Aspects of Love

Part Three


Buffy was still standing and looking at Xander in shock so she didn't put up much of a fight when he jostled past her and into the hallway.

Joyce too was a little stunned "Xander… what are you doing here?" she asked "You should be back at the hospital."

Xander dropped his bag at the bottom of the stairs "You're not happy to see me?"

Buffy closed the door and turned to him "Of course we are Xander" she reassured him. Then she sighed "You discharged yourself didn't you?"

Xander shrugged "I figured that if all I was doing was sitting on my ass then I could do it anywhere."

"And what did the hospital have to say about this?" Buffy asked.

"They said they didn't think it was a good idea, but they also said there wasn't a lot they could do about it" Xander replied simply.

"Is that right?" Buffy crossed her arms in front of her chest "OK. Give me one good reason why *I* shouldn't drag you back there"

"'Cos I'd rather be *here* with *you*" Xander said tenderly, ignoring her tone "I don't want to have to wait for you to come in and see me. I want to be able to see you when *I* want to"

Buffy softened a little "But Xander, you're still not better" she told him "I can see it in your face" Buffy noticed her mother slipping away and into the kitchen "Xander" she continued "I just want what's best for you"

"You're best for me" Xander said, pulling Buffy into a hug "Didn't I ever tell you that?"

Buffy sighed as she wrapped her arms around his waist. She rested her head against his chest "If you get so much as a headache I'm taking you back. Understood?"

"It's a deal" Xander said and placed a soft kiss on top of Buffy's head.

Buffy looked up at him "Come on" she said with a smile "Let's get some food"


Giles closed shut the book he had been reading and pushed it to one side. Stifling a yawn he got up from his couch and made his way into the kitchen. Just as he was beginning to fill the kettle his telephone rang.

Sighing, Giles left his tea making preparations and left the kitchen to answer his phone.


<Hi> was the simple response.

A relieved smile formed on Giles' lips "Where are you?"

<San Francisco> Ren replied.

"Well at least you didn't disappear to the deepest regions of Peru" Giles meant that only half as a joke.

<I'm fine… before you ask> Ren said <I'm sorry I didn't call before… and I'm sorry I didn't return your messages. I wanted to get settled first>

Giles frowned "Settled?" Giles didn't like the sound of that "Y-you're planning on staying there?"

<Maybe… I don't know> Ren sighed.

"Well, it’s good that you’re so decided."

<Don’t be like that Rupert. I told you why->

"Actually, no, you didn’t" Giles interrupted "You gave me some excuse in that note instead. Why don’t you just come back and face whatever it is you’re running from?"

<I’m *not* running from anything>

"Then come back" Giles argued.

<Why are you being so difficult?>

"Me! You’re the one that upped and left in the middle of the night, making me worried sick."

Ren sighed on the other end of the line <I’m sorry Rupert. I didn’t mean for you to worry. I-I just…>

"No, no I’m sorry. I’m just… look, please… come back."

<It’s not that easy>

"It was easy for you to leave. Why shouldn’t it be any easier for you to come back?"

<Because it just is>

"That’s about as much information as I’m going to get from you isn’t it?" Giles shook his head and sighed resignedly "So, do I at least get a contact number for you? An address even?"

<I promise I’ll answer my cell phone if you call> Ren compromised <Look, I have to go. I’ll speak to you soon OK Rupert?> and she put the phone down before Giles could respond.

Giles put his own receiver back in it’s cradle then stared at it for a few moments in regretful silence before going back into his kitchen to finish making his tea.


When Buffy had finished helping her mother with the dishes she went upstairs to find Xander who had gone to take a shower after dinner.

She didn’t hear the water running so Buffy went in to her bedroom and found Xander sitting on her bed, a towel wrapped around his waist, and looking around her room. He turned to her and smiled when he heard her come in.

Buffy smiled back "Feel better?"

"Much. I think I managed to wash away all remainder of hospital from me."

"Good" Buffy sat down on the bed next to him "You wanna robe or anything? You look a little cold."

"Nah, I’m fine" Xander ran a hand through his damp hair "I’ll put some PJ's on in a minute"

"Shame" Buffy grinned "I was enjoying the view."

"I’m just a sex object to you aren’t I?" Xander pretended to pout.

"Pretty much… hey" Buffy exclaimed as Xander caught hold of her waist and pulled her to him as he laid back down on the bed, turning her so her back was against his chest. Buffy turned her head up to look at him "What’s all this?"

"I need a reason?"

Buffy chuckled "Guess not."

Xander nuzzled his head down into her shoulder "Actually, I have a reason" he admitted "This is just a cunning ploy so you don’t get mad"

"Okaay" Buffy said slowly "What’s the what?"

"I have other grounds for discharging myself" he told her "Other than just wanting to be with you" Xander paused "I didn’t want to stay there if *she* was paying"

Buffy sighed heavily "Oh Xander-."

"I wasn’t going to get better on her guilt money Buffy."

Buffy sighed again "I shouldn’t have told you. I knew after what you said you wouldn’t like the idea."

"I would’ve left there anyway Buff. I wanted to come back to you as well" he said and held her tighter "I keep tellin’ you, you’re better for me than any hospital."

"Sweet talker."

"I mean it Buff" Xander said sincerely "I love you so much it hurts."

Buffy turned in Xander’s arms so she could face him "Even though I think you’re an idiot for discharging yourself?" she smiled.

Xander smiled back "Even if you think I’m an idiot"

Buffy kissed Xander softly on the lips and moved her hand so she could stoke the hair by his temples with her fingers "But even after that, I can’t tell you how happy I am that you’re back here with me."

"Well I’m here to stay" Xander replied "No one gets rid of me that easily"

"I’m beginning to realise that" she smiled "Come on" Buffy patted his towel-clad thigh "Are you getting dressed or what?"

"At the moment I’m going for the ‘Or what’"

"I figured as much seeing as how your hands have managed to find their way down to my ass."

Xander looked at her innocently "What? I can’t grope you?"

"Well I don’t want you straining anything" Buffy said with a grin "I’m not going to be held responsible for any damage you sustain."

"Hey, I’m not saying we should attempt anything major" Xander replied, grinning back at her "I was just thinking maybe a grope here and there and possibly some fondling if we get around to it"

Buffy laughed "Sorry superstud" she disentangled herself from Xander "Like I said" she got up from the bed and passed Xander his jeans which he took begrudgingly "Maybe when you feel more… *up* to it"

Xander face took on a pained expression "Ha ha"

Buffy ruffled a hand through his hair and Xander batted her hand away "OK, I guess you have a point on the no nookie front" he said, looking up at her with a smile "Guess the whipped cream’ll have to go on standby"

Buffy rolled her eyes "Hey, I don’t like this anymore than you, OK? Let’s just get you fully operational before we start getting-."

"Fully operational?" Xander finished, raising a suggestive eyebrow.

Buffy sighed exasperatedly "I can see this is going to be a long night."


"Yeah, you heard me right" Buffy said to Willow on the phone the next morning "Currently my fiancé is sitting at the breakfast table trying to eat my mother out of house and home" Buffy stuck her tongue out at Xander when he made a face at her for that remark before continuing to speak to Willow. "No, he’s fine. He’s going to see his doctor today for a check up type thing … no, it's just to see how he's managing out of the hospital … OK, I'll speak to you later. Bye Will."

Buffy put the phone down and walked over to where Xander was seated "Willow said to say hi and she'll try and get by later" Buffy watched Xander eat for a few moments "Good to know you've got your appetite back" she commented.

Xander finished what he was eating and pushed the plate to the side "Your mom's the best" Xander replied giving a Joyce a quick grin when she came back into the kitchen.

Buffy sidled up to him "I thought I was the best" she said lightly.

Xander just grinned at her and kissed her softly on the lips "I never said what she was the best in" he murmured.

"Ah, well that makes all the difference" Buffy smiled. She stood behind Xander and wrapped her arms around his neck "You know I have to go to work today don't you?"

"Yeah, I know" Xander replied somewhat sadly "But I'm sure I'll find something to keep me occupied."

Buffy kissed him on the cheek "I'll be back at about one-ish and we can have lunch" Buffy took her arms from around his neck and took the piece of toast Joyce offered her. She blew Xander a kiss before taking a bite "Love you" Buffy said with her mouthful before heading out the back door.

Joyce put some toast infront of Xander and he quickly began to devour it. She smiled "I'd forgotten how much you eat."

Xander finished his last mouthful before replying "I'm just keeping my strength up" he told her "I'm not going to get all weak and wobbly-kneed on Buffy now that I'm out of hospital"

Joyce smiled again "Glad to hear it" she said and hesitated before continuing "And she's also right also about the fact that you shouldn't be taking things to quickly" Joyce sat down next to him "If the worst should happen and you should have some sort of… oh, I don't know… a relapse or something" the seriousness of Joyce's words wasn't hidden by her soft tone "I don't want my daughter going through all that again"

Xander held Joyce's gaze for a few seconds before looking down at his plate "I don't want to hurt her" he said quietly.

"You didn't hurt her" Joyce replied "But Buffy always wants to take everything on herself and when you were ill, she forgot about taking care of *herself*" she gave Xander a small smile when he looked back up at her "I know my daughter" Joyce continued "She'll still worry even though you're here and where she knows you're all right, but-"

"I can take care of her this time" Xander interrupted then shot Joyce an apologetic look for doing so "But I mean it" he added "With me around, Buffy'll be alright."

"Good" Joyce smiled warmly and stood up from the stool she'd been sitting on. She was about to head into the hall when she heard Xander mutter:

"Me and Buff are a team. Nothing and no-one is going to get between us again"


(Two weeks later)

Xander's shoulders sagged "A double date?"

"Jeez, say it like that Xander" Buffy said "You make it sound like a bad thing" she passed him the box of donuts "It's Willow and Tara, y'know, your *friends*"

Xander took one of the donuts and studied it "Yeah, I know. But I wanted to spend my first night out of the house with *you* and not you *and* the sapphic twosome"

Buffy gave him a look of disbelief "I cannot believe you just said that" she snatched away his donut and put it back in the box. She ignored his pout "Xander, come on, its not like we all haven't double dated before."

"Buff honey, I think you're missing the point" he scooted nearer to her on the couch "It's not that I don't want to spend time with Wills and Tara, it's just that I'd rather spend more time with you" Xander leaned closer to her and Buffy tried to ignore him but he began to nibble on her earlobe "I mean, you're my fiancée"

Buffy didn't have anymore luck trying to ignore Xander when he moved his lips onto her neck and began placing light feathery kisses on her skin "And I think you're missing *my* point Xander. You've barely seen Willow *and* Tara since you've been out of hospital. You've been holed up here with me nearly all that and if you could keep doing whatever it is you're doing with your tongue I'd be very grateful"

Buffy sank back into Xander's embrace and he turned her around in his arms so he could devour her lips in a bruising kiss.

"Come on" Xander cajoled when they both came up for oxygen "Let's just go out. Just the two of us. We could find somewhere private…" he trailed off and kissed Buffy again.

"You do realise that this isn't going to work every time" Buffy said breathlessly.

"It that a yes?" Xander asked hopefully.

"Very much a yes" Buffy replied with a grin and pushed Xander back down on to the couch.


Willow sighed when she got off the phone with Buffy later that afternoon "Great" she stated unenthusiastically.

Tara frowned and went over to her girlfriend "What's up?" she asked.

"That's was Buffy" Willow explained "She and Xander can't do the double date thing tonight"

"Oh" Tara was disappointed "Did she say why?"

Willow tried to shrug it off "It was just a quick message" she said and went to sit back down on her bed "Y'know, I think they probably just want to be alone" Willow continued, looking up at Tara and shrugged again "Makes sense when you think about it"

Tara sat down next to Willow and put an arm around her shoulder "I know you haven't seen him as much as you'd like to since he's been at Buffy's" Tara said "But he's just been through something major, it's gonna take him time to get back in the swing of things"

"I guess."

"And we can still go out" Tara looked hopefully at Willow.

"Yeah" a smile spread over Willow's face "It's not like they don't *want* to see us, right?"


Giles quickly crumpled the piece of paper he had been scribbling on and shoved it in one of his pockets when both Willow and Tara came into the shop.

Giles looked at them both with mild surprise "Hello" he said, "I thought you two were out with Buffy and Xander tonight"

"Oh, we were" Willow said "But plans got changed at the last minute. Just me and Tara tonight"

"And you're *here* because…?" Giles trailed off and looked at them expectantly.

"I left my purse here" Tara told him "It should be behind the counter."

Giles looked down and saw that Tara was right. He picked it up and gave it to her with a smile. Then he looked at them both expectantly again when they made no move to leave.

"Was there anything else?" he asked.

"Nope" Willow replied a little too quickly than she would have liked "Well, what I-I mean to say is uh… Are you OK?"

Giles rolled his eyes heavenwards "Oh not you as well" he muttered just loud enough for them to hear. He looked back at them "I've had all this from Buffy in the past week and it's getting rather old. I'm *fine*. I told you that Ren is in San Francisco and *no* I haven't heard from her since then"

Tara cleared her throat "Well I think that just about covers it" she said meekly. Tara grabbed Willow's hand and started tugging her girlfriend towards the exit.

"Methinks Giles is a little bit touchy on the subject" she stated, shooting a pointed look at Giles before following after Tara.

Giles rolled his eyes and sighed. He waited until he could see that both girls had walked across the street before pulling out the piece of paper he'd secreted only minutes before. He smoothed it out on the counter top and stared at it. Written on the scrap of paper was an address in San Francisco. //Just because she doesn't want to tell me where she is and still won't answer my calls// Giles thought //Doesn't mean I can't find out//.


Buffy arrived at work the next morning to find Giles already busy sorting through some boxes he had stored in the back room. She knocked gently on the door so she didn't startle him.

"Hey" she greeted as she walked up behind him as he crouched over. She peered over his shoulder "Whatcha got in there?"

Giles looked over his shoulder at her "Morning" he said "I think it's mainly just assorted rubbish" Giles stood up and faced Buffy "Nothing worth getting excited about"

Buffy followed after Giles as he went back out to the front of the shop "Do you need me for any heavy lifting today?" she asked as she tossed her jacket behind the counter.

Giles considered this "Um… actually no" he said "Just need you to keep an eye on things, not frighten away the customers… that sort of thing."

"Oh, OK… hey, what do you mean 'Not frighten away the customers'?"

"Buffy, if you'd have looked in the mirror this morning" Giles said "You'd have noticed that you have a rather scary grin on your face that would rival a Cheshire cat."

"I do not" Buffy insisted, then caught sight of her reflection in one of the cabinets and realised that Giles was right.

Giles just looked at her "Good night was it?"

"I have absolutely no idea what you mean" Buffy said, knowing in fact that she did have every idea of what he meant.

Giles shook his head "Fine. Just remember I told you once before I have no earthly desires to know about your and Xander's sex life"

"You mean the bathroom thing?"

Giles shuddered a little "Yes the bathroom thing. Quite. Let's just get to work shall we?"

"Okey dokey" Buffy bounced over to the counter and jumped up so she was sitting on it, facing Giles and just in time to see Willow walk in.

"To think I bought this store to get away from everyone congregating at my home" he muttered under his breath.

But Willow heard him "Hey, I'll have you know I'm here as a customer" she said "Y'know, me witch, this *magic* store. *And*" she added "I was also going to say I'm sorry about y'know… last night. I guess it does get a bit old."

"Yes, well I do wish you would stop worrying about me" Giles replied, and gave Willow a smile to let hr know there wasn't any real, hard feelings "Anyway, I'm sure whatever it is you came here to buy, my lovely assistant" Giles gestured to Buffy "Will be able to help you" Giles paused "Assuming, that is, she can stop smiling long enough to be able to talk"

Buffy shot Giles a withering look as he wandered off into the back room again. She turned back to Willow "Hey, sorry about last night" she said, jumping back down on to the floor "Xander and I just got a little… caught up."

Willow smiled knowingly "I figured as much."

Buffy just grinned "Hey, what did Giles mean stop worrying about him?"

"Oh, Tara and I stopped by here last night. He got a bit touchy when I asked if he was OK."

Buffy looked over her shoulder to make sure Giles wasn't about to come back into the shop anytime soon. Realising he wasn't, Buffy turned back to Willow "About Ren?" Buffy asked in hushed tones.

Willow nodded "I know he likes her and all that" she said in tones that matched Buffy's "But I can't help feel he's worrying about her a little too much than he needs too. She can make her own decisions. Ren's a grown woman."

"Yeah… maybe."

"I mean it Buffy" Willow continued in a whisper so Giles couldn't over hear them "I mean, I liked her. She kinda grew on me, but I can't help thinking that maybe her decision to leave Sunnydale was for the better in the long run. I know Giles likes her, cares about her a lot, but what if she'd come between you and Xander? She's human now and from what Xander told me, the fact that she was a demon was the reason they broke up in the first place."

"You think she would have tried to get between us?"

Willow shrugged "You remember how she was before, she *could* be a real bitch. What would be to stop her now she's human?"

Buffy sighed "I don't think that would have been a problem."

"How can you be so sure?" Willow said, keeping her voice low.

Buffy looked around the shop before gently tugging Willow outside "Even if she had have tried" Buffy said when they got onto the street "I don't think Xander would have been too impressed"

Willow's brow creased "What do you mean?"

Buffy hesitated "Xander blames her" she said finally.

Willow was still confused "For what?"

"Tay" Buffy replied simply.

Willow's eyes widened "Oh."

Buffy ran a hand through her hair "He said… he believes… that if Ren had have told us about Tay, about what she was like, that we would have known and nothing would've happened the way it did"

Willow took this in "Well…" she said slowly "There is a sorta logic behind that."

Buffy took a deep breath and then exhaled slowly "And I think that's why she left" she said "In fact I'm pretty *damn* sure that's why she left"

"How come?"

"Because Xander said all that to her face."

"Oh my god" Willow darted a look towards the shop "Does Giles know?"

Buffy shook her head "How can I tell him that? How can I tell him what Xander thinks?"

"I guess you just can't walk in there and go 'Hey Giles, guess what? Ren left because Xander told her that it's her fault he was in a coma'" Willow put a comforting hand on Buffy's arm "Xander's not going to say anything, is he?"

Buffy shrugged "I said to him that it would be best if he didn't, but that was only because of Giles."

Willow raised a questioning eyebrow at Buffy "Do *you* think Xander's right?"

Buffy met Willow's eyes "If she didn't feel guilty… if she didn't think that herself… why didn't she just stay and stick it out? Talk it through with him?"

"Then there's your answer" Willow replied.

"What do we do about Giles?" Buffy said, "We can't let him go on thinking everything is all right"

"We'll think of something" Willow said "In the meantime you have to get you and Xander good again."

Buffy allowed herself a small smile "We're already good"

"So, last night was…"

"Perfect" Buffy's smiled grew wider, forgetting for a moment the Giles and Ren issue "It couldn't have been more perfect. I-I did want to wait" Buffy admitted "Y'know, until Xander got used to being Xander again, but…" Buffy's eyes twinkled "Being close to him again… like that…"

"Just like old times?"

"Just like old times" Buffy repeated.


(The following evening)

Buffy tucked the stake she had been holding in the back of her jeans and put her hands on hips "Xander, *what* are you doing?"

Xander stood in front of Buffy's bedroom door, effectively blocking her exit. He had his arms crossed in front of his chest "Why do you have to go?"

"Because" Buffy glanced at her watch "It's ten thirty in the evening and I'm the Slayer."

"But I don't want you to go on patrol" he stated "I want you to stay here with me"

"Xander, Giles wants to go with me tonight and I can't tell him 'Sorry, I'd rather stay in and boink my boyfriend than push pointy wooden sticks through dead people'"

Xander shrugged "It's gotta be worth a shot"

"You're not going to move from that doorway are you?"


"Fine, then I'll just go out the window."

Xander darted after Buffy when she made a move to the other side of the room and caught hold of her before she made it to the window.

"Buffy, I don't want you to go."

Buffy looked at Xander "I'm *going* Xander" she said gently "Sacred duty and all that. Remember?" then she smiled "Come on" Buffy stood on tiptoe and kissed him on the forehead "I'll see you later OK?" she gave Xander's arm a squeeze before making her exit through the window.

Xander stared after her //She's not supposed to be doing this// he tried to keep his thoughts calm //She's supposed to stay. She's supposed to be with me//


Giles brushed the vampire ashes off his clothes and smiled gratefully at Buffy "Well that was interesting to say the least" Giles commented as he followed after Buffy who had begun weaving her way through the headstones.

"Interesting how?" Buffy asked, not looking back at him.

"Uh… well, in the fact that you seem to be in a rather a hurry to kill the vampires"

"Tell me how that’s bad."

"Oh, it’s not bad" Giles replied "Just… well, you should be careful you don’t-"

Buffy turned around and stopped walking "Giles, look. I came, I saw, I slayed. What’s the big in how quick I did it?"

"N-nothing I suppose" Giles conceded a little "I just don’t want you making any mistakes that’s all"

"I *won’t*" Buffy gave him a reassuring smile and turned back around, starting to walk again.

Giles stared after her for a few seconds before shaking the question he was going to ask her out of his mind. He jogged the couple of steps to her side and began walking next to her.



"How are you fixed for the next couple of days?"

"I haven’t got anything major planned" Buffy replied, looking up at him "Why?"

"I have to go out of town" he told her "Um… a potential supplier needs me to be nice to him."

Buffy shrugged "Sure. I can handle things in the shop."

"Thank you" he smiled at her "I’m sure you can convince Xander to keep you company."

"Yeah, he likes any chance he can to get out of the house" Buffy said "He’s kind of at a loose end."

"Did you get to speak to uh… what's his name… Jack, about Xander's job?"

"Yup. He had to fill Xander's old one, but he said there's definitely something for Xander at the start of the new year. It'll only be part time for a while, that's the thing."

"If he wants to keep his apartment, he'll have to take it. Ren only paid the rent until the end of the year anyway."

"Yeah" Buffy glanced at her watch "Hey is that the time? OK, I'm gone."

Giles looked at his watch as well "It's hardly that late."

"Giles, I think I've filled my Slayer quota for tonight and" Buffy turned to face him and walked backwards "I wish to partake in that thing you have no" Buffy air-quoted around the next two words "Earthly desire" she grinned "To know about"

Giles sighed exasperatedly "Oh for… just *go*"

Buffy needed no further encouragement and before Giles could say anything else, Buffy was sprinting off into the distance.

Giles rolled his eyes "Hormones" Then he caught himself //But then I'm hardly one to talk//.


Buffy wasted no time in getting back to the house. She entered through the front door this time and dropped the few weapons she had been carrying by the hall table. She made her way quietly up the stairs and kicked off her boots once inside her darkened bedroom.

"Xander" she hissed quietly as she quickly began to undress "You asleep?"

Buffy hadn't gotten an answer by the time she'd slipped under the covers beside him. Buffy smiled to herself and spooned up against his back as he was lying on his side. She peered over his shoulder and at his face.

"Hey, you are awake" she said quietly when Buffy saw his eyes were half-open. Xander was staring impassively ahead. Buffy planted a soft kiss on his bare shoulder "Xan?"

Buffy's brow creased slightly when Xander didn't acknowledge her "Xan?" she tried again and this time she squeezed his shoulder gently. Xander just closed his eyes and shrugged her hand away.

Buffy laid on her back when Xander then proceeded to turn himself onto his stomach. Buffy looked across at him and studied him in the darkness, but the moonlight wasn't bright enough to aid her. She sighed and reached out a hand and tentatively brushed her fingers lightly across his back before closing her own eyes and hoping to drift off to sleep.


The next morning Buffy awoke to find herself alone in her bed. Wanting to talk to Xander about last night and before she had to go to work, Buffy slipped on her pyjamas and made her way down to the kitchen.

Both her mother and Xander were in there. "Hey" Buffy tried for bright and cheery. Joyce smiled back at her but Xander didn't look up from the bowl of cereal he was staring in to.

//Alright// Buffy thought to herself //It's official. We have a narky Xander//

Joyce, sensing that the kitchen was not a place she needed to be at that very moment, decided to go and investigate the wallpaper in the front hall.

"You OK?" Buffy asked.

Xander briefly lifted his eyes from the cereal bowl to look at her "I’m fine."

"Uh huh" Buffy wasn't convinced "Xander, I-I thought we told each other when something was wrong"

Xander pushed his bowl to one side and leant his arms on the counter top. He looked across at Buffy but didn't say anything.

Buffy stepped closer to him "Is there something I've done that I'm supposed to know about?" she tried to keep her tone fairly light "Xander, you have to tell me 'cos I'm at a loss here"

Xander got up from his stool and turned away from her, busying himself by the sink. Then he stopped realising Buffy wasn't going to ask him again. Xander turned around slowly to face her.

"Why did you go when I asked you to stay?" he asked.

Buffy saw the hurt look in his eyes and she was confused "What? When?"

"Last night."

"Last night?" Buffy's eyes widened when she realised what Xander was talking about "You mean about me going on patrol?"

"I wanted you to stay with me" Xander replied in a small voice "But you didn't."

"Xan…" Buffy caught hold of his arm and he tried to turn away from her, but Buffy wouldn't let him "Xander, you're really upset by this aren't you?" Buffy couldn't help the slight wonder from creeping into her voice "I never realised…"

Buffy reached up and brushed some of Xander's hair of his forehead "I'm sorry" she said simply "I didn't know"

Xander dropped his gaze to the floor before looking back at Buffy. He gave her a half-hearted smile "Guess I shouldn't have gotten so upset about it" then he sighed "I just didn't want you to go, that's all. I-"

"Hey" Buffy cut him off gently before he could finish by putting one of her fingers to his lips "I understand OK?"

Xander rested his chin on the top of Buffy's head "I just miss you that's all" he told her.

Buffy sighed and closed her eyes "I'm not going anywhere Xander."

Xander pulled back from her "I just worry that you won't come back"

Buffy opened her eyes and gave him a small smile "I do to" she said "Look, let's just put this behind us OK? I hate it when we argue."

After a moment, Xander nodded "Me too" he sighed "I can… I can do that."

Buffy smiled again "You wanna come help out in the shop today?" she asked hopefully, looping both her arms around Xander's neck "Giles is out of town for a couple of days and I have been left in charge. So?"

"Giles is out of town?"

"Uh-huh, he has to go see a supplier or something. I didn't ask too many questions" Buffy admitted "I like being boss-lady."

Xander grinned a little "Don't I know it" he brushed a stray strand of Buffy's hair back behind her ear "OK. How can I say no to spending an entire day with my gorgeous girlfriend, huh?"


(Later that day)

Willow looked at the closed sign with confusion when she came to the door to Giles' shop. She glanced at her watch and frowned a little //He's supposed to be open at lunchtime//. Willow pressed her face to the glass in the door and cupped her hands around her eyes to block out the sun so she could see further into the shop. She couldn't see anything.

But, even thinking to herself as she did it that it was probably a futile effort, Willow tried the door handle.

//Huh? Obviously *not* a futile effort// she then amended as the door swung open. Willow stepped cautiously inside, picking up a large statue off the table nearest the door as she passed by it. She knew Giles had left Buffy in charge and Willow knew that Buffy wasn't one to just leave the shop unattended. Things did not look good to Willow.

"Buffy?" Willow called out hesitantly "You here?" Willow tensed when she heard scuffling noises coming from her right but nothing made itself known. Willow raised the statue a little further above her head and began to circle on the spot slowly "Hey, whoever's there I-I just thought you'd like to know I might very probably be able to turn you into a rat. Probably. So-so don't try anything, 'kay?"


Willow spun around at the sound of someone calling her name and spotted the small hand waving at her from behind the counter. Very probably attached to an arm Willow thought, but still very much *just* a hand.

"Buffy?" Willow lowered the statue and took a few steps forward.

"Yeah huh" came the reply and slowly Buffy's head appeared from behind the counter "Hey."

Willow put the statue down on the table beside her "Um, Buffy? Why is the shop closed?"

"'Cos, I'm um… uh… stocktaking?" Buffy said "Yeah, that’s right. I'm stocktaking."

Willow crossed her arms infront of her chest "Stocktaking?"


"So is Xander helping?"

"He's around here somewhere" Buffy said casually.

"Ah. Helping you find your clothes which I have just spotted over in the corner?"

"Ohhh, so that's where I put them" Buffy gave Willow the thumbs up sign "Thanks"

"And obviously Xander doesn't mind looking for your clothes while he's naked too then?"

"You found his clothes too?" Buffy gave Willow another thumbs up "More *excellent* work Willow"

"Yeah, thanks Will" Xander's head popped up next to Buffy's "Don't suppose you could see fit to shut the door on your way out, could you? Getting a bit chilly in here."

Buffy nudged Xander in the ribs "What he means to say is that this isn't what it looks like"

Willow just looked at them "So you aren't having sex in Giles' shop while he's out of town then?"

"Not since you came in" Xander muttered. Buffy nudged him in the ribs again and he disappeared behind the counter.

"There's a *really* good explanation for all this Willow" Buffy said "But I can't really think of it right now, so maybe if you came back in say, an hour, I could have one ready for you"

"Y'know, I don't think I really want to know" Willow replied "Look, I'll … I'll just go and you two can finish whatever it was that you say you *weren't* doing"

Buffy flashed Willow a big grin "You're the best"

"Yeah, yeah" Willow sighed exasperatedly and took a few steps towards the door before turning back to her friends "But just so you know, I really don't think that having sex in Giles' shop is the brightest thing you two could be doing with your time"


Willow waggled her fingers in goodbye and left the shop, pointedly closing the door loudly behind her.

Buffy sank to the floor and buried her face in her hand "Oh. My. God."

"It's just Willow, Buffy" Xander said "I don't think she'll hold it against us"

Buffy raised her head to look at him "But that's the whole thing. It might not have been *just* Willow. It could have been *any*body"

"Honey, stop worrying OK?" Xander caught hold of Buffy's hand and squeezed it gently "Look, we'll get dressed, open up the shop again and we can finish this" he grinned "Later tonight" Xander then grinned even wider "Or maybe even early evening."

Buffy smiled and snuggled back up against Xander "Sounds nice" she sighed contentedly "But what about patrol?"

"Don't go" Xander murmured in her ear.

Buffy closed her eyes "But I have to. Can't abandon my duty. Can't have dead people walking about."

"Dead people are always walking about in Sunnydale Buff" Xander replied "*Stay*. Please."


"For me?"

Buffy's thoughts conflicted. One the one hand she knew she couldn't keep from going on patrol. On the other hand, she and Xander would be the only ones to know and… //Xander needs me. I don't want him thinking that I don't care about what he feels. I don't want another repeat of this morning, at least not while he's still only just out of hospital…//

Buffy turned to him and smiled "For you."


(Later that evening)

Xander wasn't sleeping. Instead he lay on his side, propped up by his elbow and was gazing at Buffy as she slept beside him. He smiled a little to himself as she shifted slightly towards him.

On some level he felt bad for guilting Buffy into abandoning her patrolling that evening so she spent it with him instead. But the other part of him that then got to stay with Buffy was ecstatic.

Xander gently brushed his fingertips over Buffy's cheek //At least here we don't have any interruptions and comments from friends who think they know better//. Xander remembered from earlier when he and Buffy had been indulging in a little healthy heavy petting that was about to lead on to something better before they were disturbed by Willow entering the shop.

Xander had succeeded in remaining calm on the outside but on the inside he was seething. //Since when did a 'Closed' sign on the door mean 'Yes, please do enter and interrupt goings on of a carnal nature'?// Xander knew in hindsight that, yes, they probably should have *locked* the door, but that wasn't the point. The point was that Xander felt it was *their* time and space to be together. His and Buffy's. Not his, Buffy and Willow and anyone else who decided to drop by. // When will people get it into their heads that there are only two people in this relationship? Why can't they see that me and Buffy don't need anyone else? We're fine as we are//.

Xander planted a soft kiss on Buffy's forehead and she stirred slightly and rolled closer to him, draping an arm over his waist. In response Xander lay flat and put his own arm around Buffy and pulled her closer.

"Xander, why are you still awake?" Xander heard Buffy murmur.

"I thought you were asleep" Xander responded.

Buffy nuzzled her head into Xander's shoulder "Trying to."

Xander kissed the top of her head "Have you any idea how much I love you?"

Buffy grinned "I thought you just *showed* me" she tilted her head so she could look at him "It was a *gooood* show"

Xander grinned back "And you got an encore."

Buffy batted him lightly on the arm "What were you thinking about?"


"Before. When you weren't asleep."

"You… mainly"

"Me?" Buffy smiled shyly "OK. What were you thinking about me?"

"Well, amongst other things, I was thinking that we haven't even thought about setting a date yet."

Buffy chuckled "You were thinking about weddings?"

Xander shrugged as best he could with Buffy leaning against him "Hey, I'm allowed. So?"

"'So' what?"

"Any preferences for a season. Spring?" Xander suggested.

"Honey, we haven't even had our first anniversary yet" Buffy pointed out "We haven't even had our fist Christmas together"

"Buff, we've *had* Christmas'"

Buffy pouted "But not as a couple" she began tracing patterns with her finger on Xander's chest "And I kinda wanted to do all that first before we started getting all wedding-y"

"Uh… honey, I don't really think that any of that is going to stop us getting all-" Xander rolled his eyes a little "-*wedding-y*, is it? I mean we can still do all that stuff you said and think ahead. Right?"


Xander put a finger to Buffy's lips, gently silencing her "Just promise me you'll think about it" he took his finger away "Please?"

Buffy gave him a soft smile "OK" she said after a couple of moments "I'll think about it"




(Earlier that evening)

Giles trudged wearily up the last flight of stairs to the apartment he had the address of scribbled down on a scrap of paper. He'd been in San Francisco most of the afternoon trying to find out the place where he hoped Ren was living now. After failing to get a suitable answer from anyone he met and then realising that the name of the street had been written down wrong, Giles had finally made it.

He hoped.

And if he had made it, Giles had no idea of what he was going to say to her. He was pretty sure "Hey Ren, guess what? I love you. Please come back to Sunnydale with me and we can work all this out" wouldn't be the best thing to start off with. Granted it wasn't the worst thing either, but Giles was British, he didn't just come straight out with stuff like that. At least he didn't anyway.

Giles leant back against one of the hall walls when he reached the landing. It was the twelfth floor, and thankfully the last floor //Why couldn't she have picked a place with a bloody lift?//.

While Giles was waiting until he got full feeling back in his legs, he pulled out the scrap of paper and checked the number of the apartment which he *definitely* knew was right. He studied the numbers on some of the doors he could see and realised that he'd have to walk all the way to the end of the hallway. He closed his eyes and let out a small sigh "Rupert Giles" he said to himself quietly "I really hope you know what you're doing."

Or maybe it wasn't as much to himself as he'd thought.

"Well, I hadn't had you down for finding me until at *least* *next* week"

Giles' eyes snapped open and was nearly let down by one of his feet slipping from underneath him but he managed to stay standing "Well I always did like a challenge" he replied, giving Ren a small smile.

Ren shifted the grocery bag in her arms and sighed heavily "Oh, come on *then*" she began to walk and nodded her head, indicating for Giles to follow "I suppose you'll be wanting a cup of tea"

Giles fell into step behind Ren "So long as its not that god awful crap advertised by chimps dressed as humans you insist on drinking"

"Rupert, if I've told you once I've told you a hundred times, Earl Grey is vile, it tastes like what I can only imagine cats piss does" Ren began to search in her pockets for her keys "I have Assam. That do ya?"

"It's fine," he said as Ren found her keys. Giles sighed as he followed Ren inside "I can't believe I come all this way and the first thing we start talking about is bloody tea"

Ren gave him a small smile and then dumped her bag of shopping on the nearest chair. She turned back to Giles after he closed the door behind him "Well you've got to admit it's better than 50 polar bears all standing together"

Giles gave her a strange look "I'm sorry?"

"Ice breaker" Ren replied simply with a small smile.

"Ah. Yes, very amusing."

"And I can only assume you don't want to discuss the weather either" Ren continued "So that just leaves the burning question you're just dying to ask me…" Ren trailed off leaving Giles to follow on.

Giles rested his hands on the back of a chair and leaned forward a little "Well, I was hoping we could make a little more small talk and I'd actually *get* the cup of tea before I ask you why you really left Sunnydale in the middle of the night"

To his surprise Ren began to laugh. "What's so funny?" Giles asked.

"It's not funny" Ren calmed down a little "Honestly." She sat down on the small couch and gestured for Giles to sit which he did. "I'm not laughing at you either" Ren continued "It's just… oh, I don't know"

"What? Come on…" Giles prodded gently.

"I just think it's nice that you came all the way here without even knowing whether I was going to speak to you or not"


"I was a bit short on the phone the last time we spoke, wasn't I?" she gave Giles an apologetic smile "It was just me having a bad day. I was kinda at a low point."

"I understand" Giles replied, then added "But, for all appearances, you seem alright now."

"Actually I am" Ren surprised him by saying "Quality alone time is, well… quality alone time. I did some thinking, realised that I shouldn't be so hard on myself and wondered when on earth I became such an emotional wreck."

"You're hardly an emotional wreck Ren" Giles reassured her "You had a major life altering experience, literally. It was bound to affect you."

"Yeah, I know Rupert" Ren stood up and walked over to her kitchen area. She stood with her back to Giles for a few moments as she filled the kettle then turned back to Giles once she had set it to boil. "But I didn't expect it to affect me as much as it did."

"What do you mean?"

"Before… before Tay changed me, I was strong. Not just physically but in my head as well. I knew what I was doing when I got involved with Xander. OK, so I had a momentary lapse when I cried like a girl when everything was over that first time" Ren admitted "But I recovered. When I came back because of Angel telling me about a letter I never sent, it was just to reassure him, and you, that I wasn't ever going to just *go* like that"

"And then everything else happened" Giles said sorrowfully.

Ren nodded "With Xander in a coma I knew I couldn't just totally leave you guys to deal with it all. I knew I couldn't help that much but I just felt it was something I needed to do, to get me back to who I am"

"And are you?"

"I'm getting close" Ren smiled a little. She turned back around to finish making the drinks. She didn't speak again and Giles didn't say anything more until she handed him his cup.

"I get the feeling you're leading up to something here" he said as Ren sat back down.

"I am" Ren took a sip of her tea "Y'know when I got angry at you that time, just after Xander woke up?"

Giles nodded, remembering "I implied that you might get between Xander and Buffy"

"Because you thought I still had feelings for him."

Giles blinked. "…T-thought?"

"Being the featured word" Ren gave him a small smile "Yeah. I do care about him Rupert" she admitted "But what *other* feelings I had, I guess they kinda just got pushed to the side with everything else that was happening… with Buffy so upset, it didn't seem right for me to-" Ren broke off "The point of all this is that when I looked for those stronger feelings again… I couldn't find them. All that was left was… not the same."

"But you'll never stop caring?"

"I don't think so" Ren paused, "Even in… in spite of everything."

Giles gave her a puzzled look. "What do you mean? What happened?"

Ren took a deep breath "When I saw Xander after he woke up, well, I didn't expect him to say what he did" Ren saw Giles gesture for her to continue and she did "He as much as told me he blames me for everything that happened"

Giles almost dropped his tea. He steadied his hand and placed the cup on the floor by the edge of the chair "He said *what*?"

"He feels that if I'd have told everyone about Tay, that they would have been prepared, known that they should have questioned the things that happened so that it could have been avoided or at least less painful for everyone"

"My god" Giles exclaimed quietly "He's never said anything like this to anyone else. At least not that I know of."

"I think he only needed to say it to me" Ren said "And at first I agreed with him, I'd already been feeling guilty about that."

"But you don't anymore?"

Ren shook her head "You saw for yourself what my sister could be like. You really think that everyone knowing about her would have stopped her from doing whatever she wanted?"

Giles thought about it "I-I guess not. She had everyone fooled. Even me" Giles paused "And I should know you better than anyone."

Ren smiled "You do."

Giles gave her a slight grin and then he shook his head lightly "I can't believe Xander would-"

"Leave it Rupert" Ren cut in "It's said. It's done. Nothing's going to change that."

"Maybe if I talked to him"

"Y'know, that's really up to you" Ren shrugged "He's got the right to think how he likes" Ren got up and went to the kitchen again and this time Giles followed her.

"And you don't mind that he thinks *that*?"

Ren set her cup down and turned to face him "I *mind* Rupert, OK? I just don't think that it's going to achieve anything in the long run if it keeps getting brought up. I can deal with it. Xander's in Sunnydale and I'm here."

Giles sighed sadly "So you're not planning on coming back anytime soon then?"

"Sorry Rupert, but I don't see it happening. Not in the near future anyway. I'm just getting started again here. I like this place."

Giles looked around the one bedroom apartment Ren had acquired "So you're settled then?"

"Getting there."

"I can't tempt you back?" Giles asked hopefully.

"As much as I enjoyed your company Rupert" Ren flashed him a grin "I don't think I could have continued to kip on your sofa for much longer anyway."

"I didn't mind."

"That's as maybe, but a girls gotta get sorted sometime."

Giles couldn't help but smile back "You're really OK, aren’t you?"

Ren shrugged "Yup."

"Then I think I should get going" Giles gave her a quick squeeze of her shoulder and began to walk back over towards the door.

"Rupert, you don’t have to go just yet" Ren told him "Hey, you can kip on *my* sofa if you like"

"I'm afraid I've left Buffy in charge of the shop" Giles said as he opened the door "And I may have left the oven on at home as well."

Ren laughed "Best you get back then" she leaned forward and gave him a peck on the cheek "Don't be a stranger, OK?"

Giles ducked his head and gave Ren a bashful smile "I won't" he paused "Bye Ren."

"Bye Rupert."

Giles turned to leave but suddenly turned back around "Ren-" he began to say but he cut himself off and before he even knew what he was doing himself, one of his hands found it's way around Ren's waist and pulled her towards him and before Ren could even react, Giles covered her lips with his own, kissing her softly.

They stayed like that for a few brief moments until Giles pulled back and mumbled a few words of apology before turning on his heel, hurrying away back down the hallway and back down towards the lobby of the building, leaving a shocked Ren in his wake.


(Next day)

"Buffy? Where do you want these?" Xander held up a medium sized jar to show Buffy.

Buffy looked up from the book she was studying while they had a quiet moment in the shop to see what Xander was talking about. "If they're kinda green and look like eyes they should go on the shelf behind you."

Xander grimaced and promptly proceeded to place the jar on the shelf behind him. He walked over to the counter Buffy was standing behind and leant forward against it, putting his hands on the counter "Y'know, I had a *lot* more fun in here yesterday"

Buffy grinned at him "Yeah, I know we did."

Xander grinned back and leaned a little more forward "So what do you say about us repeating it?" he asked seductively.

Buffy leant forward herself and captured his lips in a quick kiss "I'd love to take you up on that offer sweetie, but as Giles didn't know what time he was going to be back I don't really want him to catch us inflagrante"

Xander pouted "You're too sensible for your own good."

"Hmm, I know" Buffy kissed Xander for a little longer this time "It's one of my weaker points."

Xander moved his arms so his elbows were know propping him up as he leant on the counter "So" he indicated the book Buffy had been perusing "Anything interesting in there?"

"Demon lore" she turned over a page "Demon lore and more demon lore " Buffy shut the book with a dull thud pointedly "More like demon *bore*"

"It's better when Giles does this stuff isn't it?"

"Uh huh. I'm just more or less happy being the hired muscle."

"Except you don't get paid" Xander pointed out.

"Yeah, there is that" then Buffy shrugged "But that's not really the point of the whole Slayer gig is it? I mean, I'm saving the world. That's kinda like a reward in itself, right?"

"Right" Xander confirmed.

"And… y'know" Buffy continued, dropping her gaze slightly from Xander's "It's something that I *have* to do. I mean, it's who I am" Buffy looked back at Xander "The Slayer" she finished simply.

"You're driving at something here, aren't you?"

"Well… " Buffy began hesitantly "I-I know the last couple of nights have been good, but-"

"But you have a duty" Xander finished for her.

"Xander, it's not that I don't want to be with you, OK? Believe me, I *really* want to be with you" Buffy grasped hold of Xander's forearm "I mean, that thing you did last night with the-" Buffy began in a low voice before checking herself and continuing with her previous train of thought "OK, what I'm trying to say is that I can't keep *not* going on patrol. It's not fair on… well, the world. I have to save it and-" Buffy was cut short by Xander's lips on hers.

"I get it Buffy" Xander said when he pulled back from her "I've been there with you. I know what your life entails."

"And you're *so* in that life" Buffy replied "Really, it's just-"

Xander cut her off again "Buffy, hey, stop it. You don't have to justify yourself to me, OK? Really, I know what you're getting at" he paused and reached out to tuck a stray strand off Buffy's hair back behind her ear "I know it was a lot to ask of you to miss patrol for me and before when I got upset that you didn't stay… well, I shouldn't have" Xander shrugged "I just don't want to spend anymore time apart from you than I have to"

"We missed so much didn't we?" Buffy said softly

Xander nodded "We did" then he gave Buffy a quick grin "And this is your way of telling me you're going out tonight?"

"Uhh… yeah" Buffy gave him an awkward smile back "Giles is kinda antsy for us to start training together a bit more, y'know like we used to, and wants to go out on more patrols with me and everything"

"So, I don't suppose there's any chance you might want a hand…"

Buffy realised what Xander meant, "You want to come with me?"

"Why not?"

"I can think of a few reasons Xan" Buffy answered "For one thing, you haven't even been out of hospital a *month* yet"

"The doctors said I was *fine* Buffy" Xander countered "It's not like I don't know what I'm doing."

"I don't doubt that Xander" Buffy reassured him "But I'm not willing to risk it."

Xander's jaw set in a hard line and he backed up a little from the counter "So I'm a *risk* now, am I?"

"What? Xander, no" Buffy replied quickly "That's not what I meant-"

"No, I *know* what you meant," Xander began to back up towards the door "I get-" he stopped when he felt himself connect with someone else behind him.

"Well it's nice to see that you two aren't naked today," Willow said with a grin.

Xander turned around to face her and also Tara who had come into the shop with her girlfriend. "Gee, well I'm glad I did everything right for ya Will" Xander replied a little coldly.

Willow, taken aback by Xander's harsh tone, faltered a little "I-I, well… I-I didn't mean-"

"Save it Willow. At the moment I don't feel like hearing another one of your opinions" Xander replied. He turned to blonde witch and his face softened a little "Hey Tara. Bye Tara" he said before the frown settled once again on his face and he jostled past the two witches and then proceeded to stalk out of the shop.

Willow blinked a couple of times in quick succession before turning to look at Buffy, who sighed and hung her head dejectedly.

"We came in the middle of something here didn't we?" Tara said quietly.

"Just a bit" Buffy replied. She raised her head to look at the other two "I don't know what happened. One minute we were OK, the next… ugh" Buffy ran a hand though her hair "I don't know" she sighed "I was just worried about him that's all" Buffy paused then shot Willow an apologetic smile "I'm sorry you got caught up in it"

"What happened?" Willow asked.

Buffy walked out from behind the counter and sat at the table "He wanted to come on patrol. I said I didn't think it would be such a great idea."

Both Willow and Tara sat down too "Well I think you're right" Willow responded "It's too soon. He can't expect to go leaping back into the fray just yet."

"I know that" Buffy sighed "And I'm gonna have to talk to him about it again. I can't leave it like it is."

"Leave what?" a non-female voice asked.

All three girls looked up to see Giles. Buffy sighed "Relationship issues" she told him and then gave him a weary smile "How'd your trip go?"

"Well… it was interesting" Giles replied "And quite an-an eye-opener in some respects."

Buffy's brow creased a little "I thought you went to see about a new supplier."

"Oh… I uh… well, I… I lied" Giles admitted.

"What? You lied?" Buffy repeated, a little shocked "Why? What *did* you do?"

"I went to see Ren" Giles said simply.

"I thought you didn't know where she was staying" Willow said.

"I found out" Giles replied "And I didn't tell you" he added before they had a chance to ask, "Because I thought I might get talked out of it"

"Why would we do that?" Buffy asked.

"I didn't say you *would* Buffy" Giles told her "I just said I thought you *might*"

Buffy gave a short sigh "OK. Whatever. So" she said, "What did she have to say?"

"About what?"

"About why she left" Buffy continued. She paused. "That is why you went isn't it?"

"Well, yes" Giles admitted "That and I had a chance to pretend I was Steve McQueen."

Buffy and Willow rolled their eyes at each other and Tara grinned. "How is she?" the blonde witch asked Giles "She OK?"

Giles smiled at Tara "Ren's fine" he replied "She settled and likes the life outside Sunnydale."

"Did she say why she went?" Willow asked.

"Yes she did" Giles replied and he noticed that Buffy dropped her gaze from his "And I've got a feeling other people might have an idea as well" he added.

Buffy looked back up at Giles "What *did* she say?"

"Something that I don't for one second believe is true" Giles replied, looking back at Buffy "But right at this very moment I'm not going to get into a discussion about it" he then said "It can wait until another time"

When Giles turned his back on the three girls to go over to the counter, Willow shot Buffy a look and mouthed silently "What happens now?"

Buffy shrugged weakly and mouthed back "I don't know"

Giles turned back to them "I don't suppose you know where Xander is right at this very moment?" he asked Buffy.

Buffy sighed and slumped back in her seat "I don't know" she told him "We had an argument. He stormed out."

"Oh… well" Giles paused "Guess I'll try and get hold of him later" he headed back towards the door "I trust you're still able to keep an eye on the shop for a little longer" he said, more like a statement than a question "I have to go home for some things, then I'll be back"

"Yeah" Buffy replied, giving him a quick smile "I'll be fine."

"Good" Giles gave the other two witches a quick smile before taking his leave.

As soon as the door closed Buffy let her head drop down so it touched the table "Oh *yay*"

Tara shot a puzzled look at Willow "What's going on here?" she asked, "Why does Mr Giles think you know something, Buffy?"

"Because I do" Buffy replied and raised her head "It's a whole big horrible thing" she sighed "Some things were said and I don't know if they should have been said and… ugh" Buffy dropped her head to the table "And now I feel really bad about not telling Giles."

"But I thought you said it would have been better if he *didn't* know" Willow said, putting a hand on her friends shoulder.

"You *both* knew?" Tara exclaimed softly. She shot Willow a look with a mixture of hurt and accusation "I can't believe…" Tara trailed off and stood up from her seat "That's *not* fair" she began to walk away.

"Tara? What?" Willow stood up "Wait, hey, you're going?"

"No, I-I uh…" Tara composed herself "Yeah, I am. Y-you should have told Mr Giles. He's been beating himself up about this since she left" Tara's tone softened a little "Look, I'll talk to you later, OK?"

Willow stared after her girlfriend as Tara left the shop. He shoulders sagged and she sat back down again.

"You're not going after her?" Buffy mumbled from underneath her hair.

"I don't think I'm her favourite person at the moment" Willow replied regretfully "But we'll sort it out later " she sighed "You're not going to go after Xander?"

Buffy looked up at Willow and shook her head "Trust me, he'll be easier to talk to when he's calmed down" Buffy answered "I'll see him later."

"What are you gonna say?"

"That's what I've got the rest of the afternoon to think about."


Buffy came home that later that afternoon to find Xander lying on his back on the bed. Buffy could see his eyes were closed but she knew he wasn't asleep.

"Xander" she said resolutely "You said you knew what my life entails."

Xander didn't answer her. Buffy pressed on.

"So why now?"

This time Xander answered her "Why now *what*?"

"Why *now* do you choose to pull this crap"

"*What?*" Xander turned over and sat upright "What crap?"

"This stuff about not going out on patrol with me" Buffy replied "You *know* we sorted all this stuff out between us when we first started seeing each other. I told you that I thought it was sweet you wanted to throw yourself in front of anything nasty that came my way, but that I didn't want a boyfriend with anymore holes in him than was strictly necessary"

"Oh, this is *so* not about that"

"Then what is it about Xander? Come on, *tell* me"

Xander stood up and faced her "This is about you not thinking I'm good enough to go out there with you at night. This is about you thinking that I'm going to get in your way."

"Well that's where you're wrong" Buffy corrected him "There is no one I'd rather have by my side than you Xander. No one. But you were sick for a long time, I know, 'cos I was there for all of it and you are *not* up to coming out on patrol with me"

"The doctors said I was as good as new Buffy. You were there with me, you *heard* them say it"

"Those doctors gave you a clean bill of health for a *normal* life Xander" Buffy countered "What they *didn't* give you was a clean bill of health to go out fighting *demons*. There's a difference. A *big* difference and you can't expect me to have you out there and *not* worry about you"

"So what am I supposed to do, huh? Just sit here and *wait* until you decide that *I'm* *OK*?"

"No Xander, I don't. Xander" Buffy took hold of his shoulders firmly "If you wanna get back out there with me then you're going to have to do things my way. First of all you're gonna train with me."

"Train with you?"


Xander stared at her "Oh my god, you're *serious* aren't you?"

"*Totally*" Buffy let go of Xander and put her hands on her hips "So? Are you in?"

Xander didn't hesitate "When do we start?"






Part 4

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