Breaking the Rules

Chapter Three

Written by Joanne W


(Two weeks later)

Willow frowned when she saw Buffy enter their dorm room and sit dejectedly on her bed.

"It didn't go well?" Willow ventured.

Buffy laid back on the bed "It didn't go at all"

Willow looked at her friend sadly "What happened?"

Buffy turned her head to Willow. "*She* happened" Buffy said through gritted teeth.

//Ren// Willow sighed.

Buffy sat upright "I mean, why does it always happen?" she continued, unable to keep the unhappy tone from her voice "It's not fair."

"I know it's not" Willow sat next to her friend. "I think more drastic measures are needed"

"How much more drastic Willow?" Buffy asked. "Because I don't think I can keep putting up with hearing him gush about Ren for much longer."

Willow sighed again. It was true. Ever since Xander had accompanied Ren to Willy's a couple of weeks ago he'd become even more infatuated with her. Of course he didn't show it infront of the object of his affections. Well at least he had tried not to and if Ren had noticed she was ignoring it. All this had culminated in Buffy questioning her feelings, again.

"Buffy" Willow said "Remember how you admitted that whatever these feelings are you have towards Xander, that they definitely run a lot deeper than a crush? Come on Buffy you jumped that feelings hurdle. You can't-"


"Hey don't interrupt, I was in mid-flow" she paused "As I was saying, you can't just give up. So we've had a few setbacks. You've faced bigger challenges and come through them"

"Yes, but the last challenge I had like this involved a big snake."

"Not seeing the difference."

Buffy couldn't help but smile at her friend "I thought you liked her"

"Well, I do. Sort of. But" she smiled "You're my best friend and I want to see you happy."

"I'm lucky to have you on my side Will."

"Yeah, you are" Willow grinned "Now back to the topic of Operation 'Get Xander'. What exactly happened today?"

Buffy groaned "It was all going to plan this time. Ren was out with Giles and I had managed to get Xander into a conversation which didn't revolve around *her*" Buffy grimaced then continued "It was all going fine until Giles and Ren came back"

"But I though they were supposed to be out for a while"

"Well they were, only they got back earlier than they thought. Ren and I had another one of our famous chats" Buffy gave an exasperated sigh "God, I can't even remember what it was about. But I could have swung for her Will, really I could."

"What happened then?"

"Nothing Willow. Like usual" Buffy sighed and turned to Willow "It happens every time Will. I get close to Xander, start to put in some groundwork and then 'poof', *she* appears. It's like she *knows*" Buffy sighed again "I feel like I'm some pawn in a writer's plot. Doomed to get only so close to the man of her affections only for the 'other woman' to arrive at an inopportune moment and dash all her hopes"

"Yeah, but usually in those stories something happens to the other woman and the hero finally realises that he's truly meant for the heroine."

Buffy smiled sadly at her friend "I can only hope you're right Will"


Giles sighed as he watched Xander chatting animatedly to Ren. He was going to have to say something to one of them. It was obvious that Xander had a 'thing' for Ren and, Giles thought, if Ren *had* noticed she wasn't exactly *not* encouraging him. He saw that Xander's attention never wandered from Ren when she was in the room and he remembered when he had been like that.

Twenty years ago he had first met Ren and twenty years ago he had fallen for her. She had been hired by Watcher's Council to undertake some of the work they considered 'unsuitable' for their own operatives and he had been appointed her contact. A job he had qualms about doing until he set eyes on her, then he had been more than happy to do it. The fact that she was a demon hadn't registered; her abundance of more appealing 'attributes' had taken care of that. He had followed her around and when Ren had begun to notice his affection for her, she responded in kind. But it wasn't long into their relationship that Giles realised that this was what he had been trying to get away from. Ren was a demon, good or not; there was no getting away from it. Giles broke off the relationship and Ren understood why he had done it. They'd remained friends, keeping it touch regularly for a while after, but soon letters and telephone calls became further apart and Giles realised now that it had been seven years since he'd last heard anything from her.

When she had turned up a couple of months ago and revealed why she was here he had been a little surprised. Ren had been undertaking freelance work for a while. Ren's kind of Aurora demon were few and far between and their services of guardianship were greatly sought after (and highly paid) and sometimes required Ren to walk a very fine line. Giles knew some of the things she done, people she'd killed in the line of duty and he'd seen her demon face as she revelled in a bloody battle.

Giles had decided it probably wasn't a good idea to relate this to Buffy. Although he had no doubts Ren was here for all the right reasons, he didn't think Buffy would want Xander being guarded by Ren if she knew everything about her.

Giles looked back to Xander and sighed quietly //Does Xander realise what he could be getting himself into?// He watched Xander's face light up as he talked with Ren //Xander could end up getting hurt//


An hour later and Ren and Xander were still at Giles'. Ren was regaling them with some of her more adventurous escapades that had happened over the years. Giles was only half listening, he had heard them before, although he was sure Ren was omitting some of the more gruesome parts for Xander's sake. It was because of this he made his decision to talk to one of them.


"Hmm?" she looked towards Giles.

"I was just thinking. Do you think it would be a good idea to go and talk to Willy again" Giles suggested

"Why? It really didn't help the last time" Ren reminded him.

"I know" Giles replied "But Willy always knows more than is good for him. And maybe there'll be some information he has that could be useful."

"And Buffy can't go because…?"

"Buffy's not here Serendipity" Giles said "Please. I think it would be a good idea."

Ren considered this "OK, I'll go see Willy" she agreed. "But I'm not taking Xander again."

"Hey, why not?" Xander seemed hurt.

Ren turned to him, seeing Xander's dejected face. "What I mean is, it'll be better if you stay out of the way. I'm more threatening when I'm seen not to be protecting anyone" she got up and put on her jacket "I won't be gone long." she smiled and left Giles and Xander alone.

Giles looked towards Xander who was now pretending to be busying himself with a book //OK time for that talk//


"Whassup G-man?" Xander said not looking up from his book.

"Could you not call me that and please pay attention, this is quite important."

Xander looked up at Giles "What's the problem?"

"I'm not quite sure how to begin..." Giles trailed off.

"If it helps you could tell me the subject."

Giles looked him and took a deep breath "It's about Ren"

Xander took in the serious tone and put aside his book "What about her?"

Giles took another deep breath and proceeded to tell him about his past relationship with Ren and the type of work she was known for undertaking. When he finished he looked to Xander for some kind of response.

"What does this have to do with me?" Xander asked guardedly.

"You tell me."

Xander was silent.

"I've seen the way you look at her and talk about her" Giles continued "And I can only assume the others have noticed as well" he paused "I can't speak for Ren"

"I really don't see how my liking Ren has anything to do with any of you" Xander replied, not denying anything.

"No good will come of it Xander" Giles warned.

"Who says?"

"I believe I just explained-."

"But that was you Giles. Not me" Xander argued.

Giles gave an exasperated sigh "Xander, it still applies" he took in Xander's stony expression "Ren has a responsible position here and whether you like it or not that will come first with her"

"You don't think I know that?"

"I was wondering if you'd forgotten the reason she was here, yes."

Xander stood up abruptly "Like I *could* forget that Giles" he walked to kitchen and Giles followed him "But so what if I think she's attractive?" he turned to Giles "I'm allowed to *think* things aren't I?" he paused "Or don't you think I'm capable of that?"

"Xander that's not what I meant and you know it. I just-"

"Look, I appreciate that you're only trying to do what you think is right, but it's my life" Xander paused "And in this life I'm allowed to like who I want"

"I'm just asking you to remember who she is Xander" Giles said warningly "Just remember *what* she is"


Twenty minutes after Willow had left Buffy after their conversation about more drastic measures, Willow was on her way to Giles'. She'd made an excuse to Buffy, saying she had some books to collect and had left Buffy feeling sorry for herself. She knew it was time to talk to Xander about Ren. She just didn't know what to say. Willow knew that it would have to be without Ren there, if just to keep Xander's attention from wandering.

As Willow approached Giles' door she heard raised voices which she recognised as Xander and Giles. She hesitated before walking in.

"...*what* she is"

"Hey guys" Willow interrupted Giles in mid sentence.

"Willow hi!" Xander said, glad for the detraction.

"How did you get in?" Giles asked.

Willow grinned "Your door was unlocked as usual."

"I never learn" he sighed "Can I help you with something?"

"Actually I just wanted to talk to Xander."

"It seems everyone wants to do that today," Xander said, looking at Giles.

"Well it needed saying" Giles replied, meeting Xander's eyes.

Willow looked between the two of them "Is there something going on here that I should know about?" she said, although she could probably guess what it was about.

"Not really" Xander replied, then turned away from Giles and looked at Willow "What was it that you wanted to talk about?"

Willow glanced to Giles then back to Xander "It's kinda personal" //Best not get more people in the conversation than needed//

"Fine" Giles said curtly "I'll go and do something outside" he headed towards the door "After all it's only my house" he muttered quietly.

Willow waited until Giles shut the door before she began. "Before I start," she said, "I need to know we're not going to get any interruptions. Where's-"

"Ren's not here-" Xander pre-empted her.

"That's good" she paused //Here goes// "That's kinda what I wanted to talk to you about-"

Xander sighed exasperatedly "Figures. What is it with everybody today that they feel they have to take over my life?"

"Xander I-" Willow began.

"You came here to warn me off Ren didn't you?"

"Uh, yeah."

"Well don't bother" Xander told her "I've already had this from Giles."

//I knew it// "Well good-."

"No, not good" Xander interrupted "I'm going to tell him what I told you. It's *my* life and I'll like who I want"

"Xander, don't get angry with me" Willow replied, "I'm only trying to stop you making a mistake"

"A mistake? Willow its not like anything has happened between me and Ren" he paused "Anyway I thought you liked her."

"I do-"

"Then why suddenly all this? You know, at least Buffy is upfront about the fact she doesn't like Ren."

"What? You mean you finally noticed something Buffy's done?" Willow said incredulously.

"What do you mean?"

"I-I... nothing" she paused //Way to go Willow// "I'm just concerned about you" Willow continued, bringing the subject back on topic "I just don't think you know what-"

"Willow just-" Xander sighed "Just drop it" he said quietly.

Willow could see that Xander wasn't going to listen to anything else today "OK. I won't say anymore. But you know how I feel-"

"I know Will" Xander picked up his jacket "Look, I'm going to go to Ren's to wait for her. I'll tell Giles to let her know where I've gone" he said before heading out.

Several moments later Giles came back in and smiled sadly at Willow "He didn't listen to you either?"

Willow gave him a matching smile back "No he didn't" she sighed "Do you think he took any notice of us at all?"


"Do you have a death wish or something?" Ren strode into her apartment and grabbed Xander's arm, pulling him off the couch.

"Hey!" Xander protested as Ren tugged him towards her door.

"Don't 'Hey' me Xander" she turned to glare at him as they got outside "It was a simple request - 'Stay at Rupert's'. How you managed to get 'Go to Ren's' out of it I'll never know" she said, letting go of his arm.

"What's the problem?!"

"The problem is, Xander" Ren said, motioning for him to follow her "I'm here to do a job unless you've forgotten."

"I hadn't forgotten" Xander bit out, but reluctantly followed her.

"Really?" she turned around to look at him and her look softened as she saw the hurt look on his face "Xander I'm sorry OK" she said softly "I'm just trying to do my job"

"I know" Xander said quietly.

Ren sighed, giving him a small smile and looped her arm though his "And right now my job is to get you home."

"All part of the service, huh?" he said looking at her as they began to walk.

Ren smiled "Yeah, all part of the service."

They walked for a few minutes in silence before Ren spoke again "I guess sometimes it's a little hard to remember that's why I'm here. We've been in the dark for so long, waiting for details. I know you don't like not knowing" she turned her head to look at him "I can sympathise with that. It would make it easier for me I had something to deal with."

Xander met her gaze "The sooner you get something to deal with, the sooner you can get out of Dodge right?" he said with a slightly challenging tone.

Ren smiled "I don't know about that. Once this is all over I might stick around for a bit, you know, catch up with Rupert. That's something that is *well* overdue. I haven't really had a chance; I've been so busy with you. Hey, maybe I could join you Scoobies and kick some demon arse for a while."

Xander smiled "I'd like that."

"I would too," she said, smiling sincerely. "I'd miss you if I had to go."

Xander held her gaze for a second before Ren look ahead again. "So what do we do now?" Xander asked, turning his gaze forward as well. "It's too early for you to tuck me in bed" Xander went pink, realising what he'd just said, "I-I mean..." he cleared his throat "I mean it's still early"

Ren looked at her watch "Yeah, you're right. Come on, I'll buy you a coffee" she grinned at him as they walked "Then we'll get a video and watch it at your place."

"Ah, the glamorous life of a bodyguard."

"Glamour is over-rated. Gimme the quiet life" she paused "Well… maybe not."


Ren put back another video on the shelf in the store "Boy did we pick the wrong night to rent" she muttered. She looked across at Xander who didn't seem to be fairing any better. Her eyes flicked across to the girl on the counter who was trying not to look like she was admiring Xander's backside as he bent down to a lower shelf.

Ren smiled to herself //Who the hell could blame her for looking? I certainly have. Of course due to the fact that I'm supposed to be protecting him from god knows what, is the major drawback that prevents me from doing anything more than looking// she sighed inwardly and joined the assistant in her admiration for a few moments.

Xander stood up and looked over to Ren, who quickly lifted her eyes to his face. Xander shrugged "Got nothing over here that I haven't already seen" he said, "Guess video night is out then huh?"

"We do have more video stores to go to" Ren pointed out.

"Yeah but this is the only one I have a membership card for" Xander replied.

"Oh. OK then" Ren looked at him "So what do you want to do now?"

Xander shrugged "We could go to the Bronze."

"It's only six o'clock" Ren pointed out.

"Well what do you suggest?" Xander asked and this time it was Ren's turn to shrug then her eyes widened "What?" Xander asked apprehensively.

"I have got the perfect thing" she said grabbing his arm and pulling him out of the store.

"Which is..?" he said once Ren had let go of his arm outside the store.

"Well" Ren said as they began to walk "You know how you sometimes feel left out because everyone seems to have a 'thing' to help with the demon bashing right?"

Xander looked at the floor as they walked "Well I do sometimes. So?"

"Well how about I teach you a nifty spell you can use?"

Xander looked at her "Huh? What? Spell?"

"Yeah" Ren shrugged, "I mean, why not?"

"Well, I'd never really thought about it before" Xander said.

"It's never too late to start anything Xander. Come on we'll go back to mine. I've got an assortment of magick stuff I never go anywhere without" she turned to look at him "It'll be fun."

Xander hesitated //There's no reason why I can't do this is there? Willow and Giles don't have to be the only ones who can do that type of stuff. Hell, why not//

"OK. Sure" Xander smiled at Ren //Plus it means I still get to spend the evening with her//


(Some time later)

Ren threw a jug of water onto her couch and Xander looked at her sheepishly and cleared his throat "Guess I've got the spontaneous combustion thing down huh?" he said.

Ren just looked at him "I'd say so, yeah"

"I wasn't really expecting anything to happen like that so soon" Xander admitted "Maybe a little bit of smoke but not, you know-" he gestured upwards with his hands "-Whoosh"

"Well, sometimes people can grasp things quicker than others" Ren said "Although after only a coupla hours, I wasn't expecting *whoosh* either"

"Really?" Xander paused "You're saying that I might have some kind of ... uh, natural talent?"

Ren shrugged "Very probably."

"Huh" Xander said simply "Cool."

Ren looked at him with an eyebrow raised "You're taking this well."

"Well I've never been good at anything before."

"Don't say that" Ren said warmly "It's not true"

Xander suddenly found a spot on the floor very interesting.

Ren walked over to him and put a hand on his arm and he looked up at her and smiled somewhat sadly. "You know you don't really have to do this stuff with me" he said to her "I remember when we had our conversation that first night and you said you were just going to hang around in the background"

"Didn't really stick to that did I?"

Xander shook his head and Ren smiled. "I guess sometimes on jobs like these" she continued "I just get lonely. Most of the time I'm not supposed to reveal myself to whoever I'm guarding or at least not reveal why I'm there."

"Why change that for me?"

"I like you" she smiled. "You had friends who cared about you, and I thought it would be better all round if they knew what was happening. Especially if one of them was a Slayer. It would mean extra protection. Not that that would mean I would be slacking on the job" she added quickly.

"I know that" Xander said "And I don't mind that you decided to join our little gang."

"Well I always wanted to be in a secret club" she said grinning.

Her grin was infectious and Xander felt himself cheering up as he smiled back "So can I use this fire thing on any demon when we're fighting then?" he asked.

"Sure" Ren said "But that's all I'm going to teach you" when she saw Xander's disappointed look she continued "I've done my bit. You want to learn more get a book" she said smiling and Xander smiled back

"I think that'll probably be enough" he said.

"Yeah, just don't go using it too often" Ren said "It's nice to keep something as back up-" she broke off as the apartment plunged into darkness.


(A few minutes later)

"What do you mean you don't have a flashlight?" Xander said, gripping the back of a chair so he knew where he was "*Everyone* has a flashlight"

"Would you be *quiet*?" Ren asked, "I'm trying to listen for things."

"Oh. Sorry" he whispered apologetically then felt Ren's hand on his arm.

"It's OK" she said, "I just didn't think about getting one. I can see fairly well in the dark after a while."

Xander tried to adjust his own eyes to the dark but could make anything out "Do you think this is a trap?" he whispered nervously "Or did you just not pay your electricity bill?"



"Do you think you can find the kitchen?" Ren asked "I've got candles under the sink"

"OK. I'll try not to break my neck tripping over anything on my way there."

"Xander, if that's what you're worried about just crawl on your hands and knees" she replied "I'd get them myself, but if we're suddenly surprised by something big, bad and nasty, I don't want to have my head wedged under the sink and my arse in the air, thank you very much"

"OK, point taken" Xander said, already making his way carefully to where he hoped the kitchen was.

Ren listened carefully to her surroundings. She couldn't hear anything unusual, nothing but the sounds of people next door crashing around and cursing the sudden loss of power. She wasn't worried. It would only be if was *too* quiet that she'd get edgy. She sighed and made her way to the kitchen, her eyes better adjusted to the dark.

"Xander" she called.

"Huh? Ow..." Xander sat back on to the floor rubbing his head.

"You OK?"

"Yeah you just kinda made me jump and I banged my head" he said and felt Ren crouch down in front of him.

Ren placed her hands on his either side of his head and ran her fingers over his scalp "You've got a little bump" she said "Nothing big."

"I couldn't find the candles" he said, trying not to think about how close she was to him "Sorry."

"I think it's just a simple power cut" Ren said, absently brushing his hair back into place "Probably get sorted out soon. Nothing to worry about."

"Good. I'm glad" he paused "Why are we sitting on the floor?"

"I'm not" Ren said smiling then sat next to him "But I am now" she paused "Want me to fix that bump on your head?"

"Huh? Oh your healing thing. Sure OK" he felt Ren put her hands back on either side of his head again "Wait a minute, this isn't going hurt like last time is it?"

"No" she shuffled closer "Hold still."

Xander felt his head become warm where Ren's hands were on his head and he closed his eyes letting the feeling wash over him. It was so different from the wracking pain he had felt the last time. Unfortunately the warm feeling was over far too soon for his liking. He opened his eyes and looked at Ren who he could now see a little more clearly in front of him.

"All better?" she asked quietly, removing her hands from his head.

Xander only trusted himself to nod, although his eyes never left Ren's face.

Ren brought her hand up and brushed his hair back into pace again where her hands had ruffled it. She looked at him and met his eyes. They stayed like that for a few moments before Ren dropped her hand a little, almost cupping the side of his face. She heard a little voice in her head saying that she shouldn't be doing this. She almost paid attention to it had it not been for the fact that Xander mirrored her actions with his own hand. By the time their lips met, the little voice was gone altogether.

They were still sitting on the floor twenty minutes later when the lights came back on, but neither of them noticed.


"I expect this is highly unethical" Xander murmured when they finally broke apart.

"Highly" Ren said as she threaded her fingers through his hair, crushing her lips against his again. Xander slipped his arm around her waist pulling her to him so she was sitting almost in his lap.

Xander broke away again for air a few minutes later and Ren placed her hand on his chest, her fingertips tracing light patterns on the material of his shirt. She looked into his eyes "We should probably get up" she said smiling "Can't be good for us sitting on the cold floor."

"Hadn't noticed" he said, brushing a loose strand of Ren's hair back behind her ear "Can't think why" his eyes twinkled "Wait a minute I think I remember something..." he leaned in to kiss her again but before their lips met the telephone rang interrupting them. Xander gave a small laugh and Ren rested her forehead against his "Guess you should answer that huh?" he said.

"Yup" She stood up reluctantly and Xander followed quickly, standing infront of her as she felt behind her for her phone on the kitchen counter.

Ren kept her eyes locked with Xander's as she brought the phone to her ear "Hello?" Ren rolled her eyes "Rupert" she said a little too sweetly "To what do I owe this pleasure? ... No, no I wasn't doing anything important" she suppressed a smile and looked at Xander who did the same "So what can I do for you? ... And how does that concern me? ... Forgive me if I'm wrong here, but don't you have a *Vampire Slayer* for that? ... Don't get arsy with me Rupert. I have a job to do here as well remember?" Ren smiled at Xander "Yeah, he's here ... No, we're fine ... Yes we had the blackout ... Yes, we're still fine ... No I didn't think there was anything weird about it ... Rupert, as unusual a place that Sunnydale is I'm sure they still have the same problems with electricity as everywhere else ... Rupert, I'm going to put the phone down now ... OK, if it gets really bad give me another call, but for now bye" Ren pushed a button on her phone, disconnecting the call and put it back on the counter.

"Trouble?" Xander asked.

"Nothing Buffy isn't capable of handling" Ren said, standing closer to him.

"What was it?"

"Vampire nest."

"You didn't want to help?" he asked, snaking a hand around her waist

"Xander, I couldn't have gone. I'm supposed to be looking out for you not Buffy" Ren looped her arms around him and rested them on his hips "Remember?"

"Yeah. But it would have given me a chance to test out my new found fire starting skill" he smiled then raised his eyebrows as he felt Ren's hands slip further down his back and cup his rear.

She grinned "Just wanted to see if it felt as good as it looked."

"Really?" Xander grinned and let his own hands slide down Ren's back, and mirrored her actions "Me too" he grinned wider when she gasped.

He pulled her closer and caught her lips with his. Ren moved one of her hands up to rest at the nape of Xander's neck. She leant forward, causing the both of them to stumble backwards so they were pressed up against the wall. Ren moved her other hand that was trapped between the wall and Xander so that it joined the other one clasped around Xander's neck.

Xander pulled away for air "You still don't think we should help-" he trailed off when Ren silenced him with a quick kiss.

"Maybe later" she said, "Busy now"

"OK" Xander kissed her again "Later."


Xander and Ren did make it out of Ren's place that night. When they arrived where Giles had told Ren where the nest was, Buffy, Giles and Willow were just emerging and dusting themselves down.

"See?" Ren said, turning to Xander "I said she could handle it"

"Well we could have used a hand," Giles said, rearranging his glasses.

"Giles we did fine" Buffy said, "We didn't *need* any help. Plus Ren was right, it could have been a dangerous situation to put Xander in."

"Well, y-yes I guess that's a fair point" Giles remarked. "Don't want to invite trouble if we can help it."

"So is that it?" Xander asked. "No more vamps?"

"For tonight at least" Buffy replied, giving him a warm smile. "Now" Buffy yawned "I'm tired and I want to go to bed" she nudged Willow's arm "Come on, I'll walk you back. Giles, you coming?

"Oh, uh, coming" Giles called over his shoulder as the girls began to head off. Giles looked at Xander and Ren and his brow creased a little "Is everything OK with you two?"

"Sure" Xander replied, a little guardedly "Why do you ask?"

"No, it's nothing" Giles said, rubbing his neck "I'm just tired" he winced a little "And feeling my age" he smiled in a goodbye to them both. "Far too much excitement for one night" he added and headed off after Buffy and Willow.

Ren waited until Giles had caught up with the two girls and left the cemetery before she ran her hand up Xander's arm "Want me to walk you home?" she asked innocently.

"That all depends" Xander faced her.

"Depends?" Ren raised an eyebrow, her eerily bright blue eyes shining back at him.

Xander took a deep breath "What's been happening between us tonight?" he asked.

Ren was about to make a jokey comment then picked up on his nervousness. "You want to know where this is going?" she asked and Xander nodded. Ren sighed then shrugged "I don't know" she said taking his hand "Do you?"

Xander hesitated slightly before he spoke. "I'm going to tell you this because I know you won't make me feel bad about it afterwards" he paused and looked at Ren who urged him silently to go on. Xander took another deep breath. "It's just that everytime I see you I just want to do things with you that only happen in films that have NC-17 ratings, maybe even illegal in some states. I-I *want* you" //And did I even just say that to her?// he looked at Ren for a reaction.

Ren looked at him in silence for a few moments, taking in what she had just heard. "Oh my" she said finally.

"I know if anything happens between us, well anything else, it's not going to be long term" Xander continued "I know as soon as this whole situation is over you'll be gone. Despite what you said earlier, I know you'll have to go" he stopped when Ren looked at the floor "I *know* that. That's OK" he added.

Ren looked back up at him. "So what are you saying?"

"I'm saying that-" //And before I lose the courage// "-guessing from our activities earlier you're attracted to me" Xander said "And using that knowledge I'm putting forward the proposal that while you're here, we should have as much ... uh, fun together as possible"

The corners of Ren's mouth twitched a little "Fun?" she said, raising an eyebrow and moved closer to him. "You want to have *fun*?"

"You don't have to say it like that" Xander paused. "Well?"

Ren paused. "I'll have to think about it" she said mock thoughtfully, taking a step back.

Xander spread his hands out to his sides. "I'm a once in a life time offer for tonight only"

"Once in a life time huh?" Ren said, a grin beginning to spread across her face. "Well I'd better not pass it up" she reached out quickly and grabbed the waistband of Xander's jeans, pulling him tight to her.

"I take it that's a yes then? Xander said, wrapping his arm around Ren's neck.

Ren confirmed his question with a kiss.

Neither of them noticed the cloaked figure standing some one hundred feet away.


Ithral stood silent and motionless in his camouflaged position in the cemetery. He watched the couple intently. Ithral understood from his knowledge of human activities that the young male and his female companion were engaging in some kind of pre-mating ritual.

The female intrigued him. She seemed human yet she gave off essences of something else. Something more powerful and he would not underestimate her should the occasion arise that they would encounter each other. But it was not the female he was interested in. It was the male he had been sent to watch. It was the male that his employers were interested in. It was the male who had broken the rules that his employers strive so hard to protect.

Rules that the male and the blonde Slayer had broken together.


(Next Morning)

"You want me to do what?" Buffy looked at Willow incredulously "Are you sure you didn't get a bump on the head when we cleared out the vampire nest last night?"

"No bump and yes, I'm sure" Willow replied.

"A truce?" Buffy said "With Ren?"

"That's what I said" Willow confirmed "It'll make things a lot easier between you and Xander" she added pointedly.

"I wish you wouldn't make so much sense" Buffy grumbled "OK I'll do it. I'll see if I can find her today."

"Good" Willow replied cheerily "It'll be the start of good things to come."

"I hope so."


Ithral effortlessly moved among the early risers of Sunnydale that walked along the streets of the town. His ability to master the human form was something that he was quite proud of. It enabled him to cover so much more ground than others that undertook the same work.

Ithral liked his work. Many of his kind worked for his employers as it suited their natural inclination to be observers. Ithral liked observing.

He was observing at the moment. From where Ithral stood he couldn't hear what the Slayer was saying to the redheaded female sitting opposite her. That did not matter. He was only to watch her and the male until he was told to go to the next stage.

Ithral had followed the male and his female companion back to the female's dwelling the previous night. He had decided not to stay and wait to observe the male's exit. Although Ithral did not like to assume, he decided that his previous observance of the male and his female companion in their pre-mating ritual that they would be engaging in the full act once inside and that the male would not be leaving that night.

So Ithral had followed the Slayer this morning and was now following her again as she departed from the redheaded female.

Ithral found the Slayer interesting to observe. He had observed Slayers before on behalf of his employers but Ithral had not seen one like this fair headed one before. The others almost always worked alone and seemed to live only for the slaying. This one, well she was different. Ithral had noticed she seemed to harbour a type of anger towards the female companion of the male. Again, Ithral did not like to assume but he had decided that it had to do with the male and his closeness with the other female. Ithral did not understand humans. Ithral did not want to understand humans.


"You know if I'd realised you didn't *actually* have a bed" Xander said, "I would have suggested that we go back to mine" Xander gestured to where they lay in the sitting room of Ren's apartment on a make shift bed of cushions and blankets.

Ren grinned at Xander who was laying on his back beside her "That would be the basement with your parents sleeping above it, right?" she raised her eyebrows and sat up, drawing a blanket up around her

Xander flushed slightly "We weren't that noisy" he protested as he sat up to face Ren.

"Xander, if the majority of the dead weren't already walking round Sunnydale, we would have woken them" Ren leaned forward and kissed him "Besides" she said pulling away "My place *was* *nearer*" Ren's blue eyes glittered.

Xander reached his hand behind her head, gently pulling her closer to him "I knew there was a reason" he murmured before kissing her back. He felt Ren smile into the kiss before she gently broke away and pushed him back.

Ren stroked his bare chest lightly "You do realise you have to go to work today don't you?" she pointed out.

Xander groaned in protest and pouted at Ren. She smiled and rolled her eyes, pulling the blanket she had hold of further around her in a pointed manner.

"That means you have to get up" she continued "Now."

Xander grumbled again and propped himself up on his elbows "You know, you're not the boss of me" he said

"That's not the impression I got last night" Ren said grinning "Come on. Up."

"OK, OK" Xander said sitting upright, he pushed aside the blanket that was covering his lower half and stood up. He picked up his boxers and immediately brought them down to cover his modesty "I take it I can use your shower?" he asked.

"Sure" she said, "Although I don't know why you're covering yourself up" she continued indicating where his was holding his boxers "Definitely nothing to be ashamed of" Ren added with a smile.

Xander flashed her a goofy grin before heading for the bathroom.

Xander let the hot water run over his body. He shook his head then ran his hands through his hair //I can't believe what's happening here. Yesterday morning I was quite happy to admire her from afar, well in some respect anyway, and *this* morning I'm waking up *next* to her// Xander couldn't stop the stupid grin spreading across his face.

"What are you smilin' about?" he heard a voice from behind him ask.

Xander turned around and came face to face with Ren who had climbed in behind him. "You" he said with a grin, running a hand down her arm.

Ren's eyes flicked down to below his waist. "I hope so" she said raising an eyebrow and looked back up at him "You know, we *have* got a few minutes to spare..." she trailed off, placing both her hands on his chest.

Xander snaked a hand around her waist, pulling her closer "I really admire the way you think" he said before they lost themselves in a deep kiss.


(Early afternoon - same day) (Priory Restaurant)

"Harris!" a short and rather sweaty man called into the alley from the back door restaurant "Your break is almost over and you've got a personal visitor!" The guy rolled his eyes when Xander appeared looking dishevelled and accompanied by a similarly dishevelled woman.

Xander tucked in his shirt "Did they say who it was Jack?" he asked the short sweaty guy.

"Some blonde girl" Jack replied. He looked towards Xander's companion who was rearranging her clothing "Who's yer friend?"

"My name's Ren" Ren replied for herself. She pulled a Xander into a quick kiss before whispering in his ear "I'll be out front" Ren paused before pinching Xander's butt and giving Jack a little wave before she left.

Xander grinned at the back of Ren's disappearing form before he followed Jack back into the restaurant.

"I don't know how you do it Harris" Jack said as they walked through the kitchens "She was hot and this other one" he paused as they walked into the seating area "Also very hot" he pointed out Xander's visitor to him and Xander smiled when he saw it was Buffy.

"Make it quick" Jack said "You've got tables to wait" and with that Jack disappeared.

Xander walked quickly over to where Buffy was standing "Hey Buff" he greeted "To what do I owe this pleasure?" his brow creased "Unless it's not a pleasure and the world is ending."

Buffy smiled "No, the world is not ending."


"I was looking for Ren actually" she paused seeing Xander raise an eyebrow questioningly "I know. But I think it's about time we called a truce or something. I was looking for her outside but I couldn't see her. I was about to go out the back but then I thought she might be in here."

"Um, well, she's usually lurking out front," Xander said his eyes flicking warily towards the entrance "In fact there she is now" he said pointing to Ren.

Buffy turned to look "Oh, I probably just missed her before" Buffy turned back to Xander "OK, I'll leave you to get back to work. Oh are you going to be coming to the Bronze tonight?"

"Uh... I don't know" Xander said //I do have an evening in planned with Ren// "If I'm there, I'm there. I've got some things to do" Xander paused "I hope you and Ren sort things out" Xander said before he left to go back to work.

Buffy sighed and looked after Xander briefly before heading out to talk to Ren.


"I can tell this wasn't your idea" Ren said after hearing Buffy suggest a truce.

"Well, no" Buffy said, "It was Willow's idea. She thought it might be better all round if we could at least be civil to each other. I think it's a valid point" Buffy paused "So, what do you say?"

"I don't have to get all girly and palsy with you do I?" Ren asked

"God forbid" Buffy said, "No, I think it's just enough that we hold back on the arguments."

"OK" Ren agreed "It's a deal"

"OK" Buffy confirmed and began to look around distractedly for a few moments "So what exactly do you do all day when Xander is at work? Do you just sit here or stand or whatever and just look out for trouble?"

"That's about it" Ren shrugged.

"Oh" Buffy replied "So… have you seen any?"





Ren gave Buffy a small smile "You know our conversations were more fun when we argued"

Buffy matched Ren's smile "Uh huh" she agreed "OK, I think I've been civil enough for today" Buffy continued, glancing at her watch "I've got to go and meet Willow"

"Bye then" Ren said "Tell Willow I said hi."

"Will do" Buffy said and left Ren to do her job.


Part 4

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