Author: Steve711 - Steve Pantovich

E-mail Address: Steve711@concentric.net

Title: The Chronicles of Wanderer - Training Blues Series - A Cat's Tale.

Copyrighted : April 2001

Category: Crossover

Rating: PG-13

Spoilers: A few, but who cares?

Keywords: X-Files/Highlander/Buffy the Vampire Slayer Crossover with a few guest stars.

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

Highlander: All rights and properties owned by Rysher Entertainment.

The Legendary Adventures of Hercules/Xena: All rights and properties owned by Renaissance and Flat Earth Productions.

The X-Files are owned by Chris Carter Productions, 20th Century Fox and 1013 Productions.

Gargoyles are owned Walt Disney Productions and Bene Vista Productions.

Agatha Harkness and the Town of New Salem is the Property of Marvel Comics/Entertainment.

Summary: Ever wonder who the hell Duke is? Well you're about to find out. Don't say I didn't warn you.

All disclaimers appear at the end of the story.

Any character whose names and descriptions are used are the property of their original owners, and no copy right infringement is intended or meant.

No money can be made from this story. It can be distributed freely so
long as it is kept in its entirety, with all notices and copyright information intact.

The characters Wanderer/Steven St. Wolf, Frank Iverson, Brother Aaron, Robert McCallister, The Knights of the Order of the Grail, Randi Jessup, Brian Jessup and this story are mine. Anyone wishing to use them, please contact me at my e-mail address: Steve711@concentric.net

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

Author's Note's: When I started to write this story I decided to
change some things concerning the characters.

X-Files Mulder and Scully are married and Immortal - So Non-
Relationshippers beware.

Highlander: Richie Ryan shouldn't have died in the end of the fifth
season. So here he hasn't.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy is an Immortal and this series splits from the third season show, The Judge.

Author's Thanks:

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

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

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

Gene Rodenberry, Don Pendelton, Mickey Spillane and Barry Sadler

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

Thanks and here's the Story. Enjoy.


A Cat's Tale

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

15 March 1998
Sunnydale, CA - 20:00 PST

The middle aged woman walks to the front of her gallery and flips the open sign to closed. She sighs as she reaches for the lock with her key. Suddenly the door is jerked open and a fanged face walks into the gallery. "Hi there." He growls. "I usually like to talk to my dinner before I eat it."

"Get out of here vampire!" The woman demands, trying to sound tough.

The vampire grins and quickly moves forward and grabs her arm. The woman quickly moves back into the gallery. The vampire follows her. "I thought you can't enter a place unless you're invited?"

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

"You should have stuck with the Mickey D's asshole." A voice replies from behind the vampire.

He turns around and sees a small blond girl standing in the door way. He also sees the six foot, two inch man standing behind her. The vampire grins. "Oh goody. Thanksgiving's come early this year. I'm going to stuff myself tonight."

The girl smiles and takes two steps. The vampire smiles as the tasty morsel comes to him. His grin turns to shock as she turns the third step into a flying kick. "Oh Shi. . ." He manages to get out before his head is violently turned ninety degrees. As he goes flying, the girl lands into a modified horse stance. Right fist and leg out, left leg braced and left hand holding a wooden stake, ready to strike. The vampire looks up from the floor and hisses. "You are dead bitch!!" He screams out as he bull rushes her. The girl moves to the side, blocking with her right and stabbing forward with her left hand. The vampire freezes as the stake finds his heart and he disappears.

The girl turns to the woman. "Mom? Are you all right?"

Joyce Summers smiles. "I am now. Thanks for coming by to help me close up."

"Not a problem, Joyce." Steve replies grimly. "But I'm going to talk to some friends about getting you some protection for the store and the house."

"Thanks Steve." Joyce replies as Buffy hands her a glass of water. "What are you going to get?"

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

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

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

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

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

Steve grins. "I wouldn't worry, Buffy. Agatha Harkness is a witch that I know. I'm hoping she might help me with some protection spells and a few books for Jenny, Willow and Amy."

"And just how beautiful is this witch?" Buffy asks.

Steve grins wider. "Agatha is over seventy years old."

"So what?" Buffy replies, her foot tapping on the floor.

"Agatha isn't an Immortal." Steve replies. "She actually looks seventy years old."

"Why can't I come with you?" Buffy asks.

"You have school tomorrow." Joyce reminds her.

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

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

Buffy glares at Steve. "Fine!! But if I find out that you're seeing some super sexy witch that looks like Jenny, Willow or Amy, I'm going to cut it off." She then storms off. "Mom. I'll be waiting for you by the car!!"

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

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

"Will you?" Joyce asks.

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"But does he love me?" Buffy wonders.

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

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

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

Buffy looks at her Mother. "Since when are you so good at giving advice?"

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

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

*****

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

March 16, 1998
Town of New Salem, Colorado - 1800 PST

Steve pulls into the diner parking lot and looks around as he gets out of his Blazer. He grimaces as everyone in and near the diner stares at him in open dislike. As he walks into the diner, everyone stops talking and eating and stares at him. < Sheesh, these people could give Mulder lessons in paranoia. > He sits down at the counter and picks up the menu. He looks at it as the waitress walks up to him. Steve studies the menu and grunts. "What's the daily special?"

"Nothing you'd like." The waitress surlily replies.

Steve looks up at her and grins. He notices her 5'6" height, incredibly long red hair and pale complexion. She just rolls her eyes and taps her pad. "I'm looking for someone." Steve tells her.

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

"We don't want your kind here!"

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

Steve smiles and slowly pulls out Demon Slayer. The men quickly back away, sensing it's incredible power. "Oh Shit!!" The waitress cries out as she staggers even further back, her face ashen. "A freaking Sword of Destiny!!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Mistress Harkness." Steve replies as the room goes silent again. The heavyset man gulps as Steve continues. "I have a personal message from Lady Niume. And I need some advice as well."

The entire room relaxes and the waitress brings Steve a cup of coffee while the man in purple rushes out to deliver the message. He smiles at her and she dimples as she puts down a cup of coffee in front of him. "If'n you want, Sir Steve, I get off at eight o'clock."

Steve loses his smile and coughs. "I'm sorry, but I'm seeing someone."

"Oh? Is she beautiful?" The waitress asks as she moves closer and leans down, showing her cleavage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Because she's the Slayer." Steve replies. The waitress gulps and quickly turns away. The heavyset man sits down next to Steve.

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

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

The heavyset man snorts in laughter. "Next thing you'll be telling us that she's also Immortal." Steve just smiles as the heavyset man blanches. "Gods above!! She's not?!" Steve just nods his head and smiles. The heavyset man gulps, worry clearly etched on his face.

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

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

"Why?" Steve asks.

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

"How was she killed?"

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

"A pleasure, Joshua." Steve replies as he shakes Joshua's hand. The diner quickly goes back to it's normal self as the people accept Steve in their midst.

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

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

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

Everyone turns to the door and sees the purple man standing there, holding the door open. An elderly lady stands in the doorway, her white hair tied back in a bun and a shawl over her shoulders. She looks at Steve and he feels his stomach lurch. < Oh Shit! The Lady came to me. > Steve quickly gets to his feet. "Mistress Harkness, a pleasure to see you again."

The woman glares at Steve. "I understand you have a message for me?" Steve nods and calmly reaches into his jacket pocket and takes our a thick envelope with a yellow wax seal on it. Miss Harkness, seeing the seal, smiles and takes the envelope and walks over to a nearby table. The two men sitting there, quickly pickup their dishes and leave. Mara quickly wipes down the table and stands nearby, patiently waiting. Agatha Harkness sits down as the purple man holds out the chair for her. She gives the entire diner a glance as the patrons watch her closely. All of them quickly turn back to their meals as she begins to open the envelope.

Steve quietly sits back down and turns to his cup of coffee. As he begins to drink from it, he pulls out a newspaper and begins to read it, patiently waiting to be called. After a few minutes, Joshua taps Steve's shoulder and he turns back. "Mistress Harkness wants to talk." Steve nods his head and puts his paper away and walks over to the table. He stands by the table as Harkness looked him over from head to toe.

She points to the chair opposite her and Steve sits down, waiting for her to begin. She leans in and stares into his eyes and nods her head when she's done appraising him. "So Niume tells me that you need my help. What do you need?"

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

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

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

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

Joshua stands away from the counter. "Yes Mistress Harkness." He replies with a smile. "My Gert just had a litter and I'll gladly give him two from it."

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

Steve turns to Agatha and asks. "Mistress Harkness, I do appreciate the generosity of Joshua and the rest, but what are you giving me?"

Agatha smiles. "Just wait and see Sir Steven."

A few minutes later, Joshua walks in with a pair of German Shepard puppies and puts them in a box next to Steve. He looks at them as they each stare back at him with intelligent eyes. Mara brings another box and puts in a small kitten. Several other people come by and also drop either a kitten or puppy in the boxes. After five kittens and five puppies are placed in the two boxes, Agatha holds up her hand. "That's enough. He doesn't need more. Three other people nod their heads and quietly take back their kittens and puppies.

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

Agatha Harkness smiles as she asks Mara. "Is Isabelle in the back?"

"Yes, Mistress Harkness." Mara replies as she quickly leaves with a smile on her face. She quickly comes back and puts a multi-colored calico cat down on the floor nearby. Mara turns and smiles. "Now watch, Sir Knight." She turns back to the cat and commands. "Isabelle, please show your true form to this man."

The cat looks up at Mara and then to Steve and finally to Agatha, who nods her head. The cat stretches and in an instant, she's replaced by a full sized Saber Tooth Tiger. Steve stares in shock at the two hundred and fifty pound monster.

"Oh boy." Steve mutters under his breath. He looks back to Agatha. "How?"

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

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

Agatha smiles. "Joshua, please bring in Gert."

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

Steve gulps as the German Shepard grows to three times her size. "A Dire Wolf?" Steve asks as Joshua nods his head. He turns back to Agatha. "Are all of them like that?"

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

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

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

"What does this do?" Steve asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agatha smiles. "Not at all. Just make sure that he gets a cat."

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

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

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

"All right." Steve replies softly and then raises his voice. "Thank you all for these gifts."

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

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

Agatha picks up the list and nods her head. She quickly writes down a list of books on the other side. She reads it over and nods her head. She looks over to an old man and he comes over. She gives him the list. "Peter, do you have extra copies of these in your shop?"

"Of course Mistress Harkness. But are you sure?"

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

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

Agatha smiles. "Of course, Peter. Please feel free to add whatever you feel is necessary."

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

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

Agatha nods her head towards Peter and he bows and leaves, taking the envelope with him. She turns back to Steve. "Will you spend the night with us while Peter gets the books together?"

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

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

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

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

"Certainly." Steve replies with a smile. While dinner is being prepared, Steve tells Agatha of his first few weeks in Sunnydale. Most of the people forget their meals and listen in as Steve describes their attacks on the vampire army raised by Angelus. Several of the people mutter in shock at the number of vampires destroyed by eighteen Immortals. When Steve tells them of Artemis and her choosing four of his young friends and blessing them, the entire diner lapses into shocked silence.

"Are any of these Amazons also Witches?" Agatha asks in wonder.

"Three of them are Witches." Steve confirms.

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

"She's taken to being an Amazon with relish." Steve grins. "The vampires have mistaken her for the Slayer several times already."

Agatha chuckles. "The young woman seems to be enjoying herself."

"Very much so. To the bad fortune of her boyfriend." Steve replies with a smile as he begins to feed the puppies and then the kittens.

Agatha smiles. "You'll do well with them young man. They already trust you."

Steve grins as he pets the kittens and pups. "Brother Aaron says the same thing."

"The Immortal Monk? Is he still with Michael?" Agatha asks with a smile.

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

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

"If you want, I'll be happy to get a message to them." Steve replies as one of the puppies, a jet black Shepard, climbs onto his lap. He looks down at the pup and the pup just pants and licks his hand.

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

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

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

Steve grins and puts the dog back into the box. He immediately climbs back out and onto Steve's lap. "You won't be getting rid of him that easily." Joshua replies with a rumbling chuckle. "But I think the feelings are mutual." He adds as Steve begins to tickle the pup's belly.

Agatha smiles as she claps her hands. Several of the men get up and approach her. "Please take these young ones and care for them tonight. Mr. St. Wolf will be staying with me tonight and will be leaving tomorrow with them." Steve puts the puppy back into the box and pets him. Before the two men can pickup the boxes, the black Shepard pup jumps out and again climbs onto Steve's lap.

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

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

*****

Part 3 - House Sitting
(Weaponous Interruptus)

March 16, 1998
Home of Steve St. Wolf, Sunnydale, CA - 2130 PST

Xander grins as he and Cordelia house sit for Steve. Cordelia moans as Xander's hands begin to caress her in a very sensitive spot. "Oh Goddess." Cordelia mutters as she leans in and kisses him on his mouth. She quickly forces her tongue into Xander's mouth and begins to unbutton his shirt. As Xander's hands reach for her bra strap, a loud knocking is heard from the front door. Xander grimaces and Cordelia angrily gets up and heads to the front door. She quickly pulls it open and her angry reply is lost at the sight of the six foot eight inch giant standing in the door way. She stares at the dark haired giant and gulps.

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

"Away on business." Cordelia curtly replies as she shifts into a defensive posture. "What do you what?"

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

Cordelia and Xander stare at the truck and shake their heads in wonder. "Hey guy!" Xander calls out and the giant turns around and walks back.

"What is it, boy?"

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

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

"We'll do that." Xander replies as he quickly closes the door. He turns and watches as Cordelia pulls out a Heckler and Koch G3 Battle rifle from one of the hidden wall lockers. "Keep an eye on him while I call Frank."

"Not a problem." Cordelia replies as she watches the giant from a side window.

Xander nods his head and reaches for the phone and quickly dials Frank's phone number. A sleepy woman answers. "Who is this?"

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

"Who are you looking for?"

"A friend of mine named Frank." Xander replies as he reaches for the hook to disconnect the phone.

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

"Okay." Xander replies as Frank comes on line.

"Who is this?" Frank demands.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You just talked to her." Frank replies with a laugh as he hangs up.

Xander shakes his head and grins as he remembers the picture from the back of one of the dust jackets.. < Lucky Dog. > He turns back to Cordelia. "He checks out."

Cordelia grins as she puts her battle rifle down. "All right."

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

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

"How?!" Xander barks out.

Randolph grins. "Just been doing this for a while."

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

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

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

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

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

Randolph looks up from the box he's picking up and grins. "Nope."

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

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

Cordelia stares at the man and grins. "I wish. I've got Dweeb Boy here for a boyfriend."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Thanks." Randolph replies as he angrily begins to throw the boxes at the garage.

"Let me guess." Xander mutters. "You bet on February 28th?"

"No." Randolph angrily mutters. "March 1st!"

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

"You kids should be all right."

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

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

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

"Yep." Randolph replies as he straightens his back and wipes his brow. "Class of 1927."

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

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

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

"We leave." Randolph replies with a chuckle as he reaches up and closes the truck's rear door and walks away to the front of the truck. Xander and Cordelia watch as the truck leaves in a cloud of dust.

*****

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

March 16, 1998
Town of New Salem, Colorado - 2100 PST

Steve stares at the Victorian decor of Agatha's house and mutters. "Most of my clients would kill for some of these things."

Agatha looks up at him from her easy chair. "Oh? Why is that?"

"I sell antiques as a cover." Steve replies with a smile.

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

"What matter would that be?" Steve asks as he sits down across from her. The puppy snuggles into his lap immediately.

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

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

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

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

"Of course. Would tomorrow morning be fine."

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

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

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

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

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

"May I ask why?"

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

"What sort of things did he do to your car?" Agatha asks in curiosity.

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

"An impressive vehicle." Agatha agrees with a smile. "But that will just wet their appetites all the more."

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

"Fair enough." Agatha replies as she watches Steve pet and cuddle the puppy. "Have you thought of a name for him yet?"

Steve grins. "How about Duke?"

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

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

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

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

"I think he'll like being called Duke." Agatha replies as the puppy yawns widely. "Time for bed. For the both of you."

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

*****

Steve stares up at the ceiling as Duke cuddles next to him. < They gave me ten Guardians, but I only need nine. > Steve thinks to himself as he ticks off where the pets would go. < I keep Duke, Buffy, Joyce, Willow, Cordelia, Amy, Oz and Xander each get one. Giles and Jenny are sharing one. Who else can I give one to? > Steve's mouth splits into a smile as he reaches for his cell phone. He quickly dials a Washington D.C. number and a sleepy Dana Scully answers.

"Who is this? If it's you Mulder, I'm going to kill you."

Steve snickers. "Tell Fox to roll over a little more."

"Steve?" Dana mutters as she wakes up. "Are the kids all right?"

"They're fine. Can you and Mulder come over tomorrow? I need your input on something." Steve replies with a chuckle.

"What's going on?" Dana asks as Steve hears Mulder mumble in the background.

"Nothing much. Just want you and Mulder at my house to see something interesting."

"What is it?"

"You'll have to come over to find out." Steve replies with a laugh and hangs up. Duke looks at him with his head in an angle, wondering what was so funny. Steve looks down at the dog. "What?" Duke just continues to stare at him. Steve chuckles evilly. "I want to see Mulder's face when one of you changes in front of him and Dana." Duke just shakes his head and puts it on his paws. Steve watches as Duke closes his eyes.

*****

17 March 1998
Town of New Salem - 0630 - PST

The next morning dawns bright and clear as Steve and Duke wake up. Steve opens his eyes and finds Duke staring at him over his paws as he rests on Steve's chest. "Good morning to you to." Steve replies as Duke's tongue licks his face. Steve chuckles. "I bet you want breakfast?"

Duke barks once and scampers off the bed as Steve gets up. Steve looks around and opens a door and finds the bathroom. He quickly does what he needs to do and gets out. Duke quietly watches as Steve gets dressed. When Steve's ready to leave, Duke jumps off the bed and joins him at the door.

Steve grins and opens the door. Duke immediately scampers down to the kitchen where Mara was making breakfast. Steve coughs and Mara turns and smiles at him. "Don't worry, Sir Knight, I'm not here to ravish you."

"Just breakfast?" Steve asks with a grin.

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

"Even Immortals?" Steve asks in surprise.

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

"That paints a nice picture." Steve replies with a grin as Agatha walks in. He immediately rises from his chair and holds out her's. Agatha sits down as Steve pushes in the chair.

"Are you ready to look over the items?" Agatha asks.

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

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

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

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

"Thank you." Steve replies as he digs into his scrambled eggs, home fries, bacon and toast. Duke whines as he eyes the last of the bacon. Steve just shakes his head and hand over half of it to him. Duke makes happy puppy noises as he bites into the bacon, chewing on it. "Gonna have to buy him a chew toy." Steve mutters to himself as Duke chews the bacon with his open mouth.

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

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

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

Steve snickers. "I think Duke and I have an understanding."

"Oh? Do you now?" Mara asks as she watches Duke steal most of Steve's remaining bacon. Steve watches as the pup quickly gobbles up all of the bacon and licks his lips in satisfaction.

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

Mara laughs lightly as Steve puts his fork down and again glares at the puppy. Duke stares back and suddenly moves forward, licking Steve's nose. Steve continues to glare at Duke but breaks down and chuckles. "Definitely dangerous. I wonder what he'll do when Buffy's over?"

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

"That's why they created dog houses." Steve replies with an evil grin while watching Duke. Duke glares back and struts forward and goes nose to nose with Steve. Steve lets out a low growl. Duke also growls but then licks Steve's nose. Steve just stares at the dog, finally realizing something. "You're a lot smarter then you look."

*****

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

*****

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

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

"How intelligent are they?"

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

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

"Then the world is doomed." Mara replies with a laugh.

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

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

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

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

"Not really." Steve chuckles. "Xander has terminal smart mouth."

Agatha smiles. "He tends to keep your moods light. Especially during the worst of times."

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

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

"I should have taken that job on the Antiques Road Show." Steve mutters as everyone watches him. Steve smiles at them as he and Agatha walk over to a pair of chairs. Steve stands next to her as she sits down and he begins to look over the items being presented. He quickly goes through the items chosen. After about three hours, Steve sits back in his chair and takes a deep breath. "I think that's enough." He looks over the items he's chosen. "I think that I can get what you need with these items. How will you get them to me?"

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

"Good." Steve replies as he stretches. "I'll check on the Guardians and then I'll be leaving."

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

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

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

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

"Very good, Sir Steve." Agatha replies with a smile as they walk up to Steve's Blazer. A pile of boxes was sitting next to it and Steve gulped.

"You think that's enough books?"

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

"Of course we will." Steve replies as several of the teenagers stare at his car. "Kids will be kids."

"Can you let them look for a short while?" Agatha asks with a smile.

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

"Why?" A short red headed girl asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What has changed?" Agatha asks.

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

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

"Time for me to leave." Steve replies as he looks at his watch.

Agatha nods her head and turns to the group of teenagers looking at Steve's car. "Please place the boxes in the car." The teenagers quickly pickup the boxes and put them in the car. Joshua walks up with the puppies and kittens and places them on the front seat.

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

"About twelve hours." Steve replies.

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

"A lot easier. Thanks Joshua." Steve replies with a grin as he turns to Agatha. "I'll be leaving now, Mistress Harkness."

"Have a good trip, Sir Steve." Agatha replies as Steve climbs into his car and leaves. Agatha and Joshua watch him leave and Agatha turns to Joshua. "What do you think Joshua? Do you think our people will follow him when the time comes?"

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

"Thank you Joshua." Agatha replies as she turns and leaves. She turns back for a second and quietly whispers. "Good luck, Steven. Maggie was right about you."

*****

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

March 17, 1998
Sunnydale, CA - 21:40 PST

Steve pulls up to his house and sees the lights are on and a rental car was parked in the driveway. He also sees Giles' aged Citrogen, Oz's van, and Cordelia's convertible. < Damn, everyone must be here. > Steve thinks to himself as he gets out of his car. He feels the familiar ‘Buzz' and watches as the side door opens and Buffy rushes out and into his arms. "Miss me?"

Buffy glares at him but doesn't let him go as she murmurs. "I was worried about you."

"Did Dana and Mulder make it in?" Steve asks as he lets Buffy down.

"Yeah, they did. What did you bring back?"

"A surprise for everyone." Steve replies with a grin as he walks into the house and sees that everyone was there, waiting. He grins as he sees Mulder sitting down on the couch. "Get up lazy bones, you have to help me unload my car."

"Dana and I flew out here and you want us to help you unload your car?" Mulder growls out. "Do you realize the mess we're in with Skinner over this?"

Steve grins. "Nope, but then I don't really care."

Mulder glares at him, but gets up and follows Steve back to his car. Buffy and the rest follow them and the car is quickly unloaded. The last package is the carryalls with the puppies and kittens. Steve personally carries them inside. Everyone watches as he reaches inside and feels around for a few seconds. Steve smiles as he pets each of the Guardians and they begin to wake up. Each of the young Guardians begin to strain at the mesh of the carryalls as they sense their future companions nearby.

"What's in the boxes?" Buffy asks as she tries to peek into the carryalls, but Steve pulls her back.

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

"No. Mom's at home." Buffy replies.

"Can she come here?"

"Sure." Buffy replies as she walks over to the phone. She quickly calls her Mom. "She'll be here in five. What's up with the boxes?"

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

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

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

"Jenny?" Willow mutters, her hands shaky, he face white. "Please tell me that I'm not imagining this." Jenny, Giles and Amy rush over and stare at the book in question.

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

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

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

"Here and there." Steve replies with a lop sided grin. "Glad you like them."

Giles shakes his head in disbelief and turns back to the boxes with Jenny, Willow and Amy. As he walks way, Giles mutters. "Damn bastard is not going to tell us anything. I hate that about him the most."

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

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

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

Jenny looks up from a book that she was looking at and stares at Steve, fear in her eyes. "Steve." She hoarsely whispers. "Did Buffy just say that you got these books from a woman named Harkness?"

"She did." Steve confirms as Jenny drops the book from her hands.

Jenny gulps. "Not Agatha Harkness?"

"Yep." Steve replies with a grin.

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

"A mutual friend." Steve replies with a grin.

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

"Someone we both know."

"You're not going to tell us are you?" Mulder asks.

"Nope." Steve replies with a grin.

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

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

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

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

"These people. Who were they?"

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

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

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

"Goddess." Jenny mutters. "My Grandfather warned me about you, but this?"

"What did your Grandfather say?" Giles asks.

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

"Jenny?" Willow calls over. "There's a bunch of glass bottles in this box. And a letter."

"What does the letter say?" Steve asks.

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

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

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

"Like hell it didn't!" Buffy yells back as her Mother walks into the house. "Take me home!" Buffy orders as she stalks past her.

Joyce looks on in shock as Buffy slams the door behind her. She turns to Steve and asks. "What happened?"

Steve sighs. "I told her the truth."

"So was this Harkness woman young and sexy?" Joyce asks with a smile.

"No, Mara was." Steve replies.

"Who's Mara?"

"Miss Harkness' student."

"Nothing happened?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Steve stops laughing and lets go of Duke, Duke scampers down. Buffy quickly reaches down and picks him up. She holds him up and glares at him from arm's length. Duke, tongue hanging out, looks at Buffy with wide eyes. Buffy just shakes her head in disbelief and begins to laugh herself. She quickly hugs Duke to herself and Duke begins to lick her face.

"Watch it Mutt." Steve jokingly warns. Buffy and Duke look at him. "That's *my* girlfriend."

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

"Actually, I got a bunch of dogs and cats. Enough for everyone." Steve replies as he reaches down and opens the carryalls. The puppies and kittens immediately run out and quickly choose their companions.

Willow giggles as she picks up a Collie puppy and hugs it to herself. Oz smiles as a brown calico kitten chooses him. Xander grins as a multi-colored calico chooses him. Cordelia sighs in appreciation as a regal Persian chooses her. Joyce smiles as a Labrador pup walks up to her and it's twin jumps into Buffy's lap. Buffy giggles as she picks up the pup and hugs it. Dana grins as an orange furred kitten jumps into her arms. Jenny bends down and scoops up the black kitten that had walked up to her and Giles. Amy coos as the final pup, a Shepard like Duke walks up to her and sits down in front of her. Amy sits down and begins to play with her stomach.

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

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

Steve grins and untangles himself from Buffy, Duke and the now chosen Labrador pup. "Duke, please go forward." Duke barks happily and goes to the middle of the living room and sits down, waiting. "Now watch Duke." Steve comments as he asks. "Duke, please show them what you can become."

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

"Oh my. . ." Xander begins.

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

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

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

Jenny nods her head and puts down the black kitten. She quickly steps back and asks. "Please show us what you can become."

The kitten meows once and quickly changes into a black saber tooth tiger. The Slayer and her friends watch in awe as the tiger stretches itself to its full twelve foot length.

"Now that's a cat." Cordelia softly replies as the tiger exposes his six inch canine teeth and two inch claws.

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

Cordelia glares at Xander but then begins to laugh. The laughter quickly spreads to the rest of the group. When everyone settles down, they all turn to Steve. "So what happens now?" Mulder asks.

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

"Bonded? How?" Mulder asks.

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

"And why do we want this?" Mulder asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yeah, he would." Amy replies in thought as she looks into the pup's eyes. "How do you like the name Blackie?"

The pup yelps in glee and begins to lick Amy's face.

"What are you going to name yours Will?" Xander asks as Willow cuddles with her pup.

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

"I think she likes it, Will." Buffy replies as she holds up her white Labrador pup to herself. Buffy looks down at her and giggles. "I think I'll name you Sarah." The pup's tongue quickly begins to cover her face with a fresh series of licks.

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

"Arial." Cordelia replies with a smile as she caresses her kitten. "Because she's so regal." Arial quickly snuggles against her and begins to purr. "How about yours Xander?"

Xander studies his kitten and the kitten studies him back. "Patches." Xander replies with a grin. "Because he looks like his fur is made of a lot of different colored patches." The kitten stares at Xander for a second and licks his nose once. Xander grins back and scratches his head.

"How about you Oz?" Steve asks.

"Harriet." Oz replies with a grin.

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

"Yeah."

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

"Thanks, I think."

"How about you Dana?" Buffy asks.

"Tigger." Dana replies with a smile. "What do you think Fox?"

"Tigger it is." Mulder replies with a grin. The kitten looks up at Mulder. "Be happy she didn't want Pooh, mouse trap." The kitten begins to play with Mulder's finger as Mulder grins.

"How about you Joyce?" Steve asks.

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

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

Jenny grins. "You have to ask? I think he's a Salem."

"Hey!" Amy yells out with a grin. "I'm supposed to be Sabrina."

"I didn't see you claiming the name." Jenny replies with a grin.

Amy quickly relents with a laugh. "All right. But if you teach him to talk, I don't know you."

"Don't worry. I'm sure that I'll be too busy keeping him from using Giles' books as scratching posts."

"If that happens, then Jenny will find out how you'll look stuffed." Giles growls out with a grin. The kitten glares back at him and snuggles deeper into Jenny's bosom. "Oh bugger. I hope you're not planning on doing this when Jenny and I are sleeping together. The kitten sniffs the air and yawns in response. "Damn, but he's a cheeky one."

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

"What?" Buffy asks as she snuggles with Sarah and Duke.

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

"Can they talk?" Willow asks.

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

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

"Hey!"

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

"Can they work with us?" Amy asks.

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

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

"Angelus knows who everyone of us is." Steve replies. "And I'll bet that he's sold or given that information to a lot of very nasty people."

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

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

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

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

"That was weird." Cordelia mutters as a voice adds in.

// I agree. //

"Who said that?" Cordelia mutters as she looks around.

"No one said anything Cordy." Xander replies.

// Arial did. // A voice replies in Xander's head. Xander looks around and Patches smacks him on his nose. Xander stares down as the same voice continues. // If you're too stupid to listen then I'll stop talking. //

"Hey, my cat just talked to me." Xander yells out.

Cordelia smacks Xander as she disgustingly replies. "Don't joke Xander. Steve said that they can't talk."

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

"Uh, Steve?" Cordelia asks as Arial looks into her eyes.

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

"Our Guardians just talked to us."

"We didn't hear anything." Buffy replies as Sarah licks her face.

// Of course you didn't. // A voice tells Buffy. // Only our Companions can hear us. // Buffy looks at Steve in shock.

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

"Oh?" Steve wonders and looks at Duke. "Is that why Miss Harkness was smiling when I left?"

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

"So why didn't you talk to me last night?"

// Because you were having too much fun putting one over on your friends Mulder and Dana. // Duke replies with a short bark.

"Are you going to say anything else?"

// Yeah, I want bacon for breakfast tomorrow. // Duke replies with his tongue hanging out. Steve laughs and picks up Duke under his shoulders.

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

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

Steve glares at his dog and growls lowly. "Want me to toilet train you?" Duke begins to give short barks, sounding like laughter. Steve continues to glare as he orders. "Xander!" Xander stands up, looking at Steve. "Go find me the thickest, toughest newspaper that you can find. Sunday edition."

"Why?"

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

"Now that's going to be fun to watch." Xander mutters as Patches watches from his shoulder.

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

"You can hear each other?"

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

"We are not married." Xander mutters to Patches as Cordelia stares at him. She arches her eyebrow.

"What did you just say dweeb boy?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

// Oh please! You love him. // Arial tells Cordelia as Xander glares at the two of them.

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

// The lady loves you. // Patches tells Xander. Xander growls lowly at Patches. He then glares at Steve.

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

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

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

// Maybe because you two are too stupid to see that you belong together. // Arial replies as Patches adds in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"He did?" Cordelia replies in shock. She turns to Xander. "Give it up dweeb boy. Were you the one who left those flowers for me back in fifth grade?"

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

Willow snickers as she hugs Lassie to herself. "Sorry Xander. We Amazons got to stick together."

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

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

Xander gulps as Cordelia watches him. She grins and grabs him around the waist. "We are definitely taking the weekend off."

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

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

"Sheesh." Steve mutters as the rest laugh. "And I thought Marc was a tough nut."

"Who's Marc?" Buffy asks sweetly.

"Just an old friend." Steve replies with a smile as Buffy adjusts herself on his lap. He wraps his hands around her waist as she holds onto Duke and Sarah.

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

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

"Nice guy?" Buffy asks with a grin.

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

Duke also mentally laughs. // What fools these mortals be. //

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

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

*****

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

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

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

"Visiting Agatha Harkness. She gave me a few things that I needed for the kiddies." Steve replies with a grin as Buffy and her friends glare at him.

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

"Very fine. And she has a rather lovely student who needs a good man." Steve replies with an evil grin as Buffy glares at him. "Doesn't Silas need a good woman in his life?" Buffy stares at Steve in shock and then begins to giggle uncontrollably as she realizes what he was doing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve sighs as he glares at a giggling Buffy. "What's so funny?"

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

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

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

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

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

Steve grins evilly. "Gotcha!"

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

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

Buffy grins and kisses Steve on his lips. "You betcha."

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

"Oh yeah." Steve replies with a grin as he gets up from his chair.

A startled Buffy yells out. "Watch it! You almost made me drop the doggies."

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

"Great. Now we have to help him unpack more boxes." Mulder mutters under his breath.

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

"What did you order?" Willow asks.

"A few odds and ends." Steve replies with a slow smile as he reaches for one of the boxes and quickly pulls it open. Everyone watches as Steve easily rips the box open and pulls out a large object. He turns around and pulls back the charging handle and looks up the barrel of the Heckler and Koch G3 battle rifle. He nods his head and puts the rifle down and quickly checks the eleven matching rifles. As he puts down the last rifle, he looks around him at the very scared faces and asks. "Is there a problem?"

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

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

"What is a few?" A shocked Dana Scully replies as she realizes what the other boxes held.

Steve picks up the manifest and reads it off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Sure." Steve replies as he reaches for a blue colored ammunition box and removes a silver fifty caliber bullet and hands it to Giles. Giles stares down at the bullet and promptly drops it in shock.

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

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

"That, that thing." Giles mutters as he stares at the bullet on the floor. Steve picks it up and holds it to the light. Everyone stares as they watch the light play off the bullet and they see the mystical symbols etched into the silver.

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

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

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

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

Buffy looks over to Giles who nods his head in agreement. She turns back to Steve. "All right. We'll wait. But I want to know why Giles and Jenny are scared of that bullet."

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

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

Steve grins. "Just filled out the right forms." < And yelled at Marc. > He then spots Mulder and Dana staring at the boxes in concern. "Mulder? Dana? What's wrong?"

Mulder and Dana shake their heads in disbelief at the arsenal stacked in front of them. "Where did you get this stuff from?" Mulder asks.

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

"We'll be right back." Mulder replies as he and Dana walk away and quietly talk with each other. In the living room, Mulder turns to Dana. "What do you want to do?"

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

"Dana," Mulder quietly whispers. "He's got enough weapons in there to start a small war."

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

*****

"What are Dana and Mulder talking about?" Buffy asks Steve as she looks around the packed garage.

"Whether or not they're going to arrest me." Steve replies softly.

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

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

"Good." Buffy mutters as she watches Dana and Mulder talk quietly.

*****

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

"All right. But this would have been a nice bust." Mulder replies with an easy grin as they walk back into the garage.

Everyone watches the pair closely as Tigger jumps onto Dana's shoulder and lays down comfortably. Dana smiles as she pets the small orange kitten and quietly tells Steve. "Steve, Fox and I have decided that we won't arrest you for having these weapons. But we want to know one thing. Who is going to teach the kids how to use these weapons?"

"Xander and I will." Steve replies as a shocked Xander stares at him.

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

Steve grins and tosses one of the G3s to Xander and Xander catches it and instantly racks the charging handle back and locks it open. He quickly checks the chamber for any bullets, when he doesn't see one, he lets the slide close on an empty chamber. He quickly stands at attention, holding the rifle at port arms. "Soldier boy strikes again." Buffy mutters as Cordelia stares at Xander, open mouthed.

"Oh Goddess. But he looks good!" She mutters as Xander stands stiffly at attention.

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

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

Steve just shakes his head and mutters. "Gods, why do I always get the pains in the ass?"

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

Cordelia continues to glare at Steve until he relents. "All right. I'll give you two the weekend off." Steve replies with a grin.

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

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

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

Everyone watches the pair go. Joyce is the first to recover and ask. "Are they going to. . .?"

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

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

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

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

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

"Oh God." Joyce replies. "Can't anything be done?"

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

"And what does he consider Cordelia?"

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

Joyce just stares at her daughter's friends and feels a warmth coming from them. She grins as Sherlock whines to be picked up and held. She quickly picks up the pup and holds him to herself and Buffy gives her a hug. "Don't worry, Mom. I'm sure that you'll get used to the idea."

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

"Six very adult children." Steve adds in as he holds Buffy's hand.

"I know." Joyce softly replies. "God help me. But I worry about all of you every night."

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

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

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

Joyce sniffles as she looks at her grown up ‘children' and realizes that she had a very special relationship with her daughter's friends. She nods stiffly and picks up Sherlock and walks back to the living room to wait for Buffy and Willow.

Buffy turns to Steve and asks. "What happens now?"

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

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

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

"Not as of last Monday. When Buffy agreed to become my student, I bought the house." Steve replies with a smile as he looks down on Buffy's smiling face.

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

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

"Why?" Amy asks.

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

Everyone grins and nods their heads. "Who are you going to call in?" Oz asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joyce raises her eyebrows and nods her head. < Good idea Sherlock. > "Steve?" Joyce asks.

"Yes, Joyce?"

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

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

"How did you make so much money?"

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

"And it totaled out to sixty million?"

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

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

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

"All right, Steve." Buffy replies with a smile as everyone leaves.

Steve watches them go to their respective cars and he turns to his house guests. "Do you want your old room?"

"We do." Mulder replies as he looks at Dana. "But we want to know who the hell provided you the arsenal?"

"My friends in an organization that I work with occasionally."

"Are you going to tell us?" Dana asks.

Steve sighs and realizes that Mulder and Dana needed to know. He nods his head and walks back to his couch. Dana and Mulder sit down across from him, Tigger on Dana's lap. "It all began about thirteen years ago. I had just been given Demon Slayer and a man walks up to me and tells me that there was a demon hunting people in a small town in Oklahoma."

"Not Gravesend?" Mulder asks in shock as he remembers a case still being whispered around the Violent Crimes Task Force.

"Yeah, that was the town." Steve nods his head as he recalls the memories. "Eighteen people dead, most of them kids and the Bureau was hunting a human being. The man told me that I was the only man who could take out the demon before it could destroy the town."

"You went? Just because this guy told you to?" Dana asks in disbelief.

Steve grins ruefully. "I had just saved a Dragon's life and was carrying a magic sword given to me by another Dragon. Of course I believed him. Fragnar told me what Demon Slayer was and it's history. If it had been a mortal or Immortal who told me, I wouldn't have believed it."

"Yeah, I can see what you mean." Mulder replies with a grin. "Having a Dragon tell you would be different. What did you do?"

"I went and killed the demon. Some moronic kids playing devil worshipers, had called up a third circle demon and it ate all of them. Then it went after the rest of the town."

"A third circle demon?" Dana asks.

"The demons in hell are divided up into nine levels. With nine being the least powerful and one being the most powerful. Satan is the most powerful demon of all, so he rules."

"Oh God." Dana mutters. "What happened to the souls of the kids who called up the demon?"

"Don't know, but I do know they faced God and he gave them his justice." Steve replies quietly. "After I killed the demon, the man came back with two other Immortals and they asked that I join their organization. After I met with their leaders, I decided to join up. They've called me up for several missions and I've helped a lot of people over the years. When I had a breakdown, eight years ago, they helped me through it."

"Who are they?" Dana asks.

"I need your word that you won't tell the kids or Giles and Jenny." Steve replies.

Mulder and Dana look at each other. "Okay."

"I serve the Knightly Order of the Grail as a Knight Lieutenant." Steve replies to a completely shocked Mulder and Scully.

"But the ‘Order' is only a myth." Mulder replies in shock as Dana adds in.

"What does Frank have to do with this?"

"We're not a myth, Mulder. Dana, Frank is a Knight Lieutenant in the Order and my partner. The Order helped him get started and Frank is happy working with them."

"The legends say that the Order has the Grail. Do you have it? The actual Grail?" Mulder whispers in awe.

"We do." Steve replies. "I've drunk from it myself, when I was accepted into the Order. As has Frank."

"What does the Grail do to an Immortal?" Mulder asks in wonder.

"It prevents us from being possessed by any demonic forces. It's also cured two Dark Quickenings that I know of. For the mortals who drink from it. The cup cures any diseases that they might have and extends their life spans to about three, maybe four hundred years."

"Oh shit." Mulder mutters. "And why don't you want the kids to know this?"

"Because they'll want to join. And the life expectancy for any active member of the Order is not that long. I've been to too many funerals over the last thirteen years to want Buffy's friends exposed to them and their missions."

"Why not?" Dana replies.

"Because, for all of the danger that they face here, it's nothing compared to some of the things I've faced with the Order."

"How could it be more dangerous than vampires?" Dana asks in shock.

"Dana, I've faced demons from every level of hell. Compared to most of them, vampires are nothing. I've fought terrorists who have tried to destroy the world and had to kill them. Do you think that I want those kids exposed to that?"

"No, we don't." Dana replies softly. "You do care for them, don't you?"

Steve grimaces. "I do."

"What about Buffy?" Mulder asks with a grin.

Steve glares at Mulder's grinning face and sighs. "We get along."

Dana giggles. "From the way she acted earlier when you talked about that young witch, I think it's a little more than that."

"And from the way she was sitting on your lap." Mulder adds in.

Steve sighs in exasperation. "All right. We're dating."

"How long did it take?" Dana asks.

"Joyce set us up about three weeks ago." Steve replies with a grin. "She found out about Buffy being Immortal that same night."

"What happened?" Mulder asks.

"Some nutcase tried to kill her and Joyce. I killed him, but he had already stabbed Buffy with a machete."

"Oh God!" Dana mutters. "What did Joyce do?"

"After things settled down and she saw that Buffy was healing, I had to explain everything to her about Immortality and Slaying."

"That must have been fun." Mulder replies with a grin, imagining the scene.

"It was." Steve replies with a grin. "Cordelia, Xander and Oz brought in a vampire for Joyce to look at and Cordelia killed it right in front of her. That was what made Joyce believe everything that we were telling her. She went to bed after that and I stayed there for the night. The next morning, Buffy, Giles, Jenny and I finished explaining everything. Since then, Joyce has become everyone's surrogate Mother."

"Doesn't she worry more about the kids now that she knows what they do?" Dana asks.

"She does, but she knows that Buffy and I will be taking the most risks."

"Good." Dana replies softly as she gets up. "What's on for tomorrow?"

"I get a bunch of stuff delivered at the warehouse." Steve replies with a grin looking directly at Mulder. "I'm going to need some help moving it around."

Mulder quickly loses his grin and groans. "Oh, my aching back!" Mulder replies in fake pain.

"I'm sure that Dana will be relieving you of some of your weight." Steve replies with a grin.

"How?" Mulder asks.

"When she sees the antiques I'm getting in, I'm sure she'll want a few of them." Steve replies with a grin. "And I think she'll really lighten your wallet then."

"Oh no, she's not." Mulder mutters as Dana glares at him.

"Oh? What about our anniversary? It's coming up." Dana asks sweetly.

"But honey, I was going to take you to the Plaza for the weekend." Mulder moans.

Dana's eyebrows raise and she grins. "That's not a present for me, Mulder. That's a present for you."

"Damn, but she knows me." Mulder quickly mutters with an easy grin.

Steve also grins. "How about I provide you two a ride home for free?"

Dana smiles. "Don't bother. We came here on one of Frank's planes. When you called, I called him in the morning and he gave us a Lear Jet to use for the trip."

"Good, then you can take a bunch of stuff home with you." Steve replies with a smile.

"If Dana breaks us, I'm going to kick your ass." Mulder grouses good naturedly.

"I'm sure she'll like some of the things we've got coming in." Steve replies with a mysterious grin.

"How much stuff and how is it coming?" Mulder asks.

"A lot and it's being teleported here from New Salem." Steve tells a shocked Mulder.

"Teleported? How?" Dana asks.

"Very easily." Steve replies with a smile as he gets up and stretches. "Now it's time for bed. We have an early day tomorrow."

*****

March 17, 1998
Rosenberg Residence, Sunnydale, CA - 23:30 PST

Willow quietly walks into her home and grins as Lassie snuggles into her sweater. "You're all mine." Willow smiles down at the dog.

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

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

"What news are you talking about, honey?" Ira Rosenberg asks as he walks up behind his daughter. Willow starts and turns around, gulping for air.

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

Ira sees the pup and smiles softly. "Where did you find him?"

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

Ira leans in and sees Lassie's large brown eyes and smiles. "She's a beauty." Ira replies as he sighs. "But your Mother doesn't want you to have any pets. She's afraid that they'll mess up the furniture."

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

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

"Willow has a puppy." Ira tells his wife.

Sheila looks at Willow and asks. "What have I said about bringing animals home?"

"That they'll make a mess of the house." Willow softly replies as Lassie tells her.

// Show me where the bathroom is. //

< Why? >

// You'll see. // Lassie replies with a mental chuckle.

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

"Show her where the bathroom is." Willow replies with a grin as her shocked parents follow her to the first floor bathroom. Willow opens the door and lets Lassie down and watches in glee as Lassie quickly jumps up onto the toilet and quickly uses it. Sheila and Ira watch in fascination as the pup uses the toilet and then flushes it with her paws.

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

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

// Thanks. // Lassie replies with a laugh. // That should convince them. //

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

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

"Because I want her." Willow tells her Mother and Father.

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

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

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

// All right. // Lassie replies as she climbs down from the toilet. // But I will change to protect them. //

< I never thought anything else. > Willow replies as her Father and Mother talk to each other. Willow quietly walks over to the couch. Lassie follows her and jumps into her lap as Willow sits down.

*****

Ira watches as Willow sits down with the pup and quietly tells Sheila. "Let her have the dog, Sheila."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

Willow looks up, hopeful. She sees her Dad smiling and nodding his head. She relaxes as her Mother glares at the dog. "Willow," Sheila begins. "I want to know where you got this dog from."

"A friend of mine named Steve St. Wolf." Willow replies.

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

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

"Why did he do that?" Sheila asks.

"Because he's a nice guy." Willow replies.

"How old is he?" Sheila asks.

"Twenty four." Willow weakly replies as her Mother blows up.

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

"She set them up for their first date." Willow replies with a smile. "She likes Steve and thinks that he's a good boyfriend for Buffy."

"Is Buffy's Mother insane?" Sheila demands, not liking the implications.

"She is not!" Willow barks back. "She loves Buffy and wants her to be happy! And Steve makes her happy!"

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

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

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

Willow sighs. "Buffy will be eighteen in less than a year. Her Mom realizes that she needs to have a good man in her life."

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

"Steve sells antiques at Lawrence Antiques." Willow replies with a grin.

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

"Steve doesn't need to worry about money." Willow replies

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

Willow sighs. "He's worth over sixty million dollars."

Sheila looks at Ira who asks. "Does Buffy's Mother know about the money?"

"She found out earlier tonight." Willow replies.

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

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

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

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

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

"Because Lassie would protect the house." Willow softly replies with a smile as Lassie eagerly yelps.

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

"Why?" Willow demands.

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

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

< He did. > Willow mentally replies.

*****

March 17, 1998
Connor/Madison Residence, Sunnydale, CA - 23:35 PST

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

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

"Where did you go?"

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

"Anything interesting happen?" Mike Connors asks as Amy sits down across from him. He sees the puppy and looks at it. He sighs. "Where did you get the puppy from?"

"From a friend of mine name Steve." Amy replies with a giggle as Blackie licks her chin. "I want to keep her."

"A dog is a lot of responsibility."

"I'll take care of Blackie." Amy replies. < And she'll protect the family. >

// Of course I will. // Blackie replies with a lick.

Amy's Dad sighs in resignation and nods his head. "Blackie's your responsibility, Amy. But I'm sure that your sisters will also want to help."

"Cindy and Terri will like Blackie." Amy replies with a grin as she gets up to leave.

"Before you go. One question."

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

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

Amy giggles. "I wish." Her Father frowns, Amy quickly explains. "He's Buffy's boyfriend."

"And why did he give you this pup?"

"Because he thought I would like to have one. Steve has Blackie's brother, Duke."

"All right, get some sleep, Amy." Her Father orders as he grins at Blackie's antics. "I'll add some puppy chow to the shopping list tomorrow."

"Thanks Dad." Amy replies with grins as she quickly gets up and goes to her bedroom.

*****

March 17, 1998
Green Residence, Sunnydale, CA - 23:34 PST

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

// Cool. // Harriet simply replies as Oz's Mother walks into the room. She looks down at the kitten and cocks an eyebrow at Oz in question. Oz nods his head and replies.

"Gift."

Oz's Mom smiles as the kitten curls up next to her son. "Cool." She replies and walks away.

*****

March 17, 1998
Giles/Calendar Residence, Sunnydale, CA - 23:39 PST

Giles opens the door to the apartment that he shared with his lover, Jenny, and moves into the living room proper. Jenny quickly follows him inside and lets their new companion down onto the ground. Salem immediately looks around and quickly lays claim to the pillow located on the edge of the couch. The Guardian jumps up and lays down. Jenny giggles and Giles just grins as they walk up to him and Jenny asks. < Comfortable? >

// Yes, very. // Salem replies with a contented purr.

< We need to know something. >

// What? // Salem asks.

< What do we feed you? > Jenny asks.

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

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

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

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

"Never fear." Giles replies with a grin as he wraps his arm around Jenny's waist as he leads her off to the bedroom.

Salem looks around the comfortable living room and yawns. // I think I'll like living here. //

*****

March 17, 1998
Summers Residence, Sunnydale, CA - 23:39 PST

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

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

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

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

*****

March 17, 1998
Sunnydale Motor Lodge, Sunnydale, CA - 23:59 PST

Cordelia sighs in appreciation and hugs Xander to herself. "You were great." She murmurs into his ear as Xander continues to kiss her on her neck.

"I love you." Xander replies softly as Cordelia stiffens.

She relaxes and pulls Xander away from her neck and kisses him deeply. "I love you, too." Cordelia replies softly, gazing directly into his eyes.

// I think I'm going to puke. // Patches replies in disgust as Arial counters.

// You two are disgusting. If you were any more sweet, you'd be diabetics. //

// All though Cordelia's moaning was loud enough to scare away any vampires in the area. // Patches adds in with a mental laugh.

// Xander was just as bad. //

// But not as loud. //

// True. // Arial replies with a snicker. // But Xander had more depth and duration. I'll give him a 9.4. //

// And I'll give Cordelia a 9.8 for volume. //

Cordelia looks at Xander. "We will have to get even with Steve for those two."

"And I have just the plan." Xander replies with a grin. "But it'll take a little while to do it."

"Revenge is best served cold." Cordelia replies with a grin as she snuggles into Xander's arms.

*****

March 18, 1998
St. Wolf Residence, Sunnydale, CA - 00:03 PST

Duke watches as Steve turns down his bed and gets ready to get some sleep. // You should tell them. // Duke tells Steve.

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

// All right. But if you don't tell them soon. I will. // Duke replies.

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

// They should know. Especially Buffy. Sarah tells me that she's worried about you hurting her friends. //

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

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

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

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

< Don't like it. But live with it. > Steve replies as he turns off the light in the room and leans back. Duke moves in and grabs some space on the other pillow.

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

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

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

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

// Thanks. // Duke replies as he turns around and quickly goes to sleep.

*****

March 18, 1998
St. Wolf Residence, Sunnydale, CA - 06:00 PST

Steve reaches over for the alarm clock and hits the snooze button. He tries to go back to sleep, but an incessant voice tells him. // I want bacon. Now! //

Steve rolls over and groans loudly. < Oh Gods! What did I do to deserve this!? >

Duke laughs. // You asked for help from Agatha Harkness. //

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

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

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

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

*****

Mulder and Scully stir as they hear Tigger's voice. // Hey you two, wake up! //

Mulder jerks up and looks around. Dana also looks at the clock and mutters. "For God's sake, it's only six o'clock!" She then glares at Tigger. "Why are you waking us up so early?"

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

"To do what?" Mulder asks.

// Help him unload furniture. // Tigger replies with a purr. // I hope Dana finds something nice for me. //

Mulder glares at the kitten but Dana laughs merrily. "Oh God, Mulder. The look on your face is funny."

Mulder looks over to Dana and reaches for her. But Dana shies away and Tigger merrily comments. // Hey you two! No time for that. // Mulder growls lowly and Dana laughs some more as she heads to the bathroom. Mulder makes to join her but Dana shakes her head. Mulder sits down on the bed and pouts as Tigger begins to laugh at him. Mulder glares at Tigger who jumps into his lap and begins to rub himself against Mulder's chest. Mulder just shakes his head and begins to scratch Tigger's head.

*****

Oz wakes up to a light nuzzling against his neck. He opens his eyes and sees Harriet rubbing her nose against his neck.

"Hungry?"

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

"When?"

// At seven o'clock. // Harriet replies as she sits back and stretches.

"Cool." Oz replies as he quickly gets up and begins to get ready.

*****

Willow begins to giggle as the warm tongue laps at her face. She quickly wakes up and asks. "Lassie? What's wrong?"

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

"How do you know?" Willow asks.

// Because Duke just told me. //

"Duke told you? How?"

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

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

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

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

// Indeed they are. // Lassie replies with a mental snicker.

*****

Xander stretches himself awake as he feels a soft licking on the his neck. He immediately snuggles closer to Cordelia's warmth as the licking continues. As the licking begins to arouse him. "Cordy, honey, I love and you know how to wake me . . Ouch!!" Xander yells out as Patches takes a sharp bite out of his earlobe. Xander kicks out and shoves Cordelia away. Xander jumps out of bed, looking for the enemy and stares as he hears a mental voice snicker.

// That woke him up. // Patches ‘tells' Arial as Xander glares at them.

Xander begins to move towards the two cats with murderous intent, but freezes when he hears a shriek behind him. "Alexander! LaVelle! Harris! What the Hell do you think you are doing?!" Xander quickly turns around and sees Cordelia lying on the ground, the bed sheets all around her. She glares at him and Xander rushes over to help her up.

As Cordelia unwraps herself from the sheets, Xander tries to explain. "Cordy, honey. That rat trap set me up."

"Who set you up?" Cordelia demands.

"Patches." Xander replies as he glares at the kitten in question.

Cordelia sighs and looks over to Arial and asks. "Well?" Her only reply is the sound of mental laughter. She glares at Arial and Patches who are now yowling together. She turns to Xander. "We don't have to get even with Steve for getting us Arial and Patches."

"We don't?" Xander asks, suddenly lost.

"No, we have to get even with Arial and Patches." Cordelia smugly replies as the two kittens stop yowling and stare at their companions.

// Oh Shit! They wouldn't. // Patches mutters to Arial.

// They would. Especially Cordelia. // Arial mutters with an awe tinged thought. // Goddess but I love these two. //

// So would my Mother, Isabelle. // Patches replies with a smug thought. // These two are perfect for us. //

// I agree. // Arial replies as Cordelia picks her up and looks her in the eye.

"I hope that you're not planning on pulling any practical jokes on me." Cordelia growls out.

// Moi? Perish the thought, Cordelia. I'd rather help you get even with Steve for giving us to you. //

Cordelia laughs merrily as she hugs Arial to herself. < Good Girl! > Arial begins to purr in contentment.

*****

Xander grabs Patches by the scruff of his neck and glares into Patches' brown eyes. "Care to explain why you were making like a vamp?"

// Steve wanted me to wake you up. He has some work for you to do at the antique store. // Patches replies with a smug voice.

"Why'd you bite me then?"

// Fastest and funniest way to wake you up. You should have seen the look on your face when you realized that you had knocked Cordelia off the bed. //

"I should kick your ass." Xander growls lowly.

// No you won't." Patches replies softly. // Because you know that it was a funny and harmless joke. Nothing got bruised but Cordelia's butt and your ego. And I'm sure she'll let you rub it to make it feel better. //

Xander sighs and relents as he hugs Patches to his chest. "All right, rat trap. I forgive you. Now, what did Steve want?"

// He wants you and Cordelia to show up at the antique store at seven o'clock to help him with something. //

Xander sighs. < So much for a day off. > He turns to Cordelia and she tells him.

"I know. Steve wants us at the antique shop. I'm going to give him a piece of my mind when we get there."

// She better be careful about how much of her mind she gives away. // Patches replies with a snicker. // From the way she's acting, she's doesn't have much left. // Xander also snickers.

Cordelia glares at Xander as she puts Arial down. She quickly smacks him on the back of his head. Xander stops laughing and puts Patches down next to Arial. Patches continues to laugh, but stops when Arial smacks him on his head. Xander and Cordelia see the exchange and both look at each other.

"Oh shit!" Xander replies under his breath. "I hope she's not planning on doing what I think she's doing."

"What?" Cordelia asks in confusion.

"Staking her claim." Xander replies in dread. < Oh God. >

Cordelia stares at Arial, demanding. "Please don't tell me you like that mangy alley cat?"

// He reminds me a lot of Xander. // Arial smugly replies.

"Goddess help me!" Cordelia screams loudly, but Artemis doesn't bother to show up. She growls lowly and glares at her Guardian and finally laughs as it sinks in. < Oh Goddess, but I'm cursed! Now I have two Xanders. >

// And you love it. // Arial replies with a satisfied purr as Patches rubs his head against hers. She quickly turns and smacks Patches again. // Keep that up boyo and I will neuter you. //

// Hey, I was just trying to be nice. // Patches mumbles to Arial.

// You'll be nice when I tell you to be nice. // Arial primly replies as Xander and Cordelia both laugh.

// Oh Gods, what a pain in the ass. // Patches moans to Xander.

< Welcome to the club. > Xander replies mentally as he feels sympathy for his Guardian. Patches glares at him but mentally sighs.

// We're both in the same boat? //

< And loving every minute of it. > Xander replies with a grin as he watches Cordelia walk towards the bathroom, her muscles flexing under her soft skin. Xander takes several deep breathes to calm down his rising desire.

"I am definitely going to tell Steve what he can do with his job." Xander replies softly.

// No, you're not. // Patches replies with a snicker. // You are too scared of him. With good reason. //

"Yeah, I am." Xander replies. "But I also respect him."

// That too. // Patches replies as Xander gets hit by a wet towel. Patches begins to cough as Xander glares at Cordelia's nude body and finds a portion of his anatomy ‘rising' to the occasion. He quickly goes to take his shower. As he passes Cordelia, she grabs his ass and squeezes. Xander yelps and grins at her as Cordelia promises.

"We'll be back after we finish helping Steve. But we're dropping off the kitties at home first."

"Definitely." Xander mutters as he walks into the bathroom.

*****

March 18, 1998
Lawrence Antiques, Sunnydale, CA - 07:00 PST

Steve stretches as he gets out of his car and looks back a Mulder and Dana as they both climb out of his Blazer. He grins as he reaches to the steel gate and quickly opens it. Mulder watches as the gate opens with a screech of rusty springs and clank-clank of the sheet metal rolling up.

"So this is where you work?" Mulder asks as Steve turns off the security system.

"Yep. It's a good place to work." Steve replies as he rolls up the gates covering the front windows as well. "What do you think?"

"I like that model ship in the corner." Dana mutters with a smile. "I'm thinking Charlie could use a nice gift for his next birthday."

Mulder stares at the price tag and mutters. "Steve is so dead."

Dana promptly elbows him and sweetly tells him. "I'm sure that Steve will give us a nice discount."

Steve turns around and raises his eyebrow. "Or what?"

"Well, there are those weapons in your garage." Mulder replies with a snicker. "And all those nice little hiding places in your walls. I'm sure the ATF would love to know about you."

Steve snorts back his laughter and relents. "All right, I'll give you a discount on whatever you decide to buy from the store. But not from the New Salem stuff. Those people deserve whatever price I can get them for their belongings."

"All right." Mulder replies, sniffling. "But what happens to your commission for that stuff?"

"I'm buying the kids in the town some stuff." Steve replies with a grin. "They live in a small town with hardly anything to do. And they're afraid to leave because there are people who would kill them on sight."

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

"I'll love Steve more for what?" Buffy asks as she and Willow walk up to the store.

"Steve's giving up his commissions from the New Salem stuff to buy some things for the kids of the town." Dana tells Buffy.

Buffy quickly hugs Steve and whispers. "Keep that up Steve I will ravish you soon."

Steve quickly blushes and Buffy begins to laugh softly. "Ahem. Why don't you and Willow go get everyone some coffee? My treat." Steve tells Buffy as he hands her a twenty dollar bill.

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

"Plain or a Boston Creme." Steve replies as Mulder and Dana tell Willow their orders. Both girls quickly leave as Xander and Cordelia pull up in Cordelia's convertible.

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

"To get everyone some coffee and donuts." Mulder replies with a grin as Xander races off after them.

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

"Dweeb boy wants to make sure that Buffy and Willow get enough Jelly Donuts." Cordelia replies with a grin.

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

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

As Mulder, Dana and Steve snicker, Oz drives up with Amy and they both join their friends at the door.

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

"Just making fun of Giles' butt." Jenny replies with a laugh. Both Amy and Oz grin.

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

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

"What are we going to do?" Mulder asks as he looks around and sees something that catches his eye. He grins as he walks over and lays down on it.

He grins and leers at Dana as Dana walks up to him and glares down at him. "No we won't Mulder." Dana tells him. Mulder gives her a pouty look as he takes her hands and pulls her onto the antique brass bed. Dana sinks into the goose down comforter with Mulder and sighs in appreciation. "Oh God! But this is soft." Dana mutters.
Steve walks up to them and grins. "I'm sorry, but I can't let you try this out here. You'll have to buy it and take it home."

Dana looks up at the ceiling and begins to giggle. "How much?" She asks.

"It just came in a few days ago and I haven't had a chance to price it, yet." Steve replies with a grin as he watches Mulder and Dana begin to spoon. "And I think it'll take me a few hours to figure out how much I'm going to sell it for."

"How much!" Mulder demands as he reaches for his gun. "If you keep on playing around with me, Steve, so help me God. I'm going to shoot you where you stand!"

Buffy and Willow chose to walk in at this time with the coffee and donuts. Xander was right behind them with another box of donuts. Half of the box already gone. Buffy looks at the bed and the way Mulder and Dana were laying on it and grins. "When did you get this bed?"

"The day that I left it came in. Looks like Carol decided to show it before I could price it."

"How much!!" Dana and Mulder demand from the bed.

"With the goose down comforter and mattress?" Steve asks with a grin.

"Yes!" Both yell out as they sink into each other.

"Let me think about it." Steve replies with a grin as he walks away.

"Arrrgggggghhhhhh!" Mulder screams out as he smacks his back onto the overstuffed pillows.

"You walked into that one very well, Mulder." Giles replies with a laugh. "If you don't want to wait for Steve to tell you the price for that bed, Jenny and I will be more than happy to wait."

"I just bet you would." Dana replies with a laugh. "But I want this bed."

Mulder looks up from his pillow, his right eyebrow arched. "You want this bed?" Mulder quickly shuts his mouth when Dana glares at him. But his mouth just as quickly begins to form a lopsided grin. "Still want to go to the Plaza?"

"No. We can use the money to buy this bed." Dana replies with a grin. "It'll last a lot longer than a weekend at the Plaza."

"My sentiments exactly." Mulder mumbles as he draws Dana closer.

"Like, Ewwww!" Cordelia yells out. "Are you two going to be, like, making out in front of us?"

"Hasn't stopped you and Xander before." Willow replies with a laugh.

Cordelia glares at Willow, but begins to laugh as well as Mulder and Dana glare at them. Both Agents quickly get out of bed as Willow holds up their coffees. Mulder takes his cup and quickly reaches for a donut as Xander reaches for the last jelly. Their hands meet in the box and Mulder grins as he grabs the donut first. Xander glares at the older man and mutters.

"Lousy, good for nothing Fed stole my last jelly donut!" Xander whines playfully. He stops whining when Cordelia playfully smacks him on the back of his head. Xander quickly shuts up and grins as Cordelia glares at him.

"What happened?" Steve asks as he walks back in from the back of the shop.

"Mulder stole my jelly donut." Xander whines again with a goofy grin on his face. Cordelia just shakes her head in disgust and walks away.

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

Xander blanches and quickly straightens himself out.

"Good." Steve replies as he calls back over his shoulder. "Everyone in the back." Everyone moves to the warehouse in the rear of the store and find Steve standing near a large open area. As everyone walks up to him, Steve tells Willow, Amy and Jenny. "I need a containment circle drawn on the floor."

"How big?" Jenny asks.

"About thirty one feet." Steve replies as he pulls out a sheet of paper. The three witches quickly draw the circle and walk up to Steve as he hands the sheet of paper to Jenny. Jenny reads it and nods her head. She takes Willow and Amy to the side and begins to explain their parts in the spell. A few minutes later, the three stand an equal distance around the circle and they begin to read the spell. As they read the spell, a vortex opens and a large number of items appear. As the spell is completed, the furniture solidifies and the three witches look on in wonder at the large amount of antique furniture that has appeared.

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

Steve nods his head and walks over to a table with a white piece of paper on it. He quickly reads the note and turns back to his friends. "Okay, there are two more loads left. So, let's get this stuff out of here and to the rear of the warehouse." Everyone quickly moves and begins to take things from the side of the circle nearest the back of the store. The circle quickly empties and the three witches again repeat the spell. The circle fills again and everyone empties it. The circle is filled a third time and Steve calls a rest for everyone.

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

Dana looks around her and sighs. "How much money do you have Fox?"

Mulder groans loudly and glares at Steve. "I'm going to kick your butt, Steve."

"For what?" Steve asks innocently.

"For blowing my savings." Mulder moans as Dana eyes a Shaker Desk and several other pieces.

Steve snorts. "Have her call Frank and ask for a loan."

Mulder thinks about it for a full minute, then he grins and calls over to Dana. "Honey, Steve just gave me a great idea."

"What?" Dana asks as she looks up from a Chippendale table and chair set.

"How about we ask Frank for a loan?"

Dana muses for a minute and grins an evil smile. "What's his phone number?"

Steve begins to laugh as he looks at his watch. "You'll have to wait. It's only 5:30 AM in New York City. And Frank doesn't wake up nice when it's too early."

"Past experience?" Dana replies.

"Yep. He hates to be wakened from a sound sleep."

"Who doesn't like waking up?" Xander asks as he sits down next to Steve.

"Frank."

Xander grins. "If I was sleeping with Cassandra Hastings, I'd hate waking up too."

"Oh!?" Cordelia replies as she walks up to Xander. Xander cringes as she glares at him. "Did you hate waking up this morning?"

"Actually, I didn't mind waking up next to you. What I hated was the fact that we had to leave bed this morning. I wanted to spend the entire day there with you, honey." Xander replies seriously as he drinks in Cordelia's eyes. Cordelia stares at Xander and nods her head in understanding and promptly sits down in his lap and begins to kiss him.

Mulder stares at the young couple and grins as Dana begins to giggle. "God, but that was a good one, Mulder. Maybe you should write it down and use it on me sometime."

Mulder cocks his head and grins. "Not a bad idea, got a pen, St. . . Ommph!"

Steve grins as he watches Dana glare at Mulder. She turns back to Steve. "Steve, is Frank sleeping with Cassandra Hastings?"

"Yep. They're living together."

"How long?" Dana asks.

"About four years now. She's made him settle down in New York City. They're quite the couple. They practically do everything together."

"Everything?" Mulder asks with a raised eyebrow.

"Everything." Steve confirms with a grin. "You should have seen them trying to set me up with one of Cassie's Immortal friends. I didn't get a chance to say no."

"Steve, honey?" Buffy asks sweetly from behind Steve. "Who is this Cassie woman and why is she trying to set you up with someone?"

Steve winches and glares at Mulder's innocent look. "I see your discount getting smaller and smaller, Mulder." He then turns to Buffy and takes her hands. "Nothing to worry about, Buffy. That happened before I came here."

"Good." Buffy replies and then promptly sits down on Steve's lap. "If I find out about any other women going after you, I'll kick their asses."

"Even Natasha Romanov?" Steve asks with a grin.

"Who's Natasha Romanov?" Buffy asks as Mulder and Dana's mouths open in shock.

"You know the Black Widow?" Dana asks in surprise.

"We've run across each other in the past." Steve replies with an easy grin.

"Who's this Natasha?" Buffy asks again, wondering about Steve's past.

"Russia's ultimate top secret agent." Mulder replies in awe. "She's done the impossible for the last thirty five years. No one is good enough to catch her."

Steve grins evilly as Buffy realizes. "You've caught her!?" Dana and Mulder stare in shock at the implications.

"You caught her?" Mulder asks in a quiet voice.

"Let's just say that we caught each other." Steve replies with a laugh. "We were both out to stop the same terrorists and decided to join forces. After we finished our mission, she treated me to dinner at a nice French restaurant."

"Any thing happen?" Buffy asks in a low growl.

"Only that she stiffed me with the check." Steve replies with a smile as Buffy laughs.

"Don't worry, honey. I'll never stiff you with the check."

"Only because I'll be the one always buying." Steve replies with a grin.

"It's a guy thing." Buffy replies with a grin as she hugs Steve. "I just hope that she's not some super sexy secret agent like they have in the movies."

"Uhm, well." Steve begins with a smile. Buffy glares at him. Steve grins back. "Well, she's an Immortal and let's just say that she makes most of the movie actresses that play spies look like dogs."

"Explain something to me." Buffy seriously asks as she realizes something.

"What?"

"Since you know all of these super sexy women and many of them probably want you. Why are you dating me?" Buffy asks.

"Because I like you." Steve simply replies. "Those other women are friends and comrades, nothing more. I will work with them, bleed with them, but I won't date them. You, on the other hand, I like to have fun with."

"That's all?" Buffy asks in surprise. "You like having fun with me?"

"That's basically it." Steve replies. "Those other women like to live life like it's going to end soon. They're in it for the rush, the action. I don't like living like that constantly. I sometimes enjoy that lifestyle, but I really want a home, a family and someone who'll be my companion through the ages. You want these things as well. But you also understand the need to do what we do. That's why I like being with you."

Buffy smiles and hugs Steve. "Thanks honey. I'm glad you feel that way."

"Why don't you say things like that to me anymore, Mulder?" Dana asks with a grin.

"Because I said the ultimate ‘I love you'. I said ‘I do'." Mulder replies with an easy grin as he drinks in Dana's face.

"Now this is a nice setting." A voice booms from behind. Everyone turns to see Robert and Carol Lancaster standing by the door to the shop. Robert looks over the large amount of new furniture and his mouth drops. "Steve? Where did all of these pieces come from?"

"While I was visiting my friend, I saw an opportunity and took it." Steve replies with a grin.

Carol walks over to a set of Seventeenth Century arm chairs and stares in awe. "Steve? How much did you pay for all of this stuff?"

Steve grins. "I got all of this stuff on consignment and I hope you don't mind if I do an internet auction over the next month."

Robert looks over the furniture and various other items and whistles lowly. "I haven't seen a collection like this in years, Steve. Who gave it to you?"

Steve sighs. "I'm sorry, Robert. But the client wants to remain anonymous. If you want to know, I'll tell you, but you have to promise not to give anyone the information."

Robert sighs. "I'll respect their wishes, Steve." Then he looks at the furniture again. "But, my God! This auction will put our shop on the map."

"Not a bad thing I hope?"

"No, not really." Robert mutters as he notices Mulder and Dana. "Care to introduce me to your friends?"

"Robert, Carol, meet Fox Mulder and his wife, Dana Scully."

"Pleasure to meet you, Fox and Dana." Carol replies as Mulder grimaces. "Is anything wrong?"

"Mulder doesn't like his first name." Steve replies with a grin. "He even has his mother call him Mulder."

"You're kidding?" Carol mutters as she sees everyone nod their heads. "Oh, God! You're not. How did your Mother take it?"

"She didn't like it, but she learned to live with it." Mulder replies with a laugh.

"Why are you all here?" Robert asks.

"Steve conned us to help him unload this stuff." Xander replies from where he's sitting with Cordelia.

"Where's the truck?" Robert asks.

"Left already. He didn't like being in Sunnydale." Steve replies. "Seems to be a trend with people who come to this town."

"I know." Robert replies as he looks at Carol's worried face. < Relax honey, Steve's not leaving us. Not the way Buffy's keeping him happy. >

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

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

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

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

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

"Well, maybe not." Steve replies with a grin. Robert looks at Steve as he explains. "Dana doesn't want money. She wants things."

"A woman after my own heart." Carol replies with a smile. "What do you want, Dana?"

Dana grins like a leopard sizing up her prey. "That brass bed that Steve got in is first on my list. Then that model boat near the window and the two cedar and maple hope chests by the far wall."

Robert begins to laugh softly. "I do believe that you have met a kindred spirit, my love." Carol glares at Robert, but also grins.

"All right. I'll give you the bed at cost. The boat and the chests, I'll discount by ten percent." Carol replies with a smile.

"Done!" Dana replies with a laugh. "Mulder and I will help you today Steve and we'll leave tomorrow to get back to Washington."

"You live in Washington D.C.?" Robert asks.

"They do, Robert." Steve replies with a laugh.

"How will you get the pieces home?" Carol asks.

"We have a Lear Jet waiting for us at the airport." Dana replies.

"Oh?" Carol asks, wondering why Dana was willing to work for her choices if she had a Lear jet on standby.

"Carol, they borrowed the jet from our mutual friend, Frank Iverson."

"Why would Frank lend them a jet?" Carol asks.

"Because I would kick Frank's ass if he didn't." Dana replies with a giggle.

Carol raises her eyebrow and Steve replies with a grin. "Dana is Frank's cousin. He knows better than argue with her. Besides, Frank doesn't mind helping her and Mulder out. Working for the FBI doesn't pay much."

"You work for the FBI?" Carol asks in shock.

"Yep." Mulder replies as he wraps his arms around Dana's waist. "We enjoy the work and like stopping the bad guys."

"You work together?" Robert asks. Mulder and Dana nod their heads. "Doesn't the FBI have regulations against husbands and wives working together?"

"They do. But they don't know we're married." Dana replies softly.

"Why don't you tell them?" Carol asks.

"Because they'll split us up and we enjoy working together." Mulder replies. "Besides, we have one of the highest clearance rates in the Bureau."

"Very impressive." Robert comments. "How do you know Steve?" < And why are you here? >

"Through Frank." Dana replies. "Steve and Frank are best friends and Steve's given us an open invitation to visit him."

< Steve must like these two to let them into his life. > Robert wonders as Steve gets up and stretches. "Looks like it's going to be a long day." Robert comments as the teenagers groan at the amount of work that they have to do.

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

"Sounds like a plan." Robert mumbles as Carol walks over to the office and gets the cameras and the computer cart. Willow and Jenny pounce on the computer and quickly boot it up. Carol grins as she hands Robert one of the digital cameras and moves over to a white washed section of wall.

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

"How long is this going to take?" Xander asks as he looks at Cordelia.

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

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

Steve looks at Cordelia as she glares at Xander and grins. "I'm sure that Cordelia agrees with you on that account." Buffy quickly smacks Steve on the back of his head and Steve turns to her. "What was that for?"

Buffy grins. "For stealing my line."

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

Buffy grins and gives him a quick kiss. "You betcha." She replies with a grin as she walks over to her friends as they also giggle at Steve's obvious embarrassment.

"That young woman has caught you. You do realize that, don't you?" Robert quietly tells Steve as they stand together.

"Yeah. I know." Steve replies just as quietly. "But I don't want her to know that, yet."

"Why?"

"Because I'll never hear the end of it." Steve replies with a grin. "But seriously, I don't want to pressure her. She recently lost someone she loved very much and I don't want to seem like I'm trying pick her up on the rebound. And I lost someone that I loved as well. I still miss her."

Robert sighs. "Joyce was right. You are a good man for Buffy. I hope you two can settle your pasts and make a future for yourselves."

"We will. Sooner or later, we will." Steve replies softly.

*****

Part 6 - Meeting Dad
(The Wanderer Gets The Third, Fourth And Fifth Degrees)

March 18, 1998
Rosenberg Residence, Sunnydale, CA - 09:30 PST

Ira Rosenberg knocks on his daughter's room and waits for her to call him in. When he doesn't hear a sound, he calls out. "Willow? Honey? Are you up?" When he doesn't hear a reply, he opens the door and looks in. He sees the bed was already made and the puppy was lying in the middle of the bed, looking at him with laughing eyes. "Where's Willow, Lassie?" Lassie yelps and jumps off the bed and leads Ira to the kitchen where he finds Willow's note attached to the refrigerator. He picks it up and reads it aloud. "Went to help at the Antique store. Be back by tonight."

Ira crushes the paper and stares down at the pup. He picks her up and asks. "You are a smart one, aren't you?" He grins when Lassie barks twice. "I'll take that for a ‘yes'." Ira mutters as he picks up the phone book and locates the address to Lawrence Antiques. "It's not that far. I can walk it." Ira mutters to himself as he grabs his coat.

Ira quickly walks the eight blocks to the antique store and looks in and whistles lowly. "Sheila's sister would kill for half of this stuff." He mutters to himself as he notices the ‘OPEN' sign on the door. He walks up to the door and easily opens it. He walks in and notices as the bell above the door rings loudly. He waits for a minute and hears a female voice call out.

"Be right there!" Carol calls out. She quickly puts down her camera and walks to the front of the store. She sees Ira and politely asks. "Can I help you, Sir?"

"I'm looking for my daughter, Willow." Ira replies. "She left a note that she was helping here today."

"She's in the back with everyone else." Carol replies. "She and Jenny are helping update our website with some new furniture we just got in."

Ira smiles. < That's my girl. Always on the computer. > "Can I please see her?"

"Certainly, Mr. Rosenberg. This way." Carol replies as she shows him into the back of the warehouse.

Ira smiles as Carol leads him into the warehouse behind the store. He whistles lowly when he sees all of the antique furniture that the store had in storage. "My goodness, but this is a lot of very expensive furniture. Are you going to be selling all of it?"

"It's all being auctioned via the internet, Mr. Rosenberg." Carol replies as they walk up to Willow and Jenny as they're working on the computer.

Ira watches in awe as Jenny and Willow quickly setup web pages at an amazing pace and talk amicably with each as they were doing it. Ira clears his throat and both women quickly turn and face him. Ira wonders about the stances that both women were holding until Willow recognized him and walked over and gave him a hug.

"Why are you here, Dad?" Willow asks.

"I wanted to meet your friend Steve." Ira replies easily as he watches the adults and teenagers quickly move the furniture around. "I take it that the slightly older young man working with Xander is Steve?" Ira asks.

Willow looks back and watches as Steve and Xander move a desk to be photographed. "That's him, Dad."

"Would you please call him here?" Ira asks as Willow glances back to Jenny.

Jenny gets up from her chair. "Mr. Rosenberg?" Ira looks at Jenny, recognizing her.

"Miss Calendar? Why are you here?"

"Helping a few friends with their store. Why do you want to meet Steve?"

Ira smiles. "I understand that he's dating Willow's friend Buffy. Since Buffy's Father isn't around, I decided to meet him and make sure that he wasn't using her."

Jenny smiles. "You don't have to worry about Buffy, Mr. Rosenberg. Giles and I both know Steve and we like him."

"That's well and good." Ira replies. "But he gave my daughter a gift and I want to make sure that he's not doing something that he shouldn't."

"You mean Lassie?" Jenny asks. "We all got one, Mr. Rosenberg."

"You all got puppies?" Ira asks.

"No, some of us got kittens." Jenny replies. "Is there a problem with Lassie?"

"No, there isn't." Ira softly replies. "Interesting dog. Highly intelligent. What is she?"

"Just a dog, Mr. Rosenberg." Jenny replies as she notices that everyone was watching her and Ira talk.

Ira feels the eyes on his back and turns around to face the rest of Willow's friends. He sees Steve walking forward calmly introduces himself. "Mr. St. Wolf?" Steve nods his head. "I would like to talk to you." Ira sees everyone paying attention. "Privately." Steve quietly points towards the front of the store. Ira walks away with Steve.

*****

Giles walks up to Jenny and Willow. He wraps his arm around Jenny's waist and quietly asks. "Who was that man?"

"Willow's Father." Jenny replies. "He wants to meet Steve."

"Why?" Mulder asks.

"He wants to know why Steve gave Willow Lassie."

"Does he think that Steve has intentions towards Willow?" Giles asks in surprise.

"He wondered why Buffy's boyfriend would be nice toward me." Willow shyly replies. < He does care about me. > "He said that he wanted to meet Steve."

Cordelia smirks. "Trust Willow to have the most decent Dad. My Dad doesn't care who I date so long as I don't come home pregnant."

// The way the two of you go at it, I'm surprised you're not. // Arial comments from a rack where she and Patches were lying down.

Xander and Cordelia glare at their Guardians and everyone has a light laugh at their expense.

*****

Steve escorts Ira Rosenberg to the small table near the front of the store. He offers Ira a chair and the older man sits down. Steve takes the chair opposite him and calmly asks. "What can I do for you, Mr. Rosenberg?"

Ira looks over Steve for a full minute and quickly wonders. < This is no young man. He may look it, but he's seen ‘things'. > "Why are you dating Buffy Summers?"

"To the point, Mr. Rosenberg?" Steve asks with a grin. Ira stiffly nods his head and Steve sighs. "I like her. It's that simple."

"How old are you? Really." Ira asks softly.

"I'm twenty four years old." Steve replies.

"No, you're not." Ira replies. "You are anything but twenty four years old."

"Serving five years in the Army tends to ‘age' you." Steve replies.

"You're not old enough to have served five years in the Army."

"I joined the Army when I was sixteen." Steve replies. "I felt that it was a good course to take at the time."

"Was it?"

"At the time, yes. And going back, I still feel that I made a good choice."

"What are your intentions towards Buffy?"

"We're dating. And taking it one step at a time. Buffy was badly hurt by her previous boyfriend and I don't want to push her into doing anything that we both might regret later on."

Ira grins, liking Steve's answer. "Does her Mother know?"

"She does. In fact, if you ask Carol, she'll admit that Joyce and herself set us up for our first date."

Ira shakes his head in disbelief. "Women. You can always trust them to do something like that." He sighs and then asks. "What are your feelings towards my daughter?"

"Willow?" Steve asks in surprise. Ira stiffly nods his head. "I like her, but I think of her as Buffy's best friend. That's all."

"Then why did you give her that puppy?" Ira asks.

"Because she wanted a pet and Lassie needed a good home."

"That's all? You gave Willow the puppy, because the puppy needed a good home?"

"That's it." Steve replies. < But I hope you'll never find out the real reason why Lassie is now living with you. >

Ira looks deeply into Steve's eyes and sighs in resignation. "All right, Mr. St. Wolf, I'll let Willow keep the pup because she obviously loves it. But I will be keeping a close eye on the way you treat Buffy."

"Buffy has nothing to worry from me, Mr. Rosenberg. Giles and Jenny would kill me if I hurt Buffy in any way." Steve replies with a grin. "And Joyce isn't a light weight either. To quote an old friend of mine, ‘The Wooden Spoon of Mommydom' would kill me quicker than any gun."

Ira stares at Steve's grin and begins to laugh loudly. "A very wise person said that. Nothing is more dangerous that an angry Mother."

"We're glad to see that you two are getting along." Mulder replies as he and Dana walk up to Steve and Ira. "Buffy and Willow were getting worried and we decided to see what was going on."

"Only a Father's worry's being allayed. Mr. . ?"

"Fox Mulder, Mr. Rosenberg. This is my partner, Dana Scully."

"Your partner?" Ira asks as he looks over the tall, dark haired man and the petite red haired woman standing next to him. < More like a happily married couple. > Ira thinks to himself with a snicker.

Mulder pulls out his identification folder. "Dana and I work for the FBI."

Ira turns back to Steve. "Why is the FBI here?"

"They're friends of mine." Steve simply replies. "They're visiting me and are picking up a few things for their apartment."

"They live together?" Ira asks Steve.

"No, we're married." Dana replies with a warm smile. "Like my Mother would let me just live with a man."

Ira smiles. "And you know about Steve dating a seventeen year old girl?"

"We know. I had a talk with Buffy when we came here and I think that they know what they're doing." Dana replies with a smile. "If I thought anything was wrong, Steve would have been in jail last night."

Ira gets up and sighs. "All right." Ira softly replies. "I can see that you care about Buffy. And that she has people looking out for her. But I will also be keeping an eye on her, Mr. St. Wolf." Ira tells Steve. He then turns to Mulder and Dana. "A pleasure meeting you, Mr. Mulder, Ms. Scully." And with that, he walks out of the store, feeling better about his daughter's friends. < I'm glad I didn't bring Sheila, she would be trying to write a paper on these people's friendships. >

Steve, Mulder and Dana watch as Ira leaves and all three breathe a sigh of relief. "I'm glad that I'm not dating Willow." Steve replies with a grin. "I believe that he would have castrated me for even looking at her wrong."

"Now you realize that when you meet Buffy's Dad, it's going to be way worse." Mulder replies with a grin.

"How did Dana's Dad handle meeting you?"

"Ahab? He was a Navy Captain. He could peel the paint off a battleship with a glare if he needed to." Mulder replies with a warm smile. "But he only cared that Dana was happy with me."

Steve stretches and straightens his back. "Let's order some lunch and then we can finish photographing the furniture."

"Sounds good to me." Mulder replies with a grin as they walk back into the warehouse where Willow and Buffy were waiting with worried expressions on their faces.

"What happened?" Willow asked.

"I convinced your Father that I wasn't after you." Steve replies with a grin. "But I do pity Oz when he finds out that he's dating you."

Willow grins and hugs Oz as he pouts for a second. Buffy grins and asks. "What did he say about us?"

"He was worried that I was taking advantage of you. But Dana convinced him otherwise."

"How?" Carol asks.

"Mulder and I flashed our badges." Dana replies with a grin. "And promised to arrest Steve if he ever hurt Buffy."

Everyone has a good laugh over that one as Steve announces. "I'm ordering pizza for lunch. Does anyone want anything special?"

"What are you ordering?" Robert asks.

"Two pizzas with pepperoni and extra cheese. One meat lover's pizza. One vegetarian. One large garden salad. Three two liter Pepsis, One two liter Diet Pepsi and three dozen Garlic knots." Steve replies as he remembers their usual order. "Anyone care to add anything?"

"Add in two orders of spaghetti and meatballs and I'll pay for the order." Robert replies as Steve reaches for a nearby telephone and quickly makes the order. He grins as he hangs up the phone.

"Ted said that he'll be over in about twenty minutes." Steve informs everyone. "That gives us enough time to photograph at least another dozen pieces." Everyone moans, but they quickly begin to move the furniture around.

After about twenty minutes, the front doorbell rings again and Carol walks out. She's quickly back with Ted in tow, carrying a large amount of food. Ted sees the usual group from his frequent stops and grins at everyone. Especially the girls. "Hey everyone."

"Hey Ted." Everyone choruses back. Ted begins to grin broadly and lays down the food on a seventeenth century oak writer's desk. Robert grimaces and Ted quickly picks up the food.

"Should I ask how much that table is worth or just be glad that I didn't ruin it?" Ted asks with a grin.

"Thirty thousand dollars, young man." Robert replies with a grin.

Ted looks around and gulps. "How much is all of this stuff worth?"

"You're looking at maybe two and a half million dollars in antiques." Steve replies with a smile.

"Oh God!" Ted mutters in surprise. "Who's going to buy all of it?"

"Various people are." Steve replies. "We're going to hold the auction over the internet. I hope that it'll bring out some of the more serious buyers."

"God!" Ted mutters in disbelief. "I gotta know. How much money are you going to make?"

"Robert and I split ten percent of the sales. The rest goes to the people who asked us to sell their stuff."

"That's a lot of money." Ted replies with a smile. "How do I get into this business?"

"You work your way up." Robert replies as he hands over Ted his money and a generous tip.

Ted looks down at the money and grins. "Thanks, Mr. Lawrence."

"You're welcome, young man. Now let us have our lunch and finish our work here so that the young ones can go and have fun."

Ted nods and leaves. Carol follows him and quickly comes back after she locks the front door. Everyone sits down and begins to eat and talk.

Buffy sits down next to Steve and happily munches on her slice of pizza. She leans into him and enjoys the closeness as Steve idly wraps his arm around her waist.

Cordelia and Xander also sit together and take off pieces of meat for Arial and Patches. The laugh as Patches greedily eats the pepperoni and Arial daintily eats her cheese and sausage.

Willow and Oz sit together as well. Quietly talking and munching on their respective meals.

Giles and Jenny watch their young charges and smile as each forms a deep bond with their respective lover and companion.

Mulder and Dana talk and laugh with Steve and Buffy as they comment about the furniture and the work that they were doing.

Robert and Carol watch the five couples and grin, remembering their courtship and silently are grateful that love still existed in Sunnydale.

*****

Part 7 - Epilogues
(The Competition Learns That A New Player's In Town)

March 23, 1998
Buckwald's Auction House, San Francisco, CA - 08:30 PST

Reginald Buckwald storms into the meeting room and angrily slams down a large number of papers on the table. As the papers spread across the table, Prue Halliwell picks up one of them and stares in shock at the seventeenth century oak writing desk that clearly shows on it. She quickly reads the legend and gulps. < Oh Shit! No wonder Reg is pissed. This is a coup. >

"Do you people realize what this shop has done?" Reggie hisses out angrily.

"Stolen a major auction from us?" One of the auctioneers replies angrily. Reggie glares at him, but doesn't rebuke him.

"Carter is right!" Reggie barks out. "I'm disappointed in all of you for letting this nothing shop take away what is ours by right! I want all of you to sit there and think about how we're going to take this auction away from this little shop."

"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Prue replies. Reggie glares at her, but nods his head for her to continue. Prue gulps and continues. "If we try to take this sale away from these people, they'll try to stop us and it could get very public and very embarrassing. Maybe if we steer some of our more well to do clients to them and tell them that it's probably a once in a life time sale, they'll be more than willing to come to us first to sell anything that they have to sell at a later date."

Reggie sits back and thinks about it for a full three minutes. He finally nods his head and agrees. "That is a good idea, Prue. But how are we to prevent any of our major clients from going over to Lawrence Antiques?"

"Simple. We stress that Lawrence Antiques lucked out and got all of these items from a local estate. We will constantly have quality items for sale and they won't. We can even offer to authenticate any pieces that they don't feel comfortable about."

Reggie grins evilly. "That's very well thought out, Prue. All right, we'll do it. We won't destroy this little shop and we'll make our major clients happy with this little bargain sale." The people around the table quickly begin to discuss the windfall and make plans on who to contact over the pieces.

*****

March 23, 1998
Nash Antiques, New York, NY - 10:13 PST - 13:13 Local

Maxine looks over the internet auction news and quickly clicks on a link and pops over to the Lawrence Antiques site. She whistles lowly and quickly calls out. "Hey Connor!!"

Connor walks over to Maxine and looks over her shoulder. He sees the picture of an eighteenth century cabinet and stares. "My God! Where did they get that from?"

"Don't know. But this entire collection has been authenticated by some guy named St. Wolf. You know him?"

Connor grins. "A pain in the ass boy scout. But a nice guy. Duncan considers him family."

"Another MacLeod?" Maxine asks with a grin. "Is he cute?"

"Adopted into the Clan." Connor replies with a grin. "And yes, he's cute. But from what Duncan tells me, he's seeing someone."

"Too bad." Maxine replies with a grin as she looks at a Chippendale Table set. "Maybe we can get a family discount?"

"Don't think so." Connor replies with a laugh. "If he's considered family by Duncan, then you can bet that he's not giving anyone a discount, especially family.

*****

March 23, 1998
Xanatos Building, New York, NY - 11:25 PST - 14:25 Local

Owen looks over the e-mail message on his computer monitor and presses a buzzer. A deep female voice answers. "Yes, Owen, what is it?"

"Mr. St. Wolf has a major auction on-line, Mrs. Xanatos. Would you care to review it?"

"Of course, Owen. Is it at his new address at LawrenceAntiques.com?"

"Yes, it is." Owen replies as he hangs up the intercom.

Fox punches up the address and stares in disbelief at the items being auctioned. "Oh! My! God!" Fox mutters as she stares at some of the pieces being auctioned. She quickly scans several choices and shots off an angry e-mail to Steve.

‘Steve,

You bastard! You should have offered me this
collection first!

Fox'

*****

April 15, 1998
New Salem Diner, New Salem, CO - 06:30 PST

Mara watches out the main window as the four large tracker trailers pull into the parking lot of the New Salem Diner. < What could these truckers want here? And why do all of them have the same chess piece logo? > Mara wonders as she watches the four large men exit their respective trucks and calmly walk into the diner. As the men sit down in unison as if they were marching a parade ground, they pick up the menus and begin to read them. The largest man, a six foot, eight inch, red head looks up from the menu and grins slyly at Mara. Mara looks up at the ceiling in supplication. < Goddess, please save me from amorous truckers. > When she looks down, she sees him looking at her legs. Mara glares at the man's roguish grin as he leans forward. < Probably trying to get a better view of my legs. > Mara harumphs to herself. < Isabelle? Are you nearby? >

// Of course I am Mara. What's wrong? // Mara's Guardian and lifelong friend replies.

< We have four strangers in the Diner. Be ready to move in if they start to cause trouble. >

// Of course Mara. // Isabelle replies with a snicker as she curls up near the window.

Mara turns back to the red head and demands. "What do you four want?"

"Four cups of coffee to start with, pretty lady." The red head replies with a grin as his three companions also begin to smile at their friend's antics.

"We ran out." Mara snaps out, hoping they would quickly get the message.

"Tea then." The red head replies with a knowing smile.

"Out of that too." Mara replies angrily. "In fact, we got nothing for you four to eat or drink."

"That's not a very proper way to greet four Knights of the Road, Lady Mara." The red head replies quietly.

"And how do you know my name!?" Mara demands.

"Sir Steve spoke very highly of your courtesy and manners." The man replies with a smile as he adds. "Though he didn't do your beauty justice."

Mara relaxes slightly as Isabelle begins to yowl in laughter. < Damn Cat!! > Mara mentally mutters to her laughing cat. "Sir Steve has a Slayer to contend with. That would give any man blinders." Mara replies with a smile as the four men squirm under her glare. "So who are you four? Out with it!" Mara demands with a grin as she begins to enjoy herself, realizing that these four were friends.

The red head grins. "Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Knight Lieutenant Silas Patrick Ryan, of Lady Niume's personal guard. My companions are Sirs, Robert Haynes, Michael Fitzkern, and Joshua Red Tree." The three men nod their heads in greeting and Mara begins to place cups in front of them and pours a fresh pot of coffee for each of them.

"What brings you here, Sir Knights." Mara asks with a smile as she sees her teacher walk into the Diner and sits down at her usual table.

"A letter to Mistress Harkness." Silas replies with a smile as he pulls out a large envelope with a familiar yellow seal.

"You needed four large trucks to bring a single letter?" Mara asks in shock.

"Well, no." Silas replies with a lopsided grin. "We needed the trucks for the things that Sir Steve ordered for your town. Bastard had a dozen Squires getting him this stuff for the last two weeks."

"Young man." A stern voice calls Silas from behind. Silas turns and bows to his Lady's oldest friend.

"Mistress Harkness." Silas replies in a respectful tone.

"Please do not refer to Sir Steven as a bastard. He is one of the few truly good men that my people can trust with their lives." Agatha Harkness coldly replies.

Silas shakes his head in disbelief. < What is it with St. Wolf and powerful women? > "I only meant it in jest, Mistress Harkness." Silas explains with a disarming smile. "Sir Steven is well respected by every member of the Order. And he doesn't mind these little jests."

"Are you certain about that?" Agatha asks nicely.

Silas gulps and pulls on his sweater as his three companions begin to laugh behind him. He turns and glares at them and sees the rest of the Diner also begin to laugh. Silas sighs and bows before Agatha. "I bow before you in awe, Lady." Silas mutters in defeat, but slyly adds in. "Do with me what you will. Or preferably what the Lady Mara will."

Agatha smiles as she takes stock of the Knight standing in front of her. < Well, Mara did want a Knight of her own. >

*****

Mara watches in disbelief as the Knight offers himself up to Agatha's justice. < Oh Goddess! What is this fool up to? > Mara watches her teacher as a mongoose would a cobra and shudders. < She wouldn't!? >

// Oh she will. // Isabelle replies with a laugh in her ‘voice'. // Well, you do need to have kittens. //

Mara glares at her cat as all of the other ‘pets' begin to laugh as well and their companions quickly join as Mara blushes a bright red. "Oh Goddess, but this is too much."

Silas turns back to Mara with a raised eyebrow. "What is it, Lady Mara?"

"Nothing for you to worry about, Sir Silas." Agatha replies with a smile tugging at her lips. Silas looks at the elderly witch in confusion as she smiles at her student. Mara gulps as Agatha orders. "Please see to Sir Silas' comfort Mara. Make sure that he and his men have some place to spend the night. We'll unload the trucks tomorrow."

"Yes Mistress." Mara mutters softly as the large Knight looks at her eyes and drinks them in. < Oh damn. But he likes me. How? > Then she glances over to Agatha and sees her smiling face. < Oh Damn! She did. > Mara shakes her head as Isabelle begins to yowl loudly. < What is YOUR problem? >

// You. You need someone and this man might be just what you need to scratch that itch you've been having since St. Wolf left. // Isabelle replies to her Companion.

< If you ever want another bowl of milk, you'll shut up! Right now! > Mara replies angrily. Isabelle yowls in laughter as she gets up and saunters over to Silas and begins to rub herself against his legs.

Silas, grinning, picks up Isabelle and begins to scratch her behind her ears. "Nice kitty." He murmurs as he cradles her in the crook of his arm. Isabelle purrs contentedly and watches Mara's lips quirk in laughter.

"She's laid claim to you Sir Knight. What am I do with you?" Mara asks with a laugh, not giving an inch.

"Anything my Lady wishes." Silas replies with a grin. < I wonder who's setting us up? Sir Steve, Mother, or Lady Niume? Probably all three. Aunt Niume and Mother have been hinting that I should get married soon. >

Mara smiles and points towards the trucks. "I'm sure that we can come to some reasonable solution. After we unload the trucks and distribute the items."

Silas also grins. "Of course My Lady. I can wait a day."

*****

Agatha watches Silas and Mara begin the ‘Dance' called courtship and smiles. < Niume is right. Silas is a good match for Mara. Steven was right in having him sent here. I wonder what he did to make Steven do this to him. >

The End

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