A Cat's Tale.

Original Copyrighted: April 2001

Revised Version Copyrighted: September 2014
Category: Crossover
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: A few, but who cares?
Keywords: X-Files/Highlander/Buffy the Vampire Slayer Crossover with a few guest stars.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: All rights and properties owned by Joss Whedon, Warner Bros. and Mutant Enemy, etc.
Highlander: All rights and properties owned by Rysher Entertainment.
The Legendary Adventures of Hercules/Xena: All rights and properties owned by Renaissance and Flat Earth Productions.

Summary: Ever wonder who the hell Duke is? Well you're about to find out. Don't say I didn't warn you.
All disclaimers appear at the end of the story.
Any character whose names and descriptions are used are the property of their original owners, and no copy right infringement is intended or meant.
No money can be made from this story. It can be distributed freely so
long as it is kept in its entirety, with all notices and copyright information intact.
The characters Wanderer/Steven St. Wolf, Frank Iverson, Brother Aaron, Robert McCallister, The Knights of the Order of the Grail, and the original story are Steve’s.
  May he rest in peace.  The revamped story was written by Mark Rand.  I can be reached at perngypsy@yahoo.com.
Comments and Criticisms are appreciated, please post to the above
referenced E-mail.
Author's Note's: When I started to write this story I decided to
change some things concerning the characters.
X-Files Mulder and Scully are married and Immortal - So Non-Relationshippers beware.
Highlander: Richie Ryan shouldn't have died in the end of the fifth season. So here he hasn't.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy is an Immortal and this series splits from the third season show, The Judge.
Steve’s Author's Thanks:

I'd like to thank the people who helped me in writing this story. It took the better part of four months to complete, but I think that it was worth it, but they stuck with me, helping and encouraging me to complete it. They are:

Rebekah Sandell, Tim Knight, Mike Weyer, Timbo Harvey. Thank you all for your time and input on this story.

In memory: I'd like to dedicate this story in memory of four great writers, whose works have been a constant enjoyment and delight:

Gene Rodenberry, Don Pendelton, Mickey Spillane and Barry Sadler

I'd also like to thank all those great fan fiction writers out there, whose stories I've enjoyed. They showed me that I could let my imagination run. (Where it went I don't want to know :>))

Thanks and here's the Story. Enjoy.


A Cat's Tale

Part 1 - Evening Meals
(Dr. Atkins Recommends a High Protein Diet To Lose Weight)

15 March 2014
Sunnydale, CA - 20:00 PST

 

The middle aged woman walked to the front of her gallery and flipped the open sign to closed. She sighed as she reached for the lock with her key. Suddenly the door is jerked open and a fanged face walked into the gallery. "Hi there," he growled. "I usually like to talk to my dinner before I eat it."

 

"Get out of here, vampire!" the woman demanded.

 

The vampire grinned and quickly moved forward and grabbed her arm. The woman quickly moved back into the gallery. The vampire followed her. "I thought you can't enter a place unless you're invited?"

 

The vampire grinned, "Those are homes. Not businesses. Thanks for not running. I hate fast food."

 

"You should have stuck with the Mickey D's, asshole," she said before staking the vampire.

 

"Nicely handled, Mom."

 

Joyce Summers smiled, turned to her daughter, Buffy, who is entering with Steve St. Wolf, and said, "Thanks.  Did you come by to help me close up?"

 

"Yeah," Steve replied grimly. "But I'm going to talk to some friends about getting you some protection for the store and the house."

 

"Thanks, Steve," Joyce replied as Buffy handed her a glass of water. "What are you going to get?"

 

"Don't know, yet. But I'll find out tomorrow."

 

"Oh? And where are you going tomorrow?" Buffy asked.

 

"Just going to visit an old friend. She should be able to help me."

 

"She? Care to explain that one?" Buffy replied acidly.

 

Joyce's hand came up to her mouth to hide her smile. < Poor Buffy, she really likes Steve. >

 

Steve grinned. "I wouldn't worry, Buffy. Andrea Hunt is a witch that I know. Her granddaughter, Angela, is part of Bureau 13’s Team Phoenix.  I'm hoping she might help me with some protection spells and a few books for Jenny, Willow and Amy."

 

"Okay.  Can I come with you?" Buffy asked.

 

"You have school tomorrow," Joyce reminded her.

 

"But I can skip one day," Buffy whined. "My grades are up and Snyder's not bothering me anymore."

 

"Well, I'll be gone more like three days," Steve added. "And there's that math test you're supposed to take day after tomorrow."

 

Buffy glared at Steve. "Fine!!" She then stormed off. "Mom. I'll be waiting for you by the car!!"

 

Joyce sighed. "She really likes you Steve. Don't take it personally."

 

"I know, Joyce. She's afraid that I'll disappear on her."

 

"Will you?" Joyce asked.

 

Steve shook his head. "No, Joyce. I've never run out on anyone in my entire life, least of all my girlfriend. I'm in for the long haul."

 

Joyce gave Steve a quick peck on his cheek. "Good. Now help me lock the door and gate and I'll take Buffy home."

 

*****

 

Joyce watched Buffy angrily watch the night as she drives her home. "What's wrong, honey?"

 

"Steve. That lousy good for nothing won't tell me a thing about who he really works for."

 

"Honey," Joyce began, "You've only known him for how long? Less than six weeks and you want him to tell you everything. Relationships don't work that way."

 

"And how do ‘relationships' work, Mother?" Buffy acidly asked.

 

"They take time honey. You can't expect to learn everything about Steve in less than six weeks. He's had years to build himself up and it might take you that long to learn everything about him."

 

"But he's so damned mysterious!" Buffy complained. "He sometimes gets phone calls while we're training and he walks out of the gym to take them."

 

"Buffy, he does work for the CIA. Did you ever think it was them calling and asking him to help them with something?"

 

"I don't care," Buffy mumbled. "I just want a nice, normal boyfriend. Not some James Bond type who goes flying off into danger every week."

 

Joyce smiled, "Honey, he cares for you. He'll never leave you."

 

"But does he love me?" Buffy wondered.

 

Joyce sighed, "Buffy, honey. You can't expect him to fall all over you. You know that he wouldn't be the man you could fall in love with if that happened."

 

Buffy sighed in turn. "I know. But I wish he would let me in."

 

"Buffy. He is letting you in. A little at a time. Please don't force your relationship to go any faster or you might scare him away."

 

Buffy looked at her mother. "Since when are you so good at giving advice?"

 

"Since I realized that my daughter needed me to be her mom," Joyce replied with a smile.

 

Buffy hugged Joyce as they stop at a red light. "Thanks for understanding, Mom."

 

*****

 

Part 2 - Business Trips
(Never Eat At a Road Side Diner.)
(There's a Reason The Truckers Call Them Choke And Pukes.)

March 16, 2014
Town of New Wales, Nevada - 1800 PST

 

Steve pulled into the diner parking lot and looked around as he got out of his Tahoe. He grimaced as everyone in and near the diner stared at him in open dislike. As he walked into the diner, everyone stopped talking and eating and stared at him. < Sheesh, these people could give Mulder lessons in paranoia. > He sat down at the counter and picked up the menu. He looked at it as the waitress walked up to him. Steve studied the menu and grunted. "What's the daily special?"

 

"Nothing you'd like," the waitress surlily replied.

 

Steve looked up at her and grinned. He noticed her 5'6" height, incredibly long red hair and pale complexion. She just rolled her eyes and tapped her pad. "I'm looking for someone," Steve told her.

 

"The closest payphone is six miles outside of town. Dial 4-1-1 and you'll get your answer, bub," the young woman replied loudly. Several chairs were scraped back and several heavy set individuals walked up behind Steve. The waitress quickly walked away as a harsh voice barked out.

 

"We don't want your kind here!"

 

Steve turned around and grinned at the large man as his coat falls open, exposing his handgun. The men don't back down as a tall, skinny man dressed in purple snickered, "That thing doesn't scare us, mortal."

 

Steve smiled and slowly pulled out Demon Slayer. The men quickly back away, sensing its incredible power. "Oh Shit!!" The waitress cried out as she staggered even further back, her face ashen. "A freaking Sword of Destiny!!"

 

The men step back and mutter among themselves as Steve re-sheathed Demon Slayer. He looked over to the waitress. "I'm looking for an old friend. A mutual friend told me I could find her in this town."

 

"And who is this friend who sent you here?" The heavy set man asked.

 

"Niume," Steve replied as the patrons in the diner stare at him in complete shock.

 

"Who are you?!" The man dressed in purple demanded.

 

Steve smiled. "My apologies. My name is Steven St. Wolf, though most people call me the Wanderer."

 

The silence in the restaurant is deafening as an elderly man fainted. The heavy set man looked Steve up and down and rumbled, "From the way the Hell Spawn throw your name around, I thought you'd be bigger."

 

Steve chuckled, "That's what everyone says. Sheesh, why do people expect? A giant?"

 

The heavyset man grinned, "Your reputation is well known among us, Sir Steve. You are welcome in New Wales. May I send a runner for the person that you are looking for?"

 

"No. I'll go over there personally," Steve replied with a grin. "But you can send a runner to make sure that I can go and see her."

 

"Of course, Sir Steve. Who will you be seeing?"

 

"Mistress Hunt," Steve replied as the room goes silent again. The heavyset man gulps as Steve continued, "I have a personal message from Lady Niume. And I need some advice as well."

 

The entire room relaxed and the waitress brought Steve a cup of coffee while the man in purple rushed out to deliver the message. He smiled at her and she dimpled as she put down a cup of coffee in front of him. "If'n you want, Sir Steve, I get off at eight o'clock."

 

Steve lost his smile and coughed, "I'm sorry, but I'm seeing someone."

 

"Oh? Is she beautiful?" The waitress asked as she moved closer and leaned down, showing her cleavage.

 

Steve coughed once more. < Buffy's going to kill me. > Most of the nearby women begin to laugh as the waitress moved in for the kill. Steve looked up at her eyes. "I'm sorry, but I promised her that I wouldn't talk to any beautiful witches."

 

The waitress laughs pleasantly, but the nearby men are grim. "What does this woman know about us?" the heavyset man demanded.

 

"Nothing other than I'm going to see a witch."

 

"And why would she make you promise not to talk to any beautiful witches?"

 

Steve grinned, "Because she knows that witches can be quite ‘fetching'. Since three of her friends are witches and quite beautiful."

 

The waitress grinned. "And this woman doesn't care that they're witches? Why?"

 

"Because she's the Slayer," Steve replied. The waitress gulped and quickly turned away. The heavyset man sits down next to Steve.

 

"Why are these witches her friends? The Watchers have always had the Slayers hunt down any witches they could find."

 

"Not this Slayer or her Watcher. Two of the witches are her best friends and the third is her Watcher's lover and a mentor to her. She'll defend them to the death."

 

The heavyset man snorted in laughter, "Next thing you'll be telling us that she's also Immortal." Steve just smiled as the heavyset man blanched, "Gods above!! She's not?!" Steve just nodded his head and smiled. The heavyset man gulped, worry clearly etched on his face.

 

"Buffy is a good person, sir. She doesn't kill indiscriminately."

 

"That is probably true, but the Watcher's Council has been hunting for New Wales for close to one hundred years. They wish to exterminate us completely."

 

"Why?" Steve asked.

 

"Because one hundred years ago, a Slayer was born among us and we refused to give her up. We knew that she was needed and we trained her, equipped her and helped her. She survived for twelve years without the aid of the Council and their Watchers."

 

"How was she killed?"

 

"The Council paid the Order of Teraka to kill her. They succeeded where hundreds of vampires and demons failed." The heavyset man replied, and then held out his hand. "By the way, my name is Joshua Patrick, Sir Steve."

 

"A pleasure, Joshua," Steve replied as he shook Joshua's hand. The diner quickly went back to its normal self as the people accepted Steve in their midst.

 

The hairs on the back of his neck quickly rose as a soft and sultry voice whispered, "My name is Mara O'Reilly." Steve turned around and the waitress is looking at him with an open smile. "Fear not, Sir Knight. I'll not make you break your word to your lady. Just know that I think her very lucky, indeed."

 

Steve grinned, "I'm sure that will comfort me when she cuts off my manhood."

 

Mara laughed softly. It sounds like the tinkle of a mountain stream. "I'm sure that she has a much better use for that item." Steve blushed. "And he's shy? Oh Goddess, but you are a keeper." Mara muttered under her breath as she walked away shaking her head. Joshua laughed softly until a clicking cane is heard from the door.

 

Everyone turned to the door and saw the purple man standing there, holding the door open. An elderly African-American lady stands in the doorway, her white hair falling to her shoulders. She looked at Steve and he felt his stomach lurch. < Oh Shit! The Lady came to me. > Steve quickly got to his feet. "Mistress Hunt, a pleasure to see you again."

 

The woman glared at Steve. "I understand you have a message for me?" Steve nodded and calmly reached into his jacket pocket and took out a thick envelope with a yellow wax seal on it. Miss Hunt, saw the seal, smiled and took the envelope and walked over to a nearby table. The two men sitting there quickly picked up their dishes and left. Mara quickly wiped down the table and stood nearby, patiently waiting. Andrea Hunt sat down as the purple man held out the chair for her. She gave the entire diner a glance as the patrons watched her closely. All of them quickly turn back to their meals as she began to open the envelope.

 

Steve quietly sat back down and turned to his cup of coffee. As he began to drink from it, he pulled out a newspaper and began to read it, patiently waiting to be called. After a few minutes, Joshua tapped Steve's shoulder and he turned back. "Mistress Hunt wants to talk." Steve nodded his head and put his paper away and walked over to the table. He stood by the table as Hunt looked him over from head to toe.

 

She pointed to the chair opposite her and Steve sat down, waiting for her to begin. She leaned in and stared into his eyes and nodded her head when she's done appraising him. "So Niume tells me that you need my help. What do you need?"

 

Steve began by telling her how he settled in Sunnydale and what was happening. "What happened last night confirmed it. The families of the people working with me need protection. And I don't know how to provide it. So I called Niume and she sent me that message and asked me to deliver it."

 

Andrea Hunt sighed and nodded. < Such brave children. If more of humanity was like them, the world would be a better place. > "Of course I'll help you. Those poor children should have some piece of mind concerning their families. Why have you not convinced them to lay down their weapons and stop fighting? Let them become children again for a time."

 

"I wish that I could," Steve softly replied. "Every time I go out on patrol with them, my heart breaks. I know that Buffy doesn't have much choice in the matter, but her friends refuse to leave her or me now."

 

Andrea smiled, "You truly care for them. I can see that." She then turned to the diner at large. "You've all heard. Do any of you wish to aid him and his charges?"

 

Joshua stood away from the counter. "Yes Mistress Hunt," he replied with a smile. "My Gert just had a litter and I'll gladly give him two from it."

 

"And I still have one from my Isabelle's litter. I'll give him up." Mara replied with a smile. And several people in the crowd quickly gave up another five more.

 

Steve turned to Andrea and asked. "Mistress Hunt, I do appreciate the generosity of Joshua and the rest, but what are you giving me?"

 

Andrea smiles, "Just wait and see Sir Steven."

 

A few minutes later, Joshua walked in with a pair of German Shepard puppies and put them in a box next to Steve. He looked at them as they each stared back at him with intelligent eyes. Mara brought in another box and put in a small kitten. Several other people come by and also drop either a kitten or puppy in the boxes. After six kittens and five puppies are placed in the two boxes, Andrea held up her hand. "That's enough. He doesn't need more.” Three other people nodded and quietly took back their kittens and puppies.

 

Steve stared at the two boxes and petted the five dogs. "They're nice, Mistress Hunt, but how are they going to help protect my friends and their families?"

 

Andrea Hunt smiled as she asked Mara. "Is Isabelle in the back?"

 

"Yes, Mistress Hunt." Mara replied as she quickly left with a smile on her face. She quickly came back and put a multi-colored calico cat down on the floor nearby. Mara turned and smiled. "Now watch, Sir Knight." She turned back to the cat and commanded. "Isabelle, please show your true form to this man."

 

The cat looked up at Mara and then to Steve and finally to Andrea, who nodded her head. The cat stretched and in an instant, she was replaced by a full sized Saber-Toothed Cat. Steve stared in shock at the two hundred and fifty pound monster.

 

"Oh boy," Steve muttered under his breath. He looked back to Andrea. "How?"

 

"Very simple, young man, Isabella is a Guardian Spirit. She may look like an ordinary house cat, but she's anything but," Andrea replied with a smile.

 

"And the puppies become?" Steve asked in shock.

 

Andrea smiled, "Joshua, please bring in Gert."

 

Joshua smiled and brings back a black German Shepard. He placed her near Isabella and ordered, "Gert, please show this man what you can become."

 

Steve gulped as the German Shepard grew to three times her size. "A Dire Wolf?" Steve asked as Joshua nodded his head. He turns back to Andrea. "Are all of them like that?"

 

"They are, Sir Steve," Andrea replied with an amused tone in her voice. "Each one of them will grow to become like Gert and Isabelle."

 

Steve looked at the box of kittens and puppies. "But if I take them this young, won't that cause problems?"

 

"No it won't. Andrea replied as she handed over a sheet of paper to him. "Have one of your young witches read this spell as the Guardians and your young friends make their choices."

 

"What does this do?" Steve asked.

 

"It links them together. The Guardians will then recognize them as their friends and companions," Andrea explained. "They will then guard their family members as well."

 

Steve gulped. "And how long do they live?"

 

"For as long as their companions do. They will be linked forever."

 

"What if the kids don't want to be ‘linked'? What if they decide to free their companions at some point in the future?"

 

"Then the companions will either remain out of loyalty and love or return here." Andrea replied. "If they return here, they will choose new companions."

 

"One of the kids is a werewolf. How will that affect them?"

 

Andrea smiled, "Not at all. Just make sure that he gets a cat."

 

"What about his girlfriend? She's a witch."

 

"You truly have an interesting group, Sir Knight," Mara replied with a smile.

 

"The young lady can choose which ever guardian she wants. None of them will be jealous of her beau," Andrea replied with a smile.

 

"All right," Steve replied softly and then raised his voice. "Thank you all for these gifts."

 

"You're quite welcome, Sir Steve," Joshua rumbled. "Is there anything else you need?"

 

"Yes, there is." Steve replied as he took out a sheet of paper. "This is a list of books that we use for research and spellcasting. Is it possible for you to review it and add whatever you think is necessary? I would be more than happy to purchase any books that you recommend."

 

Andrea picked up the list and nodded her head. She quickly wrote down a list of books on the other side. She read it over and nodded her head. She looked over to an old man and he came over. She gave him the list. "Peter, do you have extra copies of these in your shop?"

 

"Of course, Mistress Hunt. But are you sure?"

 

"Niume said that Sir Steve may be trusted by us and his companions as well. The spells and information those books will provide will aid them in their battles."

 

"Then may I suggest some others? They should also be of aid to these young ones."

 

Andrea smiled, "Of course, Peter. Please feel free to add whatever you feel is necessary."

 

Before Peter can turn and leave, Steve pulled out an envelope full of cash from his coat pocket and handed it to Peter. Peter opened the envelope and promptly handed it back. "I don't want your money, Sir Steve. Knowing that you and your friends are out there, fighting and protecting humanity is enough for me."

 

"Then take it to cover the cost of replacing the books that you're giving me," Steve told him. "I don't want you to suffer because you helped me."

 

Andrea nodded towards Peter and he bowed and left, taking the envelope with him. She turned back to Steve. "Will you spend the night with us while Peter gets the books together?"

 

"Thank you. If you would show me to a motel, I'll be happy to rent a room."

 

Andrea smiled. "We don't have a motel in this town. You'll guest at my home, Sir Steve."

 

"I thank you for your hospitality, Mistress Hunt. Would you allow me to buy you dinner?"

 

Andrea smiled, "Niume said that you were well raised. I'm glad to see that she was right. Now, while we wait for dinner, could you tell me of your adventures?"

 

"Certainly," Steve replied with a smile. While dinner is being prepared, Steve told Andrea of his first few weeks in Sunnydale. Most of the people forgot their meals and listened in as Steve described their attacks on the vampire army raised by Angelus. Several of the people mutter in shock at the number of vampires destroyed by eighteen Immortals. When Steve told them of Artemis and her choosing seven of his friends and blessing them, the entire diner lapsed into shocked silence.

 

"Are any of these Amazons also Witches?" Andrea asked in wonder.

 

"Three of them are Witches." Steve confirmed.

 

"And the others?" Mara asked as she puts down a pair of dinners in front of Steve and Andrea. The puppies and kittens eagerly sniff the air. Steve grinned and cuts off several pieces of his meat loaf and puts them on the side to cool off.

 

"One has taken to being an Amazon with relish," Steve grinned.  “The other three were adult members of the Standing Amazon Family before they were enhanced.”

 

Andrea chuckled, "The young woman seems to be enjoying herself."

 

"Very much so. To the good fortune of her boyfriend," Steve replied with a smile as he began to feed the puppies and then the kittens.

 

Andrea smiled, "You'll do well with them young man. They already trust you."

 

Steve grinned as he petted the kittens and pups, "Brother Aaron says the same thing."

 

"The Immortal Monk? Is he still with Michael?" Andrea asked with a smile.

 

"Both of them run a monastery near San Diego."

 

"Good. I'm glad both are still alive. They risked their lives several times to save good witches from the more savage members of the Church."

 

"If you want, I'll be happy to get a message to them," Steve replied as one of the puppies, a jet black Shepard, climbed onto his lap. He looked down at the pup and the pup just panted and licked his hand.

 

"I think you've just been claimed, Sir Steve." Joshua replied with a smile. "That one's the best of Gert's litter."

 

"He looks like he'll be a big one when he grows up." Steve replied with a smile as the pup snuggled against him and growled at the rest of the puppies and kittens in the boxes. "Looks like I'm already private property."

 

"I think your lady is going to be jealous after all." Mara replied with a grin.

 

Steve grinned and put the dog back into the box. He immediately climbed back out and onto Steve's lap. "You won't be getting rid of him that easily," Joshua replied with a rumbling chuckle. "But I think the feelings are mutual." He added as Steve began to tickle the pup's belly.

 

Andrea smiled as she clapped her hands. Several of the men get up and approached her. "Please take these young ones and care for them tonight. Mr. St. Wolf will be staying with me tonight and will be leaving tomorrow with them." Steve put the puppy back into the box and petted him. Before the two men can pick up the boxes, the black Shepard pup jumped out and again climbed onto Steve's lap.

 

"Looks like I'm not going to be sleeping alone tonight. I hope Buffy forgives me." Steve commented with a soft laugh.

 

"I'm sure she will." Andrea replied with a slight smile as she got up after finishing her meal. "Now please follow me and bring your new friend with you."

 

*****

 

Part 3 - House Sitting
(Weaponous Interruptus)

March 16, 2014
Home of Steve St. Wolf, Sunnydale, CA - 2130 PST

 

Xander grinned as he and Cordelia house sat for Steve. Cordelia moaned as Xander's hands begin to caress her in a very sensitive spot. "Oh Goddess," Cordelia muttered as she leaned in and kissed him on his mouth. She quickly forced her tongue into Xander's mouth and began to unbutton his shirt. As Xander's hands reached for her bra strap, a loud knocking is heard from the front door. Xander grimaced and Cordelia angrily got up and headed to the front door. She quickly pulled it open and her angry reply is lost at the sight of the six foot eight inch giant standing in the door way. She stared at the dark haired giant and gulped.

 

"Where's St. Wolf?" The giant's deep voice demanded.

 

"Away on business," Cordelia curtly replied as she shifted into a defensive posture. "What do you what?"

 

"Bastard bitches to the high heavens for this stuff and he's not here to take delivery of it? That man is a major pain in the ass," the giant replied sarcastically as he walked back to a large truck. "Tell me where to put it."

 

Cordelia and Xander stared at the truck and shook their heads in wonder. "Hey, guy!" Xander called out and the giant turned around and walked back.

 

"What is it, boy?"

 

"How do we know that Steve asked you to bring this stuff?"

 

The giant grinned, "Good point. But that pain in the ass Boy Scout screamed for this stuff and I have other work to do. So I'll just leave it in the driveway. And if you have a problem, call Frank Iverson and tell him that Randolph is here with the shipment."

 

"We'll do that." Xander replied as he quickly closed the door. He turned and watched as Cordelia pulled out a Heckler and Koch G3 Battle rifle from one of the hidden wall lockers. "Keep an eye on him while I call Frank."

 

"Not a problem," Cordelia replied as she watched the giant from a side window.

 

Xander nodded his head and reached for the phone and quickly dialed Frank's phone number. A sleepy woman answered. "Who is this?"

 

"I'm sorry, I must have dialed the wrong number," Xander quickly replied.

 

"Who are you looking for?"

 

"A friend of mine named Frank," Xander replied as he reached for the hook to disconnect the phone.

 

"Frank's in the bathroom, give him a minute to get out," the husky voice replied.

 

"Okay," Xander replied as Frank came on line.

 

"Who is this?" Frank demanded.

 

"Frank, it's Xander. I'm at Steve's house with Cordy and some guy calling himself Randolph is here with a shipment."

 

"Attitude to the max, stands about six, eight, three hundred pounds, brunette hair and a scar on his jaw."

 

"That's the guy," Xander replied. "He said something about a shipment that Steve ordered."

 

"Yeah, he's on the up and up. Steve did order a bunch of stuff for you kids," Frank replied. "Anything else?"

 

"Just curious who the lady is," Xander replied with a smirk.

 

"Every read ‘The Elven Bard' series?" Frank asked.

 

"Yeah, Cassandra Hastings writes the series. Why?"

 

"You just talked to her," Frank replied with a laugh as he hung up.

 

Xander shook his head and grinned as he remembered the picture from the back of one of the dust jackets. < Lucky Dog. > He turned back to Cordelia, "He checks out."

 

Cordelia grinned as she put her battle rifle down, "All right."

 

Xander opened the door and walked out to the side of the truck. "Hey Dude! Frank told us everything is all right."

 

"About damn time you got your lazy ass out here," Randolph replied from behind Xander. Xander started and quickly turned around, going into a defensive stance. Randolph looked him up and down and grunted in satisfaction. "You're learning, kid. Keep it up and you'll make the grade."

 

"How?!" Xander barked.

 

Randolph grinned, "Just been doing this for a while."

 

Xander shook his head in disgust. "What is it with Steve and all of these pros? Where the Hell does he get them from?"

 

"I work with him occasionally," Randolph replied with a dry chuckle as he waved to the van and it began to back up to the garage. When it's less than three feet from the door, the van stops. Randolph turned to Xander. "Well, kid?"

 

"Yeah, right." Xander replied as he nodded to Cordelia, who went into the house and opened the garage door for Randolph and his three helpers. Xander looked over each man and shuddered, < Oh fuck! These guys are just like the crew Steve got together a few weeks ago. > "What's in the boxes?"

 

Randolph looked up from the box that he's carrying. "Something that Steve ordered."

 

"You're not going to tell me, are you?" Xander asked.

 

Randolph looked up from the box he picked up and grinned, "Nope."

 

"Goddess, but these guys are as tight lipped as Steve is," Cordelia muttered as she watched the four men unload a large number of heavy boxes.

 

"We've all worked with St. Wolf," one of the men replied with a grin. "Are you his new girlfriend?"

 

Cordelia stared at the man and grinned, "I wish. I've got Dweeb Boy here for a boyfriend."

 

"Hey!" Xander yelled out as the four men all laugh.

 

Randolph chuckled evilly as he handed off a large box. "So the rumors are true? St. Wolf has found himself a girlfriend?"

 

"Yeah, they're true," Cordelia replied with a dazzling smile. "Why are you interested?"

 

"We've all got money in various betting pools," Randolph replied with an easy grin. "Care to tell us when they officially began dating?"

 

"So you can collect?" Xander asked with a laugh.

 

"The betting pool has been going for a long time, kid," Randolph replied with a laugh. "The money involved is enough to retire on."

 

Cordelia laughed softly, "February 27th at five o'clock."

 

"Thanks," Randolph replied as he angrily began to throw the boxes at the garage.

 

"Let me guess," Xander muttered, "You bet on February 28th?"

 

"No," Randolph angrily muttered, "March 1st!"

 

Xander turned to Cordelia. "Ever wonder if anyone is betting anything on how long ‘We' last?" Cordelia glared at Xander as Randolph chuckled evilly.

 

"You kids should be all right."

 

They both turn back to a grinning Randolph and Cordelia demanded, "Who died and made you Doctor Ruth?"

 

"Only my Psych degree from Harvard," Randolph replied with a smile.

 

"You graduated from Harvard?" Cordelia asked in shock.

 

"Yep," Randolph replied as he straightened his back and wiped his brow. "Class of 1927."

 

"You're an Immortal?" Xander replied softly.

 

"Nope," Randolph replied with a smile. "Just a little long lived." He looked over to the pile of boxes in the garage sits down on the tailgate. "That's it kids."

 

Xander and Cordelia gulped as they watched one of the men close the garage door. "What happens now?"

 

"We leave," Randolph replied with a chuckle as he reached up and closed the truck's rear door and walked away to the front of the truck. Xander and Cordelia watched as the truck left in a cloud of dust as Maria entered.

 

“I’ve signed all the papers,” she said.  “Thanks to some relatives of mine, we have our own home.  We can move into it when Steve returns.”

 

“Great,” Cordelia said.

 

“More good news,” Maria said.  “By the end of this week, we will be mother and daughter as well as sister Amazons.”

 

*****

 

Part 4 - Antiques Roadshow
(Boil, Boil, Toil And Tribble. And I Don't Mean Star Trek)

March 16, 2014
Town of New Wales, Nevada - 2100 PST

 

Steve stared at the Victorian decor of Andrea's house and muttered, "Most of my clients would kill for some of these things."

 

Andrea looked up at him from her easy chair. "Oh? Why is that?"

 

"I sell antiques as a cover," Steve replied with a smile.

 

"You do?" Andrea asked with a smile. "Then maybe you can help us with another matter."

 

"What matter would that be?" Steve asked as he sat down across from her. The puppy snuggled into his lap immediately.

 

"Many of the people here wish to purchase more modern furnishings for their homes, but lack the hard money for such things. Can you take some of the old furniture and sell it for us?"

 

"Of course I can. But have you talked to Niume about this problem?"

 

"I have, but she can't help other than to offer my people work as witches for Merlin's Knights. I don't want them fighting and dying because we need a few modern conveniences."

 

"All right, I'll help. Could your people show me the things that they're willing to part with?"

 

"Of course. Would tomorrow morning be fine?"

 

"Yes, it would. But how will I take the items? My car is large, but the books will take up a lot of room."

 

Andrea smiled, "Just chose the items that will bring in the most money and I'll arrange for their delivery."

 

"Very well then, Mistress Hunt. Anything else?"

 

"Yes," Andrea replied in an indulgent smile. "Some of the young men and women were noticing your car and want to know if you would allow them to try it?"

 

"Kids are the same everywhere," Steve replied with a chuckle. "But there is something you should know. My car would be considered a deadly weapon by any police officer or agency, if they knew it existed."

 

"May I ask why?"

 

Steve sighed, "I originally wanted to buy a car for transportation, but a friend of mine took me to this man who specialized in ‘special' cars for ‘special' people. He showed me this car, explained what he had done to it and I bought it. Some of the things he added to it make it very dangerous."

 

"What sort of things did he do to your car?" Andrea asked in curiosity.

 

"The car is armor plated, making it bullet proof to anything but an anti-tank missile. The glass will stop any bullet up to and including a fifty caliber, armor piercing. The engine is a four hundred and fifty cubic inch V-8 engine with a nitrous oxide boost built into it. The rear of the car has an oil and smoke release, as well as a machine gun located above the tail pipe. There is also a pair of machine guns located above the front headlights. The lights, both front and rear, will flash with high power halogen lights, blinding anyone who sees them. The front is reinforced steel and can drive through a brick wall without slowing the car down. Gas mileage is not that great, but then, I don't care," Steve replied with a grin.

 

"An impressive vehicle," Andrea agreed with a smile. "But that will just wet their appetites all the more."

 

Steve grinned, "Like I said, kids will be kids. And I will let them look in the car, but not drive it."

 

"Fair enough," Andrea replied as she watched Steve pet and cuddle the puppy. "Have you thought of a name for him yet?"

 

Steve grinned, "How about Duke?"

 

"A name of royalty is not a fitting name for a guardian," Andrea replied with a smile. "The nobles might find it insulting."

 

"Actually, I'm naming him after the actor, John ‘Duke' Wayne."

 

"A good man, Mr. Wayne was," Andrea replied softly. "I once met him in the late 1950s. A true gentleman."

 

"I know. Every Immortal who knew him, hoped he was also one of us, but when he died of cancer, a lot of us mourned his passing."

 

"I think he'll like being called Duke," Andrea replied as the puppy yawned widely. "Time for bed. For the both of you."

 

Steve also yawned, "Good idea. Early to bed, early to work tomorrow."

 

*****

*****

17 March 2014
Town of New Wales - 0630 - PST

 

The next morning dawns bright and clear as Steve and Duke woke up. Steve opened his eyes and found Duke staring at him over his paws as he rested on Steve's chest. "Good morning to you to," Steve replied as Duke's tongue licks his face. Steve chuckled. "I bet you want breakfast?"

 

Duke barked once and scampered off the bed as Steve got up. Steve looked around and opened a door and finds the bathroom. He quickly did what he needed to do and got out. Duke quietly watched as Steve got dressed. When Steve was ready to leave, Duke jumped off the bed and joined him at the door.

 

Steve grinned and opened the door. Duke immediately scampered down to the kitchen where Mara was making breakfast. Steve coughed and Mara turned and smiled at him. "Don't worry, Sir Knight, I'm not here to ravish you."

 

"Just breakfast?" Steve asked with a grin.

 

"Of course," Mara replied with an evil grin. "Mistress Hunt is a lovely lady and everyone in New Wales loves her. But her cooking is well known to be hazardous to everyone's health."

 

"Even Immortals?" Steve asked in surprise.

 

"Certain things may fall off if you don't watch what you eat," Mara replied with a giggle. "And I don't think having an angry Immortal Slayer coming after her would be good for her health."

 

"That paints a nice picture," Steve replied with a grin as Andrea walked in. He immediately rose from his chair and held out hers. Andrea sat down as Steve pushed in the chair.

 

"Are you ready to look over the items?" Andrea asked.

 

"As soon as Duke and I finish breakfast, we'll look them over."

 

"Who's Duke?" Mara asked. Steve pointed to the puppy, who's gobbling down half of his bacon. Mara giggled, "A good name for him. He eats like a cowboy."

 

Steve chuckled, "I hope none of your people are planning on giving up something magical?"

 

"Of course not. But I will make sure that none of the items are charmed or cursed."

 

"Thank you," Steve replied as he dug into his scrambled eggs, home fries, bacon and toast. Duke whined as he eyes the last of the bacon. Steve just shook his head and handed over half of it to him. Duke made happy puppy noises as he bi into the bacon, chewing on it. "Gonna have to buy him a chew toy." Steve muttered to himself as Duke chewed the bacon with his open mouth.

 

Mara laughed lightly. "He'll eat you out house and home."

 

"I hope he's house broken," Steve muttered. "Could you imagine me toilet training a Dire Wolf?"

 

"Yes, I can," Mara replied with a laugh. "The newspaper had better be a big one."

 

Steve snickered, "I think Duke and I have an understanding."

 

"Oh? Do you now?" Mara asked as she watched Duke steal most of Steve's remaining bacon. Steve watched as the pup quickly gobbled up all of the bacon and licked his lips in satisfaction.

 

"Yeah," Steve replied while glaring at Duke, who gave him a plaintive look with his eyes. "Now that's one dangerous dog. He'll get away with everything."

 

Mara laughed lightly as Steve put his fork down and again glared at the puppy. Duke stared back and suddenly moved forward, licking Steve's nose. Steve continued to glare at Duke but broke down and chuckled, "Definitely dangerous. I wonder what he'll do when Buffy's over."

 

"Probably beg to be held," Mara replied with a laugh. "What will you do when you and your lady want to snuggle and you have him coming between you?"

 

"That's why they created dog houses," Steve replied with an evil grin while watching Duke. Duke glared back and strutted forward and went nose to nose with Steve. Steve let out a low growl. Duke also growled but then licked Steve's nose. Steve just stared at the dog, finally realizing something. "You're a lot smarter then you look."

 

*****

 

Mara laughed softly as she watched the Guardian drive Steve crazy. < Oh Goddess, but this is funny. >

 

*****

Steve turned to his host. "Mistress Hunt. Is there something more that you should be telling me about these ‘Guardians'?"

 

Andrea smiled as she sipped her tea. "Of course there is, Sir Steve. I was just curious as to when you would figure it out on your own."

 

"How intelligent are they?"

 

"As intelligent as any normal person. It all depends on who they chose to bond with."

 

"Oh hell," Steve muttered, suddenly re-thinking about giving one to Xander. "And if the person they bond with tends to be a smart mouthed teenage boy who constantly makes jokes and pulls pranks?"

 

"Then the world is doomed," Mara replied with a laugh.

 

"Oh God, help us all," Steve muttered. "I hope Cordelia can keep them in line."

 

"Who's Cordelia?" Mara asked with a smile.

 

"Xander's girlfriend," Steve replied with a grin. "She tends to keep him in line."

 

Mara laughed softly, "Goddess, but that's good. Is she good at it?"

 

"Not really," Steve chuckled. "Xander has terminal smart mouth."

 

Andrea smiled, "He tends to keep your moods light. Especially during the worst of times."

 

"He does at that," Steve agreed. "That's why he's so important to us."

 

"Good," Andrea replied as she led Steve out of her home. They quickly walked back to the diner and turned away from it just before they get there. "This is our school," Andrea replied as she led Steve into the gymnasium. As they enter, Steve sees a large number of people standing around with a large number of items for him to look over.

 

"I should have taken that job on the Antiques Road Show," Steve muttered as everyone watched him. Steve smiled at them as he and Andrea walked over to a pair of chairs. Steve stood next to her as she sat down and he began to look over the items being presented. He quickly went through the items chosen. After about three hours, Steve sat back in his chair and took a deep breath. "I think that's enough," He looked over the items he's chosen. "I think that I can get what you need with these items. How will you get them to me?"

 

Andrea handed Steve a sheet of paper. "This spell will call them to you wherever you are. Just draw a large circle, about thirty feet in diameter and you won't have any problems."

 

"Good," Steve replied as he stretched. "I'll check on the Guardians and then I'll be leaving."

 

"Don't worry. All of the books have been packed and will be placed into your car as soon as you get there. The Guardians are ready as well. When do you think we'll be able to order the items that we need?"

 

"Give me two to four weeks to sell these items and get the best prices possible," Steve replied as he looked at the items stacked in a neat pile. "I have several clients who will be drooling over some of these items."

 

"Good. When you've sold everything, I'll contact you with the list of items that we need."

 

"All right," Steve replied as they walked out of the gymnasium towards his car. "I'll arrange with Niume to have them delivered to you."

 

"Very good, Sir Steve." Andrea replied with a smile as they walked up to Steve's Tahoe. A pile of boxes was sitting next to it and Steve gulped.

 

"You think that's enough books?"

 

"I believe that Peter gave you quite a few books that he normally won't part with. Please be careful with them."

 

"Of course we will," Steve replied as several of the teenagers stared at his car. "Kids will be kids."

 

"Can you let them look for a short while?" Andrea asked with a smile.

 

"Of course," Steve replied as he opened the door locks with his remote control. "Kids, you can look all you want, but please don't touch any of the buttons."

 

"Why?" A short red headed girl asked.

 

"Because you might accidentally set off the machine guns or several bombs that are spread around the car."

 

"Goddess!" A tall, blond haired boy replied in disbelief. "Where did you get this car from?"

 

"A man who makes special cars for special people," Steve replied with a smile.

 

"You mean ‘Q'?" A dark haired beauty asked in shock.

 

"Sorry, I only work part time for the British Secret Service," Steve replies with a smile.

 

"I thought you were a Knight of the Grail?"

 

"Even Knights have to make a living," Steve replied with a smile.

 

"I thought you dealt in antiques?" Andrea asked as the teenagers look around the interior of Steve's car.

 

"Only as a cover for my real work," Steve replied with a grin. "The people that I help like the idea that I have a ‘real' job."

 

"Does Merlin know that you work for the British Secret Service?"

 

"He does. He doesn't have a problem with it so long as it doesn't interfere with any missions he gives me."

 

"Do you ever get any time off to relax and enjoy life?"

 

"Up until a month ago, hardly ever," Steve replied softly.

 

"What has changed?" Andrea asked.

 

"Just being with Buffy and her friends has helped quite a bit. Also feeling that I've finally found someplace to call home helped."

 

Andrea patted Steve on his cheek. "Yes, I can see that you want to live a ‘normal' life, but won't neglect your duties. Good."

 

"Time for me to leave," Steve replied as he looked at his watch.

 

Andrea nodded her head and turned to the group of teenagers looking at Steve's car. "Please place the boxes in the car." The teenagers quickly pick up the boxes and put them in the car. Joshua walked up with the puppies and kittens and places them on the front seat.

 

"The young ones will ride in these carryalls. Will it be a long trip back?"

 

"About eight hours," Steve replied.

 

"I'll put all of them to sleep while you drive," Joshua replied as he chanted a quick spell. He looked up from the sleeping puppies and kittens and smiled. "That should make your trip easier. Just pet each one to wake them up."

 

"A lot easier. Thanks Joshua," Steve replied with a grin as he turned to Andrea. "I'll be leaving now, Mistress Hunt."

 

"Have a good trip, Sir Steve," Andrea replied as Steve climbed into his car and left. Andrea and Joshua watched him leave and Andrea turned to Joshua. "What do you think, Joshua? Do you think our people will follow him when the time comes?"

 

"Without a doubt, Mistress. His name is well known to us and his stay here has firmed our respect for him. We'll follow him, don't doubt that."

 

"Thank you Joshua," Andrea replied as she turned and left. She turned back for a second and quietly whispered, "Good luck, Steven. Maggie was right about you."

 

*****

 

Part 5 - Gifts
(And They Say That I Give Stupid Gifts.
Everyone Can Always Use C-4.)

March 17, 2014
Sunnydale, CA - 21:40 PST

 

Steve pulled up to his house and saw the lights are on. He also saw Giles' aged Citroën, Oz's van, and Maria’s Prius. < Damn, everyone must be here. > Steve thought to himself as he got out of his car. He felt the familiar ‘Buzz' and watched as the side door open and Buffy rushed out and into his arms. "Miss me?"

 

Buffy glared at him but doesn't let him go as she murmured, "I was worried about you."

 

"I have a surprise for everyone," Steve replied with a grin as he walked into the house and saw that everyone was there, waiting. He grinned as he saw Xander sitting down on the couch. "Get up, lazy bones, you have to help me unload my car."

 

Xander glared at him, but got up and followed Steve back to his car. Buffy and the rest follow them and the car is quickly unloaded. The last package is the carryalls with the puppies and kittens. Steve personally carried them inside. Everyone watched as he reached inside and felt around for a few seconds. Steve smiled as he petted each of the Guardians and they begin to wake up. Each of the young Guardians begin to strain at the mesh of the carryalls as they sense their future companions nearby.

 

"What's in the boxes?" Buffy asked as she tried to peek into the carryalls, but Steve pulled her back.

 

"None of your business," Steve replied with a grin. "Is Joyce here?"

 

"No. Mom's at home," Buffy replied.

 

"Can she come here?"

 

"Sure," Buffy replied as she walked over to the phone. She quickly called her Mom. "She'll be here in five. What's up with the boxes?"

 

"I got us some more books," Steve replied with a grin as Giles, Jenny, Willow and Amy dive at the boxes spread across the floor. Robert, Carol, Maria, Constance, Buffy, Cordelia, Xander, and Oz grinned as they watch them begin to sputter in shock.

 

"My God!" Giles muttered as he picked up a large leather bound book. "Michelangelo's Demons and Monsters?!" He looked at Steve. "But this book was lost centuries ago. Where did you get it?"

 

"Don't worry about that one," Jenny muttered as she held up a book of her own. "Where the hell did you get this copy of Circe's Spells and Charms? Every copy was supposed to have been destroyed three thousand years ago."

 

"Jenny?" Willow muttered, her hands shaken, her face white. "Please tell me that I'm not imagining this." Jenny, Giles and Amy rushed over and stared at the book in question.

 

"A real copy of Wiccan Rituals, Spells and Wards in Celtic? How? The Church destroyed every copy that ever existed," Jenny muttered in disbelief.

 

Steve just sat back and enjoyed the shocked looks on everyone's faces. < I think that Peter really gave me some interesting books. >

 

Giles, Jenny, Willow and Amy walked up to Steve. "Where did you get these books from Steve?" Giles demanded, not believing what he was holding. "These books are so rare that even the Watcher's Council doesn't have copies."

 

"Here and there," Steve replied with a lop-sided grin. "Glad you like them."

 

Giles shook his head in disbelief and turned back to the boxes with Jenny, Willow and Amy. As he walked away, Giles muttered, "Damn bastard is not going to tell us anything. I hate that about him the most."

 

Steve began to chuckle as a warm body squeezed in next to him. He turned to see a smiling Buffy lean in and hug him. "So, you want to tell me where you got those books from?"

 

"A nice old lady I know," Steve replied with a snicker. Buffy glared at him. "I told you before I left that I would be seeing someone to get some help for us. These books are just part of what she gave me."

 

"You mean that Hunt lady gave you all of those books?" Buffy asked in disbelief.

 

Jenny looked up from a book that she was looking at and stared at Steve, fear in her eyes. "Steve," she hoarsely whispered. "Did Buffy just say that you got these books from a woman named Hunt?"

 

"She did," Steve confirmed as Jenny dropped the book from her hands.

 

Jenny gulped, "Not Andrea Hunt?"

 

"Yep," Steve replied with a grin.

 

"But," Jenny sputtered. "She's one of the most powerful witches in the world. How do you know her?"

 

"A mutual friend," Steve replied with a grin.

 

"Who could you possibly have in common with someone like her?"

 

"Someone we both know."

 

"You're not going to tell us are you?" Maria asked.

 

"Nope," Steve replied with a grin.

 

"I just what to know one thing. Did you hurt her to get these books?" Jenny asked.

 

Steve's eyes turn hard as he glared at Jenny. "Jenny, we've known each other for close to six weeks. Do you think so little of me that I would hurt an old woman to get some books?"

 

Jenny gulped in fear, but quickly recovered. "No! Of course not! But these books are priceless. No one who knows what they are is going to give them up without a fight."

 

"If you must know, I gave Miss Hunt a list of books that we already had. She reviewed it and wrote down a list of books to be provided to me by her people. The people who owned them gave them to me. I offered them fifty thousand dollars and they refused to take the money at first. The people who gave me the books wanted to give them to me because it would help three young witches in their fight against the Darkness."

 

"These people, who were they?"

 

"The people who live in a small town called New Wales."

 

"You're joking!?" Jenny hoarsely breathed. Then she looked into Steve's eyes. "Oh Shit! You're not joking. How?"

 

"Just drove into town and paid them a visit." Steve replied with an easy grin.

 

"Goddess," Jenny muttered. "My cousin warned me about you, but this?"

 

"What did your cousin say?" Giles asked.

 

"When the Wanderer is around, the rules get thrown out," Jenny replied.

 

"Jenny?" Willow called over. "There's a bunch of glass bottles in this box, and a letter."

 

"What does the letter say?" Steve asked.

 

Willow opened the letter and read from it. "‘We thought your witches could also use some supplies.' It's signed by someone named Mara."

 

Buffy angrily turned to Steve. "Who's Mara?" Before Steve could reply, Buffy addded in. "She had better not be some super sexy witch."

 

"I'm afraid she is," Steve replied as Buffy angrily stalked away before Steve can tell her. "But nothing happened."

 

"Like hell it didn't!" Buffy yelled back as her mother walks into the house. "Take me home!" Buffy ordered as she stalked past her.

 

Joyce looked on in shock as Buffy slammed the door behind her. She turned to Steve and asked, "What happened?"

 

Steve sighed. "I told her the truth."

 

"So was this Hunt woman young and sexy?" Joyce asked with a smile.

 

"No, Mara was." Steve replied.

 

"Who's Mara?"

 

"Miss Hunt's student."

 

"Nothing happened?"

 

"Of course nothing happened," Steve replied. "But Buffy doesn't see it that way."

 

Joyce smiled, "I'm sure. . ." Before she can finish her sentence, Buffy stormed back into the house.

 

"If you think that I'm going to let you off easy, you're wrong," Buffy angrily told Steve as she stood in the doorway, her arms crossed, and her eyes glaring. "I want to know if you slept alone last night."

 

"I didn't," Steve replied with a grin. "Want to meet who I slept with last night?"

 

"You bastard! If that hussy shows up here, I'll kill her," Buffy angrily replied as Steve reached down to the two boxes next to him and pulls something out.

 

"Actually, it was a he that I slept with," Steve replied with a smile.

 

"You're gay!?" Buffy stammered out, not believing what she just heard.

 

"No, I'm not gay," Steve replied with a grin as he held up something. "Buffy, meet Duke. He slept with me last night."

 

Buffy and the rest stared in shock at the dark haired German Shepard puppy. Xander is the first to recover, "Well, at least you can say that Steve slept with a real dog last night." Buffy stared at him as everyone else started to laugh, including her own mother.

 

Buffy turned to Joyce, demanding, "Do you think that's funny?"

 

"I do," Joyce replied as she began to laugh, "Oh honey, the look on your face was priceless."

 

Buffy glared at everyone, but quickly stalked over to Steve. "What's going on?"

 

As Steve stopped laughing and let go of Duke, Duke scampered down. Buffy quickly reached down and picked him up. She held him up and glared at him from arm's length. Duke, tongue hanging out, looked at Buffy with wide eyes. Buffy just shook her head in disbelief and began to laugh herself. She quickly hugged Duke to herself and Duke began to lick her face.

 

"Watch it, Mutt," Steve jokingly warned. Buffy and Duke looked at him. "That's *my* girlfriend."

 

Buffy giggled and sat down on Steve's lap. Duke snuggled between them. "All right, Mister! Spill. Why'd you get the doggie?"

 

"Actually, I got a bunch of dogs and cats, enough for everyone," Steve replied as he reached down and opened the carryalls. The puppies and kittens immediately run out and quickly choose their companions.

 

Willow giggled as she picked up a Collie puppy and hugged it to herself. Oz smiled as a brown calico kitten chose him. Xander grinned as a multi-colored calico chose him. Cordelia sighed in appreciation as a seal-point Siamese chose her and Maria. Joyce smiled as a Labrador pup walked up to her and its twin jumped into Buffy's lap. Buffy giggled as she picked up the pup and hugged it. Carol grinned as an orange furred kitten jumped into her arms. Jenny bent down and scooped up the final pup, a Shepard like Duke that had walked up to her and Giles. Amy cooed as a black kitten walked up to her and sat down in front of her. Amy sat down and began to play with it.  The last kitten, also a black one, chose Constance. 

 

After a few minutes, Steve called out. "Is everyone happy with their new friends?"

 

Giles looked up from Jenny's arms where she was playing their new puppy. "It appears so, Steve, but how are they supposed to help us?"

 

Steve grinned and untangled himself from Buffy, Duke and the now chosen Labrador pup. "Duke, please go forward." Duke barked happily and went to the middle of the living room and sat down, waiting. "Now watch Duke," Steve commented as he asked. "Duke, please show them what you can become."

 

Duke barked happily twice and then a light flashed and in Duke's place was a massive wolf, standing five feet at the shoulder.

 

"Oh my. . ." Xander began.

 

"Goddess!" Cordelia finishes as she stared at the huge wolf that had just been a puppy.

 

"Do all of them become like that?" Jenny asked in awe.

 

"Actually, only the pups become wolves. Amy, if you could put your kitten down and ask him to show what he can become?"

 

Amy nodded her head and put down the black kitten. She quickly stepped back and asked, "Please show us what you can become."

 

The kitten meowed once and quickly changed into a black saber-toothed cat. The Slayer and her friends watch in awe as the cat stretched itself to its full twelve foot length.

 

"Now that's a cat," Cordelia softly replied as the cat exposed his six inch canine teeth and two inch claws.

 

"Honey, I love you, but I ain't cleaning that kitty's litter box," Xander added.

 

Cordelia glared at Xander but then begins to laugh. The laughter quickly spread to the rest of the group. When everyone settled down, they all turn to Steve, "So what happens now?" Robert asked.

 

Steve took out a folded piece of paper and handed it to Jenny. "Jenny reads that and we're bonded to our new friends."

 

"Bonded? How?" Robert asked.

 

"According to Miss Hunt, the spell will bind our new friends to us. For the rest of our lives."

 

"And why do we want this?" Robert asked.

 

"Because then, they will protect us and our families. If the bond is ever broken, the Guardian will have the option of staying because it wants to. Not because it has to."

 

"What happens if they hurt our families?" Willow asked.

 

"They won't," Steve replied. "According to Miss Hunt, these Guardians have served her people for hundreds of years and there's never been a case where the Guardians have turned against their companions."

 

Giles nodded in agreement. "Several of my books speak of these Guardians. But I never thought that I would have one protecting me."

 

"What will our families say when they see them change?" Xander replied.

 

"Hopefully, they'll think they were imagining it all," Steve replied.

 

"That sounds about normal for Sunnydale," Xander replied with a grin.

 

"I hope our families let us keep them," Amy replied. "My dad never let me get a pet."

 

"Tell him that you want to keep her to protect the house," Steve replied. "He should believe that."

 

"Yeah, he would," Amy replied in thought as she looked into the kitten's eyes. "How do you like the name Salem?"

 

The kitten purred in glee and began to lick Amy's face.

 

"What are you going to name yours, Will?" Xander asked as Willow cuddled with her pup.

 

"Is Lassie too stupid a name?" Willow asked as the pup began to really lick her.

 

"I think she likes it, Will," Buffy replied as she held up her white Labrador pup to herself. Buffy looked down at her and giggled. "I think I'll name you Sarah." The pup's tongue quickly began to cover her face with a fresh series of licks.

 

"I think she likes being called Sarah," Steve replied with a grin. "What are you going name yours, Cordelia?"

 

"Arial," Cordelia replied with a smile as she caressed her kitten. "Because she's so regal." Arial quickly snuggled against her and began to purr. "How about yours, Xander?"

 

Xander studied his kitten and the kitten studied him back. "Patches," Xander replied with a grin. "Because he looks like his fur is made of a lot of different colored patches." The kitten stared at Xander for a second and licked his nose once. Xander grinned back and scratched his head.

"How about you, Oz?" Steve asked.

 

"Harriet," Oz replied with a grin.

 

"Ozzie and Harriet?" Steve replied with a laugh.

 

"Yeah."

 

"You are a sick man, Oz," Steve replied with a grin.

 

"Thanks, I think."

 

"How about you, Carol?" Buffy asks.

 

"Tigger," Carol replied with a smile. "What do you think, Robert?"

 

"Tigger it is," Robert replied with a grin. The kitten looked up at Robert. "Be happy she didn't want Pooh, mouse trap." The kitten began to play with Robert's finger as Robert grinned.

 

"How about you, Joyce?" Steve asked.

 

"I think he's a natural detective." Joyce replied as her pup nosed around the living room. "So I think Sherlock is a good name." The pup looks up and wagged his tail in agreement.

 

"How about you, Giles? Jenny?" Willow asks.

 

Jenny grins, "You have to ask? I think he's Blackie."

 

The puppy snuggled deeper into Jenny's bosom. "Oh bugger. I hope you're not planning on doing this when Jenny and I are sleeping together. The puppy sniffed the air and yawned in response. "Damn, but he's a cheeky one."

 

“I’m naming my kitten Shadow,” Constance said.

 

"There's one more thing you should know," Steve commented as Jenny began to lift the paper and read the chant.

 

"What?" Buffy asked as she snuggled with Sarah and Duke.

 

"They're as intelligent as any normal person."

 

"Can they talk?" Willow asked.

 

"No, but they can understand what you say to them."

 

"Well, that puts them one up on you, Xander," Cordelia replied with a grin as Xander went.

 

"Hey!"

 

"When Jenny reads that spell," Steve commented, getting everyone back on track. "We'll all be bonded to our pets. Anyone have any more questions?"

 

"Can they work with us?" Amy asked.

 

"Not unless they want to," Steve replied "Please understand, I got them to protect your families and homes, not fight beside you. Every warrior needs to have a place to relax and know that they and their family is safe. You can't be jumping at every shadow for the rest of your lives."

 

"But they don't know who we are?" Buffy replied.

 

"Angelus knows who most of us are," Steve replied. "And I'll bet that he's sold or given that information to a lot of very nasty people."

 

Everyone thinks one that for a full minute. "Oh God!" Giles softly replied. "He would do that."

 

"My folks!" Willow whispered hoarsely. "My Dad told me that someone was watching the house."

 

"Looks like we got our friends in time," Steve replied softly. "If no one else has any questions, Jenny, please read the spell." No one asked anything as Jenny unfolded the paper and began to read from it.

 

"We stand here, Mortal Companion and Guardian. From this day forward, we, Companions pledge to provide a home for our Guardian to live in and protect. This we swear." Everyone quickly repeats the simple oath and a glow surrounds everyone and quickly disappears.

 

"That was weird," Cordelia muttered as a voice added in.

 

// I agree. //

 

"Who said that?" Cordelia muttered as she looked around.

 

"No one said anything Cordy," Xander replied.

 

// Arial did, // a voice replied in Xander's head. Xander looked around and Patches smacked him on his nose. Xander stared down as the same voice continued. // If you're too stupid to listen then I'll stop talking. //

 

"Hey, my cat just talked to me," Xander yelled.

 

Cordelia smacked Xander as she disgustingly replied, "Don't joke, Xander. Steve said that they can't talk."

 

// Not out loud, // Arial replied with a purr. // But we can talk with our Companions. //

 

"Uh, Steve?" Cordelia asked as Arial looked into her eyes.

 

"What, Cordelia?" Steve replied as he balanced Buffy and two puppies on his lap. Buffy was giggling in glee at Steve's obvious discomfort.

 

"Our Guardians just talked to us."

 

"We didn't hear anything," Buffy replied as Sarah licked her face.

 

// Of course you didn't, // a voice told Buffy. // Only our Companions can hear us. // Buffy looked at Steve in shock.

 

"Uh, honey? Sarah just talked to me."

 

"Oh?" Steve wondered and looked at Duke. "Is that why Miss Hunt was smiling when I left?"

 

// Of course it was, // Duke replied, his tongue hanging out. // We can talk to you mind to mind. //

 

"Are you going to say anything else?"

 

// Yeah, I want bacon for breakfast tomorrow, // Duke replied with his tongue hanging out. Steve laughed and picked up Duke under his shoulders.

 

"Watch it pup. You are not THAT tough."

 

// Want me to shit on your bed? // Duke asked with a short bark.

 

Steve glared at his dog and growled lowly, "Want me to toilet train you?" Duke began to give short barks, sounding like laughter. Steve continued to glare as he ordered, "Xander!" Xander stood up, looking at Steve. "Go find me the thickest, toughest newspaper that you can find. Sunday edition."

 

"Why?"

 

"Because I'm going to toilet train the pain in the ass here," Steve replied as he glared at Duke.

 

"Now that's going to be fun to watch," Xander muttered as Patches watched from his shoulder.

 

// That pup's asking for it, // Patches remarked with a laugh in Xander's mind. // Shitting on his Companion's bed? Oh please! //

 

"You can hear each other?"

 

// Of course, // Patches replied. // Especially when two of you are mated like you and Cordelia. //

 

"We are not married," Xander muttered to Patches as Cordelia stared at him. She arched her eyebrow.

 

"What did you just say, Dweeb Boy?"

 

"Uhm, ah," Xander replied, trying not to put himself in any deeper.

 

// What he said was that he wasn't married to you, // Arial told Cordelia with a mental snicker. // Though he doesn't mind mating with you. THAT he has no problems with. //

 

"Oh?" Cordelia replied as she stalked forward. "Xander, dear," Xander gulped at the sugary sweet sound of her voice. "What do you mean that we're not married?"

 

"But honey," Xander began, trying not to hang himself. "We're together, not married."

 

// Right. You're mates, // Arial and Patches replied to Xander and Cordelia.

 

"We are NOT!" Xander and Cordelia replied at the same time as they glared at each other's Guardians.

 

"Xander, you had better control that mangy alley cat's mouth," Cordelia ordered as Arial began to whine loudly in laughter.

 

// Oh please! You love him, // Arial told Cordelia as Xander glared at the two of them.

 

"I do not love him! I barely tolerate him!" Cordelia grinded out as she watched Xander's reaction.

 

// The lady loves you, // Patches told Xander. Xander growled lowly at Patches. He then glared at Steve.

 

"Steve, weren't these things supposed to protect us?"

 

"They are, why?" Steve asked with a grin.

 

"Then why are they pissing off Cordy and me?"

 

// Maybe because you two are too stupid to see that you belong together, // Arial replied as Patches added in.

 

// Arial's right. You two should have kittens together, // Patches replied as Xander and Cordelia stared at each other. // It'll be fun having other kittens to play with. //

 

< Looks like Xander and Cordelia got a pair of smart asses, > Steve thought to himself as Xander and Cordelia stared in disbelief at the two kittens.

 

Willow began to giggle as Xander and Cordelia glared at each other, their respective Guardians and everyone else in the room. "What's so funny, Willow?" Cordelia demanded.

 

"Just you two when your Guardians told you the truth," Willow giggled even more now.

 

"And what is this ‘Truth'?" Cordelia demanded.

 

"You two belong together," Willow replied with a satisfied smile. "Xander always liked you, even when we were in grade school."

 

"He did?" Cordelia replied in shock. She turned to Xander. "Give it up, Dweeb Boy. Were you the one who left those flowers for me back in fifth grade?"

 

Xander glared at Willow, "Willow, we were never to speak of that."

 

Willow snickered as she hugged Lassie. "Sorry Xander. We Amazons got to stick together."

 

Xander glared at Willow. "Damn it, Willow. You promised never to tell her that."

 

Willow smiled, "And why not? She loves you Xander. She gave up being ‘popular' so she could be with you. She should know how you feel about her."

 

Xander gulped as Cordelia watched him. She grinned and grabbed him around the waist. "We are definitely taking the weekend off."

 

"Oh?" Steve asked with a grin. "I thought that you two were scheduled for patrol this weekend?"

 

"We were," Cordelia replied calmly. "But if you don't give us the weekend off, I'm going to bitch about it for a month."

 

"Sheesh," Steve muttered as the rest laughed. "And I thought Marc was a tough nut."

 

"Who's Marc?" Buffy asked sweetly.

 

"Just an old friend," Steve replied with a smile as Buffy adjusted herself on his lap. He wrapped his hands around her waist as she held onto Duke and Sarah.

 

"How good of a friend is he?" Buffy asked, prying.

 

"I've worked with Marc for almost thirteen years," Steve replied. "And we've been through some pretty hairy stuff together."

 

"Nice guy?" Buffy asks with a grin.

 

"Only if we live in a fantasy world," Steve replied with a grin.

 

"A real hardcase?" Xander asked with a grin as he watched Buffy bothering Steve. < Man, I wonder if Cordy will give a lap dance like that? >

 

"Imagine a Marine Drill Sergeant crossed with your worst nightmare of a Principal. And Snyder should be considered a wuss," Steve replied with a grin.

 

"Oh damn," Xander muttered imagining the being that Steve described. "Could you make this guy anymore scary?"

 

*****

 

Duke watched his new companion and the girl called Buffy and looked over to her companion, Sarah. // Do you think that they'll mate with each other? //

 

// Give it time, Duke, // Sarah replied with a mental chuckle as she snuggled into Buffy's lap. // Besides, it's going to be fun watching them make fools of themselves before they finally commit. //

 

Duke also mentally laughed, // What fools these mortals be. //

 

// They're not mortals, // Sarah chided. // They're Immortals, and in love. But they're taking it slow. She's been badly hurt by her first love and he still misses his wife. //

 

// I know. I can feel the pain in his heart. But it's healing. And the more that Buffy wiggles around on his lap, the faster it heals. // Duke added in with a snicker.

 

*****

As Steve began to laugh at the pained expression on Xander's face, his cell phone rang and a familiar voice asked. "Did you look over your shipment?"

 

< Speaking of the Devil, > Steve thought to himself with a grin. "What shipment?"

 

"Your friends didn't tell you?" Marc replied as he looked down at a piece of paper in front of him. "A young man named Xander accepted a shipment for you yesterday. By the way, where were you yesterday?"

 

"Visiting Andrea Hunt. She gave me a few things that I needed for the kiddies," Steve replied with a grin as Buffy and her friends glared at him.

 

"Very good," Marc replied with a snicker. "I trust that the Lady is in fine health?"

 

"Very fine, and she has a rather lovely student who needs a good man," Steve replied with an evil grin as Buffy glared at him. "Doesn't Silas need a good woman in his life?" Buffy stared at Steve in shock and then began to giggle uncontrollably as she realized what he was doing.

 

"He does, doesn't he?" Marc replied in thought. "How will we set them up?"

 

"Very simple, Mistress Hunt gave me a commission to sell a large number of antiques for her people. Have Silas deliver the items she has requested that I purchase for the townspeople."

 

"You have planned this out, haven't you?" Marc asked with an evil laugh.

 

"I still owe Silas for setting me up with his cousin. Bastard didn't warn me that she was a nun." Buffy began to glare at Steve, but it quickly turned to another giggle marathon as she heard the word ‘nun'. "So, are we in agreement then? Silas gets his."

 

"But of course, old friend. I'm sure that Lady Niume will help as well," Marc replied with a laugh as he helped plot the downfall of one of his best Knights.

 

"Anything else, Marc?" Steve asked with a laugh as Buffy grinned at him in envy.

 

"No, that is all for tonight. Check out the shipment and have some fun with your Lady," Marc replied as he hangs up the phone.

 

Steve sighed as he glared at a giggling Buffy. "What's so funny?"

 

"You, honey," Buffy replied with another giggle fit. "Setting up that Silas guy like that. That was evil."

 

Steve grinned, "Silas pulled a joke on me. Let's just say that it was very embarrassing and I feel that anything I do to him will only be partial repayment."

 

"Dish it, Steve," Buffy demanded as she jumped up and down on Steve's lap.

 

Steve grinned and quickly kissed her, "Sorry honey. The only way you'll ever find out what Silas did is on our wedding night and after you swear several very holy vows and allow me to place several spells on you that will prevent you from telling anyone what I tell you."

 

Buffy glared at Steve, not believing what she just heard, "You wouldn't!"

 

Steve grinned evilly, "Gotcha!"

 

Buffy glared at Steve's grin and went nose to nose with him, "You ever set me up like that again, honey. And I will beat your ass on the practice mats."

 

"Is that a promise?" Steve asked with a grin.

 

Buffy grinned and kissed Steve on his lips, "You betcha."

 

Giles cleared his throat as Steve and Buffy break apart. "What about those boxes that came for you?"

 

"Oh yeah," Steve replied with a grin as he got up from his chair.

 

A startled Buffy yelled, "Watch it! You almost made me drop the doggies."

 

Steve grinned, "Sorry, Buffy. Now, let's see what Marc sent me."

 

"Great. Now we have to help him unpack more boxes," Robert muttered under his breath.

 

"I'm sure you'll find these items more interesting," Steve replied with an evil grin as he led the entire group to the garage. In the garage, Steve looked over the large number of boxes and checked them against a piece of paper that Xander gave him from the top of the box. He looked up and grinned, "Looks like they filled my order completely."

 

"What did you order?" Willow asked.

 

"A few odds and ends," Steve replied with a slow smile as he reached for one of the boxes and quickly pulled it open. Everyone watched as Steve easily ripped the box open and pulled out a large object. He turns around and pulled back the charging handle and looked up the barrel of the Heckler and Koch G3 battle rifle. He nodded his head and put the rifle down and quickly checked the eleven matching rifles. As he put down the last rifle, he looked around him at the very scared faces and asked, "Is there a problem?"

 

"Well, yeah," Buffy remarked. "What's with all of the guns?"

 

"I ordered a few weapons to help us protect the town."

 

"What is a few?" A shocked Carol Lancaster replied as she realized what the other boxes held.

 

Steve picked up the manifest and read it off.

 

Twelve Heckler and Koch G3 Battle Rifles,
Twelve M-16 Carbines, three of which have M-203 Grenade Launchers attached.
Six M-14s, Paratrooper configuration
Six Galil Battle Rifles
Six Dae Woo K2 Carbines
Six AK-47 Carbines
Six Steyr AUG Carbines
Six SA80 Carbines
Two M-60 Machine Guns
Two Stoner Machine Guns
Twenty Four Glock 21s
Twelve Glock 26s
Twelve Glock 30s
Twelve Glock 18s
A dozen Uzi Submachine guns
A dozen Heckler and Koch MP5 Submachine guns
Six Desert Eagles in Fifty Caliber with 44 Magnum conversion kits
Six Devastator 12 Gauge Shotguns
Six Ithaca ‘Shorty' 12 Gauge Shotguns
Six LAAW rockets
Two AWP Sniper Rifles in 7.62 millimeter, NATO
Two Barrett M-82 Sniper Rifles in Fifty Caliber
Two M21 Sniper Rifles in 7.62 millimeter, NATO
A dozen bullet proof vests, plus accessories
Various styles of holster for each handgun
Ten Extra Magazines for each gun
Ten thousand rounds of enchanted silver ammo, 45 caliber
Ten thousand rounds of enchanted silver ammo, 7.62mm NATO
Ten thousand rounds of enchanted silver ammo, 5.56mm NATO
Ten thousand rounds of enchanted silver ammo, 9mm
Five thousand rounds of enchanted silver ammo, 7.62 Russian
Five thousand rounds of enchanted silver ammo, Fifty caliber AE
Five thousand rounds of enchanted silver ammo, 44 Magnum
Five thousand rounds of enchanted silver ammo, Twelve Gauge Slug and Shot.
Three thousand rounds of enchanted silver ammo, Fifty caliber HMG
Twenty thousand rounds of military ball, 45 caliber
Twenty thousand rounds of military ball, 9mm NATO
Twenty thousand rounds of military ball, 5.56mm NATO
Twenty thousand rounds of military ball, 7.62mm NATO
Twenty thousand rounds of military ball, 7.62mm Russian
Ten thousand rounds of Silver Tip Hollow Point, 44 Magnum
Ten thousand rounds of Hollow Point, Fifty caliber AE
Twenty thousand rounds of various 12 Gauge shells
Four thousand rounds of various styles of grenades for the M203
Two cases of flash bang grenades
Five cases of high explosive grenades
One case of Claymore Landmines
And twenty pounds of C-4 plastique explosives in the handy one pound blocks.

 

After Steve finished reading the list, he looked up at his friends and grinned evilly when he saw their shocked faces. Steve looked over to Duke, who's now sniffing the boxes that are taking up most of the space of the two car garage. < Anything interesting? > Steve asked.

 

Duke stared at his companion, // Not really. But everyone else is shocked beyond words. They're wondering if you're really nuts. //

 

< That's all? > Steve asked with a grin as he turned to his friends. "Who wants to help me check this stuff out?"

 

"Ahh, Steve? Honey?" Buffy began as she looked around at the massive arsenal of weapons in the garage. "Why did you get all of this stuff?"

 

"Because I play to win. By any means possible that doesn't involve innocent lives," Steve replied with a grin as everyone stared at him.

 

"May I ask about those ‘enchanted' silver bullets?" Giles asked quietly.

 

"Sure," Steve replied as he reached for a blue colored ammunition box and removed a silver fifty caliber bullet and handed it to Giles. Giles stared down at the bullet and promptly drops it in shock.

 

"My God!" Giles utters in shock as he stared at the bullet.

 

"What is it, Giles?" Buffy asked, suddenly afraid.

 

"That, that thing." Giles muttered as he stared at the bullet on the floor. Steve picked it up and held it to the light. Everyone stared as they watch the light play off the bullet and they saw the mystical symbols etched into the silver.

 

"Goddess!" Jenny muttered as she reads the spell that had been put on the bullet. "Talk about overkill," Jenny whispered as she turned to Steve. "Where, in the name of the Goddess, did you get this thing from?"

 

Steve leans back and grins. "From some friends of mine."

 

"That's all you're going to say?" Giles demanded.

 

"It is, for now." Steve replied as Buffy moves to protect her family and friends. Steve sighed and looked over his new charges. "Please understand this. I can't violate some secrets that I've been entrusted with. Even for you and your friends, Buffy."

 

Buffy looked over to Giles who nodded his head in agreement. She turned back to Steve. "All right, we'll wait. But I want to know why Giles and Jenny are scared of that bullet."

 

"The silver bullets that I just got have a spell laser etched into each bullet. The spell is what's called a ‘Demon Killer'. Each bullet, when fired into the head or heart of a demon will almost instantly kill it. Even vampires."

 

"Oh Shit!" Xander muttered as he took in the large amount of ammunition in the garage. "How did you get some many bullets?"

 

Steve grinned, "Just filled out the right forms." < And yelled at Marc. > He then spotted Robert and Carol staring at the boxes in concern. "Robert? Carol? What's wrong?"

 

Robert and Carol shook their heads in disbelief at the arsenal stacked in front of them. "Where did you get this stuff from?" Robert asked.

 

"Like I said, from some friends of mine," Steve replied neutrally.

 

"We'll be right back," Robert replied as he and Carol walked away and quietly talked with each other. In the living room, Robert turned to Carol. "What do you want to do?"

 

Carol looked back into the garage area and shook her head. "I can't believe that I'm saying this, but Steve is right. This town is dangerous and the kids need an edge. And Steve is giving it to them."

 

"Carol," Robert quietly whispered. "He's got enough weapons in there to start a small war."

 

"I know, Robert, but I can see the worry in Steve's eyes. He cares for these kids. If giving them these weapons will help them live long lives, I can live with it."

 

*****

"What are Carol and Robert talking about?" Buffy asked Steve as she looked around the packed garage.

 

"Whether or not they're going to turn me in," Steve replied softly.

 

"But they're our friends!" Buffy exclaimed.

 

"They're also retired marines," Steve replied quietly. "But they also know the truth about this town, so I'm not too worried about them."

 

"Good," Buffy muttered as she watched Carol and Robert talk quietly.

 

*****

 

"So we're agreed then," Carol replied. "We don't report Steve for having that arsenal, but we help make sure that the kids get the proper training on those guns."

 

"All right," Robert replies with an easy grin as they walk back into the garage.

 

Everyone watched the pair closely as Tigger jumped onto Carol's shoulder and laid down comfortably. Carol smiled as she petted the small orange kitten and quietly told Steve, "Steve, Robert and I have decided that we won't report you for having these weapons. But we want to know one thing, who is going to help us teach the kids how to use these weapons?"

 

"Xander, Joyce, Maria, Jenny, you, Robert, and I will," Steve replied as a shocked Xander stared at him.

 

"You can't be serious," Cordelia exclaimed. "Dweeb boy can't tie his shoe laces straight. How do you expect him to teach us how to use guns?"

 

Steve grinned and tossed one of the G3s to Xander and Xander caught it and instantly racked the charging handle back and locked it open. He quickly checked the chamber for any bullets, when he doesn't see one, he let the slide close on an empty chamber. He quickly stood at attention, holding the rifle at port arms. "Soldier boy strikes again," Buffy muttered as Cordelia stared at Xander, open mouthed.

 

"Oh Goddess. But he looks good!" she muttered as Xander stood stiffly at attention.

 

"Down girl," Willow replied with a giggle. "You may scare him away."

 

All of the women laughed at Cordelia's shocked look, but quickly settled down as she turned her glare to them. She quickly turned back to Steve, "I definitely want this weekend off!"

 

Steve just shook his head and muttered, "Gods, why do I always get the pains in the ass?"

 

"Because they love you, honey," Buffy replied with a giggle.

 

Cordelia continued to glare at Steve until he relented. "All right. I'll give you two the weekend off," Steve replied with a grin.

 

Cordelia nodded her head in acceptance and ordered Xander, "Xander, put that gun down right now. You're coming with me."

 

"Where are we going?" Xander asked, suspicious.

 

"To the Motor Lodge," Cordelia replied as she grabbed his ass, leading Xander off and taking their Guardians with them.

 

“I’ll drive you,” Maria said.

 

Everyone watched them go. Joyce was the first to recover and ask, "Are they going to. . .?"

 

"Uh huh." Everyone replied with straight faces just before they begin to laugh loudly.

 

"I don't find that funny," Joyce primly replied, realizing that Xander and Cordelia deserved a weekend to themselves.

 

"Joyce, Xander and Cordelia are old enough to make their own decisions," Steve replied honestly. "I'm glad that they have each other."

 

"And why is that, Steve?" Joyce asks.

 

"Because Xander's home life is a mess," Willow replied. "His Mom and Dad don't even realize that he exists, most of the time. And the few times that his Dad does remember that he has a son, Xander becomes the target of his abuse."

 

"Oh Goddess," Joyce replied. "Can't anything be done?"

 

"Right now, no. But Xander does consider us his family, Joyce," Steve replied softly. "He thinks of Giles as the Father that he should have had and you as the Mother that wants him. The rest of us are his brothers and sisters."

 

"And what does he consider Cordelia?"

 

"The woman that loves him. He sometimes still can't believe that she chose him," Willow replied with a smile.

 

Joyce just stared at her friends and feels warmth coming from them. She grinned as Sherlock whined to be picked up and held. She quickly picked up the pup and held him to herself and Buffy gave her a hug. "Don't worry, Mom. I'm sure that you'll get used to the idea."

 

Joyce snorts back a laugh, "And I was thinking that I should have had more kids. Now I have six."

 

"Six very adult children," Steve added in as he held Buffy's hand.

 

"I know," Joyce softly replied. "Goddess help me. But I worry about all of you every night when I’m not out there with you."

 

Buffy broke away from Steve and hugged her Mom. "We know, Mom. But we have to do this."

 

Joyce returned Buffy's hug. "I know honey. But I'll still worry."

 

"That's what a Mom is for," Willow replied as she also got a hug from Joyce. "To be the rock that we all stand on and the shelter that protects us from the trials of life."

 

Joyce sniffled as she looked at her grown up ‘children' and realized that she had a very special relationship with her daughter's friends. She nodded stiffly and picked up Sherlock and walked back to the living room to wait for Buffy and Willow.

 

Buffy turned to Steve and asked, "What happens now?"

 

"I'm calling a construction crew that I know to expand the basement and build a pool in the backyard. Think that we should have some barbeques this summer?"

 

"Yeah!" Buffy screamed out in glee. "A pool would be great!"

 

"Aren't you renting this house?" Willow asked.

 

"I bought the house last week," Steve replied with a smile as he looked down on Buffy's smiling face.

 

"What are you going to do?" Buffy asked with a smile.

 

"I'm going to extend the basement and build a false wall into the side of it."

 

"Why?" Amy asked.

 

Steve looked over the boxes of guns and ammunition. "Where else are we going to hold all of this stuff?"

 

Everyone grinned and nodded their heads. "Who are you going to call in?" Oz asked.

 

"Remember the company that fixed the gym after our fight?" Everyone nodded. "I'll call them tomorrow and have their boss come out and give me an estimate for all of the work. I hope that my neighbors don't mind the noise."

 

"I'm sure they won't mind, honey," Buffy replied with a smile as everyone walked out of the garage area.

 

Joyce watched everyone walk out and smiled as the children were walking and talking excitedly about the pool was going to be built. "Is there anything else, Steve?"

 

"No Joyce, I'm going to have a construction company do some work over the next few days. I'm going to install a pool and extend the basement to hold the weapons that I've just got in."

 

"Sounds like a major project," Joyce replied as Sherlock snuggles in her arms. < How much money does Steve have? >

 

// Why don't you ask him? // Sherlock replied.

 

Joyce raised her eyebrows and nodded her head. < Good idea Sherlock. > "Steve?" Joyce asked.

 

"Yes, Joyce?"

 

"Where are you getting all of the money for this?"

 

"I have over sixty million dollars in the bank," Steve replied to a shocked Joyce.

 

"How did you make so much money?"

 

"Found a few bits of treasure over the years. Sold it to people who wanted it and made a few bucks."

 

"And it totaled out to sixty million?"

 

"Well, no." Steve replied with a smile. "I invested a lot of my money and it grew."

 

"So you can afford to do all of this work?"

 

"I can," Steve simply replied. "Buffy, take your Mom home. We have an early day tomorrow. Meet me by the shop at seven o'clock."

 

"All right, Steve." Buffy replied with a smile as everyone left. 

 

*****

 

March 17, 2014
Rosenberg Residence, Sunnydale, CA - 23:30 PST

 

Willow quietly walked into her home and grinned as Lassie snuggled into her sweater. "You're all mine," Willow smiled down at the dog.

 

// Of course I am, // Lassie replied. // But what will your parents say? //

 

"I'll break the news to them, later on," Willow quietly replied as she tried to sneak past her Mom and Dad.

 

"What news are you talking about, honey?" Ira Rosenberg asked as he walked up behind his daughter. Willow started and turned around, gulping for air.

 

"Dad?! What are you doing sneaking up on me?" Willow gasped as she turned around, trying to hide Lassie.

 

Ira saw the pup and smiled softly. "Where did you find him?"

 

"A friend gave her to me," Willow replied softly, hoping her Dad wouldn't be angry.

 

Ira leaned in and saw Lassie's large brown eyes and smiled. "She's a beauty," Ira replied as he sighed. "But your Mother doesn't want you to have any pets. She's afraid that they'll mess up the furniture."

 

"But Lassie won't mess up the furniture," Willow replied softly. "She's very smart."

 

"Who won't mess up the furniture?" Sheila Rosenberg asked as she walked up to her husband and daughter.

 

"Willow has a puppy,” Ira told his wife.

 

Sheila looks at Willow and asked, "What have I said about bringing animals home?"

 

"That they'll make a mess of the house," Willow softly replied as Lassie told her.

 

// Show me where the bathroom is. //

 

< Why? >

 

// You'll see, // Lassie replied with a mental chuckle.

 

"What are you going to do with the dog now?" Sheila asked.

 

"Show her where the bathroom is," Willow replied with a grin as her shocked parents followed her to the first floor bathroom. Willow opened the door and let Lassie down and watched in glee as Lassie quickly jumped up onto the toilet and quickly used it. Sheila and Ira watched in fascination as the pup used the toilet and then flushed it with her paws.

 

"Now that is a housebroken pet," Sheila muttered under her breath.

 

"Can I keep her?" Willow innocently asked as she beamed. < You were great! >

 

// Thanks, // Lassie replied with a laugh. // That should convince them. //

 

Sheila looked at Ira who shrugs, "If she's that well trained, we should keep her."

 

"But we've never had a dog," Sheila replied. "And why should we?"

 

"Because I want her," Willow told her Mother and Father.

 

"Willow, you're young and don't understand the responsibility that a dog brings with it," Sheila replied.

 

// What fantasy world is your mom living in? Doesn't she know what you do at night? // Lassie asked.

 

< Mom and Dad don't know about us, about me, > Willow silently replied. < And I don't want them to. >

 

// All right, // Lassie replied as she climbed down from the toilet. // But I will change to protect them. //

 

< I never thought anything else, > Willow replied as her Father and Mother talk to each other. Willow quietly walked over to the couch. Lassie followed her and jumped into her lap as Willow sat down.

 

*****

 

Ira watched as Willow sat down with the pup and quietly told Sheila, "Let her have the dog, Sheila."

 

"But she'll use the dog as a crutch," Sheila replied. "I don't want her to become closed off from society."

 

Ira glared at his wife, "Sheila! She's our daughter, not a damn test subject for one of your psych journals! That dog is well trained and Willow obviously cares for her."

 

"But what about the furniture? The carpets?" Sheila asked.

 

Ira sighed, "I'm sure that Willow will clean up after the dog if there are any accidents."

 

"But, Ira," Sheila whined. "I've never liked dogs."

 

"Willow does," Ira replied. "She's wanted one since she could walk and talk. Let her have this one."

 

"All right, but I want to know who gave her the dog," Sheila replied as she turned back to her daughter and the pup in her lap.

 

*****

 

Willow watched as her parents argued over her new friend. < I hope that they agree to let me keep you. >

 

// So do I, // Lassie replied with a dry chuckle. // Here they come. //

 

Willow looked up, hopeful. She saw her dad smiling and nodding his head. She relaxed as her mother glared at the dog. "Willow," Sheila began. "I want to know where you got this dog from."

 

"A friend of mine named Steve St. Wolf," Willow replied.

 

"And who is this young man?" Sheila asked, not liking that her daughter got a present from someone she didn't know.

 

"He's Buffy's boyfriend," Willow replied. "He got a pet for everyone, including Buffy and her mom."

 

"Why did he do that?" Sheila asked.

 

"Because he's a nice guy," Willow replied.

 

"How old is he?" Sheila asked.

 

"Twenty four," Willow weakly replied as her Mother blew up.

 

"And he's dating a seventeen year old girl? What does Buffy's mother have to say about him?"

 

"She and Mrs. Lancaster, Mrs. Summers’ sister, set them up for their first date," Willow replied with a smile. "They like Steve and think that he's a good boyfriend for Buffy."

 

"Is they insane?" Sheila demanded, not liking the implications.

 

"They are not!" Willow barked. "They love Buffy and want her to be happy! And Steve makes her happy!"

 

"But he's seven years older than her!" Sheila replied.

 

"Dad is ten years older than you are, Mother!" Willow replied icily. Before Sheila can reply, Willow continued. "Steve is the nicest, sweetest guy that she's ever known. And she loves him!"

 

"But she's only seventeen!" Sheila argued. "I don't find that acceptable."

 

Willow sighed, "Buffy will be eighteen in less than a year. They realize that she needs to have a good man in her life."

 

"And how does this ‘man' plan on supporting her?" Sheila asked sarcastically.

 

"Steve sells antiques at Lancaster Antiques," Willow replied with a grin.

 

"That's no job for a young man," Ira replied in reproach. "He should be working at a job that has more of a future."

 

"Steve doesn't need to worry about money," Willow replied

 

"If he's going to provide for your friend Buffy, then he should worry about his future."

 

Willow sighed, "He's worth over sixty million dollars."

 

Sheila looked at Ira who asked, "Does Buffy's mother know about the money?"

 

"She found out earlier tonight," Willow replied.

 

"How long has Buffy been dating this young man?" Ira asked.

 

"Six weeks," Willow replied angrily, not liking where her parents were going with the questions.

 

Ira sighs in resignation, "And how does he treat you?"

 

"Like I'm his younger sister," Willow replied evenly, getting very angry with her parents. "He's also become a big brother to Xander."

 

"Xander needs a big brother," Ira softly replied, knowing what Xander's home life was like. "Why did he get you this pup?"

 

"Because Lassie would protect the house," Willow softly replied with a smile as Lassie eagerly yelped.

 

Ira shook his head in disbelief, liking the dog's spunky attitude. "Keep the pup, but I'm going to meet this young man."

 

"Why?" Willow demanded.

 

"I want to meet him," Ira replied. "If he's a good man, I won't have a problem with him. But if he's using your friend Buffy, then I'll do what her father should be doing."

 

// Did he just threaten Steve? // Lassie asked in shock.

 

< He did, > Willow mentally replied.

 

*****

 

March 17, 2014
Connor/Madison Residence, Sunnydale, CA - 23:35 PST

 

Amy walked into her home and her Dad called out from the living room. "Amy? Is that you?"

 

"Yeah, Dad. It's me. What's up?"

 

"Where did you go?"

 

Amy sighed, < Dad's great, but all of this attention is a bit much. > "I was with the girls, Dad."

 

"Anything interesting happen?" Mike Connors asked as Amy sat down across from him. He saw the kitten and looked at it. He sighed. "Where did you get the kitten from?"

 

"From a friend of mine named Steve," Amy replied with a giggle as Salem licked her chin. "I want to keep him."

 

"A cat is a lot of responsibility."

 

"I'll take care of Salem," Amy replied. < And he'll protect the family. >

 

// Of course I will, // Salem replied with a lick.

 

Amy's dad sighed in resignation and nodded his head. "Salem's your responsibility, Amy. But I'm sure that your sisters will also want to help."

 

"Cindy and Terri will like Salem," Amy replied with a grin as she got up to leave.

 

"Before you go. One question."

 

Amy sat back down. "Sure, Dad. What is it?"

 

"Who's this Steve? Is he your boyfriend?"

 

Amy giggles, "I wish." Her father frowned, Amy quickly explained. "He's Buffy's boyfriend."

 

"And why did he give you this kitten?"

 

"Because he thought I would like to have one."

 

"All right, get some sleep, Amy," Her father ordered as he grinned at Salem's antics. "I'll add some kitten chow to the shopping list tomorrow."

 

"Thanks, Dad," Amy replied with a grin as she quickly got up and went to her bedroom.

 

*****

 

March 17, 2014
Osbourne Residence, Sunnydale, CA - 23:34 PST

 

Oz calmly walked into his house and put Harriet down on the couch and ploped down next to her. < So what do you think about the house? >

 

// Cool, // Harriet simply replied as Oz's mother walked into the room. She looked down at the kitten and cocks an eyebrow at Oz in question. Oz nods his head and replied.

 

"Gift."

 

Oz's mom smiled as the kitten curled up next to her son. "Cool," she replied and walked away.

 

*****

 

March 17, 2014
Giles/Calendar Residence, Sunnydale, CA - 23:39 PST

 

Giles opened the door to the apartment that he shared with his lover, Jenny, and moved into the living room proper. Jenny quickly follows him inside and lets their new companion down onto the ground. Blackie immediately looked around and quickly lays claim to the floor located at the edge of the couch. Jenny giggled and Giles just grinned as they walk up to him and Jenny asked, < Comfortable? >

 

// Yes, very, // Blackie replied with a contented bark.

 

< We need to know something. >

 

// What? // Blackie asked.

 

< What do we feed you? > Jenny asked.

 

// Regular dog food is fine. I don't need much. But please get a variety. //

 

< Of course, > Giles replied with a grin. "Shall we go to bed?"

 

"Of course, Rupert," Jenny replied with a smile as she turned to enter the bedroom.

 

// Keep it down in there, // Blackie tells them with a laugh in his ‘voice'.

 

"Never fear,” Giles replied with a grin as he wrapped his arm around Jenny's waist as he led her off to the bedroom.

 

Blackie looked around the comfortable living room and yawned, // I think I'll like living here. //

 

*****

 

March 17, 2014
Summers Residence, Sunnydale, CA - 23:39 PST

 

Buffy and Joyce walked into their home and both giggled as they put their pets down. Sherlock and Sarah quickly ran around the living room, sniffing. "Oh honey, your face was priceless when Steve admitted that he spent the night with someone."

 

Buffy continued to giggle, "I can't believe that I got that jealous. But I'm going to get even with him for pulling that joke on me."

 

"How?" Joyce replied with a laugh, "He did it perfectly."

 

"I'll figure something out," Buffy replied with confidence. "Sooner or later, I will get even."

 

*****

 

March 18, 2014
St. Wolf Residence, Sunnydale, CA - 00:03 PST

 

Duke watched as Steve turned down his bed and got ready to get some sleep. // You should tell them, // Duke told Steve.

 

< You know that I can't tell them right now, > Steve replied as Duke sat down next to Steve.

 

// All right, but if you don't tell them soon, I will, // Duke replied.

 

< You will not! > Steve ordered. < You and the others know who I serve and why I can't tell them, yet. >

 

// They should know, especially Buffy. Sarah told me that she's worried about you hurting her friends and that she and Joyce know about the Order. //

 

<How?>

 

// Jonathan Hart is Buffy’s uncle.  He and his wife, Jennifer, are in the Order, as their butler, Max. //

 

< Oh.  Duke, you have complete access to my mind. Do you think that I would allow any of these kids to come to harm? >

 

Duke stared at Steve for a second and quietly replied, // No, you won't. But they'll need to know that you serve Merlin, Niume and the Order soon. //

 

< I know. But right now, they can't find out. >

 

// Understood, Steve. Sarah and the rest will keep your secrets. But we don't like it. //

 

< Don't like it. But live with it, > Steve replied as he turned off the light in the room and leaned back. Duke moved in and grabbed some space on the other pillow.

 

// Don't forget, I want bacon tomorrow for breakfast. //

 

< Not a problem. But I'll get you some regular dog food tomorrow. >

 

// Not the cheap stuff I hope, // Duke replied with a shudder.

 

< I'll buy several different bags and split it up with the rest. That way all of you will get a chance to find out which ones you want. I'll make sure that the kids do the same thing with the kittens. >

 

// Thanks, // Duke replied as he turned around and quickly went to sleep.

 

*****

 

March 18, 2014
St. Wolf Residence, Sunnydale, CA - 06:00 PST

 

Steve reached over for the alarm clock and hit the snooze button. He tried to go back to sleep, but an incessant voice told him, // I want bacon. Now! //

 

Steve rolled over and groaned loudly, < Oh Gods! What did I do to deserve this!? >

 

Duke laughed, // You asked for help from Andrea Hunt. //

 

< I should have just kept my mouth shut, > Steve mentally muttered as he got up and headed to the bathroom. "I'll have to call everyone and get them to the antique store by 7:00."

 

// Not a problem, // Duke replied with a snicker. // I'll have their Guardians wake them up. //

 

< You can do that? > Steve asked with a chuckle.

 

// Yep. // Duke replied with a laugh as he sent out a ‘wake up' call to everyone.

 

*****

 

Robert and Carol stirred as they heard Tigger's voice, // Hey you two, wake up! //

 

Robert jerked up and looked around. Carol also looked at the clock and muttered, "For Goddess's sake, it's only six o'clock!" She then glared at Tigger. "Why are you waking us up so early?"

 

// Steve wants everyone up and ready to help him at the antique store. //

 

"To do what?" Robert asked.

 

// Help him unload furniture, // Tigger replied with a purr.

 

Robert glared at the kitten but Carol laughed merrily. "Oh Goddess, Robert. The look on your face is funny."

 

Robert looked over to Carol and reached for her. But Carol shied away and Tigger merrily commented, // Hey you two! No time for that. // Robert growled lowly and Carol laughed some more as she headed to the bathroom. Robert made to join her but Carol shook her head. Robert sat down on the bed and pouted as Tigger began to laugh at him. Robert glared at Tigger who jumped into his lap and began to rub himself against Robert's chest. Robert just shook his head and began to scratch Tigger's head.

 

*****

 

Oz woke up to a light nuzzling against his neck. He opened his eyes and saw Harriet rubbing her nose against his neck.

 

"Hungry?"

 

// No, // Harriet replied. // Steve wants you to help him with the furniture. //

 

"When?"

 

// At seven o'clock, // Harriet replied as she sat back and stretched.

 

"Cool," Oz replied as he quickly got up and began to get ready.

 

*****

 

Willow began to giggle as the warm tongue lapped at her face. She quickly woke up and asked. "Lassie? What's wrong?"

 

// Nothing's wrong, Willow. Steve wants you to join him at the store to help with the furniture. //

 

"How do you know?" Willow asked.

 

// Because Duke just told me. //

 

"Duke told you? How?"

 

// We can talk to each other over short distances. We're all within range of each other. //

 

"So you can talk to each other whenever you want to?"

 

// Yes, // Lassie replied with a mental giggle. // You should see the mental image that Patches is sending. //

 

"What's Patches planning?" Willow asked with a giggle as Lassie sent her a mental picture of Patches' plans. < Oh Goddess, but Xander and Cordelia are in trouble. >

 

// Indeed they are, // Lassie replied with a mental snicker.

 

*****

 

March 18, 2014
Lancaster Antiques, Sunnydale, CA - 07:00 PST

 

Steve stretched as he got out of his car and looked back as Robert and Carol drove up.  He grinned as he reached to the steel gate and quickly opened it. Robert watched as the gate opened with a screech of rusty springs and clank-clank of the sheet metal rolling up.

 

“What’s the plan?” Carol asked as Joyce and Buffy pulled up.

 

“Willow, Jenny, and Amy create a magic circle,” Steve replied.  “We use it to teleport stuff here from New Wales, Nevada.  I’m going to use my commission to buy the kids in the town some stuff.”

 

Carol shook her head in disbelief. "I'm sure that Buffy will love you more for that."

 

"I'll love Steve more for what?" Buffy asked as she, Joyce, and Willow joined their friends.

 

"Steve's giving up his commissions from the New Wales stuff to buy some things for the kids of the town," Carol told Buffy.

 

Buffy quickly hugged Steve and whispered, "Keep that up, Steve I will ravish you soon."

 

Steve quickly blushed and Buffy began to laugh softly. "Ahem. Why don't you and Willow go get everyone some coffee? My treat," Steve told Buffy as he handed her a twenty dollar bill.

 

"What kind of donut you want?" Buffy asks.

 

"Plain or a Boston Crème," Steve replied as Robert and Carol tell Willow their orders. Both girls quickly left as Constance, Maria, Cordelia, and Xander arrive.

 

"Where're Buffy and Willow going?" Xander asked as he climbed out of the car.

 

"To get everyone some coffee and donuts," Robert replied with a grin as Xander raced off after them.

 

"Why did Xander race off like that?" Carol asked with an amused look on her face.

 

"Dweeb boy wanted to make sure that Buffy and Willow get enough Jelly Donuts," Cordelia replied with a grin.

 

"I should hope so. He does eat all of them," Giles replied with a light laugh as he and Jenny walked up to the shop. "Young man never lets me get one."

 

"Because you have to watch your weight," Jenny replied with a smile as she patted his butt. "Goddess knows that you put on weight faster than I can take it off."

 

As Robert, Carol and Steve snickered, Oz drove up with Amy and they both joined their friends at the door.

 

"What's so funny?" Amy asked with a grin.

 

"Just making fun of Giles' butt," Jenny replied with a laugh. Both Amy and Oz grinned.

 

"Where are Buffy, Willow and Xander?" Amy asked.

 

"Went to get coffee and donuts," Cordelia replies as everyone walked into the antique shop.

 

Buffy and Willow walked in with the coffee and donuts. Xander was right behind them with another box of donuts. Half of the box was already gone.

 

Willow hands Robert and Carol their coffees. Robert took his cup and quickly reached for a donut as Xander reached for the last jelly. Their hands met in the box and Robert grinned as he grabbed the donut first. Xander glared at the older man and muttered.

 

"He stole my last jelly donut!" Xander whined playfully. He stopped whining when Cordelia playfully smacked him on the back of his head. Xander quickly shut up and grinned as Cordelia glared at him.

 

"What happened?" Steve asked as he walked back in from the back of the shop.

 

"Robert stole my jelly donut," Xander whined again with a goofy grin on his face. Cordelia just shook her head in disgust and walked away.

 

Steve looked at Buffy and Willow, who're are laughing merrily at Xander's antics, "Enough pouting, Xander. We've got work to do." Xander grinned and straightened himself out and gave Steve a perfect salute. Steve grinned. "Keep it up, Harris. Next time I get you on the practice mats, I'll start with the advanced stuff first."

 

Xander blanched and quickly straightened himself out.

 

"Good," Steve replied as he called back over his shoulder. "Everyone in the back." Everyone moved to the warehouse in the rear of the store and found Steve standing near a large open area. As everyone walked up to him, Steve told Willow, Amy and Jenny. "I need a containment circle drawn on the floor."

 

"How big?" Jenny asked.

 

"About thirty one feet," Steve replied as he pulled out a sheet of paper. The three witches quickly drew the circle and walked up to Steve as he handed the sheet of paper to Jenny. Jenny read it and nodded her head. She took Willow and Amy to the side and began to explain their parts in the spell. A few minutes later, the three stand an equal distance around the circle and they began to read the spell. As they read the spell, a vortex opened and a large number of items appeared. As the spell is completed, the furniture solidified and the three witches looked on in wonder at the large amount of antique furniture that had appeared.

 

"Like wow." Buffy breathlessly muttered, "That bets Fed Ex any day of the week."

 

Steve nodded walked over to a table with a white piece of paper on it. He quickly read the note and turned back to his friends. "Okay, there are two more loads left. So, let's get this stuff out of here and to the rear of the warehouse." Everyone quickly moved and began to take things from the side of the circle nearest the back of the store. The circle was quickly emptied and the three witches again repeated the spell. The circle filled again and everyone emptied it. The circle is filled a third time and Steve called a rest for everyone.

 

  "That's it." Steve mutters. "We'll sort this stuff out after we relax for a short while."

 

"Steve, how are going to sell this shipment?” Carol asked.

 

Steve grinned, “If you don't mind, we can do an internet auction over the next month."

 

Robert sighed, “Agreed.  This auction will put our shop on the map."

 

"Not a bad thing I hope?"

 

"No, not really," Robert muttered. 

 

"What are you going to do now?" Carol asked.

 

"Well, we're going to start taking pictures of the stuff with the digital camera and posting the stuff on our website. I think we'll be done over the next few hours."

 

"Steve, this is a lot of work," Robert replied. "Who's going to help us?"

 

"Xander, Oz, Willow, Giles, Jenny, Cordelia, Joyce, Maria, Constance, Amy, and Buffy," Steve replied with a grin. "I'm sure that they won't mind making some spending money working with us."

 

Robert chuckled at the expression on Xander and Cordelia's faces. < Those two want to be alone. > "I'm sure that I can afford the extra help."

 

"Looks like it's going to be a long day," Robert commented as the teenagers groan at the amount of work that they have to do

 

"We'll get through this quickly," Steve told them. "Carol, please break out both of the digital cameras. Xander, Oz, Giles, Robert, and I will begin to move the furniture so that you and Robert can begin to take photos. Cordelia, Buffy, Joyce, Amy, Maria, and Constance will take the notes on the furniture. Willow and Jenny will power up the computer and begin to add the photos and the notes to the website."

 

"Sounds like a plan," Robert mumbled as Carol walked over to the office and got the cameras and the computer cart. Willow and Jenny pounced on the computer and quickly boot it up. Carol grinned as she handed Robert one of the digital cameras and moves over to a white washed section of wall.

 

"We'll take the pictures of the furniture against this section of wall," Carol commented as she checked the power level of her camera. "And we'll take them at high resolution and at various angles."

 

"How long is this going to take?" Xander asked as he looked at Cordelia.

Robert quickly counted the furniture and estimated, "About four hours, Xander. Don't worry, I'll buy lunch for everyone."

 

"Good," Xander replied with a grin. "I'm a growing boy and I need my energy."

 

Steve looked at Cordelia as she glared at Xander and grinned, "I'm sure that Cordelia agrees with you on that account." Buffy quickly smacked Steve on the back of his head and Steve turned to her. "What was that for?"

 

Buffy grinned, "For stealing my line."

 

"I'll be more careful next time," Steve replied as he glares at her.

 

Buffy grinned and gave him a quick kiss. "You betcha," she replied with a grin as she walked over to her friends as they also giggled at Steve's obvious embarrassment.

 

"That young woman has caught you. You do realize that, don't you?" Robert quietly told Steve as they stand together.

 

"Yeah, I know," Steve replied just as quietly. "But I don't want her to know that, yet."

 

"Why?"

 

"Because I'll never hear the end of it," Steve replied with a grin. "But seriously, I don't want to pressure her. She recently lost someone she loved very much and I don't want to seem like I'm trying to pick her up on the rebound. And I lost someone that I loved as well. I still miss her."

 

Robert sighed, "Joyce was right. You are a good man for Buffy. I hope you two can settle your pasts and make a future for yourselves."

 

"We will. Sooner or later, we will," Steve replied softly.

 

*****

 

Part 6 - Meeting Dad
(The Wanderer Gets The Third, Fourth And Fifth Degrees)

March 18, 2014
Rosenberg Residence, Sunnydale, CA - 09:30 PST

 

Ira Rosenberg knocked on his daughter's room and waited for her to call him in. When he didn't hear a sound, he called, "Willow? Honey? Are you up?" When he didn't hear a reply, he opened the door and looked in. He saw the bed was already made and the puppy was lying in the middle of the bed, looking at him with laughing eyes. "Where's Willow, Lassie?" Lassie yelped and jumped off the bed and led Ira to the kitchen where he found Willow's note attached to the refrigerator. He picked it up and read it aloud. "Went to help at the antique store. Be back by tonight."

 

Ira crushed the paper and stared down at the pup. He picked her up and asked. "You are a smart one, aren't you?" He grinned when Lassie barked twice. "I'll take that for a ‘yes'." Ira muttered as he picked up the phone book and located the address to Lancaster Antiques. "It's not that far. I can walk it." Ira muttered to himself as he grabbed his coat.

 

Ira quickly walked the eight blocks to the antique store and looked in and whistled lowly. "Sheila's sister would kill for half of this stuff," He muttered to himself as he noticed the ‘OPEN' sign on the door. He walked up to the door and easily opened it. He walked in and noticed as the bell above the door rang loudly. He waited for a minute and hears a female voice call out.

 

"Be right there!" Carol called out. She quickly put down her camera and walked to the front of the store. She saw Ira and politely asked, "Can I help you, Sir?"

 

"I'm looking for my daughter, Willow," Ira replied. "She left a note that she was helping here today."

 

"She's in the back with everyone else," Carol replied. "She and Jenny are helping update our website with some new furniture we just got in."

 

Ira smiled, < That's my girl. Always on the computer. > "Can I please see her?"

 

"Certainly, Mr. Rosenberg. This way," Carol replied as she showed him into the back of the warehouse.

 

Ira smiled as Carol led him into the warehouse behind the store. He whistled lowly when he saw all of the antique furniture that the store had in storage. "My goodness, but this is a lot of very expensive furniture. Are you going to be selling all of it?"

 

"It's all being auctioned via the internet, Mr. Rosenberg," Carol replied as they walked up to Willow and Jenny as they worked on the computer.

 

Ira watched in awe as Jenny and Willow quickly set up web pages at an amazing pace and talked amicably with each as they were doing it. Ira cleared his throat and both women quickly turned and faced him. Ira wondered about the stances that both women were holding until Willow recognized him and walked over and gave him a hug.

 

"Why are you here, Dad?" Willow asked.

 

"I wanted to meet your friend, Steve," Ira replied easily as he watched the adults and teenagers quickly move the furniture around. "I take it that the slightly older young man working with Xander is Steve?" Ira asked.

 

Willow looks back and watched as Steve and Xander move a desk to be photographed. "That's him, Dad."

 

"Would you please call him here?" Ira asked as Willow glanced back to Jenny.

 

Jenny got up from her chair, "Mr. Rosenberg?" Ira looked at Jenny, recognizing her.

 

"Miss Calendar? Why are you here?"

 

"Helping a few friends with their store. Why do you want to meet Steve?"

 

Ira smiled, "I understand that he's dating Willow's friend Buffy. Since Buffy's Father isn't around, I decided to meet him and make sure that he wasn't using her."

 

Jenny smiled, "You don't have to worry about Buffy, Mr. Rosenberg. Giles and I both know Steve and we like him."

 

"That's well and good." Ira replied. "But he gave my daughter a gift and I want to make sure that he's not doing something that he shouldn't."

 

"You mean Lassie?" Jenny asked. "We all got one, Mr. Rosenberg."

 

"You all got puppies?" Ira asked.

 

"No, some of us got kittens," Jenny replied. "Is there a problem with Lassie?"

 

"No, there isn't." Ira softly replied, "Interesting dog. Highly intelligent. What is she?"

 

"Just a dog, Mr. Rosenberg," Jenny replied as she noticed that everyone was watching her and Ira talk.

 

Ira felt the eyes on his back and turned around to face the rest of Willow's friends. He saw Steve walking forward calmly introduced himself. "Mr. St. Wolf?" Steve nodded his head. "I would like to talk to you." Ira saw everyone paying attention. "Privately." Steve quietly pointed towards the front of the store. Ira walked away with Steve.

 

*****

 

Giles walked up to Jenny and Willow. He wrapped his arm around Jenny's waist and quietly asked, "Who was that man?"

 

"Willow's father," Jenny replied. "He wanted to meet Steve."

 

"Why?" Giles asked.

 

"He wanted to know why Steve gave Willow Lassie."

 

"Does he think that Steve has intentions towards Willow?" Giles asked in surprise.

 

"He wondered why Buffy's boyfriend would be nice toward me," Willow shyly replied. < He does care about me. > "He said that he wanted to meet Steve."

Cordelia smirked. "Trust Willow to have the most decent dad. My dad didn't care who I date so long as I don't come home pregnant."

 

// The way the two of you go at it, I'm surprised you're not. // Arial commented from a rack where she and Patches were lying down.

 

Xander and Cordelia glared at their Guardians and everyone has a light laugh at their expense.

 

*****

 

Steve escorted Ira Rosenberg to the small table near the front of the store. He offered Ira a chair and the older man sat down. Steve took the chair opposite him and calmly asked. "What can I do for you, Mr. Rosenberg?"

 

Ira looked over Steve for a full minute and quickly wondered, < This is no young man. He may look it, but he's seen ‘things'. > "Why are you dating Buffy Summers?"

 

"To the point, Mr. Rosenberg?" Steve asked with a grin. Ira stiffly nodded his head and Steve sighed, "I like her. It's that simple."

 

"How old are you? Really," Ira asked softly.

 

"I'm twenty four years old," Steve replied.

 

"No, you're not," Ira replied. "You are anything but twenty four years old."

 

"Serving five years in the Army tends to ‘age' you," Steve replied.

 

"You're not old enough to have served five years in the Army."

 

"I joined the Army when I was sixteen," Steve replied. "I felt that it was a good course to take at the time."

 

"Was it?"

 

"At the time, yes. And going back, I still feel that I made a good choice."

 

"What are your intentions towards Buffy?"

 

"We're dating, and taking it one step at a time. Buffy was badly hurt by her previous boyfriend and I don't want to push her into doing anything that we both might regret later on."

 

Ira grinned, liking Steve's answer. "Does her mother know?"

 

"She does. In fact, if you ask Carol, she'll admit that she and Joyce set us up for our first date."

 

Ira shook his head in disbelief. "Women. You can always trust them to do something like that." He sighed and then asked. "What are your feelings towards my daughter?"

 

"Willow?" Steve asked in surprise. Ira stiffly nodded his head. "I like her, but I think of her as Buffy's best friend. That's all."

 

"Then why did you give her that puppy?" Ira asked.

 

"Because she wanted a pet and Lassie needed a good home."

 

"That's all? You gave Willow the puppy, because the puppy needed a good home?"

 

"That's it," Steve replied. < But I hope you'll never find out the real reason why Lassie is now living with you. >

 

Ira looked deeply into Steve's eyes and sighed in resignation. "All right, Mr. St. Wolf, I'll let Willow keep the pup because she obviously loves it. But I will be keeping a close eye on the way you treat Buffy."

 

"Buffy has nothing to worry from me, Mr. Rosenberg. Giles and Jenny would kill me if I hurt Buffy in any way," Steve replied with a grin. "And Joyce isn't a light weight either. To quote an old friend of mine, ‘The Wooden Spoon of Mommydom' would kill me quicker than any gun."

 

Ira stared at Steve's grin and began to laugh loudly. "A very wise person said that. Nothing is more dangerous that an angry mother."

 

"We're glad to see that you two are getting along," Robert replied as he and Carol walk up to Steve and Ira. "Buffy and Willow were getting worried and we decided to see what was going on."

 

"Only a father's worry's being allayed. Mr. . ?"

 

"Robert Lancaster, Mr. Rosenberg.  My wife, Carol is Joyce’s sister."

 

Ira got up and sighed. "All right," Ira softly replied. "I can see that you care about Buffy. And that she has people looking out for her. But I will also be keeping an eye on her, Mr. St. Wolf." Ira tells Steve. He then turns to Robert and Carol. "A pleasure meeting you, Mr. Lancaster, Mrs. Lancaster." And with that, he walked out of the store, feeling better about his daughter's friends. < I'm glad I didn't bring Sheila; she would be trying to write a paper on these people's friendships. >

 

Steve, Robert and Carol watched as Ira left and all three breathed a sigh of relief. "I'm glad that I'm not dating Willow," Steve replied with a grin. "I believe that he would have castrated me for even looking at her wrong."

 

Steve stretched and straightened his back. "Let's order some lunch and then we can finish photographing the furniture."

 

"Sounds good to me," Robert replied with a grin as they walked back into the warehouse where Willow and Buffy were waiting with worried expressions on their faces.

 

"What happened?" Willow asked.

 

"I convinced your Father that I wasn't after you," Steve replied with a grin. "But I do pity Oz when he finds out that he's dating you."

 

Willow grinned and hugged Oz as he pouted for a second. Buffy grinned and asked, "What did he say about us?"

 

"He was worried that I was taking advantage of you. But Robert convinced him otherwise."

 

Everyone has a good laugh over that one as Steve announced. "I'm ordering pizza for lunch. Does anyone want anything special?"

 

"What are you ordering?" Robert asked.

 

"Two pizzas with pepperoni and extra cheese. One meat lover's pizza. One vegetarian. One large garden salad. Three two liter Pepsis, One two liter Diet Pepsi and three dozen Garlic knots." Steve replied as he remembers their usual order. "Anyone care to add anything?"

 

"Add in two orders of spaghetti and meatballs and I'll pay for the order," Robert replied as Steve reached for a nearby telephone and quickly made the order. He grinned as he hung up the phone.

 

"Ted said that he'll be over in about twenty minutes," Steve informed everyone. "That gives us enough time to photograph at least another dozen pieces." Everyone moaned, but they quickly begin to move the furniture around.

 

After about twenty minutes, the front doorbell rings again and Carol walked out. She's quickly back with Ted in tow, carrying a large amount of food. Ted saw the usual group from his frequent stops and grinned at everyone. Especially the girls. "Hey everyone."

 

"Hey Ted," Everyone chorused back. Ted began to grin broadly and laid down the food on a seventeenth century oak writer's desk. Robert grimaced and Ted quickly picked up the food.

 

"Should I ask how much that table is worth or just be glad that I didn't ruin it?" Ted asked with a grin.

 

"Thirty thousand dollars, young man," Robert replied with a grin.

 

Ted looks around and gulped. "How much is all of this stuff worth?"

 

"You're looking at maybe two and a half million dollars in antiques," Steve replied with a smile.

 

"Oh God!" Ted muttered in surprise. "Who's going to buy all of it?"

 

"Various people are." Steve replied. "We're going to hold the auction over the internet. I hope that it'll bring out some of the more serious buyers."

 

"God!" Ted muttered in disbelief. "I gotta know. How much money are you going to make?"

 

"Robert and I split ten percent of the sales. The rest goes to the people who asked us to sell their stuff."

 

"That's a lot of money," Ted replied with a smile. "How do I get into this business?"

 

"You work your way up," Robert replied as he handed Ted his money and a generous tip.

 

Ted looks down at the money and grinned, "Thanks, Mr. Lancaster."

 

"You're welcome, young man. Now let us have our lunch and finish our work here so that the young ones can go and have fun."

 

Ted nodded and left. Carol followed him and quickly came back after she locked the front door. Everyone sits down and begins to eat and talk.

 

Buffy sat down next to Steve and happily munched on her slice of pizza. She leaned into him and enjoyed the closeness as Steve idly wrapped his arm around her waist.

 

Cordelia and Xander also sat together and took off pieces of meat for Arial and Patches. The laughed as Patches greedily ate the pepperoni and Arial daintily ate her cheese and sausage.

 

Willow and Oz sit together as well. Quietly talking and munching on their respective meals.

 

Giles and Jenny watched their young charges and smiled as each formed a deep bond with their respective lover and companion.

 

Robert and Carol talked and laughed with Steve and Buffy as they commented about the furniture and the work that they were doing.

 

Robert and Carol watched the five couples and grin, remembering their courtship and silently are grateful that love still existed in Sunnydale.

 

*****

 

Part 7 - Epilogues
(The Competition Learns That A New Player's In Town)

March 23, 2014
Buckwald's Auction House, San Francisco, CA - 08:30 PST

 

Reginald Buckwald stormed into the meeting room and angrily slammed down a large number of papers on the table. As the papers spread across the table, Prue Halliwell picked up one of them and stared in shock at the seventeenth century oak writing desk that clearly showed on it. She quickly read the legend and gulped. < Oh Shit! No wonder Reg is pissed. This is a coup. >

 

"Do you people realize what this shop has done?" Reggie hissed angrily.

 

"Stolen a major auction from us?" one of the auctioneers replied angrily. Reggie glared at him, but doesn't rebuke him.

 

"Carter is right!" Reggie barked, "I'm disappointed in all of you for letting this nothing shop take away what is ours by right! I want all of you to sit there and think about how we're going to take this auction away from this little shop."

 

"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Prue replied. Reggie glared at her, but nodded for her to continue. Prue gulped and continued, "If we try to take this sale away from these people, they'll try to stop us and it could get very public and very embarrassing. Maybe if we steer some of our more well to do clients to them and tell them that it's probably a once in a life time sale, they'll be more than willing to come to us first to sell anything that they have to sell at a later date."

 

Reggie sat back and thought about it for a full three minutes. He finally nodded and agreed. "That is a good idea, Prue. But how are we to prevent any of our major clients from going over to Lancaster Antiques?"

 

"Simple. We stress that Lancaster Antiques lucked out and got all of these items from a local estate. We will constantly have quality items for sale and they won't. We can even offer to authenticate any pieces that they don't feel comfortable about."

 

Reggie grinned evilly, "That's very well thought out, Prue. All right, we'll do it. We won't destroy this little shop and we'll make our major clients happy with this little bargain sale." The people around the table quickly began to discuss the windfall and make plans on who to contact over the pieces.

 

*****

 

March 23, 2014
Nash Antiques, New York, NY - 10:13 PST - 13:13 Local

 

Maxine looked over the internet auction news and quickly clicked on a link and popped over to the Lancaster Antiques site. She whistled lowly and quickly called out. "Hey, Connor!!"

 

Connor walked over to Maxine and looked over her shoulder. He saw the picture of an eighteenth century cabinet and stared. "My God! Where did they get that from?"

 

"Don't know. But this entire collection has been authenticated by some guy named St. Wolf. You know him?"

 

Connor grinned, "A pain in the ass boy scout. But a nice guy. Duncan considers him family."

 

"Another MacLeod?" Maxine asked with a grin. "Is he cute?"

 

"Adopted into the Clan," Connor replied with a grin. "And yes, he's cute. But from what Duncan tells me, he's seeing someone."

 

"Too bad," Maxine replied with a grin as she looked at a Chippendale Table set. "Maybe we can get a family discount?"

 

"Don't think so," Connor replied with a laugh. "If he's considered family by Duncan, then you can bet that he's not giving anyone a discount, especially family.”

 

*****

 

April 15, 2014
New Wales Diner, New Wales, NV - 06:30 PST

 

Mara watched out the main window as the four large tracker trailers pull into the parking lot of the New Wales Diner. < What could these truckers want here? And why do all of them have the same chess piece logo? > Mara wondered as she watched the four large men exit their respective trucks and calmly walk into the diner. As the men sat down in unison as if they were marching a parade ground, they picked up the menus and began to read them. The largest man, a six foot, eight inch, red head looks up from the menu and grinned slyly at Mara. Mara looked up at the ceiling in supplication. < Goddess, please save me from amorous truckers. > When she looked down, she saw him looking at her legs. Mara glared at the man's roguish grin as he leaned forward. < Probably trying to get a better view of my legs. > Mara harrumphed to herself. < Isabelle? Are you nearby? >

 

// Of course I am Mara. What's wrong? // Mara's Guardian and lifelong friend replied.

 

< We have four strangers in the diner. Be ready to move in if they start to cause trouble. >

 

// Of course, Mara. // Isabelle replied with a snicker as she curled up near the window.

 

Mara turned back to the red head and demanded. "What do you four want?"

 

"Four cups of coffee to start with, pretty lady," The red head replied with a grin as his three companions also began to smile at their friend's antics.

 

"We ran out." Mara snapped, hoping they would quickly get the message.

 

"Tea then," The red head replied with a knowing smile.

 

"Out of that too," Mara replied angrily. "In fact, we got nothing for you four to eat or drink."

 

"That's not a very proper way to greet four Knights of the Road, Lady Mara," the red head replied quietly.

 

"And how do you know my name!?" Mara demanded.

 

"Sir Steve spoke very highly of your courtesy and manners," the man replied with a smile as he added. "Though he didn't do your beauty justice."

 

Mara relaxed slightly as Isabelle began to yowl in laughter. < Damn Cat!! > Mara mentally muttered to her laughing cat. "Sir Steve has a Slayer to contend with. That would give any man blinders," Mara replied with a smile as the four men squirm under her glare. "So who are you four? Out with it!" Mara demanded with a grin as she began to enjoy herself, realizing that these four were friends.

 

The red head grinned, "Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Knight Lieutenant Silas Patrick Ryan, of Lady Niume's personal guard. My companions are Sirs, Robert Haynes, Michael Fitzkern, and Joshua Red Tree." The three men nodded their heads in greeting and Mara began to place cups in front of them and poured a fresh pot of coffee for each of them.

 

"What brings you here, Sir Knights," Mara asked with a smile as she saw her teacher walk into the diner and sit down at her usual table.

 

"A letter to Mistress Hunt," Silas replied with a smile as he pulled out a large envelope with a familiar yellow seal.

 

"You needed four large trucks to bring a single letter?" Mara asked in shock.

 

"Well, no," Silas replied with a lopsided grin. "We needed the trucks for the things that Sir Steve ordered for your town. Bastard had a dozen Squires getting him this stuff for the last two weeks."

 

"Young man," a stern voice called Silas from behind. Silas turned and bows to his Lady's oldest friend.

 

"Mistress Hunt," Silas replied in a respectful tone.

 

"Please do not refer to Sir Steven as a bastard. He is one of the few truly good men that my people can trust with their lives," Andrea Hunt coldly replied.

 

Silas shook his head in disbelief. < What is it with St. Wolf and powerful women? > "I only meant it in jest, Mistress Hunt." Silas explained with a disarming smile. "Sir Steven is well respected by every member of the Order. And he doesn't mind these little jests."

 

"Are you certain about that?" Andrea asked nicely.

 

Silas gulped and pulled on his sweater as his three companions begin to laugh behind him. He turned and glared at them and saw the rest of the Diner also begin to laugh. Silas sighed and bowed before Andrea. "I bow before you in awe, Lady," Silas muttered in defeat, but slyly added. "Do with me what you will. Or preferably what the Lady Mara will."

 

Andrea smiled as she took stock of the Knight standing in front of her. < Well, Mara did want a Knight of her own. >

 

*****

 

Mara watched in disbelief as the Knight offered himself up to Andrea's justice. < Oh Goddess! What is this fool up to? > Mara watched her teacher as a mongoose would a cobra and shuddered, < She wouldn't!? >

 

// Oh, she will. // Isabelle replied with a laugh in her ‘voice'. // Well, you do need to have kittens. //

 

Mara glared at her cat as all of the other ‘pets' begin to laugh as well and their companions quickly joined as Mara blushed a bright red. "Oh Goddess, but this is too much."

 

Silas turned back to Mara with a raised eyebrow, "What is it, Lady Mara?"

 

"Nothing for you to worry about, Sir Silas," Andrea replied with a smile tugging at her lips. Silas looked at the elderly witch in confusion as she smiled at her student. Mara gulped as Andrea ordered. "Please see to Sir Silas' comfort, Mara. Make sure that he and his men have some place to spend the night. We'll unload the trucks tomorrow."

 

"Yes, Mistress," Mara muttered softly as the large Knight looked at her eyes and drank them in. < Oh damn. But he likes me. How? > Then she glanced over to Andrea and saw her smiling face. < Oh Damn! She did. > Mara shook her head as Isabelle began to yowl loudly. < What is YOUR problem? >

 

// You. You need someone and this man might be just what you need to scratch that itch you've been having since St. Wolf left, // Isabelle replied to her Companion.

 

< If you ever want another bowl of milk, you'll shut up! Right now! > Mara replied angrily. Isabelle yowled in laughter as she got up and sauntered over to Silas and began to rub herself against his legs.

 

Silas, grinned, picked up Isabelle, and began to scratch her behind her ears. "Nice kitty," he murmured as he cradled her in the crook of his arm. Isabelle purred contentedly and watched Mara's lips quirk in laughter.

 

"She's laid claim to you, Sir Knight. What am I to do with you?" Mara asked with a laugh, not giving an inch.

 

"Anything my Lady wishes," Silas replied with a grin. < I wonder who's setting us up? Sir Steve, mother, or Lady Niume? Probably all three. Aunt Niume and mother have been hinting that I should get married soon. >

 

Mara smiled and pointed towards the trucks. "I'm sure that we can come to some reasonable solution. After we unload the trucks and distribute the items."

 

Silas also grinned, "Of course My Lady. I can wait a day."

 

*****

 

Andrea watched Silas and Mara began the ‘Dance' called courtship and smiled. < Niume is right. Silas is a good match for Mara. Steven was right in having him sent here. I wonder what he did to make Steven do this to him. >

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