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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 SeriesdesirexanaduFR152298,65973418,69315 Dec 0711 Aug 09Yes

Chapter One

Author's notes:
I'm not sure on what classification of Literature the series by Patricia Briggs would be so I'm calling it Vampire, since there isn't one for Werewolves. The series revolves around a Walker named Mercedes Thompson and I might use her later in the story but right now I'm just borrowing her universe. The books are called Moon Called and Blood Bound with a third book coming out in January 2008. They're very good.

I own nothing but the actual words I write and any characters you think you recognize probably don't belong to me. They belong to Mutant Enemy and Patricia Briggs.

This story will be going through the whole series - eventually - but won't touch much on canon. I might add but I won't be subtracting. If you don't see it in the story then it happens the way it happened. I don't feel the need to rewrite huge chunks of the series that haven't changed.

* * *
* * *

Three beings watched the situation unfold in the streets of LA. The champions had regrouped in the alley, preparing for the final battle. One of their group had already died and another would without divine intervention.

Help would arrive in time to save the city and stop the evil from spreading but the death toll would be devastating.

“It’s a puzzle.” The being that walked forward to join the others appeared as a young woman.

“What is?”

“Why do they fight?”

“They fight because they are champions.”

“Not that one. An Old One. A God King from the days before man walked the Earth.” She reached down an invisible hand to touch the dying champion. His wounds healed, his strength returned, and he picked up his weapon to rejoin the fight. “That one should walk away while he can. And that one has already died once in the good fight so why does he still fight?”

“He fights because he’s a champion.”

“And that one,” she refocussed on the one-eyed man leading an army of teen-age girls into battle. “That one, that one has lost nearly everything to this war yet he, who has no reason to fight, still fights. Why?”

“Because he’s a champion. Do you see her?” the view focussed on a tall, leggy brunette swinging an axe beside the one-eyed man.

“The Key? Still bound in its mortal form? It has no reason to stand beside them. They were chosen to be the Key’s protectors. Nothing more.”

“They are her family and she will stand beside them out of love.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Would you like to?”

“Yes.”

“Would you like to learn the lessons the Key has learned? To know why she fights beside them?”

“Yes. I want to understand.”

“I cannot do what the monks did. I cannot insert you seamlessly into their lives with memories and history. I cannot create a life. But I can save one. I can save an otherwise doomed life and put you into that shell. You will come into their lives in such a way that they will likely accept you.”

“When will I join them?”

“The day they first come together. You will be there for every decision they make, every battle they face, every sorrow that scars them. You will know them all.”

“And this will help me understand why they fight?”

“Yes.”

“The I want to do it. I want to, need to, understand so I can decide what to do. What of the body’s soul?”

“The soul will pass on to Heaven as it would have otherwise. By the time I place you in the shell the soul will have passed on. Do you want to be placed into the shell and live as a mortal?”

“Yes. I need to understand why they fight.”

“Then it will be so. When this moment in time comes again you will be brought back here to make your decision.”

“Do it.”

“You are my witnesses that she asked for this.”

The other two nodded their agreement.

“It will be so. You will have only the skills and memories of the shell and you will be mortal. If the shell dies you will be held in limbo until this time comes, unknowing of what passes.”

“This I understand,” she said simply. “That,” she gestured at the battle, “I need to understand.” She straightened up and her presence intensified, “I need to understand and you can make it happen. So make it happen,” there was no question she was giving an order and expected to be obeyed.

“It will be,” thunder rolled behind his voice and she vanished from in front of them. The viewing pool seemed to rewind and focussed on an alleyway across the country. “And so it begins again.”

* * *


“He would have paid well.”

“Helen, I’ve told you before, I’m not a whore.”

“You’re not a virgin though. Not like you would be...”

“I’m not a whore, Helen. I won’t try to stop you but I don’t need to do that.”

“You’re not too proud to take Martin’s money.”

“I never said I was proud, Helen, just that I’m not a whore.” Grace Kelly was turning to look at her mother Helen so she had time to scream before the creature attacking them could silence her.

Grace didn’t pray, she didn’t believe in God, but she didn’t give up either. As the creature, the werewolf part of her mind screamed, jumped at her after it finished tearing her mother to pieces she met it with a hard and fast spin kick. It was a useless kick in a real fight, according to her teacher, because it took too long and unless you were trying to kill the other person it nearly always did more damage than you intended.

Grace knew her spin kick didn’t look like her teacher taught. She also knew it was faster than her teacher’s and it would break a man’s neck. Grace knew that because she’d used it to break the neck of a man intent on raping her.

Her resistance surprised the creature, though she doubted she’d hurt him. When he attacked again he concentrated on hurting her and not killing her. And she arched her back and screamed as she was ripped from shoulder to thigh.

“Hey!”

The creature snarled at the alley mouth and the figure standing there before turning and running off the other way.

The man ran to Helen and found her dead before he moved to Grace’s side. “You’ll be okay.”

“Not,” Grace stopped to pant, “likely.”

The man put his hands over Grace’s stomach. “Yes, you will be.” His hands began to glow white and the glow spread to Grace.

Her back arched again and she opened her mouth in a silent scream as something settled into her and used the man’s healing energy to change her. Whether it was the accellerated healing or something else the wolf fused completely into Grace, giving her a level of control only the oldest of wolves could match.

As the last of her injuries healed the glow faded from first her and then his hands.

“Thank you,” she said, smiling at him tiredly.

He pulled off his shirt and, after helping her stand, helped her into it.

Grace picked up her backpack and her mother’s purse and quickly pulled out the real valuables, leaving the rest in a heap by Helen’s body.

“Do you want me to wait for the police with you?”

Grace drew in a slow breath, automatically sorting through the scents in the alley. The man besdie her wasn’t human, not completely anyway. “I have no intention of being here when the police arrive,” she said honestly. “You probably don’t want to answer questions either.”

“So you’re just going to leave your friends body laying in a filthy alley?”

“I’ve known Helen was going to die in some alley since I was four and called in her overdose. I’ll report her missing, maybe, depending on how her pusher/pimp of a boyfriend reacts. I stopped cleaning up my mother’s messes when I was 13 and moved out on my own.” Grace met the man’s eyes, “Yeah, I’m just going to leave and let someone else clean up this mess. Thank you,” she said again, “for saving my life.”

“You’re welcome.”

Grace headed out of the alley the same way the other wolf had gone.

“Wait. At least let me see you home.”

“Home is Pittsburgh.”

“I can drive you.”

“I’ll get home okay,” Grace assured him. “You’ve done more than enough for me.”

“You’re covered in blood and...”

“I’ll be fine,” Grace assured him. “Cops are coming. Someone must have called in the screams.”

With a frustrated sigh he followed her out of the alley.

* * *


Despite what several of her teachers thought Grace was not stupid. She knew Helen’s fingerprints were in the system and it wouldn’t take the police long to track down both Martin and herself. She also knew she didn’t want to tell them too many lies.

She would prefer to avoid them altogether but knew it was unlikely. So Grace wasn’t at all surprised to find a police detective searching her apartment when she got home.

“I tried to tell them,” Javier Lucas said as he saw her, “but they had a warrant and I had to let them in.”

“It’s fine, Javier.” She took the warrant with one hand and shooed him out of her apartment. Reading the warrant with one hand she tossed her backpack on the nearby chair. “This doesn’t say what, exactly, you’re looking for.”

“And you are?”

“Grace Kelly. This is my apartment. So what are you looking for?”

“Do you know a Helen Carson?”

“Carson is my mother’s current last name,” Grace said absently.

“And your relationship to Helen Carson?”

“Helen is my mother. Why aren’t you searching her apartment?”

“This is where Helen Carson lives, is it not?”

“No, this is where I live. Helen just uses it as a permanent address.” Grace walked past the younger detective into the kitchen. “She’s living her current pusher and or pimp. Martin T something.”

“Telford. Martin Telford.”

“Whatever,” Grace waved it off. “Don’t particularly like him and I try not to socialize with Helen’s pimps. Keeps them from trying to add me to their strings.”

“When was the last time you saw Helen Carson?”

“We were both in Harrisburg yesterday. She stayed to do a trick. Why all the questions about Helen?”

“I’m sorry to inform you Helen Carson is dead. Her body was found last night in the alley behind Club Lobo.”

“She OD or did the trick kill her?”

“I don’t think the official cause of death has been determined yet.”

“Why guess those two?”

“I was four the first time I called in Helen’s OD and I seven the first time I had to call the cops on one of her tricks. In the absence of new information I assume it’s one of the two.”

“You’re very,” he hesitated.

“Cold? Uncaring?” Grace suggested. “I moved out of Helen’s when I was 13. It was easier to move out on my own and support myself than to stay with Helen and support her too.”

“Do you live alone?”

“Rob has a key,” Grace said slowly. “Why?”

“No reason,” he said quickly.

Grace quickly thought through the reasons he’d be asking. He could smell her wolf but he couldn’t feel her so he was wondering why he could smell wolf. She could smell him too, a combination of cinnamon and musk she now knew was the scent of werewolf. It was the scent she identified with Rob, Benny, and Reg.

“Rob?”

“Robert Alford, the apartment is technically his but he doesn’t live here. He has a key though, so does Mary. Mary Martins. She’s my boss. Speaking of which,” she smiled, “I have to get ready and get to work. If you’re done?”

“I think we’re done for now.”

Grace politely saw them to the door and locked it behind them. She had time to shower and change before she had to leave.

* * *


“Sorry I’m late, Mary.”

“And so you should be. There are people who count on you arriving on time, Young Lady.”

“Blame the police. Or Helen,” Grace suggested as she dropped her backpack behind the counter.

“She get arrested again?”

“She got dead this time,” Grace said with a shrug, putting her cue case on the counter and opening it. She screwed her cue together and put the case away. When she turned around she looked over the four active tables. “So who wants to play?”

Reg, one of the regulars, waved her over. “Are you sure should be here?” he asked her gently.

“It’s just Helen,” she said simply.

“Let’s play,” Reg said, pulling balls from the pockets.

They were halfway through their second game when the two strangers entered the pool hall. All the regulars tensed and several of them moved to put themselves between Grace and the strangers.

Grace looked them over before sinking the fifteen and straightening up. She looked them over again, taking in a slow breath to confirm what her instincts were telling her.

“Welcome to Mike’s,” she said, taking the lead. “Tables are ten dollars an hour. I believe there’s an empty table if you’re interested.”

“I’m looking for Grace Kelly.”

“Why?” Reg asked automatically.

“I’m Victor Lenate, I’m a lawyer with Wolfram and Hart. We were the lawyers for Helen Kelly.”

“So?”

“Miss Kelly left a lot of debts, Wolfram and Hart has began to seize her assets. She also left firm instructions on her daughter’s welfare if anything happened to her. The firm is splurging on plane tickets.”

“Tickets where?”

“Miss Kelly insists, insisted,” he corrected himself, “that in the event of her death her daughter was to be seen to the custody of her father.”

“Well Helen gave up all the parental rights when Grace moved out on her own. So I don’t think Grace is going anywhere.”

Grace didn’t say anything, most of her attention on the muscle behind the lawyer. She knew she didn’t look nearly 17, she’d been passing as an adult since she was 13, and the lawyer hadn’t even looked at her. She also knew that despite Reg and Benny being werewolves he would easily go thorugh the two submissives.

Grace held the muscle’s eyes as she began to take her cue apart.

“Grace?” Reg turned to look at her.

“No one is going to interfere,” she said flatly. She walked over and put her cue away, closing up the case and grabbing her backpack. She pulled out her keys and tossed them to Benny. “Take care of my cat until I get back.”

“Sure, Grace, you know I love cats.”

Everyone in the pool hall looked at him like he was crazy but they obeyed Grace’s command not to interfere as she left with the lawyer and the muscle.

“Your mother’s assets are being seized. You’re friend will be required to turn over...”

“My apartment which is owned by Rob? I’d like to see them try,” she smirked. “Helen has been in my apartment three times, she has never stayed overnight, and neither she nor her creditors have any claim on it.”

“We’ll see about that.”

Grace just smirked again.

* * *


“Michael James McNally?”

“Yes?”

“My name is Victor Lenate. I’m the lawyer for the late Helen Kelly.”

“If you say so.”

“Miss Kelly left strict instructions that, in the event of her death, her daughter Grace be delivered into the custody of her biological father. Michael James McNally of Sunnydale California. She also left you this letter,” he handed over an envelope.

“Who is it, Mike?”

“Apparently it’s my daughter.” He opened the letter and skimmed it quickly. “Oh, that Helen.”

“Mike?”

He looked over at Grace, “She always did like Princess Grace. So you’re what? Seventeen?”

“At the end of February,” Grace agreed. “Look, you want to sign the stupid custody paper so I can get back to my life?”

“Mike?”

“Kelly, this is my daughter Grace. Grace, my wife Kelly. What papers?” he asked the lawyer.

“There are no papers. My duty was simply to see her safely delivered here. Getting custody is your problem.”

“He is such a helpful soul,” Grace muttered, rolling her eyes.

“Here,” the muscle handed her the backpack and the cue case.

“That is an asset and...”

“You’ll take my cue over my dead body,” Grace said coldly, her eyes utterly devoid of emotion.

“I’m sure your father can explain...”

“She means it,” the muscle said. “We’re done here.”

“But...” the lawyer started to argue.

“We’re done here,” the muscle repeated.

“And you thought you were in charge,” Grace smirked at him. “Good-bye.” Grace watched them walk back to the car and then drive away. She turned back to Mike and Kelly who had been joined by a tall, gangly teen. “So, it was nice to meet you. I’ll be going now.”

“I don’t think so,” Mike corrected her.

“Look,” Grace sighed, “I’m not here by choice. I have a life I’d like to get back to. A job, friends, a life,” she repeated.

“What about school?”

“What about it?” Grace countered.

“You’re only a junior. How are you going to keep up your grades if you need to work full-time?”

“I moved out of Helen’s drug den when I was 13. I’ve been living on my own ever since. I don’t think Helen’s sudden demise is going to change that. As for school, I’m a sophmore with two junior classes at an academic academy called Merland Prep. I have a terrible attendance record but a 3.8 GPA.”

“You should be a junior.”

“Yeah, well, I’m a sophmore. You should be glad the deal Rob made between me and the school keeps me in school at all.”

“And Rob is?”

“Rob pays my school fees, owns my apartment, pays my bills, buys my clothes, and gives me spending money.”

“So, he’s your sugar daddy,” Kelly sneered.

“You can call him that. I just call him Rob.”

“And how long before he starts collecting on what you owe him?”

“A long time,” Grace said drily. “You see I don’t owe Rob anything. Rob’s an old friend of my boss’s. He put his name on everything but I pay for it all. Including my thirty grand a year in school fees.”

“And you don’t think he’ll keep everything his name is on and leave you with nothing?”

“I’ve had nothing before. I can start over if I need to.” Grace tilted her head and studied Mike. “Why do you care? Even if you are my biological father it’s not like you owe me anything. I have a life, and two father figures, and I’m not asking you for anything. I haven’t needed Helen since I was eleven and I certainly don’t need you now.”

“You are staying here, at least until the custody issue is settled.”

“I have a chem test Friday and a math paper due Friday afternoon. I intend to be there for both of them.”

“Let me repeat that for you,” Mike said drily. “You are staying here.”

“Why? I don’t want to be here and you don’t want me here so why make me stay?”

“Good question,” Kelly muttered.

“I want you to stay,” the teen spoke up.

“And you are?”

“Jesse McNally,” he stuck out his hand.

“Grace Kelly,” she said, shaking his hand. “And it’s a nice thought but...”

“If you leave I will report you as a runaway.”

“Like I care?”

“At least stay until morning. If you still want to leave I’ll drive you to the airport.”

“Can we skip the staying overnight part and go right to the ride to the airport?”

“No.”

“That figures,” she sighed. “Why should anything in my life be easy this week?” She let out another long sigh. “Fine, whatever I’ll stay.”

“Welcome to my home.”

Grace rolled her eyes, “Whatever.”

“Jesse, show Grace the guestroom,” Kelly ordered. “Your father and I need to have a talk.”

Grace followed Jesse up to the second floor and the guestroom.

“So why don’t you want to stay?”

“I have a life to get back to,” Grace said honestly. “School, job, friends. What’s in Sunnydale for me?”

“There’s me,” Jesse pointed out. “And Xander and Willow.”

Grace chuckled as she sat on the bed. “And they are?”

“Xander and Willow are my best friends. Willow’s one of the smartest kids in school.”

“Sounds like they’re nice kids.”

“What about your friends? What are they like?”

“Not kids,” Grace admitted. “Reg is an accountant, Benny is a lawyer, Mike and Mary own the pool hall, Stevie is a retired cop, so is Patty, the rest of the regulars aren’t that regular and we aren’t friends. Benny’s probably my best friend, we even hang out places besides the pool hall.”

“What about Rob? Is he one of your friends?”

“Rob is Rob. He’s a friend of Mike’s, not mine. He, uhh, dated my mother for a while before I moved out on my own. He put his name on everything but I have two signed contracts for the sale of the apartment, one in my name dated for my 18th birthday and a blank one in case I decided to move before then.”

“So no one you’d really miss,” Jesse pushed. “I mean, you and that Benny guy aren’t dating.”

Benny’s my friend,” Grace said with a smile. “He’s also way too old for me. But we’re friends,” she said again. “I don’t think I’d ever had a real friend before Benny.”

“Then why do you want to go back so bad?”

Grace studied his innocent eyes and smiled sadly. “It’s hard to explain, Jesse.”

“Try.”

“I’m just Grace to them. I’m not Helen’s daughter, or anyone else’s. I’m just Grace. And they accept me for who I am. They don’t want to change me or pretend I’m someone I’m not. They treat me like an adult and their equal. They expect certain things from me and they know I expect certain things from them.”

“I’m not,” he stopped. “I am, aren’t I? You’re my sister,” he said as he sat on the bed beside her, “and I want to get to know you. I know it’s not fair to you but I want you to stay.”

Grace studied him, searching for something in his eyes and body language. Grace’s wolf wavered between prey and pack before settling on pack. She knew Reg and Benny had their Alpha to watch over them and the rest of their pack to lean on if necessary. She also knew Jesse was at least as submissive as either of them and she doubted his friends were any different.

Her wolf wanted to stay and forge a new pack. She could feel there was no pack in Sunnydale. She could also feel the presence of something evil in the town. She knew she needed to protect Jesse and her new pack.

“Okay, Jesse, I’ll stick around for a while. For you.”

“You’ll like Xander and Willow,” Jesse assured her.

“So you’re staying?” Mike asked from the door.

“For a while.”

“Kelly doesn’t like it, but she’s agreed to let you stay. At least until we can come to an arrangement which satisfies all the interested parties.”

“I think one of your parents is a lawyer,” she said in a conspiratorial voice to Jesse.

“Mom and Dad are both lawyers.”

“Since none of us feels like cooking how about three of us go out for supper?”

“Sure,” Jesse agreed. “Right, Grace?”

“Sure,” she agreed, smiling at Jesse.

“Mom’s not coming?” Jesse frowned as he helped Grace up.

“Kelly has a headache.”

“And I’ll guess she calls it Grace Kelly,” Grace joked.

“Try to get along with my mom,” Jesse pleaded.

“I don’t get along with my mother but I’ll try to get along with Kelly, because you asked me to.”

“That’s all I can ask.” Jesse wrapped his arm around her.

Mike frowned at them as they led the way out of the bedroom.

* * *


“Xander, Willow,” Jesse ran a few steps to catch up to them. “Hey. I want you guys to meet my sister Grace.”

Xander stuck his finger in his ear and wiggled it. “Could you repeat that? I think you just said your sister.”

“That’s what he said,” Grace said as she walked up to them.

“I can’t believe you dad cheated on your mom,” Willow frowned at them.

“He didn’t,” Jesse said at the same time Grace said, “I’m older.”

“So you’ve known you have a sister for how long?” Xander demanded. “We’ve been your best friends forever and you didn’t see fit to tell us?”

Grace growled under her breath, careful to keep it lower than humans could hear, and stepped between Xander and Jesse.

“Grace, Xander didn’t mean it the way it sounded. He covers confusion with sarcasm.”

“Don’t care how he meant it,” Grace said coldly. “Shouldn’t talk to you like that.”

Jesse put his hands on Grace’s shoulders and squeezed them gently. “He doesn’t mean it.”

Grace leaned back slightly against his hands. “Don’t care,” she repeated.

“I like her,” Xander stated. “And I’m assuming you didn’t know about her until recently.”

“Not until she showed up yesterday.”

“Oh, that is so cool,” Willow said, smiling, “finding out you have a sister and her moving here.”

“Cool?” Grace sneered. “You think it’s cool?” She looked Willow over slowly, “Why don’t you tell me what’s so cool? The part where my mother gets ripped to shreds? The part where I find out she’s lied to me all my life? The part where some lawyer comes to my workplace and drags me across the country without even letting me pack a change of clothes? Or maybe you think the fact my brand new step-mother hates my guts is cool? Why don’t you tell me what’s so cool?”

Xander stepped between Grace and Willow, who was on the verge of tears. “Don’t take it out on Willow because you’re mad at me.”

“I’m so sorry, Grace. I should have guessed it was something bad that brought you here. I’m sorry about your mom. You’ll see, Jesse’ll be the best brother ever and Mr. and Mrs. McNally will be great parents and...”

“Breathe, Willow,” Xander prompted.

“Helen in no loss,” Grace admitted, “I didn’t even live with her anymore. And I’m sorry I blew up at you, I know you were just excited for Jesse.”

“You’ll like Sunnydale,” Willow insisted. “And Jesse will be the best brother ever.”

“Yeah, Jesse’s okay. I definitely missed sleeping in my own bed though,” Grace smiled tiredly.

“Has Jesse taken you to the office yet?” Willow asked.

“I think it was on his schedule for sometime after never,” Grace admitted.

“Hey,” Jesse perked up, “wasn’t there a new girl starting today?”

“Isn’t she a new girl?” Xander gestured at Grace.

“My sister is not a girl!” Jesse stepped in front of Grace.

Grace slapped him in the back of the head.

“Hey!” Jesse turned to look at her, rubbing his head. “What was that for?”

“I might not be a girl you want him looking at but say I’m not a girl again and I will hurt you.” She turned to look at Willow, “Is he really that stupid?”

“He’s a boy, they can’t help it,” Willow told her, glancing at Xander. “I’ll show you to the office.”

“Cool. I’ll see you later, Jesse.”

“So, new girl?” Jesse asked Xander.

“New girl.”

* * *


“I hate to stop your downward mobility,” Cordelia snarked at Buffy.

“Then don’t,” Grace suggested from behind her.

Cordelia spun in surprise, stumbling against Jesse, who helpfully put his arms around her to steady her. “Eww. Get off!” she slapped at him. She turned her attention back to Buffy. “I just wanted to tell you you wouldn’t be meeting Coach Foster, the woman with the chest hair,” she gestured, “because gym was cancelled on account of the extreme dead guy in the locker.”

“What?” Buffy asked automatically.

“What are you talking about,” Willow asked at the same time.

“Some guy was stuffed in Aura’s locker.”

“Dead?”

“Totally dead. Way dead,” Cordelia insisted.

“So not just a little dead then,” Xander snarked.

Grace chuckled and smiled at Xander as she sat in the seat Jesse had vacated.

“Don’t you have elsewhere to be?” Cordelia asked, directing an identical look at Xander and Grace while ignoring Jesse again.

“You know, if need a shoulder to cry on,” Jesse offered, “or just to nibble on.”

“Jesse,” Grace chided, “you don’t want her nibbling on you,” she made a face. “You don’t know where that mouth has been.”

“Grace,” Jesse hissed.

“How did he die?” Buffy asked, ignoring Jesse and Grace.

“I don’t know,” Cordelia admitted.

“Well, were there any marks?” Buffy demanded.

“Morbid much?” Cordelia snarked before admitting, “I didn’t ask.”

“Uhm,” Buffy began shoving things in her backpack, “I gotta book. I’ll, I’ll see you guys later.” She stuffed the last thing in her backpack and hurried away.

“What’s her deal?” Cordelia asked the four of them.

“Maybe she got tired of listening to you talk,” Grace suggested, fully aware that Buffy wasn’t completely human. “I know I am.”

“Who are you anyway?” Cordelia demanded. “She was the only new girl I heard about.”

“What can I say,” Grace shrugged, “no one thought you were important enough to tell.” She stood up again and tapped Jesse’s arm. “I need some money.”

“And you’re telling him why?” Cordelia scoffed.

Jesse pulled out his wallet and began counting money out. When she was satisfied with the amount she took it from him.

“Thanks, Jesse. I should be done before you’re out for the afternoon.”

“You sure you don’t want to wait until I can take you?”

“Jesse, I love you but some things you don’t need help to pick out and anything I do I don’t want your opinion on.”

“Why not?” he demanded.

Grace just sighed at him, shaking her head as she turned and walked away.

“Why?” he looked at Xander and Willow.

“She’s saying you’re a loser,” Cordelia told him. “Why do I even talk to you?” she asked, already turning away.

* * *


“So did you get all your shopping done?” Jesse asked as Grace neared him.

“Just the essentials,” Grace said, leaning her head against his shoulder.

“And you didn’t want my opinion?”

“Jesse, some things brothers and fathers should not think about.”

“Huh?” Jesse asked blankly.
Grace showed Jesse the name on the side of the bag she was carrying. Jesse promptly blushed and Grace chuckled. “I told you you didn’t want to think about it.”

“Grace, tell Willow you weren’t shopping for underwear,” Xander demanded as he and Willow walked up.

“Willow, I was not shopping for underwear,” Grace said with a straight face. “I did however find some fabulous bra and panty sets. You want to see them?” she asked Xander.

Xander took one look at Jesse’s face and quickly said. “No. So, are we Bronzing it tonight?”

“Are we?” Willow perked up.

“I heard Buffy might go,” Xander admitted.

“Oh. But you’ll be there, right?”

“Take me back to your place?” Grace said to Jesse. “If I’m going clubbing, and I presume Bronzing is clubbing, I need to find something to wear. I’ll start in your closet.”

“My closet? You called me a loser.”

“No, I said you have absolutely hideous taste in clothes. Your mother has half decent taste though so I assume there’s decent clothes in your closet that you just never wear.”

“I guess,” Jesse said slowly, wrapping his arm around her shoulders.

“We’ll see you guys later,” Grace said as Jesse started them walking.

“I’ll walk you home, Wills.”

“Sure, Xan,” Willow smiled at him.

* * *


“You look very nice,” Kelly said stiffly. “The shirt looks familiar.”

Grace looked down at the dress shirt she’d taken out of Jesse’s closet. “Until I can convince him to wear them I may as well.”

“I don’t like the fact you went into Jesse’s closet and...”

“You ready to go, Grace?” Jesse asked. “Fits you better than it fits me,” he observed. “I’ll put the rest in your closet later.”

“I don’t want you giving her your clothes,” Kelly told Jesse.

“Come on, Grace,” Jesse grabbed Grace’s arm and pulled herback up the stairs to his room. He pulled open his closet and began pulling out all his never worn dress shirts, handing them to Grace. He added a few more dressy pieces in a three piece suit he hated and a pair of blazers he would never wear.

“You go hang that stuff up while I go through my dresser.”

“Jesse Andrew McNally! What do you think you’re doing!?” Kelly yelled at him.

“I’m giving my sister all the things you bought me that I am never going to wear,” Jesse said coldly. “They can clog up her closet and leave me room to get some things I will wear.”

“Give the suit back, Grace,” Mike said calmly. “And one of the white shirts.”

“White will look terrible on him,” Grace said, handing the suit back. She quickly flicked through the shirts and pulled out a cream coloured shirt. She slid it under the jacket to check the colour and then held it up to Jesse. “Much better.”

“Go hang the rest up, Grace, and then we’ll go.”

“I am not being seen in public with you if you’re wearing that sweater,” Grace said as she carried the pile of clothes into her room. She hung them up and walked back into Jesse’s room. She looked him over critically and began to dig through his dresser.

She tossed several things onto his bed and then turned to his closet. She flicked through several several of the items before pulling out a pale green sweater. She hung that on the closet door and quickly went through the rest of the closet. “Have you actually worn this in public?” she asked Jesse, holding up the sweater.

“No.”

“Thank God,” she sighed.

“Can we go now?” Jesse asked.

“Are you going to change?”

“No. I like what I’m wearing.”

“You look like a loser.”

“Have fun,” Mike said looking them both over. “Be back by curfew.”

“We have a curfew?” Grace asked Jesse as they started out of the house.

Jesse chuckled and wrapped his arm around her.

“I don’t like you undermining my authority with her, Mike.”

“Kelly, they were never gong to be worn in Jesse’s closet. Grace will wear them. And it’s that much we don’t have to spend on her.”

“I don’t want her here,” Kelly said bluntly. “I don’t want her in this house and I don’t want her hanging around Jesse.”

“She’s my daughter and his sister. I am glad the two of them seem to be getting along.”

“I don’t want her here,” Kelly repeated.

“So you’ve said,” Mike said flatly.

* * *


Grace sat at a corner table and watched everything in the Bronze. She automatically filtered through the scents and the various conversations. It was an interesting sensation and she closed her eyes as it threatened to overwhelm her.

The wolf inside her moved closer to the surface until the feeling disappeared and then it sank back down again. Grace knew the theory behind what had happened, when she’d been attacked her defences had been lowered enough for the mystical infection to get in and start changing her. She wasn’t sure about what happened after that but she had a guess. The man that had healed her had done so not knowing about the infection, not knowing her body was already being changed into a true werewolf’s. Which meant he had healed the wolf into her.

She could feel presence of the wolf, felt it slightly separate from herself still. Yet the physical changes had been healed into her and she could feel her wolf. The night of the full moon would completely merge them together and Grace was looking forward to it. There wasn’t any urge to find others, though she did feel the need to keep the pack close, or at least to keep Jesse close.

Benny would have caused more of a fuss if he’d been able to sense the wolf in Grace. She’d get him to come out after her first Change and see if he felt any different around her. If he didn’t it was likely she could hide her presence from all the wolves she’d meet.

She opened her eyes as a vampire approached her table.

“While I may prefer my meat freshly killed,” she looked up to meet his eyes, “freshly dead works too.”

The vampire immediately changed directions and headed for the bar. Grace drained her glass, stood gracefully, and moved off to find Jesse.

* * *


“Hey, you’re leaving already?” Xander asked, Buffy as she moved away from the Bronze, looking all around.

“Oh, Xander. Have you seen Willow?”

“Not tonight, no.”

“She left with a guy.”

“We’re talking about Willow, right? Score at the Bronze. Work it, Girlfriend.”

“No, I need to find her,” Buffy said over Xander’s words. “Where would he take her?” she asked, beginning to look around again.

“Why? Oh. Hey, I hope he’s not a vampire because then you might have to slay him.”

“Was there a school bulletin? Was it in the paper?” she demanded, turning back to face Xander. “Is there anyone in this town who doesn’t know I’m the Slayer?”

“I only know that you think you’re the Slayer and the reason I know that is...”

“Whatever, it doesn’t matter,” Buffy cut him off.

“Hey,” Grace said, running up to them, “have either of you seen Jesse?”

“He’s not inside bothering Cordelia?” Xander gestured at the doorway.

“She shot him down, I’m assuming like usual. The last time I saw him he was talking to some blonde.”

“Where would they go?”

“You’re serious?”

“We don’t find them and there are gonna be two more dead bodies in the morning.”

* * *
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