Author: Tim Knight

Title: Blast For The Past (Or, How To Make Trouble And Influence When Your Summer Vacation Starts)

Copyright: May 2002
Rating: PG-13 (fight scenes, language, some mention of illegal activities, sexual innuendo)

Spoilers:
Buffy: Season 2 until Phases. Specific Episodes, Season Three involving the Mayor, the Ascension, and Graduation.
Highlander: Season 5 until Season finale. Richie Ryan lives.

Keywords: Buffy/ Highlander.

Summary: As Graduation and the Ascension loom, a Slayerette finds out about the past shared by two of her classmates. When one tries to set the record straight once and for all, the other goes too far, leading to the Scooby showing him that in the end, what goes around does indeed come around.

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

The characters Shaw Hunter, Ulric Johansen, Jessica Smithson, David Abhrams, and Sandra Livingston are mine. Anyone wishing to use them may contact me at doobytim@aol.com.
The characters Steven St. Wolf, Frank Iverson, Joe N'Gato, Marc La Chevalier, Randi Jessup, and Brian Jessup, are property of Steve Pantovich, as is the universe in which this story takes place. Steve can be contacted at Steve711@concentric.net.
The character of Robin Goodfellow is property of Mike Weyer. Mike may be contacted at SWERJ321@aol.com.
The character Alison Jarman is property of Anne Parnell and is used with permission. She can be contacted at anne@kayleyangel.com.

Author's Notes: This story takes place in early June of 1999, after Pantheon Rising but before Curses and Crumbs.

Dedications:
To Steve, Grand High Poobah of the Wandererverse, for giving the original Okays for my stories.
To Rebekah, The Red Ink Ranger, who makes almost as many smart-ass comments per story as I do. <<Although hers don't often see print, NYAH NYAH NYAH!!!>>
To Jack, Oh Editorial Dude, who needs to start taking credit for his role in making stories what they are. See Souls Sisters for example.
To Mike, for introducing Robin to the Wandererverse and our exchanging dialogue for the stories that bracket this one.
To Anne, for showing us that in a town built on the doorway to Hell, there is still a place for normal people, even if abnormal vampire fighters surround her. And whether Alison's living on a Hellmouth, mooning over Ted, or staking vampires and dodging demons, she STILL manages to deliver the pizza in less than thirty minutes, guaranteed.

Here are the changes from your regular shows:
Buffy:
1. Due to her drowning death at the hands of the Master, Buffy is Immortal.
2. Passion and Becoming never took place, so Jenny and Kendra are still alive and well. Kendra is attending UC Sunnydale. Jenny, sometime between How The Big Bad Stole Christmas and Prodigal Son's Consort, became the first true priestess to Artemis in 2000 years.
3. Faith is a good kid, and living with Joyce and Buffy. While Faith, Hope, and Trick never took place in the Wandererverse, we do know that Faith's little episode with the Baptists in South Boston (wherein she did her job au natural) still happened, as did her stint as an alligator wrestler.
4. While most of the Scoobies are getting ready to graduate, Faith and Shaw are only juniors, which means they're stuck at SHS for another year. Who do you pity, the girls or their Principal?


Title: Blast For The Past
(Or, How To Make Trouble And Influence When Your Summer Vacation Starts)

Part 1: Having Fun At The Graduates' Expense
(Hearing Pomp And Circumstance Does NOT Automatically Mean That "Macho Man" Randy Savage Is In The Building)

Sunnydale High School
Sunnydale, California
10 June 1999

Shaw sat on the sofa in the student lounge, enjoying the scenes before her along with Faith, David, and Jessica. Faith leaned in next to her and muttered, "Gawd, this is hilarious."

"To an extent," the ranger admitted. Watching the seniors at Sunnydale High School run around like the proverbial chickens with their heads cut off, in their final days of preparing to graduate, was amusing. <Of course…> She leaned closer to Faith. "You do realize that we are getting a preview of what we will be going through next year."

"Don't say that," the Slayer whispered. "I don't need no stinkin' Mayor turnin' into a demon when we go into Cap and Gown mode."

"What are you two talking about?" Jessica asked from her seat next to her boyfriend. The red haired junior smiled at them. "Talking about Shaw's boyfriend or Faith's looking for one?"

"NO!" both Slayerettes snapped. Their vehement objection only served to convince her of the opposite.

David started chuckling. He used his right arm, which was wrapped around Jessica's waist, to pull her closer. The girl, dressed as usual in Corporate Casual, leaned into him but somehow managed to retain her "professional" look.

"Come on, spill," Jessica said, glancing between her and Faith with her dark blue eyes. "What are you talking about?"

Shaw sighed. "Mostly, we are enjoying how the others are close to Panic Mode about Graduation. Willow is freaking over having to give a speech due to being the Valedictorian, while Cordelia complains that the red gowns are so not her color."

Jessica's laughter pealed across the lounge. "You're starting to sound too American, Hunter."

"I will be an American once my next birthday comes," she countered. When they stared at her in surprise, she sighed; it had only been a couple of weeks ago that she'd talked to Agent I with Section Six about that. "At least by British law, I mean. You see, by my mother's racial background, I qualify for British and American citizenship under Britain's dual citizenship laws. When I turn eighteen, I have to choose which of those I wish to claim." She stared at them both to convey her determination. "I have already decided which I want."

"What about American law? Don't you have to wait five years?"

Jessica knew something about legalities; her father was a paralegal, after all.

Shaw smiled. "It is something of a paradox, yes. I will be an American by British law, yet still be British by American law." She shrugged. "No one ever said the system was perfect. I guess they also neglected to make it simple."

Faith drawled, "Imagine what'll happen if you ever get deported. We try to ship you back to London, the Queen'll say you're American and ship you back here." Her brown-green eyes lit up with amusement. "Least you'll get bow coup frequent flyer miles."

Shaw smacked her on the arm, fighting her own laughter. "At least I do not get airsick."

Jessica and David joined in the laughter. David cleared his throat to get her and Faith's attention. "So you guys have plans for summer vacation? Jess and I talked about heading to L. A. or San Fran for a week, since we've saved up some money. What're you two planning?"

"We were thinkin' of crashin' Graduation and killing the Mayor," Faith quipped. "If we're lucky, maybe we'll blow up the joint. You and Carrot Top wanna join in?"

Shaw choked. <What in the Goddess' name are you DOING?!? > She glared at her soul sister, who just grinned back. "Faith, we are not going to blow up the school."

"Torch it?" she innocently asked.

Jessica gaily laughed, "Give it up, Shaw. You'll never get the last word with her."

"Give me time," Shaw smiled at Faith, who just quirked a grin at her, daring her to try her luck. She turned back to their friends. "To satisfy your curiosity, Jessica, Liam and I are taking it slowly. A day at a time, literally."

She watched as Jessica straightened up in David's grasp and knew why. This was the first time she'd openly admitted to them that she and Liam were in fact 'an item.' <If she only knew how much at this point…> She quickly turned to Faith, whose mouth was just opening. "We have been on exactly one legitimate, in-the-open, traditional date. Period."

Faith slumped on her sofa seat. "Spoilsport," she grumbled.

Before she could try to further her rare advantage over the newest Slayer, Jessica's iron-filled voice ordered, "DISH SCOTTIE!!!"

Shaw glanced at Faith, who grinned. She asked, "What do you think? Should I?"

"You don't, I will," her sister snickered. "And you know I'll make things up as I go along to make it really, really spicy. And I could bring up that thing with Jackie-Boy."

<Not THAT again!> "Fine." Shaw leaned back in her seat and crossed her legs. She folded her hands and glanced at the expectant Jessica. David seemed to be less than enthusiastic about 'girl talk.' "It happened about two weeks ago"

"Two WEEKS?!?" her Lit group leader snarled. Her eyes narrowed dangerously. "You had your first date two WEEKS ago and didn't TELL ME?!?"

Shaw's jaw clenched. "Jessica, please keep in mind that the last two months of my life have been somewhat trying." She focused on Jessica, who winced. "In April alone I lost Raidon, almost destroyed my friendships with you, David, and Faith in the aftermath, and…" She glanced around to make sure no one was listening in. She leaned forward. "And you and David are the only ones outside of me, Faith, the seniors, Ulric, and Buffy's mother who know what happened at the rave. As I said, that is April alone."

*****

Jessica fought down the bile rising in her throat. Shaw had indeed had a rough time, especially with the attempted rape. Faith had been through something, having let slip that she'd suffered some nightmares, although she'd been the one to stop the boy who slipped Shaw the date rape drug. <And then she went to England for a couple weeks for some kind of exchange program. She hasn't talked about what happened there>

"Sorry, Shaw. I didn't mean to upset you."

Shaw's eyes softened and not for the first time, Jessica marveled at how the Scot girl's eyes could go from showing the world a young, happy junior to the hard ass commando-type in a second. She'd also read, more than once, how Shaw's eyes sometimes reflected the guilt and/or fear of that second side of herself.

"I am sorry, too," the black haired woman sighed. She glanced between her friends. "Between us, my date with Liam was not atypical of what you would consider a date. We met at the Bronze and spent the night talking, eating, dancing." She seemed to hesitate, but then barreled forward, closing her eyes as if anticipating the worst. "We shared our first kiss."

"WHAT?!?" she, David, and Faith blurted in perfect unison.

The confessor gritted her teeth at their volume. "I said we kissed."

Jess was the first to recover. "What was it like," she said, perking up and leaning forward. "Did you see rockets?"

Looking for the entire world like she'd rather swallow a worm than admit it, she slowly said through a clenched jaw, "On your oath that this stays between us."

"Done," Jessica said without hesitation.

"Like I'm going to admit I listen to girly gossip," her boyfriend sighed.

Before Faith could say anything, Shaw turned to her, eyes flashing. "Hold your hands up and keep your fingers uncrossed."

Glaring back at Shaw, the Northeasterner snarled, "You don't let me have any fun."

"Not at my expense anymore."

"Fiiiinnnneee!" Faith rolled her eyes and held both hands up. "I swear to Sis that I won't blab to guys, girls, or anything in between! Happy now?"

"Immensely," the exchange student said with a reluctant sigh. Shaw glanced at her and slowly said, "I did not see the metaphorical rockets, Jessica. Rather, I 'heard' the cannons of the 1812 Overture."

"What?!?" she, David, and Faith blurted in perfect unison.

In response, Shaw just whistled a few bars of the song, which all three instantly recognized. Jessica, in particular. "Whoa. That's some kiss."

"Every single note and stanza," Shaw admitted, a tiny grin forcing its way across her lips.

<Really some kiss,> Jess decided. "So you two are really bad for each other."

"As I said, we are taking it one day at a time." Shaw fidgeted a bit. "Liam knows of my past and is letting me decide at which pace we proceed."

*****

<'Cause you're gun shy after Raidon, sister,> Faith thought, keeping her thoughts to herself. "This was while I was stuck in Rainy Land, sucking tea and crumpets, right?"

"To put it in American phrasing, yep," Redeye said, giving her that smart-ass look out the corner of her eye. "And with the cost of overseas calls and time differential, I could hardly wake you up in the middle of the night to give you what few details there were."

"Hey, I was bored most of the time," the Dark Slayer drawled. <And the times I wasn't bored, sheesh.> "You coulda given me something to pass the time. Maybe K and I coulda talked about it, given her some pointers."

"I thought you were capable of doing that yourself," Davey Boy said; he knew her too well.

Faith couldn't argue that. "Point to J-Girl's Boy Toy."

That made both of them blush, getting her and Shaw some easy laughs. The bell rang just then, signaling the end of their lunch hour.

Hunter stood up and slung her backpack over her shoulder. "I have to get to Computer Class. I have my final in that class as well."

"Not so fast, girlfriend!" Firehair snapped, standing up and shooting blue eye beams at Shaw. "I want details!"

"Like what?"

A tiger smile came across Jess's face. "How about what you wore?"

Shaw's lips pursed as she actually thought about answering the question. Slayer Supreme chuckled, "Time's a wastin', Hunter. Just remember what happened that last time you were late for Calendar Girl's class." <So what if it was Sabrina taking her sweet time while in your bod. You still got extra homework 'cause Will let the teacher thing go to her head.>

Muttering, "Why not," Spockette reached into her purse and pulled out one of those one-hour drug store photo envelopes. She glanced back at her. "To save you wanting to look at these, I wore the same outfit you helped me pick out in April."

<She wore that in public?> Faith thought in wonder. < DAMN! I'm really rubbing off on her!> "Those the pics I took so I'd get the credit?"

Shaw handed the envelope over to Jess, a nod her only answer. When J2 tried to take it, Shaw held onto it. "Jessica, keep in mind, it is up to you which of these you show to David. Consider yourself warned."

"What do you mean by that?" Jess asked curiously.

Shaw glanced at her and they turned to the redhead. They both grinned. "You'll find out."

Faith drawled, "'Nuff talk for now. Gotta hit Algebra." She stood up and grabbed her books. "See ya in two hours, right?"

David and Jessica nodded; today was their final exam in Comparative Literature, which counted for a third of their grade.

<'Course, with our big hit story with Tregarde in April, we're set up for perfect A's,> Faith thought. She glanced at Redeye. "See you in the book room?"

"I will save some work for you," she joked, eyes gleaming.

"Gee, thanks."

She and her buds turned and headed off to class, silently enjoying the sounds of seniors running around trying to get ready for Graduation.

<Gawd, this is funny.> Faith then remembered what she and the gang were in for next week. <Okay, they're getting off easy. Then again, we might get to live our dream of blowin' up the school. Wonder if Buff and me can con Boss Man into makin' sure Snyder's tied up in the boiler room… Nah. Got as much chance of that happenin' as Mayor McDemon eating him when he does the change. Oh well, I can dream.>

Smothering a grin since she knew Jess was going to sort through the photos on her way to class, Faith counted down. <What pics did Shaw put on top, the dress or the undies? 3, 2, 1…>

"OH MY GOD!!!!" Jessica's voice roared through the hallways.

<Definitely the undies…> Faith felt proud of herself for teaching Shaw how to be purely evil. <Damn I'm good.>

*****

Shaw climbed the staircase and was proceeding to Jenny's classroom when she saw some of her least favorite people standing around, joking and reminiscing about their high school years. She just walked by them, hoping that their so-called leader would know better than to provoke her like he'd been trying to do since winter.

Unfortunately for him, he didn't seem to learn from experience.

"Well if it isn't Miss Brit Bitch," Percy muttered, voicing it just loud enough to hear. Raising his voice so that other students rushing to their classes could overhear him, he said, "You know what's strange, guys? That Miss Primey Limey hangs with the Boston Ho. I mean, talk about the Odd Couple on PMS."

Shaw stopped, freezing in her tracks. Percy knew her well; she'd ignore comments about herself, but insulting Amy, Faith, or any of her friends and family was the button that she didn't want pushed.

"Oh, did I hit a nerve?" he snidely asked.

The ranger knew what was going on; he was trying, once again, to get even for the embarrassment she'd handed him months ago. <Unfortunately for him, I have worked with masters at getting even. Even if I have been the subject of it…> She turned to face him. "I am surprised, Percival." She made him grimace; he hated that name. "I am very surprised that you would be a glutton for punishment, whether physical or verbal."

"What? You gonna try your kung fu crap on me again?" he snapped in a poor attempt to goad her into action.

Shaw just shook her head, ignoring the crowd gathering around despite the imminent bell. "Let us discuss what you were talking about just now. Your so-called 'love life.' I cannot believe that it is not so obvious to you that your boastings are what kept me from even considering going out with you when you asked me out in December."

That got to the athletic star. The large senior bristled under criticism about his prowess for getting women into bed. "What?" he demanded angrily, barely restraining himself from stalking forward. <Sometimes it is too easy.> "Hunter, I've got women who dream of getting into bed with me. I've had women who gave themselves to me since they knew I'd make them women! Just ask any of them; Kendall, Jenkins, Richards, Jarman, CHASE."

"You fail to understand, Percival," she said, getting another small shot in while preparing her hopefully devastating salvo. It wasn't easy for her to leave the comment about her friends go, but she managed. "It is because of the sheer number of women you claim to have bedded that I do not lower myself to the level of considering a date with you, let alone giving up my virginity."

"What the Hell does that mean?"

"In terms that use small words, so that you may understand?" she asked with a smile that carried no humor in it. "I have heard, ever since coming here, of your reputation for having success with women. However, I have never heard, not even once, of your having a second encounter with any of those women. Quite simply, they never come to you again." She shrugged and gave him a look of false pity. "To me, that indicates that you are, to say the least, not worth a second go around!"

The combination of gasps and snickers that came in response to her observation told her that to her fellow students, she'd scored BIG points. The truly satisfying measure, however, was the sputtering and crimson face of one now-pissed Percy Williams.

"Now, if you will excuse me, I have matters worthy of my time," she said, turning around as the bell for Fifth Hour rang. She saw Jenny standing there, having heard the commotion. She noted the gleam in the Gypsy's eyes, not sure whether it was approval or disapproval. Over her shoulder, the tossed one final blow to the athlete's ego. "And I would think that I consider my final exams to be worth more than you speaks volumes as to my opinions about your so-called skills, PERCIVAL."

She entered the Computer Lab, basking in the glow of the applause and laughter being heaped upon her. Jenny shaking her head in frustration was icing on the cake. <Butterscotch icing, of course.>

She walked over to her seat and happily dropped her backpack on the floor under her desk. She wouldn't need anything out of it during this class. She glanced around the room and stared at Jenny when her mentor gave her a silent, unreadable look.

<Does she disapprove? Perhaps I was a bit petty about Percy, but he at least deserved a verbal thrashing.> The Slayerette began logging onto her computer so that she could be ready when Jenny told them to begin their final exam. As the computer started booting, she glanced over at one of the people she often worked with and smiled. "So, are you ready for our exam, Alison?"

To her surprise, the normally open senior just shrugged. "Guess so. Shouldn't be that hard."

Shaw frowned at the cold answer. She looked Alison up and down before asking, "Alison, are you all right?"

Now the short, dark-haired Jarman fixed her blue eyes onto her. She flipped her ponytail off of her shoulder. "I didn't enjoy hearing you and Percy going at it. Why didn't you just ignore him like you do any other time?"

"If he had kept his comments centered on me, I would have. But he insulted Faith, Cordelia, and you."

*****

Alison froze momentarily, reading into Shaw's comment about insulting her along with Faith and Cordy. "Why would anything he said about me matter?"

To her surprise, Shaw flinched. She stammered slightly, saying, "I-I thought that…" Now she was the one who didn't look someone in the face. "I know we do not associate with each other outside of school, but I at least thought we might be friends."

<I like to think that too, even if you're not human, okay, bonding time's over.> "Just don't screw with Percy, because he'll find a way to get you for it. Especially that comment about women not screwing him twice."

"I hardly think…"

Alison spitted her with her blue eyes. "No, you didn't. Percy's an ass, and he'll try to get back at you. He'll try to screw you over. Believe me, you don't know what you can be put through."

Shaw started to retort, but Miss Calendar called them to attention. She laid out the rules and time limit for their final, and it was off to work.

<You don't know what it's like, Hunter. You can't know.>

Alison breezed through her final, finishing in under half the time allotted. She just sat back and checked her school address email, idly passing the time. Her sharp mind barely noted that Shaw had stopped typing about fifteen minutes after she did, but didn't say anything until she got the notice of a new email.

Blinking at the address, one she didn't know, she opened the letter. <HAFELVN at blah blah dot blah…> She froze when she read the short, concise letter.

Dear Alison,

If you would like to talk about Percy, we can. The choice is yours.

Alison angrily jammed the delete button and glanced over at Shaw, who was looking at her. "Thanks, but no thanks. Screw that asshole. He's not worth my time."

Shaw didn't seem put off too much by her tone. She just nodded once. "All right. I offered," she said, not sounding flippant in the least.

Alison just watched as Shaw turned back to her own stuff. Turning back to her own monitor, she logged off the Net.

<I'm graduating in five days. Percy Williams is the last thing on my mind.>

*****

Part 2: Blast For The Past
(To Quoteh Natasha Kerensky: Old Age And Treachery Will Always Beat Youth And Beauty)

Jarman Residence
Sunnydale, California
11 June 1999

Alison Jarman looked through her closet, undecided about what to wear today. "Okay Jarman, why aren't you just doing what you usually do and throwing on blue jeans, t-shirt, and sneakers? Why are you actually giving a damn about what to wear today? Why…" She stifled a scream. "Why the Hell I am talking to myself?!?"

She flopped down on her bed and moaned. Her sharp, analytical mind had already come up with an answer.

"Percy."

She felt shivers as she replayed old memories in her head. She gritted her teeth, thinking about three and a half years ago. She was somewhat surprised to realize that no tears started streaming down her cheeks. <Hell, I haven't even thought about it since…> She rolled her eyes. <Hunter's responsible. She had to rise to the jackass's bait and put him down. He never would've brought up my name if she,>

She stopped her self-ranting. She knew that wasn't true; Percy had been bragging about his "fond high school memories" all week. He hadn't even bothered to look at her since then, not once he'd conned another girl.

<I wonder if there were any others like me,> she wondered before shaking her head.

She stood up, walked over to her closet, and pulled out a pair of blue jeans and a grey t-shirt. <Screw it. I dealt with it three years ago, I got over it, and I went on with my life. Besides, I have things that hurt more, like losing my best friends. Percy just doesn't rate.>

She pulled the t-shirt on, threw her hair into a ponytail using a dark blue scrunchy, and bent over to put on her shoes. <Besides, I'm graduating in four days and working tonight. I have important things to think about, like paying bills, Graduation, and starting college in two months. >

After tying her shoes, she picked up her books and left her room, going to check on Dad before heading to school.

*****

Sunnydale High School
Sunnydale, California
11 June 1999

As she walked to class, Alison saw everyone caught up in the nearing end of the school year. She wryly thought, <The end is near! Repent oh sinning students. Right. Hell, I hardly even care about people signing yearbooks.>

She had her own in her locker, but as she'd half-expected; no one had bothered asking her to sign theirs or vice versa. <The curse of being above the whole social order thing.> Well, she hardly cared; half the Popular Crowd would flunk out of college, marry rich boys and not have to work a day in their lives, or end up working in a dead end job. There were exceptions, she grudgingly admitted. <Like Harmony. She has a little more underneath that blonde mop of hers. Her problem'll be finding the right job; she has great organizational skills, look at how she single handedly planned Homecoming.>

<Whatever. I need to concentrate on myself. One final left today, and I'm cruising until Tuesday.> She smiled to herself; it wasn't like she hadn't already cruised through her finals. From the dismal 1.8 she'd had near the middle of freshman year, by the end of the term she'd cranked it all the way up to a hot 3.6, always one step below a perfect 4.0. But she didn't mind, she wasn't one for the spotlight. < Besides, Willow deserves it. She, Xander, and Jesse helped me a bit when… Okay, new topic.>

Unfortunately for her, that topic came up from the source itself. She saw Percy talking with his jock friends, and it wasn't hard to figure out what they were talking about. Unlike three years ago, Alison didn't care. The Popular persona was long gong, leaving the intelligent, wiser than her years senior in its five-foot-two place. She just decided to walk by and leave the bastard to his hangers on.

Percy, however, saw her coming and stepped in front of her, blocking her path while his friends circled around his back and started to close off the way she came, cutting off any hope of escape.

"Well, well, well, if it isn't little Ali Jarman," Percy said with a smile of remembrance. "You know, we were just talking about you."

Alison's felt the heat rising into her cheeks. "Right. You mean you were talking, laying out you usual line of bullshit to your lackeys here, since they're the only ones who'll believe you."

"Oh come on, Ali," he said with a sly whisper, looming over her with his greater height. "Think back to that night at your place and tell my posse what memories you've got about the night I made you a woman."

Gritting her teeth, the young woman got right into his face. < Okay, as much as someone 5'2" can get into the face of someone a foot taller.> "I don't think you'd want me to do that, Percival." He winced at the name, making her smile as she glanced at Mike Payton. "Hunter has no idea how right she was yesterday. You can't satisfy a woman. And you know the old saying; those who talk about sex the most have most of their sex with Rosie Palm and her five friends."

Percy was livid, she could see that. His fists were clenching and his eyes became hostile. "If that's the case, then why'd your skanky ho ass waste your virginity on me, bitch?"

Had she been thinking straight, and not thinking about what had happened three years ago, Alison would never have done what she did next. But she was seeing red over his casual dismissal of what he'd stolen from her.

Alison put as much of her remaining anger and pain, as little as it was, into a powerful left-handed smack across Percy's right cheek. The sound of her hand stinging the flesh of his face rang out like a gunshot. Unheeding of the sudden silence in the area, she snapped, "Just remember something, you son of a bitch! I can still go to the cops about that night! Trust me, there's still plenty of time in the statute of limitations!"

*****

Shaw was walking to her class when her elven hearing picked up the sound of an argument raging nearby. Despite her own protestations that she was above listening in on teenagers' problems, she knew the voices involved and couldn't help herself. She started toward Percy and Alison, wondering what was going on.

She heard Alison scream out and while she wasn't specific in her rants, Shaw put enough together to realize what she was angry about, as well as why she'd been so upset yesterday.

<People are always telling me that I need to be more tactful.> she sighed. <If I had known…>

Shaw began to wonder if she should back Alison up when the point became moot. Percy, never one to take a shot to his so-called machismo lying down, stood up to his full height, his eyes filled with anger.

His right hand swung around, hitting Shaw's classmate flush on the cheek and sending her stumbling back across the hallway. With a loud crash of protesting metal, Alison hit the lockers on the opposite wall, head first. Her books flew from her hands and landed on the floor in a haphazard pattern. She started sagging, reaching up and clutching her face.

Seeing someone she thought of as a friend struck down, along with what she'd assumed was the case regarding her past with Percy, sent Shaw stalking forward. It might have been residual issues with what had happened in April with her and Faith that fueled the fire, but seeing Percy, who'd all but admitted rape in Shaw's mind, strike down one of his possible victims was enough to get her started without any help from unrelated scenarios.

Heedless of the growing crowd of students, most of who were staring at Percy in varying degrees of shock or disgust, Shaw stopped directly behind him, instinctively calculating the distance and measuring her reach. With a cold voice tinged with righteous anger, she growled, "Percival."

As she'd dearly hoped, he turned around, his own resentment showing in his human eyes. He'd barely come square when Shaw unleashed her assault. A right roundhouse spun his head around with a sick "crack!" Shaw was vaguely disappointed she hadn't broken his jaw. Before he recovered, Shaw followed up with her second punch, a left to the opposite side of his face.

The half-elf was spurred on by the second sound of impact, determined to show this man once and for all the price of what he did. <A blast for your past, Percival Williams!> As he staggered under her second blow, she used her follow through to add to her momentum, spinning around and landing a spinning back punch to his already battered jaw. Percy was sent spinning off of his axis, knocking him off balance.

Taking advantage of his stumble, Shaw launched into her preferred move; the spin kick. Planting her left foot, she spun herself and her right heel solidly connected with his temple. With a yelp accompanied by gasps and shouts from his fellow students, Percy fell to the ground in a heap. As he clutched at the floor tiles and groaned from the attack, Shaw settled into an attack pose, ready at a moment's notice to continue paying him back for others.

Barely aware of Alison slowly rising by bracing herself against the wall, her eyes wide with shock, Shaw growled, "If you have the sense God gave the common cockroach, you will stay down like a good little bitch."

*****

Alison stared at the sight before her. <OhmiGOD!!! What the HELL is she doing?!?> She felt like slapping herself. < Don't tell me she's doing that because of me!>

Before she could shout for Shaw to stop, mostly because she didn't want Percy dead, even if she did find a great deal of satisfaction in the man finally getting his ass kicked, Percy groggily staggered to his feet, all restraint vanished from his face.

"I'm gonna take you apart, you little cunt!" he shouted, charging Shaw.

Before Alison could shout a warning, Shaw sidestepped him, grabbed his arm, and in one of the moves she'd learned in class, flipped Percy over onto his back! <How many fighting styles does she know?!?>

She could only watch helplessly as Shaw turned Percy over onto his stomach and locked him into an armbar. Alison didn't know what scared her more; the still-seething rage in Percy's eyes, despite his predicament, or the cold look in Shaw's eyes that to her was more frightening, maybe because she knew the truth about Shaw's nonhuman heritage.

"Percival," she said in her European accent, one that now frightened Alison due to the lack of emotion in it, "do what is best for you and stay down."

"I get up, I'm gonna kick both yours and Jarman's asses and leave you in bloody heaps like the bitches you are!!!" he shouted.

That killed any sympathy Alison might have felt for him. But what Shaw did next, quite frankly scared the crap out of her.

Shaw's eyes seemed to transform a bit, growing even colder if that were possible. With a low, guttural growl, Shaw took the arm she had in a lock and twisted.

Even before the sick sound that registered in her mind was suffocated by Percy's horrible scream, Alison already knew what Shaw had in mind. She'd literally separated Percy's shoulder.

*****

Not really caring about Percy's injury, as she was simply dealing with this threat to her and others, Shaw backed off, waiting to see if her target was stupid enough to stand up again.

As he rolled around on the floor, grabbing at his now useless arm with his good one, Shaw clenched her fists as her narrow vision focused completely on her prey. She was brought back to reality when a too-familiar voice screeched, "HUNTER!!!"

Only startled slightly by the shout from Principal Snyder, she turned to face him, not lowering her guard. The man she still called the Goblin, to the frustration of her family, was fuming and almost foaming at the mouth like a rabid wolf. "Hunter, what do you think you're doing?!? I knew this day would come because you associated with Summers!!! You've turned into a menace!!!"

<How dare he!> she snarled to herself, letting a small growl emanate from her throat. She fixed her cold, hard eyes on Snyder, letting him see what she had in store for anyone who tried to hurt her friends. For the first time, she let this pathetic man running her school, know what lay behind her polite, respectful mask.

She barely prevented herself from smirking at the twinge of fear in his eyes as he literally stepped back a few steps. She told him, and anyone else with the sense to listen, "I am only a menace to those who try to harm my family and friends, Principal Snyder. As someone who lost her entire family one time, I put more loyalty behind those I care about than the average person. Percy struck Alison, so I stepped in to defend her. You should know me well enough by now to know that I do not start conflicts, I finish them." She gave a sour glance at Percy, who was just now standing up. "I finish them very well, thank you."

"Hunter, I don't care what he did," the little fool snarled, "he's a star athlete!"

"Who is less than a week from graduating," Shaw finished, an evil thought coming to mind. "His athletic career at your school is over. You can do whatever you want with him now." She just knew Percy was going pale at that idea.

Snyder just growled and shouted, "Hunter, get in my office now!" He turned to Percy and Alison and snapped at them to do the same.

"But she broke my shoulder!" Percy whined, grabbing his useless arm.

"No, I only separated it," Shaw grinned without any warmth. Before anyone could react, the ranger moved up, grabbed his arm (prompting more yells), and shoved the arm back into place.

Percy screamed again and fell to his knees, still clutching his appendage.

Shaw made a show of dusting her hands off for the stunned crowd. "There. He will be good as new in two or three weeks." She turned to Percy. "You will be fine, you raping wimp."

"Get to my office, NOW!!!" Snyder bellowed.

Shaw just gave him a glare that made him back up again. Turning away from him, she started walking. She passed Alison, who was starting to walk with her, and chanced a glance at her.

*****

Alison knew Shaw was looking at her. She could see it out the corner of her eyes. But she didn't look back, afraid of how Shaw would take what she knew was flashing through her eyes; wonder that Shaw would be so extreme in defending her, someone she liked but didn't actually hang out with, and fear over the proof that Shaw could be cold blooded enough to pull a man's shoulder out of its socket for threatening her after she had the man pinned to the ground.

Still, she wondered how many of her other classmates would have even lifted a finger to help her if Percy had tried to follow up after hitting her like that.

As they walked into the office, Snyder slammed the door behind them. Snyder glared at Hunter. "Sit down, Hunter!"

She wondered as to Shaw's sanity when Buffy's friend said, "No."

"I gave you an order Hunter!" the miserable little troll demanded.

"I refuse to turn my back on this child raping piece of shit, thank you."

<Child? HEY! Woman here, Hunter!> Alison thought before getting the point that at the time, she had been a child. < Still, blow to the short person's ego here. What are you gonna do, Troll? Percy started it.>

Snyder glared between all three of them before focusing on Percy. "Williams! Go see the nurse. Get that shoulder looked at."

Percy's smirk and glare at her made Alison feel sick. "Yes sir."

"Don't play games with me, Williams! I'll deal with you later!"

Percy deflated and Alison flashed him a triumphant grin. He started trembling; after all, it wouldn't look good to his parents if he got kicked out with only three school days left. He swallowed any smart comments he might have made and walked out, grumbling to himself.

Her brief moment of victorious rapture was promptly shot down. "Jarman! Sit down! I'll deal with you now."

She kept her face blank and turned to face Snyder, showing off the impressive bruise that was forming. <Stay respectful. You only have to put up with this jerk for three more days.> "Principal Snyder, do you honestly think I got this by myself? Percy hit me and sent me flying across the hallway. All I did was tell him that women don't like hearing him brag about getting girls into bed. It's not my fault he likes to hit girls like some brute." She decided to add a little honey to the pot of his ego. "I know you'd never hit a girl like that, would you?"

Snyder blinked a few times as Alison just kept up her poker face. She chanced a look at her fellow detainee, hoping that she wouldn't blow this. Shaw's face was still tight with anger, but it seemed to be draining. <Good thing here. Don't piss off the, whatever she is.>

The Troll finally leaned back in his seat, watching her carefully. He fixed her with his "power" stare and asked, "Why did he hit you?"

"It doesn't matter. It happened three years ago." She shrugged, showing that she had indeed gotten over it. "Not like I care about it anymore. I don't know what set him off."

He stared at her, defying her to do something stupid. <Fat chance, buster.> Finally he growled, "Fine. You're free to go, Jarman. But you've got three days left under my wing. Watch it. Now get to class!"

"Yes, sir," she said with ersatz respect. "Thank you, sir."

"Don't thank me." He turned his eyes on Hunter. "I have other fish to fry."

Alison hesitated just a bit, since her leaving would leave Shaw alone with Snyder. <I don't care what she is, she did this for me, but there's nothing I can do. At least not now.>

Giving Shaw a look that she hoped showed she at least appreciated the defense, if not how it was SO extreme, Alison walked out and headed for class.

*****

Shaw noted the small amount of fear in Alison's eyes. She took a moment to regret that she might have lost the chance to truly make another friend. Snyder snapped her name, making her focus on the situation at hand.

"Hunter, I don't care what you think your reasons to beat up one of your fellow students are," he began, going through the motions of puffing himself up. Shaw barely hid her impatience for this and her worry that Percy might try something else against Alison. He took out a sheet of paper and began writing on it. When he spoke again, his voice was just far too joyous for her taste. "I'm suspending you for the rest of the school year. And I'm making sure this goes on your permanent record. I wonder how your Guardian will respond to that."

Shaw winced; that was something she was not looking forward to. He stared at her, as if trying to see any trace of remorse or fear in her eyes. <I did what I thought was right. Do you have a problem with that?>

"I'm also thinking of calling the police on you. I think they'd like to know why you assaulted a senior like that."

He was baiting her. She just shrugged and said, "Do as you wish, sir. But I wonder whom a jury would believe about this. The arrogant male athlete who boasts about getting underage women into bed, or the foster daughter of a Catholic priest whose natural father was a military hero, who has a record that has been, until now, completely spotless. Even you have remarked on the aspects of my record."

The vertically challenged Principal gnashed his teeth before jerkily signing her suspension form. He all but threw it at her. "Get out of my office! I don't want to see you again until September! And I'd think about this if I were you, Missy; missing any of your finals just might make you flunk and be under my thumb for another year. Think about that while your friends are finishing their terms, Hunter."

<I have already taken my finals, you little piece of shit. But there is no need to let you know that.> The priestess stood up and grabbed her book bag. "Shall I turn in my text books before I leave? I do not want to be accused of being a thief as well."

"Don't get smart with me! Turn in your books and go home!"

"Of course, sir." She turned and walked out of his office, thanking Mielikki for the fresh air.

*****

Part 3: Consequences
(You Do The Crime, You Do The Time)

Sunnydale High Library
Sunnydale, California
11 June 1999

Giles was surprised when Shaw walked into the library, looking very disturbed. He glanced at his watch and noticed that she was late for her morning ritual of sorting through the books. Jenny also noticed the look in her eyes and the teachers both got up and walked over.

Shaw set her backpack on a table and started pulling books out. She set her textbooks in a pile and said, "I am done for the year. Here are your books, Giles."

"What?" the surprised librarian asked. He took off his glasses and pointed at the stack. "What do you mean, you're done for the year?"

"I have been suspended." Shaw reached into her pocket and handed over a folded sheet of paper.

Giles took it from her and opened it up. He read it, feeling Jenny doing the same over her shoulder. Giles couldn't believe what he was reading. He looked at her sympathetically. "Shaw, tell us what really happened."

Shaw glanced at them, probably wondering why they needed her to do that; there was only so much they could do to Snyder. She told them what had happened, at length and in detail. When she finished, Giles and Jenny silently looked at each other, not believing what they'd just heard.

Finally, Jenny turned to her and said, "Shaw, please sit down."

She did so, despite the fact she was supposed to drop her books off and leave. Giles watched his fiancee sit down opposite his assistant. He, on the other hand, remained standing and moved behind Jenny, indicating that he would support whatever she was about to say. His lover took a few seconds to gather her thoughts. Shaw looked on in confusion.

"Shaw," his beloved asked, bewilderment in her tone as well as concern, "why did you do this?"

Shaw blinked, as if not understanding the question. She looked between him and Jenny before saying, "What part of Percy hitting Alison, all but admitting to raping her three years ago, and threatening both of us is not sufficient reason?"

*****

Jenny took several seconds to put her thoughts about that in order. She laid her hands on top of Shaw's before speaking. "It's not just your hitting him that we find disturbing, Shaw. It's also the lengths you went to."

"He,"

"Stop," the priestess of Artemis ordered her. Despite being twice her age, Shaw still considered Jenny an "elder." She closed her mouth. "Now. As far as Percy hitting Alison, defending her is well within your rights. But actually coming up to him and assaulting him? Shaw, I know you and your skills. You could have stopped him without separating his shoulder."

Her student folded her arms and glared at her, though the determination behind the look was limited. "I told him to stay down, but he didn't. He attacked me a second time. I flipped him over and told him to stay down again. Instead, he was most graphic about what he was going to do to both Alison and me. I removed that threat. What is the problem?"

"The problem," Rupert answered for her, sounding as worried about this, as she was, "is that you didn't try to negate his threat in the first place. You battered him, Shaw. You hit him four times before telling him to back off. And you said it yourself; you didn't give him any warning. That's not like you at all."

"I do not give warnings to people who so brutally attack someone like that. He certainly gave her no warning."

Jenny was worried about this and knew just why she was. "Or maybe this isn't only about what Percy did to someone. Maybe you're not as behind what happened two months ago as you like to think."

"Excuse me?"

Again, Rupert echoed her thoughts. "What Jenny is suggesting is that perhaps this supposed rape of Alison, which you say occurred three years ago, isn't the only issue on your mind. Perhaps you still feel some residual anger over what happened in April."

Shaw turned her hazel eyes onto Rupert, but Jenny could see the truth behind the imminent denial. "The only anger I hold over that incident is what happened to Faith when that bastard tried to hurt her. I hold no 'residual' anger toward Josh. He and Mike have been punished, so the issue is closed. There is nothing further to be done about it."

"But seeing Alison hurt, you felt there was something you could do about that," Jenny guessed.

*****

Shaw took several deep breaths. "Yes, there was. I protected a friend, however light that friendship is. As I once said, I do not give things in varying levels, or at least I try not to. I try to give friendship equally." She stood up and leaned over the table. "The same goes for loyalty."

"That's not what we're questioning," Giles told her, putting his glasses back on and taking on the look of a Watcher, rather than a teacher and confidant. "What we're questioning is you acting as the judge and jury for a possible crime three years old."

"I defended Alison against Percy's attack." She knew they wouldn't believe her, but this was how she felt. "And for once, he knows how it feels to be at someone's mercy. Do not forget what he has tried on me, Faith, Cordelia, and Xander over the last year and a half."

"That is not the point, Shaw!" Giles snapped. It wasn't often that he showed this side of himself, especially to the team. "The point is that this is another human being that you assaulted and deliberately injured! I understand your feelings, but this time you went too far. You used an excessive amount of force on someone who, while hardly innocent, is still a normal human being."

Shaw believed she saw their point now. <That is too bad, because they are in for a rude awakening.> She said, "He is not in the class of vampires or demons, thus I should have restrained myself."

"To put it lightly," Jenny said, although her tone was gentler than Giles.

"I see. Very well." Shaw picked up her lightened backpack and prepared to go home. She eyed Jenny directly. "But allow me to say one thing in my defense."

"Of course. We wouldn't think otherwise," Jenny assured her.

"Thank you." She glanced between them before stating the simple, final truth. "There is one problem with your opinions about normal humans. You seem to forget one thing; I have killed 'normal' humans before. And in those cases, it was for crimes that were less serious than raping one of my friends. Perhaps you have been become too limited by fighting vampires and demons, that you forget that when a human, elf, or something in between does something of this nature, that makes it worse. Because they HAVE a soul."

She turned and left, heading out before they could strike at her self-righteousness any further.

*****

Hunter/Johansen Residence
Sunnydale, California
11 June 1999

Shaw quietly entered the house, not wanting to disturb Ulric as he was probably getting ready to head to the Church. She still wondered about Jenny and Giles' reactions, particularly after the conflicting reactions of Faith, who said she should have done worse to Percy, and even more surprisingly, Mrs. Livingston, who'd said that she thought Shaw should have done something back in December. Even though she felt that separating his shoulder was a bit much, the fact that she'd taken Percy down to defend Alison in the first place showed her heart was in the right place.

As she removed her Nikes, the Slayerette unslung her book bag and gripped it in her right hand. As she cleared the foyer and hit the living room, she saw Ulric hanging up the phone, a familiar disturbed look on his face.

<Oh no. Giles or Jenny already called him.>

He saw her and his lips came together. Not in anger or frustration, but in that way that showed he was deep in thought. He looked into her eyes and said, "That was Principal Snyder. Is it true?"

"Which part?" she asked, assuming that the Goblin had only told the side he wanted to tell.

Ulric looked uncertain, as if she were trying to be noncommittal. But he should know better than that. He did, as his nod showed he got the reason for her question. "Sit down and tell me what happened, child."

She moved to the couch and sat down, setting her pack on the floor. She went into the story, knowing not to keep any details from her foster father. She added the reactions of Giles, Jenny, Faith, and Mrs. Livingston as well to give him their opinions.

She waited as Ulric considered the information slowly and surely, as was his way. He leaned back against the couch and folded his hands. "I will say this, Shaw. I'm not pleased about Percy's actions, or the favoritism shown by your Principal. Alas, there is nothing we can do about either at this point." He turned his blue-gray eyes back onto her. "But I agree with Giles and Jenny on several of their arguments."

"Why?" Shaw asked, disappointed that he disapproved.

Ulric stood up slowly, showing a grace that belied his fifty-two years. "Shaw, I understand your views on friendship and loyalty. I admire them, for they give you so much strength and character. But I think even you will agree, there are limits to what is acceptable in this situation." He gave her that look of compassion that still held some steel. "While I, personally, do not think for a second that this young man would have stayed down the first time you warned him, I do think you could have stopped him from harming you without resorting to injuring him."

"You do not think that someone threatening to leave me in a 'bloody heap' constitutes a threat to my health?" she asked with surprise.

Ulric sat back down and laid his gentle hand on hers. "Not when you already had him at a disadvantage, child. That is the point at which you went beyond protection and into premeditation."

The calm way he delivered that statement, plus her emotional feelings for Ulric, made her think about it. Unlike Jenny and Giles, he hadn't put it into terms of humans versus demons. He'd put it into simpler terms, ones she operated by.

"I…" She stopped when she couldn't find a comeback. She'd been so sure she'd done the right thing she hadn't bothered to consider the nuances or shades of in between. She glanced back at Ulric. "Do you think I was wrong to defend her?"

He sighed, as if the answer wasn't easy. "Again, defending her was the right thing to do. It was how you did it that makes me worry about you. You could have handled it better, at least I believe so."

Shaw lowered her head, not liking that he disapproved. "I, I still believe I was right, Ulric. He deserved what he received."

"Perhaps he deserved it, but it is not for you to deliver it." He took her into a fatherly hug. "Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord. Although you do not worship Him, the fact that you apparently have not asked your own Goddess whether or not She approves of your actions speaks volumes about what your subconscious is telling you, now that you know I agree with your teachers." He gave her a kiss on the forehead. "Ask Mielikki what She thinks about this, and you might see more of our viewpoints on the matter. But again, I do not question your choice to defend this young woman. I simply want you to consider the consequences of your actions, to her, Percy, and to yourself."

"I have already been suspended for the rest of the term," she said glumly, smacking the paper. "What else is there?"

Ulric stood up and said, "For one thing, you are grounded for a week."

Shaw blinked and stared at him. "What?"

"You acted outside of acceptable behavior, and as my ward, you should be punished for it. Do not make light of this, Shaw," he said firmly. For the first time, she got the impression of his "putting his foot down" on something. "I know you are old enough by far to consider such things. But in this case, you reacted more impulsively than you ever have since coming here, even when Ares hurt you. You acted out of anger and you need to reflect on that. You have told me yourself how it sometimes frightens you, perhaps having some extra time to ponder that will ensure you don't act so recklessly again, especially amongst your peers."

"We have a battle coming in a few days, Ulric," Shaw reminded him.

Ulric nodded but told her, "As far as your duties go, I will talk to Steven and let him know about this. I would not dream of keeping you from your role in the team, that is too important. But outside of that, your options and activities are going to be severely limited."

"Just how grounded am I going to be?" Shaw asked, for once understanding how the others felt when they were in such a predicament. <Goddess, I have not been 'grounded' in almost forty years!>

Ulric's face softened just a bit. "You will not be spending any time with the others outside of training or patrolling, I will tell you that much. As for speaking to them, say here or on the phone, I'll consider it. But you won't be going out by yourself either, to the Mall or the Bronze. And I will make sure Steven assigns you to patrols well away from those areas. We'll talk more when I get home."

Shaw just nodded in defeat; she loved him too much and had too much personal integrity to try and get around something. And he was her father, in the way she'd never known. As he walked out to go to the Church, she just stared at the door, wondering what was worse; seeing him disappointed in her, or what the others were going to say about what they found out that she, Shaw Hunter of all people, was grounded like a normal teenager.

// Sucks to be you, Shawukay, // Brenna's voice snickered from somewhere in the house.

"SHUT UP!"

*****

Part 4: Rapping
(Ali Learns What's The What From The Twin Towers of Tactlessness
And Learns Just How Much Of A Tough Girl She Can Be When She Puts Her Mind To It)

Sunnydale High School
Sunnydale, California
11 June 1999

Alison was just getting comfortable at her usual table when someone plopped down next to her.

"Hey Ali, how's tricks?"

She stared at the cheery-eyed, brown-haired beauty in front of her. "Hi, Faith. What brings you to this side of the lunchroom."

"Just thought we could talk," the Boston girl offered. "You know, about what happened."

"Nothing to talk about," she countered. "It happened, it's over." She did register one thing out of place; Faith was alone. "Where is Shaw, anyway?"

"You mean you didn't hear?" Ali shook her head. Faith's face became decidedly less friendly. "The Troll shipped her home for the year."

"What? He suspended her?" she said in disbelief. "What about Percy?!?"

"Way I hear it, Snyder's gonna make him miserable until Cap and Gown Day. But that's not what I wanted to talk to you about."

Alison gave her a look. "Just what do you want to talk about, then?"

"Why're you afraid of Shaw, for one thing? She stood up for you, Jarman," Faith said, her eyes showing her own feelings for Hunter. "Least you coulda done was stand up for her with Snyder."

"Sorry, but I was worried about him screwing with me." Alison took a bite of her pizza. "He was going to try and suspend me anyway if not for this." She touched the bruise on her face for emphasis. <Ouch!> "Besides, I had witnesses."

"Like that matters to him?" the Northeasterner echoed humorlessly. "Look Ali, I just want to tell you, you might think about saying 'thanks' to Shaw. She put herself on the line for you. And believe me, she doesn't stick her neck out for just anyone like that."

Alison dropped her pizza slice and shivered. "Sorry, but this brings up some bad memories. And the way she,"

"She was defending you, Ali."

She shook her head. "You don't get it, Pryce. The look in her eyes," She stared at Faith. "I swear, Faith, her eyes? It was like they were saying, 'Say the wrong word, you're going down.' And I mean going down as in permanent."

"That's how Shaw is when someone she knows and likes is about to get hurt or killed," Faith said, nodding to show she at least understood where Alison was coming from. But then the girl said, "Or raped."

<Don't GO there!> Alison started shaking a bit. "And how would she know what it's like?"

"Hell, Ali, I know what it's like!" Faith protested. Alison shot her head up to glare at Faith, but it didn't work. Instead, the East Coaster let her own eyes show something other than humor or a hard ass. "My foster daddy tried to do me, Jarman. That's part of the reason I'm here in Suburbia! Shit, you think a city girl like me'd choose this town to hide out in? Gawd, Ali! The one foster mom that gave a shit about me died in Atlanta. Everyone knows that. Why do you think I didn't head back to Beantown! And that's not all, AJ."

"Oh, what?" Alison said, slightly skeptical. She folded her arms and waited for Faith to spring anything else on her.

"You know Shaw lost her first crush two months ago, right?" Alison didn't deny it; she had heard something about that. Faith nodded in return. "Right. Well, about a week after he died, I dragged Shaw out for a Bad Girls night out, to try and shake her out of her funk and keep us from not being tight anymore. We went to a rave I go to sometimes." She shivered and Alison realized that Faith, the one person in school who might be "badder" than Buffy or Cordelia, had bad memories. The thing was, the way she shivered brought back Ali's own memories. "I was getting hot and heavy with a guy, but I couldn't go any further. He didn't take it well. He decided I was 'gonna deliver.' His pal, well, that dipshit slipped Shaw a roofie. I hadn't tasted the stuff, Shaw woulda been in your boat, Missy. Lucky for her, I found her. Lucky for me, she kept me from laying the smackdown on them even worse than what Shaw did to Percy."

Alison sat there, staring at Faith. <Shaw was almost raped? And Faith too? But…> It didn't jibe with what she'd seen earlier, or what she knew. She didn't want to believe what she'd just been told, but felt in her gut that Faith had no reason to lie to her. However, her experiences with elements of a nonhuman nature made her skeptical at best. "Let me get this straight, Faith. You're telling me that something bad happened, in this town, to someone who's not human?"

By the way Faith suddenly focused on her to the exclusion of all else, Alison knew. <I done screwed up.>

Faith's face twisted into a bit of anger. She stood up and said, "If that's the way you feel, then nothing I say's gonna get through your short ass skull. But think about THIS, Jarman; that 'not human' woman risked herself against that prick to pull your ass out of the fire. She's done it for every one of us, more than once. If not for her, I'd be in a bad way right now and the dicks that tried to rape us wouldn't be doing ten to twenty. They'd be doing other girls. Other girls who'd go through what you went through." She paused, shaking off her ire. After settling down, she sighed. "She's a good kid, Jarman. She and me, we're sisters, every which way but Mom and Dad. She knows what you went through, I know a little. I got lucky, I got away from Foster Ass. I'm sorry you got, you know. But talk to Shaw. She's out for the year, she's grounded for a week, and she might not even get to see Amy, the cuz she loves more than anyone, graduate because she stuck up for you. At least talk to her about it. Say 'thanks.' Gawd knows, I do every day."

Faith turned and left, leaving Alison wondering what she should do. She watched Faith's leather jacket and pants-clad body walk out of the lunchroom and looked back at her lunch.

Somehow, she'd lost her appetite. She decided she'd think about talking to Hunter, but there was something she had to do first.

*****

She found Percy sitting against the wall, his arm in a sling. She headed straight for him, fleetingly relishing the look of fear in his eyes as she approached. She frowned to herself and dismissed it. < That's beneath you, Jarman. Don't lower yourself to this jerk's level. >

Percy started looking around, obviously wondering where Shaw was. <Good. He won't try anything then. I can do what I came to do and leave.> She walked up to his table and actually stood taller than him as he was sitting down. It wasn't much, but it'd do.

"Don't bother saying a word, Percy," Alison snapped, folding her arms and fixing her blue eyes on the man who'd hurt her long ago. "I'll make it real simple for you. You try anything stupid like thinking about suing Shaw or calling the cops on her, and I'll talk. You ever say another damned word about what you did to me in my room, and I'll talk. I don't give a flying shit about you or the other women you claim you'd done it with. You raped me. I remember. You remember. And trust me, Percy boy, even if it doesn't come to trial, asshole, everyone you ever deal with in your life will have that nagging little doubt in their minds; did he do it? Did he rape a fifteen-year-old girl? And something else, buster. Filing reports for sexual harassment is so 'in' right now, you make one stupid ass comment, and you won't have a chance at any job other than asking someone if they want fries with that! So keep your ass quiet and so long from my life, asshole."

Alison turned around and walked away, leaving Percy and his stupefied posse sitting there, unable to believe that this little girl had just told off Sunnydale High's big star jock.

She didn't care; she just walked out, feeling proud and holding her head high. <As high as someone 5'2" can, but hey, it's the thought that counts.> She might only be 5'2", but she felt ten feet tall.

*****

Romero's Pizza
Sunnydale, California
11 June 1999

"Ali!"

<Oh noooooo.> She turned around and looked at her boss. "Cesar, don't do this to me! Not tonight!" <Especially not tonight!>

"Ali, I'm sorry," her boss said, actually sounding sorry, "but Ted's not back yet and I have this delivery. I'll pay you the overtime, you know that. And you can just head home afterwards. I know you're good for the money."

Fuming and mumbling something under her breath about Ted's slow driving (if cute) butt, Alison walked up and took the address and pizza and headed out the door. "You're gonna owe me for this, Teddy Boy."

The frustrated pizza girl climbed into her black station wagon and took off, heading to make her final delivery.

*****

Ali pulled up and shut the car off, glancing at the lit porch to match the addresses. Satisfied with that, she still double-checked the area to see if any dead guys were walking around. She knew better.

<Don't see anyone, so let's make this nice and quick.> Ali got out and walked around to the passenger's side, keeping an eye on her surroundings. <This little aikido pizza girl won't be so easy to take out anymore.> She took the pizza and walked up to the porch. She felt something funny in the air, something that made her feel good. She shrugged it off and rang the doorbell.

Twenty seconds later, a young woman dressed in a pink oversized sweatshirt (like the ones dancers would wear), blue jeans, and ballet slippers (?), answered the door.

Alison just stared for several seconds before sighing. "Is this intentional, or does irony just love screwing me in the butt?"

Shaw glanced at the ground before softly saying, "I just wanted to talk. Come in."

Knowing that it wasn't exactly a request, Alison brought the pizza up between her and her classmate. Shaw looked at her now. "Alison, I just want to talk. Please?"

Hearing Shaw say the "magic word" surprised her. < She really wants to talk. Damn.> Remembering that this was the hundred pound girl who'd separated the shoulder of someone who was double her weight, she said, "How about we just stand here. What do you have to say?"

Shaw nodded and took the pizza from her. "Just a moment." She turned and headed into the house, leaving the door open a blatant invitation for Alison to change her mind if she were so inclined. A few seconds later she shouted, "Stay away!" Alison jumped.

Shaw came back to the door carrying a twenty, muttering, "Blasted kittens."

<Oh no…> Ali couldn't help but laugh about that. "Too smart for their own good?"

"You have no idea," Hunter muttered, although a tiny smile came to her face. Alison took the money as Shaw handed it to her. The woman then said, "Can we talk about what happened at school?"

Still not sure it was the best idea she'd ever had, the senior shrugged. "What do you want to talk about? Shaw, what happened between Percy and me happened three years ago. It's ancient history."

"I know, but…" She hesitated again. "I just wanted to say I was sorry if I frightened you."

"You didn't," Alison lied, figuring that's what Shaw wanted to hear. "You just surprised me when you went Rambo on Percy."

Shaw stared at her with those hazel eyes of hers. "Alison, at the risk of angering you, please do not insult my intelligence. My IQ may only be 112, well below your score, but I know when someone is afraid of me."

"I assume Faith told you why I was Wigged?"

The woman nodded. "Are you afraid of me because I am only half human, or because I am capable of going to certain lengths to protect my friends?"

Alison took a few seconds to get over the fact that Shaw had admitted to her suspicions. <She's only half… Wait a minute. She is part human?> She tried to be nonchalant about it. "Do I get c, both of the above?"

"If you like," Shaw granted her. "I, does it matter that, as you know from the talks we have had, that I was raised by my human grandparents? Although I never refer to them as 'human,' but rather my grandparents?"

Alison couldn't argue that. She started to talk about what had happened earlier, bringing up that the shock of seeing Shaw channel Jean Claude Van Damme on Percy had freaked her out a bit. Shaw brought up her assumptions about Percy and her, based on what Ali had said herself on Thursday.

Shaw admitted that she had gone a bit too far, but had reacted based on her feelings about what Percy had said he would do as well as what he'd done to Alison. She brought up what had happened to herself and Faith at the rave, not knowing that she already knew. Alison thought they were growing closer to an understanding, or at least lowering the tension between them. Alison was surprised when they spent another half hour talking about other things, like Shaw's crush that had died, Alison's one time membership in the Cordettes, even how she liked Ted. It was good, like they'd been best friends all along. Finally, she decided to broach the subject of what Faith had said in the lunchroom.

"You know, Faith told me about what happened with those college boys. I just didn't want to believe it," she admitted. She shook herself in remembrance of her own episode with rape. "It's just that I still find it hard to believe it happens to other people. In this town at least. I mean, vamps, demons, and monsters killing people, that I get. But normal, everyday guys,"

"People like Percy and Josh do not qualify as normal," Shaw noted with a touch of anger.

Alison found herself returning that sentiment. "No argument there." She glanced at Dancer Girl, who was leaning against the closed door. "Shaw, I don't mean any offense, but can you really know what it's like? I mean, Faith said she stopped the guy."

Shaw gave her a look of hurt. "Yes, Alison. I know."

Still doubtful, the delivery girl quietly asked, "Really. Were you actually raped in your own bedroom?"

"No," came the soft answer.

"Thank you."

She saw Shaw take her shirt and move it down off of her right shoulder. She turned and stepped further into porch light. Alison glanced at it and froze. She couldn't help but stare, feeling like she was going to retch. She sent silent thanks to God when Shaw quickly put the shirt back in place.

"I was tortured for twenty-one hours by a madman at the same time my Grandparents were killed."

"Oh my God… I-I never knew…"

"Hardly anyone does." Shaw sighed and walked up to her. "I did not suffer your type of rape, Alison, but never think I do not know what it is like to be raped. If you trust me on anything, as a student, as a woman, or as someone who calls you her friend, trust me on that."

Alison overcame her shock enough to realize what Shaw was telling her. She whispered, "When?"

"Years ago. It is in the past, but it reminds me of, how hate and anger can hurt others. A lesson I nearly forgot today."

"Did that have something to do with your folks?" When Shaw frowned in puzzlement, Alison elaborated. "You know, the whole spy slash black ops thing? Was it because they, you know?"

"No," she said regretfully. Alison couldn't believe the old pain in that single word. "It was a senseless tragedy, performed by someone not in control of himself. I forgave him, I simply could not forgive myself." She paused. "Survivor guilt. I think you can understand."

To her surprise, she did. "Yeah. Wish I didn't, but I do." <More than enough to give you the benefit of the doubt. > But she still had questions, and she decided to ask them. "Shaw, I know I'm on thin ice asking this, but what are you? Why are you even in this town?"

Shaw winced at the first question. Still, she asked, "Does it really matter what I am? Alison, you have known me for close to a year now. You know me. I do not have some type of faked personality that I show the world at large, only to change when out of the public view. Even…" She sighed. "Even my temper is genuine."

"And why you're here?" she prodded.

"To try and find the same things I fight to give everyone else, like you."

That reduced her fear and replaced it with curiosity. "What's that?"

"A home," she started, looking up and around her yard, "friends, family…" She hesitated again. "Someone to love."

"YOU have a boyfriend?!?" she shrieked. <Hey, I'm still a woman here.>

Shaw started laughing under her breath. "You tell anyone that we are official, you die." She smiled at her. "I do not mean that literally."

Alison laughed; that was the Hunter she knew all right. <Maybe she's just worried I won't be able to keep her secret.> "Look, Shaw, I know what's out there, even if I go out of my way to stay away from what's out there. I can keep secrets."

"I do not doubt that any more, Alison, I just worry about my friends becoming targets because of my role."

Alison grimaced. <Okay, good reason. But still, > "If you think you can't tell me, I understand. It hurts a little, but I figure you have your reasons."

Shaw nodded and said, "I do. But, if you want to know? How did you know that I wasn't totally human?"

"The eyes," she confessed. "I was driving home from work and saw you saving some kid from a couple vamps. I saw your eyes and recognized your voice. I put two and two together." She eyed Shaw. "What's up with that, anyway?"

"My eyes?" She nodded. The woman sighed and shook her head. "In the dark, my vision slips into infrared. It's a trait of my mother's. She was my parent who was not human, but it made her a natural for the life of MI6."

"Oh. Good point."

"As for what I am, with the shining eyes and pointed ears," She stopped, letting Alison get a good look at her brushing her hair back. She smiled, the smile that let Ali know a quip was coming. "To put it in terms you can understand,"

"Meaning what? Human?" she said, bristling.

"Meaning American."

"Smartass." She giggled despite herself. <If she says she's a Vulcan, I'm kicking her ass, kung fu or no kung fu. It's a matter of principle.> "Okay, in American terms?"

"It's an elven thing." Shaw turned and opened her door. "Good night, Alison."

"B-b-but…" She couldn't say anything, but resolved to someday get even with the laughing she heard from inside. <Oh my God, Dad's been babbling about elves and fairies for years, naaaah, he couldn't be talking about her.> She started walking back to her car when she heard a shout from inside.

"I TOLD YOU NOT TO EAT MY PIZZA!!!!"

Alison started laughing at the top of her lungs and didn't stop all the way to the wagon. She climbed into the car and sent one more smiling look back at the house. <So I do still have a friend, maybe two if Faith joins that circle. Glad to know they won't be going anywhere soon.>

With higher spirits than she'd had in a long time, Alison Jarman turned the car on and drove home, looking forward to more than Graduation.

Epilogue: Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Deliver A Pizza In This Town (Ali Learns Just What She's In For, If The Soul Sisters Of The Scooby Gang Are Going To Be Her Buds)

*****

Unknown Address
Sunnydale, California
12 June 1999

"You have got to be kidding me."

Alison looked at the old building, which had obviously seen better days. <Make that better centuries,> she revised her thought. "Oh God, please don't tell me that vamps are ordering pizzas now." She sighed. "And I know you, Jarman. You're just gonna go in and make sure that there's no one here since you don't want to get in trouble back at the Pizza Place." <You know, someday my work ethic is going to get me in big trouble>

Alison walked in and was puzzled at the scene before her. It certainly looked like someone had ordered out. There on the table in the middle of the empty floor were paper plates, a pair of Pepsi two-liters, candles, a lighter, and a cassette player. <What is this? Candlelight dinner Lite?> She groaned at her own pun. "God I gotta get out more." She raised her voice a bit. "Hello? Romero's! Anybody here?"

She waited a full minute before deciding that this Unsolved Mystery rip-off wasn't worth it. <Time to go home.> She picked the pizza back up, turned around, and,

"AHHHHHHHHHHHH!" Alison and Ted screamed in perfect unison.

They both recovered and stared at each other before snapping at each other.

"DON'T DO THAT!!!" Alison and Ted screamed in perfect unison.

After that one, they started laughing nervously. Alison, the calmer of the two by far, demanded, "Ted, what are you doing here?"

"Delivering," he said. "You?"

"Same. But…" She froze. "Oh shit. Ted, we gotta get out of here. Come on!"

As soon as she started to move, the only door into the building was slammed shut on them, sealing them in darkness. Alison stormed forward to shove the door open until she heard it being padlocked. <Oh my God… > "Ted, we have to find a way out."

Despite the nervousness in his voice, her coworker told her, "Don't worry, Ali. I have a gun."

<WHAT?!?> Alison turned on him, although she couldn't see a blasted thing. "You carry a gun?"

"Yeah, ever since one of the old delivery boys died."

<Geez, I wonder how that happened.> She shivered in fright. "Somehow, the idea of you carrying a gun doesn't reassure me."

"Oh, and you can do better?" Ted's sarcastic voice cracked.

Despite the situation, she felt better knowing he was here with her. "I take martial arts." When he didn't answer, she smiled. "Didn't know that, huh?"

"Uh, no…"

"Good to know I can surprise you," she muttered as she stumbled her way over to the table. "There's a lighter here and some candles. I'm gonna light them."

"Okay."

"Don't pull that gun out, Ted. I don't want a hole in my butt." She couldn't help but joke; it was gallows humor. She fingered the lighter and struck it. She lit the candles and got some dim lighting, but it was better than nothing. And these candles were huge; they'd last a while. "Well, now what?"

"Why do you think they kidnapped us of all people?" he asked. She could see he was searching for a way out.

<Good luck, Teddy.> She shrugged although he couldn't see it. "I don't know. I mean, with my Dad's medical bills, I'm pretty much broke. I'm barely making ends meet. I don't suppose you've got a Swiss bank account I don't know about."

"I wish."

Alison folded her arms and started rubbing herself, despite the warmth of the sunny June afternoon. She again noticed the tape player and wondered what the Hell it was doing here.

"Oh, what the Hell…" She pressed the play button and wondered if she was about to hear some kind of ransom demands.

She was sorely disappointed and angry when two familiar voices emanated from the speaker.

"You know, I really didn't think you'd go through with it, Jarman!" Faith's New England accent said with pride and humor mixed together. "I thought you'd be too scared to actually ask you-know-who what she was, let alone talk to her for an hour! Kudos to you, Short Stuff!"

<Don't call me, 'Short Stuff!'> Alison snarled.

Shaw's voice ended the too brief pause. "On a more serious note, I wanted to thank you for understanding. You know what about. But to the reason you are stranded here for the foreseeable afternoon. Your mentioning of a certain crush on a certain coworker who knows me, Faith, and Steve so well, made me consider something. If I have to suffer in so-called romantic bliss, why should I be alone?"

"Oh noooooooooooooo!!!" she moaned, knowing what was happening here, and knowing that Ted now KNEW about her crush on him. He wasn't stupid!

Faith dug the knives <Yes, plural!!!> even deeper. "Now you two kids have got plenty o' pizza just the way you like it, plenty of Pepsi, and something to help set the mood! Have fun and don't do anything I wouldn't do…"

Alison resolved to someday kill her friends most horribly as soon as "I Can Show You The World" started playing. <I'm gonna kill them. I'm gonna kill them. I'm…>

"You have a crush on me?" Ted asked, sounding surprised but happy.

Alison turned around and stared him in the eyes. "Uh, yeah…"

"For how long?"

Alison fudged the answer, chewing her bottom lip. "Pretty much since I started…"

He shook his head. "Why didn't you say anything?!?"

"Because… well, let's just say I have problems keeping friends. Alive, that is. You know what I mean."

"Sort of, yeah," Ted said sadly. He'd lost people too. "So now what?"

Alison cocked an eyebrow at him asking her what she wanted to do about it. "Well, I see four choices. Pizza, Pepsi, dance since there's nothing else to do, or just sit here and kill those two maniac friends of mine when they come to let us out."

Ted chuckled. "How about we start with the pizza and go from there?"

Alison beamed. "Sounds like a plan." She started to sit down but stopped.

Ted glanced at her. "What?"

"Lose the gun. I don't want you to shoot off anything important."

She laughed merrily at his strawberry blush.

<Okay, maybe not kill them. But I will mess up their next orders!>

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