Enter the Reaper
Macboru


Rating: PG-13

Mackenzie O'Byrne and Thomas Jager are my invention based on the 
preceding  copyrighted concepts. (For those of an historical bent, Finn 
Mac Cuhill really is a character from  Irish mythology.)

Disclaimer: The concept and characters of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" 
(Buffy, Xander, Willow,  Oz, Joyce, Angel, Spike, Drusilla and Giles) 
belong to Mr. Joss Whedon, Warner Bros. And  Mutant Enemy 

The concept and characters of "Highlander" (Duncan and Connor Macleod,  
Richie Ryan, Joe Dawson, Ahriman, Methos, et all) belong to Davis and 
Panzer Productions and  Rysher Entertainment.

No profit has been or will be made from this story.

Summary: An immortal comes to Sunnydale, Ca. looking to avenge his 
teacher.

Author's note: I *love* crossovers. The only problem I ever have them 
(those that are well  written) is that as I read them I say "No, no, no! 
He/she should _____!" As a consequence, I sat  down one day and started 
hammering this out. If you're looking for titles in a similar vein, 
check  out "The Axer Carrick Cycle" by Henry Wyckoff and "Chronicles of 
the Wanderer" by Steve  Pantovich.


Then, do what I've done  write one yourself. Like I said, I *love* 
crossovers! 


One more thing, the sequel is in the works. E-mail the author at 
macboru@hotmail.com       


Enter the Reaper
By macboru   

Prologue
Sunnydale, Ca.
Sunnydale Fairgrounds 2030, Saturday (Local)

Mac Cuhill signed off on his e-mail to Mackenzie, and prepared for the 
evening's  activities. Gathering his sword and slipping into a long 
overcoat, he stepped out into the night.

He drove to Sunnydale's fairgrounds and left his car to patrol the 
perimeter on foot. The  fairgrounds had that typically run-down 
appearance commonplace to abandoned fairgrounds  throughout the U.S. 
Litter stirred by the breeze danced across the dark, cracked tarmac. A 
sumac  tree leaned perilously against the perimeter fence.

'What a dreadful looking place this is,' he thought to himself. Perfect 
for the sort of  encounter his kind occasionally engaged in  the very 
sort he hoped for tonight.

Out of the shadows to his left, a young man approached him with a dazed 
look on his  face. Mac Cuhill tensed. The boy, looking to be about 
sixteen, was coming straight at him as Mac  Cuhill slipped his hand 
under his coat. He paused as the sound of the boy's sobbing reached him.  
Mac Cuhill cursed softly under his breath as his hand re-emerged from 
under his coat and he  hurried to the boy. He had to get the youth away 
before his expected company arrived.

"C'mon, lad," he spoke softly, reaching to grasp the boy by his 
shoulder. "This is no place  for you tonight." 

Suddenly the boy's countenance morphed into the most hellish *thing* Mac 
Cuhill had  ever seen. He swore in a guttural-sounding Gaelic and tried 
to throw the boy away as he  *it*   swarmed up his outstretched arm. 
Mac Cuhill set his feet in a wide, balanced stance as the  thing's claws 
ripped at his throat. Gathering his *chi*, Mac Cuhill hurled the thing 
half-a-dozen  yards from him. As he stumbled back, he grasped at his 
torn throat with his left hand and fumbled  for his sword with his 
right. Suddenly, another *thing* slammed into him from behind, throwing  
him to the ground. As he felt it's jaws clamp down on his neck, Mac 
Cuhill went berserk.

Reaching up over his shoulder, Mac Cuhill grabbed the thing on his back 
by the scruff of  its neck and jerked it straight over his head. 
Simultaneously, he twirled his body through all three  axis of motion, 
tossing the creature away, pulling his sword and scuttling backward as 
he spun  and whirled through the air, landing on his feet.

Taking one good look at the two beasts as they rushed him, Mac Cuhill 
instinctually  seized upon an axiom from his days with the Fianna Fail  
when outnumbered, *attack*. Mac  Cuhill's blade was a fan of death as it 
whirled through the air and he charged at his attackers.  Each of his 
attackers howled in rage and pain as they lost an arm apiece. He quickly 
silenced one  by decapitating it.

With a *POOF*, the headless creature turned to dust. Both Mac Cuhill and 
the remaining  creature froze with shock. Mac Cuhill recovered first. 
With a scream, he lunged at the remaining  beast and hacked away its 
sole remaining arm as the beast threw it up in a pointless attempt  
defend itself. A moment later, the second creature was also a quickly-
settling pile of dust.

Mac Cuhill collapsed to his knees, bleeding profusely from the wounds at 
his neck. He  struggled to regain his feet as he felt the approach of 
the one he'd intended to meet and battle  this night.

"Well, well," he heard. "What*ever* happened to you, Mac Cuhill?" 
queried the  newcomer. Mac Cuhill could only gasp in rage at the 
desperate turn in circumstances. "No  matter," said his new  and 
*fresh*  opponent as he raised his own sword high in the air.

"There can be only one."  


Part 1
Scene 1
Quebec City, Quebec
145 Chevalier
1000, Monday (Local)


*Mac. Found Polovsky. Sunnydale, Ca. Regards, Finn.* 

Mackenzie O'Byrne read the e-mail with a settling sense of dread. If 
Finn hadn't found the  time to e-mail a follow-up in  Mac consulted his 
watch and did a few quick mental calculations   nearly 36 hours... He 
hung his head low for a few moments.

When either of them *knew* a fight was coming, they sent both a before 
and after  message to the other. While this allowed at least the 
possibility of vengeance, the primary reason  was more subtle. Neither 
the teacher nor the student would ever have to wonder what had  become 
of the other.

Finn Mac Cuhill was dead.

Mackenzie O'Byrne got up and began to pack.  


Scene 2
Sunnydale, Ca.
Sunnydale High School
0800, Monday (Local)


Buffy walked into the library and greeted her friends. Noticing Giles 
huddled with a  newspaper in his office she arched an eyebrow at Willow 
in silent query.

"Don't ask me," Willow shrugged. "Giles has been Mystery Guy since we 
got here."

Giles finally emerged from his office looking glum. After solemnly 
shaking his head at the  gathered friends he asked, "Buffy, were you 
near the fairgrounds Saturday night?"

"No. Why?"

"Because of this," he replied and tossed his paper on the table.

Whatever *this* was certainly seemed to give Giles the wiggins. The 
front page screamed  about a headless body being found with a sword at 
the fairgrounds. Apparently a 'freakish  lightning storm' had attracted 
the attention of a patrolling deputy to the site.

"I'm afraid *they* might be here," said Giles. "Who are *they*, Giles?" 
asked Buffy. 

"I'm going to tell you about something I'd hoped would never come up, 
Buffy. Wait a  moment." With that Giles turned and disappeared into his 
office, emerging moments later with an  old book. He took it out to the 
table the gang was seated at, sat down and took a deep breath.

Opening the book he looked up at his former students with a somewhat 
worried  expression. "There are legends that might explain our headless 
friend. I've never personally  believed them to be true, but..."

"Something *you* don't believe?" queried Willow.

Turning to look at each of the Slayerettes, trying to impart to them the 
gravity of the  situation, Giles finally nodded.

"G-man, we already deal with all the wicked minions. Lighten up," joked 
Xander.

"Yeah, Giles. Get to the meat," tossed in Buffy.

Giles hesitated a moment more before finally looking down and beginning 
to read from  the book.

"*From the dawn of time they come, moving silently down through the 
centuries.  Struggling to reach the time of the Gathering, when those 
few who remain shall battle to the last.  No one has ever known they are 
among us... *" Giles set the book aside and closed it.

Buffy was on the verge of a serious wiggins. "Who Giles? Who is among 
us?" she  demanded.

"Immortals," answered Giles.  


Scene 3
Sunnydale, Ca.
Sunnydale High School
1000, Monday (Local)


"Immortals?" echoed Xander.

"Some kind of vampire?" asked Willow. "Worse?"

"No. Humans. Well...sort of, anyway. The legends speak of warriors 
battling each other  through eternity. I believe one was killed here in 
Sunnydale Saturday night-"

"Whoa!" interrupted Xander. "I thought you said immortal? Killed how?"

"I don't know for certain. Presumably by decapitation, given the 
condition of the body at  the fairgrounds. What I do know from my 
reading is that they hunt each other in order to kill one  another," 
answered the Watcher.

"But why, Giles?" asked Buffy.

"In order to gain something called a 'Quickening'."

"Quickening?" prompted Willow.

"All their knowledge and power. Their soul, in a manner of speaking." 
Giles adjusted his glasses.  "When only a few immortals are left, legend 
has it that they will feel an irresistible pull to one  location. There 
they will battle until only one remains. This is the 'Gathering'. The 
sole remaining  immortal wins the 'Prize'. What that is, no one is 
certain. At the very least, the last immortal will  have all the 
knowledge and power of all the immortals who have ever lived.

"Enough power to rule humanity forever," he finished.

"How do we stop it?" asked Buffy.

Giles looked shocked. "I'm not sure we can. Dealing with *one* might be 
possible, but  ending their struggle entirely? Buffy  children  if 
these creatures exist, then they have been  warriors for centuries. 
Possible millennia. Constantly fighting other immortals to the death. To  
survive in this kind of eternal hunt, one would have to be a warrior of 
consummate skill and  cunning."

Buffy looked non-plussed at this. "Giles, we've battled vampires, 
demons, werewolves-"

"It is *not* the same thing, Buffy. Believe me!" Giles took a deep 
breath. "If this *has*  been going on since the beginning of man, then 
they're not only skilled warriors, but chameleons  as well. In a way, 
it's surprising that they and the vampires haven't intermingled. I pray 
that they  don't. If one of them were evil enough to turn even a small 
number of vampires to his cause. Or,  worse, became a vampire 
himself..."

"What Giles?" asked Buffy quietly.

"Just imagine a vampire that knew how to fight with the experience of 
centuries worth of  battles, Buffy. Not terrorizing humans. Not being 
hunted by Slayers. Battles against men and  women honed to fight 
warriors *as* warriors!"

"Tell me you have some good news, G-man," pleaded Xander.

"Yeah, Giles. Tell me they aren't coming here," asked Buffy.

Giles blew out his cheeks. "If I'm right about the man at the 
fairgrounds, then two already  have. Let us hope the survivor has moved 
on."  


Part 2
Scene 1
Denver, Co.
Amoco on I-70
2130, Tuesday (Local)


Mac finished filling the gas tank of his truck and stretched his arms 
over his head. In  about a day he'd reach Sunnydale. Then  vengeance! 
More than merely a teacher, Mac Cuhill  had been very much a father to 
the young immortal.

Blood for blood, a rule as old as mankind. For once in his life Mac was 
appreciating a rule   and fully intended to enforce it.  


Scene 2
Sunnydale, Ca.
Sunnydale Park
2230, Tuesday (Local)

Buffy staked the vampire and watched it turn to dust. Only the one 
tonight  things were  pretty slow. She considered how that was likely 
to change in the next couple of days. Immortal  warriors didn't strike 
her as a good thing. She wasn't sure of her ability to handle a 
supernatural  warrior. 

Vampires were bad enough.

Willow had hacked into the coroner's database. The authorities believed 
that an animal  had gnawed on the victim. Buffy had seen the pictures 
and knew that the late immortal  if that  was in fact what he was  had 
been the victim of a vampire. 

Two of them, if the coroner was right about the number of 'animals' 
involved. In a way,  Buffy was glad the immortal was dead. She was 
positively wiggins about the idea of having to  take on a vampire 
'warrior'. She gathered up Xander and decided to call it a night. She 
had the  bad feeling that she'd need all the rest she could get in the 
next couple of days.

"Penny," said Xander.

"Oh, you know. Vampires, immortal warriors, mid-terms. Usual stuff," she 
replied with a  grin.

"I think Giles may have the wrong idea about this," Xander said 
suddenly. Buffy arched a  delicate eyebrow at him. "Just think," he 
continued. "Immortality. Could be a plus. Never grow old.  No blood 
drinking requirements."

Buffy pondered his train of thought. "That we know of."  


Scene 3
Los Angeles, Ca.
Holiday Inn on I-5
0830. Wednesday (Local)

Mac pulled into the Holiday Inn and turned off his engine. 'Four hours 
rest,' he ordered  himself. He'd be in Sunnydale that evening. To be 
effective, he'd need to be rested.

A quick breakfast was followed by a shower before Mac crashed. By ten 
a.m. he was fast  asleep. By three, he was up and moving again.  

At four-thirty Mac pulled into Sunnydale and looked around. 'Cheerful 
looking place,' he  thought. Thinking of Finn, he grimaced. "I am become 
death..." he said softly.

Shortly, he found a motel and checked in, cleaned up, and received 
directions to a local  restaurant. He ate his supper slowly as glanced 
through a local paper. Finding a contact number,  he pulled out his cell 
phone and called up the paper's front desk.

In short order he was talking to a gopher at the paper. "Yes, sir. There 
was a freak  lightning storm out at the fairgrounds Saturday night. A 
murder victim was found there the next  day."

Mac gritted his teeth. "Thanks. Oh, by the way," he continued casually, 
"what was the  victim's name?"

"Vic's ID said Finn Bonet." Mac grimaced  Bonet was Finn's current 
identity.

"Thanks again." Hanging up the phone, Mac got up, paid his bill and 
asked directions to  the coroner's office. Arriving shortly thereafter, 
he was made to wait until an assistant M.E. was  able to see him. 
Everything seemed to be blurring at the edges and Mac couldn't have 
recalled  the next half hour with any degree of certainty.

And then he was staring down at Finn's dead body.

"What the hell happened to him?" asked Mac as his eyes probed the wounds 
around his  neck.

"I don't know quite how to put this Mr. O'Byrne..."

"Bluntly."

The M.E. looked a bit shocked at that. "You *do* know the man, then?" he 
asked.

"His name is  *was*  Finn Bonet. He's a retired investment banker. 
We've been friends  for... a long time."

"I'm sorry, Mr. O'Byrne. He was attacked by at least two wild animals. 
We're not sure  what. Then he was... Well you see for yourself," 
finished the M.E. "Did he have any family?"

"No. He was an orphan. Never married." Mac straightened suddenly. "Thank 
you," he  said, before turning and departing quickly. The sight of 
Finn's mutilated corpse infuriated him. It  was time to hunt.  

Part 3


Scene 1
Sunnydale, Ca.
Sunnydale Motor Lodge
1900, Wednesday (Local)

Mac returned to his room at the Sunnydale Motor Lodge, quickly dropped 
his bags on the  bed and showered. Once the grime from several days 
travel was washed away, he slipped into  bed. As he lay waiting for 
sleep, his mind drifted back over his life. Thoughts of Finn made the  
rage bubble in his chest.

After all that time hunting Polovsky, just to be brought down 
by...whatever the hell had  attacked him. Mac was familiar with all 
kinds of different injuries, but the nature of Finn's wounds  puzzled 
him. He'd heard once of someone that used dogs to bring down his 
intended victims, but  whatever had hit Finn was no dog.

Besides, Finn had never mentioned Polovsky using any kind of animal 
before. From  Finn's description of the bastard, he'd never had a need. 
Polovsky was a butchering psychopath,  but he was also a skilled 
warrior.

So what the hell had happened? Was there another one of their kind here? 
Was it  possible that Mac was searching for *two* targets? One that had 
killed Finn in addition to  Polovsky? Because even if it wasn't Polovsky 
that had killed Finn, Mac was still going to find him   and take his 
head. The real question was whether or not there was a different killer 
to find first   and where to find him.  


Scene 2
Sunnydale, Ca.
Sunnydale Fairgrounds
1000, Thursday (Local)

Mac carefully surveyed the site where Finn had been killed. The location 
was perfect for  a battle between immortals  remote, isolated and 
offering plenty of room to fight and maneuver.  Crime scene marking tape 
outlined where Finn had fallen. Mac crouched down and set his hands  on 
the ground.

Closing his eyes, he tried to picture what had happened here. The strike 
of the animals.  His mentor locked in a desperate battle with at least 
two of them. Blood flying-

*Blood*.

Mac saw the stained tarmac where Finn had been killed  but where was 
the blood of  whatever had attacked him? He'd had his sword out  the 
paper said it had been found several  feet from his body  so where was 
the blood of the animals? Mac asked himself how likely it was  that Finn 
was taken down without causing *any* damage to his attackers. Being as 
objective as  possible, he concluded there was little chance of that. 
Finn had far too much experience.

Further, there was no doubt that the animal attack had occurred *before* 
his head was  taken. The cut of his opponents blade bisected one of the 
gnawed wounds on his throat.

So where the hell was *their* blood?  


Scene 3
Sunnydale, Ca.
Sunnydale Community College
1200, Thursday (Local)

Buffy sat in her History 102 class trying to concentrate on what the 
professor was saying.  Try as she might, she was failing. The guy struck 
her as a pompous blowhard who, while he  *might* know what he was 
talking about, unfortunately did so in a mind-numbing monotone  
guaranteed to put the students to sleep.

As she looked around, she wondered what one of Giles' immortals would 
have had to say  about the subject the blowhard was lecturing on  the 
causes of and events leading up to World  War One.

Finally the torture ended. Released from the class, she made her way to 
the student  cafeteria. As she sat and stared at her food, she wished 
again that her 'job' came with a  paycheck. She could certainly use a 
car.  


Scene 4
Sunnydale, Ca.
150 Creek St
1400, Thursday (Local)

Mac stood and looked at the house for a few minutes before entering. It 
was a two-story  Georgian affair set on a good sized piece of property. 
Finn had written him about it, mentioning its  attractions. The older 
man had considered buying it.

O'Byrne walked into the house and started exploring. Two main floors, an 
attic, a  basement and an absolutely *huge* backyard that gave way to 
the rolling southern California  hills. The entire place was surrounded 
by a low stone wall in front and a six-foot high privacy  fence in the 
back. The nearest neighbor was a full quarter-mile away. The house was 
fifteen  minutes away from what passed for downtown Sunnydale and only 
ten minutes away from the  freeway, putting L.A. within an hour's drive.

The first floor was comprised of a living room, two additional rooms, a 
dining room and a  kitchen. Upstairs were four bedrooms. The attic was 
partially finished and the basement  constructed to be an earthquake 
shelter. The current owner's asking price was ridiculously low  
considering the location.

Mac frowned as he considered how long he might be in the area. He hadn't 
lived in the  U.S. since seventy-one and still had bitter memories about 
Americans. Still... The businessman in  Mac rebelled at passing up on 
the property. And he *was* determined to stay long enough to  resolve 
the issues surrounding Finn's death...

Decision made, Mac climbed back into his Pathfinder and returned to the 
real estate  agent's office.

By five, Mac had enacted the transfer of funds for the house and set up 
a drawing  account at a local bank. The following day he would close 
escrow. Returning to his motel, Mac  got on the phone and called a 
friend in Quebec. With great sadness, his friend agreed to have his  
goods boxed and shipped out to the new place within the next couple of 
days.  


Part 4
Scene 1
Sunnydale, Ca.
The Bronze
2000, Thursday (Local)

Buffy sat with her friends taking in the scene. Couples were dancing 
together, swaying to  the music. Being surrounded by all that 
togetherness was depressing the young woman. She  wished she could find 
someone. She wasn't all that picky, she thought. Basically, she wanted  
someone nice, cute, warm-blooded, male...

Buffy sighed. On top of everything else, she was developing one hell of 
a headache.  Willow turned to her friend and grinned at her.

"C'mon, Buffy," she cajoled. "That one in the corner is kind of cute. 
Why don't you ask  him to dance?"

Buffy examined the object of Willow's suggestion. A guy about their age, 
dressed in a  khaki-colored pants and dark turtleneck. The guy had a 
dark brown duster in his lap. He was  sitting alone, nursing a drink. 
His eyes were roving among the crowd as if he were searching for  
someone.

She didn't know why, but something about him set alarm bells ringing. 
The stranger  smelled like trouble.  

Mac could feel the presence of another immortal nearby, but in the crowd 
he couldn't tell  who it was. His eyes swept back and forth over the 
crowd, searching.

Across the room, a pair of women were surreptitiously eyeing him. One of 
them? Judging  from their manner and dress, he thought that unlikely.

He kept scanning the room.  

The guy across the room barely gave Buffy and Willow a second glance. In 
light of her  headache, Buffy decided that whoever he was searching for 
was going to have to fend for  themselves. The man was too well dressed 
to be a vampire, and she wasn't a cop.

Excusing herself from Willow, Buffy left to go home. Once outside her 
head cleared  immediately. Deciding that it had been brought on by too 
many people when she just wasn't in  the mood to party, she shrugged her 
shoulders.

Patrol suddenly struck her as a good idea. Maybe she'd run into 
something in need of  being killed. With that in mind, the Slayer 
strolled down the street toward the cemetery. In minutes  she was 
standing at the entrance.

And heard the scream.

Instantly, she set off at a dead run.  

The buzz dissipated. Whoever the other immortal was, he was gone now. 
Mac surged to  his feet, cloaking himself in his long duster as he made 
straight for the door. Sunnydale was too  small a town to chalk this up 
to mere coincidence.

The other immortal might or might not be Finn's killer, but it was 
inconceivable to Mac  that he or she didn't know anything about what had 
happened

Mac considered what he'd seen  rather, what he *hadn't* seen  at the 
fairgrounds that  day. Where the hell was the blood?

And who the hell was that girl from the club? He'd almost swear that 
that girl was an  immortal. The 'buzz' had faded with her departure. 
Could she have something to do with Finn's  death?

As he exited the Bronze he saw a man dart into the alley behind it. As 
Mac got closer to  the alley's mouth, the 'buzz' hit him. Slipping his 
hand under his coat to grasp the hilt of his sword,  he slipped quietly 
into the darkened back street

Mac felt the presence of the immortal draw close as he padded quietly 
down the alley.  Reaching the shadows, he slipped his hand under the 
duster and withdrew his sword. The 'buzz'  was a ripping spike now, 
racing up and down his spine, coursing around in his brain.

He didn't even consider calling out to his opponent. The veteran of 
numerous battles  against others of his kind, Mac was cautious.

A slight crunch of gravel ahead and to the left announced the other's 
presence.  Crouching down, Mac picked up a loose piece of mortar and 
chucked it off to his right. A glint of  metal in the dark confirmed the 
location of the other immortal when he  she?  started at the  noise.

Silently gliding forward, Mac loomed out of the darkness and faced the 
newcomer. In an  instant, the blade of his Katana was resting against 
the throat of his opponent.

"Looking for me?" he asked quietly.

The other immortal stiffened. "Jesus!" he sighed, frightened.

"Name," Mac demanded.

"Cathay," was the quiet answer. "And you?"

Mac grinned in the dark. "I am become death," he taunted. "Yours, 
specifically, if you  don't have a *very* good reason for being here."

Cathay shuddered. "I'm not looking for a fight."

"Really?" asked Mac. "Well, in that case..." He lifted the blade from 
Cathay's neck.  Instantly Cathay turned and swept his own blade at Mac's 
legs. Cautious of treachery, Mac was  alert. He jumped straight up into 
the air a good four feet. Landing lightly, he smashed Cathay in  his 
face with a palm strike.

Spinning away, Mac raised his blade in a defensive posture. Feinting to 
his left, he  suddenly lunged forward and thrust his sword into Cathay's 
heart. Cathay squealed in surprised  pain and died.

Mac jerked his blade out of his opponents chest and stepped back. 
Looking around  quickly, he made certain they were alone. Not the best 
place for a Quickening but, with all the  noise inside the club he 
doubted anyone would hear the noise of the Quickening. Too, they were  
far enough back in the alley that the lightshow should be difficult to 
locate immediately.

Most importantly, the young  and possibly immortal - woman from the 
club was nowhere  nearby. This bastard hadn't been inside, Mac was 
certain of that. So there was no way he could  have been the cause of 
the 'buzz' that had hit Mac in the Bronze and faded when the blonde girl  
left.

Mac glanced down at his enemy, wondering why he'd been attacked. The 
veteran had a  sneaking suspicion that the man at his feet had been 
after the girl. He kicked the man's sword  away and settled into wait 
for his revival. In a few minutes, he was rewarded by a shuddering  gasp 
as Cathay came alive. Mac picked up Cathay's sword and set it against 
its owner's throat  while cocking his own back over his shoulder.

"Welcome back," he greeted Cathay cheerfully.

"Why didn't you kill me?" Cathay asked, then hissed as his own blade dug 
a little into the  skin at his throat.

"Curiosity," answered Mac. "Finn Mac Cuhill. Name ring a bell?"

Cathay started to shake his head before he remembered the press of the 
blade against  his neck. "No," he answered instead.

"Why'd you attack me?"

"You attacked me first."

"Bullshit. I had you cold, but I let you go. Try again," Mac demanded.

"All right, all right. I'm sorry. It was a bad call on my part," agreed 
the immortal. "How  about you let me go and we call it quits, huh? No 
harm, no foul."

Mac swept the Katana up from his shoulder and down through Cathay neck 
in one  powerful blow. Cathay's head fell from his shoulders and rolled 
a short way down the alley,  bouncing a couple of times before coming to 
rest several feet away.

"Guess again," answered Mac. He'd been prepared to let Cathay live 
before his attack.  Mackenzie O'Byrne wasn't one for tolerating 
dishonorable behavior in an immortal  too often,  those without honor 
would deceive and defeat better men.

A mist arose from Cathay's headless corpse and drifted to Mac as the 
body levitated into  the air. Blue lightning began to skitter around the 
alley, connecting Mac and Cathay's body. Mac's  nerves danced with 
tortuous pain and almost orgasmic pleasure as the Quickening seized him.  
Concentrating every shred of his considerable self-control, Mac managed 
to keep from  screaming.

Barely.

Quickenings, he knew, seldom permitted any self restraint. Fortunately, 
it was over  quickly. He grimaced with the realization that the immortal 
he'd slain was pretty new. The brevity  and relative impotence of the 
Quickening attested to that.

'Fool,' he thought scornfully. He briefly examined Cathay's sword. 
Cheaply made, it  wasn't worth keeping and wasn't worth the risk of 
holding onto for longer than it would take to  dispose of. Mac quickly 
wiped down his Katana with a piece of chamois. Putting his sword away  
beneath his duster, he grabbed up Cathay's blade and raced off.

He never saw the young woman at the mouth of the alley. If he had, he 
would have  recognized her immediately. She'd been one of the two girls 
in the club who had been staring at  him.  

Unbeknownst to Mac, Cathay's Quickening *had* been of sufficient force 
to blow out the  fuse box in the Bronze. Oz frowned as the lights went 
out in the middle of their third set.

Reflecting that the Bronze was a real dump, he set down his guitar and 
went to sit with  Willow. Looking around and not seeing her, the 
youngster was about to sit down and wait when  she suddenly appeared at 
his side. On her face was an expression of absolute horror.

"C'mon," she managed to get out as she tugged at her boyfriend's arm. A 
little  concerned, Oz allowed her to draw him outside.

After Buffy had split, Willow had seen the good looking stranger slip 
out the door.  Thinking that he might be after Buffy (and just a little 
interested in his dark good looks), she'd  followed him out. Once Willow 
made it out the door, she had realized immediately that he was  just 
*gone*. After a couple of futile minutes spent looking around the street 
for him, she'd been  about to return inside.

Willow had no idea what had made her decide to walk around behind the 
Bronze and  glance down the alley. The sight had frozen her in place. 
One man was laying on the ground.  Another was crouched beside the 
first, mostly obscuring her view. Absolutely still, she could just  
barely hear the end of the conversation:

*"-no harm, no foul,"* followed by the sweep of a sword and the sight of 
a head bouncing  down the alley.

The words *"Guess again,"* had preceded a storm of blue lightning. 
Terrified, Willow had  done her best to become one with the shadows. 
After what seemed an interminably long time, the  lightning had stopped 
striking the killer and he'd strode away.

She hadn't been able to *breathe* for a while, much less escape. The 
moment she was  capable of movement, she ran back in to get Oz.

Now the two of them stood over the murder victim as she tried to explain 
what had  happened. "See, and there was a *sword* and lightning, see, 
and this guy who, and this guy, see- " Oz finally took his girlfriends 
arm and walked her to his van.  


Scene 2
Sunnydale, Ca.
1414 Palm Way
2100, Thursday (Local)

Oz knocked on Giles' door repeatedly. After a few moments, Giles opened 
the door in  answer to the continuous rumble.

"Oz, Willow," he greeted them. Taking a good look at Willow's face he 
fearfully asked,  "Buffy?"

"No," Oz reassured the Watcher. "Not Buffy. Willow saw a guy get his 
head cut off."

"And lightning. *Swords* and lightning," added the young witch.

Giles took this in with a sinking feeling. The legends...  

Racing away, Mac was seriously pissed. Another life wasted! He would 
never understand  why so many of his kind risked so much. What was the 
Prize really worth, anyway? What was the  *point* in being the last 
immortal? He understand that there would always be those that played  
the Game full time  he'd been a warrior for a long time and understood 
that there those that  craved power  but he had never understood *why*.

If someone craved excitement, adventure  hell, *power*  there were 
plenty of other  opportunities to be had without risking their heads. 
Mac had himself been a warrior all his life.

But he had never craved the Prize. He didn't really want to be the only 
immortal.

Still, some did, there was no denying that. When he ran across one of 
them, they fought.  So far, he had always been the victor. And he 
certainly wasn't going to miss any of those he'd  killed, be it in self 
defense, for honor or out of duty. He'd even met a couple that he'd 
enjoyed  killing. Like Polovsky  the world was a better place without 
them.

As he cursed at the stupidity of those that wasted their gift in the 
foolish pursuit of power,  he began to feel the tingling buzz yet again.

'What the hell is this? Grand Central Station?' he asked himself. Then 
it hit him  the girl  from the club. Cathay probably *had* been after 
her. Mac must have been a rude surprise.

He looked around himself, trying to discern where he'd gotten to. Damned 
if he wasn't  right back at the park. As he looked around, searching for 
the source of this new sensation, the  sound of a struggle came to him 
from somewhere up ahead.

Where the immortal was.

 


Scene 3
Sunnydale, Ca.
Sunnydale Park
2130, Thursday (Local)

Buffy had wandered out of the Bronze feeling depressed. That mysterious 
guy in the  duster had been good looking, even if something about him 
did scream *danger*. Of course, he  hadn't done any more than glance at 
her. Why should he?

She new she was pretty enough, but something about her drove most guys 
away. Most  of the ones she was interested in anyway. The stranger's 
lack of interest was just another case in  point. Hell, his lack of 
interest probably meant that he was perfectly normal.

The young woman knew she was lonely. She tried to chalk it up to spring 
fever, but the  fact of the matter was that she was almost twenty and 
hadn't really had a boyfriend in nearly  three years. Buffy had gone out 
with a couple of guys, but it never seemed to work out. Every guy  she'd 
dated had turned out to be too shallow, or too vain or...

It was a long list.

Like most young women, what Buffy wanted was a nice guy who was 
reasonably cute,  smart, well-mannered and worshipped the ground she 
walked on. Oh, yeah  Mr. Wonderful  would have to understand the whole 
Slaying thing, too.

Was that so much to ask?

Buffy decided to cruise through the park. Maybe something in need of 
being slain would  present itself. Entering the park, she started a long 
sweep around the perimeter. After completing  a loop, the Slayer changed 
direction and headed through the center when she heard the scream.  She 
raced off.

And there they were. Three vampires, cruising along like they didn't 
have a care in the  world. Who had screamed? Of course  one of them 
had. Probably to see who it would draw in.  "Hi, there," she called out. 
"You boys looking for a good time?"

The vampires stopped and looked at one another before turning to her 
with a grin. They  charged. They died.

With the fight over  and three new piles of dust decorating the park  
Buffy's headache  returned. This time it was worse.  


Scene 2
Sunnydale, Ca.
Sunnydale Central Park
2200, Thursday (Local)

Buffy gripped her head with both hands as a buzzing spike ripped through 
her head and  twisted her gut into knots. The sensation took her so 
suddenly that she fell right down on her  rump. Hearing the crunch of 
gravel, she looked up to see a large man wearing a dark brown  leather 
duster striding toward her. It was the guy from the Bronze! The stranger 
would have been  a hunk, no doubt about it  if not for the look of 
sheer rage that twisted his features. As he spoke,  Buffy noticed that 
the sickening buzz was gone.

"My name is Mackenzie O'Byrne. I think we have business. Now." Mac could 
hardly credit  what he'd seen. This young woman had run through three 
men in hardly an eyeblink. And to  think, he'd thought he was protecting 
*her* from *Cathay*.

"Huh?" said Buffy. Suddenly she realized that she was still sitting on 
the ground. She  scrambled to her feet and the stranger backed a step 
away. "What 'business'?" she asked. 'Crap!'  she thought. She'd been 
patrolling the park hoping to spot a vampire. A quick stake job and 
she'd  be home for the night to get in some studying.

Now a strange man was looming over her with a sword in his hand and 
apparent murder  on his mind.

"I'm Buffy," she said. 'Oh, *that* sounded cool. *Not*!

"Buffy," repeated the stranger. "Fine, *Buffy*, let's go."

"Go? Go where? Go why?" demanded Buffy. This was *so* not a good scene.

"Let's get *started*. Do what we do."

"Uh... Why?" asked the Slayer. 'Do what?' ran through her mind.

"Because you just killed three men," answered the stranger in a flat 
voice. "And, I think, a  man named Finn Mac Cuhill. He was a friend of 
mine."

"*Who*?" Buffy asked. Oh, crap! This guy had seen her stake the three 
vampires, and  now he thought she'd killed some friend of... Then it 
clicked  the dead dude at the fairgrounds!  This guy with the sword was 
one of Giles' immortals. And he had a sword in his hand. Mr.  Immortal 
here wanted to kill her. 'Oh, SHIT!'

O'Byrne backed up another step. The rage on his face was slowly replaced 
with  puzzlement. 'She doesn't know,' he decided.

"Do you even know what you are?" asked Mac quietly. He held up his hand, 
palm out as  if to signal 'Halt!' Where the hell had her three victims 
gone? Mac *knew* that he'd seen her stab  them with...something.

"Wait. Let's go somewhere and talk. *Just* talk. I'll buy you a cup of 
coffee."

Buffy desperately wanted to just get away from D'artagnan here, but 
decided on  reflection that this guy wasn't going to be that easy to 
shake. Besides, she was more than a little  curious about him herself.  


Scene 3
Sunnydale, Ca.
Denny's on Spring St.
2300, Thursday (Local)

Mac walked Buffy down the street to a nearby Denny's. Despite the lack 
of coolness  involved in drinking coffee at *Denny's* of all places, 
Buffy walked without complaint through the  door as he held it for her.

Mac smiled at the waitress and politely requested a table in the back 
away from the other  patrons. After being seated and ordering their 
drinks  coffee for Mac and Diet-Coke for Buffy   they sat and studied 
each other. Finally, Mac let a grin spread over his face. The grin 
almost  but  not quite  reached his eyes. Under the circumstances, it 
was as friendly as he knew how to be. 

"Please tell me if you know anything about Finn's death," he asked.

Buffy wasn't sure how much to say. More importantly, how much *not* to 
say. "I wish I  could tell you who killed your friend, but I don't know. 
I'm sorry."

"Just tell me what you *do* know," he pushed. "Please."

"There was a report of a weird lightening storm around the fairgrounds 
Saturday night.  Some cop saw it and reported finding a body. It had 
been decapitated-" she broke off realizing  how cold that sounded. 
O'Byrne's gaze never wavered from her face. A silence settled over them.  
"I'm sorry," she said again. "Your friend?"

Studying the young woman, Mac decided she knew a great deal more than 
she was  letting on. It was almost as if she knew what he was...

"What do you know about me? About Finn?" he suddenly asked accusingly. 
"And how?"

'Decision time, girlfriend' Buffy thought to herself. Immortals didn't 
know about vampires   probably. And this guy's friend was dead. *This* 
immortal didn't know what he was facing. 

"I don't think you'd believe me," she began.

"You'd be amazed what I'll believe," he answered.

"Well, then, you'd better come with me."  


Scene 4
Sunnydale, Ca.
1414 Palm Way
2345, Thursday (Local)

As Buffy guided Mac to Giles' house, she took note of the way he drove. 
He was both  deliberate and cautious. He didn't drive like an old guy. 
He didn't drive like a guy who was the age  he looked would drive 
either. Buffy decided he looked about twenty-five. She wondered how old  
he actually was. She liked the way he held the door for her when they 
got in the truck. The way he simply glanced  at her to make sure she 
buckled up. She noticed his hands  they were strong looking. She was  
noticing a lot of things about him.

The boy had 'Grrr'.

Once they reached their destination Buffy turned to him and said "Giles 
is going to have a  major wiggins. Don't freak, okay?" O'Byrne gave her 
a puzzled look for a second, then nodded.

'Christ on a crutch, but I hope she *didn't* kill Finn,' Mac thought as 
he walked behind  her. The girl was a babe. Sure, she talked a bit like 
a valley girl airhead, and her parents had  named her *Buffy* of all 
things, but Mac sensed a fierce intelligence within her. Which was, all-
in- all a *good* thing. She'd need it.

Buffy knocked on the door. In a moment t was opened by a bookish-looking 
fellow that  Mac would bet his last nickel was a Brit.

Who took one look at Mac and turned perfectly pale.

"Don't start Giles. Just let us in. I think we all need to talk," Buffy 
said.

Giles and Mac looked each other up and down for several moments. Mac 
couldn't have  known that Giles was in absolute awe. This had to be one 
of the immortals. Specifically the one  Willow and Oz had just finished 
telling him about. Finally Giles sighed.

"Come in Buffy, Sir. Please have a seat. I'll get some tea."

"Who are they?" asked Mac, nodding at Willow and Oz. "Answer that and 
I'll consider the  offer of tea." The couple sat on the couch, Willow 
with an expression of absolute terror on her  face. Mac recognized her 
as the girl who had been sitting with Buffy at the club.

"They are the two young people who witnessed you murder a man tonight," 
answered  Giles. Mac started at that. What the hell? He'd been *sure* no 
one else was there. Buffy was  backing quickly away from him.

"Are you sure that's what you saw?" Mac asked the two witnesses.

The moment was a frozen tableau of tension. Finally, with a shudder, 
Willow answered  him.  "I saw you cut off a man's head. Then there was 
lightning and stuff," she said in a  tremulous voice.

Mac nodded his head. "So you didn't see him attack me? Or, presumably, 
see him  waiting outside the club for your friend here?" he asked with a 
nod in Buffy's direction.

"He was following me?" asked Buffy. "Why?"

"Later," answered Mac. "You first. What do you know about me?"

The four friends traded looks. Finally Giles decided to answer for the 
group. "I believe  you're an immortal."

Mac absorbed that stoically. He'd been at least partly right about the 
girl. But if the young  woman didn't realize...how in hell did they know 
about immortals? *Did* they have something to  do with Finn's death?

"A friend of mine was killed here on Saturday. His name was Finn Bonet. 
What do you  know about that?" he asked.

"Well, we sort of figured out  that is, *Giles* figured out - that your 
friend was an  immortal. I'm guessing one of you guys killed him. Like 
you killed that guy who you say was  following me," Buffy answered.

"How in hell do you know about immortals?"

Just as Giles opened his mouth, Buffy broke in. "Giles is a Watcher. 
They watch. He  knows all about this supernatural stuff."

'*Supernatural stuff*'? Mac considered that for a moment. And he'd 
thought Sunnydale  was such a nice, quiet little town. "Watch what?" he 
asked.

"Well-" Buffy began.

"Buffy!" Giles cut her off. "I feel I must point out, we really know 
very little about... What is  your name, if I may ask?"

"Mackenzie O'Byrne." There followed a long moment of silence as the 
Slayer and her  friends waited for him to add to that. When it became 
apparent that he wasn't going to, Buffy  turned to look at her friends. 
It was obvious that Mr. O'Byrne was in skeptical company.

"Why are you here, Mr. O'Byrne?" queried the Watcher.

"To find the immortal that killed my friend," answered Mac. "I'm going 
to kill him."

Cold silence descended over the room at Mac's bald declaration. As 
Buffy, Giles, Willow  and Oz examined him, they were left with no doubt 
that he intended to do just that.

"Now," Mac finally broke the uncomfortable silence, "what's your story?"

"I'm-" Buffy began.

"Buffy..." Giles softly warned her again.

"He needs to know what he's facing, Giles." She turned back to Mac. "I'm 
a Slayer. I hunt  vampires. That's what you saw me fighting tonight. A 
couple of them attacked your friend before  he was killed. I'm sorry."

Mac and Giles stared at Buffy, both incredulous (albeit for different 
reasons). Giles  sagged, imagining what the Watcher Council would do to 
him when this little tid-bit slipped out.

"Vampires," repeated Mac. "You hunt vampires. Buffy  the Vampire 
Slayer."

"Mackenzie O'Byrne  the immortal warrior," she answered back.

Mac cocked an eyebrow at her. Girl had a point. He turned to Giles. 
"Well?" he prompted.

"My name is Rupert Giles. I'm Buffy's Watcher. I try to teach her, train 
her, prepare her for  the demons she faces every night," Giles answered. 
"And, yes, we believe that your friend was  attacked by a pair of 
vampires prior to engaging the other immortal. Perhaps his wounds  
weakened him to the point that he was an easier target. I am sorry," he 
finished.

Mac turned back to Buffy. "How'd you get picked for the job?" he asked.

Giles answered up. "One girl in every generation is chosen-"

"He loves this part," Buffy interrupted in a stage whisper.

"Ahem," responded Giles before continuing. "One girl in every generation 
is chosen to be  the protector of humanity. To be the Slayer," he 
finished.

Mac considered this for a moment. "Why a girl?" he asked. " Wouldn't a 
more  experienced immortal be a better 'choice'?"

Giles paled. "What do you mean? " O'Byrne's suggestion was preposterous. 
"I don't  believe any immortal has ever even discovered the existence of 
vampires. The risk of an immortal  being turned has staggering 
implications!"

"Is that a fact, now?" asked Mac with a grin. "If you truly believe 
that, Mr. Giles, I think I  have some 'staggering' news for you." Mac 
turned back to Buffy. "When did you die?"


Part 4
Scene 1
Sunnydale, Ca.
1414 Palm Way
0015, Friday (Local)

"What... What are you saying?" demanded Giles.

Buffy was shaking her head. No way  NO WAY  was that possible!

"When did you die, Buffy?" Mac asked again.

"Three years ago. I drowned," she said softly.

"She was resuscitated!" Giles almost shouted. "She came back..." he 
trailed off as he  realized what he'd just said.

"Buffy, do you remember, that sensation you felt when we first met in 
the park? You felt it  before that, in the club, too, didn't you?" Mac 
asked gently. Buffy nodded. "That's how we  recognize each other. How we 
prepare."

"Prepare for what? Oh," she answered herself, realizing what he meant. 
"That's why you  charged up to me looking like you wanted to cut my head 
off? You *really* wanted to cut my head  off!"

"It isn't possible!" asserted Giles again. "No immortal has ever-"

"Get over it, old son," Mac cut him off. "Buffy's an immortal."

"And Kendra was called," Giles whispered.

Mac took in how glum the two of them looked. And wondered who the hell 
'Kendra' was.  "Hey, guys, cheer up! It's hardly a death sentence. Finn 
lived for nearly three thousand years, you  know."

"Until someone cut his head off," responded Buffy.

"Leave that bastard to me. You will need to learn a few things, but it 
can wait for now.  You say you hunt vampires  so you're obviously no 
stranger to violence."

"Tell me what I need to know, Mr. O'Byrne," demanded Buffy. "Just let me 
call my Mom  first and let her know where I am."  


Scene 2
Sunnydale, Ca.
1414 Palm Way
0900, Friday (Local)

Buffy looked up from the couch, bleary-eyed. It had been a long night. 
Though initially  reticent, Giles and Mac had been increasingly 
forthcoming as the hours dragged on. Mac's  reaction to the Watchers and 
Buffy's role as the Slayer had been a pleasant surprise. He seemed  to 
like the idea that someone actually gave a damn about fighting evil. 

Giles in turn was fascinated that immortals actually existed. He would 
really like to meet  some more of them  provided Mackenzie's tales were 
true. 'Probably the most accurate account  of history to be found,' he'd 
said.

Mac crouched down in front of her. "How're you feeling, sleepy-head?" he 
asked her with  a grin. "Want some breakfast?"

Buffy groaned. "What time did you two go to sleep?" she asked.

"Sleep?" he demanded. "I'll get all the sleep I need when I'm dead." He 
reached out and  gently brushed the hair out of her eyes. His touch sent 
tingles throughout Buffy. Her eyes  widened.

"You let Giles cook?" she asked.

"No. I'll cook. I've read the collection of greatest British recipes." 
His grin turned into a full  on smile that touched his eyes. "It was a 
pamphlet that read 'Eat someplace else!'"

Buffy couldn't help it. She burst out laughing as Mac went into the 
kitchen to prepare  breakfast. Giles walked into the living room with a 
puzzled expression. "What's so amusing?" he  asked.

Breakfast was omelets, sausage, home-made biscuits, gravy, pancakes and 
juice. Buffy  groaned as she looked at the spread. "Immortals don't have 
to watch their weight?" she asked  with a hopeful expression.

"Breakfast is the most important meal of the day," answered Mac. 
"Especially when in  training. Which you are as of today."

Buffy grimaced as she pictured the last of her free time turn into a 
memory. "But-"

"No 'buts', Buffy. I can't fight other immortals for you. Would that I 
could, but in the years   perhaps *centuries*  to come, you'll 
inevitably face other immortals. They'll be out for your  head. It's 
never too early to learn. It can be too late. Now, eat," he finished.

"How long will you be here?" queried Giles. Buffy displayed obvious 
interest in the  answer to that, causing a swirling sensation in Mac's 
gut.

 "At least long enough to teach Buffy what she needs to know," answered 
Mac vaguely. 

"And then?" Giles persisted.

"I don't know, Rupert."

'Rupert?' thought Buffy.

"And your intentions vis--vis the Hellmouth and its denizens, 
Mackenzie?" asked Giles.

'Mackenzie?' 'Rupert?' What the hell?

"I'm a warrior, Rupert. There's a war here. I don't want to tread on 
Buffy's toes..."  'Please tread!' Buffy thoughts screamed in her mind. 
The longer she was around him, the  more she was liking the older 
immortal. "I could use some help, Mac," she interjected. Buffy  realized 
that he had become 'Mac' in her mind. 'Down girl!' At the sound of that, 
'Rupert' looked rather amused. Mac looked a little bashful.

"There are a lot of people that need my help, Buffy. I break away now 
and then, but..."  Mac's voice petered out. "Let's see what develops." 

'This girl is a broken heart waiting to happen,' thought Mac. His 
relationships tended to be  *very* short term. He'd taken Finn's advice 
seriously  especially where it came to the inherent  fragility of 
relationships for immortals. 'Course, Buffy wasn't mortal. 'No,' he 
thought, 'just on the  expressway to hell.'

Besides, while one might argue that Buffy's *grandmother* was a little 
young for Mac,  there was no arguing that she was, in many ways, *far* 
too young for him. Mac remembered girls  her age being rather flighty, 
anyway.

And Buffy was now his student. 'Don't complicate things, Mac,' he told 
himself.

"Hello! Earth to Mac!" Buffy called out, startling him.

"Sorry," he said sheepishly.  


Scene 3
Sunnydale, Ca.
150 Creek St
1700, Thursday (Local)

Joyce Summers drove Buffy up a street located at the very edge of 
Sunnydale. Very few  people lived out here, Joyce noticed. Buffy had 
needed the ride because of the distance and  Joyce had been happy to 
oblige. She wanted to meet the new 'trainer' that Buffy and Giles had  
recruited.

Their destination was fairly remote. The house was a two-story Georgian 
affair, set well  back from the street and surrounded by a low stone 
wall. A Nissan Pathfinder was parked in the  driveway in front of the 
garage. As they pulled up Joyce saw Buffy cringe.

"Are you all right, honey?" she asked, worried. Buffy looked up, 
suddenly looking much  better. A tall man with broad shoulders and very 
short dark-blonde hair was standing in front of  the car.

"Fine, Mom," her daughter claimed and practically leaped out of the car. 
"Hi, Mac!" she  called out. Mac nodded at Buffy as he studied Joyce.

"Hello, Mrs. Summers," he said in a rich tenor. His voice was pitched 
just a note higher  than Joyce expected. He was also younger and *much* 
better looking than Buffy had suggested.  "I'm Mackenzie O'Byrne."

"Joyce Summers," she answered.

"Which?" he asked. Seeing her puzzled expression he elaborated "Do 
prefer Mrs.   excuse me, *Ms.*  Summers, or Joyce?"

"Joyce. Please, Joyce," she answered.

"Very, well, Joyce. I've a few refreshments out back," he offered. "Not 
much, I'm sorry to  say, but I'm not really moved in yet."

"Oh, I'm fine, thank you," she replied.

"Please. Indulge me. I seldom get a chance to play host."

"Well, okay." The man was charming, she'd give him that. Despite the 
fact that all her  'Mom' alarms were ringing. 'Mac' was a dangerous man 
 good looking, well built, charming...  Pretty much what every mother 
feared.

Mac led the women around to the back of the house he'd bought on a what 
had been a  whim, really. He didn't know how long it would take to find 
Polovsky, so having a base of  operations that was a bit more secure 
than an anonymous hotel struck him as sound. Besides,  real estate was 
almost never a bad investment. In the backyard a picnic table was set 
with chips, dip and an ice chest filled with what proved to  be sodas 
and a bottle of Merlot. Next to the table a *huge* slab of meat was 
skewered on a spit,  suspended over a bed of glowing coals.


 As he gave the meat a slow quarter turn he said to Buffy, "You can 
change inside. We've  got a couple of hours yet."

Buffy groaned. Joyce asked, "What do you intend for this afternoon?"

"I want to evaluate Buffy's level of skills. I'm a believer in basics, 
but given her...job," he  finally decided, "I don't want to waste time 
trying to teach her what she already knows."

"What are you going to teach her?" Buffy's mother persisted. Buffy 
wanted to roll her  eyes, but she was a little curious herself.

Mac considered how to answer that question. Buffy's mother knew that she 
was the  Slayer, but he didn't know if Buffy had shared her most recent 
revelation. He looked at Buffy.

"I wanted to tell her here," Buffy threw in, answering his silent 
question. 'I wanted some  help explaining it,' she shouted with her 
mind.

Mac took a deep breath and looked Joyce square in the face. "I'm going 
to teach her how  to protect herself, Joyce. From people like me. I'm an 
immortal." In nearly forty years, Mac had  never shared that with any 
mortal before. Giles and Buffy's friends didn't count  they'd already  
known, more or less. He did so now, because of Buffy's unique situation. 
He wasn't happy to do  so, but with her in Buffy's life, he'd need her 
trust.

"Immortal," Joyce said simply.

"I was born..." Mac's voice petered out. "My teacher was born in the 
south west of Ireland  almost three thousand years ago. Next to that, 
I'm practically a baby. I was born in 1940. I've  been a warrior since I 
was seventeen." He glanced at Buffy, asking the question with his eyes.  
Almost imperceptibly, she nodded.

"Buffy is one of us. I'm going to teach her what she needs to know to 
survive. Buffy,  please go change." Buffy jumped a little at the sudden 
change in the flow of the conversation.  "You two will want to talk 
later. Let me talk to your mother now."

Once Buffy was inside Mac asked gently, "Does she know she was adopted, 
Joyce?"

Joyce reared back. "How did you know?" she demanded.

"All immortals are foundlings. I haven't told her that yet. She loves 
you a great deal. In  time it'll come out, but I wanted to give you the 
chance to speak first. In your own good time," he  added.

"You've done a great job, Joyce. She's a very special girl because of 
that. It doesn't  matter who gave birth to her. *You* are her mother. 
You loved her, raised her..." Mac's voice  trailed away as Joyce began 
to sob.

"Then why has all this happened to her?" she demanded. Mac moved close 
to the  sobbing woman and gently put his hand on her shoulder.

"Some are touched by the hand of destiny, Joyce. Some for good, some for 
evil. You  made her good. The rest..." Mac gave her arm a gentle 
squeeze. "What mother is ever happy to  learn that her child is one of 
those in destiny's grip?"

Joyce seized on one last desperately shining ray of hope. "But she's 
immortal? Nothing  can harm her?" she pleaded. Mac let go of her arm.

"I wish that were so, Joyce. There is one way to kill an immortal. I'm 
going to teach her  how to prevent that."

"How?" she demanded as Buffy emerged from the house, dressed now in 
sweats and  tennis shoes.

"With this," answered Mac as he held up a sword.  


Scene 4
Sunnydale, Ca.
150 Creek St
2000, Thursday (Local)

Mac and Buffy had spent the better part of two hours pounding on one 
another. Giles had  arrived around six in the evening and he and Joyce 
had been charged with roasting the meat.  Just before eight o'clock Mac 
had called a halt. Despite her natural maternal misgivings about  
watching her daughter abused by a man that outweighed her by a good 
eighty pounds, Joyce  found the ballet of violence fascinating.

And she couldn't help feeling a mother's pride that Buffy had quite 
often seemed to be  giving as good as she got.

As they settled down to eat, Buffy was practically bouncing up and down 
with excitement.  That was *fun*!

Mac seemed as calm and unperturbed as ever. What did it take to get a 
rise out of that  guy? Buffy would have blushed had she known the 
answer. Only two things ever really excited  Mac: battle and sex. Buffy 
definitely excited him, he was just really good at not showing it.

As the evening progressed, Mac answered all of Joyce's questions, 
carefully steering her  away from topics that he figured would upset 
her. The Game was not discussed and by the time  Joyce and Buffy stood 
to go, Joyce was still blissfully ignorant of that and what it entailed.

Joyce had, in fact, decided two things: She really liked Mac; and Mac 
and Buffy *really*  liked each other. As the two women walked out to 
Joyce's car, she steered Mac away from Buffy  for a moment.

"Tell me something, Mac."

"Sure Joyce."

"You're not under a curse or anything are you? I mean, there's nothing 
going to send your  soul to Hell and leave a demon in your place is 
there?" she asked.

"Mom!" screeched Buffy, outraged.

Mac was clearly puzzled. "Send me to-?"

"Never mind, Mac," called Buffy. "See you tomorrow!"

As the women drove away, Mac turned to Giles. "Send my soul too Hell? 
Demon? What's  she talking about, Rupert?"

Giles pursed is lips as he carefully considered how to answer his 
question. "I think Joyce  is simply worried about Buffy, Mackenzie."

"You don't say?" Mac responded with dripping sarcasm. "Why do I feel 
that she wasn't  asking an idle question? *Give*, Rupert."

"Let's have a drink, Mackenzie."

Late into the night Rupert and Mac got progressively more inebriated as 
they talked  about Angel.


Part 5
Scene 1
Sunnydale, Ca.
150 Creek St
1600, Friday (Local)

Buffy hitched a ride with Oz and Willow out to Mac's place, arriving to 
find it bustling with  strangers. Painters were moving out as furniture 
delivery men were moving in. She felt Mac's  presence  as promised, the 
shock of that was wearing off  but didn't see him. 

"Buffy," he called. She looked up to see him leaning out a second floor 
window. As she  waved to him the 'buzz' faded immediately. Freaky!

"Hello, Buffy," said Giles, appearing from out of nowhere.

"Giles! Where'd you come from? What are you doing here?" asked Buffy.

"Partly helping Mackenzie learn the town. Partly shopping. For 
furniture. Odds and ends,  mostly."

Giles? Shopping for *furniture*? Buffy groaned. She should've skipped 
classes at college  and helped Mac. No telling what the geezers had 
bought. Youthful appearance or not  the  immortal was older than one of 
Buffy's grandparents. She was a little hurt that she hadn't been  asked.

"I think you'll find that Mackenzie has exceptional taste. Most of this 
just arrived from  Quebec," Giles responded to Buffy's unspoken 
complaint. He turned and led the Slayer and her  friends around to the 
back of the house where they found Mac arguing with someone on the  
phone. In French.

"How'd he get a phone *in one day*?" wondered Willow.

"I've found that Mackenzie can be quite persuasive," said Giles by way 
of answer. Mac  finally disconnected, but immediately punched in another 
long string of numbers, placing another  long distance call. He nodded 
at Buffy and her friends.

Whoever he was calling picked up, and Mac launched into a conversation 
in German.

Buffy sighed. How was she supposed to be mysterious and appealing to a 
man that  spoke at least three languages *and* could talk the phone 
company into an almost instantaneous  hook-up?

She looked around the backyard and noticed that a large, square pit had 
been installed  and filled with sand. A few feet away from that an area 
had been parceled off with stakes for  additional renovation.

"Cool. A sandbox," observed Oz.

"Training pit," corrected Giles.

A pair of heavy punching bags had been hung from a nearby tree. One of 
the bags hung  over the 'training pit', the other over the marked out 
section of grass. Mac finished his second call  and wandered over.

"Hello," he said offering his hand to Oz.

They shook hands and Oz said "Hey." Mac turned to Willow.

"Hello, Willow," he greeted her.

"Hi, yourself," she answered.

The last of the movers brought over some paperwork for Mac to sign and 
left. The group  of them stood and looked at each other. "Why don't you 
get changed, Buffy?" suggested Mac.  "We'll go for a run." Buffy looked 
at him for a moment.

"Nice to see you too, Mac," she answered sardonically. Mac looked at her 
for a second,  then walked over too her, bent down and bussed her cheek 
with a soft kiss.

"Hi, Buffy," he said as she felt the blush crawl up her cheeks. "Why 
don't you get  changed. We'll go for a run."

Buffy stared at the older immortal for a beat. Then she turned and 
dashed inside. Willow  took all this in and darted after her friend.

"That's one approach I never considered," Giles said behind them.

Willow nearly crashed into Buffy, who'd come to a halt in the living 
room. Willow saw why.  The living room was tastefully  almost 
*exquisitely*  decorated. Queen Anne style furniture,  Persian rugs, 
Mahogany tables  and a couple of paintings from Joyce's gallery!

"He's got taste, too," said Buffy softly. It was hard to believe that it 
was the same house  she'd been in just the day before.

And she'd thought that *maybe* she had a shot. Right! *Not*!

"I think he likes you, Buffy," said Willow. "What a catch! You go, 
girlfriend!" she cheered.

"Right, Willow. Like I have anything to offer a guy like this," she 
moaned. She whirled on  her best friend. "He speaks French! And German! 
And who knows what other languages. He's  been at schools like *Oxford* 
since before I was born! Me-" she broke off, struggling for control.  
"What have *I* done?"  

Mac watched Buffy disappear into the house. Jesus! He couldn't remember 
the last time  he'd been as entranced by a woman. Maybe it wasn't her 
beauty so much as her courage. If  Rupert hadn't been pulling his leg, 
Buffy had fought and defeated things that made his  nightmares seem like 
amusement park rides in comparison.

Well, tonight he'd see.

After what seemed like an awfully long time, the girls came back out. 
Buffy and Mac  stretched out and took off at a brisk pace. Mac hadn't 
run in days and it felt good. After a couple  of miles, he began 
engaging her in conversation. He asked her about her life, about what 
she  was studying at college and about her interests in general.

After about an hour they jogged back up his driveway, both of them 
winded. Giles had  made tea.

As they sipped at their tea, Mac asked Buffy about her plans for the 
evening.

"I'd planned on a quick patrol, then maybe hitting the Bronze. Why?"

"How do you feel about some company?"

Buffy turned to look him full in the face. "Company? You mean like a 
date?"

"Well I had in mind seeing some of what you deal with." His face 
hardened. "And trolling  for an immortal." His expression cleared. "If 
you think we can work a date in there, too... I'm  game," he finished 
with a grin.

Buffy grinned back.  


Scene 2
Sunnydale, Ca.
Sunnydale Cemetery
2100, Friday (Local)

Buffy sat on a tombstone in the Sunnydale cemetery and looked across at 
Mac. He was  dressed in loose jeans, combat boots and a turtleneck. He'd 
taken off his duster and sat upon it,  revealing a *way* under legal 
length shotgun in a shoulder rig. Leaning against the tombstone  was his 
sword, a Japanese Katana. He was turning one of her stakes over and over 
in his hands,  focusing on it intently.

"Penny," she said.

He slowly looked up at her. "Excuse me?"

"Penny," she said again. "As in 'a penny for your thoughts.'"

"Oh." He considered her question for a moment. "I was trying to come up 
with some  design to increase the lethality of this," he said, holding 
the stake aloft. 'Take the risk,' he told  himself.

"Also, I was trying not to think about how beautiful you are."

Buffy froze. "Is it hard?" she asked.

"What?!"

She blushed a deep crimson. "I meant-" Breathe, girl, breathe! "Is it 
*difficult* not to think  about that?"

"You have no idea."

"Oh." Wanna bet? "Good," she replied with quiet satisfaction.

"Is it generally this quiet? Rupert made this area sound like a Grand 
Central Station for  vampires," He said. 'Did she say "Good"?'

'Does he really want to talk about *vampires*?' she wondered.

"Sometimes. We could check out the Bronze. If you want," Buffy 
suggested.

Mac was all too aware that what he really wanted had nothing to do with 
public places.  'Course he really wanted to kill something, too. Since 
nothing was presenting itself in the killing  department, Buffy's 
suggestion sounded pretty good.

"Let's go," he said.

As they neared his truck, the vampires struck. Three of them. Buffy's 
reaction was  instantaneous. In seconds she had staked one vampire, 
turning it into a cloud of dust, grabbed  the second and whirled it over 
her head and smashed it head first down on the ground. The  sickening 
crunch would have signaled the demise of a mortal, severe inconvenience 
to an  immortal. The vampire flew right back to its feet.

'Sturdy bastards,' Mac thought. The third vampire hurtled at Buffy from 
behind as she  lunged at number two, driving a stake through its heart.

Vampire three was just reaching Buffy. She whipped around as the vampire 
came to a  sudden stop with the flat of O'Byrne's blade pressed against 
its throat. Mac estimated that four  seconds had elapsed since the 
beginning of the attack. He cocked his head at Buffy.

"May I? I need to conduct an experiment," Mac asked, leaving the choice 
clearly with her  in obvious respect of her ability.

"You're not really supposed to play with your food, you know," she 
teased. The vampire  hissed and tried to slip around the blade. It was 
fast. Mac was faster.

He seized the beast by the scruff of its neck and hurtled it against the 
side of the truck.  He did it again. And again. Then his blade whirled 
in a high arc and cut off the vampires right arm.  With cat-like grace 
he danced around the beast. His sword whipped through the air and its 
other  arm fell. He seized the beast by its left stump, picked it clean 
up in the air and smashed it against  the ground.

He set the edge of his blade against the vampires neck.

"The lady and I were discussing matters. Be still," he ordered. "Buffy?"

Buffy couldn't help herself. Her jaw was hanging open. She had never 
*ever* seen  anything like that. No vampire moved with the easy power 
and grace that Mac displayed.

Giles had a point about the danger.

Xander had a point about the potential.

Of course, unless she left the Hellmouth, the danger was there with or 
without the  presence of other immortals. And she could use some help. 
Potential won.

"Don't take too long, 'kay? I really want to party a little."

"Yes, dear," answered Mac. He focused his full attention to on the 
vampire. "One chance.  Defeat me." 

'Some chance,' thought Buffy. 'He *is* playing with is food!' Then she 
thought '*Dear*?'

Mac spent about five minutes pounding upon and thrusting his sword into 
the vampire.  Suddenly he whirled his blade and beheaded it. It dusted 
immediately.

"What was that all about?" asked Buffy. "*Dear*," she added.

Mac smiled at her. "I told you. I was experimenting. I know what kills 
them, but I needed  to know what *hurts*. Now I know." He brushed her 
face with his fingertips. "You want to change  before we go out?"  


Scene 3
Sunnydale, Ca.
Sunnydale Fairgrounds
2030, Saturday (Local)

Mac surveyed the fairgrounds where Finn had died. He'd felt compelled to 
return here.  How badly he wanted to get his hands on the bastard that 
had killed his friend. No one knew  where he was. No matter. Mac would 
find him.

Tonight. Tomorrow. Next week. Next year. Next *century*  Mac would find 
the bastard  who had killed Finn. Buffy approached behind him and laid a 
hand on his back.

"Do you want to talk about it?" she asked. Not demanded  *asked*.

"Yes," he answered. He looked at her companions: Xander, Willow and Oz. 
"Later. To  you."

Buffy smiled. Then she wrapped her arms around him and held on tight.

After a few seconds they broke apart. "All right, Buffy. It's your show. 
Where to?"  

The Slayerettes separated into two groups. Buffy, Willow and Oz in one 
group, Mac and  Xander in the other. Much as she wanted to stay with 
Mac, Buffy decided that if the group was  going to split up  and cover 
more ground  each set should have an immortal. She had the  experience, 
but Mac was a warrior. Mac had admonished Buffy to remember that if she 
came  across another immortal, she get her friends and herself to holy 
ground and call him. He'd given  her a sword (they'd driven into L.A. 
that morning for just that purpose), but if the immortal that had  taken 
Finn was still around...

Besides, Mac had a prior claim on the bastard. It was beginning to sink 
into Buffy that  Mac really had a jones for the guy.

After about four hours Mac's group had found only one vampire. This time 
Mac didn't  play. He and Xander spent a lot of time discussing 
immortality and immortals Mac had known.

Buffy, Oz and Willow found two pairs about an hour apart. Four more dead 
vampires.  Lots of discussion about one immortal.

At twelve-thirty Buffy pulled out her cell phone and called Mac.

"Hey, sweetie, lets close up shop," she said.

Willow mouthed 'Sweetie?' at her and Buffy grinned.

"All right," Mac responded. "Let's meet back at the truck."

The gang met up at Mac's truck and piled in. He dropped Willow, Oz and 
Xander at each  of their homes. After dropping off the last of the 
Slayerettes, Mac turned to Buffy, leaned over and  kissed her softly.

They sat back from one another.

"I've wanted to do that since about an hour after we met," he said.

"What did you want to do the first hour?" Buffy asked. Mac just looked 
at her. "Oh, yeah.  Forgot."

"You want me to take you home?" he asked.

"What's option number two?"

"Go park. Talk. Maybe take a walk."

Buffy pulled out her cell phone and dialed her mother. "Mom? I'm gonna 
be later than I  thought. Yeah, I'm with Mac." She blushed. "Mom!

"Yeah, I'll be home in a while.

"Love you to. Bye." Buffy put away the phone, leaned over and kissed Mac 
deeply. After  a long moment she pulled back and whispered "Option two."  


Scene 4
Sunnydale, Ca.
Skyview Dr ('The Point')
0100, Sunday (Local)

Mac followed Buffy's directions to 'The Point' and parked the truck. As 
soon as he set the  parking brake, the two immortals were in each 
other's arms. Several *very* hot minutes later they  broke away from one 
another.

"Whoa!" said Buffy.

"Yeah," agreed Mac. They smiled at each other.

A fist smashed down through the roof of the Pathfinder. Mac and Buffy 
rolled out each  side of the truck, she clutching a wooden stake in her 
hand. Mac came up wielding his Katana.

They saw immediately that they were surrounded by about ten of the 
beasts. 'When out- numbered, *attack!*' Finn's voice ordered in Mac's 
mind. With a blood-curdling scream, he waded  into the enemy.

Buffy staked one vampire, kicked a second in the face and twirled to 
stake a third. She  leaped into the air, somersaulted and landed on the 
ground straddling blood-sucker number two.  Without hesitation she drove 
her stake down through its heart. Buffy rolled to her feet and risked  a 
glance in Mac's direction.

Vampire limbs were flying through the air, turning to dust before their 
various trajectories  could take them to the ground. Mac's Katana was a 
whirling fan of destruction, hacking and  slicing into his enemies.

'Cool,' thought Buffy. Of the ten attackers, suddenly only three were 
left. They turned to  flee, but Mac lunged a dozen feet and beheaded two 
of the three with a single swipe of his blade.

"Hey," cried Buffy. "Quit hogging all the fun!" she teased. Mac stared 
after the retreating  vampire for a beat and turned to Buffy with a 
sarcastic grin.

"Last one's all yours," he said.

Buffy charged after the fleeing beast, leaped into the air and seemed to 
fly for a second  or two. Her trajectory took her right into the beast. 
She staked it through its back on impact, the  two of them falling 
toward the ground. The vampire turned to dust as she rolled forward, 
head  over heels, and finished on her feet.

Buffy turned to see Mac quietly applauding. "*Cool*," he said with a 
grin. "I can honestly  say I've never seen anything like that before."

"Is that sarcasm?" she demanded, embarrassed. "Is this sarcasm I'm 
hearing?"

Mac strode down the hill toward her. "No, sweetheart. Admiration." With 
that, Mac  stepped forward and grabbed Buffy, pulling her into a tight 
clinch. They kissed deeply. For a  moment, the world stood still for the 
two of them.  

Mac dropped Buffy off at home. As she went inside, she turned to watch 
him drive away.  For the first time since her night with Angel, Buffy 
was content. Mac was a pretty amazing guy.  *And he liked her*. A lot.

No doubt about it, Buffy was falling for him. She walked into her house 
grinning goofily.  Joyce was sitting on the couch, waiting for her.

"Buffy? Are you all right?" Joyce asked, worried. She knew what had 
happened with  Angel  and what the consequences had been.

"I'm great, Mom," answered Buffy happily.

"Did anything...happen?" Joyce asked.

"Some vampires attacked Mac and me. No biggie. We dusted 'em."

Joyce blinked. Buffy sounded rather cavalier about the attack. Like it 
really *was* no big  deal. "How many?" she asked.

"Ten, I think. Mom, you should have *seen* Mac. Taking him on is, like, 
*major* vampire  suicide. He dusted *six* of them in about three 
seconds. I had to jump him about being greedy!"

Joyce knew she should have been happy to hear that Buffy's new ally was 
so effective,  but all she could think about was how dangerous the 
immortal obviously was. Her daughter was  obviously taken with him  a 
man older than Joyce's *own* mother  and Buffy was still shy of  
twenty!

Buffy cut into her thoughts. "I was thinking... We should have Mac over 
for dinner," she  said.

"Okay," agreed Joyce. She certainly wasn't amiss to getting to know 
Buffy's new interest  better. A *lot* better. "When?"

"How about tomorrow?"

"All right. Just the three of us? Or do you want to invite the whole 
gang?"

"Just us," decided Buffy. She was aware that her mother was a bit 
skeptical about Mac,  and she was resolved to change that.  


Part 6
Scene 1
Sunnydale, Ca.
1240 Riverside Dr
1600, Sunday (Local)

Mac pulled into the Summers' driveway, parked, grabbed a bottle of wine 
and walked up  to the front door. Buffy had sensed his presence and 
opened the door as he approached. She  greeted him with a kiss on his 
cheek.

"C'mon in," she said. He followed her into the house and was greeted by 
her mother.

"Hello, Joyce. How are you today?" he greeted her. Joyce noted that 
Buffy moved up  next to him and wrapped her arm around his waist as he 
slung an arm over her shoulder.  "Fine, thank you," she answered. "I 
hope you brought your appetite with you, Mac."

"Most certainly," Mac affirmed.

Dinner went well. Joyce and Buffy  mostly Buffy  enjoyed playing up 
the part hostess to  their guest. Mac entertained them with stories of 
his days at Oxford and his time as an actor in  London. As the afternoon 
turned into early evening, Joyce decided that there was something she  
really wanted to know.

"Mac? What was it like for you?" she asked. "Learning you were an 
immortal, I mean."

Mac got a far away look in his eyes. "Hard," he finally answered. "I'd 
figured out that I  was different a couple of years before Finn found 
me." Mac took a sip of his wine. I was in Algeria  in 1960. I'd just 
celebrated my twentieth birthday..."  

Flashback

Mi'on Talgar, Algeria

26 September, 1960


Legionnaire O'Byrne was point man on patrol. The night had been quiet 
despite the  reports of rebel activity in the area. Suddenly the wind 
shifted and O'Byrne caught the smell of  sweat and goat cheese.

He dived down to the ground just as a line of rifle fire erupted from 
the left. As he rolled to  his feet, scrambling for the cover of a 
nearby boulder, an Algerian rebel popped up in front of him  and let 
loose a long stream of fire from a sub-machine gun. The series of 
bullets took O'Byrne full  in his chest, hurling him backwards as the 
world went dark.

O'Byrne came awake with a start. The sun was creeping over the horizon 
as flies crawled  over the drying blood of his tattered uniform blouse. 
Cautiously, he rolled over and got to he feet.  Before him laid his 
entire section  all dead. O'Byrne fingered his blouse in wonder.   
Present day

"My god!" exclaimed Joyce. "What did you do?"

"Well," answered Mac, "I got rid of the shirt and walked back to base to 
report the loss of  the patrol. It took me three days to make it back. I 
was almost delirious from heat and thirst.

"I spent most of the next year hunting an killing rebels. I was wounded 
from time-to-time,  but I always healed in minutes. No matter how 
serious the fight, I always came through, if not  *unscathed*, exactly, 
at least not visibly wounded. My fellow legionnaires called me 'Reaper' 
 I  always produced enemy casualties and never seemed to suffer so much 
as a scratch.

"It really was doing a number on my head. I didn't really believe in 
God, but I *had* been  raised by nuns. Made me start to question 
everything. I mean 'Why me?', you know?"

Buffy and Joyce both nodded at that. Buffy had spent four years 
wondering 'Why me?'

"I didn't learn about immortality and other immortals for almost eight 
years. I was  captured by an immortal in Viet Nam in '68. He couldn't 
seem to decide how to get rid of me,  cause he couldn't risk a 
Quickening in front of his troops.

"Finally he ordered me sent north to a POW camp. On the way there I 
managed to  escape, but it was still another month before I made it back 
to friendly forces. I volunteered for  another two tours hoping to find 
that other immortal. I finally gave up and got out of the army in  early 
'71." Mac shot Joyce a look. "You remember what the country was like 
then?"

Joyce nodded, saddened by the memory of how so many of her peers had 
treated the  returning veterans.

"Well, I took one look around and jetted to Paris. Finn found me that 
November..."  

Flashback

Paris, France

18 November, 1971


O'Byrne was walking up the left bank, enjoying the unseasonably warm 
day, when he felt  it  the 'buzz'. He hadn't felt it in three years  
and only from Major Quan Li. He stopped and  turned in circles. The buzz 
in his head faded immediately as a stranger approached him.

The stranger stood just a little over five feet tall, had reddish-brown 
hair and appeared to  be in his mid-thirties. O'Byrne wondered what his 
fellow freak would try to pull with all the  witnesses surrounding them. 
In a moment, the two men stood a few feet apart and studied each  other.

"Well," the stranger finally spoke. "Should we have a drink or find a 
private place to try an'  kill one another?" he asked in a soft Irish 
burr. "Personally, I'd prefer the drink."  

Present day

"That was Finn?" asked Buffy.

Mac nodded. "Yeah, that was Finn. We sat and talked over bread, cheese 
and wine for  about three hours. Didn't take him long to figure out that 
I was new to the Game."

"Game?" asked Joyce. Buffy tensed.

"It's how we refer to our lives as immortals, Joyce," responded Mac, not 
quite lying. "Finn  and I were friends from the start. We spent most of 
ten years together, traveling around.

"We'd each go our own way, now and again. Never for more than a few 
months, though.  Finally in, oh, I guess it was sometime in '80, I 
decided I wanted an education. The kind you get  from books. I'd always 
liked England, so I settled there for a few years. Didn't see Finn for 
nearly  five years."

"Why not?" asked Buffy.

"Well... Finn had figured by then that he'd taught me all he could and 
he never really  cared for the British. Besides, he had an 'old friend' 
in Poland he wanted to see...

"Sometimes even the fastest friends have divergent interests they want 
to pursue. Finn  and I were at that point. In a lot of ways he was a 
father to me. There comes a time when the son  needs to strike out on 
his own. Don't get me wrong  we stayed close. Corresponded regularly.  
After my time in England, we usually saw each other a couple of times a 
year. Once e-mail  started getting big, we wrote weekly  sometimes 
daily. 

"That's how I knew he was here. Finn sent me an e-mail letting me know 
that he'd found  a bastard that he'd been hunting for a couple of 
hundred years. I presume they'd agreed to meet  at the fairgrounds. 
Either that or Finn let himself get 'tagged' and followed there. I can't 
think of  any other reason that Polovsky would've been out there. If not 
for those damn vampires, Finn  would probably still be alive."

Mac fixed his gaze on Buffy. "I've more reason to help you than you 
realize, Buffy.  Vampires essentially murdered my father.

"Now... I'm going to exterminate them."  

At a little after ten o'clock, Mac realized it was getting late and 
excused himself. As he got  up to leave, Joyce came to him and embraced 
him warmly.

"I'm sorry for your loss, Mac," she said. "But I can't help being glad 
you're here." The  evening had settled things for Joyce. Mackenzie 
O'Byrne was without a doubt the most  dangerous human being she'd ever 
laid eyes upon, true  but he struck her as an honorable man  
nonetheless. If her suspicions were right about Buffy and Mac's emerging 
feelings for one  another... 'Well,' Joyce decided. 'What will be, will 
be.'

Buffy walked Mac out to his truck, noting the repair job to its roof. As 
she kissed him  goodnight and felt the warmth of his embrace seep 
through her, she said "That went pretty well.  Its always risky bringing 
your new boyfriend by for the first time."

Mac considered that for a moment. "Setting aside, for a moment, that 
your mother had  already met me, Buffy, consider *my* position: I'm 
*definitely* the older man trying to make a  favorable impression here." 
He kissed her again. "Come by around four tomorrow. We'll start on  
fencing." Buffy grinned. "*After* we run," he finished as Buffy's 
expression wilted into a grimace.

Mac winked at her and patted her on the fanny before turning out of her 
arms and getting  into his truck to go home.

Buffy could almost still feel the warmth of his hand on her butt as she 
walked back inside  smiling.  


Scene 2
Sunnydale, Ca.
1265 2nd St
2100, Monday (Local)

Buffy and Willow walked the dark streets discussing the men in their 
lives  Mac and Oz   giggling almost incessantly. Willow's parents had 
never quite accepted Oz, so she was a bit  envious of Joyce's approval 
of Mac.

A scream from a nearby alley caused them to break into a flat out run. 
Entering the alley  revealed a young girl being attacked by three 
vampires. Giving a loud screeching yell, Buffy  charged at them and 
leaped. The Slayer somersaulted through the air, landing on the far side 
of  the beasts and facing them with her new sword. As she hacked away at 
them, the girl they'd been  attacking charged Willow and pasted her in 
the face with a fist. Willow flew back and hit the  ground, dazed. The 
'victim' then picked her up, tossed her over her back and disappeared 
down a  manhole.

Buffy finally finished the last of the three 'attackers' and looked up 
to see Willow missing.  Panicked, Buffy searched frantically for her 
friend. Noticing the dislodged manhole cover a few  feet away, 
everything clicked. Setup.

Buffy raced to the sewer entrance and jumped down in the hole. Landing 
nimbly with her  sword poised in a defensive position, Buffy looked 
around. No Willow. She pulled out her cell  phone and dialed Mac.

"Hello?" he answered.

"They've got Willow!" Buffy announced.

"Buffy? Who's got Willow?" Next to Mac, Xander's head whipped around. 
The two of  them had been enjoying a quiet patrol, discussing an idea 
Mac had for the systematic  extermination of every vampire in the 
vicinity of the Hellmouth. Despite his own lingering feelings  for Buffy 
 and a concurrent mild jealousy regarding Mac  Xander was practically 
in awe of the  immortal and was glad that they'd teamed up for patrol 
again. Mac didn't treat him like a kid. In  fact, he treated him like a 
partner.

"Vampires! They set a trap. The *victim* snatched Willow and disappeared 
into a sewer  entrance on Pine street," Buffy explained quickly. "Get 
over here! I'm going in." Buffy hit the  disconnect, shoved the phone in 
her pocket, pulled out a flashlight and set out in pursuit of her  
friend.  

"Buffy, no! Wait for me-" Mac shut up as realized he was talking to 
himself. "Shit!"

Xander opened his mouth to ask what was going on, but Mac cut him off. 
"Pine street.  Now!"

"This way," said Xander, setting off at a dead run.

As they ran, Mac cursed silently. He was worried about Buffy. As an 
immortal  not to  mention an experienced Slayer  she'd be hard to 
kill.

Hard, yes. But impossible? No.  


Scene 3
Sunnydale, Ca.
Sunnydale sewer system
2200, Monday (Local)

As Buffy raced through the sewers she could here Willow's cries in the 
distance. Inside  her chest, she could feel her heart wrench. 'God, 
please protect her,' she prayed silently.

She made turn after turn and always she could just hear Willow's voice 
out ahead of her  somewhere. Periodically she came to an intersection or 
branching and she would have to pause.  Breathing as quietly as she 
could, she'd listen for Willow's voice to guide her. Then there would  
be a scream revealing Willow's direction and she'd set off again.

Buffy knew that every delay was lessening the chance that she'd catch up 
in time to save  her friend. She ran as fast as she could, careless of 
noise.

She came to another branch. Left or right? 'C'mon, Willow!' she pleaded 
silently. Finally,  not hearing anything, Buffy screamed "Willow!"

"No," said a hissing voice behind her. "*Not *Willow."  

Mac and Xander quickly spotted the open sewage entrance. Mac paused at 
the gaping  hole and shed his duster, handing to Xander along with his 
keys. Xander started shaking his  head.

"Don't argue, son!" ordered the immortal. "I'll find them. I'm a lot 
harder to kill than you  are. Get my truck. Phone's in the pocket of my 
coat. If Buffy calls *pick her up*! Meanwhile, call  Rupert and brief 
him. Go, now!" With that, Mac disappeared down the entrance.

Xander stood there for a moment, feeling useless. Then he put on the 
immortal's coat  and raced off to the Pathfinder, pulling out the cell 
phone and calling Giles on the way.

Mac looked around the dark hole. He was silent. Veteran of countless 
night stalks going  back forty years, Mac became one with the dark. Then 
he heard Buffy's voice scream "Willow!"  from somewhere in the distance. 
Vectoring in on the sound of her voice, the Reaper raced off.  

Buffy had no room to maneuver. She battled the beasts of Hell with a 
deepening rage,  but she was outnumbered. The weight of the vampires' 
numbers proved too great. In less than a  minute she was pinned down. 
Six vampires held her in their grasp and carried her through the  sewers 
as she struggled to break their grip.

Finally, Buffy sagged, conserving her strength. She hoped that they took 
her to Willow.  She prayed her friend was still human.

After a short while, she was carried up into an underground room. 
'Basement,' she  decided. Willow was at the far end of the room. A 
vampire held her, his hand wrapped around her  throat.

"If you even *appear* to resist," it said, "I'll rip out her throat."

Buffy was carried to an incline bench press and strapped down tightly. 
"Who the hell are  *you*?" she asked.

"My name is Lamar. Tonight I'll feast on the blood of a Slayer!"  

The Reaper slid through the tunnels. Long years of discipline forced him 
to be calm. 'The  warrior carries no emotion into battle,' counseled 

Finn's voice in his head. 'The warrior is death.  Calm. Cold. Without 
emotion.'

With every silent step, Mac's burgeoning love for Buffy sank farther 
from the sight of his  heart. With every yard traveled, Mackenzie 
O'Byrne was submerging beneath the specter of  death.

In the Legion O'Byrne, Mac had been called "C'est la mort"  the Bringer 
of Death. In  Special Forces, where he'd tallied more than 100 
*confirmed* kills, his fellow troopers called him  "The Reaper". Those 
sobriquets had been well earned. Death stalked the sewers this night.

Vampires beware.  

Buffy desperately searched for a way out. "If you hurt her, Lamar, I 
won't settle for  *killing* you," Buffy promised. God, she wished she'd 
waited for Mac! Between the two of them...  Still, Buffy knew in her 
heart that if she *had* waited, Willow might well be dead already.

Mac would come  she had to believe that. She needed to stall

"Tell me something, Lamar. Why is it that all you guys are so 
*completely* lacking any  fashion sense?" Buffy asked. "I mean, get 
real! That shirt came and went *years* ago!"  

Reaper found a pair of vampires wandering through the dark, laughing 
about some child  they'd just had for dinner. His sword flashed through 
three fast, brutal strokes. One vampire  filtered to the ground as a 
cloud of dust. The other opened its mouth to shriek in rage and pain at  
the loss of its arms.

Reaper's hand reached out and seized its throat, hoisting the vampire 
into the air. In a  voice like two boulders rubbing together, he hissed 
"*Where is the Slayer?*"  

"Time to feast!" announced Lamar. He tossed Willow  hard  against a 
nearby wall and  began walking toward Buffy. Buffy grimaced as she felt 
the 'buzz' of an approaching immortal.  'Hurry, Mac!'

"I may have some bad news for, fang boy," she taunted.  

Using the mutilated vampire as a guide, the Reaper was speeding through 
the sewer. As  soon as he felt the telltale sensation announcing the 
presence of another immortal, Mac staked  his captive through the back. 
Without hesitation, he charged through the dust of his victim, ready  
for battle. Thirsting for blood.  

'C'mon, Mac. Hurry!' Buffy's mind screamed as Lamar loomed over her. As 
if in answer to  her silent cry, a vampire suddenly sailed through the 
air Buffy's from right to left and crashed  against the wall. Spinning 
like a mad whirling dervish, slicing limbs from vampires as he went,  
Mac thundered into the room. In the space of a heartbeat, he was by her 
side, his sword  extended over her body with the edge against Lamar's 
throat.

In a cheerful voice he asked, "Is this a private party, or can anyone 
come?"

Lamar nearly levitated back and away from Mac's blade. "Who in the name 
of hell are  you?" the vampire demanded. Mac grinned.

"Don't you recognize me?" Mac growled. Then he roared "*I'm the bloody-
fucking Grim  Reaper!*" Mac suddenly turned to Buffy, slashing her 
restraints with his sword. He spun back to  face the vampires, sword 
flying from his hand as he whipped around. The flying blade skewered  
Lamar, the force of the blow picking the blood sucking fiend up and 
carrying him through the air.  With a resounding *thunk!* His was pinned 
to the wall.

Buffy ripped the remaining vestiges of her restraints away and charged 
the vampires that  surrounded them. Mac literally tore vampires limb 
from limb. Terrifyingly he was absolutely silent  during his rampage.

Buffy smashed a chair to pieces by the simple expedient of whacking it 
against a  vampire. Grabbing a broken chair leg, she set to staking 
vampires as Mac threw their torn bodies  at her. At on point she saw a 
vampire fix itself to the older immortal's back and bite down into his  
throat. As Buffy whipped her arm back to hurl a stake at it, Mac 
gathered himself and thrust back  through the air to smash into a wall.

He spun around and grabbed the dislodged vampire with both hands. With a 
growl he  tore its head off its body. Buffy was stunned. Mac's strength 
was incredible! Sensing a shadow,  she turned and staked another 
vampire.

And then it was over. The only remaining vampire was Lamar, still pinned 
to the wall by  Mac's Katana. Buffy started to approach him, but Mac 
stopped her.

"He'll keep. See to Willow," he instructed. Buffy hurried to her friend. 
Gently she tried to  rouse her. Finally, Willow stirred and moaned.

"Buffy?" she asked. "What happened?"

"Take it easy, Willow," Buffy told her. "We'll have you out of here in a 
minute." Buffy  turned to look at Mac. The wound at his neck had already 
stopped bleeding. He was staring at  Lamar.

"Does it hurt?" he asked politely. The vampire moaned. "Good," Mac said 
simply. He  looked over at Buffy. "Do you want the honors?" he asked 
her.

Buffy looked back down at Willow. "Finish him, Mac. Willow's hurt."

The Reaper gazed calmly at the creature he'd pinned to the wall like a 
blood-sucking  butterfly. "This is actually a lucky day for you, 
jackass," he said. "Sometimes I play with my food.  Right now, I don't 
have time." With that, the immortal grasped the hilt of his sword and 
jerked it  out of the beast. As it fell to the ground, Mac whirled the 
blade up in the air and, with one smooth  down stroke, beheaded it.  

Buffy moved the sewage grate out of the way and turned to help Mac lift 
Willow through  the hole. Once they were all outside, she replaced it 
and turned to Mac. He held Willow cradled in  his arms.

Carrying the semi-conscious girl, he led Buffy across the street. "Call 
my cell," he  instructed. "Xander has it and my truck."

Buffy reached in her pocket, pulled out her phone and quickly called 
Xander. In minutes  he pulled up, Giles in the truck with him. Under the 
light of a street lamp, Mac was examining  Willow.

"Possible skull fracture," he announced. "Definitely concussed. Broken 
shoulder, too, I  think," he finished. He stood with the injured girl 
cradled in his arms and gently set her in the back  seat of the 
Pathfinder. Buffy climbed in the other side. "Hospital," Mac ordered 
Xander.  


Scene 4
Sunnydale, Ca.
Our Lady of the Light Hospital
0215, Tuesday (Local)

Buffy was sitting in the ER waiting room, leaning up against Mac when 
Willow's parents  arrived. Mac explained to them about the 'mugging'. 
After a while, the ER doctor came out and  pulled Willow's parents 
aside. Mac's diagnosis had been dead on. Hair-line fracture to her  
cranium, concussion, broken shoulder.

"But," the doctor hastily added, "her friends got her here quickly. 
We'll want to keep her  for a day or two, but the prognosis is good."

Mr. And Mrs. Rosenberg held each other tight as they deflated in relief. 
Buffy was feeling  pretty low. Her best friend had almost died because 
of her. When Mr. Rosenberg thanked Mac  profusely for saving his 
daughter from the 'muggers', Buffy wanted to sink through the floor. 
They  were right  if not for Mac's intervention, Willow and she would 
both be dead.

The police came and took their report. Mac gave them a reasonably 
detailed  if entirely  fabricated  description of five boys wearing 
Halloween masks and wielding baseball bats.

"If you ask me," Mac amended, "they were all higher all higher 'n a kite 
on drugs. It was  sheer luck that they ran off when I showed up. Else 
there'd be *three* of us needing a doctor."

The medical personnel absolutely forbade any visitors that night, so 
Giles gave Xander a  ride home and Mac took Buffy to hers. Buffy was 
extremely quiet during the ride to her house.  When they pulled into the 
driveway, Mac turned to her,

"Buffy-" he began.

"*I know!*" she cried. "It was my fault! She shouldn't have been there! 
I should have  waited for you," she sobbed.

Mac considered that for a moment. "Buffy," he said gently, "do you 
really think you could  have kept her away? Mortals are fragile, yes, 
but they aren't children. Willow's young, but old  enough to make her 
own choices.

"And you were right not to wait. If you hadn't followed, the vampires' 
trap would have  been pointless and she'd be dead. Or worse." Buffy 
looked at him through her tears. "Listen,  Buffy," he continued. "Do you 
have any idea how many *mortal* friends I've buried? Men that  were 
killed in countless theaters of combat. I've grieved for every one of 
them. I'd have traded my  life to save many.

"Life doesn't work like that. For us or for them. You're fighting a war, 
sweetheart. How  many other *mortals* would be dead if not for your 
friends? Despite your best efforts?"

Buffy stared at him for a long beat. Then she was in his arms, crying.

After a while, they got out of the truck and walked inside. Joyce was 
waiting.

"Oh, Buffy," she said and gathered her daughter in her arms. "Willow?" 
she asked.

"She'll pull through," reported Mac. "She's young and strong."

After a while, Joyce and Buffy went up to bed. Mac accepted Joyce's 
offer of the couch  for the night. As he laid there waiting to drift off 
to sleep, Mac considered how to eliminate the  threat the vampires 
posed. They were going to need help, he decided. Maybe the war couldn't 
be  won, but Mac was a veteran of countless campaigns. He didn't doubt 
that they could win a major  battle. Tomorrow, he decided, he was 
calling the cavalry.  


Part 7
Scene 1
Sunnydale, Ca.
1240 Riverside Dr
0630, Tuesday (Local)

Mac woke to the smell of brewing coffee. He rolled up off of the 
Summers' couch and  padded quietly into the kitchen. Buffy's mother was 
bent over, examining the contents of her  refrigerator.

"Good morning," he said, startling Joyce.

"Damn it, Mac!" she scolded. "Don't do that!"

"Sorry," he apologized. "Where's Buffy?"

"Still asleep. I was going to make some breakfast. Are you hungry?"

"Famished," replied the immortal. "Can I help?"

Joyce shook her head. "You could roust my daughter, though. She has a 
class at ten."

Mac nodded agreement and headed out of the kitchen. When he reached the 
entrance to  the living room he paused and turned back to look at Joyce.

"Upstairs. First door on the left," she answered his unspoken question. 
Mac nodded  again and went in search of Buffy's boudoir. 

When he got to her door, he paused and knocked softly. Not hearing a 
response, he  opened the door and stepped inside. Buffy was twisted up 
in her sheets, clutching a pillow in her  arms. Mac just stood and drank 
in the sight of her for several minutes. With a start, Mac shook  
himself free and walked over to the sleeping woman. He sat on the edge 
of her bed and reached  out to brush a few stray hairs from her face. 
Then he put a hand to her shoulder and gently shook  her.

"Buffy," he called. With a jolt, Buffy woke up. She stared at Mac for a 
moment with eyes  wide. Suddenly she smiled. "Good morning," Mac greeted 
her.

"Morning," she replied. "What time is it?"

"Closing on seven. Joyce is making breakfast, and you've got class, so 
up and at 'em."  Mac grinned wickedly. "We've got time for a short run." 
Buffy groaned and shut her eyes. Mac  started to get up and leave. Buffy 
lunged up from behind and wrapped her arms around him.

"Just a second, mister," she ordered him. "I think you forgot 
something!" Mac turned in  her arms and Buffy gave him a soft peck on 
his lips. She nuzzled his neck for a second, then  shoved him in the 
direction of the door. Mac left and she reached for her sweats.  

Mac and Buffy ran a little under four miles at a hard pace, returning to 
find breakfast  waiting. Joyce kissed Buffy on top of her head as her 
daughter sat to eat. "You two get to handle  the dishes. I have to get 
to work," she announced, and departed.

As Buffy and Mac cleaned up from breakfast, Buffy studied Mac. "Mac," 
she asked, "what  do you do for a living?"

"Well... I've got some investments. When I went to Oxford, Finn gave me 
million pounds  sterling to get started." Buffy's eyes widened. "Then, 
in the mid eighties, I... *acquired*, you might  say, a pretty good 
chunk of change from some drug monkeys that weren't going to need it  
anymore." An evil grin touched Mac's face at the memory of his days in 
Reagan's 'War on Drugs'.  "Once Apple, and, later, Microsoft started 
getting big, I invested pretty heavily. Every now and  then, I convert 
some of it into gems, precious metals, real estate...

"Anyway, I'm 'comfortable'," he finished.

Buffy stared at him. "How 'comfortable'?" she asked.

"I guess I'm worth around twenty-five million or so."

Buffy was stunned. Twenty-five *million*? No wonder Mac could drop 
everything and race  across the breadth of a continent on a moment's 
notice! After a moment's consideration, she  decided that that wasn't 
fair  she didn't doubt that having money made it easier, but neither 
did  she doubt that Mac would've found a way to come for his friend even 
if he'd been penniless.

"Just for the record," she stated, "I want you to remember that I was 
falling for you  *before* I found out you were rich."

"So noted," he acknowledged with a smile. They leaned into each other 
and shared a  brief kiss. Then Buffy darted out of the kitchen. "I need 
to get ready for school," she called over  her shoulder as she departed.  


Scene 2
Sunnydale, Ca.
150 Creek St
1400, Tuesday (Local)

Mac spent the day productively. It was time  *past* time  to start 
making phone calls.

"Connor, Mackenzie O'Byrne. I need some help...

"Ceirdwin, how are you...

"Jim, boy! Are you bored by any chance?

"Morning, Colonel. Its Mac...  

By two o'clock, Mac had reached out and touched some of the most 
experienced warriors  he'd ever met. Six additional men and women were 
enroute to the Hellmouth. Within the week,  the most dangerous strike 
team he'd seen since the heyday of Viet Nam would have assembled.  With 
the Slayer to guide them, Mac and his fellow immortals would clean 
house.

Then he'd be free to conduct a more thorough search for that bastard 
Polovsky. Mac  wouldn't rest until he'd avenged his mentor. No matter 
how long it took.

Once he finished his calls, Mac went out back and started mixing and 
pouring concrete.  When the forms set, he'd have two side by side 
training areas  the 'sandbox' as Oz called it, and  a concrete slab. 
Between that and the grass covering the rest of the rather substantial 
backyard,  Mac believed he'd have a proper training area. He was 
committed to getting Buffy fully trained as  quickly as possible,

Aside from his own desire to hunt down Polovsky  who was likely 
slipping farther away  each day  there was the ever-present risk that 
Buffy would be challenged by a far more  experienced immortal.

Mac's plans for the young immortal didn't include avenging her death.  

At four-thirty, Mac decided it was time to head to the hospital and 
check up on Willow.  Arriving just a few minutes shy of five, he sensed 
an immortal's presence as he approached the  door to Willow's room. 
Surprising him not at all, Buffy slipped out from her friend's hospital 
room  and met Mac in the hallway.

She smiled as she walked up to embrace him. Without a word, the two 
immortals held  each other close. Eventually, Buffy broke the clutch, 
slipped her arm through Mac's and led him in  to see Willow. Oz and the 
Rosenbergs were keeping her company. At his entrance, Willow's  mother 
immediately walked over to Mac.

"Mr. O'Byrne? I never properly thanked you last night." The woman stood 
up on her toes,  leaned in and kissed Mac on the cheek. "Thank you, 
sir," the woman sobbed. Her husband  walked over and asked to shake 
Mac's hand. The Rosenberg patriarch had tears in his eyes.

"Your welcome. I'm just glad they spooked so easily-" Mac started.

"Buffy has told us that you attacked the men *bare handed*," interrupted 
Rosenberg. Mac  shot Buffy an accusing look. "I thank you for your 
bravery."

Mac was speechless. He couldn't remember anyone ever *thanking* him for 
committing  an act of violence. Ever. His mind drifted back to his army 
days. Coming back from the 'Nam,  people of the Rosenberg's generation 
had *spit* on him. It was the memory of those days that  had largely 
kept him out of the U.S. for almost thirty years. Mac said little during 
his visit. He didn't really know Willow all that well and wasn't sure 
what to  say to her. Additionally, the Rosenberg's enthusiastic greeting 
had sort of taken the wind out of  his sails. Eventually, Oz came over 
and led him from the room. Mac wasn't sure what to make of  the younger 
man. Giles had told Mac that the kid was a *werewolf*, of all things! 
Life had certainly gotten much more interesting in the last couple of 
weeks. Oz took the immortal to a nearby waiting room and turned to face 
him. "Buffy told me what  happened," he said. "I owe you big man." With 
that, Oz offered his hand. The two men clasped  hands. "I have to leave. 
It's almost dusk," Oz stated, and turned to go. "Oz," Mac called. 
"Rupert explained your...condition. Come see me tomorrow, if you like. I 
think  we can come up with a better arrangement than what you have now," 
he offered. Oz grinned at him. "I may take you up on that," he said. 
"Thanks." With that, Oz left. Mac looked up at Buffy's approach. "That 
was nice of you, Mac," she said. The two of them looked at each other. 
"Hungry?" asked  Buffy. Mac nodded an affirmative. Buffy stepped to his 
side and slipped her arm through his  again. "Well, then, let's get 
something to eat." The two of left the hospital in pursuit of supper.  


Scene 3
Sunnydale, Ca.
150 Creek St
1800, Wednesday (Local)

Mac locked the door to Oz's cage, securing the young lycanthrope within. 
It was a sturdy  piece of work. Mac and Oz had spent several hours 
putting it together. Mac had forked over  nearly ten thousand dollars 
getting the components earlier that afternoon, and then he and Oz  had 
transported the pieces to Mac's house in Oz's van.

Mac had promised that he'd make some additional modifications before the 
next full  moon. When Oz had started to protest the expense, Mac had 
pointed out that it was better all  around if Oz had a secure bolthole. 
Besides, he'd pointed out, having a cage capable of holding a  werewolf 
posed all sorts of possibilities for future operations.

Mac intended to have a pointy-toothed guest in the near future, and 
wanted a place to  keep it between interrogation sessions.

Once the door was secured, Buffy asked Oz "Will you be comfortable?" Oz 
grinned in  reply as Mac straddled a chair. Buffy turned to look at him 
with a question written on her face.

"If our friend here doesn't mind, I want to observe for a while," he 
explained. "I need to  make certain that this cage will prove 
sufficient."

"That makes sense," Buffy agreed. "Giles should be here soon. I'll go 
upstairs to let him  in."

"Thanks, honey," responded Mac. Buffy felt a warm rush. Mac looked a 
little startled  himself. She decided he'd surprised himself with that 
remark.

Buffy kissed him on top of his head and went upstairs. Within a few 
minutes, the phone  rang and the doorbell chimed simultaneously. She 
grabbed up the phone as she walked to the  door.

"Hello?" she answered as she opened the door and found Giles on the 
front porch.

"*Buffy? Its Mom*," responded Joyce's voice. Buffy gestured for Giles to 
enter.

"Hi, Mom. Hold on a sec," she said and covered the phone with her free 
hand. "Mac's  downstairs with Oz," she told the Watcher. "Make yourself 
at home," she instructed. Removing  her hand from where she'd covered 
the phone, Buffy returned her attention to her mother.

"What's up?"


 Giles headed down the stairs to Mac's basement, quietly chuckling to 
himself as he  shook his head. Buffy seemed to have made *herself* at 
home. Considering what he'd learned  about Mac over the last couple of 
weeks, Giles was both comforted and worried.

Comforted because of the older immortal's skills and his eagerness to 
teach Buffy all she  needed to know. The man obviously cared deeply for 
her.

And that was what troubled Giles. What Mackenzie had told the Watcher 
about himself  painted the picture of a highly skilled and very 
experienced warrior. Buffy's report on Mac's  rescue of her and Willow 
had easily meshed with what Giles had begun to suspect about the  
immortal.

Mackenzie O'Byrne was almost a force of nature. A *destructive* force of 
nature that  tended to leave piles of corpses in his wake.

Additionally, the immortal had admitted a tendency to drift in and out 
of casual  relationships with a remarkable frequency. Giles didn't think 
Buffy was a casual affair for him,  but... Well, if she was, then she 
stood to be hurt. After what had happened with Angel, Giles didn't  know 
how well she would be able to handle that.

If she wasn't... Well, that wasn't really any improvement. Mackenzie had 
made no secret  of the fact that he was dead set on avenging the death 
of his mentor. To Giles, that meant that he  determinedly risking his 
head. If he died, *Buffy* would certainly be out for vengeance  and  
facing an immortal that had proven capable of killing seasoned warriors.

A fierce howl shook Giles out of his reverie as he descended the stairs.  

"What's up?" Buffy asked her mother.

"*I figured I'd know where to find you*," Joyce teased. "*I was just 
wondering if I should  plan on having dinner alone tonight?*"

Buffy bit her lip and considered things for a second. "Well, Giles is 
here. I think he and  Mac were planning to discuss stodgy, geezer-type 
stuff after Mac and I patrol. I'll get one of them  to run me home 
before that," she finished.

"*Is that a 'no' for dinner?*" persisted Joyce.

"That's a 'no', Mom," confirmed Buffy. "I'll be home around nine or so."

She and Joyce said their good-byes and Buffy hung up the phone. 
Afterward, the young  woman sat and considered what her mother had 
*really* been calling about.

Mom liked Mac, and that was helping as she struggled to accept that her 
daughter was  taking tentative steps into the adult world. Still, Joyce 
was worried about her daughter and *was*  struggling with it. Buffy 
wondered why she didn't feel resentful.

'Maybe I'm growing up,' she thought.  

Joyce replaced the phone, sat down at the kitchen table and cried. Her 
little girl had  become a young woman who was rapidly falling in love 
with a grown man. Where had the years  gone? How much longer until Buffy 
moved out and began a life all her own? Joyce wouldn't really  have been 
surprised if Buffy had announced that she *wasn't* coming home that 
night.

Joyce hoped that there would still be room in her daughter's life for 
Mom. On further  consideration, Joyce decided that what *really* scared 
her about Mac was the possibility that he'd  leave and Buffy would 
follow. Intellectually, Joyce knew that Buffy was pretty much tied to  
Sunnydale because of the Hellmouth. Yet, *emotionally*, Joyce was 
confronted by the certainty  that her daughter was slipping away.

She cried for a long time.  


Scene 4
Sunnydale, Ca.
1630 Rabello Dr
2300, Wednesday (Local)

Buffy walked into her house and found Joyce waiting for her.

"Hi, Mom," she said. Then she noticed her mother's face. "What's wrong, 
Mom? Why are  you crying?"

Joyce gave Buffy a bleary smile. "There's something I need to tell you, 
honey," Joyce  said. "You better sit down."

Buffy was filled with a sudden sense of dread as she moved farther into 
the room and sat  on the couch next to her mother. "What is it, Mom?" 
she asked softly.

Joyce took a deep breath. "I don't know how else to say this, honey...

"Say *what*, Mom?" Buffy demanded.

"I never wanted you to know...that you were adopted." Joyce forced out. 
Buffy reared  back. "You've always, *always*, been my daughter, Buffy," 
Joyce said in a rush. "You have no  idea how proud I am of you. It has 
*never* mattered to me  or to your father  that I didn't give  birth 
to you.

"You're my daughter and I love you," she finished.

Buffy was in shock. "Why are you telling me this *now*?" she demanded. 
"What's  changed? What's happened?"

"Mac *knew* you were adopted," Joyce explained. "He told me that all 
immortals are  foundlings. *No one* knows where they  you  come from."

"Mac *knew*?!" Buffy exploded. 'Why didn't he tell me?' she wondered. 
'Oh, *Mac*...'

"He told me that you'd find out eventually, but he wanted to give me a 
chance to tell you  myself," Joyce answered Buffy's unspoken question.

The two women sat and looked at each other for a long time.

Finally, Joyce broke the silence. "I love you, Buffy. I hope you believe 
that. I hope you  can forgive me."

Buffy stared at Joyce. "Forgive you? For what, Mom? For *being* my Mom?"

Suddenly they were holding each other. They cried together for a long 
time that night,  and held on to each other as if they'd never let go.  


Part 8
Scene 1
Sunnydale, Ca.
150 Creek St
1500, Thursday (Local)

As Mac pulled into his driveway, he simultaneously sensed and saw Buffy 
sitting on his  porch. He hopped out of the Pathfinder and walked over 
to her as she stood up to meet him.

"How'd you get here?" he asked, looking around to confirm that there 
weren't any other  cars around.

Buffy rolled her eyes. "'Hi, honey,'" she corrected him. "'How was your 
day?' *Then* you  ask how I got here."

"Hi, honey," he responded cheerfully. "How was your day?"

Buffy stood up on her toes and leaned forward to kiss him. "*Better*," 
she said. "And fine,  incidentally. *Now* you can ask how I got here."

"How'd you get here?" Mac repeated.

"Oz dropped me off. He'll be back in a couple of hours," she informed 
him. "We need to  talk." Mac groaned. "The four most frightening words 
in the English language," he said, "are 'We need  to talk'. Guaranteed 
to strike fear into the heart of the most intrepid warrior." Buffy 
giggled. "C'mon, handsome," she ordered. "Let's go inside." Mac unlocked 
the door and stood aside to let her pass inside. Buffy led him into the 
living room  and sat him down on a sofa. She scooted up close to him and 
took his hand in hers as she stared  into his eyes. "Last night Mom told 
me that I was adopted," she said simply. Mac nodded. He was glad Joyce  
had gotten that out of the way. Mac had always believed that 
relationships needed to be built on  trust. Trust grew from truth. 
"And?" he prompted. Buffy leaned over and kissed him. "We're cool. It 
was a bit of a shock, but she's still my Mom."  Mac nodded again. 
"Anyway," Buffy continued, "I'm glad you let *her* tell me. I don't know 
how I'd  of taken it if I'd found out from you...or *Giles*," she 
suggested pointedly. She'd picked up on the  fact that Giles probably 
learned about that from Mac  her honey had told her Watcher everything  
he knew about immortality. They sat together quietly for a while. "So," 
Mac finally prompted, breaking the silence. "Where are we?" "*We're* 
really wishing that Oz wasn't gonna be here in less than an hour," Buffy 
said playfully. "Tease," Mac accused, causing Buffy to giggle again.   
With Oz secured for the night, and Xander watching over him, Buffy and 
Mac practiced kata with  and without weapons for several hours. When the 
pair of them resembled a pair of well-used  pincushions, Mac finally 
called a halt. "Let's clean up and head out," he suggested. Within an 
hour they were parking the truck and  setting out on patrol. They moved 
quietly, comfortable with the silence and alert for the presence  of the 
undead.  "Some friends of mine will be arriving over the next couple of 
days," he broke the silence. "Oh?" she prompted. "*Old* friends?" 
"Yeah," he replied. "We need some help, Buffy. You've been fighting a 
holding action for years,"  Mac explained. "You haven't lost much 
ground, but the numbers are against you. Even with the  both of us, how 
many mortals will die because we can't be everywhere at once?" Buffy 
considered that. How many people had died because she couldn't save 
them? How many  friends had she lost? Just a few days ago, Willow had 
almost died. "What's the plan?" she asked, agreeing. "I've only got a 
general sketch in my head for the moment," he demurred. "Once the troops 
get  here, we'll all put our heads together. The people I've got coming 
 six of us, by the way  are all  experienced warriors. But *you're* 
the only one of us with serious practical experience dealing  with these 
things." Hearing that, Buffy was torn between glumly acknowledging that 
she had all too *much*  experience with Hell's creatures and warmth that 
Mac valued that experience  and, by  extension, valued Buffy. She moved 
closer to him and slipped her arm around his waist. Mac's  arm moved up 
around her shoulder and held her close. Buffy couldn't help feeling that 
the tide  was about to turn on the forces of evil. "You know," she 
teased, "for a guy born *well* before the advent of political 
correctness, you're a  pretty swell guy." "I'm a pretty *practical* 
guy," he corrected her. "I don't understand how this whole 'Chosen One'  
thing works, but I *do* understand that you're already a formidable 
warrior with extensive  experience in this theater of combat." They 
patrolled another hour, exchanging only occasional comments. Each of the 
immortals was  learning from the way the other moved: Buffy saw Mac 
repeatedly fade into the shadows. She  watched as he'd fall behind her, 
turn and walk backwards from time to time  'pulling drag' he  called 
it. She loved watching him walk. Mac moved with the lithe grace of a 
dancer. Meanwhile, Mac was taking extensive mental notes on the way 
Buffy searched out vampires.  Most of their occasional conversation 
concerned her instruction on spotting how the beasts  moved as she clued 
him in on the subtle differences between humans and demon-possessed  
corpses. Decades of experience caused the older immortal to be an 
attentive student. At ten they decided to call it a night. Buffy had 
some homework to do for freshman English and  Mac needed to relieve 
Xander from watching Oz so the other young man could get home. As they 
approached Mac's truck, three punks stepped out of a shadowed alley and 
confronted  them. Mac shot Buffy a look and she shook her head, 
confirming his assessment. The punks  were trash, but they were human. 
The kid in the middle flicked open a knife as he stepped forward and 
opened his mouth to make  his demands. Whatever he was going to say 
remained a mystery. Without any hesitation at all, Mac attacked the 
would-be muggers. Taking two steps forward, the  immortal leaped into 
the air and thundered into the boy with the blade. A double kick planted 
both  of Mac's extended feet square in the boy's chest. The veteran 
landed nimbly on his feet,  crouched down low, braced his weight on both 
hands and spun through a horizontal axis to  sweep a second punk's legs 
out from under him. Completing the spin, Mac whirled to his feet, took 
one short step and drove the flattened palm of  his hand into third 
boy's chest. A sharp crack announced broken ribs as the boy flew back  
through the air and thudded into a nearby wall. The immortal stepped to 
the rear and spun to the  left as he raised his leg. A quick thrust 
drove his foot down into the chest of his previous  opponent. Mac 
centered himself and strode over to the first of the boys.  Mac bent 
over, grabbed the boy, hoisted him up into the air and smashed him 
headfirst into a  nearby wall. Eleven seconds after beginning his 
attack, the immortal was standing over three  fallen opponents. He 
prodded the punk who'd held the knife with his toe. "I don't want to 
talk about this again," he told the boy. Then he turned and walked back 
to Buffy.  Halfway back to her, he noticed the look on her face and 
stopped. "What?" he asked. Buffy rolled her eyes. "Should I call the 
hospital or the morgue?" she asked. Mac was confused. He honestly didn't 
understand her complaint. His first thought was that she  was pissed at 
him for being overly protective of her  not that he had intended to be. 
His  response had been instinctive  'When confronted, *attack*' was a 
rule he'd had pounded into  him for decades. Yet her question suggested 
that she simply thought he'd over reacted. It occurred to Mac that, in 
many ways, and despite her experience in dealing with the  supernatural, 
Buffy was frighteningly innocent when it came to civilization's dark 
underbelly. Not  her fault, really  lots of Americans were stupid in 
that way. "They were going to attack us, Buffy," he pointed out. "So you 
dropped a nuke on them?" she replied scornfully. Mac decided that Buffy 
was *seriously*  pissed. "They had it coming, honey. If one want's to 
dance, one must be prepared to pay the piper.  Besides, I didn't hurt 
them that badly." "How do you *know*?" she demanded. "Experience," the 
veteran responded curtly. "You could have killed them by accident, Mac," 
Buffy maintained. That brought him up short. "I have *never* killed 
*anything* by '*accident*'," he replied coldly. Buffy stepped back as if 
he'd slapped her. Then walked around him to check on his victims. Mac  
felt himself getting angrier by the second. *She didn't believe him*? On 
the verge of ripping her  head off, Mac forced himself to find his 
center. He didn't submerge beneath the cold blackness  that lurked in 
his soul, but he did reach out and stroke it softly. In moments he was 
calm. He turned to watch Buffy as she examined the fallen youths. He 
decided  quite consciously  to  admire her apparent reverence for 
life. Mac knew that growing up without a family and years of  savage 
warfare had pretty much stripped his empathy away. If he wanted Buffy  
and he was  honest enough to acknowledge that he did  he was going to 
have to be worthy of her. In another moment he swallowed his pride and 
walked over to ask her if she wanted to take them  to the hospital.  


Scene 2
Sunnydale, Ca.
1630 Rabello Dr
2330, Thursday (Local)

Buffy walked into her house and greeted her mother. Joyce picked up 
immediately that  something was wrong. She tensed up. Even knowing that 
her daughter was immortal didn't  relieve her maternal concern for 
Buffy's well being.

"What happened, honey?" she asked.

"Oh, Mac and I had our first lover's quarrel, that's all," Buffy said 
dismissively. Joyce  considered that for a long moment.

"Is this a 'talk to Mom' kind of thing?" she asked hopefully. Now that 
Buffy knew she'd  been adopted, Joyce feared being cut out of her life.

"Well, I suppose I shouldn't have been so angry with him," Buffy said, 
unknowingly  reassuring her mother. She came over and flopped down on 
the couch next to Joyce.

"What'd Mac do?" asked Joyce.

"Patrol was pretty quiet, and we decided to call it quits around ten. 
We'd just got back to  his truck when we were mugged." Joyce's eyes 
widened on hearing that. Her mouth dropped  open in shock as Buffy went 
on, pretty much oblivious to her mother's reaction. "I didn't even get  
a chance to suggest to these three boys that they were making a big 
mistake. Hell, the *muggers*  didn't even get a chance to *mug* us!

"They'd no sooner walked up and this one kid pulled a switch-blade, than 
Mac heard the  bugler sound 'Charge!' and tore into them! Mom, I swear 
it couldn't have taken more than a few  seconds for him to take those 
kids out. And he took them down *hard*! I made him take them to  the 
hospital and drop them at the emergency room  every one of those guys 
had broken bones."

"I guess they're lucky to still be breathing," suggested Joyce. She 
winced in empathy for  those kids and made her twenty-third mental note 
that Mackenzie O'Byrne was a dangerous man.

"That's what I said!" exclaimed Buffy, vigorously nodding her head in 
agreement. "And  *that* ticked Mac off to no end. 'I have *never* killed 
*anything* by '*accident*'," she mimicked her  boyfriend.

Joyce couldn't help herself. She started to laugh. In a second, Buffy, 
too, started to  chuckle. "It wasn't funny at the time," she asserted. 
In a minute Joyce got control of herself well enough to ask, "So you 
guys had a big fight?" "Not really," returned Buffy. "After I chewed him 
out, he kind of sulked for a second. But then he  loaded the kids in the 
truck and took 'em to the hospital. It was kind of a quiet ride back 
here,  though," she admitted. "Oh, Buffy," Joyce empathized as she 
stroked her daughter's hair.  


Scene 3
Sunnydale, Ca.
150 Creek St
0100, Friday (Local)

Mac walked downstairs and checked on Oz. The werewolf had apparently 
worn itself out   it was snoring noisily in the far corner of the cage.

He'd given Xander a lift home and taken his time driving back, thinking 
about the  unexpected turn of events that the night had brought. He knew 
he was putting up with crap from  Buffy that he'd never tolerated from 
any other woman. He cursed himself for a fool. Almost sixty  years old 
and he finally falls in love! A *girl* who was still shy of her 
twentieth birthday had  brought the perpetual bachelor down low.

'Oh, the shame!' he thought to himself and chuckled softly as he turned 
and left the  lycanthrope to its slumber.

The real kicker, he decided, wasn't that he was in love with a woman he 
hadn't even slept  with. No, the real shock was that he didn't really 
mind having fallen in love! Sure, he'd felt  passionately about various 
women in his youth, but the general experience called 'love' had left  
him determined to avoid it in the future. Women were useful from time-
to-time, he'd decided, but  only complete idiots allowed themselves to 
be swept away on love's wings.

'"Love's wings?"' he thought to himself. 'Christ, Mac, but you've got it 
bad, don't you?'

The ring of his telephone startled him. He quickly strode into the 
living room and  snatched it up. "Hello?" he answered.

"Mac? Its Buffy."

"Hey, sweetie. What's up?" Jesus! Just the sound of her voice caused his 
gut to start  doing hula-hoops around his ass.

Mac might have been reassured to know that Buffy was experiencing a 
similar situation  (albeit, she would've phrased it less graphically).

"Nothing much," she replied. "I just wanted you to know that I wasn't... 
I mean, I didn't  want...

"Ah, damn! I just wanted to talk to before I went to sleep, I guess," 
she finished. "I'm sorry  about, you know, earlier. I shouldn't have 
jumped all over you like that."

Mac grinned. "Its okay, honey," he said. "It's not your fault. I guess 
that maybe I shocked  you. I still love you."

Buffy was silent for a long moment. "Still?" she finally asked

Mac was suddenly soaked with a cold sweat. "Uh, yeah. Didn't I mention 
that?" 'Well,' he  thought, '*that* was suave.'

"No, you didn't. I think I'd've remembered," Buffy teased.

"Well..." Mac had no idea what to say. "Good night, Buffy."

"Mac?" her voice called as he moved his thumb to disconnect the phone. 
He stopped and  forced himself to put the phone back to his ear.

"Yes?"

"You probably should remember to tell a girl how feel *before* you 
remind her about it."  There was what sounded suspiciously like a smile 
in Buffy's voice. "That's what's commonly  called a '*hint*', by the 
way."

Mac gave in. "I love you, Buffy. Sleep well." Again Mac prepared to 
disconnect the  phone.

"Mac?" her voice called him to the phone again.

"Yeah, honey?"

"I love you, too," Buffy said softly and promptly hung up the phone.

As Mac finally managed to put the phone down, he found that he was 
soaked with sweat.  Curiously, his stomach was *still* conducting its 
acrobatics demonstration. And, strangest of all,  there was a warm 
sensation seeping through his chest.  

Buffy practically slammed her phone down. She lay back on her bed with a 
silly grin on  her face. She remembered that she'd once told her first 
Watcher, Merrick, that her plans were to  marry Christian Slater and 
die. Dying was apparently no longer an immediate concern. As for the  
subject of her schoolgirl crush... Well, *he'd* waited too long to show 
up and sweep her off her  feet. Instead of doing the sensible thing, 
that unfortunate gentleman had missed his chance.

Mackenzie O'Byrne had beaten him to the prize.  


Scene 4
Sunnydale, Ca.
Frontage Rd
0130, Friday (Local)

Jan Polovsky sat in his car considering the peculiar twists his life had 
taken of late. Next  to him sat the scanner that had allowed him to 
listen in on the younger immortal's declarations of  mutual affection 
with his woman. Polovsky sneered. To his mind, love was for poets.

O'Byrne certainly hadn't wasted any time getting here. Polovsky had 
figured that some of  Mac Cuhill's students might put in an appearance 
and had waited in the event that some might do  just that. He was 
confident that with the power the ancient immortal's Quickening had 
given him  he could take any that came.

Yet O'Byrne wasn't hunting for him! Instead he'd allied himself with the 
girl on the phone  in order to hunt *vampires*. Polovsky still couldn't 
quite believe that such creatures existed even  after witnessing the 
attack against Mac Cuhill. He wondered when O'Byrne intended to resume  
the hunt for him? Certainly not immediately. Polovsky had tapped into 
the calls the younger  immortal had made to summon assistance for his 
quest.

He'd deal with the vampires first. After that, he'd probably stay in the 
vicinity if the  conversation with the girl was any indication. Polovsky 
had time. For now he'd fade away.

As Polovsky drove north out of Sunnydale toward L.A., he decided he'd 
return in a few  weeks. O'Byrne had a hell of reputation  the young 
immortal had defeated an extraordinary  number of immortals in the last 
few decades. Polovsky decided he'd need an edge, just to be  safe. The 
girl would be the key. Take her and the lovesick young pup would be at 
Polovsky's  mercy.

And Polovsky would have his head.  


Part 9
Scene 1
Sunnydale, Ca.
150 Creek St
1500, Friday (Local)

As he worked the heavy bag slung over the sandbox, Mac sensed the 
approach of an  immortal. Padding out of the training pit, he picked up 
his Katana and waited patiently, centering  himself. Gathering his 
*chi*, Finn had always called it. In a moment he relaxed as the voice of 
an  old friend called out.

"Mackenzie! Where are you, you damn drunken Irishman?"

Mac grinned and walked around the side of the house. Waiting for him was 
a slight,  nearly bald man wearing an expensive, well-cut suit and an 
exquisite navy blue Armani overcoat.  Seeing him, the visiting immortal 
smiled.

"Hello, Colonel. Its good to see you again," announced Mac. He strode 
over to the man  with his hand outstretched in greeting. The two 
warriors clasped their hands firmly. "Thank you for  coming, sir."

"You said you needed help," explained the older man simply. "Is Finn 
about?"

"Finn is dead," Mac calmly answered. It was getting easier to say, even 
if his heart turned  to ice at the thought of his fallen friend.

"Dead?" repeated his visitor. "How? When?"

"Couple of weeks ago. He found that bastard Polovsky. It's why I'm here 
 and the  reason I've called you," added Mac.

"I don't understand. You didn't invite me her so I could watch you take 
his head, did you?"  Jean-Paul Deblout suddenly wasn't certain that it 
had been a good idea to answer the younger  man's summons. Mac knew the 
rules, he couldn't possibly expect help fighting Polovsky. Deblout  
wondered if Mac expected to lose. Did he want the Colonel to avenge him?

"Your not going to believe me when I tell you what's going on in this 
town, Colonel. I  mean, you *really* won't believe me," Mac grinned.

Deblout was still curious about Mac Cuhill's killer. "And what about 
Polovsky?" he asked.

Mac's eyes grew very cold. "I don't know where that shit is, Colonel. I 
don't know how  long it'll take me to find him. Finn searched for two 
hundred years. I *do* know what's happening  in this quiet little town. 
So, *this* first.

"Then I deal with Polovsky," he finished

'God help Polovsky,' Deblout mused to himself. He knew full well that 
Mackenzie was a  viscously vindictive son-of-a-bitch. Polovsky just 
might take a long time dying. "So," he asked,  "what *are* we here for?"

Mac gave him a bemused grin. "Vampires," he answered.

"Vampires?" repeated Deblout incredulously.

"Vampires," affirmed Mac. "I told you that you wouldn't believe me."

"You were right. I'm failing to see the humor in this. I came a very 
long way at your  request, Mackenzie," asserted Deblout coldly.

"I do appreciate that, sir. Look, I know you don't believe me  *yet*  
but tonight I'm going  to show you." Mac suddenly remembered his 
manners. "I'm sorry, Colonel, I should have asked  right off  how's 
Marie?" He hadn't seen the Colonel's adopted daughter in almost two 
years.

"Quite well, thank you. She sends her love," responded Deblout.

"Please come inside," invited Mac. "I'll make tea."  

When Giles and Buffy arrived at Mac's house in Giles aged car, Buffy saw 
an extremely  beautiful woman striding across the path between Mac's 
door and driveway. The taxi that had  brought her drove off, freeing 
space in Mac's drive for Giles to park. Feeling an immortal's  presence, 
Buffy naturally assumed it was Mac.

With a sinking feeling, she realized it was the woman turning to face 
her. Buffy noted  quickly that the new arrival was wearing a long coat 
that would easily conceal a sword. Buffy  began backing toward Giles as 
Mac's door flew open and he bounded out on to the lawn.

"Ceirdwin!" he called happily. The woman had been eyeing Buffy warily, 
but spun to Mac  and embraced him warmly.

"Ceirdwin?" echoed Giles softly. "I don't believe it! Buffy, Mackenzie 
told me that that  woman fought Caesar's Legions in ancient Britain!" 
Mac had told Giles a little about the company  he was expecting.

"She's holding up well for her age," observed Buffy sardonically. Giles 
gave her an  amused look as Mac walked Ceirdwin over to them. Buffy 
plastered a smile to her face. The smile  became much more genuine as 
Mac abandoned the older woman to move next to Buffy and give  her a 
kiss.

"Hi, honey. Rupert," he greeted the Watcher with a nod. "Meet Ceirdwin. 
Ceirdwin,  Rupert Giles. And this," he added as he placed his arm over 
Buffy's shoulder, "is Buffy  Summers." Buffy wrapped an arm around Mac's 
waist, subtly staking her claim.

Ceirdwin smiled at Buffy as she picked up on the younger woman's body 
language.  "Pleased to meet you both," she responded as another immortal 
joined them. Ceirdwin turned to  the new arrival. "Jean-Paul!" she 
squealed as her smile's wattage kicked up a couple thousand  times. 
Stepping over to Deblout, Ceirdwin offered the Colonel her hand. Their 
handshake quickly  became a warm embrace.

"Ceirdwin! My god, what's it been? Twenty years? Where is Paul?"

Ceirdwin winced. "Paul's gone. Four year ago," she responded. Buffy 
picked up on the  pain in the woman's voice and her heart gave a 
sympathetic tug.

"He was so young!" protested Deblout. "What happened?"

"He was killed in Paris. Murdered for the forty Francs in his wallet," 
the woman answered  bitterly.

Deblout was outraged. His jaw set, he asked, "Did you find them?"

Buffy chilled at the expression on Ceirdwin's face. "All but one. Duncan 
Macleod  convinced me to spare him."

At the mention of Macleod's name, Deblout stiffened. "Macleod, eh? I 
believe I've met the  man. Marie was savaged some time ago," he 
explained bitterly. "Macleod was visiting the boy's  family and gave 
them aid. We nearly killed each other."

"If Duncan helped them, he had good reason, Jean-Paul," Ceirdwin 
defended her old  friend  and occasional lover.

After a moment Deblout nodded in agreement. "Yes, he did."

Mac chose that moment to join the conversation. "The Macleods are on 
their way here,"  he said. Ceirdwin and Deblout looked at him with 
startled expressions. "I've not met this man  Duncan, but Connor and I 
go back a few years. I asked him to come and his clansman was with  him, 
so they're both on the way. They should be here tomorrow," he finished.

Ceirdwin looked at Deblout, then at Mac. She considered her own history 
and that of the  Macleods.

"Is there a good reason why your 'gathering' us together?" she punned. 
The meaning  was intentionally double-edged.

"You won't believe him when he tells you," interjected Deblout. "I 
don't."  

The five of them were seated in Mac's living room. Giles had spent some 
time explaining  the circumstances of the Hellmouth as Buffy played 
hostess. Neither Ceirdwin nor Deblout  missed the ease with which Buffy 
asserted her place in Mac's home. Buffy might not be living with  Mac, 
Ceirdwin decided, but she had certainly assumed for herself a role as 
mistress of the keep.

Seeing Buffy perched on arm of Mac's chair with his arm draped around 
her waist,  Ceirdwin concluded that they were lovers. She was happy for 
them. It was rare that immortals fit  together so easily.

She was having a great deal of trouble, on the other hand, believing 
their story about  vampires.

"Tonight," Mac finally announced, "we'll split up and patrol. Buffy, you 
take Ceirdwin with  you. Colonel, you and I will team up. By the time we 
all get back here, you'll believe.  


Scene 2
Sunnydale, Ca.
Sunnydale Cemetery
2200, Friday (Local)

As Buffy and Ceirdwin strolled through Sunnydale's cemetery, the Slayer 
pondered how  to approach the older woman. Suddenly seizing her courage, 
she blurted "Were you and Mac  ever...you know..."

Ceirdwin smiled at the younger woman. "No. The timing wasn't right. When 
we first met, I  was a newlywed." Ceirdwin somberly regarded the memory 
of her late husband.

"I'm sorry about what happened to  Paul, right?" Ceirdwin nodded and 
Buffy plunged on.  "The first guy I ever really loved turned out to be a 
vampire. He was the first  well really the  *only*  guy I ever slept 
with." That surprised Ceirdwin. She'd assumed she and Mac were lovers.  
"Anyway," Buffy continued, "he was under this curse. He had a soul. 
Only, he couldn't be happy.  Happiness caused his soul to be stripped 
away and sent back to hell. Then he was just another  vampire.

"Essentially, see, I destroyed the man I loved."

Ceirdwin's mouth hung open as she took that in. The girl really believed 
what she was  saying!

"Sometimes, Buffy, men just aren't what they seem to be-"

Buffy held up a hand, cutting her companion off as she signaled for 
silence. "Follow me,"  she instructed. "Hang back and keep quiet, okay? 
And remember what we told you about how to  kill these things."

Buffy moved fast and quiet as she crossed the cemetery. In a moment she 
confronted a  vampire lurking beneath a tree, observing a fresh grave

"Expecting company?" asked the Slayer.

Ceirdwin had more than a little trouble believing what happened next. 
The young man  Buffy was facing spun toward her. His face morphed into a 
Halloween mask as he roared and  leaped at Buffy.

The younger woman whirled in a three hundred and sixty-degree turn, 
delivering a  powerful kick to the creature's face. The beast flipped 
over backward and landed on its head.  Instantly Buffy sped forward with 
a stake in her hand. A quick, powerful thrust of the wooden  weapon 
through the creature's back and into its heart caused it to turn to dust 
with a soft *POOF*.

The grave the vampire had been watching over suddenly erupted, spewing 
forth another  of the creatures. It had no sooner cleared the grave than 
Buffy hurled a stake into its chest. The  Slayer followed up with a 
flying spin-kick that drove the stake through the vampire's chest. There  
was a second soft *POOF* and the second vampire settled to the ground as 
a cloud of dust.

Buffy calmly brushed herself off and walked back over to Ceirdwin.

"Anyway," continued Buffy as if there'd been no interruption, "I just 
wanted you to know  that I understood about Paul. 'Cause I lost someone, 
too."

Ceirdwin stared at the Slayer.  

Several blocks away, Mac and Deblout were arguing about the existence of 
vampires  near an all-night grocer, unaware that Ceirdwin had just had 
that question laid to rest so  dramatically.

"All I'm saying, Mackenzie," expounded Deblout, "is that *some* of us 
would have run  across them before."

"Maybe we have and just never realized. Most of us are just trying to 
live our lives. Some  are concentrating on the Game," Mac added as 
thoughts of Polovsky danced through his head.  "We're immortals, 
Colonel," he pointed out. "I'd say that means we're not in much of a 
position to  categorically deny the existence of the supernatural." Mac 
suddenly stiffened.

Picking up on the younger man's body language, Deblout scanned the area. 
"What is it,  Mackenzie?" he asked. Mac handed his bag to Deblout.

"Proof," he said simply. His hands now free, Mac stalked a young man who 
just didn't  *fit*. As he quietly approached his potential victim, he 
heard it call out to a passing woman who  was struggling to manhandle 
several bags of groceries.

"Hey, pretty-pretty," Mac's target called out. The woman froze for a 
second, then raced  for her car. As the vampire ran her down, its face 
morphed to exhibit the demon within   completely unaware of O'Byrne's 
lightning-swift approach. The woman reached her car and finally  dropped 
her bags as she fumbled to get her car keys.

The vampire was one step away from closing its hands around her throat 
when it was  suddenly jerked into the air, whirled up and over in a 
short arc and smashed headfirst into the  ground.

Deblout raced to Mac's side in time to hear the crunch. Surprisingly, 
Mac continued to  work on the beast. Bones snapped in quick succession 
as Mac struggled with the vampire.

"Shackles, Colonel," Mac ordered. "In the bag. Hurry!"

Deblout tossed Mac several sets, one after another. In moments, the 
vampire was  securely trussed up. Hearing a soft moan, Mac and Deblout 
turned to look at the woman.


 "Who...who...who...?" the woman stuttered.

"Neighborhood Watch, ma'am," answered Mac. The woman fainted. Deblout 
reached out  and caught her before her head hit the asphalt.  

Buffy's cell phone rang.

"Hi, sweetheart," greeted Mac. "What say we call it a night?"

Buffy consulted her watch. "I don't know, Mac," she answered. "It's 
still pretty early..." She  looked over at Ceirdwin. The immortal looked 
as if she was in shock. "Oh, what the hey," she  said, changing her 
mind. "Ceirdwin's seen a couple of them, and I guess that was really the 
point.  How'd you guys do?"

Buffy could hear the smile in Mac's voice as he answered, "I got you a 
present."  

Gathered at Mac's truck, Buffy decided that Mac was in desperate need of 
an education  in the gift-giving department. "Honey," she said sweetly. 
"For future reference: Flowers are good,  candy's good, and jewelry's 
even better. Thrashing fang-boys: *not* so good, 'kay?"

Mac gave her a light kiss. "What is it with women and dead plants, 
fattening food and  shiny rocks?" he teased. Buffy rolled her eyes.

Deblout and Ceirdwin observed the struggling vampire, disbelief written 
on their faces.  Ceirdwin quietly told him what had happened at the 
cemetery as Mac and Buffy snuggled a few  feet away. Deblout shook his 
head and examined the young woman in Mac's arms.

"Mac," asked Ceirdwin, " why take one alive?"

Mac turned to face her, one arm around Buffy's waist. He grinned with 
evil intent.  

Mac and Deblout tossed the vampire into the cage in Mac's basement. As 
Deblout stood  guard with a sword, Mac released the shackles, tossing 
them out of the cage one by one. The  vampire reached around to try and 
bite him, resulting in Mac's grabbing it by the head and  pounding it 
into the concrete floor five times in rapid succession. The beast 
quieted down  hurriedly. Finishing his task, Mac stepped back and 
delivered a powerful kick to the vampire,  caving in its ribs and 
sending the beast crashing against the wall four feet away.

Mac backed out of the cage and secured the door. "Listen up, jackass," 
he called. "You're  my prisoner. If you behave *maybe* I'll kill you 
quick. *Fuck* with me, and I'll strap you down, get  a paint brush and a 
bucket of holy water and baste you with it," he promised.

The vampire huddled in the corner of the cage and shivered in fear.

Leaving the other immortal to watch over the caged vampire, Mac headed 
up the stairs.  Buffy and Ceirdwin were sitting in the kitchen quietly 
drinking coffee. Mac walked over and kissed  Buffy on top of head.

"Hey, sweetie," he said. "You'd better head on home. It's gonna be a 
long night  downstairs."

Buffy looked at him then turned her head to look at Ceirdwin and finally 
back to Mac. He  was saying, "Ceirdwin, do me a favor and drive her 
home, will you? My keys are on the table in  the foyer."

"I'm staying," Buffy announced. Mac and Ceirdwin gazed at her for a 
moment. Then the  older woman hopped up from her seat and left the room. 
Mac and Buffy looked at one another.

"I'd rather you didn't, honey."

"I'd just as soon I did," she persisted.

"Buffy, this is going to be...messy," Mac argued. She hadn't responded 
well to his  treatment of the muggers  what was she liable to think 
when he began torturing the creature  downstairs?

Buffy stood up and walked over to the phone hanging on the kitchen wall. 
Picking it up,  she dialed her mother. Joyce quickly answered the phone.

"Hi, Mom."

"*Hello, honey. Is everything all right?*" asked her mother.

"Fine. I just wanted to let you know not to wait up. I'm staying over at 
Mac's tonight,"  Buffy informed her. Standing next to the kitchen table, 
Mac watched her closely.

"*Are you sure, sweetheart?*" Joyce asked after a pause.

"Yeah. I am," answered Buffy. Joyce was silent. "Mom?" Buffy asked.

"*I'm here, honey. I love you*."

"Love you, too, Mom," Buffy answered. "Good night." Buffy hung up the 
phone and  turned to Mac.

Without saying a word, he walked across the kitchen, took her by the 
hand and led her  from the room.  

In an all-too-empty house across town, Joyce Summers sat and began to 
cry.  


Scene 3
Sunnydale, Ca.
150 Creek St
0030, Saturday (Local)

Mac led Buffy upstairs and down the hall to his bedroom. Opening the 
door, he gestured  for her to precede him.

"I've some pretty good size T-shirts in that dresser drawer there," he 
pointed. "Plenty of  towels in the bathroom. Spare toothbrush in the 
cabinet over the sink. I don't think I'll be getting to  bed tonight," 
he added. He wasn't quite sure what Buffy's intention's were and didn't 
want to  presume.

"I'd prefer you stay out of the basement," he asked her. "I don't think 
you'll approve of  what I'm going to do to our guest."

Buffy nodded in agreement. Personally, she believed the vampire had it 
coming. Still, she  agreed with Mac's assessment: she didn't want to 
watch Mac coldly inflict punishment on  anything.

"Make yourself at home." Mac turned and began to leave, but stopped at 
the door and  turned back to her. "I mean that, Buffy. I might prefer 
you weren't here *tonight*, but I am glad you  stayed."

"Was the spare toothbrush for me?" she asked softly.

"Well," answered Mac as a smile spread across his youthful features. 
"Let's just say that,  like the ant that moved the mountain, I had high 
hopes." With that, Mac tossed her a wink and left  the room to head to 
the basement.   

Leaving Buffy, Mac went back down to the kitchen. Ceirdwin was waiting 
for him with a  raised eyebrow. For the first time in about as long as 
he could remember, he blushed. The female  immortal chuckled at him. 
Then she patted him on the arm and walked to the stairs, obviously  
going to check on her newest sister.

In the kitchen, Mac poured coffee for himself and Deblout. Sweetening 
his coffee, Mac  stirred it absentmindedly as his thoughts revolved 
around the young woman in his bedroom.

Realizing that he'd left the Colonel nearly a half-hour before, Mac 
grabbed the cups and  headed downstairs.  

Buffy stood in the middle of the room for a few minutes, just looking 
around. Finally, she  walked over to and opened the closet. Mac had 
plenty of clothes, but it was a large closet and  had room to spare. In 
the dresser, only half the drawers were filled. The bathroom was 
tastefully  decorated and included both a large garden tub and a stand-
alone shower. The tub had vines of  ivy spread around the rear third. 
Closer inspection revealed a Jacuzzi attachment. Opening the  cabinet 
over the sink, Buffy found the toothbrush he'd mentioned, still sealed 
in the factor  wrapping.

Buffy suddenly felt dizzy. She hurried out to the bed and sat down. The 
bed was large  and firm. Pillows were piled high against the headboard. 
On one side of the bed was a book. She  smiled, realizing which side of 
the bed Mac preferred. Scooting over to where she could see the  book's 
title, Buffy discovered Mac was reading Caesar's "Commentaries". She 
opened it up to  find that it wasn't a translation  the book was 
written in Latin.

She found herself sort of breath. 'What am I doing?' she asked herself. 
Buffy was the  Chosen One, veteran of countless encounters with demons, 
vampires, werewolves and other  assorted agents of evil, but suddenly 
she was confronted by something terrifying in a completely  different 
way. Her only previous *experience* had sent her lover to Hell. The 
consequences of  that had left her a little gun-shy.

Buffy remembered Angelus's cruel words to her the morning after their 
one night  together. The memory cut her to the quick.

Mac had been around the world. He was sixty years old, for god's sake! 
He read *Latin*  when he went to bed at night. The older immortal was 
handsome, rich, educated and  *experienced* with who knew how many 
women. Every time she thought things were looking up  for the two of 
them, something served to remind her how stupid her hopes were. Sensing 
a  nearby immortal, Buffy jerked her head up to find Ceirdwin standing 
in the doorway.

"Are you all right?" asked the older woman.

Buffy stared at the older woman. What had she said before? 'The timing 
wasn't right'?  Her husband had been dead for four years now. Ceirdwin 
had *battled* Caesar's legions! She  was very pretty and had a worldly 
manner about her. Buffy started to feel that with Ceirdwin  around, she 
really didn't stand a chance.

"He really loves you, you know," Ceirdwin said as if in response to 
Buffy's thoughts.  Buffy's mouth dropped open as she regarded the older 
woman. "I've known Mac for nearly twenty  years, so you can trust me on 
this," she added with a smile. She walked over to the bed and sat  next 
to Buffy.

"I wish you could have met Finn," she continued. "They were like a 
before-and-after  picture: Mac what Finn had been, Finn what Mac might 
be. They really were like father and son,  you know." Ceirdwin smiled at 
some memory. "I knew Finn for more than fifteen hundred years.  He was 
one hell of a man."

"Me, too," responded Buffy.

"Hmm?" asked Ceirdwin, returning from the past.

"I love him, too," repeated Buffy. "Mac. I love him, too."

"Yeah, I kind of picked up on that," teased Ceirdwin. "You understand 
why he wanted you  to go?" Buffy nodded an affirmative. "Well, the guys 
don't need our help," Ceirdwin suggested.  Suddenly, she shuddered as 
the thought of what Mac intended played through her mind. "If you  don't 
mind some company, we could go down to the living room. I have a lot of 
questions about  what we're in for." She stood up and cocked an eyebrow 
at the younger woman.

With a smile, Buffy stood and followed her from the room.


Scene 4
Sunnydale, Ca.
150 Creek St
0600, Saturday (Local)

Mac crept through the bedroom to the bath. On the way, he quietly pulled 
out fresh  underwear and a pair of shorts from the dresser. At the 
entrance to the bathroom, he stopped,  turned and regarded the young 
woman sleeping in his bed. He was smiling as he shut the door  and 
started the shower.

Mac emerged from his toilet to find Buffy's eyes on him. Buffy examined 
him as he  toweled his short hair dry. It was the first time she'd seen 
so much of him and she drank the sight  in. Standing six foot two, the 
man weighed in at around two hundred pounds and was well  tanned. His 
broad shoulders framed a deep chest covered with dark hair. His abdomen 
rippled  with what the body-builders called a 'six-pack' and descended 
to a narrow waist. His legs were  muscular with well-defined quads and 
thick calves.

Mac, in turn, studied her. Slim, she had full, high breasts. Shoulder 
length brownish- blonde air framed an angelic face. Warm, green eyes 
sparkled as the early morning's light filtered  in through the bedroom 
window. She was wearing a button-down shirt she'd found in his closet.  
'What is it about a woman wearing a man's shirt that's so damn sexy?' he 
wondered. She smiled  sleepily at him and took his breath away. 
"Morning, beautiful," he greeted her. "Good morning, yourself, 
handsome," she replied. He walked over to the bed. "I need to get a 
couple hours sleep. The Macleods will be here today  and it's liable to 
be a long night," he explained. "I should get up and check on my Mom," 
she replied Neither of them moved. "Eventually," she added. Mac slipped 
between the sheets and lay back against the pillows. Buffy snuggled into 
his arms  and laid her head against his chest. Mac smelled her hair, 
catching the scent of strawberries as  he drifted off to sleep.  


Part 10
Scene 1
Sunnydale, Ca.
150 Creek St
1000, Saturday (Local)

Buffy gradually woke up. Wrapped in Mac's arms with her head pillowed on 
his chest, she  took her time enjoying the feel of him. He smelled of 
soap  Irish Spring she decided and giggled  softly. His chest rose and 
fell as he quietly slept. She could feel the slow, powerful rhythm of 
his  beating heart. Moving carefully, so as not to disturb him, Buffy 
glanced at the clock on her side of  the bed and saw the time.

As she slipped from the bed, Mac stirred and opened his eyes. "Shhh," 
she whispered  and kissed his lips softly. "Sleep." Mac rolled over and 
went back to sleep.

Buffy brushed her teeth and decided to run home to shower. She needed 
fresh clothes  anyway, and didn't want to disturb the slumber of her 
man. Setting her toothbrush in the holder  next to Mac's she smiled. She 
had a toothbrush here, so she might as well bring over a few  clothes. 
Mac had room and she doubted he'd mind.

She headed downstairs to find Ceirdwin and Deblout reading the paper 
over coffee.

"Good morning, my dear," the Colonel greeted her.

"Morning, Buffy," echoed Ceirdwin. "Coffee?" she offered. Buffy nodded, 
but as she  moved to get it, Ceirdwin waved her into a chair. "Sit. You 
look like you're still half asleep."

Buffy sat down and regarded the Colonel. The immortal was examining her 
as closely as  if she were a previously undetected life form.

"You're very new to the Game, aren't you?" he asked. She nodded. "I 
presume  Mackenzie has explained everything? The rules? The Gathering?" 
he pressed.

"Yes," she answered him. She wondered what was bothering the old geezer.

"You *do* understand that, in the end, there can be only one?"

"Jean-Paul!" scolded Ceirdwin as she set a cup oh coffee down in front 
of Buffy. "She  gets it, all right? Let them be happy."

Deblout looked a little abashed. "I'm sorry, young lady. I don't believe 
Mackenzie would  take advantage, but..." Deblout's voice trailed away as 
he looked up at something behind Buffy.  Sensing the presence of an 
immortal, she new Mac had arrived without turning to look.

"But what, Colonel?" asked Mac politely.

"But she's new, Mackenzie. You're her teacher. And, I gather, her 
lover." Buffy flinched at  the sound of those blunt words. "My concern's 
are no different than yours would be," he finished.

"She's not Marie, Sir," Mac said gently.

Deblout colored slightly. He turned to Buffy. "Mackenzie is right. 
You're just about my  daughter's age. If I sound a little paternal, I 
apologize. I intended no offense."

"Daughter?" asked Buffy. The earlier references to 'Marie', she'd 
assumed, meant the  Colonel's wife or girlfriend. Mac had said immortals 
couldn't have children If he was wrong, all  sorts of possibilities 
opened up for them. Though, for the short term, she'd *definitely* need 
to be  seeing a doctor about birth control.

"Step daughter, truthfully," said Deblout after a moment, derailing her 
train of thought  before it could get up to speed. "I'm sure Mackenzie 
has explained we can not have children."  Buffy nodded. "My late wife 
had had Marie before we met. When I married Elyse, I adopted  Marie. As 
I said, you're about the same age," he finished.

They all sat quietly for a while. Mac got some coffee and joined the 
others at the table.  After a while, Buffy broke the silence.

"We really don't have a choice? About the Game, I mean."

"Yes, we have a choice," answered Ceirdwin. "Many of us refuse to play 
the Game. Once  the Gathering is upon, though... Who knows?"

Buffy turned to look at Mac. An image of the two of them trying to kill 
each other, swords  flying through the air as they played out a horrible 
dance of death flashed through her mind. It  was too terrible a thought 
to hold in her head,

"I don't see it," she said. The other three stared at her. "It just 
doesn't make any sense!  You're suggesting that at some point we'll all 
have an irresistible urge to kill each other? All  humanity gone? 
Friendship and love just get chucked out the window?

"Guys, I can't buy that," she finished.

"Even if you were right about the Gathering, sweetheart," interjected 
Mac, "there's no  getting around the fact that enough immortals believe 
in the Game to make life dangerous from  time to time."

"That I can buy. The world is full of evil people  and other things," 
Buffy agreed. "But,  Mac, honey, I just can't picture you and me  or 
you and your friends, for that matter  trying to  chop each other's 
heads off!"

Too that, none of the other immortals had a response  


Scene 2
Sunnydale, Ca.
1630 Rabello Dr
1200, Saturday (Local)

Buffy had Mac run her home. When she went inside, she found Joyce 
waiting for her.  Buffy stood in the living room unsure what to say.

"Good morning," she tried.

"Morning, honey," answered Joyce.

"Uh, Mom, about last night..."

Joyce waited for her daughter to continue. After nearly a minute, she 
prompted her  daughter by saying: "Yes?"

"Well, nothing happened. Mac caught a vampire. He put it in a cage that 
he built for Oz.  Well, built and tested on Oz, I guess," she said upon 
further consideration. "Some other  immortals are here, and some more 
are coming. Mac called them to get some help." Joyce  listened to her 
daughter passively as she ran on.

"Anyway, I wanted to stay with Mac, see, so I crashed. He finally came 
to bed  I mean  *went* to bed around six this morning and, ahh..." 
Joyce kept listening calmly.

'"*Came* to bed"?' he thoughts echoed.

"So anyway, like I said, nothing happened," Buffy finally finished.

Joyce looked at her daughter for a moment before saying simply, "This 
time."

"'This time'?" echoed Buffy.

"Buffy," explained Joyce, "you'll be twenty next month. I may not *like* 
it, exactly, but  you're a grown woman. You're in college. *And*," she 
continued, "you're in love. It's okay, you  know. I like Mac. I think 
he's a good man.

"Don't get me wrong," she added. "I want you to be careful. A young 
woman's heart is a  fragile thing, and I don't want you to get hurt. I'm 
just saying that I understand that you and Mac  are...getting close," 
she finished.

Buffy stared at her mother for a few seconds. Then she went to her and 
gave her a warm  hug. Joyce held her daughter and congratulated herself, 
deciding she'd handled that pretty well  indeed.  

Mac went to a Safeway near his home and dropped nearly five hundred 
dollars on  groceries. On the way back to his house he considered the 
logistics of his operation. He had six  guests between those present and 
imminent arrivals. The house had four bedrooms,

Of the three spare bedrooms, he'd purchased and installed bunk beds in 
two of them and  a full size bed in a third. That accounted for five 
people. If he double bunked the two women in  the room with the full 
size bed, all bases were covered. He briefly considered surrendering his  
own bed to the two women, but decided against it. He had a sneaking 
suspicion that Buffy was  positioning herself as the mistress of his 
little estate  he hoped so, anyway - and it wouldn't do to  throw her 
out of what was essentially her own bed.

He'd called Oz the day before, and the youngster add agreed to pick up 
some of Mac's  other purchases that day and drop them off around five. 
So by that evening, Mac would have a  new, full size washer and dryer. 

Food and accommodations seemed to have been effectively dealt with. 
Giles would be  by that evening for additional briefings. Buffy would be 
able to pinpoint key nodes for the strike  force to attack and guide 
them in. Xander was on a mission to get as much holy water as he  could 
lay his hands on. Two wood lathes were due to be delivered today from 
Sears (and hadn't  *that* cost a small fortune!). And Giles had agreed 
to transfer a substantial portion of Buffy's  arsenal to his place (Mac 
wondered if that was liable to become a *permanent* transfer).

He'd just decided that his preparations were as thorough as they could 
be at this  juncture, when he pulled into his driveway and found it 
taken up by a rental car and a huge  Harley. The 'buzz' signaling the 
presence of several immortals attacked his senses.

Walking in his front door he discovered that the Macleods had arrived 
along with Big Jim  Meyer and a bearded mortal with a cane he'd never 
before laid eyes on. He warmly greeted his  old friends and was 
introduced to Duncan Macleod, who immediately confronted him.

"Jean-Paul tells me we're going hunting for vampires," he said.

"Yeah. Look, I know you won't believe-" Mac started.

"I believe you," Duncan cut him off.

"You *do*?" queried Mac. This was a first. "Why?"

Duncan got a haunted look in his eyes. "Long story," he answered simply. 
Mac shrugged   the story could wait. He turned to the mortal.

"I'm Mac," he said and held his hand out to the stranger.

"I know who are," responded the man with a warm smile as he clasped his 
hand.  "Mackenzie Patrick O'Byrne, born September 23rd 1940," he began, 
speaking as if reading from a  memorized file. "Believed to have first 
died in an ambush at Mi'on Talgar in September of 1960.  Veteran of the 
2nd Parachute Regiment of the French Foreign Legion and U.S. Army 5th 
Special  Forces Group. Cited numerous times for bravery in Algeria and 
Viet Nam.

"Former student of the legendary Finn Mac Cuhill of Irish legend," the 
stranger continued.  "Graduate of Oxford University. Holds degrees in 
History, Chemistry and Biology. Veteran of  numerous campaigns against 
the South American Cali and Medellin drug cartels. Recent student  at 
the University La Quebecois where you studied mechanical engineering.

"Moved to Sunnydale, California two weeks ago to avenge the death of Mac 
Cuhill," The  stranger finished. "Pleased to meet you! Name is Joe 
Dawson."

"You wouldn't happen to know a man named Rupert Giles, would you, Mr. 
Dawson?"  asked Mac.

"I've yet to meet the man personally," Joe admitted. "But Ceirdwin and 
Colonel Deblout  have been telling us about him."

"But you *are* a Watcher, right?" persisted Mac.

Joe nodded an affirmative. "But not like you think. I'm part of the 
Society of Watchers. We  watch immortals  like you. I've never heard of 
this man Giles or his organization before today."

"You watch immortals? I mean, you know about us? You track and record 
our lives?"  persisted Mac. Dawson nodded again, though uncertainly this 
time, waiting to see what O'Byrne's  reaction would be.

"In that case, sir," Mac informed him, "please accept the thanks of this 
historian for the  work your people do." Mac grabbed his hand and shook 
it again, warmly.

Dawson was a bit flustered. This wasn't the reaction he'd imagined from 
a man who  guarded his privacy with a zeal that made most other 
immortals look like exhibitionists in  comparison. Mac noticed a tattoo 
on Dawson's left wrist.

"What's that?" he asked.

"Watcher emblem," answered Dawson. "We all have them."

"Rupert doesn't," corrected Mac.

"Well," the Watcher hastily amended, "like I said  I've never heard of 
him or his group  before. I'm looking forward to meeting the man. And 
please, call me Joe," he added.

"Mac," returned the immortal. "You know, you guys must be pretty good at 
sneaking  around. I'd never heard of you until a few days ago. Well, 
just *now*, actually." Mac suddenly felt  like an idiot. If most 
immortals had Watchers, and Joe had the kinds of details he obviously 
did...

"Joe," he asked, "where's *my* Watcher?"  


Scene 3
Sunnydale, Ca.
150 Creek St
1600, Saturday (Local)

Upon receiving a telephone call from Mackenzie and directions from a man 
named  Dawson, Giles gathered Mackenzie's Watcher from his motel and 
drove over to the immortal's  house. He'd been surprised when the two 
men had called and asked him to pick this other  gentleman up. In fact, 
Giles was amazed  not only did the immortals exist, there was *another*  
organization of 'Watchers' out there watching them..

*This* Watcher was proving to be an interesting man. He was a veteran of 
the Legion.  Though he'd never met Mackenzie there  their terms of 
service had been almost two decades  apart  it had been determined 
somewhere that O'Byrne's Watcher should be someone who'd  been exposed 
to extreme danger and handled himself well. The immortal was simply too 
fond of  plunging into deadly situations to ask most men to take the 
risks being his Watcher entailed.

The Watcher's were rather short in the experienced commando department, 
and it was  sheer luck that another veteran of the Legion was available. 
The Watcher had been on O'Byrne's  tail for nearly ten years and held 
great respect for him. "Not a man to make angry" had been his  summation 
of the man to Giles.

They arrived at Mackenzie's house  the 'Keep' he called it  to find a 
warm reception.  Mackenzie studied his Watcher for several long moments 
before walking up to the man and  shaking his hand.

"I understand from Joe, here, that you're a brother legionnaire," Mac 
greeted his Watcher.  "You've followed me through some pretty hairy 
shit, *mon ami*. I wish I'd known you were there."

"Well you lost me in Africa, for a couple of years," answered the 
Watcher with a slight  German accent.

"My point, exactly. Listen, I understand that you guys keep to the 
shadows  hell, I even  understand *why*  but, now that I know about 
you, don't be a stranger," demanded Mac.

The Watcher grinned at the man he'd followed with varying degrees of 
success over the  last decade. "You've got it, Reaper," he agreed. 
Hearing the old nickname from his days in the  Legion and Special 
Forces, Mac's mouth twisted in a grim smile.

"And what's *your* name, brother?" he asked.

The Watcher looked the Reaper in the eye. "Hunter, when I was with the 
Legion. Mostly  Thomas Jager, these days," he said, pronouncing his name 
as 'Yager' in the German fashion.

"Well, Hunter, ordinarily I'd say the honor of the Legion demanded we 
teach these sissies  how to drink, but under the circumstances we all 
need a clear head, agreed?"

"I agree completely, Reaper."

"One thing, Hunter," amended Mac. "I know you don't interfere in the 
Game, but there's  something I need to know."

Jager guessed immediately what it was. "Mac Cuhill's killer?" he asked. 
Mac nodded.  Jager and Dawson exchanged a pained look.

"I wish we could tell you for certain, Mac," said Joe. "Unfortunately, 
his Watcher wasn't  there. Mac Cuhill slipped away from him." Dawson 
shrugged. "It happens."

"We do know that Polovsky was here, Reaper," added Jager. "It's a safe 
bet that he killed  him."

"What about Polovsky's Watcher?" the immortal asked.

"Dead. Killed in a car wreck three weeks ago," Joe informed him. He then 
added, "He  was following Polovsky here to Sunnydale."  

Willow picked up Buffy and drove her to Mac's house. She had her arm in 
a sling, but  was otherwise bouncing back pretty well from the injuries 
that the vampire Lamar had inflicted on  her. She was nearly bouncing up 
and down as Buffy dished about where she'd spent the night.  Willow 
liked Mac a lot. He seemed to be a genuinely nice guy. Of course, the 
fact that he'd saved  her life didn't hurt his cause any. Willow was 
practically leading the cheering section as he and  her best friend 
enjoyed their blossoming romance.

Best of all, to Willow's way of thinking, was that the guy wasn't a 
vampire. Oh, sure, he  had that whole immortality thing, but, then, so 
did Buffy. What was important was that the guy  wasn't a blood-sucking 
fiend from Hell! Willow saw this as a serious step in the right 
direction for  Buffy.

When the young women got to Mac's place, they found two groups of men 
working. One  group was unloading heavy equipment into the garage, a 
second was taking a washer and dryer  out of Oz's van. Mac broke away 
from directing the two operations to come over and greet them.  First he 
gave Buffy a warm kiss and held her for a few seconds, then he turned to 
Willow.

"Hi, Willow," he greeted her. "How are you feeling?"

"Peachy!" she said as she gave a wide-eyed look at the hustle and bustle 
going on  around them. Mac laughed and waved the women toward the house.

A few minutes later the ruckus was over, and the Sears delivery truck 
had left. A couple  of men Buffy had never seen before announced that 
they were going to make dinner. Buffy  examined them as she realized 
they were both mortals. One was a kindly looking man with a  graying 
beard who displayed some difficulty walking. The other sort of reminded 
her of Mac the  day she'd met him  danger to go, freshly bottled. Mac 
tugged on Buffy's arm and she followed  him to his office.

Inside, he went to his desk and pulled a set of keys from a drawer. He 
walked back to her  and handed her the keys. Buffy took them and then 
stared into his face, unsure exactly what he  intended with gesture.

"Two things, Buffy," he said. "One, I don't know where this is going 
between us, but I do  know that I've never felt like this before. I've 
never given a woman the keys to my home before,  but I want you to have 
them. *Mi casa es su casa*.

"Two," he continued, "I'm a pragmatic guy. I'm your teacher and Giles is 
bringing most of  your arsenal over here tomorrow, for a while anyway, 
since this is where most of us are staying.  So, you *need* access to 
the house. I have just one request."

"What's that?" she asked.

"This room  this *one* room  don't move anything around. It may look a 
little  disorganized from time-to-time, but I'll always know where 
everything is if you don't mess with it,"  Mac explained.

Buffy grinned. "This *one* room?" she repeated. "What about the rest of 
the house?"

"I'm flexible," he answered with a smile.

Buffy played with keys in hand for a couple of seconds. "We agree that 
it's a little soon for  me to be moving in, right?"

Mac seemed to give that serious consideration for a moment. "Probably," 
he finally  agreed, sounding just a little reluctant to do so.

"Good. So don't get any ideas if I hang a couple of things in your 
closet or steal space in  a few drawers," she said with a smile.

"When might that happen?" Mac asked, doing his best to avoid sounding 
hopeful.

"I was thinking that, probably, oh, I don't know, but, *probably* as 
soon as haul I my stuff  upstairs from Willow's car," Buffy answered, 
feeling rather pleased with herself.

Without missing a beat, Mac asked, "Want some help?"  


Scene 4
Sunnydale, Ca.
150 Creek St
1900, Saturday (Local)

Two trips had gotten Buffy's things upstairs. Leaving her and Willow to 
put Buffy's things  away, Mac went downstairs to try and figure out how 
to seat twelve people for dinner. Eventually,  Joe and he had turned the 
dining room table into a buffet line. His guests could eat wherever they  
found a seat.

Most of the people in the house knew each other and broke into small 
groups to catch up.  He was headed to the kitchen when he felt a pair of 
arms wrap around him. "Looks like were going to have a regular party," 
said Buffy.


 Mac turned and planted a kiss on her head. "Looks like it," he agreed.

"I'm thinking we should invite Mom," suggested Buffy. "She's handling 
everything pretty  well, but I think she's suffering from a premature 
case of empty nest syndrome."

"So, call her," responded Mac.

By seven, Joyce had arrived and everyone was feasting. Everyone was in a 
pretty good  mood, simply enjoying themselves in the calm before the 
storm. Xander was slinking around,  wide-eyed as he caught snatches of 
conversation. Joyce wandered over to Mac, looking as if she  needed to 
have a serious conversation. Mac took her by the arm and walked her into 
his office.  Once the door was shut and the two of them seated, he 
decided to seize the bull by the horns.

"Joyce, please tell me that you're not here to ask me my intentions 
toward your  daughter," he challenged her.

"Well, actually, yes, I am. Sort of." Joyce sighed. "Listen, Mac. I like 
you a lot. I really do. I  just can't help feeling...well..." She took a 
breath. "I'm her *mother*, Mac. It's my job to worry  about her!"

Mac chewed that over for a couple of seconds. "I don't know what I can 
say to reassure  you, Joyce. I'm in love with her. I've never felt this 
way about a woman before. *Ever*," he  emphasized. "I'm not sure why she 
seems to feel the same way  I'm just glad that she does."

Joyce gazed at him with tears in her eyes. "I feel like I'm finally 
losing her. *Really* losing  her. And please don't say I'd be gaining a 
son, Mac  You're older than my parents!"

"I don't think you're losing her, Joyce. I think she grew up and you're 
wondering where  the time's gone. I've never had children, so it's 
pretty easy for me to view that dispassionately."  Mac stared at her for 
a long moment. "How about we just both love her as best we can and see  
where life leads, okay?"

Joyce agreed with a nod of her head, then said, "She isn't really moving 
in she? Not  already?"

Mac shook his head. "No, Joyce, she's not moving in. Gimme a little 
time, will you?" he  joked. "I've never *wanted* a woman in my life 
permanently before. I'm not real sure where I  stand from one minute to 
the next."

Joyce chuckled. "You really don't know, do you?" she asked. Seeing the 
expression on  his face, Joyce busted out laughing. "I wouldn't worry, 
Mac. You're standing right where she  wants you."

"What's that mean?" he demanded to know.

"In her heart, Mac," she answered. "In her heart."

Hearing that, the immortal looked inordinately pleased with himself.  

Buffy was searching for Mac when she noticed that her mother was missing 
as well.  Moving back into the living room, she saw the door to his 
office open. Mac and her Mom  sauntered out, Mac with an insufferably 
pleased look on his face. Seeing her daughter, Joyce  walked over and 
gave her a hug.

"I'm going home, honey," she announced. Buffy examined her mother 
closely.

"Uh, huh. What were you and Mac talking about?"

"Oh... Life," Joyce said evasively. "Listen, Buffy, I don't want to pry, 
this is just curiosity   should I leave the light on?"

Buffy gave the question serious thought for a moment. "I don't think so, 
Mom," she  decided.

"Okay, honey." Joyce hugged her daughter again and kissed her on the 
cheek. "I'll see  you tomorrow?" Buffy nodded and Joyce turned to leave. 
On her way to the door, Joyce stopped  by Mac and gave him a kiss on the 
cheek. "Good night, Mac," she said.

"Good night, Joyce," answered Mac. With that, Joyce left. Buffy trailed 
her to the door  and stood there watching as her mother got in her car 
and drove away. The two women  exchanged a wave as Joyce backed the car 
out of the driveway.

Buffy turned to find Mac beside her. She stepped to him. They wrapped 
their arms  around each other and just held on tight.  

The next several hours were spent with Giles briefing the immortals on 
the Hellmouth and  it's supernatural denizens. The last of Mac's 
selected strike team had arrived shortly after Joyce's  departure. The 
immortal  a woman named Belle  was apparently a demolition expert. 
Buffy,  Xander, Oz and Willow shared their accumulated experience. Buffy 
spent several minutes  pounding home to them the strengths and 
weaknesses of their quarry.

Finally, Mac and Deblout gave a short brief on how to entice cooperation 
from a vampire.  Mac explained the methods they had used to acquire 
their knowledge  including both what  worked and what did not. That 
portion of the discussion had caused Willow to turn green and left  
Buffy a little unsettled. At eleven the meeting was adjourned by mutual 
consent. Mac explained  the sleeping arrangements  adjusted to 
accommodate the two Watchers - and everyone began  to drift off to bed.

"One thing, Mac," asked Belle. "Where is this 'vampire' of yours?"

"You don't quite believe it, Belle?" asked Mac.

"*Seeing* is believing, you drunken lout!" she teased.

"We killed it," interjected Deblout. "It was too dangerous to leave it 
unguarded and we'd  learned all we could from a single specimen."

"Never fear, Belle. You'll be *seeing* soon enough," promised Mac.

Mac sidled up to Buffy. "Honey, could you run upstairs with me to the 
linen closet?" he  asked. We need to pull out some stuff for Connor and 
Thomas."

Joe obviously needed a bed, and Jager and Connor had volunteered to 
crash on the  floor. Within a half-hour, Giles and the Buffy's friends 
had departed and everyone else was  bedded down for the night. Buffy 
went in to Mac's room and changed into one of his shirts. After  
brushing her teeth, she peeled back the covers and slid into bed. A 
minute later Mac walked in.  He shut the door and gazed at the woman 
lying in his bed.

After a while, Buffy asked, "Are you coming to bed?"

Mac disrobed and slid naked into the bed next to her. Eventually, they 
fell asleep.


Part 11
Scene 1
Sunnydale, Ca.
150 Creek St
0800, Sunday (Local)

Mac woke up with his arms filled with what was easily the most beautiful 
sight he'd ever  laid eyes on. Buffy lay with her head pillowed on his 
chest, one arm thrown across his belly.  'Jesus!' thought the immortal. 
To his mind that had been, hands down, the greatest sex in the  
evolution of the species. The night had bled over to the early hours of 
the morning before they'd  finally sated themselves and, exhausted, 
fallen asleep.

He laid there for what seemed to be hours. He watched as the room filled 
with sunlight,  picking out the highlights in Buffy's hair and 
illuminating her lightly bronzed skin. Gently he  stroked her back, 
enjoying the feel of her under his hand. Noticing the time, he grimaced. 
He  wished he could keep still and enjoy the feel of her  the *smell* 
of her. Sundays should exist just  to let him hold Buffy.

Damn! Grasping her shoulder, Mac gently shook the sleeping woman. 
Gradually, Buffy's  eyes fluttered open and she gazed up at him. A smile 
plucked at her lips as she felt his hand  stroke her back. She stretched 
and molded herself to his body.

"We need to get up, sweetheart," he said, breaking the silence.

"Not yet," she groaned, and snuggled a little closer to him.

Finally, the two of them rousted up out of bed and stumbled to the 
shower. Once there,  one thing sort of led to another...

Ate eight, Mac hoisted himself out of Buffy's arms, returned to the 
shower and cleaned  himself. Emerging from the bathroom, the immortal 
quickly dressed. Buffy's eyes were on him  every moment. Finished 
dressing, Mac strode over to the bed, bent over and gave her a light 
slap  on the rump.

"Up and at 'em, sweetie," he commanded. "We've a lot to do today." Buffy 
threw him a  pout. 'God! But she's gorgeous,' he thought to himself as 
he scowled back at her. Buffy won the  staring contest as Mac cracked a 
smile. Buffy winked at him a swung her legs out from under the  covers. 
Mac planted a quick kiss on top of her head and left the room.

By the time she made it downstairs, their guests were all up and about, 
drifting in and out  of the kitchen. Mac, Joe and Thomas were bustling 
around making biscuits, gravy, eggs,  pancakes and hash browns. Buffy 
grabbed a cup of coffee, gave Mac a quick kiss on the cheek  and got out 
of their way. She wandered from one immortal to another, bidding them 
good morning  and asking how they'd slept.

After she finally grabbed a plate of food and took a seat in the living 
room, Connor came  and sat down next to her on the couch. As the older 
immortal scrutinized her, she felt her cheeks  flush, wondering if 
everyone had heard her and Mac carrying on the night before. Connor 
finally  broke the awkward silence.

"So, Buffy. You're the woman who finally brought down Mackenzie," he 
said with a smile.  "I can think of a few women who would love to know 
how you did that."

Buffy smiled, embarrassed. "I guess it's a kind of magic," she said. 
Connor laughed  uproariously and winked at her.

With breakfast over, the cooks wasted no time starting the clean up. 
Buffy was on her  way in to offer her help when Ceirdwin grabbed her arm 
and pulled her aside. She suggested  Buffy put on some sweats and join 
her out back. When Buffy reached the training area, she found  both 
Ceirdwin and Belle waiting for her. In a few seconds, Buffy learned that 
the two women had  decided to take advantage of the opportunity to spar 
with her, hoping to teach her a little of what  they knew. Buffy was 
touched.

Two hours later, she was drenched with sweat and her torn clothes were 
covered with  little splashes of blood. The other women had told her not 
to pull any punches  they certainly  didn't intend to! With Belle 
watching from the sideline as she nursed a thigh slashed open to the  
bone, Buffy swept Ceirdwin's feet from under her, turned and swept her 
blade down at the other  immortal's neck. As she stood over her downed 
opponent, her blade hovering an inch from  Ceirdwin's throat, Buffy 
heard hands softly clapping together behind her.

Ceirdwin nodded at Buffy, conceding the victory. Buffy lifted her sword 
away and stepped  back. After helping Ceirdwin to her feet, the young 
Slayer bowed from the waist. With a wry grin,  the older woman returned 
the gesture by saluting with her sword. Then Buffy turned to find Mac  
and Giles watching the show. Giles had a shocked expression on his face 
as he took in the  scene. Her lover bowed to her and turned to Giles.

"That's our student who just kicked butt, Rupert. Give the lady her 
due," he instructed the  Watcher with a smile in his voice. Buffy 
decided Mac must have been the one applauding as  Giles smiled and 
nodded at her. Mac walked over to where Belle sat on the grass. "You all 
right,  Belle?"

Belle scowled at him. "I should have known better than to try to thump 
on the woman that  tamed *you*, you damn ape," she growled. Then she 
couldn't help herself any longer. A huge  smile spread across her face. 
"Jesus, Mac! What the hell are you dealing with that you need  more help 
than *her*?" Belle demanded, lifting her chin at Buffy. The Slayer 
flushed with pride at  the respect in the other immortal's voice.

"It's a question of numbers, not ability," explained Mac. "Wait 'till 
tonight. You'll see."  


Scene 2
Sunnydale, Ca.
150 Creek St
1200, Sunday (Local)

Buffy supervised stake production in the garage. Duncan, Joe and Thomas 
quickly turned  a small load of oak into weapons for use on the 
vampires. They chatted comfortably as the wood  was spun and carved on 
the lathes. At one point Buffy asked Duncan why he'd been so quick to  
believe them about the bloodsuckers. Joe grimaced and Duncan got the 
same far away look in  his eyes that she'd seen in Mac's from time-to-
time.

"It's all right if you don't want to talk about it..." she offered, 
letting him off the hook.

"No," answered Duncan. "It's just not easy to talk about. I lost a good 
friend fighting a  demon named Ahriman. In the end, I defeated him, but 
Richie is dead."

Buffy nodded in empathy. "I know how you feel," she said in a voice 
heavy with  sympathy. "I've lost a lot of friends in this war."

"Were you tricked into killing them?" Duncan asked. With that question, 
Duncan  explained more to Buffy than any amount of conversation could.

Buffy suddenly hurt for the man so badly that she felt tears form in her 
eyes. "Oh, god,  Duncan," she choked out. "I'm so sorry..."

Duncan wiped tears from his own eyes. "Not your fault," he replied with 
a wan smile.  Buffy saw tears streaming down Joe's face as well.

"Did you know him, Joe?" she asked, already sure of the answer.

"Yes," Joe nodded as he confirmed her suspicion. "He was only a couple 
of years older  than you. He could have seen a thousand  he didn't make 
it to twenty-five."

Buffy suddenly realized that 'Richie' had been an immortal. Then it hit 
her  Duncan must  have been his teacher! Oh, *god*! She watched Duncan 
visibly shake himself free of his  melancholy and turn back to the work 
at hand. She walked over to Joe and hugged him.

"We've had a rough couple of years," he explained.

"If you need to talk..." Buffy offered quietly. Joe gave her a smile as 
he considered what a find O'Byrne had on his hands.   As the afternoon 
wore on, preparations were made for the upcoming battle. Mac's living 
room  was turned into a command center and communications node. Deblout, 
Belle and Mac and driven  into L.A. and purchased some *very* expensive 
communications gear and a load of ammunition.  Upon their return, Mac 
had spent some time in the basement with Thomas. Buffy had popped in  
once to see what they were up to. Mac explained that they were 
increasing the depth of the cave in some hollow-point ammunition,  
filling them with a mixture of garlic and holy water and sealing them 
with a wax plug. "The range won't be much  we've *really* hollowed 
these rounds out, and blown the ballistics to  hell," explained Thomas. 
"But they'll pretty much explode inside whatever they hit." Buffy chewed 
her lip as she considered that. Vampire killers. She smiled. Cool! She 
noticed that Mac and Thomas addressed each other as 'Reaper' and 
'Hunter'. She wondered  what that was about. Thinking back to the night 
Willow had been hurt, she remembered what Mac  had bellowed at Lamar. 
'*I'm the Grim Reaper!*' he'd shouted. Finally tired of wondering, she  
asked them about it. Mac chuckled as Thomas turned to answer her. "It's 
a legionnaire thing," he explained. "Oh," Buffy responded. That didn't 
really explain anything. Suddenly she recalled that Mac had  been in the 
French Foreign Legion. Deciding that Thomas must have been as well, she 
asked,  "Does everyone in the Legion have a really cool nickname?" Jager 
roared with laughter. "No," he finally choked out. "Not all." Buffy 
decided that the two of them were enjoying a joke at her expense. She 
rolled her eyes and  slapped Jager on the shoulder. He just winked in 
response. Obviously, she wasn't going to get  any more out of the two 
veterans. She turned and left, pausing on the stairs as she heard  
Thomas say something to Mac. Realizing he was speaking French, she 
continued out the door,  wishing she'd paid more attention in her high 
school French classes. She'd have been pleased at what she heard if she 
had been able to understand Jager's remark.  *"That's one hell of a lady 
you've got there, Reaper." "Don't I know it,"* had been Mac's response.   
Buffy went in search of either Joe or Colonel Deblout and found both of 
them in the living room.  The Watcher was quietly enjoying a cup of 
coffee as Deblout checked the power and antennae  connections on the 
communications rig. "All right, guys, I need the 4-1-1 on those two 
characters in the basement," she announced. "The what?" asked the 
Colonel. "Information," translated Dawson. "Ah!" responded Deblout and 
turned back to his chores. "What do you want to know, Buffy?" asked Joe. 
"'Reaper'? 'Hunter'?" she prompted. Joe grinned and Deblout looked back 
up. The two men exchanged a meaningful look. "Do you really want to 
know?" asked Deblout. Buffy nodded. "I can't speak for Jager, but I can 
tell  you that Mackenzie built a formidable reputation while with the 
Legion," he said. "Jager, too," added Joe. "Mac built up that reputation 
all over again in Viet Nam when he was a  Green Beret. And again in 
Latin America in the eighties." "What reputation? I'm gathering that 
people thought he was pretty bad." "Bad?" asked Deblout. Buffy started 
to roll her eyes, but caught herself, realizing that the older  immortal 
was struggling to understand teen-speak in what was, for him, a foreign 
language. "Dangerous," she translated. "Ah!" he said again. The old 
soldier gazed at her a moment before replying. "My dear young  woman, 
Mackenzie O'Byrne is one of the most dangerous men alive." As Buffy let 
that sink in, Joe added, "Mac was involved in one war or another pretty 
much without  interruption for almost thirty years, Buffy. Trained and 
employed by some of the most respected  military outfits in the world. 
And he spent nearly ten years with his teacher, you know. Finn Mac  
Cuhill was almost always mixed up in something or other." "One might 
safely say that Mackenzie is indeed 'bad', young lady," affirmed Deblout 
Joe joined back in, "Thomas spent two tours with the Foreign Legion  
that's ten years. Those  guys are all over the place. Thomas has been 
from Beirut to Baghdad." Joe grinned as he added,  "'Jager' is German 
for 'Hunter'. When he was in the Legion, they called him 'Hunter' in 
French as  opposed to 'Jager'. They punned his name because of the body 
count he wracked up as a sniper  in Lebanon." Buffy sat down and 
considered the information the two men had given her. "So this is an old  
soldier kind of thing?" she asked. "Calling each other 'Reaper' and 
'Hunter' is a bonding thing?" Deblout considered that and nodded. Joe 
had a slightly different opinion. "I think it's more a matter of two men 
deciding in about two- point-five seconds that they were going to be 
fast friends." "The Legion is a strong bond, Buffy," added Deblout. 
"Thomas and Mackenzie are simply two  men with a similar history  one a 
Watcher, one an immortal. *Reaper* and *Hunter*, on the other  hand, are 
Brothers of the Legion," he explained. Buffy thought she understood. She 
thanked the two of them and slipped out of the room to call  her mother 
and say hi.  


Scene 3
Sunnydale, Ca.
Around town
2000, Sunday (Local)

The immortals split into four groups: Buffy with Belle, Mac with Connor, 
Ceirdwin with  Duncan and Big Jim with Deblout. Each member of the team 
had a small, powerful hand-held  radio. With Jager driving Xander and Oz 
in Mac's Pathfinder and Dawson and Giles manning the  maps and radio rig 
at Mac's place, the strike team was set for the night's patrol. The 
intention was  to expose each of the newcomers to a vampire.

Everyone was armed with stakes, squirt guns filled with holy water and, 
of course, their  swords. Additionally Mac and Jager each had a 
suppressed .38 automatic loaded with the  experimental ammunition. 
Before departing on the recon, Mac had admonished the team not to  get 
carried away.

"Remember, the vampires know about Buffy, more or less, and *might* be 
starting to  develop some intel about me. They can't possibly know about 
the rest of you. Let's keep it that  way for now  it's our hole card.

"The intent is to expose each of you newcomers to our fanged friends," 
he had continued.  "If you see someone being attacked, deal with the 
immediate threat and *call for extraction*! Bag  limit tonight is one 
incident per team, excepting Buffy. Being the Slayer, she needs to be 
seen  and it won't set off any alarms if she takes out more than one or 
two bloodsuckers. Buffy?  Anything to add?"

Buffy had reminded them to be safe. "I don't know if it's possible for 
one of us to be killed  or  worse  turned by these things. I'd just as 
soon not find out."  

Deblout and Big Jim made first contact. A couple of beasts had cornered 
a teenage girl  and forced her down an alley. Hearing her scream, the 
two immortals had quickly zeroed in on  the source of the cry. The two 
creatures were drinking the girl dry when the Deblout and Big Jim  found 
them.

Drawing their swords, the warriors charged in and dispatched the fiends. 
Crouching down  beside the girl, Big Jim hardly deigned to notice that 
the damn things really *did* turn to dust  when you beheaded them. 
Finding that the girl was already turning cold, he began to shake.  
They'd been too late.  


Connor and Mac sat in a run down bar making idle conversation as their 
eyes scanned  the crowd. Deblout had reported in and called for 
extraction over an hour before. Mac had  grimaced as he heard the 
Colonel's report to Dawson and Giles. Another child was dead.

Giles had queried them about the girl's condition, wanting to know if 
she'd been fed any  blood of the vampires' blood. Connor had quirked an 
eyebrow at that. Mac reminded him that a  victim had to drink the blood 
of a vampire to be turned.

Around ten, Mac nudged his companion with his foot and inclined his head 
toward one of  the bar's patrons. Something about the way he moved had 
alerted the veteran. The vampire was  talking up a drunken barfly. Soon, 
they left together. The immortals stood and Mac threw some  money down 
on the table.  They quickly hurried outside. Scanning the street in 
front of the bar, a noise drifted to  them from a nearby alley. Connor 
was barely a step behind Mac as they raced to the mouth of  the alley. 
In file, they blended into the shadows. Quickly, they silently padded 
toward the sound of  a struggle.

"Hey, lover," complained a drunken woman's voice. "Not so rough!"

The vampire and his meal were suddenly visible in the light of the 
waning moon. The  barfly seemed to be realizing that there was something 
wrong with the face of her 'date'. Her  struggles turned from playful to 
frantic as the creature hissed at her. Mac raced forward, seized  the 
beast and hurtled it into the wall across the alley. Recovering 
instantly, the vampire hissed  again.

"Mother of god!" said Connor, amazed by the site.

Seeing a gun materialize in O'Byrne's hand, the vampire chortled. "I'm 
going to rip your  heart out, bloodbag," it promised.

Mac shot it in the heart. The vampire thudded against the wall and began 
to twist. In a  moment it was howling in agony. Mac and Connor watched, 
fascinated by the sight of the  screaming beast as smoke started pouring 
from its chest. The woman fainted.

It took the thing nearly thirty seconds to die. Smoke emerged from one 
rapidly appearing  hole after another in the beast's torso as it 
twisted, flopped and screeched. Suddenly collapsing  into dust, the 
thing was gone.

"Well, *that* was interesting," noted Connor.  

Belle and Buffy sat in the park. Since Deblout's report an hour before, 

they'd sat quietly.  Buffy feeling guilty that another kid was dead, 
Belle torn between deciding on the veracity of the  report and regarding 
Buffy. She hated to admit it, but she was jealous of the younger woman.  
She'd carried a flame for Mac for nearly the entire time she'd known 
him. She wasn't sure  whether or not he'd ever even noticed she was a 
woman.

Now here comes this *child* and sweeps the object of Belle's affection 
off his feet. It  wasn't fair! Belle thought herself attractive, but 
next to Buffy she didn't hold a candle and she  knew it. The girl was 
going to look sixteen for the rest of her life. Belle had fought beside 
Mac on  several occasions and apparently impressed him enough to be 
called up for this mission, but she  didn't doubt that *Buffy* could 
take her head without breaking a sweat. Earlier in the day Buffy  had 
taken down both Belle *and* Ceirdwin when the two had teamed up against 
her in the  training pit.

What made it worse was that she couldn't help liking the younger woman. 
The girl had  charm on top of everything else.

Buffy suddenly stiffened and her eyes narrowed as something caught her 
attention. Belle  turned to see a group of three shadowed figures 
approach. The older woman shot Buffy a look  and saw a cold smile on her 
face.

The newcomers  two men and a woman  froze as they got close enough to 
recognize  Buffy. Belle realized she was alone on the park bench. Buffy 
was charging the three recent  arrivals with her sword in her hand. 
'Jesus, she's fast!' Belle thought. Then she saw the vampires'  faces 
morph into Halloween masks.

Buffy leaped high in the air and somersaulted over the vampires' heads, 
twisting in the air  and landing behind them. Her blade whipped through 
the air and decapitated two of the creatures  with a single, powerful 
stroke before they had a chance to turn and face her. The last of them  
charged at the Slayer, planning to catch her and snap her neck before 
she could turn the blade  against it.

Buffy continued her turn and whipped the blade back, under her arm. The 
beast impaled  itself. The Slayer set her foot and turned clear around 
until she was facing the vampire. Taking a  step back and bracing 
herself. She moved the sword quickly through three ever-widening 
circles,  coring the bloodsucker out before jerking the blade free. 
Stepping to the side as the vampire fell  to the ground, Buffy raised 
her sword high in the air and brought it down in one smooth, fast  
motion. The headless thing at her feet turned to dust.

Belle hadn't moved. She didn't want to get anywhere near Buffy while the 
Slayer had that  sword in her hand. The entire spectacle had taken mere 
seconds. Buffy pulled a piece of chamois  from a pocket in her coat and 
wiped the blade of her Katana.

"Explain to me again exactly why you need help?" demanded Belle. Before 
Buffy could  answer, their radios crackled with an incoming 
transmission.

"*Base, Team four*," they heard Mac say. "*Mission complete. Require 
extraction at  Sunset and Vine. Over*."

"*Roger, four*," answered Dawson. "*Victims*?"

"*Negative, Base*." Belle heard Buffy sigh with relief. "*One observer. 
Observer has been  returned to safety. Over*."

"*Roger, four. Cavalry, Base. Did you copy that*?"  "*Base, Cavalry*," 
answered Xander's voice. "*Roger. Cavalry enroute. Over*." Buffy  smiled 
at the crispness in Xander's voice. She wondered if it was due to the 
Halloween he'd spent  as a soldier, or Mac's influence. Her friend was 
obviously in awe of her boyfriend.

"Do you want to stay longer?" Belle asked Buffy. Buffy shook her head. 
She had school  in the morning and wanted to get at least one decent 
night's sleep. Belle pulled her radio out of  her pocket.

"Base, Team one. Over," she called.

"*One, Base*."

"Mission complete. No victims. No observers. Require extraction at drop 
site. Over."

"*Roger, one. Stand by*," Dawson instructed. "*Cavalry, Base. Which site 
is closer?  Over*," Joe finished. Buffy and Belle shared a smile. Joe 
seemed to be picking up some habits.

"*Base, Cavalry. Three is closer. Will extract three, then one. Over*," 
Xander informed  them.

"*One, Base. Copy that? Over*."

"Base, one. Affirmative. Will stand by at extraction site. Out." Belle 
put the radio back in  her pocket. The two women headed toward their 
extraction site.  

In Mac's living room, Dawson, Giles, Deblout and Big Jim sat and waited.

"That young man has promise," Deblout informed the group. Dawson 
regarded the  Colonel curiously.

"What makes you say that?" he asked.

"He's quick. And he's selected an excellent role model in Mackenzie," 
Deblout answered.

Giles let the conversation pass by him. He was literally stunned by the 
night's events. The  arrival of the immortals and the professionalism 
with which they made their plans had impressed  him, but the 
*smoothness* of it all left him in awe. It was due to the little things, 
he decided.  Things like Joe's chagrin at an apparent mistake in his 
radio procedures that Giles still hadn't  figured out. Hearing Joe 
mumble something under his breath about embarrassing the 'Corps'  
whatever that was. The way Dawson had tracked each team's location with 
periodic checks.

Mostly, it was the *discipline* of the immortals that grabbed his 
attention. It even seemed  to be rubbing off on Buffy. A little, anyway. 
The Watcher glanced at his watch, and saw that it  wasn't even nine-
thirty. A few short hours had resulted in the death of at least three 
vampires   perhaps more. 'Mission complete' signified a successful 
slaying. They wouldn't know the actual  tally until all the teams were 
back in.

One innocent was dead, but how many others had been saved by what was 
actually a  mere reconnaissance?  

Duncan and Ceirdwin walked the streets of Sunnydale. As they walked, 
they talked about  old times for a while before finally discussing the 
matter at hand. Duncan told her about the  demon he'd fought and what 
the fight had cost him. Ceirdwin was walking much closer to him by  the 
time he'd finished the story.

As the reports of the other teams success rolled in, they listened. As 
they patrolled the  streets, they watched. Finally Joe called them on 
the radio.

"*Team two, Base. No joy? Over*."

"Base, two. No joy. Over," answered the Highlander.

"*Two, Base. Six says extract*." Six was an old military term for the 
boss. O'Byrne was  pulling them in.

"Base, two. Wilco. 5th and Vine. Over," agreed Duncan.  


Scene 4
Sunnydale, Ca.
150 Creek St
2330, Sunday (Local)

The strike team was reassembled in Mac's living room. Each team 
debriefed in front of  the group. Big Jim nearly cried when he described 
finding the little girl. Giles had clasped his  shoulder and said, 
"Steady on, man. You couldn't have done anything else."

When the last outbrief was finished, Mac conducted the After Action 
Review  a forum  where everyone in the team analyzed the night's events 
and tried to determine what had been  learned and what, if anything, 
should have been differently.

Big Jim's comment was the most direct. "We need to wipe these fuckers 
off the planet,  Mac."

After an hour and half, Mac called a halt and sent everyone to bed. Once 
everyone had  shuffled off, and Giles, Oz and Xander were on their way 
out the door, Buffy walked up to Mac. "I need to go to Mom's," she told 
him. "It's too soon for her to deal with an empty house every  night. 
Besides," she grimaced, "I've got class tomorrow and all the homework I 
should've read is  at her place." Mac took note of the way Buffy phrased 
that. 'Mom's' and 'her place', she'd said. Mac smiled and  gave her a 
kiss. "All right, sweetheart. Sleep tight." Buffy embraced him warmly. 
All too soon, she'd turned and darted out the door to where Giles  was 
waiting to give her a ride back to Joyce's house. With everyone settling 
down to sleep, Mac checked the locks and window latches. Deciding the  
house was secure, he turned to find Jager holding a beer out to him. 
"The lady of the house gone for the night?" Jager asked. Mac winced. 
"Yeah." "Well, hell, Reaper. Might as well have a couple of beers then, 
don't you think?"  

Part 12
Scene 1
Sunnydale, Ca.
1630 Rabello Dr
0730, Monday (Local)

Buffy came downstairs and found her mother sitting quietly in the 
kitchen drinking a cup  of coffee. Buffy gave her a peck on the cheek 
before moving to get a cup for herself.

"How'd it go?" asked Joyce.

"We got six of the fang boy brigade," Buffy answered. Then she winced 
and added, "One  girl was killed though. Big Jim and the Colonel found 
her as she was being attacked, but it was  too late."

"Will she be back?"

Buffy shook her head at her mother's question. "No. She wasn't turned  
just murdered."  The Slayer gave herself a mental shake. "Still, Mom, 
things went pretty well. Mac's put one heck  of an operation together!" 
she commented. Joyce heard in her daughter's voice the pride she felt  
for her boyfriend.

"I imagine you had a little to do with it, too," she said, asserting a 
little pride of her own.

Buffy shrugged. "Just info really. I'm the native guide  Mac is the 
'six'."

"The what?" Joyce asked with a sigh. Sometimes she had a little trouble 
following what  her daughter said. Had she ever given *her* parents 
problems like this?

"The *boss*, Mom. Sheesh, you act as if you never spent time with a 

bunch of immortal  warriors," Buffy teased her mother. "You ought to 
come hang out at the Keep with us," she  invited. While she was a little 
worried about her mother embarrassing her, Buffy couldn't help  feeling 
sorry for Joyce. Buffy wasn't planning on spending too many nights in 
Joyce's house in the  immediate future  she'd tossed and turned all 
night.

One night with Mac had pretty much cured her of any desire to sleep 
alone.

Joyce stood up to go, giving her daughter a kiss on the way out. Alone, 
Buffy sat and  read her homework. As she struggled through "The Iliad", 
she started wondering what Mac's  fascination with school was. After a 
while she simply decided that her honey was a little bent.  


Scene 2
Sunnydale, Ca.
150 Creek St
1400, Monday (Local)

Mac and Belle spent the morning crawling through the sewer system. As 
they moved  through the underground tunnels, the immortals constantly 
compared their actual layout with the  schematics Oz had managed to 
download from the city engineer's office. So far, things had  matched up 
pretty well. Mac had just about decided he could modify the engineering 
diagrams  into useful maps.

At a little shy of one o'clock, the two warriors emerged from the 
tunnels, blinking in the  harsh glare of the sun. A quick call resulted 
in the appearance of Mac's truck with Jager at the  wheel. Belle and Mac 
quickly hopped in, and the truck sped away. Pulling in back at the Keep,  
the dirty pair quickly hustled inside to get cleaned up.

Clean at last, Mac sat on his front porch with his feet kicked up. Next 
to him was a plate  loaded with a sandwich and chips. At his feet rested 
a bucket of ice. Every so often, Mac would  reach down and pull the 
bottle of Samuel Adams from the ice and take a sip. The veteran sat  
quietly. The house felt almost empty. Aside from Belle  who was 
probably *still* in the shower   and Jager, Mac was alone. The other 
members of the team were prowling the streets,  familiarizing themselves 
with the terrain.

Jager walked out on the porch with an ice bucket cradled in one arm. 
Crouching for a  moment, he stuck another bottle of beer in Mac's 
bucket. Then the Watcher moved to a chair a  few feet away, positioned 
it so he could prop his feet on the rail as well, and sat down. Leaning  
back in his chair, propping up his feet, Jager set down his bucket and 
started sipping his own  beer.

Mac's mind revolved around the biggest problem the sewers presented. 
Their radios  weren't going to be functional. Finishing his beer, the 
immortal set it down and reached for the  newly delivered bottle. 
Obviously, the tunnels needed to be dealt with, but how? He'd considered  
flushing them with a flammable chemical and simply dropping a match  
effectively burning the  vampires out (and who new what else along with 
them?), but the size of the tunnels precluded  that. He'd never lay his 
hands on enough stuff to do the job.

Besides which, that plan would almost certainly make large holes in the 
town. Sewer  grates, manhole covers and sewage access points  located 
in every building  might well vent  the blast. Mac suspected Buffy'd be 
a little pissed at him if he blew up the town.  

Mac was sound asleep when the 'buzz' signaling the approach of an 
immortal hit him.  Instantly, the veteran was on his feet with his 
Katana in his hand. Connor Macleod stood half in  and half out of his 
rental. To the other side of the car, his clansman had frozen in a 
similarly  awkward position. At his left, Jager had been roused by 
O'Byrne explosive flurry of movement.

"*Gott*, Reaper!" the Watcher exclaimed.

Sheepishly, the immortal lowered his sword. Connor grinned and shook his 
head. Mac  watched the two kinsmen exchange a wry look as the elder 
Macleod muttered something to the  younger. Dawson climbed out of the 
sedan's back seat and, together, the three men walked up  the porch 
steps.

"Jumpy, Mac?" asked Joe.

"Being in the company of trusted friends is no excuse for shoddy 
reflexes, Joe," he  answered as he settled back into his chair. Duncan 
grinned at him.

"Not to disagree, Mac, but you may want to tone down those reflexes 
around Buffy," he  advised.

"Yeah," agreed Jager. "I can just picture it  a sudden noise in the wee 
hours resulting in  a mutual beheading," he joked. Chagrined, Mac shook 
his head as his friends enjoyed a quiet  laugh at his expense.

Just then, Oz's van pulled into the driveway. Buffy, Oz and Willow got 
out and walked up  to the men clustered on the porch. Noticing that they 
were all examining her attentively, Buffy  grew self-conscious. As she 
neared them, she slowed to a stop. Jager started to chuckle. After a  
moment, Joe and Connor joined him. Suddenly, all of the men were 
laughing like loons.

Blushing a pretty shade of pink, Buffy demanded "What's so funny?"

Wiping tears from his eyes, Mac assured her, "Nothing, honey. Just a bad 
joke at my  expense." Buffy looked skeptical, but shrugged and walked 
over to him and dropped into his lap.

Giving him a soft kiss, she asked, "Miss me?"

Before Mac could answer, Connor interjected: "Luckily, yes," causing the 
others to start in  laughing again. Mac shot the older man a foul look. 
Then he wrapped his arms around the young  woman and leaned back, 
pulling her with him.

Kissing her forehead as he stroked her hair, Mac softly replied to her 
question. "You've  no idea. As for *you* characters," he barked at the 
laughing men as they began to subside, "go  find something to do, and 
leave us alone for a bit."

As the others trailed into the house, dragging Oz and Willow with them, 
Buffy relaxed into  Mac's arms. For a while they snuggled together 
quietly. After a time, Mac asked his lady about  her day.  


Scene 3
Sunnydale, Ca.
150 Creek St
1800, Monday (Local)

Joyce sat in the corner and listened as the strike team planned the 
night's operation. The  immortals planned to continue gathering 
intelligence by baiting a vampire with a 'victim'   Ceirdwin acting as 
bait for one team, Belle playing the part for another  and capture one 
of the  'fang brigade'. Each of the women would be trailed by two 
immortals. One of the trail men on  each team would carry a suppressed 
.38 automatic loaded with 'Vamp Killers' in the event of an  emergency.

While the two 'snatch teams' were baiting their trap, Buffy would patrol 
well away from  their immediate vicinity. Mac and Buffy had decided that 
there was a very good chance that the  vampires were tracking her 
movements on patrol, resulting in a vampire free 'pocket' surrounding  
her at all times. Consequently, the Slayer was only getting a chance to 
kill the unlucky and the  stupid among the bloodsuckers.

Mac reasoned that as a result of this Darwinian selection process, the 
snatch teams had  a reasonable shot at finding a vampire that would 
provide the sort of 'intel' the strike team  needed. The immortal 
intended to annihilate the local vampire population, and he needed to 
know  where to find them to achieve that goal. Once he'd discovered 
where to find the vampires during  the day, the strike team could hunt 
them in sequential shifts: during the day, they'd slaughter the  beasts 
in their own lairs; at night, the team would troll and hunt.

The methodical nature of the planning process impressed the Slayer's 
mother. Not for the  first time, it sank into her that she was 
surrounded by some *very* dangerous people. That Buffy  was numbered 
among them was startling. It was a little upsetting as well. The last 
few years had  been frustrating and, at times, terrifying. The last few 
weeks had been heartbreaking. Her little girl  wasn't simply in constant 
danger. She wasn't even merely moving away from her mother as she  fell 
in love.

Buffy was a warrior. Worse, a warrior who's given her heart to *another* 
warrior. Rather  than settling down, letting others deal with the 
twisted evil that surrounded them, maybe even  raising a family of her 
own one day, Buffy had found a man to join her quest and walk the dark  
path with her. Joyce knew that it had been a forlorn hope that Buffy 
might escape her destiny, but  she'd held it close nonetheless. She 
watched Buffy and her lover sadly, amazed at how easily the  two meshed 
together.  

"Any last minute questions?" Mac asked as he gazed around the room at 
his team. No  one stirred. "All right," he said. "Let's roll."

As the team divided up and walked outside to ride into the night, Mac 
pulled Buffy aside  and kissed her forehead. "Be careful, sweetie," he 
instructed. Buffy smiled at him, grabbed his  head and kissed him 
deeply.

"Be careful yourself, cowboy," she ordered him in turn. Then she turned 
and was gone.

As Mac walked out the door and disappeared into the night, Joyce sighed. 
Mac and her  daughter reminded her of the romantic leads in some movie. 
Despite all her qualms, Joyce felt a  moment's envy toward her daughter. 
Happy as she and ex-husband had been during their  courtship and the 
early years of their marriage, the woman knew that they'd never shared 
the  magic that Buffy and Mac found with each other.

She was glad that Buffy had invited her over to sit in the 'command 
center' with Joe and  Rupert. She had to admit that seeing the team in 
action made her feel a lot better about her  daughter's safety.

"Tea, Joyce?" Giles offered.

"Yes, thank you," she answered as she smiled warmly at the man. Giles 
left the room, but  quickly returned with a tray cluttered with the 
necessities.

Giles prepared a cup for her and handed it over saying: "It's really 
something to watch,  isn't it?"

Joyce nodded in agreement. "Yes it is. I am curious about something, 
though."

Joe turned to look at her. Giles handed the man a cup of tea before 
answering her.  "Curious about what?" he asked.

"Why hasn't someone done this before? If men and women like these walk 
the Earth,  where have they been? I keep thinking about all those young 
women  the other Slayers  who  died fighting these *things*. Where 
were the Mackenzie O'Byrnes and the Jean-Paul Deblouts  and the Connor 
Macleods?" she demanded.

"I don't think they ever knew, Joyce," answered Giles. "You see how 
quickly they respond  when the do."

"There's more to it than that," interjected Dawson. "Half of the 
immortals out there lived  through the inquisition and the 
enlightenment. I think it left them a little skeptical when it comes to  
things like vampires," he pointed out. "And the others, well... Joyce 
men like Mackenzie are  separated from you by only a generation. You're 
the Slayer's *mother*. How long did it take *you*  to accept  *really* 
accept, *really* believe  that these things exist?"

Joyce considered that. Joe's explanation  while it made perfect sense - 
didn't really  matter. She knew that her complaint was an emotional one. 
Still, she had to admit to herself   *grudgingly*  that this band of 
heroes was here *now*. And that meant that her daughter was the  first 
Slayer in history to really have a chance of seeing thirty.  

Ceirdwin's team hit pay dirt  big time. Barely an hour into the 
operation a host of  vampires slipped from the shadows and surrounded 
her. The leader, still wearing its human  guise, stepped forward to 
confront her.

"Hello," it said, smiling at her.

"Hello," the immortal echoed cheerfully.

"Out for a stroll?" asked the vampire. Ceirdwin nodded, noticing the 
vampire's British  accent. "Me too. And I'm hungry," it said, stepping 
toward her.

"Mind if I ask a question?" asked the vampire's 'victim'. The creature 
cocked its head to  the side, as it seemed to consider her request. The 
woman was gorgeous. Maybe instead of  simply killing her, it should 
*turn* her. The vampire would have plenty of time to enjoy her, then.

"Why not?" it finally agreed. The surrounding creatures began to hiss in 
frustration. Who  wants to deal with talkative food?

"Are you important? I mean big in the community?" asked Ceirdwin. The 
vampire frowned  as his dinner continued, "See, I'm new in town, and I'm 
looking for a *special* kind of...guy."

Though the beasts were apparently oblivious. Ceirdwin could feel the 
approach for her  trail party. She smiled at her target.

"I think you'll do." And the night exploded.  

Duncan and Mac had trailed far enough behind Ceirdwin that no one  more 
importantly,  no *thing*  should connect her presence to theirs. 
Ceirdwin had slipped down one alley after  another as the men ranged a 
block behind her, keeping to the shadows.

When the vampires had surrounded her  five of them in all  the two men 
had split left  and right, hugging the alley walls as they quietly 
approached. Nearly on top of their quarry, the  immortals paused and 
waited. Mac's hand was filled with the .38, while Duncan grasped the 
hilt  of his Katana. Keeping their weapons hidden under their long 
coats, they poised for the attack.

Hearing Ceirdwin say "I think you'll do" to one of the creatures  a 
vampire with short  spiked blonde hair - Mac whipped out the pistol. 
Sighting down the barrel, the veteran quickly  pumped three rounds into 
the chest of the vampire nearest him. Turning a few degrees to his left,  
he repeated his action with the next vampire. Turning slightly farther, 
he claimed a third victim.

Meanwhile, the woman launched herself at the vampire that had been 
taunting her.  Wrapping her arms around it she bore the beast to the 
ground. Duncan stepped forward and  whipped his blade through the neck 
of the fifth, turned and set the edge of his blade against the  throat 
of the vampire struggling with Ceirdwin. It immediately ceased its 
resistance.

Ceirdwin stood up and began pulling shackles from beneath her coat. 
Risking a glance  over her shoulder, she saw Mac keeping guard over two 
vampires as they twisted and screamed  in agony. One of them collapsed 
into dust before she turned back to the leader. Duncan never  moved. He 
just stood there with the blade of his Katana pressed against the 
vampire's neck.

The vampire was furious. As the woman secured its arms and legs, silence 
descended  on the alley. "I don't know who you are, *bloodbag*," it 
hissed, "but rest assured, I *will* rip your  heart out before this 
night his over!" The woman smiled at it. Then she pulled an ancient 
Celtic  cross made from finely etched silver out of her pocket and 
pressed it against the vampire's head.  

Within an hour, the vampire was tossed into the cage in Mac's basement.  


Scene 4
Sunnydale, Ca.
150 Creek St
2200, Monday (Local)

When Buffy walked into the living room, she found her mother sleeping on 
the couch. The  members of the strike team slipped quietly in and out of 
the room. She nodded greetings at  different men and women as she passed 
by them. Willow and Oz were sitting in the kitchen.  Willow jumped up as 
the Slayer walked in.

"Buffy, they caught *Spike*!" she announced. Buffy froze. She hadn't 
seen Spike in over  a year  when had *he* come back? Of course, that 
meant Drusilla was back too. Those two  were virtually joined at the 
hip. The Slayer felt her lips curl in a cold smile.

"Really? That's...interesting," observed Buffy. Her smile grew warm as 
she gave her  friend a hug. "I think I'll head downstairs. If you guys 
want to split-"

Oz jumped up and blocked Buffy's path. "Uh, Buffy, Mac asked 
specifically that you *not*  go down there. He said you'd know why."

Buffy nodded. She did know. Her boyfriend was playing with his food, and 
didn't want her  to see him while he did it. Buffy gave Willow a quick 
hug and slipped around Oz.

"Like I was saying, you guys can take off." She grinned menacingly. "I'm 
gonna go say  'Hi' to an old *friend*." With that Buffy opened the door 
to the basement. She was greeted by a  howl of pain that quickly became 
a piteous moan.

Shutting the door behind her, Buffy padded silently down the steps. In 
the basement, she  found Mac, Deblout, and Big Jim standing around the 
cage. Big Jim was grinning as he squirted  holy water on the naked 
vampire.

She heard the immortal say, "*Please*, Mac? Can't I go in for just a 
little while?"

"*No*, Jim," answered her boyfriend with strained patience. "I want to 
keep it for a while."  Hearing that, Spike shuddered in terror. Mac 
noticed Buffy's arrival. "Damn it!" he growled as he  strode over to 
her. "Honey, I-"

Standing up on her toes, Buffy hushed his complaint with a soft kiss on 
the lips. "Its  okay," she whispered softly. She gave him a quick hug 
and strode over to the cage.

"Hello, Spike," she greeted the vampire. At the sound of her voice, 
Spike's head jerked  up. Its face was ravaged  the result of Big Jim's 
fun with the squirt gun. A cross had been  burned into the vampires 
forehead.

"*Slayer*," it hissed. Gathering itself, Spike adopted a friendlier 
tone. "Buffy. Long time,  no see. I don't suppose *you'd* be willing to 
be reasonable, would you?" it asked. "Maybe work  out some kind of 
deal?" Spike glanced around at the other immortals. "These, ah, 
*gentlemen*,  seem to be rather upset about something. I assure you, 
whatever it is, *I* had nothing to do with  it!"

Buffy stared at the vampire with loathing in her eyes. "Good bye, 
Spike," she said. She  turned her back and walked away from her old 
nemesis. Pausing by Mac, she reached up and  gave him a kiss. "Don't 
stay up too late," she instructed him. As Buffy headed up the stairs, 
both  the immortals and the vampire watched her retreating back.

'That sounded almost *wifely*,' reflected Mac as a grin spread over his 
face. Turning back  to face the vampire, the immortal's smile turned 
frigid.

"Well, Spike old son," he said. "Shall we continue?"

The vampire shuddered again.  

Emerging from the basement, Buffy found Willow and Oz anxiously waiting. 
She shut the  door, cutting off the beginning of another pain-filled 
scream. Buffy winced. She loved him, but  there was no denying that Mac 
had a dark side. She told herself that it didn't bother her, but she  
knew she was lying to herself. It bothered her a great deal. She took 
comfort in knowing that Mac  wasn't torturing Spike for pleasure's sake 
 he was, in fact, rather clinical about it.

'Course, on reflection, *that* wasn't terribly reassuring.

She ushered her friends out the door and went to her mother. Joyce was 
still sleeping.  Someone had spread a blanket over her and placed a 
pillow under her head. Buffy gave her Mom  a soft kiss on her forehead 
and headed upstairs.

After taking a shower, Buffy pulled on the shirt she'd stolen from Mac 
and crawled into  bed. Opening a textbook, she tried to concentrate on 
her studying.

At midnight, Mac walked into their bedroom. He nodded at her and walked 
into their  bathroom. In a minute, she heard the shower start. A few 
minutes later, Mac walked out of the  bathroom naked. Neither of them 
said a word as he walked over to the bed and slid in next to her.  They 
kissed each other, softly at first, but soon the clinch turned 
passionate. Buffy reached out to  the bedside lamp, intending to turn it 
off. Mac stopped her hand with his own.

"Do you want to sleep?" he asked her.

Buffy smiled at him. "That's not really what I had in mind, no," she 
answered.

"Then leave the light," Mac instructed her. A smile stretched across his 
face. "I want to  see you."

Buffy paused as she considered that. Then she smiled at her lover as he 
began to  unfasten the buttons of her shirt.

It was a long time before she got around to extinguishing the light.  


Part 13
Scene 1
Sunnydale, Ca.
150 Creek St
0630, Tuesday, (Local)

Joyce awoke to the smell of brewing coffee. Seeing the woman stir, Belle 
walked over to  where she lay on the couch and crouched down.

"Good morning," said the immortal. "Would you like some coffee?"

"I think the smell of it is what woke me up," said Joyce as she nodded 
her head. She  hoisted herself up to a sitting position and blinked the 
sleep from her eyes. The house was quiet.  After a minute she could hear 
faint sounds coming from the kitchen. Smiling, Belle offered her a  hand 
and pulled Joyce to her feet.

Walking into the kitchen, Joyce discovered Joe and Thomas were in the 
process of  getting breakfast prepared. Joe held up a coffee cup and, at 
Joyce's nod, filled it. She sat down  and Joe set the cup on the table 
in front of her. Scattered about the table were Sweet 'n Low,  
Coffemate, a picture of cream and a bowl of sugar. She added some cream 
and sugar substitute,  stirred the mixture and sipped her coffee. 
Everyone was silent, simply enjoying the warmth the  kitchen offered.

"Has anyone seen Buffy?" Joyce asked after a while.

Behind her a voice said, "I don't believe the mistress of the house as 
risen yet." Joyce  turned and saw that Deblout had walked in and was 
leaning on the counter. She watched as he  moved around the table and 
glanced down at Belle's coffee.

"Oh," she said. '*Mistress of the house*'? Joyce saw that Belle didn't 
care for the  appellation being applied to Buffy. In a moment of 
insight, she grasped that the woman envied  her daughter dearly. As much 
for Belle's sake as to relieve her own discomfort, Joyce's mind  raced 
for another topic of conversation. Ah!

"Joe?" the Watcher turned to look at her. "All immortals have Watchers, 
right?"

He nodded. "Most of them. That is to say. Most of the ones we know 
about. It's rare that  we find out about a new immortal as quickly as we 
have Buffy." Joe continued with an odd grin,  "There's one immortal 
who's reputed to be five *thousand* years old  and we have no idea  
where he is."

Deblout grabbed the coffeepot and topped off Belle's cup.

"The Methos Project?" asked Thomas. Joe nodded. At Joyce's confused 
look, he  elaborated. "A legendary immortal reputed to be so old, he 
doesn't remember where he came  from." Joyce considered the implications 
of that.

"Do you believe he exists?" she asked him.

Deblout pulled up a chair and sat down next to Belle.

Thomas shrugged. "After this trip? Let's say I'm not *quite* as 
skeptical." Jager shot  Dawson a look. "Is that guy, what was his name? 
*Pierson*," he said, suddenly remembering.  "Adam Pierson. Is he still 
researching the project?"

"Yeah," confirmed the other Watcher, still with that peculiar smile on 
his face. Turning to  Joyce, he steered the conversation away from the 
subject of Methos. "Curious about something,  Joyce?"

"Well, I was wondering... Where are everyone *else's* Watchers?" she 
asked.

"Ah." Suddenly, Joe found that Belle and Deblout were focused on him as 
well. "Well,  see, until a couple of years ago, *no* immortal new about 
us. In theory anyway," he amended,  thinking of Methos. "Duncan found 
out about us. Since then, we've been seeing the domino  effect.

"We've been trying to contain it. Once we realized what your future son-
in-law was up to,  I sent orders out for the Watchers that weren't here 
to stay away. To minimize the danger to them   from the vampires  and 
to reduce the amount of exposure."

'Neatly done, Dawson,' thought Deblout. The Watcher's 'son-in-law' 
remark was  guaranteed to force a change of topic away from the 
Watchers.

Joyce and Belle stiffened. Suddenly, Joyce completely forgot that Buffy 
and Mac were  exactly the topic she wished to avoid. The others in the 
room caught Belle's reaction, but Joyce  was oblivious to it. Nor did 
she notice the entrance of another person to the kitchen.

"My future *son-in-law*?" she repeated.

"*Son-in-law*?" echoed Mac. Joyce nearly jumped out of her skin. Her 
head whipped  around and she stared at Mac. The others burst out 
laughing. The look on Mac's face was  priceless. Even Belle was amused.

Seeing that Belle had lowered the level of her coffee by about an inch, 
Deblout stood up  and walked over to grab the pot again.

"Joyce," Mac suggested, "don't you think you ought to let me get around 
to asking your  daughter to marry me *before* you start planning the 
wedding?"

Joyce's mouth dropped open as Belle's last vestige of hope crumbled. 
Mac's remark  caused the laughs to become guffaws, but Belle heard what 
Mac was *really* saying, She didn't  know if the man had ever really 
been in love before, but he certainly was now  and he'd just  more or 
less announced it to the world. Belle also realized that she'd been more 
in love with him  than she'd ever admitted to herself.

Deblout poured Belle some more coffee.  

Buffy woke up in an empty bed. At some point Mac had slipped out of her 
arms and  departed. 'Damn it,' she cursed silently. 'What does it take 
to wear that man out?' *She* was  certainly still tired. She was also 
all too aware that she wasn't going to be able to go back to sleep  
alone. With a groan she forced herself to climb out of bed.

Forty-five minutes later, the young woman was showered, dressed, 
perfumed and had  applied what little make-up she wore. She was just 
about to head downstairs to get a cup of  coffee when she heard a soft 
knock on the door.

"Come in," she called. Her mother opened the door and walked in carrying 
a cup of coffee in each hand. Buffy flushed  with embarrassment. "Uh, 
Mom! Good morning!" Seeing her mother smile at her, Buffy forced herself 
to calm down.  "Did you sleep okay? I didn't want to wake you up, see, 
so-" "Buffy, relax," said Joyce. She sighed and shook her head. Then a 
smile cracked. "I swear. You  two could drive me straight up the wall. I 
think Mac is running around making sure all the  shotguns are somewhere 
I can't get at them!" Mother and daughter contemplated each other for a 
beat. Then they smiled. The smile gave way  to mutually relieved 
laughter. Finally the two women hugged. As they broke apart, Buffy got 
an  evil gleam in eye. "So, he's ducking the whole wedded bliss issue, 
is he?" she asked. Her mother giggled. "Actually, Buffy, I think you're 
the one who needs to be checking into a  getaway plan," she said. "Oh?" 
"I sort of got the impression that putting a ring on your finger was 
somewhere between 'slaying  vampires' and 'finding a hobby while Buffy's 
in school' on his 'to do' list." Buffy got an insufferably smug look on 
her face. Joyce was suddenly a little sad. "Did you realize that Belle 
is in love with him?" she asked. Buffy nodded. "Yeah," she said. "I feel 
a little sorry for her. I don't think Mac even sees her. As a  woman, I 
mean. She must just hate me." "Oh, she's jealous, sure, but actually, I 
get the impression she's a little in awe of you," said Joyce.  "It's too 
bad, too. She's so hung up on Mac, that she's missing what's right in 
front of her." "What do you mean?" asked Buffy. Joyce smiled. "I mean 
that Jean-Paul seems to be rather taken by her," she answered. Buffy had 
a speculative look on her face as she considered that.  


Scene 2
Sunnydale, Ca.
150 Creek St
1000, Tuesday (Local)

Mac walked down to the basement with a cup of coffee in his hand. He 
drew a chair up  outside the cage and sat down. Casually crossing his 
legs, he sipped his coffee and regarded his  prisoner as it lay huddled 
in the far corner of the cage.

The vampire was a mess. Big Jim had tortured the creature long into the 
early morning.  At Mac's orders, the other immortal had made certain to 
keep the beast alive, but Mac suspected  it had been touch and go at 
times. O'Byrne had hesitated to let the immortal at the vampire, but  
was glad he had. Big Jim had managed to work off some of his rage at 
failing to save the girl who  had died Sunday night, and the vampire...

Well, Mac suspected that right about now, it would do *anything* to 
avoid another session  with its antagonist. The immortal's foot lashed 
out against the bars. A tremendous *gong*  sounded. The vampire jerked, 
then shivered where it lay against the wall.

"Morning, Spike old boy," Mac greeted it cheerfully.

Spike's head lifted and the vampire looked at him. "What do you want, 
bloodbag?" it  demanded.

Mac quirked an eyebrow. "I'd expected you to be a little more polite 
this morning. Guess I  was wrong," said the immortal as he uncrossed his 
legs and rose to his feet. "Big Jim must be  losing his touch. Excuse 
me." Mac turned to leave.

"Where are you going?" asked Spike, worried.

Mac stopped and turned back to face the thing in the cage. "I'm gonna go 
rip off a piece  of Big Jim's ass. Then I'm going to suggest he come 
back down here and follow my instructions  concerning your attitude 
adjustment."

The vampire jerked as if he'd been struck. Having spent a little time as 
a guest of the  North Vietnamese Army once upon a time, the immortal 
figured he knew what was going through  Spike's mind. The question was 
whether or not the vampire was as strong-willed as he had been.  If 
called to bet on it, Mac would have said no. Shrugging, he turned to go.

"Please don't!" Spike shouted. Softening his tone, the vampire begged, 
"Just tell me what  you *want*!"

Mac suppressed a smile. He'd have won his bet.  

Buffy paid particular attention in her History 102 as the teacher 
discussed the Viet Nam  war. The man still struck Buffy as an 
insufferable baboon, and she strongly doubted that man had  any first-
hand knowledge of the subject he was discussing. She smiled as she 
considered that  she was living with an historian who had *been there* 
with two separate armies. She'd just hit  Mac up for a little one-on-one 
tutoring. Then her thoughts circled around and Buffy sat up a little  
straighter in her chair.

*Living with*?

The rest of the day blurred by. Buffy had a queasy feeling in her 
stomach all day as she  thought of returning home at the end of the day. 
'Home' had changed addresses at some point  when she wasn't paying 
attention. How the hell had that happened? She didn't remember ever  
consciously making that decision.

She'd only known him for...'Oh, my god!' she panicked. 'Two *weeks*.'

At three o'clock, her last class finished, Buffy strolled down in front 
of the student  bookstore. Mac's Pathfinder was parked in front of it 
and Ceirdwin was sitting on the hood  enjoying the admiring glances of 
the student body's male segment. Buffy walked up to her and  the older 
immortal hopped down.

"Hi!" she greeted Buffy warmly. "Mac's still tied up with our guest, so 
I grabbed his keys. I  figured you could use a ride home."

Buffy gave her a wan smile and started around to the passenger side. She 
stopped when  Ceirdwin held the keys out to her. "Want to drive?" she 
asked.

Buffy climbed into the driver's seat and cranked the truck, thinking 
that she needed to ask  Mac where the expression 'crank it up' came 
from. Exercising extreme caution, she steered the  truck home. 
Occasionally, her companion tried to engage her in conversation. Buffy 
mumbled  barely coherent answers to her questions.

Finally, as Buffy turned the truck up Mac's driveway, Ceirdwin asked, 
"Buffy, what's  wrong?"

Buffy didn't answer. Standing on the porch, Mac was watching the truck 
pull in. All the  questions Buffy had tortured herself with throughout 
the day drained away. She hopped out of the  truck and raced up to him. 
Wrapping her arms around Mac, she said, "Miss me?"

She was home.  


Scene 3
Sunnydale, Ca.
150 Creek St
1800, Tuesday (Local)

Spike had proven to be a veritable cornucopia of useful information. The 
maps in the  living room were filled with color-coded pushpins detailing 
vampire lairs, boltholes and favored  hunting grounds. Mac was 
reasonably sure the information was accurate  he'd promised Spike  that 
a single incorrect detail would result in another full day with Big Jim.

Belle had spent the afternoon mixing up some pretty flammable 
concoctions while Jager  had supervised the construction and loading of 
several hundred rounds of 'Vamp Killers'.  Somehow Dawson had managed to 
produce another six .38 automatics fitted with silencers. The  team had 
a plenitude of wooden stakes and, of course, each of the immortals was 
armed with a  sword.

A series of three man patrols would be run through the night - each 
limited to three hours.  In the morning, the entire strike team would 
zero in on one nest after another. It was damn near  the fastest, 
loosest operation the Reaper had ever put together, but he believed that 
with one or  two days concentrated effort the team could virtually wipe 
out the local vampire threat.

Not completely  the beasts were too well entrenched. But sufficiently 
enough that the  Slayer would be left with only minor maintenance work. 
The group was huddled over some of the  detail planning preparatory to 
the first patrol's departure when Mac decided he needed a break.  He 
went into his office and started unpacking boxes of books. It was 
drudgework, but the  simplicity and repetitiveness of it let his mind 
unwind.

After about an hour at it, Buffy walked in to join him. Silently, she 
started helping him.  After a while, she asked him to tell her about 
Viet Nam.

After considering her question for a moment, Mac asked, "Why do you want 
to know  about that?"

"We're studying it in U.S. History. Besides, you were there. Since we're 
living together, I  want to know about where you've been," she answered 
with a sly smile.

Mac jerked as if he'd grabbed a live wire. 'Living together'? After 
another short pause, he  smiled. "Do you want the long or short 
version?" he asked.

"Well..." she considered. "Let's *start* with the short version. For my 
class," she  explained. "We've got plenty of time for the long version."

Mac nodded and began a short, precisely detailed lecture on Viet Nam's 
struggle for  independence, the partitioning of the country and the 
escalation of U.S. involvement. At one point  he broke off and left the 
room to wish the first team luck and see them out the door, returning to  
take up right where he'd left off.

'Damn,' Buffy thought. 'Mac should be a teacher.' Her honey made it all 
sound halfway  interesting.

At eight-thirty, he kissed her good-bye to join the second shift and 
relieve the first patrol.  Buffy continued unpacking boxes  Mac had an 
extensive library  leaving it off now and then to  wander through the 
living room and listen as his team conducted periodic check-ins. By 
eleven,  she'd finished unpacking the books, so she went upstairs to 
their bedroom and changed into  sweats. At eleven-thirty she, Deblout 
and Belle set out to relieve the second shift patrol.  

Spike had been left alone off and on throughout the day. During the 
frequent absence of  its jailers, the creature had examined its cage and 
found a weakness. The cage was *bolted*  together! The vampire reached 
through the bars and worked furiously to unscrew the fastenings.  Spike 
had no doubt that his jailers intended to kill him. Curiously, 'Big Jim' 
wasn't the one that  truly terrified the bloodsucker.

Spike was scared shitless of the one called *Reaper*.

The vampire had known a number of experienced killers over the years. It 
had had many  of them for a meal. None had ever affected it the way this 
*Reaper* did. Not even Buffy  and  Spike had a healthy respect for the 
Slayer  had ever really scared it before. Hell, this entire  gathering 
of mortals was dangerous. There was something about them that set alarm 
bells  clanging.

But *Reaper*... There was something in that man's eyes...

It was time to relocate.

Suddenly, the first bolt came loose in Spike's hand. With hope swelling 
in the vampire's  chest, it worked even faster.  

Mac had just reported in, saying that Buffy's team was on site and that 
his patrol was  heading back, when a tremendous crash sounded from the 
back of the house. The Macleods   who'd pulled the first shift and were 
presently the only immortals in the house  leaped up, drew  their 
swords and bolted out of the room. Giles and Dawson armed themselves 
with wooden  stakes. In a few minutes the immortals returned.

The back door and been torn out of its frame. Fearing the worst, the two 
clansmen had  investigated the basement and found that one wall of the 
cage had been unbolted and moved.  Wary of a trap, the immortals split 
up and searched the house from top to bottom. Spike was  gone.  


Scene 4
Sunnydale, Ca.
150 Creek St
0015, Wednesday (Local)

Mac examined the cage and started cursing himself for a fool. Exhausting 
all the  available profanity of one language, he moved on to another, 
getting angrier by the second. How  in hell had he forgotten to *weld* 
the damn bolts? Worse, he knew he should have *never* left the  vampire 
unattended!

Listening to the lengthening string of multi-lingual profanity, Dawson 
was impressed.  O'Byrne had quite a repertoire of color euphemisms at 
his disposal. Finally, Buffy stepped up to  her lover and laid a hand 
against his chest. The veteran quieted immediately. Buffy wrapped her  
arms around him and held him. After a moment, he returned her embrace.

"I just can't believe I was so damn stupid!" he growled.

"It's done, Mackenzie," said Deblout. "Move on."

The Macleods were nearly as angry with themselves as O'Byrne was. "We 
should have  been watching it," said Duncan as Connor fumed.

"As I said, Duncan. It is done," repeated the Colonel. "The thing we 
need to do know is  determine how this affects our plan for tomorrow."

Mac loosened his grasp on Buffy and stepped back so he could look down 
at her. "What  do you think?" he asked the Slayer.

Buffy chewed her lip as she exchanged a glance with Giles. "He'll need 
time to recover.  He won't be back tonight. When he does come," she 
added, "it will be in force."

"Then the best thing would be to post a guard and get some sleep, 
correct?" asked  Deblout. "Tomorrow  we strike!"

Connor added, "Let's make *damn* sure we take that creature out at our 
first opportunity  first opportunity. It knows where to find us."  

The strike team needn't have worried. At that moment, Spike was dragging 
itself into its  lair with one thought only. The vampire had found a 
broken down motorist and stopped long  enough to feed - not out of 
desire, but because it needed to recharge its batteries. The previous  
twenty-four hours had been rather draining.

Arriving at the one location it hadn't divulged during the Reaper's 
interrogation, Spike  demanded Drusilla stop screeching at him about 
where he'd been. Within minutes of its arrival,  the vampire, Drusilla 
and a couple of lieutenants were on the road and speeding away from  
Sunnydale. Away from the Slayer and her mate, *Reaper*. * Far* away.  


Part 14
Scene 1
Sunnydale, Ca.
150 Creek St
0700, Wednesday (Local)

The strike team gathered in the living room. Everyone had been up for an 
hour or two  already, eating breakfast and preparing for the day. 
Shortly after seven, the team was on its way  out the front door. Loaded 
into three vehicles, the team was soon convoying through the streets  of 
Sunnydale to their first target.

Riding shotgun, Buffy contemplated her boyfriend as he drove the truck. 
His features  were smooth and relaxed. She wondered again what it took 
to make the man lose control.  Suddenly, Buffy realized that she already 
knew the answer to that. Seeing her start to blush. Mac  cocked an 
eyebrow at her.

"Penny," he said.

She just shook her head at him, a slight smile on her lips.

The team arrived at their first target  a ramshackle affair that 
appeared to be a former  office building gone to seed. The immortals 
slipped from the vehicles and quickly moved to seal  off possible escape 
routes. Belle and Deblout pulled open a sewer grate and disappeared down  
the hole. Seeing them vanish down into the Earth, Mac silently counted 
to ten. He nodded to  Duncan and stepped back from the door.

Duncan whispered into his radio, "Go, go, go!" as O'Byrne lifted his leg 
and sent a  powerful kick into the door. The heavy obstruction crashed 
open and Mac led his team charging  inside. The immortals scattered 
through the building by twos, Mac and Buffy speeding in search  of an 
entrance to the basement.

A hideous scream rang through the structure. The Reaper gave a mental 
nod  one  down. It never crossed his mind that any of the immortals 
might have been the source of the  racket  only the cause.

Finding an entrance to the lower level, Mac led the Slayer down into the 
basement. In  quick succession, four vampires sprang at the attackers. 
Mac pumped a trio of bullets into the  chest of each. Reaching the 
bottom of the stairwell, the Reaper crouched for a moment with his  
situational awareness on high. Detecting something behind him, Mac spun 
around to find Buffy  blocking his line of fire.

The Slayer was whipping her sword through the air, beheading a vampire. 
As the fiend  shattered into dust, Buffy drew a stake from where it was 
sandwiched between her belt and the  small of her back. Lunging forward, 
she plunged it through the chest of a second beast and  pierced its 
heart. Turning to Mac, she winked.

With a grimly appreciative smile, Reaper changed magazines and continued 
to search  the basement.

Within fifteen minutes the building was clear. The strike team assembled 
outside and  tallied up the kills. Twelve of the undead were now *truly* 
dead. Pausing only long enough to  reload, the team set out for their 
second target.  

Late that afternoon, the team drove back to Mac and Buffy's house. The 
immortals were  exhausted. Forty-seven vampires had been destroyed at a 
dozen different locations. Twelve sites  had been valid out of twenty 
they'd stormed. Six homeless people had been rousted as well. Big  Jim 
had nearly shot one, earning the immortal an ear-blistering tirade from 
Buffy.

The immortals entered the house and immediately fell to cleaning weapons 
and rearming  for the next strike. Over her protests, Mac sent Buffy to 
bed to get some sleep  the Slayer would  have to patrol that night, and 
her boyfriend wanted her well rested. Grumbling something about  overly 
protective chauvinists, Buffy finally complied.

Pissed that he'd been excluded from the hunt, Jager had spent the day 
preparing  additional ammunition. What had been used that day  about a 
hundred and fifty rounds  was  made good. 

By suppertime, Mac and Thomas were sitting on the porch drinking beer. 
Connor,  Ceirdwin and Joe were leaning on the porch rail arguing with 
them about the relevance of the  second amendment in modern America. The 
immortals and Watchers were deep into it when  Buffy walked outside and 
sat in Mac's lap.

Giving his beloved a kiss on her forehead as she snuggled up against 
him, Mac  continued to make his point. "You're not getting it, Joe! It's 
*because* society is so permissive  that people need to be armed. There 
are so few social mores left that we're being over run by  unsocialized 
animals."

"I just don't think guns are the answer, Mac," protested Dawson. "How 
many kids were  killed last year alone by guns?"

"With power comes responsibility. I'll grant that there are a lot of 
irresponsible people out  there  kids getting there hands on weapons 
and killing each *should* be a crime. *But*, stripping  the citizenry at 
large of the ability to defend themselves? That's insane. What we 
*should* be  doing is mandating weapons training in our schools. *Then* 
kids would know how to treat them.  *And* as they became adults they'd 
be much better prepared to use them," finished the veteran.

Buffy's mouth dropped open in surprise.

"An armed society is a polite society, Mac?" asked Ceirdwin skeptically. 
"Think that  through  would you really want to live in that society?"

Mac glanced around at the others. Looking down at Buffy, he noticed the 
expression on  her face. Only his fellow legionnaire seemed to agree 
with him.

"Listen to yourselves," suggested the immortal wryly. "How many of *you* 
are willing to  give up your weapons? Your swords for example?"

"That's different, Mac, and you know it!" Ceirdwin said vehemently. "We 
need our swords  to protect ourselves..." her voice trailed off as she 
saw the grins spread across the faces of the  legionnaires. 

"Am I to understand, Ceirdwin, that you don't believe we mere mortals 
should have that  right as well?" asked Jager in his faintly accented 
voice.

"Not very many of us have to deal with the kind of danger they do, 
Thomas," pointed out  Dawson.

"You never need a gun until you need it badly, Joe," answered the 
younger Watcher.

Buffy interrupted. "Are you interested in my opinion?" she asked Mac.

"Of course," he replied.

"Mac, most people aren't like you. I don't mean because they're 
*mortal*. I mean because  you're a warrior  and you were a warrior 
*before* you became immortal. The world needs people  like you. Like 
*us*. And we need to have access to the right equipment to do our jobs. 
To protect  people," she finished.

Mac considered her words. "So," he asked at last, "what are the people 
we protect  supposed to do when we aren't around?"  


Scene 2
Sunnydale, Ca.
Around town
2000, Wednesday (Local)

About the time Spike and Drusilla were rousing themselves in San Diego 
to continue their  flight from the Hellmouth, the surviving vampires in 
Sunnydale were taking stock. A lot of them  seemed to be absent this 
evening. A couple of nesting areas were checked. Finding nothing but  
dust, the vampire community checked a couple more. And a couple more 
after that. Spike's place  showed evidence of a hurried departure.

Even the most senior of them started to get a little concerned. 
Something was in the  wind. The conclusion was inescapable: either the 
Slayer was on speed, or something new was  hunting them.  

Buffy cruised through the park. Accompanying her were Belle and Deblout. 
The Slayer's  thoughts bounced back and forth between the conversation 
on the porch and hoping Belle would  notice her admirer. The Colonel 
reminded her of an older version of her boyfriend in a lot of ways.  
Another professional soldier, Deblout radiated the same competence. The 
older immortal wasn't  as hunky as Mac, but he *was* handsome in a 
geezer sort of way. He even had a certain kind of  old world charm.

Her thoughts returned to Mac. She'd never suspected that her boyfriend 
would turn out to  be a gun nut. Reluctantly, the young woman conceded 
that what he said made a certain amount  of sense, *but* she remembered 
the tragedies that had dogged high schools around the country  during 
her senior year.

Mac had grown up in an orphanage and run away when he was sixteen, 
winding up in  the *Foreign Legion*, for Pete's sake, a year later. Mac 
had never really been a kid. He saw the  world in terms of good and 
evil. He protected the good and destroyed the evil. Which was good,  of 
course. Mac was a hero of the old school.

It was just that he didn't seem to touch base with ordinary society *at 
all*. Her honey saw  problems and dealt with them as expediently as 
possible. He would never understand the  psychology that drove kids to 
massacre their fellow students, or caused some overworked, under  
appreciated civil servant to carry an AK-47 into the Post Office and 
open up. Mac would just  point, say "Evil!" and charge.

Buffy sighed.  

It was almost eleven when she got home. Mac was in the library with 
Giles, filing all his  books in alphabetical order. Sometimes he kind of 
got geezerish, Buffy noted. Looking up and  seeing his lady, Mac set 
down the books in his hand and walked over to her. Sweeping her off  her 
feet, Mac carried Buffy out of the room as he called over his shoulder 
to Giles.

"Later, Rupert." Cradling Buffy in his arms, the immortal walked up the 
stairs and into  their bedroom. He set her on their bed, got down on his 
knees and began taking off her shoes.

Buffy smiled at him. "I take it you missed me?"  


Scene 3
Sunnydale, Ca.
150 Creek St
1600, Thursday (Local)

The strike team stumbled into the living room and collapsed into 
different couches and  chairs. God, what a day! Fifty-three dead 
vampires. That made over a hundred just since Mac's  arrival in town a 
few weeks before. Buffy wondered how many more of the things there could 
be.  She was so tired of this fight!

For four *years* the Slayer had been fighting vampires. Sometimes it 
felt as of she wasn't  making any progress at all! And the last few 
weeks had been a marathon of destruction  not to  mention the upending 
of her personal life. Almost without realizing it was happening, she'd 
fallen  in love and moved out her mother's house! All that *on top of* 
learning about the existence of  immortals, the Game and discovering 
that *she* was immortal herself.

She still wasn't sure how she felt about *that*. It was kind of cool 
that she didn't have to  worry about growing old  not that she'd 
expected to anyway, albeit for different reasons. It was  *way* cool 
that she was now, apparently, so hard to kill. But learning that she 
could never have  kids of her own, that she herself was adopted and that 
the price of immortality was watching all  her mortal friends grow old 
and die as complete strangers periodically popped out of the  woodwork 
and tried to take her head... 

That was bad.

She was trying to focus on the good things when she fell asleep.  

Buffy jerked awake as a hand shook her shoulder. It was her mother, 
bending over her  and gazing at her daughter with love in her eyes.

"Mom! What are you doing here?" she asked. Then Buffy winced, realizing 
that had  sounded a little rude. "Sorry," she apologized.

Joyce smiled. "Mac invited me. I'm glad it occurred to *one* of you that 
I hadn't seen you  in a couple days. I was getting a little worried."

"Sorry," Buffy apologized. "We've been a little busy."

"So I gather. How are you feeling?"

"Tired," answered Buffy. "I know it'll never stop, but sometimes it 
feels like I'll never even  get a break!"

Joyce heard the exhaustion in her little girl's voice. She tried to 
sound reassuring. "Rupert  seems to think that you and Mac and you're 
friends have just about depleted the local supply of  bad guys." She 
paused. "That doesn't mean you'll be leaving does it?"

Buffy living across town Joyce could deal with. Buffy *leaving* was 
something else again.  Buffy hugged her mom.

"It's the Hellmouth, Mom. Plenty here to keep me busy," she reassured.  

Dinner tonight was huge stack of pizzas. The team had rested through the 
early evening  in preparation to continue the hunt that night. Mac 
wanted this thing wrapped up. His friends had  lives to get back to and 
he had things he needed to attend to as well.

Buffy figured largely on that list. Her calling was going to be keeping 
him in the vicinity of  Sunnydale for a good long while. Which meant he 
was going to need a job of some kind. Maybe  he'd open a Dojo  Duncan 
had run one in Seattle and could set him straight on what to do to get  
started. It would certainly be a practical use of his time.

Or he could go back to school. Finn's death had interrupted his studies 
in Quebec. He  wasn't going back there, of course, but he could see what 
Buffy's college had to offer. He could  even do both, if he set his mind 
to it.

And, of course, there was Polovsky. Sooner or later, Mac *would* deal 
with that  murderous bastard. He owed it to Finn.

But mostly there was Buffy. The woman saturated his senses. Shocking 
Mac, he'd  realized that he'd never really been happy before meeting 
her. Busy, yes. Often satisfied.  Sometimes he'd even been content. But 
happy? No. Until now, that is. Never having heard the  term 'honeymoon 
phase', the immortal wouldn't have understood it if he had. Even if 
someone  had succeeded in explaining it to him, they would have been 
unable to shake Mac's conviction  that he and the young woman belonged 
together.

Mac tended to be a man of absolutes.  

Dinner finished, the strike team sat to discuss strategy. They'd very 
nearly finished hitting  the sights Spike had identified. Buffy hadn't 
seen a single vampire on patrol the night before.  There was no denying 
that there had to be a finite number of them, but how many more were  
there?

Finally, it was determined that the entire team would patrol in teams of 
two in two shifts.  Buffy, Mac and the Macleods would go till one a.m. 
The remaining immortals would then be on  station until dawn. The object 
was to hunt and kill as many of the beasts as they could find. The  
following day, around noon or so, the team would hit the five sites 
remaining on their list of  targets.

Buffy and Mac decided that would end the operation. Deblout cautioned 
the veteran on  that point.

"Never leave a job half done," warned the Colonel.

"I don't intend to, sir," answered Mac. "But this job won't ever really 
*be* finished. My  intent all along was to take a serious bite out of 
their ranks.

"Now that we all know what to look for, as we all head back to our homes 
we'll each be  able to spot vampire activity," he continued. Buffy gave 
a start. "For now, we'll have done what  we can," he finished.

Grudgingly, the others nodded in agreement.  

Strolling down the street in front of the Bronze, Buffy had her arm 
around Mac's waist. His  arm was around her shoulder.

"Are you leaving, Mac?" she asked.

"What?"

She stopped walking and freed her arm. Mac let go as well and turned to 
face her. "I  asked if you're leaving. You said something about 'when we 
all go home'."

"I didn't men *me*, sweetheart," he reassured her. "I just bought a 
house here,  remember?" Mac smiled at her. "I understand that you're 
stuck here, at least for now. College,  your mother, the Hellmouth..." 
he recited. "So, I guess I'm stuck here, too," he finished.

Buffy hated it, but knew she had to ask. She still remembered what had 
initially brought  this man into her life.

"What about Polovsky?"

The smile melted away as Mac's as face grew hard. "I don't know where to 
find him. I  won't lie to you, Buffy. If I did, I'd be off like a shot. 
Once *this* is done, that is.

"But I'd be coming back to you," he finished.

"Unless you were dead," she stated bluntly.

The two lovers stared at one another for a long moment.

"Sooner or later I *will* have to deal with him, honey," Mac finally 
asserted.

Tears in her eyes, the young woman demanded "Why? It won't bring back 
your friend! It  won't fix *anything*!"

"Rule number one, Buffy. In the end, there can be only one," he stated 
flatly. "It won't be  Polovsky. Not if I can help it."

"Only one? What does that mean, Mac? Would you take *my* head?"

O'Byrne stepped back, stunned at the question. "Of course not!"

"But there can be only *one*, right? What if it came down to you and me, 
huh? *There  can be only one*," she spat at him. There were tears 
running down her cheeks. Mac stepped  closer to her. When she tried to 
retreat, Mac reached out and grabbed her shoulders. Pulling her  to him, 
Mac held the woman so tight she could barely breathe.

"Then you'll win the Prize," he whispered into her hair.

Realizing what the man had said, what he *meant*, Buffy started to cry. 
After a long time  she managed to choke out at a question through sobs. 
With her face muffled against his chest,  Mac hadn't been able to 
understand what she said. He leaned back from her.

"What was that?" he asked.

"I *said*, when will you be going? To look for him?" she repeated.

"I'm not going anywhere. I'll find him when I find him," he answered. 
'Finn, forgive me,' he  begged the memory of his dead friend.

Concluding that his answer was the best she was going to get, Buffy held 
him closer.  


Scene 4
Sunnydale, Ca.
150 Creek St
0150, Friday (Local)

Buffy slipped into bed, watching Mac towel his head. It had been another 
vampire-free  night for her. The Macleods had found a group of three 
bloodsuckers and quickly dispatched  them, but that was it for the first 
shift. Buffy didn't really have any hope that the relief would last  
long  she'd seen dry spells before. She did believe that vampire 
activity was hitting an all time  low for the area. With a little luck, 
she'd get a vacation of sorts.

"You want to get out of Sunnydale for a while?"

Lost in thought, Buffy jerked at the sound of Mac's voice.

"What was that?" she asked.

"I asked if you'd like to get out of Sunnydale for a while," he 
repeated.

"Are you reading my mind all ready, Mac?" Buffy asked with a smile.

Mac grinned. "It just occurred to me that you probably haven't had a 
real vacation in a  long time. Our lives aren't all about sword fights, 
you know. Your life - *our* life  has room for a  little fun now and 
then."

"I'm in school, Mac. If I ever want to graduate college, I need to 
attend *some* of the  time," she answered fondly. Graduation. She might 
actually graduate from college. Get a degree,  see the world... "What 
did you have in mind?"

"Well... I *was* thinking a week in Acapulco. How about a weekend in 
L.A. or San  Francisco in the meantime?" he offered. Buffy smiled as Mac 
came to bed.  


Part 15
Scene 1
Sunnydale, Ca.
150 Creek St
1700, Friday (Local)

The last known nest was clear. Another six vampires were dead. More than 
a hundred  and twenty had been destroyed in the last three weeks. Giles 
was thoroughly amazed. He  wouldn't have believed that there were that 
many vampires concentrated in one spot *anywhere*.  He felt confident 
that the Hellmouth would stay fairly vampire-free for a while. Say a 
week or so.

The strike team returned to Mac and Buffy's place savoring their 
victory. Xander had  announced that they needed to have a party. At 
Buffy's insistent agreement, Mac had smiled and  reached for his wallet. 
Handing Buffy his credit card, he told her to take his truck and get  
whatever she thought they needed. Ignoring the credit card, she'd 
grabbed his keys and dragged  him out the door with her.

"I know this has escaped you, my love," she informed him on the way out. 
"But Xander  and I are both under age. You and some of your friends 
drink like fish."

By five, things were in full swing. Under Deblout's supervision, Xander 
was turning the  barbecue pit's spit. A large chunk of mutton and been 
skewered on it. In the kitchen, Duncan, Joe  and Mac were trying to 
outdo one another with culinary expertise.

'He cooks, too,' Buffy noted with a grin.

Joyce was summoned, arriving just as Jager finished putting the 'command 
center'  paraphernalia away and Belle and Buffy straightened the living 
room. Busy playing hostess, Buffy  had time only to give her mother a 
quick hug and kiss before darting off on some other chore.  Handed a 
glass filled with a dry wine, Joyce located Giles  the only adult there 
she really knew   and struck up a conversation.

As afternoon turned to evening, everyone feasted and relaxed in the 
company of friends  and family. Wandering around, Joyce heard voices 
coming from the front porch through the open  door. Outside she 
discovered Deblout and Belle sitting together on the porch rail, Thomas 
leaned  back in a chair drinking a beer and Mac sitting with Buffy in 
his lap.

"So," the Colonel was saying. "Polovsky."

Joyce didn't know who 'Polovsky' was, but, seeing her daughter stiffen, 
she guessed that  it wasn't a topic she was comfortable with.

"I'll find him, Colonel. Eventually, I *will* find him-" Seeing Joyce, 
Mac cut himself off.  Buffy hopped up and came over to her mother.

"Hi, Mom. What's up?" she asked.

Joyce looked around the suddenly uncomfortable group. "I didn't mean to 
intrude, folks,"  she apologized.

"Don't be ridiculous, my dear lady," responded Deblout. "We old war-
horses were simply  chewing over old business." Mac and Thomas both 
jumped up to offer Joyce a seat.

As the evening wore on, Joyce decided to go home. Several of the 
immortals had already  gone to bed. Her departure started a general 
exodus. As Buffy's friends left, the rest of the team  began to settle 
down for the night. The visiting immortals would all be leaving the next 
day,  though each made it clear they expected to return if needed.  

Buffy snuggled into Mac in the darkened bedroom.

"Busy few weeks," she said as she toyed with the mat of hair covering 
his torso.

"Mm-hm," he responded sleepily.

Buffy smiled. He was finally worn out!  


Scene 2
L.A., Ca.
Los Angeles International Airport
1300, Saturday (Local)

Mac bid the Colonel farewell and watched as the older man walked up the 
causeway to  board his flight. Watching Deblout's retreating back, Mac 
heard the Colonel's final words ringing  in his ears.

'Polovsky, Mackenzie. Deal with him.'

Deblout was the last of the strike team to leave. Jager had decided to 
remain in  Sunnydale, saying that the Watchers could kick him out if 
they wanted  he wasn't abandoning a  fellow legionnaire. There was 
still evil to be dealt with in the vicinity of the Hellmouth.

Mac had placed a call to his friend in Quebec that morning, helping to 
arrange shipment  of Jager's personal effects. Giles was running his 
fellow Watcher around Sunnydale to look at  places for rent. Willow, Oz, 
Xander and Joyce had come over to help Buffy clean up from the  party, 
leaving Mac to run those immortals that had not rented transportation to 
LAX.  Driving home Mac reflected on the turns his life had taken of 
late. In the space of a month  he'd lost his best friend, abandoned his 
life in Canada, returned to the U.S., taken on an army of  the undead 
and fallen in love. What next  E.T.?

Spotting a florist, Mac had a sudden thought. Taking the next off ramp, 
Mac wheeled  around and re-entered the freeway headed in the other 
direction. Pulling off the freeway, the  immortal parked at the 
florist's shop. Emerging a half-hour later  and a hundred dollars 
poorer   Mac loaded his purchase in the Pathfinder and continued home.

At three o'clock he parked in his driveway. Sensing an immortal's 
presence, he decided  Buffy was home. He pulled the flowers from the 
back of the truck and headed toward the porch  steps.  

Inside, Buffy was sitting in the living room with her friends discussing 
recent events.  Suddenly she stiffened. Realizing that everyone had 
stopped talking to stare at her, she grinned.

"Mac's home," she announced. Giving her friend a strange look, Willow 
peeked out the  window.

"I don't think I'll ever get used to that," commented Xander.

"Used to what?" asked Buffy.

"That whatever-it-is that let's you know when another immortal's 
around."

"The 'buzz'?" asked Buffy with a smile. "You should try it from my point 
of view," she  suggested.

Willow turned back from the window with a wide smile. "I think Mac might 
need help with  the door," she hinted.

Giving her friend a curious look, Buffy hopped up and went to the door. 
She opened it just  as Mac finished climbing the steps. His head and 
chest were hidden behind a *huge* bouquet of  roses. Buffy stood, 
stunned at the sight. Then she called out "Guys? Come here."

She needn't have bothered. Her friends were standing directly behind 
her.

She stepped to Mac and relieved him of the flowers. Turning around, she 
handed them  off to Oz and Xander. Then she turned back to Mac, grabbed 
his head and pulled him down into a  deep kiss.

After a while she released his lips.

"I'm getting it that you missed me?" she asked with a smile.

Epilogue 
San Francisco, Ca. 1900, Saturday (Local)

Polovsky sat in the restaurant enjoying a steak dinner. The wealth of 
the U.S. never  ceased to amaze him. As he ate his meal, the immortal 
leafed through a paper. The woman he'd  raped and murdered the night 
before had been given a long write-up due to the brutality of the  
crime.

He hadn't taken a woman like that in years. He just hadn't been able to 
help himself. He'd  been so  what was the expression? Ah, yes  
*jazzed* by Mac Cuhill's Quickening that he  simply *had* to have some 
fun. Since he'd had to put off taking Mac Cuhill's student for a while,  
he figured he was owed a little diversion. It had been three weeks, now, 
since he'd decided to  discretely depart due to the gathering of 
immortals. Given the abruptness of their appearance,  Polovsky didn't 
think they'd stay long  he'd head back to Sunnydale soon.

In the meantime, he might just find another playmate. The last one had 
died too quickly.  With a little patience, Polovsky imagined he could 
make a woman last for a full day or two before  she was so badly injured 
that the fun lapsed.

It was something to think about.

END