Chapter 15: The Queen's Dilemma

A/N: Just so you know, the people in Buffy's Council see her in her new look. This is my crappy attempt at fanart. If any of you good fanart people want to make me something better, I'd muchly appreciate it. (remove the spaces below)

i1232. photobucket albums/ff370/mmooch/The%20Queen%20of%20Slayers%

Warning: I don't know; maybe language and innuendo somewhere along the way.

Challenges: #1599 by Claddagh, #4372 by ChaosCarlos, and inspired by #2324 by raynee.

Thanks to my betas: AshDawnSoulmates, ktweaver, immortalwizardelffan, winddancer and AerynSpeedleCaine.

Disclaimer: BtVS characters belong to Joss Whedon / Mutant Enemy. Highlander characters belong to Davis-Panzer Productions. M*A*S*H characters belong to H. Richard Hornberger, Larry Gelbart and 20th Century Fox Television. I claim no rights to any copyrighted material. Please do not copy or take this story without my permission.

Ursagga Headquarters

Right after the dream visits…

Phoenix was prowling around the Council grounds like a wild animal caged. The nightly dream visits to her Slayers were fraying her nerves little by little. Tara recognized the signs, but wasn't sure how she could help her friend. Back in Sunnydale, Buffy would train or patrol…whichever allowed her the most violence. Patrolling was out because they'd cleaned out the local demon population, and now they were fanning out to nearby towns; training was a possibility, but probably not the safest idea for anyone in the room with her.

So each day, the Queen of the Slayer line grew a little more growly. Each day she was one more day closer to having to make a decision that would change girls' lives…again. She told herself that she'd wait until she had visited all the girls before doing anything to any of them. And this time she couldn't blame it on an apocalypse; this time it was a measured and deliberate move on her part. Her greatest fear was that she'd make a mistake.

Then there were the memories of what she went through during her Cruciamentum. From being Slayer-girl to helpless-girl in the matter of days. How terrified she'd been. Was she really the right person to be doing this to anyone else? But she was responsible for all of the Potentials becoming Slayers, so she was responsible for anything they did. That meant whether she wanted it or not, the decision was hers.

But it didn't make her any easier to deal with. Even poor Radar – who was used to reading his CO's mind while getting shot at in Korea – was having a hard time keeping up with her frantic thoughts. The poor cutie was seen clutching his replacement teddy bear that Phoenix bought him his first week with the Council…in the middle of the day…in front of people!

That's when the guys (Methos, Duncan, Ritchie and Joe – but they were mostly gonna have Methos do it) decided they needed to sit down and talk some sense into the formerly-blonde hurricane. Originally, Ritchie suggested smacking some sense into her, but the other three just quirked their eyebrows at him and asked if he wanted the honors of getting into a physical altercation with her. Then they switched it to 'talk' some sense.

Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on your point of view – Cassandra inadvertently took one for the team when Phoenix overheard the Immortal witch warning people about Adam's background. The Queen of the Slayer and Defender lines burst into the room, grabbed the woman, and dragged her into a private room before she started screaming at her. "Why the hell are you here, Cassandra?"

A little confused at the question, Cassandra replied, "Because Duncan told me what you were doing, and I wanted to help."

"And you think undermining the authority of the leaders of the Council is the best way to help?" Phoenix snarked.

Cassandra wrinkled her nose in disgust as she figured out what was bothering the head of the Council. "Oh, this is about him."

Annoyed at the woman's reluctance to say his name when she wasn't slamming him, Phoenix answered, pointedly emphasizing his name, "Yes, it's about Adam."

"If you knew about the things he's done in his past-" the Immortal witch tried to defend herself.

But Phoenix cut her off, "I do. I probably know more than you do…and probably in more detail."

Horrified, Cassandra exclaimed, "And you still want him to be part of your leadership?"

"Have you ever done something you're ashamed of?" Phoenix asked rhetorically, answering before giving the other woman a chance to, "I know I have."

"Nothing like the atrocities he did," Cassandra spat.

"Atrocities he committed thousands of years ago." The immortal Slayer's voice softened slightly as she continued, "I'm sorry for what you went through, but he has changed since then. If he didn't, I don't think Duncan would be friends with him, do you? Or Darius?" she pointed out.

Cassandra finally admitted, both to herself and to somebody else, "I can't forgive him."

Calming down even more, Phoenix remarked, "It's been over three thousand years, right? I think it's doing you more harm to hold on to that anger. Maybe you should talk to Sidney and/or Tara about letting go. I'll tell you right now that if it comes down to a choice between you and Adam, I won't even hesitate. You're expendable to me; he and the other leaders aren't. They were the ones the Powers sent me to, so unless they prove to be untrustworthy now, they get my loyalty," she informed the Immortal witch.

"Why Sidney and Tara? I mean, I understand that he's a psychiatrist, but is it because Tara's a witch?" Cassandra asked.

Phoenix thought it over for a minute, then answered, "Not sure how her being a witch would help. The reason I thought Tara could help is because she's had to live with an abusive family. I don't think it included sexual abuse, but I know for sure it was emotional and psychological. It wouldn't surprise me if they beat her, too."

Narrowing her eyes at the auburn-haired woman, Cassandra demanded to know, "Are you going to make me?"

"You know, I think I am," Phoenix decided spur of the moment. Before Cassandra could protest, she added, "Not just you, though. I think all the people should have mandatory counseling sessions with either Darius or Sidney. How much can be up to the professionals. If somebody doesn't want to talk to a guy, they can talk to Tara. She was telling me that she almost had enough credits to get her degree in social work."

"Does that mean you'll go to counseling too?" Cassandra asked pointedly. If Phoenix agreed to do it, she couldn't really complain about doing it herself.

Phoenix chuckled mirthlessly, "Hell, I think I might need it more than anyone else. The last couple years especially have been…hard. I have been talking to the guys, and they've helped a lot. The one who's helped me the most is Adam. That's why I know he isn't Death anymore."

Accepting defeat, Cassandra still retorted, "I hope you don't expect me to be friends with him."

"It's your loss, but no…all I want is acceptance of the leadership – at least until any of us does something current to warrant concern," Phoenix corrected herself. She didn't want blind followers, after all.

Since Cassandra had just received a dressing down, she leapt at the chance to give a little back to Phoenix. "You mean like being so prickly to be around that Radar is clutching his teddy bear in the middle of the day?"

"He is?" Phoenix inquired, upset that she was hurting that sweet little guy because the Slayers were giving her a headache.

"And drinking upwards to six Grape Nehis a night," Cassandra ruthlessly added.

Phoenix bit her lower lip. It was a well-known fact that Radar only drank when he couldn't deal. "Ohh, crap! You wanna see Tara or Sidney first? I'll visit the other one. It's bad when Radar gets that flustered. I didn't realize I was affecting him that much."

"You have a lot on your mind," Cassandra allowed, seeing how genuinely distraught the Council leader was. Considering her options, she decided, "I think maybe Tara would be better for me right now."

"Cool. Actually, Sidney's probably a better choice for me anyway, since he's had to deal with combat fighters before." Before Cassandra could get out of the room, Phoenix called out to her, "Oh, Cassandra? I hope that you can let go – for both your sakes'."

"And I hope that Sidney can help you with your problem," Cassandra replied honestly.

In the end, it wasn't Sidney himself, but an idea he had that ended up helping Buffy. He suggested that she speak with somebody who had command experience in supernatural fighting, but didn't expect to be put in that position.

A/N: Next…The decisions are made.