Breaking the Rules
Written by Joanne W
Summary: Xander get a guardian from the PTB. Buffy's put out, but is this the real reason she's jealous?
Rating: R (Violence and language).
Disclaimer: - Joss Whedon owns everything Buffy and Angel. I own Ren.
Spoilers: Nothing major. Mild for all seasons.
Authors Notes: Set in Season 4 after 'The Initiative' but before 'Pangs'. 'Fear Itself' never happened. Spoilers up and through 'The Initiative'. British Spelling. *'s indicate word emphasis. //'s indicate thoughts.
Warning: Character death in opening paragraph.
Xander, Buffy and Willow sat at a table at the Bronze. Willow and Buffy were telling Xander about how their TA, Riley Finn, had to be staked after Buffy had found him recently 'turned'.
"It felt weird y'know?" Buffy said, "I mean, it's not like I knew him *that* well and I kinda liked him, but..."
"Still weird?" Xander said. Buffy nodded.
"You know, h-he was going to ask you out" Willow admitted, looking sheepishly at her Buffy.
"He was?" Buffy replied, looking a little shocked "Really?"
"Man," Xander said, "I guess turning him to dust really blew any chance you might have had." He stopped grinning when Willow shot him a dark look.
"How's your new job Xander?" Buffy asked, changing the subject "Are we allowed to know what it is yet?"
"Yeah" Willow added, "It can't be as bad as the last one."
"That penguin outfit did nothing for you." Buffy stated with a smile.
Xander frowned a little "That's what Anya said."
"Oh, how's it going with demon gal?" Willow asked.
Xander sighed and leant back in his seat "Not good. Bad actually. Anya slipped a note under my door yesterday. Basically she dumped me and took off for the bright lights of LA. Apparently the demons are less hokey there."
"Huh?" Willow and Buffy said together. Xander just shrugged.
"You OK about that?" Buffy asked.
"The demon thing?"
Buffy rolled her eyes "No, the dumping thing."
"Surprisingly I am OK" Xander replied "It was more of a physical relationship than emotional" He sighed wistfully "Of course I'm going to miss the physical aspects."
"Didn't need to know that Xander." Buffy said, raising an eyebrow.
"Well at least this means we're all single and unhappy together" Willow said. "I mean, Oz left to find his inner werewolf, Buffy is staking potential boyfriends and Xander's 1100 year old 'girlfiend' prefers a more lively demon atmosphere than the Hellmouth."
"Who else can say that?" Buffy responded.
"Not many people." Xander agreed.
Willow sighed "We *so* have relationship issues"
The gang sat in reflective silence for a few moments until Willow got up "I'm gonna go" she said, picking up her jacket.
"What? Why?" Buffy asked her, "I thought we were going to boogie the night away."
"Not for me" Willow said, smiling sadly "I brought up Oz missage so I'm gonna go and be depressed and throw darts at that picture of Veruca I have"
Buffy and Xander smiled sympathetically. "Want us to come with?" Xander asked.
"Thanks, but you two stay here." Willow then nodded in the direction of the door "Some of the guys are now going, I'll walk back to the dorm with them."
"OK, I'll see you later" Buffy said, giving Willow a smile before the redhead left.
Xander waited a moment before speaking. "Does the dart throwing work?"
Buffy smiled "I think so. Although now I tend not to be around when she's doing it..."
"Her aim is better with a crossbow, right?" Xander grinned.
"Uh huh" Buffy smiled back "I nearly ended up with an extra earring hole. But if it helps her deal..."
"You'll buy more jewellery?"
Xander grinned "Just let me know if you need help fixing a nipple ring."
"Xander!" Buffy exclaimed as she swatted his arm.
"What?" he said innocently "I'm just offering my services as a friend."
Buffy laughed. "You're impossible."
Xander got up and took Buffy's hand "Come on let's go 'boogie the night away'"
"Not the whole night" Buffy said as she followed Xander out to the dance floor "I have to patrol later."
They danced in silence for a few minutes before the song changed to a slow ballad. Buffy looked at Xander and shrugged and before Xander had chance to object, she put her arms around his neck. Buffy saw the surprised look in his eyes. "Well we came to dance" she told him simply.
"Uh ... 'kay" Xander said, placing his hands lightly round Buffy's waist "Do you want a hand with the graveyard shift?" he asked.
"Sure. The more the merrier."
"Except in the case of *more* vampires" Xander pointed out with a smile.
Buffy rolled her eyes and gave him a 'well duh' look and they continued dancing.
An hour later Buffy and Xander were walking in the cemetery. Suddenly Buffy stumbled and she swore as she wrung her ankle, almost falling had Xander not reached out and caught her arm.
"Thanks" she said, leaning against him.
"I take it those aren't your best patrolling shoes," he said, walking her to the steps of a nearby crypt. Buffy sat down and rubbed her ankle.
"Not really. They're more my 'wow, they go fab with that dress shoes'" Buffy said, grinning as she stood up, hesitantly testing out her ankle. It seemed fine. Buffy walked for a few more metres before she stopped and started scanning around.
"Y'know, I don't think there are any vamps about" she said, finally turning back to Xander.
Xander shrugged "Maybe those soldier guys have been scaring them."
"Maybe. Oh wait..." Buffy tensed suddenly. "I'm getting an evil vibe now though."
Xander looked around nervously "A vibe?" He pulled a stake from his jacket "Is this a really *close* evil vibe you're having?"
"Not really" she looked around again "It's not a vamp one either" she said indicating the stake he held.
"I'm not taking any chances here Buff, a vibe is a vibe"
"Enough with the vibe" Buffy walked out to a more open space and began turning slowly around in a circle, her senses straining. After a minute, she put her hands on her hips and swore in frustration "Damn."
"I can't see it..." Buffy started circling again "Or hear it."
"Whatever it is, wouldn't it have shown its face by now if it was going to jump us?" Xander asked hopefully.
"I guess" Buffy said, turning to face Xander. "Wanna call it a night?"
"You're not gonna go hunt it?"
"Nah. Well, not in these shoes anyway" Buffy said, "I think you're right Xander, it would have jumped us by now. I'll come back tomorrow. You want in?"
"Sure" he replied "Nothing like a good demon hunt to finish off your day. Maybe we can get Willow to do a tracking spell or something."
"Good idea" Buffy said and took Xander's arm as they started walking back through the graveyard.
Ren watched the couple chatting happily as they headed out of the cemetery, waiting until they disappeared completely before heading out of her hiding place.
"Bloody typical" she muttered to herself as she leant up against a nearby headstone "Now I have to play babysitter on some demon hunt." She sighed "I knew I shouldn't have taken this PTB job."
The gang stood in an open space in the cemetery where Buffy had felt the 'vibe' from the night before. Willow was standing with her back to Buffy and Xander, her hands were out stretched and she was chanting in Gaelic
"I hope she knows what she's doing" Buffy whispered in Xander's ear.
"Whatever it is" Xander whispered back "It sounds impressive"
Buffy grinned "Do you ever think we should make more of an effort to learn some of those ancient languages?" she said.
"And take away one of Giles' favourite hobbies?" Xander replied; turning to face her and they both grinned.
A flushed Willow then turned to face them both. "All done" she gasped.
"Where is it?" Buffy asked, taking Willow's arm and walking her to sit on a headstone.
Willow looked at Buffy warily "Do you want the bad news or the bad news?"
"What's the problem?" Xander asked as he joined the girls.
"We have two entities out here" Willow told him as she took a small crossbow from Buffy.
"Oh crap" Xander sighed.
"My sentiments exactly" Buffy said, handing him an axe.
Willow jumped off the headstone "But I can only get a strong enough feeling from one of them" she added "For us to be able to actually find them."
Buffy swung her weapons bag over her shoulder "One's better than none. Let's go hunt. Willow lead on."
From her vantage point of the tree she was in, Ren watched the couple she'd seen last night as they followed behind the red headed girl who was guiding them.
She waited a few moments before climbing down and then began to follow them.
Willow led them through the headstones to a crypt in the very recesses of the cemetery. Buffy motioned for Willow and Xander to stay put as she silently walked forward and into the crypt.
She looked around //Someone is definitely squatting here// Buffy thought taking in the sparse, but newness of the decor. It was also too quiet. Buffy faked backing out of the crypt and gave a half smile as some purpley goo dropped onto the floor. She looked up and raised her crossbow at the ceiling.
"You need to brush up on your hide-and-seek strategy," she stated.
The demon jumped to the floor and rushed at Buffy before she had time to fire. Buffy ducked and it flipped over her, landing in a heap. She turned and jumped over it and ran out of the crypt.
Willow made a disgusted face when she saw the demon that followed Buffy as she ran out. The demon was about six-foot tall, had an enormous amount of spikes adorning its limbs and was covered in some kind of dark goop.
"Gross" she said as she fired her crossbow. She hit the demon in the shoulder, which stunned it but it kept going.
Buffy threw her crossbow to the floor and turned to face the demon. The demon seemed to grin and they both started to circle each other, both readied in fighting stance. The demon made the first move and swung wildly at Buffy who easily dodged. She jumped and kicked it in the chest making it stumble back into the path of Xander who swung at it with the axe. The demon, obviously not pleased with the would on his body, lashed out hard at Xander.
Xander fell to the floor clutching his arm, the demon's spikes had ripped through his clothing and into his flesh. He closed his eyes in pain then opened them again to find himself being pulled along the ground out of the way of the still fighting Buffy and demon.
"What the-?" he looked up and saw a strange woman standing over him.
"You stay here," she said before picking up the axe that Xander had dropped.
Xander who was losing consciousness could only say "Okay" as the woman ran over to the fight.
Willow was rapidly running out of bolts and no matter how many times she hit the demon, it wouldn't slow down. She found Buffy's weapons bag and rummaged around for more bolts. Finding some she prepared to load up again when she saw the demon fly forward and land next to Buffy who had recently been kicked down.
Willow grimaced when saw an axe embedded in the back of the demon's head. "Well that should slow him down" she said weakly and then looked to see who had thrown the axe.
The woman was about the same build as Buffy but about a foot taller. She was strikingly beautiful and appeared to be in her early twenties, her long, blood red hair hung down to her waist and bright blue eyes that pierced through the night sky.
The woman gave Willow a brief look and a nod before going quickly to Xander's side.
"We need to get your friend out of here *now*". The stranger spoke with an English accent. She turned to Buffy and Willow who had run over to a now unconscious Xander. Buffy helped the woman get Xander to his feet, draping one of his arms around her shoulder.
"What's wrong?" Buffy asked anxiously, looking at Xander's unnaturally pale face.
"He's very sick" the woman replied. "We need to get him somewhere where he can heal, but not a hospital, we can't risk it" she put Xander's other arm around her shoulder.
"We?" Willow raised an eyebrow, aiming her crossbow at the woman. "Who's *we*. Who the hell are *you*?" she demanded.
The woman didn't seem to be the least bit fazed by the weapon aimed at her "I'm Ren. The one who saved your arses. Now put that away an' give us a hand."
"Willow" Buffy urged her friend, "We need to help Xander *now*. I can kill her later if I have to."
Willow looked between her friend and the stranger and then put the crossbow back in the weapons bag, which she then took up. "Why can't we go to a hospital?" Willow asked, following Buffy and Ren as they started off, carrying Xander between them.
"Because they won't know what to do. Doctors won't know how" Ren answered. "Do you know anywhere close where we can go that's safe?" she asked the two girls.
"Giles is closest," Buffy replied. "He's a friend."
"Giles huh? Well, lead the way" Ren said. "You know magic right?" she asked Willow.
"Some" Willow replied "Hey, how did you-."
Ren cut her off. "Good" she said, "You can help"
They soon stood outside Giles' door. Xander had kept slipping in and out of consciousness all the way over and now he was barely keeping his eyes open. Buffy knocked loudly "Hey Giles, open up. We've got an emergency here!" Buffy shouted.
Giles opened the door quickly and Buffy and Ren charged past him carrying Xander between them while Willow followed behind.
Ren and Buffy sat Xander on the couch. Buffy slapped him lightly to keep him awake. She turned to look at Ren who was now trying to remove Xander's jacket "He shouldn't be like this should he?" Buffy asked anxiously, looking back at Xander with concern.
Ren managed to get Xander's jacket off and saw the look on the girl's face "This is no normal flesh wound" she said "That was a Juanah'in demon you found yourselves ... and don't touch" Ren batted away Buffy's hand from Xander's wound.
Ren gingerly removed Xander's T-shirt and leaned in to look closer at the wound. "Those spikes it had give off some kind of venom when they penetrate their enemies. The venom causes the victim to rapidly deteriorate. Really rapidly."
"How do we stop it?" Willow asked, kneeling by the couch.
"First of all we need to keep him conscious," Ren said, taking off her jacket and throwing it behind her. She turned to Willow "I know there's a spell. Can you find it?"
"Uh huh" Willow nodded standing up.
Giles handed Willow some books "There should be something in these" he said, casting an eye over at their new companion "Who's that?" he asked Willow.
"Apparently it's Ren" Willow said, not noticing Giles' surprised look as she started flipping through the books.
Ren, meanwhile, had eased Xander off the couch so he was lying flat on the floor. She moved some of the furniture out of the way to give more space "How are we doing with that spell?" she asked Willow.
"Got it" Willow said, holding up the book "It's also just chanting so we don't need to worry about having the right ingredients."
"Fantastic" Ren replied "Get started with it."
Willow blinked at the other redhead before she felt Giles' hand on her shoulder and she turned to see him nod. "I'll help," he said. "It might need two of us."
As Willow and Giles took a seat at the table, Ren smiled at Xander "Hey, hang in there, OK?" She took a towel that Buffy had got and placed it under his arm. Xander smiled weakly back.
"What happens now?" Buffy asked, glancing briefly at her Watcher and Willow before turning back to Ren.
"We hope that I remember how to do this" Ren replied. She exhaled slowly "OK Slay gal, I'm gonna need you to hold him down"
"What?" Buffy said, worried, suddenly alarmed "What the hell are you going to do?" She put her hand over the other woman's "You're not doing anything until..." she added with a menacing tone.
"Just do as she says Buffy" Giles said sternly, breaking away from his chanting.
Buffy looked at his face and decided not to argue. She looked at Xander "You know Xander" Buffy said "I'm just going to hold your arm here" she took hold of Xander's wrist with one hand and held it firmly against the floor "And maybe your shoulder as well" she added gripping his right shoulder and holding it to the floor.
At the back of Xander's mind he knew that what Buffy was doing meant it was going to hurt, but his mind wasn't at the point of fully processing that yet. His mind was not also allowing him fall asleep like he wanted to. Was that good? He felt Ren take his arm that wasn't pinned down and raise it so she held his palm over her heart underneath her shirt.
"Don't get any ideas" he heard her say before he felt the pain rip through him.
Buffy held Xander down as he convulsed and began to scream in pain. Ren's eyes were closed and Buffy saw that underneath where both Ren's and Xander's palms touched each other there was a faint reddish glow. //Who the hell is this woman?//
After about thirty seconds Xander calmed down and the reddish glow disappeared. Ren let Xander's hand drop and she removed her own hand. Buffy looked down at Xander's wounded arm and her eyes widened. The large and nasty gash had stopped bleeding and was beginning to heal.
Ren noticed Buffy staring at the rapidly healing wound "Pretty cool, huh?"
"Hey Buff?" Xander's voice seemed strong. "Do you think you could let me go?"
"Huh?" Buffy looked at him and realisation set in, she let go of his shoulder and wrist "Sorry" she said, smiling and helping him to sit up "It's just your arm..." Buffy looked at the wound again, or rather where it had been.
Willow peered at his arm too "Wow, there's not even a scar"
"I thought I might as well go for the complete heal rather than just stop the bleeding and-" Ren began and then trailed off noticing all three teenagers eyes on her "What? ... Oh right, explanation time."
"I think you owe them one, Serendipity."
Ren looked up to see Giles looking at her. She smiled. "Hey Ripper."
Buffy, Willow and Xander's eyes drifted to Giles, who was looking at Ren, trying to hide the smile on his face.
"We can do this later Serendipity" Giles motioned to the three teens "I believe they want an explanation"
"Ah, an explanation ... right" Ren looked at Xander who had pulled himself up on to the couch. "It's really pretty simple-."
"Simple?" Buffy interrupted her, sitting down next to Xander. She pointed at where the wound had been "You call this simple? I mean, what the *hell* was that red glow thing all about?"
"I needed to neutralise the venom from the Juanah'in and replenish the blood he lost" Ren stated matter of factly.
"You need to do better than that" Buffy still glared back at Ren
"Excuse me, but what the bloody hell has it got to do with you?" Ren replied matching Buffy's glare "It's his arm not yours"
"Yeah, it's *my* arm" Xander said "And *I'd* like an explanation. Somewhere along the lines of *who* are you? *What* are you? And-"
"-*what* you were doing there" Buffy finished.
Ren sighed "OK, my name is Serendipity" she told Xander. Then she shot a look at Giles "Ren for short," Ren raised her eyebrows and smiled "If you don't mind"
"Ahem" Xander coughed trying to bring Ren's attention to the subject.
"Sorry" Ren apologised. "As for what I am, I'm a Aurora demon. *Good* demon" she added quickly when Buffy narrowed her eyes and looked set to make a move. "Ask your Watcher" Ren continued, pointing to Giles who then nodded in agreement. "I'm kind of a peacemaker come guardian demon. So no need to panic. Really."
Buffy narrowed her eyes and sat back down.
"You're a demon?" Willow said apprehensively, looking at Ren's casual appearance, which consisted of black jeans, a cropped T-shirt and black Doc Marten boots. The only thing that stuck out was her waist length blood red hair.
"Actually, I'm only *technically* a demon" Ren replied "But that's another *really* long story" her smiled faded a little. I'm sure Rupert will fill you in some time. Anyway" she continued "My kind of Aurora demons have, among other things, the in-built ability to heal" Ren looked at Buffy "That was the 'red glow thing' you saw"
"Yeah, that hurt" Xander said, wincing as he remembered "What was with the pain then? You couldn't have just knocked me out?"
"Nope. No way. You needed to be conscious" Ren looked to Willow "Thanks for doing that by the way" Ren looked back at Xander "It only works if you're conscious"
"Oh, okay then." Xander said slowly, "So what about the 'why' part"
Ren looked at them "Have you heard of the Powers that Be?"
Blank looks all around apart from Giles.
"Excuse me, but um... The Powers That Be?" Buffy was the first one to speak. They looked at Giles who briefly explained then indicated for Ren to carry on.
Ren sat back down "Well anyway, I get a message from my uh, I guess you could call her my 'Higher Contact', telling me that there's this job going. Of course them being them you don't say no" she paused "Actually I don't know what happens *if* you say no, but I don't really want to find out. Anyway," she continued "I get this package with the brief history of this kid, name and picture etcetera. Then I see the address - Sunnydale - which, as I can tell you, is not confidence inspiring seeing as it's on a Hellmouth and everything-"
"What does this have to do with us?" Buffy asked, interrupting.
"It's got nothing to do with you" Ren said simply to Buffy.
"I'm confused." Willow said, raising her hand.
"I meant it's got nothing to do with Buffy" Ren explained. She looked at Xander "It's to do with you."
Xander froze and confusion washed over his face "With me?" he said apprehensively.
"Yup" Ren replied "I get to baby-sit you Xander"
Xander stared at her "What?" Xander asked still confused "Have I done something?"
"Not as far as I know" Ren replied, shrugging.
"I don't get it ... and 'baby-sit'?" Xander looked Ren "I'm not three"
"It's just my term" Ren said, rolling her eyes "If you like, you can call me your bodyguard instead."
Xander got to his feet and started pacing about the room. "This is just nuts!" he exclaimed "Why do I need a 'bodyguard'? What-what if I don't *want* a bodyguard?" he asked angrily.
Ren got up and stood in front of Xander, stopping him pacing "You don't have choice Xander, I don't go until I'm told" she walked him back to the couch and sat him down "All I have to do is keep an eye on you, you know, watch your back. Things like that."
Buffy looked over at Xander. Although Ren had bought him back 100% he was looking unusually pale. She reached over and gave his hand a comforting squeeze.
"But why?" Xander said softly. He turned to Ren "This is too... I can't do... I *don't* want to do this now" he said getting up. He picked up his jacket and the remains of his shirt and looked at the others "I'm going home" He then turned back to Ren "We'll do this tomorrow."
Buffy and Willow got up as well "We'll walk with you" Buffy said. She looked at Ren as Xander and Willow walked to the door "I'm sure he'll be safe with me."
Ren met her gaze and gave her a small, too sweet, smile "Oh, I'm sure he's in good hands."
Buffy's brow creased at this remark and she turned from the demon "Bye Giles" she called as she followed the others out the door.
Giles and Ren looked at each other, waiting for one of them to break the silence.
"I didn't recognise you" Giles said first "Your hair is um... very different"
Ren smiled and fingered her red locks "Yeah, it's a product of my last job. Decided to keep it for a while" she paused "You look good. Older, but good."
Giles smiled "It's been..."
"Too long" Ren smiled, pausing before continuing "Quite a Slayer you've got yourself."
Giles looked at the floor "Buffy's not my Slayer anymore" he said sadly. Giles looked back up at Ren "I got fired"
"I know" she said "But it's about time someone stood up to the Council about that test. You lose too many Slayers that way."
"You seem to know an awful lot Ren" Giles gave her a questioning look.
"Like I said, they gave me a brief history of Xander. That included a run down all your little escapades over the past few years" she paused then smiled sadly at Giles "I'm sorry you lost someone."
Giles met her gaze "Thank you" he paused "What about you Ren? Are you still, um... freelancing?"
Ren shrugged "It pays well."
"What about this 'Powers' work?" Giles said carefully, watching Ren "How did you get into it?"
Ren chuckled "Oooh subtle." She smiled. "To cut a long story short Rupert, I got talked into it. I was not at my best and I didn't read the small print. Now," Ren said, "Why don't we just cut to the chase"
Giles gave a small smile "You scared him" he told Ren, "You hardly went about it the right way."
"And what way is the right way pray tell?" Ren shot back. " I wasn't even supposed to make contact with him yet. All I had to do was just take a back seat, you know, just stay in the background and make sure he doesn't get himself into a whole shit load of trouble." She sighed. "I *really* got off to a good start didn't I?"
Giles frowned "So, you may have just been here for tonight?"
Ren shrugged "Maybe. They let me know fairly quickly when the job is over." She saw Giles give a little smile and continued "But, I'm sorry to say," she carried on "I got the impression that the 'looking after' was for a longer period than four days"
Giles rubbed his forehead "So you may not be finished here then?"
"Got it it one". Ren sighed. "I'm also a little confused why I'm here if the Slayer's here."
"Maybe they feel that Buffy has enough to deal with."
"Yeah, but she's already been doing the job."
"Her job is not to look after Xander" Giles pointed out.
"Could've fooled me" Ren muttered.
"Never mind. The point is, the PTB must have a reason for me to be here as well as Buffy" Ren grabbed her black, denim jacket and started to get up.
Giles turned to look at her "But why Xander?"
Ren shrugged. "Why not?"
"But he's only, well mortal. He's a normal child."
"He's not a child."
"Ren..." Giles said, going over to her "I know... but still he's only...."
"The Powers obviously know what they're doing" she interrupted, looking Giles in the eye "And you obviously don't know him as well as you'd like to think" Ren then gave him a small smile and headed towards the door. "I'm gonna go talk to him"
"He said to leave it until tomorrow" Giles reminded her as she opened the door.
Ren turned as she stood in the doorway and pointed to his clock "It is tomorrow"
"I don't think this is a good idea...." Giles called after her, but she'd already gone.
After Buffy and Willow had left, well after he had made them go, Xander took off his coat and sank down on to his bed.
He twisted his neck so he could examine his arm. He's seen some pretty freaky stuff in his time and watching your own arm heal itself before your very eyes had to be up high on the freaky chart. He touched his skin where the scar should have been. "Well she certainly did a good job" he said to himself quietly.
Xander sighed and lay back on his bed, staring at the ceiling //Interesting day, Xander// He thought back to earlier that evening and told himself that was the last hunting expedition that he went on for a while. //I guess it was lucky that Ren was there really// He'd barely registered anything that had happened after they had got him to Giles //After nearly dying I think I'm allowed// As for Ren, well he thought he'd dreamed it when he saw her standing over him after dragging him away from the fight. The redheaded demon had an air about her that he couldn't quite put his finger on. //Certainly didn't look like any demon I've seen. Maybe she's got a vampire type deal going on and if you really piss her off she grows horns or something// He closed his eyes and told himself not to think about what she had said //Too much, too soon. *Way* too much//.
Half an hour later after a restless sleep, a knocking at his door interrupted him. He groaned and stayed where he was, hoping his visitor would lose interest. He was wrong. Xander gave a frustrated sigh, checked he was clothed, rolled out of his bed and shuffled to his door.
"Who is it?" he asked.
"Ren" came the voice from the other side.
Xander groaned. "Go away."
Xander gave another frustrated sigh and pulled open the door. "Please can we do this tomorrow?" he pleaded. "I want to sleep. I *need* to sleep"
"This won't take long" Ren told him. "At least I hope it won't."
"You're right it won't because you're not coming..." he stopped as Ren pushed past him "...in" he shut the door and turned to face her, giving her an annoyed look.
"Bloody hell, this place is a pit" Ren commented, her beautiful features scrunching in disgust "Makes my place look like a palace". She looked at the floor. "Nice attempt at modern art with dirty laundry."
Xander kicked his clothes under his bed "I thought you British were supposed to be polite"
Ren grinned "I don't do polite. I'm a *demon*" she paused "Well sort of. Come to mention it, I don't think I'm entitled to a nationality anymore. I'll have to look into that."
Xander sat back down on his bed, looking at Ren impatiently "You wanted to talk." he said "Talk and make it quick."
Ren sat down next to him "I'm sorry I freaked you out." She paused. "It really wasn't my intention. I just forget sometimes that everyone isn't, well...me really."
Xander crossed his arms over his chest and just gave her a blank look.
"I'm trying to apologise here" Ren said "Come on, I saved your life. Cut me some slack, OK?"
"Gee thanks for the guilt trip" Xander said, not hiding the sarcasm.
Ren sighed "OK, so I kinda sprung this whole thing on ya. *My* *bad*"
Xander could help but smile at her exasperated expression "OK, thank you for saving my life. You're also forgiven."
"Wow, you sound like you really mean it any everything" she replied dryly.
"Hey, I've just been told that I've been designated a demon bodyguard by some almighty power. I think I'm justified in being a little-" Xander broke off "Look can you just tell me what this is all about?" he asked.
Ren was silent for a few moments before answering. "I've just had this conversation with Rupert" she told him "And I'm going to tell you what I told him. The fact of the matter is Xander, I don't know myself. They haven't told me."
"I don't know. Obviously they have their reasons and..." Ren saw the look Xander gave her "...and this really isn't helping is it?" she finished and Xander shook his head.
"How do you know that you weren't just here to save me tonight?" he asked.
"Well, that I can answer and apparently I wasn't" Ren replied "On the way over here I got in touch with my 'Higher Contact' and according to her tonight was just, and I quote - "an unforeseen incident". I was told to stay put until further notice" she paused, seeing another question forming in his eyes "What?" Ren asked.
Xander looked as if he didn't want to ask her. Ren gave him an encouraging smile and Xander took a deep breath. "Well, it's just that Buffy kinda always looked out for us before. Don't they think she can do it?" he asked, not sure of Ren's reaction.
"Well, I've thought about that as well and I think me being here is just them making extra sure nothing's going to happen to you. Or maybe it's because it involves Buffy and they feel that she's not going to be in a position to actually do what they've sent me here to do" she paused "Or something like that."
"Or something like that?" Xander repeated apprehensively
"Listen Xander, I've done jobs like this before. Ninety-nine percent of the time *it* *is* just making sure someone gets to the right place at the right time or saying something to some one at a certain moment" she said, giving him a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder.
"So it could be that simple?" Xander said hopefully.
Ren nodded "That simple."
Xander sighed "I still don't know about the 'why' though."
"Well why not?"
Xander frowned. "What do you mean?"
"Xander, I know everything you've done since you met Buffy. You've saved her life and contributed to saving many others" Ren put her hand on his shoulder again "I know everything you've done over the past couple of years. *Everything*". Ren saw Xander look at the floor "Xander, you should never put yourself down," she added "Never."
Xander was silent for a few moments then raised his head and gave her a small smile "So... how does this 'bodyguard' thing work then?"
Ren smiled. "I knew you'd come around."
"I don't really have a choice" Xander pointed out.
"Well, no, you don't" Ren smiled again. "But it's always nice to know that you're appreciated."
"What do I have to do?"
"You don't have to do anything" she replied, "You just keep doing what you have been doing, although, you could tone it down a bit, like going on less patrols with Buffy. Other than that" she continued "You'll be fine. But just don't think that because I'm here you can go leaping into the fray left, right and centre. It doesn't work like that."
"Where will you be?" he asked.
"Around" she gave Xander another grin "Just because you can't see me doesn't mean I'm not there."
"So you're gonna follow me about everywhere?"
"You make it sound like I'm gonna be stalking you" Ren said, rolling her eyes.
"You are" Xander arched an eyebrow.
"Good point" Ren pointed a finger at him briefly. "But to answer your question, I'll mainly be about when you do go patrolling with Buffy and other times when you go out. It is such a good job I don't need to sleep" Ren added as she opened the door "Oh and don't try sneaking out on me" she warned "It won't help either of us"
"OK. I promise. No sneaking."
"Good. Bye Xander" she said turning to leave "Nice doing business with you" he heard her say before the door finally closed behind her.
Across town, Buffy was laying in her bed trying process the evening events. She and Willow hadn't spoken much about it since leaving Xander's due to Willow being tired from her two bouts of spellcasting that evening, and as soon as they had got back to their dorm room Willow had fallen asleep as soon as her head had hit her pillow.
On the one hand Buffy was happy that Xander had someone else to look out for him, but on the other hand she was miffed because obviously 'they' didn't seem to think she wasn't up to the job. Not that her job was to protect Xander necessarily, but she was pretty sure he did come under the 'whole of mankind' bit in her job description.
Buffy sighed and closed her eyes //So long as nothing happens to him, I'm sure I can live with it// she thought as she finally fell asleep.
(One Week Later)
Buffy and Willow were sitting in the cafeteria on campus. Willow watched Buffy play with her food and frowned. She couldn't help but notice that Buffy had been a little, well, different during the last week that had passed since Xander had been hurt. At first Willow had put it down to just general wigginess that Xander was so close to dying, a wigginess Willow had also had. But now she thought there was something else as well.
"Buffy?" Willow tried to get her friend's attention. Getting no response she tried again "Buffy?"
"Huh? What?" Buffy snapped out of her reverie.
"Where were you?" Willow smiled "Was it any place nice?"
"Huh? I mean no ... I was just thinking."
Buffy started playing with her food again. "Just things."
"Ahh, 'things'. I know them well" Willow smiled "Y'know, you've been on another planet these last few days. What's up Buffy?"
Buffy sighed and put down her fork. "It's just this whole thing with Xander."
"But he told us what Ren said."
"Oh, I know that" Buffy said. "And Xander said he's got used to it and everything-."
"I feel a 'but' coming" Willow said.
Buffy gave her a small smile "*But* it kinda makes me feel, well ... weird, I guess" she looked at Willow "Does this make sense?"
"Well, kinda" Willow replied "But then, on the other hand, uh ... no"
"*That* makes a lot of sense Will"
"No. What I mean is that Xander said that Ren explained about how it could be just something simple."
"Or it could be something big Will. Little Miss Aurora Demon wasn't brought all the way here for nothing" Buffy frowned slightly.
"You're not liking her much are you?" Willow asked, noticing Buffy's look as she had just spoken "Giles said she was an OK demon."
"I guess. But I didn't like the way she just came in and took charge" Buffy said, suddenly looking at her watch and then gathering her things. "I've got to go" she shot an apologetic smile at Willow as she got up from the table.
"Sure" Willow replied "I'll see you later, OK?".
Buffy nodded and took off. Willow shook her head chuckled as Buffy left. "Man, Buffy," Willow muttered, claiming a fry off Buffy's plate. "Anyone would think you're jealous."
After leaving Willow in the cafeteria, Buffy began walking aimlessly around the campus, a little lost in her thoughts. She didn't want to ask herself why she had left her friend so abruptly.
Suddenly Buffy sensed someone following her. She changed direction and headed towards a more secluded area of the campus leading her stalker away from other people and hopefully giving Buffy a chance for confrontation. When she heard a small chuckle behind her, Buffy stopped and turned around, readied in fighting stance.
"You're good" her follower grinned "Not a lot of people ever hear me."
"Well *I'm* the best," Buffy said as she strolled over to Ren "Did you want something? Or are you just following me for fun?"
"A little of both actually" Ren indicated a nearby bench "Let's sit"
"OK" Buffy said and they both took a seat. "What's up?"
"That's what I wanted to ask you" Ren replied. She saw Buffy's 'Huh?' look. "What I mean is" she explained "I've been trying to get info out of the PTB but they aren't saying anything about why I've got to watch out for Xander. I just thought you might know of something that could be, I don't know, on the horizon or something that might be a reason"
Buffy paused, thinking. "I can't think of anything" she said after a moment "I really wish I could". //Because I don't want you here a moment longer than absolutely necessary//.
"Damn!" Ren swore loudly taking Buffy aback "They've never held out on me before. Usually they're very forthcoming with the details. Usually with stuff I *really* don't *want* to know" She got up and began pacing infront of Buffy "What the hell are they playing at?". Ren ran her hands over her hair. "Man this blows" she stated "And I thought I got sucky jobs with the Watcher's Council" she muttered.
"You work for the Council?" Buffy asked, slightly surprised. "Giles didn't mention that."
Ren looked at Buffy as if just remembering she was there "Huh? Oh, no. I just do the occasional job here and there. Although *officially* I never had dealings with them" Ren then gave Buffy a wary look "What exactly did Rupert tell you about me?"
"Just that you're one of the good guys" Buffy frowned "Why? Did he miss something out? 'Cos if I find out you're not one of the good guys ..." Buffy trailed off when she remembered the little amount she'd researched about Ren's type of demon, and broad daylight with no weapons was not a good situation to make big threats "Well" Buffy continued "We'd have to have words"
Ren just looked at her "I *am* one of the of the good guys. Well, good demons. Actually I think that's kind of an oxymoron" she paused "And 'have words'?" she gave Buffy an incredulous look.
Buffy ignored her tone "Aren't you supposed to be looking out for Xander?" she gave the woman an accusing look.
"He's with Rupert. I'm on my way there now actually" Ren smiled a little too sweetly "You wanna tag along?" she asked.
"I don't *tag* along anywhere" Buffy said walking away from Ren "But you can come with me" she said over her shoulder. But Ren had moved, and far too quickly for Buffy's liking, to Buffy's side. Buffy muttered something under her breath and the two walked in silence to Giles.
(A little while later)
Giles stood in his kitchen making drinks. He cast a look into the other room where Xander, Ren and Buffy sat. He'd noticed some tension between Buffy and Ren since they'd arrived. Xander hadn't obviously though. Giles rolled his eyes when he saw Xander trying not to be too obvious that he was looking at the redheaded demon.
Giles coughed, breaking the silence as he brought through the tray of drinks and set it down "So Xander how are you finding your, uh ... situation so far?" he asked, taking a seat next to Buffy.
"Weird, but OK" Xander said, "It's only been a week though. It's going to take a little while to get used to it" Xander turned to Ren "Is there any word as to why you're here for me yet?". He sighed when Ren shook her head "Is that a good or a bad thing?"
"Hard to say," Ren said, nursing her coffee "I'm gonna keep trying to find out though. I mean-"
"Good" Buffy interjected "Cos I'd hate to think that instead of actually doing that, you're sitting here drinking coffee"
Xander and Giles looked at Buffy with surprise; Ren just looked amused.
"Buffy-" Giles started.
"No, she's right Rupert" Ren said getting up "Come on Xander. You can come back with me and help me make some phone calls" Ren looked pointedly at Buffy "That way I can do two things at once" Ren gestured to Xander to get up and he eagerly followed Ren to the door.
Xander turned to Buffy and Giles as Ren walked on "Guess I'll see you later at the Bronze then?" he asked.
"If she'll let you out to play" Buffy said, then seeing Xander's pained look, she smiled. "Sure." Although her smile faded when Xander turned from her and rushed after Ren.
Ren waited for Xander to catch up to her up to her. "If she's gonna be pissy the whole time" she said to him as they walked, "It'll make this job a whole lot harder if we eventually have to work together."
"She's usually not like that" Xander said.
"Yeah, well-" Ren cast a sidelong glance at Xander while they walked "What did she say to you after I'd left?"
"Nothing. Just that we'd meet at the Bronze later" He paused when he saw Ren raise an eyebrow "Oh, please don't tell me I have to get your permission to go."
"No, you go." Ren said unenthusiastically. "Have fun."
"Gee thanks mom" Xander said sarcastically, then he paused "Hey wait a minute, you're going to be there anyway aren't you?"
Ren shrugged and smiled. "Like I said before 'You go, I go'. Oh come on" Ren continued "It's not like I'm going to be hovering over your shoulder. Remember, I can lurk. I'm very good at it."
Xander started walking again and Ren fell into step beside him. "You might as well be hovering over my shoulder" he complained.
"Oh yeah, like spending my evening surrounded by a load of horny teenagers is gonna be fun"
"Hey! We're not *all* horny teenagers" Xander said indignantly.
"Oh please Xander. You're telling me that if you and some girl got all hot and bothered you'd be the perfect gentleman?"
"I most certainly would" Xander answered hesitantly.
"Would not" Ren shot back with a smirk.
"Wow, you know, you're really mature for a demon" Xander said.
"I happen to think it's good to relate to your inner child once in a while" Ren turned to grin at Xander "Makes life more fun."
"Exactly how much 'life' have you had?"
"It's rude to ask a lady her age. Didn't anyone ever teach you that?"
"I wasn't one for book learnin', plus you're not *technically* a lady" Xander grinned at her "Come on tell me"
"Well, I'm younger than your last girlfriend."
"That hardly narrows it down."
Ren gave a small sigh "If you must know I'm 202. Happy now?"
"Yup. And if it's any consolation you don't look a day over 190"
Ren batted his arm "Gee thanks. Come on, my apartment is this way" she said, slinging an arm around Xander's shoulder as they continued to walk.
"Is she always like that?" Buffy asked Giles as Ren and Xander left.
"Like what?" Giles asked sipping his tea.
"You know. Bitchy."
Giles put his tea down "As I seem to recall Buffy, you were the one being bit-, um... less than pleasant"
"I was not" Buffy said indignantly.
Giles sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose "Buffy I can understand you being jealous-."
//Poor choice of words Rupert// Giles sighed again "What I mean is Buffy, I can understand you being..." he paused "*Upset* that these Powers chose to have someone else other than you to protect Xander for whatever reason they have"
"I am not upset."
Giles shot a knowing look at her as he got up.
"OK, maybe I *am* a little upset" she conceded as Giles headed into the kitchen, "But I am not *jealous*". Buffy began picking at a frayed seam on her top "So she gets to spend all her time with Xander" she continued "That's not something you'd expect me to get jealous about is it?"
"No, I guess not" Giles said from the kitchen.
"No" she whispered softly to herself "Nothing for me to get jealous about."
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