Part 13: Sparks Are Flying
(The Return Of Tall Dark And Stupid)

St. Wolf Residence
Sunnydale, California
23 November 1998

Robin Goodfellow walked up to the door to Steve St. Wolf's house, along with Duncan MacLeod, Amanda and Kenny, to see how the others who had returned that morning were doing. As Robin started to reach for the door, the doorknob turned, and the door opened from the inside, seemingly of its own accord. The three Immortals stopped short in surprise, but the fairy just sighed.

"Quit showing off, Arty," Goodfellow snapped as the quartet entered the living room.

Artemis just stood in the center of the living room with a small grin on her face. "I'm just trying to follow your example, Goodfellow."

"I notice you didn't say you were living up to it," Robin said with a wink.

"I'm not insane," the Goddess countered.

"Excuse me, but could we get some introductions here?" Amanda asked impatiently, leading Duncan to sigh in embarrassment.

Robin looked to Kenny and Amanda with an evil grin, and said, "Amanda, Kenny, Duncan, allow me to introduce Artemis, Greek Goddess of the Hunt, and Patron Goddess of the Amazons. Arty, these are Amanda, Kenny, and Duncan MacLeod, kinsman to Connor MacLeod, who I'm told you've already met, and former teacher of the Wanderer."

Duncan just nodded as a short bow, while Amanda and Kenny just stared at Artemis in open-jawed shock.

"Oh, I've heard of Duncan before," Artemis said casually with a friendly smile. "From discussions amongst the Amazons and the others, as well as through reports of his battle with Kronos a few years ago. You know, you and your kinsman aren't too far below Steven and the others on Strife and Discord's 'most hated' list."

"It's always good to be appreciated," Duncan quipped with a grin.

"You're THE Artemis?" Amanda asked, finally finding her voice. "The same. . ."

"The same Artemis represented in the statue that you liberated from Napoleon's collection in 1808?" The Goddess finished with an upraised eyebrow. "Yes, and I was most impressed with your talents that night, Amanda. I appreciated you taking it from that egomaniacal Frenchman."

"I don't suppose you could tell me what happened to it, could you?" the thief asked. "I had to leave it behind when the Union Army invaded Atlanta."

"I'd be glad to," Robin said before Artemis could reply. He pointed towards the gym and said, "It's the centerpiece of Arty's shrine, in the training room. But I wouldn't suggest trying to sneak it out of the gym. The Amazons are somewhat attached to it, especially Cordelia."

Amanda looked at Robin, and then to Artemis, who gave her a look that confirmed just as clearly that attempting a repeat performance would be bad for her health. She sighed and turned to Duncan, who was trying to hold in his laughter, as was the smaller Kenny.

"What's so funny, Duncan?"

The Highlander just chuckled, and said, "I just can't remember the last time someone had you pegged so quickly."

The two male Immortals and the fairy shared a good laugh at Amanda's expense, and she just glared. <I'll get even. I always do.>

Artemis looked at Robin, and asked, "I'm assuming you want to see Amy, Robin?"

"It *has* been three weeks, Arty," Robin pointed out. He ran a hand through his brown hair, and said, "How're they doing?"

"Steve and Buffy went upstairs to get some sleep, as did Xander and Cordelia," Artemis reported quickly. "Amy and Shaw have been in the training room since eight-thirty."

"That long?" the sprite asked with a spit. "What. ."

"None of your business," the Goddess snarled dangerously. At the hurt look in Robin's eyes, she relented a bit. "They talked, Robin. They finally sat down and had the discussion they should have had weeks ago." Artemis turned to Duncan, a thankful look on her face. "You were as responsible for this as Robin was, Duncan. You have my thanks."

"You're welcome, Artemis," the Scot said. He looked at the door, then to Artemis. "How is Shaw holding up?"

"She's still a bit frightened, but it's under control," the Olympian stated with a smile. "The talk they're having has finally made a connection between them, and they discovered that they both want a family relationship."

Artemis cocked her head for a second, and her mouth opened just the smallest bit in surprise, before settling into a grin. She looked at Robin, and said, "Give them another five minutes, and then you can go in, Robin."

Now Robin's face split into a wide smile, and he started to settle down onto the couch. The Immortals, seeing nothing else to do, began to do the same.

Sitting down, Robin turned to Artemis. "Sit down and relax, Arty."

"No, thank you," the Huntress said, giving him a smirk. "I have an old friend who dropped in on Olympus for a visit, and I don't want to keep her waiting. But I'll still be watching until the affair's over for certain."

"In other words," the fairy said ruefully, "you're making sure the Dipstick doesn't try anything else."

"Oh, that's taken care of, thanks to Shaw," Artemis promised with a full smile that held no sympathy for the God of War. "He's in for a hard time."

"What'd she do?"

"Sorry, but it's a surprise," she said just before teleporting out in a flash of light.

Robin watched the space for a minute, then shrugged to himself and settled back.

"Uh, Robin," Amanda said slowly, "just who could her 'old friend' be?"

"I dunno," the sprite said. "Can't be Aphrodite, she still lives on Olympus. Hmmmm.... maybe Freyja came in from Asgard. Or maybe Xena finally came back for a visit."

The three Immortals just stared at Robin, and Kenny, the first one to regain his composure, asked, "Did you say, Xena?"

"Yeah, you know, Xena," Robin said like he was discussing someone they all knew. "Amanda and Duncan met Gabrielle more than once, they didn't make the connection?"

"Xena was real?!?" Kenny asked dumbfoundedly. When Robin nodded, he said, "And I thought MacLeod had the weird shit happen to him."

"Minors shouldn't talk like that, Kenny," Robin said with a smirk. "Blow your cover."

"Oh, really. I'm eight hundred years old."

"Like I said, a minor."

"Oh, come on, how old are you?" Kenny asked, leading Amanda and Duncan to start laughing. "What's so funny?"

"Well, you know I'm a fairy, right?"

"Yeah, so?"

"You know my full name, right?"

Kenny's eyebrows crinkled in confusion, and he thought about it, before his eyes went very wide in amazement. "You're. . ."

Robin moaned. "Yes, yes, and no."

"What?" Amanda asked, now just as confused as Kenny.

"Yes, I'm Robin Goodfellow. Yes, I'm THAT Robin Goodfellow," Robin said, ticking off his fingers. "And no, I am NOT Puck. He's a different guy. I did the deed, he got the credit."

"I knew William had to be drunk when he wrote that thing," Amanda muttered.

"You knew Will?" Robin asked with a cocked eyebrow.

"Didn't you see the original production of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream?'" the Immortal thief asked.

"No, I stormed out when I saw that Will had screwed up the names," the fairy said sourly. He looked at Amanda, and asked, "Were you there?"

Amanda looked offended, and said in a haughty tone, "Who do you think stole the items so Willie'd have his props for opening night?!?"

Robin thought back, and smiled. "Yeah, you did a good job getting that stuff."

"Thank you," Amanda said, somewhat mollified.

Robin looked at Duncan, and asked, "Well, what do you think? Should we go in?"

"Yes, I think it'd be all right now," MacLeod said as the four stood up to head for the training room.

*****

Shaw and Amy ended their hug, and both of them were still crying a bit, but Amy was smiling, while Shaw's face was more neutral, although Amy could clearly see the emotions showing in her eyes.

"You okay for now?" Amy asked.

Shaw nodded slightly, telling the witch, "Yes, Amy. This. . Amy, I was able to forget what is inside of me because of this. Thank you."

"Glad to do it," the blonde girl said. "And you're gonna make it. It'll be all over after the others get here and cast that spell for you."

"How long before they come?" the ranger asked softly.

"Let's see. ." Amy said, looking at her watch. Her jaw dropped, and she looked back at Shaw. "Uh, cuz, what time did I say we got here?"

"Approximately eight-thirty," Shaw said, a little bit of anxiety creeping into her voice. "What time is it?"

"Two eleven," Amy said in disbelief. "Man, we've been here for almost five hours!"

The Amazon looked to the older woman, and said, "That's how much I was into your story, Shaw. I didn't even realize it took that long. I just sat there and listened."

"And I am glad you did, Amy," Shaw told her as she stood up and began to remove her duster.

"What're you doing?" Amy asked.

"Removing my weapons," Shaw said matter-of-factly as she laid the coat over the top of the water cooler. It gave Amy her first good look at the arm claws Shaw had been given by the young Predator.

"Yuck," the teenager said, getting the half-elf to look at her. "Those look nasty."

Shaw unbuckled the claws and set then started to unbuckle the knife launchers when Amy asked, "What are those?"

Shaw took one of the daggers from her forearm sheath, and inserted it into the launcher, and explained the purpose. "It shoots the dagger, with a maximum range of between thirty and forty feet. They were helpful in the fight with the demon."

Shaw looked at Amy, and asked, "What manner of ta'narri was that? I never read anything about a headless demon on Toril. I can assure you, as a priestess, I have some knowledge of lower planar beings."

"Uh, Shaw," Amy asked, stunned. "Have you read the book about Sleepy Hollow?"

Shaw nodded absently, and started to remove the dagger when she stiffened. "Connor called him the Horseman," she said quietly. She turned to look at Amy, and said, "I thought he was a ghost. A spirit."

"Nope, he's really a demon. And you and Connor whooped his ass," Amy said with a smile. "He seemed a lot easier to beat than that ninja guy you fought two months ago."

"Hardly," the priestess said coldly. "Scorpion was still in human flesh, and he had human weaknesses. This one. . . I have never seen a foe that focused and determined to kill an opponent. But, that was also his weakness. He ignored me while focusing on Connor. In fact, Connor was the one who determined that. He told me to find the rest of you."

"Why didn't you?" Amy asked, sincerely surprised.

"Amy, Connor could not defeat the Horseman alone. The Horseman was able to recover from injuries even faster than an Immortal," Shaw explained. "I refused to leave him alone with that thing." A wistful smile made its way onto her face. "He said I was stubborn, smart-mouthed, and short tempered."

"What did you say to that?"

"He taught me well," the half-elf said, now grinning a little wider.

Amy burst out into laughter, and the cousins shared that moment of amusement before moving on.

"Think you could spare one of those knife launchers?" Amy asked with a grin. "They seem cool."

"No, I want to keep them," Shaw said, quickly adding, "but they seem to be simple enough that we could reproduce them ourselves. Does that idea seem to be sound?"

"Wait, you mean equip everyone with them?" Amy asked, thinking about it. When Shaw nodded emphatically, she said, "Damn. Imagine when the vamps get a load of those. Any other tricks?"

"The short sword Whistler gave me," Shaw said. "But I left it in the demon's body in New York when. . when I ran from Buffy and Steven."

"Hey, you were scared," Amy said, getting up and walking over to Shaw. "You know, Buffy thought you could have beaten her in a sword fight using that two handed style you used last night."

"I do not think so," Shaw said with a shake of her head. "Buffy is more than able to adapt to such a style."

"Well," Amy said, changing the subject, "we picked up the sword. Oh, you have another trophy for you collection."

"What? I have Richard Markham's blade in my bag," Shaw said, pointing out the sack on the floor next to the weight bench.

"No, I'm talking about the Horseman's blade," the witch said with a grin. "What are you gonna do with all those blades, anyway?"

Shaw shrugged and said, "Edgar and Alan will need swords, being Immortals. Scorpion's axe, I was going to talk to Steven to see if he wanted it for his armory. I can barely lift it, let alone wield it."

"No kidding," Amy said, giggling. She looked at the magical blade Shaw was still staring at, and asked, "How did you get that thing, anyway? You said. . . what's his name? The guy who carried Soulreaver."

"Aeurulieth," Shaw said, the elven name rolling off her tongue. "I stated the sword's history, including how it was passed from wielder to wielder."

"Like an inheritance thing," Amy said. "He passed it to you?"

Shaw nodded, and said, "He and Llednas discovered that she was with child, a daughter. He gifted me with the sword, saying that he hoped I would someday forgive him for not being there to stop Jazartho from. . ."

"It's okay," Amy whispered, putting a supporting hand on her shoulder.

"I know, Amy," the half-elven Slayerette whispered, turning around to face the younger one. "I never blamed him for what happened, Amy. I told him that, but he still seemed so heartbroken over what had happened. Once we parted, I never saw him or Llednas again."

"Was he one of your guy friends who died before you left?"

"No, as far as I know, he still lives," Shaw said quietly. "Qualeck died six years later, from a fever of some sort. Dargen perished fighting goblins with his clan, but he died well. The others, I do not know. It has been so long. But, I have put it behind me, Amy. As far as I am concerned, I would not feel so bad if I never saw Toril again. Earth is my home, and. . it is where I want to live."

Amy smiled, and said, "I'm glad. But just because you put the past behind you doesn't mean you have to forget it. I mean, it's where you grew up, it's where you found your Goddess, and Xander said you hoped to find out if your friends were okay."

"Yes, but I am finally starting to think about a future, I just am not sure how to go about it," Shaw told the witch. "I have a great deal to think about, and no experience help me with it."

"Then let us help, dummy," Amy said. "That's what friends are for. If you'll let us."

"But I want to help you when I can, but I do not know how to do it," Shaw said, shrugging helplessly. "I am not the type who wants to always be helped without giving something in return."

"Well, you help Giles with his paperwork, which lets him and Jenny spend more time together. You help Steve and Buffy out in training sessions. ."

"How?" Shaw asked, quite confused.

"Shaw, you point out where we improve, or where we need to get better," Amy explained to her. "I mean, you tell Xander and Cordy what they need to do to improve their skill, how to get better, and you're honest about it. We respect that you don't criticize us when you beat us, you tell us what we need to do to beat you."

"That is not long in coming, by my reckoning," Shaw said truthfully. "Buffy and I. . ."

"What?" Amy asked. "What about you and Buffy?"

"We. . we placed a wager on who would be the first to defeat me in a sparring session," Shaw said meekly.

"You made a bet on sparring sessions?" Amy asked with a spreading grin. When Shaw nodded, Amy said, "Let me guess; you bet on me."

"No," the half-elf said with a blush. "Willow."

"Gee, thanks," Amy said jokingly. When Shaw looked at her, she held up her hands, saying, "Just kidding. She almost pulled it off when we got our report cards, remember?"

Shaw nodded, but didn't share Amy's smile. Amy's grin faded, and she softly asked, "What's wrong, cuz?"

"I told you what happened to me on that mission," Shaw said, before looking at the witch with teary eyes, "but this is worse, Amy. That pathetic. . .Amy, he violated me. What makes me the person I am. My mind, my emotions. . .my spirit."

"Shhhh, it's okay," Amy said, drawing Shaw into an embrace. "It's over, we beat him. We beat him bad. And you're not alone this time. You've got friends who can help you deal. Just let us in, and we'll help you."

"I have let you in, Amy," Shaw said softly. "I have let you in, I swear it."

"I know you have," Amy said with a soft voice. "I know."

The door to the gym opened, and the two cousins quickly released each other and whirled around to see who had interrupted a private moment. They settled down a bit when they saw it was Robin, Duncan, Amanda and Kenny.

Robin favored the two Slayerettes with a big smile, and asked, "You got one of those hugs left over for me?"

Amy looked at Shaw, and asked, "Well, what do you think?"

"He has not seen you for three weeks, Amy," Shaw said, giving Robin a look, appraising gaze. As his smile started to grow larger, she shrugged and added, "I see no reason he cannot wait a little longer."

"You may be right," Amy commented slyly, turning to Robin as the Immortals started chuckling. "What do you think?"

Robin frowned at her. "Actually, I was asking your cousin," he said smartly.

Shaw folded her arms, and coldly said, "I do not think so, Goodfellow."

Robin sighed, rolled his eyes, and glanced at Duncan. "See, MacLeod? She acts more and more like a Vulcan every day."

Shaw narrowed her eyes and snapped, "Go Puck yourself."

Robin whirled on her, his eyes wide and round as he started sputtering. Amy was also staring at the half-elf.

"Shaw!" Amy shouted quickly. "I can't believe you just cussed at him!"

"I did no such thing, Amy," Shaw said, looking smug.

"Yes, you did," Amy said, putting her hands on her hips. "You said the 'f' word!"

"No, I said the 'p' word," she countered, starting to smile a bit.

Amy looked as if she didn't understand, but the three Immortals were now laughing at Robin. Seconds later, Amy began giggling as well. The fairy frowned at the witch.

"Et tu, Amazon?" he asked crossly.

"Damn straight," the Amazon grinned. "Blood's thicker than water, fairy boy."

"But. . .but. . ."

"Sheesh, Robin, we were just kidding!" Amy snapped in good humor. "Can't you take a joke?"

Robin stopped sputtering, and sighed. "I missed you too, honey."

Amy walked up and she and Robin threw their arms around each other, kissing each other passionately. Amanda leaned over and asked, "Why can't you act that way more often, Duncan?"

"You never leave for three weeks," Duncan commented. "I'm never that lucky."

Amanda gave Duncan an evil stare under hooded eyes and hissed, "Keep digging yourself a hole, Duncan. See what happens when we get back to Seacouver."

Shaw had by now walked over to the trio of Immortals, while Robin and Amy were occupied with making up for lost time.

"Duncan?" she asked hesitantly.

Duncan smiled at her, and asked, "How are you doing, Shaw?"

"Better than I was," the half-elf said with a bowed head, before looking up at the Highlander. "Duncan, I am sorry for running. I was scared and confused. ."

"I understand, Shaw," MacLeod said, giving her a gentle squeeze of her arm. "I'm sorry I mentioned the coffee."

Shaw snorted. "It was not your fault, Duncan. The fault lies with Ares."

"Agreed," Duncan said, nodding as a smile came to his face. "So, I heard that you bailed out Connor again last night."

Shaw winced, but nodded. "The Horseman was a frightening opponent."

"The Horseman?" Duncan asked with a trace of caution in his voice. "Joe N'Gato told us it was a demon."

"Yes, the Headless Horseman," Shaw answered. "Ares ordered him to kill Connor, hoping to drive me nearly insane with grief and guilt."

"What happened?" Amanda asked, wondering how this girl could beat a demon so easily.

Shaw hesitated, but quietly said, "I entered the rage, Duncan. It was the only way to save Connor."

"I heard. But the way I see it," Duncan said, placing his hands on her shoulders, "it was to protect someone, rather than to survive. It may be that in time, you may be able to control it. Or, you may lose it entirely. But, I'm glad you're still with us."

"It would seem that you are 'stuck' with me, Duncan," the ranger said, pulling out the papers that Connor had given her. "Look at my maternal 'great-grandmother's' name."

Duncan looked through the sheets, and then at Shaw. "Connor's idea?"

"And James Stalking Rattler's, as well. Buffy tells me that you and Connor have 'adopted' me," Shaw said, getting Amanda to laugh. "He probably expects to get some enjoyment out of it at your expense. But I do not have the understanding of this type of humor."

"Well, Connor is in for one surprise," Duncan told her as he handed the papers back to her. "I approve. Wholeheartedly."

Duncan extended his hand, and said, "Welcome to the clan, Shaw Hunter."

Shaw just stared at his hand for a few seconds, and then took it. She quietly said, "Thank you, Duncan. I just am not sure what to make of it."

"Just accept it," Amanda said. "If there's one person who's more stubborn than me, it's Duncan."

Shaw looked at the platinum blonde thief, and asked, "You are Amanda?"

"Yes," she agreed with a smile as they shook hands. "Now, about my clothes..."

"Amanda!!" Duncan moaned, raising his eyes to the ceiling.

Amy and Robin walked by at that moment, holding hands. "It you'll excuse us," Robin said with a grin on his face, "we're getting a little privacy."

Amy looked at Shaw and asked, "You gonna be okay, cuz?"

Shaw nodded at her and said, "I will. Will you be back when the others arrive?"

"You bet," Amy said with a smile. "I'll be right here."

"I will see you then," the half-elf said, watching Amy and Robin walk out of the training room. She turned to Duncan and said, "I told her what happened to me, Duncan. The mission that we discussed."

Duncan's eyebrows rose, and the Scot asked, "How did it go?"

"She accepted it," Shaw said, her voice cracking a bit. "And. . . she told me the guilt was not my own. The Lady told me this as well. . ."

Shaw looked into Duncan's eyes, and told him, "I told her I love her, Duncan."

"I can see it in your eyes," MacLeod said, smiling at her. "I'm glad you figured out how you felt."

"My clothes?" Amanda asked from the side, drawing a moan from Duncan.

Shaw just nodded, and walked over to her sack. She started to remove some of the items inside of it, the first being the sword she'd taken from Richard Markham. Upon seeing that, Duncan whistled softly.

"Markham's?" he guessed.

Shaw nodded, setting the scabbarded blade on the weight bench, before reaching into the sack and pulling out the jeans and leotard she'd borrowed from Amanda. Amanda took in the poor condition the clothing was in, and she began to try to speak, but the words of horror at the condition of her two hundred dollar pair of jeans wouldn't come out. Duncan and Kenny started to chuckle at her discomfort, as well as the look of horror on her face.

"I am willing to replace the items, Amanda," Shaw said when Amanda couldn't take the clothes from her. "I was not expecting combat against Blade or the Horseman, let alone Ares himself."

"Uh, yeah. Uh. ."

"How about you give her the brands and sizes, and Shaw can get replacements for you," Duncan offered. "Sound good to you, Shaw?"

Shaw nodded agreeably. "Yes, Duncan," she said with determination. "Amanda, is this acceptable to you?"

Amanda took another second or two to answer. "Uh, never mind. I'll send the bill to Connor. He's the reason you got into that mess."

Shaw blinked, and looked at Duncan. "Take it, Shaw," he said with a grin.

Shaw shrugged and started to put the clothes back in the sack, but Amanda stopped her. "Keep 'em. You broke the jeans in, you can keep them. But you owe me one."

"Agreed," Shaw said, not liking the smile that suddenly came to Amanda's face. She looked at Kenny, and asked, "Am I likely to regret this?"

"No, you're guaranteed to regret this," the child Immortal said.

"Oh, come on. I'll think of something harmless," Amanda promised, even going so far as to cross her heart. "Why do you people always assume the worst?"

"Personal experience," Duncan and Kenny said in perfect unison.

Amanda glared at them, but Shaw decided not to ask.

"How has Kenny done?" Shaw asked, hoping for an answer that validated her trust in him. "He has aided you on patrols?"

"He's done well," MacLeod said with a trace of pride in his voice. "He's been exceptionally effective at playing bait."

"You have been leaving him alone?" the half-elf asked, not liking the sound of that.

"It's okay," Kenny said, shrugging. "Vamps don't expect a kid to be carrying a sword."

"And when they bend over to grab him," Amanda added with a smirk, "it leaves them less than able to defend themselves when he swings the sword. If they're in packs, it distracts them long enough to let us join the fun."

"He's pulled his weight every night, Shaw," Duncan said with conviction. "You were right; he has changed."

"I am glad of that," Shaw said with a small nod of approval. "Kenny, would you let me see your sword for a minute?"

Kenny looked at Amanda, who nodded. He took out his shortsword, and handed it to the half-elf.

Shaw reached under her sweater, and pulled out her holy symbol, letting it fall over her heart. She held the sword in her hands, and closed her eyes as she began to pray. A white light emitted from the unicorn pendant, forming a mist that trailed to the sword, and enveloped it. After a minute, Shaw stopped and opened her eyes. Looking at the sword as the glow faded, she nodded in satisfaction, and handed the blade to Kenny, hilt first.

"What'd you do?" he asked as he gingerly took the blade.

"I put a permanent religious blessing on it," the half-elf answered, looking a little fatigued. "It now has as much effectiveness against vampires as holy water or religious icons."

Kenny smiled as he realized that she had just done this for him out of kindness, and not for something in return. "Thanks."

"You are quite welcome, Kenny," Shaw said softly. "It was the least I could do to thank you for your help, particularly with Methos."

Duncan started laughing, and Shaw couldn't help but be caught up in it.

Amanda looked at Kenny, and asked, "What did you do to Methos?"

"Uh, I shot him," Kenny said with a blush.

"You shot Methos?!?" Amanda blurted.

"In the backside," Duncan added between laughs.

"In the butt?!?" Amanda croaked, and Kenny just nodded, unable to answer.

"With a tranquilizer," Shaw finished, trying to regain control of her mirth. "And I must say that he has good marksmanship."

Amanda just watched Kenny, and started smiling. "You remembered some of my training. Good."

Kenny just looked at her, and he and the thief joined the other two in their laughter.

After a few moments, the amusement settled down a bit, and Shaw sat down on the weight bench, a thoughtful look on her face. Kenny stopped laughing when he saw her watching him, searching his face for something.

Before he could ask what she wanted, she stood up, and said, "Duncan, could I speak with Kenny alone for a few moments?"

Duncan looked at Kenny, and then back at Shaw, and asked, "Are you sure?"

Shaw looked at Duncan with a neutral gaze, and asked, "I trust him, Duncan. I thought he had proven himself to you."

Duncan sighed. "I meant are you sure you want to be alone before the others get here."

Shaw's head fell, and she began muttering in a language that none of the Immortals could understand.

"Okay, what language is that?" Amanda asked.

"Espruar," Kenny said. When Duncan and Amanda looked at him, he nodded at her. "That's what she calls it."

"It's Elvish, I think," Duncan said, giving Shaw a disapproving look. To her, he said, "And even though I can't understand it, I know what she's saying. Or at least, I have a good idea."

Shaw stopped in mid-curse, and looked at Duncan, and her face began to turn pink.

"Well, what were you saying?" Amanda asked curiously.

"Something that would make Steven and Frank blush," was the reply.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Kenny asked.

"Kenny," Duncan said with a sigh. "Steve was my student, and before that, he was a Green Beret in the US Army."

"And the Frank guy?" Kenny asked.

"A Navy SEAL," Amanda informed him. "Seems that Shaw can outcuss Army and Navy people."

"I apologize, Duncan," Shaw said softly, not looking at him.

Duncan chuckled softly, and said, "Apology accepted. Amanda, let's step out to give these two some privacy."

As they exited the training room, Amanda said, "I have to say, I'm a little disappointed. I thought you said she had a wicked sense of humor."

"She's in bad shape right now," Duncan said as they walked for the living room. "But I could show you an example of her humor when we get back to Seacouver."

"Oh, how?" Amanda asked, truly wanting to know.

The Highlander smiled and said, "Well, I have this tape that Mulder sent me in the mail three days after Halloween. . ."

*****

Amy and Robin sat down at the kitchen table, smiling at each other, and Amy said, "Is that an athame in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?"

"Happy doesn't cover it, sweetheart," Robin said, giving the witch a waggle of his eyebrows. "So, you two finally have the talk?"

Amy's smile vanished, and she looked at her hands, which were sitting on the table. "Oh, yeah," she muttered. "We had the talk."

"Didn't it go well?" the fairy asked with raised eyebrows. "It looked like you two were doing good when we walked in."

"We did do good, Robin," the witch said, looking around at the ceiling. "We had a bit of a screaming match, but we got everything out in the open. . . she said she loves me, Robin."

"I know she does," Robin said with a smile. "She finally figured it out?"

"Yeah. Seems you and Buffy knew it before we did," Amy said, her smile growing because of the sprite's infectious cheerfulness. "And. . .she told me what happened to her twenty-five years ago. Goddess, Robin, what happened to her. . ."

"Excuse me, but. ." Robin said, breaking the blonde Amazon's train of thought, "what in Oberon's name are you talking about?"

Amy's eyes went wide, and she exploded at the fairy. "What the Hell do you mean, 'What am I talking about?!?' Robin, she showed us three weeks ago!!"

Robin cringed back a bit at her wrath, and meekly said, "Uh, I was on vacation then."

Amy quickly lost her ire, and even more quickly went red for wrongly accusing him, and she turned very silent. She began to stammer out an apology, but Robin cut her off.

He took her hands in his own, and said, "I forgive you, sweetie. That is, provided you pay for our next date."

Amy just muttered, "Don't push your luck, Puck hater."

Robin started to sputter, but stopped at the twinkling humor in Amy's eyes. He rolled his eyes, and asked, "Okay, what happened to Shaw?"

"I want to wait to tell everyone," she said, her eyes looking haunted. "As far as what she showed us, well, you can read minds, right?"

"Yeah, but I don't do it lightly," Robin said with firm resolve. He squeezed her hands, and asked, "Are you sure about this?"

Amy took a deep breath, and said, "Okay, Robin. I'm thinking about what

I saw three weeks ago."

Robin stared at her, and a split second later, his eyes grew dark with anger and his jaw started to move, his teeth grinding.

Amy watched her boyfriend for a few seconds, and asked, "Robin? What's wrong?"

"I got four questions," Robin growled out through gritted teeth. "Who did it to her? Why did it happen? Where do I find him? And what should I do to the mother fucking son of a bitch who did that to her?"

"Robin. ."

"I spent centuries in the service of Oberon," Robin vowed with danger in his tone. "Believe me, I know all about payback. The bloodier, the better."

"Robin, Shaw wouldn't want you to do that," Amy said softly, trying to defuse the fairy's rage.

The fairy lost a small bit of his anger, but said, "He deserves it, Amy. To do something like that. ."

"He was insane 'cause of a magic accident," Amy replied softly, standing up. She walked over to the fridge, and pulled out a soda. She brought it over to the table, and sat back down. Taking a sip, she said, "Shaw didn't blame him, once she found out. She blamed herself for taking him out. He's been dead for over twenty years."

"NOT a problem," Robin said with darkness in his eyes. "Who'd he worship?"

"Uh, Shaw said someone named, Mystra," Amy told him.

Robin deflated. "Problem."

"Robin, let it go," Amy begged him. At the look of sympathy in his eyes, Amy continued. "Please, Robin. She's finally let go of some of her guilt over this, hating herself for something she couldn't handle. It took her Goddess talking to Shaw herself to convince her. Please don't do anything to screw that up. Please?"

"Millie talked to her?" the fairy asked, catching Amy off guard by the abrupt change of direction to the conversation. When Amy nodded, he let out a low whistle. "She must be important to Millie, then."

"Come again?" Amy asked. "What do you mean, she's important?"

"Amy, keep in mind, I know Millie. I knew her here, and I've been to Toril more than a few times over the centuries," Robin told the witch, who looked quite surprised. "She's an old friend. She loves all her servants, but she usually does the 'give you a sign' bit. She doesn't say 'hi' to just anyone. That she actually talked to your cousin. . ."

Amy just sat there, the only thing she could say being, "Wow." Amy shook her head to clear it, and said, "Robin, can you help me with something?"

"Of course, Amy. What is it?" he asked quickly.

"Well, Shaw. I just have problems figuring her out," the teen explained, shrugging to the fairy. "I mean, sometimes, I actually forget about the elf stuff, and I start to think she's human. But then, bang, she seems so different. I dunno, I just can't get it, you know?"

"Okay, it's not the elven half. I can tell you that much," Robin said with a grin. He waved his arm around, and said, "She was raised by human grandparents, with human values, and she serves a human Goddess. Granted, she shares some elven beliefs, but even those come more from Millie's outlook than the elven People. As far as thinking patterns go, the only thing that separates her from you is the elven genes. She'll be the first to admit that she's a lot closer to her human side than the elven side."

"Then why do I get mixed up?" the witch asked.

"It's because you're an Earth woman, and a 20th century one to boot," he said as an evil smirk came to him. "Not that I hold that against you. But Shaw, she's from a magical world, and one that's at the level of the 12th to 14th centuries here on Earth. Hell, they're just discovering what gunpowder can be used for. She's only seven months removed from a shitty life, and knowing that all the things she grew up with, that you and I know about and take for granted, are legends here, she has to hide what she is from nearly everyone, or it could ruin the new life she has."

"And she has to pretend to be someone she isn't," Amy said sadly. "The proper, formal, submissive religious exchange student."

"Well, she's not playing at proper, formal, or religious," Robin countered. "As far as submissive, she's slowly showing her true self to the world. You know the difference, just like the others do. You know the real her, and that's what's important. She could care less what anyone else thinks of her. And that's something else to keep in mind; as far as you guys go, she does care what you think about her. She's letting the emotions come out again, and that's because you've all been good influences on her."

"Oh? How's that?" Amy asked, interlocking her fingers and resting her chin on them.

"Okay, she's regained an ability to laugh at herself, and her sense of humor's emerging again, thanks to me and Xander. Just look at what she did to Xander and Cordelia at Halloween. Giles and Jenny have made her desire to learn stuff come back to life; you've seen it, she LOVES school, because she loves to learn. And she's got the entire world to learn about. Cordy's given her the hints on how an Earth woman should look, even if Shaw's using it to blend in, rather than trying to attract the boys."

Amy laughed at that comment, saying, "Cordelia said that Shaw should be a runway model in Europe."

"Miss Modesty? Please," Goodfellow said with a laugh.

Amy nodded in agreement. "Okay, how about the rest of us?"

"Well, Steve and Buffy are the bosses," Robin said right off the bat. "The leaders, and teachers in the fighting styles. Granted, Shaw questions Steve's orders a lot more often, and more quickly, than anyone else, but it's because she wants to get the idea more than disagree. Steve and Cordelia are like that in one way; they speak their minds, which is just like Shaw. And I'll kill you if you tell Steve I compared him to Cordy. Willow, and Xander too, they were the first ones to reach out to Shaw in friendship when she got here. Even though we knew she wasn't what she seemed, Will stood up for her and defended her, offering her help to Shaw even though our suspicions were right, to a point. It was a big deal to Shaw, to have someone like Willow trusting her without knowing who or what she was beforehand. Someone gave their trust freely, something she hadn't had for a very long time. Xander, too; he told her she was his friend less than an hour after meeting her. Once the truth came out, and he accepted her even knowing she wasn't fully human, she put him in almost the same class as Willow. As for you, you're the one thing she needed more than anything else; family. And I don't just mean the blood relation; through you, she realizes that she does have a connection to Earth, and that part of her roots are here, and look where it's led; she actually died for us, and a world that she didn't owe jack to. She's fallen in love with this world, and it's her home now."

Amy spent a lot of time considering his words, and finally said, "What about Oz?"

"Amy, Willow can't figure out Oz," Robin said with a chuckle. "Don't ask ME to. To put it in layman's terms, it's not so much race as it is upbringing. It's the way of life she knew for forty years, so it's gonna take some time for her to get to do things the Earth way."

Amy nodded, and said, "You've been to Toril, you said. You'd know, I guess."

"Yeah, and I know better than you might think," Robin said.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Amy asked. "Don't tell me you knew her!"

"Not her, but I saw some of her ancestors in action one visit," Robin said. He shook his head, "Not up close, but I could see what she did to that lizard. Sheesh, that crazy woman just opened a can of whoopass on that young dragon. I'll tell you this about her human side, Amy; Flamingarrows are not a clan you want to get on the bad side of."

He saw Amy staring at him, and asked, "What?"

"A dragon? A red dragon?" Amy asked in dull shock. "You saw that?"

"Yeah, a kid, but they're still nasty," Robin said. He shuddered, and told her, "Believe you me, it wasn't pretty."

"Robin, that was ALISON!!!" Amy shrieked out loud, making the fairy jump. "Shaw's great-grandma, the one from Earth! Hell, Shaw just told me that twenty minutes ago!"

"THAT'S who kicked that wyrm's scaly ass?!?" Robin asked, his eyes wide open. When Amy's smile confirmed it, he muttered, "Now I know where she gets her temper from."

Amy promptly burst into hysterics at his last comment, and Robin was at a total loss as to why.

"What's so funny?" he asked, and when Amy saw the puzzled look on his face, it only made her laugh even harder.

"WHAT?!?"

*****

As Duncan and Amanda walked out, Shaw walked over to Kenny, and said, "I am glad you are all right, Kenny."

"Thanks," he said, looking nervous.

Shaw sighed, and said, "You are concerned about the Quickening inside of me. I am sorry, Kenny, it will be removed inside of two hours, or so we believe. But I wanted to thank you for your help, and. . .to ask for more."

"What is it?" the Immortal asked, sitting on the floor.

Shaw sat down, crossing her legs, and said, "Have you decided what you want to do, after Duncan and Amanda leave for home?"

"No, I'm thinking about that," Kenny admitted. He shrugged, and said, "I mean, I don't want to stay here, and I'd just be an extra body in Seacouver. I don't know what else there is."

"How good are you, with a sword, Kenny? I know you cannot match power with other Immortals. To be honest, my size limits my power as well," the half-elf explained. "But for pure skill, how good are you?"

"Good enough, I guess," he said, thinking about it. "I'll never beat MacLeod, but I remember all of what Amanda showed me. She uses the craft and sneaky stuff more than MacLeod, he's the straight up and honorable type."

"Do you know enough to teach it to others?" Shaw asked, as an idea started to form in her head. "As far as skill goes, could you be a teacher?"

"You're joking, right?" Kenny asked, thinking she was playing a joke on him.

"No, Kenny. I am completely serious," Shaw said, standing up and starting to pace. "I. . I have two friends in Santa Carla, north of here. They are in need of a teacher."

"How long have they been Immies?"

"Since Thursday night," Shaw said ruefully. "They have made contact with Steven, but Santa Carla and Seacouver are too far away for them to receive lessons from us or Duncan. At least, the lessons they would need in swordsmanship."

"They kid Immortals, like me?" he asked.

"No, they are adults, but they have no experience in the way Immortals live their lives," the half-elf explained. "However, they have a decade's worth of experience in hunting vampires. They use other methods, like large water guns and archery, but they survived until they ran into a vampire that used guns. I thought I had lost two friends before I saw them healing."

"What do they do in the daytime?" Kenny asked. "I mean, they have to have a job or something."

"They own a comic book store," Shaw told him. "They have a mortal friend, Sam, who aids them in hunting. Sam's brother and sister-in-law have enhanced abilities from a vampire attack. Altogether, they are good, but with the Immortality factor, they need to learn that facet of their lives. Also, if you decide to join us in fighting these creatures, their greater experience will be invaluable. It would be an even exchange in teachings."

Kenny seemed to be considering her words, and said, "You really think MacLeod or St. Wolf would go along with this?"

"Kenny, Duncan now vouches for you," Shaw said, waving a hand towards the doors. "And you and Amanda seem to have repaired your relationship. The decision would be yours, of course. But. . ."

Shaw slowly stopped pacing, and said quietly, "Kenny, I do not have enough friends that I can stand to lose one. I count Edgar and Alan as good friends, and. . . you have earned my trust and friendship, as well. I do not give such things lightly, but know that you have mine."

Kenny watched her, and finally said, "I'll think about it. If I meet them, maybe we can talk about it."

"Thank you, Kenny," Shaw said with a smile. Suddenly, Shaw bent over with a shout, and Kenny stood up and looked for whatever approaching Immortal was setting off his senses.

He turned as the door opened, and Randi Jessup walked in, taking in the sight of the child Immortal, and the half-elf that was setting off her instincts. Shaw stood up and her eyes cleared as she caught sight of Randi.

"Shaw, I'm sorry," Randi said quickly, moving up and supporting Shaw. "I didn't know you got the Buzz, too. I would've said something."

Shaw didn't respond, but instead put her arms around Randi, saying, "I said I would see you soon, Randi."

Randi looked surprised by Shaw's show of emotion, but returned the embrace. They backed up from each other, and said, "Are you okay?"

"Yes," she said softly, smiling a bit. "Randi, this is Kenny."

"I know him," Randi said, nodding her head to him. "Been doing good on patrols. We've talked a bit."

"That is good," Shaw said. She looked at Kenny, and asked, "Kenny, can I have a moment with Randi, please? I appreciate your listening to me."

"It's okay," he said, heading for the door. "Like I said, I'll think about it."

Shaw nodded, and as he exited the training room, Randi asked, "What will he think about?"

"What he wishes to do after everyone goes home," Shaw replied, not elaborating. She walked over to the weight bench, and sat down.

Randi walked over, leaning over the top of the water cooler. "Okay, what's up? I know you're thinking about something," the nineteen-year-old Immortal asked. "C'mon, talk to me, girl."

Shaw looked at Randi, and asked, "I was talking with Amy, and we discussed what will happen, once the Quickening is taken out of me."

"Okay, what did you decide?" Randi asked, taking a seat next to the ranger.

"I am going to talk to Steven and Buffy, and. . I am going to ask them to let me stop fighting for a time," Shaw said to the young woman next to her. "I am simply sick of fighting and killing, and. . I need to recover from what has happened. Even so, part of me says to continue fighting, to show that you can trust me, even after this, and that. . I can trust myself. But, another part of me knows that this is the wrong reason to fight, and doing so would only put the rest of you in danger."

Shaw sighed, and looking straight ahead, asked, "Randi, am I being selfish, or am I being practical?"

"Practical, absolutely," Randi said without hesitation. "Shaw, after what's happened this weekend, you're burned out. You need a vacation." She paused for a second, and continued. "Okay, maybe not a vacation, but a lighter load. You know, you still train and do the research thing, but you get a break from the fighting. Hell, it'll save me and Buffy from Giles' research parties."

Shaw and Randi shared a short, pleasant laugh over that, and Randi smiled.

"Besides, maybe you can figure out something that's been driving Jenny and Willow nuts," she offered.

"What?" Shaw asked, not believing that the two witches couldn't come up with a solution to something.

"Well, it starts like this. . ." Randi said, quickly lining out the events that had transpired in San Francisco, and Shaw listened intently to her descriptions of what had been learned about Randi's brother, Brian. Shaw took on a thoughtful look before Randi had finished, and when the college freshman did end her story, she asked, "Any ideas?"

"As to Brian's destiny, or as to why Jenny and Willow cannot figure out why the shield keeps 'biting' them, as you call it?"

"Well, both, if you can figure it out," Jessup said with a smile. She saw the look on Shaw's face, and asked, "What are you thinking?"

"Something from legends of my homeworld," the half-elf answered, standing up and pacing a bit. She turned to Randi, and said, "He has proven what I said about him when I met him, Randi. He is very special."

"Any ideas as to the shield?" the Immortal asked with interest.

"Yes, but I want to do some research in the library, before forming a theory," she said. She sat back down, and said, "Randi, after Jenny and Willow remove the spell, I think I will be sleeping for the majority of the next two or three days. After this, perhaps on Friday, if Willow or the other witches have not solved this puzzle, we can arrange to meet and discuss it. It will be good to see Brian again."

"You like him, don't you?" Randi asked, already knowing the answer to that question.

"I have always had a affinity for children, Randi," Shaw said with a sad smile. "Especially children as unique as Brian and. . ."

Randi was puzzled when Shaw trailed off, but didn't press the point. She said, "I'm glad you're back. We were worried about you."

"I was concerned about you as well," Shaw said, looking at Randi. "Randi, are Steven and Buffy awake?"

"No, they're in bed. They'll be back down when the others get here. It'll be in a half hour or so."

Randi and Shaw stood up, and Randi said, "Wanna come out and meet them when they get here?"

Shaw smiled and nodded. "Yes," she said, and looking at the elder Jessup. "Randi, I am not good at saying things, or putting emotions into words, but. . . thank you. For being my friend."

"You're welcome, girlfriend," Randi said, as the two Slayerettes hugged each other once again, and left the training room to await the arrival of the others.

*****

Shaw and Randi had joined Duncan, Amanda, and Kenny in the living room, and a few minutes later Amy and Robin came out of the kitchen. Amy looked over at Shaw and made a "come here" gesture. Shaw rose from the couch and walked over to the couple.

"Yes, Amy?" the half-elf asked softly.

Amy smiled and said, "Remember when you told me about Alison kicking the dragon's butt? Seems that a certain fairy was there with a ringside seat."

Shaw looked at Robin, who said, "Yeah. Outside of Berdusk, about 1900 our time. Your grannie was NOT someone to tick off if you wanted to live a long life."

"Neither was Grandfather," Shaw said with a sad smile, which slowly faded. "Amy, did you tell Robin what Ares said he would do?"

"About your grandparents?" Amy asked. When Shaw nodded silently and hugged herself, the witch told Robin, "Ares said he'd bring her grandparents back from the dead if she agreed to join him."

Robin's eyes nearly popped out of their sockets, and he asked, "Is he still alive?"

"That's not funny, Robin," Amy said with a trace of anger. She gave him a light slap to the head, and told him, "We left him in one piece."

"Although he will need seat cushions for a short time," Shaw added, and she and Amy shared a laugh. Shaw's, however, was a bit strained.

"Hey, what's wrong?" Robin asked the half-elf.

"I am tired, Robin," Shaw answered in a low voice. "When this is done, I need some sleep."

"Try a lot of sleep," Amy said as she grinned at her cousin. "But you've earned it."

Shaw nodded distractedly, and suddenly turned towards the front door, seeming to concentrate as if she were trying to see through the wood.

"Shaw, what is it?" Amy asked, not getting an answer. She looked at Randi, who shook her head. <Okay, not an Immortal.>

Suddenly, Shaw broke for the door, and everyone was caught off guard, and Amy called her name out, but to no avail. Shaw ripped the door open, and went outside without bothering to pull the door closed behind her.

Amy, Robin and Randi took off after her, while Duncan was a bit more casual, motioning for Amanda and Kenny to stay seated. As he neared the door, Randi walked back in, a bemused grin on her face.

"Sorry, guys," she said, shaking her head. "False alarm."

"Why did she run?" Duncan asked.

"Looks like Oz's van needs a new muffler," the junior Immortal said to the others. "Those ears of hers picked it up a block away. Heck, my ears are hurting."

Shaw ran outside, having heard a familiar sound. Sure enough, a few seconds later Oz's van pulled up to the curb next door to Steve's house without the muffler. Shaw started to move forward again, but stopped, clenching and unclenching her fists.

The witch and fairy quickly came outside, but Randi, seeing the situation, turned around and walked back in to calm the others.

"Dammit, Shaw, you scared the crap out of us!" Amy snapped in frustration. "I'm only seventeen, I don't need to have a stroke!"

Shaw looked back and forth between the van and Amy, and she went pink in the face. "I am sorry, Amy."

Amy sighed as Robin chuckled at her, and said, "It's okay. I understand."

Willow and Oz had exited the van by this point, and were walking up. Willow's face was lit up in a smile at the sight of Shaw, while Oz's face was, as usual, unreadable.

Shaw's own face broke into a thin smile as she walked quickly towards the auburn-haired witch. She felt her eyes tear up as she and Willow quickly caught each other in a tight hug.

"We were so worried about you," Willow told Shaw. "I'm glad you're back."

"Never again," Shaw said as tears streamed down her face. "I will never do something so stupid ever again, Willow."

"Hey, you were wigged. We understand," the redhead assured her.

They let go of each other, and Willow smiled at her. "Giles says you beat up on Ares for the rest of us."

"It was a team effort, Willow," Shaw said, gaining control of her tears. "Amy, Cordelia and Xander kept him from taking me. If they had not been there. . . I might be dead now, Willow, if not worse."

"I just wish we could get him for doing this to you," the petite Amazon said.

"Rest assured, Willow, he will pay," Shaw said, her tone suddenly colder. "I used a lesson that Cordelia tried to teach me. Let us say, it is my first attempt at this."

Willow looked over at Oz, who was standing to the side. Shaw nodded a greeting to him.

"Oz, it is good to see you again," the half-elf said warmly.

"You too," he replied with a tight smile. "You hanging in there?"

"Yes, but the sooner I have this Quickening removed, the sooner I can sleep," she said. She looked at the ground, then at Oz again. "Oz, Cain said something. ."

"I know," the werewolf said calmly. "We're cool."

"No, Oz. Oz, Willow. . ." Shaw said, searching for the words, "I need to speak with you about this, at length. But for now, I can tell you this; when I have magic that is strong enough, perhaps in a few years, there. . ."

Shaw sighed, and continued. "There is a ritual I could perform, a ceremony. . .to remove any form of lycanthropy from an individual. I will not be able to do it for some time, but I have witnessed the ritual, and assisted in four in my time on Toril."

Oz looked a bit confused, and he looked at Willow, who looked simply flabbergasted.

"Shaw, are you saying. . . you could cure Oz?!?" she blurted.

"Possibly. It is not a guarantee, but a chance," the half-elf said. "I would have mentioned this sooner, had I known. I simply wish I had not found out in this manner."

"Hey, you respected his privacy, Shaw," Willow said, trying to recover from this news. "But you could cure him?"

"The ritual is successful seven to eight times out of ten," Shaw told them. She looked at Oz, and said, "Oz, there are risks involved, and as I said, it is not always successful. And as Willow could tell you, magical forces here are somewhat different from Toril, where I have seen this done. It is not a choice to be made lightly. If you wish, I can go into detail at a later date, perhaps next week, to give you all of the information I have on this ritual. I would do this for you, if you so choose, not only as a priestess of Mielikki, but as your friend."

Willow looked at the guitarist, who just stood there, apparently thinking about everything he'd just been told. Finally, he made a comment.

"Whoa."

Shaw looked to Willow, and said, "I assume that is the equivalent of pure, dumbfounded shock for him."

"That's the closest he'll ever come to fainting," the Amazon added with a grin. "You don't have a problem with it?"

"No, Willow. I just feel sorry for you that the two of you must spend three nights apart every month," the ranger said sympathetically. "And another thing, I know he has the resistance to normal weapons, rapid healing when he changes, perhaps other benefits in his normal form." She turned back to Oz, and said, "You would stand to lose those abilities if I do this. That is another thing you must consider. But I do have to ask you; are you pathological, or maledictive?"

Oz's eyes went blank, and Willow giggled. "He was bitten, Shaw," she said.

"I see. If he had been pathological, this whole discussion would have been wasted," Shaw said to both of them.

"So much for Jordy," Oz muttered.

Shaw cocked an eyebrow, and Willow said, "Jordy is the werewolf who bit Oz. He's Oz's cousin, and he was born that way."

At the looks shared by Willow and Oz, Shaw sighed. "What is the punchline?" she asked.

"Jordy's only three years old," Willow said with a giggle.

"You were bitten by a three year old werewolf?" Shaw asked, the priestess now being the shocked one.

Oz shrugged. "Doesn't like to be tickled."

"Serves you right," Shaw said, getting a laugh from Willow and the corner of his mouth going upward from Oz.

"So, you ready to get the Quickening out?" Willow asked, going back to the original topic of discussion.

"Yes, Willow. Do you know how long before Jenny and Giles arrive?" Shaw asked, looking in the direction of the school. "I do want to see them as well."

"About fifteen minutes. We'll start then," Willow told her. "The entire thing will only take about two or three minutes. So you won't have to go through our magic for that long."

"That makes me feel so much better," Shaw muttered dryly. "Shall we wait in the house for them?"

"Yeah, let's," Willow said, as the three turned and went into Steve's living room.

*****

As they walked back in, they saw the Buffy and Steve had come back downstairs, and they could hear Xander and Cordelia arguing upstairs. Shaw just shook her head, muttering in Common how some things never changed. She looked at Buffy, who caught the glance and walked over.

"Buffy, I want to apologize for earlier," Shaw said. "I. . .can I talk to you privately, before Giles and Jenny arrive?"

"Sure," Buffy said, switching her gaze from Shaw to Steve. "Honey, can we use your office?"

"Go ahead," St. Wolf said. "Take your time if you need to."

The two women nodded and headed for the office, and Buffy held the door open for Shaw. As they walked in, Shaw made her way for one of the chairs, and the Slayer did the same. Buffy waited for Shaw to settle herself, and after a few seconds the half-elf began to speak.

"Buffy, I am sorry for what I said earlier," she started out, staring at the floor. "I did not mean it, save for wanting to be with the rest of the team on that mission. Can you forgive me for that?"

"Shaw, I blew up at you," Buffy reminded her, putting a hand on Shaw's knee. "I was pissed to find out Angel was in New York, and I took it out on you. I guess we both lost it for a second. I'm not mad at you. I was hurt a bit, but I guess it hurt you too. I'm sorry for it."

Shaw nodded in silence, and now looked at Buffy. "Buffy, I talked with Amy, and Randi, and. . . will you let me have the time I need away from fighting? I need it Buffy, please."

Buffy blinked, caught off guard at her question. <She's *asking* for downtime?!? Steve and I won't even have to tell her she needs it, she knows it.>

Buffy waited a second or two, and said, "I was going to talk to Steve, and I figured we'd have to order you to do it. But this is better, I guess. You do need the downtime, Shaw."

"I know, Buffy," Shaw answered. She folded her hands together, and said, "Amy and Randi mentioned that I might be allowed to help out with research. Is that possible?"

"Yeah, I think so," the Immortal said with a smile not shared by the other. "I think you need to take this week off, even from school, 'cause you need to sack out. After that, I figure some time from training, and we'd probably take it easy at first, and go from there. How does that sound?"

"When Giles offered me a place here, I told him that I wanted some time away from the fighting," Shaw said quietly.

Buffy's mouth opened a bit, and she asked, "Then why didn't you take it?"

Shaw looked up, and answered, "Because I made a commitment to you, to our team. I did not think accepting a place here and immediately letting all of you handle everything was right. And. . . and, I wanted so much to be part of something again, to try to make things up for hiding the truth at the beginning, that I put duty ahead of my own desires. It is the way I

am, Buffy. But now, I need this. As much as I dislike the thought of not doing my share, I need to stop."

"You put the team first," Buffy said.

Shaw nodded, and looked back at the Slayer. "Buffy, can I ask you something?"

"What is it?" she said curiously.

"Before you left," Shaw started, "Steven said that I had earned a measure of trust and respect from the rest of you." She hesitated, clearly scared, as she asked, "Have I lost that?"

Buffy's mouth opened, but she quickly recovered and sighed. "No, Shaw, you haven't," she promised. She stood up, and paced back and forth, with the half-elf watching her every step. "Shaw, if anything, our respect for you has gone up, knowing what you're going through, and from what we've guessed since you showed us your back."

She stopped, and looked at the ranger, and continued. "We don't know what happened. ."

"Amy does," Shaw whispered, but Buffy heard it. "I told her, Buffy. She said she would tell you for me. All I ask is that you let her tell you when she wishes to do so."

Buffy's eyes were wide, and it took her a few seconds to recover. "You told her?" she asked, and when Shaw uttered a soft "yes," she smiled. "I'm glad, girl. You finally got it out. I knew it bothered you, and that you were hurt over this. How did she take it?"

"She helped me see things in a way I never thought possible, Buffy," Shaw said, tearing up. "She. . ."

Shaw turned to the Slayer, and wept, "It was not my fault, Buffy. Amy had me call the Lady, and She told me Amy was right. I. . ."

Shaw broke down, burying her face in her hands, crying as Buffy took a seat next to her, stunned at this kind of emotions pouring from her.

"I'm getting the feeling you've already cried to Amy," Buffy said. Shaw just nodded, not giving a vocal answer. Buffy laid a hand across Shaw's back, and said, "I understand about the guilt, Shaw. And if your Goddess say's you're okay, who else's approval do you need? We know you were scared, and we're cool with it."

Shaw slowly stopped crying, and eventually asked, "And trust?"

"Shaw, we do trust you, especially after what happened with the Horseman," she said. She shivered, and said, "Shaw, you actually controlled that rage, you weren't totally out of it. And while running was a mistake, you were worried about us. I guess you had the right reasons, you just made a boo-boo. We do trust you, but we do worry about you."

"How, Buffy?" Shaw asked, not seeming frightened by the Slayer's comment, but interested.

"Well, I was worried you'd say, 'let me fight' to make up for this, but you want to get away from this," Buffy said. She smiled at Shaw, telling the half-elf, "What I think we'd be worried about is that you might try to come back too hard, too soon. You're just gonna need to take this one day at a time, and go with the flow while you're getting over what happened."

"Thank you, Buffy," Shaw said thankfully, wiping her face and swallowing. "I appreciate your advice. I hope you will let me know if I am forgetting it."

"You betcha," she said with a grin. "Somebody's gotta keep your head on straight."

"Buffy, about my back," the half-elf said, letting out a very long sigh of exhaustion. "Willow knew about the scars two months ago, but. . . even before I told Amy, you were the first person who did not know of this that I told of the scars. Twenty-five years, and I never mentioned it."

"Why me?" Buffy asked.

Shaw shrugged, and said, "I am not completely certain myself, Buffy. I. . . I trusted you to help me with it."

"Well, you took that step, Shaw. I know it was hard on you, but we understood why you waited."

"I would not have taken that step without your encouragement," Shaw told Buffy as she got up. "Thank you, Buffy."

"You're welcome, Shaw," Buffy said as the two of them walked out of the office.

Jenny and Giles arrived as expected, and walked in to the entire team, who had finally gathered and were more than chomping at the bit to end this situation once and for all. Giles spent a few minutes talking with Steve and Buffy, while Jenny went over to say "hello" to Shaw. However, Shaw seemed distracted, and only muttered the same to the gypsy. She looked over at Giles, who seemed to have a look of comprehension as to why Shaw had acted this way after being so open with the others, but let it pass for the time being.

Steve called for everyone's attention, and when he had it, he said, "Okay, let's get this over with. Shaw, Jenny, Willow and Duncan will head into the training room to cast the spell. The rest of us will wait out here. No training session tonight, Duncan's team will handle patrols. Get some sleep, and hit school in the morning."

There was a chorus of groans from Buffy, Xander, Amy and Cordelia, while the others just laughed. Steve looked at Shaw, and asked, "You ready, Shaw?"

"Whenever you decide to finish your speech, Steven," Shaw commented dryly.

With a sigh, St. Wolf said, "Okay, go ahead. We'll see you in a few minutes.

Shaw started to head for the training room at a brisk pace, with Duncan following behind the two witches. As Shaw came within three paces of the doors, a burst of light stopped the four in their tracks. When the light cleared, Ares was standing in Steve St. Wolf's living room.

Shaw's face twisted into a red mask of fury, and she started forward with balled fists when Steve shouted her name, stopping her charge.

"What do you want, Ares?" the Wanderer snapped, fingering Demon Slayer as Buffy did the same with its companion blade.

"I'm not here to fight!" Ares shouted, raising his hands up. "I came to talk."

"The time for talking is past, Brother," Artemis said as she appeared in the empty space between the God of War and the half-elven warrior. "What right do you have to be here, Ares? You should be somewhere else right now."

"Now, wait a minute, sis," Ares said frantically, "Zeus gave me permission to come here."

"Well, I didn't," Steve said angrily. "Now get out before I call your brother and invite HIM to join the party."

Ares gritted his teeth, and looked ready to berate Steve, but Artemis took away any chance of that.

"You made an agreement, Brother," the Goddess of the Hunt told him. "If I were you, I'd get started now before Zeus hears that you have made him foresworn."

"He said I could come!" Ares said, the panic in his voice plain to the assembled Slayerettes. He took in their seeing his moment of weakness, and tried to collect himself. "He gave me permission to try to get the agreement modified. He felt that I was forced into this, even if his word is binding."

"Just as you forced me into near insanity, Ares?" Shaw snapped, all but charging the Olympian who had caused this. "Not that we believe your claim, even if I were inclined to alter your punishment."

"Shaw," Artemis said, turning to her, "Ares would not use, Zeus' name if my Father had not given him permission. He would not dare lie about this." Artemis turned to her brother and said, "Not that I think you deserve any less."

Shaw stared directly at Ares, and asked him, "I am allowed to modify this agreement?"

"Yes!" Ares all but cried, now looking hopeful.

"Very well," Shaw said, shrugging nonchalantly, "give me five, perhaps ten minutes, and I will think of something worse."

"But... but..."

"Please do not interrupt, Ares," Shaw said, tapping her chin with her index finger. "After all, you did perform the greatest violation one could commit."

"PLEASE!!!" the God of War shrieked, looking pitifully meek for a deity.

"Shaw," Steve said, now breaking in, "what is this punishment he has to go through? You can skip over the first few parts, we know about those. Good work, by the way. Now tell us the part you didn't translate."

"Steven, it is somewhat graphic. Perhaps the younger ones should leave. ."

"Shaw, out with it," Steve ordered.

"Very well, it is your decision," Shaw told him, staring directly at Ares. She took a deep breath, and said, "Ares will go to the Third Circle of Hell, and engage in sexual intercourse with the most sexually hungry demon in that Circle of Hell, for twenty-four consecutive hours without respite."

Ares' face went even paler as Shaw said it in English, while she just continued to stare at him with a look of pure venom, and Artemis was watching Ares with a look of satisfaction that he would pay this extreme a price for his actions. But the Slayerettes, Duncan, Amanda, and Kenny had looks of shock, or in some cases, illness. And, as usual, one member of Sunnydale’s most infamous couple expressed their probable feelings on the matter.

"Ewwwwwwwww!!!!" Cordelia shrieked, shivering all over.

"What do you mean, 'ew?'" Xander asked with less than enthusiastic humor. "I thought you'd be proud of her."

Cordelia looked even sicker. "Proud of her?!? For what?!?"

"Cordy, she's playing matchmaker for the Gods," her boyfriend said. "Granted, she could've picked somebody better to get a date for. . ."

"Shut up, Xander," the brunette pleaded.

"Oh, come on, Cordelia. ."

"SHUT UP!!!" everyone shouted.

Xander cringed at the volume. <Sheesh. And I thought Blade was a tough crowd.>

Steve looked at the furious half-elf and asked, "Shaw, have you studied the U. S. Constitution at school, yet?"

"No, Steven," Shaw responded, not looking away from the petrified Olympian. "But I have read certain parts of it. Why do you ask?"

"Did you skip over the parts about cruel and unusual punishment?" St. Wolf asked.

Now, Shaw did turn on the Wanderer, sparks flying in her eyes. With an angry voice, she snapped, "After what he has done to me, after what he has done to ALL of us, can any punishment he suffers be cruel or unusual?!?"

"Well, it certainly qualifies as unusual," Robin said, rubbing his chin. He looked at Shaw, and asked, "Do you actually spend time thinking this stuff up?"

To his surprise, the half-elf looked disgusted.

"Of course not," she said quickly. "I am much better at improvising. This was the best that I could come up with on the spur of the moment. I was more concerned with getting us out of the alley alive at that point."

"I'd hate to see what you could come up with if you weren't distracted," Robin said frightfully.

"It is not like I forced him into this," Shaw said, looking back at Ares. "I gave him a second choice."

"What--" Xander started to ask before getting a smack on the head.

"DON'T ASK HER!!!" Cordelia shouted.

Despite looking less than pleased with the possibility of knowing, Steve said, "Shaw, now."

The ranger shrugged as if it were no great matter to her. "I would use Soulreaver to cut off his genitals, and proceed to stuff his penis down his throat and shove his testicles up his ass."

Xander leaned over to Cordelia, and asked, "Can I say it this time?"

"Say what?" the Amazon asked, holding her stomach.

"Ewwwwwwwwwww!!!!"

"What he said," Oz added.

Artemis was giggling at the two scenarios laid out by the Dark Quickeninged half-elf, and Ares looked about ready to faint, is such a thing was possible for a God. He looked at her, and said, "Of course you're enjoying this."

"I just like the idea that you picked on a mortal with the means to strike back at you," the Patron of the Amazons said, losing her smile very quickly. "One would have thought that you'd have learned THAT lesson from Xena."

"I can't believe I'm saying this," St. Wolf said, looking from one Olympian to the other, "especially after what you've done to Shaw, Connor, and the rest of humanity, but I have to agree with you."

"WHAT?!?" Artemis and Ares shouted in complete shock.

"You agree with Ares?" Shaw asked, not believing what she was hearing.

"Shaw, as much as I think he deserves to be punished for hurting you, there is a difference between justice and cruelty," Steve said, not without a great deal of compassion in his voice. "Are you going to make him go through with this?"

"Why should he not go through with this?" she demanded, looking at the others, seeing that they were also less than thrilled with the idea of Ares going to Hell.

Giles cleared his throat, and asked, "Shaw, are you aware that for every Earth day, one hundred years passes in Hell?"

"Is that all," Shaw muttered. Looking at Giles, she said, "No, Giles, I did not. What is your point?"

"He'd spend the equivalent of one hundred years in Hell."

"He is a God," Shaw reminded the Watcher. "What does time matter to one such as him?"

"She does bring up a good point," Robin offered with a chuckle.

Steve glared at the fairy. "You're not helping, Robin."

"Sorry," he said, drawing a smack from Amy.

"Are you telling me that you support Him after all that we have gone through because of this?" Shaw asked Steve, walking over to him. "You would rather see him get away with this, knowing that he could do something like this again, and that he would not have to suffer as he has made others suffer?!?"

Steve looked her in the eye, and said, "Shaw, I know you're going through a great deal of pain right now, but you have to ask yourself if this is any better than what he's done. It's your decision, and whatever you decide, you're going to have to live with it. Remember that, but also know that we will stand by whatever you choose, even if we don't agree with it."

Shaw locked gazes with Steve for nearly two minutes, her jaw clenched and her fists closed. When she showed no sign of making any form of statement, a soft voice spoke up.

"Steve, let me talk to her," Jenny said.

Everyone turned to her, and Steve said, "I beg your pardon?"

"Let me talk to her, Steve," the computer teacher repeated. She looked at Shaw, and said, "Shaw, I can't say I know what you've gone through over the last four days, but I can see how you're feeling. But you have to think about whether or not you're thinking rationally. Can you honestly say that you would make this decision if you didn't have the problems you have now, with the Quickening of two evil Immortals inside of you?"

For the first time, there was a flicker of uncertainty in the priestess' eyes, and her jaw loosened a bit.

<She's thinking about it,> Steve thought. <How did she do it?>

"Steve," Jenny said again, breaking his train of thought, "can I talk to her in private? I think if she talked it out with someone, without pressure from everyone else, especially the jackass responsible for this, maybe she'll relent."

Shaw's eyes grew angry again, but she didn't respond. Steve looked her over, and asked, "How about it?"

"Complete privacy, Steven," the elven warrior hissed. "No observations of ANY type. From NO one."

"Isn't that going to be hard, with a telepathic fairy and two Greek Gods in the room?" Buffy asked.

"No, Buffy," Artemis said. "They can use the training room. Since it is holy ground dedicated to me, my power can keep anyone from listening in. And I swear in Zeus' name that I will not listen in either. Is that good enough for you, Shaw?"

"Your word is good enough, Lady Artemis," Shaw said with a trace of friendliness in her tone. "You, unlike a certain incompetent, pathetic, impotent example of divinity, can be trusted."

"Lady Goddess, that's Shaw's version of a yes," Cordelia said quickly.

"I figured as much," Artemis grinned at her while enjoying the look of anger on Ares' face. "Something wrong, Brother dear?"

"I am not impotent!" he snapped with an orange glow in his eyes.

The Scoobies started laughing, and he snapped, "What's so funny?"

"The fact that you didn't counter the other things she called you, you incompetent, pathetic example of divinity," Robin pointed out to the laughs of the others.

"Don't piss me off, Goodfellow," the God of War snarled.

"Don't forget what happened the last time you got on my wrong side, Dipwod," the fairy countered. He waggled a finger at the God, and said, "And keep in mind, the restrictions on my magic count for fighting evil, but that also includes evil intent. You try to use the ittiest, bittiest smidgen of Power, and I'll go midieval on you. That's why Shaw kicked your ass, by the way."

"Oh, how's that?" the God smirked.

Shaw turned around and hissed, "Any of my friends can, as Robin just said, 'go midieval.' But they would never defeat me if they did."

"Oh, really? Why is that?"

Shaw leaned in close, and with evil intent dancing in her eyes, she said, "Remember where I come from, Ares. Remember who I worship, Ares. For the others, going midieval is an act. For me, it is a way of life. "

"English translation?" Xander asked Robin.

"Simple," Goodfellow said with a smile. "You can go midieval, but Shaw IS midieval."

"Cool catchphrase," Oz commented.

"Uh, Robin," Willow asked, looking at Ares, "What happened the last time you met Ares?"

"Oh, he backed the wrong side in a war," Artemis said. "Robin came up with an amazing method for ending it."

"What's that?" Amanda asked.

"I never liked Troy," Robin said with a shrug.

The others, save for Artemis, Ares and Shaw, all stared at him in shock at what he was hinting. He shrugged again and said, "Hey, anyone can use brute force. I'm an artist."

Jenny looked at Shaw, and said, "Well, Shaw?"

Shaw nodded cautiously and the two walked by the twin Greek Gods into the training room.

"Well, Robin," Artemis said, while staring at her brother, "what do you think?"

"I wouldn't hold out too much hope," the sprite said evilly. "If I were Ares, I'd be 'porting to the local minimart for some condoms. Of course, a dozen roses and a box of chocolates might help too."

"You are truly sick," the God of War said with a sneer.

Robin looked at the Slayerettes, and said, "Keep in mind who's saying this about me."

"Well, he's right," Amy said with a grin. "You are sick."

"You know me so well," he grinned.

*****

Jenny closed the door behind her, and watched as Shaw walked to the center of the training room, and then turned around. Shaw folded her arms, staring at the Amazon.

"Why did you want to talk to me?" Shaw asked.

"Because we're afraid that you're making a terrible mistake with Ares," Jenny said gently. She walked forward, stopping about five feet from Shaw, and said, "Shaw, do you realize what will happen if he goes to Hell?"

"I may be a maiden, Jenny, but I am not naive in such matters," the half-elf said coldly. "I was specific about what he would do. HOW he does it is Ares' decision."

"And when the twenty-four hours are up? Do you really think he'll get out of Hell?" the gypsy asked. Before Shaw could answer, she asked more questions. "Do you think the demons in Hell would honor your agreement by letting him leave? And what will his state of mind be by the time he's at the end of something that you can see scares him?"

"I want him to be scared, Jenny!" Shaw blurted, tears starting to fall. "What part of this do you find so hard to comprehend? He has violated everything I hold dear! He violated my mind, my emotions, and he tried to take my soul away from the Lady, Jenny! I left to avoid endangering the first family I have had in half a lifetime, and it was because of HIM! But instead, because of me, she and all of you were put into danger instead of being kept out of it! And then, he tried to kill Connor, he tried to kill Amy, Xander, Cordelia. . . he deserves to be punished!"

"I know, Shaw," Jenny said, using a soft tone in stark contrast to Shaw's violent outbursts. "But there is a fine line between justice and revenge. You have to ask yourself if you are crossing that line. Shaw, we wouldn't want you to try to get revenge for us."

"It was not for you!" the half-elf screamed, as tears and sparks flowed evenly from her eyes. "I did it for my Grandparents!!!"

Now, Jenny was caught by surprise. "What do you mean, Shaw?"

Shaw stopped, closing her eyes and gaining control of her temper. Slowly, her breathing became normal, and she said, "He said that if I joined him, he would return my Grandparents to the living."

"He offered to do that for you?" Jenny asked, moving towards Shaw.

"It was not an offer," she returned harshly, "it was a threat!"

Jenny cocked her head, and asked, "What do you mean by 'threat?'"

Shaw looked at the Romany, as if trying to figure out a way to explain it. She quietly said, "Jenny, you lost an uncle to Angelus, did you not?"

"Yes, I did," the teacher replied, not knowing why Shaw had brought this subject to the fore. "Why are you asking me about that?"

"Jenny," Shaw said, looking at the floor, "if you had the chance to bring him back, would you do it?"

The question was the last thing that she would have expected, and she wasn't sure what she would want.

"I--- I don't know, Shaw," she answered honestly, knowing that was the type of answer the ranger wanted. "It would give me the chance to have him in my life again."

Shaw looked at Jenny, a look of determination on her face, as she said, very slowly, "And if you knew, without any doubt whatsoever, that doing that would take him away from your version of Heaven? If you knew, with one hundred percent certainty, that your uncle was at the side of his God, in your Heaven, would you bring him back? Would you take him away from the greatest reward that one could ever hope to have?"

Jenny thought over the question, looking at it from Shaw's point of view, and remembering Joe N'Gato and Kendra's explanations about Shaw's beliefs concerning the afterlife, and then she looked at it from her point of view and was somehow not surprised to come to the same conclusion.

"No, Shaw. I wouldn't bring him back," she admitted.

"THAT is why I made Ares agree to this," Shaw said, her anger subsiding now that she knew that Jenny understood her mind. "I made him agree to this because of all that he has done to us, and what he would have done to them."

"I understand you're in mourning over them. ."

Shaw turned away and it stopped Jenny from finishing her thought. Jenny walked towards Shaw, and put a hand on her shoulder.

"Shaw, what is it?" she asked with concern.

"I am no longer mourning them, Jenny," the half-elf said softly. "I let them go. Today, I realized that I have let them go. It has been twenty-five years, and they have earned their rewards. That is why I am so enraged by this, that Ares would even think that I would ever disgrace their memories like that. When he made that offer. . . I wanted to kill him."

By now, Shaw was shaking a bit, and Jenny felt her own heart ache, knowing the pain of losing a loved one. She pulled on Shaw's shoulder, and turned her around, and saw the half-elf's lower lip trembling.

"Jenny, what kind of person am I to cause someone to think I could ever want to do that to my Grandparents," she asked the teacher. "How could he think that?"

"Because of how much you love them," Jenny said with a smile. She lowered her head to Shaw's and told her, "We can see it. We see it in your eyes when you talk about them. If mere mortals like us can see it, certainly a God, no matter how much a bastard he is, can see it as well."

"Do you now see why I did this?" she asked.

"Yes, but we still worry that you might be going to far," the Gypsy told Shaw. Shaw's face clouded over, and Jenny tried another tack. "I know what revenge can do to people. When Angel lost his soul, it was because I didn't tell them that it could happen. I didn't know, but I kept my true identity from Rupert and Buffy. . . and almost lost them in the process. I don't know what would have happened if Steve hadn't come, and Giles and Buffy had asked for my help in the matter."

Seeing some weakening of Shaw's resolve, Jenny went one step further. "Shaw, you swore you would never use revenge again. I know you meant against vampires, but I would think that you would include all beings in this promise. You had so much self-anger inside of you for so long, and you finally let go of it. Do you want to have it again, after all the work you've done to become the person you are capable of becoming?"

Shaw was trembling at her questions and observations, and she couldn't meet the other woman's gaze. She lowered her head, and said, "You would let him get away with this?"

"No, but the punishment can't be excessive," Jenny offered. "It's your decision, but ask yourself this; would your Grandparents or your Goddess want you to avenge something? You tried to avenge your Grandparents when they were killed, and you realized that it was a mistake. Do you want to potentially make another one? Truly think about this. Would those you look up to, who you love, do this?"

Shaw turned away again, looking up and straight ahead at the wall for more than five minutes, making Jenny wonder what she was thinking, when Shaw spoke up.

"Would you ask Ares and Artemis to come in, Jenny?" she asked.

"Shaw. ."

"I have made my decision," she said, cutting Jenny off.

Jenny watched her back, and turned to the doors. She opened them, and every single head in the living room turned to her.

"Shaw wants to see Artemis and Ares," she said.

"She has made a decision?" Artemis asked, to which Jenny nodded.

"Yes, Lady Goddess."

The two Gods quickly teleported into the room, and Shaw turned around, a look of anger in her eyes as she stared down the God of War.

Shuffling nervously on his feet, he asked, "Well?"

"Our agreement is binding and non-negotiable," Shaw stated. As Ares started to blubber out, she added, "However, your punishment will be modified, provided you agree to whatever I dictate."

Ares stopped, wondering if he was in for something worse than what he HAD agreed to, but nodded, figuring a slim chance was better than no chance.

"Very well," the half-elf snapped. She walked up to a point between Ares and Artemis, with Jenny standing off to the side. She looked at Artemis and said, "Lady Artemis, Ares indicated that you could contact the Lady of the Forest? I know that he stated it would be difficult, but can it be done?"

"Oh, I think I could swing it," Artemis said with a smile, which Jenny shared without Shaw seeing it. "It might take some time."

"I know," the half-elf said. "Ares, if I were like you, I would come up with the most devastating, horrific torture that my mind could come up with. Be thankful that I am NOT like you, no matter what you have tried to do to me."

She moved up a couple of paces, and said, "If, in a period of ten years, the Lady Artemis cannot contact the Lady Mielikki, you will be free of any punishment in this matter. But, if she should make contact, the Lady of the Forest will decide your punishment. It will be Her decision, not mine."

Ares and Artemis looked positively stunned by her proclamation, while Jenny fought to keep a smile from growing larger on her face.

"Thank. ."

"I am not finished," Shaw snapped. She pointed at her stomach, and said, "If any part of the Quickenings inside of me are the essence of your priest, remove it now. Remove it, and only that part. He was your priest, I would say that you have an obligation to restore his spirit or soul, and give him his rightful place at your side on Olympus."

Ares' jaw dropped as she said that, and he said, "He served me for over two thousand years."

"Would you not say he has earned his reward, then?" Shaw asked.

Ares had no choice but to nod. He gestured, and Shaw felt something come out of her, which balled into a bluish-white ball of energy, and the God of War gestured again, and the energy disappeared. "He's back on Olympus. Thank you."

Shaw stalked up to Ares and snarled, "Do not thank me, Ares. Pray. Pray that the Lady is more merciful to you for this than I would have been, if I were not more like my friends. Now be gone, but not before I tell you exactly what I think of you. No threats, no insults, no attacks. Only the plain, unadorned truth."

"Oh, what's that?" Ares asked as he rolled his eyes.

Shaw spit a very large wad of phlegm into Ares' right eye. She then turned on her heel and started to walk away. Ares started to growl, but Artemis shook her head grimly. With a loud "Gaaah!" he teleported out.

Shaw just watched as the light faded, and the three beings left in the training room stood silent for a few moments.

"Lady Artemis," Shaw asked with a dry whisper, "will he get away with this?"

Artemis walked over to Shaw and said, "No, Shaw Hunter. Your Lady will see justice done in this matter. You have my word on that."

"Justice, or retribution?"

"Justice, young one," the Goddess promised, placing her hands on Shaw's shoulders. With a look at Jenny, she asked, "Will you be all right from here on out, Jenny?"

"Yes, Lady Goddess," Jenny answered with a smile. "We can handle the rest."

Artemis nodded, and made ready to teleport, but Shaw said, "Lady Artemis?"

She looked at the half-elf, and said, "Yes, Shaw?"

"Thank you," she whispered, just loud enough for Artemis to hear.

Artemis planted a soft kiss on Shaw's forehead, and said, "You're welcome."

With that, the Goddess of the Hunt vanished from the training room.

Jenny slowly walked over to Shaw, who turned her head to the Amazon.

"Jenny," she said softly, "would you accept some advice from me?"

"Yes," Jenny answered, folding her arms.

"These visits you receive from Artemis? Never take them for granted, for it shows that you and the others are truly blessed."

"That's advice I think I can remember," Jenny said with a smile. "Are you all right, Shaw?"

"I am glad this is done with," Shaw said, letting out a breath she didn't know she'd been holding. Shaw turned towards the Amazons' shrine, and said, "Jenny, thank you for making me see things clearly. You were right, I would not have done that to anyone under normal circumstances. I. . . I cannot repay you enough for this."

"Yes, you can," Jenny said, drawing a look of keen interest from Shaw. "You can repay us by not feeling as if we blame you for this, and letting yourself heal."

"That is easier said than done, Jenny," Shaw softly replied to her. "But I will try."

Shaw swallowed, and asked, "Jenny, did I make the right choice?"

"As far as one could be made, I'd say yes," Calendar said, smiling fully. "And I'm proud of you for it. And I think that the others will be, too. I'll go get Willow and Duncan, and we'll finish this."

Shaw's eyes glistened a bit, and Jenny took heart that the Slayerette was glad for her approval.

<It means she cares what we think about her. The hard part will be convincing her.>

Jenny walked out into the living room, and all heads turned to her. Steve stood up and said, "Well?"

"Ares will be in for a hard time," Jenny said with a grin, "when Mielikki gets Her hands on Him."

"Mielikki?" Duncan asked curiously.

"Shaw remanded his punishment to Her," the Romany explained to the surprised group. "She even put a ten year limit on the time She could levy the punishment."

"How did you do it?" Giles asked in wonder. "How did you convince her?"

Jenny's smile faded, and she said, "Let's just say I used someone's experiences with family and revenge as an example."

Giles shared a knowing look with his lover, and nodded thoughtfully. "I understand, Jenny."

"Duncan, Willow, let's get started," Jenny commanded. "I think someone's waited long enough."

"Hell, yeah," Willow said, getting up from Oz's lap.

"With pleasure," Duncan said, standing up to head into the training room.

As the two witches and Immortal headed into the other room, Amy turned to Robin.

"Did you see that coming?" she asked.

"Nope, I thought Ares was gonna be somebody's wife," Robin answered. He smiled at Amy and said, "That girl impresses the hell out of me sometimes. Just when you think you've got her figured out, she surprises you."

"You have no idea," Amy said silently.

Shaw looked over to the trio as they entered the gym, and headed over to them to get whatever instructions they needed to give her.

"Okay, Duncan," Jenny said, pointing near the doors, "stand about four or five feet in front of the door. Take off the coat, and leave the sword off to the side. I don't think metal will effect the spell, but I don't want to take any chances."

"Got it," MacLeod said, proceeding to follow Jenny's instructions.

"Okay," Willow said, taking Shaw's wrist, "you're over here."

Willow led Shaw over to a spot near the weapons rack, which held their practice weapons, such as kendo sticks, staffs, and similar items. Jenny reached into her pocket and pulled out two scrolls, and handed one to Willow.

"Okay," the elder witch said, "Here's what we're going to do. I'm going to cast the spell to remove the Quickening from Shaw, and Willow will cast the spell to focus it and send it into Duncan. It'll be done in less than three minutes."

While Jenny was giving out the details, Willow had taken out some chalk, and had drawn out a circle on the floor. When she looked up, she saw Shaw staring at it.

"Shaw, what's wrong?" the Wiccan asked.

"That is for a containment circle," the half-elf observed.

"Yeah, to keep the Quickening from flying all over the training room," Willow said, standing off and brushing off her hands. She saw Shaw looking very nervous, and asked, "Shaw, what is it?"

Shaw shook her head, and said, "Let us do this. Quickly."

Willow gave her a look, and said, "Okay. You walk in, the circle springs up, and we'll start casting."

Shaw nodded, and with visible hesitation, walked forward, her eyes shut tight. She walked in, and the witches and priestess could feel the barrier blink into existence.

Jenny unrolled her portion of the spell and began chanting. As she chanted, Shaw grabbed at her stomach, and as the mystical forces built up, Willow could see Shaw's eyes glowing with a bluish-white light. The glow spread to cover her eyes, shooting out like the beams from a pair of headlights. Shaw opened her mouth in a silent scream, and light began pouring out from there, as well.

Willow felt her heart would stop, when Shaw screamed at the top of her lungs, and lightning began flying out of Shaw's eyes and mouth. She almost forgot to begin her half of the spell, and had to scramble to do her part.

As the lightning flew out, she began chanting her side of the enchantment, and the Quickening energy began to coalesce into a whirling, twisting ball of pure electrical energy. When the last vestiges of sparks exited Shaw, she slumped against the invisible wall, sliding down and sobbing softly.

Willow reached the climax of her portion, and shouted, "Now, Jenny!"

Jenny quickly lowered the wall, and the energy of the two Quickenings shot out, straight at Duncan. Two bolts ripped into the Immortal, and he staggered just the slightest bit as he cried out slightly. A third bolt moved him back a step, and with a flourish the final bolt of energy fired straight into his chest. He twisted around a bit, but kept his footing, and with great breaths, he slowly recovered his equilibrium.

Willow dove over to the half-elf lying on the floor, shaking and curling up on herself, leaning over Shaw and laying a hand on her arm.

"Shaw, it's over," she said softly, trying to be gentle but still remain loud enough for her to hear. "We're all done."

Shaw kept shaking, but hissed, "I can see the true reason for the circle, Willow."

"What's that?" she asked in confusion.

"So that I could not kick Jenny's ass for not telling me how painful it would be," the half-elf said by way of a reply.

Willow looked at Jenny, worried. Jenny just said, "She's joking. She's just too exhausted to come up with something better than Xander."

Shaw was shaking harder, and Willow looked down at her in greater concern, but relaxed when she saw the slight smile on the ranger's face.

"Shaw, you okay?" the redhead asked.

"Hurts," she said quietly, attempting to stand. When she failed on her first attempt, Willow helped her up. "Thank you, Willow."

"Come on, let's get you home," Willow said, as they started towards the door.

Shaw looked up, and saw Duncan standing there, smoke still trailing from his clothes. "Duncan, are you all right?"

"All right?" Jenny echoed with a laugh. "He didn't even take more than one step backwards."

"I thought that Connor was supposed to be the showoff," Shaw remarked while looking at the Highlander. She released herself from Willow's grip, and hugged Duncan, muttering, "Thank you, Duncan. For everything."

Knowing full well what she meant by "everything," Duncan grinned. "You're welcome, Shaw."

Willow took Shaw by the shoulder again, and guided her out on stiff legs, despite her growing strength of limb.

Jenny waited with Duncan, and he looked to her.

"You know she's in for a hard time, Jenny," MacLeod said to her. "Nightmares will likely be the least of it."

"I know, Duncan," Jenny said with a tear. With a sigh, she added, "She's going to be away from the fighting, but she wants it. Goddess knows she's more than earned it."

"Jenny, I'd say she's earned the right to lay down her sword for good, and just be allowed to live her life and let others do the fighting," Duncan told her as he turned to look towards the living room. "To let herself enjoy some of the things she's given to other people."

"And what would be the first thing she said, if you told her that?" Jenny responded. "She'd say, 'But there would not be anyone to take my place. And that would leave others without someone to give them those things.'"

"You do a very good impression of her," Duncan joked as they moved to follow the other two.

"Duncan, why did she hesitate to enter the circle?" the Gypsy asked. "For a second, it looked like she'd refuse to go in."

"Don't think she didn't want this removed from her, Jenny," Duncan said firmly. He sighed, and said, "It was the circle, not the spell."

Jenny thought about it, and whispered, "Claustrophobe?"

"Yes, and Steve knows about it," the Scotsman said, "so you don't have to keep it a secret."

Shaw and Willow walked out into the living room, and Buffy was the first to see the easier cast to Shaw's face, and she went over to see how she was.

"All done?" Buffy asked with a smile.

Shaw nodded, leaning into Willow for support, and said, "Yes, Buffy. I need to ask a favor of you, however."

"Name it, Hunter," the Slayer said.

"Soulreaver," the half-elf mumbled, turning back a bit to the training room, and seeing Duncan and Jenny coming out, "I will not be using it, as we have discussed. Would you and Steven consent to keep it for me, and allow the others to use it on patrols until the time comes when I start fighting again."

Buffy and Willow stared at her in shock, and Buffy said in a mechanical voice, "You're asking for me and Steve to keep your magic sword and let the others play with it?"

"Yes, Buffy," Shaw said, standing up under her own power, even if said power was strictly limited. "Buffy, that is what the sword was forged for. It has been used for that purpose for over a thousand years. It will help to keep the others alive, and safe, and I see no reason why it should sit in my room when it could be used by the rest of us, to protect each other. It. . . . it would make me feel more secure to know that the others had this extra protection, Buffy."

"You do realize that this will cause problems," Steve said, joining the three women.

"You mean Xander and Cordelia arguing over it?"

"Of course," St. Wolf replied. "I don't want to be around when that happens."

"HEY!" Xander and Cordelia snapped.

"Oh, we'll just have them flip a coin or something," Amy said from the couch where she sat next to Robin. She got up, and walked over to Shaw. "You ready to head out, cuz?"

Shaw nodded, and said, "It will be good to be in my own home again."

"Uh, we were gonna have you stay at Robin's place," Amy said uncertainly.

Shaw's head turned over towards Robin, and she asked, "Would you care to repeat that?"

"We figured you could get some sleep, and we'd take you home in the morning. Don't want to scare the crap out of Ulric when he gets home and finds us in his house," Robin said. When Shaw looked ready to object, Amy broke in.

"Shaw," she said quietly, "we just want to keep an eye on you. Me and Robin would be in his living room, so you wouldn't panic when you woke up, thinking you're all alone or something."

Shaw thought about it, and said, "Very well, Amy. Thank you."

"No problem," Amy said, giving Shaw a quick hug.

Robin joined them and said, "Besides, you're not my type, no offense."

Shaw looked from him to Amy, and back again. "Then why are you dating Amy? She is not your type either."

Everyone's eyebrows rose at that, and Amy said, "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Two months ago, when I told you who I was, Robin said that I was just like you," Shaw answered with a puzzled frown. "If that is true, and I am not his type, then neither are you."

Amy turned slowly to Robin, and asked, "Well, Robin? How about it?"

"Well, I meant it as an insult at the time," the fairy said, and everyone started laughing at him. "What?!?"

"Oh, so comparing someone to me is an insult, now?" the witch demanded, folding her arms and tapping her foot on the floor.

"Oh, great," Steve said, "There goes my living room."

"But... but..." Robin stammered before stopping and looking at the flashing eyes of the blonde teenager. "Nothing I say's gonna get me out of this, is it?"

"Nope," Amy said.

"I say anything, it'll just dig me deeper, won't it?" he asked, not expecting a good answer.

"Yep."

"Would you accept my shutting up and getting in the car?" he asked meekly.

Amy thought about it, and nodded. "Move it, Puckhead."

Robin started stammering again, as Shaw and Amy headed for the door, Amy supporting Shaw by wrapping an arm around her shoulders. The Merry Wanderer just kept stammering, before recovering what dignity he had, and looking at the others.

"Am I going to regret this?" he asked.

"What?" Randi asked with a grin, looking at the cousins walking outside. "Having Shaw stay at your place so that she has someone there for her when she wakes up so she's not alone?"

"No, I meant those two starting to act like relatives," he clarified.

The assembled Slayerettes, as well as Duncan, Amanda, and Kenny, looked at each other, and then back at Robin.

"Hell, yes," they answered as one.

"I was afraid of that."

*****

Part 14: Long Talks
(Questions, Answers, And More Questions)

Goodfellow Residence
Sunnydale, California
23 November 1998

Amy walked out of Robin's bedroom, and walked over to the couch. As she sat down next to Robin, she leaned back and just stared off into space.

"Penny for your thoughts?" Robin asked with a smile. "Although I'd go as high as a nickel."

A smile crept onto Amy's face as she sat there. "Smartass."

"If a lame comment like that cheers you up, you've got a lot on your mind," Robin commented, moving closer to her. She leaned over and snuggled into his shoulder, and he softly said, "You're still worried about her."

"Yeah," the witch answered quietly. As he put an arm around her, she told him, "She crashed as soon as she laid down. She was that close to just falling over. And everyone thinks the big part's over, but she's got a lot of shit to get over. She needs our help, but I'm just not sure how to do it."

"Just be there for her," Goodfellow said, squeezing Amy a bit. "And there's enough of us to handle the job. But there's something else on your mind. Let's hear it."

"Okay," Amy said, sitting forward and leaving Robin's embrace. She laid her arms on her legs, and began talking. "I told you that she told me what happened to her way back when."

"Yeah, I know," the fairy said as he sat up straight, sensing that this was important to Amy. "What about it?"

Amy looked at the ceiling and sighed. "Well, I promised her I'd tell all of you, so she didn't have to. She relived the whole thing for me Robin. She wanted me to understand so much, she went through the whole thing. Getting the mission, the last letter she ever got from her grandparents, meeting the other Harpers, the mission itself. . . she didn't tell me what happened afterwards, but I know enough. But. . . there's things she shouldn't have to let the others know. But I told her I'd think about it, and I figure you'd know about it already."

Now Robin laid his left hand on Amy's knee. "Something personal for Shaw?"

"Oh, yeah," Amy said dully. She looked at Robin, and asked, "What do you know about elven ears?"

Robin blinked, and said, "Okay, let's start with the obvious; they're pointed. . ."

"Robin. . ."

"They're sensitive; about twenty percent better hearing than your average human. Shaw, I'd say she's at about fifteen percent, being half human. . ."

"Robin."

The fairy rubbed his chin. "Then there are the differences between elves from different dimensions. . ."

"Robin!" Amy snapped.

"Whoa, excuse me!" the fairy hissed. "You did ask."

"Tell me something that Shaw would keep *secret* about her ears," the Amazon ordered her boyfriend. "Something even I wouldn't be told."

"Well, there's the fact. . ." Robin said before stopping with an "urk." He stared at Amy, who was quietly watching him, before saying in a very hushed voice, "She told you that?!?"

"Without realizing it," she admitted weakly. "Robin, go ahead and zip through my head, and maybe you can help me figure this out. Okay?"

Robin watched her, and nodded. He stared at her for several seconds, and finally leaned back with an expression of shock on his face. To Amy's surprise, there were actually tears starting to form in his eyes.

"Robin?" she asked, turning sideways on the couch and crossing her legs on the cushion.

"Remember what I said earlier, about her impressing the hell out of me?" he asked her.

"Yeah," the girl said. "What about it?"

"I didn't know jack shit about what should impress me," he confessed, now looking at his girlfriend. "The kid's lucky to be alive, let alone sane. Hell, Amy, let alone the person she is now."

"She did go temp crazy, Robin," Amy reminded him.

"And the fact that is *was* only temporary. . ." Robin shook his head ruefully. "Amy, I'm telling you, we knew she was strong-willed, but this kind of steel just doesn't come along every century. I mean, Gods above, Amy, if I compare her to the people who took shit like this, this being only one incident, with all the stuff she HASN'T told us about. . ."

"Compare her to who?" the witch asked with a sincere need to know. "Robin, I gotta know if she'll get through this. Who can you compare her to?"

"You really wanna know?" Robin asked her. When her eyes started to darken, he pointed at her. "Hey, don't get that way with me, sweetie. I'll tell you who she compares to, maybe she's not equal to them, but she comes damn close."

Amy settled down, and letting out a breath she said, "Okay. Go ahead."

"To start off; Moses." At Amy's raised eyebrows, he said, "The fx in 'The Ten Commandments' doesn't begin to come close to the stuff he went through for his people, believe you me."

"Okay, I'll take your word for it," she said. At the cross look from Robin, she held up her hands. "No more smart comments, I promise."

"Cool," Robin said. He rubbed his chin, and said, "Okay, next up; Xena. Everything on that show *really* happened, and if you don't believe me, ask Gabrielle. Hercules; Hera killed his family, brutally killed them, so he could relate to Shaw VERY well. Saladin; he watched as the Christians, led by King Richard, invaded his homeland to take Jerusalem. And of course, there's Joanie. I don't have to tell you what SHE went through, but I can tell you that she knew what her fate would be, and she stuck it out all the way to the end."

Amy just listened in stunned silence, as Robin made comparisons between various people and her cousin sleeping deeply in the next room.

"You really think so?" Amy asked quietly.

"Remember what Shaw told us in the library," Robin reminded her. "She said that Joanie herself compared the two of them together. What more proof could you want?"

With a soft sigh, Amy slumped back in the couch. She thought for a few seconds, and asked, "So do I tell them?"

"Shaw said she'd prefer it," Robin said, leaning back himself. He let Amy lay her head on his shoulder, and told her, "You just need to consider whether or not it's for the others to know."

"Okay," the blonde witch said, smiling. "I'll think about it."

"Good. In the meantime," the sprite said, standing up and reaching for a bag on the floor, "I rented us some movies. So we could keep awake in case she wakes up."

"Let's see," Amy said, grabbing the bag. She scanned the titles, and sent a sidelong glance at the grinning fairy. "Are you trying to tell me something, Mr. Goodfellow?"

"Whatever could you mean by that, Ms. Madison?" Robin asked with false innocence.

"Oh, let's see," she said, pulling out one tape at a time. "Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare in Love, Ghost, Titanic. . .the *Director's Cut* of Titanic, and. . . oh, yeah. Being a guy, you had to get an action flick. Mask of Zorro."

"Now wait a minute," Robin protested, taking the last one, "think about this; the original Zorro, in this case Anthony Hopkins, trains the new Zorro, Antonio Banderas, who falls in love with the woman, Catherine Zeta-Jones, who happens to be the daughter of the original Zorro, although Antonio and Catherine don't know it at first."

Amy considered it, and said, "And nothing gets blown up?"

"Well, a couple of gold mines. . ."

"Uh huh," Amy laughed, shaking her head. "Okay you convinced me. What's up first?"

They made it through Mask of Zorro, which Amy enjoyed (much to Robin's surprise), Ghost ("a classic," Amy said), and they were halfway through Titanic when a loud thud came from Robin's bedroom. Without hesitation, Amy sprang to her feet and ran for the bedroom, whereas Robin got up and slowly walked after her while lamenting the loss of the romantic atmosphere.

He walked to the doorway, and saw Amy talking with the clearly upset Shaw. They were talking about Shaw's friends from the town of Santa Carla, but Shaw didn't seem convinced by Amy's reassurances.

"Amy, I saw them," Shaw protested through weak sobs. "Lying on the floor, the vampires standing over them."

"And you shot the vamps, and Edgar and Alan came back. They're Immortals now," Amy said with strong conviction. "You gave 'em orders to call Steve, and they'll be here Sunday afternoon."

"But I do not remember!" Shaw snapped. "I do not remember that!"

"What DO you remember?" Amy pressed softly. "What's next?"

"I. . the gas station," Shaw said, confused. She shook her head, telling Amy, "when Kenny needed my assistance."

The half-elf looked at Amy, asking in fear, "Why can I not remember, Amy?"

"I don't know," Amy said quite softly, hugging the ranger close to her. "But we'll figure it out."

"Maybe I can help, you two," Robin offered, startling the cousins. "Shaw, there is a way I might be able to find out what's up with your memories, but it's up to you."

Shaw stared at him, finally asking, "You are talking about telepathy?"

"Yep," the fairy nodded, before letting out a sigh. Entering the room, he said, "I know you don't like it, and I don't do it to anyone without permission. Your choice, kid."

"Do it, Robin," Shaw said without reservation, surprising both of the others. "Robin, I do not like this, not being able to remember things."

"Okay," the Prankster said softly, leaning against the wall. "Here goes nothing."

He stared at Shaw, his eyes narrowing while she felt the touch in her mind. Finally, he ceased tensing up, and after a minute his eyes widened, and the feeling faded.

"Robin, what is it?" Amy asked, not liking the look on Robin's face. "What's wrong?"

"I'm not trying to freak you two, but good news or bad news first?" the fairy requested.

"Just tell me, Robin," Shaw answered, a trace of fear in her voice. "Please."

"Okay," Robin sighed. He shoved his hands into his front pants pockets, and said, "There's no trace of any Quickenings, or any trace of McGwire's memories that you were seeing. But, a lot of stuff's still in your head."

"What?" Amy asked, holding Shaw's hand. "Just say it, Robin."

"Languages, fighting skills, other stuff. I just peeked, so I don't know everything," Goodfellow explained to the stunned women. "Now listen; these aren't exactly memories, they're skills, learned talents. And somehow, they're in Shaw's thought patterns."

"In plain Thorass, Goodfellow," Shaw crossly said.

"When the Quickie was inside of you, it was like you had two minds inside your body," he started. He walked forward a bit, and said, "But now, the stuff that you used from McGwire, it's like YOU learned the stuff. Like you learning English or karate, the stuff 'feels' like you. There is NO trace of that Immortal in you. Zip, zero, nada. It's all Shaw Hunter."

Both Amy and Shaw looked somewhat reassured, but Amy looked at him again. "What about her memories?"

"That's the bad news," Robin said with sadness the girls could hear in his voice. "I thought, maybe they're blocked or repressed. But, they've been erased. Like words off a blackboard. There's. . . there's nothing there to remember."

"What. . . what have I forgotten?" Shaw asked, not to Robin or anyone in particular.

As her eyes started to tear up, Robin said, "There might be a way, kid. Telepathy ain't an option, but if I talk to Jenny, maybe I can come up with something. But it's just not likely; like I said, the memories are just gone. I'm sorry, Shaw."

Shaw shook her head. "You tried, Robin," she said quietly. She let out a loud yawn, and said, "Thank you."

"Okay," Robin said with a smile. He looked at Amy, and asked, "Can I talk to her for a second?"

Amy nodded, and got up after giving Shaw's hand a gentle squeeze. She walked out and closed the door behind him. Robin just stayed where he was, and Shaw watched him.

"Do you remember telling her?" he asked.

Shaw nodded, and tears began falling. "Yes, Robin, I remember. That is something I am glad of."

"Good," he told her. "I'm gonna go talk to Jenny, see if we can figure something out. Go back to sleep, but Amy'll be here if you need her."

Shaw nodded, and said, "Thank you, Robin."

"No problem, Spockette," he said, turning and heading out. However, as he was pulling the door shut, Shaw snapped something in Elvish before the door was shut. Once he pulled it shut, he stopped and sputtered wildly.

"I am NOT a pervert!!" he shouted.

Amy asked, "Say what?"

"She called me a pervert for having two women in my bedroom at the same time!"

"Well, you did," Amy pointed out with a grin.

"Not like THAT!" Robin blurted out.

"Oh, I'm sure it was completely innocent," she said as she folded her arms. "Serves you right for calling her 'Spockette.'"

"Hey, she gave me the headache," Robin said grumpily. "She could've at least warned me about the mental block." Seeing Amy's look, he told her, "Her empathy and will make it hard to read her. Enough power can get through, but damn, it hurts."

"So now what?" the Amazon asked.

A look of anger passed over Robin's face, but he quickly buried it. "Well, I'M going to Jenny's. It's ten o'clock, they may still be up. YOU, you're stuck with rewinding Titanic. That way, we can start over when I get back."

*****

Giles/Calendar Residence
Sunnydale, California
Late hours
23 November 1998

Jenny Calendar walked over to the door, wincing at the heavy knocking that had woken her up. Giles was still sleeping, the couple having decided to call it an early night.

<Of course, the fact that Giles snores means I'm the first one up in the morning,> Jenny thought with irritation as she tied the sash to her robe. She looked through the peephole, and after an initial burst of surprise, opened the door to reveal Robin Goodfellow.

"Robin, it's late."

"I figured you'd be awake," he said, noticing Jenny standing there in her robe. "Sorry, but we need to talk about Shaw."

Jenny's face became concerned, and she stepped to the side to let him in. He walked in, and started looking around, admiring the changes in the apartment.

"Good job, Jenny," Robin said off handedly. "Nice touches to the place."

Closing the door, Jenny said, "Thank you." After a pause, she asked, "Robin, how is she?"

"She's a wee bit scared, but she's okay," the fairy offered, removing an old book on the occult from the shelf, and leafing through it. "But I need to ask you something about that spell you cast."

Jenny took a seat, and said, "Of course, Robin. What do you want to know?"

"Oh, how about. ." Robin turned around, with a less than pleasant look on his face. "How about you tell me what's going down with you and Millie."

"Millie?" Jenny asked, puzzlement rampant on her face.

Now Robin smiled, showing teeth. "Yeah, Millie. You know her; buxom girl, brown curly hair, favors blades out of Arabian Nights, has a MAJOR unicorn fetish. Old friend of mine."

Rather than the denial or defensiveness he'd expected from the Gypsy, Jenny just let out a tired sigh.

"How did you know?" she asked.

"The spell you cast," he responded, setting the book back on the shelf. "You see, every magic has its signature. Not only the caster, but the source of the magic as well. Sort of like the mystical handwriting on the wall."

"Or a fingerprint," Jenny added.

"Yep," Robin said. He sat down on the far end of the couch, and said, "So, imagine my surprise when our half-elf wakes up, sans a couple days' worth of memories, and when I take a peek, lo and behold, I sense not only your signature in the gaps, but Millie's too. Not Arty's, since it was her spell. Care to explain?"

"Do you remember the mystery woman eliminating vampires while the others were chasing Shaw?"

"Yeah, they thought. . ." Robin said before putting two and two together. "That was Millie?"

"Yes, Robin," Jenny confirmed. "When I tried to call Artemis last night, Mielikki came instead, since She was the one covering our backs."

"Are you sure it was Millie?" Robin asked with a bit of skepticism. "She say anything that could prove Her identity?"

"She refused to call Shaw by any name other than her real one," Jenny said with a grin. "She also called you an 'old friend.' And there is the matter of Her being the one who really gave the Lady Goddess that nickname you drive her insane with."

"Crazy Finns have big mouths," Robin muttered. "Never could let me have fun without taking her share of the credit. How'd she come back to Earth?"

"You'd have to ask her, or Artemis," Jenny said helplessly. "But Mielikki gave me the spell to erase memories that She felt Shaw shouldn't have to suffer through. You know how she feels already about leaving. Mielikki felt she shouldn't have to live with things that weren't her fault."

"It was Millie's idea?" Goodfellow asked, looking straight into Jenny's eyes. "This is how She wanted it?"

"Yes, Robin, it was."

Robin nodded thoughtfully, and leaned forward, thinking. "Jenny, there's something been bugging me about this."

"What is it?" Jenny asked.

"Well, a big chunk of what Shaw's missing is the twenty-four or so hours between Santa Carla and Portland," the fairy said. He waved his hands a bit, and said, "It doesn't take twenty-four hours to get that far. I mean, she didn't sleep or anything that we know of. But that's one of the blank areas, and I know she would've mentioned something before the spell. We know pretty much everything else."

Jenny thought about it, and said, "I don't know, Robin. What will you do about this spell, now that you do know?"

"Are you kidding? I'm not telling," Robin said, standing up. "Remember the Big Vow I gave to Arty and Obe? I'd give it here, in a heartbeat. But you know what Millie's being here means."

"Shaw might get a visit from the Goddess she loves so much?"

"Well, maybe. But what I meant was," Robin said evilly, with the smile to match, "is that it's not going to take ten years for Tall Dark and Stupid to pay for what he did."

This one time, Jenny's Romany heritage truly surfaced for everyone to see, as a small, mystery-filled smile came to her face. A smile that those who knew about Gypsies would realize that this woman was thinking evil thoughts.

*****

Johansen Residence
Sunnydale, California
24 November 1998

Ulric Johansen was putting on the wool coat he wore to handle the cool weather of late fall, preparing to leave for work, when a knock sounded at his front door. Picking up his car keys, Ulric walked over to the door. He stopped, and shifted his perceptions to the protection spells that Shaw had laid upon his house in her time here. He quickly determined that there was no threat; in fact, one of the presences on the porch was Shaw herself.

A burst of silent relief passed through the Catholic priest; he'd been worried when the child had called him from the place she went to virtually every day to train and work with those who battled the forces of darkness he knew to exist in Sunnydale. Her explanation had been that something had happened, and that she had to leave town. She had only asked that he call and inform Principal Snyder that she was ill, to cover her absence.

He knew she hated deception, and that she didn't like asking him to do the same, but he realized that sometimes it was better to look at what was best for the world in general.

<And this child is fighting for a world she has taken as her own,> he thought, hoping that she'd pulled through whatever threat she'd faced.

Cautiously, he opened the door, and found Shaw huddling inside of a black duster, a look of pure exhaustion, beyond mere physical fatigue, in her bloodshot hazel eyes. It reminded him of young men he'd talked with during the Gulf War, when he had been called as a reservist Chaplain serving the Allied Forces in Arabia. What she looked to be suffering from was quite simply an unmatched case of combat fatigue.

Standing behind Shaw were two young people, a blonde-haired young woman in her late teens, and a brown-haired young man in his early twenties.

Shaw stepped across the threshold, and quietly said, "Ulric, I am so sorry for leaving."

Before Ulric could answer, the young woman followed the half-elf in, quickly followed by the young man. The teenager put gentle hands on Shaw's shoulders, and said, "Shhhhh. Let's get you to bed."

Shaw looked hesitant, but deferred to the girl's judgment.

"All right, Amy," she whispered drowsily, before turning towards her bedroom. "This way."

Ulric felt his eyebrows rise; so THIS was the cousin Shaw had spoken of so often, and so tenderly, in their common conversations about her activities. However, beyond the details of her activities, she had kept the identities of her other comrades secret from him, not only for their protection, but his as well.

As Amy led Shaw into her room, Ulric turned to the waiting young man next to him.

"Please, take a seat," the priest said, waving towards the couch. As the men sat down, Ulric in his armchair, he asked, "So, may I ask what happened, young man? What happened to the child?"

The man sighed sadly, and answered, "She got messed with, by a guy I *really* don't like. She should be the one to give you the details, but here's the skinny; Shaw got a bad guy's spirit put inside of her, she had to fight it trying to drive her nuts, while running cross-country trying to find a cure, and in the end, took out a big-time demon to save Connor's life, and helping some of the others, who'd gone to bring her home, kick the crap out of the jerk responsible for this entire mess."

"Does she still have this spirit inside of her?" Ulric asked with deep concern.

"No, it's been sent to its proper afterlife, at Shaw's request," the other said, rubbing his face. "She told the Dipwod of War to take it back to Olympus where it belonged."

Ulric sat there, stunned into silence. After a few seconds, he asked, "Could you give me the identity of the person responsible for Shaw's situation?"

"Ares," came the answer without the slightest reluctance.

"The Greek God of War?" Ulric asked softly, rubbing his chin.

"You don't believe me," the seated man observed.

"Young man, I am from Finland," Ulric said politely, felling a little perturbed at the irreverent attitude being displayed by the grinning man on his couch. "Shaw is a priestess of Mielikki, a Goddess once worshipped by my own people. So yes, I do believe you."

"Millie always loved those forests in the wintertime," the young man said with a smile. Leaning close to Ulric, he whispered, "But between you and me, She never could get used to the idea of skiing."

"Millie?" the priest asked dubiously.

"Yeah, the Lady of the Forest," the young one said. "Known Her a long time. Used to drive Arty nuts back before the AD's rolled around with some of the antics we pulled on her. Those were the good ancient days."

"Arty?" Ulric asked, now at a complete loss.

"Artemis," Amy said crossly, coming into the living room and sitting down next to the man. "I'm sorry you had to put up with this fairy's b.s., Father Johansen."

"Please, Amy, call me Ulric," the Father said with a light smile, pleased to meet the person who represented Shaw's ties to Earth. "We need not be formal here."

Amy smiled at him, and leaned forward to shake his hand. "I'm Amy Madison, Shaw's cousin through her great-grandma and my great-great-grandma."

"And how do you know of Artemis?" Ulric asked calmly. "Do you study mythology?"

The young man started snickering, to cross looks from Amy and Ulric.

"I apologize for my soon to be EX-boyfriend Robin, Ulric," Amy snapped with frustration. "I'm an Amazon, and a witch. Artemis is my Patron Goddess, as Mielikki is for Shaw."

Ulric's eyebrows lifted as he realized that Amy was no ordinary young woman, but a warrior just as his charge was.

"Now I begin to understand how you do so well against the nosferatu," he commented dryly. He looked at the young man who'd been identified as Robin. "Amy called you a fairy?"

Robin's smile grew larger, and he said, "Robin Goodfellow, at your service."

He got the reaction he'd hoped for; Ulric's calm demeanor left as his eyes grew quite round, and Amy rolled her eyes at his attitude.

Ulric slowly recovered his composure, and looked to Amy. "Is he serious, Amy?"

"About who he is, yes," Amy muttered. "The rest of the time, not very. But don't call him Puck. Different guy."

"I see," the Father said, tapping his fingers together. "It also explains Shaw's occasional comments, when she questions Amy's taste in men."

Now it was Amy and Robin whose eyes went round, and they both stammered a bit before recovering.

"Like I said, she's just like you," Robin told Amy.

Amy ignored the barb, and asked Ulric, "Did Robin tell you the basic stuff?" When the priest said yes, Amy continued. "She's gonna be going through some rough stuff, 'cause she was really put through the ringer. She's not going to be fighting for a while, but she'll still be helping us out. She's on a guilt trip for leaving, but there was nothing that could've been done. Also, there's been some stuff people are gonna do for her. ."

"I received the letter from Immigration, Amy," Ulric informed her. "I know Shaw does not have Indian blood, so I assume that I have the version used for general dissemination, including the altered DNA test. Did you know that I have the results that do show the matches between you and Shaw?"

"What?" Amy asked with confusion. "I didn't give them a sample."

"I sent in a few hairs from your brush," Robin said with a grin. "Now you've got a way to tell your dad and stepmom."

"Ohhh, I'm gonna get you for this," the witch promised under her breath. She turned back to Ulric, and said, "Maybe Shaw has something to those comments."

"Also, there is the fact that she will be staying in Sunnydale until she finishes the senior year of school," Ulric pointed out.

"I know, but where's she gonna stay? Ulric, her staying with you was supposed to be temporary."

"I have already decided that, Amy," Ulric said, leaning forward a bit. "Amy, I have seen the look in her eyes when she walks in from somewhere. This is no longer a place to stay for her. This is her home, and I will gladly let her stay until she finishes her education. She has offered more than once to help pay for expenses, but I have refused. She does not seem to grasp the concept of guardians and wards very well."

The three laughed a bit, and Robin said, "She's going to be asleep for

most of the day, so we're heading out. Good to finally meet you, Ulric."

Ulric stood and shook Robin's hand, and then Amy's.

"It was good to meet you as well. If you ever need my help, your group is always welcome. Here, or at the Church," Ulric said. Then with a rare touch of humor, he added, "I can give you as much holy water as you need. I have connections."

The Amazon and fairy drew a blank look until Ulric pointed his finger at the sky. Robin just rolled his eyes, but Amy smiled.

As they headed out door, Ulric said, "Oh, Amy? It would seem that Robin has feelings for Shaw."

Both of them stared at each other, and then Ulric.

"I do?" he asked dumbly.

"He does?" she asked dumbly.

"Yes, he does." Ulric turned to Robin, and said, "I have seen that look before, Robin. I have two younger sisters, so I know of what I speak."

Robin visibly relaxed, and Amy smiled evilly.

"So, my boyfriend has feelings for my cousin, huh? Care to explain, Goodfellow?"

Robin started stuttering.

*****

Sunnydale High School
Sunnydale, California
24 November 1998

As Amy walked into the lunchroom, she got in line behind Willow and Oz, who nodded greetings at her.

"Hey, Amy," Willow said cheerfully. "How is she?"

"Whacked out, and in bed," Amy said tiredly. Smothering a yawn, she said, "Not that I'm that far behind. Something happened with the spell, Will."

Amy quickly explained what had happened, and the inability of Jenny or Robin to come up with a solution to Shaw's wiped memories. A look of sympathy came over Willow's face. At a loss for a theory themselves, the two younger witches and the werewolf took their lunch trays and headed over to their usual table, where Buffy, Xander and Cordelia were waiting.

"Hey, Amy," Xander called with a grin. "Late night playing babysitter?"

Amy gave him a soft glare. "Don't start, Xander. Shaw's not in good shape, and doesn't need any more grief. I don't either."

"Whoa, Amy," Xander said, holding his hands up. "Just kidding."

Amy's face fell, and she said, "Sorry. It was a long night, and Robin renting five movies didn't help me get any sleep. Shaw's lost some of her memories from the weekend, and it wigged her big time. Robin talked to Jenny, but nothing can be done about it."

Buffy softly asked, "What did she forget?"

"Edgar and Alan becoming Immortal," Amy said first off. "She remembers the shots, and seeing the vamps, but lost everything after that 'til she got to the gas station. She forgot most of the flight to New York, and doesn't remember meeting Frank. She saw Angel and Blade. .

"We're cool there," Buffy interrupted quickly. "Steve got a call from Mike Hammer in New York. Same night, Hammer got Angel and dusted him at the World Trade Center."

A ripple of shock passed through the Slayerettes, and Xander said, "Dead Boy's dead? I mean, for good this time?

"Yep," Buffy said, not smiling. "But you know that it means we lost the old Angel, too. I hope his soul's where it belongs, wherever that is."

After a moment of silence, Willow asked, "What else did she forget?"

"She forgot leaving Sunnydale. She remembers waking up, but the next thing she knows, she's pulling into the alley in the Hummer in Santa Carla," Amy said softly. "So she doesn't remember shocking Joe at all. Not that I wasn't tempted to do the same thing to him, after the way he treated her when she came looking for help."

"Hey, it was a wacky sitch," Buffy said, derailing Amy's irritation. "Steve talked to him about it, and Joe already feels bad. He's sorry."

"Anyway," Cordelia said, changing the subject, "we were talking, and Buffy came up with an idea that we need your help with."

"What's that?" the blonde witch asked.

"Well," the Slayer said as she played with her vegetables, "I was gonna talk to Steve about going to see that Harkness lady, maybe see if we could get Shaw once of those 'special' pets like we've got."

"Yeah," Cordelia added, "she's the nature girl, she loves animals, having a pet or something might loosen her up."

"She has loosened up, Cordelia," Amy said, with a slight sour cast to the words. "Believe me, she has."

At the doubtful look on Xander's and Cordelia's faces, Amy said, "Fine, don't believe me. But I can prove it."

"How?" Oz asked with a neutral look.

"If you got plans for tonight, cancel," the witch ordered. "We'll talk after training."

"But. ." Xander and Cordelia started to say, but froze at the look from Amy.

"Forget it," Amy said, daring the two to defy her. "I'm gonna talk tonight, and you're gonna listen. It's a one-time deal, so you two can go one night without."

Willow was surprised by the hard look to Amy's face. "Amy, what do you want to talk about?"

"She's gonna tell us what happened to Shaw when she got hurt," Buffy answered for Amy. When Amy looked at her, she said, "She said she told you, Amy. I thought you were gonna wait a bit to tell us."

"No, I'm gonna get it out of the way," the witch said as she played with her fork. "I'm gonna tell you all of it, all five hours worth."

"Five hours?" Willow asked in a hushed voice.

"Yep, that's how long it took her to tell me," Amy muttered. With a sharp glance at Xander and Cordelia, she said, "Including some stuff that *some* people had better not make jokes or stupid comments about, because it's really not something that people should know. But she'd rather you know then kick your asses because you couldn't keep your mouths shut."

"Hey!" Xander and Cordelia said together.

"You think I'm joking?" Amy said dangerously.

"No, I think you're wasted," Buffy said. "Tone it down, Sabrina."

Amy looked at her, and her shoulders sagged. "Sorry, guys. I'm worried about her."

"We all are, Amy," Willow said, gripping Amy's arm. "You guys had the talk, right?"

"Yeah, and we're gonna talk more this weekend," she said, looking at Buffy. "Especially Saturday."

"What's Saturday?" Xander asked through bites of his hot dog.

Buffy started to answer, but Amy beat him to it. "Shaw and I get started on the cousin thing," she spit out. She looked at Xander, and said, "Goddess, Xander, how can you eat that thing?"

"What?" he asked, his mouth still half-full.

"Well, after how you reacted to what Shaw said she planned to do to Ares with her sword. . . ."

As she trailed off, Xander's face started to flush, and he quickly got up and headed for the exit. Politely excusing himself, Oz went after him.

"Don't tell me Oz is sick, too," Buffy said disbelievingly.

"No, he's just going along to make sure Xander doesn't choke," Willow assured the others. She turned to Amy, and said, "That was SO gross, Amy."

"Well, it was to get the boys away from us," she said. "Buffy, you almost blew it about Saturday. Shaw and I are going out by ourselves, and I'm not letting anything ruin it."

"What IS Saturday?" Cordelia asked.

Buffy, Willow and Amy all looked at the brunette, and as one they answered, "Shaw's birthday."

Cordelia's eyes went wide, and she hissed, "And you weren't going to say anything?!?"

"Not with Oz and Xander around," Amy said with a grin.

"Oh. What've you got in mind?" Cordy asked.

"I thought maybe a little 'girls only' thing on Friday night," Buffy said, sharing Amy's grin. "Figured it'd make her more comfortable without every single one of us there. I was thinking, us, Randi, Jenny, and Kendra."

"Yeah, right. Kendra's worse than Shaw as far as having a life goes," Cordelia muttered, before saying, "Did I just say someone has no life worse than Shaw?"

"Yep," the other three answered.

"Okay. But, what do you buy a half-elf from another dimension for her birthday? Swords and bows?"

"I've got an idea," Willow said. "I need to look some stuff up, but I'll get with you and Buffy by tomorrow."

"Good," Cordelia said. "Is this gonna be a 'keep it simple' thing?"

"Yeah, that would be better," Amy said. She looked at the door, and said, "Here they come."

Xander and Oz made their way back to the table and sat down, with the former giving Amy an evil look.

"That was sick, Amy," he said. "I'd expect that from Robin, but you? Geez."

"Whatever," Amy said, trying to keep the smile on her face from breaking out into full-fledged laughter. "Now, what's the debate about the spirit guardians?"

"Well, Xander thinks she should get one of the dogs," Cordelia said sourly. "I think the cat would be the better one for her."

Xander smiled at the other four. "Hey, Shaw's into the whole 'Call of the Wild' lifestyle. That had a wolf in it. She's aggressive, willing to do whatever she can to defend us, and she's totally loyal. That sounds like a wolf, doesn't it?"

"And your side, Cordy?" Amy asked dryly.

"Well, I look at Shaw, I just think 'cat,'" the Amazon explained. She waved her hands around, and said, "I mean, she's the speed and agility type, can spin and twist with that sword like nobody's business, 'cept for Buffy, and now she's even got the claws like a cat. Hell, she's even got the same ears..."

Cordelia's words died in her throat as Amy locked onto her eyes with a very unfriendly look. She tried to talk, but for some reason she couldn't get past "uh."

"Uh, Earth to Amy," Buffy said worriedly, waving a hand in front of Amy's face.

"Don't make jokes about her ears," Amy said evenly, not breaking her stare. "It's not funny, trust me."

"Whoa, okay, okay," the Amazon warrior said defensively. "Geez, Amy. The way you're acting, you'd think Shaw's ears were some kind of G-spot or something."

Amy's jaw dropped and her eyes went wide, and her head plopped forward onto the table with a loud bang. She let out a loud moan of despair as the rest of the Slayerettes just stared at her in confusion.

Amy raised her head, and snarled, "Chase, you got five seconds to promise me you'll never talk about this again."

"Wait a minute. ."

"Five. Four. Three..."

"Okay! I promise! It was a joke!!"

Amy's eyes bled over just the slightest into a darker shade of blue, and she snarled, "No. It. Isn't."

The Scooby Gang just looked at each other, trying to figure out what the problem was. They seemed to figure out the point at the same moment, and it was Buffy who said what was probably on every single one of their minds.

"I think I could've lived without knowing that," the Slayer observed.

"She said this'd happen," Amy moaned out loud. "She said Xander or Cordy would make a stupid joke about it before I said anything."

"Hey!" Xander and Cordelia snapped together.

"Okay, enough," Buffy hissed. She looked at Amy, and said, "Amy?"

"Okay," Amy said, slowly regaining control of herself. "We're cool."

"Good," the Immortal said with a sigh of relief. She looked to Willow, and asked, "So? What's your call, Will? Is Shaw a cat person or a dog person?"

"Hawk," Amy muttered as she started to pick through her food.

"Excuse me?" Xander asked. "Did you say, 'hawk?'"

"She had a hawk," Amy said more clearly. "Found him as a baby, had him about ten years."

Everyone just watched her in surprise. Even Oz's eyebrows twitched.

"A hawk?" Cordelia asked dumbly. "As in a bird?"

Xander continued with, "As in a bird with really big, really sharp claws?"

"They're called talons, Xander," Willow offered, just as surprised as the other Slayerettes.

Buffy looked at Willow, and asked, "Do guardian spirits come in 'hawk?'"

"Yeah, right," Amy said, starting to truly smile for perhaps the first time all day. "The dogs turn into dire wolves, and the cats turn into saber tooth tigers. Our luck, Shaw's 'hawk' would turn into a phoenix and burn down half of Sunnydale."

"A hawk that turns into a great big, flaming bird?" Willow asked. She then shook her head, and said, "That would not be a good thing."

"It'd take out a lot of vamps for us," Xander offered.

"Great. Vamp on the barbie," Buffy said as she took a bite of her ham sandwich. After swallowing, she said, "Well, I'll talk to Steve, and see what he says. Amy, has Shaw figured out how she's going to explain missing a week?"

"Allergic reaction," the blonde witch said promptly. "We talked about it this morning at Ulric's. We both figured, she's physically drained, so we're gonna use the caffeine problem to her advantage."

"Good thinking. Jenny and I can do up the faked medical stuff on Steve's computer tonight," Willow said with a grin. She looked up suddenly, and said, "Shit!"

Everyone stared at Willow as if she were a complete stranger. Seeing their looks, she started to blush, but quickly said, "Airhead brigade."

Before Harmony and crew could come all the up to the table, Buffy turned in her chair and said, "What do you want?"

Aura gave them a haughty glance, and with a toss of her hair, said, "Nothing to do with you, Summers. We just wanted to ask Madison something."

"Oh, really," Amy dryly commented, folding her arms and leaning back in her chair. "What do YOU want?"

"Oh, there's been some talk going around," Ambrosia said, taking up the thread as she tapped her fingers on her binder. "About you and the farm girl."

"Farm girl?" Willow asked innocently. "What farm girl?"

"Hunter," Aura snapped at the redhead. "And who invited you into this conversation, Rosenberg?"

"Maybe you should've asked for privacy," Xander said. "You're the ones talking in public."

"Kiss my ass, Harris," Aura said.

"Sorry, my ass is the only one he kisses," Cordelia said with a sneer. "Find your own man."

Aura started stuttering, and Amy took advantage of the pause in her offensive.

"Okay, Aura," she said, starting to reach into her purse, "what did you want to know about the Scottish army brat?"

Aura started to talk, but paused, and asked, "Army brat?"

"Yeah, ask Harmony. She knows," Amy added as she pulled out some papers and started to sort through them.

"I do?" the leader of the Popular clique asked dumbly.

"She does?" Francesca asked as well, looking just as dazed as the rest of them.

"Yeah, Shaw told me you read her private records," Amy added. "Said that you asked her about some stuff."

"I did?" Harmony asked dumbly, so frozen to that spot that even her freshly permed blonde hair didn't twitch in the slightest.

"Yeah, she liked it that you actually ask about stuff instead of making jokes about it," Buffy added. "She said that unlike *some* idiots you hang out with. . ."

"HEY!!!" Aura, Ambrosia, and Francesca all shouted.

"You have the brains to find out if the info's true or not. She doesn't mind people knowing stuff about her, she just doesn't like people making rumors or stupid jokes. Like about her dad and grandpa," Buffy finished with a smirk. "Or like how she took out the guy that tried to break into the school two weeks ago?"

Ambrosia turned and looked at Harmony, her hair flying out and spreading like a fine Oriental fan. "What is Summers talking about? About Hunter's dad and stuff?"

"Uh, well," Harmony said, now shaking in her two hundred dollar designer boots, "Hunter's dad and grandpa were, like. . ."

"What?" all three of her partners in idiocy asked.

"English Navy SEALs," Amy said with a smile.

"Oh, right," Aura snapped. She spitted her blue eyes onto Amy's, too stupid to see the malicious humor dancing in Amy's dark blue pupils. "Like we'd believe that."

"It's true," Harmony said. When every single head involved in the conversation turned to her, she gulped, her Adam's apple bouncing like a rubber ball. "Shaw knows all kinds of kung fu and stuff."

"No, she doesn't," Oz said, stunning everyone by speaking more than one or two words at once. "She knows karate, tae kwan do, judo and tai chi. And that's just the stuff without weapons."

"Weapons?" Aura asked with growing fear, the hairs on her neck starting to stand on end.

"Yeah," Cordelia smiled. She shrugged and said, "She told you she likes playing with bows and arrows."

"And she likes antiques," Willow added with a grin. "Of course, in her case, that's antique swords."

"She collects swords?!?" Ambrosia asked, now shaking in hysterical fright, if her trembling tresses were any indication.

"Yeah, she gets 'em from a couple of cousins on her mom's side," Cordelia said with the most evil grin ever seen by her former friends. "They have four hundred year old samurai swords. One's an antiques dealer, the other runs a karate school. They're so good, they make a sushi chef look like Jason or Michael Myers."

"Shaw isn't too bad, herself," Buffy said with a grin. "She's given us a few demos with the kendo stick."

"A what stick?" Harmony asked, although she seemed to actually be interested rather than frightened.

"Kendo stick. It's a wooden sword, you use it to train, instead of using the real thing," Buffy said. When the airheads looked at her, she said, "Hey, my honey was in the Army. Shaw's given him some rough sparring matches."

"Oh, really?" Ambrosia asked gleefully. "What *kind* of sparring matches?"

Buffy's smile was lost, and she said, "The same kind Steve and I gave the nutcase that tried to rip off the Mickey D's last winter. Remember THAT little 'sparring match?'"

Ambrosia and Francesca both gulped as they got the message Buffy was relaying to them very quickly and clearly. Aura didn't seem to get the idea.

"Like Hunter would go for a guy," she snapped, raising her chin so that she looked down her nose at the seated Slayerettes. She turned back to Amy, and said, "Well, Madison? People have seen her make the googly eyes at you since she got here. Care to say anything?"

"You bet," Amy said harshly, standing up and walking forward.

"Now wait a minute. ."

"Shut the fuck up, *bitch*," the witch ordered, stunning the ditzy blonde into paralyzation. She got into Aura's face and said, "For one thing, *bitch*, everyone knows I have a boyfriend, and that I've had said boyfriend for months now. So THAT rumor can just die right there, 'cause you're wasting your time and breath. As for Shaw Hunter, let's ask Harmony about that."

Before anyone could comment, she turned to Harmony. "Tell me, Kendall. What's Shaw's middle name?"

"Uh..." the blonde bombshell said, biting her bottom lip, tasting her cherry colored lipstick, before saying, "Madison. Why?"

"It's after her great-great-grandma, who happened to be American," Amy said, the most evil grin in the history of Sunnydale High School forming on her face. "That woman, Alison Madison, had a sister named Lydia. You might have heard of her great-granddaughter. Catherine Madison."

"Your mom?" Aura asked, not liking the look in her opponent's eyes. "So what?"

Amy held up the paper she'd taken from her purse, and said, "I got this from Father Johansen today, while visiting Shaw, who's really sick right now. Not that I needed it, 'cause Shaw and I already knew. But it's proof positive about what we already knew about each other. So, I figure I'll let you see it to show everyone what an idiotic bitch you really are. Read it and weep."

By now, the entire cafeteria was listening in, wondering what had started this entire situation. As Aura read the paper, she only grew more confused.

"A DNA test? What's that for?" the incompetent one asked without a clue.

"It's to determine blood relations, dumbass," Amy snapped. "One sample is Shaw's. The other sample's mine. And notice the highlighted areas. They match. Which means. ."

"You're related," Harmony said, gulping in frozen terror as Amy now looked at her.

"Well, seems Shaw was right. You DO have some brains," the Amazon said evenly. "I gotta admit, I didn't believe her about that, but yeah, we're related. We're cousins."

She turned back to Aura, and hissed, "And the reason for the googly eyes she makes at me are because I'm the first frickin' family she's even known about, much less had, since her grandparents were *killed* by some sick fuck a few years ago. If you read her records, you'd notice that the day her grandparents died was the same. She's been by herself a long time, and she's had to be a survivor, all alone, that entire frickin' time. She's been through crap that would make you have nightmares for the rest of your life, so if I were you, I'd leave her the fuck alone, or I'll kick your blonde bimbo ass all over this frickin' school. And that goes for the rest of you. Got it?"

Before the Foolish Foursome could respond, Amy started over.

"Oh, as to why she's not at school?" she snarled. "She had an allergic reaction to something. So before you four morons go 'oh, she's sick get her out of our school!', she'll be back on Monday. And if you start messin' with her about THAT, she AND I will kick your asses."

"Hold on a frickin' minute, Madison!" Harmony snapped, starting to get some backbone back into her system. "What's the big deal about an allergy? Hell, I'm allergic to cat hair. Lots of kids are allergic to something."

"But you have a cat, Harmony," Aura pointed out.

Harmony rolled her eyes. "Hello, there are shots for that. Besides, I love that stupid furball, whatever she does to my clothes."

"You're lucky, Kendall," Buffy said with feigned sadness. "Your allergy can't kill you."

All four bimbos now stared at the Slayer.

"That bad?" Harmony asked. Turning to Amy, she asked, "How bad was she?"

"It was really iffy for a while," Amy said, referring to the situation with Ares to project some real emotion into the lie. She shivered dramatically. "Does the word defibrillator mean anything to you?"

"Defibba what?" Aura asked, looking even more lost than usual.

"Oh, I know what that is, Aura," Harmony said with her brilliant smile, hoping to impress the other students. "That's those electric paddle thingies they use when . . ."

She stopped as the idea penetrated, and her face went pale as she realized what Amy was saying.

"What is it, Harm?" Francesca asked, wanting to know what those who had true brains were discussing.

"Let's try again for you three idiots," Cordy said with a great big grin. "Let's try.... flatlined."

"Code blue," Oz added.

"The white light," Buffy continued.

"Beep. Beep. Boooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo," Xander said to top it off as the exclamation point.

"You mean. . ." Harmony asked, surprising the Scoobies with the sincere emotion in the girl's voice.

"For about five minutes," Amy confirmed. <From Shaw's perspective, talking to Frenchy, at least.> "But, she's got the Madison temper and the MacLeod stubborn streak. Told whoever met her at the white light to kiss her ass 'cause she wasn't done here."

"Why doesn't that surprise me?" Harmony muttered, remembering the night Shaw had saved her in the cemetery.

The other three women formerly known as the Cordettes quickly ran away, silently freaking over what they'd been told by Shaw's friends. Harmony stayed behind as the other students went back to their lunches, watching Amy, who nodded to her.

"She told me what she did, Kendall," Amy said softly, with no trace of emotion. "She also said you actually broke down and thanked her for saving your life. Those idiots won't find out from us."

"She really told St. Peter to kiss her ass?" Harmony asked.

"You believe in that stuff?" Willow asked in wonder.

"Duuuh. Like what she took out were really gang bangers," Harmony whispered. "Hell, maybe I don't know what they really were, but I'm not that stupid, no matter what anyone else thinks. But like anyone would believe me."

"We do," Buffy said firmly. When Harmony looked at her in shock, she looked the ditz in the eye, and said, "Who the hell do you think takes those things out so YOU can go out and enjoy yourselves every night?"

"Yeah, right, Summers," the popular one said, although they could hear the lack of the normal arrogance to her voice. "Like anyone'd believe anything you said."

A silent look passed between Harmony and the Slayerettes, a look of shared knowledge and secrets that could not be shared. After a few seconds, the gossip queen turned to leave.

"Kendall."

She turned to Amy, and in her most arrogant voice, said, "What, loser?"

"The truth? Shaw met someone at that light, who told my cousin she had to come back, 'cause people like *you* needed her," the witch quietly said, so that what she told Harmony was just between them. "Wasn't anyone she loved, like her mom and dad, but I think you might have heard of who she did meet."

"Oh, right," Harmony said, pretending not to care. "Who was he?"

"She," Amy corrected with a smile. "It was a woman, about nineteen, black hair, brown eyes, decked out like a Knight of the Round Table. Had a French accent, got burned at the stake as a witch. Sound familiar?"

Harmony thought about it, and her eyes went wide.

Amy nodded at her realization. "Told my cousin they were a lot alike. But try convincing Shaw of that. THAT'S who you owe your life to. Think about it."

Harmony walked off, leaving the Slayerettes to themselves once again to talk about the matters they had at hand.

*****

Johansen Residence
Sunnydale, California
Early hours
25 November 1998

Ulric's eyes snapped open as a piercing scream tore through the darkness of his house. He turned on the small reading lamp which sat on the table next to his bed, and reached for his reading glasses. He got out of bed, and slipped into his robe and slippers.

He exited his room, quietly closing the door behind him. He slowly made his way to the door to Shaw's bedroom, and by standing there, he could hear the half-elf softly crying from inside.

"Shaw?" the Finnish priest called as he tapped on the door. "Child, are you all right?"

A short, sharp reply barked out in another language, which Ulric translated as an emphatic "NO!" He waited a few seconds, but hearing nothing as her crying suddenly stopped, he sighed in sorrow for what she'd gone through.

"If you wish to talk," he said in a soothing tone, "I will be awake for a bit."

He then turned and started for the kitchen for a glass of water.

As Ulric drank from his glass, he silently pondered what he knew of what had happened to Shaw, and how she would deal with what had happened to her.

<I hope the child reaches out to someone.> he said to himself as he put the glass into the sink. <Perhaps Amy or Robin.>

"Ulric?" a small voice said from behind him.

The priest turned to see Shaw standing there, completely unprepared for what he saw.

The young woman was standing barefoot, clad in a pair of sweats, obviously having dressed before coming out. But her hair was a tangled mess of waves, and her eyes were red from both exhaustion and tears. Most surprising of all, she was hugging herself, shivering from a great deal of fright.

<Dear Lord. She looks so small.> Ulric thought in disbelief. "Yes, Shaw?"

"Ulric, I. . ." she said, trembling in front of him. "Please, I need someone to talk to. . ."

"Come," Ulric said, taking her around the shoulders and gently guiding her to the sofa. They sat down as one, and Ulric just sat there, waiting for the ranger to start speaking.

Instead of the hesitant manner in which she'd asked to talk to him, the words began to pour out of her mouth like flood waters through a broken levy. She told him of the mission long ago, leaving out the preliminaries, but holding back nothing about the mission itself. She then switched to the hard years in the dimension she bad been stranded in for the decade and more preceding her escape to Earth. She also told him everything she had experienced on Earth, save for the secrets that she felt she needed to keep; Jonathan and Mark, the MacLeods, Santa Carla, Jehanne and the prophecy she had been part of, her temporary death and return, and everything up until this very moment.

After revealing the events that had shaped much of her recent existence, she began to confess her fears; that she might revert to being the hard person she had been; that she might already be beyond redemption; the fear that her friends, Amy, Willow and Xander in particular, would be harmed because of her.

When the final sentences ended, she just sat there, so quiet that Ulric could not even hear her breathing. The tears kept falling, but more slowly, as if she were running out of them.

Ulric silently made himself a promise at that point. <Blessed Father, when next I talk to Jonathan, I will tell him not to be such a master of understatements. When he told me this child was special...>

"Shaw," he softly said, gaining her attention, "I see nothing that you need to be forgiven for. Yes, you have made mistakes, but you have learned from them. And, if there was anything for which you needed forgiveness, I would say you more than balanced those scales when you gave your life for the others, however temporary that condition was. The fact that you did it so selflessly makes your actions even more special."

"Do you truly think so, Ulric?" Shaw asked quietly, no longer acting as a priestess talking to a priest, but as a frightened young woman talking to a confessor. "Are you truly certain?"

"Child, I would say that any cosmic scales of balance are tipped so far in your favor that you need never worry about that. If anything, I would say you are greatly owed for the good you have done in your lifetime."

He paused for a breath, and said, "And now, you have a chance to do more than survive, or to exist. You now have a chance to enjoy living your life. Embrace it."

"I do not know how," Shaw hissed, looking miserably sad.

"Begin with what you can," Ulric said, and taking on a small smile, added, "But keep in mind that Amy, being a young woman like yourself, might be better to tell you how to do such things than an old priest such as I. But, there are places you might start."

When Shaw looked at him, he said, "You have a passion for music. I have heard you practice, and despite your protests to the contrary, I think you are quite an accomplished flautist, in your chosen fields of music from the British Isles. And I appreciate the fact that your tastes run more towards mine than those of your younger friends."

The comment achieved Ulric's goal; she actually stopped crying and managed to crack a smile, however strained.

"You also have a fierce desire to learn and read," he pointed out needlessly. "You have a thirst for knowledge, not only for our world, but for many things. Mythology, fantasy, legends. Also, I know you have, thanks to Connor MacLeod, who I hope to someday meet, developed a taste for very old blades."

Shaw blushed at that observation, and said, "I was going to make arrangements concerning some of them. And I do not. . ."

"Collect them for monetary gain," Ulric finished with a smile. "I know, what you value is the history of the artifact rather than what it could bring as far as currency. For example, tell me about one of those blades."

"The rapier," the half-elf said, following his command more easily than she did many of Steve's. "Seventeenth, perhaps eighteenth century, French design. In particular, for the King's personal guards, known to most people as the Musketeers. The rapier I have belonged to Slava, a Musketeer turned into a vampire in the late 17th century."

"You took it as a trophy?"

"I. . that, or to give to someone who needed it," Shaw said. "It was Giles who told me how the sword fit into the history of Slava when he was a living, breathing man. I could not part with it, knowing it was once used for a noble purpose of protecting one's King."

"And thus it was the history of the sword that led you to keep it, rather than its value."

"Yes," Shaw said, and after a pause, she looked down. "I never told you of the second sword I brought into your home, the one you never saw me wield."

"I know of which one you talk about," the Catholic said tenderly. "What about that blade?"

"It was given to me by Connor, but Jehanne said it was destined for someone else," the ranger said slowly. She now looked at Ulric, and said, "They call it the Sword of St. Catherine. Jehanne wielded that sword when she was mortal, rather than like she and Jonathan are now."

As the sword was named, Ulric's eyes went blank, and he watched her for several seconds, and Shaw began to grow concerned.

"Ulric, why does she compare me to herself?" the half-elf asked helplessly. "If anyone would know, it is you or someone who shares her faith. I have never done anything like her. ."

"She was this Jehanne?" Ulric asked in awe.

"That is her real name, from the French language, yes," Shaw told him. "Ulric, when I sacrificed myself two months ago, she was the one who told me I must come back. She. . . said that I have something else to do here, on Earth. But it had nothing to do with my desire to stay here, as I figured that this mission would come in its own time. I. . I do not ever want to leave this world."

"I know, Shaw," he said, placing a supportive hand on her shoulder. "Shaw, your friends in Immigration sent me the 'official' version of your records and DNA sample. And, I do know that you will be staying here to finish what most of us would consider a senior year in high school. You have started, even if you do not realize it, to plan for your future here."

Shaw nodded, and said, "Ulric, my staying here was only supposed to be for my original mission, and I thank you for your hospitality. I will talk to Steven, and see if there. . ."

"I will not hear of it," Ulric said firmly, yet gently.

Shaw looked into his face and said, "But, Ulric. ."

Ulric placed a hand on her cheek, and said, "Child, I have seen the changes in you these last two months. You have found something which you wish to fight for, a cause worth dying for. You have opened up your heart once again, to your friends, especially to Amy. I can see it in your eyes, even if others do not, that you have loved this cousin of yours since you first encountered her. Also, you have come to see this place as more than somewhere to go. This, in your mind, is your home. And, knowing that this is the first true home you have had in so long, I would never think of asking you to give it up. In fact, I have already stated to Amy that this is your home for as long as you want it to be, until you finish the schooling you receive at the high school, or if you so decide, at the local colleges. The choice, quite simply, is yours. The room is yours, it has been for quite a while. It is for you to make it as you will, all I ask is that you keep your 'collection' hidden in your closet so that visitors do not question why my ward collects very large, very sharp metal objects."

"Because my sponsor is an indulgent cousin who is an antiques dealer," Shaw muttered, referring to Connor's adoption of her. <Am I truly starting to think of this as real?>

"I understand," Ulric said with a dignified chuckle. "Shaw, this is your home as well as mine, and I will not hear of you giving it up after all you have suffered, and all you have done for others. The time has come for you to be given some of the things that you give to others. And your home is the first step in that direction."

Shaw looked at his eyes, which held complete sincerity, and she started crying again, not the raw emotions that she had shared with Amy and Buffy, but just out of thanks that the first step in her recovery had been taken, thanks to Ulric's order that she not leave. She leaned into him, and he just held the half-elf as one would a frightened child, for over an hour as she softly cried into his shoulder.

*****

Part 15: Enter The Wizard, Stage Left
(Today's Topic, Arrogance In Archmages: Simply A Common Trait, Or A Class Requirement?)

Sunnydale High School
Sunnydale, California
25 November 1998

As the time approached 6:30 AM, Jenny and Giles quietly walked down the hallway on their way to the library, thinking about the long tale that had been told to them, as well as all the others, including Kendra and Joe N'Gato, after their training session the previous night.

It had taken several hours, and Amy had needed to take more than one break to collect herself when she had gotten to the actual mission itself, but in the end, she had finally finished by telling them what Mielikki herself had said to Shaw, and the group had headed home for the night while Duncan and Amanda patrolled for them.

"I still can't believe the reactions last night," Jenny muttered. "Rupert?"

"I also found it hard to believe, Jenny," Giles said, wrapping one arm around her waist as she leaned her head into his shoulder, despite his tweed coat. "I expected something like this from you, Willow and Buffy, and perhaps Randi as well, but not the others."

"It was surprising enough to see Cordelia crying," the Romany woman said softly, "but Oz?"

"Well, it was dignified, I will give him that."

"Yes, one tear, and he says, 'Major bummer,'" she said, thinking back to the musician's subdued reaction that had only reinforced his reputation for being unflappable. "And Cordy didn't even say something like 'It's dust in my eye,' or something like that."

"Yes, anyway. . ." he said as he pushed the door open to the library, and suddenly stopped short.

"Shaw?" the Englishman said, seeing the half-elf sitting at one of the tables, looking almost as dead on her feet as she had two months ago when the prophecy about the Lament Configuration had been fulfilled. "Shaw, what are you doing here?"

"I. ." she hesitated, and with a sigh she stood up and said, "I needed to discuss some things with you. About my schooling."

Jenny disengaged herself from Giles and walked over to Shaw. "Shaw, you should be at home sleeping," she informed the half-elf. "You shouldn't be coming to school today."

"I am not," she confessed meekly. "I could not sleep, and. . .I only wanted to talk to you, and I will go out through the passage so that the bastard does not see me."

"Shaw, for all of Snyder's faults, he is not a bastard," Giles said with a slight undercurrent of sternness to his voice. "Troll or goblin is acceptable, but not bastard."

"What did you want to talk about?" Jenny asked, stepping towards the office. "What's on your mind?"

The trio walked in, and sat down, Giles behind his desk, Shaw in one of the chairs and Jenny on the edge of Giles' desk, which drew a wince when she just jumped up the slightest and landed with a dull "thump."

"I. ." Shaw started to say, before looking at Giles. In a weak voice, she asked, "Giles, did I violate your trust by leaving?"

Giles and Jenny both felt their mouths open, and Giles gently said, "Shaw, we've told you we do not blame you. ."

"I meant the library," she interrupted, swallowing nervously before continuing. "You trusted me to watch over the library, and I left when this happened."

"Yes, and you made arrangements through Ulric to contact Principal Snyder and have it closed during our respective absences," Giles pointed out. "It was very quick thinking on your part, and you did an outstanding job under any circumstances."

"If I were you, Rupert," Jenny said with a grin directed at Shaw, "I'd be worried about her taking your job when she graduates."

Shaw's head shot up, and she started to jabber a protest before she saw the grins on their faces. She quickly clamped her jaw shut, upset at their joking about what she considered to be a very serious matter. In a few seconds, she buried the anger, and sighed.

"Jenny, that was not funny," she tiredly commented.

"We're trying to get you over your guilt, since we don't think you should be feeling it," she countered. She came off of the table, and said, "Is there anything else, Shaw?"

"Yes," she admitted, not looking Jenny in the eyes. "I have retained some abilities that used to be Raymond McGuire's."

"Memories?" Giles asked.

"No, learned talents," Shaw clarified, now looking at Jenny. "Including some knowledge of computers."

Jenny said, "Ahhhh. Now I see why you wanted to talk to me. You're worried that this might give you a grade you didn't earn."

"You know me far too well," Shaw said with a sigh. "Jenny, you know how I feel about such things."

"You'd rather earn it," the Amazon said with a nod. "But I don't think it'll be a problem, if you consider something."

When Shaw looked at her with a cocked head, her indication that she was confused about something, Jenny said, "Shaw, Robin told me that there are gaps in your memories. It would stand to reason that there are also gaps in these skills you somehow retained. It could be something difficult, or something basic that, if you don't have it, could lead to problems with more advanced knowledge. Sort of like trying to do intricate fighting moves without knowing the basic ones."

"I understand," the half-elf said, now more assured. "Then it will not be inappropriate to continue in your class?"

"I'd say it'd be better. That way, if there are gaps in your knowledge, you can fill them in," Jenny put forth. She shrugged, and said, "And next year, if your skills warrant it, you'd simply be put into a higher level than you would have been in if you hadn't gotten that skill."

Shaw considered the way Jenny was looking at this, and said, "Very well, Jenny. I had not thought of it in that manner."

"Because you're physically, mentally, and emotionally drained," Giles said, taking off his glasses and setting them down. "You need to concentrate on recovering your energy before thinking about more complicated matters such as school. Even so, we admire your straightforwardness in coming to us with this information. Many would have kept such things secret, to their own advantage."

"I know," the ranger said. She looked at Giles, and told him, "There is more, Giles. More abilities, and I will discuss this with Steven later, but. . I wanted your impressions as well, and perhaps. . perhaps you could tell me how to handle the discussion when I do have it."

"Well, as I think you need sleep more at this time, I think it would suffice to give us a brief overview," the Watcher said, taking out a piece of paper and pen. He looked at Shaw, and said, "Would you like me to give this list to Steve?"

"Absolutely," Shaw said, before her shoulders sagged. "Another obvious thing I did not think of."

"Because you're a Sleepyhead right now," Jenny said to bolster her spirits. "Trust me, even Rupert gets sloppy when he doesn't get six hours of sleep, let alone going without for a full four days like you did."

Giles, trying to get away from Jenny's teasing, asked, "Where would you like to start?"

"The most frightening thing of all," Shaw said with a tremble. When the others started to grow worried, she said, "I now know how to drive automobiles with automatic transmissions."

Jenny and Giles looked at each other, and then Jenny smiled. "If that's the most horrifying thing you kept, I think we're in good shape."

"Firearms," Shaw said next, drawing the teachers' attention once again. "I know how to use magazine-fed firearms, handguns and. . Uzis and what you call an M-16."

"Well, McGuire was a warrior," Giles pointed out. "It's not surprising that he had some such training."

"But how do I know how to do it right?" the scared half-elf asked. "Giles, how do I know that this knowledge I now possess is the correct knowledge?"

"As far as firearms go, that would be Steve's department to handle," Giles said with firm resolve. "But the fact that you want to make sure you do such things correctly speaks well. What is next?"

Shaw looked up, and her eyes took a slightly distant look. She said, "Fighting styles. Bastard sword, what you call a Claymore, not that I could lift something that large in any event, quarterstaff training which enhances my own training from my teenage years, and . . . something called savate."

She looked to Giles, who smiled. "A French martial art, which emphasizes kicks and leaps. And that would seem to fit into your preferred style of fighting."

Shaw nodded, and then said, "And I now have some knowledge of wrestling."

"Freestyle or Greco-Roman?" Giles asked.

"Both," Shaw replied.

Giles and Jenny looked at each other, and the Brit said, "Well, it would seem that our sparring matches are about to become somewhat more difficult."

"No kidding," Jenny said with a smile. "It's bad enough she knows her styles, Connor's style, and Steve's style, now she has another Immortal's style. As if you're not tough enough an opponent now, Shaw."

Shaw didn't comment, and Jenny asked, "Anything else?"

"Languages," she said softly, but with much more comfort than the other topics. "As much as I hate the source of this knowledge, this I do not mind so much."

"So you picked up a couple new languages?" the Gypsy asked with a smile. "That's not bad."

"It was more than a couple, Jenny," Shaw muttered, seemingly embarrassed. "You know that I spoke five languages before coming here. English was my sixth."

"Yes," Giles said, continuing, "And you were taking lessons in French and Spanish from Steve. Are you trying to tell us you no longer need those lessons?"

"That might be considered something of an understatement," the now-blushing priestess said, looking at the floor.

"Shaw, how many languages can you speak now?" Jenny asked, wondering why Shaw was so hesitant.

"Counting the five I knew before coming to Earth?"

"Yes," Giles said, hoping that she would finally give a straight answer.

After a pause, Shaw answered, "Nineteen."

Giles dropped his pen, and it landed with a clatter in the silence that followed that one, simple word. He and Jenny both stared at her, and she could feel them as if they were tangible.

"I did hear the word, nineteen," Jenny remarked in a dull voice.

"Yes," Shaw whispered. "I did not think there would be enough room in my mind for that many words."

"I know I'm going to kick myself for asking this, but. ." Giles said, but he never got to finish.

Shaw looked at him, and in rapid-fire fashion, she said firmly, "Common, Elvish, Kartakan, Thayvian, Sithican, English, French, Spanish, Irish and Scottish Gaelic, German, Italian, Latin, Greek, Russian, Arabic, Hebrew, Lakota and Navajo."

Giles just stopped at the opening letters of Thayvian, and looked at her with a look of impatience. "Would you repeat that, perhaps at one-tenth or so of the speed that you said it the first time?"

Jenny started laughing at this point, and Giles said, "You find this amusing?"

"She could have said forty, Rupert," the computer teacher said between coughs as she tried to regain control of her breathing. "I'd consider you fortunate she didn't go on."

"Yes, quite," he muttered. He then paused, and asked, "Shaw, if you please?"

She slowly repeated the listing of tongues she now spoke, and when he finished, said with kindness, "Well, you do realize that this will help us with research greatly. I'm sure that Steven will think much the same thing, Shaw."

"And when you do join Section Seven," Jenny added, "I think we can safely say that linguistics will be your specialty. Don't you?"

Shaw nodded, but said, "Giles, there is a bit more."

"What else could there be?" he asked, taking up the pen again. <I'm going to have bloody writer's cramps.>

"As far as Russian, Hebrew, Lakota and Navajo go," she said reluctantly.

"Yes?" the Watcher asked.

"Those are the ones that I cannot read or write," she finished, stressing the word "cannot."

"Wait a minute," Jenny blurted out, now surprised. "Not only can you speak nineteen languages, you can read most of them, too?"

"Yes."

Giles was caught speechless for a moment, and said, "Well, I'll pass this on to Steve over the phone. And this weekend, perhaps you can meet with him. As far as how to handle the meeting, I would say that you should just handle it in your normal fashion. Just because you're resting from combat does not mean you are any less one of us than you were before."

"I know, I just wished to be certain of these things," she said slowly. With a shake of her head, she told the teachers, "Things are so confusing right now, with what happened, what is happening concerning school and my home. . . I appreciate your help. You understand these things so much better than I do right now."

After a slight pause, she continued with, "That is why I call you mentors, rather than teachers, because you have a combination of knowledge and wisdom that is almost unheard of in people of your years."

Jenny broke out into a bright smile, while Giles blinked, and looked somewhat taken aback.

Jenny said, "Thank you, Shaw. Now go home and get some sleep."

Shaw nodded, and said, "Thank you." She turned and headed out the door.

As the door closed, Giles overcame his shock. "I can't believe she just said something like that."

Jenny looked at him, and asked, "What? It was a very nice compliment, and she meant it from the heart."

Giles looked at her, and quietly said, "Well, I do suppose it's the most polite way someone's ever called me an old man."

At this point, Jenny once again broke out into spasms of laughter, and it left Giles looking at her crossly.

"Jenny, please don't tell me you find that amusing," he said with a small deal of frustration. "I would have thought that Shaw of all people would have been above such disrespect."

"Rupert," she choked out, sitting down in the chair since she couldn't stand up under her own power, "What were her exact words?"

The librarian thought about it, and said, "She said that we have knowledge and wisdom almost unheard of in people of our years."

"And just how old is she?" the technopagan asked with a very disarming grin.

Giles said, "She's. . ."

"A decade or so older than you, and nearly twice my age," Jenny finished with a laugh. "Really, Rupert, it's not like someone with your combination of knowledge and wisdom to miss such a compliment from someone who could be your older sister."

Giles went back over Shaw's comment, and smiled. "Now I do get it. Thank you, Jenny."

"No problem," she said. She gave Giles a considering look, and asked, "Perhaps tonight, we should compare notes and see whose wisdom is greater?"

"I would like that challenge, so I accept quite emphatically," he said, before a loud curse and some crashing noises broke their trains of thought.

Jenny and Giles quickly jumped up and headed for the door.

*****

Shaw exited the office, closing the door behind her as she walked out. With a yawn, she began to walk towards the back wall, where the secret door stood. As she reached the door and laid a hand upon it to exit the library, a gruff, elderly voice called her.

"Excuse me, Miss, but I need to talk to you," the voice called.

Instantly on her guard, Shaw turned and walked back into the main library, and saw seven men standing near the doors. Six of the men were fairly young, wearing black-colored breastplates and black clothing. The seventh man, however, put them to shame.

Despite his apparent age, he virtually radiated arcane power. His beard was very long, and he carried a large staff. The difference between this man and archmages she had heard of was that this one wore a normal, very unflamboyant work shirt and blue jeans. As she appraised the strangers, the old man appeared to be doing the same to her.

"Ah," he said, his voice becoming somewhat chipper, "you're the one, all right. Good. This'll save us a lot of time."

"I beg to differ," Shaw said, folding her arms. "I prefer not to spend my maidenhood on someone who cannot even wear the correct costume of a wizard, let alone someone who is a month late for Halloween."

The old man started to sputter, while his entourage looked stunned that she would be so forward with him. Before he could regain his composure, Shaw added a second comment.

"Also, this is a library, not a brothel. I would suggest that you ask for better directions the next time."

Now, the apparent leader started to look angry. "Young lady," he said in a commanding tone, "please let us drop the masquerade. It's quite unnecessary."

"I agree," the half-elf agreed coldly. When the man nodded in satisfaction, she said, "If you exit the library, the mens' restroom is thirty feet to your left. You may change in there."

"Madam," the man said, growing impatient, "I want to make this as painless as possible."

"Then leave my library," Shaw ordered. "Then I will not be forced to inflict pain upon you."

The six armor-clad men tensed at her comment, and Shaw began to instinctively tense as well. In her fatigued state of mind, it didn't occur to her to call for her teachers sitting in the office only a few feet away.

The "mage" looked quite offended that the half-elf was giving *him* orders, and glared at her with a heavy scowl.

"Young *woman*," he snapped, walking forward a step, "I have to know what you've done here, who you've talked to, and ensure that you have not contaminated this plane. . ."

"As your presence here is contaminating my library?" she asked rhetorically.

Now simmering, the man snarled, "Do you have any idea who I am?"

"Of course," the ranger said with a perfectly straight face, "A pathetic bastard apprentice whose conceit should be punished by having one of his lackeys shove that staff into his posterior."

With that observation, the man said, now quite angry but with some restraint, "My dear, the quicker and easier we make this, the sooner I can open a portal and send you back where you belong."

Shaw's eyes widened at those words, and she realized it might be prudent to summon Jenny and Giles. She quickly turned towards the office.

"Of course, I have to do this the hard way," he muttered, his eyes going blank.

So intense was his concentration that he didn't see Shaw stiffen as she felt the touch in her mind. She quickly whirled back towards the seven men, and seeing the obvious signs of a telepath attempting to breach her defenses, she did what she felt best, given what she had gone through over the last several days.

She charged, bellowing, "YOU SON OF A BITCH!!!"

The scream startled the elder man back into reality, not that he'd made any progress in breaking through Shaw's defenses. The six bodyguards were more prompt, as four moved to cover him, while the other two, knowing that their leader did not want to harm the young woman, moved to intercept her.

Anticipating their actions, the enraged half-elf sprang forward and suddenly leaped, extending her arms and clotheslining both of the ebon-garbed men off of their feet. As she landed, on her feet as opposed to crashing full out on her back as her targets did, a third armored figure stepped forward, rushing to subdue her.

Her eyes narrow, Shaw shouted out a light spell. As the globe of light exploded into existence around the man's head, he hesitated in his charge as his sight was taken away from him.

That second was all it took for Shaw to launch and land a nasty side kick straight into the man's jaw, her right heel crashing into the jawbone, directly under the chin, snapping his head back as if he'd taken the most brutal uppercut possible from a heavyweight boxer.

As the light-blinded man fell backwards, Jenny came out of the office, quickly followed by Giles, and the two could only sit there, stunned at the scene developing before them.

A fourth bodyguard charged forward as Shaw hopped to her right. As soon as she planted her right foot, she let out a kick designed to bring her left shin across her next opponent's midsection. On instinct, the man moved to block her attack, and in doing so, played directly into her hands.

As he caught her foot, Shaw jumped upwards. Corkscrewing her body, as it came parallel to the floor, the toe of her boot connected with the base of the man's skull with a loud "crack" that had everyone in the library wincing as the sound echoed through the library.

Shaw's two original victims had now regained their feet, and moved to grab her. As she landed and planted her arms on the floor, her sensitive hearing picked up their steps. She quickly spun on her side, kicking one man's legs out from under him, sending him to the floor once again.

By this time, the second man had recovered, and when Shaw took enough time in getting back to her feet, he grabbed her upper arms from behind, and pinned her arms behind her back.

Now caught, Shaw reacted the only way she could; she started thrashing like an animal, screaming at the top of her lungs in a mixture of Common, Elvish and English. This shook Giles and Jenny out of their lethargy, and they started to move forward. The dark-clothed man who had been dropped to the floor twice stood up, and seeing two new people entering the fray, started to block their path, for all the good it did him.

The man threw a punch meant to stun Giles, but the Watcher grabbed the man's arm, and threw him past himself to Jenny, who picked him up by the breastplate, leaving finger marks where she had grabbed him, and threw him back into the office through the open doorway.

<At least it doesn't damage the library.> she thought with a smirk.

The last two bodyguards moved forward to engage Jenny and Giles, while the old man, walked up to the frantically struggling Shaw, a look of displeasure in his eyes.

Sensing the man she saw as the threat coming near her, Shaw quickly bent forward in her captor's arms. The man, thinking that she was going to try to deliver a head butt, leaned back to ruin her leverage. What he didn't see was her right leg cocking back between his legs. As he leaned backwards, she shot up, using his momentum to add more force to her blow. Throwing all of her weight into one desperate move, Shaw landed her blow with perfect aim.

The toe of her boot drove straight into the staff-carrying man's testicles.

With the force of the blow, the man was literally lifted off of the ground, by nearly four inches. His mouth opened into an "o" of shock and pain, and his eyes started to roll back into his head as he fell to his knees.

The action stunned the man holding Shaw, as well as Jenny and Giles' new opponents. But, the Amazon and Watcher did not suffer such shock. They quickly drove fists into the two mens' jaws, knocking them down and out. The man holding Shaw loosened his grip just the slightest, and Shaw took the opportunity to deliver the head butt the man had previously expected, jerking forward and sending her skull crashing between the man's eyes. As he released her, the half-elf moved forwards, heading for the man who'd tried to invade her mind.

Giles grabbed the man Shaw had head butted, while Jenny saw the threat that Shaw now represented to the pain wracked old man.

Shaw drew back her right fist, extending her left hand to guide her aim. As she delivered the blow meant to drive this human's nose through the back of his head, a hand with a grip of iron clamped onto her arm just behind the wrist and spun her around, ruining her chance to end what she saw as a threat.

She used the momentum to throw a knife-edge with her left hand, reacting on instinct and fear, but the blow was blocked, and the person she saw in her vision grabbed both of her arms, prompting her to struggle anew.

She started screaming in Elvish, but the figure kept screaming her name, until it finally penetrated that it was Jenny that was trying to tell her that it was over.

As Shaw slowly regained what little calmness she had, she began to tremble, and the Gypsy could see what had prompted her to take this action.

<Goddess,> Jenny said, looking at the priestess's wild eyes, <Terror. Sheer terror and pure adrenaline. That's all she has going for her.>

As she stopped struggling, and her quaking increased, Shaw began to cry, not able to stop herself, until she finally collapsed as her adrenaline faded, leaving her without even enough energy to stand under her own power.

Jenny caught her, and just took her into her arms, and Shaw just lay there, crying and quietly saying, "No more," over and over again.

By this time, the old man was slowly, albeit very painfully, getting to his feet, while four of his underlings were now recovering from the beating they'd taken from Shaw, and to a lesser extent, Jenny and Giles. The four men still conscious picked up their sleeping comrades and started to back off, away from the three Slayerettes.

The old man very slowly straightened up, and he let out a loud moan of pain. He looked at the computer teacher holding the shivering ranger, and sighed.

"Thank you, Ms. Calendar," he said gratefully. "It would seem I owe you my life."

"Don't think I won't collect, Merlin," Jenny snapped out loud. "What the hell did you say to her?"

Merlin stiffened at her harsh words, and said, "I was attempting to find out what this *Harper* has done since coming here."

"Well, you certainly have a strange way of introducing yourself," Giles said from behind Jenny, hovering protectively over her. "Why did you attack her?"

"HER?!?" the archmage of Camelot blurted out in amazement. "Mr. Giles, she attacked me and insulted my mother in the process. My bodyguards were only attempting to protect me."

"Didn't do a bloody good job of it, if you ask me," the librarian said, looking at four Knights of the Grail rubbing various bumps and bruises on their bodies while the other two were just regaining consciousness.

"Mr. Giles, I have been charged with the defense of humanity and I have to make sure that those who shouldn't know about alternate realities have not been told of alternate realities by anyone from one of said planes of existence," Merlin spelled out.

"I see," Jenny said harshly. When Merlin looked to her, she asked, "Is that only for full-blooded humans, or for people who are only fully from Earth, rather than just one-eighth."

"I beg your pardon?" the wizard asked, trying to understand what she was talking about. "What does this have to do with this Torillian?"

The way he said the last word ripped Shaw from her mumblings, and she ripped away from Jenny's arms. Turning around and facing the archmage, she gave him a look that indicated she would be more than happy to continue their little "discussion," even if she weren't physically capable of doing so.

"What it has to do with me is that my great-grandmother was from Earth," the half-elf spelled out. "One fourth of my human blood is of Earth. This has been common knowledge since I came here."

"Yes," Giles added in support of Shaw. "Merlin, hasn't Steven sent you his reports on Shaw's activities since joining us in September?"

"Oh, yes," Merlin snapped. "Unlike that travesty he sent me regarding the battle in Los Angeles, his reports concerning THIS one have been very precise. But one problem is that he left out the fact she's from Faerun."

"Faerun?" Jenny asked, not knowing the name.

Shaw answered before Merlin could. "Faerun is the continent where I was born." She turned to Merlin. "If the theory I have heard about Toril being an alternate reality of Earth itself is true, Faerun is the analog of Europe, is it not?"

"Yes, quite so," Merlin said, caught off guard at her deduction. "That said, I knew this child was a half-elf, but if I'd known she was Tel'Quessir, I would have acted much more quickly."

"Meaning you would have tried to send me back before now?!?" Shaw screamed. She started to stalk forward, but was stopped by Jenny's strong grip on her shoulder. "You have no right!!"

"Shaw, what are you talking about?" Jenny asked, not knowing why she was acting this way.

"This mother wenching bastard was going to send me back to Toril!" she shouted in anger, although Giles and Jenny could hear the fear in her voice as well.

"Shaw, maybe you misunderstood. . ."

"He said we was going to open a portal and send me back where I belong!" Shaw babbled out. She turned to Jenny and cried, "He was going to rip me away from the first home I have had in twenty-five years and send me back to a world that means NOTHING to me!"

"Shaw. ."

"And when I tried to get you, he tried to invade my mind! I will not tolerate it!!"

Jenny and Giles paused, and looked at Merlin, who couldn't believe the outbursts from this person who had just manhandled four of the elite warriors the Order had to offer.

"Is this true?" Giles asked Merlin, looking him in the eye.

"When she tried to leave, I decided that she was not going to cooperate, so I had to try to get the information I needed," the magician replied, taking his staff and setting it on the nearest table. "She was proving most uncooperative."

"Did you even tell her your name?" Jenny asked, somehow knowing the answer.

"Well. ."

Giles sighed, and said, "Jenny, would you mind taking Shaw and waiting in the office, please?"

"No," Shaw said firmly. Giles started to explain, but she didn't give him the chance. "I will not leave you alone with this bastard apprentice and his lackeys! I will not see you unprotected, Giles."

"Shaw, I am more than capable of protecting myself, and in your state of exhaustion, you would not be much help," Giles said gently. Seeing the look on her face, he added, "I am not disparaging your abilities, I simply know that you are at the limits of your stamina. In fact, I think you've all but depleted whatever reserves of energy you could possibly have. Merlin only wishes to gain information about your time here, and despite his less than stellar approach to asking you, I can fill him in on the relevant details as far as your time here in Sunnydale. The rest can wait, perhaps until later. You have my word, I plan to discuss things with Merlin in a purely British manner."

Shaw looked into Giles' eyes, and then at Merlin, giving him a look of pure hate. "He has already said that he has these reports that Steven has written. I think he knows enough of what I have done here."

"Oh, I know what you've done here," Merlin snapped out loud. "You've established your reputation as a ruthless, revenge-filled vampire hunter, you've assaulted Knights of the Grail, including using a taser on Joe N'Gato, you nearly killed four of my son's Bureau 13 Agents with your magic, and you were responsible for Ares calling up one of the more infamous demons in Earth's history. Need I go further?"

Shaw's jaw had started to clench, and tears started to flow down her cheeks, but Jenny took her around the shoulders.

"Shaw, Rupert will be okay," the Romany Amazon said calmly. "I wouldn't leave him alone if I thought he was in any danger."

Merlin looked at the Gypsy, and then to his bodyguards. "Knight Captain, your men can wait outside. If I recall correctly, the little shit who runs this school has the most annoying habit of showing up at the most inopportune times."

The leader of the six-man contingent looked hesitant, but after glancing at the young woman responsible for the near embarrassment of his detail, he saw that she was simply frightened. Despite his feelings about being manhandled so easily, he gave Shaw a nod of deep respect, and led his men out of the library.

"Sufficient for you?" Merlin asked with a bark.

Instead of answering, Shaw looked at Jenny. "This is Earth's version of Elminster?"

"Yes, he is," Jenny answered.

"Now I see why you have been fighting for six months without pause," Shaw said to her. "Without you fulfilling his duties, this world would have burned long ago."

Merlin started sputtering at her insult, but Jenny just turned and guided Shaw towards the office.

"Well, it will certainly be nice to talk with a civilized person about this," Merlin said to Giles.

As he watched them go, Giles asked, "Merlin, did you talk to Horace Gordon?"

"Yes, Horace told me about Steve training one of 'Elminster's finest,'" the wizard said, coming forward.

"Then you know the situation in which Shaw found herself last weekend?"

"Yes, but I have to know about her activities," he said.

Giles nodded, placing his glasses into his jacket pocket. "And you still attempted to violate the sanctity of her private thoughts?"

"I had to. ."

"Thank you," Giles said.

The Watcher spun and drove a roundhouse straight into Merlin's jaw, sending the archmage spinning downward. As he fell, his forehead clipped one of the library tables, and spun him back the other way so that he landed on his back. As his head cracked into the floor, he laid there, peering through dizzy eyes, as he watched two Rupert Gileses standing there, rubbing their right fists with their left hands. Slowly, the images merged until the Archmage of Camelot saw only one tweed-clad librarian standing there.

Merlin started to stand, but only reached a sitting position before the look of death in Giles' eyes froze him solid.

"Merlin," Giles snarled in a very low, very quiet, very dangerous voice, "I am going to tell you this one time. That girl was nearly driven insane by that Olympian piece of shit, and the only things that kept her going were her faith and her desire to find a cure before she inadvertently injured someone. Now, less than two days into what will almost certainly be a very long healing process for her, you come in here, and you, sir, may quite literally have pushed her past the point of no return."

Merlin started sputtering, but Giles didn't give him the chance to form a coherent sentence.

Giles, now in full Ripper mode, reached down and brought Merlin to his feet, by grabbing the wizard by the thick hairs of his beard and holding him for more than a few seconds before setting him back down.

"I am going to do something for you," Giles hissed as he looked straight into Merlin's eyes. "I am going to let you read my mind, and I want you to read what has happened to Shaw Hunter these last two months, and then I want you to read what her cousin told us last night. Something that happened to Shaw twenty-five years ago. And in doing so, if this in any way shows you what this child has suffered for so long, and if it shows you what kind of woman she is, despite everything that has been done to her, then perhaps it will show you how to show some compassion and respect for someone who has taken this world as her own."

Merlin, despite his growing anger, quickly scanned Giles' mind, looking up his experiences with Shaw in her time on the Hellmouth. After about a minute, his eyes filled back in. When they did, Giles got into his face once again.

"As you can now doubt tell, this woman has been through more tragedy than anyone should have to suffer in one lifetime. Hopefully, this will teach you to be more like her and to have some sympathy for someone who truly deserves it," Giles snarled into Merlin's face. "And in my own humble opinion, sir, she has proven to be a MUCH better defender of humanity that you have."

Merlin sputtered at the insult, snapping, "Steven will hear of this!"

Seeing the wizard protesting about this insult to his dignity, Giles said in a cold tone, "Yes, he most certainly shall. Now *get out* of my library."

Merlin stood there, very offended, before turning to leave with what little dignity he had left. Before he could exit, Giles called, "Oh, Merlin?"

Merlin looked back, and Giles was holding his staff. Giles muttered a quick incantation, and Merlin's staff started glowing. Giles then bent the staff, until the shaft was bent at an angle of nearly thirty degrees. As Merlin's jaw dropped as Giles performed this deeper insult, Giles threw the staff to the dumbfounded wizard.

"Do be a good chap and see that this is properly disposed of," Giles said, brushing off his hands.

And he turned and went into the office, leaving the defender of humanity staring at the door in shock.

As Giles walked into the office, he saw Jenny and Shaw sitting on the couch. Shaw had a glass of water clenched in white knuckled hands, while Jenny was speaking softly to her. Every few seconds, Shaw would nod her head once, but she refused to speak.

Giles cleared his throat, and Shaw jumped, some water sloshing onto the floor. With a look of sympathy, he said, "Shaw, how are you doing?"

"I. . Giles, what is going to happen when Steven finds out?" the shaking half-elf asked. "I attacked the man he considers to be his father."

"If my experience with Steve is any indication, he just might finish what you and I started on our dear wizard," the Englishman stated. An evil grin crossed his face, and he said, "I am quite certain I brought your point across. That is, in the unlikely event you did not do so yourself."

"Rupert, you didn't," Jenny said disapprovingly, although she was failing to hide her growing smile.

"You're bloody right I did," he said, clenching his fist. "I was very tempted to show that wizard exactly what I could do."

"Giles, you cannot possibly suggest such a thing," Shaw protested.

"I'm not," he said quickly. "But I see no reason to let Merlin know that I have no intention of harming him."

Jenny looked anger in the librarian’s face, and said, "What was the look on his face like?"

"He was redder than a Native American after I bent his staff," Giles said, prompting Jenny to lose her control, while Shaw just looked back and forth between them. "I would've broken it into many pieces if I wasn't afraid it'd blow up the school."

"Giles, I am trying to be serious," she snapped softly, too tired and thankful about her safety to put any venom into her words. "Will any of us be in trouble over this?"

"I don't think so, Shaw," Jenny told her, rubbing Shaw's back as Shaw shook with nervous energy. "I do think that right now, our precious archmage is telling Steve his side of the story, and in a half hour or so, Steve will call us for our side. We'll figure it out then. But for now, I think it's safe to say that you can head home and not worry about whether or not you'll see Merlin again this morning."

Shaw looked hesitant to leave the safety of the library, and she looked at Giles. "Your opinion, Giles?"

"If Merlin so much as walked on the same side of the street as you, I do think we'd rip him a new backside," he promised.

Shaw nodded, and handed Jenny her glass. As Jenny took it, the ranger threw her arms around her, and muttered, "Thank you for stopping me."

"I almost regret it," Jenny offered with a grin.

Shaw held on, and asked, "Jenny, will this end? These manipulations. ."

"Yes," the Gypsy said emphatically. She tightened her grip a bit, and said, "You just ended them. You took a stand, and I'm very proud of you for standing up for yourself. Now, you need to get home and get some sleep."

Shaw released the embrace and headed out, but before leaving, she turned back to Giles. "Giles, why do you think that Steven will be calling here in half an hour?"

"To get our side of the events that transpired here," he explained again.

"That is not what I meant, Giles. If you think that Merlin will only be talking for anything less than two hours, then you have NOT met enough wizards."

She walked out, leaving Jenny and Giles laughing at her theory.

*****

About a half an hour later, Giles and Jenny were talking about what to tell Steve when he eventually called, when they heard a low whistle coming from the library.

Giles and Jenny quickly got up, and walked into the main area, only to see Buffy, Xander, Cordelia, Willow, Oz, Amy and Robin all staring at the corner of one of the tables, as well as a small red spot on the floor.

Giles walked over towards them, and cleared his throat.

As one, seven heads turned to look at him and Jenny. They just stood there, staring at them with unreadable looks.

"What are you staring at?" Jenny finally asked.

The kids looked at the table again, and Giles went over, and saw that there was a small amount of drying blood on the edge of the table where Merlin had banged his head on the way to the floor. The spot on the floor was probably from when he had landed.

Xander shrugged, and said, "You know, G-Man, what you and Jenny do on your own time is none of our business. But you gotta be careful about what you expose our impressionable young minds to here at school."

With a sigh of exasperation, Giles said, "Xander, that is not mine or Jenny's blood. It belongs to Merlin."

The Slayerettes just looked at each other, and then they all looked back at the teachers.

"Ooooookay," Buffy said with a sick look on her face, "that just went from an 'R' rating to a triple X."

Giles spitted her with a look, which made even the Immortal Slayer cringe back a bit while Jenny just sighed at their comments.

"Look, you guys," the oldest Amazon said, rubbing her forehead. "Sit down, and we'll tell you what happened."

"Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!" Cordelia shouted.

"Nothing like that happened!" Giles snapped, making the others jump away from him. Regaining his temper, he said, "Shaw came to talk to us, and when she finished, she was preparing to leave. That's when Merlin decided to show up, along with his bodyguard detachment."

Jenny took up the story, telling them everything that had transpired in the short fight. The looks on the Scoobie's faces went from amusement to concern to anger over what had gone down. After they finished, the Slayerettes just looked around, waiting for somebody to say something.

Unfortunately, that somebody turned out to be Xander.

"You know, Shaw's really making the rest of us look bad," he said with a sound of faked disappointment.

"Why?" Willow asked. "For beating up Merlin?"

"AND the vamps," Xander continued, ticking off his fingers. "AND evil Immortals, AND a demon ninja, AND for scaring the crap out of Dead Boy, AND for doing as good against Blade as me and Cordy combined, AND for chopping up the Headless Horseman like a sushi chef. . ."

"Ewwww," Cordelia said, scrunching her face.

"AND ripping Ares a new asshole. . ."

"Hey, that was a team effort," Amy protested.

"THEN she scares the crap out of Ares by setting him up in a way that puts our matchmakers to shame. . ."

"HEY!!!" Buffy, Willow, Cordelia, Amy and Jenny snapped.

"Or she'll make him into John Wayne Bobbit, and now she kicks Merlin. ."

"In the crown jewels of Camelot," Robin finished. "We know that, Xand. What's the point you're trying to make?"

"Well, at the rate she's going, who's gonna be left for us to trash by the time Spring Break rolls around?" he asked.

They thought about it, and Oz said, "Good point."

"But I do have an idea," Xander said cheerfully.

"Oh shit," everyone else said in dread.

"No, it's simple. Since Shaw's trying to become the Queen of the Nut Shot. ."

"What do you mean, trying?" Buffy asked with raised eyebrows.

"Well, there is someone with that title, and I was thinking, and you know how Shaw doesn't like to share titles. ."

"Are you talking about who I think you're talking about?" Robin asked, rubbing his chin in thought.

"Yeah, Rob," Xander said. "How about it? Think we could set up Shaw in a match against Chyna at the Royal Rumble?"

"Xander!" Cordelia snapped.

"I'd pay good money to see that," Robin said with a grin.

"ROBIN!" Amy shouted.

"Who is this 'Chyna?'" Giles asked.

Everyone's head snapped to Jenny in amazement.

"Jenny, you can't even get him to know what professional wrestling is?" Willow asked.

"He doesn't even know who the Odd Couple is," Robin pointed out. "And no, I don't mean Xander and Cordelia."

"Hey!" they snapped together.

"Whoa, we're getting off track here," Buffy said, trying to get them back on the subject of Shaw and Merlin. "Giles, what's Steve gonna say about this?"

"I rather think he'll be somewhat displeased that Merlin didn't try to go through him to talk with Shaw," Giles told the assembled team. "I do think he'll want to get Shaw and Merlin together in one place, with Steve likely playing referee."

"Not without me, he won't," the Slayer promised with an angry frown. "Shaw's gonna have someone there to back her up."

"Good call," Amy said. "Giles, let us know what time the meeting is, and we'll ALL be there."

"Of course," he said with a smile. "I do think our poor archmage has bitten off more than he can chew this time. Head on to class, and check in after school. I'll let you know what happens."

The gang got up, and began heading for their morning classes, but Robin stayed behind. When the doors closed, shutting off the kids' chatter, he looked at Giles and Jenny.

"You two know that Mer can be most stubborn," he informed the teachers.

"So we noticed," Jenny dryly said with a roll of her eyes.

"Well, how about I make a few, ahem, 'calls,' and get some more backup for the kid when she and ol' Magic Boy get together for Round Two?"

"Who'd you have in mind, Robin?" Giles asked.

"Well, I figured I'd start with Arty," he said, smiling evilly. "And, if Her old friend's still visiting, I think SHE might be like a few words with the M-Man in private. What do you think about that, Gypsy Girl?"

"I think it's evil, twisted, and sadistic. Count me in."

"Who is this old friend of Artemis' that you're referring to?" the librarian asked.

"Millie," Robin and Jenny replied at the same time. Robin continued with, "The sword-swinging Finn that was pulling the 'Hunter' routine while Steve and company were in New York."

"Millie? Isn't that what you call. . ."

Giles' eyes went very round as he realized that was exactly who they were referring to, and he said, "Is Steve's house likely to survive having the archmage of Camelot and two nature Goddesses inside of it?"

"Hey, you think that's bad," the fairy said with a wink, "what do you think Mer's gonna have in store for him when I tell Niume what he pulled?"

With that thought, Robin said, "Talk to you later. Gotta get on the 'phone.'"

As he walked out, Giles said, "If he wasn't dating Amy, I'd be tempted to think he had feelings for Shaw."

"He does," Jenny told him, drawing a look from her lover. "I think that the fairy who just walked out of this room has decided to appoint himself as Shaw's very overprotective big brother."

*****

St. Wolf Residence
Sunnydale, California
25 November 1998

Steve St. Wolf was sitting at the desk in his office, just finishing up some paperwork for the antiques store before having some breakfast, when a loud banging erupted from the door to the office.

"Wanderer, get out here!!" Merlin shouted at the top of his lungs.

Steve pulled his hand away from his gun with a sigh, and got up to answer the irate wizard's beckon.

<I didn't need this today,> he grumbled to himself as he opened the door. Stepping into the living room, the sight that greeted him froze him in his tracks.

Merlin was standing in front of his bodyguard detail, and from the look of things, they'd had a rough morning. Merlin's clothes were rumpled, he had an impressive bruise on his chin and a bloody gash on his forehead, and his staff had been bent at a thirty-degree angle.

The six Knights of the Grail that guarded the archmage seemed to be in similar shape. They all had bumps and bruises on their faces, and Steve decided that he didn't want to know about the handprint on the Knight Captain's breastplate.

Steve let a grin come to his face. "Let me guess. You need a place to stay because Niume threw you out for forgetting your anniversary again."

"No," Merlin growled angrily, stepping forward. "I just had a very violent encounter with your half-elf, your librarian, and your computer teacher!"

Steve cocked an eyebrow, and nodded. "Okay, I'll call Giles and get an apology."

"Giles?!?" Merlin stammered, the hand gripping his staff going white in the knuckles, "It was bad enough that he punched me in the jaw, it was bad enough that he desecrated my prize staff, but he actually had the gall to defend that Harper's actions after she assaulted me and my bodyguard contingent!"

"Be serious," St. Wolf said with a good-natured laugh. "After last weekend, Shaw doesn't have the energy to go to the bathroom, let alone have a sparring match with one of your bodyguards."

"Sparring match?!?" the wizard sputtered. Now trembling with nervous anger, he snapped, "Wanderer that maniac took down FOUR of them!!! She clotheslined two at once, she blinded a third with a light spell and karate kicked him in the jaw, and took down a fourth by kicking him in the back of the head with some acrobatic move I've *never* seen! And then, to top it all off, when I finally had the girl subdued, she nearly sent my balls up into my ribcage with the mother of all groin kicks!!!"

Steve's jaw dropped as his boss described the manhandling that Shaw had given to his assigned guardians, and asked, "And the rest?"

"Ms. Calendar and Mr. Giles took it upon themselves to aid the Harper by throwing the Knight Captain through the door to their office, and they each knocked one Knight unconscious," Merlin barked. "Then that damned Watcher has the gall to assault me, tell me off, and have me read his mind, giving me nothing but images of torture and death. . ."

"Shaw was tortured once, Merlin," Steve snapped, ending the mage's tirade. He looked to the six Knights, and asked, "Sir John, why don't you and your men relax while I talk with the Old Fart in private?"

"Of course, Sir Steve," the Knight Captain said with relief at the chance to get away from the pissed off wizard.

Steve and Merlin went into the office, the magician going in first as Steve held the door for him. Once he closed the door behind him, Steve said, "Okay, now let's start from the beginning."

"Very well, I arrived. . ."

"I'm talking about why you went behind my back on this," Steve said firmly, heading over to his desk. He sat down and began to pick up his paperwork and place it into a manila folder. "If you wanted to talk to Shaw, I would've set up a meeting."

"I didn't mind you having a half-elf on your team until Horace told me you were training one of 'Elminster's finest!'" the old man barked. "Do you realize the damage she could do to this plane of existence if she informed the wrong people of her origins?"

"Like Ed Greenwood, Bob Salvatore, or Elaine Cunningham?" Steve asked dryly. He leaned back in his desk, and said, "Mind telling me how Shaw's homeworld just happens to be very popular with certain dice-rolling teenagers and fantasy authors?"

Merlin had the grace to look properly chastised. "That's from an agreement I made with Elminster about forty years ago. Ed is my middleman, although he has no idea who I really am. The deal is, Elminster gives him information about Toril, and in return, he gets information about Earth to help his world. Not only on technology, but about our ways of magic as well. It's also a neutral site for his clandestine meetings with wizards from other planes."

"I see," the Wanderer said, steepling his fingers. "Well, I can tell you she doesn't know about the books and stuff, but we ARE going to tell her. And as far as her talking about her origins, if she hadn't told us, we'd have been blown up by Sinclair two months ago. Do you really have a problem with her being here? Tell you what, before answering that, you answer my question; what did you do to set her off?"

"There was no talking to that girl! I tried to be reasonable, and she went to get those crazy teachers. ."

"You tried to read her mind," Steve moaned. "Merlin, Shaw doesn't like telepaths."

"I found that out, Wanderer!" the archwizard snarled, throwing his staff to the side and sitting down. "I'll be lucky if she didn't end my bloodline forever."

"What else did you try to pull on her?"

"I offered to open a portal to Toril and send her home," Merlin explained.

"This IS her home, you idiot!" the Immortal snapped, grabbing his head in his hands. "Joan of Arc herself said her destiny is here. And she wants to stay. Merlin, she hasn't been on Toril in over a decade. She was stranded in a shithole plane for that long, and only arrived here seven months ago. As far as I know, there are only a few people who know she's from another dimension."

"Give me their names," Merlin ordered.

"Don't try me, Boss Man," Steve snapped, pointing a finger at the wizard. "I'm trying not to kick your ass for pulling this stunt. You want the names that I know, fine. Jonathan Smith and Mark Gordon. Know them?"

"Of them," Merlin corrected, rubbing his chin. "Probationary angel and an ex-cop from Oakland. What do they have to do with the Harper?"

"They were the first people she met here, who taught her English," the Wanderer replied. "Which brings us to her first somewhat normal friends, Duncan and Connor. I don't think I need go further with that, except to say that they will jump on you even quicker than I will for trying to bully Shaw. Seems they've adopted her into their family, and you know how seriously Highlanders take clan ties."

"Great," Merlin muttered, and with a sigh, he said, "Who's next?"

"Joan of Arc, who told Shaw about her Earth ancestry. And yes, it's been proven, not only through her word, but through a DNA test from Section Six, MIB."

"I know Zed, he works for me occasionally with intelligence reports," the wizard said, waving his hand at Steve. "And a few of their agents know, but one's an Immortal, and the others are fine people. So, you can go on."

"Good. All of us know, with the possible exception of Buffy's mother. Also, Frank, Cassandra, Mulder and Scully know about Shaw's true origins, as do Sonja and Gabrielle, since they were here when she arrived. Brian Jessup knows about her, do you want to erase his memory, being only twelve years old?"

"Don't jab at me, Steve, I get the point that she's discreet. Is there anyone not involved with you who knows?"

Steve thought about it, and said, "Joe Dawson does. Also, some vampire hunters in Santa Carla, who only know about the elven blood, not the dimensional areas. Also, one man at school knows, and before you jump on her about it, she told me the first thing he said after finding out was 'Sign me up.' Seems he takes a dim view of vampires attacking his friends. And of course, Robin knows, since he's been back and forth between Shaw's world and this one a few times."

Merlin stood up, and began pacing. After ten seconds, he looked back at the Wanderer. "Is she actually trying to become an Earth woman?"

"Let's start with the B-minus average she's carrying in high school," Steve said, smiling at the wizard's look of shock. "What's wrong? What better way for her to learn about her new home than alongside her friends, who have helped her out. Unfortunately, in Xander and Robin's case, that's her sense of humor."

"Oh, Gods," Merlin said with a touch of fear.

"Hey, it was that bad to start with," Steve told him. He got up and walked over to the filing cabinet. He reached in, and pulled out a videotape. He handed it to Merlin, and said, "Take a look at this, and have it back to me by next Friday. Don't ask, it'll all be on there."

"What else?" Merlin asked with a touch of skepticism. "How about a social life? You making her somewhat civilized?"

"Merlin, I'm going to say this one time," Steve snapped, not backing down. "Shaw has been through some major shit. I would've thought that you of all people would not judge people by their heritage. Is she an exception?"

"Now wait a minute!" the archmage barked.

"No, you shut up," St. Wolf countered, pointing a finger at him. "Social life, we have had some problems. Shaw's scars and a great deal of modesty as far as clothing goes have limited her choices and progress in modern Earth wardrobe, although Cordelia and Amy have worked with her on it. They've got her at the 'tight jeans but no skirt' stage. But I'm sure you can imagine the problems inherent with scars. As far as socializing, she's been to the Bronze a few times with the others, but not alone to my knowledge. She has two problems in that department."

"The hearing," Merlin said, stating the obvious.

"And the fact that Shaw's tastes run towards classical and 'Riverdance' style music. She does play what she calls a songhorn," Steve answered with the second reason. "Not the typical fare for your average teenager."

"Well, I'll say that for her. She does have *some* good taste," Merlin conceded. He thought about it, and said, "I'll tell you what, Steve. If she can show me one thing she's learned on her own initiative, without any help from the others, then I'll forget the tempting suggestion Knight Captain Lansing made on the way here."

"Which was?" Steve asked.

"To use your phone, call the Knight General, and tell him *exactly* what went down," the wizard said with a grin, thinking he'd finally gotten an edge in their argument. "I do have to wonder how Marc would react to such an attack after what she did to Sir N'Gato."

"I see," Steve said, sitting down at the desk once again. "Well, I see no problem with calling Marc up."

"You don't?!?" Merlin exclaimed.

"Of course not. Knowing Marc," St. Wolf said, his grin now the evil one, "once he found out what this one half-elf did to four of the elite warriors the Order has to offer in a pure panic mode, he'd immediately come here, wait for her to arrive this afternoon, and promptly offer her a position in the Order."

Merlin started sputtering at that thought, and so Steve did the only logical thing. He twisted the knife.

"And since she's that efficient when she's motivated, Marc would do the only logical thing for someone of such skill," he continued evilly. "He'd place her in a position befitting her talents; perhaps safeguarding the leader of the Order."

Now, Merlin's jaw was flapping, and Steve decided to add one final jab at the wizard.

"Now, I'll call Giles and get his side of this asswhooping, and then give Shaw a ring to meet this afternoon with me as your referee. I wouldn't want to have my 'Father' singing soprano on a permanent basis. And change into some better clothes; I like my guests to look somewhat respectable."

*****

St. Wolf Residence
Sunnydale, California
25 November 1998

As Shaw approached the driveway to Steve's house, she heard a car approaching from behind. Out of long-honed instinct, she turned her head over her shoulder, and saw a Jeep Cherokee pulling up to the curb. To Shaw's surprise, the person in the passenger's seat was none other than Buffy.

Shaw stopped, waiting for Buffy to get out, and the older woman driving the truck parked the vehicle. The passenger's side door popped open, and the Slayer jumped out with a smile on her face.

"Hey, Shaw, come here," she called out with a grin. "Someone I want you to meet."

Shaw walked over towards the driver's side, where Buffy was already jogging to. When she came up, the woman driving the Cherokee smiled pleasantly at her.

"Hello," she said, extending a hand. "I'm Joyce Summers, Buffy's mother. You must be Shaw."

"Yes, Joyce Summers," Shaw said neutrally as she returned the handshake. "Well met."

When Joyce scrunched her face in confusion, Buffy pitched in.

"That's her world's version of hello," Buffy said with a smile.

Now, Joyce was puzzled. "Her world?" she asked.

"Yeah. Shaw's from another dimension," the Immortal told her mom. Her eyes went wide with faked innocence. "Didn't I tell you that part?"

"No, you didn't Buffy," Joyce said with irritation.

"But it was worth the look on your face," she said, looking at Shaw. "What do you think, Hunter?"

"I think that you should tell me what else your mother knows about me," the half-elf said slowly, giving Joyce a critical gaze.

"Whoa, girl. Wait just a sec," Buffy ordered, looking at Shaw in surprise, with a touch of anger. "You're being rude."

"I am also exhausted, angry, tired of being manipulated or threatened by extra powerful beings who think that I am to be pushed around for their amusement or desires, and I cannot sleep more than four or five hours without coming awake screaming at the top of my lungs from nightmares," Shaw said with a tight voice. "I am sorry that I currently lack the faculties for social niceties, especially after what that mother-wenching bastard son of. . ."

"Shaw, no cussing in front of my Mom, no matter how polite you make it sound," Buffy pleaded, now looking worried. "But, uhm, which one are you talking about? The Greek One or. ."

"The one I took care of this morning," Shaw said with a hint of evil intent. "I understand that he is waiting for, how do you say, a second helping?"

"Whoa!" Buffy shouted, holding her hands up. "Uh, look, Hunter. I know you're pissed. ."

"Buffy," Joyce warned.

Buffy sighed. "Great. Now you're getting me in trouble with my Mom," she muttered. "Look. The reason the meeting's here is so that Steve and I can play referee, and keep things from getting out of hand."

"Meaning that you are to prevent him from trying to send me back to Toril, when I have told everyone in no uncertain terms that Earth is my home now?" Shaw asked. She narrowed her eyes, and said, "That did not seem to matter this morning, did it?"

Buffy stood firm, and asked, "Shaw, why are you acting like this?"

Shaw stared Buffy in the face, and said, "The truth, Buffy? The complete, honest truth?"

"Yeah, I'd like that."

"Fine. The truth is that I am scared," the ranger confessed, swallowing in emphasis. "I am scared to the Nine Hells that I am not going to be allowed even one choice in my life anymore. You know what happened to me twenty-five years ago; I had my innocence ripped away from me. I had my Grandparents ripped away from me. I had someone that I wanted in my life ripped away from me before I even had her. Ten years later, I had my homeworld ripped away from me. I nearly lost my soul in that plane, Buffy, and I escaped, hoping to redeem myself, only to be manipulated by your precious saint, which cost me two months of getting to know Amy that I can never regain, then to be manipulated by that Olympian shard of ettin dung, and now by your precious archmage, who thinks I am not even worth a Goddess-damned introduction to before he tries to blackmail me into giving him information he already has and trying to violate my mind. So I will thank you to give me some credit that I have even a shred of my mind, sanity, or soul left, let alone what I do have."

Shaw was shivering by this time, and added one more comment. "And also think of this; if not for Jenny, that bastard mage would now be dead. Do you know how that feels, Buffy? To know that I could have killed the person whom Steven calls father? Do have any idea how I felt about that once I came back to my senses?"

"Shaw, you were scared shitless, Jenny told us that," Buffy assured her. "You were in panic mode. So let go of the guilt trip, okay?"

Shaw didn't look convinced, so the Slayer kept on.

"Look, he didn't have to play that game with you this morning, so this time we'll do it right. But you don't need to take it out on us."

Shaw nodded, and softly said, "The one I want to take my anger out on is safely on Olympus, Buffy. But I know not to make the mistake of holding my anger in, so how do I handle this?"

"With a little help from your friends," Buffy said, now smiling. "You just gotta let us know what's bugging you."

"I think that it would be obvious right now," Shaw dryly commented. She looked at Joyce, and whispered, "I am sorry, Joyce Summers. It has not been an easy time for me."

Joyce smiled and said, "I understand. Apology accepted."

"Thank you. May I go now, Buffy?" Shaw asked quietly.

Buffy looked disappointed, but said, "Okay. I'll see you inside. And no dirty tricks without me there to see it."

Shaw looked confused by that statement, but nodded and headed for the door. The Summers women watched her go, and when she went inside, Buffy turned to her mother.

"I'm sorry, Mom," the Immortal said sorrowfully, "she's not usually like this."

"Well, didn't you both say she's been through something?" Joyce pointed out, looking at the door to Steve's house. "Isn't that why you were in New York a couple of days ago?"

"Yeah, and I really don't want to talk about it," Buffy said sadly. At the hurt look on Joyce's face, she added, "Mom, what Shaw's been through before, it makes some of the stuff I've seen look like a picnic. And she didn't need that dipstick screwing with her this morning after the crap she went through."

Buffy's face broke into an evil grin, and she said, "But she made him pay for trying to be an asshole."

"Buffy!" Joyce hissed, and the Slayer blushed a bit. "Who tried to intimidate her?"

"Uh, Steve's boss," she said, her smile fading.

"His boss in the CIA?" Joyce asked in confusion. "How would the CIA know about elves?"

"Uh, not *that* boss. The other one," Buffy said, looking at the ground.

"Who is it?"

"Merlin," Buffy finally admitted.

Joyce's eyes went wide at the answer, but she quickly recovered. "Would it surprise you if I said that I believed you?"

"No. Hell, Mom, I didn't even know until July," the Slayer said, beginning to giggle. "But for being the big, bad wizard, Shaw was still able to hurt him where it counts."

"Where?"

"Mom, he's a guy," Buffy said as if she were explaining something to a small child. "Even wizards have, well, you know. ."

Joyce's jaw opened, and she said, "She didn't."

"Giles said she lifted him four inches off the ground," Buffy giggled, and at the look on her Mother's face, she added, "Shaw had a good windup."

"Good for her," the elder Summers said with a grin. "Girl should stick up for herself."

"I just hoped she'd make a good impression on you," Buffy said. "But I guess intros could've waited."

"Well, to be honest, honey, she did make a good impression. I understand what it's like to have to adjust to new situations." Joyce smiled at Buffy, and said, "She seems like a nice girl."

Buffy started giggling, and Joyce frowned at her. "What's so funny about that?"

"Uh, well, something else I didn't tell you, Shaw's older than you are," she answered.

"That's not funny, Buffy Anne Summers. That girl's in high school, and can't possibly be over twenty at the outside," Joyce scolded her daughter. "You shouldn't make fun of her if she's hurting right now."

"Mom, Shaw's half ELF, remember? She turns fifty-four Saturday," Buffy explained with a grin. "I can go in and bring her back out, and you could ask her yourself. And Shaw doesn't lie. She'll be around for another two hundred years, if she doesn't die in a fight or something."

Joyce looked at Buffy, and saw the truth shining in the Slayer's eyes. "She's even older than Steve?"

"Yep. And she's been fighting the bad guys, not just vamps, for about thirty years. And she doesn't do it for fame and fortune, but to help people," Buffy said. She looked back at the door for a second, and then back at Joyce, a wistful look on her face. "I guess that's the difference between me and her. I wanted a normal life, like everyone else. She wanted to do what she does, and give the normal life to everyone else. And it's funny, I guess I admire her for sticking to it even with the shit she's gone through, and Amy tells me that Shaw sees me as some kind of hero or role model that she wants to be like. Can you understand that, Mom?"

"Looks like you're more alike than you imagine," Joyce said to Buffy. "And if you see her as being like you, that speaks well for her. That's a good enough impression for me."

"Well, I'm not the one who compared Shaw to herself," Buffy said, looking at the sky. "I know this is gonna sound so way out there, but someone told Shaw that she reminded her of herself when she was alive."

"When she was alive?" Joyce repeated, not liking the sound of that. "What is she now? Not a vampire, I hope."

"Nope, an angel," Buffy said with a grin not seen by her mother. "Shaw calls her Jehanne. We call her Joan. She's French."

Joyce got the comparison very quickly. "I don't know what might be worse; that you might be making fun of your friend, or that you're telling the truth."

"Make you a deal, Mom. You ever hear of the sword Joanie found in that church in France?"

"I know the legend," Joyce said.

"Well, she gave it to Randi. She can show you when she gets home from school if you wanna wait," Buffy said with a bright smile. "Joan asked Shaw to look after it, and give it to Randi when she needed it. Randi used it to take out a demon while Steve and I were on vacation. That's when Shaw showed up and told us who she was."

"You're telling me that Joan of Arc was the one who sent Shaw here?" Joyce asked.

"Sort of. It was a prophecy, and it's kinda complicated. Shaw's great-grandma was from Earth, went to Shaw's homeworld to do the Lewis and Clark bit, but got hitched. You know what happened from there," Buffy said.

Joyce nodded, and said, "So part of her roots are from Earth." She did a double take, and said, "You told me she's Amy's cousin. How did she take it?"

"It was rocky for a while, but they talked the other day." Buffy shook at the memory of the talk from the previous night. "Amy told us some things, and it just showed us how Shaw is."

"I'm sure her parents are proud of her," Joyce commented.

Buffy sighed, and said, "Her mom and dad died when she was two. Her grandma and grandpa, her human ones, were her parents, more or less."

"There's more, isn't there," Joyce said quickly.

"Well, on Shaw's homeworld, when a person dies and goes to Heaven or whatever they call it," Buffy said hesitantly, going off of what Robin had told them about Torillian afterlives, "they lose their memories of when they were alive. It takes a few weeks, but Shaw's folks have been gone twenty-five years, Mom. If they appeared to her as ghosts, or her version of angels, they wouldn't remember her. I think that hurts her, although she agrees with the way things are done with her Goddess."

"How could they forget?" Joyce demanded breathlessly.

"So they don't cry about being dead," Buffy told her. "The one thing they do remember is husband and wife type stuff. They don't even remember kids, their moms and dads, or whatever."

"That sounds so sad," Mrs. Summers said quietly. "It must be hard on her."

"Like I said, she agrees with it, but I think it still hurts that she can't tell them stuff. She hadn't seen them for three years after she moved out, and she was supposed to meet them about a month after they died. But Shaw was on a mission, and things happened. . ."

Buffy trailed off, a couple of tears falling, and Joyce reached out of the car and touched Buffy's arm.

"What is it, honey?" Joyce asked in concern for her daughter.

"I. . .I shouldn't tell you, but. ." Buffy stopped, and looked Joyce in the eyes. "Promise not to tell anyone except for Shaw, if you ever talk to her? I don't want people to know about this."

"Honey, don't violate her trust. I don't have to know if you don't want to tell me," Joyce assured her. "I can see it bothers you."

"No, I gotta talk to someone, so. ."

Buffy took a deep breath, and said, "Shaw went undercover, sort of. She was supposed to help some people bust a guy who liked to make people into slaves. Well, the guy was nuts from an accident, and started killing people. After he killed three, Shaw tried to take him out. She didn't make it."

"Why didn't she act sooner?" Joyce asked in amazement that someone would allow this to happen. "If she was posing as a guard. ."

"She wasn't a guard, Mom. She was a prisoner," Buffy countered. "And she was a rookie, or close to it. And when she got tied up, the guy in charge gave her a choice; he could torture HER, or he'd waste the thirtysomething people that were left."

"What happened?" Joyce asked, already knowing the answer in her heart.

"She made her choice. He turned her into a statue, and carved her back open for about a day," Buffy said, tears falling as she heard Joyce gasp. "She went nuts for a bit, and killed the guy, but blamed herself for everything that happened. We've seen what she looks like, Mom, the scars on her back. I still can't figure out how she got over what he did to her, or how she could forgive him for that."

"Because she didn't forgive herself, maybe," her mom offered. "Sounds like she still feels guilty."

"Yeah, and she talked to Amy about it, and it was Amy who told us. And now, with what happened, she needs our help."

Joyce asked, "And she's very self-reliant, isn't she?"

"Oh, yeah. She makes me or Cordy look cuddly," Buffy said sadly. "But I guess that's from being all alone for that long."

"And lonely," Joyce added. When Buffy turned her head to Joyce, she said, "She's been lonely for so long, the last people she loved were killed, so she hasn't let anyone in for a long time. Like Steve was when you first started dating him. It'll take time for her to let all of you in, if she hasn't started already."

"She told Amy she loves her, so yeah, she started," Buffy said. She folded her arms, and leaned back against the truck, and asked, "Mom, back in February, I had what Dana called, Post Traumatic Stress. You know what that is?"

"Of course. It's also called shell shock, combat fatigue. ."

"That's what Shaw's got, then."

"There's another name for it, Buffy," Joyce informed the Slayer, who turned with a raised eyebrow. "They also call it, 'survivor guilt.'"

"So Shaw has a double whammy on her?" Buffy asked.

"Yes, possibly. Have you and Steve discussed what you're going to do to help her?"

"She's not fighting anymore, not for a while. That was her choice," Buffy said, sure of herself now. "She'll help Giles with the research stuff, and if we need it, she has healing spells for those of us who need them."

"She's a witch, like Amy?" Joyce asked.

Buffy shook her head. "No, she's a priestess. Or as she put it to one guy, 'Her heap big medicine woman.' Her sense of humor is almost as bad as Xander's."

"Maybe you should keep those two apart then," Joyce said with a smile.

"Can't. Cordy tried to pull a joke on them, and Shaw turned it so that Cordy got embarrassed in front of everybody," Buffy said, starting to laugh hard. "Shaw may be Earth-challenged, but she's not stupid. Heck, Mom, she's got a 2.8 grade point average, and she's been in school all of two months. And she speaks nineteen languages."

"Nineteen?!?" Joyce exclaimed.

"You might say they stick in her head," Buffy muttered. "But she's quick; it'll make it hell to get her set up."

"Set up for what?" Joyce asked, not liking the sound of that.

"Set up like the rest of us. With a guy."

"Buffy, she doesn't look like she's ready for that kind of relationship," Joyce said disapprovingly. "Give her time to recover."

"We will, I promise. But, there's only one other person for Cordy, Willow, Amy and Jenny to set up, and I don't want that to happen."

"You said Randi was involved, or will be."

"I know," Buffy said, looking straight at her mother to send a silent, mental message.

Joyce got it loud and clear. "Then get away from my truck. I'm leaving before they get any ideas."

Buffy stepped back, and Joyce took off at a pace most unlike someone of her age group, leaving Buffy laughing out loud at getting a shot in at her mother.

Now buoyed in spirit, she headed towards the door, to help keep the world's most powerful wizard from getting physically assaulted for the second time in less than twelve hours.

When Buffy walked into the living room, she saw Shaw sitting on the couch, looking off into space. She walked over and sat next to the half-elf, who didn't react one way or the other.

"Hey, Shaw. You okay?"

Shaw looked at Buffy, and quietly said, "I am sorry for insulting your integrity in front of your mother, Buffy. I know I can trust you, but. ."

"You're not sure who else to trust, huh?" Buffy guessed.

"Least of all, myself," the ranger added softly. "I cannot control my reactions, I cannot control my dreams, I cannot even control my anger for five minutes without snapping at someone, despite trying to guard against it, but. . ."

When Shaw trailed off, the Slayer frowned at her.

"Uh-uh, Hunter. Talk to me," she ordered. "You keep stuff inside, how are we supposed to help you deal with it?"

Shaw hesitated, but finally said, "I am trying to guard against saying things that could be hurtful to you, like I did outside. I know not to hold in my anger, but. ."

"You don't want to let it out on us," Buffy guessed. "I know what you mean."

"But I am tired of guarding, Buffy," Shaw continued. She let out a heavy sigh of resignation, and said, "I want no more barriers between us, between any of us."

"That'll take time, Shaw. My Mom just said that herself," the Immortal said with a grin. She patted Shaw's hand, and said, "And if it helps, she said you made a good impression on her. And it's gonna take some time for you to break down all those walls you've got around your emotions. You've already done it with Amy, that's a good start."

Shaw smiled at the mention of Amy, and nodded. "I do love her, Buffy."

"Believe me, we knew that a while ago," Buffy chuckled. When Shaw looked at her, she said, "But your problem was you thought you had to love her as much as your grandparents. Doesn't work that way here. But you're getting it."

Shaw thought about it, and asked, "Buffy, what should I expect in this meeting?"

"Try not to cuss *too* much," Buffy said right off the bat. "Merlin's a pretty good guy, once you get to know him. I bet Steve's already explained everything to him, so I think this'll just be the basic 'figure everything out' gig, where you tell him the stuff he needs to know."

"He said he had Steven's reports," Shaw pointed out, looking confused.

"The reports about you being here, in Sunnydale," Buffy countered. "Anything else, is probably what he wants."

Shaw's lips drew a thin line, and she said, "And if there are secrets about friends of mine that I think he should not discover?"

"If you mean about Connor and Duncan, he already knows them," Buffy assured the half-elf. She stood up, and helped Shaw stand as well. "He knows Cassandra and Frank personally, so you don't have to worry about them, either. If he asks about other stuff, ask Steve if you can trust Merlin. That's all you gotta do."

Shaw nodded, and wavered just the smallest bit, but Buffy grabbed her by the arms to steady her.

"You're still whacked after two days?" the Slayer asked.

Shaw snorted, and said, "I was feeling better this morning until Merlin tried to violate my mind with his telepathic powers."

"Well, I bet you were still feeling better than him after what you did," Buffy said, giggling at the thought of Merlin getting groin kicked. "Well, let's get in there. Steve's pretty patient, but I don't think we're gonna be that lucky with his boss."

They walked over to the door, and Buffy knocked on it, and Steve called for them to come in.

They walked in, and saw not only Steve, sitting at his desk, and Merlin, standing behind Steve against the wall, but a large man in the same dark-colored armor worn by the men who had accompanied Merlin to the library.

Shaw watched as the man turned around, seeing the design on his armor, a gold cup with a diamond set above it. Shaw saw that this man, who stood nearly six and a half feet tall, radiated an aura of command as Merlin radiated magic. He looked her up and down, but unlike the wizard, he seemed to be appraising her without any prejudgment as to who or what she was. After a few seconds, he looked at Steve.

"Steve, is this the young woman I've been briefed on by Sir N'Gato and Sir Lansing?" the man asked in a French accented voice.

"Yep," was the simple reply given by the Wanderer. "That's her."

The man turned back to the two women, and extended his hand out to Shaw.

"Miss Hunter, I'm Marc Le Chevalier, the Knight General of the Order of the Grail," Marc said by way of introduction. "I was quite impressed with Sir Steve's report of your actions this morning."

Shaw returned the handshake, but looked at Steve with a neutral gaze, and asked, "Is this man what could be considered the Earth equivalent of a paladin, Steven?"

"Heck if I know. Ask Merlin," Steve said with a grin. He looked at the archmage, and asked, "Well?"

"A fair comparison. He doesn't have any of the abilities paladins of your world have, but as far as outlook goes, I'd say you're on target," Merlin grudgingly conceded.

Shaw nodded, and said, "I bid you greetings, Knight General."

"Please, call me Marc," he said with a small smile.

"I do not think so," Shaw said quickly, but without any trace of emotion.

<Oh, shit. Here we go!> both Buffy and Steve thought.

"I beg your pardon?" Marc asked, as Merlin was sputtering in the background.

"You are Steven's superior in the Order," Shaw said with authority. She nodded at Merlin, and said, "And, however unfortunately for you, are charged with protecting the premier wizard of this plane of existence. I will not use such familiarity with someone who holds such a position of authority less than two minutes after meeting him, Knight General Le Chevalier."

The Knight's face lit up in understanding, and he smiled at her. "I understand, Miss Hunter." He looked at Merlin, and said, "You told me this young woman showed no respect for authority, Merlin."

"She showed so much this morning," Merlin replied acidly.

"Yes. About that," Marc said, turning back to the half-elf, "might you be able to tell me where you received such training to defeat four of my elite Knights?"

"I did not defeat them, sir," Shaw answered, drawing raised eyebrows from four separate people. "I merely tried to remove them from my path, in my attempt to eliminate the threat posed to me, in my mind at the time, by your leader, Merlin. It was one of the first two Knights that I struck that took me from behind before I received my shot at the wizard."

"I see," Marc said dryly. "However, you were still able to handle them fairly well. May I ask how you accomplished this?"

"Three reasons, which I will not be able to duplicate against them ever again," Shaw said with a shrug, making Steve dread the answer that was coming. "First, I had surprise. I have a mental block against telepathic intrusions, which caught Merlin off guard. Also, the fact that your Knights were not there to harm me, so much as to ensure that I did not do any harm to the archmage. Lastly, I had motivation. I refuse to give up my home here."

"A most fair response," Le Chevalier commented. "Thank you, Miss Hunter."

"You are welcome, Knight General," Shaw replied from her position near Buffy. "Is there anything else you require?"

"No, that is enough. Although I am extremely tempted to offer you a position with the Order of the Grail, Steven tells me you would decline such an offer."

Shaw cocked an eyebrow, but nodded in affirmation. "Yes, he is correct. I have too much to do here before I could consider such an offer, Knight General. Among these are recovering from recent manipulations, making up lost classes at school, and most especially, getting to truly know the family that I have here on Earth."

Marc nodded, and offered his hand again. "Thank you for your time, Miss Hunter. I hope we meet again."

"The way that Steven often ends up running around this world trying to save it, I think we can plan on it," Shaw dryly commented.

The two shook hands, and Marc looked to Merlin.

"If you're ready, Merlin."

Merlin nodded, and quickly cast a spell, and the Knight General disappeared with a light burst of light. Shaw shuddered at the sight, drawing a glare from the wizard.

"What was that for?" he demanded.

"I do not like dimensional magics," she answered, holding her stomach. "And you might try to be polite for once."

"Oh, shit," Steve muttered under his breath. "Shaw, I don't want this to go badly."

"I would prefer that this not go at all," the ranger countered, sitting down in the chair in front of Steve's desk. "But I will do this because you hold this man in high regard."

Merlin clenched his jaw, and asked, "Why did you show Marc so much pleasantness, when you were so rude this morning to me?"

"Let us begin with the fact that he went through Steven, rather than showing up acting so superior," Shaw snapped, folding her arms. "Then, he introduced himself, and rather than think he deserved information from me by divine right, or egotism, whichever you use, he asked me for it. And he treated me as someone, rather than something, like you did this morning. Is that answer sufficient for you, Merlin?"

"So you're saying that all I had to do was ask you what I wanted to know, Harper?" the magician asked, saying the last word sarcastically.

"Yes, you pathetic mageling who is at best a poor copy of that hawk-nosed, spell-casting shard of orc dung from Shadowdale," the half-elf replied, without any sarcasm.

"Hunter one, Merlin zero," Buffy commented with a grin. When Steve and Merlin glared at her, she said, "You see, Merlin, Shaw has this funny habit. If you ask her a question, she usually tends to answer it."

Merlin growled, and Steve interceded to keep the situation from deteriorating.

"Shaw, here are the rules for this little get together," the Wanderer stated, looking straight at her. "No smartass remarks, no attacks, no nut shots. You answer his questions honestly, and I'll tell you if he already knows of certain things or people."

"And on his side?" Shaw asked.

"He gets to survive," St. Wolf replied. "After we're done, we have some stuff to talk about, and he'll be going home."

"May I ask what we are going to discuss?" she asked, with a look at Merlin.

"Larry, the Nightbreed, and other local stuff," he told her. "Shaw, you're not going to be disciplined for this, and I've already told Merlin off. No more mixups, and no more bullshit from him."

Merlin started sputtering a bit, but Shaw cut off any reply by saying, "What do you want to know, Merlin?"

The wizard of Camelot gritted his teeth, and with a great swallow of pride, he said, "Tell me when you arrived here."

Shaw narrowed her eyes, and stood up, placing her hands on Steve's desk, and said, "If this is how he is going to *ask* for information, he can simply go to the Abyss. I have more important things to do than put up with this."

She started to turn and leave, but Steve stood up and grabbed her bicep. She stopped, but rather than try to break free, she looked at his hand gripping her arm, and then at the Wanderer.

"I will thank you to release me, Steven," she said without any trace of emotion.

"Shaw, I'm not going to put up with this," he said with a touch of anger. "We know you've been through hell, but that's no excuse to play these games."

"I agree, it is not," Shaw said, jerking her arm loose. "And his position is no excuse to treat me as something less than a person. From the second I laid my eyes upon him, he has done just this; he tries to intimidate me into giving him information he has not proven that he has a right to. I trust you, Buffy, and all of you with my life, and last week, I trusted you to save my soul. But I am NOT going to allow some egotistical archmage to use his position and connections to you as my leader to badger me as Ares did. I am taking a stand from this moment forth, Steven. If someone attempts to threaten or violate me, my family, my friends, or my place here, he dies. Are we clear on that?"

Steve looked into her eyes, and saw the defiance in them, while Buffy was grinning from ear to ear for Shaw's refusal to put up with any more shenanigens from anyone. St. Wolf slowly nodded, and sat back down.

"She has a point, Merlin," Steve said, looking over his shoulder. "You did try to violate her privacy. Now, let's try again. And I'd better hear some respect in your voices or I'll kick both your asses."

After a few seconds, he snapped, "Fine. Miss Hunter, would you be so kind as to tell me when, and where, you arrived on Earth?"

Shaw nodded, and said, "The evening hours of May 12th of this year, in northern Utah. In what you call the Great Salt Flats. A vampire followed me through the portal, and died for his troubles."

Merlin considered that information, and said, "Horace's seers picked that up. But no one was there by the time they got there. What happened next?"

"I started walking east," Shaw muttered with frustration, but before she could continue, Steve butted in.

"Is something wrong about that?" he asked, daring her to be smart about it.

"Yes, something is wrong about it. I was only a few hours drive from here the second I arrived, so of course I started going in the opposite direction. And it was three months before I did make it here," the half-elf told him.

"I see your point," Steve said, mentally going "whew" that he had avoided a sore spot. "The next day was when you, ahem, met Mark's car?"

"Yes," Shaw said, surprising Merlin with an emotional smile. "Jonathan and Mark said I was their new assignment. That was what led to my learning of Jehanne, the prophecy, and meeting Connor and Duncan."

"That takes us up to the beginning of August," Merlin said, rubbing his chin in thought. "I know the MacLeods were involved in Los Angeles. Why didn't they bring you?"

"I had suffered a concussion from Raymond McGuire," Shaw answered. "Besides, Connor had just returned to New York because Maxine's Immortality had been triggered in an auto accident. He had barely arrived when the call came from Dana to come to California. I would not have been here in time, and in less than stellar condition."

"Fine," Merlin said, and Shaw tensed at first, but he seemed to accept her answer as sensible. "Now, what about August?"

"I was in Santa Carla, with some people I met there," the priestess said. "They hunt vampires, and I was simply on my way here, but seeing the number of the undead in that town, I stayed for a fortnight to help them. I also told them if they needed my aid, to call me."

"Would these people be the new Immortals?" Merlin asked.

Shaw looked at Steve, and Steve said, "They'll be here to talk with us on Sunday, at one o'clock. We'll try to arrange a teacher for them. ."

"I may have done that for you, Steven," Shaw replied, quickly outlining her talk with Kenny two days prior, and Steve nodded approvingly.

"Good idea. Do you think Kenny will go for it?" the Immortal asked.

"I do not know, but he seemed inclined to try it," she said.

"All right, anything else?" Steve asked Merlin.

"Yes, actually," the wizard said, looking straight at the half-elf. "What are your plans for the future?"

"For the immediate future, I will continue my schooling, my training, and adapting to living here," Shaw said slowly, not wanting the wizard to know how she planned to live her life. "For the longer term, I will attend the high school for another year, and then, I will have to see what develops. I may wish to attend one of your universities, or find employment to provide an income. I still plan to fight any evil opponents I come across, whether as part of Section Seven, or on my own, I will have to decide when the time comes."

"You think we want you to be on your own?!?" Merlin snapped outrageously.

"The members of Section Six have already put into motion plans that will allow me to become an American citizen on my 'official' eighteenth birthday," the half-elf replied with a smirk that she couldn't avoid letting slip onto her face. "But for the majority of the next two years, I will be attending high school and living here, training with Steven and Buffy, as a full-fledged Slayerette, and eventually as a member of the larger group. Beyond that, I will have to think about."

Merlin listened to her outline of events for the future, and slowly reined in his misplaced anger. "It sounds like you have given this some thought."

"Not as much as I will give it," Shaw countered with a wave of her hands. "But, that is one benefit of having this 'downtime' as Buffy and Amy call it; besides recovering from the violations that Ares performed upon my spirit, I can take some time for thinking about myself. People seem to think I have earned that right. Do you have any objections to that?"

Steve growled a warning. "Shaw. . ."

"No, Wanderer, she was asking a valid question, as much as I hate to admit it," the wizard sighed. He walked around to the side of the desk, the half-elf's head slowly tracking his every motion, and said, "I do have objections to a Torillian being on Earth, but Steve's told me about Joan and your desire to stay here. And since Steve will be keeping a leash on you. . ."

Shaw jumped up at that point, and snapped, "He does not keep me on a leash of any type, you arrogant, twisted mind-raping son of a bitch!"

"Shaw!" Steve yelled, jumping out of his seat, as did Buffy, who'd been silent up until this point. Shaw glared at him, waiting for him to say something, but instead Steve turned on his mentor. "Merlin, I meant what I said. She's one of us, not some type of indentured servant. If you don't believe me, think about Giles' reaction this morning, and imagine that multiplied by four Amazons, three fairy-empowered boyfriends, two Slayers, Robin Goodfellow, Randi, me, and Brian Jessup."

"Yeah," Buffy added with a scowl directed at the mage. "She's one of us, and we take care of our own. Which is a lot more than we can say for you, Magic Boy."

Merlin sputtered, but slowly collected himself under the glares directed at him by the demon hunter, the Slayer, and the ranger.

He glared at Shaw, and said, "Well, that brings us to my final question. I told Steve that I wouldn't make waves about your being here, provided you could show me anything that you've learned about becoming an Earth woman, on your own, without any incentive from your friends, to show me you're truly trying to adapt here. Can you show me even the smallest gesture that says you've left Toril behind?"

"I would think that point had been proven this morning," Shaw commented.

"My dear, a groin kick is not unique to Earth, but I get your point. What I'm trying to get across. . ."

"Is that you want to know if I have left my past behind," Shaw finished, much to the archmage's surprise. "The truth is, I was told that just because I leave the past behind, does not mean that I have to forget it. Oh, by the way, the Knight General asked about my teachers, and I did not answer his question. Would you be so kind as to relay my answer to him, the next time you see him?"

Merlin hesitated, wondering if another insult was coming his way, but reluctantly nodded. "Go ahead."

"In order, Myokar and Mishaya Flamingarrow, my Grandparents. Hawk of the Lady Ashallia Nyserrion, the Mother of the Temple to the Lady in Deepingdale. Tamaran Oblashos, a bard that I began learning from after I came of age and left Deepingdale," Shaw replied, her eyes taking on a misty look as she recited her mentors from times past. "After their deaths and the mission I was on, I was taken in by Storm, and she was my final teacher before I came here and met Connor, Steven and Buffy. That is who he can credit with my education in the ways of combat."

Merlin's jaw had dropped at one of the names, but he declined to comment. "Now," he said in a dry whisper, "how about your own initiative?"

"That would not be appropriate," Shaw said dryly, looking at Steve. "Steven would not approve of it."

"Don't tell me you're talking about stripping your clothes off," Steve said with a touch of humor, drawing glares from the other three people. "Just kidding. Shaw, whatever it is, he wants to see it."

"No," Shaw said swiftly. "I do not want to get into trouble over this."

"Miss Hunter," Merlin said, "I did say the smallest gesture. I promise I will take no offense on it."

"But. ." Shaw tried to say.

"Forget it, Hunter," Buffy said, a grin on her face. "Show the man his gesture, so we can get out of here."

Shaw looked at Buffy for support, and she nodded with a smile of approval. Sighing, Shaw rolled her eyes.

"Please keep in mind, Merlin, that while I do not like you, or respect you much, this has no connection to that, but to your request."

"What is that, my dear?"

Shaw gave him the finger.

Merlin started sputtering wildly, and Steve's eyes went wide as the Slayer just lost control of herself, laughing wildly enough that she was in danger of falling out of her chair.

"I tried to tell you, Steven," Shaw said uselessly.

Steve wasn't able to come up with a reply, but Merlin did, and it was directed at St. Wolf.

"When I said to make her an Earth woman, I didn't mean an American!!" he shouted.

"Why not?" Buffy asked, still giggling hysterically. "Her great-grandma was. She was from Colorado, in the Wild West."

"What was her name?" Merlin asked.

"Alison Madison," Shaw replied without hesitation.

Merlin's eyes went round, and he said, "Great. This is just great! Not only is she a half-elf, not only is she a Harper, she's a bloody Madison as well?!?"

"You know about them?" Steve asked in shock.

"I've known some of that line. Witches, every one of those females," Merlin said, shaking his head. "Especially that madwoman, Alison. She's the one Elminster took to Toril with him back last century."

"Now I see where. ."

"We know," Steve cut him off. "The temper."

"You were right, Wanderer," Merlin said dryly. "I got off lucky this morning. And I don't mean because she's a Torillian."

"No shit," Buffy muttered with a grin.

"Is that enough for you, Merlin?" Steve asked, looking at him to say no.

"I'm satisfied. I may not like it much, but I can live with it," the wizard said. "I'm just glad she's not a witch, too, or Niume would be badgering me to recruit her too."

"She'd say no," Buffy said, to which Shaw nodded emphatically.

"Niume's more persuasive than Marc," the wizard said with a smirk. "And more stubborn. But I'm done here. I'll be heading out."

"Might I suggest you use the training room to teleport out?" Steve asked, hiding a smile. "Less dramatic that way."

Merlin growled, and said, "All right, Wanderer. All substance, no style."

He picked up his staff and walked out of the office, and closed the door behind him.

Seconds later, a loud "thump" sounded from the living room, and Shaw and Buffy jumped as they were startled.

"What the hell was that?" Buffy asked out loud.

"Oh, someone talking to Merlin," Steve said with an evil grin. "I wouldn't worry about it. They're just getting a point across."

Shaw sighed, and sat down. "Did I handle that sufficiently for you, Steven?"

"No," Steve said softly, fingering his wallet. "I bet Giles twenty bucks you'd give him another kick to the balls. Thanks for costing me that money."

"You can take it out of the accounts you set up for me," Shaw replied. "I will not tell."

"No, I'm just as honorable as you are," Steve said with a grin.

"Yeah, right," Buffy commented, giggling at Steve.

"We have more to discuss, yes?" Shaw asked, and when Steve nodded, she said, "Where do you wish to begin?"

"How about with Larry," St. Wolf said, leaning forward and folding his hands. "That situation does put us in something of a precarious situation. But I think you handled it pretty well. And, based on what the others have told me, he'd be a good addition. However, he doesn't have the experience we do, or the abilities. So I'm going to do this; on Monday, I want you to bring him here to meet us, and we'll offer him what will basically be a 'reservist' role. What this means is that he'll occasionally help out, and become active when we leave town, to give you or whoever stays here some extra help. Eventually, when he's got enough skill, we'll make the offer to make him full time. How does that sound?"

"I am glad that you will let him have the chance to help, Steven," Shaw said with a nod.

"Hey, you don't give your trust to just anyone," Buffy reminded the ranger. With a smile, she said, "And you gave him yours pretty quickly. I just can't wait to see the look on his face when he sees us."

"Okay, on to the next topic," Steve said. He leaned back in his chair, and sighed. "The Nightbreed. Unlike some people, I don't assume they're evil. You've been in their lair, you've seen how they live. What are they like?"

"Recluses," Shaw answered without hesitation. Then, she added, "Hermits. They simply want to make a home here, even if it will be difficult. Believe me, I can sympathize with them."

"Okay," Steve said in agreement. "From what I've been told by Joe N'Gato, you handled it excellently. And I understand why you held back on it, because it is a touchy subject. Sometime, next week, go to them and tell them the meeting's on. We'll meet when they're ready, and we can discuss things. But I want you opinion on this, as far as to what we should expect from them."

"Suspicion, mistrust," the half-elf said with a sigh. She folded her hands, and said, "I think the best we can realistically hope for is to have them agree to defend their territory, and perhaps to warn us if anyone too dangerous for them to handle arrives."

"So, we can help them but they won't help us," Buffy said sourly. "Just our luck."

"Buffy, they have been hunted for centuries," Shaw said to the Slayer. With a sad look in her eyes, she added, "I almost killed one of them because *I*, of all people, made assumptions upon first sight."

"Agreed," Steve said, taking out a pen and a piece of paper. He wrote down a short note, and held it out to Shaw. "Make sure their leader gets this, so that he knows that he can trust us."

"Of course," Shaw said, taking the note and putting it into her pocket.

"What's on it?" Buffy asked.

"My name," the Wanderer answered, drawing a look of shock from Buffy. "If they know who I am, they'll check me out. I'd do the same thing in their position, get a feel for who I'm meeting. If they see how I go about my everyday business, maybe it'll make them relax. That can only help at the meeting."

Buffy didn't look happy, but she nodded reluctantly. "Okay, Steve. I hope you know what you're doing."

"So do I," he said with a grin, which neither woman shared. "Okay, the final matter, at least for today, the Mayor."

"The Mayor?" Shaw asked, looking blank. "What about him?"

Steve narrowed his eyes a bit in question, but Buffy lit up.

"Steve, that's one of the forgotten things," she pointed out.

The male Immortal sighed, and said, "Great. I was hoping you would have remembered this."

"What, Steven," Shaw asked, starting to grow worried. "What are you not telling me?"

"Okay," Steve said, "do you at least remember what Machiko told you?"

"Yes, Steven. She told me that the Mayor was watching our activities. One mistake they have made is that they think that my patrolling and yours are separate," the half-elf recited. She narrowed her eyes, calling up the memories from her short talk with the Oriental woman, and said, "They know I am a half-elf, but they think we are simply working together to further my desire for revenge."

"Good," St. Wolf said, now smiling. "Well, what you don't remember is that when you left Sunnydale, you took it upon yourself to check out the Mayor yourself, to see what he knew."

"What?" Shaw asked, not believing that she could be so open.

"It's true, Shaw," Buffy interjected, placing a hand on Shaw's. "We won't lie to you, you know that."

Shaw's breathing started to slow down, and in a quiet voice, she said, "What did I do, Steven?"

"You talked to the Mayor, and the two of you came to an agreement," Steve said, going back to Shaw's conversation with him over the phone on Friday. "You weren't able to get much information out of him, so you tried a different tack. You took money from him, agreeing not to interfere with his affairs, in return for his no longer looking into your hunting."

Shaw's eyes went wide in horror, and she hissed, "Are you saying that I betrayed you?"

Buffy moaned. "Of course not, you nimrod!" she blurted out. "Shaw, the old fart thinks you're still Vengeance Girl! He thinks you're getting your jollies taking out vamps."

"And," Steve continued, not letting Shaw say anything else, "you made it clear what you'd do if you caught him breaking his part of the agreement. You realize what this means."

"That I cannot go back on my word to someone who may be evil," Shaw muttered dismally.

"Shaw, if the Mayor's observing you, that means he's observing those you work with. Including US," Steve pointed out. With a shrug, he said, "You failed to correct his mistake in not knowing you're working with us. So, if we know he's watching us, that means he's watching those who work with us, including you."

Shaw's eyes grew more emotional as he explained the loophole in her agreement with the Mayor, and she visibly relaxed as it dawned on her that she'd been working for the others, even if she couldn't remember.

"And you called me from Seacouver, the morning after your friends in Santa Carla came back to life," Steve said. He tapped his head, and said, "Oh, that reminds me. The handguns you gave them, Xander says you gave me the better on the deal with the hunting rifles. Thanks."

"You are so welcome," Shaw muttered dryly. She looked up at Steve, and asked, "Steven, I know I am supposed to be away from training for a little bit of time. ."

"Stop right there," Steve said firmly. "I know what you're about to ask, and the answer is yes. Sunday, one o'clock. This is a meeting, not a training session. I definitely want you here so they have somebody they know present."

"Thank you, Steven," Shaw said, looking surprisingly bright now. "Is there anything else?"

"No, we have to train, but I want you to relax this weekend," Steve ordered with a smile. "Take it easy."

"No," the ranger countered as she stood up.

When Steve cocked an eyebrow, Buffy laughed.

"She and Amy are going out Saturday," the Slayer said quickly. "You ain't gonna order her to stay home *that* day, honey."

Steve nodded. "Fair enough. Get out of here, Shaw. Get some sleep."

Shaw nodded, and headed for the door. When she walked out, Buffy looked to Steve.

"You really think she was working for us, meeting the Mayor?" she asked as she came around his desk.

"Yes, I do. In fact," Steve said as Buffy sat on his lap and put her arms around his shoulders, "I'm glad it worked out this way. Now we know we have someone watching us, who has absolutely no idea that I'm going to be watching him. That gives us an edge that I'm not going to give up very easily."

Buffy grinned and leaned in for a kiss, saying, "I think you think about being sneaky too often."

Giving her a quick kiss, Steve said, "That's because I'm a superspy, who can pull things that make James Bond look like Boris and Natasha."

"Oh, right, like what?" Buffy asked, snuggling up to him by leaning her head on his shoulder.

"Well. . ." he said, trailing off as Buffy exploded into laughter as he began tickling her ribs. "Never doubt a spy, my love."

Buffy was too busy laughing to reply.

*****

When Merlin walked out of Steve's office, he sensed that something was out of the ordinary the moment he closed the door behind him. Taking a second to shift his perceptions, he extended his sight into the mystical plane. That second was enough for those lying in wait to strike.

Amy, Willow and Jenny dropped the invisibility spells they'd cast over the entire Scooby Gang, and when they appeared, Amy was close enough to grab Merlin by the shirtfront. Which is exactly what she did.

Grabbing handfuls of shirt, she threw the wizard against the nearest wall with a loud "thump." As Merlin began to demand that she release him, Amy cut him off, her pupils a solid black color.

"Don't worry, asshole. I'll make this short and sweet," the Amazon snapped. "I'll even use small words, so listen up. Shaw's a Madison. I'm a Madison. You fuck with one Madison, you fuck with all of 'em. You fuck with a Madison, they fuck with you. In English, you fuck with Shaw, I fuck with you. And if you think we can't back it up, ask MY Goddess what we did to her Brother. After a God, you're minor league shit."

Amy released Merlin's shirt, and backed away, her eyes slowly returning to normal. Merlin just glared at her, but neglected to comment on her speech. But, he did tense when Giles stepped forward.

"Mr. Giles. . ." he began.

"Merlin, I merely wish to say that perhaps things could have been handled differently, earlier today," Giles said reasonably, extending his hand. "In fact, if you could hand me your staff, I would gladly amend what I did earlier."

Taken a bit by surprise, Merlin nodded his assent. He handed the staff to the Watcher, who smiled.

Giles quickly chanted the same spell that he'd used to bend the staff in the first place, and when the staff began glowing, the Englishman gently straightened it out to arrow-like perfection. Then, he flexed his arms, and with astonishing speed, twisted the staff into the shape of a pretzel.

As the glow faded, Giles flipped the twisted staff over to its owner.

As Merlin stared in shock at this newest outrage, Giles said, "Let this be a reminder of what we'll do to you if you ever treat one of our own like that EVER again. What we'll do to you will make a fan of Manchester United shake with fright."

"And know this," Jenny added, her arms folded and eyes flashing, "As Shaw Hunter, she is one of us, a member of our 'family.' As the Hunter, she has aided my people in the past, so beware the clans of the Romany as well, Merlin. As Angelus could testify, Gypsy vengeance is not something to take lightly."

Merlin started sputtering at these renewed threats, but robin cut him off before a sentence could come out.

"Uh, Mer? There's one more person who wants to speak with you," Goodfellow said. He pointed towards the training room, and said, "In the shrine."

Merlin blanched, and said, "Arty's pissed off about this, too?"

"Actually, no," Robin assured him. "Arty understood your dilemma, but someone wants to make sure everything's out in the open."

Merlin nodded, and said, "I was heading that way, anyway."

As Merlin and Robin started towards the training room, Giles called him. Merlin turned to face Giles, who stared at him with a look of pure Ripper.

"Be on your bloody toes, *wanker*," he said with pure malice.

Merlin quickly turned and resumed his trek, and Robin smiled.

"Come on, Mer. I'll see you off," the fairy offered.

As Merlin walked, he shivered. "My Gods. What the hell did you do to that man, Goodfellow?"

"Just a little boost of the physical abilities, Mer," Robin answered with a winning smile. "The rage, that's all him."

Merlin's jaw dropped as the two walked into the training room, to see Artemis standing next to her shrine, with a friendly smile on her face.

"Hello, Merlin," Artemis said with a soft purr. "Rough day?"

"Hello, Arty," the magic-user said tiredly. "Long, rough, and hopefully, soon to be over. I understand you wanted to talk to me."

"You understood wrong," a voice from behind said to Merlin. A voice that Merlin recognized, despite the fact that he hadn't heard it for nearly a thousand years.

"Oh, shit," was all the wizard said before he was telekinetically lifted and thrown against the far wall of the training room.

He slammed into the wall with such force that his teeth and bones rattled, and he looked down at the completely furious, leather-armor clad woman flanked by Artemis on her left, and Robin on the right.

"Mer, you remember Millie," Robin needlessly pointed out.

"Hello, Merlin," Mielikki said with false friendship layering every syllable. "I know you're tired, as well as sore, from today's activities, so I'll be somewhat brief. Artemis tells me that Shawukay's new family have driven home the point I had planned on making to you, so much so that even your thick skull has holes in it. So, I'm simply going to reinforce it."

Merlin was slowly lowered a bit, until he was level with the Finnish deity's head.

"If you ever so much as think of messing with my daughter, ever again, I will cut off your balls, feed them to the Fenris Wolf, and shove the pile of shit that results from it down your fucking throat," She promised. At the stunned look on Merlin's face, Mielikki smiled. "Why do you look so surprised? My daughter *is* living amongst modern Earth teenagers."

She cocked her head, and with a false look of wonder, she said, "And the English language is MUCH more colorful than it was in my time. But, just to be safe. . ."

Mielikki jerked, and Merlin's mouth opened into a silent scream for the second time that day, as he was given a purely physical reminder of his possible fate at her hands.

Robin leaned in towards Artemis. "Told you that's where the kid gets if from."

"Yes, I see," Artemis giggled. She shook her head, and said, "By Zeus, I wish I could make her an Amazon."

"I heard that," the Lady of the Forest said cheerfully without looking back. She leaned in close to the groaning Merlin and said, "One more thing, old 'friend.' If I happen to be busy, and I hear you've hurt my daughter or those she cares about, I'll do worse than come to see you. I'll let Robin handle you."

"You see, Mer," the fairy said, grinning as if this were a pleasant conversation, "Ulric and Jenny pointed out something to me. I like the kid, I really like her. Part of it's that she's had a rough life, part of it's that she's a half-elf, and thus a daughter of the fairy races. But mostly, it's because she's Millie's daughter and Amy's cousin. So, you might say I've got a soft spot for her. So, from now on, don't think of her as 'the Torillian,' or as 'the Harper.' From now on, think of her as. . . MY baby sister."

Mielikki released the mage from her mystical grip, and he glared at Her grinning face, but wisely kept any smart remarks to himself.

"Do I have your leave to depart?" Merlin asked with faux respect.

"Get out of my shrine," Artemis ordered with an evil grin.

Merlin quickly cast a teleportation spell, and departed in a flash. The Goddesses and fairy looked at each other for a moment after his departure, and began laughing out loud.

"Oh, by Zeus, this was just like the ancient days," Artemis giggled to her Sister.

"I forgot how much I enjoyed this realm," Mielikki said, tears flowing from her eyes. "I should've come back centuries ago."

"Well, now that you've got a priestess here," Robin said, "maybe it's time to rebuild the faith. Arty's gotten off to a good start with the Amazons."

Mielikki sobered a bit, and shook her head. "No, Robin. My time here is done. There may be those who call my name, but they venerate the ideal more than me, and truth be told, I like that. You know why I did what I did."

"Yeah, you gave your 'kids' the vision that said to join Christianity, right after you went before the Big Guy and secured His promise that they'd still be allowed to practice what they believed in as far as the Forest stuff went," Robin said with a sad smile. "You always were the one who made sure her servants were provided for. But you got no excuse this time. You better come see us more often. If anyone can get Arty to loosen up, it's you."

"Yes," Mielikki said, looking around at the training room. "I think I'll start with her taste in shrines."

Artemis stopped laughing and spared an exasperated glare at Mielikki, who just smirked at Her in good fun.

"So, do you think he learned his lesson?" Mielikki asked.

"If the *very* unlikely event that he didn't," Robin said, looking very pleased with himself, "Imagine his reaction when he gets home and Niume tells him he's on the couch tonight."

Artemis' mouth opened, and she said, "You called Niume?"

"Of course I did," the fairy smiled. "Niume don't take kindly to those who mess with witches. I know, Shaw's not a witch, but her great-grannie was, and Amy's a witch. And the shit she dishes out to Hubby Dearest tonight and tomorrow night will save us the trouble of embarrassing him later on."

The two Goddesses began laughing again, but Mielikki stopped, looking into space. Robin nodded, and said, "Oh, come on, Millie. Let the kid see her Mommy. Don't you think she's earned it?"

"More than earned it," the Lady of the Forest lamented. "But this is not the time. She needs her family right now, which you are a part of, Robin. And she will know I am watching over her. When the time comes, I will come to her."

Looking a little disappointed, Robin sighed. "Okay. It's your call."

"Besides," Artemis pointed out with a grin, "we have an idiotic War God to deal with."

With a tinkling laugh, the Lady of the Forest and the Goddess of the Hunt vanished from the training room, leaving Robin shaking his head.

"Oh, sure, don't invite me along."

Robin exited the training room, and walked over to Xander, who cocked an eyebrow.

"She'll be coming out in a few seconds," he said cheerfully.

"How'd the talk with Arty go?" Xander asked, drawing a slap from Cordelia. "What was THAT for?!?"

"Don't call her Arty," the Amazon brunette snapped.

"Anyway," Robin said, wringing his hands, "Millie was the one who did most of the talking. And the other stuff."

"What other stuff?" Willow asked.

"Well, let's just say that Shaw's 'impression' on Merlin was *nothing* compared to what Millie did to him," Goodfellow said with a grin that nearly took in his face.

"Uh, wouldn't Millie be. . ." Xander started to say, before Robin drew his finger across his throat.

Xander realized why, as the door to Steve's office opened, and Shaw walked out from her meeting with Steve and Buffy.

She looked up to see the entire team looking at her, and Xander and Robin immediately extended their arms over their heads, and began bowing up and down.

"WE'RE NOT WORTHY!!!" they kept saying. "WE'RE NOT WORTHY!!!"

Shaw watched the two, and looked over at Amy. "Do I even want to ask?"

"What, did you think we wouldn't find out you did to Merlin?" Amy asked with a smile. "You know, cuz, downtime means you don't fight at all, let alone take out Mr. Wizard."

"I did not see a choice at the time," the ranger told the Amazon.

"I bet Merlin wishes you had," Xander chuckled, drawing a couple of laughs.

"So, Shaw?" Jenny asked, "how did it go?"

Shaw went pink in the face, and said, "Merlin asked me to show him something that showed him I am learning things about Earth on my own, rather than only having you teach me things. I showed him."

"What did you do?" Willow asked.

"I, as you say, gave him the finger," the blushing half-elf admitted sheepishly.

Cordelia and Giles' jaws dropped, but the rest of the Slayerettes promptly broke out into laughter. Shaw just watched them in confusion, and turned to Cordelia.

"Cordelia, why do they find that amusing?" she asked the brunette. "I was not given much choice in the matter by Steven or Buffy."

"Well, Merlin probably meant to show him music or something else you like. But this is even better," Cordy said with a large grin. "I'm proud of you, girl."

"You would be," Shaw mumbled, but Cordelia's grin was somewhat infectious. "I am heading home now. Will I see you Sunday?"

"Probably before that," she said with a glint in her eyes that had Shaw growing suspicious. "But go home and get some shuteye. We'll talk to you later."

Xander and the others had regained control of their mirth, and Xander said, "Walk you to the gate, Hunter?"

Shaw looked to him, and said, "If it will not get you into trouble with Cordelia. You seem to have a talent for that."

"Oh, go ahead, dweeb boy," Cordelia snapped. "I trust her."

"What about me?!?" Xander bleated.

"The only thing I trust you to do is get us into trouble," she told him.

Muttering to himself, Xander and Shaw walked out of the house, heading through the kitchen for the side gate. When they stepped outside, Xander grabbed Shaw by the arm.

"Okay, I'm giving you a warning, Hunter," he said firmly, with a tone that belied his normally easy going exterior. "Have you heard that Randi might have found a boyfriend?"

"No, I did not," Shaw admitted, turning to face Xander, who released her arm. "What does this have to do with me?"

"Well, you know how certain Slayers, Amazons and witches like to set up their friends with boyfriends, right?"

Shaw nodded. "Yes, Cordelia wanted me to continue her work in getting Kendra and Joseph to admit that they are a couple."

"Well, news flash," Xander said, leaning against the wooden fence. "Randi and Brian have both found people they like. That leaves only one Slayerette, period, without a boyfriend. Which means that the matchmakers are gonna be turning to that Slayerette very quickly. Three guesses who I'm referring to."

Shaw thought about it, and said, "Xander, do you realize how hard it is for those of half-elven blood to find love?"

"Well, if anyone could swing it, they could," he said, smiling at her. "But I thought I'd give you fair warning."

"Thank you, Xander," Shaw said, clearly not pleased with the possibility of being the target of the Slayerette's setup attempts. "I will have to be on my guard."

"Good. Oh, what did Steve decide about Larry?" Xander asked, looking nervous.

"He will offer Larry a 'reserve' role, to help when we need it," the priestess said, looking at him. She saw something in his eyes, and it dawned on her. "You know about him."

"Yeah, and no, I won't tell anyone," he said firmly. "I know that he's gay, and I don't have a problem with it. Except that he thinks I'm gay. I'll tell you the story about *that* some other time."

"I will hold you to that, Xander," Shaw said with a small grin.

The two turned to leave, but that was when Duncan and Amanda walked in through the gate, with Duncan carrying a strange sword in his hands. His face lit up when he saw Shaw looking much better than she had two days ago.

Shaw walked up, and gave the Highlander a quick embrace, and said, "How are you doing, Duncan?"

"I'm fine," he said with a smile. "And you?"

Shaw's smile faded, and she quietly said, "A little better, but. . ."

"Bad dreams?" he asked, and she nodded. She suddenly tensed, and he said, "Shaw?"

"Where did you get that sword?" she asked quietly.

"Hey, Duncan, wicked blade," Xander said as he reached out to touch it.

"If you are fond of that hand, Xander Harris," Shaw hissed, "you will retract it at once."

Xander snatched his hand back, and stared at her in amazement, as did Duncan and Amanda.

"Shaw!" Duncan said in irritation.

"But. ." she said, not looking from the wavy blade whose brand new steel blade shone in the afternoon sunlight. "Where did you get that?"

"It was in the Hummer you took from Cain," the Scot said impatiently. "Why did you just threaten Xander like that?"

"That was not in the vehicle," Shaw said, shaking her head. "I found all of the secret compartments."

"It was strapped under the truck," Amanda explained, wondering why the girl was so fixated on that sword. "Shaw, what's wrong? You look like you've seen a ghost."

"That is a flamberge," Shaw noted dully, a couple of tears starting to fall from her eyes.

"Okay, it's a flambe," Xander said, trying to shake Shaw out of her lethargy. "Uh, Hunter?"

"Flamberge, Xander," Shaw said with a sad look.

"You've seen this type of sword before?" Duncan asked, trying to get through to her.

"I have dodged this type of sword enough times," Shaw said, looking at Duncan with tear-streaked eyes. "It was the type of sword Grandfather carried. The type he. . .used to spar with me when I was a child."

She turned to Xander, and sadly said, "I am sorry. This. . it is an unpleasant reminder of what Ares threatened to do. I hope you can understand."

"Yeah," Xander said, putting an arm around her shoulder like an old friend. "You gonna keep it? You've got enough swords already, and it doesn't look old like the ones you collect. Imagine Cordy's look when I pulled that sucker out."

"No, Xander," she said, reaching out and running her fingers along the curves on one side. "This is one that I. . . I want this one."

Xander looked disappointed, but he couldn't argue with why she wished to keep the blade.

"Okay, but you owe me one for the warning about matchmakers," he told her. She just nodded distractedly, and he said, "I'm heading in. See you this weekend."

He walked in, and Duncan pulled the blade away, placing it behind his back, startling Shaw out of her reverie.

"Shaw, are you all right?" he asked.

"Did they tell you about my encounter with Merlin this morning?" she asked the Highlander.

"No, this is the first time I'll have talked to Steve all day," Duncan said. "What did he say to you?"

"Nothing that was not a misunderstanding," the half-elf explained. "But. . . I kicked him in the groin for trying to read my mind."

Amanda just stared at her with an open jaw, but Duncan smiled in approval.

"Good job," he chuckled. "Just like a true daughter of the Clan MacLeod. Wait until Connor hears about this."

"You know he will take credit for it," Shaw hinted.

"Yes, but I'll find a way to get even," the younger MacLeod said, squeezing Shaw's shoulder. "Now get home and get some sleep. And I know you don't want that Humvee, do you?"

At the sour look on Shaw's face, he said, "I'll talk to Steve, and see what we can do."

Shaw nodded, and Duncan handed the sword over to her, and she moved to place it under the coat she was wearing, but it only fell to her knees, and not lower.

"Damn," Amanda said, "you can't hide it that way."

"Watch this," Shaw countered, carefully placing the flamberge down the back of her neck, and then undoing the braid she wore, leaving her hair unbound, completely covering the hilt.

Amanda just looked on in surprise, and Shaw smiled at Duncan.

"I shall see you again, before you go back home?" she asked hopefully.

"I'm here for another two weeks, Shaw," he said with a tender smile. "I'll see you next week."

Shaw smiled and headed out of the yard. Amanda watched her go, and Duncan laughed under his breath.

"Still think you've got competition?" the Highlander asked.

The thief shook her head no. "No, for one thing she's looking at you like a big brother. And she's too straight-laced for you to be together."

"Oh, how's that?" Duncan asked.

"You need someone of the sneaky, despicable, nasty streak nature to balance out those boy scout qualities of yours," she said. "And there's only one person who fits that bill."

She turned and walked into the house without another word, leaving Duncan laughing under his breath.

"And Steve thinks HE'S the one who's cursed," he muttered as he went to follow Amanda in.

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