Author: Tim Knight

Title: Hunter In Dark

Copyright: December 2000

Rating: R (fight scenes, sexual innuendo, partial nudity, language)

Spoilers: Buffy: Season 2 until Phases.

Highlander: Season 5 until Season finale. Richie Ryan lives. Season 6 does not take place. Specific Episodes: Something Wicked and Deliverance.

Blade: The movie, but only parts about Blade's background. The events in this story are assumed to be pre-movie.

Sleepy Hollow: The movie itself.

Keywords: Buffy/ Highlander/ Hercules: The Legendary Journeys/ Xena: Warrior Princess/ Extreme Ghostbusters/ Blade (the movie)/ A few others (The full listing: Lost Boys; Pretender; Sleepy Hollow; light element of Kindred: the Embraced; and a cameo by Niles Crane from Frasier, and a quickie at the end.)

Summary: Set in the same universe as the Chronicles of Wanderer by Steve Pantovich. Sequel to Slayer In Black. In the aftermath of Witch Hunt and Slayer In Black, Steve St. Wolf and the Slayerettes must hunt down one of their own affected by a Dark Quickening.

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

The characters Shaw Hunter, Elizabeth Youngstown, Maxine Thomasson, Aeurulieth Redstar, Llednas Amarillis, Soryen Harmosk, Dargen Axeheart and Qualeck Windrunner are mine. Anyone wishing to use them may contact me at doobytim@aol.com.

The characters Steve St. Wolf, Frank Iverson, Randi Jessup, Brian Jessup, Richard Markham and Joe N'Gato are property of Steve Pantovich, as is the universe in which this story takes place. Steve can be contacted at steve711@concentric.net.

The character Robin Goodfellow is property of Mike Weyer.

Author's Notes: This story takes place approximately two months after the events in Born to Raise Hellmouth, and just after the events in Witch Hunt, by Steve Pantovich, and Slayer In Black, by myself.

Also, parts of the flashbacks in Part 12 are somewhat graphic, and readers should take note of this.

Dedications: Steve, for letting me use and work with his characters, and for suggesting that the Extreme Ghostbusters become part of Bureau 13. To Rebekah, the Dark Editor, who suggested the idea for this story, and letting me use her last name as a model for Llednas. To Timbo, for letting me bounce ideas for this story off his head. And to Mike Weyer, also for bouncing ideas, dialogue help with Robin, and for introducing Robin to the Wandererverse.

Here are the changes from normal shows that may play a part in this story:

Buffy:
Due to her drowning at the hands of the Master in Prophecy Girl, Buffy is Immortal.
Passion and Becoming never took place, so Angel is evil, and Jenny and Kendra are alive and well. Kendra has taken up residence in Sunnydale and is attending UC Sunnydale.
Amy Madison is a full time Slayerette.

Highander:
Richie Ryan is alive.
No Highlander: the Raven continuity.

Pretender:
Jarod and Parker are Immortal (don't blame me), and thought dead by the Centre.

Lost Boys:
You'll see (and you CAN blame me for that).


Hunter In Darkness

Part 1: The Clan Expands
(Be Afraid. Be VERY Afraid)

DiSalvo's Gym
Seacouver, Washington
19 November 1998

Duncan cursed softly as the phone rang for the fourth time, and he reached over Amanda's sleeping form when he realized that whoever was calling wouldn't take no answer for an answer.

"This had better be important, Steve," the Scotsman growled drowsily, attempting to blink the sleep out of his eyes.

"How'd you know it was me, Duncan?" St. Wolf asked in mild surprise on the other end.

"Only you would call this early in the morning, that's how," he replied as Amanda began to stir. Duncan got up, stretching as he walked around the bed. "What's wrong this time?"

"Sorry I woke you up, Duncan. I didn't think Amanda would wear you out so early," Steve chuckled over the line. "Here's the situation; Shaw Hunter somehow absorbed Raymond McGuire's Quickening, it's affecting her mind, she's now using weapons she's never even picked up before, and she's headed your way, or so we think, to find a way to get rid of the Quickening."

"You mean she's looking for the Watchers," Duncan reasoned as Amanda started to come awake.

"Yep, and she's running scared. Duncan," Steve informed the Highlander with concern in his tone, "she ran because we were on a mission while she held the fort here at home. She's more concerned about hurting us or distracting us from the mission than for her own safety."

"Damn," Duncan hissed, remembering a time when he had been in a similar position. "Okay, Steve. We'll keep an eye out for her, and I'll notify Dawson. Maybe his people can find her. It's a long shot, but mistakes have been known to happen," he added, attempting to lighten the tension. "I haven't let Joe live that down since we found out about Shaw."

"I remember," Steve chuckled. "Maybe it's time to retire when he can't tell the difference between elves and Immortals. Thanks, Duncan."

"Good-bye, Steve," Duncan said, hanging up the phone. He began to head for the kitchen, but stiffened as two sets of fingers began walking up his back.

"Duncan, can I ask you a question?" Amanda asked playfully.

<Uh oh.> Duncan thought. "Of course, Amanda," he replied, not fooled in the least by her tone. "What would you like to know?"

"Who's this Shaw person you and Steven were talking about?" she asked. "She sounds like someone that I certainly must meet."

"Uh, Amanda," Duncan said hesitantly, "she's a former student of Connor's, who’s now training under Steve St. Wolf."

"Hmmmmm. . ." Amanda mused, a small smile on her face. "And how old is she?"

<Oh, no. Not this.> "She's fifty-three," he answered, trying to move forward, but Amanda wrapped her arms around his shoulders, "locking" him in place.

Amanda leaned in close and whispered in Duncan's ear. "So how come I haven't heard of this young one?" she asked softly.

"Well, it's a long story," Duncan said weakly. "Connor could tell you more."

"But you're here," Amanda said, emphasizing the word "here." An evil grin came over her. "So what's she like?"

"Well, she's formal, very religious, and dedicated to helping people," the Highlander said. "She takes vampires like you take other peoples' things."

"You mean she's a party pooper," Amanda said, her shoulders dropping in disappointment. "All prim and proper, with no sense of humor."

Duncan smiled, although Amanda couldn't see it. "Actually, you might like her sense of humor. As Jonathan Smith put it, she's 'two parts me, one part his sense of humor.'"

Amanda perked up again. "Oh, really. Now I must meet her. To see if I might have some competition," she purred. "Do I, Duncan?"

Duncan began to become nervous, but decided to fight back. "Actually, she managed to get her hands on an item that I know you've never seen, much less stolen."

"Oh, is that so?" she said, unclasping her arms, allowing Duncan to face her. "And just what was this item?"

"The Sword of St. Catherine," he replied with a shrug, although Amanda could hear the humor in his voice.

"You're lying, Duncan," she snapped, poking him in the chest. "That weapon's just a legend!"

"Then how did Shaw give it to Randi Jessup?" Duncan asked slyly, a Connor-style smile on his face. "Seems someone told her that Randi was supposed to be given the Sword."

Amanda's jaw dropped, and she grabbed her head. "She stole the Sword, and she GAVE it away?!?" she moaned. "Where'd she get it from in the first place?"

"Connor," Duncan said, turning towards the kitchen. "And he wasn't too pleased when he found out about it, either."

"She stole the Sword of St. Catherine from Connor?" Amanda asked dumbly. "That sounds like something I'd do."

Duncan called from the kitchen as Amanda pulled on a nightshirt and followed him. "No, he gave it to her. He just didn't know what it was. But he does now," he said, grinning at his kinsman's predicament.

"But you said. ." she began, but stopped. "You're just trying to distract me."

"No, it's all true," Duncan swore, raising his right hand while holding a glass of water in the other. "Jehanne, as Shaw calls her, told her to give the Sword to Randi, who I hear killed a demon with it."

"And who is this 'Jehanne?'" Amanda asked, putting hands on hips.

"Joan," Duncan said, taking a sip and shrugging.

"Never mind," the thief snapped. "About this Shaw. How 'well' do you 'know' her?"

Duncan spit water all over the counter and began sputtering. "Amanda, I've known her for all of two days!!"

"It must have been a memorable two days, if your reaction's any indication," Amanda said sweetly, leaning on the counter, interlocking her fingers and resting her chin on them. "Is she. . .beautiful?"

Duncan cringed, but then smiled mentally, and he allowed a smile to come to his face, which had Amanda frowning deeply. "Yes, she is beautiful. Or, what's the right word . . .exotic."

"Oh, is that so?" Amanda said softly, the words sounding like the growl of an angry cat.

"To tell you the truth, Amanda, it's her most unique feature that surprises people," Duncan told her, sounding mysterious.

"And that would be?" The growl was louder now, and dangerous.

"Her ears."

Amanda's head jerked up, and her hands dropped to the counter. "Her ears?!? What's so 'unique' about this woman's ears?"

Duncan took a drink of water, and put the now empty glass in the sink. The delay was starting to irritate Amanda when Duncan simply answered, "They're pointed."

Amanda sat, stumped, as Duncan walked back towards the bedroom. She quickly recovered and followed the Scot.

"This Immortal woman has pointed ears?" she asked in disbelief.

"Shaw's not an Immortal, Amanda," Duncan answered, climbing into bed.

"But she's fifty-three years old. How is that possible, if the Watchers are going to look for her," she demanded.

"Don't tell me you've lived for twelve hundred years, and never heard of elves," Duncan said, humor in every single word.

Anger crossed Amanda's face. "Don't even try that, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod," she snarled. "Everyone knows that elves and fairies are just legends!"

"Like vampires?" he asked innocently, which drained the anger from Amanda, and he added one final twist of the knife. "Or the Sword of St. Catherine?"

As she glared at him, she hissed, "So this Shaw is an elf?"

"Half-elf," he corrected. "Her father was human. And if you don't believe me, call Connor. Or better yet, call Steve, and wake him up for once."

Amanda looked at the phone, obviously considering it. <Connor wouldn't let him get away with something like this. Either he thinks I won't call, or. .>

She gave up, and slowly climbed into bed. Something nagged at her mind, and she finally figured it out.

"Duncan?"

"Yes, Amanda," he muttered, trying to get to sleep.

"Who's Joan?" she asked politely.

Duncan moaned.

*****

Santa Carla, California
19 November 1998

The three vampire hunters just watched Shaw, their jaws slack from shock at the sight of the trenchcoat-clad, Uzi-wielding woman. She looked at each one in turn, and slung the strap over her shoulder.

"Is this not the point at which one says, 'hello?'" she asked to the group at large, and then sighed. "And here I thought I was learning about America."

"Well, uh," Sam said, beginning to recover, "we don't remember you being the 'Terminator' type."

"It saves physical effort," Shaw said, shrugging nonchalantly. "It also helps, being the member of a group."

"A group?" Alan asked, still numb.

"Yes, Alan," Shaw said, flashing a grin. "A large one. Consisting of Amazons, witches, a former Green Beret, a werewolf, and the Slayer."

"The Slayer?!?" all three shouted, causing Shaw to wince from the volume.

Edgar stuttered, "B-b-but, she's just a legend!"

"As are vampires?" Shaw asked, smirking at him. "Also, there is one in the group that has elf blood in her veins."

"Uh, Hunter, are you serious?" Alan asked her. "Really serious?"

"Absolutely, Alan," the ranger replied, turning around. "Now that this nest is clear, would you gentlemen like a ride back to the shop?"

"Heck, yeah. It'll save us a walk," Alan said, heading for the passenger side. He looked at his brother and other partner, who were still standing there.

"Uh, guys? What's up?"

"Uh, well, Alan," Edgar said, clearly nervous. "Uh, no offense, Shaw, but you're female, a teenager, and you're driving. And, uh, you're British."

"Scottish," Shaw countered, beginning to laugh hard. "And I do know the difference about driving on the right side of the road. But, if you wish to drive, I have no objections."

Sam and Edgar just looked at the Hummer, and back to Shaw. Finally, Edgar shrugged. "That's okay. But, should I start writing my will?"

"You will be too busy holding on for dear life," Shaw said innocently, getting in the vehicle.

"Uh, Edgar, she was joking, right?" Sam asked, drops of sweat forming on his forehead.

"I hope so," Edgar said, already sweating.

*****

Frog Comics
Santa Carla, California
Early hours
20 November 1998

The Hummer pulled up to the back of the shop, out of sight in the alley. As the lights shut off, Shaw exited the vehicle and started for the rear compartment while her companions got out, somewhat surprised at the conservative way she had driven, and by extension, that they were still in one piece.

"That was not so terrible, was it?" the half-elf asked, knowing what they were thinking. "Sam, could I receive some help, please?"

"Gotcha," Sam called, heading back while Edgar and Alan started for the back door.

Shaw opened the hatch, and Sam watched her start dragging a crate. "Sam, I have a question. Do you or the others have any experience with firearms?"

Sam nodded his head. "Yeah, I do. Grampaw gave me some training a few years ago. Likes to hunt and he's a taxidermist by trade."

Sam watched her stiffen at the mention of his grandfather, but she recovered quickly.

"Good," Shaw said coldly. "In this crate are six forty-five caliber handguns, and four thousand wooden bullets. And before you ask, the bullets are for hunting vampires, and heart shots are all that will work. Can you teach the brothers the proper way to use them?"

"You got it," he agreed, shaking his head in wonder. "Your team's got some high-tech toys, huh?"

"Yes, they do," she said, watching the Frogs walk into the store. She turned back to the box, and caught Sam looking at her strangely. "What is it, Sam?"

Sam was sweating. "Uh, Shaw, your eyes. ."

Shaw pounded the crate with the palms of her hands. "Sam, I am not something dark and sinister." She sighed. "Do you remember what I said about a member of the group having elf blood in HER veins?"

"Elf blood, huh?" Sam asked, his neutral tone belied by the wide grin on his face. "Doesn't sound so weird."

"Indeed," Shaw muttered, picking up the crate.

"You're afraid of our reaction?"

"I was," Shaw said, "but you seem to accept this very quickly, Sam."

"I find it. .fascinating," he said jokingly, but then cringed as her head whipped around, her gaze boring into him, even through the shades. "Okay, okay, no jokes about the ears."

Shaw started to turn around when shots rang out, and Shaw and Sam dropped behind the Hummer. Another pair of shots rang out.

Shaw drew her Baretta, and she and Sam quickly headed for the back door.

She stopped and took off her glasses. The half-elf turned her blue-white eyes on Sam, and handed him the Uzi. He looked at her strangely.

"If anything comes out, shoot it," she instructed harshly. "Look into their eyes, if they are not my 'color,' so to speak, shoot them."

Sam nodded fearfully, and Shaw crawled inside.

*****

Shaw duck-walked through the strange room, and heard two men laughing from the store area. Shaw rose and slowly walked to the open door. She carefully peeked out, and her heart nearly froze.

"So, these are the mighty vampire hunters," one vampire said snidely, holding a .357 in his right hand. "Oh, the all-powerful hunters."

A second vampire laughed along at the sight of Edgar and Alan bleeding from chest wounds, blood soaking their shirts. Alan was unconscious, but Edgar still had a look of defiance on his face.

"We'll get you assholes," he sneered, coughing up pink froth. "One day, you'll be sleeping, and we'll shove a stake through your bloodsucking heart!"

"Ha! You'll be dead, hunter," the second vamp said just before a loud crack sounded through the night, and he vanished in a cloud of dust.

The gun-wielding creature whirled, but saw that Shaw already had the drop on him. He quickly put his hands up, and was quite stunned that she'd been able to catch him unawares.

"How did you do that?" he asked in shocked disbelief, his demonic visage coming to the fore. "Who are you?"

"Enchanted silver bullets," the woman said coldly, firing a shot that took the vampire in the right leg. He instantly collapsed to the floor. She favored the vampire with a cold smile. "Did you know that all humans have five spots where they can be wounded, and be instantly neutralized, but kept alive?"

She fired a second shot, hitting him in the same spot in the opposite leg. The vampire screamed, and she fired two more shots, hitting him in each shoulder, just below the collarbones. A fifth shot opened a hole in his stomach.

Shaw slowly walked up to him, where he lay screaming at the top of his lungs.

"Oh, by the way, on the human MALE, there is a sixth spot," she whispered sweetly.

The vampire's eyes widened as he determined her meaning, and he stopped screaming as horror dulled his unbearable pain.

"You wouldn't dare," he whimpered.

"Oh, come now. The Hunter makes the Slayer look civilized, if I heard the rumors correctly," Shaw said, and coldly fired her sixth shot. A small hole opened between the vampire's eyes.

Shaw looked at the grisly sight on the floor, and shouted, "SAM!!"

She kneeled next to the Frog brothers, kneeling on the blood-soaked floor as she checked for signs of life. She found none in Alan, and she nearly choked, and moved to the now unconscious Edgar. He was fading fast, and Shaw began to pray. She stopped suddenly, as she saw small blue arcs of electrical energy playing over Edgar's chest wounds. Shaw sat in dumb shock as Sam came in and took in the scene.

"Holy fuck," he said.

Shaw's head jerked suddenly, and she got up, walking over to Sam.

"Sam, guard the back door," she ordered, handing over her handgun. "This gun has eight shots left. Silver bullets."

He nodded, but looked at his friends. "Shaw, are they. ."

"I have some healing spells, Sam," she said softly. "I shall do what I can. Now guard the door!"

He backed up at her tone of voice, and headed for the back. Shaw waited for him to be out of sight, and turned back to Edgar. Sure enough, blue arcs were finishing up their work of healing his wounds.

She wondered, turning to Alan. When she ripped away his blood-soaked shirt, her eyes went as wide as dinner plates. Alan had the same arcs of electricity flowing over his heart.

<BOTH of them?!?> she thought, any thoughts of healing forgotten. <I cannot believe. . .>

Her thoughts broke as her head exploded in pain, and she nearly vomited as her stomach flipped, and she doubled over.

Edgar and Alan came to simultaneously, gasping for air as they drew breath. Both Frogs sat up, looking at each other dumbly, and looked at the half-elf, who was holding her head. The young men looked at each other in total confusion.

"Damn, my head hurts," Edgar said, rubbing his forehead, and suddenly stopped when he looked Alan in the eyes. "What the hell?"

Shaw slowly rose. "We need to clean up your shop, before the authorities arrive." She walked over to the counter. "I do not believe this."

"Uh, what happened?" Alan asked her.

"We can discuss this in detail later," Shaw answered coldly. "I need to get Sam. Wait here, both of you."

Shaw walked into the storage room, and walked over to Sam. "Sam, they are all right," she said, shaking her head. "But we need to talk."

Sam handed her the Beretta, which she holstered, and he looked over her shoulder, towards the front of the store. "They're, uh, alive?"

"And well, Sam," Shaw said, and then gave him a small frown. "But we have a long talk ahead of us."

After Shaw and Sam walked back into the store area, they aided the Frogs in cleaning up the blood off of the floor. The police came, were given a fictional story about burglars breaking and entering, and mayhem. After they left, Shaw began breaking down her weapons and cleaning them.

The three men waited uncomfortably for her to talk, until Edgar finally lost his patience. "So, are you gonna tell us what happened to us?"

"A vampire shot the both of you, and then I killed him and his companion," Shaw answered, looking at Edgar sorrowfully. "You and Alan were killed before I could use any healing spells on you. You died from your wounds."

The Frogs looked at each other, and at Sam. "Uh, Sam?" Alan asked.

"I am not finished, Alan," Shaw said. "You and Edgar have apparently been chosen by the Gods to continue your fight. I have seen this before."

"You have?" Sam asked. "What's going on with Edgar and Alan?"

Shaw set the pieces of her Uzi down, and jumped up, sitting on the edge of the counter next to the register. "Do you want the theoretical answer, or the simple answer?"

The three men looked at each other for a few seconds, and then said in unison, "The simple answer."

"Alan and Edgar are Immortal," Shaw said, shrugging at the looks of shock on their faces. "You will look as you do now, never aging, forever."

"Whoa," the Frogs said together. Edgar recovered quicker. "Uh, what's the theoretical answer?"

"Better answered by another Immortal," she replied. "I can put you in touch with an Immortal I know, and he can help you further."

"What about Sam?" Alan asked, still somewhat stunned.

"I have no idea. I may be half-elven, but I have no way of identifying Immortals, or those destined to be Immortals."

"Uh, okay," Edgar said, his tone indicating that it wasn't. "So, uh, Alan and I can't die?"

"Not permanently," Shaw said. "Although you can be killed, you will revive, unless someone decapitates you."

"Decapitates?" Alan asked worriedly, looking at Shaw.

Shaw saw the look, and paled. "How could you think I would do that to you?" she asked quietly. "I did once kill an Immortal, but it WAS in self-defense."

"Okay. So, there are good guy and bad guy Immortals?" Sam asked.

"Yes. The one I killed was evil. I know several who are good, and some are my friends," the ranger said. "In fact, have you heard of the fantasy author, Cassandra Hastings?"

"I have, good writer," Sam said, smiling. "Got some of her books here."

"She is over two thousand years old," Shaw said, an evil grin coming to her face. "How do you think she knows so much about elves?"

Sam and the others sat there, their faces slack.

Shaw looked at her watch, and cursed. "I have to go. I have business up near the border."

Shaw dropped to the floor, and handed an envelope to Edgar.

"I have enclosed instructions for your 'care package' in here. Also, I have included the telephone number for you to call my leader, if you ever need the help of my group. Edgar, now, you may want to call him sooner, with yours and Alan's new situation. Wait two days, and call it. There is a code message in there for you to give him, that will inform him of your Immortality."

Shaw looked Edgar in the eyes, and held out her hand. "It was good to see you again, my friend. I only wish it had been under better circumstances."

Edgar shook her hand. "Don't be a stranger."

"You are strange enough," she joked, walking to the others and shaking their hands as well.

She turned and walked out, leaving the store. A few minutes after the Humvee left, Edgar looked at Alan. "So, now what?"

"We keep kickin' vamp ass, O Immortal Brother O' Mine."

Edgar laughed, and ripped open the envelope, drawing looks from Alan and Sam.

"Uh, Edgar, she said to wait two days," Sam reminded him.

"Uh, uh. I wanna find out what's goin' on," Edgar said, rare determination in his voice. "Something's wrong with her. She hurt that vamp for shooting us. Shot him six times before killing him. She's not like that. So, I'm calling her boss to find out if she's okay."

*****

St. Wolf Residence
Sunnydale, California
Early hours
20 November 1998

Buffy growled under her breath as the phone rang continuously. She reached over and grabbed the cell phone off of the table next to her.

"This better be good," she snarled into the phone, half-awake. She quickly came fully awake inside of ten seconds. "Just a minute."

The Slayer turned over and shook the sleeping Steve St. Wolf. "Honey, we've got someone calling about Shaw."

Steve mumbled something about being worn out under his breath, and shifted position a bit. Buffy smacked Steve on the back of the head, and this time he woke up.

"This better be important, Buffy," he muttered, still half-asleep.

"Here," she said crossly, handing him the cell phone.

Steve took the phone with a sigh, and said, "St. Wolf."

Steve listened for a few seconds, and sat up. "Keep talking, Edgar."

After several minutes, Steve was rubbing the bridge of his nose, and shaking his head. "Okay, Edgar. I'll tell you what. Next weekend, make plans to come here on Sunday, and I'll go into the details."

Steve hit the off button, and looked at Buffy, who was grinning at his displeasure. "So, what happened, Steve? Someone with pointy ears blow up a town or something?"

Steve glared at her. "No, Shaw drove into Santa Carla, shot up a vampire nest with an Uzi, and gave her friends a 'care package' consisting of six handguns and several thousand wooden bullets. Then, she gave them my number, so we can contact each other, should the need arise."

"And?" Buffy asked, knowing he wasn't finished with story.

"Well, Shaw gave them a ride back to the book store they own. Edgar and Alan, brothers, went in, and got shot by a couple of vampires."

"How bad are they hurt?" Buffy asked, surprised at her own concern for someone she'd never met.

"They're fine," Steve said. He buried his face in his hands, and slowly rubbed his cheeks. "Shaw blew away the two vamps inside the store. However, the second one, the one with the gun, she killed slowly."

"Oh, God," Buffy said, her mouth opening. "She's the original 'one stab, one kill' warrior."

"I told you the Quickening might affect her," Steve said, getting out of bed.

By doing so, Buffy got a good look at his body. <Thanks for the show, honey.> she thought in appreciation. <Maybe we should have Slayerettes run off more often.>

"Shaw gave Edgar my number, like I said, but gave him a code message to give me. Seems she wants us to 'adopt' Edgar and Alan into the Clan."

"What?" Buffy asked blankly.

"Seems Edgar and Alan died from the gunshots, but got better," Steve explained to her. "Both of them are newbies."

"Oh, shit. Did they freak?" Buffy asked, remembering her own reaction to discovering that she was Immortal.

"Actually, she broke it to them as 'being chosen by the Gods to continue their fight,' the Wanderer said, turning to Buffy with a smile. "They've both been fighting for over ten years. Told them I could explain it better to them. Said she had to go."

"Shit!" the Slayer snapped. "So we don't know where she is."

"But headed north, and we can wait. But I'll call Duncan and Dawson in the morning, tell them our hunch was right. I need some sleep."

"Oh, do you?" Buffy asked, drawing the blanket aside for Steve to climb into bed. "I can think of something better to do."

Apparently, so could Steve St. Wolf.

*****

Part 2: Menage A Trois, Immortal Style
(Some Guy's Luck Never Improves)

Portland, Oregon
20 November 1998

Shaw pulled into a Mobil gas station, and parked near the pump closest to the minimart. She quickly threw on her shades, and bit back a loud yawn.

<No. I cannot sleep.> she thought to herself with a fearful shiver. <The faces. . .>

She shook her head violently, breaking that train of thought. She looked in the mirror for a second.

<I wonder. .>

She concentrated, and used her recently awakened senses to find the source of magic for the area. After finding it, she concentrated on herself, throwing her hair back. Slowly, an illusion formed, and her ears looked like a human's. A shot of glee shot through her, but she stifled it, since she was not finished.

<Let us see what happens when I stop concentrating.> she thought, and relaxed a bit. To her surprise, the illusion remained in place. <So, it remains until I dispel it? That will make things easier for me.>

Satisfied for the moment, Shaw exited the Humvee and went to pay for gas.

As Shaw was walking through the aisles, looking for something to drink, she noticed the cashier giving her nervous glances. She let it go, assuming it was nervousness at working a night shift. Finally, she settled for an orange juice, and walked towards the counter.

At that second, a young boy ran into the store, and Shaw's head exploded into a migraine, and she almost knocked over a shelf of potato chips when she staggered. She looked up, and the pain vanished when she looked at the boy, who appeared to be no older than twelve years old, with short blonde hair, and blue eyes. Shaw could see a great deal of age in those eyes, and it set off warnings in her head.

<I felt that pain earlier, when Edgar and Alan. . .> she wondered wearily, before moaning to herself. <Oh, Goddess, this is getting worse every second. . .>

Shaw quietly uttered a prayer to learn a person's alignment, their stance on ethics and morality, and stared at the boy. His body was wreathed in a solid gray light, although Shaw could see fading traces of black.

<Not evil, but he once was. And very evil. What changed him?>

He looked at her nervously, then ran to the cashier. "Someone's chasing me! I need you to call the cops!"

The cashier, who looked no older than twenty, rolled his eyes. "Look kid, I don't have time for pranks. Go home."

Anger rose in Shaw's gut, and she walked over to the register. When the clerk looked up, and saw the heat in her eyes and posture, he blanched.

"Here," she told him, laying thirty dollars on the counter, "A fill-up for my vehicle, this drink, and keep the rest. Perhaps it will encourage you to show compassion for others."

She turned to the boy. "Do you require assistance?"

The boy looked scared, but nodded. "Yeah, I do."

"Come with me, then," she ordered, heading for the door.

The boy looked at the cashier, who was switching his glances back and forth between them, and walked out.

As Shaw started pumping the gas into the Hummer, the boy was looking around nervously.

"How old are you?" Shaw asked him, finishing the fill-up.

The boy looked at her, and said, "Sixteen."

The priestess sighed. "Do you want my assistance or not?" When he nodded yes, she frowned. "Then do not lie to me, or try to tell half truths. I will not stand for it. Now, how old are you?"

"Eight hundred and twenty-six," he answered shakily. "I'm Kenny."

"Very well, Kenny," Shaw said. "I assume that your situation is as follows; someone old, adult, and still evil is chasing you with a long, sharp, metal object, with the intention of making you a head shorter than you already are?"

The child Immortal glared at her. "That's sick."

"Perhaps," Shaw said with no emotion. "Get in the truck and we will leave."

As they started to enter, the Buzz hit both Shaw and Kenny, and Shaw hit her head on the door. Kenny looked around, and saw a man walking towards them. "Uh, there he is."

"No problem," Shaw said, looking at him coldly. "Wait in the vehicle, Kenny. I will handle this."

Shaw walked towards the man, and he met her halfway. He gave her an appraising look, and smirked.

"So, you're the one the punk found to protect him?" he asked in humor.

"Yes, I am," she replied coldly, letting her eyes reflect how she felt. "Kenny is now under my protection. If you have a problem with that, I would suggest that you take it up with my teacher in California. He could kick yer bluidy ass in seconds."

"That punk's head is mine. I don't have to add yours to the list," the Immortal warned.

"You did not believe the manuscript, did you?"

"Give me a break. I have better things to do than believe that rubbish," he said derisively, and chuckled evilly. "Whatever stupid fuck found that is a moron."

"His name is Steven St. Wolf, you son of a bitch," Shaw snarled, taking up a defensive stance. "And I will not allow you to harm anyone here."

"Fine, bitch. No one denies Richard Markham shit," he said, reaching into his duster.

"Especially when you are so full of it," the half-elf said, drawing her Beretta and shooting him in the head.

Markham's head snapped back violently, blood spraying out in a gory red spray. He fell to the ground and began twitching, doing so for several seconds before slowly stopping.

Shaw began to holster the gun, and the station clerk ran out. "What the hell is going on here?!?" he screamed.

"This is the bastard that was chasing the boy that you said was playing a prank. He wanted to attack the boy, and when he started to draw a weapon, I defended myself," Shaw said, turning to the cashier. When she got a look at him outside of the store, she hissed. "And it would appear that my work is not yet done, blooddrinker," she added, drawing the gun again.

"Whoa, wait a minute!" the clerk shouted. "I'm not evil, I'm just a working stiff! I'm not getting involved in this Immortal shit!"

Shaw looked at him for several seconds, shifting her perception to her alignment spell. <He is. . good?!? Not exactly the lawful type, but good. Much like myself.> she thought in amazement. She nodded, and holstered the gun. "Who are you?"

The clerk gulped. "Rick Bass, Kindred, Clan Gangrel," he told her.

"I see. Call me the Hunter," Shaw replied with the barest trace of hostility.

"We've heard rumors about you," Rick said fearfully. "We thought you only attacked the soulless breeds."

"They are the only ones I have seen," Shaw explained, still tense. "I have not heard of the Kindred, as you call yourself. Nor do I care at the moment. I have more important business to attend to."

Markham started coming to, groggily blinking at the two people standing over him. Shaw quickly put a round into his chest, killing him again.

Bass just stared at her. "I thought guns couldn't be used in a challenge."

"He never challenged me, vampire," Shaw said, drawing a nasty look. "Nor am I an Immortal. Loopholes can be useful at times. Well, I suppose that I should take Markham somewhere, to avoid any problems for you."

The Kindred gas station attendant and half-elven ranger lifted the temporary corpse and brought it to the Hummer. Shaw opened up the back and threw the body in.

Shaw looked through his pockets, and pulled out a set of car keys. She flipped them to the Kindred, who caught it in surprise. "If you can find his vehicle, do as you wish with it. Thank you for the assistance."

She began to close the gate, but stopped. "Is there anyplace nearby to, shall I say, handle this sassanach discreetly?"

Bass gave her directions, and she nodded. Kenny had gotten out of the Hummer and his eyes went round at the sight of Markham's body in the back.

"Are you nuts?!?" he croaked. "What are you going to do?!?"

"Sit in the back, Kenny," she ordered, handing him the Beretta, "and shoot him if he comes to."

Kenny nearly choked at her order, and Shaw sighed. "If I cut off his head here, his Quickening would likely destroy this gas station, with thousands of gallons of gasoline underneath us."

Now it was Bass who nearly choked, and Shaw and Kenny both looked at him.

"Have you witnessed a Quickening before?" Shaw asked, to which Bass nodded weakly.

Shaw shrugged, and nodded for Kenny to climb in the back. She walked around to the driver side door, and jumped in.

Bass quickly ran into the office and picked up the phone. He dialed a number, and after two rings, a voice answered, "Talk to me."

"Sire, this is Bass. Do we have any people in the Warehouse district?"

"No, that's Brujah territory," the voice replied. "What's going on, Bass?"

"An Immortal duel is gonna go down," Bass said, sweating. "One of those involved is the woman called the Hunter."

The voice hissed. "And I assume you gave them directions? I thought the Hunter operated out of California."

"I did, and the Hunter's headed North. But I get the feeling someone's gonna lose his head first."

The voice chuckled. "And take out some Brujah property. Wait until the Primogen hears about this. Good work, Bass."

The phone clicked, leaving Bass to listen to a dial tone.

*****

Warehouse District
Portland, Oregon
20 November 1998

Shaw parked the Humvee in an abandoned warehouse, a grim smile on her face. Only two shots had rung out since she left the gas station, the last one five minutes ago.

<Well, let us get down to business.> she thought as the opened the door. Shaw walked around to the back, and opened the compartment. Kenny quickly scrambled out, and Shaw chuckled.

"Has poor Richard been behaving himself?" she asked innocently.

"Uh, not really," Kenny mumbled. "He's cussing up a storm."

"Fine. While we wait for this bastard to revive, answer a question for me. Why are you no longer evil?" Shaw asked him, looking him directly in the eye.

"I, uh, got a manuscript of some sort, said the Game was a hoax," Kenny replied. "Since then, I. . haven't taken a head." He looked at Markham.

"But, some people still don't give a damn."

"Oh, I plan on taking care of that, Kenny," Shaw said, pure iron in her voice. "Now, wait in the front seat."

Kenny moved for the door, and Shaw backed up as Markham suddenly came to. Shaw kept her eyes locked firmly on the Immortal to keep the pain from blossoming again.

"Get out, Markham," Shaw instructed him, brandishing the Uzi at the Immortal. "We are going to settle this."

"Where are we?" he asked, looking around stupidly.

"Somewhere where our fight will not be interrupted."

Markham nodded. "Fine, cunt. You and me, right here, right now."

"Agreed," the half-elf hissed angrily. She tossed the Uzi aside and drew Soulreaver. "Let us begin, Richard Markham."

Markham's eyes went wide at the sight of the flames dancing along the shining blade.

"Who the hell are you?" he frightfully demanded.

"Shaw Hunter, student of Steven St. Wolf and Buffy Summers," Shaw said proudly. "As well as Connor MacLeod."

Markham stared at her arrogantly. "Oh, great. Another goody two-shoes. All noble and honorable."

He reached into his coat and drew out a saber-type weapon with a thin, slightly curved single edged blade. The handle looked to be made of ivory, with a small down-pointed ball at the end. A simple crossguard completed the weapon.

Shaw smiled. "Mameluke sword. Officer issue, American Marines. Circa, say, eighteen hundred and seventy. I see you never replaced the cavalry saber you lost in Montana."

Markham stared at her. "How the hell do you know about that?"

Shaw's face split into a humorless smile. "Steven St. Wolf described his first meeting with you most accurately."

"That's your teacher? Son of a bitch relied on guns," Markham said, his face beginning to go from red to the beginnings of purple. "You know your blades, at least. Where'd you get the education?"

"Raymond McGuire's Quickening," she said, her voice full of hostility at the memory of what had happened to her. "As well as Connor's training."

Markham started circling, a small amount of respect in his eyes. "I knew McGuire. We had a run-in or two. Bad ass."

"Shut up and let us begin," Shaw snapped, taking up a basic defensive stance.

Markham threw a one-handed slash, which Shaw easily blocked, and he followed up with a thrust, which Shaw backed away from, beginning to give ground.

Shaw forced a look of faked uncertainty onto her face, and it got the reaction she wanted; Markham's face lit up in confidence.

"Ah, what's the matter?" Markham sneered. "Poor little newbie bite of more than she could chew?"

<Keep talking, headhunter.> Shaw thought, continuing to dodge her opponent's strokes.

Markham threw slash after slash, chuckling loudly as Shaw kept giving ground, actually parrying only one out of every three of his strokes.

After a wicked slash aimed at her neck, the ranger noticed a few beads of sweat running down Markham's forehead. She decided it was time to take the fight to her opponent.

He threw another neck-level swing, and Shaw ducked under it, spinning into a sweep kick that caught Markham's ankles, sending him to the floor. His head smacked into the concrete with a loud "crack."

Shaw backed up, her stance now a Zen technique. Markham quickly scrambled to his feet, rubbing his head. "You'll pay for that," he promised.

Markham threw a slash at her gut, which she blocked. She then began an offensive flurry, throwing slashes at Markham from every height, from knees to head level.

Markham blocked every strike, but was obviously growing tired. Shaw threw a thrust, and Markham knocked it aside. Shaw threw herself into a spin, using the momentum to add power to her stroke. Rather than parry, Markham ducked, and Shaw continued her spin, throwing a spin kick. Unlike Willow, who had evaded this same maneuver, Markham lacked the speed to duck a second time. Shaw's booted heel connected with the Immortal's cheekbone, and his neck nearly snapped in two as blood splattered from his ripped apart lips. He fell to one knee.

Shaw brought her sword down in an overhead chop, which Markham barely blocked. He moved the blades to the side and stood up. He launched a pair of strikes, an underhanded slash and a thrust. As she blocked the slash, the headhunter slid his saber along her blade, and was able to cut a wound into her abdomen. Shaw gasped in pain as the blade entered her body, but she was able to back off before it became too deep.

Markham's face broke into a grin as he threw himself into another offensive routine. Shaw parried the strokes, but the pain in her wound began to burn as if it were on fire. Finally, on an attempted counterthrust, Markham threw a two-handed strike that brought her sword arm out wide. As he began to shift his body for a backhanded stroke across her neck, the half-elf threw her left arm forward like a striking rattlesnake.

And gutted Richard Markham with the arm claws gifted to her by a Yautja. The serrated, razor-sharp claws perforated his stomach, and Shaw quickly shifted her arm, so that her hand was facing palm upward. She then violently jerked her arm upwards in a sawing motion.

Markham dropped his sword from his hand, and Shaw retracted the blades. As he looked at her with glassy eyes, she gave him a humorless smile.

"I am very honorable," she informed the Immortal, in a voice laden with false honey, "but I am hardly noble."

As Markham fell to his knees, she gripped Soulreaver in both hands and quickly took a brutal swing, severing the Immortal's neck in half.

As Shaw quickly backed up, the body fell to the ground, and was bathed in a glow she'd seen from McGuire. She quickly cast a protection spell, finishing just as the bolts of lightning began flying, heading for every corner of the warehouse.

*****

In the shadowed corner of the dark warehouse, a man watched in approval of Shaw's victory. He clapped his hands slowly and dramatically, although he was shifted slightly out of phase with time, so that no one could see or hear him.

A lightning bolt from Markham's corpse passed through the bearded individual, and he faked a shiver.

"That tickles," he said jokingly. "Yes, the girl definitely has potential. But I have to get her off this protection kick. How do I do that?"

After a second's thought, he smiled, and made a gesture that significantly weakened the half-elf's protection spell. Then he turned and walked through the wall.

*****

Shaw felt the shift in her spell, and was at a complete loss as how to explain it. She barely had time to breathe before a bolt broke through the barrier and struck her squarely in the chest.

She was knocked onto her back, in too much pain to concentrate enough to cast the spell again. Two more bolts struck her as she writhed on the ground, screaming in agony. The Quickening faded, and Shaw lay prone, moaning in pain. She vaguely heard the door to the Hummer open, and barely felt someone helping her sit up.

Shaw shivered in cold fear as she felt the energy inside her body, and wondered what affect Markham's Quickening, in addition to McGuire's, might have upon her.

<Goddess, how do Steven and the others deal with this?>

Someone calling her brought her attention back to the present. She looked around in a daze, attempting to focus, and saw Kenny looking at her, concern in his eyes.

"You okay?" he asked. "You look like you got thrown for a loop."

"I think that you are understating the case, Kenny," Shaw said as she shakily stood up. "Get back in the vehicle. Let me clean this up."

"You sure? You look like you could use some help," he offered.

Shaw turned and gave the child Immortal a cold gaze. "I said I would handle this. Get in the vehicle."

Kenny's look was replaced by a small amount of fear, which ripped at the half-elf's heart.

"Kenny, please," she pleaded, closing her eyes, "just wait for me."

"All right," he said, not entirely convinced, but moved a bit by her tone. "I'll wait."

He quickly climbed into the Hummer, and Shaw went about the business of cleaning up the scene. She took Markham's duster, sword, and all of his personal belongings. Once she had the items she felt it would be prudent to remove, she cast a healing spell on herself. She cursed as she noticed the hole in her blue cotton shirt.

<I do not have TIME for this!> she screamed at herself. <I have more important things to worry about than clothing!>

She looked at Markham's body, and a surge of anger rushed through her. She raised Soulreaver to hack at the headless shell, but stopped in midstroke in horrified realization at what she was about to do.

She quickly lowered her sword, and grabbed the confiscated items and head for the truck.

<I have to get to Seacouver.> she repeated over and over. <Whatever I can do about this will be there.>

Shaw jumped in the driver's seat and started the truck. She looked over at Kenny, who was watching her intently.

"Where am I taking you, Kenny?" she asked, cocking her eyebrow at his sheepish expression.

"I, uh, don't have anywhere to go," he admitted.

"I see," she said regretfully, remembering her own years of wandering. "Kenny, I am heading for Seacouver. . ." she trailed off as Kenny's face went white with fear, and he tried to get out. Shaw quickly grabbed his arm. "Kenny, what is it?"

"You're going to MacLeod?!?" he screamed. "He'll kill me!!"

Shaw was shocked. "Kenny, Duncan would never do such a thing," she said. "Tell me why you are frightened."

Kenny stopped trying to escape, and began to tell her of his history with MacLeod and Amanda. Shaw released his arm halfway through the story, and was gripping the steering wheel with both hands. After he finished, Shaw just stared ahead for several minutes, before sighing.

"Kenny, I am not pleased to hear this," she said. "However, you have changed. I can see it, as I have ways of determining such things. Also, I will tell you, while you are not evil, you are not good, either."

"What else is there?" he asked in confusion.

"For lack of a better term, neutrality," she said softly, yet firmly. "You are in a 'gray' area, between good and evil. Eventually, you will need to make a choice, one way or the other. I am not the best person to help you make that decision, however."

"And MacLeod is?" Kenny asked, defiance in his voice.

"For you? Perhaps, perhaps not," Shaw said. "He helped me walk away from hunting vampires for revenge. I now fight to protect others, as I did a few moments ago."

"So MacLeod was your teacher?" Kenny asked, quite dubious about the whole situation.

"Connor MacLeod, originally," Shaw replied. "Now, I train under Steven St. Wolf and Buffy Summers, whom I also call friends and leaders."

"What kind of Immortal is named Buffy?" Kenny asked in disgust.

"An Immortal of less than two years," Shaw said, and Kenny started laughing, until Shaw added, "who was the Slayer when she was mortal."

Kenny's eyes nearly popped out of their sockets. "Please tell me you're joking!!"

"Hardly," Shaw said harshly. She started to drive, and concentrated on the road while continuing the conversation. "Kenny, if you wish, I could speak on your behalf, and perhaps Duncan, or failing that, Steven, can help you decide what you wish to do. They can provide first-hand information about the recently revealed purpose of Immortals such as yourself."

<What does she mean, as yourself?> Kenny wondered, but dropped it. "Won't MacLeod take my head the second he sees me?"

"Not if he knows you are different," Shaw said, and a smile came to her face. "One moment."

Shaw pulled over, and pulled out Soulreaver. "Grasp the hilt."

He did so, and let go. "What's this about?"

"Duncan knows about my sword," Shaw responded mysteriously. "It proves my analysis. You must remember to tell Duncan of this."

Shaw put the vehicle back into gear, and drove off into the night.

*****

Joe's Blues Bar
Seacouver, Washington
20 November 1998

Joe Dawson was enjoying a Michelob just after finishing a set, when the bartender called out to him. Sighing, he left the table, walking over to the counter.

"What's up, JoAnne?"

"It's Elizabeth Youngstown, Joe," she said, knowing full well what this call was all about. "Says it's a big one."

"Okay. Tell Liz I'll take it in the office, so I'll be a second," he replied, dreading what he was about to hear. <Markham's up to his old tricks again.>

Joe went into the office, and locked the door behind him. He turned the speaker phone on, and picked up the receiver, saying, "Got it, JoAnne."

He replaced the receiver, and said sadly, "Okay, Liz. Who'd Markham kill?"

"Ta tell ya de trut', Joe," Youngstown said in her thick Cajun accent, which belied her proper Southern upbringing, "I be needin' a new 'ssignment. De bastard's head's been taken."

"WHAT!?!" Joe shouted, and he immediately regretted it. "Sorry, Liz. What went down?"

"Markham be chasin' a kid Immortal, when de kid finds anot'er one ta protect 'im, inside of a gas station. Girl takes out a B'retta and pops de bastard in de head."

Joe chuckled as he typed up the report. "Keep goin', Cajun."

"Dey drives the corpse to a' abandoned warehouse, and de girl challenges Markham to protect de kid," Elizabeth said, launching into a detailed account of the fight between Shaw and Markham. "Girl make de bastard look like de fool dat 'e was, before takin' 'is head."

"Good for her. Got a name? Description?"

"It's de girl done killed Raymond McGuire back in July, Joe," she answered. "Give 'er name as Shaw Hunter. Same flamin' sword. Magic, if I recall de reports right?"

"Oh, shit," Dawson said, stopping his typing. He quickly recalled the phone calls he'd gotten from Rupert Giles and Duncan MacLeod that morning. He also recalled some pertinent information he'd been given. "Hey, Swamp Rat, I recall you did a stint in the Navy, right?"

"Yeah, Joe, I done three years 'board de Enterprise. Communications," Elizabeth said, confusion over the change of topic in her voice. "Why you need dat info?"

"Gotta couple of newbies in Santa Carla, California. Brothers, who've been hunting bloodsuckers for ten years. They'd accept your help. They've already contacted Steve St. Wolf."

"Experienced, non?" Youngstown asked, sounding pleased. "How long dey been Immortal?"

"A little less than twenty-four hours," Joe replied, a truly evil grin coming to his face.

"WHAT?!?" the Cajun roared, and then started swearing profusely in rapid-fire French patois, which Joe couldn't completely understand through the Cajun accent, but what he did comprehend did make the hairs of his beard stand on end.

"Liz, come on," Joe said, interrupting her in mid-curse, "you need a new assignment, they need a Watcher. Perfect match."

"Dawson, don' do this ta me," she begged her boss.

"Hey, they've got a partner who, as far as we know, is mortal," Joe said, springing his trap. "And as far as I know, all three of them are single."

"Dat only work so far, Joe," Liz said, although Dawson could hear her intense interest. "What dey do for a livin'?"

"According to Edgar Frog, he's the older brother," Joe explained, "he and his brother Alan own a comic book store."

"Dat's it? A comic book store?" she cried. "God bless me, Dawson, dis 'ssignment sound easy!"

"Just add vampires," Joe joked. "You want the job?"

"'ell yeah, I want it," Liz said cheerfully. "But God save ye ass, I find out dey all attached."

With a laugh from both Watchers, Joe broke the connection. Joe shook his head as his laughter faded to a chuckle, and he considered the next call he had to make.

<St. Wolf's going to flip when he hears this.>

*****

St. Wolf Residence
Sunnydale, California
20 November 1998

As the phone started ringing, Brian Jessup quickly got up from watching TV and ran into Steve's office, picking it up before anyone else could be disturbed.

"St. Wolf residence, can I help you?" he asked politely.

"Is this Brian?" Joe asked on the other end.

"Yes, who is this?" he asked in return, wondering how this man could know him.

"The name's Joe Dawson, Brian," Joe replied. "Remember, the picnic, we met there."

Brian thought back, pain at the memories flaring for a minute, before he recalled the older man with the cane. "Yes, Mr. Dawson. You're the guy that runs, uhm, the Watchers?"

"The ones in North America," Dawson said with a laugh. "How's your sister?"

"She's cool," Brian said neutrally. "Thinks she's found a boyfriend."

"Nick Boyle, I know. And don't ask how," Joe said, laughing harder. "But to get to business; is Steve there?"

"Naw, he and Buffy are patrolling. You know, the usual," Brian answered. "Can I take a message?"

"No, it's gonna be a long talk, about Shaw Hunter. One of my people saw her," Joe said in resignation. "She got into a fight with an Immortal, to protect an Immortal in a kid's body."

"Like, uh, Alison?" Brian asked. "Before Jenny and they, well, you know."

"Yeah, and my people were confused like crazy on that one. One day, she's a kid, the next, she's running around with Stalker." Joe and Brian both laughed a bit at that. "Brian, tell Steve to call me at the bar, no matter what time he gets in, okay?"

"Sure, Mr. Dawson," Brian promised, and then added, uncertainly, "Mr. Dawson, is Shaw okay?"

"She's fine, Brian. She won and saved the kid's life. Talk to you later."

*****

About two hours later, Steve and Buffy walked in from patrol, Buffy walking backwards, being wrapped in Steve's arms.

"Well, only four tonight, my lady," Steve said, leaning in close. "Maybe our reputation's being spread around."

"I sure hope so," Buffy said, grinning at St. Wolf. "It'll give the other Immortals something to do."

Buffy and Steve leaned in close to kiss, when a voice saying "Gross," repelled them as if they'd been hit with a cattle prod.

Steve glared at Brian while Buffy was turning pink from embarrassment. Brian looked at the Wanderer's expression and muttered "uh oh" to himself.

"Brian, what are you doing up at this hour?" Steve asked sternly.

<Wow. Steve sounds just like Dad did when I did something wrong.> Brian thought before finding his voice. "Uh, I was staying up late, 'cause Stone Cold was on Jay Leno, tonight?"

"That's over, as of. ." Steve said as he looked at his watch, "an hour ago. Why are you still up?"

"Uh, Mr. Dawson called for you. He said to call him as soon as you got back," Brian said, still worried about being caught up late. "Shaw fought an Immortal, he said she was fine, and protecting a kid Immortal."

Steve's expression softened, and he favored Brian with a grin. "Thanks, Brain. Good job. Now head on to bed, okay?"

"Sure, Steve. Good night, Buffy," he said as he turned and scampered up the stairs.

Buffy was giggling now. "Honey, you know we're going to have to watch what we do now, even in your house?" she asked.

"Don't remind me," he muttered as he hit the speed dial on his phone, turning on the speaker. "Let's see what your newest Slayerette got herself into tonight."

"Oh, I see," Buffy said with a mock frown, "when she's helping new Immortals, she's your 'recruit.' When she's fighting Immortals, she's 'my Slayerette'?"

"Exactly," Steve said as the phone rang, a smile coming to his face despite the likely situation developing.

*****

"Hey, Wanderer. 'Bout time you called back. I just gave last call," Joe said. "I assume you're calling about you-know-who."

"Joe, I'm tired, I'm concerned, and I want to get to bed," Steve said with a sigh. "Give it to me."

"Okay. As of four or so hours ago, Elizabeth Youngstown, one of my people, saw an Immortal chasing a child Immortal, who ran into a gas station in Portland, Oregon and ran into Shaw Hunter."

"Hold it, Joe. You said Portland, Oregon?"

"Yep. You were right, she's headed here. Could be here tomorrow."

"Okay, Joe. Go ahead," Steve said, prodding the Watcher.

"All right. Shaw takes the kid under her protection, and, by the way, she's driving a Hummer, probably from the poacher she killed. Well, the big Immortal comes out, threatens her and the kid, and 'blam!' She pops a cap into his head."

"Sounds like what I did to Richard Markham sixteen years ago," Steve said, softly chuckling along with Buffy.

"Uh, Wanderer, this WAS Markham."

Steve's eyes went wide, and he leaned back in his chair. "Please tell me this isn't your idea of a joke, Dawson."

"Nope, Shaw ran up against Markham."

"Uh, hello? I'm lost here," Buffy said, looking back and forth between Steve and the speaker. "Who's Markham?"

"The first Immortal I ever ran into, the one who tried to take my head," Steve told her while briefly recalling his first days as an Immortal.

"Oh, yeah. You never gave the dweeb's name. Sorry to interrupt," the Slayer said, apologizing to Joe.

"S'okay, Buffy. Anyway, this gets even better. After popping a second round into Markham, your student throws him in the back of her Humvee, drives to a warehouse, and challenges him at the point of an Uzi."

"Wait a sec, Joe. My 'student?'" Steve asked, puzzled by that word.

"Yeah, Steve," Joe answered with a barking laugh. "She claimed you and Buffy as her teachers, and then adds, 'as well as Connor MacLeod,' as if he were an afterthought. Markham thought he had a newbie, just like when you met him. She fooled him completely, and made him look like a total idiot using that style that drives you nuts. Liz liked one combo she used, a spinning stroke into a spin kick. She says she almost didn't need the sword to cut his head off."

"I don't believe it. Willow dodged that move two weeks ago," Buffy remarked.

"Markham's not an Amazon," Steve clarified, at which Buffy started smiling.

"So, what happened next, Joe?" Buffy asked.

"Shaw did get poked," he said, but quickly added, "but then she guts him, and takes his head."

"Joe," Steve began hesitantly, "did she take his Quickening?"

"Some of it. The Cajun said Shaw 'made some voodoo,' but the spell wasn't strong enough. She cleaned up Markham's body, got into the vehicle, and took off. So, having no assignment, I assigned Liz to your new friends in Santa Carla."

Steve shook his head and sighed. "Joe, if she's got a second Quickening inside of her, I can't tell what type of mentality she'll have when she arrives. Be careful."

"I hear you, Wanderer. Duncan and company know the situation, and I've got the Old Man coming over tomorrow," Joe told him. "We can handle her. I'll talk to you later."

*****

Joe broke the connection, and Steve sat there, his fingers touching each other as he considered the information they had.

"Well, Steve, spit it out. What are you thinking?" Buffy asked, growing nervous at his musings.

"That we should pack up and head for Seacouver," Steve answered, shaking his head. "But after what we just went through, we need a rest."

"Steve, you're right, but. ." Buffy trailed off, and looked at her lover, who nodded for her to continue. "Okay. Most of the guys have been talking, and they're worried about her. They're wondering why we weren't on her tail the moment we got back."

"Because of the rest issue," Steve answered, and tapped his index finger on the desk. "Fact is, I've already called Frank's branch at the airport, and reserved the Fox-class jet the moment we need it."

"Okay, the fast one," Buffy remarked.

"Yeah. That way, if we get a verified location on her, we can be at the airport and in the air in less than two hours," Steve said. He leaned back as Buffy nudged the chair around so she could straddle his hips, resting her chin on his shoulder. "The question is, who goes after her? We all need a rest, and I don't want to take a large group, because it increases the chances of Shaw hurting someone. If that happens, we really could lose her. And, I want your input on this decision."

"Me and you, obviously, honey," Buffy said as she straightened up to look in his eyes. "We're Immortal, and in case you haven't noticed, we're the only two who've beaten her in sword practice, although Willow, Xander and Cordy are coming close."

Steve blinked at her. "Since when did you become the expert analyst?"

"Since Shaw and I talked awhile ago, and I'm using her own words. In fact, she bet me ten bucks that Willow beats her before anyone else. Not that she'd hand somebody a victory, she'd make them earn it," Buffy said, grinning at Steve's raised eyebrows. "Hey, she gave me everyone else. Couldn't refuse those odds."

"Great. Bets being made on my training sessions. I pray that Duncan never hears about this," Steve mumbled as Buffy giggled at him. He then returned to the subject at hand. "Okay, who else?" As he slid his hands up her torso to pull her back down again.

"Xander and Cordy," Buffy told him as she cuddled into his shoulder again. "They've worked with her on patrol the most, so they know how she thinks. And they're almost as good a team as you and me."

"Okay, good call. Anyone else?" Steve asked. When Buffy fudged on answering, he smacked her vulnerable tail. "Go ahead, sweetheart."

Buffy sighed. "Amy." She quickly sat up, raising her hands to prevent his response. "I know, you're thinking, 'why not Willow?' Granted, Wil's her best friend, but there is an obvious reason for choosing Amy. We know how Shaw feels about her, being her cousin."

"I'll grant you that, Buffy," Steve said slowly, "but are you sure?"

"Yeah. I don't know what it is, but Shaw, well, responds to Amy like no one else on our team," Buffy stated.

"Really? How so?" Steve asked in genuine curiosity.

"Look at what Shaw did two weeks ago," Buffy said. "It was Amy who got Shaw to say something about getting tortured. ."

"Hold on a second," Steve said, holding up an open palm. "How do you know that's what happened to her?"

"Steve," Buffy said softly, "how else would she have gotten those scars? But to stay on track, it was Amy who asked her to let us understand what was bothering her. And, a few minutes later, she showed everyone. She actually let us see it, even if she didn't talk about it. And you saw how scared she was doing it."

Steve nodded, rubbing his chin. "Okay. I had wondered what made Shaw decide to change her mind on that. So you think Amy could convince her to come home?"

"Yeah, I do, Steve."

"Okay, honey," Steve said. "But let's get to bed. If she's gonna be in Seacouver tomorrow, we may need to head out in a hurry." Buffy smiled as she slid off his hips and tugged him towards the door.

*****

Seacouver, Washington
21 November 1998

Shaw and Kenny were sitting in traffic, waiting for a light to change in downtown Seacouver. Kenny kept looking at the woman who'd saved him the previous night, who was clearly getting impatient, a great deal of her attitude coming from an obvious lack of sleep.

<She's edgy. I don't want to make her mad, but. .> "Uh, so, where are we headed?" he asked, inwardly cringing at her probable response.

Shaw considered it, and slowly looked at him, and he got a good look at her slightly bloodshot eyes. "I. . . I do not know the address."

She saw an opening, and quickly pulled over. She unfastened her seatbelt, and turned the Hummer off. "Kenny, will you wait here for a second, please? I need to look up an address."

"Okay, uh. . what's your name?" Kenny asked her.

"Shaw," she replied simply, exiting the vehicle. She quickly walked around the back of the vehicle, and found a telephone booth with a Yellow Pages inside of it. She began flipping through the book, and finally found what she was looking for.

<Here it is. Joe's Blues Bar.>

Shaw closed the book, and began to leave when she stopped. She turned and looked at the phone intently for nearly a minute before deciding what to do.

*****

St. Wolf Residence
Sunnydale, California
21 November 1998

Randi picked up the phone on the first ring, expecting it to be Nick Boyle, the Immortal Legacy member she'd met in San Francisco, who'd promised to call her early that morning. She put the earpiece to her ear, a bright smile on her face.

"Hello, can I help you?" she asked.

Rather than receive an answer, there was dead silence on the other end.

"Hello?" she asked a second time.

"Buenas dias," a heavily accented voice said in Spanish. "Senor St. Wolf, por favor?"

"Uh, you're asking for Steve?" <Damn. Why couldn't this be Nick!>

"Si. Senor St. Wolf," the voice replied.

"Uh, uno moment," Randi replied clumsily, running to get her teacher. Randi ran up the stairs, and knocked on the door. She heard a muffled "just a minute" from Steve.

A couple minutes later, he opened the door, looking tired in his sweat pants and t-shirt. "Yes, Randi?"

"Telephone, Steve," Randi said with a frown. "She speaks Spanish."

St. Wolf sighed, and scratched his head. "Okay, I'll be down in a minute."

Steve quickly got dressed, and called Buffy. "Wake up, my lady."

Buffy turned over in her sleep, muttering something about not wanting to go to school that morning. Steve watched her for a few seconds, and an evil grin came to his face as he decided to say the one thing that he was sure would wake her up.

"ANGEL!!!"

Buffy jerked up at a ninety-degree angle, thrashing around violently to remove the covers. She looked around with a look of murderous intent on her face, until she caught Steve laughing at her, leaning back against the wall. She quickly spitted the Wanderer with a "heat vision" glare.

"It's a good thing you have such a tight butt, Steve," the Slayer warned evilly, "or I'd be tempted to cut off your head. The LITTLE one!"

Steve winced, but continued laughing. "I have a phone call," he informed her. "Figured we'd get an early training session, and maybe head out for dinner and a movie tonight."

Buffy's face lit up, her anger quickly draining. "Cool. Sounds like fun. But don't think that you can pull a stunt like that again."

As she got out of bed and headed for the bathroom, the Wanderer walked out of the room, and headed downstairs. Randi handed him the receiver with a shrug.

"Hola?" Steve asked.

"Steven?" a quiet, frightened-sounding voice came back.

Steve stood straight up. "Shaw? Is that you?"

"Steven, listen to me. I called to warn you," she babbled quickly, "about the Mayor. I forgot to call earlier. I swear I would have, but with Edgar and Alan, and an Immortal last night. . ."

"Whoa, whoa, settle down, Shaw," Steve said firmly, waving one hand. "Tell me about the Mayor. What about him?"

Shaw related everything she knew, from what Machiko had figured out, to her own meeting with him, including the transaction they'd made. By the time she completed the story, Steve could tell by her tone that she was not only completely frightened, but also softly sobbing. Buffy came downstairs, and Randi whispered to her what has going on. Buffy silently mouthed, "Steve?", and he nodded towards the office, indicating that they should go on in and listen in.

Shaw weakly asked him, "Steven, what have I done? I would never have done this, for any reason." It sounded to Steve that her words were being breathed, rather than spoken aloud. "How could I do something like this?"

"Shaw, you're not yourself," Steve said softly, trying to calm the ranger. "You've got part of McGuire's Quickening inside you, and it's affecting you. You need to come home, so that we can help you."

"No, I cannot," she protested. "Your mission. ."

"Is over," Steve assured her. "Everyone made it back safely."

"Steven, things are happening to me. I am seeing his memories, the. . .the faces of those I. . .he killed," Shaw whispered, barely getting the words through her crying. "Steven, I. .I almost cut Markham after I killed him. I barely stopped myself. And what I did to Joseph. ."

"Shaw, he's fine. Let us come and get you," Steve said gently. "Tell us where you are, and we'll be on our way as soon as we can."

"Steven, what. .what happens if I come home?" the half-elf asked weakly.

"We help you. You called to warn us about the Mayor, it shows you're still you. I'll take care of it," Steve said. <Will I ever. Why would a small town Mayor take an interest in our nighttime activities?> "But our priority is to help you, okay?"

Shaw's response came out in a dry whisper. "Steven, I. .I am so sorry for betraying your trust. You trusted me to protect the town, and. ." she said, and sobbed, "I failed you and the others."

"No," Steve snapped, and he could almost feel her shock on the other end of the line. "You did your job, and only left after you were affected by this."

After a few seconds, which seemed like much longer to Steve (and to Buffy and Randi, listening in the office), Shaw whispered, "I. .I am in Seacouver, Steven. What do I do?"

"Okay, that's good," Steve said, starting to grow confident they'd bring her back. He heard her soft crying on the other end, and sighed. "Listen very carefully. ."

The line was suddenly cut off.

Steve stood there in confusion for a split second, and walked over to the caller ID box, which indicated that Shaw was still on the line. He hit the button a couple of times as Buffy and Randi walked out, looks of surprise on their faces.

"Damn," Steve cursed, banging the phone down.

"She hung up on you," Buffy said, her shock evident. "I can't believe it."

"She didn't hang up, Buffy. The line was disconnected," Steve said, frustration boiling over. "I had her convinced, and the line died just as I was about to tell her what to do. This could be worse than I thought."

"What do you mean, honey?" Buffy asked.

"Someone might be manipulating her. What are the chances that the phone would die, on either end, just as she was about to go somewhere for help?"

"Oh, shit."

"Right. You two heard how scared she is."

"Yeah, Teach," Randi said. "I think 'shitless' just about covers it." Steve and Buffy both sent strange looks her way, and she shrugged. "Okay, maybe not."

"So, Steve, what do we do?" the Slayer asked.

"Call the others, hopefully we'll be heading for Seacouver today."

*****

As the connection died, Shaw whispered, "Steven?"

She tapped the button twice, and said, "Steven, can you hear me?"

All she got was static. Anger and frustration roiled up within the Slayerette, and she slammed the phone down, cursing in Elvish. She punched the phone for good measure.

*****

Outside the phone booth, the bearded man smiled appreciatively. "I'm sorry, kid, but you didn't need the Wanderer's 'second opinion,'" he said with a smirk. He nodded in approval at her violent reaction. "That's my girl."

As she exited the booth, he muttered, "I'd better head home for a rest. I can watch her from there."

He vanished in a burst of blue and white light.

*****

As Shaw as storming back to the Humvee, she felt a tap on her shoulder, and someone asking, "Excuse me, miss?"

Completely startled, Shaw reacted on instinct. She reached her left hand over her right shoulder, grabbing the wrist on the hand that had touched her. She bent the wrist, and turned around, applying enough pressure to send the unfortunate person to his knees.

Shaw brought her right hand back to strike, and she barely saw the look of fear on the man's face as he shouted, "AAHH!!"

The man's cry startled her back into awareness, and she released the man's wrist. He slowly stood up, rubbing and shaking the wrist she'd taken a hold of.

"Are you insane?" Shaw snapped. "You do not touch a young woman without her permission, particularly one with martial arts training!"

"I-I-I'm sorry!" the man stuttered, with a pure upper class accent. He was wearing a dark navy blue suit, with a red necktie. His slightly receded blond hair was immaculately groomed, despite the rough treatment he'd just received.

At the look of fear in his eyes, Shaw's face softened.

"I am sorry, sir," she muttered to him. "I. . .I have not been sleeping well, and I am on edge."

"It's quite all right," the man said, regaining his composure. "Have you considered sleeping pills?"

"The problem is not physical," Shaw said, waving him off. "Bad dreams." Before he could speak again, she shook her head. "What did you want?"

"Oh, I'm sorry. My watch stopped, and I was wondering if you had the time."

Shaw sighed and looked at her own digital model. "It is nine twenty-seven. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go."

"Oh, wait," he called, and shrank back at her evil glare. "Uh, uh, here. If you ever need help with your sleeping problem."

He handed her a business card, and she groaned. <Another number? Lady Mielikki, grant me a perfect memory to remember all of these numbers.>

As the man walked off at a brisk pace, doubtless brought on by no small amount of fear, the ranger looked at the card, and then threw it over her shoulder as she headed back to the Humvee.

<What insane human beings would name their son Niles Crane?> she wondered to herself.

*****

Part 3: Generation Gap
(The Kid Meets The Old Man)

Joe's Blues Bar
Seacouver, Washington
21 November 1998

Joe and JoAnne were checking the shipping labels for their Budweiser shipment, double-checking the list with the contents of the order, when a man walked into the bar. He was fairly thin, with a nose that could best be described as hawk-like. He also had the look of advanced age in his eyes, along with, to someone who knew how to look for it, a hint of darkness. He had short brown hair, and wore dark clothes under a duster. Joe and his assistant looked up, and a twisted smile came to Dawson's face.

"Hey, Adam," he greeted his visitor pleasantly. "Couldn't wait 'til we finished putting the order away?"

"Of course not, Joe," Methos said, a smirk coming to his face, "I couldn't let you hide the good stuff on me now, could I?"

JoAnne just sighed. It was an old argument/routine, which she'd heard many times before. "Some of us have work to do, you know, Pierson?"

"So go ahead and do it, JoAnne," the Immortal replied. "Joe and I could help, but the beer isn't cold, yet. Can I talk to you in private for a minute, Joe?"

"Sure, Adam," Joe said with a sigh as he looked at the crates in frustration. "JoAnne, finish up, and take an extra long lunch, okay?"

The waitress nodded as a smile came to her face. "Thanks, Joe."

As she turned back to the order, Joe grabbed two beers, and he and Methos walked over to a table for some privacy. As they sat down, Methos watched JoAnne.

"So when are you going to give her a field assignment, Joe?" he asked the senior Watcher.

"She's not cut out for fieldwork, 'Adam,'" Joe said testily. "She's more suited to research and history. She's translated a lot of the Middle Ages Chronicles into English, and put them into the Database."

"Really. Anything to help with my research on Methos?" he asked, trying to get a rise out of Dawson.

It worked. "Don't start, Pierson. I thought you were vacationing in Rome."

"I was, but decided to cut it short. So I came home in decided to 'check in with my superiors,'" Methos joked, taking a sip of his beer, and grimacing at the warmth. "Good God, Joe, this isn't even chilled."

"Sorry," Joe said, smiling at his friend. "But junior Watchers don't get access to the good stuff." As Methos gave him a small glare, Joe asked, "Now, really, why'd you cut it short?"

"Ah, I was bored. Once you've seen Rome two or three hundred times, the thrill is gone," Methos said, drawing a chuckle from Joe. "So what's happened the last week or so?"

"Well, let's see," Joe said, looking up as if he were trying to recall the details, "two newbies in Santa Carla, California. Brothers, assigned Liz Youngstown to them."

"Poor newborns," Methos said. "I remember that man hungry Cajun. I think she had designs on me some months ago."

"She did. When you ran off to California with Duncan and gang back in February, she cussed up a storm."

Methos chuckled, but stopped suddenly. "Wait a minute. Wasn't she assigned to Richard Markham?"

"Oh, I almost forgot. Someone took Markham's head last night."

Methos spit warm beer all over the table at that information, and started coughing in amazement. Once he finished, and cleared the tears out of his eyes, he looked at Joe, who'd been minorly soaked by the five-thousand-year-old man's reaction.

"I take it you weren't expecting that?" Joe asked sarcastically, picking up a napkin.

"Where did this happen?" Methos said dully.

"Portland, Oregon. Markham was chasing a kid Immortal, who found someone to protect him," Dawson elaborated.

"Let me guess; MacLeod or St. Wolf," Methos said in a dry voice. <Damn Boy Scouts.>

Dawson shook his head. "Nope. Shaw Hunter."

The Immortal cocked his head. "I remember that name. She was training under the elder MacLeod, the one with a sense of humor. Killed Raymond McGuire in Paris, and eventually ended up somewhere down South. But the files ended shortly after that. Any idea why?"

"I'm sworn to secrecy on that," Joe replied with a smile. "Only Mac, the other Mac, and St. Wolf's group know the truth about her."

"So she's with St. Wolf's group? Let me guess, another Scout type," Methos said disgustingly.

"No, she's been known to fight dirty at times. Her first sparring session, she punched one of the male Slayerettes in just the right spot," Joe said with a chuckle. "Vampire hunter for a lot of years. But as far as Markham goes, she neatly embarrassed him. Gutted and beheaded him in less than ten minutes. Seems that people don't react well to her style. She's more the Cassius Clay type, rather than Mike Tyson."

"Ah. Float like a butterfly. ."

"Sting like a bee," Joe finished, and held up his bottle, and Methos clinked it.

JoAnne started walking by, and said, "Headin' off to lunch, Joe."

"Okay, JoAnne," he replied. As she walked out, Joe leaned forward. "Okay, now to the truth. Rome, indeed. How's Justin coming along?"

"He's doing okay. I'm satisfied with his progress," Methos said with a smile. "So, why was this Hunter away from the Hellmouth?"

Joe's smile faded. "I'd suggest you talk to Mac or the Wanderer. Seems she's headed this way."

Methos started to respond, but started looking around as the Buzz kicked in. He stood up and turned towards the front door, but then turned towards the back, where Joe's office lay.

"Are you feeling what I'm afraid you're feeling?" Joe asked, standing up by putting weight on his cane. His head snapped in the same direction that Methos was facing when a clatter of some sort rang out. "What was that?"

"Let's go see," Methos said, drawing his sword from under his coat. He walked in front of Joe, carefully peeking around corners as he headed further into the back of the bar.

"You know, I'd hate to see a fight in here," Joe said dryly.

"Why not? You'll have a ringside seat," Methos said, a twitchy grin on his face. "You can type up the fight as it happens."

"How many beers would survive the Quickening?" Joe countered. <You have to push the right buttons with Methos.>

Methos stopped. "You do raise a good point, Dawson." With a faked sigh of resignation, the Immortal ended up at the door to Joe's private office. He nodded, and opened the door. He stabbed the sword forward, and took up the doorway. His left eyebrow cocked in surprise.

"Kenny."

Kenny was sitting at Joe's desk, looking worried at the sight of an Immortal in front of him. "I'm not here to fight," he blurted out quickly. "Someone told me to talk to someone named Joe?"

Methos stalked forward, keeping his sword at the ready, and Joe walked in beside him.

"You don't want to fight? That's because you can't take Adam from behind," Joe said in a harsh voice. "What do you want?"

"Uh, a girl named Shaw said to talk to you. Said to tell MacLeod I touched her sword?"

Now, Joe stopped and held Methos' sword arm back. "Wait a second. You actually held Shaw Hunter's sword?"

"What's so special about her sword?" Methos asked in confusion.

"It cannot be touched by anyone evil," a feminine alto voice sounded off behind them, closing the door behind her, "without serious consequences."

Methos and Joe turned their heads around, and saw Shaw leaning against the door, holding an Uzi on them. Methos lowered his sword and released the hilt, allowing the blade to fall to the floor with a "clang."

"Shaw Hunter, I presume?" Joe asked softly.

"You presume correctly, Joseph Dawson," Shaw said, and Joe could hear regret in her voice. "And this would be Methos?"

"Pleased to make your acquaintance," Methos muttered, plainly meaning the opposite.

"That's Methos? The oldest Immortal?" Kenny whispered, and after a few seconds, he grew angry. "You wanted me to distract METHOS!?!"

"And you did so very well, Kenny," said the half-elf, lowering the Uzi a bit. "Joseph Dawson, I need access to your Database, concerning classified information on Quickenings."

"Shaw, I talked to Steve last night," Joe said, trying to get through to her. "Your friends are worried about you."

"I talked with Steven this morning," Shaw said bitterly. "When he was about to tell me something, the phone went dead."

"Mechanical problem, likely," Methos interjected. "Surely a young Immortal such as yourself knows about technology."

Anger rose inside of Shaw, and Joe and Methos, who blocked Kenny's view of her, saw small arcs of energy flow in her eyes.

{Methos, I am not an Immortal, yet two Quickenings have struck me,} Shaw said in Elvish. {And that is the source of my current predicament. It is. . .making me strike out of anger, hate.}

Methos, to Joe's surprise, didn't even bat an eyelash at the strange tongue. <Why not? Five thousand years, of course he's met elves. He's met everybody.>

{I see your problem. Tuatha du Danaan, yes?} Methos calmly asked.

"What language are you two speaking?" Kenny asked impatiently.

"It's --"

"Espruaur," Shaw finished, not allowing Methos to complete his statement.

{Espruaur?} Methos asked, his eyebrows lifted in inquiry.

{The proper word for my. . perhaps dialect would be the correct word. I am not Tuatha du Danaan, but Cha'Tel'Quessir.} Shaw corrected with a shrug. {And before you ask, yes, half of my blood is human.}

"I see," Methos said with a gentle nod. "You need to find a way to solve your. .problem?"

"Yes," Shaw said softly, but she raised the Uzi again. "Joseph, I. . .apologize for this, but I cannot trust myself not to hurt the others."

"I understand," Joe said truthfully. "What's going on has happened before."

"Which is why I need the information," Shaw said, a single tear forming in her left eye. "I do not wish to risk the others."

"I'll get it. But, could you put the gun down? If your temper's short. ."

Shaw looked at him neutrally, then to Kenny and Methos, and nodded. Joe heard a soft "pfft," and was startled when Methos suddenly staggered. Joe looked at Kenny, who was holding a gun of some sort, wide-eyed. Methos pitched over onto the floor, unconscious. The Watcher threw a glare at the half-elf, who looked sad at what had just happened.

"It is a tranquilizer, Joseph, nothing more. I did not wish to harm him," Shaw explained, throwing the Uzi strap over her shoulder. "It is strong enough to keep him asleep for six hours or so. That is all, you have my word." She looked down at Methos, and whispered, "It my word is worth anything at this point of my situation."

"Shaw," Dawson said, moving forward a bit, but stopping when the Slayerette moved away, "I'm willing to help you, but I have to know that I can trust you. Kenny, well, isn't the most trustworthy Immortal around."

Kenny's face flushed in anger, but Shaw replied, "He grasped the hilt of Soulreaver, Joseph. And I used magic to confirm that he is not longer evil."

"He's a good guy, now?" Joe asked in disbelief, glancing at Kenny.

"Shaw says I'm 'neutral,'" Kenny said, breaking into the conversation.

"I see. Okay, what's he getting for helping you?"

"I will speak to Steven, perhaps to find a role that he is comfortable with, or at the least, somewhere to stay," Shaw answered. She gave Kenny a look. "Perhaps Jenny, Willow and Amy can make him an adult, as they did for Alison."

"WHAT?!?" Kenny shouted, dumbfounded.

"Believe her, kid," Dawson said. "The three witches she just mentioned are good."

He turned back to Shaw. "Sounds like this isn't your standard Dark Quickening. You have some control."

"But I am losing it at times, and it is growing harder to keep it," she whispered harshly. "I need that information to learn how to eliminate it, before. . ."

Shaw shifted the Uzi ninety degrees, and Joe saw that there was no magazine in the handle.

"You bluffed," Joe said, stating the obvious. "Methos is gonna be pissed when he hears this."

"Joseph, the information," Shaw said, although her voice was becoming harder, more demanding.

"Okay, okay," Joe said, walking over to the computer. Kenny walked away, heading over towards Shaw. Joe sat down and began typing. "This'll take a few minutes, Shaw."

"I understand," Shaw said. She looked at Kenny, who was staring at Methos. "Kenny, is something wrong?"

"This is him. The real Methos," he said in awe.

"Yes. Not very impressive at the moment, is he?" Shaw replied. "No offense intended, Joseph."

"None taken, at least by me," Joe said, still typing away. While Shaw and Kenny were distracted, he lowered the volume on his computer speaker. He clicked a few buttons, and sat back. "It'll take a few minutes to log onto the Worldwide Database, Shaw. Then I'll get you the information."

Shaw nodded distractedly, pacing back and forth, as if something were bothering her.

"Shaw?" Kenny asked, drawing her attention, "Are you really being affected by a Dark Quickening? I've heard legends. ." He looked cautious, as if she would jump him at any second.

Shaw stopped pacing, and looked at Dawson. "It is something similar, I suppose. Raymond McGuire's Quickening is affecting me, and not in a beneficial manner." She looked back at Kenny. "The sooner I solve my problem, the more fortunate for all involved. It. .would be better if I were alone, but I need information to act upon."

She started walking around to where Dawson was once again typing, and she caught a glance at the file he was looking at. He jerked as she inhaled sharply.

"It happened to Duncan?" she whispered, stunning Joe with the amount of sympathy in her voice.

"Yes, it did," Joe said. "In fact. . ."

Shaw lashed out, extending the arm claws on her left forearm, and severing the phone cord to disconnect the computer. Joe jerked backwards, his chair rolling a couple of feet as a cold dread started to form in his heart. "Shaw. . ."

"I will go to Duncan, Joseph," Shaw said softly. "I apologize for doing this, but you would attempt to call the others."

Joe sighed at her figuring out the truth. "Only so they could help you. You need help, they want to provide it."

"I cannot be trusted!" she blurted out, making Joe and Kenny jump. Shaw jumped too, swinging towards Kenny as she caught him in her peripheral vision. "I am too dangerous. I am. . .I have to fight this. I cannot allow myself to be distracted."

"So what happens now?" Joe asked. <Come back early, JoAnne.>

Shaw picked up the phone cord, and quickly cut off the other end. She started to move forward, but stopped, a look of grief coming over her face. She threw the cord to Kenny.

"Kenny," she said, the word coming off in a choke.

Kenny reluctantly moved forward, and Shaw exited the room as quickly as she could. He took Joe's left hand and tied it to the arm of the chair. As the heard the outside door slam, Kenny backed up a bit and looked in Dawson's face.

"Can MacLeod get through to her?" Kenny asked nervously. "Is she really in trouble?"

"To the second question, yes. If she doesn't get help," Dawson said, looking at his free hand. "To the first, I hope so. He's helped her before. Now what?"

"I'll go with her. Maybe MacLeod and Amanda can handle her," Kenny said, starting to back up towards the door. "Can you give MacLeod a couple hours to try before you call this St. Wolf guy she mentioned?"

<Shaw was right. He HAS changed.> Dawson considered it, and held up one finger. Kenny nodded, and ran out.

Joe quickly began working at the flimsy knot with his free hand.

*****

When JoAnne walked back in an hour later, she was surprised at the scene before her. Joe was pacing back and forth, while Adam Pierson was holding an ice pack to his head, moaning in pain. However, what truly caught her attention was the sword laying on the table.

"I swear, St. Wolf is going to pay when I get my hands on him," Pierson said, moaning again. "I can't believe Shaw Hunter bluffed me with an empty gun!!"

"And Kenny tranked you. But, when you think about it, it is kinda funny. At least she let you keep your sword," Joe said, smiling at him. As he turned around, he caught sight of JoAnne. "Oh, God."

Pierson looked in that direction, and JoAnne's face went red.

"Joe, is this bastard a Hunter?!?" she accused, fuming.

"Of course not," Joe snapped, walking towards her. "He's. . ."

"Carrying a sword," JoAnne finished, pointing at it.

"Oh, damn," Pierson said, burying his face in the ice pack. "Tell her, Joe. Assuming she can keep a secret."

"Tell me what secret, Pierson?"

"Sit down, JoAnne," Joe ordered. When she complied hesitantly, he sighed. "Adam, cut yourself."

Pierson picked up the sword, and sliced his palm with a shallow cut. He held out the palm, and JoAnne watched as the wound healed in a shower of blue arcs.

"You're Immortal," JoAnne breathed. "And a Watcher?"

"I started the Watchers," Pierson said with a smirk and a wink of his eyes. "Consider my area of specialty."

"You work on the Me--" she said, quickly putting two and two together. She favored Dawson with a frown. "I was always right, Joe. He IS a slacker. Working on his own Chronicles. Talk about lazy."

Dawson started laughing, and Methos sent an intense glare his way.

"Thanks for rising to my defense, Joe," he snapped, and then looked at JoAnne. "Can you keep this to yourself?"

"Who the hell would believe me?!?" JoAnne blurted.

"Well, off hand, I'd say MacLeod, Cassandra, Richie Ryan, Andrea Parker, Jarod, Amanda. ."

"I get the point. God, the one and only himself," JoAnne said, shaking her head. "One question, can you help me with some of these damned translations?"

"I'd be glad to," Methos said. <She accepts this better than I would hope.>

"JoAnne," Dawson said, interrupting their conversation. "You got your cell phone? I need to make a call."

"Okay. But why not use your own phone?" she asked.

"Line got 'disconnected,'" Methos said, drawing an icy stare from Dawson, while JoAnne just looked back and forth in confusion.

*****

St. Wolf Residence
Sunnydale, California
21 November 1998

Steve quickly yanked the phone off of his receiver as he saw the name on his Caller ID box.

"Talk to me, Joe," he ordered.

"She's in Seacouver. Paid me and Methos a visit," Joe said, relating the details of her and Kenny's visit. When he got done, Joe added, "I don't know what's gonna happen if Mac can't get her to stop running, Wanderer. She's scared."

"I know, Joe," Steve answered, pacing back and forth. "Tell me this; do YOU think Duncan can get through to her?"

"I'd normally say 'yes,' but she's more worried about hurting others than accepting help," the Watcher replied. "If I were you, I'd get here ASAP. You might have to drug her like she did Methos."

Steve stifled a laugh at that. "Right. We'll be in the air as soon as I can get the others. Thanks, Joe."

Steve hung up the phone, and quickly walked out of the office, calling Buffy and Randi Jessup. As they came down the stairs, the Slayer asked, "What's the word, honey?"

"Shaw's in Seacouver, heading for Duncan's. But she has an hour head start on us, 'cause she cut the phone line at Joe's bar," Steve informed both female Immortals. "Buffy, call Cordelia, tell her to pick up Xander and go straight to the airport. Randi, call Amy and tell her the same thing. After that, call the others, and tell them to get over here to get ready for any more news. We need to be in the air posthaste."

As Buffy and Randi started to place the calls on separate phones, Steve turned and headed for the armory to pick out weapons they would probably need for the trip.

*****

Sunnydale Airport
Sunnydale, California
21 November 1998

"Okay, you guys sure about this?" Steve asked the Slayerettes that he and Buffy'd chosen to go with them. "If you have any objections over this, let me know now."

"None, Steve," Xander said, a determined look on his face that was rare for the easygoing young man. "She's one of us, we bring her home."

"But she's gonna owe us for this, Steve," Cordelia broke in. "First, she's ruining mine and Xander's weekend, and now we're heading for Seacouver. It RAINS all the time, and this'll ruin my hairstyle."

"But you change it every week, anyway, Cordy," Xander pointed out.

"Shut up, dweeb boy," Cordelia snapped, starting the couple on another one of their infamous arguments.

Buffy and Steve turned to the witch, Amy, who was looking uncertain about this.

"Well, Amy? How about you?" Buffy asked.

"Tell me again why I got picked, 'cause I find it kinda hard to believe," she said doubtfully.

"Simple. You're her cousin, you're the last person who she'd want to hurt," Steve said. "At least, that's Buffy's theory."

"Oh, really. And the basis for this theory?"

"Well, let's just say that some of the others told me what she said the night she met Angel in the library," Buffy said with a grin. "Something about you?"

"Yeah, she said. ." Amy said, trailing off as she thought back to the night in question. "Okay, I get that. But getting through to her is another matter. She hasn't said jack about herself since that first night."

"Who was the first person she talked to about her back?" Buffy reminded her.

"You," Amy said, confusion on her face. "She talked to you in the living room, minute later she was wearing that sports bra, and everyone saw. ." She shuddered, and continued. "I can see why she didn't want to talk."

"Amy," Steve said, breaking in, "she started to talk about it BEFORE she talked to Buffy, remember? She said that we didn't understand her problem. Who said something to that?"

"I did. I told her that to understand her, she had to let us. Why?"

"Think about it," Buffy said, intensely gazing into Amy's eyes.

Amy started glancing back and forth at them, and her eyebrows shot up when the impact of what they'd hinted at sank in.

"Oh, shit. But, she closed up again just a minute later," Amy reminded them. "When Willow asked what had happened to her."

"How did she react to Wil asking her?" Buffy asked.

"She jumped. Like she didn't know Wil was there, right next to her," Amy responded, closing her eyes to focus. "Shaw looked zoned out, like she was. ."

"Concentrating on you?" Steve said.

Amy nodded, and sighed. "Goddess, I don't believe this. She really responds to me in that way?"

"Too bad we can't bottle it," Buffy said, giggling. "We'd make a fortune."

Amy snickered despite the situation. "Okay, I'm in. I just hope you're right about this."

"We do, too," Buffy muttered, drawing a look from Steve.

"Okay, everyone on the plane. Time to bring her home."

*****

Part 4: Party Crashers
(In Which One Of Hollywood's Primary Rules Is Followed)

DiSalvo's Gym
Seacouver, Washington
21 November 1998

As Shaw parked the Humvee a block from DiSalvo's Gym, Kenny watched her with a worried expression, as she just sat there, watching the front of the dojo.

"So, what's your plan?"

Shaw shrugged. "I. . .do not know. I would rather avoid this, avoid contacting anyone," she said in a low, weary tone. She bit back a yawn, and continued. "Kenny, I think it would be best if we parted company after this. I cannot risk you, any more than I can risk the others."

"Wait a minute!" Kenny snapped, startling the half-elf. "I owe you my life. You can't expect me to stay with MacLeod!"

"Kenny, you know what is wrong with me. And I know, even if you do not show it, that you are. ." she paused, and lowered her head against the steering wheel. "You are afraid of me."

Kenny waited a couple seconds, and nodded. "I can tell you something. There's a back way into MacLeod's room. Go up the back, and I'll walk in the front and keep them busy." Kenny shrugged. "You can try to get the stuff you need."

"Kenny, are you sure. If I am not there, you will be at risk," Shaw pointed out. She shook her head slightly. "I. . .I have so many faces haunting me. ."

"All the more reason for you to get your info," Kenny said.

Shaw spent nearly five minutes considering her options, and finally nodded.

"Give me two minutes, and then go in," she ordered. "Kenny. .thank you."

*****

Duncan was engaging in a sparring match with Parker, with the others watching, when the Buzz started. Duncan and Andrea both lowered their swords as each of the assembled Immortals looked at each other, until the front door opened, and a pre-teen boy walked in. Duncan immediately stopped the match and his face settled into a grim mask.

"What are you doing here?" the Highlander asked in a tone that promised a quick death if he didn't like the answer.

"Uh, a girl dropped me off here," Kenny said. He looked at Amanda, who gave him a look that suggested he shouldn't look for sympathy from her. "She killed Richard Markham last night."

Duncan's eyes rose a bit. "You're the one Shaw was protecting? Well, no one's perfect. What do you want?"

Kenny reached into a pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. "She said to ask you about this manuscript, and to tell you that I held her sword."

"Dawson told me she killed Markham, so I know that much is true," MacLeod said, crossing his arms. "But do you really expect me to believe she let you touch her sword?"

"Excuse me, Duncan," Amanda said, "but I thought you said she gave away Joan of Arc's sword."

Now the others, Richie, Andrea and Jarod, started to get lost in the conversation.

"Shaw's own sword is magical," Duncan said. "Can you give me any other proof, Kenny?"

"Uh, she said she used magic. I saw her make some kind of force field against Markham," Kenny said, feeling much less than safe at the moment. "She a witch?"

"Closer to a shaman, really, but I know about the magic. And she is the type to double-check things," Duncan said, the hostility in his voice fading just a bit.

"Hey, Mac," Richie asked, looking at his teacher, "Shaw Hunter's a witch doctor?"

"A priestess, of a Goddess named Mielikki," Duncan said.

"Mielikki?!?" Amanda snapped in disbelief. "She hasn't been worshipped in ages!"

"Wait a minute," Parker said, throwing a cold look Kenny's way, "we're getting off track here. First off, Duncan, would this be the half-human, half-elf Shaw Hunter that Amanda and I discussed earlier today?"

"Yes," Duncan said, "Shaw is what's normally called a half-elf."

"Elf?!?" Kenny croaked, drawing everyone's attention. "She's an Immortal!"

"Since when?" Richie asked sarcastically.

"You can feel it," Kenny said. "Every time she gets near an Immortal, the Buzz hits her, and knocks her for a loop. It hurts her head bad. And she 'feels' like an Immortal. She said she was under a Dark Quickening."

Richie and Amanda's faces went nearly white, and both of them turned their heads to Duncan.

"You forgot to mention that, Duncan!" Amanda snapped off.

"Mac, please tell me I didn't hear the words 'Dark' and 'Quickening' in the same sentence," Richie added, remembering what had happened a few years ago.

Jarod and Parker were looking around, totally lost. "What's a Dark Quickening?" Jarod asked.

"Later," Richie, Duncan and Amanda said at the same instant.

"Fine," Andrea said icily. "Second, who's this Millie Key, or whoever, she worships?"

"Mielikki," Amanda said. "Goddess from Finland. Think Artemis or Diana, add snow and ice. But her religion died out a long time ago."

"In this dimension, maybe," Duncan said with the barest trace of a smirk.

"She's from another dimension?!?" Richie asked dumbly. "Man, this is starting to sound like a Twilight Zone episode."

"It gets better, Richie," MacLeod said. "Seems Shaw's great-grandmother was from Earth. And that woman had a great-great-grandniece."

"I hate it when Mac gets mysterious," Richie muttered.

"Duncan, just tell us the name," Andrea snapped.

"Amy Madison."

"The witch from St. Wolf's group?" Jarod asked.

Kenny now looked just as lost as Jarod. "Is that the same witch that she said helped make a kid Immortal an adult?"

"How'd you know about that?" Duncan asked.

"This girl, Shaw, said she'd ask them to do it to me," he said, doubt about her sincerity in his voice. "Did that really happen?"

"Yeah, it happened," Richie said, shaking his head. "But you? Come on."

"Wait a minute, Richie," Amanda said, holding a hand out. "Kenny, why should we believe any of this? Give us one reason?"

Kenny stared at her, and sighed, shaking his head. "I can't do this. She's upstairs, MacLeod. She wanted me to keep you down here."

"Why?" Duncan growled, his voice now the same as when Kenny had entered the dojo.

Surprisingly, Kenny met his gaze, surprising considering he was surrounded by five adult Immortals. "'Cause all she cares about is staying away from you or anyone else. 'Fraid she'll hurt somebody, and she's freaking about finding a cure before doing something harmful."

"Damn," Duncan said, heading for the elevator. As he pulled open the gate, he turned back to the group. "Watch him."

As Kenny started to get a look of anger on his face, MacLeod turned to him and said. "Thanks, Kenny."

Jarod and Parker couldn't tell who was more stunned by those two words; Amanda, Richie or Kenny.

*****

Shaw was typing on Duncan's computer, attempting to access the Immortal's personal files. However, she was having no luck at all. The fact that she was fighting to think through a near-crippling headache only added to her frustration.

<Please, Lady,> she whispered in her mind, <Please let me find what I need. I. . .>

She stopped typing, and shook her head.

<Willow or Jenny, I am not.> she thought, clenching her fists.

<I do not want to do this! I should ask for his help! But. . .I cannot take that chance. Or. . .can I? He has friends here. Can. .>

Shaw's train of thought was broken when she heard the elevator coming up towards Duncan's loft. She quickly stood up, and walked around the desk, removing her trenchcoat and drawing her sword. She took up a defensive position and waited, while the elevator stopped and began to open.

Shaw's eyes widened a bit in fear as Duncan opened the gate to enter his room. He took in her position and posture, and looked her in the eyes.

"Shaw," he said casually, putting his hands behind his back.

"Duncan," Shaw returned softly, although she put a note of warning in her voice.

Duncan walked further into the room, and Shaw moved counter clockwise to him, keeping the distance open between them.

"Did you manage to get into my files?" he asked with a smile.

Shaw lowered Soulreaver, and shook her head. "No, Duncan."

Duncan nodded his head, and sat down at the desk, and turned off the computer. As he did, Shaw slowly sat down in a chair, resting her sword on her thighs.

After a few seconds of very uncomfortable silence, she spoke up. "How did you defeat this?" she asked weakly, not looking at the Immortal. "How. . .how did you survive it?"

"With help from my friends," Duncan said gently. He stood up, and started to walk towards the kitchen. He stopped dead when Shaw sprang to her feet with a speed that surprised even him. "Your friends are worried about you."

"I know," she whispered, her eyes firmly locked on him. "I. .am afraid of hurting them. That. . .that is why I did it in this way."

"I understand, Shaw," he replied. Duncan walked into the kitchen and poured two glasses of water. He walked out and held one out to Shaw. She simply stared at the glass for a few seconds, until she finally took it with her right hand. Duncan backed up a step and walked back to the desk, sitting down again. He set down the glass, and waited for her to take her seat.

"If you want to ask, that's all you have to do," Duncan said, giving her a look of compassion. "If you're here, if means that you know that this happened to me. It also means that I do know what you're going through."

Shaw set her sword on the floor, and sat down, holding the glass of water in both hands. "What happened to you, when. . .this occurred?"

Duncan raised an eyebrow. <She wants to know about my Dark Quickening? Hmmm. Maybe it'll convince her of the danger.>

"Alright, Shaw. It begins back, oh, about a hundred years ago. A shaman named Coltec had the ability to take the anger and hate out of people. He saw it as his duty to take the evil of the world onto himself. When soldiers killed my adopted family, he took my hate, my desire for revenge, into himself. However, over time, he absorbed too much evil, and it overwhelmed him."

"Duncan," Shaw said softly, breaking his speech, "why is it that people who try to do this kind of good are so often punished?"

"Shaw, he wasn't punished," the Scot said. "It was an accident."

"Yes, of course it was," Shaw said with a slight snarl, taking a drink of water before finishing. "I have had a few such 'accidents' in my lifetime."

"Such as?" Duncan asked, trying to draw out some information.

"This!" she snapped, waving a hand down her body. "I killed McGuire to defend myself, to defend Connor, and what has happened? He is inside of me, twisting my mind and feelings!" She started squeezing the glass, and Duncan could see her knuckles turning white. "One moment, I am myself, the next, I am angry, full of. .hate, like those years before I came here, and another, I am. .cold and cruel, like. . .t-that day. ."

"What day, Shaw?" Duncan asked softly.

Shaw just sat there, her eyes closed but moving as she seemed to be remembering something.

"Please continue your story, Duncan."

Duncan gave her a worried glance, but continued talking. "A few years ago, I met Coltec a second time. But, since he'd been taken over by the evil inside of him, I was forced to take his head. I took his Quickening, and all of the evil he'd so kindly removed from others. It overwhelmed me. I nearly took Richie's head, I fled to France and killed one of my better friends, Sean Burns. I finally ended up in a church in Paris."

"How did you cure yourself, Duncan?" Shaw asked, desperation in her voice. "Please. . ."

"Methos took me to a holy spring, located in France. I entered a trance of some sort, and fought the evil side of myself, and. .I won. I was cured, but I'd killed one of my friends, almost killed Methos on holy ground, and nearly killed Richie as well. It took me a long time to rid myself of the guilt."

"A holy spring? Dedicated to. .your God?" she asked.

"Yes, Shaw," he replied. <Please, be convinced.>

Shaw stood up, and threw the glass she'd been holding. It landed on the floor near the elevator, and shattered as water spread over the floor. Duncan stood up, and said, "Shaw. ."

"This has been for nothing," Shaw said, starting to weep as she hugged herself. "It will not work for me."

"Why not?"

"I do not serve that God," Shaw said, her voice sounding distant. "I cannot use the method that cured you."

"Is there holy ground for Mielikki on Earth?" Duncan asked, trying to help her focus.

"I. . .do not know. She has not been worshipped here for centuries." Shaw started pacing, and Duncan cleared his throat to get her attention. She jumped, and looked at him, fear in her eyes. "Duncan, I am losing my focus again," she said, looking as if she were about to panic. "If your method will not work for me, what other options can I have?!?"

"Shaw!" Duncan snapped, stopping her attack before it could truly form. In a soothing voice, he continued. "Part of what helped me was having friends to help me. Steve and the others can do that for you. If holy ground won't work, perhaps there's a spell that will. If you think about it, Steve knows Merlin, the witches have a great deal of ability between them, and Giles has his knowledge. Think of all that, combined, working in you favor."

"But how long, Duncan? How long will it take?" Shaw pleaded, her arms extended out to her sides. "In three days, I have coldly killed a vampire, killed an Immortal, attacked Joseph N'Gato, and tranquilized Methos so that he could not interfere with this." Shaw shook her head, and her lower lip started trembling. "What about school? I cannot attend while I am like this; I cannot miss too much without raising suspicion; I cannot trust myself not to hurt someone. What if one of the other students says one word that I take incorrectly, what happens to him? What am I supposed to do?!?"

Shaw collapsed back into the chair, and buried her face in her hands. Duncan could tell that she was not only fighting tears, but also exhaustion.

"Shaw, how long has it been since you slept?"

"Since I left home. I. .see their faces, Duncan. The ones that. .McGuire killed."

Duncan stood up and slowly walked over to her. He gently laid a hand on her shoulder, and she tensed instantly.

"Shaw," he said, "the lack of sleep only lessens your control. Believe me, I know."

"But how do I stop myself from hurting them, Duncan?" she asked in a wheeze, looking at the Scot with haunted eyes. "How?"

"The others have magic. Maybe a spell to lessen anger, if there's such a thing," he offered. "Temporary measures."

"Duncan, I will not allow myself to be controlled like that," Shaw said. "Part of that is my hate of mental intrusions, another part is a natural resistance to such magics."

"If they absolutely have to, they could keep you somewhere, perhaps at Steve's. ."

"NOOO!!" she shouted, jumping up and twisting away from him. "Never again!! I swore, never again!! I will not be imprisoned or restrained in any way!!"

She sent a quick glance at her sword on the floor, then back at Duncan, whose face was now guarded. She backed away slowly, and lowered her head, refusing to look the Highlander in the eyes.

"Duncan, I am sorry, but. . .I will not allow that. Never," she whined, making more distance between them. "I-I-I cannot. ."

Duncan bent over, trying to attract her attention. "That's not what I meant." He sighed a bit. "I meant a place to stay, to keep you safe."

"The way you said it. ."

<My God, she truly fears it.> Duncan thought, and then he started walking back into the kitchen. "Shaw, if the option that helped me isn't viable in your case, then Steve is, quite literally, your best chance. I could call him, and he could be here, in front of you, to take you home in a matter of hours."

Shaw didn't answer, simply staring at the floor. After some time, she muttered, "Duncan, I wanted to attack you when you said. ." She started shaking her head. "Duncan, I am afraid of myself."

"I know," he answered. He took in her clothing, and noticed the hole in her shirt and her dirty sweat pants. "Shaw, I'm about to make a suggestion, and I don't want you to take it the wrong way. Amanda's clothes might fit you, or come close to it. Why don't you change?"

Shaw looked at him, and searched his face. "Only if she approves." She turned away from him, and began to stare out the window.

"Okay, Shaw," Duncan said. He picked up the phone and dialed downstairs, and Shaw tuned out his conversation, concentrating on controlling herself.

<He helped me months ago, he wants to help me now, why can I not simply accept his wisdom?> she asked herself, wiping tears away. <I want to go home, but I am dangerous. What do I do?>

After twenty seconds, she let out a massive exhale.

<Do what everyone is telling you. Look for help.>

She turned to Duncan as he was hanging up the phone.

"Well?" she asked hesitantly.

"Go ahead. Although she said not to take her best clothes," Duncan said with a small smile. "You know, Amanda wants to meet you."

Shaw had started to move towards his bedroom, but stopped. "I do not think that would be advisable, considering present circumstances."

She went into the bedroom, and closed the door.

Duncan quickly picked up the phone again.

*****

St. Wolf Residence
Sunnydale, California
21 November 1998

When the phone started ringing, Oz walked over and glanced at the caller ID. He calmly picked up the phone and answered with a calm, "Hello?"

"Is this Steve's place?" a Scottish accented voice asked.

"Duncan? This is Oz," the redheaded teen said. "What's up?"

"Shaw's in my apartment right now. I think I have her convinced to wait here until you come get her," Duncan whispered. "I'd bring her myself, but I don't think she'd agree to that, out of fear of harming me."

"Duncan, Steve, Buffy, and some of the others are already in the air," Oz told him. "They know she was headed to your place. Let me get Giles."

"No, I've got her distracted for the moment, but I can't stay on long," the Immortal warned. "If she finds out I called you, she might flee. She's not in a good frame of mind right now."

"Got it," Oz said, hanging up the phone. He walked into the training area, where Willow, Jenny and Giles were sitting on the floor, with a large stack of various books on the arcane, flipping through them, searching for a spell to cure their teammate.

"Guys," the werewolf said, drawing their attention, "Shaw's at Duncan's."

Willow and Jenny showed relief at the news, but Giles remained somewhat reserved.

"What's her current situation, Oz?" the Englishman asked.

"Pretty bad. In control, but very Wigged."

"How long before they land?" Willow asked.

"Less than one hour," Jenny said, glancing at her watch. "The others will be back from the store soon. Should we break the news?"

"No," Giles said, drawing a surprised glance. "Wait until we get confirmation that Steve and Buffy have her with them."

Jenny considered it, and nodded. "Alright, Rupert. No false hopes." The Gypsy sighed. "I just wish we had some more help. We can only do so much."

"As do I, Jenny," Giles said. "Let's take a small break, and then resume our research."

"All right," Jenny said, getting off the floor and heading for the living room along with Giles.

Willow stayed in a sitting position, looking deep in thought. Oz touched her on the shoulder, getting her to look up at him.

"Penny?"

Willow smiled at him. "Jenny's comment about more help. I can't put my finger on it."

Oz nodded, and sat down next to her. "I want to ask you something."

Willow snuggled up to him, and said, "What is it?"

"Shaw killed that guy, right?" he asked. When she nodded, he continued.

"That means she knows, now. What do you think?"

"Come on. Knowing her, she'll apologize for finding out that way," Willow said with a smile. "She'll probably feel sorry for you."

"Okay. Break?"

"In a minute. I'll be out in a sec."

He nodded, and walked out to join the other couple. Willow continued to concentrate on Jenny's earlier comment, and started looking around the training room until her eyes fell on a small shrine, the centerpiece of which was a small statuette of a female hunter.

The auburn-haired witch quickly smiled. "Bingo."

*****

DiSalvo's Gym
Seacouver, Washington
21 November 1998

After Duncan replaced the phone, he sat down at the desk, and opened a drawer. He started working with something, and finished just as the door opened.

Quickly closing the drawer, he watched Shaw walk out of his bedroom cursing softly in Italian. He looked over at her, and was honestly surprised by the change in her appearance.

Shaw had donned a low-cut black leotard with sleeves that ended just below the elbow. Added to this was a pair of shiny, black leather pants, as well as the short, ankle high boots she'd originally been wearing. Her black hair was unbound, although she wore a headband over the top of her head to keep the thick black mass out of her eyes. In plain sight were two pendants, one an ivory unicorn's head on a silver chain, the other a bronze tsuba on a leather cord.

<It's a good thing Amanda isn't here right now,> Duncan thought in relief. <She'd be jealous in an instant.>

Two things ruined Shaw's appearance, however. The first thing was the tired look in her eyes and face. Her fatigue had been easy to see, now it was even more obvious. The second problem was that she had redonned the shoulder holster, complete with a Baretta nine-millimeter pistol.

Shaw looked up, and saw Duncan staring at her. <<May I ask what you are staring at, Duncan?>>

"I didn't know you speak Italian," Duncan said, a trace of a smile on his face.

Shaw's face went blank for a moment, and then tears started to form.

"Oh, no. Duncan, that. ." she coughed out.

"McGuire?" he asked, and the Slayerette softly nodded. "It's alright. It's only temporary."

Shaw did not respond, but rather started pacing back and forth, until she stopped and looked back at MacLeod.

"You did not answer my question, Duncan," she said crossly.

"Well, you normally wear looser clothing, and you hair more, well, severe, if I remember correctly."

"It would seem that for this Amanda, this IS loose clothing," the half-elf said with a deepening frown. "And I thought that the jeans Cordelia and Amy helped me buy are, as Cordelia says, 'form-fitting.'"

"Those are, too," he said, indicating the way her current outfit tightly hugged her body. "Do you have any complaints about the top?"

"Only that the front is somewhat lower than I prefer," Shaw said, shrugging, "but I can accept it. But these jeans. . ."

"What's wrong with them?"

"Duncan, there is a difference between being 'form-fitting,' and being likely to split if I take more than the most shallow of breaths!" she snapped. She quickly closed her eyes, and put her left hand to her forehead, apparently concentrating. "Duncan, I apologize for losing my temper."

"I understand," he assured her. "It's hard, isn't it?"

"Yes," she said. "I. .I do not want to see the others, for. ."

"Shaw, they're on their way already."

Shaw's face jerked up, and she stared at him. "What?"

"Steve, Buffy, and some of the others are on their way here, to take you home," Duncan said, subtly preparing to face her reaction.

Fear and anticipation warred for control on her face, until finally she nodded. "Very well. What do I do until then?"

"I don't know how long they'll be, so we can talk, if you want," Duncan offered, heading into the kitchen. "Would you like something to drink?"

"Yes, that would be good," Shaw said, starting to walk over to the kitchen. "Duncan, I never did thank you for the effect you had on me back in June."

"What are you talking about?" he asked in a confused voice, looking up at her.

"Do you remember the talk we had?" she asked, stopping short. "On your barge?"

"Of course," he replied with a nod. "What about it?"

Shaw turned around and walked towards his desk. She softly said, "Do you realize that, perhaps, that talk had as much an effect on me as Connor did with his training? It. .truly made me begin to let go of my hate."

Duncan walked out of the kitchen, and watched her as she looked at a small picture on his desk. She picked it up, and appeared to be examining it, and he heard her gasp. She gripped the picture in both hands, and stared.

"What's wrong, Shaw?"

"Who is this, Duncan?" she asked softly. She looked at him, and in a cracked voice, she asked, "Who is this girl?"

He quickly realized what picture she was holding. "Her name's Mindy Renhard, Shaw."

"Who did this to her?" she asked, the tone of her voice slipping from sorrow to something darker.

"Someone long dead," Duncan said, walking out towards her. "Someone that Steve, Frank Iverson, Connor and I, as well as a few others, took care of a long time ago."

"What happened to her?"

"She was to be sold as a sacrifice at a slave auction in Libya, but Steve and Frank rescued her in France. Steve arranged a raid to save several hundred other young girls from that fate. Not one of the slavers was left alive. Mindy's still alive. She’s nineteen now, and she occasionally sends pictures to me and the others who helped save her and those other girls," Duncan said. "She was one of the lucky ones."

The look in Shaw's eyes had become distant, and Duncan thought that she was imagining the events of eight years ago. With his last two words, her eyes grew angry.

"You call this 'good luck?'" Shaw asked bitterly, turning the picture to him and pointing to what he knew was a scar peeking out from underneath the dress she wore. "That is not only cold, Duncan MacLeod, it is cruel."

The fact that Shaw had used his full name was not lost on him, but Duncan would not allow her to accuse him thus.

"Considering that she has her life and sanity intact, yes, I call it luck," he said in a hard voice. "What would you call it?"

The Highlander waited several seconds for her to answer. As he was about to ask her again, she replied.

"Perhaps it was deserved."

Duncan started to snarl, but held back when he remembered what was going on inside of her. But, he was not happy.

"Do you really believe that an eleven year old girl deserved that?" he asked harshly.

"An eleven year old girl? No," Shaw said, a hard look on her face as she threw the picture down on the desk. "A twenty-eight year old, inexperienced, indecisive fool who could not save four innocent humans? Yes."

"What twenty-eight year old?" he asked. "Who could possibly deserve what Mindy had happen to her?"

"I can sum that up in five words, from one of your literary works, to describe not only her appearance, but the events you say made her look that way, Duncan," Shaw said, her voice distant.

"And what are they?" he asked, impatient for an answer.

Shaw turned away from him, and looked out the window.

"Mirror, mirror, on the wall."

Her head fell forward, and she shook it softly from side to side.

"It was like looking into a mirror, Duncan."

Duncan just watched her back, until he realized what she was truly trying to tell him. His face fell as he understood why she didn't want to discuss the girl in the picture.

<She isn't seeing Mindy. She's seeing herself.> he thought, and he sighed. <Oh, God.>

"I'm sorry, Shaw. I understand."

"I know, Duncan," she replied. "I know you do. Please do not mention it to others. I have not shared anything, other than to let them see my back. The. . .details are not pleasant."

"And you don't want to tell them," Duncan reasoned.

"No, Duncan. The opposite applies," Shaw corrected. "I want more than anything to tell them. But. .I fear their reactions, what they will think. I do not want them to be afraid of me, or for Amy. .I mean, for them to hate me."

MacLeod was fully confused by her statement. "Shaw, that doesn't make any sense. Why would they hate or fear you because you were tortured?"

Shaw turned to him, and tears were streaming down her face as she looked at him through haunted eyes.

"I allowed it to happen."

Before Duncan could let the words sink in, or respond to her admission, she went further, her anger growing with every word.

"And add to this, that only three days after this happened, three days after I ALLOWED this to happen," she snapped, leaning forward with her fists on his desk, "three days after I nearly sacrificed myself, three days after I DID sacrifice my innocence, THREE DAYS after I failed to save those four people because of my own incompetence. . ."

She stood up and pounded his desk, hard. Duncan could see a small amount of blood on the top as she screamed, "A BLOODSUCKING FIEND KILLED THE ONLY FAMILY I EVER HAD!!!"

Shaw clenched her fists to her sides, so hard that her fingernails began to dig into her palms, and looked Duncan in the eyes as her anger slowly began to drain.

"And something else, Duncan MacLeod. Knowing that the others want me to tell them; knowing how hurt Amy and Willow were when I refused to tell them, after they have given me their friendship, their trust, a home, and the chance to once again be part of something worthwhile; to refuse to tell them that I am capable of cold-blooded murder? It makes me SICK!"

Shaw turned around and walked over to the window, bracing herself with outstretched palms and leaning her head against the glass.

"I am tired of not being ready to tell Amy these things. I want to tell her, but I will not do it if she does not want to hear it! After I made the mistake of not telling her about me the first time I saw her, I swore that it would be her choice as far as anything between us went."

Shaw backed up from the window, and Duncan could see her red face in the reflection. She turned around, and looked at Duncan again.

"And then, three weeks ago, she asked me. She said to let her understand. I showed them the scars, but I did not tell them, Duncan," she said, and then brokenly added, "She gave me the chance, and I did not take it. Why can I not do this right?"

"Because you weren't ready, Shaw," MacLeod answered. "They only want you to tell them when you're ready for it."

"But when, Duncan? I want to tell Amy, to tell her what I did. But the others have a right to know, if I am to stand by them in battle. But I am afraid that I will make the wrong choice," Shaw cried. She walked over to her sword, and picked it up. She leaned it against the chair, and turned back to the Immortal. "I have tried to be patient, but I am weary of waiting for Amy's decision. But that is not right, it is selfish. It is not fair to her. She is my kin, but I do not know what to do, what to say, or how to act. And there is no way for me to learn these things! I know how I felt about my grandparents, but it is not the same."

"You don't want her to replace them," Duncan said softly.

"No, Duncan, I do not," the Slayerette hissed, the sound being more from fatigue than emotions, "I want to give her whatever I can, I simply do not know how to do it any longer. It has been so long since I lost them. . ."

Duncan watched her as she became silent, tears streaming down her face. <This isn't what I was expecting when I set up the recorder. But, maybe this is more important.>

"Do you love her?" Duncan asked.

Shaw looked at him, regret shining in her bloodshot eyes. "No. I care about her, her safety, her welfare. I care about her emotions, and for her as both friend and teammate. I feel the need to help her if she needs it, but I do not know how. But I do not love her as I feel that family should. It is not right, Duncan."

"And it's not natural," the Immortal said, shaking his head. "You can't blame yourself for not loving a cousin you've only known two months."

"But, Duncan. ."

"What do you want from Amy?" Duncan asked her as she leaned up against the chair.

Shaw looked at him as if he were speaking some language she didn't know. "What do you mean?"

"You've said what you want to give Amy, what about you?" he repeated.

"I. .do not know," she said, seemingly uncomfortable. "We are friends, I know that much. I will only accept what she is capable of giving. So far, I have friendship. But. ." she trailed off, wiping tears from her eyes.

"It's not enough."

Shaw simply nodded. "Again, I find that unfair to Amy. I. .do not know what I am supposed to do."

Duncan sighed, and started walking towards the sink. "Shaw, it seems to me that family isn't something you want."

Shaw's head snapped in his direction. "I do not want it?" she growled.

Duncan looked at her, his dark eyes locked on her hazel ones. "It sounds more like something you need."

Shaw stared at him as she digested his meaning, and raised her head to the ceiling. "When will I learn not to take things so literally?"

"The sooner, the better," Duncan said, deliberately keeping the tone light.

Shaw picked up her sword and trenchcoat, and folded the sword inside of it. Softly, she asked, "Duncan, how long will it be before the others arrive?"

"I figure they'll call us when they land," Duncan said with a shrug. He picked up a pot and started filling it with water. "Shaw, you're afraid to go to sleep, right?"

"Yes, Duncan," she replied with a shiver. "Why do you ask?"

"I'm going to make some coffee," the Highlander said. "A cup or two should keep you awake for a while."

When he looked up to put the pot on the coffee maker, his heart nearly froze. Shaw had taken her sword back out, and thrown her coat over her shoulder, obscuring the gun. Her position was left no doubt that she was less than pleased. In fact, she was nothing short of pissed off.

"Shaw. ."

"How could you?" she hissed at him.

"Shaw, stop," Duncan ordered. "Control yourself."

"How could you?" she asked again, this time sounding as if her heart were breaking. "I trusted you, Duncan."

Duncan started to set the pot down, but before he could, the half-elf turned and bolted for the back entrance.

"SHAW!!" he shouted, but to no avail. She flew through the door, headed for the street.

MacLeod knew there was no way he would catch her, so he ran over to the phone and hit the intercom.

Richie answered. "Yeah, Mac?"

"Shaw's running. You and Amanda stop her!"

*****

Rather than hang up, Richie threw the phone to the side.

"Amanda, Shaw's running! We gotta stop her," he snapped, running for the door.

"Why us?" she asked as she began to follow him.

"Mac said us, that's why."

Jarod called out, "What about us, Richie?"

"Keep an eye on the punk," Richie called as he and the thief disappeared out the door.

"Gee, thanks a lot," Kenny muttered as he looked at Parker and Jarod. "Lemme guess, you two are new at this, right?"

"Yeah," Jarod said. "Few months. You?"

"Eight hundred years," he said, ignoring the stares from the two other Immortals.

"Does this kind of thing happen with MacLeod often?" Andrea demanded.

"Every week or so."

*****

From his home, someone watched the scene unfolding before him. He'd been worried about his plans as the half-breed hunter made confessions that surprised even him.

<Although that does explain much about why she's so hard. And instead of breaking her, it's tempered her, making her a warrior worthy of being my champion.>

He watched as two human Immortals confronted the girl, and she began to chant a prayer. He nodded in pleasure, but decided to add some fun into the mix.

<Sorry, but I can't let you catch her. I have plans for that one.>

He made a gesture, and he watched the look of shock on her face as her spell went out of control.

*****

Shaw was running for the Hummer, crying hard at the thought of what Duncan had suggested, when she heard a voice calling out her name.

"Shaw! Wait up!"

She turned and saw two Immortals running towards her. One was a red-haired male, appearing in his early twenties, the other a blonde female that wore black leather, leaving no doubt as to her identity.

<That would be Amanda. It figures.>

Shaw neared the Hummer, but realized that they would be on her before she could get in and drive off. She decided that a spell was the only thing that would get her out of the situation.

She quickly began calling up a dust devil, hoping that it would slow down the two warriors before they could catch her. As she finished the chant, the dust devil began to form, and she felt something twist the magic, and the small air elemental shifted, becoming a hurricane force gale.

The windstorm blew straight at the Immortals, although Amanda had the sense to duck, placing her hands over her head. Richie was not so fortunate.

The windstorm caught him, and lifted him off of the ground, throwing him through the store window for a clock repair shop. As the loud crash subsided, the wind died out, and Shaw quickly jumped into the vehicle.

She turned on the ignition, and sped off as Amanda reached her feet. She stared after the rear of the Humvee as Richie slowly climbed out of the shop, blue arcs playing all over the small cuts covering his body.

"You all right, Amanda?"

Amanda turned and glared at him, waving her arms in frustration. "No, I'm not all right! She's wearing my clothes!!"

"So, what's wrong? I'd think you'd admire her bravery. It takes a lot of guts to steal something from a master thief," Richie joked, but gulped when she threw him a look that promised a slow and painful demise, should he say another word. "Okay, okay. Let's go tell Mac what happened."

*****

Bureau 13 Headquarters
Location Unknown
21 November 1998

Dimitri entered his boss' office, and set a report down in front of him.

"What is it, Dimitri?" Horace Gordon asked, looking less than pleased at the interruption in his work.

"Seacouver, Washington, sir," the centaur informed the head of Bureau 13. "Level Seven disturbance."

"Nature?"

"A small empowerment, instantaneous in duration. Do you want to send a team?"

"It's gone?" Gordon asked, and the centaur nodded. "No, one of the Old Gods is just making some mischief. But keep an eye out for any more, just in case."

Dimitri nodded, and left the office.

*****

Olympus
Home of the Greek Gods
21 November 1998
(Although you have to wonder if dates matter to a God?)

Artemis was enjoying herself as she tracked the large grizzly she'd wounded with one of her arrows.

She rarely, if ever, used her divine power on her hunts, and truly reveled in the challenge of facing a creature of the natural world on its own terms.

<After all, what good is it to be the Goddess of the Hunt if you don't actually hunt?> she thought to herself, grinning the whole time.

As she found a fresh trail, she jolted as she heard a familiar voice call out to her. She sighed, and quickly focused, teleporting to where the bear was running. She waved her hand, removing the arrow and healing the wound that had been inflicted, and smiled as the bear sniffed the air in front of him.

"Sorry, brother, but I have to go. Maybe we shall finish this another time."

She vanished in a burst of light, leaving the bear to cock its head to the side in confusion.

Artemis reappeared in her home on Olympus, and started to quickly put her equipment in its proper storage areas. She changed her clothing into something more appropriate for communicating with her worshippers (meaning clean, not covered with grass stains and forest leaves), and walked over to her mirror. She waved her hand across the mirror, and Willow Rosenberg appeared, standing in Steve St. Wolf's training area, which doubled as the shrine dedicated to her by her Amazons.

"Hello, my Amazon."

Willow looked around, searching for the source of the voice. "Uh, Lady Goddess, where are you?"

"On Olympus. I'm using magic to communicate directly with you. Think of it as the Olympian version of a telephone call," she said, giggling at Willow's look of wonder.

"Cool. I have to learn how to do this."

"Later," Artemis said with a grin. "Now, what seems to be the trouble, Willow?"

Willow launched into an explanation of what had happened to Shaw Hunter, and the Patron of the Amazon listened in shock at what her Amazon knew of the situation. After a few seconds, she called to her.

"Willow, I've heard enough. I will look into the matter, and see if there is anything that I can do to help."

"Thanks, Artemis. Uhm, can I ask how you're gonna do that?"

"By looking into the past. If someone is manipulating her, I may be able to find out who it is. If it comes to it, I will take care of the matter directly."

Willow looked surprised at the Goddess' promise, but nodded. "Thanks, Lady."

"Take care, Amazon."

Artemis closed the spell, and walked over to her reflecting pool. She gently waved a hand across it, and images began to form. She went back to the day that the half-elven priestess had been affected, according to the information she'd been given.

She watched as Shaw used a weapon on a dark-skinned Knight of the Grail <Serves him right, treating her that way,>, her destruction of the bar full of vampires (which had Artemis holding her sides in laughter), her killing of a vampire as two of her friends were reborn into Immortality (Artemis watched Shaw slowly kill the vampire, which convinced her of the necessity of finding out what had happened, and smiled in approval at the woman's explanation of the two newborns' Immortality <Being chosen by the Gods. I like it.>), Shaw's fight with the Immortal who had threatened the child, all the while analyzing the Slayerette's technique.

<This one has become dangerous,> the Goddess thought. <Oh, Mielikki, how I wish you hadn't claimed this one already.>

However, she quickly amended her thought.

<No, Sister from Finland, I stand corrected. She has claimed you.> she thought wryly, remembering the depth of devotion Shaw had shown her own Patron.

When she saw Shaw making a phone call, and the call getting disrupted, she stopped the visions. She thought for a second, and restarted the sight.

She held for a second at the sight of Shaw shooting up the bar, and stayed there as Shaw exited the bar. After a few seconds, she saw a muscular, bearded man wearing black leather clothing exit the bathroom in the back of the bar. She hissed in anger, and replayed certain sections of the past.

She watched as Shaw Hunter's protection spell diminished enough for parts of a Quickening to pass through and strike the half-elf. Seeing nothing, she concentrated, shifting her perceptions a bit. Suddenly, the same large man appeared, smiling with a truly evil grin.

Artemis turned from the pool, knowing full well now what was going on. She quickly used some magic to change from her normal hunting leathers into wear much more formal, and what one would expect of a Greek Goddess.

<I am not going to waste time with him. I am going straight to the one person who can end this here and now!>

She looked herself in the mirror, taking in her classic features and frowning at the necessity of having to play the part of the romantic image. However, there were things one did not do in normal attire.

She teleported out, heading for the palace as one name dominated her every thought, as she went to end this scheme before it could come to fruition.

<ARES.>

*****

Part 5: Sibling Rivalry
(Father Knows Best, Especially When Backed Up By Thunderbolts)

Olympus
Home of the Greek Gods
21 November 1998

Artemis rematerialized inside the Grand Hallway of the Palace, and started making her way to the Throneroom. Several palace servants watched with cautious curiosity at the sight of the stoic Huntress so formally dressed, in a flowing white gown and golden sandals, and adorned with gold and jewels at her throat, wrists, and ears. The look of determination on her face could only mean one thing.

She was angry, and someone would have Tarterus to pay by the time she was through.

As she neared the Throneroom, someone exited at nearly unimaginable rate of speed, nearly colliding with the Goddess of the Hunt. The man pulled up short, and bowed to her, offering his apologies for his inattentiveness.

"Hello, Artemis," Hermes said, removing his helmet as he bowed. "My apologies. May I ask what brings you to the palace?"

"No. Believe me, you and the rest of Olympus will know soon enough," the Goddess vowed. "Hermes, are you occupied at the moment?"

"No, Huntress. Do you need my services?"

"Yes. Deliver a message to Ares for me, posthaste."

The Messenger of the Gods nodded. "What is the message, my lady?"

The Patron of the Amazons smiled, and gave him the message she wanted delivered. "Repeat it exactly that way, my friend. Thank you."

"It is my pleasure, Artemis," Hermes said with a smile. "Should I feel sorry for our God of War?"

"Very sorry," she snarled, turning away and walking into her Father's primary audience hall.

*****

Ares was in his headquarters, planning another small-scale conflict on the mortal plane.

<Yes, that's the way to do it these days. Start small, and let the combatants gradually draw in their allies, until the whole gang's involved.>

As he was considering boundary lines and terrain features, one of his warriors walked in, bowing from the waist and putting a fist to his chest.

"Yeah, yeah, what is it?" Ares muttered.

"My Lord, the Messenger is here," the sergeant said. "He says the message is for your ears only."

Ares sighed, and started rolling up the map. <Oh, well, this can wait 'til later.> "Send him in."

The mortal repeated the salute, and backed out. Hermes walked in, carrying his staff that proclaimed him to be Zeus's personal envoy.

"What is it, Wing Boy?" Ares asked with a smile on his face.

"I have an important message from the Goddess of the Hunt," Hermes said, not rising to the God of War's insult.

Ares sighed. "Fine, let's hear it."

Hermes nodded with a smile. "Ares, Shaw Hunter. Artemis. Zeus. NOW!!"

Ares went pale as the Messenger fulfilled his purpose, but quickly began thinking about this turn of events. <I knew it would come out sooner or later. Good thing I was prepared for this.>

"Fine. Now get out."

Hermes nodded again, and turned and flew out of the room. Ares turned with a shout, sweeping the maps off of the table, and said, "I am not going to let my plans be ruined now."

He quickly vanished from the planning room.

*****

Ares appeared in the Throneroom, and quickly scanned the room to gauge the situation. Zeus was sitting on his throne, regal as always in his pure white robes. He had a look of displeasure. His mother, Hera, the Queen of the Gods, was nowhere to be seen.

<Of course. Mother considers herself above such petty affairs. But obviously, Artemis said something.>

He turned to his left, and his eyebrows lifted a bit as he saw his sister looking more like a representation of Aphrodite than Artemis. Knowing her as he did, he realized that this was going to be a lengthy meeting.

<She's here for the long haul.> he thought with a smirk, which drew a look of dark anger from his sister.

Zeus steepled his fingers, and gave Ares an even look. "It has been brought to my attention that you may have interfered with the chosen path of a mortal's life. Can you explain yourself?"

Ares looked at his sister again, and gave her a smirk before turning his attention to his father. "It's quite simple, Father. I've chosen this mortal to be my personal champion."

Artemis's jaw dropped at Ares' stunning proclamation, but she quickly recovered and went on the offensive.

"Ares, you have no right!" she shouted. She turned back to the head of the Greek pantheon. "Father, this is rubbish! Ares has no right to this mortal!"

"Why not?" Ares asked before Zeus could respond. "You have your Amazons, Shiva has his avatar, and the Light has those who represent him. Why should I be excluded?"

Zeus started to rub his chin in thought, considering the God of War's words. "He does raise an interesting point, Daughter. If other Gods, yourself included, are allowed to have their mortal representatives, why is he any different?"

"She is claimed by another, Father," Artemis responded, glaring at Ares with a look of pure venom. "Shaw Hunter is a servant of Mielikki of the Suomi Pantheon, her servant as both warrior and priestess."

Zeus's eyebrows furrowed in deep thought. "If I recall correctly, Artemis, your Sister of the Finns has not been on this plane for quite a long time."

"This mortal, a daughter of humans and elves, is from the plane that the Lady of the Forest now resides on. This one is completely devoted to her," the Goddess of the Hunt declared. "Ares has no right to press a claim to her."

"Oh, but I do, dear Sister," Ares said, a devious grin on his face. "You see, I see the potential this mortal has, if only she were less interested in helping others and more concerned in eliminating creatures of evil."

"But what right do you have to her?" Zeus asked in curiosity. "If she is the Finn's servant, what right to you have to make your claim?"

"It begins about one hundred and seventy years ago, Father," the War God began, a self-satisfied smirk on his face. "An Immortal named Raymond McGuire killed another Immortal named Arimades. Arimades happened to be my last living priest in the mortal world. His essence, what Immortals call a Quickening, was absorbed by McGuire."

"Excuse me, Ares," Zeus said, leaning forward and placing his chin on his folded hands, "but what does this have to do with the mortal we are discussing?"

"Six months ago, the mortal in question killed Raymond McGuire, and absorbed part of his Quickening. So, Shaw Hunter has part of the essence of my last priest inside of her. And thus, I have the right to attempt to convert her to my way of thinking."

"And just how did this Quickening become active in her, Ares?" Artemis snapped. She turned back to Zeus. "I will tell you how. He activated the essence inside of this mortal, without her permission, and as a result she is becoming unbalanced and dangerous."

"And her abilities have been enhanced by my actions," Ares said, smiling widely and drawing a killing look from his sister. "Consider this, Father. She had this essence inside of her, dormant, slowly draining away, and going to waste. All that potential. Fighting abilities, experience, and other skills, just waiting to be tapped and utilized, and she never knew it. All I've done is bring those abilities to the surface."

"And driven her away from her home in fear, making her unpredictable, and quite likely, capable of harming those she has sworn to protect," Artemis countered.

"Ares," Zeus said, "this still doesn't answer the basic question; what gives you the right to challenge Mielikki's claim to the elfwoman?"

"Mielikki's servant killed the man who carried the essence of my last priest," Ares said. "Since Shaw Hunter has the essence of my priest inside of her, I have the right to stake a claim to her."

"If that is the case," Artemis inserted, "why didn't you make a claim to the Immortal who killed your priest?"

"I looked at him, but I wasn't impressed. McGuire was evil, and all he was concerned about was killing other Immortals for their Quickenings. He didn't have any desire to fight for mortals. To put it quite simply, he was a putz."

Ares turned away and walked a short distance, and then he turned halfway and addressed the other deities present.

"But this one, this half-breed, wants to fight for the mortals. I see her as worthy of being my champion." He turned back, and pointed to Zeus. "Eight years ago, you said we had to become more involved with the mortal world. I'm now doing it, and I'm doing it in the way that best suits my way of doing things."

"And the fact that is causes distress to the Wanderer and his group of warriors, whom she has pledged to fight for? The fact that it hurts those who have foiled your plans in the past?" Artemis said angrily, turning to face Ares. "That has nothing to do with this at all, of course."

"I will admit, it is a surprising coincidence," Ares admitted, "but there are some benefits to having a mortal champion."

"But she is not yours to claim!" the Goddess shouted.

"Artemis," Zeus said, his voice soft but in a tone that brooked no disagreement. Both of his children turned as he stood up, and walked towards them, quite apparently in deep thought. He stopped in between the two Gods, and nodded to himself.

"I will confess, this is an unusual situation. However, I have a resolution." Zeus looked at his son. "Ares, I find your argument specious, at best. I do not like the idea of you attempting to steal this mortal from her Patron, nor do I approve of the way you activated something she cannot possibly handle. However, I do see your points. Therefore, I will allow the situation to resolve itself. But know this, Son; if the young woman makes the choice to return home, or to decline your offer, you will honor her choice."

"Of course, Father," Ares said with a nod.

"You lie, Ares!" Artemis snapped, drawing a raised eyebrow from her father. "She decided to go home, but he interfered with her before the Wanderer could give her instructions. Then he prevented others from helping her a second time."

"Is this true, Ares?"

Ares looked a little concerned, frowning a bit. "The first time, I felt it was too early for the situation to end. The second time, two Immortals were attempting to apprehend her against her will."

"I see," Zeus muttered.

"You will not get away with this," the Huntress promised through clenched teeth. "I will stop you. You have my vow on that."

"You will do nothing of the sort, Artemis," Zeus countered.

"But, Father--"

"Silence! I forbid you to interfere in this matter," the King of Gods said, allowing no argument. "You have no right to interfere with Ares' desire for a champion, just as I allowed you, and upheld your decision, to resurrect the Amazons."

Artemis looked at her father, then turned her eyes onto Ares. He just returned her stare with a smirk that made her wish she had a bow handy.

<That would teach him a very painful lesson.>

"Very well, Father," Artemis said evilly. "I claim her."

"WHAT?!?!" Ares shouted in shock. "There's no way--"

"ARES!" Zeus commanded, holding up a hand. "What makes you think that you can press a claim to her, after stating yourself that your Brother had no right to do so?"

"Since Mielikki is not here to defend her claim to her daughter, I shall do it for her," Artemis said, stepping forward and getting into Ares' face. "She was my friend, and I will not see her religion die out on this world for a second time."

"No, Artemis, that argument is not sufficient," Zeus said softly. "In fact, I seem to recall that you personally denied your Amazons' request to give this mortal your blessing."

"Because it would have compromised her faith. But I will not allow my Brother to do the same."

"And I have forbidden you to interfere with this." Zeus turned to her, and placed his hands on her shoulders. He said to her tenderly, "Also, Daughter, I do not see how you have any right to argue this matter, unless you have a legitimate interest in this mortal."

"Father," Artemis pleaded, "this has nothing to do with Ares' supposed 'desire' for a champion. This is to get retribution upon those who have made him look so incompetent in the past."

Ares' face started to cloud over, but Zeus shook his head. "As I said, Artemis, unless you can give me a legitimate reason for you to be involved in this matter, the discussion is ended."

<There has to be something.> Artemis thought in desperation. <Quickly! Think of everything you know about the child.>

The Huntress went through everything she'd been told by her Amazons, as well as what she knew from the half-elf herself, from their brief meeting to the times she'd watched their training sessions. And, it provided her with a solution. <Of course! It is so simple!>

As she considered her plan, a grin started growing, a grin which made Ares distinctly uncomfortable.

"Artemis?" Zeus asked, raising an eyebrow at her grin.

"I do have a reason for a personal interest in this one, Zeus," she replied, her grin now taking in her ears. "Through my Amazons."

"Now wait a minute!" Ares roared. "This has-"

"ARES!" Zeus thundered, cutting off the God of War. "I allowed you to present your argument, you will show your sister the same courtesy."

Ares started to protest, but a look from his father stopped him cold. "Go ahead, Daughter."

"Thank you. As you know, in my position as the Patron Goddess of the Amazons, I am not only responsible for their conduct, but also their welfare, their well-being. Is this not true?"

"Yes, Artemis, go on."

"Very well. This interest does not apply only to their physical well-being, but also extends to their mental, spiritual, and emotional states," she explained. "A great deal of this involves the people in their lives. Their friends, companions, their mates, and especially," she paused dramatically, her grin truly turning diabolical, "their family members."

Ares started sputtering as he realized what the Goddess of the Hunt was hinting at. "Father, you can't allow this!"

"Just how does this involve this mortal, Daughter?"

"The great-grandmother of Shaw Hunter was from Earth. A wizard from Toril, the plane Shaw Hunter originates from, comes to this plane, seeking the best of our cultures to aid his own. The half-elf's ancestor went to this world to explore it. She fell in love, bore a son, who sired a son, who sired this mortal. She is the distant cousin of Amy Madison. Ares can confirm this, if he truly has observed the mortal he seeks to claim."

Zeus turned to Ares, a look of surprised interest on his face. "Well, Ares, what about this?"

"The Hunter is convinced that she is the Amazon's cousin," he said, his face growing red with rage, "but I haven't seen any proof. I don't see how it could possibly be true."

"Artemis, do you have any proof of this kinship?"

"Absolutely, Father. The knowledge was given to me by both my Amazon, and by Shaw Hunter, on separate occasions. It has also been mentioned by Robin Goodfellow of the Fairy Kingdom that she was telling the truth."

Zeus looked at her, but slowly shook his head. "That is not conclusive proof, Daughter."

"The priestess of Mielikki consented to a genetic analysis, should my Amazon demand it. But final proof comes from the source of information that gave Shaw and Amy the truth of their family link."

Ares glared at the Goddess, whose grin had gone from being arrogant to mysterious. "And who is this source?" he asked with an audible growl added to the question.

"Why don't you simply ask your champion?" Artemis said. "Oh, I forget. She knows nothing about this or what you have done to her!"

"Tell me, Artemis, or you'll be very sorry. Just who told them they were related?!?"

"Me."

The three Greek Gods turned towards the source of that single word, and saw that they were facing a young woman of about twenty years, with shining black hair and deep brown eyes that suggested great knowledge that belied her apparent youth. She was covered from neck to toe in gleaming plate mail armor, adorned with a pure white sircoat emblazoned with a golden fleur-de-lis.

Zeus quickly bowed to the new arrival, and smiled at her, despite his confusion over this turn of events. "Greetings, Guardian of the Light."

The young-looking female bowed to him, and rose with a look of sternness. "I bid you greetings from Him, Lord Zeus." She turned to Artemis. "Lady Artemis," she said with a small bow to her as well, which the Huntress returned.

Jehanne turned to Ares and gave him a look of anger through her narrowed eyes. "War God, you are playing a dangerous game. Shaw Hunter has work to do, and your childish schemes are interfering with that work. You wish to know the truth, so be it. Shaw Hunter's great-grandmother, Alison Madison, had a younger sister, Lydia. Lydia Madison is the twice-great grandmother of the Amazon known as Amy Madison. If you wish to dispute this, you may take your disputes directly to HIM."

Ares began to become white in the face at that threat, but he refused to back down. "Sorry, but like I said, I see her as a worthy champion. She can still do her work, whatever it is, but she can do it on her own time."

"She cannot do it if she is a cold, ruthless killer!" Jehanne snapped. "And your actions are not only endangering her life and soul, but the entire world."

The Maid of Lorraine stared at Ares with a look of near rage. "He has said that you will be allowed your chance, but should it fail, you will not take any action whatsoever against her."

"Who are you to threaten me, you WITCH?" Ares sneered.

Jehanne stalked forward and put her nose inches from the God of War, and whispered, "Someone who can make what the Four Horsemen did to you look like a friendly arm wresting match."

"Lady Guardian," Zeus asked, "is the girl important?"

"She was involved with a prophecy two months ago," Jehanne said. "But suffice it to say, there are things she will do, things that she HAS done, that will have an impact on things to come, and things that have been."

"Are you sure you weren't an Oracle in a past life?" Ares muttered.

Jehanne didn't bother to spare the God of War a glance, but stretched out her right arm. Ares was suddenly sent flying down the hallway by a lance of golden light that shot from her outstretched hand.

As he tumbled and rolled to a stop, Jehanne glanced at him. "If you will excuse us, War God, I have things to discuss with those worthy of my time."

Ares slowly staggered to his feet, and said, while pointing a finger at the angel, "You're lucky that I'm in a generous mood."

Jehanne turned her head to him, and narrowed her eyes. An invisible force slammed into Ares, catapulting him through the Throneroom doors and into the hallway. Seconds later, the doors slammed shut, seemingly of their own accord.

"Too bad that I am not."

She turned her attention back to Zeus and Artemis, the former having a smile of approval on his face while the Goddess was trying, and barely succeeding, to hold in her laughter.

Jehanne looked to the Lord of Olympus, and gave him a similar smile. "Lord Zeus, your decision was the correct one, and He thanks you for your wisdom. This trial that the First is enduring was foreseen two centuries ago, although Ares' involvement was not common knowledge."

Jehanne then turned to Artemis. "Lady of the Hunt, your involvement was also foreseen. The Amazons in Sunnydale must be made aware of Ares' scheme, but you cannot mention my name. You will give them a spell to cure the First, but that must be the extent of your involvement, unless Ares makes a direct move against your servants. You may defend them or their mates, but Shaw Hunter must be left to make her own choice in the end."

"Can you tell us of the outcome to this?" Artemis asked.

"Sadly, no. But if Ares succeeds, and fulfills his desire to make this child his champion, the consequences will be disastrous, for everyone."

With that dire proclamation, Jehanne vanished from the Throneroom in a burst of golden light. As the light dissipated, Zeus turned to Artemis with a smile on his face.

"Well, my Daughter, it appears that you have some work to accomplish."

Artemis's own smile was shining. "With pleasure, Father."

*****

The Hunt Goddess quickly teleported back to her abode, and changed out of her formal white gown and back into hunting leathers. She was preparing to teleport to the Wanderer's home when a voice called out to her.

"Bad news, I'm afraid?"

Artemis quickly whirled, using her power to manifest a large sword, a two-handed version of a blade used by the Spartans two millennia before. She brought it over in a whistling arc, but a pair of crisscrossed scimitars, their blades facing upward and forming an "X", intercepted the strike.

"Is that any way to treat an old acquaintance?" the intruder asked in a teasing, husky voice.

Artemis's eyes went wide with surprised as she banished the sword. As her erstwhile opponent sheathed her blades, the Goddess drew her into an embrace before stepping back and looking the other up and down.

"You look well! It has been far too long! But how. ."

"Later. I agree, it has been a long time," her visitor said, smiling widely. "But we can discuss this another time. What is happening?"

As Artemis filled the stranger in with the details, the warrior began pacing back and forth. After the Goddess of the Hunt finished, the other looked at her with a bemused grin.

"He will fail, you know. Provided you give help when needed," she said.

"It would be better for you to help," Artemis countered, a surprised look in her eyes.

"I cannot, Artemis," the figure said, holding up her palms to prevent a response. "I think my name would have come up, if I were to be involved. Add to this, things elsewhere are still undergoing changes, and I have responsibilities elsewhere. You know this, my friend."

Artemis was silent for a second, and then whispered, "And what about your responsibilities here, my friend?"

"I will be taking care of that, very shortly. I can promise you that much. However, as I said, I am apparently not allowed in this."

"You are needed. . ."

"I know. This, I know. But, when this is done, you can do something for me."

"Name it."

The figure held out both hands, and items appeared in a flash of light, each hand holding a different object. In her left hand was a small figurine standing about one foot tall, in the other was simply a ring. As Artemis took the items, the other spoke.

"Give her two messages. The first; I will be watching over her, and to seek out those who can guide her on her new home."

Artemis grinned in approval. "I know who you're talking about. The second message?"

"I am very proud of her," the woman said with a sad smile. "Now I must go, Artemis. I will visit again, as soon as time and duty permits."

"Bear, or something more challenging?" Artemis asked with a grin.

"I'll have to think about that," she replied as both females laughed, and she disappeared in a burst of white radiance.

Artemis sat back, and considered the objects in her hands. <Our lives are about to become even more interesting.> she thought, and laughed out loud. <And for the better!>

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