Closing the Circle

Author: IceWing <IceWing[at]>

Category: Crossover

Rating: PG-13

Keywords: None

Legalese: All characters with their respective rights, properties and copyrights are the property of their respective creators, authors, owners, producers and agencies. These characters are used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended or meant, and no money will be made from this story. This story may be copied in its entirety, and may be distributed as long as all copyright information remains. Blah Blah Blah.

Summary: Sometimes, we have to go back to where it all began…

Timeline: This story takes place IMMEDIATELY after Secrets of the Blood


PT-579, as well as the docking slip she was currently residing in, was a nice little slice of chaos.

Heavy duty hoses ran from the edge of the dock, topping up her honeycombed, self sealing fresh water tanks until they contained close to five hundred gallons of clean water.

Stevedores ran down the gangplank, carrying crates of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as a couple of hundred pounds of the best Panamanian coffee beans that were available. With the galley completely stocked, most of her crew and passengers back aboard, the 579 was almost ready to take to the ocean once more.

"Permission to come aboard?" asked the uniformed individual, tapping his clipboard against his leg.

"Everybody keeps asking me that," said Maria. "But, if I say no, you won't just go away, will you?"

"No Signora. Not until you have signed off on the papers, and paid your departure fees."

"What, no unreasonable search?"

"Signora, if you were running drugs or guns, then I would be assuming that all of these weapons, they be real, and my momma, she not raise any stupid sons. Well, other than Pedro, so please just sign the papers, and give me the fees and we're all on our way, yes?"

"Fine where do I sign and how much does the boss owe?"

Moments later, the twenty-something customs officer was on his way, and Maria was on the intercom.

"All hands, prepare to cast off!"

"PT-579, this is Panamanian Patrol Boat Bayano. Please respond." The voice that came out of the radio speaker was polite, and had a heavy Spanish accent, but there was definitely a command presence to it.

Maria looked at Xander a tad nervously, but the young man simply shrugged and said that they should probably answer. "After all," he added. "We've already been cleared by customs dockside, and everything is 'show ready'."

"Yeah," she muttered. "But I don't like those power puffed cops picking at my boat. Just sets me off." Reaching for the handset, she quickly keyed it live and responded. "This is Maria Sanchez, of the PT-579."

"Hola, Capitain. This is Commander Delgado. We would like to offer you an escort on your way, as far as our paths coincide."

Maria looked at Xander. "I'm really not liking this."

"Got to play it out," Xander replied. "But it's not like they're threatening to board us. See if we can't talk our way out of this…"

"It's not that we don't appreciate the company, but I'm sure you and your crew have enough to do without babysitting us out to international waters."

A rich laugh came over the radio. "Reefman said you ran tight ship and that's saying a lot. No no, Capt. Sanchez, you misunderstand. Your boat, she is known to us, after you ran off those pirates out in the islands. Captain Sandros, of the Triest Villa, is a friend of mine, and I would offer my respects, to run with you as far as duty allows me. We watch out for our own, Capitan, and every skipper worth his salt in these waters feels the same. The sea is our Mother, and those who work and watch her, our brothers and sisters."

Maria looked over at Xander who simply smiled. "You have the bridge, Capitan," he said, using the same pronunciation that the Panamanian Commander did, before removing himself from the command center.

Keying the radio live again, Maria spoke. "Roger that Commander. The 579 has cleared harbor and we have the Bayano in sight. We have the lead, if you'll follow us out…"

The last bit of land was just about to vanish over the horizon as the 579 continued on its path out to sea.

But, despite her position on the stern of the boat, Dawn Summers didn't see any of it, just as she hadn't seen the Bayano flash its running lights as she'd pulled away from the 579 and taken up her normal patrol route.

Her mind was deep in thought as she tried to figure out everything that had happened, the ramifications of having one of the big guns on the side of Light have a one on one chat with her.

The fact that she hadn't managed to sleep since escaping from Elizabeth's clutches didn't help either. And, on top of all of it, her hand was itching and tingling, despite the fact that Tara had given her a poultice for it.

She felt a presence approaching her, but didn't even look to see who it was.

"Hey brat," said Buffy as she sat down. "So how was dinner and dancing?"

Dawn turned her head and looked at her sister. Without a word, Dawn rose from her seated position and retreated below deck, leaving Buffy wondering what it was that she'd done to piss off her sister this time.

Chapter 1

The sun was low in the morning sky, shining through a light cloud cover to bathe the Atlantic in its golden glow.

With nothing but water within eyesight all around it, the PT-579 floated gently, its engines still and quiet, as the day's journey eastward had yet to begin.

Despite the stillness of the engines, there were signs up life on the patrol boat.

The main hatchway swung open and Faith emerged onto the deck, joining the rest of the group who were waiting for Xander to put in his appearance. Nodding to Tara and Jacks, the dark haired beauty took a second to scratch behind Mikki's ear. "Heya kit," she said as she passed. "So where's X?" she asked as she watched the other young women doing their stretching routines."

"Sparring…" replied Mikki, with a rather feral grin.

"He's sparring before he shows up with us?" asked Faith. "And, I've gotta say, PT on a PT boat, how fucked up is that?" She looked over at

Tara, who had finished her own yoga routine and was now sitting serenely on the deck. "If the advanced class is all here, who's he sparring with…" The Slayer looked around the otherwise empty deck. "And where is there enough room to have a…"

The emergence of Natalie and Xander onto the deck interrupted her sentence though, as she took in their flustered and slightly disheveled looks. "Oh…" she said with a knowing grin. "Sparring… You're gonna have to fill me in on the backstory on that one, kit."

Mikki shrugged "Xander Alpha for Pack. You Pack's Alpha female… But not mates now. When mates again, then I tell. Till then, not saying."

Faith looked at the young were in shocked disbelief. "Why you little…"

Before she could continue the thought, much less manage to grab the grinning minx, Xander interrupted.

"Alright ladies, time to introduce you to Kani'Maro. It's difficult, it's going to make you hurt and it's going take you a long time to get it right."

To the side, Jacks muttered to herself. "Should have listened to Kaina'tal and started learning this years ago… But nooo… I had to learn the easy variant and then lose my mind instead…"

After the first class had finished their workout, followed by a quick dip in the ocean to rinse clean of the sweat and body oils that resulted from the hard workout, Dawn managed to break away from the pack and make her way below deck.

Looking around, she made sure that she was unseen, then pulled open the door to the engine room and ducked inside.

After dogging the hatch shut, Dawn made her way to the auxiliary command facility and collapsed into the chair which dominated the area. It felt so good to her to be able to get away for a few minutes, away from the constant chatter and pressure of being surrounded by people.

She, for one, was glad of the upgrades that had been performed on the 579, because other than a faint electric whine from the turbines, the engine room was now a practically silent, and empty, place.

Reaching out, she brought up the computer interface which controlled all of the cameras on the 579. Selecting the underside camera, Dawn let the main display show the feed from the underwater camera, which showed the ocean directly underneath the craft.

The bright colors, the fish darting this way and that, allowed the young woman to, for a little while at least, escape from the thoughts which were now a constant part of her psyche.

"You know," said Jacks voice from behind her. "You don't have to sneak off and hide from all of us… Mind you, I'm all for keeping Buffy confused and on the ropes, but…"

"You know," interrupted Dawn, "there's a reason why I'm trying to not be around anybody else. First, I really don't want to hear the platitudes about everything being ok, and that I need to act like the little girl that everybody thinks I am. Second, it's not really nice to teleport in behind people. And, oh yeah, there's the whole thing of being some kind of monster who can suck the life force from blood and use it like some kind of vampire or something. It's not safe to be around me, Jacks, so do yourself a favor, keep away from me, because I don't want to hurt you!"

Jacks spun the chair around, forcing Dawn to face her. "You know what?" said the half Fey as she knelt down in order to be eye to eye with her friend. "I was there. I saw what you did, and the results."

"Yeah, you saw me turn into a monster!" snapped Dawn.

"I saw you do everything you could in order to save two of your friends. I saw you take on somebody who you KNEW was more powerful that you and stand up against her in order to keep me and Faith safe, when nobody would have blamed you for running like hell and trying to get help.

In fact, it probably would have been the smart thing to do. But instead you saved my life and you saved Faith's life and that's what I saw. I saw you being a hero and THAT's what matters. You're still Dawn Summers. You're still my friend and you're still the person that we all know and love and we know you feel the same about us… That's who you are!"

Dawn felt the tears running down her face, as she wanted so badly to deny what Jacks had just said. But the words, false as they would have been, were cut off when the Fey reached out and enveloped her in a hug, allowing her friend to let go and cry, knowing that her family, those who loved her for who she was, would always be there for her.

"Attention on deck!" boomed Maria's voice from the 579's PA system. "We're starting to get sensor fluctuations, most likely from that Leviathan monster thing. All hands to battle stations."

Across the ship and below decks, the tension level jumped noticeably as the permanent crew and the passengers for the trip moved quickly, quietly and professionally to the positions they had been assigned.

Once Xander had arrived in the Command Center, Maria looked over at him. "You know, last time we went up against this thing, we didn't exactly come out on top."

"That's not a lie," retorted Xander. "But, that's why we're not actually going up against it. Not yet anyway." His eyes focused on the main display, which was currently set to show sonar data overlaid on top of the underwater topography of the area.

There, right at the edge of the sensor's passive range, was the massive return of the Leviathan.

"Ok, let's draw him off before he gets between us and our destination," said Xander as he picked up the shortwave handset and sent a message to the Chariot that the Leviathan was around and they were about to send it on its merry way.

"Draw it off…" Maria muttered as she launched one of the three custom made drones which had made the trip masked in the 579's torpedo tubes.

"Decoy one is in the water," she reported. "Yeah, great, so a homemade toy is going to try and draw off the most destructive piece of psychopathic military hardware on the planet," she muttered to herself.

"It's not really the most destructive," commented Xander.

"Oh, that makes me feel better," retorted Maria. "And is this MORE destructive thing currently circling around in the water underneath me?"

"Ah… No?" responded Xander.

"And, is it going to swoop in and blow the psychopathic war machine that IS lurking around nearby into tiny, fragmented pieces?" demanded Maria.

"Not so much…"

"Okay then," snapped the diminutive captain and mechanic of the PT boat. "In that case, I don't need to know! Anyway, the damn thing seems to be talking the bait. Moving away… Board is cleared."

"Very well." Xander picked up the mic and spoke into it, his voice being retransmitted throughout the boat via the PA system as well as to the bridge of the Poseidon's Chariot. "All Hands. The Leviathan is moving away after the screamer. We're starting our run at this time, under stealth approach, so keep quiet. If the Leviathan comes back, we've got two more screamers in the tubes, and a heavy torpedo as well, so keep clear of the launchers." He looked over at the former owner of the 579. "Maria, take us in…"

The sun was just starting to rise over the small campsite that some of the passengers and crew of the 579 had set up at the end of their long and quiet entry into the area.

The smell of coffee being brewed over the campfire filled the air, rousing several of the technical staff, who rose from their tents like zombies from a 50's horror movie.

"Not only is it too early," muttered Nikon, "But there's something wrong with the air… Smells funny…"

Mikki turned her gaze towards the hacker, a disbelieving look on her face. "Fresh… Not dirty like city… Lot's of salt though…"

"Yeah," said Nikon as he looked at the young were. "Like I said, smells funny."

Unable to believe what she was hearing, Mikki just stalked off. "Stupid boys," she muttered as she vanished around a tent.

As breakfast was being served, Xander's fold com crackled to life. "579, this is Knighthood flight," came Wheeler's voice from the small communications unit. "We're inbound at this time, with an ETA of twenty minutes."

Xander fitted the com to his jaw, then key it open. "Roger that, Knighthood Flight. We're finishing up breakfast now, should have camp broken down right around the time you get here…"

"Aye aye, Commander," came the reply from the self-confidant pilot. "Make sure you've got everything torn down, cause from the maps I've seen, it doesn't look like we're going to have a lot of room to set the birds down."

Xander grinned as he responded. "Oh, there's plenty of room… It's just not up here…"

Chapter 2

Kida looked out over the crowd of the subjects, her subjects, who had gathered for the court she was holding today. She glanced to her right, where Milo, her faithful Milo, was standing beside her throne.

It had been so many years now, since he had arrived, but he had been there for her, first as a friend, helping her deal with the loss of her father, and the weight of the crown she would rather not have had placed upon her brow. Later he was there for her as an advisor, trying to bring the glory of the city back from the edge of oblivion, and eventually as a mate. He was the man with whom she shared her heart, but because of his being born outside of Atlantis, he was forever prohibited from sharing the responsibility that came with the throne on which she sat.

Sometimes the traditions which bound her society were even more restrictive than the laws. Something which had become all the more pronounced since the outside world had found its way into Atlantis, not once, but twice within the past century.

'But, that has no effect on today,' she thought to herself before calling the next two subjects before the Royal Court.

As the two men came forward, Kida couldn't help but remembering the way Royal Court had been when she was a child. The sculpted ceilings and the formal balls and intricate artwork, all of which had made her childhood both exquisite and lonely. Ghosts of memories and how things had been and then, the chaotic times, which had lead up to the Fall and the Destruction of the City.

'And now,' she thought as she looked around the open plateau where she held her court with her people, 'Now, Court is about helping my people, interacting with them. Not keeping away from them, with layers of distance between them and the Crown.'

Kida stopped that thought as Edaminus announced that Court was now being held.

The queen of Atlantis looked from her throne to the man who somehow had become appointed to the Royal Court and now functioned as a combination of what Milo called a 'paper-pusher' and some kind of ad-hoc advisor, whether she wanted to consult him or not. Usually, it was in the 'or not' category, but under Atlantean law, he had found a way to give validity to his claim of being a member of the court, under some obscure hereditary title, which he traced back till the days of the Fall.

'Well,' she thought as the first petitioners were announced, apparently over a dispute involving livestock and a fence. 'At least I am able to help my people, even if this is pretty much as boring as watching Milo translate. At least then, I can occasionally distract him from his work…'

As the participants of the last case departed through the crowd, Kida looked over her people once again. "Now that all scheduled items have been addressed, is there anything which any of you feel a need to bring to the attention of the Crown?"

Kida was less than surprised when one of the more vocal citizens stepped forward. With effort, she was able to keep herself from rolling her eyes.

"Yes, Diocleytes?" she said, knowing that the man before her was pretty much known as the resident kook. Part of her wished that there was some way to keep him in line, but Milo had assured her that every society had some people like him, and that frankly, she had been lucky that there was only the one, because, normally they came in packs.

"Your highness…" he began. "I was out by the jetty, watching for those blasted merfolk, who I just KNOW are sneaking ashore somehow and getting into my wife's garden. I don't know why they find her plants so valuable, probably because she's so good with…"

Kida interrupted him. "Since there is already monitoring of the shoreline to detect such an incursion, unless there is something new?"

"Oh, yes, sorry your majesty. Anyway, while I was standing watch, I heard the strangest thing. A soft howling on the wind, and then it was like an army of insects marched across my body, and then it was gone… But the howling continued on for a moment, and then twice more it happened. A foul sign indeed."

"Well, we shall ask the seer and shore watch to keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary…So, if there are no further issues…" she said.

"One moment, Your Majesty," called a voice from deep within the crowd. "We wish to speak."

Kida attempted to see who had spoken, but was unable to see who it was who sought audience with her. "And who might you be?" She asked as she could see the crowd parting from within as whoever it was continued to approach.

In formal Atlantean, the voice hidden in the crowd spoke again, this time, it was closer to the throne. "We have come to seek and offer counsel to the Queen of Atlantis, as per the Royal Charter which we hold." The proper pronunciation of which made the speaker sound as if he had a rather pronounced accent, rather than the slightly shifted form which was spoken after millennia of normal drift.

"Who would dare to speak to the Royal Court, to our Queen, in such a manner!?!" demanded Edaminus. "The Royal Court and the Queen offer counsel, they do not petition others for advice!"

The lead figure broke through the crowd, revealing the face of Xander Harris, and four other figures behind him.

"I, Alexander Harris, Commander of the Kine'einde, Bearer of Elanthielle and First Crusader, dare."

In the audience, an old woman, most of her weight being supported by her grand-daughter, spoke softly, but the words carried easily throughout the crowd. "The Kine. The Kine'ende have returned to Atlantis."

As a wave of hushed whispers circulated within the crowd, Xander continued to speak. "And with me, stand three of my trusted lieutenants."

Three of the figures took a step forward, arraying themselves behind Xander, even as he carried on with his speech. "Jacquelline Standish, Bearer of Kaina'tal, Knight Lieutenant of the Order. The Puck's Child."

As Xander spoke her name, took a step forward. "Your majesty…" she bowed.

"Rupert Giles, Knight of the Order and Bearer of the Sword of Life." Giles followed suit, stepping forward, then bowing. "Queen Kida. I bring you greetings from Daa'naal of Elf Home, Member of the Mage Council and Chosen of Mystra."

"And finally, Faith, the Vampire Slayer." Xander paused as Faith stepped forward, and tried to replicate the easy flowing bows that Giles and Jacks pulled off, seemingly without effort. "Knight Lieutenant of the Order," continued Xander.

Faith whipped her head around to stare at Xander, as he announced her title, for the first time. The look in her eyes quite clearly mirrored the thought running through her mind. 'I'm WHAT?'

After meeting Faith's eyes with his own for a moment, and nodding to indicate that he meant every word of what he had just said, Xander turned his gaze back to that of Kida.

"Queen Kidagakash," he began to speak before he took three steps forward and brought his right arm across his chest, his open palm facing up with the tips of his fingers grazing the fabric of his uniform. With a curt motion, he lowered his head a fraction, similar to an oriental gesture of respect, then continued to speak. "We come before you, myself and my fellow Knights, to renew the bond between the Atlantean People, the Atlantean Royal Family, and the Kine'einde, as well as to keep the promise which I made to you."

Edaminus turned his gaze on the only figure who had not formally presented himself. "And you? Why don't you pay your respects before our Queen?"

The still unintroduced figure replied "Your Queen, not mine. I will pay my respects as I see fit. Besides, someone has to watch their backs."

The man who had managed to secure himself a formal position in the Royal Court sputtered. "You think someone would make an attempt against their lives while in Queen Kida's court?"

Herc replied with a snort. "If you've been to the courts I have, you'd never ask that question. Besides, I know Xander and his friends' knack to turn the simplest affairs into small Apocalypses."

"Who dares to speak in such a way in front of the Royal Court of Atlantis?" demanded Edaminus.

"Call me Kevin," said the demi-god from his position at the edge of the crowd. "I'm a friend of Xander's and used to be in the same line of work as him."

"Edaminus, I think that perhaps you might be overstepping your bounds…" Kida spoke politely after nodding to acknowledge the larger man, but there was steel in her voice. Coming to her feet, she took a step forward from her throne and looked down at the Knights. "Please, Alexander, you and your friends are welcome here. In the name of both the People of Atlantis and its Royal Family, I welcome you all to the Island, or what remains of it. And, I thank you for coming back, to honor your promise to us, but, there are but five of you, all warriors I would judge. How can you help us regain what was lost."

Xander smiled as he dropped his salute. "Of course, you're right. We are warriors, not technicians." The young Commander of the Kine lifted his hand and waved it to his side.

Thirty feet behind him, just off the edge of the plateau where the Court was assembled, the air seemed to ripple for a moment, before three massive shapes seemed to appear out of thin air.

As their adaptive camouflage systems spun down, the gathered Atlanteans gasped as three Orcas were revealed, hovering over them like men-o-war in the sea.

Although most of the response was that of amazement and awe, the old woman who had first whispered the Kine had returned, stood there, tears running down her face as she saw the symbols which were displayed proudly on the flanks of the craft. The smaller of the two symbols was the Atlantean Royal seal, a circlet of gold wrapped around a starburst which was outlining a simple triangular form, from which a simple circle, seated at the heart of the starburst. That was the symbol which most of the people were impressed with. But for a very few, it was the second symbol, twice the size of the Atlantean Seal, which tugged at their memories.

It was the symbol which meant death to any who wore it, any ship which was adorned with it, anywhere in Goa'uld space, no matter the cost to the system lords.

It was a forgotten mark of warning, feared by many demons.

It was the mark of hope, for those who were without.

It was the symbol which had been emulated more than once, in the dark ages which had followed the fall. The symbol of the parent whose child organizations had stood against the Darkness, as long as there was breath left in them, and sometime long beyond when they had already fallen.

It was the symbol which had once graced the cover of an ancient book, studied by five weary warriors.

And as those who remembered gazed upon those blue and aqua lines, curving on a white background, they felt in their hearts and in their souls, a pride and respect, earned by the blood of warriors against tyrants and demons.

That simple symbol meant that, after millennia, a dream had returned from the edge of oblivion.

The Kine'einde had returned.

Chapter 3

For only the second time in the last century, the door to the Royal Mechanic's workshop was pushed open, letting light shine over the dust covered tools and half completed projects which had been left behind when the Royal Mechanics had departed from the mortal coil in a blast of heat and light so many millennia before. It had been almost a full day since the Knighthood had made it's presence known in Atlantis, and things were now getting up to speed as the technical support team deployed itself while the rest of the Knights were conducting a sweep to see what the Atlantean survivors needed handled to make life easier for them, not to mention a tad bit safer.

"Ok, here's our CP for the duration," announced Dade as he dropped the two supply containers he'd been lugging around to the floor. "Now, Xander said there were some generators around here…"

"Got em," announced Chris Knight, one of the more recent additions to the engineering department on Avalon. "Six left here… Just like is supposed to be."

Kate maneuvered the hover pallet through the doors, half it's surface loaded down with additional containers, while the other section had six simple looking ingots on it, evenly spaced. "Well, since Kida already gave us the naquada, let's get them checked out, then fuel them up and get them deployed. We'll keep one here, check where the other two that Xander set up last time are currently, and then move the others around as needed until we get the over all power grid restored."

"Kate," said Nikon as he shook his head. "We know the drill. Now less yakking, more hacking."

Dwayne Hicks looked over at his squad mate, Bill Hudson. "We really need to get off the Sarge's shit list."

A clipboard in one hand, the other supporting a supply container on his shoulder, Xander moved down the pathway, relying on Elan's knowledge of the city she helped found to navigate him to his destination.

"Xander!" came a yelled voice from his right. "We need to talk."

The young man stopped and turned, since the container was blocking his view of Dawn, who was now walking quickly towards him. "Hey Dawn… Glad to see you out and about… So, what do you think of Atlantis?"

But, instead of answering, the seemingly young girl simply shook her head. "Oddly, not really taking it all in right now."

"You really should… I mean, this is one of those things that…"

"Which part of we need to talk indicates that I'm interested in a history lesson right now?" she snapped. "Well, actually, I guess I am…"

"Well, walk with me, and I'll see what I can…" Xander tried to reply but was cut off by two women simultaneously, one standing in front of him, the other visible in the thigh holster on his right leg.

'Alexander,' began Elan. 'This behavior is as out of character for Dawn as the rest of her actions over the past days.'

'No, really?' replied the young man internally. 'I have a feeling that whatever has been gnawing at her is about to come to a head, and given the temper the Summers women have, I'm more than a tad nervous.'

"No, we're not walking. You owe me an explanation here, and I want it. Right here, right now!"

"Ummm… Okay…" Came the response as Xander stepped off the path towards a couple of conveniently placed benches and then set the container done on the ground. "So, what did you want me to explain?" Xander drew the sentence out a bit, not sure exactly where this was going.

"How about we start with you telling me the truth…" demanded Dawn, her hands firmly planted on her hips.

"Ah… The truth about what?" retorted Xander, turning his head slightly inquisitively. "Needing a bit more to go on here…"

"A bit more to go on… How about you tell me the truth instead of lying to me. That enough of a clue?"

"Dawn, I'm really not tracking you here. I haven't lied to you about anything…"

"Really?" the young woman didn't sound convinced at all. "Funny. Don't suppose the name Metatron rings any bells?"

Xander swallowed. "Metatron… Umm…"

"Don't you dare lie to me again, Xander! I think you've done that enough already."

There was a moment of silence before Xander cursed silently. "Okay… Yes, it rings some bells. Have to ask where you heard it though."

"Well, it would have been a little rude to have such an interesting conversation and not to introduce himself."

"Motherfucker!" hissed Xander. "You had a talk with Metatron? I mean…"

"Yeah, the Voice of God came down, took time out of his busy schedule to have a talk with Dawn Summers. Not exactly what I was expecting to happen in Panama, but hey, that's what I get for assuming I can have a normal life. But then again, you already knew that, didn't you Xander. You knew that I was never going to have a normal life, didn't you?" The question was almost accusatory in nature.

"I… ah…" His mind was spinning as he tried to figure out exactly how to handle the situation.

"Tell you what, I'll make this easier for you. The Voice of God told me to tell you that it was time for you to tell me the truth. The whole thing. So, Xander… No more lies, no more bullshit. Why don't you tell me what the big secret is… Tell me what's been so important that one of the few people who I trusted with my life, what's so important that you had to lie to me…"

The bright, diffuse lights shone down from the crystals high above as Milo sat at the desk he had used for so many years as the central point in his private retreat. Clutched in his hand was one of the 'data pads' which had been brought by the newest visitors to Atlantis, covering a multitude of topics, all of which were centered around bringing the city, or what remained of it, back to a brighter shadow of it's past self. "Arggh," he said as he tossed the pad down and began to massage his temples. A knock at the door forced him to look up. There, standing in the doorway was one of the men who had traveled to Atlantis with Xander.

"If you're not terribly busy, I was hoping that I might be able to intrude for a few moments?" said Giles politely.

"Oh, sure… Come on in," responded Milo as he waved the other man in.

Giles entered the room and began to walk toward the desk, but halfway across the inlaid floor, he looked over to his right and almost immediately was diverted from his course. Looking out of the massive window, which took up the entire wall, Giles was almost unable to believe what he was seeing. "My god," he said, his voice soft as he took in what I saw. The Royal Grounds of Atlantis, rising out of the morning mist, like a fairy tale kingdom from his youth. "I've seen some things in my life, but never something like this…"

Milo stood from the desk and walked over to join the other man. "You know, I'd actually stopped looking at it like that, seeing it the way I did when I first arrived here… But, you're right, it truly is a sight to behold…"

"Indeed it is. But, as you've been here for decades now, I suppose that there comes a time when even the most glorious of surroundings becomes ordinary." Giles turned to the other man and extended his hand. "As we've not been formally introduced, allow me. Rupert Giles, at your service."

"Milo Thatch," replied the long time resident British expatriate. "I'm gathering that you would be the friend that young Xander was referencing on his first visit?" Seeing Giles' confused look, Milo chuckled. "He said that he'd gotten used to the accent over the years…"

"Ah, yes. Well, considering he's from California, I do suppose that hearing the Queen's English would have some beneficial effect, over time."

"Speaking of which," said Milo. "I know that King George must have passed on long ago…"

Giles swallowed as he processed that statement. Here he was, talking to someone who looked roughly the same age as himself, but who actually was walking the streets of London in the days of World War One. "Uh, yes… George the Fifth passed on in… Let me think… 1936… He was succeeded by Edward, who stepped down later that year so that he could remarry. Quite a few people were incensed and there was more than a little handwringing. And then George the Sixth ruled through World War Two…"

"Germans again," muttered Milo.

"Oh, you have no idea the horrors that went on under that crazed little man," said Giles. "I won't horrify you with the details, but let me just say that the barbarians who hijacked Germany for a decade were monsters nearly beyond compare… But, as I was saying, George ruled until '52, when Elizabeth succeeded him, and she's still reigning today over the entire Commonwealth…"

"Commonwealth? Not the British Empire?" asked Milo.

"Not anymore… The world changes, and merry old England had to change with it. These days, there is really only one major superpower left, which is the States, but England stands by them, through thick and thin. After all, they saved our bacon in WW2."

"It was that close?"

"It was closer than that," replied Giles. "Much closer indeed. But, enough of all that…" said the former curator of the London Museum as he picked up a datapad from the desk and skimmed over it. "I see you're studying many of the manuals and references Xander brought with us…"

"There's so much I need to learn in order to get everything working here again. I hardly know where to begin. That, and so much of it's so advanced, it's like magic…"

"Well, normally I believe that Clark's Law applies…" Giles paused as he saw the blank look on Milo's face. "Sorry, written after you got down here. Clark's Law states that any suitably advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

"I hear a 'but' in there…"

"Well, given the Atlantean's penchant for thinking outside the box, there's a good chance that at least some of their 'technology' actually IS magic. But, that's neither here nor there… It took decades for humanity to learn what you have before you, and that's not even including the information which is truly Atlantean in nature. So, take your time, and realize that you no longer have to carry all of this load yourself. We're going to get your systems online, or as many as we can, and then we'll be able to get things more up to date as time passes…"

Milo nodded. "It's just a major adjustment, realizing that we're not going to be here all on our own any more… But, I have to ask, you've known Xander for a while, and he's in charge of this whole Knighthood organization. Can you tell me what it is he really wants to do and where his heart truly is? Because last time he came, he said that Armageddon was coming, and it was bringing friends… And, frankly, I don't think I want to meet any of them without knowing the people who are going to be blocking the door…"

Dawn sat there in stunned silence as she processed what all Xander had just unloaded on her.

"Tell me this is some kind of joke…" She said, trying to compose herself as the ramifications of it began to sink in. "Tell me that you're not serious…"

"I wi…" Xander cut himself off. "I can't tell you that Dawn… I'm sorry…"

"So… You've known all this since before the FIRST reset…" She took a breath, during which time, Xander nodded. "You've known, all along, and you LIED to me!?! Lied to me about who I am?!? What I am!?!"

"I didn't lie… You are Dawn Summers, you're still Buffy's sister and you're still my friend…"

"Everything about my life is a giant FUCKING LIE and you kept it from me.." she laughed, the sound coming across as nearly hysterical. "No, it's not even a life… Cause for a life, I'd have to be a real person, and that's just not true, now is it?!".

"Dawn," Xander tried to answer calmly, not knowing how the hell he was going to defuse the situation. "Everything is going to be…"

But the young woman wasn't having a word of it. "I don't want to hear a word you have to say! Now GET OUT!!!!!!!!!!" she screamed.

Xander looked around, glad there was nobody in sight, but still pretty sure that people were in earshot, especially with the way Dawn was screaming at him. "Ah, Dawn… We're in a public place… Not really any place for me to…"

"Xander…" her voice was cold and hard. "Right now, about the safest place you can be is out of my sight… You lied to me, kept information from me that I had EVERY Right to know… What else have you kept quiet from me? Huh?"

"Dawn, you've got to understand…"

But the young brunette cut him off. "No, I don't… And I don't have to listen to anything you have to say…" She paused. "I don't know who you are any more, Harris. What I do know is you're not the friend, not the man I thought you were… And I really don't want to have anything to do with you!"

"Dawn, I AM your friend…" Xander said, emphasizing as much as he could.

"No, right now… Right now you're not… My friends don't lie to me…" And with that, Dawn turned on her heel and stalked off, leaving Xander Harris in her wake, feeling like something intangible and precious was slipping away from him.

He only hoped he could keep it from slipping out of his life entirely.

The techs and engineers collapsed on whatever was comfortable, or at least convenient, as for the first time all day they were present in the former Mechanics' quarters.

"So, how'd you guys make out today… And no, I don't mean you and Kate, Dade!" asked Chris.

The look that Kate gave Chris was colder than the dorm floors had been during the ice festival his senior year of college.

Nikon spoke up first. "Well, me, Hudson and Hicks took a look at the comm systems. We've got one of the generators in there, cause the palace wide power system is shot all to hell. I guess when the shit hit the fan back during the Fall, whatever kept what's left from being blown to hell, wasn't quite up to the task of keeping the crystal matrices they used for conduit and cabling from shattering all over the place. It's repairable, but considering how many breaks we're talking, and finding each and every consistent break, not to mention intermittent failures, it may be easier to rip it out and replace it, or run some auxiliary cable until we can do a proper repair job. The cable runs would be quicker, but it's a kludge of a repair and probably not a long term solution. I've kicked it up the chain, cause either way, we're going to need some more supplies to get it done. In the meantime, the coms themselves, well, they haven't been maintained, but one thing about the Atlantean and Kine tech. It weathers pretty well," he paused for a moment, remembering what he'd read in the course of his training. "Assuming of course, you don't leave it out during a tsunami or a meteor storm. Anyway, we should have the actual com systems online in the next day or two, but it's going to be limited to the radio room. At least until we get the holo-emitters and pickups in the throne room and royal offices reconnected to the grid."

"Sounds good," commented Dade. "The boss," he said, referencing to the head of the engineering and technical department, Dr. Crosby, "said he'd check out the current availability of materials and time requirements before letting us know which way to proceed. In the meantime, let's keep focusing our attention on the communication setup and then maybe see if there are any sensors we can get back online or interface with."

Twenty minutes later, everybody else had finished delivering their status reports as well.

"Great, now that we've got that done with, I've got an important question…" said Hudson. "Anybody know where we're supposed to go for chow?"

The water gently rolled into the sheltered lagoon which lay along the eastern edge of the cavern in which the remains of Atlantis lay hidden. The serene setting was, however, lost on the young woman who was perched on one of the weathered stones which lined the shore.

Her legs were pulled up to her chest, her arms holding them in tight to her, as she rocked back and forth, unaware of the fact that she was even moving.

A maelstrom of chaos and confusion was at work in her mind, as she tried to roll with yet another gut punch to her world view.

First, the revelation that she shared the same power as that sociopathic Countess. A power which she could tell was making Jacks more than a bit nervous, despite the half-fey's promise to help her master it. Then, the realization that her learning magic, blood magic especially, was something that she was going to have to keep quiet. Not because she was ashamed of it, because, well, she kind of was because of the only person she'd actually seen practicing it… But she was afraid that she'd be branded as a freak, even by her family and friends.

Throw on top of that the fact that not only Buffy, but Xander, might try and stop her from doing anything with it, even if she was able to master it. She knew that despite, or maybe because of, his efforts to protect her, he would do everything he could to protect her from stepping up to stand beside him in the war against the darkness. It was an argument that she knew her sister would side against her in as well.

But, none of that could compare to the bomb that Xander had dropped on her.

Oh, she knew that Metatron had told her it was going to be a doozy, but this…

It was so big, that even now, she didn't even know quite how to process it. Or even where to start.

So, a bit unfairly, she knew, she had gone after the messenger.

But, she had. Not because of the message… Well, not exactly… But because of the fact that he'd lied to her…

That was what hurt the most, what had thrown her world into even more of a tumble than everything else.

Of all the people in her life, Xander was the only one who'd been there for her, throughout all of the chaos that had happened since she found out about the truth about the world around her.

He'd kept the darkness at bay, even before she knew about it. And then…

Dawn nodded slightly to herself, realizing when things had been tense between them before. And then swallowed as she realized that must have been around the time that she'd been… Created.

God, even now, it sounded so… harsh. And it tore at her, knowing that everything from before that time he'd consistently failed to catch her, the looks of distrust and examination he'd given her when he thought she wasn't looking, four years from now, and two years in her own past, had never really happened.

It was a concept, a thought that made her stomach churn, realizing that most of her life, most of her memories, had never really happened.

And, now, the only person who she KNEW understood, turned out to have been lying to her, well, for her entire existence.

She couldn't turn to the new Buffy, who desperately wanted to contain and compartmentalize the supernatural in her life. The old version of her sister, who she missed so much at times, would have at least been able to listen. Jacks was nervous around her now, for whatever reason. Mikki, as good a friend as she was, just wasn't verbal enough to deal with something like this, her feline nature making her far more resilent and accepting than any teenage girl could be expected to be, but that very nature made her unable to empathize at times like this.

Cordelia would be willing to listen, but Dawn couldn't, in good conscience dump this on the empath's lap, not with all the other turmoil the brunette was already enduring.

So, as she needed it the most, the only person who she'd been able to trust, to talk to truthfully, at least until Jacks had shown up, she now, fairly or unfairly, didn't know if she could trust. The loss of that constant, not knowing if she could believe the man who had stood between her and bullets, watched over her from the shadows, and kept her safe from dangers she hadn't even known were out there, that loss tore at her soul, leaving her twisting in place as the currents of Fate spun around her.

And so, she sat there, legs pulled in tight, feeling far more alone than she actually was, torn between anger, confusion, heartache and loss.

As a shadow was cast over the panel she was currently delving into, Kate looked up to see Xander entering the room.

"So, going to get me all pissed off now too?" asked the young woman who was currently on break from MIT.

The official head of the Knighthood simply shook his head. "I swear, some news moves faster than the speed of light… No… Look, it wasn't as bad as it sounded."

"Really? Cause word is that you and the Slayer's kid sister got into a screaming match and you came out the loser."

"Ok, maybe it was as bad as it sounded. But, seriously, I think she'll get over it. If not, I'll give her some time, try to figure out how to patch things up."

"I get that pissed at Dade, it's going to take more than an 'I'm Sorry' on his part."

"Yeah, well. It's a complicated situation. What makes it worse is I can understand why she's pissed, but she won't even let me explain why it went down the way it did."

"Well, it's your funeral when you do…" Kate looked at him. "But I'm guessing that you had something you actually wanted to talk to me about?"

Xander nodded. "Yeah… Actually, there was. Not a priority, but I'd appreciate it if you'd do some poking around while you're working on other stuff. Need to see if you can get into the Royal Archives. Maybe the Royal Guard Compound systems as well."

"I'm assuming that the Queen is ok with this?" When the answer came back as a yes, Kate continued. "So, what am I looking for in my copious amounts of free time?"

"I need some information on that damned leviathan. See if we can figure out how to shut it down…"

"Ok… I'm on it," came the response. "Nothing to it, except, you know, rebuilding all the dataruns that I need to network through. Then try and crack the encryption the royals used, unless I can get myself authenticated as somebody with the right security access. Then, I'll weed through all of it, trying to find some datafile which might not even be there…" She looked at him. "No problem. The impossible we do before dinner. Miracles take an all nighter or two."

"Thanks Kate…" Replied Xander as he started to walk away.

As he departed, Kate heard him talking to himself as he departed. "Great, so at the rate I'm going, if I'm lucky I'll be able to patch up all the friendships I've screwed up by Christmas…"

Chapter 4

The gentle ripples of the water lapped at the sandy shores of the lagoon alongside of which Faith was walking. Her shoes in hand, she was simply enjoying a peaceful stroll alongside the water, loving the feeling of not having to worry about if a vamp was going to be lurking just out of sight.

Down the shore, the dark haired Slayer saw a petite figure sitting on one of the massive stones, her feet barely touching the water. Silently, Faith padded along, her feet leaving depressions in the sand, until she was right alongside the large outcropping.

"This seat taken?" asked Faith.

Dawn didn't even look over as she muttered to herself. "Of all the rocks, in all the hidden cities under the ocean, she had to walk in here…"

"Take that as a yes then," retorted Faith as she hopped up onto the rock and sat down beside the younger woman, careful not to intrude into her personal space. After a moment of silence, the Slayer spoke. "Nice view you've got here…"

"Thanks. Had it brought in just for you…"

"Might want to screen the movers a bit better next time…" Faith waved her hand to include some of the ruins which were protruding from the water. "Looks like they kinda beat the hell out of things before they finished the move." When nothing but silence was the response, Faith spoke again. "Look, I just wanted to say thanks for saving my ass in Panama."

The Key made flesh turned and looked at the older teen, uncertainty on her face. "You're just saying that cause you don't want me to treat you like that psycho in Panama… I'm a freak, just like her…"

Faith shook her head. "No, you're your very own blend of freak Dawn. I mean, have you looked at this group lately? We're ALL freaks." She poked the other girl in the arm. "Each and everyone of us has been changed by the shit we face everyday. There's like one normal guy these days, and that's Jesse, as sad as that is to say."

"But I could kill everybody…"

"Damn straight, you could… And now you've got another way to do it as well…"

"What do you mean, 'And Now'?" The younger woman sounded a touch confused.

"What do you mean, what do I mean?" Faith shifted her position, so she was facing Dawn square on. "You don't think you could have slipped poison in our food? Or waited in the bathroom with a 12 gauge for Xander or me? Hell D, you want to get right down to it, you're about the only one of us from the original timeline who HASN'T taken a human life. I have. Xander has. Not sure about Giles, but I bet he'd do it if he had to. To protect any one of us… Sometimes, it's not about what we do, but why we do it, that makes the difference between men and monsters." She reached out and gently squeezed Dawn's shoulder. "And, D, trust me when I say I know which one you are…"

A shadow fell across Kate's face as the light coming through the doorway was blocked by the shape of Xander Harris. He rapped lightly on the frame before speaking. "Landshark…"

"Hang on, let me get my speargun," retorted Kate, not even looking up.

"Ouch…" said the young man as he stepped into the room. "So, how's it going?"

Kate pushed herself out from underneath the console. "This is why I prefer software…" she gestured at the assorted crystals and diagnostic units. "It's twenty percent hacking, eighty percent trying to get the damn hardware operational enough to hack into it in the first place. But, I've managed to pry out at least some of the info you wanted."

The MIT enrolled hacker stood up and, after dusting herself off, moved over to her personal rig. Seconds later, a wire drawing, labeled in Atlantean, was projected between the two of them. "Here's what I've been able to get so far. Doesn't mean a whole lot to me, but I'm still digging around for more info on the weapons and such, not to mention operational orders."

"Don't you have specs on all the Kine arms and armaments?" Xander asked. "I thought that was part of the standard loadout these days…"

"Yeah, that's where this things gets a tad strange. See, as far as I can tell, it wasn't the Kine who reactivated this beast. It was the Royal court."

Xander turned his head, trying to process that little tidbit of information. "That… That's just strange. I mean, the Kine WERE the military." He paused. "Well, not the entire thing, but they were the ones who were regularly put in harms way. The ones who would have been on the front lines, since the other branches, the Guardians and the Wardens, were more of a home guard or garrison troops. I could maybe see them reactivating it, but why would the Royal Court have been the ones to have reactivated, and presumably retrofitted, this thing?"

"Yeah, the Kine were a big chunk of the Atlantean military. But, from what I've been able to dig up, well, factions within Atlantean society, not to mention in the Royal Court itself, started to see the existing forces as arrogant and overbearing, and, reading between the lines, some of them thought the Kine were in the way of their own personal little agendas, mostly after a couple of rather high profile trials. So, they schemed and maneuvered, and as a result, from what I can tell, the Court started to distance themselves from the Kine… Ignoring advance, excluding Kine representatives from briefings and such… Eventually, the Court started developing their own forces, household troops and the like, and even, if I'm reading this right, started a war in which the Kine, the Guardians AND the Wardens wanted no involvement…"

"Let me get this straight… They started a war and then told their military to butt out?" Xander said in disbelief. "That's nuts!"

"Yeah, well, they did it… And, from what I can tell, things weren't going well… But, rather than to admit they'd screwed the pooch, the Court was advocating a course of action to the King which would have used some massive weapon against their enemies capital. The Kine tried to advise against it, then after their input was ignored, protested… Loudly… So, they were barred from the Court and the Royal presence. After that, it's all… well, let's just say I don't think there was a whole lot of 'After', after that…"

The Royal Grounds were like a segment of a fairy tale made real. To Buffy Summers, walking around them, it was like the antithesis of Sunnydale. She felt calm and relaxed, as opposed to the normal nervousness and paranoia which accompanied the clenched gut she felt constantly back home.

Sometimes it was nice to remember that the fairy tales could be nice, and that there was good out there, not just the evil and darkness which seemed to permeate her life.

But, even here, her Calling would not leave her alone.

The images which she'd been seeing since their arrival, she'd been able to piece enough of them together to get a picture of what this place had been like, in the heyday of the Atlantean Republic.

People has been here, millennia before. Laughing, happy and content. The monarchs and the rulers had mingled with their people, listening to them and living beside and amongst them. The sparkling finery of a city that was humanity's effort to recreate the city that had been described in 'En Taki'amin Kine' could be seen in her mind's eye, showing her that indeed, the city which they had built, was just a mesmerizing and beautiful as those hand drawn images of a city long vanished.

Seeing the Founders' Day parade, where the entire city turned out, honoring the Kine and the victory from the Chaos Wars. Fleets of fighters and squadrons of ships, flying overhead. The serried ranks of the Kine as they presented gifts to the people of Atlantis, gathered from the farthest reaches of Creation.

But, then, the feeling changed. Gone was peace and serenity, replaced by anger, discontent. People not trusting each other anymore.

Then, fire and flame, with a massive blue shield snapping into existence… The ground shaking and tumbling as cataclysmic forces were unleashed. The Royal Grounds, vanishing beneath the waves. The water surrounding the Palace being replaced by molten rock pressing against the barrier as they sank into the depths… Then, darkness before the Palace itself began to glow, as the people milled about in confusion.

From the brightest pinnacle of human creation, Atlantis had been reduced to a shattered splinter of itself. The sheer sense of loss pressed at Buffy, and she could only imagine how Cordelia would have reacted to the highs and lows of this place.

Xander tugged at the bottom of his jacket, trying to make sure it was free of wrinkles and creases.

"You really need to relax," commented Hercules from across the room. "It's just dinner."

"Yeah, like you just drop by for dinner with heads of state all the time…"

"Well. No, not lately, but used to… Doubt it's changed a whole lot".

"It'd be like inviting President Ryan over for dinner."

"Correct me if I'm wrong," said the demi-god. "But didn't you tell me you HAD had dinner with Jack Ryan?"

"He's wasn't president… well, not yet… Or… Anyway, that's not the point," replied Xander stubbornly. "You don't just have dinner with heads of state and talk about baseball."

"Well, yeah… That's a given. I mean, there's no way they'd even know who's got a chance at the series this year…"

"Gah!" exclaimed Xander. "Why do I even bother? Does this look ok?"

Herc shrugged. "You look presentable. Look, just remember, they're people too. You're making a bigger deal out of this than you should be…"

Xander turned to Hercules. "When this whole dinner thing goes to shit, you think you could ask one of your relatives to drop in, with plenty of fanfare and hoopla, while I sneak out unnoticed?"

"No problem," said the Greek with a grin. "I'm sure Aphrodite won't mind… After all, her and Elan can use some more girl talk time…"

"OK, OK," replied Xander, wincing. "Geez! A simple 'No! would have been enough…"

Faith cursed under her breath as she looked up in time to see Xander exiting the dining room. Quickly, she ended the conversation then excused herself from the table.

Moving quickly, but not running which she knew from the protocol her parents had instilled in her in the time before they'd gone missing would have been considered extremely bad form, Faith left the dining room, following the same route Xander had used.

As she turned into the corridor, she was disappointed to see that it branched at the end, as well as had doors leading off of it before then. And it was empty.

Faith cursed again then ran to the end of the hallway, looking left and right as she reached the junction. But, instead of Xander, all she saw was an elderly lady, standing there… "Don't suppose you saw where Xander went?"

The woman looked at her for a moment. "No, Lady Kine…" She spoke slowly as if trying to make sure her enunciation was correct. "I have not seen anyone…"

"Damnit," whispered the young woman.

"But, I was waiting her to speak with you, Lady Kine."

Faith froze, then turned to face the old woman. Looking at her, Faith could see that she wasn't just old, she was bordering on ancient. Which, given the way that the Atlanteans had extended life spans, meant that her birthday cake was nothing BUT candles.

"You were waiting to speak with me?" said Faith, disbelievingly.

"Yes, Lady Kine…" came the response.

"Guess I'm just NOT supposed to talk to X tonight…" she muttered. "Ok, you're sure that it was me you were waiting for?"

"I was, Lady Kine."

"Look, the name's Faith…"

"I am Ya'ana. Blessed be our meeting…"

"Yeah, it's good to meet you too, Ya'ana. So…"

"I must ask you this, Lady Kine, and pardon my disrespect, but are you truly following the Path?"

Faith heard the capitalization and knew there was more to this question than most would realize. Without realizing it, her back straightened just a bit. "Yes, we are walking the Path of the Kine, the Path of the Knights. As you may have heard, Xander, Commander Harris, is the bearer of Elanthielle."

"I heard, but… It was almost too much to hope…" A sad smile crossed the old woman's face, as a hint of pride filled her eyes. "There is something you should know, Lady Kine… I pass on this secret to you, having kept it safe all of these years from those who would…" She paused, composing herself again. "My father… He was like you…"

"Like me?" Faith asked.

"He was Kine'Inede. And he was here, at the Palace during the Fall. The only Kine'Inede who was present during the Fall. He made me promise to keep this secret, less those who… It was not safe for others to know… In those first months…" She drifted off, remembering… "It wasn't safe."

"I don't understand…" Faith's voice held a hint of confusion. "I thought the Kine were pretty well respected around here…"

"At one time, yes… But before the Fall, those who would have garnered power for it's own sake knew the Kine to be a threat, and so, after years, their welcome in the Royal Court was diminished… Many of the people were told half-truths and lies… Then, after the Fall, at first some blamed the Kine for what had happened. And now, almost all have forgotten… But I have remembered… And now, you here are… And I may pass on the secret to the Kine, and make good the promise I made when I was a little girl." She paused. "After the Fall, as the city was in ruins, my father, he was trying to save people… There was a cave in, and he was trying to get the little ones out… And so, he went in… But never came out…" Again, a pause as the old woman remembered a little girl's memories. "And neither did the treasure that he had been entrusted with…"

Chapter 5

It was nice being able to just walk around, lost in her thoughts, without worrying about what might be hiding in the shadows, ready to leap out at her when she let her attention lapse.

Not to mention, the fact that the people here weren't really into invading other people's personal space. It wasn't like Sunnydale, where people rushed to their destinations, afraid to make even eye contact with others, almost as if, on some instinctual level, they knew that humans weren't on the top of the food chain and that there were predators about.

No, here, people were just a little more relaxed, a little calmer.

It felt good. Like a weight off of her shoulders.

The constant tension in her stomach fading away was just nirvana as far as she was concerned.

And so, she just let herself wander, enjoying her time in a place that nearly no one else in the world even knew existed.

As the path she was on twisted, she reached out, pushing the overgrowth aside, before stepping through into a slightly overgrown glade.

"Oh, wow…" she whispered to herself.

Spread out before her, was what she could only describe as something from a dream. Softly rolling hills framed the glade, trees growing around it, sheltering any who came to visit from prying eyes or the outside world. The stream which flowed from the small waterfall, wandered through the glade, before passing beneath the undergrowth towards the shore.

It was a piece of tranquility and serenity, given form.

She stretched out on the grass, allowing herself to simply enjoy the simple pleasure of relaxing as her muscles unclenched and allowed themselves a bit of downtime. Breathing in, the soft smell of jasmine and lavender filled her senses, and breathing out let a bit of tension escape her body.

And so, laying there, relaxed and at peace, Buffy Summers fell asleep to the sound of running water.

"Oh wow."

Natalie looked around herself, literally awed by the place they'd found themselves in. She'd been all over the world, had seen things that never in her life would she have believed until she'd laid eyes on them, but this… this was something else entirely.

"It's incredible." Alex agreed quietly, shaking her head, "This place… it's all legend… it's not supposed to have really existed, not supposed to actually be here now… or ever."

"Eh. It looks kinda run down," Dylan commented.

"Dylan!" Alex snapped, turning wide eyed on her friend, "This is *atlantis*!"

"Well it looks like it's seen better days is all I'm saying."

Natalie sighed as she listened to them bicker, but didn't comment as she watched the people around them. They were… like any of a thousand third world locations she'd been in. Cleaner, perhaps, as a rule, but the actions… the prevailing attitudes… those matched.

It was awesome to see, but that sense of history and power coupled with the familiar attitudes… it presented her with a sadness too, a sense of loss that she could almost physically feel.

"It's sad." She said after a moment.

Dylan and Alex paused in their bickering, looking at her oddly.

"What?" Dylan asked, confused.

"Look around… look at what these people lost," Natalie said, nodding to the ruins, "Imagine what it must have looked like when it was in it's prime. Remember what Xander told us… most of these people were ALIVE then."

Even Dylan fell quiet then, her face dark as she considered.

Alex just nodded, "Yeah. It is sad."

"They seem happy though," Dylan said after a moment, nodding to some children who were running and playing. "And most of them were really happy to see Xander and his friends."

Natalie nodded, "Yeah. I hope he can do something for them… and I have to thank him for bringing me here. This is…"

She shook her head.

"Yeah, it is, isn't it?" Alex asked with a similar tone and expression.

"Still don't see what's so special about a bunch of rubble."


"Xander!" yelled Faith as she caught sight of him. "You stay right there!"

The young man, who often felt the weight of the world bearing down on his shoulders, sighed. 'This is going to be fun,' he thought to himself before he turned. "Hey Faith… What's up?"

"Well, to start with," began the dark haired Slayer as she came to a halt in from of him, "I'm kind of tired of being avoided."

"Avoided? No… In fact, I'm pretty sure we had dinner with Kida last night."

"Bullshit X. You've been avoiding me… And we both know why. So, what the hell was that whole knight lieutenant thing? Not to mention the fact that I know something went down with you and Dawn, but got no idea exactly was it was. So, I want to know that, too."

"Well, the Knight Lieutenant thing, that's easy. You're a leader, whether you want to admit it or not, so I figured we might as well make it official."

"What? You just shanghaied me into being an officer in your little band of brothers here? And I don't get a say about it?!"

Xander looked at her, a look of slight perplexity on his face. "Faith, you've told me you're onboard. You couldn't walk away from this any more than I could. So, yeah, I figured you were onboard, and I thought it might be a nice surprise. Give you the authority and responsibility you'd earned… Not to mention demonstrated…"

"Oh it was a surprise alright… One I'm thinking you'll get some payback for, sooner or later… But I'm not saluting you, and I'm not following any bullshit rules and regs. Clear?" Xander nodded. "And now, what's the Dawn situation?"

With a shake of his head, Xander responded. "Not going there, Faith. Right now, what's going on between me and Dawn is between me and Dawn."

"She's my friend too X…" Faith said, beginning to get a little irritated. "Hell, she's family."

"Yes, she is," came the terse reply. "But right now, it's not your concern Faith.".

"You know, Commander…" Faith practically spit the word. "You can be a real jackass sometimes…"

Before he could reply, Faith stormed off, not wanting to stick around and get any more irritated than she already was.

It was almost an hour before she realized that she'd never even brought up what she'd needed to talk to him about.

Deep beneath the Royal Grounds, in a tunnel which had been untouched by man for centuries, sat a young woman.

Not a flicker of light illuminated the walls, the contents, nor the woman who sat on the floor. The darkness was complete, filling the space as fully as it filled the lone occupant.

Her eyes were open, yet unseeing. Only the sensation of the steel against her arm let her know the tip was still there, pressing softly against her skin. Gently, she moved it back and forth, feeling the pressure shift with each movement.

Her thoughts drifted to everything that had been revealed to her in the last week, and as much as she wanted to deny all of it, on some level, she knew that it was all true.

And that knowledge sat in her like a twisted knot, wanting to pull her in upon herself

And so she sat, alone in the darkness, the sliver of steel tracing back and forth across her arms, like the gentle kiss of a lover, as Dawn Summers tried to resolve everything that she was, into knowledge of who she was and who she wanted to be.

The fold com in her hand was quite warm.

Then again, she'd been holding onto it, looking at it, for almost an hour.

"No time like the present," she muttered to herself as she affixed the small device to her ear and activated it. "Xander, this is Faith, come in please."

There was no response, save silence, for a moment. Then, Xander's voice filled her ear.

"Faith, I really don't have time right now."

Even over the communicator, Faith could hear the irritation in his voice. Whether it was directed at her in particular, or just a sign of how much Xander was trying to coordinate in a very short period of time, the East Coast native couldn't tell. And, frankly, she wasn't going to let herself get distracted this time. "I'd appreciate it if you could meet me at the lagoon, for a few minutes."

Again, there was silence for a moment. "Faith, I really don't…"

"X, I'm not asking for all day. Fifteen minutes, but we really need to talk."

"Can't it wait for a while, Faith?"

Faith sighed. "Look, COMMANDER," she emphasized the word. "You made me a lieutenant, without talking to me, or asking me, and now, AS one of your two lieutenants, I have some information which I need to discuss with you. Are we clear?!"

"Alright," said Xander resignedly. "The lagoon in half an hour."

"I'm waiting," replied Faith as she terminated the connection.

Twenty five minutes later, Xander walked down the path to the lagoon. "Ok, I'm here."

"Am so glad… So, why were you wanting to blow me off this time?"

Xander shook his head. "Let's just say that the last time that somebody said they needed to talk with me, it didn't go so well on my end." He paused. "Hell, the last time you and I talked, when the conversation ended, didn't seem like you were real happy with me either…"

"Yeah," Faith looked down for a second. "Sorry about that. Everything's all twisted up with the gang right now. Dawn's all quiet and broody and I think there's more to it than she's letting on. That's why I was pushing you for info. Don't like seeing D all upset. And, you know, if it's getting to me, just on one little trip, I can't even imagine how Queen C handles all this shit on a constant basis. Plus, it doesn't help that I feel like the constant knot in my gut is finally letting loose and I'm really not handling letting the tension out real well… Anyway, sorry about biting your head off."

Even as she paused, it was obvious that she had more to say, so Xander kept his mouth shut, simply nodding.

"Look, I know you thought you were doing the right thing by making me a lieutenant in the Knighthood, but I'm afraid that I'm going to fuck it up and get people killed. I've got no problem with standing toe to toe against the Dark. But I do it on my terms, and if something goes south, well, my ass is the only one I'm responsible for. Nobody else dies cause what I say or do, just me. Not sure I want to deal with other people not coming back cause I screwed up." She looked up at the man who she'd once tried to kill, uncertainty in her eyes. "Does that make sense?"

"Yeah, it does…" came Xander's response. "It's possible… Pretty likely in fact. Mistakes happen, things don't go according to plan… I worry about it every time there's a mission going on. Hell, sometimes you can do everything right and you still lose in the end… That's just life… But Faith… I trust you on this… I think you can do it…Besides, you're just as experienced at all this as I am… Hell, when you were dealing with those nut job terrorists with your dad, you KNEW you were going to die when you took that key from the nuke… But you still did it, because otherwise a whole lot of innocents would die if you did nothing… I'm just asking you to do what I know you can do…"

Faith looked at him, her eyes moist as she wiped at them. "Yeah, well… I guess I can give it a try… But, that's not why I wanted to talk to you…"

"Oh, so there's ANOTHER reason?" Xander said with a grin. "And here I thought this was going too easy…"

"Yeah, well, that's what you get for trying to think… Anyway, I ran into somebody who said her dad was Kine. A bearer in fact. And he died here, on Atlantis, after the Fall, and the rune bracer he wore should still be on his body."

Around and around, the spiral of silver spun, shrinking with each revolution, until the larger piece of steel came to a halt. Then, with a single flick of her wrist, Faith started the key spinning in the opposite direction, the chain lengthening until it hit the maximum distance and began to spin inwards once more.

Responsibility, she mused, sucked.

Not to mention maturity.

"Shit," she muttered to herself. "You'd think this would be easier the second time around… Guess there's something tougher than being the Slayer after all…"

Then, after looking at the key one last time, Faith put it around her neck and stood up.

There was work to be done, and it was time for her to get to it.

Chapter 6

"Ok," said Dade as he slid out from underneath the console. "We should be good to go now… I hope…" Dusting himself off after he stood up, the hacker turned combat engineer looked over the readouts on the display. "Green across the board and the communications systems are reporting everything's a go. So, if somebody wants to request her majesty's presence, we can rock and roll!"

Almost twenty minutes later, Kida entered the room, Milo and several others following close behind her. As one, the entire entourage was impressed with the work which had been done.

"You guys do good work," commented Milo as he looked around. "There's no way I could have even begun to figure out how to get this stuff working."

The young Cadre member shrugged. "I'm good with this stuff," he said simply. "I've got all the hardware working now, but at this point, it's up to Kida."

"What do you mean?" asked the Atlantean Queen.

"Well," began Dade. "This was the Royal Offices. And even though I've got the hardware back up and running, it's locked down, per Royal decree…" He paused, but seeing that the holder of the office wasn't really understanding, continued. "Since it took a member of the Royal family to lock it…" he let the sentence trail off.

It clicked for Kida. "Then it would take a member of the Royal family to unlock it…" She smiled at him. "So, what do you need me to do?"

"Just follow along…" Dade said. He then paused for a moment, then began to speak again, albeit uncertainly, in Atlantean. "Computer… Recognize presence of Queen of Atlantis, Kidagakash."

>> Voice response required by Royal Designate <<

Dade looked over to Kida. "Well…Tell it who you are…"

The Atlantean Queen looked a tad hesitant, but did as the tech requested. "I am Kidagakash Nedakh, Daughter of King Kashekim Nedakh, Queen of Atlantis and Guardian of her people!"

>> Voice match recorded. Physical confirmation of Royal line required.<< On the console, an opening was illuminated by the pale yellow rings which began to glow around it.

Kida looked at the glowing ring, then slowly pulled a finely crafted amulet from around her neck. "My royal seal," she said, seeing Dade's look. "I have had it since I was a child." Kida pressed her thumb into the indentation on the back. Slowly, the opposing side began to reshape itself, extruding outwards to form a crystalline structure. Visible on the sides of the silvery crystal were runes, filled with some kind of golden metal. Once the transformation was complete, Kida slide the crystal into the illuminated slot, then turned it clockwise.

A moment later, the rings around the slot changed color, going from a pale yellow to a bright gold.

>> Royal Seal Confirmed, Queen Kidagakash Nedakh of Atlantis now recognized by this node. Cannot distribute confirmation to network due to pre-existing lock down condition. Awaiting Instructions. <<

"Umm.." was all Kida could think to say.

"Computer, what is the nature of the lockdown?" asked Dade.

>> Query made by unknown entity. Identity authorization required. Query in unknown language. <<

Dade cursed then continued, albeit far more slowly, in Atlantean. "Kine'Iende Tech Specialist Dade Murphy. Ident Kine - Om de Weg te lopen."

>> Kine'Iende personnel are denied access to this and all other royal terminals, per standing instructions.<<

Kida looked confused. "What?"

>> Kine'Iende personnel are denied access to this and all other royal terminals, per standing instructions.<<

In a huff, Kida glared at the computer. "Revoke said instructions… Let them do whatever they need to…"

The computer was silent for a moment. >> Confirmed.. Kine'Iende access privledges restored under authorization from Queen Kidagakash Nedakh. <<

"Thank you, your Majesty," said Dade before trying again. "State the nature of the lock down."

>>All systems are offline as a result of royal orders and unknown events.<<

"Initiate immediate release of communications array and establish uplink with Kine stations, beginning with Avalon Command".

One the display, a new menu opened up and the sigils displayed rapidly began to flip from red to gold. Within seconds, the circle which was centered on the space in front of the desk began to glow a pale blue. Then, to the amazement of Kida and the rest of Atlanteans, two figures snapped into existence. A moment later, a third faded into view, although it was no where near as crisp as the first two, with the occasional flicker ruining the effect of the holograms.

"Queen Kida," said Dade. "Allow me to present Merlin, Niume and Uluru."

Merlin's image stepped forward. "Your Majesty… On the behalf of Avalon, the Celtic Plateau and Kaer Walin, we greet you."

By the time Faith got to the entrance to the tunnels, more than a dozen people were already there, with a couple more trickling in every minute or so. Moving up beside Xander close to the tunnel's threshold, she looked over. "Geez, didn't realize there were so many morning people here… So, you ready to kick this thing off?"

Xander looked over at her. "Don't look at me," he said, holding his hands up. "You're a lieutenant now, this is Your op…"

"Oh, thanks a bunch, X," said the Slayer before glancing at the crowd. "Remind me to kick your ass next time we spar…"

"So, I guess you'll be needing a lot more practice time then," quipped Xander with a grin. "You'll do fine. Just relax."

"Just relax… Yeah, like it's that easy…" Faith took a moment to center herself, then took a deep breath. "Wish me luck," she said then turned to the people who had assembled.

"Morning Folks," she started. "I appreciate all of you showing up here this morning. As some of you know," she paused and pointed at the tunnel entrance which was off to the side. "We've got one of our own down that tunnel. He's been down there for millennia. Risked his life trying to save the innocent, in the days after the Fall. Dice came up snake eyes and he didn't get out himself." She took a breath. "Something have changed over the past twelve thousand years, but there's one tradition that the Knighthood, and the Kine share, along with almost every other man or woman who has ever worn a uniform in defense of the innocent. We do NOT leave one of our own behind!" She looked over the assembled warriors and Atlantean citizens who had volunteered to help.

Not a single person spoke, but all of them stood straight and tall.

"Now let's get digging!"

Work had been progressing for over an hour when Milo peeled out of the crowd of workers and headed back to where Xander was currently taking a break to drink some water..

"Hey there, Xander," said the older man as he accepted a canteen from the teenager. "How things going?"

"Have to ask Faith…" replied the head of the Crusaders. "I'm just here to dig today…"

"No, I meant overall. Been a while since your last visit."

"Well, we're still here. That's always a start…"

"Yeah…" Milo looked a bit hesitant, but pressed on with the conversation. "I didn't want to bring this up at dinner the other night, but last time you stopped by, you'd mentioned Armageddon and friends… Any sign of them?"

Xander met the older man's eyes. "Sadly yes. They already stopped by, right after my first visit in fact… That's why the Knighthood, the Kine, were reactivated…"

"And now?"

"Now?" Xander took another swig from his canteen. "Now, they're circling the block, looking for a parking space."

Progress had been slow, but steady, as the impromptu work crew continued to move the debris and wreckage from the tunnels out of the way.

Although most of it was relatively small, constantly moving pieces of rock the size of a human head can still wear a person out over time. The thick, and tough, cables which occasionally were wrapped around, and through, the detritus didn't make life any easier, although Jacks' magical abilities allowed for the larger rocks and boulders to be moved out of the way.

It was however, a task that had a cost on the Fey's endurance, and by the time they hit a particularly difficult knot of debris, the white haired witch was tapped out.

"Sorry guys," said Jacks apologetically. "Give me a couple of minutes and I'll be back at it."

"No sweat, Sabrina," said Faith with a grin. "If we can't move big rocks by hand, we just make em small rocks…" Pulling a knife out of a sheath on her belt, Faith moved forward and with a casual seeming swing, began slicing through the rocks, cables and twisted support struts like they were gossamer strands.

Xander glanced over at Faith as he lifted a larger stone from the pile, then did a double take as he saw her cleave a rock the size of her torso in half. A look of complete disbelief crossed his face.

'You should not be so surprised, Alexander,' interjected Elan. 'If you would look at the blade she is using, you would understand.' A sense of mirth carried through the Atlantean soul's link with Xander.

His eyes narrowed as he tried to get a good look at the knife, which was moving as only a Slayer wielded weapon could. Then, his eyes went wide. "That's my knife!" Xander exclaimed, causing Faith to turn towards him. "Where the hell did you get it?"

Faith looks down at the blade. "This? Found it under the seat of the Charger about a year ago… Pretty handy…"

Xander gasped in disbelief. "Under the seat of the Charger? It's from…" he sputtered. " You know where that…"

But, Faith just kept on talking. "Didn't realize HOW handy until I cut a table in half…"

"The CHARGER?!?" Xander exclaimed, mentally kicking himself. "I left it under the seat of the Charger? Oh, Jesus Christ. And the CIA…" Xander sat down heavily on a nearby rock, burying his face in his hands.

"Yep… Nicked myself with it too… Lucky I didn't slice off a hand or something…Fucker is SHARP…"

From the side of the conversation, Jacks couldn't help but to chime in. "Yeah, and I shall refrain from commenting on just how many times the kitchen table has had to have been replaced."

Xander looked up at the dark haired Slayer. "No chance you'll just hand that back over, is there?"

Faith just looked at him, causing Xander to once again bury his head in his hands.

"I left it in the car, and FORGOT about it…" he muttered to himself. "Somebody just shoot me!"

'12…13… 14…' counted the being many around the world knew of as Kevin Sorbo as he watched the stone briefly come in contact with the water before leaping into the air again.

It was a simple exercise, one that he'd enjoyed for millennia now, not only because of the human-ness of the action, but because of the memories it brought back, of doing it on the shores of a river with his children and his wife… Before…

"Well," came a voice from over Hercule's shoulder. "Fancy running into you down here, nephew…"

The Greek demi-god look back, slightly surprised to see one of his relatives standing there. "Well, I have to say, I didn't really expect to see you here either, Poseidon…"

"And, why not?" asked the older deity as he gestured to the city. "You'd be hard pressed to find a culture more in tune with the oceans than the Atlanteans…"

"Well, offhand, I'd say because they've been down here longer that you, dad and the rest of the family have paid attention to mankind."

"True, true… But just because some folks didn't worship me doesn't mean I can't be interested in them. Besides, if something happened down here, it would be a tragedy, albeit it one the world as a whole would never know of. So, I stop by from time to time and see what I can do to help out. But, I have to say, I'm more than a bit surprised to see you tagging along with the humans. I thought you'd decided to retire from the adventuring business."

"What can I say… I got bored with paperwork. Besides, they're doing a good thing, and a little extra help couldn't hurt."

"And, they'd accept you for who you are?"

"Xander has… I'm pretty sure the rest would as well. The Pucks Child certainly wouldn't care, and Dragan has been accepted by all of them, despite his behavior."

"You walk a fine line, nephew. If you are discovered, you know there is little we can do to intervene, in this day and age. And the consequences, not only for you, but for many who live in the shadows, would be severe."

"I know what I'm doing…" replied the god turned adventurer turned actor.

"You always said that… Just remember the cost to those you cared for, when things went wrong…" With that, the Greek god of the seas tossed the son of Zeus a small object, then vanished in a ripple of light.

Leaving Hercules, who had faced monsters and gods, alone to stare at the ring which was nearly as old as he was, which simply had the word, 'Deianira' inscribed inside of it..

After delivering the remains of the Kine to his daughter, Faith had needed to get away from everyone and everything for a little while.

Bringing back the remains of the dead, no matter how noble it seemed, was pretty much guaranteed to remind you just how dangerous life was.

Especially when you were a Slayer.

And, so, she'd taken one of the almost overgrown paths which crisscrossed the remaining section of Atlantis, wandering aimlessly rather than go back and have to deal with people.

The next thing she knew, Faith was looking around in awe at the grove she had somehow found her way into.

"Fuckin A…" she whispered almost reverently as she looked around at the green growth, the half covered columns and the sparkling waterfall which cascaded down into a crystal clear pool the size of a small house. "Man, I gotta get me the name of their landscaping crew…"

The peaceful aura of her surroundings washed over Faith, cleansing her of the remaining tension and stress she'd felt slowly dissipating since they had arrived at Atlantis nearly a week ago. It was like being warm again, after spending years in the arctic, or feeling the sun on your face after a winter indoors.

For a few moments, she just stood there, reveling in the feeling before looking once again at the water.

Glancing around, she saw no sign of anyone else, save for the fact that some of the grass looked as if it had been disturbed in the past day or two. With a mischievous smile, Faith quickly shed her clothes, all of them, and then with a single step, leapt up into the air, before jack knifing and diving beneath the water.

The water was pleasantly warm as she swam through it underwater. Angling upwards, she breached the surface, then rolled onto her back and slowly floated around the pool.

"Man, this has got to be what heaven is like," she said to herself. "Wonder if Kida would care if I came by once in a while. It's like the anti-Sunnydale…"

Kicking over to the waterfall, Faith stood under the cascading water, letting it wash over her like a cleaning wave. Then, her muscles and psyche both feeling far more relaxed, the dark haired beauty sidestroked across the pool to the natural stone ledge which followed the southern edge.

Scooting up onto it, she adjusted her form into the natural curve of the rock then lay her head back upon the moss padded stone which seemed almost as if it had been placed there for that exact purpose.

Then, her eyes closed, her body relaxed, Faith let her mind wander, the last conscious thought she had for quite a while being that next time, she'd have to bring a bikini.

Chapter 7

It had been the greater part of a century since the last time the Atlantean people had turned out as they were when the first rays of light began to shine off the mirror calm surface of the lagoon.

The last time, it had been to say goodbye to their King.

Today, it was to say goodbye to a protector.

Nearly the entire remaining population had turned out. The Royal Road, leading from the Palace, along the hills and down to the shoreline, was lined with the last of the Atlantean people.

And, along that nearly silent road, millennia later than it should have been, traveled the last Kine'Iende who had given his life on the Royal grounds, making the ultimate sacrifice in order to help those who had been in need.

The crystalline bier floated serenely along the road, escorted by the last officers of the Kine'Iende who were now amongst the first officers of the Knighthood. Xander marching at head of the procession. As he carried out this last duty an officer had to his men, the young man prayed he would never again have to do this again, but knew in his heart would happen many more times, unless someone else was forced to step up and perform, should he be the one who was to be escorted.

Eventually, the procession reached the sandy shore, and, amongst the continued silence, the crystalline platform slid into place on a slightly thicker sled, which was half in the water, half on the shore. As the escort stepped in line with the other members of the Knighthood, a light breeze gently ruffled the material of the ancient standard which covered the remains.

A wizened old woman slowly made her way to the small piece of statuary which served as a podium for the ceremony, her granddaughter a step behind her to offer support if it was needed.

She stood there silently for a moment, looking out over the crowd. "I look out, seeing all of you standing here, and I see our friends from above standing here beside us, and I can't help but remember the stories my father told me and my brothers and sisters about the Chaos Wars. How, after the Ancestors left, that we lost hope, until, at first, a single voice, said 'No More!'. And then, after many years of Darkness, mankind again took it's place in the light." She looked over at Xander, nodding slightly. "And now, as I see the Bearer of one of the Five, standing here, in Atlantis, once more, I know that my father is watching me, watching all of us, and is proud once more. The words I say, they can't tell you how proud I was of my father. They can't tell you how much I loved him, and how much I've missed him all of these years. But, I can tell you that his legacy lives on, in these brave young men and women." She stepped out from behind the statuary and approached the remains of her father. Kneeling down, with the assistance of her granddaughter, the old woman spoke softly, her words audible only to Buffy, Faith and Xander, who was the only one of the three who could understand the language long forgotten by the world. "I know it took a while Papa, but they finally came for you…" Her eyes began to tear up. "I miss you… But we'll see each other again soon…"

Refusing to wipe her face dry of the tears, the woman stood up once more, and took from it's place on top of the flag, the metal bracer which had been her father's companion both in life and death. With both hands, she lifted it up, and carried it over to Xander. "Commander," she said as she offered it to him. "I return to the Kine'Iende the Rune Bracelet which my Father wore, as so many wore before him, so that it may continue to aid those who help those in need."

Xander bowed slightly before her, before reaching out and grasping the bound soul with both of his own hands. "From your hands to mine, I take what is offered, and say to you, the memory of your father shall be part of the memories of the Kine'Iende."

As he finished speaking the words, again in Atlantean, the old woman bowed once more, then slowly walked to the side of the sled, tears still running down her face.

Kida then stepped up beside the daughter of the fallen Kine, and spoke softly to her, before turning to the crowd. "Today, we honor one of our own, who stood guard over our people, protecting us from the Darkness." The sled began to move forward, ever so slowly sliding into the water. "And so we now return our brother to the waters which gave us life." The sled was now completely in the water, moving out into the deeper water, before it gradually began to descend. "From the Oceans we came, and to the Oceans we return," said Kida as the water lapped at the edges of the flag. "Sayeth We…"

"Sayeth We All," said the assembled population of Atlantis, as the remains slipped below the water on the final journey the son of Atlantis would ever embark upon.

Dust whipped into the air as the counter-mass driven form of the Orca APC took to the air, far more gracefully than most would expect of a craft its size.

Shielding his eyes from the grit, Hicks moved to the stack of crates which he and Hudson has been offloading. "Well, it's about the same as lugging stuff for Andrezj out of deep storage, but at least the view is a tad bit nicer."

"Yeah," replied his companion. "Not to mention, we won't have to unpack all of it for the Smith."

The two moved the crates in silence, emptying the cargo hold of the Orca.

"Sounded like a nice ceremony the other day," commented Hicks.

"Yeah, not too bad," came Hudson's response. "Some things, you really don't have to know the language to know what they're saying."

"So you've been here before?" asked Buffy as she watched the other young woman pull a pair of jean shorts up over her bikini bottoms.

"Yep," replied Faith as she looked back at the waterfall she'd been under moments before. "Been here a couple of times now… Really peaceful, I enjoy just relaxing in the water, floating and just letting it all go." She smiled before continuing. "And hey, this time I even brought a swimsuit…"

The blonde Slayer looked over at her, a look of confusion on her face. "You've been swimming, but this is first time you brought a suit? So, then, last time…"

The dark haired beauty simply smiled. "No swimsuit…"

Buffy felt the blood rushing to her cheeks as she realized the implications of what Faith was saying… "You… But…"

Faith's smile would have looked very much at home on Mikki's face. "Oh, come on B… It's not like anything you haven't seen before…"

"What!?! No… I mean,,, No! I haven't…"

The smile on the brunette's face simply got bigger. "If you say so…"

Buffy shuddered slightly. "You're twisted… You know that right?"

"Ah… Good times…" said Faith as she remembered one of the best nights of her existence. "And don't worry, I won't tell anybody about the way you curl your toes when you're sated…"

Buffy's face was white when Faith looked over at her… "Oh, settle down B. You find the right guy, or girl if you want to go that way, you're going to have to loosen up sooner or later, or you're going to end up wondering why you didn't actually try or tell em what they mean to you before it's too late… Trust me on this one…" The brunette grabbed her stuff and then wrapped her free arm around Buffy's shoulder. "Now, come on, we've got to get back so you can catch your ride back to the Dale."

As the leaves closed behind the two young women, a gentle breeze swirled through the glade. Its whispered touch caused the flowers and vines to dance ever so slightly in the wind.

And, as they moved, had anyone been looking, they would have seen an overgrown structure, it's stone walls covered in the living green of nature. And, within those walls, untouched by the millennia that had passed since any outsiders had seen it, stood a statue. A living stone representation of a female warrior, in repose.

By her side, as if let slip from her hand, lay a single stake, it's stone point as needle sharp as the day the statue was first revealed to the world.

Behind her, inscribed in a memorial wall reminiscent of the Wall which had commemorated first of the Knighthood's honored dead on Avalon, were a list of names, part of the wall in a variety of scripts. Individually, each name was small, nearly invisible with the naked eye, unless someone were to focus their attention on it.

Hundreds, thousands of names. A living memorial to those who had stood against the Darkness and said, with one voice a thousand voices strong 'No More!'

A list, that had anyone looked, ended, at the moment, with the name 'India Cohen'.

The Atlantean Throne Room, overseen by the reigning Queen, who sat on the same throne that had been occupied by her ancestors for millennia, was silent, save for the sound of four pairs of boots, as the four officers of the Knighthood strode towards the Atlantean seal which was an integral part of the floor.

As one, they came to a halt, lined up abreast of each other, on full display to the dozen or so witnesses who stood about the room.

Before them, Kida rose from her throne, the formal Diadem of the Atlantean Monarchy in place upon her brow for the first time in years.

"My fellow Atlanteans, you stand before your Queen, to bear witness to that which happens today. Your word shall serve as witness to that which occurs here, and that word shall be spread to the edges of Creation and beyond."

"I have summoned the Kine'Iende to stand before the Crown. Who stands here for them?"

Xander stepped forward a step, bringing Elan forth, the rune weapon's form snapping to the extended mode as he brought it down on the ground. When Elan's smooth end impacted the ancient stones of her home, a resonating crash, far louder than the energy used should have been able to produce, was heard by all. "I am Alexander Lavelle Harris. Bearer of Elanthielle, One of the Five. I stand as Commander of the Kine'Iende, the Last of the Crusanders and the First Crusader of the Knighthood. Through me, the Kine'Iende and the Knighthood stand against the Darkness, and through them, I stand in line with all who have stood before me, those who stand by me, and those who will stand after me."

"Commander Harris, you are known to us, and we know you to be honorable. You have pledged your aid to us, asking nothing in return. You have followed through with that promise and returned to Atlantis when you had no need to. And for that, you have our thanks. But, despite what some would say, the mere thanks of the Atlantean Royals are but words, and worth only the wind on which they are spoken. As such, we would like to give each of you a token of our appreciation."

The queen turned her attention to the oldest appearing of the Knights. "Sir Rupert Giles, Bearer of Daa'naal. Step forward."

The Englishman did as he was asked, finding him face to face with the ancient woman who wore the crown of Atlantis.

"Let this token show that Atlantis supports that which you do, to protect the innocent," said Kida as she placed a life crystal around the neck of the man who had once watched the world end around him. "Also, in recognition of your bonding with a Master Elven Mage, we grant unto you this tome…" She held out her hand and a heavy, leather-bound book floated from behind the throne towards her. Closing her hand around the spine, she held it out towards Giles. "From my hand to yours, I gift the knowledge contained within to you."

Giles reached out, and as his hands touched the book, a glow appeared around Kida's hand, then traveled across the etched leather, until it surrounded Giles' hand on the opposite edge.

Slightly surprised at the magical display, the former Watcher covered well. "On behalf of myself, Daa'naal and the Knighthood, I thank you for your generosity." With that, he nodded and stepped back, already itching to see what was contained on the vellum pages he now possessed.

"Jacqueline Standish… Knight Lieutenant. Bearer of Kiana'tal. The Puck's Childe." Kida looked at the seemingly young woman standing before her. "We all have our place to play in the world, our roles in the play of Creation. And, now, as it was entrusted to us as part of the Treaty of Kash'Van'Oooth, Atlantis now returns unto the Daughter of the Fey, into your safekeeping, until it is needed, the Eye of Odin."

Between the two of them, the air rippled, and then, without warning, there was an amulet, hovering in midair.

Jacks' face was even paler than normal as she gazed upon the relic. Then, all who watched, saw her eyes and the stone at the center of the amulet glow ones, and then the amulet faded from sight.

The Fey took a moment to gather her wits before thanking Kida and then stepped back, still visibly shaken.

Kida turned next to Faith. "Faith… Slayer and Knight Lieutenant of the Knighthood, please step forward."

Slightly nervous, Faith complied.

"Unto you, we also grant a token of Atlantis." Kida lifted up a simple necklace with a life crystal clearly visible, and draped it over Faith's slightly bowed head. "May it light your way, when you find yourself surrounded by Darkness. But, a warrior such as yourself, always surrounded and sensing the darkness, more than anything, needs a sense of peace." Kida reached back and retrieved an item, then offered it to Faith.

The Slayer looked at the loop of jewelry, made of intricate twists of gold and silver, braided together to form a seamless circle and the slightly luminescent blue bead which was held captive at the bottom. "We grant unto you, for all time, unrestricted access to Atlantis, and to where ever in our domains you feel the most at peace. This token will make sure that you are able to make the journey, so you may restore yourself and find comfort when you need it most."

Faith nodded, her eyes suspiciously damp, as she gently closed her hand around the precious circle of metal and stone. "Thank you, your majesty," said the Slayer before stepping back.

"And, finally, Commander Harris."

Xander stepped forward, the inner light of the life crystal he already wore glowing against the black fabric of his uniform.

"Twice now you have come to Atlantis, and twice you have helped us. You have kept your promise to us, and brought allies and supplies to us, when doing so gains you nothing, except to follow through with a promise you made to me, and to the people of Atlantis. You and your comrades in arms, stand against the Darkness, in all of it's forms, and yet, you take the time to help a people who have nothing to offer you in your battle." Kida reached down and lifted a silvery amulet, shaped like a teardrop, from around her neck. Set in the center was an Atlantean life crystal, but this one was slightly worked, accentuating the shape of the piece.

"In recognition of the friendship and assistance you have offered freely to the people of Atlantis and the Atlantean Royal Family, as well as in recognition of your position of First Crusader of the Kine'Iende and the Knighthood, we do hereby decree that Alexander Harris, Bearer of Elanthielle of the Five, does speak with the Voice of Atlantis, that he goes where we would go, and sees what we would see." Kida offered the necklace to Xander, who bowed his head so she could place it around his neck. "And, let it be known that whatever support the Knighthood needs, in whatever form, what Atlantis can provide, so it shall be."

Kida looked out over the room, then closed her eyes for a moment, before continuing. Even before she spoke, all in the room could feel something beginning to build, as the pressure in the room began to increase. "I am Kidagakash Nedakh, Queen of Atlantis, Guardian of her People. I speak to all who would hear, in the name of my people, and for all of those who know of the name 'Atlantis'." Behind her, the massive crystal outgrowth of the Heart of Atlantis, shaped into the structure of the throne room itself, began to glow a pale blue. "I speak for the Royal Line of Atlantis, from the Founding until the Final Setting." The glow began to intensify in the Heart, it's luminescence spilling over the room. Behind her, all who stood in the room could see the ghostly shapes of what were obviously the Royal line separating from the Heart, taking their places behind her, until the entire dias was full of the spirits of the Atlantean monarchy.

"I call forth the Spirits, the Souls, who watch over, stand behind and beside these brave warriors."

Xander and Jacks both felt a small tugging within them, and then felt their links with their rune weapons tingle with energy, just as the Heart brightened once more and pulsed, a wave of blue light cascading out from its core, washing over the room.

From her position before the throne, Kida watched as Elanthielle and Kiana shimmered into existence beside their Bearers as the energy wave passed by. Another figure emerged standing beside Giles, elven ears visible through his long hair. And, behind Faith, stood not only a young black woman, face paint visible even in spirit form

But, it was what stood behind the four Knights which took her breathe away.

Dozens, hundred of forms filled the physically empty room.

She had called upon the spirits, and they had answered her call.

Behind Faith and the spirit of the First Slayer, a single file line that seemed to go on to infinity, their faces and forms changing as if the line was constantly being shuffled.

Men and women of the Kine'Iende, in both combat dress and formal presentation uniforms, standing proud as they looked on over their newest comrades in arms.

A shaggy haired man, wearing leather pants and rough woven tunic, fashions from three thousand years ago in the Aegean Peninsula, a leather amulet tied on a cord around his neck, standing shoulder to shoulder with a bald black man, cigar in his mouth and a pair of flight wings on the chest of his flight-suit.

A small, grey skinned being, with large black eyes stood next to a glowing, tentacled being of light, both of their expressions unreadable to the Atlantean Queen.

Uniforms from across millennia, from planets lost to the myths of time and the sands of history, stood in formation, bearing witness as they were called to do.

A trio of black jaguars, two adult and an adolescent, sat regally, their tails twitching.

A white haired young woman… A man in battered chain mail, an empty scabbard at this side, with a group of similarly clad men standing behind him.

Kida saw all of them.

And so she spoke. "Although Atlantis is now but an echo of what she once was, the Dream which gave birth to the Atlantean Republic still speaks to all of humanity. Let it be known, that the Kine'Iende, and now, the Knighthood, who follow in the footsteps of the Founders of the City of Atlantis, have not only the trust and confidence of the Atlantean people, but the friendship of the Queen of Atlantis. And, although the Knighthood now stands on its own, and no longer needs the Royal Charter which was granted unto them millennia ago, Atlantis will stand behind them, and beside them, in the Eternal War against the Darkness. So it is spoken, so it shall be!"

And then, the light faded, and as it did, the spirits faded from sight.

But even as they were once more hidden from the eyes of the living, their presence could still be felt.

It was almost tangible, filling the air, the room, and those who were present.

They were the men and women who had laid down their lives for others. They were the souls who had said in life, 'No More!', and given all they had to give others a chance to know peace and safety.

They were once the living embodiment of a Dream. And every step on the Path which these new Knights walked, these were the ones who would watch over and guide them.

They had been the Kine'Iende, Arthur Pendragon, and his Knights of the Round Table, the Enter'Antat of the Ancients. Asgardian Ulfheônar. Perseus-12's Orun'actnar. Ningazzia of Ark'Obol. The men and women who had flown in aircraft built to fight other nations on Earth, side by side those who they had called enemy months, days, earlier, against a self proclaimed god who wanted to subjugate all their lands, no matter who ruled.

No matter who they had been before, what standard they had fought under, or what they had called themselves as they held the line in life, they were now unified under a new banner, born from the ashes of an Order which had fallen long ago.

They were the followers of a Dream. Some would say they were the Dream itself. But, in the end, none of that would matter.

They, along with the newest generation of men and women, were the core of something both new and old. A group of simple beings, who would stand up with one voice, echoing those who walked beside them throughout time, and scream into the night that humanity was ready to once again take, once again earn, it's place in Creation.

They were the Knighthood…

And not even Death would stop them…


A tiny shard of incandescent blue, brighter that the clearest day. Such a simple form, unchanged from its natural form until only days before.

And yet, right now, it was the only thing on Faith's mind as she stared into the depths of the shimmering surface, her thoughts lost within it.

Absently, she played her fingers along the surface, as she tried to take in the entirety, the all encompassing reality of her life.





Each word, encompassed a period of her life. A section of time in which she had changed, almost entirely, from what she had been before.

Not all the changes had been for the better, but each one of them had helped mold her to be who she was today, sitting here in the remains of Atlantis, looking at the lifestone she had been given by the Queen of a city so legendary that even thousands of years after it's destruction, was still a part of the collective memory of mankind.

And now, it was a symbol of what she was now.

Or, at least, what others thought she was. Or could be.

The dark haired young woman shook her head.

People were expecting a lot from her.

People she cared about.

People who loved her.

People she loved.

One in particular.

"Damn it," she muttered softly. "Life was a lot easier when it was just psychos with nukes."

Even as she said it, she knew it was never easier. There were just things she didn't know about, hidden by the shadows.

But, was she ready to take on another layer in already complicated life. A layer being handed to her, offered to her, by that one person, who looked at her and saw something bigger than she ever thought she could see when she looked at herself.

Was Knighthood something she able to live up to?

Was the responsibility of leading others into battle something she could handle? Having others trust her with their lives, when she knew all too well how easy it was to do everything right, and still lose. Was she worthy of that level of trust?

Would she ever be?

Before she could let her thoughts go any further, her fold com chirped.

With a sigh, she reached up and tapped it, activated the device.

"Faith?" came Xander's voice. "It's time to go… You ready?"

The young woman looked down at the crystal, glowing softly in her hand. Taking it and looping the cord around the chain on her neck, she let the crystal fall just below the heavy duty key which she always wore. "Yeah, X," she said, a soft smile on her face as she stood up, looking around the glade one last time. "Yeah, I think I am…"

Standing on the edge of their room's balcony, Kida and Milo watched as the last of the Orca's shimmered into invisibility prior to commencing the long trip back to Avalon's hanger bays.

"I never thought that the Atlantean Republic could fall. No matter what happened, I saw it through the eyes of a child, like a story from the bards, where good fought evil and eventually prevailed. And yet, Atlantis did fall. And I was there, watching as the city, the Republic, was consumed…" Her voice trailed off, memories heavy in her heart.

"And now?" said Milo as he gently squeezed her hand, letting her know that he was there for her.

"And now, I stand on the same balcony I did when we realized what had happened, and I see my world changing yet again. Before, when I saw it, I was just confused, a scared little girl, counting on my parents to make it all right. Now, I look out, seeing the end of another age and the beginning of a new. Standing here as the Queen, responsible for the welfare of my fellow Atlanteans, and those who will stand by us…"

As she leaned into Milo, drawing on the strength of her mate, within her, Kida felt both the scared little girl from all those years ago, the strength of her mother and father, who guided her through those dark days, and the love of the man who loved her not as a queen, but as a woman.

"I'm scared at what the future will bring. The last time, it destroyed my entire world… And now, I know in my heart, it will do so again…My only question is, when it all changes, and something new comes out of the ashes of what was destroyed, will it be for the better or worse?"

The massive blast doors to Avalon's Central Operations room slide open with a bare whisper, allowing the young man in a jet black combat uniform to stride into the room.

"First Crusader Arriving," intoned Merlin, much to Xander's dismay.

"You enjoy that entirely too much," muttered the young man to the incorporeal being who's avatar was currently smirking.

"Well, at least some of us try to maintain proper protocols," retorted the AE. "But, be that as it may…"

Whatever else the AE was going to say, he kept to himself as General Grey approached.

"So, I understand that the mission was a success?"

"Yep. We've got their communications restored, helped get the basic modern infrastructure working again and had a nice little discussion with Kida."

"I heard you also managed to recover another Rune Object?"

Xander nodded. "A bracer of some sort. I'm sending it over to Andy to look over and see if he can dig out some information on it."

"Lady Elanthielle can't tell us anything?" came the inquiry.

"She can tell it's a minor rune object, and its name, which I cannot pronounce, but apparently, the soul has put itself in a coma, so to speak. Probably not a bad idea, considering it's been alone for about thirteen thousand years. An insane rune object, not something we want to deal with. From what Elan's told me, it's NOT a fun experience."

"Well, I'm sure we'll come up with something. Other than that, anything else of interest?"

Xander fished out the new amulet\life crystal he'd been given. "Well, we've now got unrestricted access as a duly designated emissary of the Atlantean Royal family and they've pledged to back us up if need be."

"An extremely small agrarian society giving us carte blanche to speak in their name…" mused the general. "Probably not all that useful."

"Careful when you say things like, General. Elan made a similar comment to me about not needing to be briefed on Kine equipment because there wasn't any left, and not X months later, I was strapped into a Hammerhead and getting tossed into the deep end of air to air combat against the Goa'uld."

"Point taken… Speaking of which, you're about due for some flight time, not to mention simulators, if you're going to maintain flight certification."

"Get me a slot and I'll make sure I'm there… Since we're on the topic of flight certifications, how's the rest of the Aerospace Command coming along?"

"Shaking out still. Air superiority wise, we've got almost all the Hammerheads back to ready status, although I'll feel better once we get more of the ground support wing flight ready again. Transports… We get the job done, although we've got just about all of the pilots are doubling as cargo drivers at the moment. Getting a few more in through screening, and we're starting to get some Cadre passed through basic flight certification. I wouldn't send them up against seasoned pilots, well, except maybe McQueen."

"McQueen?" replied Xander.

"Yeah, he's checked out on both Hammerheads and Orcas, and he's digging into the advanced operations manuals now. I know we brought him in as an expert on the M-41, but he's definitely hit the ground running. Once we get the TO&E a little more stabilized, we're going to have to figure out where we need him the most."

"I trust you on the organization side of the fence, General. And, from what I've learned, we definitely need good officers leading the way…"

"Which brings me to your promotion of Ms. Tasker." The older man looked a bit uncomfortable, but pressed forward. "I'm not going to deny the fact that she's one hell of a fighter, but do you really think she's what we want to put forward as leadership material? We're going to have enough problems if everything goes smoothly, we don't need the complications of a wanted fugitive being in our command staff. Especially not one who has as little grasp of strategy and tactics as she does."

"With all due respect, General, you're wrong. Maybe in conventional, modern armed forces, you'd have a point. But here, now, we need, I need, people who I can walk through the fire with, and Faith qualifies. So, do Giles and Jacks, which is why I trust them, and that's why they're Lieutenants. Don't forget, Faith has been fighting, non-stop, for almost a decade, and she's still here. She's a little rough on the edges, I'll grant you, but she's a leader, and the Knighthood know it."

"Alright. We've agreed that combat operations are your realm, but I've told you I'll speak my mind, whether you want to hear it or not…"

"And if you didn't," said Xander looking the older man in the eye, "Then you wouldn't be the man I needed for the job."

"Then we understand each other…"

"So, overall, where does Avalon stand?" asked the young man who had found himself leading an army, before he was even out of high school.

"We're ready to support limited combat operations. Manufacturing and supplies are now outpacing expenditures, especially with the switchovers we've made to modern suppliers and methods where possible."

"But we're getting there?"

"Yes, I believe we are. Bootstrapping is never easy. But we're making progress…"

"Yeah, but are we making enough?"

"Time will tell, Commander. Time will tell".

The End


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