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Understanding

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This story is No. 1 in the series "Understanding". You may wish to read the series introduction first.

Summary: When Someone needs to understand why Champions fight you get a 'Do over' with a twist. Someone new watching and learning or someone going to change the way things happen?

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Literature > Vampire/Supernatural > Mercedes Thompson SeriesdesirexanaduFR152298,65973418,82215 Dec 0711 Aug 09Yes

Prophesy Girl

Disclaimer: If you recognize it, it ain't mine

Misty was kind enough to beta this for me.

"English speech"
[H'kl'th speech]


***
***


“Hey, Share,” Grace said, conversationally, leaning on the locker next to Sheri’s.

“Yes, Grace?”

“I know I’m a little slow some days but wasn’t Cordelia dating Mitch last week?”

“He got a little grabby and Kevin rescued her. If they last to Spring Fling I’ll be amazed.”

“Isn’t that, like, this weeked?” Grace asked her.

“Yeah,” Sheri agreed, pulling out her books.

“So who asked you to the dance?”

“Lately? No one.”

“Not planning on making Eric take you?”

“He wishes,” Sheri said, slamming her locker. “He would have to crawl on his belly and lick my shoes before I’d let him start begging to be allowed to ask me.” She looked at Grace and smirked, “And then I’d say no.”

“Of course,” Grace smirked back.

“Anyone ask you?” Sheri probed.

“If they did I didn’t notice,” Grace said honestly.

“Good,” Sheri said seriously, “that means you can take me.”

“Are you asking me to the prom, Share?” Grace teased.

“I guess I am,” Sheri admitted. “Imagine that,” she added in surprise. “But just to the dance, I have no interest in parking with you.”

Grace laughed, “Never thought you did.”

“I already have the tickets, and the dress, and the limo. I was going to go alone.”

“You gonna help me find a dress?”

“Sure. We can run into LA this afternoon.” The two of them started walking down the hall, not noticing the looks and whispers that followed them. “My english final is second period and I’m free after that.”

“That works. My chem final is second period too so we could leave right after that,” Grace sighed as the bell rang. “Yech, biology. Meet you in the library third period?”

“Works for me. I’ll ask Kayla too.”

They both turned and hurried towards their first class.

***

“No Kayla?” Grace asked Sheri without looking up from the book she was reading.

The senior cheerleader let the library door swing shut and made her way to the table. “She’s got a meeting at Crestwood College right after lunch.”

“So no Kayla,” Grace said, turning the page.

“No Kayla,” Sheri agreed. “You ready to go?”

“As soon as Giles gets back. I told him I’d watch the library while he was out.”

“Is he going to be long?”

“He hopes not. He’s got a meeting with Principal Snyder and Mrs. Miller.”

“In trouble over you not attending classes?”

“He didn’t say,” Grace admitted. “And I don’t care. And I don’t need to stay in school. I’ve got a full-time job I like and I don’t need a diploma to keep it.”

“Which won’t keep you from staying in school, I hope,” Giles said from the library door.

“It won’t,” Grace agreed. “What did the records say?”

“You have enough hours to pass the year without attending any more classes. You do have to go in for the final but you don’t have to attend either you english class or your history class.”

“Cool. Sheri and I are going to LA to find me a dress for the dance.”

“Oh, are you going?”

“I seem to be,” Grace agreed.

“That’s good, it's, it’s good to get back to your normal activities.”

“I’m glad you think so, we’re cutting to go dress shopping.”

“I’m hardly in a position to stop you,” Giles sighed at them. “Enjoy your day of shopping,” he said as he walked over to the desk. “And be careful. I know your tutor is in LA.”

“He’s dead. Someone killed him while I was in Scottsdale.”

“Oh. Well, there are others still.”

“There are and Adam’s arranged a sort of peace. He didn’t tell them anything about the pack here, just that there was one and that, given the proximity of Sunnydale and LA it didn’t make sense to have to clear it with the alphas every time someone wanted to come into LA to shop. Of course, he also made sure they knew it didn’t work the other way because of the hellmouth being hard on wolves. So even if we get noticed all we have to do is tell them I’m from Sunnydale and we should be fine.”

“And what will you tell them about Sheri?”

“I’m in the know,” Sheri said simply. “I haven’t decided if I’m going to Change yet or not. I’m considering it, but then I think about all the jackass stuff that goes with it anywhere outside of Sunnydale.”

“Slightly influenced by my opinion of the laws,” Grace admitted with a grin. “Let’s go,” she said with a chuckle.

Sheri laughed and they started for the library door.

“See you tomorrow, Giles,” Grace said just as the door started to close behind them.

“Have fun shopping.”

***

Grace laughed at Eric, who was trying to work his way back into the group. “It’s not gonna happen,” she told him. “Go sit with your new little girlie and her friends.”

“Why don’t you just go sit with your loser friends?” Eric gestured at the corner where Xander and Willow were sitting.

“Let’s see,” Grace looked thoughtful, “sit her with my friends and have a good time or go over there and sit with my little brother’s best friends and be uncomfortable and not have fun.” She weighed the options in her hands for a moment. “Nah, I’ll stay here.”

Kayla and Sheri started laughing so hard they could barely stay in their seats. “I don’t think you’re gonna win this argument.”

“I don’t think some hopped up soph with delusions of power is going to dictate whether or not I can hang out with my friends.”

“No,” Kayla agreed, managing to stop laughing long enough to speak, “I think it’s your ex-friends who are saying go somewhere else.”

“You’re the one who chose to cheat on me,” Sheri said coldly. “You’re the one who chose to ignore the warning I gave you about cheating on me. You’re the one who wanted to ‘see other people’ after I found out you were cheating on me. You’re the one who said ‘I think that’s for the best’ when I told you I didn’t want to see you anymore.”

“Now,” Grace stepped between Sheri and Eric, “you’ve been asked to go elsewhere.”

“I’m not scared of you.”

“Go away, Eric,” Derek, Kayla’s boyfriend stated, “you’re not welcome here anymore. And Grace is.”

Eric looked like he was going to argue but he finally turned and walked away.

“He’s such a baby,” Sheri muttered, turning back to Grace. “Doesn’t he get that when he cheated on me he lost his place in this group?”

“He doesn’t think he cheated on you,” Derek stated.

“He was sleeping with Katie Green when he was still going steady with me,” Sheri snapped, “what do you call it?”

“He says he wasn’t even dating Katie yet when he told you he wanted to see other people.”

“Well he was.”

“You can’t be sure about that,” Derek said studying the girls. “I’m not saying you’re wrong but you don’t have any proof.”

“I have all the proof I need,” Sheri said, leaning against Grace’s shoulder, “I have Grace’s word that she’s sure.”

Grace reached up and squeezed Sheri’s shoulder, using physical contact to soothe the girl. Despite Sheri not being a werewolf Grace treated her the same way she’d gotten used to treating Kevin, using touch more than words to comfort and calm and express her feelings. Sheri was also reacting the same, leaning into Grace’s touches and accepting the almost absent wordless gestures.

“I have a question for you two,” Kayla said, studying the pair, “and I don’t want you to think I’m not going to stay your friend no matter what you answer.”

“Okay,” Sheri agreed, studying her friend in return.

“Are you two sleeping together?” Kayla blurted out the question.

“Are we what?” Sheri blurted out her response while Grace began to giggle.

“Ever since Greg died you two have been touching all the time. Even when we did the movie night thing Grace was touching you. I mean, you’re never touching wrong, but you’re touching all the time. I mean, look at you, you’re draped all over Grace just like she would have been on Greg.”

Sheri began giggling as she realized how Kayla had gotten the idea. “It’s just a touch thing,” she said, moving back to her own chair. “It doesn’t mean anything.”

“But you hated it when Eric touched you in public,” Derek pointed out.

“Do you see Grace grabbing my ass or my tits in public?” Sheri asked flatly.

“No,” Kayla said quickly. “Mostly it’s your arm or your shoulders. She squeezes your shoulders a lot.”

“Keeps her calm,” Grace pointed out. “And no, I’m not interested in Sheri in a sexual manner, I just,” she paused as she tried to figure out how to say what she wanted to, “my best friend always wanted to touch me, to make sure I was there and I was okay. I forget that other people don’t touch that much.” She looked at Sheri, “If I ever get out of line, just slap me.”

“If you ever get out of line,” Sheri assured her, “I will.”

“So not sleeping together,” Kayla said slowly.

“No.”

“Just touching all the time?”

“Yeah,” Sheri agreed.

“So your best friend before you came here touched you all the time? Was she attracted to you?”

“He was not,” Grace said honestly. “And if he had been I think he would have tried something. Maybe not,” she mused, “he always was a little slow. Took me seven months to convince him I wasn’t jealous of the time he spent with the woman he eventually married.”

“Married? So older than you?”

“A few years,” Grace said with a smirk.

“How many in a few?” Sheri asked, leaning over to whisper the question in Grace’s ear.

“He turned 90 this year,” Grace whispered back.

“Oh.” Sheri sat back and considered it. “Cool.”

Grace laughed and the table relaxed.

***

Grace and Sheri were almost to the Bronze when Grace felt it. She pulled Sheri into a doorway and made her stay there.

“Grace!”

“Wait,” Grace ordered with a growl.

“Grace,” Sheri tried again. She put her hand on Grace’s arm just as the earthquake hit. She let Grace push her back against the wall and shelter her. “Whoa, first earthquake I can remember here in Sunnydale.”

“You okay?”

“Yeah. We probably would have been safe in the middle of the street but thanks.”

“Sorry, my instincts say protect the pack in times of danger.”

“And I’m part of your pack?”

“Yeah,” Grace agreed. “Earthquakes don’t happen in Sunnydale?”

“Not that I recall.”

“You go ahead to the Bronze. I’m going to go check with Giles on anything major coming.”

“Want me to come with?” Sheri offered.

“Your friends are waiting for you.”

“Okay,” Sheri gave her a nod of understanding. “I’ll see you at school tomorrow.”

“I’m just going to check in with Giles and I’ll meet you at the Bronze. I shouldn’t be long.”

“Okay,” Sheri smiled at her.

Grace turned and headed for the library, running full speed in the nearly deserted streets. She walked into the library and found Giles looking from one book to another. “Hey, Giles.”

“I’m rather busy, Grace.”

“I’ve been told earthquakes don’t happen in Sunnydale so what’s happening?”

“Nothing,” he said, still cross-referencing.

“Giles,” Grace growled his name.

“I need to verify...”

“Don’t give a shit if you’ve checked it, you know something. My pack is in danger and you’re holding out on me.”

“If I’ve read this correctly Buffy will face the Master on Saturday and she will die.” He looked over at her, “You could track him down and kill him.”

“Might be possible,” Grace admitted slowly. “More likely scenario is I make a half-hearted effort and then let him kill me.”

“Why would you let him kill you?”

“Giles, wolves mate for life. I’ve lost my mate, there’s a part of me that wants to go for a long walk in the ocean. Or get into a fight I know I can’t win. I couldn’t beat Darla, I can’t beat the Master.”

“I, I can’t watch my slayer die.”

“Then I suggest you find another way to overcome the prophesy, I can’t do it.”

“Of course.”

“Go home,” Grace suggested, “sleep on it. You’ll find a way around it, I have faith in you.”

Giles smiled at her, “You were out with your friends? Go, I’ll figure it out.”

“I’ll check in with you tomorrow, Giles,” Grace said as she headed out of the library again.

***

Kyle looked up as someone bumped into him, seeing it was Willow he grabbed her arm to stop her from moving on. "Willow, what's wrong?"

"Xander asked Buffy to be his date for Spring Fling."

"You knew he liked her."

"She said no and he had the nerve to ask me to go with after she turned him down. Like I want to go to the dance and watch him watch her."

Kyle let out a long sigh, "Why do you insist on mooning over him? You're worth so much more than him."

Willow smiled at him, "No one else seems to think so."

"Grace didn't want him to be part of her pack, but she wants you."

Willow brightened up slightly, "That's true."

"Forget about Xander, he's not worth your time. Find someone more worthy of you."

"Thanks, Kyle," she blushed and smiled at him again.

"Go on," he nodded his head down the hall. After Willow was around the corner Kyle turned and headed into the classroom Willow had obviously come out of. "Xander."

Xander turned in surprise to face the door, looking Kyle over. "Kyle."

"Why do you do that?"

"Do what?"

"Treat Willow like she's nothing more than friend? Like she's a guy that you can hang out with when the girl you ask out says no. You do know Willow's a girl, right?"

"I think I've noticed that," Xander said sarcastically.

"I'm not sure you have," Kyle snapped at him. "How could you assume she'd be your second choice for a date to the dance? If you wanted to go with Willow you should have asked her first."

"And why do you care?" Xander asked, closing the distance between them.

Kyle grabbed Xander by the shirtfront and slammed him into the wall. "Willow is my friend. And I don't like seeing her hurt by idiots like you." He gave Xander another push into the wall, "Don't hurt Willow and I won't hurt you." His piece said he released Xander and left the classroom.

Xander picked up the ball he'd been throwing against the wall and hurled it into the wall with all his strength, wondering why he'd never noticed Kyle was still friends with Willow.

***

“Go,” Sheri sighed at Grace, who had just returned from another circuit around the Bronze. “Your jacket is in my car.”

“No, I’m fine.”

“I didn’t want to say anything earlier,” Sheri said, glancing around to make sure they were alone, “but your eyes are yellow and you’re practically buzzing. Go, I know it’s obviously serious. I’m going to institute a gag cross check before entry.”

“And what if they fail the test?”

“I’ll keep them at bay with the cross and call you on your cell to come rescue us. Go, find out whatever the losers from the library are up to. When you’re sure the pack is safe come back.”

“Thanks, Share.”

Sheri handed her a set of car keys, “Don’t wreck my car.”

“I’ll grab my jacket but I’d rather walk.”

“What’s going on?” Kayla asked them.

“Grace is worried that the losers from the library aren’t here yet so she’s going to check on them.”

“Well, be careful,” Kayla said automatically.

“I’ll walk you out to get your jacket and grab the cross I keep in my car now.”

“Cool,” Grace smiled at her. She drew in a deep breath as they walked out to the car.

“Here,” Sheri passed Grace her jacket. “Be careful.”

“You too,” Grace leaned in and breathed in Sheri’s scent. “Call if you need me.”

Sheri lifted her chin a little. “I will.”

Grace gave her a smile as she pulled on her jacket then she took off at a brisk walk, heading for the school. She felt the wave of magic a couple blocks from the school and broke into a run. When she saw the vampires she pulled her knives, surprised when they ignored her to continue converging on the school.

“What is this? Ah.”

Grace turned slowly, “I see you got out.”

“The Alpha, I presume. Come to die like the Slayer?”

Grace rotated her wrists slowly, contemplating her options. “Got asked to fight you, didn’t want to.”

“Why not? Afraid to face someone you wronged?”

“You ordered my little brother turned to be bait for the Slayer,” Grace growled at him. “So I chose to claim your bitch’s life for that, do you really care?”

“Not particularly,” he admitted, backhanding Grace into a wall.

By the time Grace shook the stars away the Master was gone. Growling softly Grace headed into the school, not caring she was too angry to hold her wolf and alpha in. She hit the edges of the vampire mob and went in fighting, putting everything she had into it.

Grace was too angry, still too hurt by Greg’s death, to use her training. She was still violently effective but unfocussed, merely working on the ack ranks of the gathered vampires. She was content to just kill the vampires she could reach until she heard Willow’s screams.

Freezing for a moment Grace pulled herself together. She used one of the concentration exercises TJ had been teaching her to calm her racing emotions and to pull her wolf and Alpha back in. Opening her eyes she started through the vampires with a purpose, heading for the library.

There was a roar and the vampires began to run away, quickly emptying the school. Grace stopped long enough to sheathe her knives and she met up with Buffy, Xander, and Angel just outside the library.

“Vampires?” Giles asked them.

“Gone,” Xander said simply.

“The Master?” Angel asked.

“Dead,” Giles said, looking at the bones.

“Some night.”

“Yeah, Buffy died and everything,” Xander agreed.

Grace only cared about Willow, looking her over without being too obvious.

Willow saw her looking and moved closer to her. “My leg is sore,” she admitted. “The thing that came out of the hellmouth tried to pull me in, but other than that I’m fine.”

“I know,” Grace smiled at her. “So, they built the high school on top of the hellmouth. And I thought we were just joking about that.”

“What happened to you?” Xander asked, just noticing the bruise forming on Grace’s face.

“The Master didn’t think I was worth killing,” Grace said honestly. “Anyway, I left Sheri at the Bronze to come check on you guys.”

“I heard there was a party there tonight.”

“Sure,” Buffy agreed. “We saved the world, I say we party. I mean, I got all pretty and everything.”

“What about him?” Ms. Calender asked, looking back at the Master’s bones.

“He’s not going anywhere,” Buffy sneered at the bones. “Loser.”

“What’s with the car,” Xander asked as they started out of the library.

Grace studied them as they walked. “Will, do you have any plans for the summer?”

“Not really.”

“Xander?”

“What about me?”

“Do you have plans for the summer?”

“Not really,” he gave the same answer as Willow.

“You do now. If you two are going to stick with the Slayer you’re going to learn at least a little self-defence. I’ll let you know exactly what the plan is once I figure it out.”

“That’s probably a good idea,” Giles told them. “I hadn’t realized they were so lacking in basic skills.”

“I’ll need practice weapons,” she told him.

“I’ll arrange something.”

“I’m going to walk back to the Bronze,” Grace said as they were figuring out who was riding with whom. “I’ll see you there.”

“Can I walk with you?” Willow asked.

“Your leg up to it?”

“I’m hoping the walk will help it.”

“It’s okay with me,” Grace assured her.

“You don’t have to,” Buffy said. “There’s lots of room for both of you in the cars.”

“If I wanted to ride in one of the cars I wouldn’t be walking,” Grace said simply. “You still want to walk with me, Willow?”

“We’ll see you at the dance,” Willow said, moving closer to Grace.

They waited until the others were gone before they started walking.

“What’s up, Will?”

“What are you?” Willow asked bluntly.

“What do you mean?”

“The Master could have kill you but he didn’t. I don’t see him turning down a meal and if he was close enough to hit you he was close enough to feed from you.”

“Entirely possible.”

“You’re not going to tell me, are you?”

“There are very strict laws about telling humans,” Grace said honestly. “I won’t stop you from trying to figure it out on your own but I cannot simply tell you.”

“Giles knows.”

“Yes.”

“How come you didn’t get in trouble for telling him?”

“I got special permission to tell Giles.”

“And Buffy?”

“Buffy has to figure it out. If she can.”

“Giles hasn’t told her.”

“No.”

“So he doesn’t think you’re a threat.”

“I don’t know what Giles thinks.”

“Hmm,” Willow said absently. “I am going to figure this out.”

“You’re a very smart girl, Willow, I’m sure you will if you set your mind to it.”

“You aren’t telling me not to try.”

“I can’t tell you what I am Willow, but I don’t have to stop you from researching.”

“Okay.”

“But I still expect you to show up for all the self-defence classes I set up for you and Xander.”

“I don’t want to learn to fight.”

“So you’re content now with your position as the pack omega?”

“No,” Willow said quickly.

“You can’t protect anyone else if you can’t even protect yourself.”

“I just never thought about it,” Willow admitted as they walked into the Bronze.

“Hey, Willow,” Sheri smiled at them as they entered the Bronze. “Your friends are over there,” she gestured. “So all is cool?” she asked Grace.

“All is tepid anyway. You still want to take some self-defence lessons this summer?”

“Absolutely.”

“I’ll set something up for the four of you then.”

“Cool. Kayla’s got a table for us over there,” Sheri made a vague gesture as she linked her arm through Grace’s. “They’re waiting for us.”

Grace smiled at her indulgently and let her lead the way to the table full of popular seniors.


***

“I’m not asking you to teach them, TJ,” Grace said, her eyes not focussed on him as she worked through the kata. “I just want to know how I should start.”

“What is your reason for teaching them?” TJ asked, stepping up behind Grace to correct the placement of her left arm.

“Willow and Xander are friends with the Slayer and they’re determined to actually fight beside her and I want to make sure they can protect themselves a little.”

“And you care about the Slayer’s friends because?”

“Willow and Xander were Jesse’s best friends. And I don’t want them to get hurt.”

“And the others?”

“Sheri’s my best friend and Tarto is still making up his mind but he’s part of my household until her does. And if he chooses exile I’ve told him he can stay with me.”

“The clan won’t like you taking in an exile,” TJ observed, loking over at Tarto.

“Don’t care,” Grace said honestly. “I don’t answer to Tomet clan. I am the Sunnydale Pack Alpha and I don’t need the clan’s permission to live my life however I want. Yes, having the clan’s co-operation makes things easier in the neighbourhood but this is my territory and they have acknowledged my dominance over the clan in my territory.”

“And if they choose to make it an issue?”

“I kill Corath and deal with his replacement,” Grace said simply.

“That simple?”

“Don’t be sarcastic, TJ,” Grace said drily. “It is simple, that doesn’t mean I think it will be easy. The two aren’t the same.”

“Ah, I’d forgotten you are not as young as your years. There is a difference between the two. And you still intend to defy the clan if he chooses exile.”

“I chose to allow them to watch over my mate when I was not with him, understanding they would not interfere in pack business. Why should they be punished for his death at the hands of a wolf in front of me?”

“Interesting point,” TJ agreed, reaching out to adjust the placement of her leg. “The others submitted to Corath’s punishment.”

“Tarto said he would accept death at my hands if I felt it was necessary but he was obeying my restrictions when he didn’t interfere so he shouldn’t have to submit to Corath’s punishment. And it is up to him to make that decision. I won’t make it for him.”

“And if he chooses exile what will you do?”

“If he chooses exile he’s going to have to learn to live in the human world. Which means he’s going to high school as a junior in the fall.”

“I’m what?” Tarto asked from the doorway, forgetting to pretend he wasn’t there.

“If you choose exile and moving into my home you will be going to school as a junior,” Grace said, stopping to look over at him. “It’ll teach you how to act in the human world.”

“Is that why you do it?”

TJ swept Grace’s feet from under her, following up with an elbow strike which Grace redirected to one side. She rolled away from TJ and regained her feet.

“Were you expecting the elbow?”

“I was expecting an attack,” Grace admitted, “but not specifically the elbow. And no, that’s not why I go to high school. I go to high school because I can.”

“Every Tuesday and Thursday morning at eight,” TJ stated. “For the next six weeks. After that I’ll see what they need.”

“I’m not asking...”

“I know,” TJ agreed. “I’m offering of my own free will.”

“Thank you.”

“Practice the kata,” TJ said, already heading for the door. “Next Tuesday is their first lesson.”

“They’ll be here.”

***

“Xander, Willow, you already know Sheri. This is Tarto,” she introduced him, watching their reactions.

“He’s not human,” Willow observed, moving closer to Xander.

“I am a h’kl’th demon,” Tarto admitted. “I can appear human,” he put his human face on, “but Grace said I shouldn’t hide here. And I should be truthful with you.”

“Giles looked you up, well, not you specifically because you’d have to be a pretty important demon to be mentioned by name, but h’kl’th demons and he said they’re not really dangerous to humans. They can be but they’re not usually so if we ran into any and they weren’t hurting people we were supposed to let them do whatever they were doing. And by we he was really telling the Slayer she was supposed to let them go and not try to kill them.”

Tarto looked at Grace, “Is she speaking english?”

Xander smiled at him, “She said we’ve heard about h’kl’th demons and the watcher told the Slayer you’re on the not kill list unless you’re killing humans when she sees you.”

“Oh,” Tarto said, frowning in concentration. “That’s good.”

“I see my new students have all arrived.”

Grace blinked at the wizened old man standing in the doorway. “TJ?”

With a chuckle TJ’s appearance changed to the young man she was used to seeing. “I am not a demon,” he said bluntly to the others, “I am fae. I can make my appearance anything from an old man to a young girl,” as he said that he altered his appearance to match Grace. “This is the form I choose to wear most often in this neighbourhood," he said as he put his young man's form on again, "and it is the one I will be wearing while I am teaching you.”

“How do we start?” Willow asked.

“Grace will help you with your stretches.”

Grace began some simple stretches, after showing them one she began to correct everyone else’s form. After twenty minutes of basic stretching TJ stepped in again.

“The first lesson you have to learn requires no training, just a mindset. When you are faced with an enemy you cannot defeat your best course of action is to run away. You get back up and, if possible, detailed information on the enemy before returning in force.”

“Run away? From everything stronger than us?” Xander asked in surprise.

“I never said that. By the end of the summer you will be a match for most minions,” TJ said seriously. “It is even possible you will be able to defeat more than one minion at a time.”

“Oh.”

“The second thing you need to learn is how to fall,” TJ stated. “Which is what I will be teaching you today. Being able to fall properly can save your life.”

Grace helped in the class as directed by TJ. After an hour and a half of falling TJ had them all sit along one wall and faced off with Grace.

“Grace has been taking lessons for six years,” TJ told them. “And she is naturally gifted. You cannot expect to reach this level without years of training and practice.”

Without any warning TJ attacked, forcing Grace onto the defensive for the first couple minutes of the fight. When she saw an opening she launched an attack, getting in a single blow before TJ sent her flying. Before she could recover he had her pinned, fist at her throat.

Letting out a long, frustrated sigh Grace relaxed, showing she was submitting to him.

“You landed a hit.”

“You let me,” Grace told him. “You don’t make mistakes like the misstep that left the opening I used.”

“It’s good that she hit you once?” Sheri asked, studying them.

“I don’t usually,” Grace said simply.

“Is that impressive?” Willow asked Sheri.

“I think so. I’ve seen Grace fight, she could probably take all of us without even breaking a sweat.”

“Oh.”

“So, I’ll be here helping TJ for the next two weeks,” Grace said, breaking into their conversation, “but I’ll be gone for the next month, maybe a little more. I’m going to visit Dion and Kevin in San Francisco and then I’m going to spend a week at Adam’s.”

“That was the guy who came to keep you from doing something stupid, right?” Xander asked her.

“Yeah.”

“And you’re going to visit him because?”

“I can’t tell you that but it’s important,” Grace said honestly. “And it’s only for a week.”

“So you’re going to be in San Francisco for three weeks?”

“No, I’m sneaking to Scottsdale to visit with my in-laws after I leave Adam’s. I’ll be in San Francisco for two weeks, at Adam’s for one, and in Scottsdale for one. Maybe more. Tarto’s staying upstairs at my place and he’ll have emergency contact numbers for me.”

“I’ll see you all Thursday morning.”

“Thank you, TJ.”

***
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The End

You have reached the end of "Understanding". This story is complete.

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