Title: Scooby Snacks: Refill


Unladylike Behavior
A Question of Paternity
Maternal Instincts
The Balance Uncovered
Laying Down the Rules
A Little Nepotism Goes a Long Way


Author: Michael Weyer

Additional Disclaimer:

ER:
1. Dr. Elizabeth Corday is really a 260-year old Immortal, trained by Duncan MacLeod.

My response to Tim's little brainstorm. Thanks to both Tim and Steve for help in plotting and such.
Enjoy.


Unladylike Behavior

In which a physician is dealt a major wound.

London, England
September 22nd, 1993

When one is a native-born Briton, he or she instinctively knows when it's the right day to pack an umbrella. And when one had made England her home for the better part of two hundred years, that instinct was all the stronger. Which was why Elizabeth Corday knew that, regardless of how bright the morning had been, she was going to need a large umbrella for later. As ever, her instinct was a saving grace, allowing Elizabeth to stay dry as the rain poured down on London.

She shifted her bag on her shoulder, stealing a quick glance at her watch. Had anyone taken the time to look, they would have seen a quite beautiful woman. Apparently in her thirties but with a charm that shone beyond her age. Her reddish hair brushed past her shoulders in curls, framing a face that was beautiful but strong too. She wore a light blue dress with a long coat covering it, not too unusual for London. All in all, Elizabeth Corday appeared to be just another Englishwoman on her way home.

Elizabeth lowered her watch and picked up her pace a bit, sidestepping a puddle in front of her. She had been planning to go out and grab a drink at a local caf‚, a good way to unwind after a rough shift at the hospital. But the sudden storm looked like her plans were going to be curtailed. Elizabeth figured a long hot bath, a good cup of tea and a book would be her evening.

It was then that the Buzz struck her.

She stopped, her eyes flashing about as her hand clenched around the handle of her umbrella. She scanned around the few pedestrians about on the streets, trying to see which of them the Buzz could have come from. The rain pelted down on her umbrella, the sound fading in Elizabeth's ears as she tensed up. She hoped to hell it wouldn't have to be a fight. She'd been in a duel in the rain once, in 1833, and once had been enough. Between the rain obstructing her vision and her footing giving way in the mud, she'd been lucky to get out of it alive. *At least the storm will excuse the lightning of the Quickening* Elizabeth thought to herself as she saw a figure come toward her.

She remained in place as the man approached, an umbrella of his own over his head. He came closer and a nearby streetlamp threw light upon his face. Handsome and strong, with an easy-going smile, his long black hair pulled into a ponytail. He wore a casual pair of slacks and shirt with a long trench coat over it. He held up his umbrella a bit, allowing Elizabeth to get a good look at his face, which broke into a wide smile. "I was hoping I'd run into you," he said in an accented voice.

"Duncan!" Elizabeth said, a laugh escaping her as she moved in. Still holding up the umbrella, she gave Duncan MacLeod a quick hug before stepping back. "What are you doing in London?"

"I came here to see you, actually," Duncan said, the smile seeming to fade a bit. "Is there...someplace we can talk?"

"Oh, yes, yes, my flat's just a few blocks down," Elizabeth said, quickly falling into place. "God, it's so good to see you again!"

*You may wish you hadn't* Duncan couldn't help thinking as Elizabeth led him away.

*****

Southern France
1772

The wind blew at Elizabeth's coat as she walked carefully down the streets of the village. She shivered a bit, unused to the sudden chill that had come over the countryside. The rain had passed by but the sky remained cloudy and the threat of the storm restarting remained. Elizabeth stumbled a bit, biting back a curse as she nearly slid in the mud. She wasn't used to being out in this type of weather. Then again, in the last year, she had been forced to get used to a lot of new things.

It had been difficult for Elizabeth to come to grips with the fact that her life as a noblewoman had died when she had in that Paris alley. She had wanted to go back, had argued vehemently that it was her right but Darius had been firm.

"You can't go back," he had told her. "By now, word of what has happened will have reached your family. They won't accept you back, Elizabeth. As far as they know, you're dead now or worse, possessed by a demon. Would you accept someone if they came back under those circumstances?"

Elizabeth had still protested, which was when Darius was forced to tell her the truth: That she was not actually a noblewoman by birth, since all Immortals were foundlings. Elizabeth had been rocked by that revelation, which was what Darius had wanted. It had broken through to Elizabeth and convinced her that she had to leave her old life behind and take on a new one.

She had spent the last year on holy ground, Darius telling her all she needed to know about Immortals and the Game, about moving about and setting up a new life when needed. He had taught her everything but the most crucial part of all: How to fight.

"It's not for me," he had told her. "I came to holy ground to escape that violence, Elizabeth. And as much as I do care for you, I can't bring myself to impart that legacy upon you."

"So, what am I supposed to do?" Elizabeth asked him. "Stay on holy ground for the rest of my life?"

"No, I see that's not in your nature," the priest answered with a smile. "I do know of some Immortals who would be excellent teachers. Find them and you'll be able to learn enough to survive."

Elizabeth had come to Paris with a trio of large steamer trunks. She had left with a simple bag clutched over her shoulder, her coat covering a dark jacket and pants, a hat pulled over her hair. "Am I the proper image of a wandering vagabond?" she asked with a dry humor as she stood by the entrance to the church.

"I think you'll get by," Darius answered with a smile.

Elizabeth paused, looking down at her feet. "I.... I'll miss you."

"Now, now," Darius laughed. "You don't have to talk like that. I have little doubt you'll be back someday for a visit. You're a strong woman, Elizabeth, much stronger than anyone believed. You've learned a lot here. It's time for you to go out and learn even more."

Elizabeth bit her lip. Then, with a show of behavior that she would never have thought of only a few months before, she wrapped her arms around Darius and hugged him tightly. "Thank you so much," she said softly. "For everything."

Darius stroked her hair and lay a light kiss on her forehead. "Go with God, Elizabeth."

"I will," she answered, nodding before walking out of the church and into her new life.

*****

In the weeks since, she had been on the road, seeing a new aspect of humanity that had previously been denied her. Whereas before her life had been filled with high society galas, she had spent several nights in busy taverns. Instead of excellent beds with soft satin sheets, she slept on hard cots and even on the floor at some places. Bad food and table scraps had replaced exquisitely cooked meals and Elizabeth had become used to fending for herself instead of counting on a servant to do it for her.

Now, she was walking through a muddy street in a village she wouldn't have been caught dead in a year before. *And I hope I don't get caught dead here as well* she couldn't help but think as she paced down the village, hoping that Darius' information had been correct.

She was nearing the inn when it struck her. She paused, closing her eyes, still unused to the chill up her spine and the buzz in her head as the presence of another Immortal came close by. She opened her eyes and looked about, trying to get a fix on whom it was.

She saw a man slowly approach, the strength of his pace letting her know he was the one she had felt. She straightened, trying to remain calm, her hand instinctively going toward the sword underneath her coat. It still felt strange to always be carrying it around. But she knew it would be even stranger to have to use it before she was ready.

The man stopped and stared at her. He had long bushy black hair framing his handsome face, which was set in a mood of preparation. He was dressed in a loose buckskin coat over a dark shirt and pants. His hand drifted toward the coat, ready to pull out a blade if needed. "I am Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod," he called out in a strong Scottish brogue, fixing his gaze right on Elizabeth.

She brought her head up and returned both the gaze and the pride in her name. "Lady Elizabeth Corday." Despite her knowledge of the truth, Elizabeth just couldn't let go of her past entirely. She paused as the man's name fully registered with her. "MacLeod? Any relation to a Connor MacLeod?"

The man's eyes peered in suspicion. "What do you want with Connor?" he asked with an edge of danger, the hand drifting closer to the coat.

Quickly, Elizabeth held up a hand in an attempt at peace. "It's all right. I don't want to fight him. And I don't want to fight you."

The hand had paused by the coat, for which Elizabeth was most grateful. "Then what do you want?" Duncan asked pointedly.

Elizabeth coughed slightly before answering. "To learn."

*****

London
1993

Elizabeth's apartment wasn't too extravagant but had a special charm to it. Oak paneled floors and walls, high-scale furniture, a mantelpiece of antiques and a television filled the main room. "Not bad," Duncan stated, looking about from the doorway. "I don't know, I sort of imagined you'd go for something a bit more opulent."

Elizabeth sighed as she placed her umbrella by a stand and slipped off her bag and coat. "Unfortunately, I have to maintain the appearance that I'm living on a surgeon's pay," she told the older Immortal. "And sprucing up my apartment would get attention." She stepped into the main room, turning on a few lights. "So, how did you find me?" she called out.

"Not too many Elizabeth Cordays in London," Duncan answered her as he took off his own coat and sword, hanging the former on a rack and leaned the latter against the wall. "Narrowing it down to doctors left only one possibility." He chuckled. "Still haven't changed the name, eh?"

Elizabeth rolled her eyes. "After what happened the only time I tried it? No thank you." She looked back at Duncan. "Still in Paris, then?"

"Actually, moved to a small city in America," Duncan answered her as he entered the main room. "Nice town called Seacouver. I've got an antiques shop going there."

Elizabeth laughed. "You and Connor running antique stores. Somehow, that just makes sense." Her face darkened a bit as she looked at Duncan. "How is he?" she asked softly.

Duncan smiled. "Actually, Connor's doing well. He's gotten out of that funk you saw him in the last time and he's getting his life back on track."

Elizabeth sighed in relief. "Thank God. He was getting a bit too brooding for me." She looked at Duncan, a little smirk on her face. "I take it you're still with Tessa?"

Elizabeth couldn't help but enjoy the slight blush that came to Duncan's cheeks as he answered. "Aye, we're still together. She helps run the shop, even sells some artwork. Richie's a good help too."

"Richie?" Elizabeth asked.

"Former street kid who broke into the shop one night. I took him in, gave him a job, he's working out well."

"Still taking in strays, I see," Elizabeth said dryly. She frowned. "Is he....."

Duncan nodded. "He is. He doesn't know, of course but I'm keeping an eye on him for when it happens."

"I suppose I could have used that," Elizabeth said. "Look, why don't I make some tea, we can catch up on old times------"

"Elizabeth," Duncan broke in. "I need to tell you------"

"All right, you don't want tea, I get it," Elizabeth nodded as she headed for the kitchen area. "I think I have something a bit stronger."

"Elizabeth," Duncan began, walking after her. He followed her to the kitchen area. She opened up two cabinets and began rummaging inside for something. "Come on, I know I kept an extra bottle around here-----"

Duncan reached out, grabbing her arm and pulling her back. Elizabeth was surprised, both by the strength of the grip and Duncan's sudden action. She opened up her mouth to ask what Duncan was doing but stopped as she saw the look on his face.

"Elizabeth," Duncan said softly. "Darius is dead."

*****

In her two centuries of life, Elizabeth Corday had been shot, stabbed, hanged, burned, bludgeoned, drowned, fallen from a variety of heights and hit in more ways than she liked to think about.

But none of those blows could equal the one created by Duncan's words.

She stared at him, her face utterly blank, her eyes widened in utter shock. She would swear her heart literally stopped for a full three seconds as Duncan's words sunk in.

"What?" Elizabeth heard her voice ask but barely recognized the hollow words. "How.... When?"

Duncan sighed, stepping back and letting go of Elizabeth's arm. "A few weeks ago. I wanted to get in touch then but...well, things were crazy."

"Oh, God...." Elizabeth groaned. "Oh, God, Darius....." She staggered out of the kitchen, her hands clutching at her head, as if to try and block out Duncan's words. She leaned against the dining table, suddenly finding herself out of breath and even a little faint. The clinical part of her mind told her this was a common reaction for grief. But that part was overwhelmed by the sudden rush of shock and disbelief.

She closed her eyes, feeling tears begin to build as it truly sunk in. She felt Duncan's hands brush on her shoulders, giving her a reassuring squeeze. "I'm sorry," he said softly. "I truly am."

"But.... how?" Elizabeth was still in shock, refusing to accept this, refused to accept that she was actually asking about Darius' death. "Was he tricked into leaving holy ground, did he go for a fight, did-----?"

Duncan took a deep breath. "He never left holy ground, Elizabeth."

Elizabeth froze in place, her breath leaving her. She slowly turned to face Duncan. "Someone.... someone took his head on holy ground?" she whispered. For an Immortal to break the one rule all Immortals held sacred was unthinkable.

Duncan shook his head. "No. It was mortals." As Elizabeth frowned in confusion, he leaned back against the wall. "The same group went after Fitz," he began. He was referring to Hugh Fitzcairn, an old Immortal friend. "I managed to save him, saw how they all had the same tattoo on their wrists. I went back to Seacouver and tracked a couple of men with the same tattoo down. That's when I found out who they were."

"And that is?" Elizabeth was barely able to focus on the question, still overwhelmed by what she had just heard.

Duncan sighed. "They call themselves the Watchers. They're a secret society of mortals who have been watching and recording the actions of Immortals for centuries. There's at least one watching just about every Immortal on the planet. They watch where we go, what we do, who we fight, everything."

Elizabeth stared at him, her grief overwhelmed by amazement at hearing about this. "Wait a minute," she said, holding up a hand. "You're trying to tell me...that these...Watchers...have been looking at me my entire life?"

Duncan shook his head. "Not your whole life. Just since you met Darius and then started training with me. After that, they've got a file."

Elizabeth's eyes went wide. "So.... They know.... everything?"

Duncan rolled his eyes. "Elizabeth, you're going to have to get over this Moll Flanders thing someday."

"When you start to get grief for becoming the basis for a literary character, then you can talk to me about it," Elizabeth snapped at him. Her eyes flared with anger as she stood up. "Where are they? Who's mine, I'll kill that son of a-----"

"The ones responsible are dead," Duncan told her in no uncertain terms. "Or at least in justice. They were rogue Watchers, convinced Immortals were a scourge on humanity. They've been dealt with."

"Oh, and that solves everything?" Elizabeth barked at him. "How do you know they're the exception, not the rule? How do you know all these bastards don't want us dead?"

"Elizabeth, my Watcher, a man who's been observing me for almost twenty years, showed me their records." Duncan leaned in to look Elizabeth in the eye and see the truth in his words. "They have everything about us, Elizabeth. For me, it's my early years, meeting Connor, nearly every single Immortal I've beheaded, where I've gone and what I've done, everything. Believe me, if they wanted us dead, they would have done it centuries ago."

"But it's not right!" Elizabeth suddenly cried out. She raked her hair with her hands, her eyes flashing with anger. "Some bastards get it in their heads we're demons or something and so they decide to kill a man who's done nothing but good for the last millennia, a man who's tried to help people, a man who helped me, who saved me, who------"

She couldn't hold it back anymore and the tears flowed freely. She slumped into a chair, her head buried in her hands as the grief cut loose, overwhelming everything else. She was barely aware of Duncan moving in to hold her, her head slumping against his chest as he brushed at her hair. Duncan said nothing, knowing there were no words to properly soothe Elizabeth right now. He just held her tight as she let it all out.

For the better part of twenty minutes, she simply sat and cried in his arms, eyes closed, her face showing the pain and loss that tore at her soul. Finally, she felt strength return to her, the need to cry evaporating. But the loss remained, letting her know there were more tears to come. She slowly pulled herself out of Duncan's embrace, sitting up in the chair. Duncan held out a handkerchief, which she gladly took to wipe at her face.

"Oh, God, I can't believe it," she said softly, her voice laced with mourning. "I can't believe he's gone. I...I always thought he'd be the last in the end."

"So did I," Duncan nodded. "So did a lot of us."

Elizabeth blew her nose lightly into the cloth in her hands, tears still in her eyes. "I last saw him a year ago," she whispered, mostly to herself. "And I never told him.... I never told him how much he meant.... How grateful I was...."

"Time never waits," Duncan said softly. "Not even for us."

Elizabeth closed her eyes as a fresh wave of pain hit her. No more of Darius' smiles. His laugh. That little twinkle in his eyes when he latched onto an idea. No more of his chess games or his wonderful tea or the way he could go off on historical discussions. No more of his loving embraces and words that could soothe any problems she had in her mind or soul. No more of him.

"God, Duncan, it hurts," she groaned. "I've never...I've lost people I've cared for before but.... But losing him...."

Duncan patted her shoulder, letting her know she wasn't alone in her grief. He looked at her carefully, seeing the pain in her features and realized he'd misjudged the situation. *I knew she'd be hit hard. I never thought it'd be this hard.* Duncan frowned, chastising himself for not realizing before just how much Elizabeth had loved and respected the Immortal priest. And how much his death was tearing at her.

"If you want me to stay, I will," he spoke up. "My flight back doesn't leave until morning anyway, I can stay on the couch."

Elizabeth looked at him, a slight smile coming onto her face. "Thank you," she told him. "I.... I could use that." She sat back in her chair, her hands going to her face. "I'm going to miss him so much, Duncan," she whispered. "All that he did for me and I never told him how much it meant. And I never will."

She closed her eyes as a new flood of tears began to trail down her cheeks. Duncan took one of her hands in his and held it for reassurance. Elizabeth barely noticed as she simply sat there, the rain pouring outside while a storm of grief held her heart.


A Question of Paternity

In which a mother and daughter must reconcile with a mistake in the past.

Summers Residence
Sunnydale, CA
March 1st, 1998 - 1707 Hours PST

Joyce Summers started as she heard the doorbell ring. She rose from her chair, her tuna casserole left in front of her as she started toward the front door. She had only been home for about fifteen minutes and wasn't expecting any company. As she made her way to the door, a litany flashed through her mind. *If it's someone you don't know, don't invite them in. Keep a cross handy just in case. Even if it's one of Buffy's friends, if they ask to be invited in, check for a cross on them. You don't see it, shut the door and stay inside.*

It was amazing just how fast Joyce had gotten used to the fact that vampires were real and her daughter fought them. The fact that Buffy also happened to be Immortal was something that threw Joyce as well. However, she thought she was dealing with it all rather well. One thing she'd quickly gotten used to was the slew of new rules Buffy had impressed upon her, the rules that would keep her mother safe from the dangers that existed in Sunnydale.

Opening the door, Joyce felt a wave of relief as she saw Buffy on the other side. "Hi, honey!" she said, showing her surprise. "I thought you'd be with Steve tonight."

"I was planning on it," her daughter told her as she stepped inside. Joyce hoped her sigh of relief wouldn't be too evident. Seeing a vampire in the flesh had terrified her and the thought of Buffy becoming one was more than she could bear. But since a vampire had to be invited to enter, she knew her daughter was still alive and the warmth of her embrace confirmed it.

"I just needed to talk to you," Buffy continued as she stepped back. She looked about, suddenly appearing a bit nervous. She was dressed in a loose pair of jeans and a dark sweater under a dark jacket. "Can we sit down?"

"Sure," Joyce answered, leading Buffy into the kitchen. She took a seat in front of her plate as Buffy sat across the table. "Do you want something to eat?" Joyce asked. "I didn't expect you to be over so------"

"No, no, I'm good," Buffy said, shaking her head. "I grabbed something with the guys after school." She tapped her fingers on the table, her face showing some uncertainty.

Joyce finished chewing and swallowing the piece of food on her fork and sighed. "Buffy, I know that look. Something's on your mind and I'm guessing that it's why you're here. So, come on, just tell me." She let out a tiny smile. "You can always tell me anything, Buffy. That hasn't changed."

"I know, Mom," Buffy said with a tiny smile. It faded as she looked at her mother closely. "Mom.... What do you remember about the night I was born?"

Of all the various topics that she would have expected Buffy to bring up, that was pretty low on Joyce's list. She had to take a moment to recover from the surprise and another moment to remember the night in question. "It was rainy," Joyce began. "I'm sure I've told you that before. It was a hard birth, almost twenty hours in labor and this was before really good painkillers." Buffy had to smile at that.

Joyce bit her lip as the memories came back over her. "I know you've been through a lot with fights and such, Buffy," she said. "But childbirth.... now there's a pain you're not going to forget." Joyce was looking down and thus missed the flash of pain on Buffy's features at that last comment. Heedless, Joyce went on. "There's a reason the fathers traditionally wait outside. Not even a hardened Marine would want to be near a woman in that position. I was crying, screaming, cursing like a sailor. It's no wonder Hank decided outside would be a better place for him. I barely noticed, there was all that pain and the only thing that made it bearable was wanting to see you and hold you, to finally have my baby in my arms."

A light sheen of tears came to her eyes as she continued. "And then the pain was gone and I just sat there, heaving for breath and trying to get my bearings. I could vaguely see the doctor and nurses huddled on the other side of the room, one nurse wheeling in a cart of some sort, I'm guessing it was equipment. And then the next thing I knew, you were in my arms, crying and you just looked so beautiful and it made all of the pain worthwhile."

Buffy closed her eyes, taking a deep breath. *Oh, this is not going to go well.* "Mom," she started. "There's a couple of things about Immortality I haven't told you yet."

Joyce frowned. "There's more? Like what?"

"Well," Buffy began nervously. "For starters, there's the fact that Immortals can't have children. It doesn't matter if it's male or female, we can't have any kids."

"Oh," Joyce said softly, understandably thrown by that revelation. "So... I guess I won't be called grandma, huh?"

"No," Buffy replied. She bit her own lip, trying to get the courage to tell her mother what she knew was going to be a blow to her. "Mom...There's something else. Immortals are foundlings. We don't have actual parents, no one knows how exactly we're born or what but... But generally, Immortals are simply... found."

She looked up to see her mother staring at her with a drawn face. Joyce suddenly felt a chill come over her as what Buffy was saying started to seep in. "Are you..." she started. She stopped, swallowing and trying again. "Are you trying to tell me... that you..."

Buffy closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Opening them, she looked her mother right in the eye and lay it out for her. "I'm not your natural birth daughter, Mom. I can't be."

A long silence filled the air for several moments. Joyce simply stared, her mind in utter disbelief over what she had just heard. "No," she finally said, shaking her head.

Buffy leaned over to reach a hand out toward Joyce. "Mom...."

"No, no, that's not possible," Joyce denied, still shaking her head. "I mean, I was there, Buffy! I there for twenty hours of pain, I held you, I know for a fact that you were born then!"

"Mom...."

Joyce stood up, her arms outstretched as she shuffled around the kitchen. "No, I gave birth to you, Buffy, I know that for a fact! You are my daughter! This... This Immortal thing is wrong, you can't believe-----"

Buffy grabbed Joyce by the arms, holding her so Joyce had to look at her set face. "Mom," Buffy broke in with a tone meant to convey the seriousness of the situation. "This is part of the Immortal deal. We can't have kids and we don't know how we're born. I'm sorry, but you have to know this. Not only am I not your natural daughter, I can't be your natural daughter."

Joyce stared at Buffy's face, realizing the truth in her words. "Oh, God," she whispered, sagging a bit. "I... I don't understand this, hon. I...." She broke off, looking at Buffy as a sudden thought occurred to her. "How long have you known?"

Buffy looked away with a light burst of shame. "Scully told me about it when she told me I was Immortal," she explained. "I wanted to ask, Mom but that would have brought up just how I knew and..."

"But... It doesn't make sense." Joyce slumped into a chair, leaning forward onto the table. "I mean.... I was there, Buffy, I know I gave birth, there was nothing wrong with it, there...." She stopped, her eyes going wide as something hit her. It was amazing how it happened. An item of knowledge that had always been in her mind before but never really touched down over the last decade and a half. "No crying," Joyce whispered.

"What?" Buffy frowned in confusion.

Joyce looked up at her. Her face carried a look of stunned realization. "After the birth.... After I felt the baby leave...All I could do was just lay back and wait, I knew the doctor would have to clean it and such first. But... But there was no crying." Joyce sat back in the chair. "I never thought about it before. About how it wasn't until that nurse wheeled in the cart that... the crying started."

Buffy slowly pulled a chair across from Joyce. She sat in it so she could face her mother, brushing back her hair as she began to speak. "Steve did some checking through records," Buffy began. "The night I was born, the hospital records showed that an infant girl had been found inside a dumpster right outside the hospital. She was brought in around the same time you were in labor. No ID or records, nothing to indicate who she was. She pronounced dead at 8:34 P.M." Bufy looked at her mother carefully. "Five minutes after my time of birth."

Joyce's face went pale, her jaw sliding open. "Then..." she began. "The baby who was found.... That was...."

Buffy slowly nodded. "It would have been easy," she stated in a calm voice. "The doctor and nurses saw that your child was stillborn. They'd heard you moaning about how much you wanted a baby and couldn't wait to see her and hold her. And out of nowhere, there's this baby girl who has no family, no ID and seems fated to be stuck in some hellhole local orphanage. I guess they figured a switch would be the best thing for everyone."

Joyce sat quietly, her jaw clenching, her hands pressing on the edge of the table. "Oh, God," she whispered. "I can't believe this. All these years... I never had a clue at all."

"Neither did I," Buffy told her. "We never had any reason to doubt it. I doubt any of the people there would have told us. They probably thought we'd sue."

Joyce brought her head up and looked at Buffy. "So... Now what?"

Buffy frowned. "What do you mean?"

Joyce raised an eyebrow in disbelief at Buffy's reaction. "Buffy... We've just found out that I'm not your mother. That you're not the child I gave birth to. I think this is something we have to work on."

Buffy looked down at the table. This is what she had been afraid of. Laying down this one last big revelation was going to be too much for Joyce. *She won't want me anymore, she'll think I'm just a freak, I stole her actual daughter, she won't want to have anything to do with me, it's all over.*

Joyce stared at Buffy, trying to keep herself from trembling as her mind was covered with thoughts on what the young woman was going to do. *I'm not her mother, she'll push me out of her life "to keep me safe," she'll just thank me for everything I've done and go live her own life, she won't want to have anything to do with me, it's all over.*

*****

It was Buffy who broke the silence. "If you want me to leave... I'll leave."

Joyce started in surprise. "Leave?" she asked in confusion. "Why would you leave?"

"I thought...." Buffy swallowed and looked up at Joyce. "I thought you'd want me to go. I mean... I'm not yours, I'm not really your daughter. Your daughter died, I was just lucky enough to be there at the right time to take her place. You've spent seventeen years raising a stranger, why should you want to---"

Joyce's hand reached over and took hers, squeezing it tightly. Buffy looked into Joyce's eyes and saw they were lined with tears. The tears seemed to give the sudden spark in Joyce's eyes an extra glow. "Buffy Elisabeth Anne Summers," Joyce started. "What happened in that hospital room changed my life forever. And for the good. What those people did was give me the greatest gift a person could get. A child who I could love and raise."

"But I'm not that child," Buffy stressed.

To her surprise, Joyce let out a short laugh. "Buffy, do you actually believe that I would have chosen losing my baby and all the pain and heartbreak that would have brought over raising you?" She looked down, trying to gather her thoughts. "It does hurt," she admitted. "I won't deny that. That I lost the child I was carrying all that time does hurt and it probably will hurt more once it sinks in."

She looked back at Buffy, a tear running down one cheek. "But it would have hurt so much more to have been without a child at all," she said, her voice showing the emotion growing within her. "It would have hurt not being able to see my little baby grow up." Her hand reached out to brush Buffy's hair, seeing the tears in her... daughter's eyes. "I wouldn't have given that up for anything."

"Oh, God," Buffy said, letting out a breath. "Oh, God, I was so worried that you would have... kicked me out for not being yours."

Joyce held Buffy's chin up so she could see in her eyes. "You are mine, Buffy," she whispered. "Not by birth but in every other way, every way that matters, you are my daughter. I loved you from the moment I held you and I haven't stopped loving you since. This won't change that, nothing will change that." She bit her lip. "I... I was worrying that... That you'd want me out of your life."

"What?" Buffy stared at her... mother in disbelief. "How could you think that?"

"Well, you've had more time to deal with this," Joyce said defensively. "And you've got so much on your plate, what with being Immortal and being the Slayer, I thought... I thought you'd figure that acting like a daughter to a woman who didn't give birth to you would have been a waste."

It was Buffy's turn to squeeze her mother's hands. "You're not a waste, Mom. Nothing you've done for me has been a waste, not one part of it. You have been the best mother any daughter could ask for. You held yourself together through the problems with Dad, with the divorce and the move and all that and dealing with me and all my problems. The reason..." Buffy blinked back tears as she stared at her mother. "The reason I'm the way I am... is because I had your example to follow." She choked, the tears now starting to flow down her cheeks. "I just hope I can make you proud."

"Oh, honey," Joyce said, her own tears showing. "I am proud of you, I've always been proud of you but now more than ever. Going through all you have and still being able to stay on top of things. The way you help your friends and even strangers, the way you help Steve and doing well on your schoolwork." Joyce let out a smile. "And the little thing about saving the world a few times."

As Buffy let a tiny laugh escape her lips, Joyce went on. "The point is...You're my daughter, Buffy. And I love you so much."

"I love you, Mom," Buffy said. "And I always will." As one, the two rose and embraced, both crying freely as they held each other. Joyce stroked her daughter's hair as Buffy cried into her mother's shoulder. They stood there for several minutes, each letting the other support them as best they could.

Buffy managed to get a few words out through her tears. "Steve....Steve managed to find...He managed to track down the grave of the....of her. I thought maybe....Maybe you could finally get to talk to her."

Joyce closed her eyes as a new wave of tears ran down her cheeks. Stroking her daughter's hair, she whispered, "Yes. Yes, I'd like that. If you come with me."

Buffy simply nodded and kept on hugging her mother, each letting the other know how much they loved them.

Just like a family was meant to.


Maternal Instincts

In which a witch manages to celebrate Mother's Day after all.

Summers Residence
Sunnydale, CA
May 18th, 1998 - 1104 Hours PST

Amy Madison took a breath as she reached over to ring the doorbell of the Summers house. She stepped back, brushing at her loose white dress with her free hand. Her blond hair billowed a bit with the light wind that blew around Sunnydale. It was a brisk May morning, the sun shining bright and the temperature perfect. All in all, it looked to be a wonderful Mother's Day.

Amy was hating it.

The reasons why were pretty obvious. Not having a mother on Mother's Day was bad enough. Given the exact reasons why she didn't have a mother explained even more of her sour mood. Amy knew that, with the exception of Buffy, most of the other guys didn't exactly have the best of relationships with their mothers. Cordelia's was distant, Willow's was more interested in her studies than her daughter and Xander never liked to talk about his. Oz was apparently on good terms with his, but with Oz's family, it was hard to tell.

But none of them had a situation like Amy's. One that had not only ripped at her emotionally but left it unconcluded as well. *It's not like she's dead and I can even visit her grave* the Aazon witch thought to herself. *We don't have the slightest clue where she is or what happened to her, whether she's dead, alive or something else. And the worse part is, I don't know which of those options I'd rather see her in.*

Amy's musings were interrupted when the front door opened and Joyce Summers revealed herself. She looked surprised to see the Amazon witch but quickly brightened. "Amy, hi!" she spoke. "What are you doing here?"

"Buffy wanted me to drop this off," Amy said, holding up a small cardboard box in her hands. "It's for later when she and Steve drop by."

"Well, come in and we'll set it up," Joyce stated, stepping aside and allowing Amy to enter. The two headed into the kitchen, Amy carefully setting the box down on a nearby shelf and opening the lid to look inside. "It looks good."

Joyce came up next to her, looking down at the box. Inside was a chocolate cake, green icing and sprinkles forming the words HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY on it with a ring of candles set around the words. "Wow, that's nice," Joyce said approvingly. "Steve must have picked it out." She looked over at Amy. "I hope you're not thinking of getting a slice early?"

"No!" Amy said, backing up. She realized that she had startled Joyce with her sudden vehement response to a simple comment. "Um, I mean," Amy stammered, trying to cover for herself. "No, no thank you. I don't really....want any chocolate right now."

Joyce looked at her closely. "Amy, are you...all right?"

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine, Mrs. Summers," Amy quickly said. "I've just sort of...sworn off the sweets a little. Well, brownies every now and then, but otherwise...."

"All right," Joyce broke in. *Good heavens, she sounds like Willow sometimes.* "Well, thank you for dropping this off, Amy. I guess you'll want to be getting back to your house, hm?"

Amy licked her lips. "Well, actually, my dad and stepmom are on a trip this weekend."

"Oh, that's too bad," Joyce said, frowning.

"Yeah," Amy softly said. "Yeah, it is."

Joyce Summers knew a person who was holding something back when she saw one. And right now, she could tell that Amy was holding something inside her. Something that had apparently been weighing on her for a while now. Joyce carefully stepped back and looked at Amy closely. "Amy, are you all right?" she asked.

Amy looked up, seeming surprised at the question. "Well, yeah, I'm fine, Mrs. Summers."

"Call me Joyce," the Slayer's mother told her. "Are you sure? You seem a little tense today. I know you and I haven't really gotten to know one another very well but I can tell something's bothering you. Believe me, it's not wise to hold something in, it just causes a lot of problems." She raised an eyebrow. "Would you like to talk about it?"

Amy looked at her feet, shaking her head. "It's not your problem, Mrs. Summ Joyce."

"No, but it's apparently a problem with you," Joyce stated. "It has to do with Mother's Day, doesn't it? It must be hard to be here without your mother. I can imagine how you feel-----"

"You don't know how I feel about my mother." As she saw Joyce step back with a shocked look on her face, Amy realized too late how she had nearly yelled that statement out with a look of anger on her face. She looked down, her cheeks flushed as she tried to calm herself. "I'm sorry. I'd better------"

She turned to leave but suddenly felt Joyce's hand on her arm. She turned to see Joyce looking at her, wearing an expression of compassion on her face. "Amy," she said softly. "I know something is bothering you now. I'd like to think I'm the type of person who's open to listening to people. So, talk it out. Please."

Amy's first instinct was to shrug off Joyce's arm and leave. She did not want to talk about her mother, particularly to someone else's. But something in Joyce's eyes had a calming effect on the witch. After a moment to think about it, Amy decided that Joyce was right. She needed to get this off her chest and Joyce seemed ready for it.

Amy looked up at Joyce and then stepped back, leaning on the counter. She took a deep breath before beginning. "Has Buffy told you...much about my mother?"

Joyce shook her head. "Just that she...left a while ago."

"Left," Amy repeated. She let out a short, humorless laugh. "Yeah, that's definitely one way of putting it." She brought her face up and looked over to Joyce. "You know I'm a witch, right?"

After briefly reflecting on just how strange a question like that would have been a few months before, Joyce nodded. Seeing the confirmation, Amy went on. "It runs in my family, for several generations. I didn't really know about that until recently, but it's true. My grandma's one, I'm pretty sure my aunt is one and..."

"Your mother was one,"Joyce realized.

"Yeah," Amy sadly said. "Yeah she was." She found herself twiddling her thumbs nervously as she went on. "She'd also been a cheerleader at Sunnydale High, a good one. Team captain, she helped them win the state championship. Apparently, she always thought of that as the high point of her life." Amy's face tensed. "She'd actually sound like she'd rather wish for that time over again rather then remember the day I was born."

As Joyce watched, Amy stepped away from the counter, pacing in the kitchen. "You ever think about your past, Joyce? I mean, do you ever wish you could just live your high school life over again?"

"Sure," Joyce answered. "Of course I do. Just about every adult does. But I don't obsess constantly over that."

"Too bad my mom didn't have that mentality," Amy said, a flash of anger in her voice. "She just got so obsessed with things and the more obsessed she got, the more she got into magic and that's a dangerous thing. My dad couldn't take it and that's the reason he left." Amy sighed, crossing her arms in front of her. "Of course, I didn't realize that at the time. When he started calling her a selfish witch, I sort of thought he meant something else."

"What happened then?" Joyce asked, taken up in the story now.

"Well, Mom just started getting more and more obsessed with magic and her past life," Amy continued. "I guess I sort of reacted to the whole split and everything by overeating on sweets and chocolate." Given how selvete Amy now looked, this was a surprising admission for Joyce. "It was a few months before the school year that Mom..." Amy bit her lip. "Before Mom crossed the line."

"Oh my God," Joyce said, her eyes widening. "Oh, God, Amy, she....she hit you?"

To her surprise, Amy let out a short laugh. "Oh, no. No, I almost wish she had, Joyce. That would have been almost preferable."

Joyce frowned. "Then, I don't understand. What did-----"

"It was a few months before school," Amy interrupted, looking at the far wall. "She was pushing me into becoming a cheerleader. She was acting like the ultimate stage mother, wanted me to follow in her footsteps and win the trophy just because she'd done it. I told her, it wasn't for me, I wasn't in shape, I didn't know any moves, I didn't want it. We just had one big blow-up argument about it one night. I told her point-blank, I didn't want her life, especially seeing what she'd done with it." Amy took a breath. "I headed to my room. I'd meant to just change and then go out, get away from her. But....But when I neared my bed, I just felt so tired all of a sudden and had to lie down. I closed my eyes and that was the last thing I remembered before....."

"Before what?" Joyce knew this was going to be bad. But nothing could possibly have prepared her for Amy's answer.

The witch looked up at her, a sheen of tears in her eyes. "I woke up and it wasn't my room. I couldn't understand what was going on or where I was. I stood up, walked to the mirror, looked into it....." She swallowed. "And I saw my mother looking back at me."

Joyce was utterly confused by the answer. It took a moment for her to realize that Amy was used to a life of magic and spells. It took another moment for the idea to come to her. And it took one final moment before she realized what Amy was saying. Joyce's eyes widened, her hands going to her mouth. "Oh, my God," she whispered. "She....She didn't....She couldn't have..." She lowered her hands and shook her head. "She switched bodies with you?"

The tears were evident in Amy's eyes as she looked back up at Joyce. "She said I was wasting my youth. So she took it."

"My God," Joyce whispered, still unable to accept what Amy was telling her. "What...what happened?"

Amy shrugged, wiping at her eyes. "She went on a crash diet and exercise routine to get my...her weight down. She did some practicing and then she went back to school." She shook her head sadly. "She'd go around acting high and haughty, back to the best time of her life, then come home and dump a batch of homework in my lap and make me do it."

"And...." Joyce swallowed, trying to calm herself. She could tell Amy was already upset by this, she didn't need to add to that. "And you didn't do.....anything?"

Amy threw up her hands. "What could I do, Joyce?" she shot back. "I didn't know any magic then. Even now, I don't think I could have done anything to switch us back. And who could I turn to for help? Go to the cops and say 'hi, I need help, my mom has taken my body, could you arrest her?' I'd be in the nuthouse faster than you can imagine." She shook her head. "I guess I should be grateful that she preferred to stay at home and not walk around town at night. If she'd been killed, or worse, turned, while in my body...." She shivered at the very thought.

"Dracula meets Freaky Friday. Just what this town needs, a crossover," Joyce muttered before realizing it. She looked back at Amy. "So...What else did she do?"

Amy brushed back her hair. "She went out for the cheerleading team. She was good, she really was. Problem was, even though she was young again, it wasn't her body. She just couldn't get mine to work the moves the right way so she only made alternate." Amy rubbed at her face. "And that's when she got nasty."

"You mean everything up until now has been her acting nice?" Joyce got out. She blanched at the look Amy shot her. "Sorry."

Surprisingly, Amy let out a slight smile. "It's okay." She gave a little laugh. "I think I can tell where Buffy gets that 'foot in the mouth' thing now." The smile faded as the memories washed over her. "She started using magic on the other cheerleaders, to knock them out so she could get on the regular squad. She set one girl on fire, she caused another to break her leg, she made Cordelia blind." Taking a look at Joyce, Amy took a deep breath before continuing. "And then she made Buffy seriously sick. And there she was, back on the squad, Catherine the Great back where she belonged."

Joyce Summers liked to think of herself as a person not prone to violence. But if Catherine Madison was in this kitchen right now, Joyce knew she wouldn't be able to control herself. "God," she said softly. "I'm assuming it turned out...." The word "okay" didn't seem to apply in this case but Joyce didn't know what else to say.

Amy understood and crossed her arms before her again as she continued her tale. "By this point, Buffy and the others had figured I'd cracked under pressure from my mother and was trying to live out her dreams. So, Buffy and Giles showed up at my house to talk to my mom. I was scared, I didn't want to have them find out, so I tried to brush it off." Amy looked at Joyce with that tiny smile. "You know, your daughter is a lot more attentive than she seems."

"I get that sometimes," Joyce calmly answered. "Why are you brining this up now?"

"She saw the way I was acting. She noticed how I said 'Dad' instead of 'her father' at one point. And then she saw a plate of brownies on the table. She remembered something Willow had said about how much I liked brownies and put it together.

"I told them and Giles figured out how to counteract the spell. We got to the high school and we started it. Mom must have felt something, must have known what we were trying and showed up to stop us. But it was too late and Giles switched us back."

Amy closed her eyes and steeled herself. "And then Mom smacks Buffy down and hold up a fire axe in my face. She....She told me how ungrateful I was being, how I was disgracing all the work she'd done for me and...." The tears were flowing from Amy's eyes by now as she went on. "And then Buffy attacked her and they fought. Mom tried to do this spell to send Buffy somewhere but Buffy held up a mirror so the spell hit Mom instead. And....and she vanished and that's the last any of us have seen of her."

Joyce looked with a heart of sympathy as Amy cried, the memories of that painful period washing over her. "She hurt me so much...." the young witch whispered. "She made me feel like nothing, like all I was to her was something she could use. I know, Mrs. Summers, I don't think, I *know* that if she thought someone was getting close to a witch being behind all that, she'd of switched us back and let me take the heat. She....She just used and she didn't care, she never cared..."

With a few sudden steps, Joyce came up to Amy, wrapping her arms around the young woman and holding her tight. Amy felt herself let go, all the pain she had held within her the last year finally coming loose as she sobbed. She was barely aware of how Joyce, still hugging her, managed to maneuver her into a chair. Amy leaned on the older woman, tears streaking down her face as she sobbed with her fresh memories. Joyce simply held her, brushing at her hair and letting Amy unleash all her repressed feelings.

It was about ten minutes before Amy finally pulled herself away, wiping at her face. "I'm sorry," she said, blinking away her tears. "I didn't know it'd be so bad...."

"It's all right," Joyce shushed her. "It's okay, Amy. You needed to do that. It wasn't healthy to just keep all that built inside. You needed to get it all out." She reached over and picked up a napkin, handing it to Amy.

"Thanks," the Amazon stated as she gently blew her nose. She gratefully accepted another napkin to wipe at her eyes. As she did, Joyce looked at her carefully, brushing at her hair.

"You've never spoken about this to anyone, have you?" Joyce realized. "Not to Buffy or Willow or anyone else. You've been keeping it all bottled up inside you all this time."

Amy shook her head. "I couldn't talk to them. I definitely couldn't talk about it with my dad, he'd never understand. So, I just....." She trailed off.

"Just let it build inside," Joyce stated. "You just couldn't be honest with yourself over how badly you were hurt and how much it weighed on you."

Amy bowed her head as Joyce's words impacted on her. "How could I? My own mother treated me like garbage, Joyce, how can I deal with....."

"What she did was horrible," the elder Summers finally said. "I can't imagine what it must have been like and I won't try. But you need to remember it wasn't your fault, Amy. Not any of it."

"But she used my body," Amy said. "It was my body casting the spells, my body that hurt Buffy and Cordelia-----"

"And they know it was your mother in control," Joyce interrupted. "They've obviously forgiven you for that. I think it's high time you should forgive yourself, especially if it's something that wasn't even your fault."

Amy sighed. "It just hurts, Mrs. Summers. That she could treat me so horribly....."

Joyce took a breath. "Amy, it's a sad fact that some women sort of...fall apart after a traumatic event. Such as a husband leaving. I guess your mother just lost herself a bit after your father left. She wanted to relieve a time where she was happy. It's a constant thing, you know. The stage mother complex." Joyce shook her head. "Of course, the majority of them don't take it anywhere near as far as she did."

"I just can't help feeling I must have done something wrong," Amy whispered.

Joyce grasped her arm firmly, causing Amy to look at her. Joyce's face set in determination as she looked at the blonde woman. "I just told you it wasn't your fault, Amy. None of it. It was your mother and your mother alone. There is nothing you could have done to deserve that and don't you ever think there was. You're not her, Amy. You can't believe that you could turn out that way. You won't."

Amy looked at her for a moment and then startled Joyce by letting out a small laugh. "Actually, I have slid a bit that way." As Joyce looked puzzled, Amy held up a hand. "It's okay. It's nothing major but I was sort of going into some bad stuff. Luckily, Artemis showed me it was wrong and to stay away from it. And trust me, when a Goddess shows up to deliver a message, it's worth listening to."

"I'll have to remember that," Joyce said, still a bit thrown by the matter-of-fact way Amy mentioned knowing a goddess. "It sounds like she cares for you a lot. Like a daughter, even."

"Yeah, she does," Amy nodded. She looked up at Joyce and smiled. "But I think there's another mother figure around here worth listening to as well."

Joyce Summers couldn't help but feel a little burst of pride as she heard the young woman say that. Smiling, she gave Amy another quick hug before the two rose to their feet. "I really do have to get going," Amy said.

"Are you coming by later?" Joyce asked. "Buffy would be happy to have you over, I think."

Amy looked at her for a long moment before nodding. "Maybe I will," she said. She bit her lip before speaking. "Joyce....thank you. I really did need to get all that out. Thanks for having a shoulder around to cry on."

"It's all right," Joyce smiled back. "I was happy to help. If there's anything else you need, Amy, just ask."

"Well...." Amy began with a smile. "I do sort of wish I wasn't the only person on the team without a significant other. But I think that might be just a bit out of your league."

"Maybe the other girls can help with that," Joyce pointed out.

"I think they're a bit busy with their own lives to try playing matchmaker."

"You're probably right. They might set you up with a serial killer by accident," Joyce said, only half-kidding. She and Amy walked to the front door. As she began to exit, Amy paused right by the doorway and looked back toward Joyce.

"By the way, Joyce? Happy Mother's Day." With that, she walked off, leaving Joyce looking behind her.

"Mother's Day," Joyce said to herself. It was suddenly hitting her how suddenly, she'd found herself becoming mother to more than just one youth. She almost felt like a...den mother in some ways. Something was telling Joyce that from here on in "Mother's Day" was going to have a whole new meaning for her.


The Balance Uncovered

(As noted by Tim, Dawn will be introduced eventually, requiring some "adjustments" to the Wandererverse tales of the past. Here's one that was referred to briefly by Joyce in "Where Everything Knows Your Name" but expanded to include a certain little sister. Enjoy)

In which a mother and daughter find out about a shift in powers.

Summers Gallery
August 18th, 1998 - 1921 Hours PST

"This is so unfair," Dawn Summers moaned as she walked out of her mother's gallery. She was wearing a simple blue dress, her light hair drifting past her shoulders, framing her face, which was currently wearing a sour expression. That probably had a lot to do with the large box of antiques that she was holding in her arms. "Why can't Buffy help?"

Joyce Summers sighed as she locked the door to her shop and moved to join her daughter. "Because she's busy slaying vampires and demons."

"Oh, sure, that's *always* her excuse!" Dawn said sarcastically as walked toward the parking lot. Joyce had to smile at her daughter's discomfort as Dawn went on. "You don't see her needing work at her gallery!"

"You wanted some extra money for the new school year," Joyce pointed out as the two came up to her car. "And this does beat mowing lawns."

"Not by much," Dawn muttered under her breath. "I thought you'd just have me...I don't know, counting statues and stuff. I didn't know I'd actually have to be...."

"Doing work?" her mother teased. "I told you, Dawn, you weren't going to be just sitting around, you were going to have to do some work."

"I didn't think you were serious!" Dawn remarked as Joyce opened up the car trunk, allowing Dawn to drop the box inside.

"Dawn!" Joyce yelled. "Be careful with that! Some of the things in there are very fragile!"

Dawn looked up at her with an expression of innocence. "Then why are you bringing them home? Ten to one, they're gonna get trashed anyway if some demons break into the house."

"Maybe," Joyce allowed. "But then it would be covered by home insurance."

Before Dawn could reply, a twig snapped behind them. The two women turned to see three figures emerge from the shadows, two men and a woman. All of them wore vampire features. "See?" the woman smirked. "I told you if we waited, they'd come right to us."

"Oh, I don't need this tonight," Dawn muttered, backing up to Joyce. Her mother instinctively draped a protective hand over her daughter as she faced the vampires. "You'd all better go," she spoke up. "I have a dog."

"Um, Mom?" Dawn whispered. "He's with Buffy and the others now, remember? Big Guardian deal thing?"

"Thanks for the info, kid," the female vampire smiled, licking her lips.

"Enhanced hearing, Dawn, you have to remember that," Joyce moaned. Her hand reached inside her jacket, trying to get at the cross inside. "Dawn, when I tell you to run-----"

"I"m not leaving you, Mom," Dawn said, holding her chin up.

"Dawn, run and-----"

"And I'll catch her and rip each one of her fingers off," the lead vampire stated with a hint of gleeful anticipation. "The boys can have you."

"Wow, lucky you, huh, Joyce?"

All present turned to see Xander step into the area. The young man was wearing a loose pair of jeans and plaid shirt, his demeanor calm and non-threatening and was apparently unarmed. "You've got some new admirers," he added, nodding to the vampires.

"Who the hell are you?" one of the male vampires asked with disdain.

"Oh, just a guy who was out for a walk and now is ready to kick your asses," Xander responded, still seeming to show no concern over the situation. "It's simple, guys. Leave now or get blown away. And that literally is blown, as in dust in the wind."

"Um, Xander?" Dawn spoke up. "Shouldn't you go get Buffy or Cordy or Will? I mean, you can't handle three vamps by yourself."

"She's got that right," the female vampire smiled. She snapped her fingers and two more vampires came out of the shadows near Joyce's car. Both were quite large and strong, with looks of hunger on their faces.

Joyce and Dawn both swallowed as they saw the vamps, then looked over to Xander. Both were surprised to see that not only did Xander seem utterly unconcerned about the odds, he actually appeared to be smiling. "All right," he stated with a nod. "Just enough to make this interesting."

He leapt forward, twisting in the air, flying out and smashing a foot into the face of the first male vampire. He landed on his feet and sent a fist smashing into another vamp's nose. The sound of bone shattering mixed with the vampire's yell of pain as he grabbed at his face. Xander reached under his shirt and pulled out a stake. Ducking a blow from the first vampire, Xander smashed an elbow into the creature's midsection and then leapt up to deliver a brutal backhand blow to his face. Xander then threw an elbow into the back of the vampire's neck, then spun about and jammed the stake into its chest.

The vamp hadn't even disentrigrated when Xander leapt up. Somersaulting in the air, his feet launched out to strike out at the two burly vampires, who had rushed into the fight. One foot smashed into the back of one vampire's head, sending him crashing into his colleague. Xander landed into a roll, coming right before the vampire with the broken nose and lashing up with his boot. The vampire let out a cry of pain as Xander's foot hit him right between the legs, bending him over and leaving him an easy target for the stake Xander thrust into his heart.

The female leader had gotten over her amazement at the sudden assault and rushed at Xander. She leapt up, thrusting one foot down with the intention of landing it right on Xander's throat. Before she could land, however, Xander bounced up, his body spinning through the dust that had been his previous opponent. Landing on his feet, he caught the female as she came down, grabbing her by the leg and pulling on it, sending her smashing into the ground, stunned.

As one vampire got back to his feet, Xander moved toward him. To Dawn and Joyce, his arms seemed a blur as he smashed the vampire with blows to the chest and face, the demon in pain and shock from the speed and strength in which they were delivered. Xander smashed the back of his fist into the creature's jaw, snapping its neck back. Xander then leapt up, launching a crescent kick into the vampire's face, knocking him to the ground on his back. With a spin, Xander landed on top of the vamp and plunged his stake into its heart.

Seeing the last vampire come at him from behind, Joyce and Dawn both tried to cry out a warning to Xander. Before they could, the teen straightened up and sent a leg flying behind him without even looking back. It caught the vamp right in the solar plexus, stunning it long enough for Xander to spin around and smash the stake into him.

The female vampire hissed as she got back to her feet and charged at Xander. The young man easily blocked the attempted blows and kicks, smashing fists and feet into her jaw and gut, stunning her. They spun about in place, Xander kicking her back. Snarling, she rushed at him with a howl. Xander turned around and ran toward Joyce's car. As he neared it, he threw the stake up in the air, letting it spin about in space. He placed his feet onto the bumper of the car and flipped backward, sailing over the charging vamp's head. He reached up and caught the stake as it came down right before landing on his feet.

The vampire slammed into the car, bouncing back and turning in time to see Xander plunge the stake into her heart. The last sensation the vampire had before turning into dust was complete and utter surprise.

Nodding in satisfaction, Xander slid the stake into his belt and turned toward the would-be victims. "You two okay?"

The two Summers stared at him in complete wonder, jaws open and eyes wide as they tried to comprehend what had just happened. It was about ten seconds before either of them could form a reply.

"Are you an Amazon now?"

"Dawn!"

"Mom, come on, this is Xander, for crying out loud!"

Xander winced. "Thanks a lot, squirt. My ego needed the boost."

"Then how'd you...do that?" Dawn had to know.

Xander raised an eyebrow at her. "You mean there's something going on in Buffy's life that you don't know about? You're slipping, kiddo."

"Xander, what has gotten into you?" Joyce asked.

"Same thing that's come over Giles, Oz, Mulder and Jarod," Xander answered with a smile. "Faery empowerment."

Joyce and Dawn looked at each other, then back at Xander and could only utter a "huh?"

"Okay, what is this?" The three looked up to see Buffy Summers approach. The Immortal Slayer took note of the piles of dust on the ground and quickly moved toward her mother and sister. "Are you two all right?"

"Yeah, yeah, we're fine," Dawn said. She quickly moved in. "Um, Buffy? Is Xander...possessed?"

"No more than usual," Buffy quipped.

"Then how------"

Buffy sighed. "Okay, here's the haps. Couple of nights ago, the guys spend a few hours on the lam, no communications or anything. Just as we're getting worried, they come in with this weird looking guy in a green outfit. After each lays a nice wet one on their respective better half, its gets wild."

"What do you mean?" Joyce asked with a frown.

"I mean Giles leaps up and does a flip over Jenny that would earn at least a 8.9 at the Olympics," Buffy answered.

Dawn's eyes went wide. "GILES?!" The idea of Buffy's Watcher even getting a few feet in the air filled the "does not compute" category in Dawn's mind.

Buffy nodded. "Yep. Not just him, they all start getting into it, flashy moves, serious fighting skills, they take the Amazons down in about a minute. Well, all except Andrea. She actually managed to get a few licks in but then she and Jarod started to get into it and....."

"All right," Joyce cut in, holding up a hand. "So...what happened?"

Buffy blew a piece of hair off her face as she answered. "Well, it seems that to prevent some big time disaster thing, some cosmic bigwigs sent this faery down to give the guys empowerments so now they're equal to the Amazons in stamina, fighting and other abilities. So, they're pretty much even on the power scale now."

"You mean...." Dawn couldn't help but smile. "Wow, you mean the guys can actually kick their butts?"

"Yep," Xander put in with a smile. "And they're loving it as much as I am."

"And how did the girls take it?" Joyce asked.

"Well, pissed about us beating the pants off of them," Xander admitted. "But, they've gotten used to it."

"So, who's this man who did this?" Joyce asked.

"Yeah," Dawn wanted to know as well. "Maybe I can talk to him about getting....."

"NO!" Buffy and Joyce yelled at her.

Xander chuckled and spoke up. "Well, you'll probably be meeting him, kiddo. Seems his boss wants him to stay in town for a while and live as a human to keep an eye on us. His name is Robin Goodfellow."

The name meant nothing to Dawn but Joyce's eyes widened. "Wait a minute," the elder Summers stated. "You can't mean------"

"Yes, he did the thing from the play, no, he's not Puck and I wouldn't recommend bringing it up," Xander quickly told her.

Seeing the confused expression on her sister's face, Buffy leaned in. "You'll read about it in high school."

"Okay," Dawn nodded. She looked up at Xander, a sly smile coming onto her face. "Soooo...Is Cordy impressed you can hold her own with her now?"

"Yeah, she likes it with the training," Xander confirmed.

"I wasn't talking about training."

"DAWN!"

"God, Mom, I'm a kid, I'm not dense! It's not like I don't know what goes on with Steve and Buffy when they want to 'unwind' after a big patrol."

"DAWN!"


Laying Down the Rules

This takes place after the events of my story "Where Everything Knows Your Name." A little in-between tale that hit me, I think it can stand up well. Enjoy.

In which a new arrival gives some food for thought.

Home of Steven St. Wolf
August 22nd, 1998 - 0823 Hours PST

Steven St. Wolf had just finished pouring a cup of coffee when the doorbell rang. The Immortal was surprised, as he hadn't been expecting company at this time of day. Setting down his cup, he walked through the foyer of his home and opened the door to see the man standing on the other side.

"Hey, Steve," Robin Goodfellow said, nodding at the other man. "Can I come in?"

"Sure," Steve said, stepping back to let the faery enter. He was rather surprised to see Robin at this time of day. The faery usually popped in to meet with the gang in the afternoons, complaining that he was still getting used to human sleep cycles. Steve could see that Robin's wardrobe was, as ever, unique to say the least: A long green coat over green shirt, dark pants and those weird brown bangs flapping slightly on either side of his face. Compared to him, Steve's outfit of jeans and a light shirt was even more casual.

"Want some coffee?" Steve asked as he led Robin into the kitchen.

"No, thanks, never been a guy for that," Robin told him, pacing slightly behind Steve. "Got any root beer by any chance?"

"Sorry," Steve shrugged in apology. "I'm not a fan of that myself."

"Damn," Robin muttered. "Any soda pop at all?"

"I think I have some Pepsi in here," Steve said, opening the refrigerator door and pulling out a can of pop. He tossed it to Robin, the faery catching it and opening it up. He took a long sip and nodded. "Okay, I'm set for the day," he remarked, putting the can on the counter.

"So, what brings you by?" Steve asked as he took a seat at the kitchen table. "Is it about last night?"

"No," Robin told him, shaking his head. A slight smile came onto his face as he stole a sideways glance at Steve. "Although, really, Steve. Mistaking a Cankush demon for a spirit? Rupe's gotta start hitting the books more."

"I think he's gotten enough ribbing on that from the rest of the guys already," Steve commented with an easy smile. "Believe me, I'm kicking myself for getting us caught in a trap so easily. We should have done a more thorough recon first, gone in with more armor and weaponry, we should------"

"Hey, hey, hey, easy," Robin told him, holding up a hand. "Okay, so you got burned once. It happens to everyone, Steve. Learn from it but at the same time, don't start loading for bear whenever you want to take Buffy out. Trust me, tense times out do not equal fun afterwards."

"Thanks for the advice," Steve smiled. "By the way, I don't think we ever thanked you for bailing us out like that."

"Ah, nothing to it," Robin said, shrugging with false modesty. "I needed to get out like that, remind those guys why they're afraid of me."

"Why are they afraid of you?" Steve asked with a frown. "I mean, just what have----"

"That's not the type of story you want to hear first thing in the morning," Robin quickly told him. He shook his head. "No, it's not last night I want to talk about, Steve. It's....." He paused, seeming unsure of what to say.

"Robin," Steve said, leaning forward. "If you're going to work with us, you're going to have to learn to speak your mind. I'm open to your opinions, really."

Robin bit his lip. "It's just...It's something of a delicate matter and I wasn't quite sure whether or not to bring it up. It's been bothering me a bit ever since I came here and last night sort of brought it to light a little more."

"Brought what up?" Steve frowned.

Robin leaned against the counter, looking down on his shoes for a moment before looking back up at Steve. "Steve...Just how far have you encouraged Giles and the witches in using magic?"

Steve appeared a bit confused about the question. "How do you mean?"

Robin sighed. "I mean, do you put more of an encouragement in them to use magic or whatever fighting skills they have?"

Steve frowned before answering. "Well, I have been doing my best with them in hand to hand fighting but for the witches, magic just comes naturally so------"

"It shouldn't."

Steve stopped, staring at him. "What do you mean?"

Robin brought himself up a bit and when he looked at him, Steve was struck by just how much older Robin suddenly seemed. "Steve, I'm a faery, a creature of magic. For me, magic comes naturally. For humans, it shouldn't. That's what separates my kind from yours."

"I don't understand," Steve frowned. "I mean, they're witches, Robin. That sort of indicates that magic should be a part of them."

Robin took a deep breath. "Steven, the origins of magic among the human race is something I can't really go into. Not just because it's beyond your understanding but also because it's something I've sworn never to reveal. What I can tell you is that, contrary to belief, not all humans have the capability within them to be magic users. The actual number who do have that is a lot lower than you'd think. Jenny, Giles and Amy, it's in their blood, whether by direct descent or elsewhere in the family. Willow is learning rather well on her own, which indicates to me that she may be among that small number of humans who are born with that capability, regardless of whether anyone else in their family has it.

"Plus, Jenny, Willow and Amy have Amazon empowerments, which has boosted their magical use and Giles, thanks to my empowerment, also has a much stronger magical capability. They have some pretty hefty power on their side, Steve. My question is, are you letting them put too much focus on that?"

"Robin, I think you're being a bit too vague for me," Steve protested, still confused as to what the faery was getting at. "If they're using their skills the best they can, what can be wrong with that?"

Robin slowly walked over and took a seat at the opposite end of the table. He sat back and looked over to Steve as he answered. "Power corrupts, Steven. Now, I know that's a clich‚ but it's a clich‚ because it's true. Trust me, I've seen it happen more often than I'd like to remember. And when it comes to magic..."

"It's not like they're over bursting with power, Robin," Steve said, shaking his head. "Surely you can tell that they're not the type of witches who can make a thunderstorm just by snapping their fingers."

"It's not strength, Steve," Robin insisted. "It's attitude, personality, mentality and how strong their connection to magic is. Change any of those for the worse and you've got some dangerous consequences coming your way."

"Robin, I think you're making a lot of out nothing," Steven said, holding up a hand. "Look, Amy, Jenny, Willow and Giles are all intelligent, capable people who know what they're doing."

Robin raised an eyebrow, his face set in calm. "So was Catherine Madison."

Steve was visibly startled, not expecting Robin to know about Amy's mother. "How did you know------"

"Amy," Robin told him. "I was just asking about her family and she stiffened up when the subject of her mother came up. I was sort of surprised that she went and told me about her. I guess she needed to talk to someone about it."

"I guess," Steve said, still a bit taken aback at that. "But Robin, Catherine's situation was totally different-----"

"Was it?" Robin pressed. "Think about it, Steve. This is a woman who did show care and love for Amy but let a bad break-up with her husband turn to thoughts of her glory days and that led to her actually using magic to switch bodies with her daughter."

Robin leaned in to stare right at Steve. "Now, using magic against her own daughter like that was bad enough, Steve. But going ahead and using magic to take out the other cheerleaders, especially the way she did, was really hitting the bottom. And to top it all off, when she's switched back, she actually threatened Amy with harm before that spell she tried out on Buffy backfired on her. Now, I'm not exactly sure what's happened to Catherine but I can tell you that payback for something like this can be very nasty, Steve. So wherever she is, I don't think she's enjoying it."

"Yeah, Karma can be a bitch," Steve agreed.

Robin rolled his eyes. "Tell me about it, I used to date her." At Steve's bewildered glance, he held up a hand. "Long story."

"I get the feeling I'm going to be hearing that phrase a lot from you over time," Steve wryly observed. "But I still don't see what Catherine has to do with the others." Steve asked.

"She's got a lot to do with it, Steve," Robin clarified. "Listen, Catherine, from what I've gathered, was using magic a lot. And I mean, a lot, like for everyday chore things and that brings up a point about magic that not too many people understand, Steve. It's addictive. I mean, it can be seriously addictive, especially for those who are getting their first real taste for it. It's a part of my being, so the addictiveness doesn't hit me as much but being unable to use it all the time is making me realize that I was relying on it a bit much." Robin looked down. "Well, okay, more than a bit but I can handle that."

"You think they're using magic for simple stuff?" Steve frowned. "To just snap their fingers and clean their homes?"

"No, I don't think it's gotten that far," Robin said. "Not with Giles and if any of the Amazons tried something like that, I'm sure Arty will set them straight. She can handle the dangers of magic, trust me."

"And you think they can't?" Steve asked, still unsure what point Robin was trying to make.

"Jenny and Giles probably can," Robin said. "They're adults, they've both lived with magic for a while. Okay, they're now able to hit levels they couldn't before but they know the dangers magic can hold if it's used for casual stuff. Amy is learning, she should be okay. It's Willow I'm worried about."

"Willow?" Steve let out a short laugh that ended as he saw the look of utter seriousness on Robin's face. "Robin, come on, this is Willow. You can't actually believe she'd-----"

"Steve," Robin interrupted with a slight edge to his tone. "Just what was Willow like when you came here? Was she as self-confident as she was now?"

Steve paused to think. "Well, not really," he allowed. "In fact, she was often quiet, unless computer talk came up and seemed too prone to embarrassment." Steve slowly nodded as he thought about it more. "In fact, from what Buffy's told me, she was really a shy kid until she learned about vamps and demons and even then it took a while for her to get to where she is now."

"That's what I figured," Robin said. "And now, with her magic abilities, she's grown in power and confidence. That's why she might be the one most prone to falling into addiction."

"Why?" Steve asked, frowning yet again. "Come on, Robin, if anything, magic has helped Willow, it's helped her grow more confident, helped her connect more to the guys, she really feels like she can contribute something------"

"And what if she thinks that's *only* because of the magic?" Robin broke in. "What if she starts thinking that the only reason she's so confident, the only reason you guys look at her with respect and friendship is because she's a witch? She might start fearing that if she wasn't a witch, that if she stopped using magic, that you guys wouldn't treat her the way you do, with respect and trust and friendship. So she'll overcompensate and use more magic and that will lead right to the dangers I've mentioned."

"That wouldn't------"

"It could, Steve," Robin emphasized. "Believe me, I've seen plenty of girls in the same circumstances who did just that and the results weren't pretty, trust me. I know it's a stupid belief. Willow is a caring, intelligent, wonderful girl, magic didn't change that. But the human mind is a funny thing, Steve. If it gets an idea in its head, it's hard to shake out. If subconsciously, Willow starts to believe that magic is the only reason anyone likes her then it will seep through until it becomes a pure conviction in her mind. When that happens...You'd better watch out."

"For?" Steve was no longer laughing. He could see Robin was deadly serious and the worst part was, most of what he was saying was making a lot of sense.

"It might start small," Robin said. "Using her powers to clean up the house or levitate stuff around rather then get up and get it herself. But it builds from there, Steve. Once she gets used to doing stuff like that, it's really not that big a leap to using magic to alter memories or shift space. Even worse, she might get overconfident in her own abilities, try out spells that she hasn't fully tested. Say you want her to find someone who's missing at the mall so instead of looking for a guard, she tries to shift everyone in the mall except the person she's looking for into another dimension for a minute. You want to imagine how something like that could go bad?"

"Pass," Steve answered with a visible wince. He then shook his head. "I just don't believe Willow could tie magic into her whole personality like that. You might as well say the same about Amy."

"Not quite," Robin pointed out. "After all, she knows first-hand just how magic can corrupt and how it can go bad for all involved. That's a lesson that's stuck with her. Believe me, Steve, the last thing she wants is turn out just like her mother."

As Steve rubbed his chin in thought, absorbing what Robin was saying, the faery went on. "There's something else to consider with Willow as well. Jenny and Giles both grew up with magic, they were taught it with care and understanding as to what was involved. Amy had her mother and learned from her mistakes. Willow, on the other hand, didn't even know magic existed a year and a half ago. Certainly, she never dreamed she could match that sort of magical power. Suddenly finding yourself quite powerful in so short a time can effect you more than you might think, Steve."

"You really think Willow could become addicted," Steve broke in. It was a statement of fact, not a question.

"Look, it's nowhere near the point where we need to stage an intervention," Robin assured him. "And like I said, if something like that was starting to happen, I know Artemis would step in to talk to her. But I think keeping an eye on her and making sure that she, not to mention the others, don't start falling back on magic as their sole offense, is a smart move."

Robin was a bit surprised to see Steve suddenly break into a smile and a light chuckle. "What is it?" he asked with a frown.

"Sorry," Steve answered. "But, with your reputation, I wouldn't have expected you of all people to harp about the dangers of using magic for trivial things."

Robin smiled slightly. "I'll admit, if it weren't for the restrictions Oberon put on me, I might be using it for fun," he said with a nod. The smile faded as he leaned toward the Immortal. "But it's also why I can talk to you about how magic can get away from you. Especially humans, since you don't know how to use it best."

"Oh, thanks," Steve said, sounding hurt.

Robin smiled again. "Sorry, Steve. But like I said, I'm an Eternal, magic's part of me. For you guys, it's a gift. For me....it's just a natural thing, like the ability to sing or laugh or even breathe." He raised an eyebrow. "You know, there's a reason you humans are only allowed to use about 10% of your available brain power, Steve. The human mind is unpredictable as it is, we don't need to be adding to the mess."

Steve felt like adding a comment about his run-ins with various Eternals that could dispute Robin's point but something in the faery's eyes made him think the better of it. "So, what you're saying is that letting the witches and maybe even Giles, rely on magic too much in training and fighting could lead to addiction?"

"There's that," Robin nodded. "And something else too." He paused, looking down at the table, for the first time since he started apparently not wanting to say something.

"You can't just leave me hanging like that, Robin," Steve prodded. "What is it?"

Robin kept looking at the table's surface as he answered. "When the Oracles told me about how the guys would die if I didn't give them my empowerments.... About how those deaths would tear at the Amazons.... I didn't ask for details. But I've been thinking of just how that pain could have manifested itself."

He looked up at Steven, a touch of sadness in his eyes. "I don't think I have to tell you how the rational mind tends to turn off when it's hit by a tragedy close to home." At Steve's sad nod, Robin continued. "You've known them longer, Steve, so you'll probably be able to guess how seeing Giles or Oz cut down could send Willow and Jenny over the edge, turn them on blind rage, pure hate. And even a novice should be able to tell that anger and magic do not mix very well. Anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering."

"Getting a bit melodramatic on me, aren't you?" Steve said, crossing his arms.

Robin shrugged. "Well, actually, I stole that last part off of the sneak peek I got at the screenplay for the next 'Star Wars' film."

Steve's eyes actually lit up with interest. "Really? How's it look?"

"Not too bad. The bad guy's cool but I'm not sure about this Jar Jar guy..." Robin quickly shook his head. "Sorry, I'm getting off track. My point, Steve, is that in their anger, they'll call upon more magical forces than they normally would, including those of the darker arts."

Robin's fingers tapped on the table as he took a breath. "There's a balance out there, Steve," he finally said. "And like any balance, it has to be carefully maintained or else things will get seriously out of whack. Magic is based on emotions as much as skill and if the user is closely tied to it and he or she gets a serious mad-on... Then you're looking at a major tipping of that balance and not in the direction you want to go in. When something like that happens, you can forget the threefold rule, you're looking at the six-to-twelvefold rule."

A long silence filled the kitchen as Steve reflected on all Robin had said. After a pause, Steve looked up at Robin. "What do you want me to do?" he said in total seriousness.

Robin rose from his chair, his hands held up in defense. "I'm not trying to usurp your authority here," he said, wanting to clear up that point right away. "You're the leader, Steve. The guys have known you longer and trust you more than they do me. I know that. And, I have to say that you pretty much deserve that respect. You're a good man." He smiled, as he couldn't resist adding on something. "For a human."

"Thanks for the compliment," Steve returned with his own light smile.

Robin continued, walking toward the counter as he did. "I just thought that I should bring this up right away. Like I said, you're a good man, Steve but you tend to look for the good in people. For the most part, that's a great attitude but unfortunately, it does tend to lead to...blind spots if you will." Robin looked at Steve carefully. "Do you think, if Willow or Amy started acting along the lines I've mentioned, you'd really be able to face up and accept their problem right away?"

Steve paused before answering. "I'd like to think I would." He sighed and bowed his head. "But, to be honest, there's a good chance I'd miss it. That I would dismiss the warning signs because I didn't want to admit they could go that way."

"Which is why I wanted to bring it to your attention now," Robin told him. "So you don't get put into that position later."

Steve sat back, arms crossed as he looked at Robin. "So, what do you suggest? You're the magic expert. I'm really interested in what you think on this."

Robin took another sip of his pop before replying. "I'll give you suggestions. What you do with them is your decision, you're the boss, after all. I'm sworn to look after the guys I gave the empowerments to and this effects them. But, I'll follow your lead in whatever you decide."

He finished his pop, setting the can down on the counter. He leaned back on the counter, crossing his arms and looking at Steve. "First of all, this has to come from you. If it's a command decision like this, you're the one to tell it to them." As Steve nodded, Robin went on. "I'm not saying they need to cut off all magic training. It can mean the difference between life and death out there. Using it on patrol is good, as long as it's not flashy or too much for a small job. Normal practicing is okay, but I'd suggest they use a buddy system, one always around when another tries out a spell. To make sure it doesn't go wrong and, if need be, minimize any damage in case it does. Using it for healing purposes is good as well. That's one use that Karma can't play with as much."

Robin shuffled his feet a bit as he thought on his next comment. "Aside from those, they have to try not to use it for everyday stuff. It doesn't matter if they're pressed for time or what, they can't just decide to snap their fingers and instantly dress themselves or clean up something for themselves. I'd also suggest you bar it from sparring sessions. Get them to concentrate more on their hand-to-hand fighting skills and teamwork tactics rather than just going for magic as the first method of attack."

"That makes sense," Steve nodded as he rose from his seat. "I'll break it to them at training today."

"Ah, Steve?" Robin said, raising a finger. "If you would? Try to keep me and our little talk here out of it? I don't want to appear like I'm throwing my weight around."

"No problem," Steve assured him. "Actually, I guess I should thank you, Robin. I probably wouldn't have thought of these dangers myself. Or, I probably would have thought that there was no way anything like that could happen to the kids."

"Which is a surefire way to make sure it does," Robin nodded. "Glad I could help, Steve. Feels good to be pulling my weight around here."

Steve watched as he started to walk out of the kitchen, headed toward the door. "Oh, Robin?" Steve called out. "I'm wondering. Should these rules hold to you as well?"

Robin paused by the door and looked back at Steve, his face set. "Steve, in case it's slipped your mind, thanks to Oberon's restrictions, I couldn't use magic like that if I wanted to."

"But if you could," Steve stressed as he came forward. "Would you?"

Robin looked at him before raising his eyebrow in a slightly mischievous gesture. "Steve, let me clarify something for you here and now," he said in a jovial tone. "The entire point of my little speech here was to let you know that using magic for such frivolous things can be harmful for humans."

"And?" Steve shrugged. "Why should you be any different?"

He suddenly found himself automatically taking a step back as Robin's eyes gave a flash of anger. In that instant, Steve realized just how much older than himself Robin truly was. "I'm not human, Steve," Robin said in a tone with far more edge to it. "Don't let my present form fool you. I'm not like the rest of you. And that goes way beyond just magic."

As quick as it had come, the anger suddenly vanished and Robin was smiling again. "So, as usual, the rules don't quite apply to me," he added in that jovial voice.

"Maybe they should," Steve added. "You're human now, whether you say. That means that you're prone to the same weaknesses as any of us. You're liable to fall into the very same temptations you just told me to watch out for. If you're going to be part of this unit, Robin, you're going to have to abide by the same rules as the others. I'm not going to cut you any slack on this, no more than I would cut the others. You want these restrictions on magic use, then you're going to have to submit to them."

Robin peered at him. "I'll consider it," he answered calmly.

Steve raised an eyebrow. "What happened to you respecting my leadership or my rep as the Wanderer?"

"Hey, you're lucky I don't get a lawyer on your ass for copyright infringement!" Robin spoke up. "Tell you what, I'm willing to lease the Wanderer name to you."

Steve let out a laugh. "Lease it?"

"Yeah, say 20% interest? I'll bring the papers by later and let you decide." With a short nod, Robin walked out the door, leaving the Immortal Wanderer behind to try and decide whether he was better or worse off from what he had just heard. *Something tells me I'm going to spend the next few years balancing between wanting to thank that guy and wanting to strangle him* Steve St. Wolf finally decided.


A Little Nepotism Goes A Long Way

In which a certain Amazon spreads the gift to family.

Paris, France
August 24th, 1998 - 1012 Hours Local Time

As the Buzz struck them, both Fox Mulder and Dana Scully came awake with a start. Scully rolled off her husband, her hand instinctively moving toward the side of the bed, where her sword leaned against a table. Next to her, Mulder did the same, grasping his blade and pulling it up. The two sat up straight, swords up and ready as they tried to pinpoint the source of the approaching Immortal.

It took a few moments for the duo to shake off the haze that came with being suddenly roused and took full understanding of their surroundings. They were naked in the bed of their hotel suite, the covers and pillows scattered about testament to the intense love-making they'd enjoyed the night before. Their eyes still darted about as they tried to figure out where the Buzz had come from. A knocking on the door quickly answered the question.

Normally, Mulder would have loved seeing as much of his wife as possible but his apprisal was undercut with concern. He watched as Dana moved to the door and peered through the keyhole. She backed up and lowered her sword, looking over to her husband. "Set it down, Mulder. It's the in-laws."

Thankfully, a pair of robes were close at hand so the two were at least presentable for Scully to open the door and allow the two visitors to enter. "Good to see you again, sis," Melissa Scully stated as she entered and gave her sister a long hug.

Mulder couldn't help but love the way Dana's face lit up a little as she hugged her long-lost sister. He'd always liked Melissa and it felt great to find out she was alive again. But that joy was nothing compared to Dana's. Frankly, the only time Mulder could recall seeing her this happy was when they got married.

Evidently, he wasn't the only one who noticed. As Melissa broke the embrace and looked at her sister, she grinned. "I can't get over seeing you grinning like a goof."

"Well, what do you expect?" Dana asked with that smile on her face. "It's not every day my sister comes back from the dead."

"Actually, the way Tessa had me going, it was almost every day," Melissa quipped, throwing a look over to Tessa Alvarado.

"Okay, enough about you two in bed, how was your training?"

"Mulder!" Dana yelled at her husband.

The two female Immortals chuckled. They were an odd pairing. The dark-haired Melissa clad in a simple pair of jeans and gray blouse with a short jacket, stood with a loose air to herself, a smile on her face. Tessa's sultry Spanish beauty was evident, her perfectly sculpted features framed by a long wave of black hair that billowed past her shoulders. Her athletic yet supple body was clad in a tight pair of leather pants and shirt, a long coat covering it. The woman once known as the masked heroine, the Queen of Swords, gave a quick nod to both Mulder and Scully.

Mulder saw the way Dana seemed to cool a bit as she saw Tessa and inwardly sighed. He hadn't been able to bring up the issue before but he could tell that finding out Melissa was bisexual was really throwing Dana. He knew she was more than happy to see Melissa alive and taken care for. However, the fact that it was a woman doing the caring went against Dana's Catholic upbringing. Mulder hoped his wife could get over this light prejudice soon.

Melissa took a look at the duo in their robes, then at the unmade bed. She raised an eyebrow and dryly asked, "Are we interrupting?"

"Actually, you woke us both up," Mulder told her as he and Dana allowed the two to enter the room. The FBI agents both sat next to each other on the bed while Tessa and Melissa sat at a table next to it. "Just what brings you by this early in the morning."

Melissa bit her lip, shooting a glance at Tessa as she leaned forward. "I don't have to tell you how finding out about you guys was pretty much a world-rocker," she started. "I've spent three years worrying about what would happen if I accidentally ran into you and had to explain the whole Immortality thing. And when I do, I find out you two aren't only Immortal, you're married to boot."

"I think our shock far outweighs yours," Mulder correctly observed.

"Yeah, well, that brings up the next stunning item," Melissa continued. "The whole...empowerment thing. I've always been more open to wild ideas like the supernatural and stuff, a lot more than Dana was...."

"Thanks a lot," Dana sniffed, but with a smile on her face.

Melissa returned the smile before continuing. "But hearing how my sister is an Amazon, blessed by Artemis and her husband has an Amazon empowerment equivalent from a farey from Shakespeare....." Melissa shrugged. "Well, it was a little hard to buy into."

Mulder smirked and looked up at the ceiling, giving a show of trying to remember something. "I do believe your exact words were 'It's finally happened. All those years stuck in the basement have finally driven you over the edge.'" He brought his head down and smirked at the stares he received. "I have a photographic memory."

"Shouldn't that be a pornographic memory?" Dana teased.

"That too," Mulder said, taking the shot well.

"I was dubious of that claim as well," Tessa broke in. "But seeing you two in the fight sort of put any doubts to rest. There's no way you could do moves like that without some sort of boost."

"You should see us after hours....."

"Mulder!"

Seeing the possibility of a little squabble, Melissa held up a hand. "Here's the deal. Tessa and I have been talking this out and...." She looked at her sister and took a deep breath. "And we want in."

Dana blinked a few times before the impact of her sister's words hit her. "You want to become Amazons?" she asked in astonishment.

Melissa nodded. "There's some major fighting going on against demons. Tessa and I held our own but we both know we need more of a boost. And, well, we figure Artemis could help us out with that."

"Well, it would be better than the alternative," Dana muttered.

"What's wrong with this Robin guy?" Melissa frowned.

"Mulder's his favorite," Dana dryly remarked.

"Ouch."

"Hey!"

Smiling at the family ribbing, Tessa faced Dana. "I know this is something of a major step," she began. "But Melissa and I both feel the benefits make it worthwhile. We want to join up. And we're hoping you can help us achieve that."

Dana sighed, running a hand through her red hair. "I don't know," she muttered. "I mean, Tessa, this isn't exactly like joining a health club or something. Artemis is nowhere near the tyrant the legends make her out to be but she does expect things like prayer and devotion."

Tessa could see Dana looking at the crucifix around her neck and fingered it. "And you're worried I wouldn't be able to do that?" she remarked. "No worries on the religious score. While I do love God and pray to him, the Catholic faith and I haven't quite seen eye to eye the last few decades."

"And I was never a major church-goer either," Melissa added. "You know that, Dana. So, I just think this would be a great thing for both me and Tessa."

Dana shook her head. "Look, Missy. Having you as an Amazon would be terrific, it really would. But as much as I'd love to have you here, it's not quite my decision to make------"

"It's more mine," a strong female voice filled the room. Both Tessa and Melissa looked about in confusion, trying to figure out where the voice had come from. Without warning, there was a bright flash of light that shifted into a tall and beautiful woman dressed in leather armor.

"Madre de Dios!" Tessa couldn't help crying out. She and Melissa shot up from their seats, staring in shock at the woman who had literally appeared out of thin air.

"Not quite," Artemis, the Greek Goddess of the Hunt said. She turned toward Dana and Mulder, nodding at them both. Dana rose and gave a quick bow while Mulder threw a little wave at Artemis. "Lady Goddess," Dana began. "I'm glad you came but-----"

"I knew you were considering asking me for this, Dana," the Goddess interrupted. She looked back at Melissa and Tessa, who were both staring in shock at her. "And to tell the truth, I have been considering making them this offer in any case."

Melissa managed to close her mouth and swallow. She had believed Dana's tales of Artemis but seeing the actual Goddess in person was a far more intense experience than she would have guessed. Trying to calm herself, Melissa glanced over to Tessa. She had to fight to keep from snorting at the look of utter befuddlement on her teacher's face as the Spanish woman took in the Goddess. "Um....hi?"

Artemis reached over and gently took Melissa's hand. Her other arm reached over to pick up Tessa's. Each woman felt an overwhelming wave of calm overtake them as Artemis looked at each closely. She seemed to be looking both women in the eye at the same time, as if searching for something. A tiny smile came onto her face as she rose, letting go of their hands.

"I sense a great deal of strength within you both," she stated. "And I sense you're sincere in your desire to join." A smirk came onto her face. "And of course, Aphrodite likes it when I get a loving couple involved in things."

Mulder took notice of the surprise on Dana's face at that statement, as Tessa and Melissa shared a smile. Artemis's face took on a more serious look as she gazed at the two Immortals. "This is going to require a great deal of commitment from you both. And it will mean a shift of sorts in your theology. Do you think you're capable of that?"

Melissa and Tessa shared a long look of unspoken communication. After a few moments, they turned and nodded to Artemis. Smiling, the Goddess took them both by the arms and gently helped them to their feet. She maneuvered them over toward the bed. Seeing where Artemis was going and understanding what she intended, Mulder and Dana moved off of the bed.

"Um, this isn't going to hurt, is it?" Melissa frowned, looking at her sister with a bit of nervousness.

Dana grinned widely from ear to ear as she shook her head. "Missy, trust me. You are going to feel better than you ever have in your life."

"Thanks for the compliment," Artemis said, shooting a smile at Dana. She turned back to the duo sitting on the bed and waved her arms out. Immediately, Melissa and Tessa both closed their eyes and fell back on the bed. Artemis waved her hands again over their sleeping bodies, smiling at the light glow each of them took.

"Wow," Dana whispered. "Was that what I looked like?"

"Pretty much," Mulder nodded. "Well, at least now, we live up to the Amazon cliche."

Artemis shot a look at him. "I don't know who I should kill first," she intoned. "You for being Robin's favorite or Robin for having you as his favorite."

"Killing Robin is more fun," Mulder pointed out.

Artemis paused to think on that. She then nodded with smile. "True." She looked over to Dana, who was staring carefully at her sister. "Don't worry, Dana. I'll make sure Melissa is all right." She bent her head a little as she looked at Scully. "Maybe you should trust Tessa to do the same."

Dana looked startled and stared at Artemis in confusion. "Dana, I won't tell you how to think," the Goddess stated. "And I know it's hard to let go of such long-held thinking that your Catholic upbringing put into you. I'm not telling you to let go of that at all. It has helped make you a strong and capable woman. But I do believe that your feelings about Tessa and your sister are a bit unwarranted."

"But...Lady Goddess..." Dana began.

"Dana," Artemis stated. "I've seen enough of Melissa's heart to know that she truly does care for Tessa. And Tessa feels just the same. You've found that your sister is alive and well, Dana. I know you always regretted not getting closer to her before she died. Do you want to have something as simple as trivial as your sister being with a woman ruin a second chance?"

Dana looked down at her feet. "No," she muttered. "But it's....I never knew she was like that."

Artemis shrugged. "Perhaps she herself didn't know," she stated. "It's not as clear cut for some people as it is for others. Perhaps it took someone who cared for her just as much to bring it to the surface." She raised an eyebrow at the redhead. "Would you want to deny your sister a chance at happiness?"

Mulder felt he had to say something, coming up behind his wife and placing his hands on her shoulders. "You should be a bit more open, Dana," he said softly. "Come on, I know at least one person in your family who wasn't crazy about you and me." As Dana rolled her eyes, Mulder pressed on. "Melissa's your sister, Dana. She's not going to forget that. Don't be afraid that Tessa's going to take her away from you. No one could do that."

Dana felt a flash of shame as her husband's words sunk in. She realized that Mulder had forced her to face the issue that had been hiding in her heart: Her fear that her sister being with a woman might somehow turn her away from Dana. The redheaded Amazon realized that she was being completely unrealistic and had to change this train of thought and soon.

A groan got her attention and she and Mulder looked to the bed as the occupants began to rouse themselves. Melissa blinked open her eyes, sitting up and shaking her head. Tessa rose up next to her, also appearing a bit bewildered. The two took a moment to stretch, feeling a sudden burst of energy inside of them. They turned to look at each other and then moved forward to exchange a long kiss.

Seeing the intensity of the kiss, Dana realized that Melissa truly did care for Tessa and Tessa for her. Although she still felt some trepidation, Dana figured that she should at least be able to give Tessa a chance and see how great this connection between her and Melissa could be.

The two newly made Amazons broke the kiss and managed to stand up. "Oh, wow," Melissa said, touching her arms and feeling a new set of muscles underneath. "Oh, wow, this is incredible!"

"Feels pretty hot at first," Dana informed her. "You get used to it."

"And at least Artemis doesn't subject you to knives at a dozen paces right after you wake up," Mulder noted.

"I didn't think it could be so...." Tessa struggled for the right word. "Energizing."

"Oh, you'll be enjoying that aspect soon," Mulder said with a smirk. Before Dana could smack him, the telephone in the room rang. Mulder quickly moved to the bedside table to pick up the receiver. "Hello?" He paused, frowning at the reply he got. "Hey, what are you....Yeah....Well, sure but.....Okay, okay, sure. We'll be waiting." He hung up the phone and stood there, tapping a finger on his chin.

Dana's frown turned to a wide-eyed look of mild fear. "Oh, no," she muttered. "Oh, no, Mulder, I know that look. Something's given you a nasty idea."

Mulder slowly turned toward the Amazons, a smile on his face. "Tessa, didn't you say you had some...issues with Methos?"

Tessa snorted. "He took my virginity, he left me high and dry after ten years, he took a great deal of money with him when he did, he made me such a laughingstock I had to sell my family's lands and leave town, you're damn right I have issues, Mulder."

Mulder's smile broadened. "He's coming over to talk to me and Dana about you two." The empowered man arched an eyebrow. "Maybe you two would like to express your opinions about his past actions?"

Tessa stared at him for a long moment before her mouth burst into a wide smile. She looked at Dana and let out a laugh. "Now I see why you put up with him."

"And I see why Robin likes him best," Artemis chuckled as the foursome began to talk....

*****

Methos rolled his eyes as he felt the Buzz strike him. He didn't want to be here. He really didn't. He would have been far better off leaving this to Macleod but Duncan had insisted that Methos had to be the one to talk to Mulder and Scully about what had happened in the past with Tessa. Both Duncan and Connor pointed out that should Melissa's lover share what Methos had done to her in the past, that might put the oldest Immortal at risk from a pair of empowered agents.

*Wonderful. The one time the boy scouts decide to show some sense and I become the victim of it.* Shaking his head, Methos knocked on the hotel door. He set his face, determined not to let either of the two get the advantage over him. So he'd made one tiny mistake with a wife in the past. Compared to most of his past misdeeds, that was an act of sainthood.

The door opened and Methos entered, sighing as he did. "All right, I'll make this quick and clear-----" He broke off as he suddenly realized the woman before him was not the one he was expecting.

"Methos," Tessa smirked, her eyes raking over him. "How nice to know just what your real name is."

Face to face with the woman he had wronged so long ago should have put an ounce of terror into Methos' heart. That terror was subdued, however, due to the fact that Tessa was standing before him completely naked. Hands on her hips, her full breasts jutted out, her perfect skin showing not an ounce of flab, she obviously enjoyed the way Methos stared at her. *Gods, she hasn't changed a bit* he thought to himself.

"Yeah, it is nice, isn't it?" Methos turned to see an equally naked Melissa shutting the door behind him. Although not as voluptuous as her teacher, she had quite the nice body as well. *Too bad they're not really sisters. It'd explain how beauty runs in the family* Methos fleetingly thought as he licked his lips. "Ladies," he said, trying to calm himself. "So...just what is the plan here?"

"No real plan," Tessa purred as she walked up to the world's oldest Immortal. "Just a little...unique payback, if you will."

Methos could feel himself stirring as Tessa came closer. He knew he could more than hold his own with her. Hell, he was five thousand years old. And Melissa being there would be a treat as well. *I'm going to kiss Mulder.* "Well, if you ladies are up to it..." Methos said with a dry smile.

Tessa stopped only a few inches before him, one finger trailing down his chin. "Oh, just one thing," she said. She looked at him and suddenly a fire erupted in her eyes. "Just how long has it been since you bedded an Amazon?"

"Or two?" Melissa added as she wrapped her arms around Methos and squeezed with a strength far greater than a woman her size should have.

*I'm going to kill Mulder* Methos had enough time to think just before the two threw him down to the floor and leapt onto him.

*****

"You really think we should have just left them alone like that?" Mulder and Scully were walking down the street from the hotel, nearing a local caf‚.

"Trust me, they would have preferred it being just them," Mulder said with a smirk.

Scully shook her head. "I don't know. Melissa just became an Amazon. I don't want her beating Methos up too much."

"Beating up....?" Mulder looked at his wife and suddenly laughed. Scully frowned, not understanding what the joke was. "Mulder, what are.....?"

"Oh, yeah, that's right," Mulder got out through his laugh. "You were changing when we got into the details of what they'd do." He looked at the confused Dana and smiled. "Dana, one of the reasons I love you is because you're such a brilliant woman. But sometimes, you can be a little naive."

"What are you talking about?" Scully didn't understand what her husband was saying.

Mulder rolled his eyes. "Dana, Melissa and Tessa aren't going to beat up Methos."

"But they said they'd leave him limping....." Mulder had to bite his lip to keep from laughing again at the look on Scully's face as her voice trailed off and her eyes went wide. "Oh, Goddess!" she groaned, stopping and putting her head in her hands. "Melissa and.....Oh, Goddess!"

"Calm down, Dana," Mulder said, still with a smile on his face. "Think about it this way. At least you know Melissa still likes the other side."

"Mulder!" Dana yelled. "My sister is involved in an episode of 'The Red Shoe Diaries!'"

"Hey, don't knock 'The Red Shoe Diaries.' I've seen the way you look at that Jake guy." As Scully groaned again, Mulder let a little smirk come onto his face. "Of course, this does raise an interesting question."

Although she knew she was going to regret it, Dana had to ask. "What?"

The smirk grew. "Do I *give* the tape of what they do to him to Duncan or do I *sell* it to Duncan?"

"MULDER!"

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