Dancing on the Head of a Pin
Richard Ruth

Part One

** Important: Author's Note ** This is a sequel to my three other 
crossover stories, "Immortal Dilemma," "Who Wants to Live Forever?" and 
"Legacy of Damnation." To minimize confusion, I recommend that you read 
them before delving into this sordid tale (among other things, I've 
indicated that Xander and Nick Boyle are Immortals of the 'Highlander'
variety). When necessary, I've also taken the liberty of filling in 
some annoying gaps in character development. Simply put, in my 
universe, Richie Ryan was never senselessly killed and Faith has yet to 
turn to the Dark Side of Sunnydale. Finally, please keep in mind that 
this is a mondo crossover -- incorporating aspects from five...count 
'em...five series.

Although I've tried to minimize any plot inconsistencies, some are 
inevitable. Got all that? You do? Really? Damn, you people really do 
amaze me! Remember, all (positive) comments are welcome. All other 
(negative) comments will be treated as a personal attack upon my 
already fragile psyche (I hope you're happy now). And lastly, a word of 
thanks to everyone who has written -- glad you've enjoyed the fan fic. 
Please direct E-mail to: rruthless@aol.com. Adios, for now.

Mount Palomar Observatory 
San Diego, California 
November 23 
9:02 P.M. 

"C'mon you bastards...can't you score at least one touchdown?" 

Sitting in his dimly lit office, Dr. Chris Larsen was not having a good 
night and, unfortunately for the diehard fan, neither were the San 
Diego Chargers. After coping with a dead car battery that made him late 
for work, there was nothing like watching your team get shelled by the 
New England Patriots. And now, to top it all off, his software was 
acting up...again. Of course, Larsen responded to these various 
annoyances like any other rational, highly educated scientist...he 
started to beat on his computer. 

"No good [bang], obsolete [boom], piece of shit [bang...boom]!" 

His frustration now somewhat mollified, Larsen focused his attention 
back on the source of his initial irritation, namely a sky-tracking 
program which used the observatory's one meter telescope with a camera 
attached to photograph a portion of the northern sky each evening. 
Usually the system worked pretty well, but tonight was different. 
Simply put, there was a large, inexplicable blob visible on all the 
photographic plates. But it wasn't a streak like a comet or asteroid 
would make. Instead, it was stationery. 

"And as the clock runs out, the Chargers lose to the Patriots 28-3. 
This is Al Michaels saying good night for ABC Monday Night Football." 

"Great...just great!" 

Focusing back on the problem at hand, the astronomer cynically thought 
out loud, "Must be dust on the mirror -- or probably some bird shit -- 
unless..." 

Hurrying across the floor to peer directly through the telescope with 
his naked eyes, he practically ran back to his terminal to access an 
on-line data base of major stellar bodies. 

"Christ...a supernova...Mu Cephei, no less! I don't believe it." 

Then, another thought suddenly hit him, "I wonder if anyone else has 
spotted it yet?" 

With his hands now visibly shaking, he started typing an E-mail message 
to the International Astronomical Union in Cambridge, the organization 
for reporting this exceedingly rare type of phenomena. Within hours, 
most of the scientific community would also be aware that the former 
red giant, romantically named the "Garnet Star" by Herschel centuries 
earlier, would forever be known as Supernova (SN) 1998a. 

*****

St. Michael's Church Rectory Oakland, California January 10 2:42 P.M. 

"Mario Seraphim, do you take Marie Claudia Demerest to be your lawfully 
wedded wife? To have and to hold, for richer and for poorer, in 
sickness and in health, until death do you part?" 

Without hesitation, the young man replied, "I do." 

"And do you, Marie Claudia Demerest, take Mario Seraphim to be your 
lawfully wedded husband? To have and to hold, for richer and for 
poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?" 

After a moment of hesitation, during which she glanced at her mother 
who was desperately trying not to cry, the girl answered, "Yes, I do." 

With a rectory secretary serving as the witness, watching, Father 
Philip Callahan then finished the ceremony by stating in a deep Irish 
brogue, "Then by the power vested in me by the Roman Catholic Church 
and the State of California, I pronounce you man and wife. 
Congratulations and may God bless you both." 

As the teens embraced and kissed, which was somewhat difficult 
considering the girl's obviously late state of pregnancy, the elder 
woman could no longer hold back the tears. 

"Oh, my baby's all grown up." Then, turning toward the young man, she 
added somewhat icily, "You take care of her...you hear?" 

"Yes, ma'am. Of course." 

"Uh oh...it's starting already," thought Philip, frowning. "The rings 
aren't even warm yet and there's trouble afoot." 

The priest knew that weddings such as these, which were frowned upon by 
the church hierarchy, rarely worked out...especially when the bride's 
father flatly refused to even attend the ceremony. He would just have 
to pray that these kids, barely past the age of consent, would find 
their path in a perilous world. After managing to replace the smile on 
his face, the priest kissed the girl on the cheek and shook hands with 
the boy. Making direct eye contact with Mario for the first time, 
Philip suddenly beheld the most intense pair of blue eyes he had ever 
seen. 

"Father...Father Callahan?" 

Snapping out of his momentary trance, the priest could only manage a 
weak, "Yes?" 

"Mom would like to know if you can join us for dinner? It's nothing 
fancy...just a local restaurant." 

With a broad smile, the man replied, "It would be my pleasure, my dear. 
After all, an Irishman never turns down a dinner invitation. I have a 
tradition to uphold." 

*****

Motel 6 -- Room 312 Oakland, California January 11 3:17 A.M. 

"Mario, are you awake?" 

Within a second of asking the question, the girl saw a silhouette 
quickly move into the bedroom doorway from the adjoining, lighted room. 
Turning on one of the bedside lamps, the boy replied, "I'm here. Is 
something wrong, Marie?" 

After a momentary pause, she replied with a grin, "He's 
hungry...again." 

"OK...what's it going to be this time? Pickles? Sardines? Herring?" 

"No, silly...ice cream." 

With a smile, the boy remarked, "That's too simple. It's never that 
simple." 

"I'm sorry, Mario. My hormones are all out of whack. I'm not trying to 
be a pain or anything." 

Sitting at the foot of the bed, the boy placed a finger to her lips and 
stated, "I know. And you don't have to explain anything to me. I'm here 
to help, remember?" After a couple of seconds, he then asked, "What 
flavor?" 

"Cherry Garcia." 

"What?" 

"Cherry Garcia...like the guy from the Grateful Dead." 

While rising to leave, Mario idly stated, "Did I ever mention that I 
met him?" 

"Who?" 

"Jerry Garcia. I was backstage at a concert a few years ago in Buffalo, 
New York. Really nice guy." 

With a look of obvious disbelief on her face, Marie could only remark, 
"You met Jerry Garcia...in person? How?" 

"I have my ways." 

As a look of sudden revelation crossed her features, she remarked, "Oh 
yeah. I guess you do." 

Heading out into the hallway, the boy remarked over his shoulder, "One 
pint coming right up." 

"Ahhh...Mario...could you make that TWO pints?" 

"Fine. TWO pints coming up." 

"And..." 

Turning back toward the bedroom, he quipped, "Uh oh...here it comes." 

"And a box of Twinkies." 

"Twinkies? What are they?" 

"Oh my God, Mario! You've never had a Twinkie?" 

"Sorry. Guess I don't get out much." 

"Yellow sponge cake with white cream filling. No natural ingredients 
AND a shelf life of 200 years." 

With one eyebrow raised, he remarked, "Sounds delicious...or should I 
say, dangerous?" 

"They're delicious. And they come two in a pack...we'll share." 

Again moving toward the hallway, he cautioned, "Remember, don't let 
anyone in while I'm gone." After closing and locking the door, he 
muttered, "Thank heaven for 7-Eleven." 

Heading down the two flights of stairs to the motel lobby, Mario was 
just about to leave the building when he noticed that nobody was 
standing behind the check-in deck or in the adjoining cashier's office, 
although a rebroadcast of the late news was blaring from a television. 

"And in other news...for all you stargazers out there, the supernova 
first spotted in November can now be seen without the aid of a 
telescope. In fact, according to experts, the star may actually keep 
increasing in size and luminescence for several days until it is 
actually visible during daylight hours, before finally fading." 

Turning away from the screen, Mario peered curiously over the top of 
the counter and saw the middle-aged clerk lying on the floor face up, 
his head at an unnatural angle, with lifeless eyes staring at the 
ceiling. 

"DAMN!" 

Bounding across the lobby in a couple of leaps, he took the steps at 
preternatural speed. Quickly arriving back on the third floor, he 
instantly picked up an aroma that he had not sensed for ages...the 
faint odor of decay...and ancient evil. As one part of his mind noted 
the splintered door leading into the room he had departed not two 
minutes earlier, his other senses instantly took note of the dark 
figure with an arm locked around Marie's neck. The girl was crying 
softly. Incredibly, the intruder's eyes were coal-black, lacking 
pupils, irises, or any white matter whatsoever. 

"Marie, stay calm...you'll be fine." 

"Ah...no, Marioch. Sorry to tell you, but that's not how this is going 
to happen. See, first I'm going to twist the little girl's neck like a 
bottle cap and then I'll take care of you." 

Taking another step into the room, Mario stated, "Let her go, Batriel. 
She's innocent. If you want to fight me, that's fine...just let her 
go." 

"Exactly, brother...she's INNOCENT. That's the key. She can affect the 
balance. She MUST die!" 

Assessing the situation, Mario realized that his adversary did not have 
his feet planted firmly on the floor, but instead had one knee 
awkwardly resting on the bed. He focused on the boxspring. 

"Marioch, what are you...?" 

Batriel's incomplete question was answered when the bed started 
vibrating moments before being jerked violently across the room, 
knocking both Marie and her attacker to the floor. Most importantly, 
however, the unexpected assault caused Batriel to lose his grip on the 
girl, who struck her face on the nightstand. However, this was enough 
of a distraction for Mario to go on the offensive. In a flash, he 
crossed the room, pinning the man against the wall. 

"You're an abomination, brother. What did your master promise you?" 

With a devilish grin, Batriel responded, "Oh, not much more than 
limitless power. After all, it's better to rule in Hell than serve in 
Heaven." 

"Only if you're a fool! You betrayed us all!" Then, in a lower tone, 
Mario added sadly, "And you betrayed me." 

Before Batriel could reply, Mario flung him through the glass balcony 
doors and onto the concrete overhang. Grabbing him by the neck, Mario 
had started lifting the intruder over the railing when several fingers 
tipped by razor sharp nails lashed out, opening a set of angry gashes 
extending from his right temple to his jaw. As thick, dark blood 
started to drip down Mario's youthful features, he again took hold of 
his adversary's arms and heaved him effortlessly over the railing. 
Then, with Marie still watching from the bedroom, followed him over. 

"OH, GOD...MARIO!" 

Ignoring shattered glass as she rushed to the edge of the balcony, 
Marie looked down just in time to see the two land atop the hood of a 
car, instantly blowing out the windows, caving in the roof, and setting 
off the alarm. As the battle raged, Mario eventually got his knees 
astride the other man's midsection, before swiftly jamming his thumbs 
into Batriel's eyes, causing him to growl, "You'll never stop 
us...we're legion!" 

From above, Marie saw smoke emanating from Mario's hands as Batriel 
started to violently convulse amidst blood-curdling wails. Then, when 
it looked like it was finally over, the most bizarre thing of all 
happened as a brilliant column of light exited Batriel's now inert body 
and rocketed skyward. In fact, the force of the energy was enough to 
blast Mario completely off the car, while also igniting the vehicle. 

Marie then watched her husband calmly got back to his feet and reenter 
the building. By the time she came in off the balcony, he was back in 
the room. With fear still evident in her voice, she managed to stammer, 
"Mario...how? What?" 

Before responding, he reached toward the deepening bruises now plainly 
evident on her face, passing his palm over the discolored flesh. With a 
soft glow emanating from his hand, the wounds quickly faded before 
disappearing. Most amazing of all was that the blemishes, while 
vanishing from Marie's face, actually started to manifest themselves on 
the boy's features. Seeing her amazement, he remarked, "I'll explain 
all of this later, Marie. But now, we've got to go!" 

"But you fell...what's happening?" 

Mario realized there were no easy answers to her questions. 

*****

J. Edgar Hoover Building -- FBI Headquarters Washington, DC January 12 
1:21 P.M. 

  
"Agents Mulder and Scully, please come in." 

"You said you wanted to see us, sir?" 

"Yes, Scully, I did." Then, turning toward her partner, Assistant 
Director Walter Skinner asked, "I trust you've had time to review the 
file I sent you yesterday, Agent Mulder?" 

As one of her eyebrows rose at the surprise mention of a file Mulder 
had not yet told her about, the perpetually disheveled special agent 
responded, "Yes, sir, I have." 

"And...?" 

"I think we should book a couple of first class tickets out to the 
coast." 

"Fine, but make it coach, Agent Mulder. We do have a budget to keep in 
balance." 

Upon hearing this, Dana Scully's bullshit meter went off the scale. At 
one time she would have gladly faded into the dark woodwork of her 
superior's office, but those days were long past. 

"Ah...excuse me. Could someone please tell me what's going on? Where 
are we going?" 

Withdrawing a manila folder from his desk, Skinner stood and handed it 
to her. The file, number X-128564-99, was stamped with several Justice
Department security classifications -- the highest of which Scully was 
familiar read 'Eyes Only.' There was also a cryptic red stamp reading 
"Majic-12," which was unknown to her. The document's attached routing 
slip was also noteworthy in that it was blank, indicating that the file 
had not proceeded through channels in the traditional manner, namely 
from the lower levels of the federal bureaucracy, up through the middle 
levels, until finally reaching the top. This file seemed to have taken 
the exact opposite course -- starting at the top and moving down to 
them. 

As Scully quickly scanned the enclosed photos and field report, Fox 
Mulder unsuccessfully attempted to smooth out some of the wrinkles in 
his jacket, shirt and tie, while Skinner silently stared out the window 
with his back to them. After reviewing the executive summary, she 
remarked, "I'm not sure why we're needed in Oakland, sir? According to 
this, there seems to have been two rather simple, albeit brutal, 
murders in a motel. I'm sure the local field office can handle the 
investigation." 

Without turning, Skinner stated, "Please play the tape, Agent Mulder." 

As Scully's eyebrow once again rose, Mulder shrugged, ambled across the 
office toward the wall-mounted video console, dimmed the lights, and
activated the machine. She then viewed approximately 10 minutes of 
grainy black and white security camera footage taken from high above a 
motel parking lot. When the lights rose, she sat there in silence. 

"That incident occurred early yesterday morning. Do you now see why 
this may require the unique...perspective...that you and Agent Mulder 
can bring to this investigation?" 

"In other words, Scully, this looks like a job for Spooky and his 
dependable partner, Spunky." 

Her initial shock now wearing off, Scully's ever-cynical nature quickly 
regained its footing. Ignoring Mulder's "spunky" remark, she turned her 
attention back to her boss and stated, "But sir, it's possible that 
those two men may have been under the influence of PCB or some other 
powerful hallucinogen or designer drug. That could explain the extreme 
violence and seemingly superhuman strength they exhibited." 

With a barely concealed grin, Mulder snidely remarked, "Now that's my 
Scully...she sees it and STILL doesn't believe it." 

Her head quickly whipping around to face her partner, she replied, "No, 
Mulder, I'm just not as anxious to accept the paranormal as you are. 
There's probably a rational, scientific..." 

"Oh that's right, a rational, scientific explanation for two guys 
surviving a leap unscathed from a three-story building. And, did you 
notice that one of the dead men was incinerated although there was no 
indication of a flammable substance present?" 

Turning around to again face his subordinates, Walter Skinner raised a 
hand to silence them. However, when this didn't immediately work, he 
stated, "Alright, that's enough!" Once order was again restored, he 
added, "As I've said, I think there's enough here to warrant your 
efforts." 

"Yes sir," the two younger agents replied somewhat sheepishly. 

"Fine. Keep me informed. Dismissed." 

As Mulder and Scully headed toward the door, Skinner quickly called 
after them, "Oh, and one other thing, during this case you'll be 
working with a special consultant to the bureau and his associates from 
the Luna Foundation. His name is Rayne...Dr. Derek Rayne." 

"Oh good, Scully...now we can baby-sit an amateur to boot," murmured 
Mulder as they left the office. 

"I heard that, Agent Mulder!" called Skinner, removing his gold wire-
rimmed glasses. 

*****

Sunnydale High School Principal's Office Sunnydale, California 2:15 P.M. 

"Now let me be plain about this, you two. I frown on mid-semester 
transfers, especially for seniors...you just can't imagine the 
paperwork." 

As Marie unsuccessfully tried to make herself comfortable in the 
unpadded wooden chair, she replied, "I'm sorry for the trouble, sir. 
But the woman at Social Services recommended that I stay in school as 
long as possible." Then, glancing down at her distended stomach, she 
added, "But, I don't think it'll be for that much longer." 

Looking somewhat uncomfortable himself, Principal Snyder snorted and 
remarked, "Well, just as long as you don't get the idea that we're 
running a nursery here." Then, turning toward the denim-clad boy, he 
added, "I hope you now appreciate what irresponsible behavior can lead 
too." 

"Excuse me? Irresponsible?" 

"Of course, completely irresponsible. It makes me wonder why we keep 
teaching those ridiculous sex education courses. It's obvious you 
people don't listen...even in there." 

After a few moments of uneasy silence, Mario made eye contact with the 
balding man and remarked, "Sir, we consider Marie's condition to be a
blessing. In fact, nothing less than a miracle." 

Trying to escape the gaze focused on him, Snyder muttered, "Blessing, 
huh? Well, maybe in the form of a bigger welfare check." 

Hearing this, Mario started leaning forward in his chair until Marie 
grabbed his arm, restraining him. Quickly rising to her feet, she 
stated, "Ah, thank you for your time, Mr. Snyder. We'll be seeing 
you." 

Following them out the door, the principal replied ominously, "Oh, I'm 
sure of that, missy." 

As Marie and Mario exited the principal's office and walked slowly down 
the bustling hallway, they were being watched by several unsympathetic
individuals wearing varsity football jackets. 

"Will ya look at those two." 

"Yeah, I heard they're transfers from up north." 

"White trash trailer types if I ever saw them." 

"Hey, Larry, maybe we can have some fun with loverboy there." 

"Cool. Sounds like a plan." 


Part Two

Sunnydale High School Library 
3:01 P.M. 

"Things have been really dead...ah slow...around here lately, Giles. 
Not enough action for one Slayer, let alone two. You know that Faith 
and I had to flip a vamp last night to see who got to stake him. She 
called tails." 

"And?" 

"Unfortunately, he landed on his ass." 

"Oh. I see." 

"So any fresh chaos due to blow through any time soon? Even Faith can 
talk about boys, body piercing, and bikes for JUST so long." 

Carefully replacing a thick volume in the stacks, the librarian paused 
to ponder the question. Removing his glasses to polish the lenses, he 
replied, "Actually, Buffy, it's quite understandable that there are 
periods of inactivity atop a Hellmouth. After all, mystical energy does 
tend to ebb and flow, very much like waves in the ocean. Following a 
period of high paranormal output, the reservoir needs to be 
replenished." 

Impatiently fingering one of her stakes, the teen remarked, "So, to 
make a long story short, you're saying we're at low tide waiting to 
catch the next breaker." 

Carefully replacing the frames on the bridge of his nose, the curly-
haired man replied with some annoyance, "Well, yes. Isn't that what I 
just said?" 

"Sure, Giles...in about a hundred words! Didn't they teach you to get 
to the point QUICKLY in Watcher school? I mean, with vampires, demons,
Republicans, and other assorted nasties loose, time just MIGHT be 
critical." 

"Now see here, young lady...just because Hell might be erupting, 
there's no need to abuse the Queen's English. After all, there are 
still SOME priorities left in life!" 

"You scare me sometimes, Giles. And this is one of those times." 

After emitting a derisive snort, the Watcher changed the subject, 
asking, "By the way, where's Mr. Harris been? I haven't seen him since 
Friday? That's unusually tardy...even for him." 

Shifting nervously in her seat, the Slayer stammered, "Well, Giles, 
that's kinda hard to explain." 

"Oh, really? Now who's avoiding a direct answer to a simple question, 
Buffy?" 

"He died...again." 

"HE WHAT?!?" the man exclaimed, dropping the book he was holding. 

"Now calm down, Giles. It's not as serious as you think." 

His eyes still wide, it took a moment for Giles to collect his 
thoughts. 

"Not as serious? Now, Buffy, I realize that young people take things in 
stride nowadays, but really..." 

"Well, Richie said he was only gone for a few minutes." 

"A few minutes! Buffy, people have been seriously brain-damaged in less 
time." 

"But with Xander, who would notice?" 

Now standing with his hands firmly planted on his hips, the Englishman 
was obviously not amused, coldly remarking, "I'm waiting for an 
explanation, young lady." 

"Oh...OK. It seems that Richie took Xander out to practice dueling last 
weekend." 

"My God, are you telling me that Mr. Ryan accidentally stabbed 
Xander?" 

Again shifting uncomfortably in her seat, Buffy replied somewhat 
indignantly, "No, nothing at all like that. Richie is very careful." 

"Well, then, what exactly happened?" 

"Xander drove through a plate glass window and fell two floors." 

After blinking several more times, Giles started to move his lips, but 
no sound came out. After a few more blinks, he tried again -- with 
better success. 

"Pardon me? Xander drove through a window? How...why?" 

"After they were finished practicing, he asked Richie if he could drive 
his bike and..." 

"A motorcycle! Good Lord, he's only a boy!" 

Snapping her fingers, Buffy stated, "Earth to Giles...Xander's an 
Immortal." 

"Yes...yes...I realize that. But he's still only 17 years old. That's 
much too young to be driving a motor vehicle, much less a motorcycle. 
Richie should have shown better judgement." 

"Excuse me, but first off, the legal driving age in California is 16. 
And second, unless Alzheimer's is setting in, weren't you conjuring 
spirits at his age with your classmates back in merry old England?" 

"Oh that's right, Buffy. One youthful indiscretion and you toss it back 
in my face." 

"Ah, Giles, during that 'youthful indiscretion' you raised a demon that 
possessed and killed one of your friends." 

"Well yes...but that was very different." 

"Ah huh, right Giles...VERY different." 

"Don't look at me like that, young lady." 

"Like what, Giles?" 

"Like I've forgotten what it's like to be young. It hasn't been THAT 
many years." 

As Buffy rolled here eyes skyward, another thought suddenly occurred to 
the Watcher. "Buffy, I thought Xander generally recovered from these 
types of scrapes rather quickly. Why would he be absent this long?" 

"Simple, Giles...sympathy." 

"Sympathy?" 

"From Cordelia. C'mon Giles, do I need to do the math for you?" 

With a grin suddenly crossing his face, the man slowly remarked, 
"Oh...oh...of course." 

"That's good, Giles. Very good." 

"But, Buffy, I thought they broke up last month?" 

"They did. Don't ask...it's a long story." 

*****

Harris Residence Sunnydale, California 3:23 P.M. 

"Oh baby, that feels good. Oh yeah, do that again!" 

"You like that, Xander?" 

"Oh yeah...lower...lower...ahh...right there." 

"Are you sure this is really necessary?" 

"Absolutely...Richie said it's vital to the healing process." 

"Well, OK then." 

"Ahh...oh...yeah...you're really good at this Cordy." 

"I know, you said that already...twice." 

"Willow would never do this?" 

"WILLOW!?!" 

"Ah...I mean, I wouldn't even think of asking Willow to..." 

Quickly rolling off the bed, Cordelia snapped, "You'd better not." For 
emphasis, she quickly added, "Immortal or not, you'd be a dead man." 

Realizing he had again placed his foot squarely in his mouth, the teen 
struggled to sit up, restrained by the mass of gauze bandages covering 
his arms and midsection down to the top of his boxer shorts. With brown 
puppy dog eyes being used to full effect, he implored the girl, "C'mon, 
Cordy, I'm beginning to tighten up. Please come back and rub my 
shoulders." 

"Maybe you should just call Willow." 

Extending his arms, he asked, "Why would I call Willow when I have 
you?" 

As Cordelia tentatively moved into his embrace, Xander wasted no time 
in covering her lips with his own. Meanwhile, his hands, quickly 
surveying other territory, discovered that nothing got between Cordy 
and her Versace blouse. However, before he could explore any other 
strange new worlds, a motorcycle, at first only faintly audible, 
rumbled into the driveway of the house. 

"Oh man, not now!" 

"What's wrong, Xander?" 

"We've got company." 

"Who?" 

Before he could answer, she heard the kitchen door of the house open 
and a familiar voice ask, "Hello...is anyone home?" 

As Xander quickly moved back toward the bed, Cordelia replied, "Up 
here, Richie." 

Entering the room, the leather jacket and jeans-clad Immortal remarked, 
"Hi, Cordy. How are you?" 

Motioning toward the lump under the covers, she remarked, "Not bad, 
considering the English Patient here and all." 

At that moment, a series of moans could be heard emanating from under 
the sheets. 

With a perplexed look on his face, Richie Ryan asked, "What's wrong 
with him?" 

Now also looking perplexed, Cordelia remarked, "You know...Xander went 
through that window last week. He's all cut up...and achy and painy." 

His eyes narrowing, the redhead repeated, "Cut up, huh? Could you 
excuse us for a few minutes, Cordy?" 

"Sure, I guess so. Is something wrong?" 

With a smile, Ryan answered, "Not for long. We just have some Immortal 
stuff to discuss. You know how it is." 

Walking toward the door, she remarked, "I'll be downstairs, Xander." 

After the girl left the room, Xander, seemingly the recipient of a 
miraculous recovery, threw back the covers, leapt from the bed, and 
angrily stated, "You're timing REALLY sucks, man! What are you doing 
here?" 

Observing the bandages encapsulating his student (not to mention the 
heart covered boxer shorts), Ryan snidely remarked, "Ohhh...the mummy 
speaks," before adding, "I'm here to pick you up for our weekly 
training session, remember?" 

"Oh shit, I completely forgot. I was ahh...distracted." 

"Obviously." After a moment, the older Immortal asked, "Maybe I'm 
na´ve, but what were you trying to do?" 

"Well, if you must know, I was rounding second and about to slide -- 
possibly head first -- into third when you showed up." 

With a grunt, Ryan remarked, "You little horn dog. There's nothing 
wrong with you." 

Smiling, Xander replied, "But Cordy doesn't know that." 

"I can change that." 

With a look of absolute horror crossing his face, the teen implored, 
"You wouldn't!" 

"I will...unless you move your ass! And lose those damn bandages." 

As Xander scrambled for his clothes, he paused a moment to ask his 
mentor, "Ah, Richie?" 

"Yeah?" 

"I've been thinking..." 

"That's nice, Xander." 

"No, wait...hear me out. OK...they say that guys are at their 
peak...you know...sexually, when they're teenagers, right?" 

Shifting weight to his other foot, Ryan subconsciously ran a hand 
through his short hair before tentatively asking, "Xander, where is 
this line of questioning going?" 

"Well, I'm thinking about Cordy like...you know...all the time." 

"All the time?" 

"Yeah. When I'm in class, or trying to sleep, or in the shower..." 

"HEY! WHOA! STOP! Way too much detail there, Xander." 

"Oh, sorry, what I meant to say..." 

"Please pick your next words carefully, Xander. Or I'll have to cut off 
your head...followed by my own." 

"Well, you know how it is. You still look like you're 18. Does it ever 
get any easier?" 

"Does WHAT ever get any easier?" 

"This relationship stuff." 

Now with a broad smirk crossing his face, Ryan remarked, "So, you think 
you're in love with Cordelia." 

Suddenly at a rare loss for words, the teen stammered, "Well, 
yeah...ah...no. I mean, there's more." 

"More? Oh good, it gets better." 

"I've really got it bad for Cordy." 

"That's what I just said, Xander." 

"AND for Willow." 

"You should run for president." 

"AND for Faith...I think." 

"THREE GIRLS?!? ARE YOU NUTS?" Ryan shouted before silently staring at 
the teen for several seconds. 

"Xander, haven't you covered this territory before? And didn't Cordy 
almost end up dead because of it?" 

"Yeah." 

"AND isn't Willow an item with that guy in the band...what's his 
name?" 

"Oz." 

"Right...Oz. AND doesn't he also have a werewolf thing going?" 

"OK...OK...fine. I'm scum. I admit it." 

"And this Faith...isn't she a Slayer?" 

"Yeah." 

"It's been nice knowing you, Xander." 

"That's not funny, Richie. I can really use some advice." 

"Fine. My advice is this: Get out of town...FAST!" 

Seeing the teen's stricken expression Ryan, now more serious, inquired 
of his student, "Do you know when relationships get easier, Xander?" 

"When?" 

"Never. That's when. Quoting the Immortal Duncan MacLeod, no pun 
intended, 'Whether you're 18, 80 or 800, love's never easy.' I think he 
also said something about the need for mutual trust and respect between 
two people, but MacLeod gets kinda preachy sometimes and I'm not a very 
good listener." 

Looking dejected, the boy could only reply, "Oh." 

"But I do recommend one thing." 

Quickly perking up, Xander asked hopefully, "What's that, Richie?" 

"Burn that underwear, sport. Those shorts are L-A-M-E!" 

A couple of minutes later, as Xander was about to leave the room 
wearing his trademark baggy T-shirt and jeans, Ryan asked, "Aren't you 
forgetting something?" 

"What?" 

"Well, your sword for one thing. And a jacket to hide it would be 
nice." 

"Ah c'mon, Richie. We're only going to the dojo for a few hours. What 
can happen?" 

Pulling a jacket from the teen's closet, the Immortal tossed it to him 
and replied, "Plenty, believe me. Where's your sword?" 

"Downstairs." 

"Where?" 

"Ah...it's ahh..." 

"OK. Let's try this again. Xander, where's your sword...the one MacLeod 
and I warn you to carry at ALL times?" 

In a low voice, the boy replied, "In the garage." 

"The garage? How can you get to it there?" 

"Mom doesn't like having it around the house. It makes her nervous." 

"Nervous? Well how would she feel about coming home and finding you 
decapitated?" 

"C'mon, Richie. That can't happen." 

With lightning speed, Ryan withdrew his own weapon, holding the tip of 
the blade at his student's throat. With Xander now swallowing 
nervously, his Adam's apple working itself first down and then back up, 
the older Immortal stated, "Oh yes it can, Xander." Then, after a few 
seconds, he resheathed the sword, adding, "NEVER forget that...for your 
own sake." 


Part Three

Sunnydale Zoological Park and Gardens 
January 13 
1:21 A.M. 

Amidst the gloomy trails and lush vegetation, two young women were 
sauntering along, one looking skyward while the other kept her eyes at 
ground level.

"Hey, that's some fireworks show up there. Giles was pretty excited 
about it. He thinks it may be some major portent of doom or 
something." 

"Yeah whatever. If you ask me, it's just some stellar gasbag blowing 
off steam." 

"Not exactly a romantic, are you, Faith?" 

"Why should I be? Not much to be romantic about around here. Use 'em 
and lose 'em, that's what I say." After a pause, she then asked, "So, 
Buffy, what's it like...you know...to get horizontal and chitty chitty 
bang bang with an undead fiend?" 

"Like I've told you before, Faith, I so don't want to have this 
discussion." 

"Oh, please, Buff. I'm not going to be judgmental or anything. Just 
curious." 

"Sure you are." 

After replying, "I am," she then asked, "So, do you have to warm him up 
like other guys, or does he just plant the flag?" 

With growls from the big cats audible in the distance, the shorter girl 
suddenly stopped short, turned and angrily replied, "Hey, newsflash, 
I'm not discussing Angel with you...not ever. We have something very 
special." 

"Yeah, right." 

"You don't believe me?" 

"Hey, Buff, I've seen Angel, remember. He definitely has that dark, 
brooding act down. I can see how that might attract certain types of 
skirts." 

"But, of course, not you." 

"Me and a bloodsucker...please, get real." 

"Well then, Miss Manners, what kinds of guys appeal to you?" 

Now chewing her gum at an even faster pace, she remarked, "I'm into the 
leather and studs kinda guy. You know, the bad boy, dangling earrings,
piercings a plus, scuzzy biker type." 

"So have you met danger boy yet?" 

"Several, actually." 

 "But..." 

"They were big on scuz, but small in other departments." 

"I know I'll regret asking you this, but could bachelorette number one 
please specify...what 'other' departments?" 

"Such as commitment," Faith stated. 

"Oh." 

"You think I simply focus on the physical stuff, don't you?" 

"No, of course not," Buffy lied. 

"Well, I'm not THAT shallow." 

"Sorry." 

"It's fine, I'm cool," the newest Slayer remarked before blowing a 
bubble. As they continued walking, Faith asked nonchalantly , "By the 
way...how's that friend of yours doing...what's his name...?" 

"Who?" 

"That clown who was going out with the snob." 

"Xander?" 

"Yeah, that's him. What's his deal these days?" 

Not sure where this was leading, Buffy remarked, "He's kinda snared in 
Cordelia's web again. You know how it is..." 

"Oh." 

"Why do you ask?" 

Faith didn't have a chance to reply as a scream suddenly shattered the 
silence. 

"Just in time. Duty calls." 

Dashing around a bend in the trail near the hyena house, the two girls 
come upon an alarming sight -- even by Sunnydale standards: A man 
sprawled atop a motionless young woman. As Faith moved forward, 
wielding a previously concealed wooden stake, she angrily remarked, 
"Hey, buddy, get off her! It obviously wasn't as good for her as it was 
for you." 

"Faith, wait! We don't know..." 

"Wait? For what? This rapist to get his rocks off again? I don't think 
so." 

As she approached, the blond-haired man casually rose, buttoned his 
shirt, and slowly turned to face her. Then, most chilling of all, he 
actually started laughing. As Faith suspected, fangs were present. But, 
there was something else...he had no eyes. Just two dark circles where 
his eyes should have been. 

"A Slayer. How sweet. It's been such a long time since I've savored the 
fruits of one such as you." 

Leaping forward, she spat, "The only thing you'll be savoring is this 
stake when I jam it up your..." 

"Faith, no..." 

Before the words had left her mouth, Buffy realized that something was 
seriously different about this vamp. Her suspicions were confirmed when 
he caught the other Slayer in midair before effortlessly tossing her 
onto a nearby bench. 

"Faith!" 

When the still unidentified attacker started to move toward the downed 
Slayer, Buffy instantly retrieved a stake from her boot and, taking 
aim, let it fly. Her toss found its mark as the wooden shaft sank 
deeply into the left side of the vampire's chest, right where the heart 
should have been. Unfortunately, instead of turning to dust as 
expected, he merely looked down, removed the shaft and, once again 
laughing, splintered it. 

"Two Slayers! This should be a real treat!" 

With a look of disdain, Buffy remarked, "Hey, bright eyes...it's 
funny...that's what all the ghouls around here say, before we kill 
them." 

As Faith struggled back to her feet, she also threatened, "You're going 
to be so dead!" Again on the attack, she landed several powerful kicks 
and body blows that had absolutely no effect. Then, off balance after a 
right hook failed to connect, the stranger took hold of her arms, 
stating, "Go to your friend, I think she's lonely." He then lifted her 
off the ground and flipped her toward Buffy. 

Seeing what was about to happen, the girl only had time to think, "Oh, 
shit!" before the impact. Although now in pain herself, Buffy quickly 
regained her senses. 

"Faith...can you hear me?" 

"No daddy, Tommy and Steve weren't in my room last night..." 

"Faith, snap out of it...NOW!" 

"Heh heh, it was Billy and Bobby." 

With their attacker closing in for the kill, Buffy attempted to free 
herself from the other girl's tangled limbs while pleading, "Faith, 
snap out of it!" 

"What....where...?" 

"Get up! We're in major trouble here!" 

"Oh you're so right, little Slayer. You just can't imagine how much 
trouble." 

Reaching down to grasp Buffy's hair, the fiend started to pull her neck 
closer while remarking, "You should be honored that Semyaza would 
select you." 

Quickly removing another stake from her other boot, Buffy quipped, "I'm 
sure the honor's all yours, buddy," before plunging it deep into his 
forearm. 

Instantly releasing her, Semyaza roared, "You unworthy bitch!" 

"Funny, that's just what all my teachers say." 

The Slayer then bounced back to her feet and landed some additional 
blows to his head. Unfortunately, this didn't have any greater impact 
than Faith's earlier attempts. In fact, he simply absorbed the 
punishment Buffy dealt out before retaliating with a single blow to the 
side of her face, knocking her down. 

While on the verge of passing out, Buffy suddenly heard a high pitched 
whine followed by a roar. After blinking a few times, she looked up to 
see Semyaza with a crossbow bolt protruding from his neck. Then, just 
when things couldn't get any weirder...they did. As Buffy continued to 
watch, he removed the shaft, growling, "I grow weary of these games," 
before emitting a blinding flash of light and disappearing into thin 
air. A few seconds later, the Slayer heard a pained voice ask, "Buffy, 
you alright?" 

Looking toward the other girl, who was on her knees holding an empty 
crossbow, she replied, "I think so," before asking, "Faith?" 

"Yeah?" 

"I don't think we should come here anymore. It's not safe." 

Meanwhile, across town, Mario was watching Marie sleep in the guest 
bedroom of her grandmother's house. However, while reaching to 
reposition a stray lock of hair on her forehead, he detected an all too 
familiar presence somewhere in the vicinity. Quickly rising, he 
soundlessly drifted to the window overlooking the street. 

"Mario, what's wrong?" 

Not wanting to alarm her, he replied, "Nothing. I just wanted to get 
some fresh air. Go back to sleep." 

"I didn't think you needed air." 

After another glance into the night, he turned and perched back on the 
edge of the bed. 

"Go back to sleep, you need your rest." 

"Why don't you climb in here with me, there's plenty of room." 

"I can't." 

 "But we're married now, aren't we?" 

Now looking more serious, he responded, "Marie, it's not that simple. 
There are larger issues." 

"Such as?" 

"Such as your safety. I can't allow myself to get distracted." 

Looking hurt, she asked, "It that all I am, a distraction?" 

"No, of course not." 

"Then what is it?" 

After pausing to compose his thoughts, he stated, "We just can't be 
together...at least not in the way you'd like us to be. It would be 
very dangerous, especially for you." 

Reaching up, she ran her hand through his long hair. "Mario, why is it 
dangerous for us to be together. Aren't we compatible?" 

Now staring down at the floor, he answered, "Yes, Marie, that's just 
it. We're much too compatible." 

Just at that moment, the girl grimaced. 

"Ow...ow!" 

Leaping up, Mario asked excitedly, "What's wrong?" 

"The baby just kicked...that's all. I guess I've gotta get used to it. 
Sit back down." 

"No, I really shouldn't..." 

 "Mario, please sit down." 

As he hesitantly returned to the edge of the bed, she reached for one 
of his hands, placing the palm flat against her stomach. 

"Can you feel him?" 

"Yes." 

*****

Motel 6 1:41 P.M. 

After checking in at the FBI's San Francisco field office, Mulder and 
Scully picked up a copy of the case forensics report, signed out a dark 
blue Taurus from the motor pool, and drove to the crime scene. Pulling 
into the motel driveway, Scully idly remarked, "That's odd." 

"What's odd?" 

"According to forensics, there was only one set of fingerprints in the 
room and none found on the car where the men landed." 

 "Maybe they were wearing gloves." 

"No, Mulder. The surveillance video clearly showed them fighting with 
bare hands." 

"You're right. That is odd." 

As Fox Mulder removed his seatbelt and exited the vehicle, the redhead 
continued to review the file. 

"You coming, Scully?" 

"Now that's REALLY strange." 

"What now?" 

"The blood found at the scene." 

"What about it?" 

"They couldn't type it. In fact, it didn't contain any platelets or 
hemoglobin. Just plasma with some traces of...no that can't be right." 

"What? What can't be right?" 

"Sulfur...they found traces of sulfur and other elemental organic 
matter." 

"Brimstone, Scully." 

Closing her car door, she remarked, "Now don't start, Mulder. The lab 
probably just contaminated the samples or something." 

"Yeah, or something." 

Quickly sweeping the area, the agents noted a lone police car nearby. 
With crime scene tape strung around the demolished car in the parking 
lot and across the front door leading to the lobby, he asked his 
partner, "Any thoughts on where to start?" 

"How about the room upstairs. According to the report, that's where 
most of the action took place." 

Flashing their badges at the cop in the doorway, they headed for the 
elevator with its cheerful canned music still incongruously playing. 
Arriving on the third floor, the agents stepped off the lift and into a 
grungy beige hallway harshly lit by flickering florescent tubes. 
Rounding a corner, they quickly noticed that the tape strung across the 
doorway to room 312 was broken and that voices were emanating from 
within. Drawing their weapons, they cautiously entered. 

"Federal agents! Don't move!" 

As the two men they encountered remained crouched on the floor, their 
backs to them, one  remarked in heavily accented English, "We wouldn't 
dream of it." 

Scully in the meantime had gotten the other, younger man to his feet 
and within seconds had expertly relieved him of a .45 automatic 
holstered under his left arm. However, she didn't notice him palm a 
scrap of paper retrieved from behind one of the twin beds. 

"I hope you have a license for this." 

"As a matter of fact, it's in the left front pocket of my jeans. You're 
more than welcome to go fishing for it." 

After a moment, Scully stated, "OK...but remove it slowly." 

Once the wallet was open for inspection, she remarked, "A carry permit 
does not entitle you to enter a crime scene, Mr. Boyle." 

"Call me Nick." 

To this, Mulder testily remarked, "We'll call you a lawyer, 
smartmouth." 

With his back still turned toward the agents, the older man quickly 
remarked, "Now that's not very professional, Agent Mulder." 

Surprised, Mulder gave a sideways glance to his partner before asking, 
"You know us?" 

"Walter Skinner said you'd be along." 

His face suddenly grim as several puzzle pieces dropped into place, the 
agent remarked, "So you're..." 

Rising to his full height, the Frenchman coolly turned while finishing 
the statement, "Derek Rayne...yes." Then, noticing that Mulder still 
had his gun drawn, he pointedly asked, "Is there some other problem?" 

"Ah, no, sorry." 

As several firearms were quickly re-holstered, Derek turned toward 
Scully and remarked, "And I believe you've already met my associate, 
Nick Boyle. We're with the Luna Foundation." 

Retrieving his wallet from the woman's hand, Nick smirked before 
asking, "Was it as good for you as it was for me, Agent Scully?" 

As the mere hint of a grin momentarily crossed Scully's lips at this 
remark, Mulder simply continued to scowl. 

*****

Sunnydale High School Library 2:07 P.M. 

"Giles? Giles, are you here?" 

"Up here, Buffy. In the black arts section." 

Looking up toward the library's upper level, she spied her Watcher 
coming out from between the stacks. 

"We've got to talk, Giles. There's a serious new badass in town. After 
snacking on a girl, he tossed Faith and me around like yesterday's 
dirty laundry." 

Now intrigued, the librarian removed his wire-rimmed glasses before 
commenting, "You mean that your combined efforts couldn't 
stop...something? Jolly good." 

In response, Buffy simply stood stock still, a hand resting on her hip. 
Then, after a few moments, she remarked, "Well, I'm SO happy to make 
your day with an unstoppable ghoul. Heaven forbid that we continue to 
ice the bad guys with ease. No, we wouldn't want that now, would we?" 

With an annoyed expression, Giles replied, "What I meant, Buffy, is 
that I find it highly unusual for you and Faith to have difficulty 
dispatching your quarry. Therefore, I find it interesting, but not 
necessarily a cause for celebration." 

"Not necessarily? You mean getting our asses kicked IS occasionally 
cause for celebration?" 

"No, let me rephrase that. It didn't quite come out as I intended." 

"Never mind, Giles. I'm only busting your chops." 

"Oh. Quite." 

As the library doors once again swung open, the Slayer heard two 
familiar voices stating first, "Hi, Buffy" and then simply, "Buff." 

Before she even turned, she knew that Willow and her on again, off 
again, on again boyfriend, Oz, had entered the large room. 

"Guys. How's it going?" 

"Oz is going to be playing at the Bronze again this week." 

 The spiky-haired teen then elaborated, "Yeah, they said the other 
bands really sucked. But we sucked less. I think that's a good thing." 

"Of course it's a good thing, Wolfy. I bet that's how most bands get 
their first big break." 

"Yeah, that and sleeping with MTV veejays...or so I've heard." 

As this conversation wound down, the Englishman attempted to steer it 
back to the main issue at hand, "Buffy and Faith were accosted last 
night." 

"Are you alright, Buffy? And what about Faith?" 

"We're both better...now. But last night was another story." 

The Watcher then asked, "Was it a vampire?" 

"That's the really weird part. This guy had fangs and all, drained the 
girl, but only got annoyed when I staked him. Then, and this is REALLY 
bizarre, he just disappeared." 

"You mean he ran away?" 

"No, Giles, he disappeared like David Copperfield. 
Disappeared...poof...gone in a flash." 

"How odd." Scratching his chin, he inquired, "Did he give you any 
indication to his identity?" 

"Yeah, he said his name was Semiarid or Sammy Davis or something..." 

"Good God, not Semyaza!" 

"Now there's a reaction. Giles, I'm thinking this is not a good 
thing." 

"This is very serious, Buffy. Semyaza is a fallen angel referred to in 
the Biblical Book of Enoch." 

"Enoch? I don't remember a Book of Enoch in the Bible," Willow 
remarked. "Is it New Testament?" 

"Apocryphal, actually. Not officially recognized by theological 
scholars." 

"An angel? Aren't angels supposed to play harps and float on clouds? 
This guy looked more like a Hell's Angel." 

"Actually, Buffy, you may actually be partially correct...in your own 
crude American adolescent sort of way." 

"You mean this guy rides a Hog?" 

"A what? Oh never mind...I don't want to know." Returning his gaze 
toward Willow and Oz, Giles continued, "What I mean is that Semyaza was 
somehow corrupted and eventually recruited others to rebel against the 
heavenly host. As punishment, he and his followers were cast out and 
are forever denied access to the divine light...the ultimate punishment 
for an angel." 

"So then what's he doing in Sunnydale? Shouldn't he be in solitary 
angelic confinement for a few trillion years or something? And what's 
up with those fangs?" Buffy asked in rapid order. 

"That, Buffy, is precisely what we have to find out. Willow, I'll need 
your assistance." 

*****

Motel 6 3:50 P.M. 

"Well, it looks like the evidence teams were pretty complete." 

"Unfortunately, they didn't find much that can tell us who was in this 
room," remarked Derek. 

"OK," Scully began, "let's go over what we do know. According to the 
surveillance tapes, a young couple checked in. The girl looked 
pregnant, but other than that, nothing unusual." 

"Then a few hours later, all hell breaks loose," added Nick. 

With Mulder now joining Derek outside on the balcony, the FBI agent 
looked over the railing and continued, "Some perp kills the desk clerk 
downstairs, comes up here, fights with the couple, and ends up back 
downstairs...the hard way." 

"Could be drug-related," Derek remarked. 

"Possible, but unlikely. The local PD went through here with dogs. 
Nothing out of the ordinary turned up," responded Scully. After a 
momentary pause, she added, "Maybe the bodies will reveal something." 

"We're somewhat acquainted with the local medical examiner. "Maybe we 
can offer some assistance in that respect." 

"That would be very helpful, Dr. Rayne. At times, the local authorities 
can be very rigid." 

"I'll call her tonight. She can probably have an autopsy report to you 
relatively quickly." 

"Actually," interrupted Mulder, "Scully is a trained pathologist. We'd 
prefer a first-hand look at the deceased, rather than a report 
summarizing the findings for us." 

"And she's a doctor too. Be still my heart," Nick remarked to no one in 
particular. 

At this, Mulder once again grimaced. 

The four agreed to reconvene at the ME's office early the following 
morning and went their own separate ways...or at least that was the 
stated plan. 

After Derek climbed into his Explorer beside Nick, the older man asked, 
"So what did you find in there?" 

Retrieving the crumpled scrap of paper from his leather jacket, Nick 
replied, "A phone number." Then, holding it up for Derek's inspection, 
he asked, "Look familiar?" 
  
Taking hold of the paper, Derek's mind was suddenly inundated with a 
stream of confusing images of strange otherworldly beings and 
inexplicable emotions. Slumping forward in his seat, Nick grasped his 
shoulder before his head hit the dashboard. 

"Whoa! You OK, Derek?" 

"Yeah...just got a little dizzy. I'll be fine." Then, squinting at the 
numerals, brow furrowed, he stated, "I think we'd better pay our friend 
of the cloth a visit." 

As the black sport utility vehicle pulled out of the parking lot, 
Mulder started the sedan's engine, waited a few seconds, and began 
following the other vehicle at a discreet distance. 

"What are you doing, Mulder?" 

"I don't trust them, Scully. They just happen to have connections with 
the local police AND medical examiner. It's just too convenient." 

"That might be why Skinner asked them to help, simply because they ARE 
connected. Do there always have to be dark ulterior motives to people's
actions, Mulder?" 

"Do you really want me to answer that, Scully?" 

From that point on, the two proceeded along mostly in silence through 
the darkening streets of Oakland. After about 20 minutes, Mulder pulled 
to the curb down the street from a large gothic church. They then 
watched as Derek and Nick left their vehicle and, finding the front 
doors of the building locked, quickly headed around the side toward the 
rectory. Seeing this, Mulder dryly commented, "Guess they had an urge 
to say a few prayers." 

"We don't know why they're here, Mulder. They may simply know someone 
who works here." 

"I doubt it, Scully. I think it's time to do some checking on Derek 
Rayne, Nick Boyle, and the Luna Foundation." 


Part Four

Sunnydale High School Library 
4:32 P.M. 

"Giles, here it is! According to the Book of Enoch, Semyaza and his 
followers were banished fro Heaven and came to Earth. Once there, they 
cast spells, took mortal wives, and...oh..." 

"Yes, Willow, go on." 

Reading from the computer screen, she continued, "...they impregnated 
women who then bore a powerful race of hybrid offspring. These 
immortals walked the Earth devouring the flesh and drinking the blood 
of mortals." 

Seated at a research table, Buffy stopped fingering one of her stakes 
long enough to remark, "Why am I thinking vampires here, people?" 

"You might be correct, Buffy. Semyaza may be one of the first vampires. 
Willow, does it say anything about how to defeat him?" 

"Let's see. Well, here it says that God sent his archangels to defeat 
the rampaging evil on Earth. Semyaza's punishment was to remain bound 
under the hills for 70 generations until the day of judgment. I'm 
afraid that's all it says, Giles." The Watcher quickly came to stand 
beside the teen, scanning the text displayed on screen. 

"Something tells me he just got paroled," remarked Buffy. 

The Watcher, looking shaken...a rarity...simply remained silent. 

"Calling Giles. Come in Rupert Giles." 

"Judgment Day." 

"What?" 

"According to this, Semyaza's return will coincide with Judgment 
Day...the end of the world." 

"OK, that's pretty heavy duty," remarked Oz. 

"So I guess we'll just have to stop him then. Giles, how do we stop 
him?" 

"I don't know if there is any way to stop an angel, Buffy. It may be 
destiny...fate, if you will." 

"Fate, my ass, Giles. I don't accept that. This guy treated me like a 
punching bag and I want to rip his wings off." 

"He had wings too?" The Watcher was now pale. 

"No...at least I didn't see any...that's just a figure of speech, 
Giles. Now snap out of it and get with the program here. Remember how 
it works...you find out how to stop the unstoppable evil and then I go 
out and kick butt. We've done it before." 

Replacing the glasses on the bridge of his nose, the man remarked, 
"Yes, of course, you're right. What I need is a spot of tea. It's been 
a long day." 

"Now that's my Giles." 

"Willow, can you stay and assist me this evening?" 

Before responding, she looked toward Oz. 

"That's OK. You stay. I have to practice for our gig tomorrow." 

"Thanks, Oz. I'll call you later." 

*****

 St. Michael's Church Rectory 5:05 P.M. 

"Hi Derek, Nick, it's been a long time." 

As Nick and the priest embraced, Derek replied, "Too long, old 
friend." 

As the men proceeded back toward Philip Callahan's office, he asked, 
"So what do I owe this unexpected visit...business or pleasure?" 

"Unfortunately, business," answered Nick. 

"Legacy business?" 

To this, Derek replied, "Actually, we're not quite sure. For now, we're 
assisting the authorities in conducting an investigation. There was a 
double murder a few nights ago." 

"Murder?" 

"Yes, at a motel not far from here." 

"Oh yes. I do remember hearing about it on the late news. Such a 
terrible waste. Just terrible." 

"Yes, it was. And we're hoping that you might know something about two 
people who we suspect may have witnessed the crime." 

"Looking slightly puzzled, the priest remarked, "Of course, Derek. But 
I'm really not sure if I know anything." 

In response, Nick added, "Philip, we're looking for a young couple who 
left the scene shortly after the crime was committed." 

"I'm afraid, you'll have to be more specific than that, Nick. Many 
young people live in this parish." 

Taking a slip of paper from his pocket, the man retorted, "Yeah, but 
how many have your phone number on a piece of church stationery?" 

"And we believe that the young woman may also be pregnant," Derek 
added. 

The priest's face suddenly turned grim with a sudden revelation. "Oh, 
good God! I hope they're not in any danger." 

"Who, Philip? You hope who's not in any danger?" 

"Marie Demerest and her husband, Mario. Those kids already have so many 
things going against them...and now this." 

"Can you tell us where they live?" 

With a downcast expression, Philip replied, "No, not exactly. All I 
know is that they headed south after I married them a few days ago. 
Marie's parents might be able to tell you more. I have their address. 
They've been parishioners for many years." 

"Thank you, Philip. That might be very helpful." 

As the priest set about looking for the requested information, he 
quickly cautioned the two men, "Derek, you might want to tread lightly 
with the parents. They're rather emotional about the circumstances of 
their daughter's wedding." 

"Was the old shotgun standing by, Philip?" questioned Nick. 

"No, Nick. That was the strange part about it. The young man, Mario, 
was actually anxious to marry Marie. But her father was dead-set 
against the union." 

"What about the boy's family?" 

"Both of the lad's parents are dead." 

Now with a clearer grasp of the situation, Derek commented, "We'll try 
to remain sensitive to everyone's emotions, Philip." 

"Thank you, Derek." 

A few minutes later, as the two left the church, Derek pulled up his 
collar against the brisk night air. Looking up, he remarked, "Now 
there's a sight you don't see very often." 

"What?" 

"That star...the supernova. Look how bright it is." 

"Yeah, they said it'll probably last a few more nights." 

"It's actually quite beautiful." 

Looking back up, Nick remarked, "If you've seen one star, Derek, you've 
seen them all." 

Now somewhat annoyed, the Precept of the San Francisco Legacy house 
remarked, "Nick, sometimes you've got to stop and enjoy what nature has 
to offer." 

"Yeah, well, I never was a tree hugger like you and Alex." 

"A tree hugger, huh. Well, Conan, let's go get something to eat before 
we call on Mr. and Mrs. Demerest." 

Meanwhile, across the street, as Scully kept the two men under 
surveillance, Mulder was rapidly jotting down information with one hand 
while holding a cell phone in the other. "Ah huh...right...got it. And 
remember, get back to me about Rayne and Boyle. Right...thanks Frohike. 
What? Oh...light brown skirt, white silk blouse, medium heels. Oh, come 
on. Fine, above the knee...slightly. Don't go there, Frohike. Yeah, 
fine, thanks [beep]." 

"What was that all about?" 

"Frohike was able to access the county's department of records. It 
seems that a young couple was married by a priest here a few days 
ago." 

"That's not unusual in a large city church, Mulder." 

"You're right, Scully. But when he cross-referenced this information 
with the county health department, guess what he found?" 

"I'm sure you're going to tell me." 

"A young woman by the name of Marie Demerest and her boyfriend, now 
husband, Mario Seraphim came in for neonatal screening." 

"Oh." 

"He also gave me the address to her parents' house." 

"But we're not sure they're the two we're looking for, Mulder." 

"Yeah, but it can't hurt to check it out." 

As she replied somewhat tentatively, "I guess not," something else 
dawned on her, "Ah, Mulder, what did Frohike ask you at the end of that 
call?" 

"He wanted to know what you were wearing." 

"He what?!? That little..." 

Grinning, Mulder replied, "Calm down, Scully. After all, why do you 
think he's a Lone Gunmen?" 

*****

Demerest Residence 6:27 P.M. 

As Derek and Nick drove up to the home of Nancy and Anthony Demerest, 
they quickly noticed two things. First, a blue Taurus with black and 
white government license plates was parked in front and second, a 
commotion had erupted on the porch. 

"Oh, hell!" 

"Looks like the feds beat us to the punch, Derek." 

Quickly stepping from their vehicle, the first words they heard came 
from Mr. Demerest." 

"And get off my property!" 

"Sir, we're just trying to investigate two homicides and your son-in-
law's possible involvement." 

"Oh Tony! Our baby's in trouble!" 

With his wife now holding one of the wooden porch columns for support, 
the man responded angrily, "That no good son of a bitch is no son-in-
law of mine! He ruined our little girl...she's too young to be married, 
no less a mother!" 

"But sir," Scully added, "We're not saying that your daughter is guilty 
of a crime, just that we need to talk to her and her husband." 

Upon seeing two more men coming up his driveway, Mr. Demerest snarled, 
"Oh, now look at this! What did you do, call reinforcements?" 

Derek, in the lead, replied, "No, sir. We don't work for the 
government. But we would like to ask you and your wife a few 
questions." 

"We're done answering questions. You've already upset my wife. Now get 
off my property!" 

"But sir..." 

Without another word, the man then helped his wife into the house and 
slammed the door. 

With his own temper now about to boil over, Derek could only hear 
Philip's now prophetic warning in his head to remain sensitive to the 
parent's emotions. After a few seconds, he said to Mulder, "I hope 
you're satisfied. I thought we're supposed to be working on this case 
together?" 

Equally annoyed, Mulder replied, "Together? Well, then, when were you 
going to mention Father Philip Callahan to us? Huh? And why do I also 
suspect that you withheld evidence found at the motel. That would be a 
Class B felony, Dr. Rayne." 

Without the slightest trace of deception, Derek retorted, "We withheld 
nothing, Agent Mulder. We were merely playing a hunch." 

"That's bullshit!" 

As the two continued to argue, Nick made his way over to Scully. 

"Is he always like this?" 

"Like what?" 

"So hell-bent on running down leads that he burns bridges in the 
process." 

"You don't know the half of it." 

"How long have you worked with him?" 

"Nearly six years," the woman responded, before adding, "but sometimes 
it seems longer." 

"That's longer than a lot of marriages last." 

"What are you implying?" 

"Oh, nothing." Then, with a cocked eyebrow, he asked, "Should I be?" 

Smirking, Scully replied, "Mulder and me? We're just partners." 

"Well, then, are you doing anything later tonight?" 

Mildly taken aback, the agent asked, "Are you asking me out, Mr. 
Boyle?" 

"Strictly as a fellow professional investigator, I assure you." 

"Well, in that case, how about 8 o'clock?" 

"Where are you staying? 

"At the Holiday Inn near the airport." 

"I'll see you then." 

Meanwhile, Mulder had stalked back to the car, remarking, "Scully, 
let's go," leaving Derek standing with his arms crossed on the lawn. 

As the feds pulled away, the Precept snidely remarked, "Well now that 
our only lead is gone, I'm glad to see that your personal life is alive 
and well." 

"What? You mean Dana?" 

"Oh, so it's Dana now, is it?" 

"So what, Derek? We're just going to dinner." 

"Ah ha, right. Just don't do anything you'll regret later." 
  
"That's my Derek...always the optimist." 

"I'm not an optimist OR a pessimist, Nick. More like a realist. I'm 
talking from experience here." 

*****

Harris Residence 7:33 P.M. 

The teen closed the side door, gingerly took off his jacket, and tossed 
it toward one of the kitchen chairs. Missing his mark, it instead hit 
the tile floor with a clang. Then, while rubbing his tender ribs, 
courtesy of several blows delivered during his workout with Ryan, he 
paused to stare into a mirror near the refrigerator. 

"At least the eye isn't black anymore." 

"Xander is that you?" 

"Yeah, mom," he called into the adjacent living room. 

"How was school?" 

"Just great. Same old, same old." 

"That's good, dear." 

Mumbling, he then added, "If I'd gone, I'm sure it would've been 
great." 

"Ah, Xander...we had a little problem with tonight's dinner." 

Uh oh, here it comes, he thought. "What kind of problem, mom?" 

Over the shouting of 'Crossfire,' came the reply. "Your father burned 
it to a crisp. And since we didn't know when you'd be home, we ate 
out." 

"So what else is new?" 

"What did you say, dear?" 

"I said that's OK. I'll just grab something out." 

"That's good, dear." 

Moving toward the kitchen door, Xander considered retrieving his jacket 
from the floor. Again rubbing his ribs, he thought of the weight of the 
weapon concealed within. 

"Screw it! I'll be right back." 

*****

Airport Holiday Inn San Francisco, California 7:54 P.M. 

"Who is it?" 

A disheveled Fox Mulder -- even by Mulder's own relaxed fashion 
standards -- opened the door to his room in response to the series of 
knocks. Emanating from within were the sounds of male grunts, groans, 
and female squealing. 

"Scully? Is something wrong?" 

With an eyebrow noticeably raised at her partner's apparent television 
viewing habits, she responded after a few moments, "No, Mulder. I just 
wanted to let you know that I'm going out tonight." 

"Out? Is it something related to the case?" 

"No...not exactly." 

"OK...well, then, what exactly?" 

"I haven't been to San Francisco since college, and I really didn't 
have the opportunity to see the sights then." 

Quickly shutting off the TV, Mulder went to retrieve his suit jacket, 
remarking, "Neither have I. We'll go together." 

"Ah...no, Mulder. That's not necessary." 

Now with a suspicious tone in his voice, he asked, "What aren't you 
telling me, Scully?" 

"I'm...ah...already going out with someone tonight." 

Obviously dejected, Mulder paused a few seconds before remarking, "It's 
Boyle, isn't it?" 

She merely shook her head slowly in the affirmative. 

"But you barely know the guy! At least let me finish checking him out 
first." 

Now clearly exasperated, she remarked, "Mulder, you can't check out all 
the guys I'm interested in dat...interested in." 

"You were going to say 'dating,' weren't you?" 

 "No, I wasn't." 

"Ah excuse me, am I interrupting something?" 

The two agents were so engrossed in their discussion that they failed 
to notice Nick standing in the hallway. 

"No!" exclaimed Scully. 

"Yes!" exclaimed Mulder." 

"No!" reiterated Scully. "I'm ready, let's go." 

As the couple was waiting for the elevator, Nick noticed Mulder still 
watching them. With the doors sliding closed, he couldn't resist 
calling, "See you tomorrow morning, Mulder." 

Now alone in the hallway, the agent muttered, "Maybe he'll get hit by a 
cable car," before slinking back to his room. 

Meanwhile, downstairs, the couple had reached Nick's classic red 1965 
Mustang convertible. Once behind the wheel, he inquired, "So where 
to?" 

"It's your call. You know the area best." 

"Hey, that's what I like to hear. Hope you like Italian." 

*****

Mockingbird Lane Sunnydale, California 8:06 P.M. 

While returning from Wing Ho's all-night Chinese take-out joint, Xander 
was actually in a good  mood. Well, pretty good considering that he was
passionately in love with one girl who loved somebody else, had a 
stormy on-again, off-again relationship with the school beauty queen 
cum ice princess, and was concealing a forbidden encounter with the new 
Slayer in town. These were the major issues in the teenager's life when 
THE sensation hit him. Stopping dead in his tracks, he muttered, "Oh, 
shit!" while quickly scanning the residential streetscape around him. 
Moments later, he saw a silhouette slowly emerge near the base of a 
large palm tree. 

"I'm Joshua Whelon...and you are?" 

Tempted to respond, "Wanting to be anywhere but here," Xander instead 
replied by simply stating his name, albeit nervously. 

As the other Immortal emerged from the shadows, the teen was 
momentarily relieved to see a face seemingly not much older, or 
threatening, than his own. However, he knew that when dealing with 
Immortals, looks could be deceiving. 

"So do you prefer to go somewhere a little less public or just do it 
here?" 

Used to cracking jokes when in danger, Xander remained true to form by 
quipping, "I don't know about you, friend, but I usually prefer dinner 
and a movie first." 

"Very droll, boy. I do hope you're not a coward." 

"Hey, this coward's no boy, buddy." 

"So then, you admit you're a coward." 

"No more than the next red-blooded American guy." 

"Don't flatter yourself, Xander Harris. I've killed dozens of men 
braver then you over the past 152 years." Slowly drawing a Confederate 
Army saber, Whelon added, "The youth of today have no honor." 

Swallowing nervously, Xander replied, "What are you doing? We don't 
even know each other." 

"I know enough. We're both Immortals. We're both here. And you have a 
Quickening that I want. Did I forget anything?" 

"But I'm not armed. How honorable would that be?" 

Whelon then made a few exaggerated practice swipes as he approached. 
Xander, meanwhile, resisted the urge to start backpedaling. 

"You're carelessness is no concern of mine, Harris. Obviously your 
teacher failed to properly instruct you in the Rules of the Game." He 
then lunged forward, taking a swipe at Xander's head. Before he could 
react, the teen felt a hot, stinging sensation on his right cheek. 
Reaching up, his hand came away bloody. 

"Son of a bitch!" 

The older Immortal then stepped back with a look of extreme 
satisfaction on his face, casually pulled a handkerchief from the 
pocket of his overcoat, and wiped off the blade. 

"You have a day to get your affairs in order, Harris. If you have a 
shred of honor, you'll meet me tomorrow night at this time. But, be 
warned, if you run or try any tricks, I'll find you." 

Now overcoming the initial shock of his first challenge in general, and 
his close call with eternity in particular, Xander's temper began to 
bubble. 

"It's a date, you bastard. Just name the place." 

"The park." 

"Which one, Brainiac, Sunnydale has a dozen parks." 

"Then I'll make it easy for you, Harris. The big one across from your 
school." 

"That would be Memorial Park...I'll be there." 

After replying, "I hope so," Whelon added, "and one more thing. If I 
was a bastard, armed or not, you'd be dead now." He then turned and 
headed back to his car. 

As the other Immortal drove off, Xander suddenly felt light-headed and 
nearly buckled to the pavement. Breathing heavily with cold sweat 
pooling on his face, he only now realized how close to death he had 
come. After a few minutes, he had composed himself enough to continue 
on while mumbling, "As if vampires and demons weren't enough around 
here..." 

When the street was clear, a lone figure slowly emerged from behind 
some bushes. With a pen clenched between her teeth, the young woman 
flipped a small notebook closed, pocketed the pen, and headed for the 
nearest phone. Within a few minutes, her report was being relayed to 
her immediate superior, located in a bar about 20 miles to the north in 
the city of Seacouver. 


Part Five

 Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco, California 9:43 P.M. 

Despite Nick Boyle's best efforts, the discussion once again shifted 
back to business; this time, as he and Scully were walking along a 
festively decorated street after leaving Antonio's Pasta and Seafood 
House. 

"So how long have you worked for the Luna Foundation?" 

"About ten years, right after I left the military. But Derek knew my 
parents way longer than that." 

"So he's a friend and not just your boss?" 

"Derek? Yeah, definitely. We've pulled each other out of some tight 
jams." After a few moments, he then asked, "And how long have you 
worked for the feds?" 

"About eight years. I joined the Bureau shortly after I graduated from 
medical school." 

"Why?" 

"I found that doctors can be antiseptic...pardon the pun. Now don't get 
me wrong, I love science, but I didn't think I'd be making much of a 
difference waiting for the bodies to roll through the door." 

"So you wanted to make a difference?" 

"Sure, don't you?" 

Gently taking hold of her hand, Nick responded, "Absolutely." 

A few blocks further down, they heard rock music wafting from a posh 
club. In an uncharacteristically spontaneous moment, Scully started 
pulling Nick toward the door. 

"Dana, where are we going?" 

"I haven't gone clubbing in ages. Let's try this place." 

As they approached the place, Nick quickly surveyed the scene. With a 
red carpet leading from the front door, the club had an eclectic mix of 
stretch limos and motorcycles parked out in front. There were also 
fashionably dressed young people and bikers huddled in groups within 
velvet roped areas. Above the door, "The Haven" was spelled out in 
curved script letters. Realizing they had practically no chance of even 
getting past the burly bouncers, Nick started to remark, "I think this 
joint is seriously out of my..." when a sudden sensation overwhelmed 
his senses. Feeling his hand contract on hers, Scully also noticed the 
cautious expression on his face. 

"Nick are you alright?" 

While scanning the front of the building with renewed interest, he 
replied, "Yeah, I'm fine," before quickly adding, "I guess the pasta 
salad didn't agree with me." 

"Do you want to go home?" 

Before he could respond, a young curly-haired man with a thin beard 
emerged from the club and strode rapidly in their direction. 

"Nick, how are you?" 

"Cash?" 

"The one and only. And who do we have here?" 

With some hesitation, the Immortal replied, "Ah...Dana, this is Cash. 
We've...ah...worked together in the past." 

After shaking hands with the newcomer, Scully asked, "Do you work for 
the Luna Foundation too?" 

Upon mentioning the name "Luna," Nick swore that several nearby 
conversations ceased, but it might only have been his imagination. 
Cash, however, remained unfazed, replying with a grin, "No, not 
exactly." Then, turning back to Nick, he asked, "So, you coming in?" 

"In? I'm not sure this is my kinda place." 

"C'mon, Nick. It's still early. Let's go in." 

With Scully tugging him along by the arm, they entered an atmosphere of 
loud music and chic revelers. In short, a place where the beautiful 
people went to be seen. It was also not the sort of place often 
frequented by the normally down to earth Dana Scully. 

Meanwhile, the sensation clawing at the back of Nick's mind never 
ceased for a moment. He knew others with lifelines equal to his own 
were all around, in fact one of them had invited them into the place. 
As they passed through the crowd, he noticed furtive glances being cast 
in their direction. This continued until Cash finally brought them to a 
prime table near the base of a sweeping, curved, red carpeted 
staircase. He also instructed one of the waiters to bring them a bottle 
of wine. 

"Cash, you really don't have to do this." 

"Yes, I do. Tonight, you're our guests." 

"I thought you never came here before, Nick?" inquired Scully. 

"I haven't." 

"You might say that Nick's an acquaintance of the owner." 

The wine -- red, of course -- soon arrived courtesy of a waiter who 
smoothly uncorked the bottle and poured the liquid while casting 
emerald-colored eyes in Scully's direction. Seeing this, Nick couldn't 
help but frown. Then, after meeting the Immortal's gaze, the waiter 
bowed his head slightly and was gone. 

"The wine's local...produced in the valley. Our owner's very fond of 
it. If you need anything else, just ask." 

"Thank you," replied Scully. 

With a nod, the young man then ascended the stairs and disappeared from 
view. 

"Somebody must owe you a favor?" 

"Hey, this is a surprise for me too." 

Upstairs, in a large, wood paneled conference room, Cash re-entered a 
meeting already in progress. This action also caused a momentary lull 
in the shouting that permeated the space moments before. After bending 
down to whisper something to the man seated at the head of the table, 
which elicited a barely perceptible nod, he again took his place. In 
addition to those seated, personal bodyguards ringed the room. 

"Oh, I'm so glad that the Prince's errand boy is back. I guess we can 
continue now." 

"I'll show you who's an errand boy, you piece of Brujah dogshit!" 

"Cash, please. Ignore him." 

"I'll cut your heart out and feast on it, Gangrel!" 

"Cameron, that's enough!" 

"My...my...what a surprise, the boys are fighting again," cooed Lillie 
Langtry, the only woman present. 

The two other men in the room -- one of whom looked to be in his mid-
20s with a full head of wavy black hair -- looked annoyed, while the 
other -- who appeared much older and was utterly bald -- remained clam, 
seemingly detached from the proceedings. The younger one turned to his 
friend and remarked, "Every week...every month, it's always the same. I 
hate it! Now I know why I stayed away." 

"You must learn to put things in perspective, Angelus. In the final 
analysis, these squabbles mean nothing." 

"Yeah, Daedalus, but they get old real fast." 

As he said this, the younger man felt a leg quickly rub against his 
own. Turning, he spied Lillie, wearing a flowing red evening ensemble, 
including elbow length gloves, coyly running her tongue over her lips. 
"I know something we can do to alleviate the boredom, Angelus." 

[Boom...boom] 

All heads swiftly pivoted in the direction of the man at the head of 
the table, who's fists were balled in front of him. His eyes flashing, 
he stated flatly, "This is your final warning. I will not tolerate any 
more outbursts. This is a Kindred Conclave, not a schoolyard brawl." 

"Is there a difference?" asked the woman. 

"Lillie, now don't you start." 

"Fine. I'll be good...I promise." 

After pausing to insure everyone's silence, Julian Luna continued, 
"Very well. Then maybe we can get back to the business at hand." 

In addition to Julian, the immaculately tailored Ventrue Prince of the 
City, those seated at the table included Lillie, Toreador Primogen and 
the club's manager, and Cameron, Brujah Primogen, wearing a blue Hugo 
Boss pinstripe suit and red striped tie. Across the table sat Daedalus, 
Nosferatu Primogen, wearing a black vest over an old fashioned starched 
white shirt with frilly lace cuffs. Next to him sat Cash, wearing his 
trademark leather jacket and jeans. Down at the other end of the table 
sat Angelus -- Angel to his human acquaintances -- the recently named 
Tremere Primogen. Between them, they represented the assorted clans of 
vampire or, as they preferred, Kindred society maintaining a critically 
important "Masquerade" of normalcy to the human population of San 
Francisco. Their law stated in no uncertain terms that anyone who 
threatened to expose this Masquerade had to be dealt with 
severely...usually terminally. 

Each clan also had their special interests and character traits. The 
level-headed Ventrue were known for their business acumen, while the 
vain Toreador excelled at the arts; the petty Brujah always striving 
for respectability but unable to put aside brutality and hatred, 
especially against their sworn enemies, the Gangrels, a nomadic race of 
shapeshifters known for exceptional loyalty. The oldest race among them 
was the enigmatic Nosferatu who, despite their beastly appearance, were 
capable of offering both the wisest council or the harshest punishment 
depending on their own self-interests. Their cousins, the Tremere, 
while more human in appearance, were no less enigmatic. Displaying the 
widest range of traits among all the clans, some of their number were 
known for loyalty and wisdom, while others were raving loons (in fact, 
specific individuals, in exceptionally rare cases, were known to
display the entire spectrum). 

The Prince continued, "Cameron, how do you plan to resolve the labor 
dispute at the dockworkers' local?" 

Without looking up, the Brujah replied, "Bust some heads, break some 
legs...some old, same old." 

With a look of disgust, Julian remarked, "Why don't you try something 
radical this time, like collective bargaining?" 

"Because, my Prince," he stated sarcastically, "if they don't fear you, 
they don't work as hard. Sometimes you have to make an example out of
someone...or several someones." 

With a note of finality, the Prince stated, "And I'll be the one who 
decides when that is, not you. We don't want to arouse the suspicions 
of law enforcement with bodies turning up in the bay. Am I clear?" 

"As crystal," Cameron spat in reply, fingering his tie. 

"How about you, Lillie? How are our entertainment interests 
performing." 

"Glowingly, Julian," she purred. "This economy seems to have provided 
our patrons with lots of lovely disposable income. And I always make 
sure I'm in the proper position to take full advantage of these 
situations." 

"That's what I've heard," muttered Cameron. 

After shooting him a warning glance, the Prince remarked, "That's, ah, 
very good, Lillie. Please keep up the good work." 

"Of course, Julian." 

Now looking down the table, he glanced at his long-time confidant and 
enforcer, "Anything we should be aware of, Daedalus?" 

Unsteepling his long, claw-like fingers, he glanced around the room and 
began. "The Nosferatu sages have interpreted an alarming prophesy in 
the ancient writings." 

"What type of prophesy?" asked the Prince. However, before Daedalus 
could answer, Cameron remarked, "Bunch of ghouls reading tea leaves in 
the sewers. Very helpful." 

Turning to his much younger peer, the Nosferatu Primogen responded with 
utter control, "Just because the Brujah do not subscribe to the Old 
Ways does not make them any less valuable." Then, turning back toward 
Julian, he continued, "The sages cannot at this time gauge the 
significance of the event, other than to say that it correlates to the 
astronomical event we now see in the night sky." 

"The supernova?" 

"Precisely." 

"Well, when you can tell us anything more, please do so." 

"Of course, Julian," he replied, nodding, while refolding his hands on 
the table. 

"Good. Now Angelus, do you have anything to report?" 

"Nothing out of the ordinary," he replied with obvious boredom in his 
voice. "As you requested, I funneled a $3 million donation through one 
of our front companies to build a new children's wing at San Francisco 
General Hospital. Your other enterprises also seem to be in order this 
quarter." 

"Very good. Anything else?" 

"Such as?" 

"Any new developments in Sunnydale?" 

After grimacing, he stated, "Yeah, there's a new band of rogue Kindred 
in town -- led by a renegade Brujah calling himself 'Mr. Trick.' But, 
with two Slayers, everything's pretty much under control." As he 
finished, Angel felt a set of sharp nails rake the inside of his thigh. 
Suppressing the urge to jump out of his chair, he instead reached under 
the table and grabbed the intruding limb. Out of the corner of his eye, 
he saw Lillie smile. 

Seemingly oblivious, Julian now faced Cameron. 

"Renegade Brujah? What do you know of this?" 

"Trick's a troublemaker. Always has been. Never had any respect for the 
chain of command." With a dismissive wave of his hand, he added, "Do 
with him as you wish." 

"And I'm sure you have no idea how he ended up in Sunnydale," Angel 
added skeptically. 

"None whatsoever." 

After this exchange ended, Daedalus picked up on something else, 
asking, "How are there two Slayers, Angelus? The prophesies say that a 
new Slayer is called only when the first one dies." 

With a hint of exasperation in his voice, Angel replied, "It's a LONG 
story. Just take my word for it." 

"How cozy. They're multiplying like cockroaches. I guess now you'll be 
the meat in a Slayer sandwich." 

In response, Angelus snarled, "You shut your filthy mouth, Cameron. Or 
I'll knock those capped fangs down your throat." 

"Yeah? You and what army?" 

"Cameron, I've warned you once already." 

"Don't you understand, Julian. It's not right. We're helping mortals 
kill others of our kind. We're traitors to our race, plain and 
simple." 

"That's the Prince's decision," Daedalus offered, "we must respect 
it." 

Having finally lost his own patience, Julian roared, "That's enough! 
I've already explained my reasoning for this course of action and I 
won't repeat myself." 

"We should kill those bitches now and be done..." 

Angel then lunged across the table. Taking Cameron's bodyguard by 
surprise, he instantly swept the Brujah Primogen out of his high-backed 
chair and onto the polished wood floor. 

Meanwhile, downstairs, Scully heard an odd knocking sound coming from 
the ceiling above their table. 

"What's that?" 

Looking up, Nick simply offered, "You know these old buildings. 
Probably just settling." 

Back upstairs, as Cash and Lillie looked on with satisfied grins, 
Julian had risen to his feet while Daedalus and Cameron's bodyguard 
attempted to peel the enraged and fully transformed Tremere off 
Cameron's chest. Not having much success, the Brujah bodyguard withdrew 
a specially modified firearm and began to take aim at Angel's head. 

"NO WEAPONS!" roared Julian. 

Seeing what was about to happen, Cash sprung into action, knocking the 
gun off target. As it fired, a high-velocity phosphorous shell 
instantly set the room's massive Oriental rug aflame. 

Hearing the muffled sound of gunfire above, Scully's training caused 
her to reach for her weapon. Without saying another word to Nick, she 
leapt from the table and started up the stairs. 

"Dana, stop! Don't go up there!" 

As she approached the massive door at the top of the stairs, she 
withdrew her badge and told the two guards to stand aside. When they 
didn't flinch, she drew her gun and repeated the demand. However, 
before the men had the opportunity to comply -- or more likely not 
comply -- the door opened to reveal a smoky interior. A man with 
slicked black hair stood calmly in the doorway. 

"What seems to be the problem, young lady?" 

"I'm a federal agent, sir. I thought I heard gunfire." 

"Gunfire? Here?" 

"Yes sir, please step aside." 

"By all means, please come in and look around." As Scully cautiously 
entered he room, Nick exchanged glances with Julian before following 
her. 

With the scorched floor covering still smoldering, everyone sat stock 
still around the table. So still in fact that a weird thought crossed 
Scully's mind, "They don't seem to be breathing." Quickly dismissing 
this impossibility, her training as a professional observer kicked in 
as she noted that one young man seemed to be seething while another was 
holding a handkerchief to the back of his head.  Still another man, 
bald and possibly blind, wore heavy sunglasses with his hands tucked 
out of sight beneath the table. A woman, smiling, had her eyes glued to 
the man sitting directly across from her while their host, Cash, also 
looked extremely pleased about something. 

Quickly becoming unsure of her actions, Dana stammered, "I thought I 
heard a shot." 

Coming up alongside her, Julian offered, "Actually, Cameron over there 
accidentally tripped and fell, striking his head. That's what you 
probably heard. Unfortunately, his cigarette ignited the rug." 

Still not convinced, she now addressed Cameron, "I'm also a medical 
doctor. If you'd like, I can..." 

"I'll be fine." 

"You might have internal bleeding. It could be very..." 

"I said I'll be fine!" Cameron hissed. 

Nick, noticing Julian's fist clench, whispered to Scully, "I think it's 
time we go." 

Holstering her pistol, she turned to Julian and, somewhat shyly, 
stated, "I'm sorry for the intrusion, sir." 

"That's quite alright, Agent...?" 

"Scully, sir. Special Agent Dana Scully." 

"I understand completely. We all have duties to perform. Good 
evening." 

"Thank you, sir." 

As she turned and left, Nick paused a moment, meeting the many faces 
suddenly staring at him. After shrugging, he also departed. As the door 
closed behind them, Nick remarked, "Well, that was different. Can't say 
I've ever done that before." 

"I could've swore I heard something." 

Taking her by the arm, he remarked, "I usually don't start hearing 
things until my fourth or fifth drink. Let's go back downstairs and see 
if we can reach that goal." 

Back in the meeting room, Julian addressed Cameron, "You and your 
trigger happy flunky nearly endangered the Masquerade." 

"I nearly endangered the Masquerade? You can't be serious, Julian. What 
about that freak over there? He would've destroyed me." 

"If I'd wanted that, Cameron, they'd need a vacuum to suck you up," 
remarked Angel through still clenched teeth. 

"I'll drink to that," added Cash. 

"Now listen, both of you," warned Julian, "I won't tolerate any more 
outbursts. Do I make myself clear?" 

[Rrrrr] "Slayer lover." 

[Grrrr] "Goon." 

"I SAID, DO I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR?" 

"Yes." 

"Yeah, right, fine." 

"Very well then, let's finish with the last order of business for the 
evening. As you know, all the West Coast princes are due to meet later 
this week in Seattle. Since I will, of course, be there with my 
brethren, I trust that all of you will continue to conduct business in 
my absence. However, should there be any issues that need to be 
addressed immediately, I've asked Daedalus, as senior Primogen, to 
resolve them. I expect all of you to give him the same respect or, if 
this meeting is any indication, perhaps MORE respect, than you give me. 
Are there any questions?" 

Receiving none, he concluded by remarking, "Very well then. This 
Conclave stands in recess." 

Cameron immediately bolted for the door, muttering, "It's about time." 
Next out was Daedalus who, after bowing slightly toward his Prince, 
opened a hidden passageway in the wall and departed by way of a 
staircase leading down to the sewers. Lillie also rose and playfully 
tousled Angel's hair. While passing Julian, she whispered coyly, "His 
passions remind me of how you USE to be." Receiving only a glare in 
response, she added, "I'm only kidding, Julian," before also departing. 

Allowing his head to sag to the tabletop, Angel sighed, "Julian, I've 
been to Hell and back...literally. But, I'm telling you, this is worse. 
I want out!" 

"I'm sorry, Angelus. I need your support in the Conclave." 

"My support? I almost killed Cameron...I WANTED to dust his ass. How 
would that have played on the streets?" 

"The Brujah wouldn't have liked it...but they rarely like anything 
anyhow." 

"But the Gangrels would've owed you big time," Cash added with a smile. 

"Julian, I feel caged here. I want...NEED...to go home. It's been 
nearly a month. You're going to be out of town and Daedalus doesn't 
need my help." 

After several moments of deliberative silence, Julian rendered his 
decision, "Fine, Angelus, as a personal favor from me to you, go back 
to Sunnydale for a week...but only for a week. I expect to see you back 
here when I return." 

"Julian..." 

"That's my final offer, Angelus. Take it or leave it." 

"Yeah, fine. I'll take it." 

"Good...oh, but there IS one more thing." 

Now wary, Angel asked with some trepidation, "What's that?" 

"Take Cash with you." 

"WHAT!" both exclaimed simultaneously. 
  
"Ever since you broke up with Sasha, you've been moping, Cash. The 
change in scenery might do you good. A chance to bay at the moon or run 
through the woods or something...don't Gangrels like that sort of 
thing?" 

"But Julian, I always go on trips with you. You need a bodyguard," 
whined the young Kindred. 

"So assign one of your lieutenants, Cash." 

"But my apartment only has one bedroom," stammered Angel. 

"So he'll sleep on the couch." 

"But Julian..." they both started. 

"That's my decision. Both of you will take a break. Now deal with it." 
The Prince then spun on his heel and left the room. 

After an extended silence, the younger vampire asked, "Does Buffy have 
a sister?" 

"Now don't you start with me." 

"OK...OK...don't bite my head off." 

"Ha ha...very funny." 


Part Six

Rosenberg Residence 
Sunnydale, California 
10:13 P.M. 

[Clink] [Clink] [Clink] [Crack] 

"Oops." 

Cautiously lifting her now cracked bedroom window, Willow Rosenberg 
poked her head outside, looked down, and saw...nothing. However, just 
as she was about to write the episode off to typical Sunnydale 
weirdness, she heard a familiar voice. 

"Willow." 

"Xander? Is that you?" 

"Yeah." 

"Where are you?" 

"Over here. Under the azaleas." 

"What are you doing there?" 

Ignoring the question, he quickly crawled out from under the shrubbery, 
stating, "Sorry about the window. It's kinda late and I didn't think 
your parents would appreciate me ringing the bell." 

"But you thought climbing in my window would be OK?" 

After instantly replying, "No, of course not..." he hesitantly added, 
"...but now that you mention it. Can I come up?" 

With a resigned look on her face, she stepped back from the window. 
Soon a foot, followed by a leg, followed by a Xander, had joined her 
inside. 

"Thanks. So what ya up to?" 

"Studying, Xander...for tomorrow's history test. You remember, the one 
we BOTH have to take. Oh, no, but maybe you don't, since you've cut 
school for three days." 

"No, I know...Cordy told me about it." 

"Oh. Well, good." 

"What's it on again?" 

"Just the entire history of the United States. You haven't even started 
studying, have you?" 

"Sure I have. I'm up to the Revolutionary War." 

"Ah...Xander, that still leaves 220 years to go." 

"Yeah, right. No sweat." 

While he was speaking, Willow noticed the now faint scar on his face. 

"Xander, what happened? You're cut." 
  
"This? It's nothing, Will. Sliced myself shaving." 

Reaching up, she ran her hand along the rapidly healing tissue. As she 
felt the blood pulsing through his arteries, Xander reached for her 
while tentatively moving closer. 

Pulling her hand back as if burned, she blurted, "This isn't right, 
Xander. What are you doing here?" 

Taken back by her reaction, he angrily responded, "Obviously making an 
ass out of myself." 

"We can't do this. Don't you remember what happened last time?" 

"Yeah...I think so. It's not easy to forget Cordy with a six-inch piece 
of pipe sticking in her gut." 

"So then why are you here?" 

"I don't know, Will. I just thought..." 

"Well, you thought wrong. I think you should leave...NOW!" 

Before he could reply, the girl turned her back to him. 

After slowly moving to the window, Xander paused to state, "I'm sorry, 
Will. About everything." 

When he was gone, Willow Rosenberg flung her history book across the 
room before burying her head in a pillow, sobbing. 

***** 

Airport Holiday Inn 11:43 P.M. 

[Ring] [Ring] [Ring] 

[Beep] "Hello." 

"Mulder?" 

"Yeah. Frohike is that you?" 

"Duh...who else has your number, Mulder? Except for your partner, of 
course. Which reminds me, how is the little vixen?" 

"Never mind the vixen...ah, I mean, Scully. What time is it anyhow?" 

"Almost 3 o'clock in the morning here. Midnight there. Why?" 

"Don't you guys ever sleep?" 

"In a word, Mulder, no." 

Rubbing his eyes, the agent then asked, "So what do you have for me?" 

"Langly's been checking on those guys you asked about...Rayne and 
Boyle. I'll put him on the speaker." 

"Mulder?" 

"Yeah, Langly. Did you find out anything?" 

"It wasn't easy, Mulder. I hope you appreciate that I had to call in 
several favors at State and Defense." 

"Fine. I owe you one." 

"More like ten, Mulder." 

"Yeah, yeah...so talk to me." 

"Dr. Derek Rayne...parents deceased. No direct family remaining. 
Graduated first in his class at Oxford, receiving a doctorate in 
anthropology. After that, he spent nearly 20 years digging up ruins 
around the world for the Luna Foundation. At least up till seven years 
ago." 

"What happened seven years ago?" 

"He suddenly decided to settle in San Francisco. Since then, he's been 
responsible for importing hundreds of artifacts into the country and -- 
this is where it gets interesting -- unlike the vast majority of 
importers, the Luna Foundation holds a Class IV import license from the 
State Department." 

"A Class IV license? I've never heard of that." 

"That's because they're very rarely issued. Want to know why?" 

"I'm hooked, Langly, why?" 

"Because it allows for the importation of goods into the country 
without a bothersome Customs check." 

"That's impossible." 

"No, Mulder, it's unusual, but not impossible." 

"But that means Rayne can be smuggling ANYTHING into the country." 

"Exactly." 

"And what about Boyle?" 

"This is really interesting." 

"More interesting than a license to smuggle? I can hardly wait to hear 
this." 

"According to the DoD's military archives, Nicholas Boyle was born in 
1954..." 

"Whoa...stop right there, Langly. You must have the wrong guy. No way 
is this guy 45 years old. Thirty-five, tops." 

"Excuse me, Mulder, but I DO have the right guy. In fact, only one Nick 
Boyle has ever served in the U.S. military. Maybe they got his DOB 
wrong." 

"It wouldn't be the first time. What else?" 

"Where was I? Oh yeah, after completing basic training, he was 
transferred to Fort Bragg. Guess why?" 

"Special ops." 

"Ding. Give that man a cigar. In fact, it seems that Boyle was involved 
in many of the little black projects that the Reagan Administration 
financed south of the border." 

"Such as?" 

"Don't know. Even I don't have access to that information." 

"I'm disappointed, Langly." 

"Hey, they don't call them black ops for nothing, Mulder. All I can 
tell you is that something went seriously wrong with Boyle's military 
career in 1988." 

"How wrong?" 

"Dead wrong. During an operation in Colombia codenamed 'Bottled 
Lightning,' ten men were killed. Boyle was court marshaled and narrowly 
escaped conviction. Instead, he was allowed to resign under less than 
sterling circumstances." 

"That could make a guy hold a grudge against the good old U.S. of A. 
What happened after he left the service?" 

"I was just getting to that, Mulder." 

"I knew you would." 

"Since the early '90s, he been working for Rayne in San Francisco. In 
fact, Boyle's foster father..." 

"Boyle's adopted?" 

"Oh yeah, didn't I mention that?" 

"No." 

"Sorry. Yeah, he's adopted. It seems that the military couldn't 
reconcile his blood type to either of his parents. That's how he found 
out." 

"That must've been pretty rough." 

"Yeah, well anyhow, until his death, Boyle's foster father, also a 
military type, used to work with Rayne. Guess where." 

"The Luna Foundation." 

"You're really on a roll tonight, Mulder." 

"Thanks. Did you find out anything about the Luna Foundation itself?" 

"We're working on that. Hold on, I'll put Frohike back on." 

"Mulder?" 

"Yeah, still here." 

"I'm here with Byers." 

"Hey, how's it hanging, Mulder?" 

"Hi, Byers. Talk to me. Any luck so far?" 

"Yeah, but it's been a real bitch." 

"I'm shocked, Byers. Losing your touch?" 

"Losing my touch, my ass, Mulder. As we speak, I'm using the most 
sophisticated hack...ah...search and retrieval software available in 
the western world to access these records. All I can say is that for a 
stuffy non-profit organization, they sure own some choice real 
estate." 

"How choice?" 

"Extremely choice. Founded in San Francisco by a guy named Julian Luna 
nearly 125 years ago..." 

"Any relation to the multimillionaire and reputed mob boss?" 

"Yeah, his grandfather, to be exact. Anyhow, they own a major chunk of 
Angel Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay; townhouses in midtown
Manhattan and on London's Downing Street; a large compound in Montreal; 
holdings in Paris, Moscow..." 

"Fine, I get the picture. They're loaded." 

"Big-time loaded, Mulder. And they seem to have friends in very high 
places around the globe." 

"No shit." 

"Also, according to the SFPD, Angel Island is not exactly Paradise 
Island." 

"What do you mean?" 

"The cops have retrieved bodies there on occasion. Quite a few 
occasions, actually." 

"Murders?" 

"No...not exactly." 

"Not exactly? Byers, people are murdered, commit suicide, get killed 
accidentally, or die of natural causes. Which is it?" 

"Well, according to the medical examiner's reports, nearly every 
incident was classified as 'unexplained,' but non were fully 
investigated." 

"Convenient. And we have an appointment with that ME tomorrow 
morning." Changing tracks, he then asked, "Did you find out how the 
Luna Foundation makes its money?" 

"Hold on a sec, Mulder, I'm accessing those files now." 

***** 

San Francisco Legacy House Angel Island 11:51 P.M. 

With alarm klaxons suddenly blaring throughout the house, Derek Rayne, 
Dr. Rachel Corrigan and Alexandra Moreau emerged from their bedrooms 
and immediately headed for the stairs leading down to the ground floor 
of the mansion. 

"Derek, what's wrong?" 

"Some sort of security breach." 

"Where's Nick?" asked Alex. 

After quickly glancing around, the Precept of the house replied, "He 
must not be home...yet." 

With Derek in the lead, three pairs of slippers quickly padded across 
the polished wooden floors of a large sitting room moving toward a 
floor-to-ceiling bookcase. Tripping a sensor, they also activated a 
laser that scanned the patterns of blood vessels in their eyes. Seconds 
later, after matches were made, the security system deactivated a 
holograph camouflaging the entrance to a state-of-the-art control room. 
As the illusionary bookcase once again solidified behind them, Alex 
began booting up idle computers and activating darkened monitors around 
the room. Sitting down at a keyboard, she immediately began running a 
series of diagnostic programs and implementing various security 
protocols. 

"What've we got, Alex?" 

"Hackers...damn good ones from the looks of it. They're trying to 
invade our secure personnel and historical databases." 

"That shouldn't be possible." 

"I know. Like I said, they're good." 

"Where are they located?" 

"I'm running a trace now." After a few seconds, she added, "They're 
trying to conceal their location by routing the call through various 
cities and satellites." 

"Can you find them?" 

"Oh yeah. Give me a minute." 

Soon, a series of lines were racing across a computer display of North 
America's communications network. Shortly thereafter, a map of suburban
Rockville, Maryland was highlighted while telephone numbers and street 
addresses flashed along the bottom of the screen. 

"Gotcha," remarked Alex, while Derek picked up a phone and started 
dialing. 

***** 

A Nondescript House in Suburban Maryland 11:56 P.M. 

"OK, Mulder, we're into their personnel records. It seems that Rayne's 
job title is 'Precept,' whatever the hell that is. Boyle, meanwhile, is 
in charge of security. Why would a non-profit group need muscle?" 

"Good question, Byers. Anything else?" 

"Yeah, they work with two women, a headshrinker by the name of Rachel 
Corrigan and a researcher named Alexandra Moreau. Hey, she's quite a 
looker, Mulder." 

"Can we please stick to the topic?" 

"You're no fun anymore, Mulder." 

"Byers..." 

"Yeah...yeah, the file also lists an associate of the organization, a 
priest no less." 

His head suddenly snapping up from his notepad, the agent stated, "His 
name's Philip Callahan, right?" 

"Right. How'd you know?" 

"Lucky guess. Did you find out anything about their so-called cases?" 

"Hold on, Mulder, we've got a problem." 

"What's wrong, Byers?" 

"Hey Frohike, Langly, take a look at this." 

"What the hell! That's impossible! 

"Byers? Frohike? Langly? Talk to me. What's happening?" 

"They're tracing the call, Mulder!" 

"Langly, break the connection!" 

"It won't terminate!" 

"Mulder, they're on to us!" 

"Frohicke, we've got bugs in the system!" 

"Mulder, our hardware's being nuked. Those bastards must've juiced us 
with a new type of virus." 

Through the receiver, the agent then heard an amplified voice state, 
"THIS IS THE POLICE! COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS UP!" 

"Man, we're so busted...there are cops everywhere out there! What've 
you gotten us into this time, Mulder?" 

***** 

Airport Holiday Inn January 14 12:07 A.M. 

[Crash] [Click] [Beep] 

"Guys? Frohicke? Byers? Langly? Hello? Oh shit!" 

A few minutes later, the agent's already bad night got worse. Hearing 
sounds coming from the hallway, he peered through the peephole to see 
what was happening. As he suspected, Scully had returned from her not-
a-date with Nick Boyle. Placing his ear flat against the door, he tried 
to hear what was being said. 

"Thanks for a great evening, Dana. Sorry that I'm not much of a 
dancer." 

["Guess they didn't teach you that in Special Forces, you big doofus!"] 

"Neither am I, Nick. But, while we're apologizing, I'm sorry I made a 
scene in your friend's club. I feel like a complete fool." 

["It must've been some date, Scully."] 

"Oh, I'm sure everybody's forgotten about it already." 

Looking down at her watch, she remarked, "It's getting late and we have 
an early day tomorrow..." 

["Send him packing, Scully."] 

"...unless you have time for a nightcap?" 
  
["What!?! No, don't do it, Scully!"] 

Taking her hand, Nick replied, "I'll make time for it, Dana." 

["You damn lecher, roll your tongue back in your head!"] 

As Scully searched for her room key, Nick gently rocked back and forth 
on the balls of his feet. 

["I don't believe this!] 

However, at that moment, Nick's cellular phone began to ring. 

[Answer it. Answer it! ANSWER IT!"] 

Remarking, "I know I'll probably regret this," Nick pulled the phone 
out of his pocket. 

["YEEEESSSS!"] 

"Hello? No, Derek, it's no problem. In the secure files? Yeah, got it. 
I'll be there as fast as I can." Snapping the phone closed, he turned 
to Scully and dejectedly stated, "Duty calls. Some hackersgot into our 
system." 

At the mention of computer hackers, Scully's right eyebrow rose. "I 
understand. Drive safely, Nick.  It's late." 

"I will." 

Heading back toward the elevator, the two then shared a long parting 
kiss. Mulder, meanwhile, once again felt his blood pressure rising. 

["Hey buddy, don't let the door hit you in the ass."] 

After Nick was gone, Scully walked over to Mulder's door and knocked. 
After a few moments, he answered while pulling on a bathrobe. 

"Oh, Scully, you're back. How was your night?" 

"Very nice, Mulder. And yours?" 

"Quiet. Watched some old movies on TV." With a smile, he added, "I fell 
asleep." 

Pausing a moment before responding, Scully finally remarked, "That's 
truly amazing. Because I saw shadows moving around under your door for 
the past few minutes." 

As the grin evaporated from his face, she added, "Good night, Mulder," 
before turning on her heel, disappearing into her own room, and 
slamming the door. 

["Damn!"] 


Part Seven

County Medical Examiner's Office Oakland, California 10:02 A.M. 

"This is Dr. Dana Scully recording this audio postmortem exam record. 
Assisting me is Dr. Teresa Graves from the County Medical Examiner's 
Office. Also in attendance are Dr. Derek Rayne and Nicholas Boyle of 
the Luna Foundation, who are assisting in this investigation, as well 
as my partner, Special Agent Fox Mulder." 

With the sound of a high speed drill now audible, she continued, "This 
is the autopsy of a John Dow, Caucasian, approximate age 21, with third 
and fourth degree burns over 100 percent of his body. As expected, 
identification will have to be made through dental records since the 
subject is unrecognizable."

"I'm now making an incision along the chest cavity. Epidermal and 
dermal tissues show a great deal of carbonization consistent with 
severe burns...cause unknown. There also seems to be a total absence of 
latent liquefied blood, which is rare but not unprecedented in cases 
involving extreme heat. I'm now cutting through the ribs to expose the 
inner chest cavity. That's odd. Dr. Graves can you take a look at 
this." 

"Humm...I've never seen that before, but I read about it in med 
school." 

"What is it, Scully?" 

"There's an extra pair of ribs present in the ribcage, Mulder." 

"I'm more of a thigh man, myself," Nick commented dryly. 

"We've now split the ribcage to...what in God's name?" 

"Dr. Scully, what is it?" asked Derek. 

"I never saw ANYTHING like that in med school," added Dr. Graves. 

"The internal organs seem to be totally atrophied from disuse. There 
also seems to be an extra organ, or possibly a tumor...we'll have to 
biopsy that...near the heart." 

"In English, Scully. What's wrong?" 

"This man should have been dead long ago, Mulder. His organs appear 
essentially useless." 

"Could it have been caused by the fire?" 

"Mulder, before I'll even hazard a guess about that, this body will 
require a complete examination." 

***** 

11:25 A.M. 

"I'm now proceeding to examine the musculature and skeletal structure 
of the upper chest and shoulders. Earlier X-rays revealed structures 
that are abnormal and may very well represent birthdefects. Dr. Graves, 
what is your opinion?" 

"Looks like the collar bone is grossly malformed. Also, there appears 
to be an added band of tendons and cartilage connected to the 
structure. I'd be surprised if this man could raise his arms over his 
head." 

"Why?" asked Mulder. 

"Because these hooked bones on top of the scapula shouldn't be there. 
The slightest move must have been incredibly painful. If I didn't know 
better, I'd say I was looking at a bird's wing rather than a man's 
shoulder." 

"A bird? How's that?" 

"Well, Agent Mulder, my father was a vet, so I've examined all sorts of 
animals. Basically, this bone and muscle assembly resembles a bird's 
wing, although I realize that's impossible." 

While meeting the glances of Derek and Nick, Mulder repeated, "Yeah, 
impossible." 

***** 

1:15 P.M. 

"So what's your professional opinion, Dr. Scully?" 

Removing her latex gloves and goggles, she responded, "Without waiting 
for the lab results to come back, you realize that anything I say would 
be premature." 

"Of course," replied Derek. 

"I'd say that our John Doe here was suffering from numerous congenital 
birth defects. How he lived into adulthood is amazing, but not 
unprecedented. His quality of life must have been horrendous." 

"He was probably trying to improve it by jumping out a third floor 
window," Mulder snidely remarked. 

"And it didn't stop him from killing the motel clerk," Nick added 
quickly. 

"That's yet to be proven, Nick," Scully remarked, before asking, "so 
what's our next move?" 

Glancing at his partner, Mulder remarked, "Well, according to Mrs. 
Demerest, her daughter may be staying with her grandmother." 

"And you didn't bother to mention this yesterday?" asked Derek. 

"We didn't know about it until this morning," replied Mulder. "We 
visited Mrs. Demerest after her husband went to work. Not surprisingly, 
she was much more cooperative today. Do you have a problem with that, 
Dr. Rayne?" 

"Possibly...yes. We might have been able to question Marie Demerest and 
her husband before coming here." 

"No, first Scully had to examine this body. Otherwise, we might not 
have had the full picture when we interviewed the suspects." 

"They're suspects now?" asked Nick. "When did they stop being witnesses 
or possibly victims and become suspects?" 

"Since I ran a background check on the girl's new husband and he came 
up dirty." 

"Dirty? How?" 

"There's absolutely no record of a Mario Seraphim being born in 
California or anywhere else in the United States. Likewise, there's no 
immigration record for a person by that name. In fact, the last Mario 
Seraphim for which there is a record was a medic in the Army." 

"So maybe he's our guy," stated Nick. 

"Unfortunately, that Mario Seraphim has been dead for 30 years. He 
disappeared in Vietnam...in 1968." 

"What do you think we're dealing with here, Agent Mulder?" inquired 
Derek. 

"I'm not sure...yet. But I know we should find Marie and Mario 
Seraphim." 

"Where are they?" 

"A small backwater south of here...a 'burb called Sunnydale." 

At mention of the town, Derek and Nick exchanged anxious glances. 

***** 

Sunnydale High School Gymnasium 2:07 P.M. 

As Xander entered the gym, he noticed the usual football clique 
standing off to one side, laughing loudly, horsing around, and being 
the usual arrogant assholes that they were. With them was John Nuzzi, 
the football coach who, unfortunately, was also a sadistic physical 
education teacher for the senior class. The Immortal also noticed that 
the group's chief instigator, a linebacker named Larry -- whom Xander 
himself had had some rather bizarre encounters in the past -- was 
motioning toward a guy who was standing alone near the bleachers. 
However, he didn't recognize the student. 

"OK, today we're going to practice some self defense techniques. Now 
split up..." 

Suddenly interrupted by a wildly waving hand, Nuzzi, a former Marine 
Corps drill instructor, scowled, "What is it, Myron?" 

"Sir, my chiropractor says that I should avoid strenuous activities." 

Angrily folding his arms, which caused the large USMC tattoo on his 
right forearm to flex noticeably, Nuzzi approached the student, 
stating, "Now listen to me you pantywaist. Do you think the Commies are 
going to care about your miserable scrawny back..." 

"Ah...it's my neck, sir." 

"Fine, I stand corrected...your miserable scrawny chicken neck...when 
they try to overrun this great country of ours? Well, do you?" 

Standing off to one side of the assembled group, Xander whispered to 
the new guy now standing next to him, "Cheez...this freak's right outta 
the '50s." 

Without turning, the other student remarked, "Actually, more like the 
Stone Age." 

As his head instantly whipped around to face the two, Nuzzi sneered, 
"You say something, Harris?" 

Deciding that this was the perfect time to closely examine his Nikes, 
Xander replied without looking up, "Me? Nope. Never. Not me." 

Nuzzi then turned on the other student, asking, "How about you?" 

"What about me, sir?" 

"I was wondering if the greaseball who knocked up his girlfriend had 
any pearls of wisdom for the class? Or are you gonna wimp out like 
Xander here?" 

As the other teen bristled, "Wimp...I'll show you who's a..." Mario 
stepped closer to the teacher and remarked, "Sure, I have a pearl of 
wisdom. Never let a bully who's insecure about his own manhood teach a 
gym class." Then, in a lower voice, he added, "And, don't you ever 
mention my wife again." 

Overhearing this last statement, Xander's eyebrows shot up while Nuzzi, 
his face now a deep crimson, remarked, "You think you've got a brass 
set, don't you?" 

"Actually, sir, I think you're the one trying to prove that you have a 
set." 

Stepping away, Nuzzi once again addressed the class, stating, "Our new 
transfer student has volunteered to assist me." 

"No, I didn't." 

"Well, I think you did. Step forward." 

"You don't want to do this." 

"I think I do...and that's all that counts around here." 

With a resigned look, Mario remarked, "OK...have it your way." 

With the two now facing each other across the gym mat, Nuzzi told Mario 
to take a swing at him. 

"That wouldn't be a good..." 

"I said swing, punk!" 

Doing as he was instructed, albeit in a half-hearted fashion, Mario 
quickly found his right arm pinned behind his back, his face planted in 
the canvas, and a knee in the small of his back. While holding him in 
this position, Nuzzi decided to continue lecturing. 

"Now, if you're a prettyboy like Mario here, you'd essentially be dead 
meat with a bayonet in your back." 

In response to this last statement, Xander couldn't help but think, 
"Ironically, this stuff might actually come in handy in Sunnydale." 

"Does anyone think they know how to break this hold?" 

However, before anyone could respond, Mario, in a muffled voice, asked, 
"How about this?" before quickly reaching up, taking hold of the back 
of Nuzzi's neck, and flinging him over his shoulder. As the large man 
landed flat on his back, the sound of laughter became audible in the 
cavernous room. 

After Nuzzi slowly got back on his feet, he again approached Mario, 
remarking, "Lucky move, kid." 

"No, it really wasn't." 

"Shut up! Get ready to defend yourself." 

As the teacher suddenly rushed him, the teen dropped to one knee and 
grabbed the man's right forearm, using his momentum to again flip him, 
this time onto the floor beyond the edge of the mat. The absolute 
silence that followed was finally broken by Nuzzi who, from his back, 
suddenly decided to change the day's curriculum. In an unsteady voice, 
he ordered the class to run 20 laps around the gym before getting 
dressed. 

As most of the students ran, several football players lingered around 
their coach, helping him back up. Xander, meanwhile, kept his eyes on 
the new guy, who was calmly running without breaking a sweat. After 
about 15 minutes, most of the class had returned to the adjoining 
locker rooms and showers. Then things REALLY got weird. 

Mario, wearing a towel, had his back to the room. Therefore, he didn't 
notice the three guys standing behind him until one of them grabbed him 
by the shoulders while another seized a fistful of long black hair and 
pushed his face against the locker. This not only opened a long gash on 
the teen's forehead, but also revealed a previously hidden tattoo on 
his neck. It was at this point that Larry made his move, asking, "You 
think you can embarrass the coach like that and get away with it?" For 
emphasis, he followed up with a kidney punch to Mario's exposed back. 

Grunting from the impact, the teen struggled to turn his head, 
remarking, "Actually, I think your coach is a pretty big embarrassment 
on his own." This statement was greeted with another blow to the back. 

"We don't like your kind around here. Damn big city scum." 

Realizing the new guy was seriously outnumbered, Xander -- standing at 
a locker two rows over -- had started toward the group when Mario 
suddenly lashed out, grabbing one attacker's wrist while simultaneously 
slamming his elbow into the other's gut. Then, as an sickening crack 
rang out, Mario released the first boy's arm, allowing him to drop to 
his knees, screaming, "He broke my wrist!" 

Hearing this, Larry quickly reached into his locker, withdrew a 
baseball bat, and started to wind up. 

"You son of a bitch! I'll show you." 

Seeing this, Xander yelled, "Hey man, look out!" 

Turning in response to the warning, Mario was confronted by a dark 
shape heading for his skull. Meanwhile, Xander, realizing that he 
wasn't going to reach Larry in time to prevent additional carnage, if 
not an outright homicide, couldn't help but flinch at the moment of 
impact...which, miraculously, never came. Instead, Mario had somehow 
managed to bring a hand up, catch the barrel of the bat, and stop it in 
mid swing. In another second, he had disarmed the 200-pound linebacker 
before lifting him several inches off the floor with his free arm. With 
other students now looking on in disbelief, Xander finally managed to 
come up alongside. Unfortunately, so did Mr. Nuzzi. 

"Just what in the living hell is going on here? Put him down!" 

Once back on his feet, Larry started blubbering, "That bastard tried to 
kill me, coach. Just look what he did to Steve and Gary." 

"He's a damn liar," Xander offered. 

"Hey, Harris, who asked you?" 

Now silent, but still annoyed, Xander looked at Mario who seemed 
remarkably serene considering the circumstances. After a moment, he 
calmly stated, "I was getting dressed when they attacked me. Therefore, 
I defended myself." 

"He's nuts, coach! He tried to hit us with that bat." 

"Whattya say to that?" 

"I took the bat from him after he tried to use it on me. Once again, I 
simply defended myself." 

After turning from Mario, to Larry, and then back to Mario, Nuzzi 
remarked, "Since you're the one holding the bat, you're the one getting 
busted. Report after school for detention." With a smile, he quickly 
added, "That's pretty good work on your second day here, sport." He 
then told Larry to take his cohorts to the nurse's office. 

With the locker room once again quiet, Xander asked the other teen, 
"So, how's your head?" 

"It's fine, thanks. Not a very friendly school, is it?" 

"Yeah, well, that's Sunnydale High. But from where I was standing, it 
didn't look like you needed any help." 

"Grew up in a rough neighborhood." 

"Yeah, it must've been. By the way, nice 'too on your neck there. What 
is it?" 

While pulling a shirt over the intricately detailed flesh, Mario 
replied, "Oh, nothing special." 

"Kinda looks like a pitchfork." 

"Actually, it's a trident." 

"Oh...sure. I knew that." 

Now focusing on the teen's bloody forehead, Xander grabbed a towel and 
dabbed at the blood on his temple. 

"I said, I'm fine!" 

"Yeah, well they really slammed you in the coconut. Maybe you should 
have the nurse look at it." While saying this, Xander lifted the cloth 
from the wound. To his astonishment, there was no sign of a break, let 
alone a gash, in the skin. Doing a double take, Xander exhaled, "That's 
impossible." 

While taking hold of the towel, Mario stated, "No, it's not." Then, 
looking deeply into the Immortal's eyes, he added, "But you already 
knew that, didn't you Xander Harris?" 

At this remark, Xander's jaw dropped. 

***** 

Joe's Place Seacouver, California 2:25 P.M. 

"Hey, Joe. What's up? I got your message on my machine." 

Looking up at the sound of Richie Ryan's voice, Joe Dawson stopped 
dusting the multitude of mugs and other assorted glassware behind the 
deserted bar and started to move around front. This effort was hampered 
by two prosthetic legs...souvenirs from a landmine explosion in 
Vietnam. 

"I left that message last night. What took you so long?" 

"I wasn't home. There's this new girl working at the supermarket 
and..." 

"Yeah...yeah...I get the picture. Anyhow, the reason I called is about 
Xander." 

Losing his smile, Ryan hesitated a beat before asking, "What about 
Xander? He's OK, isn't he?" 

"As far as I know, yes. It's just that he ran into someone last 
night." 

"Someone like who?" 

"Guy by the name of Josh Whelon. Pretty young...at least by Immortal 
standards." 

"Is he a headhunter?" 

"Unfortunately, yes. He was handy with a sword even before dying the 
first time at Gettysburg. Ever since, he's challenged and defeated 
approximately 75 other Immortals...at least until he ditched his 
Watcher five years ago." 

"Whoa...whoa...if Whelon doesn't have a Watcher, how do you know he met 
Xander?" 

However, before Dawson could respond, Ryan answered his own question. 

"You have someone following Xander, don't you?" 

After some hesitation, the Watcher replied, "Yes." 

"You told the Watchers that Xander's Immortal? Just great." Frustrated, 
he added, "Joe, you knew how I felt about this. MacLeod doesn't like 
being followed, I don't like being followed, and I didn't want Xander 
tailed." 

Running a hand through his predominately white beard, Dawson responded, 
"Hey, I don't make the rules, Richie. I couldn't keep the news about 
Xander quiet forever." 

"OK, Joe, fine...what's done is done. At least now I know what's going 
on. Did Xander and Whelon fight?" 

"No, but Whelon did issue a challenge. 

"Where and when?" 

"Richie, you know I can't tell you that. The Watchers don't 
interfere." 

"Joe, listen to what I'm saying, Xander's not ready to fight and I 
won't stand by and watch him get slaughtered." 

Sitting down heavily at a table, the older man stated, "I know exactly 
what you're saying, Richie...and I also know you. I can't get involved 
in this...not again. I've probably told you too much already." 

Now angry, Ryan spat, "Nice timing, Joe. Nice time to start following 
your Watcher oath." Turning toward the door, the Immortal viciously 
kicked a chair out of the way, shouting, "And this time, it might just 
get Xander killed!" 

Moments after the door had slammed shut behind the Immortal, Dawson 
heard a motorcycle roar off. For several minutes, he simply sat there 
replaying the conversation in his head. Muttering, "Damn," he then got 
to his feet, threw the wet dishtowel down, and called to his assistant 
in the back room, "hey, Mike, take care of the place. I'll be gone for 
awhile." 

"Be careful out there, Joe." 

"Yeah sure...careful...right." 


Part Eight

Interstate 880 
Between San Francisco and Sunnydale 
2:44 P.M. 

Two very different vehicles: One a late model Taurus, the other a Ford 
Explorer, were rapidly heading south toward Sunnydale. However, inside, 
similar conversations were taking place. 

"You did what, Derek?" 

"I ran a background check on Agents Mulder and Scully?" 

"Can I ask why?" 

"You know perfectly well, Nick. Although they're law enforcement 
officers, they're still outsiders. The Legacy must guard its secrets." 

"It's because I like Dana, isn't it?" 

"Please, don't flatter yourself, Nick. Although now that you mention 
it, I don't believe you're being as objective as usual on this case." 

"That's bullshit." 

"Is it? Or are you simply willing to overlook last night's security 
breach?" 

"Hey, Derek, we have no evidence to tie that to them." 

"No? How many hackers from the Washington, DC area have ever tried to 
break into our files. And how many other federal agents have devoted 
their careers to investigating paranormal and supernatural phenomena?" 

"It could just be a coincidence." 

"I don't believe in coincidences," Derek replied before pointedly 
adding, "and neither should you." 

[Meanwhile, in a sedan following about 200 feet behind.] 

"You did what, Mulder?" 

"I asked the Lone Gunmen to do some checking on our boys up there." 

"They hacked into their computer system, didn't they? That was the call 
Nick got last night." 

"Hacked may be too strong a word, Scully." 

"You used my da...dinner with Nick as an opportunity to infiltrate 
their files." 

"I knew it! It was a date!" 

"That's none of your business, Mulder. And stop trying to change the 
subject. Skinner wants us to work with these people, not spy on 
them...remember?" 

"You don't get it, do you? I don't trust Derek Rayne, Nick Boyle, or 
the Luna Foundation. If you ask me, it's probably some kind of 
elaborate front for a smuggling operation. In fact, I wouldn't be 
surprised if they're somehow involved in the deaths we're 
investigating. It wouldn't be the first time that someone who's 
supposed to be helping ends up betraying us. Or don't you remember Alex 
Krycek?" 

"Not everyone's like Ratboy, Mulder. Sometimes...just 
sometimes...you've got to trust people." 

"You're wrong, Scully. Trust no one...that's what I say." 

Turning her head to the side, she noticed a blur speed past the window. 
Grabbing the dashboard, she shouted, "LOOK OUT, MULDER!" Swerving to 
avoid a speeding motorcycle, he nearly lost control of the car. 

"Son of a bitch...that guy's nuts! We could've killed him...or worse, 
he could've killed us!" 

Up ahead, Nick was also distracted by the speeding bike -- but for a 
very different reason. Derek didn't fail to notice his driver keenly 
tracking the rapidly approaching Yamaha, first through the rear-view 
mirror and then as it pulled up alongside. Lifting the visor of his 
helmet, the biker allowed them to see his face before quickly pulling 
away. 

"Was that who I think it was?" 

"Yep." 

"I wonder why he's in such a hurry?" 

"I'll give you three guesses, Derek." 

*****

Sunnydale High School Library 3:00 P.M. 

"Welcome to detention. Please remember that this experience should not 
be looked upon as punishment, but rather as an opportunity to  
culturally enrich yourself through reading," intoned Rupert Giles to a 
group of less than enthusiastic students. As luck would have it, Buffy, 
Xander, and Cordelia were among the select few present. 

"Giles likes to host detention. Then he can count the detainees as 
actually having used the library." 

"Miss Summers, do you have something to share with the group?" 

"No, Gil...ah...Mr. Giles." 

"Very well. Then for the next two hours, you may meander through the 
stacks. Please feel free to check out any items that interest 
you...unless, of course, they happen to be located in one of the fenced 
enclosures around the periphery of the library. Those items 
are...reserved...yes, that's it...they're reserved for faculty 
members." 

"And Slayers," whispered Xander. 

"Mr. Harris, did you say something?" 

"Me? Nope." 

"Very well. Then everyone please go about your business. If you have 
any questions, I or Miss Rosenberg will be more than happy to assist 
you." 

"Hey, Buff. Why are you here?" 

"Snyder accused me of blowing up the school's boiler room last 
week...that no good, pointed-headed troll." 

"But, Buff, you DID blow up the boiler room." 

"Well, he couldn't PROVE it was me. And anyhow, it did have a demon in 
it at the time." After a pause, she then remarked, "But enough about 
why I'm here. Why are you and Cordy here?" 

"Snyder kinda found us the other day." 

"Found you doing what?" 

"None of your business," Cordelia flared. "Xander, if you tell her -- 
Immortal or not -- you won't live to regret it." 

"Could you say that just a little louder, Cordy? I don't think they 
heard you in Cleveland." 

Now looking around the room, Xander's sometime girlfriend asked, "So 
what's Willow doing over there with Giles? She doesn't have detention 
too, does she?" 

"Willow and detention are two words that will never occupy the same 
sentence," Buffy replied. 

"So why IS she here then?" 

"She's getting the lowdown on a fallen angel who showed up in town last 
night. As usual, Giles got all freaky and put her to work." 

"Typical. So any luck?" 

"Other than we think there's a pending Apocalypse...nothing solid," 
Xander concluded. 

"Apocalypse? Just great! I have a hair appointment tomorrow. Do you 
think I should cancel?" 

As Xander rolled his eyes, the Slayer rose and remarked, "Although I'd 
love to talk about Cordy's ultimate bad hair day, if you two will 
excuse me I've gotta use the little girl's room. Be back in a few." As 
Buffy exited the library, Giles continued to pull paranormal reference 
material from the stacks. 

"Excuse me, sir?" 

Turning toward the questioner, who was now wearing a tank top and sweat 
pants, he replied, "Yes, young man?" 

"I was wondering if you have any books on pregnancy and child care?" 

"Yes, they should be over in the personal health section. I assume you 
need them for a class?" 

"No, sir. My wife's due to deliver soon and I thought I'd read up on 
the subject." 

Despite his best efforts, Giles' facial expression changed before he 
remarked somewhat lamely, "Oh...oh I see." 

"Hey, who's the guy talking to Giles?" 

"Why, Cordy? I'm not enough man for you?" 

"Will you please get over yourself, Xander. I thought Buffy might be 
interested in him, assuming that she and Angel really are old news...so 
to speak. And anyhow, even if I was interested, we're not going steady 
or anything." 

"And I love you too, Cordy," he remarked sarcastically. "Therefore, I'm 
REALLY pleased to tell you that his name is Mario, he's in my gym 
class, and he's..." 

"Oh, God...he's gay. I knew it. All the good looking ones are gay. Why 
is that, Xander?" 

"Actually, I was going to say married." Then, after digesting what 
Cordelia had said, he added, "Hey, what am I, the Hunchback?" 

"MARRIED...that's even worse!" the oblivious young women exclaimed. 

"Yep. Overhead him tell Coach Nuzzi." 

"What a waste of male flesh," cooed Cordelia. 

"HELLO...Cordy? I'm getting seriously insecure here. Sometimes I think 
if anything happens to me, you'd get right over it." 

Still oblivious to Xander's suddenly grim expression, she then asked, 
"Why would anyone ever get married in high school?" However, before he 
could respond, she quickly answered her own question, remarking, "I'm 
thinking the big 'P' word here." 

"Passion?" asked Xander. 

"HELLO, try pregnant." 

Meanwhile, back at the main desk, Willow and the librarian were 
engrossed in 'The Book of Shadows.' 

"Giles, according to this, angels are readily identifiable by symbols 
branded onto their necks...like tattoos. They also have crystalline 
fingernails." 

"Please let me see that." After quickly scanning the relevant 
information, he added, "It says here that they were branded at the time 
of their creation and that the symbol is representative of their 
inherent nature and primary purpose." 

"Excuse me again, sir. May I check these out?" 

Somewhat annoyed, Giles stated, "Yes...yes, just a moment." Then, 
without lifting his face from the thick text, he remarked, "Willow, 
this is very good. Now see if you can find anything..." 

[Tap] [Tap] [Tap] [Tap] [Tap] [Tap] [Tap] [Tap] 

Eventually becoming aware of the tapping, Giles also took note of the 
digits strumming on the countertop -- fingers tipped by glass-like 
nails. Staring up over the rim of his glasses, he also spied a 
Sunnydale High School gym top partially covering an intricate tattoo. 
He reacted by kicking Willow under the desk. 

"OW! Giles that was my leg." 

"Willow, why don't you help the nice young man here. I'm sure he's very 
busy and would like to  QUICKLY leave the crowded library." 

"It's really no rush, sir." 

Finally looking at the person standing on the other side of the desk, 
the girl did a double take. "Oh...OH MY!" Quickly taking his books and 
student ID, she stuttered, "Just give me those and you'll...I 
mean...I'll stamp them out." After handing the books back -- about two 
seconds later -- she added, "That's all. You can go now...PLEASE!" 

Somewhat puzzled, Mario asked, "Doesn't detention end at 4 o'clock?" 

To this, Giles instantly answered, "Well, there's no point standing on 
protocol. I'm sure nobody will mind if you leave a bit early." 

Still puzzled, the boy replied, "Thanks...I guess," before exiting the 
library. 

As the library doors closed behind him, Willow exclaimed, "Giles, he 
must be the guy!" 

"It's worse than I feared. Semyaza's obviously challenging us by coming 
here. Did you get a good look at his neck?" 

"Yeah, it looked like a trident." 

"My thought exactly. Try to find it in the book." 

A few minutes later, the girl's downcast expression said it all. 
"Sorry, Giles. There's nothing here on that symbol. Maybe I can find 
something online." She then noticed a small piece of plastic peeking 
out from under the keyboard. 

"Look, Giles. I forgot to give back his ID card." 

Quickly taking hold of the thin wafer which included a photo, the 
Watcher read the name aloud, "Mario Seraphim. Humm...Seraphim...of 
course! At least he has some wit." 

"What do you mean, Giles?" 

"A seraphim is a type of angel. Quite high in the angelic hierarchy if 
I'm not mistaken." 

"You mean they actually have a chain of command?' 

"Oh yes, Willow. Not all angels are created equal. There are many 
orders and ranks." 

As he was saying this, the library doors swung open and two people 
entered. 

"Hey, guys...look who I found outside." 

As Xander's head quickly swiveled around the room, Giles stated, 
"Hello, Richie." Then, turning toward Buffy, he asked, "Was I not clear 
that detention took place INSIDE the library?" 

"Sorry, Giles. Nature called." 

"Oh...oh, I see. Very well then. Carry on." 

"Yes sir," she responded before snapping him a mock salute and heading 
back to her table. 

Visibly miffed, Giles once again turned to the young Immortal. 

"So what brings you here today, Richie?" 

Pointing toward a nearby table, he stated simply, "Him." 

"Xander's in detention. He can't leave until 4 o'clock." 

"I need to talk to him." 

"Can't you talk to him here?" 

As Ryan continued to stare at the Watcher without saying another word, 
Giles quickly got the message, mumbling, "I guess not...impatient 
Yanks." Turning, he reluctantly called Xander over to the desk. 

"Hey, Rich. What's up?" 

"We've gotta talk." 

"OK, so talk." 

"Outside." 

"Outside?" 

"Outside." 

As the two were leaving the library, Buffy remarked to Cordelia, "I 
wonder what that's all about? Richie really looked pissed." 

Filing her nails with an emery board, the cheerleader replied, 
"Probably just hanging around MacLeod too long. That man always looks 
grumpy." 

*****

3:10 P.M. 

"Are you freakin' nuts, Xander?" 

"What?" 

"What! I'll tell you what -- Josh Whelon -- ring a bell? 

"Who?" 

Not known for his patience, Ryan underscored this fact by shoving the 
teen against a wall. 

"Hey...calm down, Richie!" 

"Now, let's try this again. Were you challenged last night?" 

"How'd you find out?" 

"OK, I'll take that as a 'yes.' 

With a sudden revelation, Xander blurted, "Dawson has one of his people 
following me, doesn't he? Or did you put him up to it?" 

"How I found out isn't important, Xander. The main thing is that you're 
not ready to fight." 

"That's bullshit. I'm ready! I'll kick this Whedon guy's..." 

"Whelon." 

"Yeah, whatever. Point is, I'm gonna kick his Immortal ass outta 
Sunnydale." 

Looking grim, Ryan responded bluntly, "He'll kill you, Xander." 

"Gee, bud 'o mine, thanks for the major vote of confidence." 

In an effort to relieve his own mounting tension, the older Immortal 
clasped both hands behind his neck and stretched, before stating, 
"Xander, I'm not trying to screw with your head here. And I do know how 
you feel. Not that long ago, I was right where you are now." 

"That's my point, Richie. You didn't get whacked your first time." 

"Yeah, thanks to MacLeod." 

"What do you mean?" 

"OK...here's the deal...one day, about five years ago, MacLeod and I 
busted up an assassination attempt on this big shot ambassador. But, 
being a macho jerk, I ended up killing one of the assassins." 

"And he was Immortal?" 

"No, but his wife, a terrorist by the name of Annie Devlon, was. And 
she swore vengeance on me." 

"So you killed her?" 

"Actually, MacLeod tried to arrange a truce..." 

"So you wimped out and ran?" 

"Hey, can I finish here?" 

"Sorry." 

"Anyway, MacLeod knew Annie -- really knew her, if you get my drift -- 
from waaay back. But, no matter how he tried to reason with her, she 
wouldn't back down..." 

"So MacLeod killed her?" 

"XANDER!" 

"A thousand pardons, master, go on." 

"Hey, don't get wise! Now where was I? Oh yeah...so MacLeod reluctantly 
taught me how to counter her fighting style." 

"Isn't that cheating?" 

"No, Xander, it's called helping a friend stay alive. And MacLeod hated 
choosing between me and her." 

"So you did kill her." 

"No, Xander. I COULD have killed her. But, out of respect for MacLeod, 
I didn't." 

"Oh." 

"The point of my story is that if you don't have to fight...DON'T! Some 
Immortals deliberately hunt younger Immortals to take their heads. It's
actually pretty common." 

"So what are you saying?" 

"Lay low and this guy will get fed up and leave town. They always do." 

"I can't do that. I'm no coward, Richie. What have I been training for 
anyhow?" 

"Coward? Xander, haven't you heard anything I've said? This has nothing 
to do with bravery. This is called not ending up dead -- plain and 
simple." 

"I'm not gonna run away." 

Now pacing back and forth, Ryan tried to come up with another course of 
action. 

"OK...when are you supposed to meet him?" 

"I'm not telling. You'd probably just KO me and go fight him 
yourself." 

"No, Xander. I just want to talk to him. Maybe we'll be able to avoid 
trouble altogether." 

"Fat chance. This guy doesn't seem like the talking type." 

"No? So how did you get away from him the first time? Why didn't he 
just whack you?" 

Already sweating, the teen started stammering, "Well...ahh...he...ahh 
didn't want to kill ahh...an unarmed guy." 

"UNARMED! YOU!" Richie screamed before kicking a locker. "Of all the 
stupid, moronic, bone-headed..." 

"Hey, so I screwed up...so kill me." 

"IT ALMOST DID, XANDER!" 
  
In a small voice, he replied, "I know." 

"How many times have I told you, 'Xander, always keep your sword with 
you'?" 

"I know." 

Calming down, Ryan now shifted back into mentor mode, stating, "OK, now 
listen up -- and listen up good -- this is how we're gonna handle 
this." 


Part Nine

Mancini Residence 3:40 P.M. 

[Buzz] [Buzz] [Buzz] [Buzz] 

"Hello. Is anybody home?" 

"Just a minute, I'm coming." After a few seconds, an old woman opened 
the door, asking, "Yes, can I help you young people?" 

"Mrs. Mancini?" 

"Yes?" 

"We're with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, ma'am. This is my 
partner, Dana Scully, and two of our...associates." 

As the gray-haired woman examined Mulder's badge, she cautiously asked, 
"Is there some kind of problem?" 

"Actually, we hope you can help us," Derek replied as Mulder shot him 
an annoyed glance, "is your granddaughter or her husband home?" 

"Marie's upstairs resting. She didn't feel very well and came home from 
school early. Poor thing's expecting you know." 

"Could we see her?" 

"May I ask what this is all about?" 

"We're investigating an...incident...that took place up north a few 
nights ago," Scully hedged. "We're hoping that your granddaughter might 
be able to assist us." 

The old woman tentatively allowed the four strangers into the house. 

"May I ask what kind of incident?" 

With the usual charm and grace of a federal agent, Mulder replied 
bluntly, "A double murder at a roadside motel." As both Derek and 
Scully flinched, Nick just shook his head in amazement. 

With a gasp, the woman exclaimed, "Oh dear, how horrible!" Rapidly 
becoming suspicious, she then stated, "I don't think Marie would know 
anything about that." 

"Could you ask her to join us, ma'am. We'd like to ask her a few 
questions." 

As the woman headed upstairs to fetch Marie, Nick remarked to Mulder, 
"About as subtle as a brain hemorrhage, aren't you?" 

"Hey, if you don't like my techniques, leave." 

"Ouch! A little touchy there, Mulder?" 

"OK, let's just remain calm, gentlemen," Derek interjected. 

"I am calm," both men responded simultaneously. This caused Scully to 
roll her eyes toward the ceiling. Coming up alongside Mulder, she 
whispered, "Let me talk to the girl first." 

"What, you don't think I'm tactful enough either, Scully?" 

"I didn't say that, Mulder. I just think she may be more comfortable 
answering questions from a woman." Hearing footsteps, she turned toward 
the staircase while an obviously pregnant girl cautiously made her way 
down. 

"This is my granddaughter, Marie." 

"Hello, Marie," greeted Scully. "My name's Dana. This is my partner, 
Agent Mulder. We'd like to ask you some questions." 

After sitting on the couch with her grandmother, she replied, "OK." 

"You and your husband stayed at a motel in Oakland a few nights ago. Is 
that correct?" 

"Yes." 

"While you were there, did anything unusual occur?" 

Now squeezing her grandmother's hand, she paused before answering. 

"Yes, a man broke into our room." 

"Oh, dear! Why didn't you tell me about this?" 

"Sorry, grandma. We were scared and ran." 

"Marie," the agent continued, "did you know the man who broke into your 
room?" 

"No." 

"Did your husband, know him?" 

After a slight hesitation, which all four trained observers in the room 
noticed, the girl once again answered, "No." 

"Are you absolutely sure?" Derek probed. 

"Yes...I mean, no, Mario didn't know him either." 

"Did he threaten you?" 

"Yes." 

"How did he threaten you?" 

"He said he'd kill me." 

"Did your husband and the man fight?" 

With tears welling up in her eyes, she again replied, "Yes." 

"Did Mario kill the man?" 

"He said he was going to kill me." 

Scully then repeated, "Did Mario kill the man, Marie?" 

After a long pause, she replied, "I think so." 

"You think so?" asked Mulder. "Weren't you there?" 

"They...fell...out the window. I couldn't see. I was still up on the 
balcony." 

"So you're saying it was self defense?" 

"Yes." 

Unconvinced, Mulder then asked, "So why did Mario set the man's body on 
fire?" 

Knowing this accusation to be totally unsubstantiated caused Scully, 
Derek and Nick to all stare in his direction. Mulder simply ignored 
their glances. 

"Oh, dear God!" the grandmother exclaimed. 

Now sobbing, the girl replied, "Mario would never do anything like 
that." 
  
"But, Ms. Seraphim you just said that you couldn't see very well from 
your vantage point. How can you be so sure?" 

"Because Mario wouldn't do that!" 

Unfazed, Mulder continued, "How well do you know your husband?" 

Now getting angry, the girl wiped away a tear before snapping back, 
"Well enough to marry him, Agent Mulder." 

"Where did you meet?" 

"In school, back in Oakland." 

"How long ago?" 

"About eight months." 

"Where's he from originally?" 

"Somewhere back east," she lied. 

"Actually, there's no record of a Mario Seraphim -- if that's his real 
name -- being born ANYWHERE in the United States." 

"We love each other!" 

"MULDER!" Scully cautioned. 

"Are all these questions really necessary?" asked the grandmother. 
"You're upsetting Marie...in her condition..." 

As an obviously annoyed Scully looked on, her partner stated, "We're 
just trying to determine the truth, Mrs. Mancini. I think we'll have to 
ask your granddaughter to come with us for additional questioning." 

"Come with you? Why? She's answered all your questions." 

"I'm afraid we have more questions for her." 

*****

4:23 P.M. 

A few minutes later, while walking down the street with several library 
books tucked under his arm, Mario saw four strangers, three men and a 
woman, leading Marie toward a nondescript car. Needless to say, he was 
not pleased. Dropping the books, he immediately broke into a dead run, 
covering a city block in only a few seconds. Before anyone saw him 
approaching, he was on top of them. 

"Let her go!" 

"MARIO!" 

Mulder, Nick, and Derek immediately grabbed the young man, attempting 
to hold his arms while the agent struggled to reach his handcuffs. 
Unable to force him down to his knees, they managed to push his chest 
up against a large tree. 

"Who are you people?" 

"Federal agents," responded the lanky brown-haired man. "Are you Mario 
Seraphim?" 

Ignoring the question, he instead asked, "Where are you taking Marie?" 

While tightening the cuffs around the boy's wrists, Mulder replied, 
"Downtown for questioning. And we have some questions for you too." 

"Let her go, she's innocent." 

"Sorry, buddy, we can't do that," answered Nick. 

"I'm responsible for her safety. Please let her go." 

"She'll be safe with us, Mr. Seraphim...as will you," offered Derek. 

After a few moments of silence, the young man calmly stated, "I'm 
sorry, but I can't let you take her," before snapping the hardened 
steel chain linking the handcuffs. His arms now free, he proceeded to 
slip the grasp of the three men. 

Having been placed in the back of the car by Scully, Marie saw the 
scuffle and called out, "Mario, don't hurt them!" 

However, the teen successfully continued to fend off the men, easily 
flipping Mulder onto his back with one arm while tossing Nick onto the 
hood of the Explorer with the other. Derek, meanwhile, was desperately 
grasping the back of the teen's shoulders -- and was nearly knocked out 
by a tidalwave of images flooding his mind -- glimpses of unearthly 
battlefields with scorched bodies strewn everywhere. Most unusual of 
all was that many of the fallen seemed to have immense wings attached 
to their backs. He also caught sight of a being resembling Mario 
Seraphim standing amidst the carnage with finely feathered appendages 
wrapped protectively around his bruised torso. The creature was also 
holding a large, bloody golden trident. This was the last image Derek 
saw before grabbing his head and crumpling to the ground. 
  
Seeing his friend collapse, Nick immediately went to his aid while 
Mulder and Scully drew their guns, training them on the uncontrollable 
teen. 

"OK...that's it...you've had your fun! Now get your hands up!" 
instructed Mulder from his knees. 

"I can't let you take her." 

"Hey, we're warning you! Get those hands up or we'll open fire!" 

Her shouts now muffled from within the sealed car, Marie continued to 
plead, "Mario, stop! Please don't hurt anyone!" 

Glancing toward Scully, the boy then noticed a small gold cross 
suspended from a thin chain around her neck. As a look of hesitation 
flickered across his face, he slowly raised his hands and allowed 
himself to be arrested. 

After reading him his rights, Mulder placed Mario -- now bound with two 
sets of handcuffs -- intothe car next to Marie. Nearby, Nick observed 
the proceedings with Derek who was back on his feet. 

"Damn, that kid must be seriously juiced on crack or angel dust." 

As a humorous thought passed through his mind, the Legacy Precept 
remarked, "I don't think it's quite that simple, Nick." 

*****

Sunnydale Police Headquarters 5:10 P.M. 

"Look at this place, Scully. I expect Andy Taylor and Barney Fife to 
walk in here any second." 

While glancing around the squad room, she replied, "It's a small town, 
Mulder. They probably don't have much need, not to mention budget, for 
the latest equipment." 

"No, Scully. There, you're wrong. I did some checking before we came 
here today. Did you know that Sunnydale has the highest incidence of 
unexplained deaths in the state of California? In fact, per capita, it 
may actually lead the nation in homicides." 

"C'mon, Mulder, here? It seems like such a quiet, picturesque 
community. If what you say is true, I'm sure we would have heard about 
it before now. Maybe your information's wrong." 

"That's just it, Scully. The Bureau doesn't have anything on Sunnydale. 
I got my info from non-official sources. It's almost as if there's a 
concerted effort to deliberately keep this place off the law 
enforcement radar screen." 

With a cynical expression on her face, his partner retorted, "What are 
you saying, Mulder? That some nameless, faceless conspiracy is at work 
here? Please, we've crossed that bridge before." 

"You said it, Scully. Not me. But let's just consider what else I've 
found out about this 'burb. Last year alone, the entire high school 
swim team drowned at the beach and, freakishly enough, during lunch at 
the same school, swarms of snakes mysteriously appeared from nowhere. I 
won't even mention the gang of drug addicts who killed several faculty 
members; the virgin-sacrificing cult arrested at the local college; the 
natural gas leaks that leveled a factory, a curio store, and a church; 
the terrorist attack with a rocket launcher at the mall; or the ten 
recent earthquakes centered here." 

Her mouth hanging open, it took Scully a few seconds to respond. "The 
Lone Gunmen told you all this stuff, didn't they?" 

"I don't see..." 

"Mulder, won't you at least accept the possibility that you may have 
gotten bad information." 

Now getting annoyed, the lanky agent replied, "OK, fine. Let's just say 
that all the stuff I just told you wasn't true. Then how do you explain 
the reaction we got when we brought those two in for questioning? The 
Sunnydale PD makes the NYPD look downright friendly." 

"Granted, the desk sergeant did look a bit annoyed." 

"ANNOYED? Scully, I thought we were going to end up in adjoining cells 
with the happy couple." 

Seeing this as an opportunity to change the subject, the woman 
remarked, "And speaking of them, why did you lean so hard...especially 
on the girl?" 

"Because I suspect they know something they're not telling us, 
especially the husband. For some reason, they left Oakland before the 
police could question them. They're probably also material witnesses to 
the homicide of the motel clerk. You do remember him, don't you Scully, 
middle-aged father of three?" 

"You don't have to remind me, Mulder. I just thought you were unusually 
rough on her, that's all. She seems like a mixed up kid with some major 
issues in her life." 

"Major issues? You mean like having a mad-dog killer for a husband? 
How'd you like how she kept telling him not to hurt us? Not exactly 
something an innocent person would need to be told. And did you get a 
look at his tattoo on his neck, Scully? Probably a gang mark." 
  
"Fine. We probably have enough to hold him...at least until we can make 
a positive ID and check for priors. But we'll have to cut her loose 
tonight. We just don't have anything to prove that she's anything more 
than a victim or possibly a witness who got scared and ran." 
  
After reluctantly agreeing with Scully's assessment, Mulder asked, "So 
where did loverboy tell you he was going with Dr. Doolittle?" 
  
After consciously counted to three in an effort to control her temper, 
Scully stated, "Assuming that you're referring to Nick and Dr. Rayne, 
they went to eat and will rejoin us later." 

*****

Sunnydale High School Library 5:25 P.M. 

"Hello? Is anybody home?" 

Looking up from a volume of 'Jane's Demonic Anthology,' Giles spied a 
pair of faces -- one belonging to an old friend -- that he hadn't seen 
in several months. 

"Derek! What brings you back to Sunnydale?" 

After shaking hands with his Oxford classmate, he turned to Nick. 

"Hi, Giles, how's it hangin'?" 

"Hanging? Oh yes, another one of your Yank expressions. I'm fine, Mr. 
Boyle. Thank you for asking." Then, focusing back on Derek, the Watcher 
inquired, "Would you like some tea?" 

"Yes, thank you, Rupert. Very much so." 

While fetching his ever-ready tea service, he heard Nick call after 
him, "You wouldn't happen to have any java, would you, Giles?" 

"No, but there may be some Taster's Choice around here somewhere." 

"Never mind, Giles. It's no big deal." 

Returning with a sterling silver tray, the librarian poured out three 
cups. 

"So, Derek, what brings you here...business or pleasure?" 

"Business, I'm afraid." 

"What exactly?" 

"I wish I could tell you, Rupert, but I'm not sure myself. I was 
wondering if we could use your computer set up?" 

"Oh, certainly. Willow just stepped out. I'm sure she wouldn't mind." 

Responding, "Thanks," Derek retrieved a cellular phone from his jacket 
and started dialing the Legacy house on a secure line. Nick, meanwhile, 
had gone behind the desk to use the PC's modem connection. 

"Hello, Alex? Yes, we're fine. The case is just taking a little longer 
than expected. We need you to do some checking for us. Nick's E-mailing 
the information to you now. Basically, we need to know whatever you can 
learn about a teen by the name of Mario Seraphim." 

Across the room, Giles quickly looked up from the book he was scanning, 
"Excuse me? Did you just say Mario Seraphim?" 
  
"Hold on, Alex." Turning, Derek asked, "Yes, Rupert, why?" 

Easing the student ID from the breast pocket of his tweed jacket, the 
librarian held it up and stated, "Because I think we'd better talk." 

Derek and Nick stared first at Giles and then at each other. 
  
"Alex, I'll call you right back." After hanging up, Derek remarked, 
"What did I tell you, Nick? Nothing's ever simple in this town." 

Slowly shaking his head in agreement, the Watcher remarked, "I'm afraid 
not." 

*****

Sunnydale Police Headquarters 5:56 P.M. 

"What really happened at that motel back in Oakland?" 

Chained to an unpadded, straight-backed metal chair in the center of 
the interrogation room, Mario replied, "What would you like to know?" 

"Well, for starters, did you know the guy you killed?" 

"I met him trying to strangle in my wife. Does that count?" 

"Don't wise off with me, kid," spat Mulder, "I mean before that." 

Raising his head to look directly at the agent, Mario then lied...sort 
of, anyhow, by replying, "No. Never saw him before in my life." 

Entering the room with two Dixie cups of black coffee, Scully handed 
one to her partner before asking, "Mario, do you know why the 
perpetrator would choose your room? After killing the desk clerk, it 
would have made more sense for him to empty the cash register or the 
office safe." 

"I don't know. Why don't you ask him?" 

Placing his face close to the boy's, Mulder growled, "Because he's a 
crispy critter in the morgue. You claim you killed him in self-defense. 
If that's true, why did you burn his body?" 

"I didn't burn his body." 

"Oh, what do you expect us to believe? That he spontaneously 
combusted?" 

"You said it, not me." 

"Now listen up, Mario. You'd better start filling in some of the puzzle 
here...and fast. So far, we have two dead bodies and one 
suspect...YOU!" 

Turning toward Scully, the teen asked, "Since when did it become a 
crime to defend your wife and unborn child against a psycho?" 

"We're just trying to understand exactly what transpired that night, 
Mr. Seraphim. Please try to look at it from our point of view -- you 
may be telling us the truth, or YOU may be responsible for the death of 
the motel clerk and the second unidentified man when HE tried to 
intervene." 

"I've answered all your questions, Agent Scully. What more can I tell 
you?" 

Flipping open a manila folder, her partner then pulled out a notepad, 
remarking, "For starters, how about where you're originally from?" 

"Back east." 

"Could you be just a BIT more specific." 

"Queens...in New York City." 

"OK...what year were you born?" 

"1982." 

"What are your parents' names?" 

"Ann and Mario." 

Quickly scanning the contents of the school's enrollment files, Mulder 
then asked, "Where's your father now?" 

"Dead." 

"What about your mother?" 

"Ditto. But I'm sure you already knew that." 

"What did your father do for a living?" 

While glancing around the room, Mario answered, "Odd jobs around the 
neighborhood." 

"Such as?" 

"He helped out people in trouble." 

"Sounds like a real good Samaritan type." 

Again looking directly at Mulder, the boy smirked before replying, 
"Yeah, I guess you could say that." 

"Did he ever serve in the military?" 

"Uh huh." 

"When?" 

"In Vietnam. They had him doing medical stuff." 

"Was he wounded?" 

"Yeah. He never liked to talk about it though." 

Casting a glance in Scully's direction, Mulder noticed that one of her 
eyebrows was now arched and that she was tapping her foot on the grungy 
tile floor.

"Can I see you outside, Mulder?" 

After stepping into the hall, he closed the steel door behind them. 

"What's up, Scully?" 

"His answers just blew holes in your major mystery. Obviously the 
military records you've seen are wrong. His father was in Vietnam, not 
him. And their listing him as missing in action and presumed dead was 
obviously an error." 

"Well, there's still no record of HIM ever being born in New York 
City...or anywhere else." 

"Mulder, are you telling me that you're seriously considering holding 
this kid because some bureaucrat can't find his birth certificate. It 
happens." 

"Something's still wrong here, Scully...I can feel it. He's not telling 
us everything." 

"So what are you suggesting, Mulder?" 

"We can hold him 72 hours without charges until we can verify his 
story." 

"And what happens if we can't?" 

While unlocking the door, Mulder remarked, "Always the optimist, aren't 
you, Scully?" Back inside, he once again addressed the teen. 

"Well, Mario, it looks like you're going to be a guest here courtesy of 
the taxpayers of Sunnydale." 

"What do you mean?" 

In response, Scully stepped around Mulder, stating, "We need to verify 
what you've told us. It shouldn't be more than a day or two." 

"What about, Marie?" 

"Relax, we already sent her home," replied Mulder. 

"YOU WHAT?" 

As the teen unsuccessfully attempted to rise, Scully stated, "Calm 
down, Mr. Seraphim. Marie's back with her grandmother. She's fine." 

Dejectedly slumping back into the chair, he quickly glanced toward 
Scully and then toward the floor. In the dim light cast by the single 
hanging lightbulb, the woman thought she noticed a strange shadow 
manifest itself on the boy's face. However, she quickly dismissed it as 
a trick of the lighting. 

"No, she's not. She's not safe without me." 

Latching onto this remark, Mulder prodded from across the room, "You 
also said that this afternoon. What do you mean, 'she's not safe'? Safe 
from what? Who?" 

Realizing that the only way out of the room would be by going through 
the agents, Mario simply continued to silently stare downward. A few 
minutes later, unable to elicit another word from him, the agents left 
the room. Once outside, they decided to compare notes over a quick 
dinner. 

"So where do folks around here go for a burger?" Mulder asked a young 
deputy in the nearly deserted squad room. 

"You can try the place a couple of blocks over. Food's decent, pretty 
good music." 

"This place got a name?" 

"Yeah...the Bronze."