Author: Steve711 - Steve Pantovich

E-mail Address: Steve711@concentric.net

Title: The Chronicles of Wanderer - Training Blues Series - First Date Blues

Copyrighted: March 2000

Category: Crossover

Rating: PG-13 Some Foul Language

Spoilers: A few

Keywords: Highlander/Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Summary: This series deals with the training that the Scooby gang gets from Steve and his friends. This particular story deals with Steve's and Buffy's first date.

Highlander: All rights and properties owned by Rysher Entertainment.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: All rights and properties owned by Joss Whedon, Warner Bros. and Mutant Enemy, etc.

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, Fragnar, Smaug and Robert McCallister and this story are mine. Anyone wishing to use them, please contact me at my e-mail address: Steve711@concentric.net

Comments and Criticisms are appreciated, please post to the above referenced E-mail.

Special Thanks to my Beta Readers: Rebekah Sandell and Harvey

Author's Notes: Nothing right now, except for that words expressed with the < > are thoughts.


First Date Blues

(Just When You Thought It Was Safe In The Theater)

27 February 1998 - 07:30 AM

Buffy's alarm rings and wakes her from a peaceful sleep. As she gets up her mind goes over what happened last night. < I can't believe that I actually met the real Hercules and his sister Artemis. > Buffy grins, remembering the party that the Scooby gang had with Kevin and Ari as Artemis liked to be called. < Kevin had every guy jealous at the Bronze when he started to dance with her. Xander got some nasty looks from the football team when he and Cordelia started to dance and neck. God, I can't believe what's been happening since we met Steve. > At the thought of the Immortal demon hunter, Buffy blushes. < God, what a stud muffin. And he's such a sweetheart. >

She quickly showers and gets dressed in a black mini skirt, white blouse and her knee high boots. As she leaves her bedroom, Buffy grabs her dark blue gym bag. < Can't forget this. Steve promised to teach me how to use a sword tonight. > She quickly makes her way to the kitchen where her mother was waiting for her. Buffy grabs a glass of juice and wolfs down her eggs and bacon.

Joyce looks at how her daughter was eating and grins. < Thank God. She's got her appetite back. She's finally getting over that Angel boy. > "Buffy, are you doing anything after school today?" Joyce asks.

Buffy looks up from her breakfast. < What now? > "No Mom. Nothing special." < Just getting some alone time with a hottie. That's all. > "Why?"

Joyce grins. < I think, I'll surprise her. > "Good. I'll pick you up after school."

"What's going on?" Buffy asks.

"I need to do some shopping and I was hoping that you could join me." Joyce replies with a smile.

Buffy shrugs her shoulders. < At least I'll get to see Steve later. > "All right, Mom. I'll be done with class by 2:45. When will you pick me up?"

"At three o'clock. I'll meet you in front of the school." Joyce replies.

"Where are we going?"

"Shopping at the Mall. I need a few things and you need some new clothes."

"All right!" Buffy replies in glee, but suddenly sobers up. "What's going on Mom? You never offer to buy me clothes."

Joyce smiles mischievously. "I just want to spend time with my favorite daughter."

"I'm your only daughter." Buffy replies with a grin.

"I know that. But you're still my favorite." Joyce replies with a laugh as Buffy leaves for school.

*****

Buffy looks over to Willow and passes her a note.

Willow takes the note and reads. �Mom wants me to go shopping with her after school. I'll meet you at Steve's by seven.' Willow crosses it out and adds. �What's she buying?'

Buffy reads the note and passes back. �I don't know. But she's buying me some new clothes.'

As Willow writes down her reply, Buffy stares up at the board and listens to the teacher describe the stock market crash of 1929. She looks down and grins at Willow's reply. �Can I join you?'

Buffy nods her head in agreement and Willow smiles back.

*****

Buffy stands outside the school waiting for her Mother with Willow. They both are discussing what happened to Cordelia, Jenny, Amy and herself in the last twenty four hours.

"I can't believe how I feel." Willow replies with a grin.

"I know." Buffy replies as she looks her friend up and down. The soft dress was gone. Willow was wearing a tight pair of black jeans with a dark red silk blouse that brought out her hair, eyes and skin. Instead of her usual sneakers, she was wearing a pair of light hiking boots. Her easy manner masked her new abilities, but it didn't hide the confidence that she now displayed. Buffy grins as several of the basketball players walk up to her and ask who she is. Willow shoots them down easily without hurting them.

As the disappointed basketball players walk off, Buffy's Mom pulls up in her dark green Cherokee Jeep and asks. "Are you ready?"

"Is it all right if Willow goes shopping with us?" Buffy asks as she opens the passenger side door and slides in.

"Sure." Joyce replies, glad to see Buffy's best friend. < God, Willow's certainly grown up since I last saw her. >

"Where is Xander?" Joyce asks. "He's usually with you two after school."

"He left with Cordelia." Buffy replies with a grin.

As both girls get in. Joyce turns to Buffy and asks. "So how was school today"

"It was good." Buffy replies, as she and Willow share an evil grin.

Joyce looks back and sees both girls' grin. "Did anything special happen?"

Buffy looks over to Willow, who's barely controlling her laughter. "Cordelia dumped her friends yesterday and she gave them a piece of her mind today." Buffy replies with an evil grin.

"Oh? What did she say to them?" Joyce asks as she pulls into a spot at the mall.

"Just called them sheep and said that she didn't want anything to do with them anymore." Willow replies with a soft laugh.

"And what did her �friends' do?" Joyce asks, remembering how cruel some girls could be.

"Nothing, they were all too shocked after yesterday." Buffy replies with a smile.

"What happened yesterday?"

"Cordelia kissed Xander in front of the whole school." Buffy replies with a smile as they walk into the GAP. "What are we shopping for?"

"Some new clothes for you." Joyce replies. "I've already got myself something earlier."

Buffy glares at her Mother. "What's going on Mom?"

"Just getting you some new clothes, that's all." Joyce replies with a smile.

Buffy stares at her and she quickly figures it out. "Who is he, Mom?" Buffy demands.

"How?" Joyce asks, shocked that Buffy was that sharp. Buffy taps her foot in agitation and Joyce breaks down. "All right, honey. I'm setting you up with Carol Lawrence's new salesman."

"And this guy is how dorky?" Buffy asks with a grin while mentally celebrating. < All right!! I get to see Steve as a boyfriend!! > She glares at Willow, who's holding her hand over her mouth, holding in her laughter.

"He's a sweetheart, honey." Joyce replies. "Carol likes him a lot and she thinks that you two would be a good match."

"My God, Mom!!" Buffy yells out, but quickly lowers her tone as everyone turns to look at her. "How can you do this to me? Mrs. Lawrence is old! How can she know if a guy is dating material?"

Joyce now glares back at Buffy. "Buffy." She begins, her voice a low level threat. "Carol is only three years older than I am." Buffy gulps, realizing that she'd overstepped herself. "I have met Steve St. Wolf and I also like him. He's courteous, sweet, always polite and I think that he would make an excellent boyfriend for you. Do you have a problem with this?"

"Yes I do." Buffy replies. "I'll go on one date with this �guy' and that's it. If I don't like him, I'm dumping him and you'll never set me up on another blind date. Is that understood?"

Joyce sighs. "All right honey. It's a deal. But I know you'll like this guy."

"Mom!" Buffy groans. < Of course I will, but you don't have to know that. >

Joyce glares at her. "Find yourself something nice to go to the movies with. I have a pair of tickets to Titanic."

Buffy looks up to the sky in supplication, but Joyce's glare moves her to pick out a beige blouse and a new pair of blue jeans. Buffy looks over to Willow, who's ready to fall over laughing and asks. "Willow grab up those other jeans and lets try them in the changing room."

"Sure Buffy." Willow replies with a smile as she helps her friend.

In the changing room, Buffy turns to her and whispers. "You almost lost it out there. What is your problem?"

Willow grins. "Just enjoying how much you're trying to hide the fact that you want the guy that your mother's choosing for you."

Buffy also grins. "Mom would have a heart attack if I told her that I already knew Steve." Buffy quietly replies. "After everything that I put her through the last six months, she deserves to think that she helped me find the *right* guy."

"I know. But I hope I don't lose it when she asks Steve to take you out." Willow replies with a chuckle.

Buffy glares back at her friend, but relents and grins, enjoying herself. She puts on the pink and khaki sweater twin set and a pair chocolate brown Levis and turns around. "Think Steve will like me dressed like this?"

Willow giggles. "He likes you dressed in everything." < And probably, not dressed at all. >

Buffy makes a face and looks at herself in the mirror, and likes what she sees. "Mom can't complain about this outfit. Could she?"

"No she can't." Willow replies, softly laughing behind her hand, enjoying Buffy's indecisiveness. Buffy glares at her and leaves the dressing room. Joyce is outside, waiting to inspect her.

Joyce nods her head. "That outfit is perfect for a first date. Do you want to wear it out of here?"

"Sure Mom." Buffy replies as they walk up to the register and pay for Buffy's clothes. After Joyce pays, the sales girl reaches behind the counter and grabs the tag remover and takes off the tag from the sweaters. She walks from behind the counter, reaching for the tag on Buffy's waist, but a hand stops her.

The girl looks up and sees the manager standing there with a smirk on his face and asks. "Mr. Jones, what can I help you with today?" < Oh Damn! He's going to do it again. Oh God. I hope he's watching. >

"Did this young lady pay for these pants?" Jones asks with a smirk on his acne riddled face.

"Of course she did." Joyce replies with a glare.

"I didn't ask you, Ma'am." Jones replies in a mocking voice. < I never liked uppity bitches. Now I'm going to have some fun. >

Jones gives her another smirk. "From what I see, your daughter is stealing those pants."

Joyce storms forward, her eyes glaring in Motherly wrath and demands. "Who the hell are you to talk to my daughter like that? And what right do you have to act this way towards your paying customers?"

"She's a thief and I'll treat her like one." Jones snickers.

Joyce makes to confront Jones, but Buffy stops her. "Mom, don't! This guy wants a reason to have you arrested."

Jones loses his grin for a second. < Damn, this bitch is smart. No other cunt has ever figured it out this quickly before. > "Miss Clark, please call Mall security and have these �people' arrested."

"I wouldn't recommend that." A hard male voice replies from the side. Jones turns and sees a tall man dressed in an expensive business suit. His light brown hair was cut conservatively and his face clearly showed his anger.

Buffy looks at Willow and she nods back, recognizing their knight in shining armor, Nick Raven. Buffy feels the approach of another Immortal and looks over to where Nick was standing and sees his Immortal wife, Katherine. "What is going on here?" Nick demands.

"Who the hell are you?" Jones demands, not liking this well dressed man and woman one bit.

Nick and Katherine both grin without a trace of humor showing. "We're the Ravens. David Xanatos just made us the heads of security for his west coast mall division. I want to know what is going on here." Nick demands as a half dozen security guards run up. The Sergeant in charge sees the Ravens and walks up to them and respectfully stands at attention, waiting for orders.

Jones doesn't like the turn of events, but presses forward, in a loud voice. "That girl is trying to steal those pants and her mother is helping her do it. I want them arrested for shop lifting." People on the concourse stop and stare at the scene unfolding.

Nick just shakes his head in disbelief. He looks over to the old Sergeant and sees that he and most of his officers also share his and Katherine's disgust at this man. < Bastard thinks that he's going to get away with it? Don't think so. > Nick turns to Joyce and asks. "Do you have a receipt for the pants?"

Joyce hands over her credit card receipt and the register tape to Nick. He looks them over and walks over to Buffy and checks the product codes and grunts in satisfaction. He walks over to Jones and loudly demands. "Why are you bothering these women? They paid for the pants. The register and credit card receipts are from less than ten minutes ago."

Jones glares at Nick and demands. "Who the hell are you to tell me how to run my business? I'm telling you that these women are trying to shoplift from my store. What are you going to do about it?"

*****

Buffy and Willow look over to Katherine Raven and give her small grins. Katherine grins back and walks over. She leans in and quietly asks. "What happened to Willow?"

"Became an Amazon." Buffy whispers back, holding in her laughter at the shock registering on Katherine's face.

"How?" She whispers back, not believing what she just heard.

"Tell you later when we get done with this." Buffy nods to Jones, who was now pissing off Nick Raven. "Not a very bright man, is he?"

"No. Morons like that usually aren't." Katherine confirms as she watches Jones swing on her husband.

*****

"To the ladies, nothing. But you are not going to be working in this mall anymore. After I file my report with my superiors, you won't be working in any of the malls owned by Xanatos Corp." Nick replies as he turns to the Sergeant. "Mike, this guy is to be kicked out of the mall and not allowed back in. I want his photo passed around to every guard and if he's found on mall property, he's to be arrested for criminal trespass. Any questions?"

"No Sir!" The Sergeant replies crisply. He looks over to Jones and tells him. "You heard Mr. Raven. Get your coat, you're leaving right now."

"Like Hell I am!" Jones shouts and swings on Nick. Nick ducks under the swing and kicks out, knocking Jones to the ground, where the six guards swarm all over him and handcuff Jones' hands behind his back. Jones grimaces at the pain and humiliation that the guards were causing and curses out Nick.

Nick just stands there and watches as the guards move to eject Jones from the store. He just shakes his head in disgust and turns to the sales girl. "Miss Clark." When she doesn't respond, Nick uses her first name. "Donna?" She turns her head to him. "Thank you for telling us about what he was doing. I'll make sure that all of the people arrested here for shoplifting have their records cleared."

"Thanks for listening to me, Mr. Raven." The girl replies evenly, wondering what's going to happen to her.

"I already contacted the regional manager and he's confirmed that you can be the new manager for this store." Donna grins. "Mike will have a guard escort you to and from your car until further notice."

"Thank you, Sir." Donna replies and goes back to the counter, picks up the de-tagging machine and removes the tag from Buffy's pants. As she removes the tag, she explains, "I'm sorry that this happened to you, but Mr. Jones has this prejudice against women who are rich."

"But we're not rich." Joyce replies.

"You dress well enough and look successful, that's all he needed." Donna replies.

"Thank you for your help." Joyce replies.

"Thank Mr. Raven." Donna replies. "He took the time to listen to me when I told him about Mr. Jones. The previous security chief wouldn't listen to anyone."

Joyce turns to Nick and thanks him. "Thank you for your help, Mr. Raven."

"Always a pleasure to help three beautiful women." Nick replies with a grin as he walks away with Katherine.

Joyce watches Nick walk away and smiles. < Why does he remind me of Steve? >

"Earth to Mom." Buffy comments with a grin. "Stop drooling Mom. He's married." < Nick has a great butt. I can see why Mom's watching it. >

Joyce sighs. "A woman can always dream." Then turns back to Buffy and Willow. "Buffy, if you want to cancel for tonight, I'll understand."

< Like Hell I will! I've been trying to get a date with Steve for two weeks now and Mom's giving me the excuse that I need. I'm not letting him chicken out. > "No. I'll go Mom. This way the tickets don't go to waste."

"All right then." Joyce replies as she gathers together their packages. "Let's go."

As they walk out the store, the older guard called Mike, walks up to them. He tips his hat as he explains. "Mr. Raven wanted me to have two of the boys escort you to your car, Mrs. Summers."

"Why?"

"In case that jerk tries something on Mall property. I have a pair of officers waiting to escort you to your car and to escort you home, if you want it."

"All right. We were leaving anyway." Joyce mutters as one of the guards takes her bags from her and two more guards walk next to them. They walk out of the Mall and escort them to Joyce's Cherokee. Joyce opens the back window and the guard with the packages puts them in and gently closes the window as Joyce turns on the motor. Joyce looks over to Buffy and asks. "Are you sure you want to do this honey? I can understand if you want to cancel."

Buffy smiles at her Mother. "No Mom. I want to get this over with." < Besides, if I can date Steve openly, I won't have to make up excuses to be with him. >

Joyce nods her head in acceptance. < All right, I hope this goes well. >

They quickly drive over to Lawrence Antiques and park in front, next to a motorcycle. As Joyce walks over to the front door, she looks over at the motorcycle, a 1974 Harley Soft Tail and grins. < Looks like Steve's here. >

Buffy and Willow exchange grins. < Looks like Steve's here. >

Joyce notices that Buffy and Willow are both admiring the motorcycle and grins. < Trust a motorcycle to pique a girl's interest. > "Let's go in." Joyce tells Buffy and Willow. Both of them turn with big grins on their faces. "If you're wondering, the motorcycle is Steve's."

Buffy gives her mother a grin and walks towards the open door. As they enter, Carol Lawrence walks out of the back and gives Joyce a hug. "I see you brought Buffy with you." Carol replies with a giggle. "I'll get Steve from the back."

*****

In the back, Steve and Robert are lifting a desk to an upper rack and both men are sweating profusely. As they gently place the 18th century accountant's desk where they want it, both men grab a quick break. Robert sits down on a handy chair and breathes deeply as he looks over the warehouse. "Damn, but we got a lot of work done today."

Steve looks over the remaining two thirds of the warehouse to be sorted and put away. "We've got a good two, three more weeks of hard work here, Robert. Why don't we hire some laborers to help with it?"

"Would if I could." Robert replies. "But getting them to come to Sunnydale is impossible."

< With two hundred plus vampires in this small town? No wonder. > Steve thinks to himself as he drinks from his bottle of water. < Hopefully we'll be able to change that soon. > "I noticed that. The guy who does my landscaping won't come around after dark. I wonder why that is?"

"Don't know." Robert replies. < The vampires are the real reason, but should I share it with Steve? > Robert thinks to himself. < No, the lad doesn't need to hear that the old wives tales were true. > Robert looks over to where his wife was walking towards them and asks. "Who's in the front of the store?"

"Joyce Summers is here." Carol replies with an open grin.

Robert looks at his wife and asks. "Is she alone?"

"No, her daughter, Buffy is here as well."

Robert looks at his wife of twelve years and gruffly asks. "Carol, what have I told you about matchmaking?"

Carol snorts back her laugh. "Like Joyce and I would listen to you."

"Joyce is involved in this?" Robert asks, shaking his head in disbelief as he turns back to Steve. "Steve, lad, I suggest you sneak out the back of the store and run as fast and as far as you can."

"Why Robert? Is Joyce's daughter that much of a hag?" Steve asks with a grin. < If Buffy hears that I'm a dead man. >

Robert chuckles evilly. "It's not that she's a hag Steve. Quite the opposite in fact, but she's always getting into fights."

"Fights?" Steve asks, curious. < I just bet that she is. >

"I once saw her fighting this boy in the park and when he ran, she chased him."

< I can believe it. I'm going to have to tell Buffy to watch her patrols. > "You're kidding. Why did she do that?"

"The boy had attacked a girl and Buffy was defending her." Carol replies. "Robert called the police and they sent the girl to the hospital. Buffy never came back."

Steve just shakes his head in disbelief. He quickly picks up his shirt and walks to the door. Robert, seeing where he was going, calls out. "Steve take my advice."

Steve turns back. "I've never run away from anything, least of all a blind date." < Especially when I've already seen the date in question. >

Robert looks at his wife and softly chuckles. "Onward, onward, the Light Brigade rode." Carol smacks him across the back of his head and Robert sputters while trying to hide a grin. "What was that for?"

"For being a man." Carol replies coldly as she walks out of the warehouse, leaving Robert sitting there, watching her strut away.

< Damn, but she still looks great. Especially from this angle. > Robert laughs softly, gets up and heads to the front of the shop. "Might as well watch the poor lad go down in flames."

*****

Buffy nervously bites her lip as she waits for Steve to enter the front. She looks over to Willow, who's just barely holding in her laughter.

Joyce watches Buffy nervously bite her lip and grins. < Good. Maybe Steve has a chance with her. > She looks to the back of the shop and grins as Steve walks into her line of sight. Joyce sighs as she watches Steve calmly walk into the room, his dress shirt flung over one shoulder, while the tank top showed off his muscles. Joyce looks down at his narrow waist and likes the way the pants were hanging. < My goodness. > She thinks to herself as she looks at Buffy and Willow's jaws drop. Joyce elbows Buffy and tells her. "Buffy, close your mouth, honey. It's not nice to drool in front of your date."

Buffy quickly closes her mouth and gives her mother a weak grin, not giving an inch. Willow, under no such limits, whistles lowly as she mutters. "Hubba, hubba. That's some piece of beef cake."

Joyce chuckles softly as she hears what Willow said. "Now, dear, allow me to introduce you to Steve St. Wolf." Joyce replies as Steve walks forward. He looks over to Joyce with a raised eyebrow and Joyce continues. "Steve, this is my daughter, Buffy and her friend, Willow."

Steve leans forward and takes Buffy's hand. "Charmed to meet you." Buffy raises her free hand to her mouth and giggles. Steve just smiles and gives her a wink. Buffy �gently' squeezes Steve's hand and he almost cries out in pain. He gives her a quick glare and turns back to Willow. "Nice meeting you as well, Willow." Willow covers her face as she begins to softly laugh. Steve turns back to Joyce. "So Joyce, what can I do for three such lovely ladies?"

"Remember when you first moved here I promised that I would ask my daughter if she would show you around town?"

"I remember, but Robert and I have been so busy for the last three weeks, that I've barely had time for anything but work, some food shopping and sleep."

< God, Steve can lie. > Willow thinks to herself.

"Well, Carol and I have decided that you needed a night off and Buffy has volunteered to show you around town."

Steve stares at Buffy, who's staring at the ground with a mischievous smile tugging at her lips. < I just bet she �volunteered'. I'd bet good money that she came here screaming and kicking. > "Joyce, I don't need someone to show me around town." Steve replies evenly. Buffy looks up in shock and glares daggers at him. Willow barely holds in her laughter as Steve continues. "I'm sure that Buffy has more important things to do than show me around."

Joyce, noticing Buffy's glare, grins. "Of course she does. If you don't want to go out with her, I can't force you."

Buffy turns to her mother with a quizzical look. "Mom! I promised that I would go out with him. Now you're telling me that you don't want me to go?"

Willow, not being able to hold in her laughter anymore, finally begins to giggle uncontrollably. Everyone stares at her as she coughs out. "Oh, Goddess. But this is funny."

Steve just shakes his head and asks. "All right laughing girl. What's so funny?"

"You two." Willow replies as she gets her giggles under control. "It's obvious to a blind man that you two belong together. So quit fighting it and take Buffy out."

Steve and Buffy stare at their friend and Buffy hisses out. "Willow!? Whatever happened to the nice, shy, quiet girl that *WAS* my best friend?"

"I'm still here Buffy, but I don't want you wasting your time with some moron from Sunnydale High, when you can have a hunk like that in your life."

Buffy turns back to Steve and asks. "So, you still want to go out with me?"

Steve looks over to Joyce and asks. "Joyce, aren't I a little old to be dating your daughter?"

Joyce and Carol both grin. "No you're not." Joyce replies. "Carol speaks highly of you and I've gotten to know you from all of the times that I've come in here. I think you're perfect for my daughter. Besides, you're only seven years older and much more mature than the boys she normally sees." < Especially that psychotic boy who called himself Angel. >

Steve relents and asks Buffy. "Buffy," Buffy turns to face him. "Would you do me the honor of going out with me tonight?"

"And another single man bites the dust." Robert murmurs from the side as he watches Steve and Buffy stand together. Carol, hearing his remark, smacks him. "What was that for?" He asks.

"For being a horse's ass. Now get cleaned up. You're taking me out to dinner tonight." Carol orders.

Eyes downcast, but his step lively, Robert hurries off. < Well I hope Steve can open up for us tomorrow. > Robert thinks to himself as he glances back to his wife. < Carol's in one of her moods. >

Joyce grins to herself as she watches Buffy and Steve together. < Good. She deserves a good man in her life. > "Before you two leave, take these." Joyce tells them as she hands over the tickets to Titanic.

Steve looks at them and just shakes his head in amusement. "Trying to stack the deck, Joyce?"

"Don't go there Steve. You'll never win." Buffy tells him as she grabs his arm and drags him out of the store.

Joyce watches as Buffy gets on Steve's motorcycle and the two quickly leave. She turns to Willow and asks. "Do you want a ride home?"

"Sure, Mrs. Summers." Willow replies with a laugh as she watches Buffy put on Steve's extra helmet.

*****

Reggie Jones watches from his dark blue Ford Taurus as the daughter gets on a motorcycle with some guy and leaves with him. < Damn! The little cunt's leaving. Now I'm only going to get her mother and the red head. > He watches as Joyce and Willow get back into the Jeep and he follows the pair, his sedan unnoticed by the pair. He watches as the woman drops off the young woman by a house and boy with red hair grabs her up in a hug. Reggie silently curses to himself as he passes Willow's house. < The little red haired bitch has a boyfriend. I'll get them later. > He follows Joyce to her house and grins. < Good! The bitch doesn't have a man at home. > He watches her get out of the car and take her packages inside. < I think that I'm going to enjoy myself before I kill them both. Then, I'll get the red head. >

*****

Buffy leans in and wraps her hands around Steve's waist. < God, I can't believe that I'm actually dating Steve with Mom's permission. > She tightens her grip around his waist as he makes a quick turn. A few blocks down the road, Steve stops the bike in front of a strip mall. Buffy lets go of him and sits back on the bike.

Steve turns around and asks. "What just happened back there?"

Buffy giggles. "My Mom just set us up."

"May I ask why?"

"Because she thinks of you as a nice guy who would treat me right."

Steve looks up in resignation. "So I take it that you really want to go out on a date tonight?" Buffy smiles up at him and Steve realizes that he's caught. "What about patrol tonight?"

"Willow, Oz, Xander and Cordy are taking patrol duty tonight." Buffy replies with a grin.

Steve sighs as he leans down and kisses her. "So do you want dinner first or the movie?" Steve asks after their lips break apart.

"Uh." Buffy replies, her eyes distant and dazed. Steve grins and kisses her again. She regains a measure of her composure and checks the tickets. "We have time for some dinner first. The movie doesn't start for at least an hour."

"Good. Got a place in mind?" Steve asks as he turns around and starts the motorcycle.

"Yeah. How about the Mickey D's on Main Street?" Buffy asks.

Steve shrugs his shoulders and replies over the sound of the 800 cc engine. "Sure, why not?"

Buffy grins. < Wait until everyone sees the hunk that I'm dating. >

They quickly make it over to the McDonald's and Buffy slides off the back of the motorcycle. When Steve gets off, she wraps her arm around his waist and they walk in.

*****

Harmony watches as the motorcycle pulls into the parking lot and looks over to her friend Ambrosia, who's also staring in open lust. "I must be dreaming." Harmony mutters.

"Why?" Francesca asks, her back to Steve.

"Because the guy from my dreams is walking towards us." Harmony replies, but then she sees Buffy wrap her arm around Steve's waist. "Ewww. Isn't that Buffy? What's she doing with my dream guy?"

"Dating him?" Ambrosia replies stupidly.

Harmony turns on her. "Get away from me you stupid cow. How dare you tell me something like that?"

Buffy smiles as she passes Harmony and her two friends. Harmony glares back, but backs down as Buffy glares at her. "Why does she always get the hunks? First that dark haired hunk, now this one."

*****

Buffy and Steve quietly stand in line and look up at the board. "So, what do you want to eat?" Steve asks as they near the register.

"A Big Mac meal." Buffy replies with a smile.

Steve grins as he begins. "I always liked a woman who. . ."

Before he can complete the sentence the man in front of them screams out. "Everybody down!! This is a hold up!!" As he makes his turn to threaten the patrons, Steve and Buffy quickly separate and the gunman swivels his head to follow them both. Before he can point his gun at either of them, Steve kicks it out of his hand as Buffy moves in and kicks him in the gut, which she quickly follows up with an elbow smash to the side of his head. The gunman goes down for the count.

Buffy and Steve look at each other and just grin at each other as the patrons begin to clap. "Ever wonder if the Gods want us together?" Steve asks.

Buffy steps over the fallen gunman and gives Steve a hug as she quietly mutters. "Never say that honey. You never know who'll be listening."

Steve sighs and looks over to the girl behind the counter. "Can you please call the police to pick up this moron?" The girl numbly nods her head and quickly goes to the manager's office. Steve looks at the girl at the next register. "Could you get us two Big Mac meals, please?"

"What kind of sodas?"

"Diet Cokes." Steve replies as the girl rushes away and quickly gathers up the food and brings it back on a single tray. Steve drops a ten dollar bill on the counter and picks up the tray and they walk over to a nearby table.

As they sit down, a pair of Sunnydale police officers rush into the store and cover the unconscious gunman. They look stupidly around, not believing what they see. The older officer walks up to the manager and he asks. "What happened?" The manager points to Buffy and Steve and the cashier tells them. "This guy shoves a gun in my face and tells me to empty out my cash drawer. Well, I'm doing it and he turns around to point the gun at everyone here and that guy and girl take him down like they were Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Lee. It was, like, he didn't stand a chance."

The older officer just shakes his head in disbelief and walks over to Steve and Buffy's table. He looks down at the young couple and demands. "Do you two realize how close you came to dying over there? I should have you two arrested for endangering the lives of everyone in here."

Steve and Buffy look at each other and just shake their heads in disgust. Steve looks back at the officer and quietly tells him. "Officer, if you don't want to do your job, feel free to let him go. I'm sure that the next person that he robs will be more giving and a lot less willing to defend themselves. And as far as my lady and I are concerned, we have no problem with what we did. If you have a problem with it, arrest us and my attorneys will ream the Sunnydale PD a completely new series of assholes."

The officer glares at Steve and Buffy. "Wait right here. I'm calling my supervisor."

"Feel free." Steve replies as he takes a bite of his sandwich.

As the officer walks away, Buffy asks. "Why are you taking such a hard line with the cops?"

"I hate dealing with morons." Steve murmurs angrily. "And the Sunnydale police are some of the worst that I've ever dealt with."

"Especially Detective Stein." Buffy shoots back with a grin.

"Especially him." Steve agrees, remembering his first meeting with Stein almost three weeks before as a shadow falls across their table. Buffy and Steve look up from their meal and both lose their appetites.

"I should have known it was you two." Detective Stein mutters under his breath. "Do you have anything to say before I arrest you?"

Steve grins. "I'll tell you what, Stein. How about you do that and I use my phone call to call my lawyer, who will call our friends Mulder and Scully and my old friend Jack Ryan. My lawyer will sue you personally, the Sunnydale PD and the city. Mulder, Scully and Jack will move in and start investigating everyone on the police force, the city officials and anyone else they can get their hands on."

Stein tries to out bluff Steve. "St. Wolf, I don't give a crap about your friends Mulder and Scully. I did some checking and those two and they are not exactly popular with their superiors. As to this Jack Ryan guy, I could care less who the fuck he is." Steve grins as he pulls out his wallet. He pulls out a business card and hands it over to Stein. Stein looks down at it and he chokes back a gasp. < It couldn't be. What the fuck is St. Wolf doing with a card from an Assistant Director of the CIA? > He looks back at St. Wolf and sees only a grim line where his smile was before.

"Feel free to give Jack a call and tell him hi from me." Steve replies without a trace of humor. "Then tell him that you arrested one of his best friends and his girlfriend while they were having dinner in a McDonald's, after they took down some moron trying to hold up the place."

Stein just stares at Steve and bites back the smart reply that comes to his lips and he just turns around and leaves the restaurant, taking the other police officers and the gunman with him. The manager of the McDonald's walks over and politely asks. "Is there anything else you two need?"

Steve puts down his napkin, looks over to Buffy and sees the same look of disgust. He quietly sighs and turns to the manager. "No thank you. Detective Stein ruined our appetites."

The manager nods and takes their tray and as Buffy and Steve get up to leave, the manager quietly tells them. "Come back when you feel like eating and I'll treat you both to dinner. The cops might not appreciate what you did, but the staff and I do. That bastard's robbed us three times this year and the cops didn't give a damn."

Buffy and Steve both nod their heads and leave.

*****

Outside, Harmony watches them leave. She turns to her two friends, muttering. "That ho must be putting out. No wonder the guys are going for her." Both of her friends nod their heads in agreement and watch, wondering what a guy like that was like.

*****

Buffy and Steve walk to his motorcycle, as they stand next to it, Steve asks. "Do you want to go home or go to the movie?"

"Let's go to the movie. Mom, put a lot of effort into getting us together. So let's not blow it over Stein."

Steve gives her a hug. "Okay." And he gets on his motorcycle and Buffy climbs on behind him.

*****

Three hours later, Buffy and Steve walk out of the theater, each hugging the other. As they walk to the motorcycle, Steve wryly comments. "I've never seen such a load of bullshit in my entire life."

Buffy smacks him. "It was a beautiful love story."

Steve snorts. "Yeah, right. I've heard the story of the Titanic from several Immortals who actually were on it. And from their descriptions, the story is quite different."

"And how was it different?" Buffy demands, her foot, tapping the ground, showing how pissed she was that Steve was ruining the romantic atmosphere.

Steve grins and grabs her up and kisses her. "Nothing to worry about my lady, just take it on faith that history's been re-written by Hollywood, yet again."

Buffy laughs and breaks away, getting on the motorcycle. "Let's go. Mom's probably worried about me."

"Aren't we going to patrol?" Steve asks as he gets on his bike.

"Xander, Cordy, Willow and Oz are patrolling. We have the night off, remember?" Buffy replies as she puts on her helmet.

"All right. I guess that I can survive one night of being your boyfriend."

"Goody!" Buffy exclaims. "Mom will be happy to have you over for coffee."

Steve laughs lightly and they ride off to Revello Drive.

*****

Outside of the Summer's house, Reggie Jones moves to the back door and looks through the window and grins to himself as he fondles a machete. < Good! The bitch is still alone. Now I'll get even with her. > He stares at Joyce through the door and as she turns her back to him, he rushes forward and crashes through the door.

Joyce looks back to where the noise comes from and screams. "What are you doing here!? Get Out of My House!!"

Jones gives here a maniacal grin as he grabs her arm. "I'm here to get even with you two bitches for firing me. I'm going to tie you up and wait for your little slut to come and then we'll have a party."

Joyce tries to fight him, but Jones slams the flat of the machete blade against the side of her head and she goes down in a dazed heap. Jones then grabs her arms and drags her to the dining room and ties her to a chair with the phone cord..

Joyce's head clears and she sees the former Gap manager standing in front of her, playing with a large knife. She looks in his eyes and sees only madness. She silently prays. < Please stay out late with Steve, honey. I don't want you to come home to this animal. >

*****

Jones continues to grin as he plans. < If that guy comes home with the slut, I'll kill him with my knife. I'll cut his throat before he knows what hit him. >

*****

Steve and Buffy pull up to Buffy's house and walk up the steps together. As they walk up to the door, Buffy gives Steve a hug and a kiss. As she opens the door, Buffy asks. "Do you want to come in? I'm sure that Mom has some coffee in the kitchen."

Steve sighs. "You know, you're taking this way too seriously."

Buffy just grins as she unlocks the door. She walks into the room, looking back over her shoulder.

*****

Reggie grins. < The little slut isn't even looking. Too bad. > He glances over to the mother, who's eyes are wide in fear for her daughter. < Watch the little slut die. > Reggie waits for Buffy and Steve to clear the door. Reggie then pushes forward, trying to stab Steve in the gut. Buffy, seeing the machete coming at Steve, pushes him back through the door. The machete misses Steve, but stabs Buffy in the back. Reggie slams the door shut in Steve's face. He twists the deadbolt shut, grinning as he hear's Buffy's scream of pain and Joyce's scream through the gag. < That'll show the bitch. Now her Mother, then I get the red head. > His grin spreads wider as he watches the blade erupt from her stomach.

*****

Steve sees Buffy push him back and the door suddenly swings toward his face as he jumps back. As the door lock clicks into place, he hears Buffy scream and grabs for his gun and sword and steps forward, kicking. The door slams open and he sees a sight that chills him to the bone. Buffy, down and bleeding with a machete in her back. He screams out her name. "Buffy!!" And charges into the room, his gun tracking for a target and he sees a strange man with a maniacal grin on his face. Steve watches in horror as he takes out a large hunting knife and turns to Joyce, the knife plunging. . .

*****

Joyce watches as a smiling and laughing Buffy walks into the room and the demented man stabs her with the big knife. She screams as Buffy falls to the ground, blood pooling around her. Her head turns as the front door slams open and she watches Steve enter the room with a gun in one hand and a glowing sword(?) in the other.

She watches as the man turns back to her with a knife in his hands. She watches as the blade goes up. She hears a soft �Phfft' and the man's head jerks to the side and the knife drops from nerveless fingers. Joyce watches as the man does a slow collapse and she feels the splatter of his blood on her skin from the hole in his head.

She screams out again as she sees Steve point his gun down at the man and shoot him again, this time in the heart. She looks at the young man who she had hoped would care for and love her daughter and sees a stranger. Gone was the kind young man and what stood before her was a man who's eyes were hard as granite and had not the slightest hint of mercy in them.

*****

Steve looks down at the body of the man who had stabbed Buffy. He puts down his gun and sword and walks over to Joyce and quickly cuts her free. Joyce bounds out of the chair and rushes over to Buffy. She picks up Buffy's head and begins to cry as she fears the worst for her daughter. She looks up at Steve and orders. "Get an ambulance for Buffy!!"

Joyce watches as Steve closes the door and gets out his cell phone. Steve hits his speed dial and Rupert Giles picks up his home phone. "We have a problem at Buffy's house. Get over here and bring the video tape." Steve orders.

"How bad is it?" Giles asks.

"Very. Some nutcase was here with a machete and he stabbed Buffy as she walked in through the door. Joyce saw everything go down. Call Xander and have his team bring a body bag."

"Will do. We'll be right over." Giles tersely replies as he hangs up the phone.

*****

Giles hits the speed dial on his house phone and calls Oz's cell phone. Oz answers it with a simple. "Yeah?"

"Someone attacked Buffy at her house. Steve managed to kill him. Bring your team and bring a body bag."

"Is one enough?"

"It is." Giles replies as he hangs up.

*****

Steve walks over to Joyce, who's cradling Buffy's head and softly telling her. "Help will be here soon honey. You'll be fine."

Steve squats down and gently takes Buffy in his arms and asks. "Buffy? Can you hear me?"

"Yeah." A weak Buffy replies.

"I'm going to pull the machete out and its going to hurt a lot." Steve gently tells her.

Buffy's hands brace themselves on Steve's right arm and she nods her head. Joyce sits there, in shock as Steve tries to quickly and forcefully pull out the knife as he gets it partially out, Joyce grabs his hand and forces it away from the handle. Buffy's mouth forms itself into a silent scream as the blade remains wedged . "What are you doing?" Joyce demands, pulling him away with surprising strength. Steve lets himself be pulled away, so that the machete in Buffy's back isn't jarred anymore.

Steve looks at her. "Pulling out the machete so Buffy can heal herself."

Joyce grabs Steve's arm and pushes it away from the handle. "No you're not!!" Joyce angrily orders. "A real doctor is going to do that, in a real hospital and in a real operating room."

"Joyce." Steve begins. "You don't understand what's going on here."

"What are you talking about?" Joyce demands as Rupert Giles and Jenny Calendar walk into the house. She looks over to them. "Mr. Giles, thank God you're here. Get this man out of my house."

Giles doesn't reply as he bends down and asks Buffy. "Buffy, can you hear me?"

Buffy looks up through pain filled eyes. "Giles? Can you take it out? Please?"

Giles looks up from her and orders. "Steve, hold her still while I get this thing out of her."

Joyce moves to get between Buffy and Steve, but Jenny pulls her back and holds her still. Joyce tries to break away from Jenny, but she's held tight. < How can this small woman be this strong? > Joyce thinks to herself as she opens her mouth to scream and feels Jenny's hand covering her mouth, stifling it before she can begin. Joyce stares as Steve holds Buffy in his arms and Giles pulls the machete free from her back as quickly and as painlessly as possible. She begins to struggle, but Jenny holds her tight.

Buffy holds onto Steve and he holds onto her. As the machete is finally free, Buffy hugs herself to Steve and cries. "Oh my God, that hurt!!" Just before she falls unconscious.

*****

Joyce watches as Steve holds her daughter tenderly and speaks softly to her.

*****

Steve looks down into Buffy's pain filled eyes as she awakes and hugs her to himself as she cries from the pain. "You'll be all right, my lady. Never doubt it." Buffy buries her head in his shoulder, crying as the tissue repairs itself.

After a few minutes, a tired Buffy asks as her skin finally closes. "What happened to the guy who stabbed me?"

*****

Joyce stares in shock as the hole in Buffy's stomach closes in front of her. Joyce numbly watches as the blue lightning bolts play across the closing skin. She looks on as Steve gently carries Buffy to the couch and puts her on it, Giles walks over and takes her hand in sympathy.

*****

Steve dials his cell phone and a voice asks. "What do you want?"

"I have garbage problem. Do you have anyone in the Sunnydale area who can help?"

The voice laughs softly. "Sunnydale is one my most busy areas. Any problem with the garbage going bad?"

"No. But it's a little lead heavy."

"No problem. Have it on the old cross road in twenty minutes."

"Not a problem." Steve replies as he hangs up the phone. He leans in and quietly whispers. "He won't be bothering anyone, ever again."

Buffy looks down on the floor and gulps. "Did you have to shoot him twice?"

"I was a little angry at the time. And he was going after your mother with that hunting knife." Steve points to the twelve inch blade, still clutched in the man's hand. " I didn't want him getting up and coming after her while my back was turned." Steve explains as Willow, Cordelia, Xander and Oz walk in.

*****

Joyce watches as Buffy's friends, Willow, Cordelia, Xander and Oz walk in. Willow rushes over to her friend and takes her hand, worry, clearly showing on her beautiful face. Joyce feels Jenny's arms loosen and she shakes loose and demands. "What the hell is going on here?"

Steve and Giles look up from Buffy's semi-conscious form. They look at each other and at Jenny and all three nod. Steve turns to Xander and Oz. "Take the body." Steve looks over to where the former Gap manager was lying. "To the old cross road. I've already arranged a pickup for it."

Both nod their heads and Oz spreads out a body bag on the ground and he and Xander quickly wrap up the body. As they take it out the side door, Steve adds. "Pick up a carpet cleaner on your way back.."

"Will do." Xander replies as he, Oz and Cordelia leave. Willow stays behind, softly talking with Buffy.

Joyce stares in fascination as the two boys and Cordelia leave and she turns on Steve, Giles and Jenny, demanding. "What the hell is going on here!? And how is Buffy all right after being stabbed like that?"

Steve looks down at Buffy and asks. "It's your call. What do we do?"

"Tell her everything." Buffy replies softly while looking at her mother.

"Tell me what?" Joyce demands, not liking the look that everyone was giving her. < What is Buffy involved in? And what does Steve have to do with it? >

"I think you better sit down for this Joyce." Steve replies.

Joyce takes a seat in one of the living room chairs and waits for Steve to explain what had just happened. Steve looks once more at Buffy and she nods her head. Steve turns to Joyce and begins. "Joyce, you should know that I've known Buffy for almost three weeks now."

Joyce glares at Steve and Buffy, especially Buffy. "And when were you two going to tell me this?"

Buffy gulps. "Well, we were planning on telling you soon, Mom."

"When?"

"Soon." Buffy replies nervously.

"How soon?"

"Can we move past this?" Giles asks in exasperation.

Joyce glares at him with a withering stare and stiffly replies. "Certainly Mr. Giles. I want to know what you, Miss Calendar and Steve have to do with Buffy and her friends. And how my daughter was able to heal herself so quickly."

"All right, Joyce." Steve replies as he begins. "The reason that Buffy was able to survive the stab wound was because she's like I am." Steve then takes his hand and slices his palm open with his pocket knife. Joyce watches as the wound closes before her eyes. She stares at the blue lightning playing across the wound and within a minute, the wound was closed.

"What are you?" Joyce in awe.

"I'm what's called an Immortal." Steve tells Joyce.

Joyce looks up, not believing what she'd just heard. "An Immortal?" She asks. "Does that mean you live forever?"

"Basically, that's it. We have the ability to live forever." Steve replies. "We can never get sick, wounds heal within seconds, even if we're killed, we get back up and continue to live."

"How old are you?" Joyce asks, dreading the answer.

"I'm forty years old." Steve replies as Joyce stiffens. "I was a foundling who was raised in an orphanage just outside Austin, Texas. My name, before I became Immortal was Carson Jamieson. I worked as a private detective in Dallas specializing in missing children. In August of 1983, at the age of twenty four, I died for my first time and became Immortal."

"You have to die to become Immortal? Why?" Joyce asks in disbelief.

"We don't know. The oldest of us doesn't know and he's been around for five thousand years."

"My God!" Joyce mutters, trying to understand the implications that Steve had just told her. She takes a deep breath and then asks. "How did you die?"

Steve grimaces. "Some nutcase was trying to gun down a group of kids who were playing in a school yard with an AK-47. I rammed him with my motorcycle, but before he died, he shot me twenty times in the chest."

Joyce holds her hands to her mouth, not believing what she just heard. "What does all of this have to do with Buffy?"

"Buffy is also an Immortal." Steve tells her.

"But that means that Buffy died." Joyce asks in a weak voice. Joyce stares at her daughter. "How did you die?"

"I was fighting a master vampire and he killed me. I woke up a few minutes later with Xander giving me CPR. I guess we thought that Xander saved my life. I didn't find out that I was Immortal until I met Steve and his friends Mulder and Scully."

"Vampire?" Joyce asks in disbelief. "What do you mean you were fighting a vampire?"

Buffy grimaces and looks over to Giles who silently nods his head and nervously straightens his tie. "Well it begins like this." Giles begins. "When Buffy turned fifteen, she became what is called a Slayer."

"What's that?" Joyce asks.

"A Slayer is a girl given enhanced strength and fighting ability in order to fight the demons and vampires of the world." Giles begins, but the look of disbelief on Joyce's face stops him. He turns to Steve and Buffy.

Buffy looks up at Steve and quietly tells him. "Have them bring back a vampire with them."

Steve nods and pulls out his cell phone and orders. "Xander, bring a vampire back with you."

"Way ahead of you, Steve. We just grabbed one who was hunting in Buffy's neighborhood. We'll bring her back with us." Xander replies with a chuckle. "Cordy thought Mrs. Summers could use some proof."

"Good work." Steve replies as he shuts off his phone. "Cordy already thought of it." He tells Buffy and Giles.

"Trust Cordy to think of something like that." Buffy mutters with a grin.

"May I continue?" Giles asks Joyce. Joyce just woodenly nods her head. Giles continues. "When Buffy burned down the gymnasium at Hemery, she was preventing a master vampire and several dozen vampires from killing her, a friend of hers named Pike and most of the still living student body of the school. After she was expelled, the Council of Watchers arranged for her to be accepted here in Sunnydale and made sure that no other school would take her. The Council also arranged the opening at the Gallery for you."

"Why did this �Council' want us here?" Joyce demands.

"Because this town sits on top of the Hellmouth." Giles quietly replies.

Joyce's eyes glare, not liking the way the conversation was going. "Hellmouth?"

"It's the sole remaining way for the demons of Hell to re-enter the Earth. Because it sits on the Hellmouth, Sunnydale has a large population of vampires and demons. Buffy, her friends and myself have been fighting for the last two years to prevent it's being opened. Steve recently joined the fight with us and helped us turn the situation around."

"Who are these people who have been running our lives?" Joyce demands.

"The Council of Watchers, find, train and help the Slayers. Individual Watchers work in the field with the Slayer." Giles replies.

"Who's Buffy's Watcher?" Joyce angrily demands, glaring at Giles and Jenny. "I want to ask what right they have trying to take over Buffy's life."

"That would have been Merrick, initially." Giles replies.

"The police told me that he died." Joyce replies in shock.

"He did die." Giles confirms. "But another Watcher was sent to oversee Buffy."

Joyce glares at Giles, understanding dawning in her eyes. She stands up and angrily shouts. "Get the Hell out of my house, you bastard!!" Giles doesn't move from Buffy's side and Joyce walks over to the phone. "If you don't leave, I'm calling the police."

Buffy sits up, shocking her mother. She gets up off the couch and walks over to Joyce on wooden legs and quietly asks. "Please listen to him, Mom. Giles has always been there for me and I don't want you angry with him for something that he had no control over."

Joyce looks at Buffy's stomach and can't see any wound there, other then the torn shirt and the blood on it. Buffy lifts the bloodied shirt and shows her a smooth, unscarred stomach. Joyce touches it, not believing what she sees. She looks at Buffy and asks. "My God! This is beyond incredible."

Buffy grimaces. "I know this is a lot, Mom, but please just listen to Steve and Giles."

"All right, honey. I'll listen to them." Joyce replies softly and lets Buffy walk her back to her chair. Buffy sits on the arm and lets her mother wrap her arm protectively around her. See looks over to Giles and asks. "Please continue."

"When Buffy was transferred to Sunnydale, I was sent from London to become her new Watcher. We met on her first day of school and Buffy wanted nothing to do with vampires anymore. But fate wouldn't let her go. Her first night out, she rescued Willow, Xander and their long time friend, Jesse, from some vampires who had collected them for a master vampire's meal." Joyce looks across at the lovely red haired girl and gulps. Giles continues. "When she defeated the vampires holding them, she got them out while she fought an incredibly strong vampire named Luke, preventing him from going after them."

Willow continues the story. "Xander, Jesse and I ran away from the crypt where they were holding us, but we got separated in the dark. Several other vampires attacked us and Buffy saved us again. We didn't find out until the next morning that they had grabbed Jesse again."

"When I found out that Jesse was still being held by the vampires." Buffy replies. "I went after him. Willow helped me find the entrance to the tunnels that the vampires were using with a computer and I went after them. Xander followed me and we found Jesse and got him loose. The vampires started to chase use and Jesse lead us into a dead end so the vampires could kill us."

"Why did Jesse do that?" Joyce asks.

"Because it wasn't Jesse anymore. The vampires had turned him into another vampire. The Jesse that Xander and Willow grew up with was dead and a demon took over the dead body." Giles explains.

"My God." Joyce replies, shocked by what she just heard. She gets up and goes to the liquor cabinet and pours herself a large glass of bourbon. She quickly drinks it, she shudders and begins to raise the bottle to refill the glass.

She starts as a small hand takes the bottle and glass away and Buffy softly tells her. "Mom, this won't help. If you want us to stop, we'll stop, but please, put this stuff away." Joyce nods her head silently and goes back to her chair, Buffy by her side, quietly whispering. "I know this is hard, but it's all true."

Willow continues the story. "Buffy and Xander escaped and came back to the library, where Giles and I were digging into some cryptic remarks that a stranger had told Buffy the previous night and again just before she went down into the tunnels. When they told us that Jesse was turned, I cried."

"Later that night." Buffy continues. "Giles, Xander and Willow joined me to stop the vampires from massacring the kids at the Bronze. We stopped them and saved almost everyone there." Buffy softly replies. "Xander had to kill the vampire Jesse and we thought that he would fall apart after that, but he didn't. He just got stronger and wanted to fight back."

"My God." Joyce mutters. "But what does Steve have to do with you?"

"I'm a demon hunter." Steve tells Joyce.

Joyce looks up in shock, not believing what she just heard. "That's impossible." She mutters.

"It isn't." Steve replies as he pulls out his sword. "This is my sword, Demon Slayer."

Joyce stares at the glowing blade. "Does your sword normally glow like a light saber?"

Steve grins. "I'm afraid so."

"Why?"

Steve shows her the inscription. "This sword and eight more like it were created by Merlin to defend humanity against the forces of Darkness."

Joyce looks on, barely absorbing what Steve had just said. "I need some coffee." She mutters while looking at her decanter of whiskey.

"That's not a problem, Joyce." Steve replies. "Let's move this discussion into the kitchen."

A few minutes later, after Joyce finishes a strong cup of coffee, Giles begins again. He tells her everything that happened over the last two years up until Steve came to Sunnydale. "After we stopped the raid on the Bronze, we continued to fight as a team. Over time Oz, Cordelia and Amy joined us and we've been a team since."

"What does Steve have to do with all of this? Besides being a demon hunter?"

"My first night in town, I was attacked by two vampires. My second night it was three vampires. My third night, my friend, Frank and I killed eight vampires and rescued Willow. I asked her a few questions and she told us that she needed to talk to her friends. The next day, Willow arranged a meeting between all of us. That's how Buffy and I first met."

Joyce sits back and sips her third cup of coffee, after a few minutes, she asks. "This is all amazing, but, vampires? Vampires are only children's fairy tales or Hollywood make believe."

Before Buffy, Steve or Giles can reply, Xander, Oz and Cordelia walk in through the back door with a strange young girl in their midst. "We're back and we've brought a gift." Xander comments as the young girl breaks down, sobbing.

"Please let me go. I did nothing to any of you." She sobs.

Joyce looks at Xander and demands. "Why did you bring this child here?"

Xander looks down at the supposedly �young' girl and he takes out a water bottle. He takes a drink from it and then pours out a measure of water on top of the girl's head. She screams in pain as the water touches her and begins to burn her. Joyce watches in shock as the girl's face forms ridges and she lets out a hiss of anger. Joyce's hand goes to her mouth as she sees the fangs clearly showing in the girl's mouth. "My God. What is she?"

"A vampire." Buffy replies. "Xander, Cordy, hold onto to her, so my Mother can look her over."

Joyce looks hesitantly at the people around her, but she steps forward and touches the girl's skin. She shudders as she feels how cold it was. She reaches for her throat, to check her pulse. She holds her hand there for a full minute and feels nothing. She shakes her head in disbelief and asks. "Do you have a name?"

The vampire snickers, not realizing who she was facing. Her face turns back into the fifteen year old girl that she originally looked like. Her mouth sweeps up into a cruel smile. "For what? To tell my family that I died?"

"Something like that." Joyce admits. "It would give them a sense of closure."

"Don't worry about them." The vampire replies with a laugh. "The first thing that I did when I became a vampire was to feast on them. My Father and Mother never saw it coming, but I kept my little brother alive for a few days, slowly torturing him to death."

Joyce's eyes flash. She steps forward and smacks her across her face. "How could you do that to your own family?"

The vampire surges forward, but is stopped by Xander and Cordelia. "I was hungry and they were easy targets." The vampire snidely replies. "Just like your family will be."

Joyce turns to Buffy and demands. "This is what you fight!? These things are monsters! How can you stop them all!?"

"One at a time, Mom. One at a time." Buffy replies evenly.

The vampire laughs. "Who are you to stop us, mortal?"

Buffy's mouth turns up in a weak grin as she tells the vampire. "I'm the Slayer."

The vampire glares at Cordelia and hisses in fear. "But she beat me to the ground. What is she if you're the Slayer."

"An Amazon." Cordelia replies as she stabs the vampire through the back with a wooden knife and Joyce watches as she turns to dust right in front of her.

"Oh. My. God." Joyce replies and takes gulp of her coffee, while looking at the bottle of whiskey in the other room. < I definitely need a drink. > She looks at Buffy. "What happened to her?"

"When you kill a vampire by staking it or beheading it, the vampire turns to dust." Buffy replies. "When the demon that makes the body move is killed, the body collapses."

Joyce, shocked beyond belief, quietly asks. "Can we finish this tomorrow? I can't take anymore."

"Sure Joyce." Steve replies. "Since I kicked in the door, I'll stay down here and keep an eye on things. Xander, Oz an I will fix it tomorrow."

"Thank you Steve." Joyce replies as she slowly walks upstairs. Buffy follows her and everyone else leaves. Xander leaves the carpet cleaner behind.

Steve closes the door and picks up the carpet cleaner and begins to set it up. After a few minutes he begins to clean the blood from the carpet and the furniture. < Got to get rid of this before it sets. If it sets, I'll have to buy Joyce new furniture and replace the entire carpet. >

*****

Buffy looks down from the second floor landing and sees Steve cleaning the blood from the carpet and the furniture. < Thanks honey, Mom doesn't need to see that stuff in the morning. > She turns back and checks on her mother's bedroom. She looks inside and sees her Mother sitting on the bed, a glass of water in her hand. Buffy softly knocks and Joyce looks up and smiles weakly at her. Buffy walks in, asking. "Are you all right, Mom?"

Joyce shakes her head. "Not really, honey." Buffy nods her head, understanding. "Buffy?" Buffy looks back at her. "Are you sure that you don't need a doctor?"

Buffy grins and reveals her stomach. Joyce looks on in shock at the smooth expanse of skin. She reaches out and touches it, feeling only normal, healthy skin. Joyce smiles. "Just one more thing, Buffy."

"What is it Mom?"

"Is Steve a nice guy?"

"Yeah, he is." Buffy replies with a smile. "I've been trying to get him to go out with me for the last three weeks, but he didn't think it was proper."

"Then why did he go out with you when I asked him?"

Buffy grins. "I asked him the same thing. The big lug told me that he felt more comfortable dating me with your permission."

Joyce smiles. "At least he has manners, Buffy. Unlike most men."

"I know Mom." < Most guys would have used me and thrown me away when I threw myself at them. But not Steve. > Buffy thinks to herself as she hugs her mother. "Do you want me to sleep in here tonight?"

Joyce giggles. "Are you afraid that I might have nightmares after all of this?"

"Yeah. Bad ones."

Joyce shakes her head in disbelief and kisses Buffy on top of her head. "Don't worry about me honey. You're just across the hall and Steve is downstairs." Joyce replies with a giggle. She cocks her head to the side and asks. "What is that noise coming from down stairs?"

"Steve's cleaning up the blood from the carpet and the couch."

Joyce looks heavenward. "And he does housework? God help us all, a man who willingly does housework. What has the world come to?" Joyce then giggles uncontrollably.

Buffy glares at her Mother, but she also begins to giggle as well. "He is a surprise, isn't he?"

Joyce smiles and asks. "Can you tell me one more thing before you go to sleep?"

"What, Mom?"

"Why you?"

Buffy grimaces, her face, showing her heartache. She looks at the wall above Joyce's head. "Giles said that I was chosen by what he calls the �Powers That Be' to become humanity's champion." Buffy sits down next to her mother, staring at the floor, while she softly continues. "I didn't want this. I wanted a prom, a car, a nice guy for a boyfriend and I wanted to go to college. Now I'm fighting to save the world and I'm never going to grow old." Buffy sighs softly and grins. "At least I have a boyfriend that I like."

"Is there more that I should know about?" Joyce asks as she and Buffy stand up.

"Yeah, there's a lot of stuff. But we'll talk about it in the morning."

"All right." Joyce replies as she moves the covers back. "But I'll expect you to tell me everything in the morning."

"We'll tell you everything." Buffy confirms.

*****

Buffy wakes up to the smell of food and as she breathes in the smell, her stomach rumbles loudly. < Oh God! Pancakes! Mom must be up. > She gets up and grabs a robe over her tee-shirt and sweats and walks downstairs to the kitchen. Instead of finding her Mother there, she finds her teacher and friend, Steve St. Wolf making a pancake breakfast. She sits down at the counter, grinning. Steve looks over to her and asks. "What's so funny?"

"Just you making breakfast." Buffy replies with a grin. < Mom's right. He's a keeper. > "I'm starved."

"You should be. Your body's going to be craving calories to replace the ones that it used to repair last nights stab wound."

"Does that happen often?" Buffy asks.

"What? Getting stabbed or your body needing extra energy after it repairs itself."

"Both, actually." Buffy replies as she stares hungrily at the pile of pancakes.

Steve grins as she watches the pancakes pile up. "Doesn't happen often. Why don't you go wake up your Mother. I'm sure that she'd want to eat something after last night."

"Just set me up a double order." Buffy replies as she goes back upstairs to her Mother's room. Buffy softly knocks on her mother's bedroom door and looks in.

Joyce looks up from the bed and asks. "What time is it?"

"Eight o'clock Mom. Rise and shine. Steve's got the coffee going and he made pancakes for us." Buffy replies with a grin.

Joyce takes a sniff of the air and grins. "They smell good. I'll be right down." Buffy grins and hurries downstairs.

She finds Steve in the kitchen, flipping a pancake onto a plate and Buffy grabs a plate full and begins to eat them. She wolfs down a half dozen by the time Joyce joins them. As Joyce sits down, Steve hands her a plate of pancakes and asks. "Do you want the maple syrup hot?"

"Please." Joyce replies and watches as Steve takes a saucepan off a low flame and pours a generous amount of syrup onto her pancakes. Joyce digs in and savors the taste of the pancakes, butter and syrup. "I'll have to skip a dozen lunches to lose the weight these will give me."

Steve grins at the compliment. "Giles and Jenny will be here in a short while. I'll hold off on any explanations until they get here."

"Thank you." Joyce replies between mouthfuls. < I hope it's something more believable than what I heard last night. >

The meal is quickly over, with Buffy taking extra helpings. Joyce stares at her wolfing down the food. "Healing a wound like that tends to make the body very hungry." Steve explains. Joyce just shakes her head in amusement as Buffy gulps down a large glass of orange juice.

Buffy looks over to her Mother and Steve and sees them both smiling at her. "What!?" She demands.

"Just enjoying the sight of you enjoying your food." Joyce replies with a grin. "You don't know how many times I've worried over you not eating enough for breakfast."

"Oh Mom! Stop worrying about me. I'm a big girl." Buffy whines. All three of them break up in laughter.

A few minutes later, everyone finishes breakfast and the plates are soaking in the sink and the three of them move into the living room. Joyce looks around and can't believe how clean it looked. She turns to Steve and asks. "What happened here?"

Steve grins sheepishly. "Since I was cleaning up the blood, I decided to clean up the entire room. Didn't want anyone to wonder why only a small part of the room was cleaned."

Joyce just shakes her head in disbelief. "What happened to the body?"

"It'll disappear. I had Xander, Oz and Cordelia take it to a group that makes things like that disappear." Steve replies.

Joyce reappraises Steve in a second and asks. "You don't just deal in antiques, do you?"

"No." Steve quietly replies. "I also occasionally work for the CIA."

Joyce gulps. "Are you like James Bond?"

Steve grins. "Sorry, I don't like my martinis shaken or stirred. Truth be told, I don't really drink at all." Buffy giggles. "And I don't hop into bed with every woman that I meet."

"That's nice to know." Joyce replies with a small smile as she watches Buffy's reaction. < Glad to know that he's a one woman man. > "So, what are your plans concerning my daughter?"

Steve, not used to the sudden change in discussion, coughs as he shakily puts his coffee cup down. "I'm sorry, but you were asking about my intentions toward Buffy?"

"Of course I was." Joyce replies with a deceptive purr.

< Oh boy. I might be in trouble here. > Steve thinks to himself as he replies. "They're quite honorable."

"And what are they?" Joyce asks as the doorbell rings. She smiles. "Saved by the bell."

"I'll get it." Buffy replies in relief as she jumps up and goes to the door. She grins as she opens it and finds Giles and Jenny standing there. "Where are Willow, Cordy and the rest?" She asks as they walk in.

"They decided to stay out of it, for now." Giles explains as he and Jenny sit down.

"Very smart." Buffy replies with a grin as she sits down next to Steve.

"So am I going to learn more about this Immortality that Steve and Buffy share?" Joyce asks as she glares at all four of them.

Steve sighs and begins. "Joyce, please understand that what we are about to tell you right now and what was told to you last night is to be kept secret. For our sakes as well as yours and Buffy's."

"I'll keep your secrets Steve. For my daughter's sake." < And because she obviously cares for you. >

"Thanks Joyce." Steve replies. "Do you have any questions?

"Too many." Joyce softly replies. Steve and Giles nod their heads in understanding. "But I have to understand what happened to my baby."

"You just have to ask, Joyce." Steve replies.

"Why are you Immortal? Why is Buffy Immortal?"

"I don't know Joyce. One of my best friends was a philosopher monk named Darius. When I first met him I learned that he had lived for three thousand years and had never found the answer to that question."

"Was?" Joyce asks. "I thought you were Immortal?"

"There is one way to kill us Joyce." Steve replies slowly as he looks over to Buffy, who nods her head in agreement. "It involves the total removal of the head."

Joyce swallows. "Why did they kill him?"

"Some normal people found out that he was Immortal and killed him because he was different. There was no other reason." Steve replies bitterly. < The Hunters are dead, Joyce doesn't have to know about them. >

"My God." Joyce replies softly while looking at Buffy. "Is something like that going to happen to Buffy?"

"Not while we're alive." Giles replies softly, with conviction.

Joyce looks over to him and wonders. < Why does this man care so much for Buffy. Is he having sex with her? > Joyce stifles those thoughts as she asks. "Why do you care, Mr. Giles?"

"When I was assigned to Buffy, I was told that I would have a willful, disobedient child on my hands. At first, I thought they were right." Giles replies with an easy grin. Buffy also giggles, remembering their first few weeks together. "But over time, I found her to be a resourceful, caring, brave young woman who would give so much of herself that at times I wished that she could lead a normal life." Buffy reaches over and gives him a hug. Giles pats her softly on the back.

Joyce watches as her daughter hugs Giles and smiles softly. < He does care for Buffy. But as a daughter. > She watches this strange man as he looks at her daughter like her father should have, but never did. Joyce feels a moment of shame for her earlier thoughts. "By being an Immortal, is Buffy in any danger?"

Steve glances over to Buffy and she silently nods her head. He sighs. "There is some danger to being an Immortal."

"Danger?" Joyce asks with a shake of her head.

"Some Immortals play something called the �Game'. I'll also be training her to protect herself against these Immortals."

Joyce gasps. "Why does Buffy need to protect herself?"

"Because the �Game' is a ritual combat that's fought to the death by Immortals." Steve replies in disgust.

"Game?" Joyce's eyes plead for reassurance.

"Several thousand years ago, an old Immortal named Krevar got bored with life and decided to play a little joke. He told two of his students a secret about Immortals. They went out and one killed the other, gaining the other's life force, adding it to his own and thus increasing his own power. This student left Krevar and started what is now called the �Game'. Other Immortals now play it hoping to gain power and some mysterious �Prize'. I think that the entire situation is a pack of lies."

"And you don't play this �Game'?" Joyce asks, noting the disgust in Steve's voice.

Steve closes his eyes. "No, I don't. I think we Immortals should be doing other things."

"Like what?"

Steve's voice cracks with emotion. "Protecting humanity. Taking on missions that would kill normal people. Just not playing this insanity that we call �The Game'. This insanity has killed so many of the great ones. Men and women who, if they didn't have to spend so much time fighting or dying, could have really made a difference in this world."

"You've lost some good friends to this �Game'." Joyce comments.

"Some great people." Steve replies bitterly, a tear running down his face.

"And you miss them?" Joyce asks.

Steve smiles. "I do."

Joyce sighs and changes the subject. "What about Willow and the rest? Do they know that you two are Immortals?"

"Yeah, they do." Buffy replies.

"What were they doing last night?"

"Patrolling while Steve and I went on our date." Buffy replies with a weak grin.

"Buffy!! You're an Immortal, why are you risking your friends' lives like that?" Joyce demands. "What if they were hurt? You wouldn't forgive yourself."

Buffy grimaces, but Jenny answers for her. "Joyce." Jenny begins, getting her attention. "Each of us has abilities that more than make us able to fight and protect ourselves."

"Are all of you Slayers and Immortals?" Joyce demands, not liking the implications.

"No." Jenny replies. "But, Willow, Amy, Cordelia and I are Amazons. Oz is a werewolf, Xander has the memories and abilities of a Green Beret, Giles is a Mage, Warrior and Scholar."

Joyce stares at Jenny and hoarsely asks. "Is that why that vampire thought Cordelia was the Slayer? Because she's an Amazon? But how? Amazons were only a myth, weren't they?"

Giles shakes his head. "I'm afraid not, Joyce. The Amazons were quite real and they did exist over two thousand years ago. When Caesar ordered that all Amazons be killed, they went underground to protect themselves and keep their history intact. When Willow and Xander found out that Buffy was the Slayer, they wanted to help and Buffy accepted their help."

"Willow said that she ran away from the vampires when Buffy first moved here. Why is it different now?"

"Because Willow, Cordelia, Amy and I only came into our heritage recently, when Steve began training us to fight and we're now learning at an accelerated pace, especially Cordelia." Jenny replies with a grin.

"Why is Cordelia different?"

"Let's just say that Cordelia gives term �ball buster' a whole new meaning." Buffy replies with a wide grin.

Joyce smiles. "So she's taken to being an Amazon with enthusiasm?"

"Oh yeah." Buffy replies with a giggle. "Xander likes it a lot as well."

"Oh? Why?" Joyce asks.

"Because she no longer cares about what her old friends say about her and Xander being together." Buffy replies with a giggle. "She didn't want to be seen with him public before, but now, she doesn't care what anyone says."

"That's good. But what about Xander? How did he become a soldier?"

"Last Halloween, an evil wizard cast a spell that caused many of the children to become the costumes that they wore. Xander happened to be dressed as a soldier and he became a real soldier. After Giles stopped the wizard, everyone returned to being normal, except for Xander. He some how kept those abilities." Jenny replies.

"My God." Joyce mutters. "And Oz?"

"Oz got bit by his cousin Jordy, who's a werewolf." Buffy replies with a giggle.

"Buffy, that's not funny." Joyce replies.

"Oz's cousin Jordy is only two years old. His father, Ken is also a werewolf. His mother, Oz's Aunt Maureen, never knew he was a werewolf until Jordy was born and he changed into a werewolf when the moon was full."

Joyce just shakes her head in disbelief as she gets up. She walks over to the kitchen and asks. "Does anyone want any coffee?"

"Yeah, all of us could do with a cup right about now." Jenny replies as the doorbell rings.

Joyce moves over to the door and lets in the rest of Buffy's friends. She smiles as Xander and Oz put down a pair of large tool kits and Xander asks. "Is it safe?" Cordelia smacks him as Joyce smiles at their antics.

"Yes it is." Joyce replies as she watches Oz and Xander calmly take out some tools and begin measuring the door jab and frame.

Xander looks over to Steve. "Some kick Steve. You took out the whole frame, door and lock. We're going to need to replace everything, including the door."

Steve sighs and pulls out his wallet. "Here's my credit card. Go down to the lumber store and pickup a lock set and a complete door and frame set." Steve then looks at Joyce. "Do you want them to get a steel core door or replace the door with the same wooden one?"

"Steve, you don't have to pay for the door." Joyce replies. "You saved my life and Buffy's last night, I couldn't ask you to pay for it."

"Consider it a loan, Joyce." Steve replies.

"A loan then." Joyce replies as she tells Xander. "Get the steel core door."

"Right, Mrs. Summers." Xander replies as he and Oz put the tools back in the boxes and leave.

Joyce walks into the kitchen and begins a fresh pot of coffee. As she rummages around for enough cups, she's joined by Buffy, Jenny, Willow, Cordelia and Amy. Joyce looks over the five young women and sees the difference in all of them. "I'll bring the coffee right out." Joyce tells them.

Buffy gives her a brief smile. "We just want to make sure that you're all right Mom. What Jenny, Steve and Giles told you takes a lot to believe."

Joyce sighs and looks at her daughter, noticing the concern in her eyes. "It is a bit much to believe, honey. But I think that over time, I can come to terms with it."

Buffy gives her a hug. "Do you still mind that Steve and I didn't tell you about us knowing each other?"

"Of course I do, Buffy. I'm thinking about grounding you for that one." Joyce replies with a merry twinkle in her eye.

"You wouldn't!?" Buffy stammers out. "It'll give Steve the excuse to stop dating me."

Joyce grins. < Now I have her. > "So that little scene at the mall was just playacting?"

Buffy stares down at the floor, a small smile tugging at her lips. "I couldn't let you think you'd found the right guy for me." Buffy replies. "You'd never let me live it down."

Joyce laughs softly. "A mother always knows."

Buffy rolls here eyes skyward, praying. "Please God, kill me now."

"Just grab the coffee cups, honey. And don't take things so seriously." Joyce replies with a grin. Buffy also grins and takes the cups as ordered. The women walk out of the kitchen and find Steve and Giles removing the door from its hinges. Joyce grins as she calls out. "Do you two want coffee?"

"Sure." Steve replies as he takes a cup.

"How do you want it?" Joyce asks.

"Black." Steve and Buffy reply at the same time. Both of them look at each other and back at Joyce, who's now glaring at them both.

"Ahem." Giles replies, breaking the tension. "If you would help here." Steve goes back and helps Giles remove the door from its hinges.

Joyce just watches the pair in action and grins. < At least neither of them is Tim Allen. >

As they put the door to the side, Steve looks over the damage to the frame and shakes his head. He picks up his cup of coffee and sits down next to Buffy. Joyce takes a quick glance at the deadbolt and shudders. "Steve."

He looks up from where he was sitting, quietly talking to Buffy. "Yes, Joyce?"

"When I had this deadbolt put in, the locksmith told me that it would survive an elephant stampede, but you destroyed it with a single kick. How?" Steve grimaces and rolls back his sleeves. Joyce looks at the silver armbands around each arm and asks. "What are those?"

"These are the bracers that Hercules' cousin Hephaestus created for him. They can, in times of stress, increase my strength by a factor of ten. Don't ask me to explain it, because I can't."

"What makes your sword glow blue?"

"Magic. The sword is enchanted, like Excalibur."

"That's incredible. Where did you get it?" Joyce asks.

Steve coughs and fidgets a bit. "That's kind of hard to explain, Joyce. But the basic facts are that I got it as a gift from a friend."

"Who was this �friend'?" Joyce asks.

"A dragon named Fragnar." Steve softly replies.

Joyce stares in disbelief. "Did you just say a �Dragon named Fragnar'?"

Steve smiles. "I'm afraid that I did say that."

"Now this has gone too far!" Joyce explodes. "What you told me was far fetched, but I was starting to believe some of it. But Dragons? Please, even I am not that gullible!" Joyce angrily replies as she gets up and stalks away. Buffy, Jenny, Amy Cordelia and Willow quickly follow her back into the kitchen. Joyce turns on them and demands. "Don't tell me that you all believe that load of crap?"

"Mom, there's a lot about Steve that's hard to believe, but he's never lied to us about anything." Buffy replies. "He's done so much for us in the last three weeks that we tend to take what he says as the truth."

"Buffy, I can't believe that you believe everything that he's told you." Joyce angrily replies.

"Mom." Buffy begins softly. "I was the Slayer for two years before he came here. I've fought vampires, demons and other monsters here and in Los Angeles. Steve has been a demon hunter for fourteen years and he's traveled the world. If Sunnydale and Los Angeles can have vampires and demons, why can't there be Dragons who fight to protect people?"

"But Buffy, this is all so strange." Joyce replies in soft voice. "Things that I've come to think of as fairy tales and stories are true. Vampires and demons walking around at night and you being the hero that stops them. Your friends are also heroes who have amazing powers and skills. And Steve is the hero that you find and fall in love with. Pardon me, but I find this particular fantasy too hard to believe."

"Sorry, Mom, but we're going to keep on fighting."

"What about Steve? Where does he fall into all of this?"

"He's the man that I care for and want to be a part of my life." Buffy replies with conviction. "He cares so much for people and has done so much good in the world, but he's so lonely. I know how he feels."

Joyce looks at the kitchen door and her daughter, wondering. "Why is he lonely, Buffy?"

Buffy grimaces. "He misses his wife Katherine. He's not let another woman get close to him in the last fifteen years."

"If he loved her so much why isn't he still with her?"

Buffy looks over to Jenny and Jenny nods her head. "Joyce." Jenny begins. "Steve's wife was murdered, fifteen years ago."

"Oh my God! How?" Joyce asks as she shakily puts down her cup of coffee.

"Steve was investigating a missing child in Houston and Katherine was a social worker for the city of Dallas. While she was visiting one of her cases, six men kidnapped her. Before they were through with her, she was raped, multiple times. After they were done with her, they killed her and left her body in front of an elementary school."

"Dear sweet God. And how did Steve react to what happened to her?" Joyce asks, dreading the answer.

"Steve helped the Texas Rangers capture them. When they got to trial, they bribed their way to a mistrial and were able to walk out of the courtroom, free."

"And Steve didn't do anything?" Joyce asks, remembering how Steve looked the previous night.

Buffy sighs. "Mom, you know he didn't. Steve hunted them down and found them in a bar outside of Amarillo, Texas. He walked in, shot them down dead, paid the bartender for the cleanup costs and walked out."

"And the Texas Police aren't looking for him?"

"Steve officially died a year later, saving those children he told you about." Jenny explains. "The police consider him dead."

"What about the body? Hasn't anyone ever looked for the body?"

"From the files that we were able to access from the Dearborn Police Department and the Texas Rangers, they both consider the case closed and Steve's former persona of Carson Jamieson, dead. There is an inactive case regarding the disappearance of Steve's body from the morgue in the Dearborn Police's files, but they consider it as a dead case, not worth the time of any detective."

Joyce settles down and asks. "What about the CIA? Why does he work for them?"

"Because he cares, Mom." Buffy replies. "He can't standby and watch injustice happen in the world and his friends in the CIA help him fight it."

Joyce stares at her now empty coffee cup and softly asks. "Can you be happy with someone like that?"

"I can, Mom." Buffy tells her softly as she holds her hand.

Joyce hugs Buffy and quietly murmurs. "If he hurts you, I'll kill him."

Pulls back and looks at her Mother. "Mom! Steve would never willingly hurt me or any of our friends."

"I know and I'm glad you do as well." Joyce replies as she turns and refills her cup of coffee. "So what do we do now?"

"You let Steve and the guys fix our door and then we take them out to lunch?" Buffy replies with a smile.

"Sounds like a plan. But I would rather make lunch here and ask a few more questions." Joyce replies.

"Sure, Mom." Buffy replies as they walk back into the living room.

Joyce watches as Steve, Xander and Oz put the final touches on the door. She turns to Buffy with a small smile. "At least I got a new door out of this."

Steve looks up from testing the deadbolt. "Oh hi, Joyce. I've replaced the lock set and added a double entry lock."

Joyce smiles. "That's good. Now I have some more questions, if you don't mind?"

"Of course not. Do you want me to order some pizza for lunch?" Steve asks.

"Certainly." Joyce replies. "But lunch is on me."

"Of course Joyce." Steve replies as he picks up the phone and calls Romero's Pizza. Ted answers the phone. "Ted, this is Steve, can you deliver four large pizzas to 1630 Revello Drive?"

"You want the usual mix?"

"Yeah, that would be great."

"Not a problem Steve. But, can I ask why I'm delivering there."

"I'm having lunch with Buffy and her mother." Steve replies.

"Oh shit!" Ted replies with a laugh. "I'll be there in about thirty minutes."

"Thanks Ted." Steve replies as he hangs up the phone and sits back down next to Buffy. "Ted will be here in thirty minutes."

"Great. Are you getting the usual?" Xander asks as he puts away the tools.

"Yep." Steve replies as he sits back and asks Joyce. "Joyce you had some questions?"

"I do." Joyce replies, deep in thought. "I want to know what you're doing to help Buffy and her friends."

"Easy enough Joyce." Steve replies as he turns to Giles. "Do you still have the tape?"

"I do." Giles replies as he takes out the tape from his coat pocket.

A smiling Buffy grabs it up and heads to the VCR and puts it in. "Mom, this happened three weeks ago. Please watch it." Joyce nods her head in agreement as she sits back and watches the tape in its entirety.

When the tape finishes, she looks at Buffy and asks. "Who were those people? Why were you using a gun? I recognize Nick Raven's wife in the group. Why was she there? Where was he when this was happening?"

"The people fighting with Buffy on the ground were Immortals." Steve replies easily, Joyce looks on in shock and stutters out.

"You mean that there's more than the two of you?"

"According to the latest information, there are an estimated nine thousand, four hundred Immortals, alive at this time." Giles replies.

Joyce looks over to him. "How do you know that, Mr. Giles?"

Giles looks over to Buffy and she nods her head. Giles holds up his left wrist and shows her a tattoo. Jenny also holds up her left wrist and she has the same, stylized Y in a circle. "Jenny and I belong to the Society of Watchers. The Society watches and chronicles the lives of the Immortals."

"What about the Council of Watchers? Aren't they the same thing?"

Giles shakes his head. "No, they're not. Until three weeks ago, neither knew the other existed. Steve brought in Joe Dawson who heads the North American branch of the Society of Watchers and introduced myself and Jenny to him. Joe offered us the job of �Watching' Steve and Buffy for him and we agreed to do it."

"What about this �Council of Watchers'." Joyce asks.

Giles' face turns stony. "The Council is still blind to the existence of Immortals and the Society. And they will never find out about them from me."

"Why?"

"Because I think they are wrong in how they treat the young women who come under their control. They treat the girls who become Slayers as mere tools, to be used and thrown away when they are no longer of use or incapable of continuing. They strip them of their identities and families and expect them to perform flawlessly. If they fall short, they die horrible deaths at the hands of monsters. If they found out about Buffy's Immortality and that Steve was helping her, they would try to take her away and isolate her from everyone, including you."

"Like Hell they will!" Joyce grinds out. "No one! And I mean NO ONE is going to take MY daughter away from me!!"

"Believe me when I say this Joyce." Steve quietly replies, while holding Buffy's hand in his own. "If they try it, the people you saw on the tape will be only the beginning of the army that I'll put together to get her back."

Joyce's eyes mist as she feels the truth in Steve's words and finally realizes just how much he really cared for Buffy. "Thank you." Joyce replies in a quiet voice. "Now, why were you using a gun? And what happened to the vampires when you shot them?"

Buffy grimaces. "Steve gave me the shotgun to use on the vampires."

"Joyce." Joyce looks over to Steve. "The shotguns, as you saw were loaded with what's called a Dragon's Breathe shell."

"Why did the vampires disappear when you shot them?"

"Another way of killing vampires is to burn them. Dragon's Breathe shells are what's called an incendiary round. They have a high temperature and since they are sticky, they will burn through anything they hit."

"You should have seen Steve kill twenty of them with a single shot down in the sewers." Buffy comments with a grin.

Joyce just shakes her head in disbelief. "How many did you kill with those guns?"

"About fifty." Steve replies. Those shots were the signal for Casey to lead the charge against their rear."

"Where was Nick Raven while his wife was fighting?"

"On the track above the fighting, guarding me, Cordelia, Willow, Oz, Giles, Jenny, Amy and Joe Dawson." Xander replies. "We were spraying the vampires with holy water while Giles and Joe were taking pictures."

"Who were the people fighting beside you on the gym floor?" Joyce asks as Buffy picks up the remote control and quickly rewinds the tape.

Buffy takes the tape back to the beginning and freezes it showing herself standing with Steve and another man. "That's John Phoenix, he's an anti-terrorist guy Steve knows. He's also an Immortal. Everyone on the ground with a sword was an Immortal."

"My God." Joyce mutters at the number of Immortals present, helping Buffy.

Buffy moves the tape forward to a still of Casey Romaine leading the other Immortals into the fight. "That's Casey Romaine, he's an Immortal Mercenary that owes Steve a few favors." Buffy then moves the tape forward to a dark hair, lanky man and a red haired woman. "That's Mulder and Scully, Mom."

Joyce looks at the couple and recognizes them. "Oh God. They came into the gallery three weeks ago and bought a seascape for their home. I thought they were a young, professional couple."

Buffy grins and moves the tape forward and shows a dark haired man with a pony tail and flashing eyes. "That's my first teacher, Duncan MacLeod. He's been an Immortal since 1622." Steve replies as Buffy moves through the tape again, this time showing a red haired young man, not much older than Buffy and her friends. "That's Richie Ryan, he's Duncan's present student." Buffy then moves to another dark haired man, his face showing a slightly maniacal gleam in his eyes. "That's Methos, he's the oldest of us at five thousand years."

"He can't be. He couldn't be over 32, maybe 35 years old." Joyce mutters in surprise.

"Sorry Joyce, but he's the real thing. He's seen the rise and fall of the Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, practically every major culture that man has ever created." < And has helped bring down a few himself. >

"Why did all of these people come to help?"

"The boy scout factor." Steve replies with a grin. Joyce looks puzzled as everyone laughs at the joke. The doorbell suddenly rings and Joyce gets up to answer the door. When she gets to it, she tries to open the door and can't. She looks around and sees the key in the double lock and turns it. The door then opens to a grinning young man with four large pizzas in his hands.

"Hi, I'm Ted." The young man replies with a grin. "You must be Buffy's Mom."

Joyce smiles at the young man. "I am. How much?"

"Fifty four dollars, Mrs. Summers." Ted replies easily.

Joyce hands him over three twenties. "Here's sixty. Keep the change." Ted grins and tips his hat and Joyce grins as she watches the young man quickly head back to his truck. She turns back into the house and grins as Xander grabs up the pizzas and head to the coffee table with them. She watches as Buffy, Willow, Amy and Cordelia bring out paper plates, napkins and sodas from the kitchen. She watches as Steve and Giles move the table between the couch and the chairs. "I see that you have done this before." Joyce replies with a grin as she sits down.

"A few times." Steve replies with a grin of his own as Buffy sits down next to him and hands him a plate and napkins.

Joyce watches in silent glee as Buffy snuggles up next to Steve and he wraps his arm around her waist without a second thought. < Well, now I know how they feel about each other. > She clears her throat and asks. "You were going to explain this �boy scout factor', Steve?"

Steve grins. "As Methos disgustedly puts it. �Put two boy scouts together and watch them drag all of their friends and anyone else who is close enough to grab into doing a good deed.' Duncan and I were the two boy scouts."

Joyce laughs softly as she reaches for a slice of pizza. "How apt. Perhaps living five thousand years taught him something."

"Only to ingest massive quantities of beer when he can." Steve replies with a grin. Joyce looks up, curious. "Sorry Joyce. Methos tends to drink all the beer any place he goes."

"I hope that his �habits' aren't rubbing off on Buffy and her friends." Joyce replies testily.

"Don't worry about it Joyce, I don't keep any beer in the house." Steve replies with a grin. "Methos was complaining more about the lack of beer than the fact we had to fight a large number of vampires."

"That's a relief." Joyce replies while glaring at Buffy and Slayerettes. "If those things are out there, then getting drunk is a death sentence in this town." She looks over to her liquor cabinet and then quickly changes the subject. "So what are your plans now?"

"We're going to be expanding our patrols and base of operations." Steve replies.

"What?"

"What Steve means, Mrs. Summers." Xander begins. "Since we've been able to dust most of the vampires in town, we're going to split off into teams. Cordelia, Willow, Amy, Oz and myself will be doing the regular patrol duty around Sunnydale, while Steve, Buffy, Giles and Jenny will begin to attack the vampires and demons in the surrounding suburbs."

"Why are they going to the other towns? Aren't all of the monsters here because of the Hellmouth?"

"The Hellmouth pulls them in, but many of them wander from community to community, feeding and killing as they go." Giles replies. "And the police forces in those places are not equipped to handle the threat. We are."

Joyce sits still on her chair and looks into the eyes of her daughter, her young friends and the three adults and sees only grim determination. She nods her head in acceptance at their brave decision. "What can I do to help?"

Steve looks over to Buffy, who silently nods her head. "Nothing Mom. We only need to know that you're safe."

"That's all?" Joyce asks, not believing what she just heard.

Buffy moves over to her mother and sits down on the edge and gives her a hug. "Mom. We don't want to be worried about you. If we know you're safe, then we have one less thing to distract us."

Before Joyce can speak up, Steve adds in. "Joyce, you're a great lady, but, speaking bluntly, you can't fight these things. You could be killed trying to help us. And if that happened, then Buffy would be devastated and lost."

"So I'm nothing more than a woman waiting in the kitchen for the heroes to come home?" Joyce asks, her anger clearly showing.

"No you're not, Joyce and deep down, you know it." Steve calmly replies. "You're Buffy's security blanket, her anchor to a normal world where vampires and demons don't roam. You're the person that she depends on most to help her through the hard times and believe me when I say that there are a lot of those."

Joyce looks up into Buffy's eyes and sees only concern for her welfare. "Oh baby, I'm sorry that I scared you." She replies and gives Buffy a motherly hug.

Buffy returns the hug and whispers. "Please don't try to fight Mom. I don't want to lose you."

Joyce pushes Buffy back. "Honey, I'm never leaving you. I promise that I won't try fighting beside you."

"Thanks Mom. Steve's right. You and my friends are the only reason that I haven't gone insane doing this for the last two years."

Joyce looks around her and softly replies. "I still find it hard to believe that you and your friends have been doing this �work' for the last two years."

"Don't Mom." Buffy replies. "Denial is a hard thing to beat. Just accept that the world is weirder than you thought it was and you'll feel a lot better."

Joyce sighs. "I know, honey."

Steve checks his watch and curses softly. Joyce and Buffy look over to him. He looks back at them and grins. "While you two were asleep last night, Robert called and told me that he and Carol would be late today. I promised Robert that I'd open the shop at ten o'clock. But that was three hours ago. Joyce, if you need to have anymore questions answered, Giles and Jenny can do it."

Joyce shakes her head. "No, that's all right. I have more than enough to think about."

Steve nods his head in understanding as he gets up and picks up his jacket. Buffy walks him over to the door and both walk outside. As they stand on the porch, Buffy gives him a hug and quietly tells him. "She'll be all right."

"I hope it wasn't too much for her." Steve replies as he holds her.

"No, what relieved her the most was the video tape of your friends fighting beside us. She now sees that we're not alone."

"All right." Steve replies as he raises Buffy's chin in his hand and kisses her. After he finishes, Steve tells her. "Let me know if you or Joyce need anything."

Buffy continues to hold herself in place, not saying a word, as Steve puts on his jacket. When he touches her, she starts and asks. "What happened?"

Steve grins. "Just saying, I'll be at the store until seven tonight. Want to have dinner afterwards?"

Buffy turns a slight red. "Okay. But I'll tell Mom that we're going out."

Steve looks back at the front windows, where everyone was looking at them. "I think you'd better." And with that, he leaves.

Buffy watches Steve go and turns back to the house, she glares at the window and her friends disappear. She walks back in to find all of her friends grinning. She gives them �The Eye' and demands. "What is the problem with you people? Haven't you seen me kiss a guy before?"

"Not out in the day. . . oomph!" Xander replies just as Cordelia elbows him in the ribs.

Joyce glares at Buffy and asks. "What did Xander mean by that comment?"

Buffy hangs her head and admits. "Just that I always used to kiss Angel in the cemetery while I was patrolling."

Joyce clears her throat and asks. "I take it that your relationship with that Angel boy is over?"

"It is." Buffy replies seriously. "In fact if I do see him again, I'm going to shove a stake in his heart."

Shocked, Joyce asks. "Is he a vampire now?" Buffy nods sadly. "Is that why he treated you like that? And tried to turn me against you?"

"Yeah." Buffy admits. "He lost his soul and became a monster."

"Oh honey. I'm so sorry." Joyce replies as she takes Buffy up in a motherly hug. "I hope that Steve makes you forget him."

"I don't think she'll have a problem with that." Willow replies with a giggle as she hugs Oz to herself. Oz's mouth just splits into a wide grin as he and Willow leave.

"Yeah. The way she zoned out when Steve kissed her was funny. C'mon toolboy, we're motoring." Cordelia adds with a chuckle as she takes Xander by the arm.

"Hey! Where are you taking me to?" Xander asks. Cordelia leans in and whispers something in her ear. Xander's mouth splits into a grin and he quickly follows.

Giles and Jenny watch the two young couples leave and they turn to Joyce and Giles asks. "If you won't be needing us for anything?"

Joyce smiles, noticing the way the two were holding hands. "No Mr. Giles, please go if you have something important to do."

Both of them nod their heads and quietly leave, with Amy quickly following after giving Buffy a quick hug. Joyce watches all of them leave and she sighs in relief and begins to cleanup the pizza boxes, napkins, paper plates and soda cans. Buffy joins her and the two of them quickly finish up and they both sit in the kitchen, each holding a cup of coffee. Both of them look down into their cups and Joyce quietly asks. "Buffy." Buffy looks up, worried about her mother. "If I ever have another day like today and yesterday, I'm grounding you for the next hundred years." Buffy looks up, in shock, at her mother and sees the merry twinkle in her eye and both of them begin to giggle uncontrollably.

"Mom!" She replies between giggles.

"Just promise me one thing." Joyce asks.

"What?"

"That you'll still be my little girl, no matter what." Joyce asks as Buffy gives her a hug.

"Of course, Mom." Buffy promises.

The End

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