Author: Tim Knight

Title: Scooby Snacks: Fruitcake And Eggnog

Copyright: December 2002 (duh)
Rating: PG to R

Spoilers:
Buffy: Season 2 until Phases. Specific Episodes: XXX.
Highlander: Season 5 until Season finale. Richie Ryan lives.

Keywords: Buffy/ Highlander/ Angel/ Forgotten Realms.

Summary: Set in the same universe as the Chronicles of Wanderer by Steve Pantovich. A set of holiday ficlets featuring various characters involved in the Wandererverse.

Legalese:
All characters except those noted below with their respective rights, properties, and copyrights are the property of the respective creators, authors, owners, producers and agencies. These characters are used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended or meant, and no money will be made from this story. This story may be copied in its entirety, and may be distributed as long as all copyright information remains.
The characters Shaw Hunter, Kenzie MacLeod, and Silmakila Redstar are mine. Anyone wishing to use them may contact me at doobytim@aol.com.
The characters Steven St. Wolf, Randi Jessup, Brian Jessup, Frank Iverson, Marc Le Chevalier, and the Knights of the Order of the Grail are property of Steve Pantovich, as is the universe in which this story takes place. Steve can be contacted at Steve711@concentric.net.
The characters Robin Goodfellow and Liam Danahure belong to Mike Weyer. Mike can be contacted at SWERJ321@msn.com.

Author's Notes: These stories take place at various points in Wandererverse continuity. Some timeframes will be pretty obvious, some won't. Let your imaginations run wild.

Dedications:
To Steve, Grand High Poobah of the Wandererverse, for allowing me to do something that has become my favorite pastime.
To Rebekah, Ye Mighty Editor Number 1, whose red ink is sorely missed. No, she's not sick or worse; her computer crashed and she lost her Word program. Somehow, the edits in .txt format just aren't the same… hehehehe……
To Jack, Ye Mighty Editor Number 2, for editing so many of my tales and offering his help when I asked so politely (or not so politely).
To Mike, for helping me bounce dialogue off his head and for sharing the duties involving the relationship between the pointy-eared high schooler and the pointy-eared Irishman. We're still discussing who'd own the copyright on their kids, though.
To Hawk and Drake, fellow authors and runners of the big bad Wandererverse.com website. You came up with a dream format and give the readers so much more than just the stories, like the bios, armories, and everything! Thanks!
To Tenhawk, Anne, Kevin, Malaskor, and all the other authors, who make this group so much more than the sum of its parts, even if timeline management can make us crazy (or crazier in some cases, such as mine) at times.
And finally, to ALL the readers, without whom I wouldn't still be doing this three years later. Since I'm not there to do it, pat yourselves on the back.


Scooby Snacks: Fruitcake And Eggnog
(Hey, It's CHRISTMAS!!!)

Sit right back, and read some tales, about our beloved heroes, which started from this computer… Aw, skip it!


Destiny's Child
Family Feud
Twist of Pace, Change of Fate
Have Gunn, Will Slay
Moms and Moonblades

Destiny's Child

If you think life is confusing, imagine what death is like!

Awareness.

Chaos.

Noise.

<Too much!>

She felt herself falling forward. Pain shot through her body as her shins scraped against the hard, packed ground. Her hands clapped over her ears, futilely trying to bring back the silence. She continued to feel the noise, to hear the pain.

Then finally, the chaos began to subside. The pain diminished. When the fury of her overloaded senses sufficiently abated, she ever so slowly lowered her hands and carefully opened her eyes.

The first sight was something to behold.

She gasped in shock. Before her extended a vast plain, crowded with all manner of beings. She blinked several times, trying to become accustomed to the idea that she wasn't alone.

<Who are these people?>

Lacking answers to that question, she did the first thing that came to mind; she walked forward and entered the vast throng, losing herself amongst them.

*****

It seemed like an eternity had passed, but she was only becoming more curious about these people she found herself among. Some of them quietly hummed, others chanted, some laughed and told humorous stories, while others…

<The less I think about that, the better,> she decided.

She also decided that perhaps it was time to stop her mere watching and wandering and try to get some information. <But whom do I ask?> she wondered.

Her puzzled state wasn't so great that she wasn't aware that she could only look for her answers from certain people. After spending a couple of seconds wondering how she knew that, she decided it didn't matter. She was reassured that her instincts seemed to be good and set off again, only this time with a purpose.

She considered many people over an indeterminate amount of time, amazed by the variety of beings she saw, some of whom gave her strange or curious glances. She spied one being, an elderly, wise-looking man, who was talking nonstop about someone named Mystra. Her head cocked to the side, curiosity welled inside her. Ignoring the cold that shot up through her buttocks, she sat down, crossed her legs, and propped her chin on a palm, listening to the old man's speech.

He talked about the Lady of Mysteries, the Guardian of the Weave, and the Mother of All Magic. It wasn't for a few minutes that she realized that these were all the same woman. <This Mystra certainly has many titles,> she mused, a tiny smirk crossed her lips.

The old man finished his impassioned speech and started to leave. She decided that perhaps he could be the one to answer her questions. She stood up and walked after him. A few moments later, he seemed to realize that he was being followed. He turned around and looked her up and down.

"I'm sorry, child, but I have no interest in sex," he said kindly. "I'm beyond such things at this point."

"What?" she asked, wondering what he was talking about.

He seemed to understand her confusion and rubbed his facial hair. "You're new here, aren't you?"

"I…" She looked around again and wondered just where she was. "I think I am."

"Then you came to the right person," he said with a smile. "That is why you're following me, isn't it?"

"Well… yes," she decided. She hoped he would help her. "What is this place?"

"The Fugue Plain," he answered softly. He paused and frowned. He muttered something under his breath and for the briefest of instances, a soft white light swallowed her. Before she could protest, the glow faded and she found herself wearing a silver and blue-white dress. "There. Now I can explain things without being as distracted as you had me, my dear." He chuckled and she wondered why.

She spent a couple seconds examining the dress he'd made out of nothing. It was nice, so she shrugged and said, "So what is this Fugue Plain?"

The kind old man started walking, gesturing for her to come with him. As she fell into step with him, he said, "I'm surprised you don't know, child. This place, the Fugue Plain, is where the dead wait for the Gods to take them to their eternal rewards."

Unfortunately for her, that didn't help her understand any better. "I'm sorry, but…"

"You don't understand," the man reasoned. He peered at her. "What Power do you worship, my dear?"

"I…" She thought about it, but there were simply too many jumbled, chaotic thoughts running through her mind. She looked at him, a slight trace of fear in her voice. "I don't know."

He seemed surprised by that. The man rubbed his hairy chin a little more before looking at her strangely. "What is the last thing you remember?"

She felt her face scrunching in confusion as she tried to make sense of her chaotic mind. Her hands squeezed tight but it was no help. Tears started falling from her eyes and she fell to the ground in frustration, sitting on her backside.

"I-I… I don't know!" she confessed, confusion and fear rising within her again.

"There, there," he said, crouching next to her and tenderly touching her shoulder. "You must be very new. Death can be very traumatic and cause some initial blocking of one's memories." He pursed his lips and she felt a little safer since she wasn't alone. "Let's try something simple. What is your name, my dear?"

That sparked the tiniest fragment of illumination in the fog that made up her mind. She jumped up, face lit up in sheer joy. She turned to the startled man and gleefully said, "My name… my name is Silmakila!"

He smiled back at her. "There you go, child!" He gripped her shoulder to steady her. "Well, Mistress Silmakila, it is a pleasure to meet you. I am Augustov Musharik of Tethyr, mage and servant of the Lady Mystra."

"Augustov," she said, trying his name out. Her eyes gleaming with hope, she said, "Ask me another question, please!"

"All right, Silmakila," he laughed. "But please, settle down!" His gray eyes flicked back and forth. "Well, I can tell you are half-elven, by your features and name, which is Elvish."

Her giddiness faltered a bit. "My features?"

He cocked a snowy eyebrow. He did some more muttering and suddenly something appeared in his hands. He held it out to her and said, "See for yourself, child."

She took the thing and held it up. She saw an angular, heart-shaped face staring back at her. She blinked her medium blue, almond-shaped eyes and reached one hand up to rub her cheek. She was very pale, almost white with light blue shading near her cheeks. She ran a hand through wavy black hair and studied her pointed ears. "I… see." <Or do I?>

Augustov gently took the thing away and said, "You were very young and beautiful, Silmakila. I hope you did not leave many relatives behind."

"Relatives…" she muttered, the clouded nature of her mind refusing to give up any more secrets. She sighed in despair. "I don't know…" she whispered.

"Don't worry, young lady," Augustov told her supportively. "I'm sure it'll come back to you in time." He gently took her hands and raised her to a standing position. "Don't give into despair, child. Let us walk some more. Talk to people, make new acquaintances, and perhaps something will trigger your memory."

"A little too late for her to do that, Mystran."

The hoarse, deep voice made her cringe. She turned around and felt a terror she couldn't name hitting against the barriers depriving her of her memories.

Standing before her and Augustov were two large… things. They were taller than her or the old man and weighed several times their combined mass. Their muscular bodies were covered with coarse brown hair, and they had curling horns jutting from their foreheads. Their mouths were lined with fangs that dripped drool down to the ground.

One of them, eyes blazing in an eerie light, growled, "She is ours, Mystran."

She fearfully looked at Augustov, who glanced at her. "Certainly there is some mistake. Surely this child is not Faithless or False."

"We know the scents of all Faithful." The creature's breath was fetid even from a distance, making her stomach turn. "This one has no such scent. Thus, she is Myrkul's to play with for eternity."

"She is newly dead and seems to be amnesiac," her companion told them. "All she can recall is her name. She didn't even know she was half-elven until I showed her a mirror."

"That does not matter," the second thing snarled. It reached for her but she fearfully scooted back. "Who is your Patron?"

Silmakila felt a compulsion bear down on her mind, something that made her unable to resist answering. She fought against it but her resistance was crushed by something greater than anything her confused mind could even begin to conceive. She woodenly said, "I don't know."

The creatures stared at her and she felt that this was not the answer they'd expected. They looked at each other and seemed to be silently communicating. The first one growled, "Come with us, half-elf."

Sheer terror enveloped her heart. Silmakila began backing up, looking to Augustov for aid. <Please help me!> her eyes begged him.

The sadness in his eyes told her she was all alone again. So she did the only thing she could think of.

She ran.

*****

The creatures looked at each other again and sighed.

"It always comes down to this."

"Yet we always hope for something else."

*****

Augustov Musharik cocked an eyebrow at that little snippet of dialogue. <Demons having hope? Mother Mystra, I can die again, I have heard it all.>

He watched the two demons serving the God of the Dead lumber off after the girl who'd come to him for help. The mage knew it was their right to take the False and Faithless to Myrkul for eternal punishment, but for some reason, an itch in the back of his mind told him the girl was neither.

The Tethyrian had been a sage in his life and knew much about the cosmic laws of the Faerunian pantheon and afterlife. But unlike any of the Faithless or False, who would be unable to utter a single syllable of prayer or even the name of a God when questioned by the demons serving Myrkul (and thus betraying their status as Faithless or False), Silmakila had answered the question those same cosmic laws forced her to answer.

He was just starting to turn around, not wanting to feel his heart break over the girl's plight any longer, when his own ruminations caught up to him.

Silmakila had answered the question. Therefore, she could not be Faithless or False.

Whirling around in shock, Augustov Musharik scanned the Fugue Plain for the too-anxious demons and their quarry. Spotting the swath the creatures cut through the multitude of waiting souls, the mage smiled at the knowledge that there was yet some good he could do with his gifts.

The child's cause was not lost.

*****

Silmakila tore through the crowds of people, moving only as her instincts directed. The only thing on her terrified mind was to put as much distance between herself and those horrible things as she could.

She didn't consider that there might not be anywhere for her to run to. She was operating strictly on a fight-or-flight response. All that mattered was running as fast as her legs could carry her. She dared not look back to see how much ground they were gaining on her.

She tripped, letting out a strangled yelp and cry of pain as she hit the hard ground yet again. She tried to scramble to her feet but a shadow falling over her froze her in place. She rolled over onto her back, unable to summon the courage to crawl away from the advancing things.

So frightful was she that she couldn't even reason that the horrible monsters were more irritated with her than angry. She tried to scream for help but all that came out of her throat was a choked whimper.

One of the hulking creatures growled, "There's nowhere for you to go, girl. You're dead, remember?"

"No… I don't remember," she sobbed, the hope that someone would help her dying quickly. "I can't remember."

Again, the creatures seemed confused about that. But unfortunately for her, it did not sway them. One of the creatures reached for her but suddenly arched his body, screaming in pain. She instinctively mimicked his yell with ultimate precision.

She smelled the odor of burnt hair and flesh. The creatures parted and turned around, giving Silmakila a good view of what had kept her from being taken by those monsters.

It was Augustov, his eyes hard and hands glowing with eerie silver-white light. "She is not Faithless," the mage said firmly. "She was able to answer the question of who her deity is."

"No she wasn't, wizard," the creature to her left, heedless of the curious onlookers, snarled. "This little girl said she doesn't know who her Patron is!"

As soon as he finished his answer, both creatures stiffened. Silmakila whimpered at that confusing situation. She hugged her legs to herself and rocked back and forth, crying, "Why can't I remember?" She begged anyone who might help her to do so.

To the shock of her and everyone within hearing distance, a calm, strong voice answered her.

"One cannot remember things when there is nothing to remember."

Silmakila turned her head, wild hair flying about and getting in her eyes until she cleared it out. Her jaw opened at the woman who'd spoken. She was tall, standing strong and defiant in the face of the creatures that terrified her.

She had long brown hair that shimmered with bronze highlights, and rich brown eyes stared daggers at those before her. She was garbed in an elaborate dress that put her simple clothing to shame. But beyond her fearsome beauty, what captured Silmakila's attention was the shining weapon in the young woman's hands.

In her panicked state, she was afraid to ask what the woman had meant by that. But so desperate was she to know why she couldn't remember anything but her name, the half-elf opened her mouth to speak.

Before she could voice the myriad questions on her mind, one of her pursuers growled, "This is none of your concern!"

It took Silmakila a second to recognize the nearly hidden caution in its voice. Her head went from left to right and back again as she tried to make sense of what was happening. She finally stood up on shaky legs and began backing away, tears streaming down her flushed face.

"Stand your ground, Silmakila Redstar," the mysterious woman ordered, although the voice was somehow reassuring to her. "You need not worry. You shall come to no harm."

"Bane's testicles," one of the ugly things moaned, "a do-gooding paladin."

Silmakila's eyes turned back to the woman, who grinned at the thing in a way that made her very nervous. She barked, "Hardly, demon. I am far more dangerous than a Faerunian paladin. Would you care to find out how dangerous?"

One of the "demons" roared and charged her newest protector. She screamed in horror but the dark-haired woman jumped over the lumbering brute, coming to a graceful, perfect landing in that heavy, exquisite gown.

As the thing stumbled forward, the woman drove her shining blade into his back, making him screech in agony. Silmakila winced and shivered at the sound, hating it altogether. She started to scream a warning when the second demon moved to attack, but he suddenly flew up in the air and flew uncontrollably, landing in a heap a fair distance away.

<But not far enough,> she thought. She was about to decide on a course of action when a weathered old hand gripped her elbow. Her head whipped around and she saw it was Augustov. "Thank you," she wept to him.

"I could do no less once I realized the truth," he said regretfully. She wondered how she knew that. "You would think one of my age would have wisdom to go along with all this white hair."

"Your wisdom has saved me until now," she whispered, to which he blushed. The sounds of combat regained her attention and she saw her other savior being sorely pressed by the larger, stronger demon. She started to move forward but Augustov gripped her arm more tightly.

"You must flee, Silmakila. Keep your freedom until you regain your memories."

"I cannot," she said, accepting what the woman had told her. <There was nothing to remember.> She didn't know what that meant, but she knew it was the truth.

That made her all the sadder.

She broke free and said, "I have to do something." She looked at him and asked, "Can you help me?"

He nodded and started muttering again. He touched her forehead and she felt power surging through her body. "This will increase your strength for a few minutes. If you are going to help her, do it quickly."

She nodded and smiled at him, crying that she was no longer running from herself. She turned and ran toward the fight, which was a stalemate between the lavishly dressed woman and the aggressive, horrid monster. The creature was beginning to move on the woman when Silmakila shouted, a cry from the depths of her soul fueled by the roiling emotions inhabiting her mind.

It startled the demon long enough for him to turn halfway, torn between two furious opponents. Silmakila came up to him and clenched her fists together, swinging with as much power as her body, her terror, and Augustov's spell could give her. Her joined fists cracked the demon's jaw and spun his head around. But with all she had in her favor, the blow did little real damage.

The shining blade that her ally drove into its neck did the real damage. It clove skin and sinew apart and showered the Fugue Plain with foul-smelling blood.

The demon's body shuddered from the sickening wound, and he toppled forward. Silmakila and the other woman jumped back to avoid being crushed by the massive weight that crashed onto the ground. The girls watched carefully, waiting to see if the thing showed any last signs of life before standing down.

The woman smiled at her, battle lust beginning to fade. "I hoped you would help me, Silmakila. I could not have done it without you."

She stared at the woman for a few seconds before her feelings abated a bit. Slowly but surely, her earlier confusion and fear began to come back to the fore and she sank to the ground, lost and alone. She began crying again but looked longingly at her protector, silently begging her for help.

The woman's face became concerned and she banished that weapon to somewhere she didn't want to know about. The brown-haired beauty came to her and knelt, not caring if her clothes were damaged. She gently stroked her hair and Silmakila's ears heard Augustov joining them.

"It will be all right, Silmakila. I can explain," she whispered gently.

"Can you, Mistress?" Augustov asked, sounding suspicious to the half-elf. "What just happened and how do you know what the child here does not?"

"Yes, please answer that question," a deep, bass voice hissed.

Silmakila jumped up and found herself staring down the second demon. Augustov and the woman stood as well, placing themselves in front of her. The light in the thing's eyes flared a bit. "Mage, you caught me by surprise once. Do not think you can do so well a second time. And you…" He turned those brightening eyes onto the blade wielder. "Who are you and how does one not of these mortals' plane of existence come here to steal what is rightfully Myrkul's?"

The woman stood proud before the thing and Silmakila found herself envying the woman's poise. Her voice was still calm, but whereas it held compassion and kindness for her, for the demon it held the tone of menace.

"As for how I came here, it begins with the Lady of the Forest and the Lord of the Seldarine," she began. How the half-elf wished those names meant something to her! The other girl seemed to know how she felt, because she turned her head. "The Lady of the Forest, Mielikki, is the Goddess of your father. Corellon Larethian, the Father of All Elves, is to whom your mother prays."

"I… I don't understand…" she said helplessly. "Why can't I understand or remember?!?"

The woman's eyes became soft with sadness. However, she did give an answer. "Because you were only two days old when you died, Silmakila."

Her head whipped around when Augustov gasped. "Of course," he muttered, smacking himself on the forehead. "Such an obvious answer and I didn't even think of it!" He turned his bearded face to her and muttered, "Silmakila, I am so sorry. Please forgive me for not seeing the obvious."

She smiled and from some impulse she didn't understand, she reached up on her toes and kissed him on the cheek. He blushed even more than he had earlier and she felt a rush of warmth that was welcomed as a balm against her blank memories.

"An innocent," the thing that had chased her sighed. She glanced at him, fearful of what he would do now. The thing shook his head in what she somehow realized was disgust. "A blasted child helps kill my partner and makes me run a third of the way across the blasted Plain, all because she can't remember who she worshipped, because she was a Hades-blasted infant!" The demon snorted and fixed his eyes on her. But his words, on the other hand, were for her other protector. "And how did you know this one was here, Earthwoman?"

That term meant nothing to Silmakila, who tired of not understanding things. "Her father called to Mielikki, while her mother called to Corellon. She was born with an elven sickness which took her life only two days after her birth. However, it seems that both Powers had already made an entreaty to someone greater than them to ensure that Silmakila was taken care of, once they determined the domain where her soul would reside."

"I… What are they saying?" she whispered to Augustov.

"Since you were too young to have a Patron, your mother and father asked their Patrons to give you a home… and their love," the kind old man said sadly. "Your parents must love you very dearly, little one."

Silmakila didn't know what to make of that; she didn't understand much, if any, of what was being discussed. But she was not going to let what happened to her be decided without at least some words from her. "What is going to happen to me?" she asked. < That, I hope, will be more answers than my mind holds.>

The woman with the brown hair and eyes turned to her, a smile on her face. "You are going somewhere very special, Silmakila. There, you will have friends and learn what you must learn before the time comes to rejoin the other side."

"What?" she asked, puzzled anew.

"Reincarnation," Augustov muttered, touching her arm with his fingertips. "What they are saying my dear, is that in time, you will once again be a living, breathing person."

"I hope it does not leave me in such a state again," she said dismally. She turned to the woman who knew more about her than she did herself. "Can you tell me what I cannot remember?" With tears streaming down her cheeks, she whispered, "I cannot be like this…"

The woman walked up to her and smiled. "You will learn that and more. I promise you that much. But for now, you must say your good-byes to Augustov. It is time for us to go."

She blinked her eyes and glanced at the man who'd tried to help her. He smiled and backed away. "It was an honor that you chose me to be your guide, Silmakila. I will ask the Lady of Mysteries to look in on your situation, whatever it might be. May she watch over you, little one."

She knew that the words were well wishing, even if she couldn't reason how she knew. The man turned and vanished back into the crowd, leaving the number of strangers determining her fate at two. She looked at the demon and gulped, but he just sighed.

"Why did Mielikki and Corellon send an Earthwoman to retrieve the child?" he asked in that damned rumbling voice. "Couldn't they just come here themselves?"

"Actually," the woman said with a smirk that confused Silmakila, "HE sent me to retrieve her. It seems that when she rejoins the mortal realms, it will be in an important capacity."

"What?" she asked, not willing to leave her fate or lack of it unknown.

She glanced around and eyed the demon carefully. The demon's eyes shut and Silmakila felt something in her mind. // Make it quick, human. I've wasted enough time on chasing true innocents I shouldn't have to chase. They turn my stomach and I still have to explain my partner being killed by an Earthwoman. //

// Demon, do not push me further. Since you know so much about Earthwomen, // the woman's sarcastic words sounded in her mind, // then you should know what usually happens to demons who find themselves on the wrong side of a Slayer. //

The word meant nothing to Silmakila, but the thing seemed to lose some of his arrogance. <How do I know what arrogance is?> she wondered. She set it aside and awaited the woman's answer.

Somehow, knowing it was not to her but the demon, the woman added, // There were things preordained that led to this, demon. If and when Myrkul asks, tell him it involves a number of Earth prophecies he need not worry himself over. They will leave him alone. But if he had tried to claim this soul, then HE would have sent Michael to deal with you, not me. //

The demon began shaking with the fear she'd experienced only moments ago. He seemed to growl under his breath. "Fine, Slayer," the thing growled, sounding flustered at the outcome of his chasing of her. "Take the half-breed and begone. Get off of our Plain!"

The thing turned and stalked off, leaving Silmakila wondering who it might focus its attention on next. As it sank in that she was not going to be the subject of its attention, she grew weak in the knees.

She hoped the woman would help her now that they were alone. "I hate being called, ‘the woman,' Silmakila. My name is Lucy Hanover."

"Lucy," she said. She supposed that it was as good as her own name. <At least she knows more than it.> She felt a burst of tears coming again but a salve, Lucy's promise that she would learn more, stopped them for the most part. "How can you face such a monster so easily?"

Lucy cocked an eyebrow. "You get used to such things when you are the Slayer. I would not worry about it."

"I am not a… Slayer," she said. <Or I do not think I am.>

Lucy seemed to know something that she didn't, if her smile was any indication. Of course, anything at all would be more than she knew.

"Will you tell me now?" she begged, all but bursting with anticipation. She whined, "I hate being like this!"

"It will be a little longer, but you will understand." Lucy began walking and Silmakila, yearning for both her protection and company, moved briskly to catch up. "You have to understand, Silmakila, I was merely sent to take you to your destination. This is what I do."

"But you said…"

"You will learn, my sister. You will learn that and more. But it will be someone else who teaches you." Her smile grew wider. "But you will be in very good hands."

The hope that had been gasping for life-saving breath roared like a bonfire in Silmakila's soul. She would know what she needed to know! She would… she would be whole!

"Thank you, Lucy. Thank you," she said, her fear being replaced by a desire to know.

Lucy and Silmakila walked along, the half-elf barely noticing how the Fugue Plain began to lose its coherence. She was too busy hoping. However, she did have questions and decided to ask them now.

"Who will help me remember?" she asked. If Lucy wasn't going to be her teacher, than at least she might know who would.

Lucy nodded in approval. As they continued walking, her brown eyes gleamed with a shine that calmed the troubled soul. "In a strange twist, your teacher is someone who will, in time, have the same destiny that you have. The one that I had when I was alive."

Silmakila somehow knew what she meant. "I will be… what did you call yourself? Slayer?"

"Yes, sister," was her answer, full of warmth. Lucy wrapped an arm around her back and slightly squeezed her. "You are going to be very, very important, for many reasons which are too many for me to explain in detail. What I can tell you is that you and your teacher will both be very, very important, for too many reasons to count in one lifetime."

"And my teacher?" she pressed, needing to know who held the answers her clouded mind so desperately craved.

With a laugh, Lucy squeezed her again. "I think you will like her. Like you, she has a combination of hidden intelligence, wisdom untapped, and unmatched courage when you need it, like when you helped me back there."

She licked her lips and nodded in certainty.

"Yes, you and Adrianna will get along just fine."


Family Feud

As An Editor Once Said; Chosen Family Is Just As Important As Blood Family

Jenny Calendar's Residence
Sunnydale, California
21 April 1998

"Goddess, sometimes I wish there were some things I could just wing with this job…"

Jenny threw her papers down and snorted a raspberry out of disgust. She looked at what had been, until 4PM this afternoon, her kitchen table. To her immense dismay, not one square inch of surface was still visible.

Damn…she hated working on next-term curricula.

Looking up at the Heavens, she sighed, "Sometimes it is just so tempting to use my hacking skills to make my life easier. But no, like Xander would say, I must Clark Kent my way through life, never to use my advantages for personal gain."

She rolled her eyes and decided the Hell with it, she was taking a break. The Amazon stood up and popped open her fridge, looking for some chocolate chip mint ice cream.

<Maybe nursing my sweet tooth will put me in a better mood.>

*****

An hour and two bowls of very fattening sundaes later, Jenny was more than halfway done and had just seen the light at the end of her paperwork-crafted tunnel when the phone rang. The sugar rush making her actually smile at the interruption, the Computer Science teacher picked up her cordless phone and chirped, "Calendar residence. It's your quarter, so speak your piece."

"You always were the ‘modern one,'" an elderly, accented voice accused.

Jenny's smile vanished as she came to a ramrod straight posture. "Grandpa Ti…" She stopped and brought up a formal mask. "Grandfather?"

"Either will suffice," came the voice's answer, laden with love and sternness. "Janna, I am in town. We need to meet, for there are things I need to discuss with you."

She'd been dreading this for weeks; the eventual tongue lashing for failing in her duty as Angelus' watchdog. "I understand, Grandfather. Where are you?"

"I am at the place called the Sunnydale Motor Lodge. How long before you can be here?"

Having just traded in her old VW Beetle convertible for a nicer Chevy Lumina, it wouldn't take that long. <After all, it was either me or Rupert trading in his Citroen for a new car and I was not going to ride in the Gilesmobile forever…> She did some mental calculations for cleaning up, getting her things together, and settling her nerves. "I can be there in about an hour, maybe an hour and a half."

"Good. Janna, come alone."

Grandfather hung up and Jenny knew this wasn't going to be a good meeting. She didn't care. This was her Grandfather, and certainly he would be more reasonable than Uncle Enyos had been. Feeling another rush of sadness over the loss of her beloved uncle, Jenny started organizing her curricula in preparation to meet her mother's father.

*****

Sunnydale Motor Lodge
Room 105
Sunnydale, California
21 April 1998

Jenny walked up to the door and swallowed, trying to force down her girlish nerves at meeting her Grandfather. The teacher knew something like this was inevitable, but still wished that she could keep their relationship as it had been in happier, simpler times. Dismissing that possibility, she raised her hand and rapped on the door.

After three or four heartbeats, the doorknob turned and the door opened. Rather than most people in Sunnydale, who would creak their door open and peek through the crack, Grandpa Tito Calderash had no such fears. He looked her up and down and she wondered what he thought of her outfit; a t-shirt, jeans, boots, and a leather jacket that cost more than the rest of the outfit combined. She'd chosen it for simplicity and because no one would expect the teacher, Jenny Calendar, to dress more like…

"You look like a true New Yorker again," Tito said, echoing her thoughts and grinning wide. She hoped the twinkle in his eyes was a good omen. He stepped back and held the door open for her in the manner of an Old World gentleman. "Janna, please come in."

Jenny smiled and entered the hotel room, brushing at her black hair in her nervousness. She looked around the simple Lodge room and jumped when the door closed. She turned around and saw Grandfather's face was a study in conflict. She saw his love for her, but also the hints that whatever they had to talk about was indeed bad news.

She'd had over four months to explain what had happened and launched into her defense. "Grandfather, I know why you're here and I know you're disappointed in me, but…" Her confidence faded and was replaced by fatalism. "Or does it even matter what I have to say?"

Grandfather walked over and placed his hands on her shoulders. She looked up at him, since he towered over her by a good seven inches. "My little Janna," he said proudly, squeezing her shoulders reassuringly, "I will always listen to you. Have things changed so much that you think I would not?"

"I don't know anymore," she reluctantly said, turning away and removing herself from his grasp. She waved her arms around, trying to gather her thoughts. "When I first came here, my job was to watch Angelus. But so many things started happening that I…" She turned back to him and asked, "Did you know Angel saved my life from the Sleepwalker?"

"Some of us did, yes." Grandfather seemed confused about her question. "But what does that have to do with why I am here?"

"Everything!" she blurted before regaining control of herself. She winced at her outburst and spilled forth her defense from one of the people whose approval meant everything to her. "Grandfather, I don't know how much you, Mother, or Father know about what happened, but it was not my fault the curse was broken. Uncle Enyos told me how Angel's suffering was lessening but he didn't tell me about the happiness clause until it was too late. And then…" She felt some assurance coming to her when she recalled what her uncle had told her the last time she'd seen him. At the time, she hadn't realized that Enyos, who'd scolded her about neglecting her duty only a day earlier, had forgiven her when he realized that she had indeed been faultless. "The breaking was preordained, Grandpa. There were events in motion that not even the Elders had foreseen. Angel was going to lose his soul regardless of anything I did."

She watched for his reaction to the simple truth as she'd been told. For some reason, she hadn't expected astonishment.

"Janna, did you really think I came all this way to talk about Angelus? To discuss one vampire?" he asked, shaking his head. "Little one, I know about the curse ending and Enyos telling you. Who do you think told him that things were coming to pass?"

Jenny's confidence transformed into confusion. Blinking and frowning in bafflement, the Gypsy asked him, "Then why are you here?"

His face became as stony as the carving of Washington on Mount Rushmore. "Alexi."

Jenny's mouth dropped in comprehension. <Oh Goddess, they found out.>

"Did you really think the Elders were not monitoring the situation, Janna?" he asked quietly. "We have our ways."

The way he asked the question so softly raised suspicions in her mind. In a rare act of defiance, the native of Queens growled, "Did you know about this? Did you know they were sending Alexi to kill Buffy?!?"

"Of course not!" he barked back at her. That made her step back and she realized she'd stepped over the line between elder and youngster. "Do you think I would have supported them sending an ageless clan member here? I did not even know that this Slayer was like him until the other Elders had told me what you'd done."

Jenny's teeth gritted at the words. <What you'd done.> "What was I supposed to do? Let Alexi kill the Slayer?"

"You do not merely see her as a Slayer, Janna." She knew that Grandfather was even better informed than she'd suspected. "You see her as the daughter of the man you love."

She deflated; if her feelings for Buffy had been secret, then maybe, just maybe, she could have crafted some sort of defense against killing a member of her own clan. But if the Elders had told Grandpa Tito about her relationship with Rupert, then… "You know about the Watchers."

"If you mean those who watch over those like Alexi and this Slayer, of course. More than one of our people has known about them over the centuries. But besides the fact that you vowed not to interfere in the Game, this goes beyond saving the Immortal you watch. This is much worse."

She stared at him and felt the fire rising in her cheeks again. She understood now the reason her Grandfather was here, or at least one reason; the Elders didn't think she'd resist whatever he had to say to her, as this was her direct ancestor and the Elder representing her branch of the clan.

Well, too many things had changed since January for that to work. The technopagan shoved her hands in her jacket pockets and said, "So it's worse, is it? Just how much did they tell you, Grandpa? Tell me that so I can tell you what they might have conveniently left out."

"It does not matter, little one," he sighed. She started to protest but he blurted, "You are mortu."

Her eyes went wide with shock. Her body began to tremble with both fear and rage. She was barely able to utter a choked, "What?"

"You are mortu, Janna," he said, his eyes broadcasting that not only had he accepted the decision of the clan, he personally did not agree with it. She'd always been able to read between the lines of his emotions. "The entire clan was told of your ‘crime' and the entire clan voted on casting you out."

There it was. The real reason for his visit. Jenny felt her legs become Silly Putty and she began to fall to the floor. Grandpa reached out and took her into his arms, guiding her over to his bed. He just held her as she shook her head over and over again, trying to assimilate the impact of his news.

She was mortu.

An outcast.

"How… how could they…"

"You betrayed and killed a member of the clan," he whispered. She wondered if he knew more than the bare facts in the case. "You chose an outsider over a Calderash. To the Elders, there is no greater crime."

"How can they say that!" she snapped, breaking free of his grip and standing up with renewed vigor. Her dark eyes flashing, she shouted, "How dare they?!? How dare they cast me out when they sent a clansman after the woman dating the Wanderer?!?"

His face became dark and Jenny feared she'd overstepped her bounds again. After all, Grandfather was one of those Elders. But now he dropped the formal attitude. "Janna, I argued the same thing to the Elders. I told them about the Wanderer and the Slayer. But you have always known how the Romany feel when it comes to vengeance."

"It's a living, breathing thing." She scoffed at the attitude. "Never mind that it brings to mind another saying; what goes around, comes around. I was right. We were fools."

"Fools, perhaps. But it was not your place to kill Alexi when he came to avenge the breaking of the curse." Grandfather started pacing. "They knew you would have a conflict of interest but… but to kill Alexi? That they never expected."

"Buffy is too important," Jenny argued, knowing it was futile.

"You believe so," he said coldly. She blubbered a bit at his attitude, until he snorted in disgust. "And I believe so. But the Elders as a whole… to them, the Calderash come first, other Romany second, and everyone else last."

"Or not at all," she snapped angrily, trying to beat back the despair of her disownment. "And because they can't see past their own noses, I get cast out?"

"Janna, Janna…"

"Don't ‘Janna' me, Grandpa! Don't patronize me!" Jenny let her eyes become darker with anger, anger directed more at the clan than at him. "If the Elders have been keeping tabs on me, not to mention Buffy and Steve, then they have to know everything else that has been going on! Does that count for nothing?"

"It did, to a small extent, my dear." The old man sat down on the bed and sighed. For the first time, at least to Jenny, her Grandpa Tito actually looked old. "The vote was hardly unanimous, Janna. For one thing, I voted in your favor. So did your parents and both your grandmothers. But in the end, it wasn't enough. Not the destiny you have found with your Goddess, not your allies amongst the Immortals or New Salem, not even the fact that you work with two of the…" He seemed to hesitate and she knew he was holding something back by the way he stumbled. "Two of humanity's champions. The bearer of Demon Slayer and the Vampire Slayer."

"So I'm mortu," she whispered dismally. "I'm dead to you…"

"Never to me, Janna," he said fiercely. He hugged her close and just held her. "Janna, the Elders know that I will not cut you off. Neither will your parents or grandparents. But they will not make issue of it, because they know that our honor, as I told you months ago, is tied to the Wanderer."

She mumbled, "And what does casting me out do to that honor when I work with the man that honor is tied to?"

He sighed and she looked into his tired eyes. "Unlike others in the clan, we American Calderash have a wider view of the world, you greater than anyone. You see the conflict, I see the conflict. But the others… ah, little one, they are still living a hundred years ago."

Jenny started looking at the doorway, as if she expected the other Elders to burst through the door and take out a more personal form of vengeance on her. "But what are they going to do now, Grandpa Tito?"

"You wonder if they will come after you? No," he said darkly, making her look at him, "they know how you will react to being disowned. And I have warned them what will happen if they try to harm the Slayer or anyone in the Wanderer's circle again."

"What will you do?" she asked in amazement. He would never go against the clan!

He chuckled in surprise, his eyes twinkling. "Ahhhhh. You don't know as much about this Wanderer as you think, do you?"

"I know he's worked with the Order of the Grail and other paranormal groups," Jenny retorted, put off a wee bit by the cryptic act. <The last thing I need!> "And we were given some supplies from the witches of New Salem."

"I see. Then you know more than I thought. Let this be a lesson, Janna; even old men like myself do not know everything. But I can tell you this before I go." He smiled at her and she wondered how he could be happy about her situation. "I do not care that the rest of the clan feels this way. You will always have my love and I will always be proud of you. Your mother and father are proud of you and love you with all their hearts. If you ever need anything, ever, then you can count on us."

He hugged her one more time and she started tearing up since she knew there were some limits to the disownment.

"You are our little Janna, and we love you."

"And the clan won't object?" she asked doubtfully. "They won't do something like sending another Alexi again?"

"They won't."

They separated and she said, "Is there anything else before you go home? And how are Mom and Dad doing?"

"Your father is happy you are in love, because you are his little princess," he said with a shrug. "But your mother…"

Jenny grimaced. "She doesn't approve of Rupert?" she asked carefully. <If he tells me they've been watching us… Okay, new imagery!>

"She does wonder why you couldn't find yourself a nice Gypsy Englishman…"

"GRANDFATHER!"

*****

Calendar Residence
Sunnydale, California
21 April 1998

Jenny sat at the table, looking at the slip of paper her grandfather had given her. She knew it was supposed to be a balm against the clan's treatment of her, but it still hurt immensely.

<I'm outcast,> she thought for the thousandth time. Only this time, she wasn't as angry or disturbed. She still had her parents. She still had Grandpa Tito. So her separation wasn't complete…

She slumped back in her kitchen chair. Maybe it was like Grandpa said; it was a way for the clan to feel like they'd avenged their honor without stepping across the line when it came to Steve. They knew Buffy was involved with him, a man their honor was tied to.

<In other words, it may be nothing more than Gypsy CYA politics.>

That hurt even more.

She decided it didn't matter. She had her own family supporting her, even Grandma. But she also had another family. And she was going to start embracing them even more because of this.

She picked up the phone and dialed her most important number. The line clicked on the other end and she smiled despite the ache in her heart.

"Hello, England…"


Twist Of Pace, Change Of Fate

How A Little Vamp Dusting Changes Things

((For those of you who read My Good Deed, you know that in the "altered" history of Sunnydale, the truth about Shaw was found out much sooner by the Scooby Gang than it was in Born To Raise Hellmouth. Here's why, and I hope you enjoy it.))

Near Weatherly Park
Sunnydale, California
25 August 1998

"What do you mean, we snuck out?!?" Brian yelped in surprise.

"I mean we snuck out," Dawn said with a sly grin. "As in, I didn't ask Mom if it was okay to go see the movie with you, while you just assumed Tall, Dark, and Demon Hunting knew about it. Hey, all I did was ask if you wanted to see the flick."

"But…" Brian moaned. Girls always got him in trouble. "I'm gonna be so dead when we get back."

"Steve's not that bad," Dawn giggled. "And he'll know it was my idea. Besides, they know we can take care of ourselves most of the time. Sometimes you just have to get out and have a little life of your own, y'know?"

"Yeah," he mumbled, shoving his hands in his coat pockets. "But still, Randi's gonna go postal when she finds out I was out without telling anyone."

"Big sister pains. Been there, done that," she sighed, not letting her own spirits dampen. Bri was still dealing with losing his Mom and Dad and Dawn figured he needed to unwind. "Note that they're both blonde, right?" she added, and mused to herself, <But you need to lighten up a bit.>

He chuckled at the blonde joke. "Well, at least the movie wasn't bad," he noted. Dawn turned her head to look at him; he was really cute when he smiled. "I'm just glad you didn't drag me in to see ‘Titanic.'"

<Not yet anyway,> she giggled. She did wish he'd dress nicer though; she certainly did! She was decked out in a tight purple top, leather jeans and jacket, and fashionable hiking boots. "Bri?"

"Huh?" he asked, a little distracted. He shook his head. "Sorry. Thinking about my folks."

"I understand. I've lost a couple friends since we moved here."

They continued strolling down the street, coming to the entrance of Weatherly Park. Dawn said, "Come on, let's cut through the park."

"Why?" he asked, looking concerned.

"So we can exchange smoochies in private," she joked, although she privately wondered if that would really be a bad thing. She laughed at his sour face. "I'm just kidding! Just trying to get you to lighten up, Bri. Seriously, it'll save us about ten minutes walking around it. And the vamps don't hang around the old folks' park as much anymore. Nowadays they're at Hammersmith, the Bronze, and getting dusted."

He wasn't a wuss, she knew that much about the red-haired cutie. But he was smart. He reached into his windbreaker where he was keeping what she figured was a stake or two.

"You sure?" he asked, not sounding scared to her.

"Yep. Like I said, it'll take some time off us getting back to Steve's." She tossed her long hair back over her shoulder and dropped the smile to become serious. "Let's book."

*****

As the children disappeared into the park, Shawukay was slightly torn over what course of action to take. On the one hand, she disliked the idea of letting the two walk through the park at night without any protection. But the girl seemed to know this town and its secrets better than she.

<I am supposed to be learning more about Sunnydale, not tracking children walking home together.>

But she just knew that she would not be able to forgive herself if the children came to harm because she was not there to prevent it. She hated the fact that only three months ago, she might have thought longer about what to do.

<But no more.> She reached down to her belt to make sure her sword was secure. As soon as she was certain that the children would not see her following them in, the ranger set off, moving at a brisk pace.

*****

<Uh oh.> Dawn felt the hairs at the back of her neck beginning to stand on end. Her blue eyes began scanning the area and she muttered, "You getting that Wiggy feeling?"

A quick glance out of the corner of her eye allowed her to see his nod. "Yeah. "What've you got?" he asked just as quietly. "I have a couple stakes and the gun Steve's been teaching me to use."

<That's what he's packing?!?> she thought, stunned into nearly missing a step. <Get it together, Summers.> "I'm packing a short sword and chakram."

"Okay. So what do we do?" he asked her.

Dawn considered her options, the first being to call Buffy or Steve. <But it'd take them time to get here.>

She decided the Heck with it, she was letting her fingers do the walking. "Watch my back, cutie," she said with a smirk.

She loved how he whined, "Hey!"

She pulled out her cell phone and was just getting ready to hit the speed dial when four vamps burst out of the brush, rushing them. Dawn knew she had no time to call her sister, and that left her and Brian with one option.

Survival.

*****

<Goddess, how many vampires are there in this city?!?> Shawukay thought fearfully. She would not have revealed herself if she could have avoided it, but she was not going to allow any more innocents to suffer.

She drew Soulreaver and searched her mind for the roster of spells she had been granted this day. Calling one to mind, she charged the vampire quartet, hoping that she and the boy and girl would survive the next few minutes.

*****

Dawn reached into her coat and pulled out her weapons. "Well Bri, consider this your official welcome to Sunnydale."

"No kidding," he grumbled. She noticed how calmly he drew a .45 and thumbed the safety. "One on the right?"

"I got the left." She reared back and tossed her missile weapon just as the loud "CRACK" of gunfire assaulted her hearing.

The bullet hit the vampire but didn't dust him. It did turn him around and slow his progress. Her chakram beaned one vamp and ricocheted back to her. She didn't have time to throw it again as the other vamp on her side pulled out a gun of his own and aimed it at her. Dawn realized that an old story she'd heard was pretty much true.

The barrel did look bigger from the wrong side of the gun.

"Bri, GUN!" she shouted, praying through her terror that he'd shoot first. What happened instead was a cold female voice shouting through the night.

"URDU KARKA LOIKO!"

A beam coming out of nowhere and hitting the gun-toting vamp in the face capitalized that weird scream. He jerked around as he screamed, making his shot fly off into Never-Never Land.

Dawn's heart skipped a beat as she understood just how close she'd come to croaking because of the burning vamp. <Sometimes I really wish that costume gig would kick back in.>

Another gunshot blasted her ears, only this time it was Brian. His second vamp got gut shot and doubled over.

Dawn now had enough room to throw her chakram at the vamp she'd already knocked for a loop. Her "Frisbee of Death" bonged off his head a second time. By now, two of the vamps were hurting, one was flambé, and one had to have an Excedrin-strength headache. <Things are looking good for the home team.>

Then the cloaked figure joined the fray.

*****

Her ears still ringing from those blasted Earth weapons, it took some effort for Shawukay to remain focused on her target. But she managed to stay aware enough to swing Soulreaver into the vampire that had twice been knocked down by the girl's discus. With the ease of long practice, the Forestarm's sword cut through the blood drinker's neck.

As she'd expected, the Earth-born undead disintegrated. She forgot him and turned to the two who had been wounded by the boy. She placed herself between the vampires and their prey, leveling Soulreaver into a threatening stance. "You will not harm these children, vampires," she growled in English.

"We are not children!" the young woman snapped defensively.

<Goddess, did I ever sound like that?> She kept her attention on the two wounded vampires. After all, being hurt only made them more dangerous.

"You're going to be meat like those brats, bitch!" one of the vampires growled.

Once again, Shawukay wondered how these soulless vampires survived their first nights of vampirism. <Then again, it is easy to take advantage of such attitudes.> "I think you will find me tougher than you expect, dead man."

The vampires seemed ready to make an attack despite their wounds. Chalking it up to desperation, Shawukay prepared to defend the children when two more voices joined the group.

"I know it's so clichéd," a strong female voice said, "but is this a private party…"

"Or can anyone crash it?" finished her male partner.

*****

Dawn didn't know whether to be happy or worried that Xander and Cordy had arrived to save the day. Unlike this crazy, sword-swinging girl who'd arrived to "help" her and Brian, the older guys had guns.

<Hate to say it, but this is probably a good thing,> she decided. "Hey guys. How'd you find us?"

"On the way home from the movie, saw Batgirl there follow you in," Xander said with a grin. "Let us blow away these dead guys and we'll have you home in time for Letterman."

"You'll do it bloody!" shouted one of the vamps, who started charging her and Bri. The Robin Hood wannabe moved to cut him off, which left the other free to do the same. He started forward and was going to get behind the girl, which meant that they couldn't shoot the dead guys for fear of hurting the living one.

Xander and Cordy's cussing kinda showed they agreed with that.

A split second of thinking was all it took Dawn to jump forward to help the girl. <Hey, she came to help us! I'm not gonna leave her hanging!>

Her charge was met with a cry from Xander, Cordelia, and Brian.

"DAWN!!!"

*****

The vampire was about to receive a painful lesson about attacking children if Shawukay had her way. She heard the scream from multiple throats but was too occupied with ducking a wild blow from the vampire to see what was happening. She came up on her foe's side and slid her sword across his gut. As he doubled over, clutching at his abdomen, Shawukay brought her sword up and drove it tip-first into his back. The vampire howled and Shawukay felt the blade's disruption magic manifest. She withdrew her weapon and turned to take care of the remaining vampire.

She was stunned to see the girl fearlessly engaging him.

*****

Dawn was more frightened than she let on. She knew she wasn't Buffy or an Amazon, but she wasn't going to let this person face the vamps alone, not when the guys had to drop their guns to pull out close quarters weapons. While the caped lady started dancing with one, she swung her sword at the other.

Operating by the doctrine of hitting someone where it hurts, Dawn stabbed him hard in the family jewels, making him squeal like a pig. She drew back and got ready to take his leg out so Xander and Cordelia could get a clear shot when he went down.

Reacting faster than she thought a wounded bloodsucker could, the fangy guy kicked out and caught her in the ribcage. She gasped in pain as his undead strength made her bones shatter under the impact.

In any other situation, Dawn might take pride in the fact that she didn't curl up into a ball and start crying like a baby. But a vampire fight was not the place for that.

As she went down, clutching at her ribs, three shots rang out from around her. She didn't see any bullets zinging overhead, but the sudden cloud of dust that showered her let her know that she was safe.

Still, out of pain and spite, she said, "Screw you, jerk."

*****

As the last vampire was slain, Shawukay's priorities shifted from combat to the aftermath. Seeing the girl who'd risked her life to help her lying on the ground in apparent pain, the ranger hustled over to her, sheathing her sword but ignoring the other fighters' cries for her to stay away.

Kneeling next to the girl, Shawukay said, "You're going to be all right. I will help you."

"Get away from her, Ladyhawke!" a shrill female voice shouted.

Shawukay raised her head and barked, "This child is injured!"

"Get. Away. From. Her." That was emphasized by her and the taller human male pointing what she assumed were their firearms at her.

<I do not have time for this.> Shawukay began praying and tapped into the divine energy parceled out to her by the Lady. She hated herself for what she was about to do, but if this allowed her to treat the girl's injuries without interruptions, then it was the lesser of two evils.

Especially if it prevented her from getting shot herself.

The regretful half-elf shouted, "Stop them from following or harming me!"

*****

Xander's eyes furrowed in confusion over Batgirl's shout. His confusion turned to black anger when Cordy suddenly stiffened and turned on him, pointing her Glock at his head.

<What the Hell…> He glared at that red-eyed woman and shouted, "What the Hell did you do to my girlfriend?!?"

"Helped her to see things from my point of view," came the accented answer. <Great, like we didn't get enough of that with Dead Boy.> "As long as you do not try to follow me, you will remain unharmed."

Xander growled under his breath as the bitch picked Dawnie up and started backing up. Then suddenly, she turned and headed off into the brush. Once he gave her two minutes head start, he smiled and said, "Cordy, I'm just putting my gun away. I'm not going to follow her."

He slowly put his gun in the holster and ran one hand through his coat pocket. Feeling around inside, he fingered his cell and pushed a speed dial button.

<I don't need to follow you, girlie. Ah, the wonders of modern technology.>

*****

Dawn moaned and brought her hand up to her eyes. As her senses crystallized, the twelve-year-old remembered the fight and her broken ribs. She reached down and gingerly touched her torso, only to feel fully healed ribs and a serious lack of pain.

She opened her blue eyes and propped herself up on her elbows. As she did, the youngest member of the Summers family had the cloak covering her like a blanket fall down. As she looked around the little clearing, she saw the girl she figured had saved her, sitting down and breathing in and out. Before she could even think of vamoosing, she asked, "Are you all right?"

Dawn couldn't place the accent, but wondered if testing the waters by asking questions was a good idea. "Uh yeah. What happened? I remember my bones going snap, crackle, pop."

The woman, dressed in clothes you expected to see Daniel Boone wearing, opened her eyes. Nope, she hadn't been imagining them shining red. <Great. >

"You were injured by the last vampire. Your friends shot and killed him. When I moved to check your broken ribs, they threatened me and ordered me to move away from you."

<Uh oh,> she thought. She was so not liking this. "Okay, what happened? You better tell me, or Xander and Cordy are gonna call in some serious firepower to track your red-eyed butt down for kidnapping me."

The woman's reaction was almost comical. "I did not kidnap you!"

"Hell-oooo!" Dawn snapped with a roll of her eyes. "You show up out of nowhere, swinging that cross between a sword and the Statue of Liberty's torch…"

"To prevent the vampires from killing you," she protested.

"Yeah, but you took me and left them…" She paused, remembering just what Xander and Cordelia were capable of. "Wait a minute. How'd you get away from them?"

The woman hesitated and Dawn could almost swear she was embarrassed. "I cast a charm spell on the female and ordered her to keep the males from following me."

"You cast a spell on Cordy?!? Are you NUTS?!?" <You are SO dead!>

"It was that or be unable to treat your wounds," she said defensively. "Most likely because they would have shot me with those firearms."

Dawn reflexively touched her ribs again. "How'd you put my ribs back together?" <Not that I'm complaining,> she told herself, remembering how much it hurt.

"I…" She stood up and looked around. Dawn saw the way she almost reached up and touched herself. "It is not safe here. Where can I take you that you might call your family or friends to take you home?"

<She wants me to get home? Okay, brownie point in the ‘good guy' column.> "Actually," she said, feeling herself blush, "I was kind of out without parental-type permission. Know what I mean?"

By the way she laughed, Dawn guessed the answer was yes. "Geez, laugh it up!"

"My apologies…"

The woman knew that she was looking for a name. Thinking that Buffy and Steve would want the 411 on Redeye Girl later on, she decided to get as much as she could. "I'm Dawn. Dawn Summers."

"Ah." She nodded and paused for a second. She said, "Shirak."

Out of nowhere, a globe of light popped into existence and Dawn looked at the woman again, getting a good look at her in the light. She had curly black hair and a really pale face. In the light her eyes weren't red but that hazel color she saw on a few people at school. <Make note of that.> But the woman really wasn't much bigger than she was. Heck, she'd only top Buffy by an inch or two.

"My name is Shaw Hunter," she said easily, still paying more attention to looking around than to her. Again, she reached up and this time, rubbed her stomach.

"You got hurt, too?" Dawn asked, standing up for the first time.

"I… I had no healing spells today, so I could not heal your ribs. I…" She stopped and seemed really hesitant to go on. "There is another type of magic to remove physical damage. But your friends seemed unlikely to allow me to perform that magic."

Dawn got the point pretty quick. "Wait a minute! You mean… You…"

"Transferred the injuries to my body. But I heal more quickly than most people."

"Meaning most humans, right?" Dawn asked suspiciously.

The woman winced and she thought she'd actually hurt the girl's feelings. "My father was human, Dawn, although he died when I was two. His parents raised me." She picked up her cloak and put it back on. "Let us get you home."

"Okay," she muttered, wondering if it was a good idea to bring the lady to her house. <Well, there is a Slayer there,> she laughed. And say what you would, with some broken ribs, she wasn't going to take Buffy down. But maybe she could subtly pump her for information too. "So what are you doing here in Sunnydale?"

*****

Shawukay knew the girl was fishing for information, but for some reason, she found herself wanting the girl's trust. The girl knew she wasn't fully human, but her helping save Dawn's life seemed to give her the benefit of the doubt for now.

She knew she'd have to give the young woman something, but settled for some simple answers to start with. "There is more than one reason, but…" She was less certain about one reason. "It is complicated, Dawn."

"Yeah, things can't often be simple, huh."

<In my case, you have no idea.> The ranger picked up the light ball and carried it with them. She started walking through the woods in a direction that would get them to the streets more quickly. "I… I was sent here for something. And… I recently learned that I have…"

"What?" In better circumstances, Shawukay would have enjoyed the girl's inquisitiveness.

She sighed and wondered why she was going to answer her. "I have kin here."

"Kin? You mean family? Cool!" Shawukay wondered what "Cool" meant in Earth vernacular.

*****

Dawn's face scrunched up. "Wait a minute. Is it human family or…"

"I am no vampire or demon," Shaw sighed. Dawn watched her reach up and cover her eyes for some reason before moaning. She brushed her hair back and Dawn saw a pointed ear! "I do not know why I am telling you this! But… my full first name is Shawukay. It is Elvish."

Dawn stopped, staring at her. "Wait a minute. Your dad was human, and your mom was an elf?"

"It has been my experience that you young Americans know what intercourse is at a much younger age than other races."

"Of course we… Hey! Stop dodging the question!"

"Then ask me questions I am more comfortable with," Sha-woo-kay said with a snap. She immediately winced and looked away. "I am sorry, Dawn. I had no right to snap at you like that."

"What's wrong about you having family here?"

"The fact that I have not had any relatives for nearly half my life. It…" Shaw (she decided to settle for that version for right now) looked upset. "I do not know how she will react."

"When was the last time you had family?" Dawn asked, actually feeling sorry for her.

Shaw's eyes snapped up into Dawn's. She frowned and said, "My Grandparents. The only family I ever had. That is, until. ."

When she broke off and turned away, Dawn felt her worry die as she wondered what was wrong with a woman who could swing swords against vamps and take her broken ribs without blinking. She said, "Sorry. I just, well… I'm curious, okay? I'm a kid, so sue me. Sorry to break your brooding moment."

Shawukay pushed her way through the brush and into the open town streets. "We should get you to your home," she decided. "Can you tell me which way to go from here?"

"Sure, fine. Whatever," the sister of the Chosen One muttered. "Sorry for trying to be like a friend."

The half-elf said, "I am not the type of person you would want as a friend, Dawn."

<Yeah, right,> the perceptive brunette groused. Looking over Shaw again, she saw the wanting look in the woman's eyes. <You want friends so bad it's pathetic.> "Somehow, I don't believe you."

"You are free to believe what you wish." As she started to walk off, she said, "How long have you been living in this town?"

"Two years. Why?"

Shawukay turned to face Dawn directly. "I was killing vampires before you were born, Dawn. And not out of some destiny. I did it for revenge for what one vampire did to my family."

"Was that why you bailed me out? Just to kill vamps?" Dawn asked, suddenly less certain about this situation.

The pointy-eared girl's reaction surprised her. Her eyes fell to the ground as she whispered, "I still wonder sometimes."

<Whoa. Blunt much? Great. A pointy-eared, Daniel Boone dressing Cordelia.> Dawn said, "Look, Shaw. I'm not gonna say I know why you do things, but you seemed more pissed they were attacking me than that they were living vamps. So I'll kinda think that you were helping me, not getting your kicks playing Inigo Montoya."

"Who?"

"Great. Pop-culture challenged," Dawn muttered. She looked around, checking for vamps, and said, "Look, you look like you want a friend or three, a lot. So why don't you just sit down and talk a bit?"

The woman watched her for several seconds, the conflict in her eyes showing to Dawny. She finally said, "It is not so simple, Dawn."

"Come on. How long a story can this be?"

"Fifty-three years."

Dawn groaned since she instinctively knew that she meant every word. "How about the short version?"

Shawukay considered her offer, and said, "One of the first things you must understand about me is that I am not from this world, Dawn."

"What? You from another dimension or something?"

The half-elf nodded. Dawn's eyebrow went up. "You are? Cool!" When Shawukay's eyes rose at the use of the word, Dawn sighed. "Okay, first thing; if you're gonna stay on Earth, you gotta learn how to speak Earthspeak." Realizing that she might not get that point either, Dawn said, "Let's just get back to you, okay?"

Smiling a bit at Dawn's frustration, the woman nodded. She crouched and idly drew circles on the sidewalk with a finger. "I am from another dimension, as you surmised. But, again, it is not so simple. As I said, I have kin here in Sunnydale."

Dawn cocked her head and asked, "What, you're worried about how she'll react to the elf thing? No problem. We have a fairy living here in Sunnydale already. And lots of people know about the vamps but pretend they don't. So an elf wouldn't be that much of a stretch to believe."

"You have a fairy living in this town?" Shaw asked curiously.

"Yeah, Robin Goodfellow," she grinned, happy to find a common ground. "Have you heard of him?" When Shawukay shook her head, Dawn continued. "He's also called the Merry Wanderer of the Night…" She stopped when Shaw hissed in shock.

"HE is living in this town?" she whispered.

"Yeah, but he's not Puck. You see…"

"Why would you say something like that?" the woman asked her. "I know that the Merry… Goodfellow, you say? I know that he and Puck are different beings. What fool could possibly mistake one for the other?"

"Only the greatest writer in our world's history!" Dawn protested. When Shaw cocked an eyebrow, she shrugged. "Okay, he was drunk when he wrote the story."

"This explains so much about the strangeness of this world."

"Hey!" Dawn snapped. "This is a GREAT world! Well, except for the Hellmouth part. But we're talking about you!"

"Yes, we do seem to veer from the topic, do we not?" Shaw chuckled.

Dawn smiled at how the elf seemed to loosen up a bit, although she was rubbing her ribs again. "So what's complicated about you being from another world?"

Fidgeting a bit, Shawukay looked her in the eyes. She slowly said, "One of my ancestors, my great-grandmother, came from this world. She journeyed to my world to explore it, but fell in love, married…"

"I get the point," Dawn said. When Shawukay looked at her dubiously, she said, "Oh, come on! Like you said, I know what sex is. I'm twelve, but I'm not dumb."

"I did not insinuate that, Dawn," Shaw promised. Continuing on, she told the child, "The complication to this is. . . my great-grandmother had a sister, an Earthwoman. She…" With a sigh of uncertainty, she admitted her secret. "She has a descendant, a young woman not much older than yourself, perhaps early into her adult years, who is my cousin." She bowed her head. "As far as I know, she is the only family I have left on any world, Dawn."

Dawn considered everything, listening intently. She put the pieces together fairly rapidly. "You've got no other family here? On Earth or wherever you're from?"

"That is correct," the ranger told her, standing up. Dawn could hear the conflict in her words. "And she is part of the reason I am here in Sunnydale. Aside from the mission I have."

"What is it?"

Shawukay rubbed at her face. "Dawn, the less people that know about this, the less chance there is of someone getting injured or worse."

"You mean you're afraid of working with anyone," Dawn accused her.

The older woman turned on Dawn, anger showing in her eyes. "Dawn, you do not know anything about me, what I am like, or why I am here. So do not presume to make assumptions about me. Thank you."

"Oh let's see. You're good with a sword, you maybe saved my life, maybe saved Brian's life, you're scared about meeting this family you've got, you don't like vamps ‘cause they killed your folks, and you're still pissed about it. Close enough?" Dawn snapped back at her.

She watched Shawukay trembling in anger, wondering if she'd pushed her little gamble too far. Finally, after staring at each other for several seconds, tears started to form in Shawukay's eyes. The fighter turned away and said, "You have no idea how hard this was for me."

"What was?" Dawn asked, trying not to push the envelope too far.

Shaw turned back and said, "I buried everything I felt over their deaths. For twenty-five years, because I did not want to let go of them. And when I finally do that, begin to let the pain fade… I am told that I have family here, on this world." She walked forward a bit. "I have been alone for twenty-five years, and then I am suddenly told that I had family on this world all along, when I never knew I had this aspect of my ancestry, that I… did not have to be alone? And it nearly destroyed me, being alone. I nearly became, in truth, a cold-blooded killer of vampires. I do not like to remember just how close I came, Dawn."

"Sounds like you're coming back," Dawn reasoned with certainty.

"I hope so," Shawukay said with a sigh, turning away and looking at anything but Dawn's eyes.

Dawn actually felt sorry for her. "Don't you have any friends to talk to? You know, to talk about this stuff?"

"Not in this town, no."

"Oh," Dawn said. She then asked, "Why are you telling me this stuff, then?"

Shawukay shrugged, unable to answer the question. Still, Dawn decided not to go too far, because Shaw actually wanted to trust someone.

"Okay," she said, switching subjects. "But what kind of mission are you here for?"

"I do not even know that," she helplessly answered. "It is like being in an impossible situation. All I know is that it involves a prophecy. . ." She stopped at Dawn's moan. She turned around, concern for the girl etched on her features. "What?"

"You said the ‘P' word!" Summers groaned. "You said, ‘prophecy!' We have to deal with those ALL the time!"

"Like I wish to deal with it," Shaw grumbled.

Dawn nodded in understanding. "Yeah, but do you deal with them every other month or so?"

"Thank the Goddess, no," Shawukay said with way too much relief.

"Goddess? Which one?"

"Excuse me?"

"Who's your Goddess? Artemis?"

*****

Shawukay shook her head, wondering how the child had knowledge of mythology. "No, not Artemis. My Goddess is Mielikki, the Lady of the Forest. She is the Goddess of forests, forest creatures, rangers, dryads, and autumn."

"She's a God from your world, right?"

Sensing that it might be prudent to limit her answer, she said, "Yes, but I am told that she was once worshipped here, on this world."

"Never heard of her," Dawn said with a shrug.

Shawukay shrugged. "So I have noticed with many people of your world. They do not seem to have an interest in the Gods of your ancient peoples. But you do."

"What, I can't read good stuff like that?" Dawn asked. "I like to read."

*****

Seeming satisfied with her answer, Shaw nodded, leading Dawn to sigh in relief. <Good save, Dawn.> She looked back at Shawukay and said, "So you got stuck with a prophecy thing and you gotta find out what it is?"

"Unfortunately, but I would rather do this on my own."

Dawn felt some frustration over her unwillingness to open up. <Well geez, she doesn't have any friends here, what did you expect?> "Uhm, Shaw?" The woman glanced at her. "Look, I know you said you're not the ‘makes friends easy' type, but if you want, I know some people that could help you out with that. And they could help you with the whole ‘get into Earth girl mode' thing." She brightened up, and said, "And if you want, they could help you find that family you have here. They'd be glad to help." She asked, "Do you know anything about her? Where this family is? Or have you called her yet?"

"No," Shawukay admitted. She uneasily glanced at Dawn and said, "I am afraid of what she might say. That…" She turned away. "That she might reject me. That…" With a cracked voice, she finished, "I would be alone again."

Dawn walked up and gripped Shawukay's arm. "Hey, come on, you can't assume something bad's gonna happen. You really think she'd tell you to go to Hell? Why don't you call her and arrange a meeting? That is, if she's close."

"I… like you said, I am frightened about how she will react if she finds out what I was like."

Dawn stepped in front of her. "You know, if you want, my sister and her boyfriend might be able to arrange a meeting. If your cousin knows about this kind of supernatural stuff, it could smooth things over."

Shaw looked like she was thinking about it, but Dawn decided not to push much further. Instead she said, "Tell you what. Let's get to my place, and I'll tell you about Sunnydale. Maybe you can tell me stuff about you, okay?"

The elf girl seemed to like the idea, and she nodded with a tiny smile. "Agreed, provided I am allowed to keep certain things secret."

"Fair enough." Dawn was ecstatic; not only was she gonna get some info on Shawukay here, she just might have a friend in the making.

*****

"YOU LOST MY SISTER?!?" Buffy Summers screeched. "YOU ARE SO DEAD!!!"

"Hey!" Cordelia protested angrily. "It's not like we could counter her witchcraft! And look at Xander; he feels bad enough already!"

The others looked over to Xander, who was sulking. He felt worse than anyone, considering his close relationship with Dawn. And Buffy couldn't help but know that Cordy was extremely pissed about having the Whammy put on her by whomever had carried Dawn off.

Giles slowly said, "Cordelia, please go ever the events once again. Every detail that you can recall."

"Giles, we can't wait!" Buffy snapped. She waved her arm at the woods. "For all we know, she could have Dawn in MEXICO by now! We don't have time to play ‘Mistress of the Recap!'"

"Buffy, we'll get them back," Steve promised, rubbing her shoulders in a vain attempt to calm her. "We'll surround the woods and comb every inch if we have to. She won't get far." He looked to Cordelia. "Go ahead."

"Okay," the Amazon warrior said. She took a deep breath to gather her thoughts. "Okay. Xander and I were on our way home when we saw this Ladyhawke rip-off walking into the park."

"Description?" Giles asked.

"Five-five, maybe five-six. Cloak, flaming sword…"

"Wait a second, Cordelia," Jenny inserted, her dark eyes furrowed. "You said her eyes glowed red in the dark when she looked at you."

"Duh!" Cordelia snapped. "Like I can forget!"

"Were they glowing or shining?" Steve asked, trying to get the exact details.

It only took a second for the point to catch on. "Shined. Kind of like a dog or cat's," Cordy said, quite sure of herself.

Steve looked at Oz. "Oz, see if you can catch her scent. If so, retrace the path she took out of here. Willow, Xander, go with him and see if you can find anything."

"Got it," Xander said, anxious to make up for Dawn's disappearance.

"How about us?" Buffy asked nervously.

Steve gave her a kind look. "We'll wait, but let the girls try their tracing spell. It'll save time and we won't have to split up to search the town. We might be dealing with an Unseelie elf. They're bad news."

Robin shook his head. "No, we're not. I recognized the signature from the spell and we're dealing with a priest of Mielikki. A shaman or nature priestess."

"Mielikki?" Giles asked, taking his glasses off. "The Finnish Goddess of the Forest?"

"Yep. I've known her for a long time. She's really good friends with Arty too. And Millie doesn't let evil kids worship her. So whoever did this is a good guy." He frowned. "I don't know why she used the charming spell on Cordy, unless it was to avoid getting some hot lead put through her body."

Buffy swallowed, but nodded because he was right; they had pointed guns at her when she'd seemed concerned about Dawn's injuries. The thought of Dawn being hurt sent tremors running through her heart. "All right," she concluded. "But if anything happens to her…"

Anything further was cut off by Willow's shout that they had found something. The Slayerettes turned and headed over to the edge of the tree line, where Willow was holding her hand up in display, a triumphant smile on her face.

The first to them, Buffy breathlessly asked, "What've you got, Will? Please say it's good news."

"Take a look."

The gang observed the item. There were some strands of black, curly hair in her hand. "Whose hair is that?" Cordelia asked, glancing at Oz.

"It's from whoever took Dawn," Willow answered for him. She let a feral smile come to her face. "This is so good."

"How is it good?" Buffy asked; the mechanics of witchcraft were usually beyond her.

Amy smiled with Willow. "Instead of trying to track Dawn, we can use her hair to track her. Since it's a physical part of her, we'll focus on her person itself, not on the person she's got. We'll get a better reading."

"There's not much there," Randi pointed out.

Jenny smiled. "Think of it from a detective's point of view, Randi. The hair will give us the magical version of a DNA sample. In magical terms, it will give us a stronger ‘fix' on the woman that has Dawn and take us right to her."

"Is this sort of like a voodoo doll thing you see in the movies?" Xander asked, getting ugly glares from Jenny, Amy, Willow, and Robin.

"Who's going to do the honors?" Amy asked, looking at her fellow witches.

Sounding chipper, Willow raised her hand. "I'll do it."

Everyone cleared back at least five feet so that Willow would have some space. She sat down cross-legged and began to concentrate in order to gather her magical energies. Taking a few deep breaths to clear her mind, the junior spell caster of the Scooby Gang began chanting in Celtic.

[[ I beseech the trackers of the old times,
Come to me and aid my quest.
Take this offering, link it to my prey,
Come to me and aid my quest.
Born of flesh, grown of life,
Linked by aura, bound by blood,
Guide me to that which I seek. ]]

"Cha, Cha, Cha," Xander finished. "OW!"

"Stop that!" Cordelia ordered. "Who knows what you could do to muck up her spell!"

"I just wish they'd speak in English for once," he whispered.

"Point," his girlfriend conceded. "Now shut up, Dweeb Boy."

The Scooby Gang watched as the hair sample seemed to fold in on itself. Willow opened her eyes, which glowed with a misty green light for a few moments before fading to their normal color. She seemed to be looking off into space, perhaps seeing something others couldn't. "Okay, I've got… wait a second."

"I don't like the sound of that," Buffy said nervously.

"Quiet, Buffy," Jenny instructed while glancing at the Wicca. "The spell Willow cast made an entreaty to the spirit world. Apparently, someone answered. Give her a few moments to get her bearings."

The others continued to watch their teammate carry on a one-sided conversation.

<Why am I getting two readings?>

// May I ask how I am supposed to know that? // the amused voice replied.

Willow "frowned" at the nebulous spirit she could sense. <I told you to come!>

// No, // the spirit, a female by Willow's "feel" of it, sternly corrected. // You asked for my help. I felt your emotions for the child you seek, so I came. Among other reasons. //

<What reasons?> the Wicca asked.

// You have the Slayer among your group. //

Willow licked her lips. <Yes.>

In a gentler voice, the woman said, // The Slayer was known in my time. Know that I am Eckaria of the Kaaveti, a tribe of England all but exterminated by the same conquerors that destroyed your sister Amazons in ancient times. You asked me to link you to, and help you track, your prey. As a hunter in my mortal life, I can do this. The fact that you asked, rather than commanded, was not unnoticed. I feel a link to the two entities you are sensing, but I do not know why. I am the tracker, but it was your phrasing of spell that called me. But what I can tell you is that the one you are hunting is the one furthest away. I can focus on her and lead you to her, while ignoring the other. //

<But you don't know why I'm getting the reading from…> She glanced around and focused. <Amy? >

// As I said, you must review the wording of the spell, daughter of Artemis, // the spirit sharing Willow's mind offered. // That is all I can say. //

"Okay, thanks," Willow said. She focused on the mundane world. "I've got her. Let's move."

*****

Dawn and Shaw were looking across the street to make sure no one was going to see them, especially Shaw, out in the dark. She wasn't going to risk her elven side becoming known, but she was more concerned about Dawn's safety.

Dawn kind of liked that.

Still, she was having a hard time convincing Shaw to meet with this family she had in town. <Of course, not knowing the name puts a crimp on my plans.> But she still gave it the old college try.

"If you want to try and find your cousin, I can call my Mom, she's great at playing peacemaker. Trust me, with Buffy, she has to be. ."

"No."

The answer stopped Dawn's selling speech. She rolled her eyes and said, "Oh come on! You want to meet her! It's obvious! Just do it and get it over with!" When Shaw didn't answer, she said, "God, you really are afraid, aren't you?" Look, this kind of thing is gonna come out, what happens if she finds out you've been holding back and didn't tell her? Don't you think she'll be a bit pissed about it? Shaw, I hope you don't mind but you sound really lonely, you know? Isn't it better to think that maybe you can find your cousin and stop being lonely?"

Shawukay seemed to be considering the words. She glanced at her and asked, "Do you truly think so?"

Before Dawn could answer, a yell brought both girls back to reality.

"FREEZE!"

Dawn turned and saw three very powerful, very pissed Amazon witches staring at them, six hands pulsing with arcane energy. Jenny, being the grown up, strode forward a couple of paces.

"Dawn," she said softly, "walk away from her. Slowly."

"Jenny, wait. ."

"Don't worry," Miss Calendar assured her, "we've got plenty of guns pointing at her. It's safe, so come to us."

"Sorry, no can do." She was not going to blow this meeting!

The response startled Jenny, who was more shocked to see Dawn step between them and the woman who'd taken her. "Dawn, what are you doing?"

"Didn't Bri, Tweetle-Fighter, and Tweetle-Amazon tell you she saved my ass from some vamps?" Dawn snapped angrily. "She only dragged me into the woods to keep those doofuses from putting a bullet in our butts before she could fix my ribs!"

Two sharp "HEY'S!" could be heard from the distance.

"Dawn…" Willow started, but the brown-haired kid shot her down.

"Shaw here just wanted to get me back home, so I didn't have to listen to Buffy chew my butt for going to see a movie," Dawn said, folding her arms and glaring at the witches. "Me and her got to talking, and we were just getting to some good stuff when you come in here singing "Here I Come To Save The Day." She's not evil, she's not a vamp, she's not a demon, she's.."

"Hoping you will allow me to tell them these things myself," came the dry comment from Shaw, still holding her hands up.

"Right," Dawn said with a nod. She said, "Well?"

Jenny glanced at the others, who let the magic in their hands die down. Jenny held up a commlink and said, "We're green. Dawn says she's a friendly." She lowered her arm and said, "Shaw, is it? I apologize, but we were worried about Dawn."

"I understand," came the answer. Dawn shook her head in frustration and said, "You can turn around and talk to her, silly."

Dawn stepped aside to that she wouldn't be in anyone's way. She watched as Shawukay turned around to face the witches of the Scooby Gang. She heard a startled gasp come from one of her friends and turned toward them. She was quite surprised to see Jenny staring at Shaw, her jaw hanging open.

The confused Summers girl watched as Jenny turned back and forth, looking from Shawukay to Amy and back again. Wondering what Jenny was Wigging over, she asked, "What is it, Jenny?"

"Don't you see…" she started before fixating on the stranger. Dawn followed her gaze and saw something pass between the two.

This time, it was Amy who asked, "Jenny, what's wrong?"

Before she could answer, the others had come walking up. Put on her guard, Shaw turned to face those who were sneaking up behind her. Giles and Robin stopped short as they laid eyes upon the woman who'd dragged Dawn off of parts unknown.

"Rupe," the fairy asked in astonishment, "do you see what I see?"

"I believe so," the befuddled Brit responded with a dry whisper. "And don't call me Rupe, Puck."

"WHAT?!?" Amy, Willow, and Dawn demanded at once.

"Well, Miss? Do you want to tell her?" Jenny asked Shaw.

Shawukay turned back to the witches and focused on Amy, warring emotions clearly visible in her eyes. A seeming eternity passed as they watched each other, during which Dawn snuck over to Jenny's side.

"What's up with her?" Dawn asked her sister's computer teacher.

Jenny kindly whispered, "Did she tell you anything about herself?"

"Yeah, she told me all kinds of stuff; she's half elf, she's a good guy, she's from another dimension except for a great-grandma, and she has a cousin here…" Dawn finally put the pieces together. "Hoo boy."

"I second that," Jenny muttered.

She looked to Amy, who finally decided to make the first move. "What is it? Do you have something to say to me?"

Very slowly, the half-elf said, "You had an ancestor named Alison, did you not? Around a century ago?"

The Slayerettes looked to Amy, who looked like she'd been gut punched. She hoarsely asked, "How did you know about her?"

"She…" Shawukay paused, plainly nervous now that this moment was upon her. She tried to figure out what to say. "Alison was…" Finally, she gathered her courage and said, "Alison, your ancestor, was my great-grandmother."

Jenny just nodded in agreement, but most of the others were confused until Robin spelled it out for those who were not as fast to recognize the slight resemblance Dawn now saw between the two women. "Amy, you never told me you had a half-elven cousin from another dimension!"

Dawn could feel the ripple of shock pass through most of the group and looked with the others at the fairy, who just looked around and asked, "What?"

Amy, having had what the revelation driven home by Robin's tactless comment, turned and stormed off. Willow took off after her to calm her down. Dawn saw Shaw's face fall. She started to move after Amy and Willow, and the littlest Summers could see her whispering, "No…"

Jenny intercepted the nerve-wracked half-elf, who glared at the Gypsy with fire-filled eyes. Dawn moved over to help, since she'd seen Jenny's spells and Shaw's sword in action, and didn't want to see them go up against each other.

"Let me go!" Shaw hissed in desperation. "Please…"

"Whoa, Shaw," Dawn interjected. When the ranger looked at her, she said, "She needs some time to let it sink in. You did drop a bomb on her."

"What?" the puzzled woman asked, not understanding the reference.

Dawn saw that Jenny sympathized with Shaw's emotions, but the teacher said, "What Dawn's saying is that you just handed Amy something of a shock. She'll need some time to accept what she just learned, although it's obvious to some who see you together."

When Shaw's eyes furrowed, Dawn told her, "She said there's a family resemblance. And I don't think she means the ears."

Shaw settled down a bit and nodded. She looked at Jenny. "I understand about the shock. It was not easy for me to learn of this, either."

Dawn smiled at her acceptance, but it faded when the grim-looking Steve and Buffy came over. "Uh oh."

"Oh, that doesn't even begin to cover it," the Slayer growled. She let her fury-laden eyes bore into Dawn and said, "What the Hell were you doing in the park?!?"

"Coming home from a movie!" Dawn snapped. "If you two had gotten the vamps tonight, we wouldn't have been jumped!"

"We were packing for our vacation!" Buffy wailed. "I left you a note!"

"Well excuse me for taking a shortcut you've told me to take!"

"Oh no. You are not going to worm your way out of this one, Dawnie!" Big Sis promised. Before Dawn could protest, Buffy turned to the woman who'd led her team on their merry chase. She offered her hand to Shaw. "Shaw, right? Thanks. Thank you for keeping my nitwit sister from becoming a vamp Happy Meal."

Shaw squinted until she got the gist of Buffy's statement. As the two shook hands, she said, "To be perfectly honest, Buffy, Dawn deserves some of the credit in the rescue."

"WHAT?!?" both Summers girls shouted.

Shaw gave Dawn a warm smile. "I could not have done it without her help," she declared. "She distracted a vampire from attacking me and possibly saved me some grave injuries."

"What did she do?" Steve asked, not entirely certain he wanted to know.

Shawukay told him anyway. "She stabbed him in the genitals and was going to strike him down before he got a lucky blow on her. You have certainly done well in teaching her the basics."

Not sure about taking the word of someone who considered stabbing a vampire in his cahones to be "among the basics," and ignoring the snickers and giggles of the others, Buffy looked at the now beaming twelve-year-old. The Slayer sighed in defeat. "Fine. I'll cover for her with Mom."

Dawn just grinned at Buffy's discomfort. <I love being me.>

"Excuse me," Robin said, looking directly at Amy's newly revealed cousin, "but I just thought I'd say ‘welcome to Earth.' I figured you and I could talk."

"About what?" the suspicious elf asked.

Robin just shrugged and said something in a melodic tongue. Shawukay blinked, but recovered and said something back, sounding like a question. Robin smiled and replied before looking at Buffy and Steve. "Give us a few?"

Steve nodded, and Robin held an arm out to let Shaw lead the way. She sent a longing look at Amy, who was talking with Willow, who was apparently trying to calm down the ire of her fellow witch. When they moved off, the leaders of the Sunnydale bunch focused on the subject of their rescue operation.

*****

"Amy, wait up!" Willow called out. "Amy, I need to talk to you."

Amy turned around and folded her arms in anger. "How DARE she!"

"Amy, what's this about?"

Amy, fuming to near the boiling point, hissed, "Alison Madison was my great-great-grandaunt. She disappeared about a hundred years ago."

"So?"

"She met a wizard, who got friendly with her in a pen pal sense," the blonde witch continued. Shooting a glare of fury at the woman, she said, "A year later, she disappeared. Her journals say she went to some place called ‘Toril.' It was assumed that this wizard kidnapped her. Will… her sister, my great-great-grandma, was devastated when Alison disappeared. Now this woman shows up claiming to be…"

"Your cousin," Willow finished. When Amy flashed her a glare, the Wicca shrugged. "What's the big deal, Amy? We do a truth spell on her and when she lies, case closed."

// She is not lying, Willow Rosenberg, // Eckaria's voice sounded inside her mind.

<What are you still doing here?> Willow asked in surprise. Wincing at herself, she said, <Sorry. I appreciate the help, but I figured…>

// I understand, // the spirit said, humor coming through in her response. // But part of being a hunter is understanding your prey. And I could sense by her movements, the angle of her body, and her tone of voice… //

"Body English?" Willow asked, drawing a look from Amy. "Sorry, talking to the hunter spirit lady."

"She's still with you? Why?" she asked.

// Tell your sister warrior what I have said. //

When she did, Amy sarcastically snapped, "And how would you know?"

A mental sigh came through. // Tell her what I told you. Also, it might explain why I read both of them. But now I must return to my rest. Be well, Willow Rosenberg. //

"Thanks, Eckaria," Willow muttered softly. She looked to Amy and said, "She says by… Shaw's body English, she can sense Shaw was telling the truth. And why would Robin say what he said? I think he'd know something like that. Maybe he read her mind or aura or something."

"I just can't believe…"

"There's something else," the redhead admitted. She fidgeted and murmured, "Amy, remember those two readings I got?"

"Yeah," the blonde said easily, but not understanding what that had to do with it, "what about it? You read her and… me?"

"I just remembered part of the spell," Willow said, looking up at Amy with growing certainty. "Oh Goddess. Remember the part where I say, ‘bound by blood?'"

"Yeah, but what does that…" Amy said before trailing off. Her eyes widened in understanding at the implication Willow was making. "Wait a minute. No way…"

"We used her hair, and got a faint reading off of you," Willow said excitedly. Eyes gleaming with surprise, she whispered, "Amy, that explains why your reading was so faint. If she's related to you through someone from a hundred years ago, you're distant cousins… let's see, I'm usually good at this stuff."

"What stuff?"

"Well, she's related to you through your great-great-grandma's sister, right?"

"Willow…" Amy snarled.

"Amy, look at the evidence," the hacker continued. "What reason would she have to lie? I mean, she could've said she was yours and Robin's daughter from an alternate future or something, that would've been easier. But who would lie about being your… first cousin, three or four generations removed? Come on! And Robin reads auras and stuff, maybe he saw it. Or…"

Amy, still not liking this, asked, "What?"

"Jenny asked us if we saw something," Willow muttered quietly to her. She looked at Amy and said, "She just laid eyes on that Shaw girl and started looking at both of you. You don't think…"

"What?!?" the frustrated Sabrina snapped.

Willow looked at Shaw, who was talking to Robin. She squinted and asked, "Amy, can you look at her? Tell me if there's a resemblance to anyone you know."

Wondering as to the point of all this, Amy looked over the woman claiming to be descended from her missing ancestor. She studied Shaw for over a minute before offering, "Well, she's the lean type. Honestly, she reminds me of my Aunt Joan. Lean, slender, the dancer type of body. Plus her jaw line and chin are like Joan's."

"Sorta like yours?" Willow guessed with a smile.

"Well, yeah," Amy answered. "She even has my body type…"

Amy stopped and froze as Willow's subtle trap sprang around her. She just stared and double-checked everything she'd confessed to. "Goddess," she whispered inaudibly. She looked at her and said, "Willow, you can't…"

"I didn't say it. YOU did."

"Holy shit."

Willow giggled and said, "That's one way of putting it."

*****

Steve looked at Dawn and not too harshly asked, "Now, as for you, can you tell us anything about her, other than the fact that she might be Amy's cousin?"

Relieved that she wasn't about to be reamed by the Wanderer, Dawn gave him the essentials of what she'd learned from the woman while the team was running around looking for her. It only took a few moments, but it gave Steve, Buffy, Jenny, and Giles the beginnings of an understanding of the woman who'd just entered the Sunnydale picture.

"So much for our vacation," Buffy groaned, staring at Dawn as if it were entirely her fault. Dawn just stuck her tongue out in response.

"No, go ahead and leave in the morning," Giles suggested. "I'm sure that we can deal with whatever this mission of hers turns out to be."

"Even if it's end of the world stuff?" Dawn innocently asked.

"Shut up, Dawn," Buffy groaned in futility. A thought crossed her mind and she asked, "Dawn, how did you get her to spill her guts? Why did she talk to you of all people?"

"Maybe because I tried to be nice to her," Dawn said with a shrug. "Or maybe because I didn't point a gun at her like some people did while she was carrying me."

Buffy, Steve, Giles, and Jenny all slowly turned and let their gazes fall upon Xander and Cordelia, who had heard everything.

"You pointed guns at my sister?"

Xander stammered, "We were trying to save her and Brian!"

"You pointed guns at my sister?"

Cordelia stammered, "We were trying to save her from that Dungeons and Dragons reject!"

"You. Pointed. Guns. At. My. Sister."

Xander and Cordelia looked at each other.

"We are so dead."

*****

A few minutes later, the Slayerettes had decided to adjourn to Steve's house for an intelligence briefing. Shawukay had been extended an invitation, but was reluctant until supporting nods from both Robin and Dawn had convinced her to go.

As they started walking for their vehicles, Dawn walked up to her while she was stealing glances at Amy, who'd been avoiding her as she struggled to accept what she'd learned.

"Hey, you okay?" Dawn asked her.

The priestess turned to Dawn and admitted, "I am not certain. But you were accurate about one thing; it was better that I tell her now, rather than wait. I can at least take comfort in the knowledge that she knows about me. That is enough for now."

"Cool," Dawn gushed. She leaned in and whispered, "By the way, thanks for bailing me out with Buffy. I owe you one, two if you count the rib thing."

Shaw smiled at her and turned her head the slightest bit to get a better look at the twelve-year-old. In the same whispery tone, she said, "If anything, Dawn Summers, I owe you."

"I don't get it," Dawn said.

"You will."

*****

Dawn wondered about what she meant by that, but decided to let it go for now. It was more important that Shaw had needed someone to trust, and she'd tried to help her out.

<Now, how do I get Shaw and Amy to get along…>


Have Gunn, Will Slay

A Christmas Tale featuring our little time-traveling CyberSlayer and her Bald Headed Boy Toy

<How long is he going to take?>

She turned her head back to the door and once again wondered what was going to happen. The agony of waiting was just too much to take.

<But I can't barge in,> she disappointedly reminded herself. If she did, it might ruin everything.

Or, if not everything, a part of her existence.

She stood up, leaving the uncomfortable chair. She started pacing, boot heels clacking on the tile. Refusing to let tears start running from her dark eyes, the woman stepped in front of the mirror and just stared at her reflection.

Sniffing and hating the wait, she replayed her memories of the night's events and what the ramifications, both for her and her man, might be.

*****

East Side Teen Shelter
East Side
Los Angeles, California
24 December 1999

<There! I'm finally done!>

Putting the last of far too many pieces of tape onto the wall, Kenzie let out a sigh of blessed relief. The Christmas lights were finally up!

Jumping off the stepladder and flawlessly landing with the squeak of rubber soles, Kenzie wiped some sweat off her forehead. She closed the tool case and folded the stepladder so she could check with Lily and get ready for her own plans for the evening.

<As I'm committed tomorrow…> After putting the supplies away, she walked out into the front room to relax with the wee lads and lasses. She did check on her boss first, letting her know she was done with her share of the work. The girls shared a laugh since that meant Charles was still struggling with the "man's" work.

Eyes gleaming with laughter, Kenzie snuck over to where Charles was cursing almost as well as she could. Yes, he was in grave danger of failing in the mission he'd undertaken for Lily.

She smirked and leaned against the doorjamb, folding her arms. "Does the Knight of the Hood need assistance with yonder opponent?"

"Shut up, K-Z," he grumbled at her. With disgust that made her giggle, he balled up the paper he'd been holding and tossed it on the table.

Following his eye, the Scottish Slayer looked at the opponent determined to make them late for their Christmas Eve date. He looked at her then and growled at her for thinking the situation was humorous.

"Tell me again why we can't spring for a real tree?"

Kenzie started ticking off disguised metallic fingernails. "It's a fire hazard. It's cheaper, giving us more money for the tykes' presents. I spend enough time cleaning up this place after the wee ones, and I don't need pine needles and sticky sap adding to the list. And finally, we thought you'd have it put together in less time than it takes to put up a real tree." She shook her head and sighed dramatically. "Lily will be devastated to learn our confidence in you was misplaced."

"Kiss my ass," he groaned in frustration.

"In public? Sorry, Charlie, but I'm not that type of Lost Boy."

She wondered what kind of thoughts were running behind those suddenly glazed over eyes.

<Awwww. Have we been thinking dirty thoughts, Charlie me lad?>

Well, she did have to be honest with herself; he wasn't the only one doing that. So, she decided to let him off the hook, despite the instinct to tease him worse.

"You read the directions, I'll do the assembly. But don't be mad when I order the good stuff at dinner."

"We get this done, money's no object."

They shared a laugh and set to work.

*****

They shared a laugh at Charles' story and kept walking down the street. "You never told me that!"

"Damn straight!" he said, raising a hand like he was taking an oath. "The elf vamp hunter gave Jaina a grenade launcher! Crazy woman blew up the demons' SUV in the middle of the street!" He shivered and she had a pretty good idea why. "Thank God they didn't let her keep the damn thing."

<Aunt Shaw always loved those new toys… > She'd read the reports to the Society more than once, but she always enjoyed hearing the story from the Boys' point of view. She leaned against Charles' body and he tightened the arm he had around her waist. She "hmmmed" contentedly; when she was with Charles, things seemed so simple. She wasn't Kenzie MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, Kenzie MacLeod of 2105, Kenzie MacLeod the Vampire Slayer, or even the woman from the future sent back to assume a place with Section Seven in due time.

Right now, she was just K-Z, girlfriend to a bald headed hunk named Gunn.

She jumped when he tried to tickle her stomach and she gave him a soft elbow to the gut. He laughed at their antics and she leaned her head on his shoulder, just enjoying their free night before the party for the Boys and kids at the shelter.

"K-Z, can I ask you something?"

She just kept her eyes closed and kept walking. "Mm-hmm," she purred.

"Why aren't you getting together with your folks tomorrow?" he asked point blank.

She was dropped back into the real world with the question. She stiffened and muttered, "I can't, Charles."

"How come? They on some kinda UN mission or something?"

"I… I can't talk about it," she said slowly. She hoped he wouldn't press the issue, because that would mean lying to him. <Goddess, please don't…>

He didn't seem to get the subtle hint. "Did you at least get to talk to them?"

"I've been writing letters." That much was true. She'd been writing down her experiences in letterform, putting them in a safe place until sometime in the future, when her Mum and Da might learn how she'd followed her destiny.

"I just feel sorry for you, I guess." He gave her a hug that showed how gentle he could be when he dropped the badass persona. "I know what it's like to go without family for Christmas."

She backed up a step and reached up to stroke his cheek. "I am with my family."

His eyes and lips smiled brighter than a 60-watt light bulb. It spurred her on and she drew his face down for some old-fashioned 20th century lip locking and tongue action. As their tongues tested each other, Kenzie's hands drifted downward to clasp behind his back, just above his beltline.

She felt her body responding to the kiss and embraced the sensations, riding them higher and higher. Just as she was reaching the point where she'd be tempted to rip his clothes off with all her Slayer strength, Kenzie's overpowering lust was shattered amidst the sudden pain in her abdomen and rush of hostile emotions directed at her and her Chrome Dome Boy Toy.

She pushed off and whirled around, automatically reaching for her pockets.

*****

Gunn's head stopped spinning when K-Z pushed off him and started looking around, glossy hair flying back and forth.

<Fuck!> He knew that look; his baby was on the prowl. That meant vamps. <But how the Hell did she know?>

Kenzie reached in the pockets of her tan leather coat and pulled out a pair of little .38's. "Make the shots count, Charles," she said, handing him the revolvers without looking. He took the pieces so she could reach under her coat.

That meant she was packing her Ginsu.

She brought her blade out and held it to her side. Borne out of necessity, Gunn moved around her back and took up a spot on her right side. <Damn lefties,> he "grumbled." Out the side of his mouth, he muttered, "How many?"

"I…" He realized she'd been about to answer him right off the bat. She hesitated but said, "They're around the corner and in the alley before the corner. They hope to catch us between them."

"How do you know that, baby?"

She gave him what she called the "Highlander" smirk and he saw her deep brown eyes gleaming in the moonlight. "That's what we would do."

<If we were patrolling,> the leader finished. <Damn, she's good.>

"So how do we do this?" she asked.

He wasn't surprised; they were surely outnumbered, but they weren't gonna let the vamps go just so they could find an easier meal. No, they had to go down.

"I say we take ‘em down," he started, "but let's hit hard and fast. Take ‘em down, pump ‘em for intel, and then dust them."

"Intel? You're either talking like a white man or a lorry."

Gunn moaned to himself. <ME talking like a cop? No way!> Here she was, his girlfriend of all people, teasing him by telling him he was talking like The Man. But sometimes he envied her in a way; she was a mixed kid who couldn't care less about that fact. She saw herself as a badass hottie and that was that.

"On three?"

"Damn straight, lover."

She started forward, carefully keeping her blade out of sight from the alley. He took a second to catch up.

<WHAT did she call me?!?>

*****

Kenzie kept her pace brisk yet controlled until she was two steps from the opening to the alley. With a release of the energy she almost always kept on a tight leash, the Slayer shouted, "Now!"

She broke into a sprint, startling the vamps hiding in the alley. She didn't even think to look at them; Charles had her back. Sure enough, she heard the crack of gunfire and screams that told her that her "Anatomy 101" classes had worked.

<No matter how strong or dead they are, vamps still have human bodies. The head and kneecaps make great targets.>

As she expected, three vamps came around the corner to intercept her, their games faces on full display. Sorting out the trio's feelings, she leaped at the most aggressive. Her leopard skin print boot connected with his jaw and sent him staggering back.

The other two vamps stopped, caught way out of whack by being uncovered! She grinned and took advantage of it; one quick, clean kenjitsu strike later, scratch one undead man walking.

Two more shots rang out and Kenzie smelled more dust. <Good. Charles has better aim than he did a year ago.> The other two vamps gang attacked her, making her duck and weave.

The woman gritted her teeth; unlike most vampires, these two knew what they were doing. They worked as a team and they kept out of her katana's reach. <This is not good.>

"I could use some help here, Kenzie!" Charles shouted. Additional growling made her heart race with fear. But there was only one way to keep both she and Gunn from suffering some serious injuries. She had to let it all hang out, never mind the consequences when Charles figured it out.

To quote one of her Uncle Alex's favorite battle cries:

It was clobbering time.

*****

Gunn put another round into the fourth vamp's knee, making it drop to the trash-filled ground. He put a second round through his forehead, knowing it'd take time to get up from that.

Keeping half an eye on his targets, the boss of the Lost Boys aimed his gun in the direction of the vamps fighting his girl. His eyes went wide as he caught sight of Kenzie doing things way beyond anything he'd ever seen even from her.

*****

Kenzie leaped over the vampire to her left and twisted one hundred eighty degrees. The instant she landed, she snap kicked him in the back of the head, knocking him into a stumble that put him between her and the other one. Acting on pure Slayer-honed instinct, she took a three-step running start and jumped, executing a textbook spinning back kick that clocked him in the same area.

Thinking she'd just left him an opening by concentrating on his partner, the second vamp charged her with your typical bloodsucker growl. Kenzie threw a side kick into his jaw and hoped Charles wouldn't make a joke about flashing the vamp or showing what little of her long legs was not covered by her leather miniskirt.

As that vampire staggered back, her Slayer senses screamed that she was being blindsided. Her enhanced hearing picked up the sound of a switchblade being opened and she whipped around, just in time to catch the blade in her right hand. Literally.

Her eyes narrowed to little slits she could barely see out of. The Slayer ripped the knife out of his hand and punched him with her left, catching him right between those ugly yellow eyes. Throwing the knife aside, she reached out, grabbed the vampire by the throat, and lifted the dazed thing off of his feet, squeezing tighter.

"That," she growled with a low, brogue voice, "HURT."

The sound of rubber scuffling on concrete spurred her into motion. With little more than a flick of her wrist, the Edinburgh native tossed the vamp into her other playmate. As they tumbled to the ground, Kenzie walked up and performed to cross cuts, slicing their necks in half and sending them to Hell.

Shaking her bionic hand, Kenzie wished once again that the doctors hadn't done their thing so perfectly.

<There are some drawbacks to nerve receptors,> she groaned. A quick extension of her senses told her that other than the three vamps in various stages of physical agony thanks to Charles, they were safe.

Of course, she was hardly in the mood to put them to the question. "Charles," she said with a hiss of residual Slayer rush, "just stake the bloody boggarts and let's be off."

She put her sword away and turned around to see if he was okay and needed help with staking the vampires he'd shot. She felt a lump in her throat when she saw the way he was looking at her.

<Oh no…>

Kenzie suddenly felt something she'd rarely felt in her career as the Chosen One.

Fear.

*****

<What the Hell…>

Gunn locked eyes with Kenzie and he saw the conflicting emotions within hers. He realized something was up and that she'd been keeping secrets from him. But he also realized that she'd chosen their safety over keeping them.

In his own heart, the icy fear he'd felt when she caught the blade in her hand was balanced by the feelings that said she'd lied to him about herself. The former won out for the moment and he walked over to her.

"Lemme see your hand, Kenzie," he said, trying to sound neutral.

He hoped she'd look him in the eyes but she bowed her head and let him take her hand. He looked at her for a second before looking to see how bad her hand was bleeding. It took him a second to understand that she hadn't even been scratched. He examined the warm skin for a few more seconds, trying to get it through his mental denial that she wasn't hurt.

Again, he felt two emotions pulling him apart; relief that she wasn't hurt, and betrayal over whatever secrets she'd been keeping from him.

"Kenzie?" he asked, that one word asking a thousand questions at once.

Her eyes closed and tears started leaking out. "Not here," she whispered, "not out in the open."

Seeing the common sense in that, he nodded. "Okay." <But she didn't say she wouldn't talk.>

He hoped that when she did, it wouldn't make things worse.

*****

Casa del Kenzie
Westwood
Los Angeles, California
24 December 1999

Gunn continued watching K-Z, who just kept giving him the silent treatment, although he figured it was more from what he might think, than from not wanting to talk.

Finally, he realized that she was scared.

He wondered why but figured it had something to do with the fact she wasn't "normal." "Kenzie," he said quietly, "talk to me."

She raised her eyes to his and mumbled, "What am I supposed to say, Charles?"

He looked her over, her black sweater and leather miniskirt. She'd pulled off the boots to avoid getting dirt or vamp dust on the carpet, but she looked less sexy and more vulnerable now.

"Tell you what, Kenzie," he said, deciding to lay his cards on the table. "I'll tell you what I'm thinking, and when I'm done, you tell me if I'm wrong."

She winced and it made the simmering anger come back to the front of his mind.

"See, here's what I'm thinking; you're some kind of super girl, I'm guessing an Amazon or something. After those suburb Section dudes came here and helped us out, they decided to send someone here to keep an eye on us, maybe make sure we didn't get in over our heads. You start volunteering at the shelter until we find you and Uncle Juan dueling the Eliminati, so you join up to keep your cover from blowing."

When she started to speak, he cut her off. "I'm not finished, Kenzie." He felt like kicking himself in the balls for the hurt look in her eyes, but he went on anyway. "Now, way I see things, at least as far as you go… somewhere along the way, things became different. You got personal. Jaina, Lily, Alonna… me. You stopped being a watchdog and became involved. Emotionally involved." He waited a few heartbeats before saying, "So how close am I?"

She looked him in the eye, he had to give her that much. "Charles, as far as being here for a reason and being emotionally involved, you're on the bloody spot."

"And the rest?" he pressed. "You an Amazon from those Section dudes?"

She stood up and started pacing, those long legs making him notice them more than he should. He didn't call her on it since it was him, not her.

"Charles, you don't understand…" she said. He could hear the pain in her voice.

<Have I put her in a tight spot?> he wondered. He stood up and walked over to stop her. He gripped her arms. "Then tell me so I do understand."

"I…" She stopped and looked at the couch. They walked over and he guided her down. She waited a few seconds before starting. "I'm no Amazon, Charles. I can tell you that; it's no secret. But there's only so much I can tell you, for… well, for two reasons."

"What are they? Classified?" he asked, sounding harsher than he wanted to.

"That's one. The second is, most of what you'd ask me… I don't know. I just don't know." He started to ask what the Hell she meant by that but she stopped him with a determined gaze. "The Section doesn't know about me, Charles. And it has to stay that way. At least for a time!"

"Wait a minute…" This didn't make any sense. "You're not with the Sunny D guys?"

"Goddess no!" She gripped his hands and all but begged him, "Charles, promise me you won't tell them! Promise me!"

"Why?" He had to know before he did it. After all, he and the Boys worked with them, at least real loosely.

She looked down and took her hand away. She laid them on her lap and she quietly said, "I'll tell you the truth. As much of it as I know or can tell you."

That was what he wanted, but he didn't want her to be forced into it. "Kenzie, I'll promise, but you have to be totally straight with me. I need it."

Her head came back up and she gazed into his eyes. "You know about psychic powers and the like, right?" He knew about mind reading and that empathic thing that the elves did, so he nodded. He believed in a lot of things. "Well, to put it succinctly, some people who know what is going to happen in the future told me I had a role to play in it."

"What?"

She rolled her eyes but he saw how strained it made her. "I don't know, Charles! I was only told the basics. I'm not a leader like you or a commander like Lieutenant Kelly! I'm a soldier, a fighter. I…"

"You follow orders, you don't give ‘em."

"I do things myself, not letting others risk themselves." She leaned back and stretched those long, sexy legs out. "Charles, knowing the future isn't easy. If there's one saying that's true, and it's from Terminator, it's that there is no future but what we make for ourselves. All I know is that sometime in the future, the Section is going to need me during a fight. An important one… a big one. And I have to be in the right place in the right time. But…"

"They didn't tell you when," he realized. She nodded and he reached out, pulling her close. He still felt the pain of her keeping this, but he knew all about awesome type responsibilities. "So you're here to help the suburb kids, but you're not one of them."

"No…" she said in a small voice, still tense and not melting into his hug. "Charles, I was pretty much told two things by those who sent me here; I wouldn't screw things up, and that precautions were taken so I wouldn't screw things up. But my life… Goddess, Charles, I live just like you do, only with the differences you know about. School, patrolling the entire city… I'm only eighteen, Charles, and I have the weight of the world on my shoulders."

"Getting a little melodramatic, aren't you?" he teased, trying to break her funk.

"Charles… I'm not an Amazon, but I'm trained to hunt vampires. What else could I be but…"

It hit him then, why she did patrol the city. <Oh my God…> "You… wait a minute. I met the Slayer! She…"

"You watch Baywatch every week," she scoffed. He knew she hated him liking that show because of all the babes. "You know that people die and come back."

<CPR, those paddle things… oh shit. > "It happened to Kendra?"

"Yes. But you have to understand, only a few even know that I'm a Slayer. You can't tell the Boys… I…" He looked down at her and her eyes were haunted. "Charles, if the Boys knew, they'd think what you thought or…"

"Someone would spill the beans," he finished. "Even accidentally. Is that why you take the risks in the patrols?"

"Not totally, no," she said, sounding more certain. She sat up and looked at the old grandfather clock. "Charles, I had a number of black belts before I was Chosen. I've always known how to fight. I told you the truth about everything else, I can swear by all that I hold holy that I have."

He believed her, and not just because he wanted to. "But they sent you here, Kenzie. To LA."

"I didn't know where I was going until I got here. My arrival was that hush-hush." She turned to him and drew her legs up underneath her, driving him nuts with the way her skirt bunched up. "Charles, the people I was sent by knew what's coming, but didn't tell me what or when, so I wouldn't anticipate it and possibly make a mistake. But they didn't tell me what I would do with my life. Everything I've done is because I wanted to. The shelter, patrolling, college…" She closed her eyes and licked her lips.

"You."

Gunn just watched her for any signs of emotions, wanting to reach out and comfort her. But he hesitated because he still knew that she'd kept this from him. Even though his brain told him it was because she had to keep things secret, and to keep from making a mess of whatever had brought her here in the first place…

His heart still told him she hadn't been honest with him.

He stood up and said, "I need to think, Kenzie." He saw the way her eyes shifted to a rising panic but he shook his head. "I'm not leaving here, just stepping out. I need to think about this, okay?"

Kenzie shrank in on herself and nodded, looking miserable and alone. Not wanting to leave her like this but still needing to do some heavy thinking, Charles Gunn walked out of the living room and out into the cold night air.

*****

East Side Teen Shelter
Lost Angeles, California
25 December 1999

Kenzie looked at the door again, wondering when in Xena's name Charles was going to step through it. She stifled the tenth urge in as many minutes to barge through it and drag him back.

<That will only make things…> She shook her head. She was going to let him come back in his own time.

The door cracked open and the man she'd been dating for four months finally stepped inside. The first thing her Japanese eyes noticed was the angry yet resigned look on his face.

"Kenzie, I know you're not going to like how I put this, but…"

He groaned and waved his arms around.

"Dammit honey, Santa Claus is a WHITE man!!!"

She lost her control and laughed along with Alonna. Personally, Alonna loved the idea of Charles wearing the Santa suit, although Kenzie thought he looked better without that obviously fake beard. When he'd protested that he didn't want to wear the costume since they'd know it was him, Kenzie had said it was the thought, and the kids' love for him, that mattered.

Although she'd playfully suggested that Lily help them solve the problem of his follicle count by running to the store for some Chia Pet mix.

"Now Charles," the grinning Alonna said happily, "just remember that a lot of the kids won't be happy if you're not here. You're the heart and soul of our neighborhood. You have to be here."

"I know that," he whined, sounding a lot like those kids, "but wearing this suit…"

"Look at the bright side," she joked, picking at her ear, "at least you're still human."

"Laugh it up, sweetheart."

"And you behave, or you won't get a second Christmas present," she retorted.

Alonna glanced at her and Kenzie just knew, as did Charles, what she was thinking that first "Christmas present" had been.

*****

Casa del Kenzie
Westwood
Los Angeles, California
24 December 1999

Kenzie refused to torture herself more by looking at the clock. It would only make it worse; she didn't want to know how much time Charles would take to make his decision.

She'd lost all track of time in her misery; she felt in her soul like she'd just lost him. She just kept watching the door, praying to her Goddess that he'd see that she just couldn't share everything with him unless there was no other choice.

<Please, Charles…> she prayed again.

The door opened and he let himself in. Since Juan was working at the college, organizing field trips for her Archaeology class, they were alone to hash out the revelations she'd given him, no matter the cost.

It was her certainty that he'd needed the truth from her once he asked.

He sat down on the opposite end of the couch, his face stony and eyes unreadable. He looked that way for what seemed an eternity before he looked at her again.

"I keep telling myself that you have reasons for keeping what secrets you had," he started. She felt dread tying her stomach in knots because she couldn't read his emotional state by his words. That so wasn't like him. "I keep telling myself that there are things you can't tell me and that there's a good reason for it. I want to believe that you'll tell me everything someday. I keep thinking that there's more to this than what you're telling me."

She wondered if he was reading her facial expressions but he didn't stop talking. He shrugged and asked, "So what am I supposed to think? Is there anything you're not telling me that can come back to hurt me or the Boys? Is there something you're not coming clean on because of this reason or that? Or have you been totally honest with me. Or have you been as open as you want to be or can be. I just don't know, Kenzie. I don't know what to think."

He paused and she was just about to ask him not to say it, but he did it anyway.

"I don't care." She saw tears coming out of his eyes and he repeated his statement. "I don't care, K-Z. What I care about is you. I care about you and I need you, baby. If there's things you have to deal with yourself, I know what it's like. I lead this team and I know what it's like having that weight on your shoulders. But if there's anyway I can make that load any lighter, sweetie, then you damn well better believe I want to be there to do it."

"Charles…" she whimpered, but he reached out and touched her lips with his fingertips.

"Kenzie, I've had girlfriends before. I don't deny it. And I always cared about them. But not one girl I've ever cared about in this way has ever been as special to me as you are. I don't care that you're this Super Chick that gets to save the world every Tuesday or some super spy going around in leather every Sunday night. What I care about is my girl, K-Z Mac. That's what I care about. The person inside, baby. I care about you."

She started crying and she couldn't stop. He hadn't told her, "I love you," but to her it didn't matter. They might or might not be at that stage yet but it didn't matter. She just broke down and let him hold her, letting him whisper into her ears that he wasn't going to leave her. She just listened until she knew in her soul that he didn't think any differently about her.

Once her inner peace had been assured, she raised her lips to his and kissed him with all the passion and emotions she had for him, her eyes closed but needing no sight to guide her kiss.

They kissed and sensuously handled each other's bodies for several minutes before they broke free, looking each other in the eyes and silently communicating. Charles' eyes told her he wanted her but that he wouldn't let her sleep with him unless she was ready and that it was because she wanted it, not to make up for keeping secrets from him.

*****

He saw in her eyes that she still felt guilty about not coming clean with him months ago. He didn't care about that, he cared about his baby. So tonight wasn't the night for that, but he didn't want to leave her.

Hell, he wanted to stay by her side forever, if he had any say about it.

Still, he said, "I should be getting back. Alonna will be worried."

"I have a phone, you know," she said, not wanting him to leave either.

"Kenzie…"

"Please," she begged, "don't go."

"Honey, I want to stay, believe me." He started to rise but she grabbed his arms tenderly, pulling him down for one more kiss. "But I don't know if your Uncle would like it."

"He wonders why we're going so slow." He started to talk again but she said, "I just don't want to be alone tonight, Charles. I don't care if we stay up all night and talk about patrolling and neighborhood watches, I just don't want to be…"

She started breaking down and he knew that other than Uncle Juan, he was the only one she had to talk about everything with. <Could that be why she told me, too? So that she'd have someone her own age to talk to about this stuff? Like the whole responsibility for peoples' lives thing?> He knew that was the truth, to an extent. But again, most of it was because she wanted him to know her.

He knew he was staying the night then.

*****

Two hours later, Gunn rolled over, his bare arm brushing against Kenzie's pale skin. "You know, we didn't have to do this," he told her, leaning over and kissing her neck. "We could have waited."

His baby turned over and for once, she made that Zen look in her eyes work for her. "I wanted to do this, Charles. I wanted to share this with you for so long…"

"Yeah, but…" He looked around the back yard and shook his head again. "But it's so damn cold, honey!"

"That's why they call it a hot tub," she purred. She pressed herself against his body, sharing their warmth. He hoped she wasn't just teasing him by pressing her bikini-clad body against his.

He held her and kissed her on the forehead, but she whispered, "Maybe next time, we can do this the way they do it on the Riviera."

<Yep,> he groaned, <more teasing.>

God, he couldn't wait to pay her back.


Moms And Moonblades

<<This is a little scene that I hope you will like for more than one reason. The first, I've always said that despite her relationships with Amy and Faith, Shaw considers Willow her "best friend," as do most of the Scoobies. However, I've rarely had the chance to do an "extended" scene where the two talk about girl stuff or much else. The second is to run with an idea that Hawk came up with that slightly rocked Shaw's world when she heard it. Thanks for the idea, Oh Site Master. Third, it will offer an explanation about the background of Shaw's family for those who aren't familiar with Forgotten Realms canon. And finally, hopefully this will tide you over until the Christmas update.

This scene takes place shortly after the completion of Hawk's Another Run (and by shortly, I mean like one to two minutes).>>


St. Wolf Residence
Sunnydale, California
January 1999

Willow watched as the longhaired man disappeared from sight and sorrowfully glanced down at the ground. She wished Arrin had been willing to say good-bye but she'd heard what Shaw had said; it wasn't his way. It hadn't stopped her teammate from asking him to at least say good-bye to them, but still, she knew that he had his ways and she had to respect that.

<Besides, it's not like he's incapable of kicking serious butt on his own,> she thought with furrowed auburn eyebrows. <Heck, he's twice as powerful as Jenny or Giles by themselves. Even if he's a major league klutz with a sword.>

She figured she'd break the news to the guys, although she knew some of them would be upset by him just up and leaving. Still, they owed him big time privately; she hoped they'd see Arrin again. He was a nice guy. <That is, if you're not on the wrong end of his spells.>

She backed away and uncurled her fingers, letting the curtain slip into place. She turned away from the window and started to head into the main part of the living room but stopped when she saw Shaw sitting there, staring off into space, tears slowly trickling down her cheeks.

She remembered what Arrin had told Shaw and figured that she'd pretty much had her world rocked by that. <Heck, if I got a message from my dead Mom through the pointy-eared version of Zeus or Odin, I might be shocked too.> She thought back to exactly what Shaw's mom had said through Corellon and Arrin. <What was it… Oh yeah.>

She is very proud of you, and she loves you beyond the distance to the stars.

Yeah, she could see how that would freak Shaw out a little. Maybe she should talk to her about it now rather than later. <Besides, telling the others Arrin's gone can wait. Friends can't.>

*****

Shaw was startled out of her reverie when a slight weight settled on the couch next to her. She whipped her head around to find it had been Willow. Not for the first time, Shaw marveled at just how "elven" her best friend looked; the pale skin, red hair, soft green eyes, her slim figure. She could easily be mistaken for a moon elf or half-elf back on Faerun, at least on a casual first glance.

"He is gone," she guessed. She wasn't disappointed; since Lord Parkin probably had other things he needed doing. The Chosen, in particular, spent their days doing things mere mortal servants like she or Willow could never hope to accomplish.

"Yeah. But I wanted to talk to you," Willow said, giving her a concerned glance. "Wanted to see if you were okay."

She belatedly realized she was crying and moved to wipe her tears away. "About what?"

Willow frowned at her, although it seemed more out of worry than anger. "I heard what your Mom said."

"I-I…" She bowed her head and felt tears coming again. "You heard?"

"Yeah." Willow's hand enfolded her own and squeezed. "Want to talk about it?"

She did. But she wasn't sure how to go about it. "I… I don't remember my mother, Willow."

"I know, she died when you were two."

She lifted her head and stared into Willow's earnest witch-green eyes. "All I know about her is what my Grandparents told me. I only have an idea of what she might have looked like, Willow." She paused and swallowed nervously. "I know I have her complexion and eyes, while I have my father's hair. But… I only have an idea. I don't know what she looked like or… what she was like. All I have to go by is my Grandparents' stories."

"Shaw, you were only two. I've known people who lost a Mom or Dad when they were older than that, but they still have problems remembering, if they can at all," the Wicca told her supportively. Her eyes were sympathetic but sad. "You're fifty-four, so it's only natural that it would be that much harder for you to know what your Mom looked like."

"I know, but…" She bowed her head and felt guilt and something she'd never known before coming to the surface. "But…"

"But what?" Willow asked.

Shaw's throat tightened, as she understood what it was she was feeling. She lowly whispered, "I love her, Willow. I… I love my Mother, but I cannot even remember her. I… I just now realize that… I have a hole in my heart that I can never fill."

*****

Willow understood a little about what Shaw was talking about, as far as holes went. She had one with Jesse and the other friends she'd lost during her brief lifetime. The thing was, a thing she didn't think would go over well right now, was that Joyce had been trying to fill that hole Shaw was feeling. <Feeling for the first time, if I'm reading her right.>

"I won't say I know what you're feeling about not remembering, because I can't," the Amazon hacker said, wrapping her left arm around Shaw's back and slowly rubbing her arm. "But something I do know, is that I'd be devastated if I lost my Mom, even though we're not as close as I wish we were."

Maybe she wasn't the best person to talk to regarding Mom/daughter stuff, but she was Shaw's friend and she was the one who was here right now. She looked at the ceiling and idly wondered, "Something to consider, though, if you want to." She felt Shaw looking at her, so she went on. "Your Mom knows how you've helped people, fought evil, saved lives and stuff. Mine doesn't… I don't have that with mine. And she's proud enough of you that her God told you that she is and that she loves you. I know about some of our friends getting these 'Heavenly visits' from people they love, like Andrea getting one from her Mom, just before you arrived here. It's not something to take lightly."

"I'm not taking it lightly," she protested hastily. "I…" She deflated and shook her head, all but sobbing now. "I have tried to remember her, Willow. I have tried my hardest…"

*****

Willow understood her dilemma; she loved her Mom, even though she couldn't remember what she looked like. <What must it feel like, trying to love someone who only exists in stories to you?>

Again, she didn't know what it would do to Shaw, but she wanted to help. She squeezed Shaw a bit as a friendly hug. "Well, I think there is a bright side, Shaw." Her teammate looked at her doubtfully, but she knew that Shaw would want to take anything she could from it. "You've told me before how you worry about what your Grandparents would think about your life, right? Well…" She locked her witch-green orbs onto Shaw's almond-shaped hazel eyes. "Shaw, if what your Mom's God said is true, then your Mom knows what you've been through and doesn't hold it against you. She's proud of you and loves you so much."

"I-I know…" Shaw's tears slowed a bit but didn't stop completely. "I just wish there were some way for me to remember, my friend."

"I know," she offered, just offering a supportive squeeze and a possible shoulder to cry on. "Maybe some day you'll find a way to remember your folks, or at least to know more about them. I know one way you could."

Shaw's head tilted in that "I'm confused" way. "What is that?" she asked, and Will could hear the curiosity in her voice.

Willow was surprised she didn't already know. She might not be a genius like her, but she wasn't slow! "Shaw, Arrin said your Mom's family has one of those moonblades or whatever he called them." She intensified her stare. "That means you have elven family there."

She saw the comprehension dawn in Shaw's eyes and the half-elf turned her head away. "Willow, I have made no secret of how elves sometimes treat half-elves."

"Yeah. But still, you never know unless you try." She tried to calm Shaw down by rubbing her arm again. "Look, I'm not saying you drop them a line and say, 'Oh hi, I'm Miyana's daughter, let's talk.' Maybe you could have Robin, Arrin, or even Merlin look into it, see if anyone who knew your Mom would be willing to tell you about her. Maybe even draw a picture or something; at least then you'd know what she really looked like."

*****

Shaw couldn't deny that her heart wanted to know what Mother had looked like, nor that she did hold some interest in any elven kin she might have. The thing was, she was more human than elf and as far as she was concerned, Earth was her home and where her family lived. Still, she knew she would never dismiss Willow's suggestion without consideration.

"I will think about it," she finally said. She hoped it didn't sound as noncommittal as she thought it might.

Of course, Willow knew her well enough that she accepted Shaw meant what she said. "Okay. But you do know more about your mom's family than you did before. At least you know now that you have someone back there. Maybe if and when you visit Toril again, you can find out what they're like."

She knew Willow understood her fears about being rejected by any kin she might have; she'd dealt with that with Amy and the rest of her Terran relatives. <But then, humans accept half-elves more readily than elves do.> She then had to admit the statement needed some amending. <At least more readily than Tel'Quessir do. Tuatha du Danaan are another matter.>

"Perhaps. I will talk to Robin about it and see what he thinks," she said. <It would not surprise me to find out that he knew all along about the Redstars.> But again, she understood that he would understand how sensitive the subject was to her, and had let it lay out of respect and sympathy for her. She looked back at Willow and gave her a soft smile. "Willow… thank you for talking to me about this."

"You needed someone to talk to," Willow told her with a shrug. Her eyes gleamed with happiness over being able to help. "I know sometimes you need someone to talk to, and I'm willing to help. Maybe we can consider it payback for your offer to Oz, you know… the one you made?"

Shaw nodded but felt that such a thing was not something you paid back. "You do not have to pay me back for that, Willow. After all, you have helped me so much with my schoolwork and getting used to living in such a large town. If anything, I still feel like I have much to do to ever balance the scales of friendship between us." She held her left hand up to prevent any argument to the contrary. "I know that you do not see it that way, and that is something else you have taught me, Willow." She lowered her hand and folded her hands together. "You have helped me remember that friendships do not consist of helping here or there and receiving help in return. You have helped me remember that friendship… can be simple."

Willow smiled brightly, obviously pleased with the praise. "Glad to be of help, Religion Girl," she chirped. It brought a smile to Shaw's face, she liked her "official" Slayerette nickname; it reminded her that she was indeed part of the team, if not yet the "family." "But there is something I'd like to know, if you don't mind."

"Name it," she said, grateful to help her best friend if she could.

Willow squeezed tighter and for some reason, it gave Shaw the "foreboding" that this was mischief that her teenage friends were occasionally known for. "What's it like to be nobility, my Lady?"

Shaw groaned and buried her face in her hands, while Willow started giggling her red head off. "Willow," she said through her hands, her voice coming out hollow, "if you ever reveal this to the others, I will have retribution over it."

*****

"What's wrong with being a blue blood?" Willow said, trying to make things light hearted. <What is wrong with it?>

Ladyhawke glared at her, although Willow knew her threat was pretty much idle. "Willow, besides the fact that I know how many Earth humans think about nobility, that not being too different from Faeruninan humans, there is the fact that I do not like the idea of being nobility."

"Why? Seriously, what's the problem with it?" she asked. She couldn't help but find amusing the idea that Shaw was more embarrassed by this than awed. "Come on, spill!" She let her eyes narrow in a mischievous way. "After all, I am your best friend…"

"Swear. It."

That so meant Shaw wouldn't allow her to tell the guys. "Tell me why and I'll think about it."

"Willow, what would Xander and/or Faith's reactions be if they found out something like this?" she said seriously. Now Willow saw a little bit of fear, not over the nobility stuff coming out, but what people would do about it.

"They'd tease you forever. I don't see what's wrong…"

"WILLOW!" she hissed under her breath, pretty much hoping the other wouldn't hear from the kitchen or Steve's office.

Willow knew she had Shaw dead to rights. She wanted the story and all she had to do was promise not to tell anyone. <And okay, I'd keep the promise, if only so I'd get the info. Even if I let Shaw wonder if I just wouldn't be able to keep it from Xander…> She made her decision. "Okay, and I know you, so I swear by the Lady Goddesses, mine and yours, I won't tell anyone what you tell me."

"Good enough," Shaw grumbled. <Sure it is, Shaw…> Her friend zoned out like she did when she was remembering something. "The story is simple enough. You heard what the Archer said about my… Mother's family being one of those who claimed a moonblade."

"Yeah," she said, hiding her disappointment over calling them her Mom's family. "What's a sword have to do with that side of your family being noble?"

"Everything," she groused. Willow waited for her to tell her the story. "It was seen by a Seer centuries ago that eventually, the humans of Faerun would become the dominant race. To keep any possible disasters from wiping out the elven race, a method was devised that would choose something for The People that they would never have considered otherwise. A royal family."

"I don't get it," Willow said, sorry for interrupting.

"In ancient times, the Tel'Quessir were ruled by a Council of Elders, akin to the British Parliament or the American Congress." That put it in good terms. Shaw continued with, "Needless to say, some powerful gold elf families were not happy with the idea of moon elves being selected as their rulers. However, some of those gold elven were allowed to participate in the selection process."

Willow found herself curious and being drawn into this whole story. "What kind of process did they use?"

"The moonblades, Willow," she told her, as if it was supposed to explain everything. "The explanation is quite complex, but in a nutshell…" She stopped and by the way she took a deep breath, Willow knew it was going to be long, even for the short version. "Three hundred broad swords were crafted and imbued with two common powers. The first was that the swords, not the wielders, would choose what powers they were imbued with, one power per wielder. The second was that the swords could judge a person's character."

"Wait a minute. A sword that can judge character?"

"Much like how a Sword of Destiny determines who is a worthy wielder, yes." Shaw smiled at having a comparison she could give. Willow smiled back and nodded for her to continue. "Anyway, it was known in time, the swords would weed out those who were not worthy of wielding them, let alone becoming the royal family."

Willow thought she was beginning to see the point to this. "So whoever was able to get one of these moonblades became nobility, right?"

"Actually, most of those first wielders were from noble houses. Those who were not were relatives to other, established houses. Such was the case with Mother's family, it appears. I only knew they were related to the Nighstars before…"

"Before Arrin told you." Willow understood her sadness. <She takes pride in her family stuff but didn't know something like this, or anything about her Mom's family.> "So it was basically the Excalibur test. Seeing who was worthy to be King and stuff."

Shaw nodded and explained the common elements of the moonblades; their hereditary nature, the fact that only one member of the line could even draw the sword and live; the process for choosing an heir and the consequences of being rejected by a blade; how some potential heirs turned down the inheritance (although Shaw made clear that there was no dishonor or stigma in this, citing her own priorities of religion as an example of why such an honor would be turned down); and how in time, the family with the most moonblades had been seen as the proper family to rule Evermeet.

"So you're a noble type girl because some great-great-someone of yours was a real good guy or girl." Willow thought she understood as much as someone not pointy-eared could. She glanced at Shaw and grinned. "Any chance of you getting that big honor?"

"NO!" she blurted. Willow jumped, stunned by the force of that denial. Shaw's eyes became serious. "Willow, you have to understand, anyone who picks up a moonblade commits his or herself to serving the People as a whole for their entire lifetime. I simply do not have that in me. I serve Mielikki first and foremost, always." She seemed to hesitate before adding, "Willow, the first selection ceremony happened over ten thousand years ago."

"Your Mom's family tree is ten THOUSAND years long?!?" Willow babbled, going into Willow Mode. "N-no wonder y-you feel upset about it, Shaw! Y-you say you never knew…"

Shaw's face became somber. "I know. And you know how I reacted to learning about six hundred years of family history. I…" She sighed. "Ten millennia of constant, unbroken lineage… It is mind boggling, even to me."

<All the more reason you should try to find out,> Willow thought silently. <For someone who holds family up so high, it's like missing part of yourself… like having the hole where your mom should be.> "So you'd never get it, huh? And I don't mean because of the racism thing, but because of the 'I serve my Goddess first' thing."

"Exactly. And there is another consideration, Willow." Shaw's lips became a tight, thin line. "In all the time that the moonblades have existed, only one half-elf has ever wielded a moonblade. And she is the granddaughter of the Queen of Evermeet. She is very special and important to the People. I… I am too human to ever wield such an item." She let a smile touch her lips. "I do not mean that in a bad sense, Willow. It is the way I was raised; I consider myself more human than elven. I think like a human, even one dimensionally challenged."

Willow laughed at the joke and Shaw's rising spirits. At least she was willing to accept the idea of maybe someday talking to her Mom's family. "Well, if you don't mind my saying so, if they couldn't accept someone like you who's come from seven generations of heroes, then they don't deserve you or that fancy shmancy sword."

*****

Despite herself, Shaw chuckled a bit. "If I ever meet them, I will let them know of your opinions."

Willow laughed with her and pulled her close again. "And if not, then you've always got your family here, right?"

Shaw nodded, but not for the reason Willow thought. Willow was talking about the Madisons, but Shaw wondered if she was beginning to feel in her heart, that maybe her family was pretty much bigger than that.

<Just maybe…>

Just maybe, one member of her "family" was right beside her. Somehow, that made her all the happier.

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