. Vampires!

'You are getting better at that,' Integra noted. 'Buffy?'

"Busy!" she snarled, even as she raced across the street.

The driver was just about to hand the blood delivery over to the doctor when something whizzed out of the darkness and imbeded in the supposed doctor's chest. He had just a moment to look surprised before he turn to dust. The other doctor looked over as the young, blonde girl came out of the darkness.

"Get out of here!" Buffy called out to the driver.

The final, remaining vampire suddenly morphed into his game face, much to the horror of the driver who screamed. He took one look at Buffy, snarled, "Slayer!" and then took off. He made it to the corner before a shadow detached from the alley, shoving a stake into his heart.

"Hey, Angel!" Buffy said, her whole mood improving. "What are you doing here?"

"It's delivery night. Everyone knows about it," he said, nodding in the direction of the terrified driver who was getting in his van. "No Giles?"

"He and I are not speaking this moment. He got in a snit when I saved his life earlier from some demon," she replied nonchalantly.

Angel gave her a deeply scrutinizing look. "There's more to it than that, isn't there?"

Buffy grimaced. "Yeah, he freaked out that Willow and I cast a spell to bind a demon into a statue."

"You bound a demon? That's fairly impressive," the ensouled vampires said in surprise.

"Well, just between you and me, I can remember some things from Halloween. I guess Hellsing knew some mondo binding magic." Buffy had decided if anyone asked about her new skills that she was going to mention Integra's memories.

'Lies within truths within lies. How very elegant,' Integra noted.

"Any magic can be dangerous, but demon binding is considered recklessly dangerous! I hope you know what you are doing," he warned.

"Well, right now I'm carting this box of blood into the hospital. So I hope I know how to do that," she replied with a roll of her eyes. She picked up the case and carried it towards the ER and the waiting doctors.

Careers

"Huh. Angel seemed kind of stand-offish," Buffy mumbled to herself as she crept into her bed. She had been looking forward to some 'smoochies' as she called it.

'I may be the cause of that,' Integra mused absently.

Buffy could feel a low level feeling of antipathy coming from the vampire hunter. "What did you do to my boyfriend?" she asked, suddenly harsh. She started to strip down for bed.

'He was a vampire. I attempted to destroy him. Willow stopped me, explaining that he was a good vampire.' Buffy could hear the derision from the vampire hunter. 'Be glad that I stopped. I very nearly broke some very sacred oaths to do so.'

Buffy was quite chilled. What had happened?

'He entered the your living room on that night and I shot him. The silver bullets hurt him, but did not destroy him. If he had actually been attempting to kill us, he probably would have succeeded.' A feeling of self-condemnation was exuded from the extra presence to Buffy.

She was upset that she failed to kill her boyfriend that night? Buffy started to feel outraged, when Integra cut her off mentally. 'I had no idea he had been ensouled. My training is thorough and direct; to destroy the inhuman and innately evil demonic monsters. To run into a vampire that is not a monster is incredibly unlikely. There is only one vampire in my London that falls in that small domain. I will not destroy this Angel now that I know his history and circumstance.'

"Gee, thank!" Buffy said aloud.

'I do understand your situation. More than you can imagine.' Integra's tone of voice was very pensive, thoughtful.

Buffy blinked in surprise, but Integra ignored her from that point on that night.

-

At the career fair, Willow was expounding upon important things. "I came down on the side of shrubs."

Buffy nodded. "Go with shrubs! Okay!"

Integra interjected, 'You do realize that is to see if you like to do gardening and horticulture?'

Buffy frowned at that. "Maybe not. I was never too patient with gardening. I think I got that from my mother. Gaaaaah! I shouldn't even be
bothering with this. It's all mootsville for me. No matter what my aptitude test says, we already know my deal."

"Yup, high risk, sub-minimum wage..." Xander said in the seat across from Buffy.

'Buffy! Are you trying to give up already?' Integra demanded. 'This gloominess is unbecoming.'

"Yeah, whatever," she groused back at both of them.

"Why are you even bothering to take the test then?" Willows asked curiously.

"It's Principal Snyder's hoop of the week. He's not happy unless I'm jumping. Believe me, I would not be here otherwise," Buffy almost snapped back. She buried her terror deep inside, where only Integra would feel it. Damn her and sharing her head-space.

"You're not even a teensy, weensy bit curious about what kinda career you could have had? I mean, if you weren't already the Slayer and all?" she asked, still very curious.

'I think you should be more interested in adapting yourself to this situation. These tests can not interpret your real aptitudes and future training skills that you need to absorb.' Integra was thinking deeply, unsettling Buffy. 'I think it comes down to a simple question.'

Buffy frowned at Integra, even as she shrugged at Willow.

"Let's see, surly and untalkitive. That doesn't really leave a lot of choices," Xander noted. He suddenly cracked a smile. "You could always become a hermit!"

"Xander, I really don't need this right now," Buffy warned. She doodled on the page, not seeing the question.

'Buffy, are you a weapon... or a warrior?' Integra finally asked intently.

That finally surprised her. Willow and Xander shared a quick worried look, even as Buffy exclaimed, "What do you mean?" She blinked as she realized that she had said that aloud. "Oh, sorry. I remembered a question... from Angel. He was being all cryptic-like again."

"You know, when people make with the mysterious, that means problems are on there way," Xander noted sagely.

"Don't jinx us, Xander!" Willow snapped out worriedly.

-

Later that night, Buffy was patrolling while thinking very hard. After she had left the others at school, she had tried to get Integra to explain what she had asked. Her only response was that it was more important to discover the answer herself.

She had deduced that she did not want to be a weapon. And she was a warrior, she thought. She was pretty sure that Integra had a reason to ask. A small clink caught her attention. Someone was doing something in that crypt. The light of a flashlight was flickering within.

'Careful. Let's make sure this is not a trap. Or, better yet, let us spring a trap upon what is within,' Integra said, focusing Buffy on the moment. She had been working on Buffy to think more tactically and be more aware of the area at all times. 'Is that someone hiding over there?'

Buffy grinned as she felt the vampire. She crept up on it, even as Dalton exited the crypt. "Found it! It's exactly what we were needing!" he called out to his compatriot.

The hidden vampire took a step out, just as Buffy dashed from her concealment and staked him. Smoothly, she turned to Dalton with her stake at the ready. "How about you just hand that over now?"

Dalton's eyes widened as he stared at the stake that had just ended the other vampire's unlife. He hadn't even felt her near. "Um, I suppose. You'll let me go?" He tensed in preparation to run.

She flicked her off hand with a second stake, unexpectedly attacking from a direction he was not prepared for. Dalton had just a moment to realize he'd been suckered before he dusted.

"Nope, Tweedledumb. Though I wonder why the vampires wanted this?" Buffy asked as she picked up the cross and examined it closely.

'It's a cypher. Which means these vampires are decoding something. We should check out the crypt carefully and then speak to your Watcher.'

-

Buffy narrowed her eyes at Angel in her bedroom. She started to heft her bag through the windows, when Integra halted her with, 'Wait. We should watch what he is doing.'

The Slayer rolled her eyes, but decided it wouldn't hurt to watch him for a minute. He poked at Mr. Gordo, her plush piggy and then looked over her photographs.

'Good. He doesn't seem interested in your locker. He is not actually searching your room,' Integra noted.

No duh, Buffy thought back. She hefted her bag and tossed it in.

Angel nearly jumped, as the loud thud of the bag hitting the ground surprised him. "Buffy! You frightened me!"

"Now you know what it is like, Mr. Stealthy-pants!" she groused back.

"Are you all right?" he asked, suddenly worried.

Buffy ignored the disapproving feelings from Integra. She fleetingly wondered why she was not more vocal in her dislike of Angel. She seemed to hate all other vampires with a deep and abiding passion. "It's just this whole week... hasn't gone so good."

Angel sat on the bed to listen to her complaints about Career Week. He promised later to take her someplace special, just his treat.

But she could almost feel him flinch away when she tried to touch him. "Are you all right? I... heard that you were hurt on Halloween."

Angel tensed, then nodded. "Those bullets that lady used... I've never felt pain like that. It was like crosses embedded in my flesh." He went to the window in preparation to leave.

"I'm so sorry, Angel. I heard you were nearly killed. I don't think I could have lived with myself if I had done that," she said softly. She carefully wrapped her arms around him from behind and laid her forehead on his shoulder.

"It wasn't you. I can't even really blame her. She was just protecting herself." He grinned slightly. "I do have to admit, she's probably the scariest lady I've heard of."

"What? More scary than me?" Buffy mock growled.

He laid his hands on her arms that were wrapped around him. "You are very scary, but in a good way," he replied good-naturedly. "I better go so you can get some sleep."

As soon as he was gone, Buffy finished getting ready for bed. She was just laying down when Integra intruded.

'Loving a vampire is pain. Even with your Angel, there are so many bad things that can happen,' she mused to Buffy. 'He is only good because of his human soul. Imagine if someone cast a spell to allow his demon to overtake him? Even if he appears to be good, it could possibly be a trick. Vampires think in plots and treachery over years and decades.'

He's not tricking me! she snapped back mentally.

'No, I do not think he is. But it is always a possibility you have to be aware of. He is a vampire. And you are a vampire hunter; destined even.'

Buffy could feel a slightly wistful feeling from Integra. What was that for? she asked.

'At least your vampire can truly love you,' she replied cryptically.

"My God," Buffy exclaimed. "You're in love with a vampire?"

'No, not really. I have never had time for love. It is mere attraction, the desire to be loved.' Integra paused, gathering her thoughts. 'Alucard saved me certain murder, but only because I interested him and the magics that bound him to my family. And I was a silly, young girl.'

"Wow, we are more alike than I would have thought possible."

'Perhaps. I know you find my presence in your privacy unsettling. I hope sharing this makes you feel a bit better,' the Master of Monsters replied softly.

Buffy frowned, then sighed. She nodded in appreciation to the gesture.

-

"So they think I should be a cop or be in the military?" Buffy asked curiously the next day to Xander.

He nodded.

"At least they don't think you should be a Correctional Officer," Willow said brightly.

Buffy saw Giles walk past with a pile of books. "Hey, guys? I've got to talk to Giles really quick." She followed him into the library where he set down a stack of books carefully. They wobbled, but stayed up.

"Buffy!" he said with a small smile. "I've been, uh, indexing the Watcher chronicles covering the last few centuries. You would be amazed at how mind-numbingly pompous and long-winded some of these Watchers were."

"Ha! Wanna bet?" she retorted.

"How was last night's patrol?" he asked even as he opened another diary.

"That's what I needed to talk to you. I ran into a pair of vampires that were robbing a tomb," she started.

"That doesn't sound good!" He looked quite worried suddenly.

"Nah, they were no problem. And I got the trinket." Buffy held up the intricate gold cross. "It looks like it's a cypher key, right? I think it was found in the tomb of a du Lac."

Giles raised an eyebrow at that. How had she known it was a cypher? Then the name hit him. "Yes. Many ancient books were written in codes, so that only the intended could understand it. Josephus du Lac belonged to a religious sect that was excommunicated by the Vatican at the turn of the century."

"And exiled here? Sounds like a very, very bad boy. Should we destroy it? That way no one can ever use it?" she asked. She mentally crossed her fingers at Integra's soft snort at her humor. They had already taken a casting in soft clay and were in the process of duplicating the cross. Just in case. Wheels within wheels, lies and deceptions.

"Actually, that is a good idea. Let me get a rubbing of one-half of the cross, then smash it with the sledgehammer from the weapon cage," he said.

"Right-O, Boy-O!" she singsonged.

-

"The Slayer is spinning a web and planning to pounce. Don't let her swallow you whole, not even an ounce!" Drusilla said, even as she shuddered at her visions.

"Dalton isn't back yet, love! We need that cross if we want to cure you. Damn bloody code!" Spike snapped back.

Two vampires walked in to his lair, swinging the crypt open. "Spike? We didn't find Dalton or Pete. The crypt was opened and the cross was missing, but-"

"Dalton wouldn't run!" the master vampire complained.

"We are all dust in the wind!" Drusilla singsonged.

"Is Dalton dead, love?" Spike said, suddenly turning.

"It's all coming apart. The Master of Monsters is turning the Slayer into a warrior-general that will turn the world upside down! Dalton is not coming home to his prom-de-plume!" she said even as she staggered and twirled around the room. Her cards were sent scattering on the ground.

"Just great," he groused. "What can we do? Look up a replacement for him in the Yellow Pages?" Spike groused, even as he stood up and then snagged Drusilla and pulled her close. "I think I'm done playing games with the Slayer. She's becoming more dangerous by the day. What say you, love?"

"It's time to change the dance and our partners. Say your wicked words and call-"

"The Order of Taraka. You knew my plan!" he interrupted.

"But it has to be your party!" she replied with a laugh. She then drew him in a kiss, even as her eyes went blank.

"Spike?" one of his two remaining flunkies called out. He had his nose in a big, floppy book.

"What?" he snapped out as he broke off his kiss.

"All the cryptologists in the yellow pages work for computer companies in L.A. So are we road tripping?" the vampire named Martin asked.

Spike opened his mouth to berate Martin, when his brain suddenly engaged. "Why does a bloody computer company need someone that can decipher codes?"

The two flunkies just looked at each other and shook their heads with a shrug.

-

Buffy was walking back to school later on during the next day after an early supper, following a path through a small park. From the shadows followed a scarred man in a duster. His one blind, scarred eye seemed to follow as well as his uninjured eye.

He turned a corner after having lost view of his target for just a second. His good eye scanned, even as his nose flared. He suddenly spun, lashing out with a punishing jab that was adroitly blocked.

"What's the four-one-one, Obiwan?" Buffy asked with a raised eyebrow. That was definitely more than human strength there.

The scarred bounty hunter just smirked even as he charged her. He lashed out with a punishing knife-hand from the right, then tried to grab her with his left hand when she blocked.

'He wants to grapple where he feels his size and strength well be better suited,' Integra noted idly.

Buffy smiled, even as she hopped back a foot to avoid his grab. "Big, silent and menacing. Not much with the information, huh?" she bantered, even as she snapped out a kick at him. He took the kick on his thigh without flinching. He suddenly lowered his shoulders and held out his arms when he charged.

The Slayer had thought he would try something like that and had already planned how to avoid it... by jumping straight up and snagging a branch above her. Acting like it was a gymnastic bar, she pulled herself up while getting her feet under her on the branch, something that would have taken a normal human several swings and rotations.

The Bounty hunter grunted as he slammed into the tree with his shoulder. He spun around and looked up, just in time for Buffy to flip backwards in a twist, her arm wrapped around his throat. She arched her whole body, flinging the hunter up against a tree with a thud. She landed cat-like on her feet, charging forward to snap a punch at his nose.

He tilted his head on pure instinct, the fist grazing his ear. The bounty hunter's hands caught her outstretched arm. With a snap-pop, he broke her arm with superhuman strength.

Buffy just stared at her arm that was bent backwards at her fore-arm in shock for too long, as the bounty hunter's hands reached out and snagged her neck. With a grim smile, he started to squeeze the life out of her even as he stared intently in her eyes.

'KNIFE! Slash elbows!' Integra snapped out mentally in a loud voice, goading Buffy into pulling the knife hidden in a back sheathe. Clumsily, but with Slayer strength, she sliced the inside of his elbows, breaking the crushing grip. 'HEART!' her extra, inner voice yelled overwhelmingly loud.

A Slayer's instinct was to always go for the heart. The five inch blade hit with unerring accuracy, even with her left hand. The bounty hunter had just a moment to look surprised, even as his life blood was spilled, soaking his shirt.

"Oh, god. My arm-" Buffy started to babble.

'BUFFY! You can't go into shock now! STOP! Take a look around. Did anyone see you?' Integra ordered.

At that, Buffy looked around. It didn't appear that anyone was looking at this little copse of trees.

'Don't look at it. Ignore it! Now we need to search him for why he was looking for you.' The Master of Monsters could feel Buffy starting to lag, which would cause her to lapse into shock. 'Buffy! Focus on my voice now. That ring has a demon mark.'

"Demons are after me?" Buffy blurted out in surprise.

'Most likely. Check his pockets now.' The pockets disgorged a laden wallet with old war bonds. 'Ah, that means an immortal creature hired him. It is common for them to buy or steal something like this in payment. Take it and put it in your wallet, leave the ordinary money.'

"Great, now I'm robbing people," she groused, even as she followed the order. Buffy was trying to think, but the throbbing pain (don't think about it) from her arm was robbing her of most of her mental acuity. Should she go to police?

'Yes," Integra immediately replied. 'Lose Mr. Pointy and head to the nearest street.' To herself, she hoped that Buffy was up to the acting that this would require. But, covered in blood and her knife in a body, they had to improvise. The body was not decomposing.

Buffy stumbled to her feet and started gingerly walking, holding her right arm as still as possible. Tears streaked her face, even as her face was twisted in pain. As soon as she hit the street, she started calling out, "Help! Help me please!"

From the shadows behind her, a dark-haired girl crept up to the body and looked at it closely.

"Vampire Slayer? Haa, she's not'in but a little girl," the young woman said in derision. Kendra stared at the cooling corpse for second, before grudgingly admitting to herself that searching a dead body with a shattered arm was not the work of a frantic girl running away in fear. Her eyes narrowed in deep thought. She would have to contact the local Watcher.

Slayer! Slayer!

Arthur McNamara frowned as his doorbell rang. He walked to his door and opened it.

A man with very blond and spiky hair was standing there. "Hello, mate! I've got a job offer for you. I understand you decipher codes?"

Arthur raised an eyebrow at that. "Yes."

"Because I've got something in an old code that I need broken." Spike smiled broadly. He made a show of looking around outside. "Can I come in? Not exactly the best neighborhood, you know!"

The programmer blinked. "Oh, sure. Come on in."

"Thanks!" Spike held his smile for just second before he vamped out and grabbed the man as he moved inside.

-

Buffy glared at the phone on the pull up table next to her hospital bed. The phone handset was being gripped tightly. "Yes, Mom." A pause. "Right, Mom." Another pause. "No, I'm all right." Another pause. "No, you don't have to come home right now." Another pause. "Uh huh." Another pause. "Right." Another pause. "No, they want me to stay overnight. Right." Another pause. "Thanks, Mom. I love you too." She finally set it down.

Then she had far too much time to glare at her broken right arm. Anything to not stare at the boring walls of the hospital.

'Glaring at it isn't going to cause it to heal faster,' Integra said snidely.

Buffy sent her a mental raspberry.

'But meditation might.'

Buffy sighed as Integra started having her breathe deeply. She lay back in her hospital bed. Integra's voice droned on, but her arm just throbbed, even with the pain medicine she had already been given.

'Why isn't this working?' the Master of Monsters suddenly asked. 'You are in a very deep meditative state, you should be able to access any of the physical abilities, including healing, that any other Slayers have exhibited.'

Buffy almost jumped, but listened to the woman gripe. 'Maybe it's the wrong sort of meditation. Like I can see some primitive chick in the Serengeti going all lotus-like to run fast.'

'That's brilliant!' Integra exclaimed.

The Slayer raised an eyebrow at that. What ever she had twigged the British lady onto, it had obviously fostered a lot of deep thinking. 'So?' she finally asked.

'It would have to be a state of heightened awareness, like you would be in combat. Such as you felt you when you were in a life and death struggle with a demon!'

She started Buffy in imagining that she was in a fight with the Master again, but focused everything on her healing. Rapid, fast breathing and racing heart soon followed, as Buffy started to slip into the fight or flight state. She gritted her teeth as she imagined that she was actually grabbing a hold of her pain, clawing at it while almost snarling.

Integra backed away, suddenly worried. This primal rage was not what she was expecting. What psychosis deep within the girl's mind had this come from?

Suddenly, Buffy's pain was gone, fleeing from her. With a large gasp, she sat up in her bed, shaking her head. She glanced over at her watch, seeing that only half an hour had passed. "What the hell was that, Integra?" she asked, suddenly scared as her conscious mind took over.

'I don't know!' the heir of Hellsing answered. 'But I intend to find out. Is your arm really better?'

The Slayer raised arm that was encased in a cast up and tensed her muscles up. The fiberglass creaked, but she didn't feel a twinge of pain. 'Hot damn!' she exclaimed mentally.

The door to her room suddenly slammed open. "Buffy! Are you all right?" Giles asked worriedly. Behind him stood Willow and Xander, along with a new girl that she did not recognize.

Buffy looked over, a smile on her face. Her green eyes almost seemed to glint. "Just peachy, actually!"

Willow and Xander shared a quick, worried look. "Um, Buffy?" Xander finally asked.

"Yeah?"

"Didn't you just have to kill a guy who was trying to murder you?" he asked inanely.

"Well, yeah. But my arm doesn't hurt too much anymore," she replied seriously.

"The police weren't being too forthright. Why exactly was this man trying to kill you?" Giles asked sternly.

"No clue. Just showed up and started stalking me. I got the jump on him and found out he was not normal by him breaking my arm and ended the fight by shoving my backup knife into his heart," she said. She lay back down on her bed.

"No idea at all?" he asked, suddenly worried.

"No, not really. Wait, he had a ring. I recognized the symbol on it. It was some sort of middle-eastern demon warning-thingy, I think," she finally said.

'Well, that is technically correct. I'm impressed you actually remembered that,' Integra said in surprise.

Everyone else seemed to agree with that, as they all looked flabbergasted.

"Buffy, are you feeling well? I know you've been studying harder and doing lots better in school, but that's just plain freaky," Willow said candidly, eyes wide in shock.

"Wot's the problem with her knowin' that?" the dark-skinned asked.

"Ah, no problem. Buffy has very much been striving to improve her knowledge of the demon world recently," Giles replied in a tone that conveyed that there really was some problem, but that he did not want to talk about it know. He glanced over his shoulder to see that the door was closed behind them. "Willow, will you be able to hack into the police database and find out about that ring?"

Willow nodded. "Sure!"

Buffy finally really looked at the new girl. "Hello, stranger! Don't let everyone fall over themselves introducing you! We're an informal bunch usually," she said with grin.

The girl just nodded. "So I see. I am Kendra, de Vampire Slayer."

Buffy could feel Integra blinking just as hard as she was blinking physically. Her right hand clenched, as if she wanted to grab something. "Giles? How can she be the Vampire Slayer? You know, one girl, all the world and all that jazz? You know, me?!" she asked sharply.

"It appears the rules have changed. After all, you did die against the Master. If it hadn't been for Xander-" Giles started explaining.

The older Slayer could feel the shock wearing off from Integra and her mind starting to really think. It sent a shiver up Buffy's back.

'How interesting. How very, very interesting... indeed.'

'Uh oh,' Buffy thought to herself.

That was when Cordelia walked in to the room. She looked around, taking in the varied shocked and worried expression. "Now what did I miss?"

-

Kendra followed Giles back to the library, taking in the ambiance of the United States. It was quite different from the island. At least it wasn't cold. She wasn't sure she could deal with hunting demons in the snow.

"So your Watcher sent you here?" Xander asked.

"Yes, he said de threat would be rising soon. D'oh de threat is hidden and hard to see," she replied.

Giles nodded. "It may be related to the book that the vampires stole from my collection."

The new Slayer frowned. "De threat, Mr. Zabuto did say it was not evil. 'e stressed dat. But de threat could be worse than de evil rising here at de Hellmouth because of prophecy."

"There is an evil rising, but it isn't the threat he sent you here to deal with?" the watcher asked.

Willow and Xander both shared a worried look. What could be worse than a rising evil?

-

"Thanks!" Buffy called out as she waved with her left arm to the nice nurse that had wheeled her to the hospital entrance. She was whistling as she walked home.

'I think we may have succeeded at healing your arm,' Integra said, intruding on Buffy's happy mood.

'Yup!' the slayer replied. Though she had been a bit weirded out about the mental state she had to achieve to do it.

'But that mental state makes sense,' the British lady replied.

'Oh?'

'Yes. How much real training on your powers can your watcher really give you?' Integra had a smug feeling.

'They do know our powers and how they work!' Buffy replied back.

'So why do so few of the Watcher's books mention how your power's feel? And why don't they have explanations for how to access all of the powers of the Slayer?' Integra was concentrating so hard that Buffy could feel it in her own forehead. 'You do not like these feelings you have. They 'wig you out' is how you put it, I believe. What if you weren't the only slayer that didn't like them?'

'So they all repressed it? Because its creepy as all hell?'

'Why not?' she countered.

Buffy grimaced at that. She really didn't want Lovecraftian vibes in her head. So she could easily see other slayers not wanting to even talk about it. 'Okay, point,' she replied mentally as she turned onto Revello Drive.

'Buffy, after yesterday-'

'I should really be looking for more people that are trying to kill me, right,' she interrupted crankily, even as she started checking the bushes and other houses as carefully and as casually as she could. Her arm was itching in it's cast and she wanted to remove it and the sling as soon as possible. 'That was not the lady of the house, now was it?'

'No, that was a man's hand pulling that drape back. So they have your house staked out. Time to grab some weapons. I expect them to make contact quickly,' the Master of Monsters replied.

Buffy just had enough time to slip her sling off, then grab her sword and her backpack of demon hunting items before the doorbell rang. "Gee, impatient much?" she said to herself. She walked back down to the front door and set the sword behind it up against the wall.

The man that looked like traveling salesman smiled. "Good morning! I happened to be in the area and we are offering free samples of our cosmetic products! If you will give me a bit of your time, I'll show you why we have the best cosmetics!" he said smoothly.

Buffy put her best innocent expression on. "Oh, really? That sounds sooooo interesting." She stepped to the side in an unstated invitation.

The assassin walked right past her with a wide smile on his face. That smile disappeared as he felt a pinprick at the back of his neck. "What?" he blurted out.

"Okay, demon, I want to know who sent you and why you want me dead," Buffy stated, the sword held in her left hand while held up to the back of his neck.

He turned to look at her, smiling sardonically. "Well, that was unexpected. A sword. That should be ever so effective..." he drawled.

"I use what ever is needed. Swords, holy water, stakes... burning buildings. You know, whatever I need to kill demons. You know."

That got his attention, as he frowned at her words. "The Order of Taraka never fails. You are already dead."

"So that's what the signet ring meant. So, exactly how many assassin do I have to kill before you run out of members in your order?" she asked cheerfully.

"At least one!" he snarled, even as he turned and lunged at her.

'Oh, that was a nice one,' Integra noted.

The blessed sword in her off hand flashed out, decapitating him in the first sweep, pulled back and the embedded deep into his chest on the second move. The effect was not was she was wanting, as the demon exploded into a mass of bugs. "Ew!" the slayer exclaimed. She crouched low and then leaped over the demon and into the living room. "Damn it! Can't kill a swarm with a sword!"

The bugman reformed and started walking towards her. With a theatrical shriek, Buffy ran through the kitchen and out back. She was off the porch, looking frantically around when he caught up. She made some ineffectual slashes at the thing made of bugs, only knocking a few insect loose. Buffy then hit him with a massive overhand blow, chopping in half... for all the effect it had.

She dropped the sword and slipped her backpack off even as he reformed again. She jammed a bottle into the crook of her broken arm, popping the lid off of it. "I'm sorry, all out of raid," she said as she splashed the thick liquid onto the demon, then smashed it at his feet. She then took out a heavy-duty zippo lighter.

"Oh, shit!" the demon exclaimed as his bug eyes looked at the lighter and then the bottle at his feet.

"Sayanara, sucker!" Buffy said even as she threw the lit zippo at him.

'You had better grab something to keep him from grabbing you or running away," Integra said, forestalling Buffy's jubilant feelings.

"Party pooper!" she said with a pout.

'You said that out loud, too.'

'Crap. Don't want people thinking I'm nuts!' she replied mentally.

'Well, we definitely qualify as a multiple personality.'

Buffy shuddered at that.

-

Giles rang the doorbell again, starting to get worried. Kendra was standing at his side, looking around carefully. The door finally opened, showing Buffy in a terry robe. "Hey, guys!" She turned sideways and walked into the dining room.

Kendra nodded at Buffy's precaution, even at noon on a sunny day.

Giles barged right in. "Sam Zabuto did not have any other information about the threat, just that it would involve both Slayers. But Willow managed to get a picture from the Police. It was from the Order of-"

"-Taraka; that are mean, nasty assassins!" Buffy interrupted while grinning. She sat down at the table which had her sword laid out on a cloth.

Giles just blinked in astonishment. Then his eyes narrowed. "You were attacked again!"

"Yeah, another assassin tried to kill me, but a little fire and he went all to bugs! Well, he was a bug man to begin with," she quipped. "The Sunnyhell Fire Department was not too happy that I tried to remove the infestation with a bonfire."

"I really think you should leave town. At least until these assassins are dealt with," her Watcher explained. "These are remorseless killers. They will do anything to kill their target."

"De Order of Taraka date back from before de reign of King Solomon!" Kendra supplied helpfully.

"But if I leave, I'm playing to their game. I'll turn into prey." Buffy gave the Watcher a fierce glare. "And I'm not prey."

"Be it as it may, you are injured, lamed actually, and unable to effectively defend yourself. As your Watcher-" Giles started to say.

"My arm is healed," she said, looking at him steadily.

The Watcher blinked and then removed his glasses to start cleaning them. "While a Slayer heals fast, there is no way you could have healed those fractured bones so fast."

"Really?" she asked in a very straight up way.

"What did you do?" he asked in horror.

"Oh, I just did a Slayer meditation thingy! Now it just itches because I left it in the cast so that school doesn't wonder how it healed so fast," she replied with a grin.

"Slayer meditation thingy?" he echoed.

"Dat is not in de slayer's handbook!" Kendra protested.

"What handbook? There's a handbook?" she asked her watcher, who suddenly looked very nervous.

-

"Buffy! You decided to grace us with your presence!" Xander called out from one of the tables at the job fair.

"Well, you know, I have to visit my recruiters! Or Snyder might get a bit... perturbed," she replied as she held up a piece of paper with information written from the board. "Where's Willow?" Her arm was back in her sling after she left her Watcher and the other Slayer to actually go to school to get away from them. She just wouldn't mention it to the nice doctors in the Emergency Room. She was supposed to stay home today.

"Oh, she was asked for a private interview by her recruiter," the young man replied glibly.

Buffy gave him a questioning look. "I'm sure there's some story there, but I'll get it from the horse's mouth, so to speak! I'm sure Willow will manage it with one breath!"

"Probably!" Xander replied with a grin. "She hasn't passed out yet!" He noted that she started looking around, scanning the crowd.

'Do you feel it?' Integra asked.

Buffy nodded to herself. 'Yeah, but I'm not sure what I'm feeling.'

The British noble seemed to be thinking hard, going over the feelings. 'A Damned. Someone who has sold their soul for eternal life or strength. Not surprising that an ancient order of assassins would have the like within them. Can you tell who it is?'

'Well, duh! It can't be one of the kids, so it has to be one of the recruiters. And it feels like it is coming from the police recruitment table.' Her eyes flashed green for just a second.

'She is constantly looking around and seems very dangerous. She has at least one gun. And just spotted you-'

'So it is time to get close, nice and casual-like,' Buffy interrupted. She plastered a fairly vacant smile and wandered over to the table.

So the only two people not caught flatfooted when the female police officer pulled out her handgun was herself... and Buffy, who kicked the table hard into the faux policewoman while twisting sideways to avoid the spoiled shot. Screams erupted from the students even as Buffy snapped out her collapsible baton from that had been in her sling with her 'broken' arm.

"Surprise! Is it three times, your out in this game, too?" Buffy said oh so sweetly, even as she lashed out with her baton to break the assassin's arm.

The assassin almost dodged the attack, but the baton did manage to knock the gun from her hand. She then immediately turned and ran, weaving between between students while running for the door. The woman ducked, more on instinct than anything else, so Buffy's baton just smashed into the door.

"Buffy Summers! This is totally unacceptable!" Principle Snyder yelled out as he stormed across the room, the students parting for him.

She turned to him, hiding a smile. "I agree! I think I will have to talk to my mother about the care that this school is taking in allowing dangerous people in with loaded guns. I bet that wasn't even a police officer! I could have been killed!"

The little toady blinked. This is not what he was expecting. "What do you mean-"

"The police try to arrest you, not shoot you at close range! You know, read you your Miranda rights and all! If I hadn't happened to be carrying a collapsible baton because of all the gangs hopped up on PCP I could be dead!" she said, bulldozing right over his objections and questions.

"Now wait just a minute-"

"I had better talk to real police over this. Let's go call them so we can get them involved." The Slayer waited for Snyder to think about it a second before she continued. "I wonder if I should contact the newspaper? About the safety of the students and everything?" she asked innocently.

The bully of a principle blinked, then paled before starting to talk... very, very rapidly. "Let's call the police now! They really should be involved. After all, we only have the best interests of our students in mind here at Sunnydale High School!"

Smiling beatifically, Buffy just nodded. 'Thanks, Integra. He responded just like you thought he would.'

'Of course he did. He is nothing more than a toady and a bully. The right threat and he will crumble instantly.' Integra's smirk could be felt quite easily by Buffy.

-

That evening, Buffy and Kendra were patrolling, giving the night off for Willow and Xander for once. Buffy had called it bonding night, as things seemed to be very quiet. Giles had mentioned that he was researching about Du Luc. He hoped to have more later that night, when she reported in.

"So your Halloween, de vampires tried sometin'?" Kendra asked curiously. Everything that she

"Actually, they were just taking advantage of the situation that this mage set up. He got his come what may, though. Int... I guess Integra turned his magic back on him somehow. She was the woman I turned into. Because of the spell," she babbled nervously. "Some sort of Vampire Hunter. That should teach him a small lesson about dangerous pranks," Buffy said, while twirling her stake.

"Dat sounds like a good thing," the new slayer said.

"Well, he's still in the hospital in a coma," the blonde mused.

That was when four vampires jumped them from the shadows in a cemetery. Buffy had known they were there, but had held back until she'd seen Kendra tense.

"Looks like we have two girls here, boys!" the lead vampire. It looked like he'd been a football jock.

Buffy tilted her head. "Is that all you can really see? Just two girls?"

That stopped them for a second. The big vampire inhaled suddenly. "A slayer!"

"No," she replied simply.

That confused them. The leader especially, as he was sure he scented a slayer. "Smells like slayer."

"Like, ew. Actually, it's not 'A slayer' dumb ass. It's the slayers," Buffy exclaimed with a grin.

"Must be using a bit too much bleach, girl. There's only one slayer. When one dies the next one shows up. Irritating that she won't just stay dead." The big vampire grinned, reminding Buffy of Lucas, the main servant of The Master.

Kendra gave her a strange look, even as she held her stake up in readiness.

Buffy ignored the comment about her hair as she leaned forward. "Do you want to hear a secret?"

"Sure, crazy blonde-chica," a smaller vampire said, snickering.

"I died for a few minutes. Long enough for another slayer to be called." Buffy grin was positively feral.

You could actually see the concept actually filter through them as the two slayers watched. "Ah, shit," a third vampire said finally.

Both slayers charged, starting a melee. The first vampire died instantly, as Kendra managed to fake him out and then staked him. Two vampires had double-teamed Buffy, thinking her the more dangerous one. She was forced to block their punches, giving ground. The slayer from Jamaica was smirking right up until the final vampire snuck a punch past her guard.

Buffy almost snarled in frustration as the two vampires worked in tandem to avoid her stake. Her next punch knocked the larger vampire's fangs loose and set him tumbling, leaving his lone companion to face her wrath on his own for just a few seconds too long. As he dusted, she looked over at the other vampire. "That wasn't very fair, now was it?"

He scrabbled to his feet, turned and made it two steps before Buffy's stake took him in the back, exploding him into dust. Kendra was just finishing up the last one at the same time.

"Well, that was really nice. That would have been a lot harder by myself," Buffy continued conversationally. "We made good partners." She led the other slayer back to her house. Hmm. They had some rocky-road in the freezer, she thought to herself.

Kendra nodded. It had been nice to have someone that was almost her equal.

"So what would you say to making sure that is always the case?" the blonde asked blandly.

Kendra flushed, a look of mortification. "My Watcher would never allow me to stay here! De slayer- One is enough for de Hellmouth."

"Whoa! Time out! What's with the panic attack?" Buffy asked, looking at the other girl in consternation.

"I am not allowed to speak to boys! And not with girls like dat!" she blurted out.

'I believe she thinks you just propositioned her,' Integra said to Buffy mentally with a chuckle.

Buffy had to groan. "I'm not into girls like that. I have a boyfriend!"

"D'en wot did you mean?" Kendra asked, truly puzzled.

"I was more thinking about activating all the other pre-slayers in the world."

"You are da threat that Mr. Zabuto sent me here to stop!" the dark-haired girl exclaimed in sudden shock as she took a step back.

"Why do you say that? Buffy asked curiously, trying to be as non-threatening as possible.

"The threat dat is worse than a rising evil! But is not, well, evil!"

"Yup! Not evil here! Heck, not even trying to be threatening to anything except evil." Buffy walked into her backyard, keeping an eye for the assassin. She opened the door and walked in, heading to the kitchen. It took Kendra a minute, but she finally followed her in. Buffy turned from the freezer! "Good for what ails you! I'm always either hungry or on... edge after patrol. So I try to keep ice cream in stock!"

"You have been thinking about dis. Calling all de other slayers." Kendra took a bowl of ice cream, trying to hide her smile at the treat.

'Technically, I've been the one doing the thinking about it. You were just going to ignore it,' Integra sniped mentally.

'Not now!' "Sort of. I mean, we know that two slayer can exist at once. We are both living proof of that." Buffy waited until Kendra finally nodded. "I don't think the watchers know as much about the slayer as they think."

"They have t'ousands of years of knowledge of de slayer!" she protested.

"But don't know how creepy some of the powers and feelings of the slayer really are. They know what the previous slayers told then. And have you told Mr. Zabuto how creepy feeling vampires is?"

Kendra looked away, but finally shook her head. "De feelings, dey are evil. Wrong."

"I've been reading old watcher journals. None of them mention things like that. Just the things that they can observe."

"True, dat. But it does not explain why you want to call all of de potentials," Kendra said sternly, looking Buffy across the kitchen table.

"A single slayer can protect a good sized city or a Hellmouth, though not in safety. But I can only be in one place at a time. How are we supposed to protect the other five billion people in the world?" Buffy watched her closely. Kendra was really thinking about it now. "The answer is... we can't do it alone. There are too many people... and far too many monsters. I was busy every night in Los Angeles. What is New York like? London? Paris? Moscow?"

"A slayer is sent to de worst places, where demons plan to destroy de world!" she protested weakly.

"And damn the vampires feeding on humans everywhere? Ignoring them?" Buffy shouted angrily as she slammed the flat of her hand down on the table.

"Yes. But what can we do about it? We are only two, after all!"

"We activate the others... Potentials, you called them? Enough Slayers to protect a lot more people."

"How?" Kendra asked harshly. "I do not want to die and be brought back."

Buffy leaned back in her kitchen chair, ignoring her melting ice cream. "I found a spell that can put you into a death-trance. So realistic that even magic can't tell you aren't dead."

"Magic? Dat is dangerous!"

"This spell is a protection spell. All white goodness. This was a spell used by vampire hunters, to trick their prey into thinking that they were actually killed so that they would lower their guard. It does not call upon evil demons or gods," the older slayer explained.

"And if it does not work? Den what?" she challenged back.

"Then I'm back to being research girl," Buffy said with a grimace. "But I don't think it would hurt to try. And it could really help."

Kendra was torn. It all seemed so possible. So tantalizing. Would she be able to have a real life like Buffy? "Why did you no cast the spell on me already?"

"Because it has to our choice. We are the slayers now. We decide. I'm not going to force you to do it."

Kendra sat there for a long minute, taking small scoops of the rare treat. "I'm not sure," she finally said.

"Why not? How is it a bad thing to have more slayers?" Buffy countered right back, challenging.

The other slayer started thinking hard about that. She was really having a hard time coming up with a bad reason... other than the Watchers would not want to change. And that seemed pretty hollow. "How long does it take?"

"Not long at all," she replied.

-

Buffy had a happy smile as she drifted off to sleep. They had no idea if the magical trance had actually worked, but if it had not, they were going to look into other spells.

'Good night, slayer,' Integra said softly.

Buffy opened her eyes to see a desolate landscape of sand, the sky a jarring blackness. A filmy, shadow reflection of Buffy stood behind her, as if it were almost not there.

"So who are you supposed to be?" a sarcastic voice asked from behind her.

The blonde girl turned to see a dark-haired girl wearing a short belly T-shirt and tight leather pants. "Buffy. The Vampire Slayer," she replied.

"Really? My Watcher hasn't mentioned you. Just keeps telling me train." She grimaced, but smirked at the other girl. "I didn't think Slayers were supposed to be the ditzy cheerleader sort though."

Buffy glared. Getting her temper under control, she finally responded. "Well, I was called before the Watchers found me. So, like normal-life girl before super-life! So what is your name?"

Controlling a sneer, the girl replied, "Faith. So did you just kick the bucket and now you are get to explain the one girl in whole world bit?"

Faith? Oh, that was her name. "Actually... sorta. I didn't know Slayers could communicate in our dreams. But you know that 'one girl' thing? We decided to change it." Buffy almost snickered at the other girl's surprise.

"You decided to change it?" she asked in shock.

"Well, yeah. I died, but got brought back by CPR by a friend. And that called Kendra. The Jamaican Slayer! So now there were two. And if we could have two..." she drawled out.

"You could possibly have three. Damn sweet!" Faith responded with a grin.

"Why stop at three?" she asked with a cocky grin. That was when she was suddenly tackled to the ground, hard, by a dark figure.

Buffy found herself fighting for her life against a black woman in savage clothes who was trying to choke the life out of her. "Alone!" the woman screamed. "Always alone!" Buffy rabbit punched the savage woman, but was unable to break her grip.

"Get off of her!" Faith yelled, tackling the newcomer off of Buffy, who started rubbing her throat and coughing once she was free.

"Alone!" the savage repeated, then backhanded Faith viciously. She leaped after Faith, grabbed her head in a lock. With a terrifying twist, she snapped Faith's neck. "Always alone!" she snarled, turned back to Buffy.

That was when the shadowy figure stepped between them. "No. Not always alone." She drew a shadowy-silver saber, even as she seemed to become slightly more solid, leaving a young woman in a business suit. Her blonde hair was longer than Buffy's and wire-rimmed glasses adorned her nose. Her gloved hand gripped the saber with long familiarity.

"Integra?" Buffy asked as she scrambled to her feet.

Sir Integra Hellsing nodded without taking her eyes of the savage woman. "Yes." She grinned around her cigarette, her eyes narrowed in concentration.

"Intruder! Enemy! Not-Slayer!" the primitive woman snarled.

"Who are you?" Buffy asked falling into a combat crouch, fists clenched and ready.

"First Slayer," the savage replied finally, grudgingly.

"And why must Buffy be alone, always?" Integra asked harshly.

"Slayer always alone!" she snarled out, exuding anger. She started to circle Integra, trying to get to Buffy still.

"That is a statement of the past. That is not valid." Integra was carefully turning to follow her. "Or are you upset that you had to be alone?"

The First Slayer grimaced at that, as if it had been a skillfully thrown barb. "Alone!" she snarled again.

Buffy relaxed slightly, standing taller. "You don't have to be alone anymore."

She turned to Buffy abruptly. "What?" the savage snapped out.

"You do not have to be alone anymore," she repeated carefully.

"How?" she finally asked, sounding very unsure suddenly.

"We can be here for you," Integra said, following Buffy's lead.

The First Slayer slowly approached the blonde slayer, crouched low as she hunkered forward. Buffy knelt down while holding out her hand. The savage woman finally grasped the hand tightly. She looked at the pale hand in her grip, like she expected it to disappear.

With a swirl of memories, Buffy awoke with a start.

'Bugger all. This is getting crowded!' Integra snapped.

'Soft!' the First Slayer exclaimed at the feeling of the cotton sheets.

With a groan, Buffy flopped back into bed. "Oh, great."

Storm winds

"Look, mate, I really need some progress here or I'm going to have to kill you and go find someone else. Then I'll kill him too. Why can't you just give me the translated works." Spike's face was inches away from Arthur McNamara.

"You are just going to kill me anyways," he tried to reply bravely. It had been two days of living hell, trying to work with this insane code from an old book.

"I promise you that you will walk out of this, if you give me the bleeding translation." Spike turned to look over at Drusila who was staring raptly at one of the computers, reading the words like they were of vital importance, rather than claptrap pronouncements from some hokey website.

Two other vampires were drinking blood from bottles they'd bought at a demon bar on the north side of L.A. Arthur gulped as he saw them drink the thick red liquid with great relish, enjoying every drop and discussing what blood type it was. "You promise?"

"Of course!" Spike smiled brightly, Drusila followed his lead and smile dreamily too. "This is all for my little Drusilla."

"I think this program will do it. It'll require manual feedback-"

"What's that mean?" Spike asked worriedly.

"It means you look at the screen as it's working and if it looks correct, you hit this print/save button to print it out and save the Seed Designation," the programmer continued. "I had to write this myself. The cypher is primitive, but fairly unique, requiring a fairly brute force method of decoding. If you had anything of his that had been decoded, this would have been child's play."

The master vampire looked over the screen. Unlike many vampires, Spike was not adverse to learning and using technology. Camcorders for watching slayers fight and then the television and VCR to figure out weaknesses in her skills. He tapped on the key and clicked a few things with the mouse, seeing it start to try to decode the scanned in passages. "Just great!" he said with another smile.

He stood up and walked over to Arthur, who shrunk back.

"This is going to work, one hundred percent?"

Arthur nodded mutely. Spike's game face suddenly appeared, even as he grabbed the programmer and clamped down on his neck with his fangs. After a few minutes, the man was dead, fed his blood to rise again. The blond vampire smirked, even as the demon within him retreated from the surface of his face. "Guess you get to walk out of here... as my newest minion. Bill? Ted? Head back to Sunnydale and figure out a way to get some electricity to the crypt. I think I'm finding I like computers. So let's adopt Arthur's,hmm?"

"Oh, Spike! How deliciously evil! Mortals always forget that part, don't they?" Drusilla giggled and kept giggling, until Spike silenced her with a kiss.

-

Buffy looked over at Giles, frowning but nodding. "So the book that Spike and his gang stole dealt with healing a wounded vampire?"

The watcher nodded. "It looks like his timing is a bit off. It had to happen last night this month. And it would have required the vampire's sire."

Buffy thought that over. "And that would be Angel."

"Angel?" Giles responded questioningly.

"Who's dis Angel?" Kendra asked from across the table where she was skimming through the books that Giles had uncovered the information.

Buffy sort of slouched in her seat. "He's a vampire... with a soul. He's a good guy. And he's my boyfriend," she finished very quickly.

"Dat one needs to be in the handbook. No vampire boyfriends," the other slayer said in shock.

"Well, that handbook needs some updating," she replied grumpily. "I'll check in on Angel tonight. Now it's time for school." She had that shop project that she was still working on, though the teacher really wasn't sure that an over-sized sword made of industrial spring steel was really the best of projects to be doing this early.

Integra on the other hand thought that a foot-wide blade that was very strong and only able to be carried by a slayer was a perfectly fine project. Adding silver etchings with magical bindings andwardings versus vampires would have to be done later, of course. And they were only just starting anyways.

Giles nodded. "Kendra will be catching a flight later today back to Mr. Zabuto."

"Oh, really? Well, Kendra, good luck! And she's actually riding inside the plane this time, right?"

-

"So you'll think about it?" Buffy asked, her hands loosely wrapped around Angel's waist.

"As long as you keep an eye out for those Tarakan assassins. Though I've heard a rumor that they are considering dropping you as a target," the vampire with a soul replied. "But do you really think I need to carry a tracking device?"

"Spike wants to use you in some crazy ritual that will fix Drusilla and kill you. I don't think it's over reacting to make sure that I can find you if you disappear. And letting you activate it if you get in trouble? That's giving you control of calling for help." She pouted theatrically. She didn't want him to disappear for a while.

'Vampire! Kill!' the First Slayer raged again.

'She isn't going to talk to you right now. We'll discuss this after Angel leaves,' Integra explained... again. 'I do not like it either.'

'Vampire! Kill!' the First Slayer raged. Buffy just groaned mentally.

"Well, I need to meet up with Willow and Xander. We are going to be doing a quick patrol. Be safe, okay?" Buffy said while hugging him.

It didn't take her long to find them and head out for the early evening. Everything was pretty quiet, though according to Angel, Spike and his gang were back from L.A. Buffy was sporting a low grade headache from the First Slayers' ranting about Angel, so she was really looking forward to dinner.

She opened the door and called out, "Mom! I'm home!"

The heavy cha-thunking noise from the kitchen jolted her into moving, leaving Xander and Willow at the door. "Mom? You all right?" she called out as she moved in there. So she was quite surprised that it was her mother and this new guy. Joyce looked quite flushed and surprised.

"Oh, Buffy! This is Ted. I invited him over and he said he just had to make this cassarole. So he's staying for supper!" she chatted out quickly while starting to move around and gather plates. "Did you want to stay for dinner you two?" she said to Buffy's friends.

"Sure, Mrs. Summers!" Xander replied glibly. That sure smelled good.

"Well, I don't know," Willow said. "I really should be going home."

"Hey, Wills, aren't your parents out of town?" Xander asked.

"Well, yes. But I've got lots of food at home." Lots of frozen dinners, she had to think to herself. "I don't want to impose!"

"Nonsense! You just have to try my new dish!" Ted said enthusiastically.

'Not human!' snarled the First Slayer suddenly, almost hissing in Buffy's mindscape.

'What?' Integra exclaimed.

Buffy's head whipped around, to stare at Ted suddenly. Deep within her eyes, they flashed green. Her expanded sense could taste her mother, Xander and Willow quite easily. There were taints to the kids auras, but Joyce's was untouched and untainted.

There was nothing there from Ted.

Her heart was thudding in her heart, a drum beating a merciless symphony of danger. Keeping as calm as she could, he turned back to Willow and Xander. "Hey guys? I just remembered something that the librarian told me. So I've got to get some of his tools of the trade upstairs, okay?"

Willow just looked confused, but Xander nodded immediately. "Are you going to need our help on that project?" he replied.

"Just need you to stay here with my mom for a moment!" Buffy replied, sticking a sickly sweet smile on her face that didn't touch her soul.

She headed upstairs, acting as casually as possible. 'This could be incredibly dangerous,' the Master of Monsters thought slowly.

'Why? Destroy it!' the First Slayer demanded.

'I'm planning on it, but if it can block our ability to sense supernaturals...' the Reborn Slayer drawled back. She opened her trunk and grabbed one of the swords that Giles had given her, then a new stake. Daggers, holy water and even a Molotov cocktail were prepared.

'...then it could have powerful magics to use against us. And we need to get your mother away from it, whatever it is.'

Buffy walked back down the stairs to the living room, listening to her friends chat with Ted and her mother. She looked around, noting an ugly lamp. With much theatrics, she knocked over the lamp. "OOOPS!" she called out after it shattered on the floor. She was already snaking the long way around to come into the kitchen from the hallway entrance as quietly as possible.

"Buffy? Are you all right?" Joyce asked, even as she entered the living room with Xander and Willow.

Ted was still at the counter, working on his culinary masterpiece. So he was quite surprised when Buffy grabbed him, pulled him to the back door that she opened and threw him out into the back yard in a tumble. She closed the door behind her, even as she unsheathed her sword.

"So, what type of demon are you?" she asked conversationally.

"Demons don't exist. That is irrational!" the older man exclaimed. His voice had picked up a strange buzz. "You need to be punished for attacking me!" He lunged at her, but she sidestepped and slashed down with her sword, breaking his right hand off.
That didn't seem to phase him overly much as his other hand smacked into her face and sent her flying. Her sword skittered across the porch. Buffy shook her head even as her eyes finally noting the sparks of electricity from his arm.

"Oh, you have got to be kidding me. I'm about to be killed by Mister Roboto?" Buffy complained, even as she rolled backwards and flipped to her feet. She pulled out two dagger and tossed them as hard as she could under-handed into Ted.

That was when Ted was hit by a spray of water from the hose attached to the house. With a snap-pop, Ted shorted right out, keeling over stiffly.

"You could have let us know, Buffy!" Xander said, waggling his eyebrows theatrically even as he turned off the water-hose.

"I had no idea that anyone could make such lifelike robots!" Willow asked. She was just itching to try and take it apart.

"So how did you know that would work and wouldn't just make you a target?" the slayer asked as she pulled out her daggers.

"I didn't. I figured at the worst I would be a distraction. Let you maneuver and then take him out. I figured there was a small chance I could short him out after you broke off his arm.Heh. Just like those old radio we used in 'Nam. One little break and they go all to pieces," Xander replied with a grin.

"Nam? You mean Vietnam? What the hell, Xander?" Buffy asked, giving him a startled look.

"Oh, yeah. Soldier boy left some memories in my head. That's all."

"Ha! That means you know what PT is all about and you have a young body to do it with!" Buffy frowned for a second. "So if Xander and I kept some of our memories, what about you, Willow?"

"But I was just turned into a ghost of myself?" she replied distractedly. She was wondering what operating system it used.

'A mystical entity with links to the afterlife. Buffy, this could be horribly important!' Integra suddenly snapped out. 'It could explain how Willow's magic has been improving so dramatically, as she could be subconsciously pulling from that connection and tainting herself!'

Buffy blinked in shock. "Willow! Ghosts are mystical, undead apparitions connected to the spirit world. If you are connected to that, what could it do to your magic?"

That distracted Willow from her thoughts about the robot. "I don't know? But I like doing magic."

"Not saying you don't do magic, Wills, but that we look this up. I bet you aren't the first person to have some sort of weird link to that spirit world. But I'd like to know if we have to do something to keep you from hurting yourself!"

"Wow, Buffy! That was almost nerdy. I could almost say that you qualify for geekdom at this rate!" the boy exclaimed with a huge shit eating grin.

"Watch it boy, or I'll be having you do PT with me!"

"Buffy? Would you mind explaining what is going on?" Joyce finally said from the doorway. She was holding Buffy's sword.

"Do you mind if I call Giles? He's always better with the explanation," she said, even as her shoulders drooped. She was really hoping that her mother wouldn't see this or would just put it as another Sunnydale oddity.

-

"So Buffy is a mystically chosen warrior to protect the world against supernaturals?" Joyce asked after Giles had arrived and gone through his explanation. They were all sitting at the dinner table as they ate.

"Essentially. This is really a good casserole," Giles said.

"You can thank the robot Ted for it, he did most of the work. Which still freaks me out that he was a robot pretending to be a guy dating my mom," Buffy said. Ted had been dragged down into the basement to Buffy's work area before Giles had arrived.

Both Giles and Willow were quite intrigued by what they saw down there. But for very different reasons.

"Like vampires?"

"Yes. Mom, these things really exist," Buffy said, not looking up from her plate.

"Magic does not exist!" she said explosively.

"Yes, it does. It's spooky, creepy and dangerous as hell!"

'Buffy! Don't!' Integra called out.

Buffy was beyond listening as she snapped out some words that sounded very like Latin and suddenly the candle flames started dancing in a ring between the three candles on the table. "That is magic. That is the real, hidden world. A world where vampires, demons and monsters exist. And where I have to fight them because of some stupid mumbo jumbo from thousands of years in the past," she screamed out.

"Buffy! You must not do any more magic! You are tampering with forces that you do not understand!" Giles shouted as he slammed his palm down on the table as he stood up.

"That's because you won't teach me. Or tell me anything other than how to fight. Until I die." Her face was twisted in anger. "I am not a weapon." The she shattered the table like it was made of balsa wood. "And I don't intend to die any time soon." She stormed up to her room and slammed the door.

"What is going on with my daughter?" Joyce asked as she got control of herself

-

Joyce knocked on Buffy's door later. "Buffy, that was Giles on the phone. He wants to you to call him. He said something about a slayer in Boston and an ancient master vampire."

The door flew open, showing a bedraggled Buffy that looked like she'd been crying. "What?"

"I'm more worried about you though. Are you going to be all right?" her mother asked.

"I don't know any more. I don't want to die, but Slayers... thats what they do eventually. And I'm tired of being scared of dying again."

Again? Joyce's throat constricted in her throat. "You shouldn't have to bear this on your own."

"I'm working on that part, but it's taking some work," Buffy replied with a wan smile. "Let me call Giles though. It sounds important if he's talking about ancient master vampires."

TBC

Back