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X-MEN: (The Movie, BtVS Style)

By: Joshua The Evil Guy
Rating: PG-1

Prologue:

 

As long as there have been Vampires, there has been the Slayer.
One girl in all the world, a Chosen One.
One born with the strength and skill to hunt the vampires,
And the demons, and the forces of darkness.
She is the Slayer

" Mutation. It is the key to our evolution.
It has enabled us to evolve from single celled organisms to the dominant species on the planet.
This process is slow, normally taking thousands and thousands of years.
But every few hundred millennia, evolution leaps forward. "

Chapter 1:

Los Angeles, California

A young blond girl walked into the club. Everybody that saw her knew she was too young to really be let in here. She only stood about five feet tall, even with the three inch black heels she wore. She walked confidently to the bar and sat down at the available stool like a queen claiming her thrown. Her golden blond hair fell in locks about her shoulders, which were bare as she removed the leather jacket and sat it on the stool beside her.

She turned around to scan the room, crossing her legs as she did, causing the tight black skirt to raise up even higher than it was, also revealing the tops of her gartered stockings. She leaned back against the bar, putting most of her weight on the elbows, forcing her most prominent feature forward some, despite them already half-hanging out of the spaghetti strap black tank top. One thing that set her apart from half the scum and all the whores in the room, though, was the silver cross, wrapped around her neck and dangling right over her heart.

She seemed to be looking for somebody. She sat there for an entire hour, not moving anything but her eyes. Finally, a new group came into the club. Like her, they seemed different, out of place in the smoke filled room. For one, they all wore suits, like the Italian mafia, while everybody else was wearing "street clothes". The blond girl’s eyes locked onto them and followed them like a hawk’s as they themselves scanned the interior of the building, slowly making their way to one of the booths on the far side of the dance floor.

Once they had disappeared behind the crowd of dancers, gyrators, gropers and disco nightmares, the girl shot up off her seat, grabbing the jacket and swinging it back onto her shoulders. She cut as direct a path as she could through the dance floor straight to the booth that she knew the group of five men were heading towards. She didn’t exactly make it…untouched.

"Hey babe, where ya headed? Why don’t you stick around and let ole gypsy mon make everythin’ all right!" some jerk off shouted as he grabbed her waist and attempted to force her into him. Attempted.

Before she said anything, or him another word, she grabbed his arm, twisted it 180° and then flipped the guy to the floor where he was repeatedly trampled by his friends before they realized what they were doing. The girl went on as though nothing at all had happened.

By the time that she got past the dance area, and got in sight of the booth where the men were sitting, two briefcases were on the table, and a sixth had joined them. This sixth "man" was wearing street clothes, jeans, a T, a plaid shirt over that, and a hat. She also had on sunglasses. Yes, she. It was another blond woman, but unlike the one in heels, she looked more than old enough to be let in here. She was also nodding as one of the older men next to her showed off a small plastic bag filled to the seams with some white powder of some sort.

Before anything else could happen, the first blond came right up, and sat down on one of the end guys’ lap. "Hey! What the…?" he started.

"Hey cutie!" the blond girl said happily to the man she was sitting on. She flashed him her "innocent" smile, a look that she knew that no pervert in the world could ever resist. "Wanna have some fun?" she continued seductively. To emphasize her point the girl leaned against him and blew slightly into his right ear and nipped at it slightly.

"Roberto!" the oldest at the table shouted at the man she was sitting on.

"Y-y-yea-yeah b-b…b-b-boss-ss-sssss?" the man hissed, his eyes closed in pleasure.

The second blond in street clothes, stared in amazement and disbelief at the one on the man’s lap. "ROBERTO!!" the old man screamed this time. This time Roberto shot up at the notice of his boss, unfortunately, knocking the blond off of his lap in the process, as well as hitting his knee. Fortunately, for her, maybe, she fell into the booth, onto the next guy’s lap. That was when she saw what both cases were full of. One was full of packages of the white stuff the old guy had been showing off to the blond. The second was filled with wrapped bills, all of them marked 100 or higher.

"Wow! Cool stuff! I’ve never seen this much dough in my life!" the shorter blond exclaimed, jumping up and down on her seat, fully aware of what it was doing to her seat. "Are we haven’ a party?" she continued, playing the innocent seductress all the way. The older blond in the hat wasn’t about to let her get that far.

"Buffy. Get out of here now." The blonde ordered.

The older man at the table, the one that seemed to be the leader of this out of place group of, "individuals," looked at the woman beside him in somewhat mock outrage. "You know this girl?" he asked in a heavy Italian accent. The woman grimaced and nodded her head slightly.

"Sadly, yes, I do." That was all she said, and it was obvious to most that she wasn’t going to offer any more information. "How exactly, might I ask," the leader questioned, "do you know her, and what, exactly, is she doing here?"

If not for the shades, then even this man, who had withstood some of the worst intimidating stares from the worst assassins on the market would have wilted in fear at the look she gave him. Fortunate for him. However, she kept her stare on the girl she had called Buffy, who at her name had stopped bouncing, and started rubbing. The man she was sitting on had his head laid back in absolute ecstasy, and had ruined that pair of pants for life.

When Buffy saw the elder blond staring at her, her fake smile of cute enjoyment evaporated and she froze on the spot. Grimacing a little herself, she straightened and put on her best, "pouty girl" face and whined, "Geez Kate, you never let me have any fun. Besides, this does look like it might be a great party," the smile returning a little, staying very shortly.

"Buffy. Get out of here." Kate repeated. Her voice laced with ice that would freeze a snowman.

Buffy just grinned and leaned forward a little, challenging the older woman. "You gonna make me?" At this, even the dense drug lord, whose identity would have been known to the entire club by now, could sense the thick tension hanging in the air between the two females.

"Ladies, ladies," he tried easing the situation before it developed. "I’m sure that we can come to some kind of compromise. I trust it, Ms. Kate…"

"I told you. Just. Kate." Kate interrupted, giving him a deadly stare.

He began to sweat a little, seeing that his new business partner was not as naïve or helpless as he had originally made her out to be. Gulping under his breath, he continued. "Uh, um…yes. Kate. I trust it that everything is to your satisfaction?"

Giving Buffy a final glare, Kate turned to the drug lord and asked roughly, "Is this all?"

His sweat starting to show through a little, he pulled his collar out some and nodded to the man on the opposite end of Buffy. The man nodded in return, took out a cell phone, hit a speed dial key, and said five Italian words that neither blond knew. Then he hung up and nodded back to his boss. The drug lord smiled and turned back to Kate.

"The rest of the shipment is being delivered at the arranged pickup site as we speak. All of it is of this quality, or better. Now. How about your part of the deal?" he asked, turning up a little of his own heat on her. She nodded, and turned in her seat.

As she did this, for less than half a second, even past the sunglasses, her eyes locked with Buffy’s. It lasted not even a whole second, but a message seemed to be conveyed in that brief space of time. Turning the rest of the way in her seat, Kate reached behind the seat of the man on her left. Buffy, whose smile had been deflated, suddenly rose with renewed vitality as a wicked scheming grin overtook her mouth. With everyone’s eyes on Kate, nobody even noticed when the small blond girl silently reached out from her position, across the table, and bringing both cases closer to her. In the next second, while Kate pretended to be searching for something very hard to reach, Buffy did the unexpected.

Moving like lightning, she closed the cases, elbowed the faces of the guy she was sitting on and the guy on her left, and kicked the table onto the guys opposite her. Then she was up, only to have Roberto try and get in her way at the sudden move. Mistake.

Moving faster than the human eye could possibly follow, Buffy’s legs shot out, hitting Roberto successively on both knee caps, in the groin, twice, in the gut, and on the nose with a knee as he fell over in pain, all in all, effectively knocking him cold. Then she bolted as fast as she could for the back exit. The drug lord, once the confusion had more or less died down began shouting as loud as he could, in Italian, "<After her you fools! After her! After her! She has our money, and our dope! After HER!!>"

Getting, begrudgingly, to their feet, the henchmen slowly picked their way after the blond, leaving Kate and the drug lord, as well as one of his body guards behind. As soon as they were all out the door, Kate, having finally found what she was looking for, stood up, in front of the drug lord, where the table had once stood. "I’m sorry Mister Lamborghini, she’s usually a little better at things like this," Kate apologized for the younger blond.

"Better? What do you mean, ‘better’? How could she be better at stealing other people’s money and merchandise?" the Italian cartel raged.

"Oh, I don’t mean at stealing," Kate admonished.

"Then what do you mean?" the thickheaded Italian looked at her confused.

"At providing distractions."

He was silent a moment as he used his rather small brain to fully think out what she had just admitted. He was given the answer a moment later when she pulled out a .45 mm handgun and pointed it at his chest and announced in a loud, clear, unmistakable voice, "You are under arrest for the possession, shipment, and distribution of illegal substances, as well as illegal laundering of money. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say, can and will be used against you in a court of law."

"Oh, I don’t believe this," the deflated Italian muttered in disbelief.

"Believe it scumbag. You have the right to an attorney. If you refuse that right, then…" she paused in her litany as she heard the click of a gun hammer very close to her ear. She looked to her left, and using her right hand, her left still holding the gun on the drug cartel, she removed the large frame sunglasses, revealing light blue eyes, which each held a sharp edge to them. What she saw was the bodyguard holding his own gun a mere three inches from her head, with his dark Italian eyes just as hard as her own.

"Drop the gun." he ordered.

"Why don’t you drop yours? Or maybe we should find out who the fastest gun in the west of L.A. really is?" Kate deadpanned. She quirked an eyebrow when he just moved his gun a little bit closer. "You know it’s a federal offense to threaten a police officer." she informed him.

He snickered at her fact and in a loud sarcastic voice asked, "And in what country might that be?"

He was frozen stiff at the sound of at least thirty, maybe fifty other gun hammers being cocked into ready. A quick look around for the three of them revealed that while the music and lights still flashed, about forty men and women around the club were pointing a gun, rifle, or pistol at the three of them, or more specifically, at the bodyguard pointing his gun at Kate.

"This one," a neutral voice answered the criminal as the owner pushed his own gun into the offending man’s neck. Slowly, with as much caution as sense, the Italian raised his hands, taking his finger off the trigger and unloading the gun. A black man’s hand shot around and grabbed the gun and he threw it to the ground, shortly followed by the owner. Twisting the man’s arms around to behind his back, Lieutenant Charles Gunn cuffed him in what he hoped would be a very painful fashion.

"You OK, Captain?" he asked, sticking his knee into the small of the guy’s back.

"I’m fine, Gunn," she allayed, all of her attention back on the fish in front of her. "I’ve got this piece of scum, send somebody after Buffy. I’m sure she can take care of herself, but we need some of those guy’s in custody. You have the right to an attorney. If you refuse that right…" Captain Kate Summers of the LAPD continued where she had left off. She would do this by the book. This scum would not be getting off on any technicality. He was going down and he was going down hard. She would make sure of that.

* * *

Meanwhile, in the alley behind the club, where the henchmen had chased Buffy to a dead end, they thought they had her. Suddenly, as she reached the end of the street, she stopped and turned to face them, still holding the briefcases and not even breathing hard. The three henches, as she thought of them, however were looking like they were about to collapse or hyperventilate or something.

"Oh no, whatever am I going to do?" she mocked them in an innocent "worried" voice. They were either to tired, or too stupid to actually catch the mocking tone as the leader among them shouted, in a breathless accent, "Stop…stop right there little girl. We don’t want to hurt you, just give us back the cases, and everything will be fine. Don’t make us hurt you," he warned.

At the warning, Buffy only smiled brightly, if not somewhat darkly. Then she just shrugged, and held up the two silver cases. She waved with her fingers through the handles, and challenged, "You want’em," a pause for effect, "come and get’em."

For just a moment, you couldn’t tell the difference between the three drug lord’s henchmen, and three angry ravenous wolves. They threw themselves headlong at the young girl, at first trying to catch her by surprise and making her run in fear. When she didn’t do that, they decided to just tackle her. Or they at least tried to.

Expecting the obvious dust for brains maneuver, Buffy countered by rushing forward a little herself, meeting them halfway, and then throwing the cases forward, catching them off-guard as they connected solidly with the guts of the ones on the sides, before coming together in a clapping move on the middle guy’s head. All three fell back in grunting pain. Buffy just stepped back to where she had stopped, still holding the two brief cases.

"Oh please! Tell me that you at least try harder," Buffy teased, waiting for them to try something more. She didn’t have long to wait as they all pulled out guns, one an Uzi, from seemingly nowhere. Raising an eyebrow, indicating her impressed state, Buffy dropped the cases with a slight shrug and put her hands, more or less, up. That was when she noticed out of the corner of her eye, a young boy, not too older than her, huddling in a corner behind some trash cans. ‘Great, an innocent bystander. So much for the added fun of dodging bullets. Now I have to take’em all out without letting them get off a single shot. This may be harder than I thought it would be. Man I wish Faith were here.

Seeing her drop the cases and basically surrender, the lead man, Roberto no less, inched slowly forward, trying to get the cases. When he was just a couple feet from Buffy, he suddenly grinned as he saw how the run had affected her choice of clothing for the evening. Looking down at her top and skirt, Buffy saw what he was looking at and immediately fixed it, and then fixing "Roberto" with an icy stare that only made the perverted hench grin wider. "Pervert," Buffy accused just before grabbing his gun holding wrist, wrenching it in a way that no human hand should ever be in, and then bringing her high-heeled foot up to connect with his unprotected chest.

He flew back what must have been nearly ten feet, over the heads of the other two henches. Surprised, the two just stared in shock at their comrade lying in pain several feet behind them. Turning back, they barely had time to register Buffy rushing them and then jumping, double-drop kicking them, knocking away their weapons. Buffy was the first back to her feet, just in time to duck under a sneak attack from one of the morons who tries to swing a lead pipe through her head.

Getting to his feet, he swung the pipe at her like an amateur with a sword, only to have her duck and dodge every one of his attacks. Finally, seeing the other two get up some, Buffy decided to end it. On his last swing, Buffy caught the pipe in her hand, and tore it out of the larger man’s grasp faster than he could realize what had happened. Then twirling it like a sword master on her wrist, Buffy knocked the guy across the side of his head, on both sides of his ribs, and then knocking him to the ground by hitting him across the back of his knees. She then made sure that he wouldn’t be getting up for a while by knocking him cold across his face.

Noticing that the other two were up and staring at her, Buffy swung the pipe once more around her wrist and then slowly turned to look at them. Any normal, sane man would run away screaming for his life. These were idiotic, Italian henchmen that work for a guy that started running drugs because he was bored and he had the money to do it. That and he really was too stupid to know that what he sold was illegal in most countries of the world. These two decided to tackle her again, not entirely remembering what happened the last time.

Seeing them run at her, Buffy couldn’t help but smile. Then taking an unexpected move, she just stood there and let them tackle her, knocking the pipe out of her hands. For a moment or two they were all tangled, the men trying to hit her or something, just ended up hitting each other. Finally, Buffy managed to extricate herself from the henches, and rolled to the end of the alley, noting that the boy had come a little out of hiding, but still hidden enough that the other two couldn’t see him.

After maybe a minute of hitting each other, the two Italians finally made their way to their feet and faced Buffy a third time. This time they tried the one on one approach. The bigger one, obviously, approached her and swung when he got within distance of her. He might have been over six feet tall, and his shoulders had to have been at least four feet wide. His arms were nearly as long as her legs, if not longer, she noticed as she ducked underneath them. She also saw that his abs were built like a stonewall. Tucking in a breath, Buffy focused all of her strength into her first punch as she solidly rammed her right fist into his gut.

She was just as surprised as the men were, as her fist drove into him like it was jelly, and she swore that she could actually feel his spine with one of her knuckles. As she stood, the larger man fell to his knees, and then with a final breath of, "How…?" he collapsed on his face. Then Buffy faced the other man, not as large as Roberto and the giant, but still with more body mass than she could have had.

Looking at his fallen comrades, he became enraged at the sight and came at Buffy faster than even she expected. He was relentless in his attacks and seemed to be somewhat trained in fighting skills as she ducked and dodged his punches and kicks for nearly a full minute before finding any opening of her own. After this "duck and weave" strategy, Buffy wanted to end this as soon as possible and seeing her opening, she caught the man’s fist and held it.

The man was amazed at the strength that such a puny girl held, as she began to squeeze his hand until it made actual cracking sounds and he was in a serious amount of pain. "Bored now," was all Buffy said to him as she swept his legs out from under him and kick him solidly on the chest. He groaned, and rolled to his side. Buffy, believing he was down for the count, walked over to the two briefcases to bring them back to Kate, her aunt. Until she heard a slight rustle sound behind her. Knowing somehow, like some kind of radar sense that she found that she had, she knew that it was the henchman. He tried to creep quietly behind her, and when he was in striking distance, she reacted on instinct alone, and faster than the human eye could see; she lashed out with a spinning heel kick. Unfortunate for the henchman, who had picked the pipe back up to blindside her, she was still wearing heels. The force with which she lashed out, the speed of it, and the accuracy. When she realized what she had done, it was already too late. The three-inch heel was solidly imbedded in the man’s chest, not too far from his heart.

The look of utter shock would stay with the girl forever. And when she felt the killing blade unsheathe itself from his wound, she knew that she would never be the same. Working, as only months of practice could allow, to control herself, Buffy turned to the boy that had come fully out of hiding. She noticed that he had a glazed look in his eye, and realized that he was either drunk or stoned.

"Awwww, man!" he exclaimed in a slurred voice. "Dude! You totally slayed them!"

Buffy gave him a disbelieving look, and then realizing what she had just done, she knew that he was right. She had just slain a man. A man that deserved it and a whole lot more, but what said that she could decide who died? Maybe that one big thing that Kate and her mother always believed in, what was it they called it? Oh yeah, the Powers that Be.

Chuckling slightly despite herself and her situation, Buffy answered the poor young man. "Yeah, I’m the Slayer." Her voice was quiet and filled with pity. Despite his appearances, it did not escape the young man. "Hey, you OK?" he asked, genuinely concerned.

"Yeah, I’m OK." Buffy answered him. She sighed and repeated the oft heard phrase from her aunt, "It’s my destiny. I’m the Slayer and it’s my destiny. Boy, does that sound corny or what?" she said to no one. Taking a last look around the alley, she began to walk to the end. Her walk was not that of a girl’s, or even a woman’s, but that of a warrior’s. She didn’t look back.

* * *

Washington, D.C.

 

It grew quiet on the floor of the senate hearing. It was something that two out of the hundred or so people there had worked very hard, and very long to get this far. One of them was at the podium on the floor addressing the entire room. She was a tall, petite red haired woman that had a gentle disposition and a kind face. Her bright green eyes seemed to cast a spell for those that ever looked into them. She was trying to get as many people in the room to see them now if she could work it.

Doctor Willow Rosenberg stood before the U.S. Senate, in a discussion over a very heated debate; Mutant Registration. She was trying to convey the reasons behind the sudden appearance and rise in mutants, hoping that by allowing people to understand what mutants were, they would hopefully have little or no reason to fear them.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we are now seeing the beginnings of another stage of human evolution. These mutations appear at puberty, and are often triggered by heightened emotional stress, often fear or anger." Willow calmly explained as the video portion of her presentation came to a close, the giant screen closing behind her.

"Thank you Ms. Rosenberg, that was…quite educational," interrupted one of the Senators that was straight across from her position. Willow mentally noted that it was Senator Robert Wilkins, currently the loudest voice for Mutant Registration. "However it fails to address the issue that is the focus of this hearing. Three words. Are. Mutants. Dangerous?"

"I’m afraid that’s an unfair question Senator Wilkins," Willow answered. "After all, the wrong person behind the wheel of a car can be dangerous."

The Senator smiled a little at that and returned, "Well, but we do license people to drive."

Willow, feeling exasperated, but not letting any of it show through, responded, "Yes, but not to live!" It was then that an aid came up to the Senator, so Willow took this distraction as time to add another point in her argument.

"Senator, it is a proven fact that mutants that have come forward and revealed themselves publicly have been met with fear, hostility, and even violence. It is because of this ever present hostility that I am urging this Senate to vote against Mutant Registration. To force mutants to expose themselves would only further…"

"Expose themselves?" Senator Wilkins rudely interrupted. "What is it exactly that the mutant community has to hide, I wonder, that makes them so afraid to identify themselves?"

"I didn’t say they were hiding," Willow tried to regain control of the situation.

"Well let me show you what is being hidden, Ms. Rosenberg," The Senator stood up, holding with him the folder than the aid had given to him. "I have here a list of names, of identified mutants. Living right here in the United States. Right here is a girl in Illinois, who can walk through walls. Now what’s to stop her from walking into a bank vault, or the White house, or into one of their houses!" He was now addressing the entire room, the upper levels of which were filled with the usual press and other people that cared enough to actually stay inside through this much of the hearing.

"Senator Wilkins…" Willow tried to interrupt. But the Senator was not to be deterred.

"And there are even rumors, Ms. Rosenberg, of mutants so powerful that they can enter our minds and control our thoughts. Taking away our God given free will." The Senator continued.

The two that, for the moment, appeared to be the only ones vying for the defeat of Mutant Registration, internally laughed at the "rumor". One of them just so happened to be the world’s most powerful telepath. And no, it was not the good Dr. Rosenberg. He was a man sitting in one of the lower upper balconies. And he was sitting in a wheel chair. And while it was more than within his power to do just as the Senator had suggested, but he would sooner shoot himself in the neck, fully paralyzing himself before intentionally harming another human, or mutant, by using his power that way. He had learned at an early age that with power, one must learn the responsibility to use it, or not use it at all.

His name was Alexander Xavier. Professor Alexander Xavier. He was indeed a Professor, of at least seven different fields, and he wasn’t even forty years old yet. The black haired man sat perfectly still, one would think he were a statue if not for the fact he was breathing. His intense brown eyes were staring at the floor, but they were not focused on anything directly. Instead, they were focused inward. Since his gift, as he liked to think of it, had manifested when he turned thirteen, he had found that he could hear other people’s thoughts. At first, as most would react, it was the most amazing and "coolest" thing that had ever happened. But then he didn’t know how to turn it off, and he was suddenly walking around with everybody walking around inside his head. It had nearly driven him insane.

But now, after twenty years with his gift, he had learned how to screen other’s thoughts, and how to isolate on one, or sometimes more. He was now screening the thoughts and emotions of all those around him, just enough so he would have a rough idea of how the hearing was going. At first, when Willow had control of the floor and more or less the situation, the crowd had been responsive and at least open to what she was saying. But now, as the Senator took hold of the crowd, he felt them close off to anything else other than the words spewing from the snake’s mouth.

"Now I think the American people deserve the right to decide whether they want their children going to school with mutants, to be taught by mutants." Senator Wilkins had to shout as the applause in the circular room began to grow as he gained even further support. "Ladies and gentlemen," he continued after the short applause ended, "the truth is, that mutants are very real, and they are among us. We must know who they are, and above all, we must know, what they can do." The applause returned, nearly double, and there were even a few whistles of loud approval. Willow sighed and closed her eyes in temporary defeat. She would not give up this easily.

The Professor meanwhile, also sighed, but not in defeat, rather in frustration and for the sake of sighing. As he continued to let in the thoughts of everyone around him, most were of excited joy or something along the lines of American pride. Yet, as he observed from his wheeled seat, there was one set of thoughts that was strongly different from everyone else in the room. It almost mirrored his own in frustration, yet while he held resolve within him for the next political battle, this other held behind it something near outrage. In fact, as he focused on the person itself, they seemed to be filled with nothing but rage. It was at that moment that he recognized the mind that he had sensed.

Following his thoughts, and those of the man he heard, his head turned of its own accord to the right. His eyes came across a tall man in a long black trench coat. He was standing up to leave, putting on his hat, he was hidden by the shadows, so the Professor could not see his face, but he did not have to. He knew exactly who this was. And that realization shocked and surprised him beyond anything else that could be in this world.

As the tall, dark man rapidly left the room, Xavier kicked, (no pun intended) his chair into gear and followed as quickly as mechanics allowed. He just managed to make it outside to the hall, just as the other man was about to round the corner. He stopped the motion of his automated chair, the wheels stopping so that they showed the ‘X’ of their design. He called out to the man that he had once called mentor, had once called friend.

"Rupert," he called. The other man stopped in his tracks, apparently not as surprised as Alexander was to see him here. "What are you doing here?"

The tall man relaxed some. Some. He answered in an old English accented voice. "Why do you ask questions, to which you already know the answers?" he asked.

The Professor, trying to reach his friend through the rage that he felt practically radiating off of the older man, said "Don’t give up on them Rupert." The other man, still facing away from him shrugged and replied, "What would you have me do, Alexander? I’ve heard all these arguments before."

"It was a long time ago. Mankind has evolved since then," Alexander tried to reason with the elder Englishman.

"Yes," Rupert Giles responded, "Into us."

Alexander sighed slightly, and then following with his instincts, his face visibly relaxed as he focused his mind to search out the man’s feelings. Not his thoughts, just his emotions and primal instincts, hoping to find…something.

The tall trenched man felt something like a veil float across his mind. He had long ago attuned his mind to realize when his ‘old friend’ Alexander tried to scan him. He brought his hand up and lightly tapped the side of his forehead as he asked, "You’re sneaking around in here Alexander. Do you know what you’re looking for?"

Alexander gave up on his empathic scan and sat further back into his chair. Sadly, he had not found what he went looking for. Slowly, the older Englishman turned to face the paralyzed mutant. His face no longer hidden in shadows. It showed a battle weary face, with piercing gray eyes that held you in its grasp, unless you were strong enough to get away. The old face was guarded on either side by slight patches of gray and silver on an otherwise dark brown head of hair. Balding, but still quite a few years before it turned completely gray.

Alexander regarded his former mentor, and still friend before answering. "I’m looking for hope," he said almost wearily, wanting there to be any. Rupert smiled at him, and responded, "I will bring you hope, old friend. And I ask only one thing in return," the man known as Giles stared at the paralyzed, but oh so powerful mutant.

‘Gee, I wonder what that’s going to be? Oh, wait, I already know, I’m a telepath,’ Alexander thought bitterly to himself as he waited for Rupert’s request, knowing full well that he would not, could not in any way grant it. Not at the price that Giles’ requests always came at.

"Don’t get in my way," the older mutant finished. He turned to walk away, but was caught off-guard as the Professor asked him one final question.

"Have you seen Buffy?" Professor Alexander H. Xavier asked.

The man known as Rupert Giles froze. Somehow, his foe had figured out the details, or at least some of them, to his plan. But it was impossible for him to know them all. They were so close now. Things could not be ruined now. So Giles was perfectly honest, conveying as much regret, which was real, as he could, "No, no I haven’t. But I’m sure that one of us will find her. It’s just a matter of time."

Then the mutant terrorist, known as Magneto, walked quickly away, leaving a disappointed, but relieved Professor X. After a time, Alexander turned his chair around, and went back to see the end of the hearing, yet another defeat in the attempt to defeat the Mutant Registration Act.

Chapter 2:

Northern Alberta, Canada

Buffy was suddenly awoken by the way the truck slowed down to a stop. She was fully awake when she noticed that the driver, the gruff looking man that had picked her up in Seattle, was gone and the truck left in idle. Suddenly, the door she was leaning on opened up, and there stood the gruff looking man saying, "This is it."

Buffy grabbed her bag and wrapped the black cloak she wore around herself tighter to her. She then jumped down to the snow covered ground and took a brief look around at their stop. She was more than a little disappointed.

"Where are we?" she asked him. "I thought you said you were taking me as far as Laughlin City."

"This is Laughlin City," he stated as he walked past her and into the single tavern/building before them. Aside from the snow covered trees, other trucks and various other vehicles, it was the only thing around for miles. Deciding that she had nothing better to do, she followed her ride, hopefully to some place warmer, if not in one sense then maybe to another.

Once inside, it was only somewhat warmer, she saw that there really wasn’t much to "Laughlin City" and would be glad to get going again. Yet seeing her ride saddle up to the bar and order enough beer to make her pass out, she decided to try and make herself comfortable. It certainly wasn’t easy as the only seats that were clean, were either taken, or was the floor.

There did seem to be a big commotion coming from the back though. Letting her curiosity get the better of her, she slowly made her way back there, keeping her hood on just in case. As she got steadily closer to the area, that seemed to be the primary "barn" area when this had been just a barn, she could begin to hear the distinct sounds of a fight taking place. She had been in enough of them by now to definitely know the sounds of one.

The halls got little by little more crowded and as she rounded a final corner, Buffy could make out a large cage placed in the center of the floor, and through the throngs of people, she could barely make out two men in the cage. One, she couldn’t see anything about him yet, backhanded the other, sending him sprawling into the cage, only for him to try and rush the first man. It was for naught as even Buffy saw the obvious trick to pull when somebody does that. The man flew, heels overhead, against the opposite wall of the cage.

When she finally managed to get past the crowd, close enough to actually see what was inside the cage, two large men were dragging what she took to be the one thrown against the wall, out by his very limp arms. She knew he was still alive, but what really interested her was the person that had done that to him.

Looking into the cage, she could see him. The fighter. He was tall, definitely taller than her. He had blond hair, and even in this dim light, you could tell that it was bleached. He had pale skin, with flushes of color from obviously healing bruises. He was leaning against a post of the cage, facing away from her. But as soon as she saw him, Buffy somehow knew, with an instinct that she didn’t understand yet, that this man was different from almost everybody else there. The exception being her.

He was smoking a cigar, as the tiny old man, who was obviously the "ringmaster" of this little show, stepped into the cage with a mike and began to talk to the crowd, trying to goad some other loser in there to get beaten to death.

"In all my years, I’ve never seen anything like this!" The ringmaster announced. "Are you gonna let this man walk away with your money?" he challenged to the crowd. The resounding "NO" nearly drove Buffy deaf. The small roar that was the crowd began to shout and rage at the cage fighter. Finally, some big hillbilly of a jerk stood up and took off his coat, saying, "I’ll fight’em!"

The mood of the crowd switched from goading and cursing to betting and cheering faster than Buffy could keep track of. The hillbilly walked confidently up to the cage, and just by his walk, Buffy could tell that he would either crawl out of that cage, or be dragged out like the last guy. The hillbilly handed his fifty entrance fee to the "girl" and entered the cage. The ringmaster encouraged the crowd by shouting into his mike, "Ladies and gentlemen! Our saviour!"

Buffy smirked behind her hood, carefully watching the scene in front of her. Maybe this place won’t be so bad after all, she thought to herself. The bald hillbilly was loosening up his neck and joints, bouncing on the balls of his feet like any amateur. She saw the ringmaster cover the mike and lean in and whisper something to him. With her hearing she heard it almost as if they were right next to her, even if she was in a loud, drunk, and very excited tavern.

"Whatever you do, don’t hit him in the balls," the ringmaster warned the hillbilly.

"I thought you said anything goes?" the bald guy asked, confused.

"Anything goes, but…" the ringmaster gave the guy a sympathetic look, "he’ll take it personal."

The hillbilly just smiled and continued to bounce. The ringmaster, knowing the outcome would be the same, walked out of the cage, shaking his head sadly. Once the ringmaster was safely out of the way, a bell sounded and hillbilly wasted no time in walking straight up to the cage fighter, and hitting him with a punch so hard that he immediately fell to the floor. Taking advantage, the big, bald hillbilly kicked him three hard solid times in the torso, and then punched him one more time in the face, before going back to the center of the ring to gloat like a professional wrestler to the crowd.

The crowd howled with excitement and the thirst of blood. The blond cage warrior slowly got to his knees and began to pull the rest of him up. Turning and seeing this, the big dumb hillbilly walked back to the man on his knees and prepared to punch him for all he was worth. The next thing that happened, even Buffy didn’t expect. Just as big dumb and toothless was throwing his punch, the blond fighter threw his own punch, right at the incoming fist, hitting it square on the knuckles, and Buffy didn’t need any kind of super hearing to hear the bones break from the contact.

The hillbilly fell back, cradling his injured hand, going to his knees with just that one blow. Then the cage fighter was back on his feet, not bouncing, but very ready. The hillbilly barely had time to register the punch coming at him, before he was reeling with a broken nose against the spring cage wall. As he bounced back to the fighter, who just stood there, until the hillbilly was right next to him, and then he head butted him with the side of his head, knocking the peon out cold.

Looking closely at him, she could now clearly see his face. He had definitive features. A chiseled jaw, a hard forehead, and a few scars, the most noticeable was the one on his left eyebrow. His eyes, his eyes were an intense sky blue, the kind that Buffy had seen very few times. They were the eyes that had seen the worst, the best, and maybe even the most of the world, and had survived it all. Her hardened hazel eyes focused on him as he just turned back to his corner, and took another drag from his cigar, as the ringmaster came back in saying, "Ladies and gentlemen, tonight’s winner and still King of the Cage; Spike!" Resounding boos followed the announcement, until the next fighter stepped in.

Buffy smiled in slight amusement as she found herself a seat and watched the cage fighter, Spike, slay the ass of every single man that entered the cage with him. She wondered briefly if she could beat him, as she watched him deliver a devastating uppercut to one bruiser of a guy. Analyzing his style, how much strength he used, and how he took on at least fifteen other fighters that night before everyone finally called it quits, she figured that she could beat him, if she had a tank and he were tied down with cement and a neural collar. Even then, it would be iffy.

Later that night, Buffy had been right about her ride passing out, and she doubted that he would be waking up anytime soon, or maybe even within the next week. As she sat at the bar, nothing else to do since the cage having closed an hour before, drinking water out of dirty glasses, absently staring at the tip jar that was practically right in front of her, she was pulled out of her musings as the bartender accused her with a look, saying, "Want somethin’ new honey? You’re stickin’ with water." Pulling the tip jar to his other side, further away from her.

Not even bothering to waste a glare on the suspicious barkeep, Buffy turned her attention to the TV above the bar, just past the flannel clad old bartender. It was showing pictures of New York. She recognized Ellis and Liberty Island’s, the famous city having been the second place she had run to ever since she started running two years ago.

The first time she had run away, it…it had been when her mom had died. She didn’t get far really. They had lived in D.C. then and she was picked up in less than a week, after walking into the police department herself. The second time had been the worst, and that was what she was running from now. They had lived in San Francisco, not to far from Aunt Kate, a cop who worked in L.A. When, all of a sudden one night, strange people had attacked their home.

Buffy wasn’t sure what was going on, but she did know that her father was a mutant. He worked with the government under the codename, Havoc. And since he was a mutant, she and her twin sister Faith were also mutants. Her power hadn’t developed until that night, but Faith’s had manifested nearly a week earlier. That night, Buffy still couldn’t remember everything about it; it was all a haze in her mind. All she did remember was hearing their father telling them to run, and then after getting away, hiding with Faith, and promising to find each other. They had decided to split up and thought it would be better that way. Buffy went to L.A. to find their father’s oldest sister, not a mutant, but still family.

Faith had told her that night that she was going to try and find their Uncle Scott, their father’s older, but mutant brother, in upstate New York. A week later, Buffy knew the street life of L.A. When she found Kate, the woman immediately wanted to take Buffy in, or at least to a shelter. Buffy wouldn’t hear of it. Whoever had attacked their home that night wouldn’t be afraid to do it again, even if it was a cop’s home. So she stayed on the streets and became one of Kate’s sources. She also helped her out on several undercover ops, unofficially ofcourse.

It was during one of these "ops" that things got out of hand. Somehow, the three men that she had left alive, yet unconscious and severely beat, ended up dead by the time the back up cops Kate had sent after her got there. The cases of drugs and money were also gone.

It was that night in that alley that she had dubbed the street name "Slayer". She got a rep for beating and killing first, ask questions never. When Kate heard of her rep, she immediately told her to either turn herself in, move in with her so she could take care of her, or get out of her city. After the night that her rep had nearly gotten Kate killed, she was out by morning.

She went to New York, hoping to find some sign of Faith, but never did. Scott’s number was unlisted, so she couldn’t find him. So she decided to start heading north. At some point, she forgot that New York wasn’t the entire northern hemisphere and somehow ended up here. In an ugly, rundown, cage fighting bar called, "Laughlin City." She laughed at her miserable condition in life.

"What’s so funny?" a smooth English accented voice asked beside her. She half-turned, surprised to see that it was the cage fighter, Spike. He was fully clothed now, having been shirtless in the cage. He wore dark faded denim jeans, worn mountain boots, a flannel shirt, and a long black leather duster. Somehow it made him appear more dangerous than when he was flexing his muscles kicking butt. Despite being impressed with his fighting skills, Buffy was in no position to trust this man, no matter how compelling his eyes were.

"Who are you to care?" she retaliated harshly, not turning to look at the man.

"I’m not. But I like a joke as much as the next loner," the man known only as Spike retorted.

The introductions having been made, the two returned to the silence, which was broken only by the television report on the TV, still showing scenes of New York. "Ellis Island, once the arrival point for hundreds of thousands of American immigrants, is opening its doors again. Preparations are nearly completed for the upcoming United Nations World Summit, nearly every invitation confirmed. The event promises to be the largest single gathering of world leaders in history. The leaders of over two hundred nations will discuss issues ranging from the world’s economic climate and weather treaties, to the Mutant phenomenon and its impact on our world stage. Many American legislatures have contended that the debate of other mutant issues should be the primary focus of what is, at least on the surface, a strictly democratic affair…"

At the mention of the word "Mutant", both Buffy and Spike looked up and stared at the news report. As it was coming to a close however, Buffy’s sixth "radar" sense kicked in and told her that the cage fighter was about to have some trouble. "You’ve got company," she said aloud to Spike without turning around. Spike arched an eyebrow at that, smoking his cigar, when he suddenly felt someone tapping his shoulder. ‘How’d she bloody do that?’ Spike asked himself, wondering whom this enigma of a girl was.

He had noticed her when she had noticed him. How could he not, her smell alone marked her different from the forty other occupants of the noisy ring. At least most of them washed about every other day. This girl smelled like she hadn’t bathed in weeks, if not months. Then there was the way she looked at him, like she was criticizing him for something. It wasn’t until it was closing time that he saw for what reason. The girl walked like a fighter, and not just any fighter, but a good one.

He turned to see who had interrupted him, surprised, if he could be surprised, to see that it was one of the earlier fighters he had beat. ‘Bloody great,’ he thought, ‘I bet he wants his money back. I knew this was a bad idea, but I needed the cash.’

Spike only did this sort of thing when it was available, when he needed money, or when he was bored out of his skull. Other times when it wasn’t available, he’d find a part-time job where he could and work for a while before moving on. Yet it seemed just about every time that he got money through street fights or cage fighting, there was always some loser wanting revenge, and he’d always have to reveal his secret. First of all that he was a mutant, second…the reasons that he could no longer remember who he was, where he was from, or how the bloody hell he got them.

"Hey, you owe me some money," the hillbilly demanded giving Spike a dumb ass look.

Spike didn’t react in the smallest sense, except to turn back around to his cigar. The hillbilly grabbed his arm, turning him back towards him some. "No man takes a beating like that and doesn’t have a mark to show for it," the bald man deduced. At this Buffy started to pay more attention.

The man behind the hillbilly tried to pull him back, knowing that nothing good would come out of this, "Come on Steve, let’s not do this," he said, trying to dissuade his friend. The hillbilly just pushed him back, focused with all ten-brain cells on Spike. "Come on buddy, this isn’t really worth is…" he tried again before the stupid hillbilly leaned towards Spike, who had turned back around, and whispered loudly, "I know what you are."

Spike, with an edge in his English brogue, threatened, "You lost your money, mate. Keep this up and you’re going to lose something else."

The hillbilly turned away after that, and his friend took an audible sigh of relief. Until the moron pulled out a knife and turned back towards the cage fighter as fast as he could, planning on getting away with a clean murder/mugging.

At the sound of the knife being pulled, something changed in both Spike’s and Buffy’s minds. Their advanced hearing knew the sound of a weapon being drawn and immediately sent the message to the respective brains. Ironically, it was the same message. Knife. Spike heard the guy’s shuffling feet behind him, guessing him to be no more than five feet from him, as he turned to strike at the blond fighter. ‘Poor sap, doesn’t stand a chance,’ Spike mused, also considering, ‘So much for keeping secrets.’

Just as the guy was about to reach Spike, the peroxide blond spun around faster than the guy, and even Buffy expected and knocked the knife away, and threw the dumb hillbilly against the wall. Then, faster even, and with a unique sound that sounded like, Shhnkt, the sound of metal being unsheathed, a blade about two feet long was held against the hillbilly’s throat, and as Spike held his left fist about a foot from the guy’s eye, another long blade slowly unsheathed itself from Spike’s wrist, out of the back of his hand. Buffy’s eyes widened a little at that. She had definitely been surprised. Maybe it was time for Spike to be as well, she mused as she saw the bartender going for his hidden shotgun.

The blade out of Spike’s left hand slowly pointed closer to the widened eye, and stopped maybe an inch from it, not even halfway out, if compared to the one at the man’s throat. The look in Spike’s eyes were all the threat that the moron needed, not to mention the very sharp pointed metal spike an inch in front of his eye. Suddenly breaking the tension, and at the same time increasing it, was the sound of a hammer being clicked into place. Spike half turned his head, not moving his hands or spikes as much as a millimeter. He saw the bartender, pointing a double barrel shotgun at him.

"Let’em go!" the old bartender demanded, raising the barrel some to point it at Spike’s head. The man was behind the bar, so it was unlikely that Spike could get to him in time to destroy the gun, even if both his hands were not occupied. "Get out of my bar freak!" the keep insulted.

That was the last straw for Buffy. Faster than Spike had moved earlier, she grabbed the gun out of the tender’s hands, and then still sitting on her stool, kicked the side of his head so hard that it turned 90° and the man was immediately unconscious. Turning around with the momentum of her kick, Buffy saw five other guys coming, looking to see what was going on. Jumping off her stool she positioned the gun straight at them, and double-checked the hammers and safety. They paused when they saw the gun, but when Buffy pulled back her hood, revealing the filthy dirty blond hair, and smudged and even filthier face, yet still the face of a young girl, they smirked in the way that Buffy had seen so many times before. She was beginning to tire of it.

Before they could take another step, she raised the gun a little more and shot the ceiling, with a reverberating "TCHUE" as loud as thunder, and causing tile and ceiling debris to fall on their heads. They stopped, suddenly afraid of what the girl might do. Then she surprised them, and Spike, by pulling the gun back, and holding it in front of her in both hands. Without warning, she suddenly brought her knee up, breaking the wood of the handle from the metal bar. She then grabbed both ends of the metal, and bent it until the ends she were holding were touching! Dropping it to the ground with a loud clang, Buffy turned back to Spike, to see how he was doing, as well as giving him a clear view at her own features.

Spike just grinned, then turned back to the gutter trash in front of him. He withdrew his spikes and then punched the guy with more than enough force to send him to dreamland for a while. The friend immediately knelt down beside his friend and checked to make sure he was alive. Looking up at the pair of blond fighters, he decided that a hasty retreat was a much better idea than a bar fight that no one could win.

Spike returned to the bar, as did Buffy, though one stool closer to the other fighter, and returned to his cigar. Finishing it quickly, he broke the uneasy silence of the tavern with a question, "So, you gonna tell me what’s so funny?"

Buffy grinned despite herself. "What did you think was funny?" Buffy asked quietly, still not trusting, but giving him a chance.

Spike grinned even more and answered, "The way that bugger’s face looked when I threw him up against the wall." Buffy’s grin grew some. "Life sucks," was her response. Spike took it to be the answer to his question, which it basically was. He let out a small, single laugh of his own. "Doesn’t it," he said.

They spent the rest of the time in the bar in total silence, the TV off, and everyone else staying away. Finally, after some unknown signal, Spike stood up and began to make his way to the exit, and Buffy stood up with him. She paused, and smirked as she grabbed the tip jar the bartender had accused her of wanting. Then she flipped it and dumped its entire contents onto his unconscious form. Spike also grinned, liking this girl more and more with each passing moment. But gawd did she stink.

They made their way to his truck and trailer, but before he got in, he turned and looked the blond girl straight in the eye, asking a silent question. Buffy stared back, and studied him for several tense moments. Finally she decided, and nodded and made her way around the other side of the truck. Spike smiled despite himself and shrugged and got in himself.

They remained in silence, save the engine and the road, for the next thirty or so minutes, the man known only as Spike to Buffy, behind the wheel, and a strange, yet powerful, girl that mysteriously helped the grateful cage fighter in a potentially lethal situation sitting in the passengers seat, staring out into nowhere. Finally, even the rough hardened warrior couldn’t take it anymore and asked aloud, with out looking to the other person, "So, what’s your name?"

Buffy, surprised, looked at Spike. He kept his eyes on the road, but she could tell that she made him nervous. She shrugged and continued to stare out the window before finally answering quietly, "I’m called Slayer. And you’re Spike." She retaliated.

Spike quirked an eyebrow, but kept his eyes on the road. "Fair enough," he responded, his English accent more than obvious. "Name’s William."

"William what?" the teenager asked instantly.

William was silent for a full minute, thinking. Had it really been fifteen years? Fifteen years, three months, and however many days that William had long ago lost track of, since he had woken up, naked, in the middle of the Canadian Rockies with absolutely no memory of who he was, how he’d gotten there, and why he could do the things he could do. A prime example would be to have two-foot long metal spikes coming out of his wrists. After several days walk, he came to a cottage where a vacationing couple, that just so happened to work for the Canadian government, were spending their vacation.

They were a decent couple. They housed, fed, and clothed the wayward mutant until he could stand on two feet, and actually mumble a complete sentence. The only thing he had any clue to his identity, aside from nightmarish fragments that still haunted his nights, and vaguer recollections of his name and a general idea of who he had been before…before, was a set of dog tags that the couple had found on his person. One held the numbers: 3 1 4. The other simply bore the name: SPIKE.

After he left the couple, he was contacted by several government agents. All were told the same message. Those that didn’t like it ended up in the hospital. He really didn’t know why he came back to Canada, maybe he was searching for clues about the past that was taken from him. Maybe he was sent by the Powers that Be to find this girl waiting for his answer. He really didn’t know anymore.

Finally, after a silence that made Buffy think he hadn’t heard her, William answered. "I don’t remember."

It surprised Buffy to no end that she actually believed him. Studying him a bit closer, she noticed the dog tags, and read the name SPIKE. "Were you in the army or something? Spike your call sign, huh?" she asked gently.

Spike quickly stuffed the exposed tags down his shirt. "None of your business," he exclaimed rudely. Buffy studied a bit longer, then shrugged and nodded. "Fair enough," she acknowledged.

Several minutes of uncomfortable silence later, William asked, "What kind of name is Slayer anyway? Doesn’t sound like it belongs with a pretty git like you." Turning to see her reaction, Spike sees that he might’ve spoken too soon on the pretty part. She had quirked her eyebrow at his comment, because she knew as well as he did, and maybe a bit better, that she was filth incarnate and smelled like ten year old mud encrusted laundry.

The only thing clean about her at the moment was perhaps her teeth, and her eyes. They were intense and focused on everything around her equally, yet when focused on a single point, it would be surprising if it didn’t start to burn. Her face was smudged and a very dirty brown. Her dirty blond hair stuck out in strings from the ponytail she had it in, and there were various dark streak that was more dirt than any possibility of natural hair color. Of the hair that was clean, it was more a golden blond than Spike’s own bleached blond. He still was wondering what had possessed him to do such a thing.

"Well, you know what I mean," Spike hastily corrected.

Slayer smiled, despite everything. Against her better judgment, and past experience, she was beginning to like this strange mutant. She turned back to the window and made the joke that had made her a few friends, if only temporary, in the many places that she had been. "It’s just a nick. One I got through reputation, then out of necessity. Besides, most think that it’s better than my real name."

"Which is?" William pressed.

Taking a deep breath and closing her eyes, the blond girl whispered, "My name is Buffy."

William heard her and turned back to the road. "Buffy," he said trying out the name. Then he nodded and grinned a little. "I like it. And you’re right, it is better than your real name." He heard soft chuckling beside him and couldn’t stop the few that left his own throat. The laughter died quickly, but the merriment and peace remained.

"So, aside from the obvious, how’d you get the name Spike?" Buffy asked.

William just shrugged and said, "You saw it. These tags are the only clue that I have to my past. Fifteen years ago, I woke up in a forest not to far from here, not a stitch on me, and not a thing in my head. Long story short, I’ve just been surviving, going from place to place, hoping that maybe somebody I once knew would recognize me or somethin like that. So far, no luck."

Spike had no idea why he had just told her all of that. It was very unlike him to be so open with anyone, let alone a strange mutant girl that would sooner punch him that trust him. Then his mouth, of its own volition asked, "So what’s your story?"

Buffy just shrugged, grinning at Spike’s trust. "The usual," she said after a minute. "Runaway, on my own, hitchhiked to get away, and fought to stay alive."

"And the nick?"

Buffy grinned more and laughed dryly, once. "Ironically, some kid I’d never seen or known in an alley in LA gave it to me. Some punks were trying to beat my ass, and much to their displeasure, I, as I like to term it, slayed them. They were still alive when I left, but the kid said something that made me call myself the Slayer, and so Slayer I became."

"Got a good rep in LA and NY. Nobody, at least nobody smart would mess with me or anybody that I hung out with. On the road, I’m just another runner." Buffy continued. "Before here, I was over in Seattle where I found some trucker about to get mugged. I’ve found that saving people’s lives is a good way to get favors, so he brought me here on his way to Anchorage, and passed out drunk before you got out of the cage."

"Like the show?" Spike asked, grinning.

Buffy grinned back. "You’re good, I’ll give you that. But from the looks of it, your regenerative powers kept you going for most of the latter part of it. At first I thought that I couldn’t beat you, but looking at you like this…well…" Buffy smiled and gave Spike a "devil may care" look that genuinely frightened him, "I think that it would be a close match, but I could definitely beat your sorry British ass."

Spike, impressed, but still a little miffed at the observation, glared back at her and retorted, "Think again little girl. You may be strong, and you may be a tough fighter, but compared to me, your still just a little girl. I could kill two Slayers at once if I had to, if you get my point." He continued, "And I’m not British."

"How would you know?" she asked him, teasing. He gave her another, more deadly glare.

Buffy glared right back at the man driving the car, and damned if she didn’t like him all the more. She smiled the same dangerous smile at him and nodded, conceding his point. "I get it. Besides, you’re too cute to slay." At William’s blush, Buffy could barely restrain herself from laughing out loud.

Suddenly, Buffy tensed and stopped laughing altogether. Her sixth sense was warning her of something. Focusing more deeply on it, she immediately knew. There was another mutant out there, on the road just ahead of them. There was something familiar about the "blip" but Buffy didn’t have time to analyze as she quickly saw what the mutant was doing with her enhanced vision, even through the snowdrift. Looking to William she saw that while he was concerned over her sudden change in attitude, he didn’t see the approaching danger.

"Buffy? What is it? What’s wrong?" William was asking.

"You should put your seatbelt on," Buffy commented, trying to keep a calm demeanor, and failing somewhat. Spike twisted his face into something that Buffy knew well. A face of a teenager hearing a lecture she really did not want to hear. "Listen little girl, I don’t need…"

Buffy interrupted him with a glare and in a hard voice ordered, "Spike. Put. Your. Seatbelt. On!"

William took a second to look at her, and then quickly wrapped the belt around him and clicked it into place…one second before the truck jerked to a sudden and painful stop by running into the tree that had fallen across the road. More than a little surprised, William looked to his companion, making sure that she was all right. She was. In fact she was pushing the dashboard that her seat had rammed into her further forward into the car, her hands leaving imprints in the metal/plastic casing. William looked at his own condition and was pleased to see the steering wheel had actually broken off, not causing any damage to his person. Extending his spikes, he proceeded to cut himself out of the wrecked vehicle. When he was finished, he turned to help Buffy out of her side, but found that she had already ripped the seatbelt, and even the seat apart, and then kicked the door out. Aside from some minor heavy breathing, she appeared to be unhurt.

"You OK?" William asked. She nodded, absently holding a hand to under one of her ribs.

"I’m fine," she answered, taking a look around them. William did the same, but his curiosity forced his question, "How did you…?" he stopped when he saw the base of the tree that had fallen across the road. It had been pushed there. Anything that could do that had to at least be as strong as Slayer here, only bigger.

William opened up his senses to read everything around him. When he caught a scent in the breeze, something unlocked in his mind. Something that he had rarely ever felt before, and never by just a scent. A raging flood of adrenaline flooded his system, and a near uncontrollable rage filled his mind. Something about this scent, maybe even this place warned him of a danger the likes that he had not faced in longer than he could remember. Ofcourse that really didn’t mean much.

He had sheathed his spikes when he had seen that Buffy was all right, but now, on instinct alone, he brought them out, with full intent on using them. Buffy noticed this as well, and kept her own senses on high alert. Suddenly, her sixth screamed out at her and she whirled around just in time to see something the size of a bear leap ten feet into the air from the bushes, right at them. Buffy barely had time to react as it was, diving forward, away from the wreck.

William however, was not as fast. The bear creature, or whatever it was, landed right where the young blonde had been a mere moment before. The impact tremor of its landing was enough to knock the seasoned fighter off-balance for just a second or two. More than long enough for the creature to backhand the man with enough force to fly him into the trees.

The creature, having gotten rid of what he saw as the primary threat, turned to the girl behind him. In the next second, Buffy got a pretty decent look at him. He stood at maybe six and a half feet tall, he had short dark brown hair that was kind of like a cap around his skull. Yet his most distinct features, aside from his size anyway, were his face, and the talon like claws on his massive hands. He had yellow cat-like eyes under a heavy brow, and Buffy could see his fang-like teeth when he opened his mouth to scream a feral cat roar at her. Oh yeah, did she mention that he was like, huge?

Buffy didn’t hesitate longer than that second it took the cat man to roar at her. Before he could even register her state, she launched herself from the prone position on the permafrost, into a flying kick that solidly connected with his open jaw. Before he could have the chance to recover, Buffy kicked him twice more in the gut, and when his head came back around, she threw a killer left that would have taken the head off of anyone less.

Still, when the cat man actually stood straight and stared at her after that, she suddenly began to wonder if she had bitten off more than even the Slayer could chew. He brought his right hand and rubbed some of the red blood off his cut lip. Buffy could also see the beginnings of a good shiner on his right cheek, but all he did was smile, much like she did most of the time, at her and then backhanded her with a blow so fast that she saw little more than a blur, and so powerful, that she flew over the wrecked truck.

When she landed against a tree, breaking it in half with her impact, she cursed silently and then sat up, muttering one word in anger, "Ow." With little more warning than that, Buffy ran and jumped over the same distance that she was just thrown and saw the cat man approaching William’s unconscious form in the white brush. She had to get him away, if only to get William enough time to fully heal so that he could help her out.

"Hey ugly! Why don’t you try taking on someone half your size before you embarrass yourself with someone who’s twice the man you are!!" Buffy insulted.

Sabertooth turned in surprise at the voice of the insult. He hadn’t heard that annoying voice for over two years now. Well, well, well, the cat man thought to himself, the Master will be pleased.

Sabertooth didn’t have long to ponder these thoughts before the girl known as the Slayer went on a major offensive. Even the 90-year-old ex-SEAL had to break a sweat in keeping up with her lightning fast attacks. He had to admit that she was good, and she was landing harder blows than even his…old friend Spike could’ve landed. The creature known as the mutant terrorist, Sabertooth couldn’t help but laugh at her attempts to defeat him.

Surprised somewhat at the non-cat sound coming from the man before her, as she threw punch after punch at his blocking arms, and threw a kick when she saw an opening for one. "What’s so funny?" she asked evenly, as though she were leaning against a wall with a cup of coffee in her hands rather than in the middle of a fight with a more powerful mutant that was more cat than human. This did not escape Sabertooth’s grasp.

"What’s wrong girl, tiring so early?" he growled out in a voice that, despite being distorted through his mouth full of fang, sounded strangely proper.

Buffy smirked despite herself as she blocked a punch/kick combo that the mutant tried on her. She then swept his legs, which he jumped over, and she kept up her momentum of spin and performed a flawless roundhouse kick to the man’s unguarded chest. Taking a moment to let the mutant heal, as her sixth sense, as well as common deduction figured out that he had a power similar to William’s in his ability to heal abnormally quick, and also to say, "Are you kidding? I haven’t even warmed up. And considering where we are, I might take a while to doing that. What do you think?" she asked just before jumping up and knocking the giant to the ground with a spinning heel kick.

Realizing that what the young girl had just bragged about might very well be the truth, the large cat-like mutant quickly re-evaluated this situation. The girl that he had easily defeated as nothing just two years previous, having lived an extremely rough life, not to mention having gained valuable experience over the same course of time, might just be too much for him alone in a completely fair fight. Which at the next moment, it suddenly became very unfair. Just not necessarily in Sabertooth’s favor.

"Hey bub!" a British accented voice shouted from the bushes right behind Sabertooth, "Ever hear the expression, ‘Take on somebody your own size’?"

Suddenly, Spike came flying out from the bushes, spikes extended, and threw the much larger man at least half the distance that he had been thrown himself. "No, well how about the one, ‘Don’t bite off more than you can chew’."

Smiling at her new best friend, Buffy walked up next to William and congratulated him with a gentle smile, which broke into an infectious grin. William, seeing Buffy grinning at him, returned the gesture, then at the sound of the cat-man moving, both tensed and faced their mutual opponent. Everyone paused for the moment it took the three experienced warriors to gauge the situation.

"Two against one, somewhat unfair, wouldn’t you agree?" Sabertooth spoke in his/its deep voice.

"Who said we were fair?" both Buffy and William said at once. They turned to look at the other and grinned once again. All of a sudden, all three were disturbed by a third sound. It sounded distinctly like a vacuum, and then something that sounded like crackling fire.

Buffy was the first to notice it. Her enhanced senses, not to mention the bonus 6th, locked down on the disturbance. It, at first, looked like a tunnel of rotating snow with a large stream of red fire shooting down it, straight at Sabertooth. The Slayer, not exactly feeling generous, gave only one indication of warning, she looked right at it. For the two feral warriors, it was more than enough. Sabertooth’s superior hearing also detected the sounds, quite clearly, yet they also located exactly where the sounds were coming from. Directly behind him!

Two seconds before the red fire would have hit him; he leaped high into the air and away into the brush, quickly getting lost from sight. The ground where he had been standing suddenly exploded at the contact with the fire. As soon as it was apparent that Sabertooth had successfully dodged the blast, the red fire stopped, and the tunnel of snow disappeared, becoming regular falling snow once again.

"Weirdness," Buffy muttered as the two blonds stepped towards the explosion and the wreck.

"I’ll second that Luv," William added.

"Don’t call me…luv…" Buffy automatically retorted, trailing off as her trusty 6th, as she liked to think of it, suddenly picked up two more mutants. And one of them was very familiar. She quickly put her hood back up. "We’re about to have a bit more company, so I’d suggest putting the hardware away. For now in any case."

William immediately complied, trusting this girl and whatever strange power she seemed to have that warned them of danger, and had already saved him from a very nasty spill. Thirty seconds later, two figures appeared through the snow, slowly walking to the waiting pair. They were easy to spot. Whatever they were wearing, it was as black as leather, therefore easy to see in the white of the forest.

Neither William nor Buffy being very patient, started walking towards the approaching figures. As they were passing the wreck of William’s truck, with the taller blond right next to the side of trailer, William’s feral sense of smell suddenly recognized a very familiar odor. Smoke. He stopped suddenly, thereby causing Buffy to stop beside him.

Buffy, like William did her, trusted the obvious powers that she had sensed in him. Even if they were slightly different from her own. "What’s wrong Will?" she asked, concerned that he sensed something that she couldn’t about their unexpected benefactors.

Sniffing the air, William opened up with his most trusted sense, his sense of smell and intuition. Slowly his head rotated to his right, the side right next to the wall of the wrecked truck. That’s when all of his other sense focused in on what he smelled. Smoke. Gasoline. Kerosene. Heat from the truck. Sounds. Crackling. Flames. Sparks, being shot off. Flicker of firelight from the small corner window.

Slowly, William’s brain began to combine all of this data and information into a realization, and then it would work out an action to react to this situation. Smoke, gas, heat, the light, and sounds of flames all pointed to a fire. The crackling, sparks, along with information of the fire, spoke of how it might have started. Kerosene. William always kept a full two-gallon tank of kerosene, just for emergencies or whatever. If he could smell it, then chances were good that it was leaking. A fire in the back of his truck, his spare tank of kerosene, and probably some gasoline were leaking in the back of said truck. There were sparks, probably very near where the combustibles were leaking. Put all of this together, and William reacted faster than it took him to come to the conclusion that his truck was about to explode in both his and Buffy’s faces.

As Buffy was asking the older man what was wrong, Spike was grabbing her by the coat she wore, and with strength surprising even him, he threw her as far away as he could, hopefully in the general direction the approaching strangers, who he hoped they were better off with than the cat-man they had chased off.

"Spike, wha…?" Buffy didn’t have time to ask what was going on, as William threw her nearly twice as far as Sabertooth’s backhand had done. Two seconds after she was air born, she heard the familiar sound of an explosion, directly behind her. Of all the things she expected, she never expected Spike to get to her dropping point before her. Yet, that is exactly what happened, as she rolled when she landed, remaining uninjured, and then have a charred body fly past her ear, and skid to a halt ten feet later.

"SPIKE!" she screamed and scrambled for the body.

The two figures in the distance, having heard the explosion in the area where they had just chased Sabertooth from, rushed as quick as they could to the charred body and the trembling girl, though from the way she was covered up, that was all they could tell about her. As for the two figures themselves, which Buffy took in, in an instant from her position beside Spike, they were a man and woman respective. The taller man had dark brown hair, though it looked moussed around his bangs. He also wore a very distinctive headgear; a plastic, red-lensed visor that blocked any possibility of seeing his eyes. He had pale white skin, yet it was almost tanned against the white of the snow. He also wore a strange sort of black latex body armor that molded to his muscular frame, but certainly not enough to count as skin-tight.

The woman had a similar dress. She was shorter than her companion, also pale white, and had shoulder length blond hair that despite the wind, seemed to stay exactly in place. Unlike the man however, she wore a flowing silver cape that seemed to be connected to both her neck and wrists, instead of headgear. Her body-wear meanwhile made it seem as though she were the man’s opposite, as her own latex body armor was solid white instead of black. While it was far more form fitting for her than for her partner, it certainly was nowhere close to skin-tight. Another difference that Buffy noticed upon closer inspection, were two badge symbols just over top her breasts. They were red circles, but there were black lines around and going through the red dot, giving the picture of an "X". Buffy briefly wondered about it before the two came close enough to either help…or attack.

As they came close enough to see her, Buffy made sure that her head was ducked, and her face hidden beneath the hood. Buffy then put all of her attention on the charred form of Spike. She knew he was still alive, but the fact that he wasn’t moving and his breathing was very shallow caused her a small amount of worry over her new friend. And she was short enough on those as it was.

As the dark pale man came up to her he asked, "Are you all right? We heard the explosion and came as quick as we could."

Buffy inclined her head slightly in the direction of the voice, but did not take her eyes off of Spike. Before she could answer though, the woman knelt beside her, regarded William, and then placed her gloved hand gently on Buffy’s shoulder and said, "I’m sorry about your friend." She had a quiet and very gentle voice. Something about that made Buffy immediately want to like her.

"He’s not dead. From what I know about him, it would take a whole lot more than a small car explosion to kill this man. But he is in pretty bad shape. And thanks to the cat-man back there, we’ve lost our only ride. I don’t suppose that you two are into the Good Samaritan gig and would give us a ride to the nearest hospital?" Buffy coolly asked. The woman visibly flinched at the coldness in the younger one’s voice.

The man with the eye-gear removed one glove and felt for a pulse on William’s bloody neck. Amazingly he found one, but from the shape of the man, he should have been dead upon the impact to the ice, if not as soon as the explosion had hit him. "She’s right Storm, we have to get him back to the Raven, and back to home for treatment. And quickly, his pulse is becoming irregular." The man ordered.

He began to pick William up himself, but Buffy shoved him off and tenderly hefted the man she had known all of a couple of hours, hopefully towards safety. The woman identified as Storm held back a moment, surprised along with the man at her surprising strength. The two whispered quietly amongst themselves for a minute or so while Buffy tried to settle William comfortably in her arms. Already she could tell that most of the open wounds and cuts had clotted and healed a large amount, an amount that might’ve taken her a day or so to heal, but would take a normal person several weeks, if they could heal at all from the trauma wounds he had suffered.

She began to walk in the general direction that the strange couple had come from, hoping that she could find this "Raven" they mentioned, which to be quite honest sounded like a big black jet. Four minutes later, she came to a clearing where a large raven black two-wing hypersonic jet sat idle. "Huh, go figure," she muttered to herself as she waited patiently for the two to return.

* * *

A few minutes earlier…

The two X-men codenamed Storm and Angel Eyes, landed the Raven in seemingly the only clearing in the entire area. The young blond woman wearing white un-strapped herself and proceeded to the hatch, followed closely by her teammate Angel Eyes, or Angel for short. Once they were outside, both were struck by the bone-numbing chill of the wind and snow. Tara Monroe, the powerful mutant weather witch that her mentor had dubbed Storm, immediately began to utilize her powers to redirect most of the wind, snow, and cold from directly around her and her partner.

"Thanks Storm," Scott Summers, a.k.a. Angel Eyes said as he noticed what she was doing.

"No problem Angel," she said in a quiet voice that was only carried by the lack of wind around the pair. Storm pulled out the modified mobile tracker that had helped them locate the mutant terrorist Sabertooth. Anywhere Sabertooth was, there was usually trouble that needed stopping, thus the reason Storm and Angel were sent here by the Professor.

"The signal is coming from this direction," Storm indicated the direction after getting it from the tracker. Angel nodded and led the way, making sure not to leave the warm zone that Storm had created around them.

A few minutes into the walk the tracker suddenly started actively beeping, and the distant sound of a lion’s roar, or something similar enough to it. The two teammates looked at each other and said as one, "Sabertooth," before running as quickly as they could in the direction of the sound. When they stopped to get their bearings, Storm pulled out the tracker to see what it was beeping about. What it showed her, she never could have expected.

"Scott!" she shouted. He turned to her, worried. She showed him the readout, "Look at this," giving him a moment to see for himself before saying, "There are three mutants there. One is Sabertooth, and the other two are completely unknown. Chances are, they’re the reason he’s here. We have to help them!"

Angel nodded, and read the tracker for direction, and then pointed in the right direction. "Clear the way Storm," he ordered, readying his visor for firing. Storm nodded and her eyes took on a cloudy white appearance just before the wind picked up and a tunnel seemed to form out of the air in front of them, pointing directly at Sabertooth.

"Thanks," Angel commented, just before letting loose with a stream of red fire from his eyes down the air tunnel. Unfortunately, Sabertooth jumped out of the way before the blast could hit him. Angel stopped firing, and Storm, seeing the threat had left canceled out the air tunnel. The two began the trek to the pair of mutants Sabertooth had been terrorizing.

"What do you think Sabertooth wanted with these two?" Tara asked just before the sound of an explosion, remarkably close as well, shook through the air.

"I don’t know, and right now I don’t care, but if they were hit by that they still need our help. Let’s go!" Angel shouted, sprinting as fast as the mutant could to where her saw to figures in the snow. One of them appeared to be injured while the other was looking him over.

Angel came up to the other pair, and he was surprised by the lack of stature of the one kneeling over the one that looked like he had caught most of the explosion. ‘Must be the hurt one’s kid,’ he mused before coming up to the young one saying, "Are you all right? We heard the explosion and came as quick as we could."

The hooded figure moved its head slightly, but otherwise did nothing to indicate that it had heard Angel at all. Storm came around beside the hunched figure and regarded the injured man; he was in such a state that nobody could’ve survived. She put a hesitant, but gentle hand on the figure’s shoulder and softly consoled, "I’m sorry about your friend." Somehow the weather witch could calm even the most agitated people, and that strange unknown power seemed to work briefly on the dark cloaked figure, until she spoke.

"He’s not dead. From what I know about him, it would take a whole lot more than a small car explosion to kill this man. But he is in pretty bad shape. And thanks to the cat-man back there, we’ve lost our only ride. I don’t suppose that you two are into the Good Samaritan gig and would give us a ride to the nearest hospital?" the voice of a young girl spoke, shocking both to the core, as much by the fact that this was a young woman as by her words. It also seemed that the two were not related as Angel had initially assumed.

Wanting to be certain, Angel quickly removed one glove and felt for the man’s pulse. Beyond belief, he found it and told Storm, "She’s right Storm, we have to get him back to the Raven, and back to home for treatment. And quickly, his pulse is becoming irregular," he ordered. He began to move to pick the injured man up to carry him back to the plane, but the small girl beat him to it. Following with the strange events and unbelievable things happening so far, the girl almost easily picked up the much larger man, almost as though he were a big inflated dummy.

Staring despite himself, Angel indicated the general direction to head, which the girl immediately started down, before Storm pulled him aside to speak for a moment. "Angel, who do you think they are? And did you see what that girl did?!! They’re both obviously mutants, I mean not much could have survived injuries like that man got, and he’s still alive!"

"I know, I know Storm," Angel said just as confused as she was. "But they’re both hurt, and we can’t leave them out here with Sabertooth still on the loose. And the best place to take care of the man is back at the mansion, we both know that. Now, right now I don’t really care if they’re both Magneto’s new recruits and are responsible for multiple cases of murder. We are going to help them!" and by the tone, Storm knew the conversation was over.

Rushing to catch up, the two X-men found the young woman already waiting for them by the hatch of the large black jet. "Been waitin’. What took ya so long?" the hooded young woman asked, somewhat annoyed by having to wait. The two older mutants stared at the girl in disbelief. She was practically openly hostile. Not wanting to waste anymore time, Angel Eyes quickly walked past the girl and opened the hatch and helped get the bleach blond haired mutant comfortably strapped down. Then he pointed out where the girl could sit until they landed the plane, while he hurried to the cockpit to fly the jet out of there. Buffy took her seat and a few seconds later they were airborne. Buffy had never flown before, but she soon found herself nodding asleep, and before she was even aware of it, she had slumped over unconscious onto Spike’s healing form.

Chapter 3:

Unknown location, 30 miles off the coast

Meanwhile, on a rock island in a remote location that made it so that few ever came to it, let alone knew about it, Sabertooth had just arrived. He angrily got out of the mini-jet and quickly made his way from the spacious hanger to another, if possible, larger cavern. In the center of which stood a massive device which was half-covered with a tarp. That which was uncovered was being worked on by a single figure.

As the large cat-man came closer, Sabertooth could begin to make out the distinguishing characteristics of his compatriot and somewhat annoying ally, Toad. Daniel Osbourne, AKA Toad, sat on a stool by the machine he was painting a nice sickly olive green, his legs folded up beneath and beside him, none too dissimilar to that of the creature he was named after. His hair was an ugly bright green, and despite his claims to the contrary, it looked dyed. The only other visible sign of the young man’s mutation was his skin, which was a sickly yellow-green, that coupled with the protective goggles he wore made him appear all the more like a frog.

Sabertooth was walking past the man on the catwalk, going off to the right, when Toad decided to speak up, much to the annoyance of the former. "Weren’t you supposed to bring somebody back with you?" he asked in a fluid, yet sickly sweet voice. The only response was a loud feral roar from the taller, older, stronger, and possibly faster mutant. Daniel smiled and continued with his painting.

Walking quickly along the metal catwalk, Sabertooth soon came to another chamber, this one more the size and make of an office. The walls were bare rock, like everything else, and aside from the polished floor and lighting, the only other sign of modernization was the large flat desk and the chair behind it in the center of the room. Yet it was not the décor that immediately held the lethal mercenary’s attention. It was the man sitting in the desk, watching the metal balls click together on his desk. It was a common trinket that many offices had. Five bearing balls connected to metal wires, one ball on the end hits the set, and the ball opposite jumps and hits back. The only thing extraordinary about this set though, was there were no wires, and no bars to hold the balls up.

The man, possibly the deadliest man in the world, was none other than Rupert Giles, Magneto, and Sabertooth’s current employer. Giles looked up at his mercenary, and noticed three things right off the bat. He had a healing black eye, a new trinket around his neck, and he was alone. Holding up his hand, Giles grasped the trinket with his magnetic power and it flew into his outstretched hand.

Luke was a little perturbed by the action, but held his tongue and stood at attention. Magneto closely inspected the dog tags, not entirely recognizing them, but not entirely caring either. One held the name SPIKE. He quirked an eyebrow, recalling the name as a former…associate of Sabertooth’s. He dropped them to the desk and looked the mutant mercenary in the eye.

"Where is the girl?" he asked in a cold voice.

Sabertooth stood strong, but only his unique features allowed him to hide his surprise. "You didn’t tell me that it was the same girl that I fought two years ago. She’s gotten better; I almost didn’t make it out of there. Then the X-men showed up. They have her, as well as the other mutant." Sabertooth answered with matching contempt and respect.

Giles nodded and stood up, his long black cape billowing behind him as he walked. "Somehow Alexander figured out that I wanted the Summers girl. That is all he knows, and he’s protecting her. So now all I have to do is get her to come out in the open herself. In order to do that, I need the other girl. Since they have her now, their guard might be down some. We don’t have much time left, and I am running out of patience. We’ll wait one more week before continuing with the plan. Contact Drusilla and make the preparations. And Luke," Magneto turned at the door, "Don’t fail me."

Silently Luke gulped as he swallowed his fear and made to follow his master from the room. Then at the last second he turned and grabbed the dog tags from the desk. As he did so, the floating bearing balls stopped clacking and fell to the desk, rolling off of it onto the floor.

Sabertooth would not fail again.

* * *

Upstate New York, 12 miles out from Westchester

Slowly Buffy rolled around to consciousness. As she did, her senses came on one by one. The first, more out of reflex than any precaution, was her trusted 6th radar sense. It immediately told her that one other person was in the room. A mutant, male, yet he was sitting and doing nothing, just watching her. She didn’t sense any weapons, but that really didn’t mean much. Outside of the room that she was currently in everything got fuzzy and was like white noise to her sense.

Her hearing and sense of smell came back next, and while her hearing could detect the breathing and steady heartbeat of the one watching her, her smell, which was one of the two senses of hers that seemed to be the only ones not enhanced. Ofcourse it didn’t help that she hadn’t bathed for over two weeks, nearly a month. All she could smell was her own stench.

When her body sensed the stranger in the room with her, it immediately wanted to tense and either fight and kill the person or run away peeing her pants. She did neither. She remained as calm as possible, kept her eyes and muscles relaxed and maintained her steady breathing.

After a moment to collect herself, Buffy recalled her last memories, hoping to figure out where she was and maybe why. She almost lost it when she remembered that she had fallen asleep on the jet ride taking Spike to a hospital. ‘Maybe this is the hospital and this is the attendant those two left to watch me,’ Buffy thought to herself.

That’s when she remembered who the two in question were. ‘Storm. That was the woman’s name. She was nice.’ Buffy recalled. Then she remembered the familiar "blip" the man had given off on her scope. Though she had never met him when she had her powers, because she knew him it was the same thing. Her Uncle Scott. The one that Faith went to see. Probably the only family she had left after Aunt Kate.

A torrid of emotions suddenly struck the young teenager. Hope at finding her twin sister and being reunited. Happiness at having family. Confusion as to why her uncle would be in Northern Alberta. Worry for Spike. More confusion about this man that was just sitting there, watching her. Fear at the confusion and fear of where she was and what they might do to her when they found out who she really was. And an overwhelming sense of sadness and depression with one thought as its source. ‘What if Faith is dead or worse, and I’m next?

The terrible thought that her sister could be dead did more to weaken the girl’s hope than any amount of torture or street life could ever do. If Faith was dead then so was Buffy, because without the hope of being reunited with her twin then Buffy could no longer go on, as anything, for anything. Without even aware of it, a lonely tear escaped from beneath the young girl’s eye and rolled soundlessly down her cheek and then was lost to the world.

Buffy shook herself. This was not the time for self-pity and unconfirmed fears. It was the time for action. She and Spike were still in danger and chances were more than good that she was the only one that could get them out of it. She needed to find and get to Spike, but first there was the matter of her "guard".

Jumping up with fluid grace and superhuman speed, Buffy faced the man sitting staring at her, naturally dropping into a defense stance, ready to lash out. She faltered only because of the utter shock that ran through her. The lanky dark haired man that sat before her was in a wheel chair and held a familiar look about him. Too familiar.

It was as he spoke that she recalled a long forgotten childhood memory of meeting the man that her Uncle Scott worked for, and that her father sometimes worked with. "Hey Buff," Xander greeted, "Where ya been?"

* * *

Professor Alexander Xavier sat quietly and uncannily patiently in the recovery room just off the medical ward in the underground bunker beneath his mansion/school. Before him lay a young girl, no more than 17, yet he suspected her to be younger. She was wrapped in mismatched clothes; whatever she could find no doubt, like most runaways. She also wore a hooded cloak, also not unlike mutant runaways. The interesting part had come when he found the silver cross she had kept hidden. It held the only true clue to her identity.

This girl that Angel Eyes and Storm had brought in was more than a normal mutant runaway, an enigma in many ways, aside from how strongly she stunk. First were her very powers. A mutant this young, this powerful would no doubt be a very desired recruit for Magneto’s growing force of mutant terrorists and instigators. Second was, what she was doing with the other mutant that seemed to have saved this girl’s life by taking the front of a car explosion, and what would Sabertooth and thus Magneto want with either of them. Lastly, where did she get the cross?

That was what puzzled and troubled the mutant the most. That cross, that very cross had been a gift that he himself had helped Scott Summers pick out. That cross was sent with another, as a matching set for Scott’s twin nieces, Buffy and Faith Summers. The engravings easily distinguished them; the girls’ names etched into each. Buffy got the silver cross marked with her initials on the back, B A S, and Faith’s name, FAITH, on the front. Faith’s was the same with F I S, and BUFFY on the back and front respectively.

Those crosses should be with no one else, because he had been there when the twins received their gifts. It was easy to see by the looks on their faces how much they loved and adored them. No one certainly needed psychic powers for that, despite the fact that he did had only intensified the certainty that the girls would never have willingly parted with the crosses. Which pointed to only two logical conclusions. The first, and without a doubt the worst, that Buffy was dead and this runaway mutant had either stolen or kept the cross. The second, and strangely the hardest to believe, was that this mutant girl was Buffy and their long search for the missing girl was finally over.

What made this so hard to believe was the fact that Buffy was not a mutant. It had been thoroughly confirmed at the twin girls’ birth, Faith’s DNA held the X-gene, Buffy’s did not. A trait often, yet uncommon by the circumstances, found in cases of twin mutants. What else supported that this young mutant was not Buffy was her very appearance. Buffy had been very spoiled and snobbish growing up. Always the one hanging with the most popular people in school and doing only what the "cool" crowd was in to at that moment. Faith on the other hand had been very down to earth and at the same time even more outgoing than Buffy could ever hope to be.

Yet that had changed very much over the past two years, so it was also likely that the same had happened to Buffy. Living on the streets, not sure if your family was even alive, having to fight just to survive from one moment to the next. The Professor had heard a good deal of what the street life was like from the runaways that came to his school here, and though he had never lived it and would very likely never do so, he could at least try and sympathize with them.

None of that however changed the fact that Buffy was not a mutant, could not be a mutant. Well, shouldn’t be a mutant. Yet no matter how much evidence pointed out that this girl was Buffy…that one fact that had made Faith’s parents and Scott so happy when it was found out. Buffy was normal, could be normal, grow up normal, and would never be persecuted because of something she could never change. If that had changed…

Xavier shook himself out of such thoughts, focusing his attention back to the young mutant before him. Because at that moment she regained consciousness, except you couldn’t tell anything about it from her body, her breathing still regular, steady and no sudden muscular movements. Yet he knew the exact second that she awoke from the shifting in her brain patterns. Before, when she was asleep, her mind had been perfectly still, not even dreams. The very moment that she was awake, her mind was no quieter than a flea on a drum in the middle of the Thanksgiving parade.

Limiting his scans to more empathic, to sense her mood and state of stress, the Professor reached out with his mind to the girl’s. More than a little surprising he encountered a strong resistance to even his light surface scan. In fact he could sense absolutely nothing inside her mind. He could sense the underlying activity that indicated she was indeed alive and awake, yet he could not distinctly hear any of her thoughts as he normally did.

It was actually somewhat disturbing. Ever since he was a boy he had heard people’s innermost thoughts and feelings, and at times it was more often an annoyance and a curse than the gift that he claimed it to be, yet now that there was actually someone he could not hear, he kind of felt…cheated.

Then a startling change took place in the girl. She had been coming too, organizing all the data her senses were sending to her, and all of a sudden an overwhelming array of emotions came pouring out of her. He could not tell what caused them, nor who or what they might be directed at, yet she was still broadcasting very intense emotions, enough that he could feel them as if they were his own. Mostly she was confused and depressed, by what he was at a loss.

As Alexander watched on, just as confused as the girl about the intense emotions flying off her, he saw a single lonely tear spill out from under her eyelids and trail silently down her cheek onto the pillow that her head rested on. Finally all of the emotions culminated into an underlying resolve that the mutant telepath could sense was the primary driving force for the girl.

He sighed, partly in relief, and partly frustrated tension. He had gotten the answer he needed. He had once had the opportunity to meet Buffy Summers and he knew how her thoughts and emotions felt and their unique signature. This girl was Buffy.

It was proven in the next second as the young mutant gracefully jumped from her lying position on the bed into a defense stance that he had seen in Angel Eye’s self-defense classes. Her eyes locked onto him, and he somehow felt that she had known from the moment that she awoke that she knew exactly where in the room he had been. Very interesting.

As she stared at him, first in determination, then in startled confusion (no doubt at his paralyzed state), and then in frightened realization as he spoke to her in what he hoped was a friendly joking tone, as he had spoken with her all those years ago. "Hey Buff," he greeted before asking, "Where ya been?"

* * *

Just down the hall, on the same level even, in the primary examination room of the sub-basement’s medical ward, lay the mutant warrior, Spike. Also known as William. He was currently set up to various monitoring equipment and comfortably placed on a body-fitting examination table. The lights were off for the moment, mostly because as the mutant warrior was sleeping and the room wasn’t being used for the moment.

It just happened to be that at the very moment that Buffy Summers awoke in the room down the hall, that Doctor Willow Rosenberg opened the door and turned on the lights. She had several Ph.D.’s in multiple fields, including medical science of both veterinary and human fields. She was also the best suited to handle the no doubt traumatized man that lay so still on the bed.

In the case that he actually could move after being right next to a car explosion, if her calm demeanor and spell casting eyes didn’t keep him down, then chances were good that her telekinetic powers would most certainly restrain him.

Walking around to the pale man’s right side, she checked his bared chest for any obvious trauma wounds or burns that needed immediate attention. Seeing only healthy unbroken not to mention extremely well toned and pale white skin. Creasing her brow in slight confusion, Willow dismissed it and noticed the kit for drawing a blood sample was on the tray opposite the bed.

Concentrating, Willow reached out with her thoughts, and like commanding her hand to pick up a pencil, the needle and syringe wrapped in plastic that she needed floated up from the tray that it rested on and then flew steadily to her opened hand as she reached up and caught it. Tearing open the plastic covering the needle, Willow wrapped a tourniquet around the man’s right arm and poked around for a vein that she needed to draw blood from.

Putting the needle at the exposed vein, Willow, with a practiced form eased the needle in…

* * *

As soon as the door began to hiss open, Spike was awake and fully aware of what was going on around him. Someone was walking towards him, a woman, no older than twenty-two, possibly a redhead or a blond. When the lights came on, Spike struggled not to react in the slightest. When the woman, possibly a nurse, came up beside him he could tell a little more about her.

She was nearly five and a half feet tall, petite, and as she ran her soft, soft hands gently over his arms and chest, checking for wounds or coping a feel, he realized that she was stronger than her gentle touch conveyed. When she tied the tourniquet he was proved right.

However it was when he felt the unfamiliar, yet very familiar sensation of a needle at his arm that he reacted at. It was more instinctual than when Sabertooth had attacked, and without knowing the reason or cause, he was more terrified than he could ever remember being outside of his nightmares. The very moment that the needle punctured through the skin Spike launched his body out of the bed faster than the human eye could follow and had his "nurse" in a deadly choke hold that could break her neck, killing her instantly if he so chose.

In his panic, his instincts told him to use her as a hostage and a shield, also checking for all enemies in the room. The surprise at the fact that there were none, no enemies, no one to threaten with the life of this beautiful elfin young woman actually cut through his panic. His eyes jumped from shadow to shadow, and then checking the lighted areas, knowing instinctually that no one was there, but there was supposed to be…

Finally, deciding that the woman was no threat and he didn’t want to lag or convince a hostage to get him out of this place he let her go and ran for the exit, which opened on his approach, faster than the gasping "nurse" could believe a human to run.

* * *

Willow didn’t even have the time to scream as faster than she could ever possibly follow the pale bleach blond man jumped up, breaking the weak restraints and monitoring equipment, got behind her and grabbed her in a single handed choke hold that was more like iron than a human hand.

The move was so sudden and fluid that Willow was still processing it as a startling realization came to her body. ‘OK, oxygen becoming an issue,’ she thought wryly, hoping that the "patient" would get the unspoken hint.

She was surprised that he apparently had as in the very next second, he let her go and was out of the room faster than she could begin to cough and gag, life sustaining air rushing back into her lungs faster than it was originally meant to.

The door closed behind the mutant, but the air was still charged with his terror and confusion, which wasn’t surprising since his last memory had been of a fight with Sabertooth and a car explosion. She just hoped that the Professor wouldn’t have any trouble getting to the man.

Rubbing her sore, yet functioning neck, Willow stepped over to the medical elevator that went straight to the upstairs clinic. As she waited for the single second for it to open, she telepathically connected with Xander, as he insisted all his students and friends call him, rather than Professor or Alexander, which he thought made him sound too old, and caught him up on the situation with the "patient".

Xander acknowledged her. ‘Don’t worry about it Will. I’ll direct him to me. Besides, I’ve got a physics class to teach in a few minutes. I was going to have Tara take it, but Buffy just woke up.’ He thought-transmitted to her.

‘You mean…’ Willow took a second to organize her thoughts, ‘She really is Buffy?!! Scott will be so happy!’

‘Maybe not. Turns out that Buffy was a latent mutant. I don’t know when her powers manifested, and Faith’s memories of Buffy the night that Hank’s home was attacked are all blocked. Which as you know is the reason we never found Buffy until Kate contacted us, and by then she had run off again.’

‘Oh. What are you going to do?’ she asked.

‘I’m going to go to class. You are going to come here and comfort Buffy. You’re good at that sort of thing. And don’t argue. That’s the reason that you don’t teach any classes, so you can assist the rest of us and take care of what we don’t have time to do. All right?’ Xander scolded.

‘All right,’ Willow grumbled mentally, though internally she was shouting with joy. She had wanted to meet Buffy many times and had been among those thoroughly concerned by her disappearance. And she didn’t want to try and track down the scared animal that was Spike without some major backup, like Angel Eyes, Storm, and the National Guard with three-dozen tanks.

Closing the elevator, Willow did an about face and went down the medical corridor to the room where Buffy had been placed and the Professor resided. Spike was nowhere to be seen.

* * *

The second that Spike saw the door close behind him, he knew that he was lost. The corridor he was in was so clean that it could be called sterile. At the first intersection he slid to a stop on his bare feet. He paused to wage his situation. That was when he noticed the pieces of metal that had been apart of the monitoring equipment they had placed on him. He ripped them off hastily, as well as ripped out the broken needle left in his arm when he jumped the nurse or whatever she had been.

Behind him he figured was whatever this place counted as a doctor’s office, in front of him was a longer straight corridor where at the end of it was a large circular door with an X on it. To his right were other more normal doors, like the one he just stepped through, rounding off around the left corner. To his left was another hall way with a darkened room just beyond.

Not even considering the consequences or using his senses to guide him, William ran straight to the darkened area, which lit up brighter than the chromium hallways as soon as he did. All around the room were glass panels that had strange armored costumes behind them. There were also doors to the left and straight-ahead. The one straight ahead looked just like big circular door at the end of the other hallway, which William didn’t entirely trust. The other looked like an elevator door.

That was when he noticed an open cabinet next to the closets. Tearing it open, he found shelves of sweatshirts and pants. Grabbing one of the gray sweatshirts, he casually noticed the repeating X symbol on the left breast of the jacket as he put it on.

Since the elevator didn’t open, and he couldn’t see any buttons to call it, Spike went back out into the open hall and see if he could find some other way out. Once he had that confirmed he could find out what had happened to Slayer, but until he found the way out, finding her would do little good. Once he was out in the main hallway again, he headed straight, down the hallway that rounded off to the left. Several of the doors he passed were marked as people’s quarters (rooms), so he left them completely alone, not wanting to raise any sort of alarm.

After nearly an hour of wandering the sterile halls, William felt that he was actually more lost than when he had started out. Until he heard something like a whisper…

‘Where are you going?’

After the silence of the past hour, he was immediately tensed and began to scan the area around him for the source of the sound. He backed himself into a rounder corner, making it easier to defend himself with only the front to watch. He felt something click beside him, yet before he could discover exactly what it was, the rounded wall next to him rolled back with a loud hum to reveal the glow of an elevator that he never would have suspected being there. He heard the whisper again.

‘This way…’

Not entirely sure, but for the moment trusting this strange whisper, Spike entered the elevator, which the moment he did closed with the same hum. Three seconds after it closed, it opened again, this time to a very well furnished hall with mirrors, carpets, and chairs at each corner. It looked like the inside of some kind of mansion. He stepped out of the elevator; it closed behind him and looked just like the rest of the wood paneling along the walls.

Opening up with his senses, Spike could tell that a lot of people used this hall, but no one was too close for the moment. He could also tell that the front door, the closest exit, was to his right. Stalking silently, like a night predator, Spike made his way as quickly as he could down the hall. Halfway down it he heard the whispers again.

‘Where are you going?’

Over here…’

This way…’

He’s over there…’

He fastened his pace, but before he could get to the front foyer, he heard more than a dozen voices coming down the stairs right in front of him. Not willing to take the risk, he raced behind a wooden paneled column, checking only for an instant to see who was coming. From his cursory glance, it appeared to be about fifteen or so teenagers, none much older than Buffy. He waited until he heard them pass before moving from his position behind the column. He moved around it until he was almost to the foyer when he suddenly heard another three bodies coming closer to his position.

Panicking, Spike ran for the opposite direction, going into the room off to his left. When he hit the wall, he immediately sensed the hidden door that was there in the paneling. Pushing it open without checking the inside, he rushed in and slammed the door shut, waiting to listen and see if they would pass like the teenagers had.

In the moment after the panic had settled was when he realized that he was not alone in the room. Turning his head, he saw a sight that he never would have expected in a hundred years. It was a cross between a bureaucrat’s office and a classroom, with a green chalkboard with a diagram of an atom on it, to the five or six students sitting in desks/chairs in front of a large oak desk with a well-dressed middle aged man sitting behind it.

"Good morning William," the well-dressed man greeted with a chipper note. He had dark black hair, penetrating dark brown eyes, and a pale, but healthy, complexion. The students, who had turned to stare at William the moment that he burst in, turned back to the teacher, or whatever the man was, when he spoke once again. "Now, I want your reports on weak and strong Anthracic principles on my desk by tomorrow morning, all right? Class dismissed."

The students quickly gathered their supplies and stood to leave. William took a few steps forward, away from the door as they all quickly made their way out through it. One girl turned back at the last second, having forgotten her bag. She smiled affectionately at the still seated man and said, "Bye Xander," before running to catch up with the others. "Bye Dawn," the man waved her off.

William watched her go, surprised that the others had closed the door, but the girl showed no signs of slowing or opening the door herself. He was shocked when she just ran right through the door, like it wasn’t even there. He turned back to the man who had spoken, his face showing his fear and confusion quite clearly.

"Physics," the man said, holding up a textbook as though in explanation.

"I’m Professor Alexander Xavier, you’re in my School for the gifted," the man introduced himself as he guided his electric wheelchair from around the desk to in front of Spike.

* * *

1 hour earlier…

Meanwhile, as Spike was being lead in general circles by Xander’s telepathic instructions, the wheeled Professor himself was excusing himself from Buffy’s presence, feeling Willow approaching as Spike went down an adjacent hall.

A minute of tense silence followed Xander’s comment before Buffy reacted any further. "Wha… Who the he-"

"Ah, ah, ah," Xander reprimanded, tsking his finger in a ‘no-no’ fashion. "Watch your language Buffy."

Grimacing in a frown of annoyance, Buffy held back her insult and rephrased her question. "Who are you?" She asked with such genuine curiosity that Xander didn’t need to be a telepath to believe that she was sincere in her question.

Xander just casually shrugged and leaned back a little further in his chair. "My name is Alexander Xavier. But I would greatly appreciate it if you called me Xander. All of my friends do. I’m hoping that you’ll be one of them Buffy. Or do you prefer Elizabeth?" Xander added before she could speak.

This time Buffy did nothing to hold back her tongue. "Shut the fuck up you criping crip! How the FUCKING HELL do you even know my name? Huh? And for your information, Xander, I don’t like the name Elizabeth, it makes me sound too old!"

"Well, it’s the same for me with my full name. And remember Buffy, language," Xander cheerily reminded her. His good mood kept her off balance for the moment and she felt the need to regroup. She flopped down back on the bed rather ungraciously.

"Who are you?" she asked again, more confused than she could remember being since she left school. Xander just stared back at her and smiled unnervingly calm. "Who do you think I am?" he asked just as calmly as he looked.

Buffy stared back at him suspiciously before cocking her head in surprise in the door’s direction. Xander raised his eyebrow in surprise at her shifting of focus. He turned to look at what she was staring at, three seconds before Willow opened the door and stepped in, only to find both occupants staring at her.

"Um, hi," the redhead greeted uncertainly. Buffy was somewhat surprised by her appearance, but even more so by her very features. She was a few inches taller than Buffy, her soft strawberry auburn hair falling gently around her grace-defined head about her neck. Her face, crafted from porcelain marble with the softest coloring Buffy could imagine, was frowned with concern that gave her the cutest wrinkle above her eyes and turned her lips in a tantalizing pout. Her bright green eyes focused so intently on you when she looked at you that you felt like she was casting a spell over you. She was elfin thin, but through a trained eye Buffy could tell that she was stronger than she looked. She was dressed in a clingy bright red shirt with a deep V-neck that showed and complimented her bust nicely. Her forearms were left uncovered, the sleeves pushed back to her elbows. Traveling further down her frame, Buffy saw how her black stretch pants hugged her so snugly that it showed off her curves along with the shirt. Remembering the movie she had snuck into last summer, Buffy kept in mind the line "You can tell a lot about a person by their shoes," when she studied the woman’s feet. She almost smiles seeing very fashionable black heels with a double-strap running across the top of her feet.

Xander was more surprised that Buffy had seemed to sense Willow’s approach than the emotions the young blond was broadcasting at the moment. Turning back to the subject of the hour, Xander introduced the young woman that she seemed so fixated on. "Buffy, allow me to introduce my assistant, Doctor Willow Rosenberg. I unfortunately have to attend to several matters at the moment, so Willow will be keeping you company until I can return and answer all of your questions. Until then, I’m sure that the good Doctor can answer what she can. Willow, if there are any problems, you know how to contact me."

Xander then worked his electronic wheelchair around so that he left the room through the door that Willow vacated shortly after the introduction. Both women watched the door close before turning back to each other. Willow smiled gently at the young teenager she had heard so much about, using all of her self-control not to frown in disgust at the smell and appearance of the girl.

Buffy felt remarkably at ease when…Willow was it?… smiled at her. A stray thought crossed her mind in the next moment, what if she really is casting a spell over me? It caused her face to contort into one of concern, making Willow gulp in confusion and fear that she had done something wrong. The instant that Buffy noticed the way Willow’s face fall and she almost appeared frightened, Buffy felt an uncontrollable urge to do anything and everything she could to erase that expression from the woman’s face forever. So strong was her urge that she actually stood up to comfort her.

When Buffy stood up, Willow gave an instinctual reaction as she thought that Buffy was somehow angry with her, taking a step back from her. Buffy, not quite understanding, paused in her approach and then came to a (wrong) conclusion about Willow’s reaction. She really stunk.

"Oh," Buffy embarrassed tucked some stray hairs behind her ear as she looked at the ground. Willow feeling like dirt at her reaction was now the one to try and step closer to comfort. She stopped at four feet because of the smell. Gulping again and trying to hold her breath, Willow was about to attempt getting closer to Buffy when the teen herself spoke. "Um, you wouldn’t happen to have a shower or something that I could use real quick, huh?"

Willow smiled and almost giggled at the absurdity of it. She nodded and waved her arm toward the door in a semi-dramatic gesture. "Sure. We’ve even got some soap and shampoo that you can use. I’ll show it to you, right this way." Leading the girl with her other hand on the blonde’s shoulder out the door.

Buffy’s breath caught in her throat when Willow spoke, and stopped altogether when the lady touched her to lead her to the showers. Shaking herself to rid her mind of the strange feelings she was experiencing, Buffy couldn’t help asking herself, ‘What the hell is wrong with me? I mean, yeah she’s beautiful, but I really need to focus here. Like where Faith is if this Xander guy really is the Professor character that Uncle Scott works for.

* * *

Twenty minutes later, Buffy was still showering and Willow was wondering what to do with the runaway’s clothes. They were almost as crud and filth encrusted as Buffy had been when she was wearing them. Searching the various pockets, Willow found a couple Canadian notes and empty candy-bar wrappers and nothing else. Finally, having given up any hope of any saving of the articles, Willow stepped into the common area just in front of the showers, separated by curtains and a wall from them.

"Buffy, I hate to ask," Willow began holding up the cloak that the blond had been wearing up north, "But is there anything of your clothes that you want to keep? I mean we can provide you with fresh and clean clothing, but if there’s something here that you…"

"Go ahead and toss the whole lot." Buffy answered over the sound of falling water. "Most of it is just whatever I could put together from homeless shelters and junkyards. You know I came to New York last Winter, hoping to find…" She stopped for several seconds, causing Willow to grow concerned before she continued. "Anyway, it was cold so I started hunting for whatever I could find to keep me warm. After… After I left, I just kept going North, eventually ending up in Seattle by way of hitchhiking. I had been planning on going back south to see Kate again, but… Instead I found a trucker who was heading up to Anchorage and having never been to Alaska before, I asked him to take me with him. After that…it’s history and your story."

Willow nodded, gathering up all of Buffy’s old clothing and putting it aside to be thrown out later. Willow quickly put together an outfit for the young teenager; underwear, a training T-shirt with the customary trademark X over the right breast, some spare jeans of Willow’s that were shorter than she would have liked personally, and a pair of tennis shoes with white socks.

Willow was just placing the fresh clothes in front of the shower stall Buffy was in when the water suddenly cut off. Surprised, Willow looked up just as Buffy pushed aside the curtain. Both froze in the next instant. Instead of drawing the curtain around her or closing it, or even screaming in surprise like she had expected, Buffy just stared unflinchingly at Willow, flushed from the warm shower and wearing only a silver cross around her neck that hung tantalizing between her breasts.

Buffy couldn’t move. She couldn’t move, couldn’t think, and was on the verge of not breathing once again. She couldn’t stop the blush that crept up her cheeks as she and Willow stood there staring at each other. Buffy really hoped that Willow wouldn’t notice her flush, but then pointed out how she could not not notice.

Taking a deep breath, Buffy calmly stepped out of the shower stall, still dripping wet and flushed bright pink from both the warm water and her added embarrassment. Taking a shuddering breath, and working hard to keep control of her frame, Buffy slowly stepped up to Willow until she was less than a foot away from the mutant.

Gulping in a nervousness that she did not often feel these days, Willow felt her thoughts falter back into what her boyfriend, Scott Summers, this girl’s UNCLE, called "babble mode". "Uh…um, c-c-clothes-ss," Willow stuttered, pointing at the pile she had just placed on the bench beside them. Gulping once more and breathing in shuddering gasps, Willow was star-struck as her eyes, unbidden, traveled the length of Buffy’s frame memorizing almost every detail of the young mutant’s pinkish white skin, soft, smooth, pretty skin… Willow shook herself, trying to force her mind to focus on anything but Buffy’s delicate muscular frame, her round buoyant, perky B-cup breasts with hard bright pink nipples and the cross between them, which just served to draw more attention to the teen’s assets, or her taut lightly tanned abs which curved gently down to a…

Willow stopped those thoughts before they could go any further, forcing her mind to focus on the task of getting Buffy dressed rather than undressed… ‘Stop IT!’ she ordered. Shakily, Willow pointed behind the still staring Buffy at the hook beside the shower stall, where a large fluffy white towel hung.

"Um-ummm, towel…" Willow stuttered once again, closing her eyes to focus on her words more than Buffy’s buff body.

Buffy followed Willow’s pointing with her eyes to the towel beside the stall she had been in. When Willow opened her eyes again, she saw the hazel-eyed teen staring intensely into her own jade green orbs. Buffy quirked an eyebrow at something before nodding her head and turning to retrieve the towel, giving the flustered telekinetic just as much of a view of her backside as she had her front.

Rather than wrapping herself in the towel like Willow had hoped she would have done, Buffy just held it in her right hand and returned to her close position before Willow. Staring back into the redhead’s gaze with a strangled hope mixed with a dash of mischief, Buffy muttered a quiet, "Thanks."

Willow only nodded silently before letting herself go off at the mouth as she often did when she got really nervous. "Um, yeah, no problem. Not that there would be a problem, because there isn’t a problem and I got you some clothes, some fresh clothes that I think should fit you, at least I hope they’ll all fit you, but just let me know if anything doesn’t fit or if you’d like something different because we have a pretty large selection if you want something different and you can choose other clothing for this, not to mention that we can take you shopping later this week so you can get more clothes that would suit you, but we’ll wait until later for that. Right now I guess I’ll just leave you alone so you can, you know, get dressed and if there is anything else that you need just be sure to shout, or call out because I’m just gonna be right outside. In case you, you know, need anything. Not that…"

"Thanks," Buffy quietly repeated to prevent another extremely long run-on sentence like she had just witnessed. Despite herself, Buffy found it strikingly…cute and couldn’t help smiling at her new friend. ‘I like her. I think I’ll hang around just to get to know her a bit better,’ Buffy thought to herself.

Willow stopped when Buffy spoke, grateful that she had. When the teen smiled at her that was more seductive than it was friendly, at least to Willow it was, she felt butterflies in her stomach as she nodded once more and muttered, "Right, so I guess I’ll be outside" before turning around and walking out.

Buffy nodded after her and tracked the mutant woman with her eyes until she lost sight of her. Stifling the rising giggles in her throat, Buffy proceeded to dry herself and getting dressed as quickly as she could. She was actually surprised to find that all of the clothing Willow had picked for her fit perfectly. Particularly the jeans and shoes.

‘Woman has an eye for fashion, can’t deny that,’ Buffy mentally commented as she finished tying up her shoes and stood up. Finding the clip on the wall-shelf where she had placed it, Buffy combed through her still wet hair with her fingers before pulling it into a ponytail and clipping it with the metallic/plastic hairpiece that she had bought the week before she had run from L.A. She also pulled it out so the silver cross was hanging on the outside of the shirt for all to see. Smiling at herself in a nearby mirror, Buffy was pleased to see the dark stains and smudges were gone from her face and grunted in approval at her appearance before walking out to join Willow.

* * *

On the other side of the wall, Dr. Rosenberg was waiting both anxiously and nervously. She was castrating herself for her hormone-induced thoughts. Particularly the ones involving the semi-naked youth just around the corner. ‘I bring a whole new light to the concept of Jailbait,’ Willow further castrated.

The whole incident of seeing the girl she had heard so much about naked forced Willow to try and rationalize her response. She should have not been bothered by it at all. She had seen a naked body before, after all she was a doctor, and she and Tara had been forced to communal shower before. But here she was acting like she had just seen her boyfriend or somebody she had a silly high school crush on in the shower. Which prompted a whole other thought that had come across her thoughts before.

‘Am I kinda gay?

When Buffy, dressed first of all and smelling like pine lilacs second, came around the corner and walked up to the good doctor so she could so easily smell the shampoo she had just given the mutant, Willow gulped one last time before sucking it in and turned into "tour guide mode".

"Hey, your dressed," Willow greeted. "And you don’t smell like something from the sewers anymore either. Call it a plus."

Buffy smiled at the humor and even giggled slightly. "Thanks. I-uh, I don’t know how to repay you…"

Willow waved off the rest of her statement. "Don’t worry about it. It’s what we do. Besides, and no offense, you reeeally needed it." Both young women then broke into a fit of giggles over that.

After catching her breath, Buffy nodded and answered, "None taken. I know I was rank incarnate. But what I meant was, you people must want something from me in order to be giving me this much help. And before you say anything about being above petty issues and wanting only to help because you can, save it. In my experiences, which are pretty broad at this point, even some priests want something from you if they’re helping you for no obvious reason. Usually it’s just so they can feel better about themselves. Most of the time, with me anyway, people want me to protect them. If it ain’t too high-class, then I’ll do it. From the looks of this place," she paused looking at the high-tech hallway they had stepped into, "You’re high-class and you certainly don’t need any of my protection if ya got people like sunshine and pretty face."

Confused, Willow asked, "Sunshine and pretty face?"

Buffy shrugged, "The two who rescued me. Mr. Serious with the headgear, and then the woman in white armor that had a pretty face. I figured that sunshine was responsible for the laser blast that scared the cat man off, and from what I sensed pretty face was just as powerful or more. Weather witch, right?"

Willow stopped walking and looked sharply at Buffy. "How did you…?"

Buffy interrupted her. "Don’t know. Something I’ve always been able to do. Know where everything and what everything around me is for about ten feet. What about you? Other than looking pretty and nervous all of the time."

Willow blushed scarlet to match her hair at the word "pretty" but kept her cool and answered her friend. "I’m a telekinetic. Basically I can move things, objects, people, with my mind. I also have some minor telepathic abilities."

Buffy nodded and continued to walk, Willow trailing behind her slightly. Finally Buffy asked the question that had been bugging her the most. "Where is…what is this place?" throwing her arms wide as an emphasizing gesture to her question.

Willow smiled and answered in all seriousness, "This place is the ‘secret lower levels’ or more mundanely referred to as the sub-basement levels. As for where, we are currently ten miles outside of Winchester, New York, and about three stories down from the above buildings. "Xavier’s Institute for Higher Learning and Gifted Youth." Xander is more or less our headmaster slash Principal and like he introduced me, I’m his assistant."

Buffy nodded, absorbing the information as she continued to walk. She spoke again after half a minute’s silence. "I take it you want me to enroll in your school huh?" Willow shook her head. "Only if you really want to Buffy. We don’t force anyone. At least not to join our school."

"So what do you force them to do?" Buffy shot out before she could stop herself.

Willow wasn’t phased, but did look a little hurt as she stared steadily back at Buffy. "Our Mutant Protection Programs. We’re very well set up. If one person or another is on the run, and they are innocent or somebody is after them for no good reason, then we set them up in any one of our safe houses across the world. Most people don’t like leaving their lives here behind, but if they want to live, we have to force them to go. But we still keep in touch with them."

Buffy nodded. "Is the Professor ready to see me yet?" she asked.

Willow smiled, seeing the glint in Buffy’s eyes as she asked that. She knew that Xander, unless by a politician or a "client" didn’t like to be called anything other than Xander by people he knew. And in reply to the young girl’s question, Xander answered it himself.

‘No Buffy, I’m still in the middle of class at the moment. But Willow can get you something to eat in the kitchen and by the time you’re done we should be ready for you. And remember Ms. Summers, I prefer the name Xander.’

Buffy shivered as Xander broke the telepathic connection. Concerned, Willow voiced, "What is it Buffy?" Instead the blonde just smirked and shook her head. "My old principal used to call me Ms. Summers all the time. More often than not without the Ms. He hated me for whatever reason, and I hated him, along with the rest of the student body, right back. Just hearing that gave me shivers and it reminded me of old Mister Snyder. Brrrrrr" Buffy shivered once again.

Willow giggled at the information but Buffy only smirked at her. Sensing that Buffy was still hanging on to what Xander had said about the kitchen, Willow point her in the direction of one of the lifts saying between her giggles, "Come on, I’ll show you to the kitchen. Hope you like leftover pizza. More often than not it’s all that’s in the fridge these days."

Buffy smirked once again, stepping into the round well-lit elevator that had been a part of the rounded corner wall several seconds ago, "I’ve learned not to be too picky. Just as long as you don’t have any anchovies or onions on them."

"Oh don’t worry, Michael always finishes all of his pizzas." Willow responded before the door closed.

* * *

Less than thirty minutes later, Buffy was happily full, something that hadn’t occurred for a long time in her eyes. Just as the blonde mutant was finishing up the last of the pizzas in the fridge, Willow received the telepathic summons from Xander.

‘My office. William. Now!’

Getting up, sensing the urgency behind the request, Willow quickly put Buffy’s dirty dishes away. "Hey Willow," Buffy asked, concerned, "What’s up? What’s the hurry?"

Remaining as calm as one humanly could under the circumstances, Willow replied, "Oh nothing. It’s just that Spike has woken up and Xander wants us all in his office to meet him."

Buffy nodded and jumped out of her seat. "Cool. I’m coming too. Willy knows me and if he felt anything like I did when I woke up, he’s gonna be in a grouchy mood. Shall we go?"

No kidding’ Willow thought silently as she nodded and followed Buffy out of the kitchen.

Dodging some students who were racing into the kitchen, for lunch no doubt, Willow lead the new girl through the maze of wood-paneled halls and richly furnished rooms to the door that lead into the Professor’s study/office. Willow was briefly surprised to see it open, until she saw Scott and Tara there already. Smiling, and hiding a sigh of relief, Willow made sure that Buffy was with her as they entered the office together.

* * *

"Would you like some breakfast?" Xander offered as he wheeled himself around the desk after William’s silence.

William shared the same brief shocked look that most had upon seeing Xavier’s crippled positing, but moved past it quicker than most as he ignored the offer and shot out, "Where am I?"

Xander didn’t miss a beat as he brought his chair to a stop before Spike, answering immediately, "Westchester. New York. My people, at the request of your friend, brought you here for medical attention."

William, annoyed, confused, and a bit angry bit back in a spiked English brogue, "I don’t need medical attention." The Professor just smiled slightly and nodded, proceeding in a calm, gentle voice, "Ofcourse you don’t."

After the introductions were completed, the two just stared at each other for a moment, allowing Xander to send out his telepathic summons to everybody. Ten seconds of silence later, the door William had just come through opened, but before the mutant could panic, Xander explained to him, "Ah! William allow me to introduce my colleagues. This is Tara Monroe," Xander pointed to a timid looking blond a few inches below William in height, bright blue eyes, a peaceful face and dressed in subdued earth tones. "Also called Storm. This is Scott Summers, also called Angel Eyes." Xander pointed to the man standing behind William. He was as tall, maybe a bit taller, than Spike, had moussed hair, a hard jaw-line that was for the moment turned up in a grin, though William could tell that it normally was not. His dress was rather basic, black pants and a blue sweater. He also wore the strangest sunglasses Spike had ever seen, with red lenses and covered on the sides so that no one could have any way to see his eyes without removing the shades. He had his hand offered in greeting when Spike turned towards him. Spike ignored it, settling for studying the stranger instead.

Noticing the tension between the two as Angel slowly lowered his offered hand, Xander continued. "They saved your life William." The tall bleach-blond man turned back to the Professor and gave him a look that would have told anybody what he was thinking without the need of telepathy.

There was a sound and everybody turned to see the last two people expected arrive. Smiling at the humor he would cause, Xander introduced them anyway. "I’m sure that you remember Doctor Willow Rosenberg? And…" Xander stopped when he saw that Buffy was not following Willow, who had ducked herself forward to stand next to the chair-ridden mutant.

Seeing that the Professor guy…Xander…had stopped talking when she hadn’t come in directly behind Willow, Buffy blushed at the forced humiliation and keeping her head down, stepped forward until she was standing on the other side of Spike. Looking up she saw his look of shock and surprise at her presence, and her much cleaned up appearance, and smiled. The look was absolutely priceless.

Realizing that he was staring, Spike lost the glazed look effect from his shock and nodded at the blond teenager. "Slayer," he said as he nodded. She smiled brighter and nodded back, saying, "Spike."

Still smiling, Xander continued as though he hadn’t stopped, "And Buffy you already know." Xander paused to glance at Angel Eyes before continuing. "There are some things that we need to discuss, and since you have helped Buffy William, they have the chance of including you."

"Nice outfit by the way," Buffy joked, seeming to ignore Xander for the moment.

Spike just shrugged and pulled the zipper up some more. "Well it’s just something I grabbed off the rack, you know." The two then giggled a little at the joke. Xander too couldn’t help smirking some as he recognized where Spike had actually gotten it. Realizing that they were in a serious circumstance, and that the people in this room were the best chance she ever had of finding her sister, Buffy turned back to the wheeled Professor.

"So, Xander, what is it that you need to tell me?" Buffy asked.

William added, "And what, other than my friendship," he paused, giving her a look confirming the statement, she agreed, "with Slayer here does it have to do with me?"

Xander sighed slightly and nodded, admitting that they were good questions to ask. "We brought the two of you here to protect you from Magneto." "What’s a Magneto?" the two warriors asked in unison. "A very powerful mutant. He is a terrorist that believes a war is brewing between human and mutant kind. For whatever reason that has eluded us thus far, he wants Buffy for some reason. Because you were seen with her, and Sabertooth escaped, you too might become a target for Magneto. Until we can discourage this view or prove that you are not in any danger, we would appreciate you being our guests for some time. But we don’t force anybody to stay here. If you feel the need to go, that is entirely your right. Personally, I like to get to know my guests before they start living in the streets again."

The two stayed silent after the Professor had finished his little speech, contemplating their own thoughts. They looked at each other, as though able to read each other’s minds, and then turned back to Xander as one and said together, "OK, we’ll stay."

Xander felt he should have been surprised, but to be totally honest, he wasn’t. "Great," he said enthusiastically, "Then Willow, will you please prepare two separate rooms for our new guests. Scott, do me a favor and make that call, and Tara would you please go stop the food fight in the kitchen please?"

The three nodded and made their way out, leaving Buffy and William alone in the room with Xander. "I’m sure that you both got quite a tour on your own, but if you’d like a more thorough one, I’d be happy to accommodate you?" he offered as he rolled his chair towards the door. Once again, the two blond fighters exchanged a look and turned back to Xander, nodding.

"Great!" he continued enthusiastically once more. "By the way, I’m the only psychic around here, and when you two do that, it’s really creepy, you do know that don’t you?"

Without bothering to look at each other, Buffy and William copied each other perfectly, shrugging their shoulders, snorting, and saying with the same infliction, "Yeah, so what?"

Xander just chuckled, shaking his head as he led them throughout his home.

* * *

Several hours later, mid-Atlantic Ocean

The stealth black super sonic jet called the Blackbird flew at its top speed across the water. Its destination, Winchester, New York in the United States. Little less than an hour ago it had departed from a lone island among the British Archipelago, Muir Island. Upon Muir Island were many sight seeing spectacles, as well as rather important buildings. The first one would notice is Cassidy Keep, a large Moorish castle along the edge of the ocean and island respectively.

Then what made Muir Island famous, the "Xavier and Mactaggert Genetics Research Laboratories & Free Clinic" which was set in the dead center of the small rock. Anya Mactaggert and Alexander Xavier were co-owners and founders of the advanced facility. And for those that knew the both of them and had seen them in a room together, some might think that they were more than mere co-owners in their various investments around the world.

Inside the Blackbird, we find five mutants, four women and the man at the controls. The man was an equal partner/leader of this small group that had been righteously so named Generation X. His name is Wesley Cassidy, and not only did he own Cassidy Keep, he was inheritor and owner of all of Muir Island. It was his ancestral home. His codename, Banshee.

To his right sat his partner in the leadership role, Cordelia White, owner and founder of White Industries. Before she had met Xander Xavier, she had been cruel and manipulating in using her powers, and had created a reputation for herself as the "White Queen".

Behind Cordelia, idly admiring her painted nails sat a young girl of 17 in age wearing a long bright yellow overcoat. She had shoulder length blond hair with dark roots, and had a pale complexion that she covered in layers with makeup. Her name is Jubilation Lee, but her friends as well as her enemies call her "Jubilee". To Jubilee’s immediate left sat another young girl of the same age. The complete negative to Jubilee, this girl sat quietly, almost timidly in her seat watching everything around her all at once. She had dark brown hair that fell wildly midway down her back, and soft, gently brown eyes. Her name is Winifred Guthrie, and her codename, along with her mutant power, is "Husk". But her friends call her "Fred" most of the time.

Behind them all, but directly behind Jubilee, sat the fifth mutant. Unlike the others, she was just staring out the window at nothing, thinking. She had shoulder length brunette hair that was just as wild, if not more so than Fred’s. Her skin, while pale, was healthily so and her dark eyes were sharp and fully aware of everything. She was also covered up from neck to toe.

This is Faith Summers. After she ran away from the night that her life was destroyed, which she does not remember, she chose the name Rogue to help her through the worst and give her the strength to keep moving on. Two years ago her parent’s home was attacked for no reason that she has ever been able to discern. It wasn’t a mansion and her parent’s were not wealthily rich. Just a normal suburban house on the outskirts of San Francisco, where two of the government’s top FBI agents lived.

OK, so that’s one reason. Still…it shouldn’t have happened. Their lives before that night had been so great, so wonderful. Maybe not perfect, but good enough. She and her twin sister, Buffy, went to the local high school, "Sunny Dale" after some alumni or something. Buffy, while her sister had struck it with the "popular crowd" and became, in Faith’s opinion, just another sheep. Faith meanwhile stuck to being a loner, not really participating in any of the offered extracurriculars, and just hanging out with her books and the other loners that actually wanted to hang with her.

She never really had any friends, not really. Just her sister, her parents, and the rest of her family, her aunt and uncle. Kate, while not a mutant was just as much a part of their family as any. Scott, the older brother always stayed in New York at his school, though he often did come out for special occasions. Such as Buffy and Faith’s twelfth birthday.

Faith absently rubbed the gold cross around her neck, the present that Scott and Xander had given her on that birthday. It came along with Buffy’s silver cross. Faith had sworn, along with Buffy to never take off the cross, because other than blood, it was the one thing that connected them as sisters.

Faith closed her eyes, trying to remember once more the night when she had run away. They had been having dinner. Roast chicken, the girls’ favorite, with mashed potatoes and gravy. It had been hard after losing their mother, but they all had moved on. Faith and Buffy stopped their silly arguments and instead chose to have civilized conversations. Though their father, Hank Summers, often had to referee such conversations.

Speaking of her lost father, Faith remembered that he had met someone else, someone who had helped him with his grief and even worked with him at the FBI. She was strange, also a mutant, and had shock green hair. She claimed it was natural when the girls asked. Faith couldn’t remember her real name for the moment, but she remembered the woman’s codename with the government, Polaris.

After dinner, Faith remembered cleaning the dishes with Buffy and joking about some prank the Seniors had pulled on Principal Snyder that day at school. Then… And then something had happened. An explosion? No, the power had gone out, and daddy had started yelling at the twins to get downstairs to the shelter. There was a lot of loud noise, and then once they were in the shelter, then came the explosion.

Faith tried so hard to remember anything after that, but the next thing that she knew after the explosion was waking up a couple weeks later in the clinic at the school she was now heading towards. They claimed that she had just shown up on their doorstep and fainted in her uncle’s arms. Xander had explained that she had been going on automatic, repressing as she went along, until she reached her destination. Faith wanted to get at those memories, even if they were painful, but even with the combined efforts of Professor X and the psionic mistress the White Queen, those memories were still locked away. It was just so frustrating. Like this trip.

"Wes! Are you sure that they did not say why they needed me to come with you guys?" Faith asked, interrupting the silence for the ninth time.

"Aye lass," Wesley answered, his Scottish brogue more than evident. "They requested that the entire team come. Something about it being urgent. Angel seemed rather anxious to be honest, but I figured that was because of the situation, which he would not explain. And he refused to talk with Cordy and wouldn’t speak another word of it. I’m sorry Rogue."

"S’ all right I guess," Faith mumbled looking back out the window.

"So Faith, what’s the deal with your uncle anyway?" Jubilee brought up, apparently having gotten bored with just studying her nails and needing gossip now.

Faith just shrugged and looked the blond mutant in the eye. "Beats me. My dad was always more of the impulsive type. So was Aunt Kate, as little as I got to know her. I guess when you can’t control your powers without a little bit of help, it makes you kind of serious. Believe me Harm, I know what it’s like for him, to have to be in control all the time, just so nobody else gets hurt."

"Why do you call me that?" Jubilee piqued.

Faith shrugged again, but smiled as she answered, "Because you do more harm than good. Plus, you always go on about harmony among teammates, which with you involved often involves more of disharmony. Besides, I give everybody nicks, you should know that by now. We’ve been roommates for how long now? A year? Year and a half?"

Jubilee just rolled her eyes and turned back around in her seat.

"What nickname did you give me?" Fred chirped interested.

Faith turned to her shy teammate and smiled. "Showgirl. Mostly cause of how you change your outfits." Jubilee giggled some, but the two adults up front kept straight faces. Fred just turned her face beet red and ducked her head and muttered, "Oh."

"Yo, Vision Girl!" Faith called up to Cordelia, "Any word from Wheels on this sitch yet?"

Cordelia rolled her eyes and groaned at the teenager’s antics, but answered her anyway. "No, Rogue, Xander has not contacted me telepathically yet. And I wish you would not call me Vision Girl!"

Faith just shrugged and said, "Somebody’s gotta do it."

The comment went ignored as silence returned to the cockpit of the jet.

‘She can be so annoying!’ Cordelia linked with her partner. Outwardly they were business as normal, but internally, Wesley couldn’t help but grin at the brunette tycoon.

‘I suppose,’ Wesley returned along the link. ‘But ye have to keep in mind lass, this girl has lost almost everythin’ and this is her way of dealin’ with it. Some allowances have t’ be made. Though I agree, she can straddle the nerves quite a bit. What, my oh-most-highest Queen would you suggest we do about such erudite behavior? Tell her the truth?’

‘We don’t even know the truth.’ the White Queen exploded. ‘Because Angel wouldn’t let me talk to him, we haven’t the slightest clue as to what this mission would require! All Xander requested, according to you and the records, is Gen X and Rogue specifically. I want to know why and I can’t reach Xander at this distance to ask him directly. Unless ofcourse he was the one to make contact, but we all know how Xander gets about things like that!’

‘Aye,’ Wesley agreed, closing the link on his end, feeling that the silent conversation was over.

Fred however seemed to think there was more to discuss openly and so spoke what was on her mind. "Rogue, what was your sister like?" she suddenly asked. Everyone was so startled by Husk’s question, as much that she asked as by what was asked, that they stared at her for a minute before Faith answered. She wasn’t troubled by it, and had finally accepted that she might never see her sister again and knew that she needed to talk about it, or she might internalize her conflicts and come up with some delusional fantasy where her sister was still alive and she might be able to find her if she could just look for her. Faith smiled as she spoke.

"Well, Husk. B was practically the opposite of me. Except we both had the same sense of humor, and probably the same genetic structure." Faith began. "She was actually quite a bit like Jubilee here. Kind of stuck up and very concerned with the latest fashions."

Jubilee turned in her seat and exclaimed, "Hunh! I take offense at that remark! I am not stuck up and I have a fashion sense all my own I’ll have you know!"

"Yeah whatever," Rogue rolled her eyes as Jubilee turned back around in her seat. "Anyway, like I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted, B was my sis. We were like night and day, and while she was always after friends and being part of the In-crowd, I just kinda hung out. In school you’d sooner think we were perfect strangers than twin sisters. At home…"

Faith smiled as the memories assaulted her. "At home we were sisters. Everything you ever read about the bond between twins and sisters, we had it. We were real big mischief-makers too, drove dad up the walls sometimes. I really loved her. And I know she loved me too. It’s not something that ever had to be said, we just kinda always knew. We did things together, not everything. Don’t get me wrong, I mean we were sisters, but we weren’t bosom buddies. Then came the day that it all got tested."

"Tested?" Husk asked.

Rogue nodded. "The day that tested our relationship as sisters. The day that I could have lost Buffy forever, even if we still lived in the same house. The day that my mutancy developed."

Rogue had everyone’s attention at this statement, for they all knew what she was talking about. They all had their own stories of when their various powers developed, and each held a certain amount of pain along with the memory. Yet each stayed quiet, letting Rogue tell hers, a feat of great courage in strength to be accomplished, let alone attempted.

"It was just another day at school to begin with," she began, "Nothing really significant planned or expected that day. Well, not in my agenda anyway. Everyday, since our mom died, Daddy had driven us to school. I guess Buffy running away for two weeks after the funeral hadn’t helped his confidence in us getting there safely, let alone at all. He dropped us off and said that he loved us and would pick us up that afternoon, and would call the school if anything changed or came up."

"I remember that I had a headache. I at first thought it was just one of those come again, gone in a while headaches. I asked the nurse after homeroom for some Tylenol or something, but by lunchtime I knew it wasn’t just any other headache. I saw B at lunchtime and told her what was happening to me, how my head hurt, and my skin was like ultra-supersensitive. She felt my head, neck all the usual spots and said I wasn’t too warm. Funny thing was, that the moment she started touching me, I started to feel better. Not great, just better. We blew it off as some kind of puberty/period type of thing."

"An hour later. Gym. I now hate more than ever the fact that public schools make you wear a dress code for the gym class. Shorts and short-sleeves." Faith paused as they all contemplated what she was telling them exactly.

"There was this guy in my class. He was the star quarterback for the school, well the middle school anyway. He was a grade ahead of me, maybe two years older, and apparently he got held back or forgot to take gym class, but whatever. He was the guy that every girl wanted and he knew it. In fact the only girl that he couldn’t, or didn’t have was my sister. The Princess of the school, Buffy Summers."

"I was so majorly jealous that he wanted Buffy and not me. Well, it got around that B and me were actually sisters. I guess that’s why he hung around me so much that day. He had some plan to use me to get closer to B and then he figured he could have both Summers girls if he was lucky or suave enough. Doesn’t really matter what his plan was though. Everything changed that day."

"He had picked me to be his partner in some game we were playing that day, I really don’t remember what. After the class he asked me to meet him after school in the gym. I was so star-struck and doe-eyed that I didn’t even think and agreed. Idiot."

"I was so jazzed that I immediately went to find B after the next class and told her everything. She didn’t really react, at least not the way that I expected her to. But she did say that she wanted to come with me, just in case, and if everything was on the up and up then she’d leave and cover with Dad for me. At first I thought she was jealous, but when I told her who it was that I was meeting, well she kinda seemed like she didn’t care. I think her exact words were, ‘Yeah, so what? The guys a total jerk I-M-H-O.’ B was always doing that, shortening words and turning them into slang. I always liked that about her."

"So there we were, me and B, standing just behind the gym right in front of the storage room doors, just after school and the place was practically deserted. At first I thought we were early since he hadn’t even shown up, then as we kept waiting I figured he was just late. Finally B couldn’t wait anymore and had to go and meet Dad. Unfortunately that’s when it happened."

Everybody drew in a sharp breath as they all came to the same conclusions at there own pace. As Rogue paused in her litany, Cordelia tried to stop her, to keep her from reliving what had to be the most painful moment of her young life. "Faith, you don’t…"

Rogue looked up and gave the White Queen a hard stare and interrupted her teacher. "Yeah, I do Vision Girl. I’ve already worked through it all. Now let me finish the damn story. Unless you want me to leave Harm here on the edge of a cliff all of the rest of the way to NY?"

Cordelia, chastened, just nodded and let the young mutant finish her story.

Faith nodding at the affirmative response, continued. "Right before I would have lost sight of Buffy, the big jackass comes around the corner right in front of her. Thinking back on it, he had the absolute dumbest grin on his face, like some kind of caveman. I remember him saying something like, ‘Well, well, well, lookie what we have here,’ or something like that. Anyway, he put his hand against Buffy’s chest, not there, and pushed her back until we were side by side. At first I was confused and asked him what he was doing. Then I told him to leave my sister alone. Next thing I know, we’re surrounded by three other guys."

"We start to get nervous, me and B. I try to get the guy talking, asking him what he wanted to see me about. He just gives me this real "lecherous" grin, see Vision Girl, used one of my vocab words this week." Cordelia just smiled at the girl at her use of humor to lighten the suspense. "Well, next thing I know, two of the thugs are grabbing my arms while Romeo and the other thug grab Buffy, pulling us towards the storage room. By then, my migraine had evolved into the next stage of human brain pain short of blowing’em up, and B was struggling like crazy while I was just trying not to scream out in pain and collapse on the floor. Though thinking about it that might have been the best thing to do at the moment."

"Mister Romeo suddenly decides he don’t want to wait to pick the locks on the storage room door and he forces me against the wall. All I can remember is the pain in my head and the fear. I don’t think I had ever been so afraid in my life. And then it happened. His name is Cody Sullivan. He was the star quarterback for the school and team captain for several of the school clubs. Honor roll, though most of it was cheating and getting the weaker ‘brainy’ type people to write his papers and reports for him. He was looking me over, sizing me up against the wall, making me feel trapped. But you know what they say about trapped animals. To them, the only way out…is through you."

"He kissed me. Hard. Not exactly ‘Harlequin’ for my first kiss, but I will definitely remember it, since it’s more than likely to be my only." Rogue paused as she admitted that. "The second his skin touched mine, the pain immediately got better. A second after that, it all disappeared in a flash. Then I began to feel…I don’t know how to describe it, still. It felt like I was…somehow…absorbing him…taking him into myself and making him apart of me. I felt stronger, bigger, tougher. I felt like he did. I knew everything he did. I…knew him."

"After that it’s kind of a haze," Faith continued. "I remember seeing the body drop back, glassy eyed. He wasn’t dead, because he was left twitching on the ground. But he looked like he was dying, and it was enough to scare the other goons off, leaving just me and Buffy."

"Buffy had been screaming from the moment the guys had surrounded us, and as the body fell, she just kept on screaming. But when she saw me standing there, staring at it…him, she stopped screaming and came to stand next to me. We just stared at him, lying there, twitching. Finally, I’m not really sure when, but some teachers came and found us. They thought we were in shock and called the hospital. Cody was in the hospital, in a coma for three weeks. I haven’t seen him since they took him away in that ambulance."

Faith was silent for several minutes, remembering. They all understood and gave her the silence she needed, even Jubilee. She finished her story with, "Daddy came to get us shortly after that, after the ambulance left. I was crying, so was Buffy. He wiped away Buffy’s tears first, but when he reached his hand towards me, when he got close to my skin, I could feel the hunger, the power of what would happen if he touched my skin. I understood a long time before that day about mutants and stuff. Dad, after all was one. I think he was hurt when I flinched away from him, but then I whispered to him, "Don’t touch my skin," and he understood. He nodded and patted my shoulder and took us home. A week later…our home was attacked, and three weeks after that I was on Xander’s doorstep."

Silence reigned with an iron fist after Faith’s story. Wesley risked a rebellion against it as he cleared his throat, warning them that he was going to speak. "Uhm, Lass, we don’t know why Xander wants us there. But we have our suspicions."

"Which are?" Jubilee asked instantly.

Cordelia and Wesley shared a look, rolling their eyes, but Wesley answered anyway. "We…think it might be some information on…Buffy. Xander’s made it no secret that he has been looking for her, we all have been. From the way Angel Eyes seemed actually…anxious about something, we think it would be something very important that it had to be delivered in person. But I don’t want ye to raise ye’re hopes lass. I’m just tellin’ ye what we suspect."

Faith just snorted and resumed looking back out the window, letting silence continue its reign for the remainder of the trip. There were no more attempts at rebellion against it.

Chapter 4:

Xavier’s School for the Gifted Winchester, New York

Buffy was starting to feel anxious. She had avoided speaking about Faith, or for that matter even mentioning her since she had woken up, and that was the whole reason for staying. Instead she allowed herself to be taken around and shown quite possibly everything on the private campus, right down to the grass weeds growing behind the gymnasium by Xander. Spike was in a similar mood.

While Slayer was patient and bordering on active anxiousness, Spike was bored out of his skull, but still interested in the tour. It showed him just about everything, and having the layout of the area would help him out a great deal. Particularly if he wanted to escape or maybe one day break back in. Keeping in mind the "mind-tricks" that Wheels had played with him before, he kept his thoughts quiet and just keenly observed everything they were shown.

After several hours, Xander was finally showing them the "sub-basement" levels, though each had had a tour on their own of it already. He was currently showing them the medical ward.

"And this is our genetics lab where we can often determine the exact sub-sequence in a mutant’s or humans DNA that either causes a mutation to occur in offspring or what exactly causes the mutants mutation in the first place. Ofcourse we’re still having trouble with the…" Xander was saying.

"That’s all well and good Xan, but do we really look like the type of people that even care about all this science stuff? My grades practically speak for themselves! I’m not a book type. I’m a fighting and shopping type. Spike here, I’m betting is mostly a fighting-type, am I right?" Buffy interrupted.

Spike just shrugged and nodded off down the hall not too far from where he had gotten his shirt. "What’s down there?" he asked, effectively changing the subject away from him. Xander smiled at his efforts and applauded them by answering his question.

"Changing rooms, the Danger Room, and the hanger," Xander casually answered.

The two warriors stopped. Turned to look each other in the eye, then drifted their gaze back to the chaired telepath. "Danger room?" they asked in unison, curiosity piquing their tones.

Xander gave them a lopsided grin and nodded his head. He lead the way out of the medical ward towards the darkened area that Spike had first run to after "escaping" earlier. The lights came on, showing the same scene that Spike had come across when he picked his shirt.

Xander directed them to the doors that looked like they belonged to an elevator. He stopped before them and then waited for several moments, just staring at it. Just as Buffy was about to ask what he was doing, there was a beeping noise, and a blue light lit up at the top of the doors. A bluish laser shot out until it hit the top of Xander’s head and ran back and forth a couple times, particularly over his eyes. Both observant warriors noted that he didn’t blink. Retinal scanners, they deduced.

"Yep," Xander said as the doors slid open after the laser disappeared. Buffy was about to ask what he meant by the comment and who he meant it for, but both visitors were stunned into silence by the sight they came across when the stepped across the threshold.

They were in what could best be described by an observation port, overlooking a room bigger than anything the two could have ever imagined. It was steel gray, every inch of it, and domed with something like a huge disfigured Disco ball at the crest of the dome on top of the ceiling. The floor, measuring over four square football fields, was fortunately flat for standing or maybe running on. Other than the sheer size of it though, it really wasn’t that distinctive.

"Whoa," escaped Buffy’s mouth. Spike just took it all in, saying nothing.

"This is the Danger Room," Xander continued playing the tour guide. "Here the mutants that need to, learn to control and exercise their powers in virtual safety. And when I say virtual," Xander suddenly grinned, "I mean virtual. Computer, ‘Jungle Paradise’ scenery please."

At Xander’s words, the disfigured Disco ball suddenly came to life, rotating some pieces, while lighting up in others. Before their eyes, less than thirty seconds after the command, the room started shimmering until they were suddenly standing above a scene quite possibly taken from Eden. The sky, which a moment ago had been the sterile gray ceiling, was a deep beautiful blue, touched with puffy cotton white clouds along the horizon. Directly below them was a clearing, with a small crystal pond that reflected the sky perfectly, surrounded by trees that were at the smallest thirty-feet tall and all at least as big as any redwood. The overall color was a near blinding green, yet what held their attention was the fact that they were beginning to descend into it.

"Hey! What the…!" Buffy exclaimed as the floor lurched slightly and they began to lose their high perspective.

"Don’t worry," Xander allayed. "We’re just going down to floor level, to properly enjoy the simulation. I’ll be staying in the elevator though, for the reasons that my wheels don’t exactly work that well on grass. I’m sure you both understand."

They just rolled their eyes and watched the scenery as they continued the elevator trip down. It was interesting to see the trees that had not even been there a few minutes earlier suddenly rise high above them. They lost sight of the pond as the elevator came even with the ground and the trees, which hadn’t seemed that big from up above now towered like skyscrapers next to them. The elevator suddenly stopped, but there was no customary lurch or dropping feeling as it did so.

"Cool," Buffy muttered, awe present in her voice as she took in the serene scenery.

"Definitely impressive," Spike commented.

"I’m glad you approve. Would you care to try it out for yourselves? Test the product as it were. Free of charge ofcourse," Xander hastily added.

Openly grinning, Buffy looked the wheeled professor and nodded her head. "Sure, why not?" she said, her tone proving that despite her attitude she was still a teenage girl. William was also nodding. "Yeah, I wouldn’t mind taking a gander myself."

They saw him either flip some switch or press some secret button, because after he made his slight yet noticeable move, the entire wall in front them, windows and everything, began to separate from some unnoticed seam onto the lush scene before them.

Unknowingly, both Spike and Slayer sniffed deeply of the air before they stepped forward into the simulation. "It’s fake," they both said at the same moment. They turned to give each other a glare, but when they realized how the other could tell, they just smiled at each other again and turned back to the Danger Room.

"Well ofcourse it’s fake," Xander replied from his place still in the "elevator".

Buffy looked up at William, caught his eye and nodded her head. He nodded back and grinned gratefully. "I meant it was obviously fake. There’s no scent, no humidity, it smells like a bleedin’ hospital! If you want accuracy in this thing, you’re gonna have to find someway of making it more bloody real than a picture and solid whatchyama-callits."

"Force fields," Xander supplied. He nodded his head slowly, his posture quite serious as he continued, "That’s a very good point William. I’ll try and look into it and see what I can do. What about you Buffy, what…ruins the image for you?"

"I can feel the energy," she replied shortly, right before she started to walk towards the lake on the other side of the clearing.

The two older men stayed where they were, somewhat stunned. William was the first to speak again, asking the Professor, "What do you suppose she meant by that?"

"I have no idea William, I have no idea," Professor X admitted.

Not wanting to be left behind, or that particularly fond of the idea of staying with the Professor, William quickly jogged till he was next to Buffy. They continued into the simulation in silence until they had walked the short one-kilometer distance to the pond they had seen from above. Now this did feel real. To William at the least, but Buffy couldn’t deny the illusion of the water was remarkably true to form, and if it wasn’t for her "radar sense" she would believe it to be as real as the water she had just taken a shower with.

Breathing in the sterile air again, Buffy began to feel her restlessness reach its peak. "Come on Spike, let’s have some fun," Buffy said, taking a run away from the pond until she was a short distance away. Suddenly, she went at break-neck speed straight at the water simulation, and just before her foot was a foot away from the edge of the pond, Buffy leaped some thirty feet into the air, reaching the pinnacle of the arch at the center of the pond before falling back and landing quite gracefully on the other side, ten feet away from the edge.

William grinned at the young girl’s antics before taking a pretty good lead for himself. "You’re on Slayer," the bleach-blonde shouted back his challenge. Then he accomplished the same feat Buffy had just done, except he landed twenty feet away from the edge, ten feet away from the foliage.

"Show off," Buffy grumbled at his greater distance.

"Look who’s talking!" William shot back.

"Hey! I liked that movie. John Travolta’s little trick got me into lots of movies for free. Well, me, and whatever kid I could bribe into playing my baby brother." Buffy began to babble.

"Right. What’s say we just swing through the trees, shouting at the top of our lungs, and act like a bunch of retarded monkeys while we’re at it. Anything is better than listening to you go on about movies you’ve seen." Spike retorted.

"Tarzan," Slayer shot back.

"Excuse me?" Spike gave her a confused, and withering look.

"That was a movie too. Actually, I think it was a book first, and then made into several movies, but anyway it was about this royal family that got shot down over the Congo, and the heir to like everything, their baby son, was the only survivor, and he was raised by this tribe of gorillas and then he went around, acting like a big retarded monkey, shouting at the top of his lungs," Buffy paused in her run-on sentence before doing a rather bad Tarzan imitation, "Ahhhh ahhh, ahhh, ahhh, AHHHHHHHHHHH!!" and even beating her tiny teenage hands against her chest.

William stared at her, his posture and the withering look would tell a blind man what he thought of this girl at the moment. Finally, he snapped out of the trance of stupidity he had been in and muttered, "Riiiiiigghhht, sure, whatever. Bloody hell, what have I gotten myself into now?"

William turned towards the tree line and thought "aloud", ‘Remind me to never get in a bloody pop culture debate with this girl ever again.’

He stopped when he heard a response in his own head, ‘Not a problem William. But her Tarzan reference, while being a rather poor imitation was highly accurate in…’

"BLOODY HELL!" Spike shouted before taking another running leap, this time into the trees, hoping to get away from the two infuriating, and highly annoying voices he kept hearing. One voice giggled at his retreat, apparently knowing what had driven him away, while the other continued to prattle on about nothing in particular.

* * *

Buffy giggled at the strange mutant that had been key in changing the rest of her life. Buffy was under no pretenses about who these people were. She knew, without a doubt that if Faith had actually made it to New York, had found Uncle Scott and this place, that she would either be seeing or at the very least hearing from her sister real soon.

That’s where Buffy became confused. After two years, two years! She would be reunited with her sister…and she wasn’t jumping for joy. Well, she was jumping, she thought with a bitter irony as she turned and went in the opposite direction of Spike, leaping back over the simulated water.

Buffy wasn’t sure why she was still apprehensive, why she hadn’t just broken down crying, thanking God and every body else up there when she saw her Uncle Scott standing there, looking stern as ever. Maybe she had just been on the road for too long, she thought as she gracefully landed, barely pausing before leaping back into the air.

Yeah, that must be it. She had been on Fight/Flight…well, mostly fight…for so long that it was taking her some time to work through her shock and "get back in touch with her feminine side" as the saying went. Yeah, all she needed was time.

Ofcourse…there was the other option.

That Faith never had made it here to New York. That she had ended up dead, or in some place worse on the streets between San Diego and here. That Buffy’s imagined "link" to her sister was just that, imagined.

The blonde leaped several more times until she was amidst the trees bordering the clearing, on the opposite side from where William had entered the foliage. Once she had realized what was happening, after she’d come out of her brief funk, Buffy had no problems catching tree limbs and vines growing off the trees and, as William had called it, swinging through the trees like a monkey.

Actually, to Slayer, it felt more like she was a panther, or some other predatory animal that moved through the trees like a dolphin in water. She had more or less perfected this… "Super agility" of hers in her last stay in New York. Especially down in the place called "Hell’s Kitchen", where they had all those wires and the buildings are always close together. When people call NYC the concrete jungle…sometimes they have no idea how close the comparison is.

Buffy considered her situation now. After two years living alone, depending only on herself and her abilities, was she ready to reenter the civilized world? A world that she had been raised in, had in fact depended on for all of her life until it had been ripped, forcefully, from her. A world not only without her mother, but also without her father and a slowly rising chance of being without her twin sister?

Slayer paused, at the highest point she could safely climb in the simulated trees, looking down at the clearing with a nearly identical perspective to the one she’d had when it had appeared. Sighing deeply, she reached out with her "radar sense" and found the "kill switch" that she knew would be in here. After all, in case the simulations they ran in here got out of hand, or the operator in the control booth was unable to turn it off, there had to be at least two switches, both in the room itself and in the control room that cut everything off.

The interesting thing was, it seemed to be located just above where the funky warped disco ball had been. Why they chose to put it in a place only someone who could fly, or had a really long ladder, could get to, she really did not want to know.

Taking a deep breath, Buffy began to work out a plan, and had one in three seconds. One that would either get her killed, or in more trouble than she’d been in over two years, whichever came first.

Slayer grabbed the literal tips of the two trees on either side of her and got "good" grips on them and began to lean back. She just hoped that these force fields of the Professors weren’t as "true to form" with trees as they were with water, because unlike in cartoons, trees did not bend back this far and suddenly snap forward, throwing whoever was on the other end into the air. But timed just right… These fake trees might be able to.

When she felt she was far enough back, she pushed her feet forward a little until she was sure they wouldn’t catch on anything and double-checked her aim. Confident of success, Buffy tucked in her feet and let go, suddenly flying forward, and letting go of the branches in her hands at the precise moment, and felt like she was flying towards the sky. Luckily her radar sense told her what was and wasn’t real, because her eyes were telling her nothing but open sky loomed before her, but she knew without a doubt that she was less than ten feet, growing even less by the second, from the big disco ball in the sky.

* * *

Xander watched with gathered amusement, Buffy and William run around the Danger Room like children at the playground. Children that could leap thirty feet into the air. And fly through the trees like birds on the wing.

Xander shook his head in amazement as he watched the two banter about old movies and act like the impossible feats they had accomplished were things they did for after school track practice! Xander was amazed that Rupert would send one of his most lethal mercenaries after Buffy or Spike for any reason other than to recruit them for his cause. Though Buffy did indeed hold a higher and special interest, if Giles had any scope of the powers this girl possessed…

Xander interrupted the two’s banter with some of his own, and even goaded Spike a bit more after he fled into the trees. However, when Buffy began to leap around the Danger Room on her own, Xander let his inane prattle fall to the wayside, giving thought to attempting to get past the girl’s seemingly natural psychic defense that he was unable to breech.

Yet he could still get general empathic impressions from the emotions she was sending out, though to admit, one could have the same level of empathy by just looking at her face with no psychic talent at all. She seemed to be exhilarated at her freedom in the virtual environment, with a slight touch of regret, but over what Xander could not tell.

It wasn’t until she finally stopped near the treetops, and began to feel more like a decision had been made and she had every desire to carry it out to its end, that Xander began to get worried. He watched with ever growing concern as she began to act on her "decision" and grabbed two of the tallest trees next to her at their tips and began to lean and pull them back until it became quite obvious that her decision included sling-shotting herself. Yet…judging by the angle, Slayer wouldn’t fly across the Danger Room, but rather smack dab into the ceiling of it.

When he looked himself, Xander then knew, without knowing how, but nevertheless knew what Buffy was planning. "Oh my god," he cursed as he quickly began to manipulate the controls in front of him, unfortunately, just at the moment that Buffy let go of her spur-of-the-moment slingshot.

Professor X was too late in whatever his actions might have been, because faster than most would think, Buffy flew up to the very top of the Danger Room and using her uncanny mutant ability of super-agility and her 6th radar sense, Buffy, through the hologram, reached the emergency shut off switch…and pulled. What happened next, she didn’t plan. The hologram of the rain forest immediately began to dissolve around them, but Buffy was still moving forward from her momentum and just before the lights suddenly shut off, she heard a very disheartening sound of tearing metal…and realized that she had forgotten to let go after she’d thrown the switch, and instead had torn it off with her as she now fell towards the rapidly approaching, and suddenly cloaked in darkness, floor.

Yet because Buffy’s eyes were not working said nothing of her radar. Mid air, in pitch-black darkness, Slayer easily reoriented herself and brought her legs up, bracing them, just in time to land solidly on her feet. Amazingly, nothing was broken on the young girl, despite that she just landed in a very painful way.

From the sounds of it though, Spike did not have such an easy time on his surprise landing.

Slayer slowly stood straight, working her muscles through the shock of landing after a two-story drop, and cracked her neck before looking down at the broken and bent piece of metal in her hand. Realizing what it was and what it potentially meant, she muttered the only words that anyone could at that moment. "Whoops."

"Did I just hear you say, ‘whoops’?" Spike demanded as he got up from the ground, already fully healed.

Slayer startled somewhat before turning to face where she knew Spike to be standing. "Uh…yeah." She mumbled.

William just stared at her, actually able to see in the dark. "Bloody hell!" he remarked and then stalked off for the control room.

‘Don’t bother. Buffy just pulled, and ripped off I might add, the Emergency shut off switch. Unfortunately that means that we can’t get out until someone else tries to come in.’ Xander explained.

"Well who the bloody hell was the ponce that made it work like that? Shouldn’t the doors be opening, or at least be unlocked when that thing gets pulled?" Spike shouted into the echoing chamber.

‘We’re still working out all the bugs,’ Xander excused.

"Bloody Hell!" Spike screamed.

* * *

Wesley was surprised when nobody was there in the hangar to meet them when he and the others of Generation X exited the Blackbird. Faith, Rogue, was the last to leave, looking rather bored but also depressed.

Cordelia frowned, easily sensing, and being distracted by, the girl’s lingering feelings over her sharing of her beginnings. Of her sister.

‘Xander, where are you?’ Cordelia sent out throughout the entire school. Banshee was the only other, save maybe Willow and Xander himself, that heard her.

"Nice welcoming committee," Jubilee sarcastically bit out.

"Yeah, I mean, usually there’s somebody here to meet us, when we visit I mean," Husk whispered, concerned.

Suddenly Rogue frowned. She…felt something.

She had been tested for psychic talent when she had first arrived at the school, but other than the brief "talent" she had when she absorbed it from another telepath, she was as mentally blind as the next Joe Blow. But… This feeling made her wonder if maybe her mental talents had been as hidden as her first powers had been for the first portion of her life.

It wasn’t like an emotion, or even an actual thought, but she knew that it was not her imagination that was causing this. Her heart, it was beating faster. And what this feeling was, it was beating perfectly in time with another heart that was very nearby.

Without a look or a word to the others, Rogue ran into the underground hallway beneath the X mansion, somehow knowing exactly where to go, because she was going to where that other heart was.

"Rogue!" Banshee cried as she took off. "Faith! Where are ye going? We’re supposed ta wait fer ye Uncle!"

When the young mutant didn’t reply, Wesley just shook his head and shared a look of annoyance with the White Queen. "Come on then," he said to the others and they took off after their teammate.

* * *

"How much longer?" Slayer asked for the fifth time in the hour since she had trapped them in the Danger Room.

Professor X tilted his head to the side, as though listening to someone only he could hear, which he was, and then answered the young mutant, "Another ten minutes. It’s taking the designer longer than she expected to hotwire the lift."

"Bloody ponce," Spike cursed.

Xander shot William with a glare that immediately made the brash mutant lose the attitude and feel like apologizing for anything and everything. And amazingly, Buffy observed, the crippled mutant did it without even using his powers.

"Jenny is a brilliant scientist, however she can be a bit…serious most of the time. And given that Buffy ripped out over half the circuits to the override along with the override switch, she has to bypass a few more systems than if it were just the mechanism." Xander explained.

"I said I was sorry!" Buffy exclaimed, still blushing in the low level lighting. Not that she needed the lighting to get around.

"Next time just remember to ask the operator to shut down the system," Xander reminded her.

Buffy just nodded.

Suddenly she tensed, immediately drawing the Professor and Spike to tense as well.

"What is it?" Spike asked, scanning everywhere in sight. The Professor tried to ask the same question telepathically, but Slayer did not respond to either.

Instead she was wholly focused on what had caused her to tense in the first place. Her heart…it was beating so fast. And that only happened in two occurrences; one, she was in the middle of a fight and was about to get her ass kicked, or almost. And two, when she dreamt of her sister.

She could never explain it, but every time she had one of those dreams…her heart always beat faster, and in the distance, in the dream, she could almost detect the faint sound of a second heartbeat, pumping at the same rhythm as her own, each beat identical.

And now…the same thing was happening, she could just faintly detect that second heartbeat, and hers was racing and beating faster as the second drew closer, and it was drawing closer…but, she wasn’t dreaming. She was awake.

"How much longer?" she asked again, but her voice was not impatient, instead it was distracted as she was focused only on that other heartbeat.

‘Beast, work faster!’ Xander ordered telepathically.

‘I’ve almost got it Xander…almost…THERE! Done!’ Jenny "Beast" McCoy announced as power suddenly returned to the lift and it began to raise from the bottom of the Danger Room floor.

Within a single minute, the three were in the open area, just outside the Danger Room entrance, but Buffy was not acting any differently. In fact, she seemed even more out of it than she was in the lift.

"Buffy? What’s wrong?" Scott Summers asked, deeply concerned about his niece as she just stared blankly into the air. Her breathing was also irregular, like she was having a panic attack.

"Buffy? Can you speak?" Willow asked her, actually touching the blonde on the shoulder.

‘She’s here!’ Willow surprisingly heard in her thought with the touch. ‘She’s alive!’

‘Buffy? Are you all right? Who are you talking about?’ Willow tried telepathy, maintaining physical contact.

In an instant, Buffy’s demeanor did a 180 as she became uber-tense and jerked towards the door that lead to the hangar, her breath froze in her throat. In the very next instant, that door opened, and on the other side, breathing hard and almost trembling was Rogue, Faith Summers. The Summers twins’ eyes’ met, locked, and recognized all faster than human thought could register it. Just as fast, Buffy raced forward, and Faith ran full tilt into the room, only having paused to let the door open. They met in the middle in a bone-jarring embrace; their arms going around each other and so tight as to never let the other go. Some in the room idly wondered if even the jaws of life could remove those two from each other.

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