Breaking the Rules

Chapter Four

Written by Joanne W


(Two weeks later - morning) (Xander's basement)

Xander and Ren lay entangled amongst the sheets on Xander's bed. Ren lay with her head on Xander's chest; content to let Xander run his fingers through her hair.



"Why are you called Aurora demons?" he moved his hands from stroking her hair to her bare shoulder "I mean it's not real scary"

Ren turned her head to look at him, a slightly amused look in her eyes "We're not supposed to be scary Xander" she said, "Not my kind anyway"

"But you can still kick ass?" he asked, pushing a strand of hair behind her ear.

Ren smiled "Major ass."

Xander was silent for a few moments "But why Aurora?" he asked eventually.

Ren pushed herself up and propped herself up on her side next to Xander "What's this all about?" she asked rearranging the sheets around her.

"I was just wondering that's all" Xander said, sitting up confused by Ren's slightly harsh tone "I was just interested"

"Is the me being a demon thing getting to you?" she tried to keep the annoyed tone out of her voice. "Because I though we went through all this before you screwed me up against your apartment door."

"Hey, just being interested here" Xander replied defensively.

Ren pulled back slightly. "You didn't answer my question" she stated.

"Ren, I just wanted-"

Ren swung her legs around to the edge of the bed and found one of Xander's shirts and pulled it on.

"What are you doing?" Xander asked. Ren didn't answer him and Xander tried again "Ren answer me" he said firmly.

Ren turned around and Xander found himself not liking the way her eyes glittered, but wasn't going to let that deter him.

"Ren what are you doing?" he tried again.

"You didn't sound very convincing" she replied finally.

"I didn't sound-" Xander moved quickly and pulled a surprised Ren into a deep and very intense kiss "-convincing" he continued slightly breathless "Convinced?"

Ren didn't respond but leaned over and kissed him briefly on the forehead "As your parents aren't here I'm going to take a shower."

Xander watched silently after Ren as she climbed off the bed and made her way up the stairs leaving his basement. Xander sighed //She didn't answer *my* question//


(Afternoon - same day) (Giles' place)

Buffy was really not a happy Buffy. Xander had failed to show at the Bronze that night two weeks ago and on several other occasions since then when either she or Willow and invited him anywhere. Today she was going to have to play the guilt trip thing on him, which Willow had advised her against. Buffy had brought to her friends attention that nothing that Willow had suggested so far had worked due to the fact that that they could rarely get to see Xander recently for some reason. So Buffy was going to start to play dirtier. There would be pouting involved.

Buffy looked at the clock for the tenth time in as many minutes. //They should be here by now. Giles said they would be here half an hour ago and oh, here they are//.

"Hey" Buffy said to Xander and Ren as they entered. She called to Willow who was talking to Giles in the kitchen "Hey Willow, Ren is here. Didn't you want to talk to her about something?"

"I did?" Willow looked slightly confused until Buffy shot her a quick look "Oh that's right I did" Willow said, walking out of the kitchen and spoke to Ren "It's about that casting technique you showed me a few weeks ago" Willow said "I-I've been having some problems with it and I wondered if you could show me what I'm doing wrong"

"Sure OK" Ren replied "But we can't do it here-"

"Oh it's OK I've got everything set up back at the dorm, we can go now" Willow said.

"Well I really shouldn't leave Xander-"

Buffy waved her hand "Hey, Slayer here remember? Please just go and do this thing with Willow before she drives me nuts about it and destroys anymore of my stuff when it goes wrong. I can hang with Xander then we can meet you and Willow back at the dorm."

Xander turned to Ren "I think you should help her. Buffy doesn't like anyone breaking her stuff."

"Well it'll only take about an hour" Ren said then sighed "OK, come on Willow lets go" she waited for Willow to grab her things and then they left.

Xander sat down next to Buffy on the couch "So whatcha wanna do?" he asked "It's Sunday, I have a day off ... and why are you looking at me like that?" he added taking in Buffy's slightly amazed look.

"It's just you don't normally leave Ren's side willingly" Buffy said, "I was just a bit surprised that's all. But that doesn't matter" she continued "What are you doing tonight?"

Xander hesitated. He was supposed to be spending it with Ren as they had done every night for two weeks, but judging by the way she reacted this morning and the distant way she been towards him all day, Xander wasn't sure if bed would be the place they'd be tonight. Xander looked at Buffy who was waiting for his answer //Besides I really should spend more time with the others. I'd know how I'd feel if one of them decided to spend all their time with someone else//

"What did you have in mind?" Xander asked "Bronze?"

"Frat party and you *have* to come" Buffy said, making the point "If I have to drag you there myself"

Xander smiled "I don't doubt you Buff."

"So do I have to drag you?" she asked, smiling back.

"No you don't, I will be there with bells on" he paused, seeing Buffy raise an eyebrow "OK maybe not bells but possibly some kind of party hat."

Buffy grinned then it faded a little "You do realise that Ren will have to lurk don't you" she pointed out "Can't invite too many non-collegey types"

Xander hesitated "I'm sure she won't mind" Xander said "I think I upset her this morning when we were... when I met up with her" he amended, then he paused "She's been a little distant today and-"

"You want to get some space?" Buffy finished.

Xander nodded and Buffy smiled. "Well at least we get you to ourselves." She said, "Willow and I were beginning to forget what you looked like."

Xander looked at the floor, realising that Buffy and Willow had been hurt that he wasn't spending enough time with them.

Buffy put her hand on his knee and he looked up at her apologetically "Hey" she said, "We'll have lot's of fun tonight to make up for it OK?"

Xander smiled "So what time do I show up with my party hat?"


Ren was slightly confused. It had started when she had first walked into Buffy and Willow's room when she had felt something wash over her, but she had shaken it. But now...

"Willow are you sure you're having problems with the casting?" Ren asked "Because from what I can see you seem to be doing all right"

Willow looked up at Ren from where she sat on the floor lighting candles "Well I just thought I could use a few pointers on the non-destruction of other people's property part"

"Uh, OK then. Let's just ...woah" Ren looked at Willow who had just blown out the candles she had just lit "What did you just do"

Willow looked up at Ren who now was looking at her with a faintly glazed look in her eye "Nothing" Willow lied. She stood up so she was facing Ren "I just want to ask you something, and just so you know, Buffy had nothing to do with this" she added truthfully //I hope Buffy doesn't find out that I've done this// Willow paused "Are you sleeping with Xander?"

Ren automatically tried to deny this. Xander and she had decided that they should keep their fling from the others, but Ren was finding she had a strange compulsion to tell the truth. She shook her head trying to get rid of it. She failed.

"Yes" //Oh bloody hell! A truth spell?//

Willow glared at her //I knew it. I knew there was something going on// "How could you?"

"Quite easily actually once you know where the parts go" Ren responded unwillingly.

"You're supposed to be looking after him! What on earth possessed you?" Willow exclaimed.

"He started it" Ren protested.

"I don't care who started it" Willow said angrily "It has to stop."


"Because someone will get hurt," Willow said "I don't want it to be Xander and I don't want it to be-"

"Buffy?" Ren said then laughed "I thought she gave up on him ages ago" she continued "And there was me thinking she didn't like me because I'd taken her 'job'" Ren laughed again "Oh this is just bloody fantastic"

"No its not fantastic" Willow responded she was about to continue when she heard Buffy and Xander's voices outside. Willow whispered a few words and the glaze disappeared from Ren's eyes.

Ren fixed Willow with a glare, which Willow matched evenly "I wouldn't say anything about this" Willow suggested to Ren.

Ren didn't respond. She turned to look at Buffy and Xander as they walked in then turned back to Willow. Giving her a small smile she took hold of Xander's arm and then smiled at Xander "Ready to go?" she asked.

"Uh, well I only just got here" Xander said, puzzled by Ren's change in tone towards him "I thought I'd hang with Willow and Buffy for a while" he paused "You know, just the three of us"

Ren kept the smile on her face "Sure" she let go of Xander's arm and shot another look at Willow who merely smiled back.

Xander replied "I'll be fine with Buffy" he smiled at Buffy "I'm sure she'll take good care of me" he turned to look back at Ren but she had already gone.


(Same Evening) (UC Sunnydale)

"I see you finally managed to get here" Buffy said coming up behind Xander who was standing looking lost amongst the mass of students congregating in the frat house.

"Buffy, I've been here for half an hour" Xander said turning round to greet his friend who was swaying a little "I've been trying to find you and Willow."

"Oh sorry" she said grinning "Well I don't know where Willow ish" Buffy said hiccuping and looking around "I saw her about ten minutesh ago."

Xander studied his friend and raised an eyebrow. "Buffy you're not entirely sober are you?"

Buffy grinned again and brought her hand up, putting her thumb and index finger together "I'm a leeetle drunk."

"Buffy, do you not remember the cave slayer incident?"

"But that was magic beer" Buffy said, pouting and held up the cup she had "This is-" she looked at the cup "-empty" Buffy looked back at Xander "I'm going to get more" she whispered conspiratorially

Xander took the cup from Buffy's hand and put it on the table next to them. Buffy made to take it again but Xander caught her arm.

"Buffy I really think that you've had enough" Xander dropped her arm "You're not going to fair well if a gang of demons suddenly decide to crash the party are you?"

"That ish a very good point" she said smiling and tapping him on the chest with her finger. Then she put her hand flat on his chest and looked him "Have you been working out?" she put her other hand on his chest "Very nice."

Xander looked down at where Buffy hands were then back to Buffy "Uh, thanks?" Xander gently removed her hands "Are you OK?"

"I am fabulous" Buffy said grinning "And so are you and oh look there's Willow" Buffy said looking over his shoulder and before Xander could protest Buffy took his wrist and proceeded to drag him after their friend.


"Are you sure she went this way?" Xander said to Buffy about ten minutes later as they entered a virtually empty part of the house.

"I'm pretty sure" Buffy said turning to him "Are you sure y'didn't see her?"

"Not a red head in sight" Xander confirmed "Maybe we should head back, see if we can find her on the way."

Buffy sighed dramatically and spun around on her heel, but a little too fast and she stumbled and fell into Xander who ended up steadying himself against the wall with Buffy leaning on him.

"Oops" Buffy giggled putting her hands on Xander's shoulders and pushing herself away from Xander to stand upright again. She kept her hands on his shoulders and looked up at him and smiled "Thanks" she said and moved her hands a little further down so they were on his chest.

"Uh, no problem" Xander said "I think you're all right to let go of me now" he continued, although very aware that he had made no move himself to extricate Buffy's hands from his person.

Buffy ignored him "You have been working out haven't you?" she said and began to run a hand down his arm feeling the muscle.

Xander cleared his throat. He was under three minds at this very moment. One was telling him that Buffy was under the influence of alcohol and was just being very friendly and that he should just remove himself from the situation gently. The second one was telling him to remember the last time Buffy had consumed this much alcohol and that it probably wasn't a good idea to get on the wrong side of her and if she wanted to do this then he wasn't going to argue with her. The third mind was the sixteen-year-old Xander that occasionally escaped and who was currently dancing about in his head going 'yippee'. Not one of them seemed to want to take control.

Buffy stepped closer and moved the other hand that was still on his chest down to his stomach and pushed him gently further back against the wall.

Xander cleared his throat again and mind number one began to make some headway.

"Buffy what are you doing?" Xander made to push her away "You know we really should be getting back..." he trailed off when Buffy put a hand on his shoulder as well as his stomach and pushed him not quite so gently back this time. Mind number two began to take over.

Xander's eyes flicked from side to side, trying to find someone to notice his predicament, but the hallway was deserted. His eyes became drawn back to Buffy when he could feel her heart beat against his chest //Xander, why the hell aren't you getting yourself out of this position?//

"Buffy we really should be getting back" he said quietly, trying not to notice how good her hair smelled or the fact that her fingers were tapping gently on his stomach.

"It's nice here" Buffy said meeting his gaze "Did I ever tell you that you have beautiful eyes?"

"Not that I recall" //Xander, this is very wrong//

Mind number one was beginning to make headway again and Xander made one last effort to pry himself away from Buffy. But Buffy had a sure-fire way of stopping him.

She kissed him.

Xander went into shock, his thought process stopped. Xander stood there for a few moments with Buffy's lips pressed up against his, then mind number three took over and he began to kiss her back.

It didn't last long though.

"Oh my!"

They both broke apart and turned to face Willow

"See, I told you she came this way" Buffy said turning back to Xander.

"Wha...? Uh, yeah" Xander managed to say at the same time as trying to process what had just happened "Guess you were right Buff" he added somewhat distractedly. He turned to Willow "Hey."

"You two were kissing!" Willow pointed out the obvious.

"Yes, yes we were" Buffy said, then hiccuped. She patted Xander on the chest "You were right" she whispered loudly to Willow and Willow looked confused for a second then went pink then quickly regained her composure.

"You're drunk" Willow said to Buffy then turned to Xander "She's drunk"

"I *know*" Xander replied //I know//

"So you kissed her when she was drunk?" Willow said.

"She kissed me first!" Xander protested.

"That's right, I did" Buffy said.

Willow looked between the two of them and shook her head "I really don't envy the conversation you two are going to have in the morning"

Buffy seemed to sober up a little at this thought and she looked at Xander a little awkwardly who was looking at her the same way back "Ah" she said.

"Yes. ' Ah' indeed" Willow replied.

"You know, maybe this would be a good time for me to..." Xander said, indicating that maybe he should leave.

"That would probably be a good idea Xander" Willow said.

"Uh, Buffy..." Xander started to say.

"I'll uh, see you tomorrow" Buffy finished for him. She gave Xander a small smile before he turned and began to walk away.

Buffy turned to Willow who was looking at her expectantly and gave her friend a sheepish smile.

"Has he gone?" she asked Willow.

"Yeah" Willow said slowly, puzzled by Buffy's sudden regaining of alertness.

Buffy smiled and straightened out her dress "Well I think that went very well" she said her eyes glittering.

Willow narrowed her eyes "You're *not* drunk are you?" she asked and Buffy gave her an innocent smile "Buffy Summers I cannot believe you did that" Willow continued "That was so not fair"

Buffy sighed "I know and I will gladly go round and make nice tomorrow" she looked at Willow "I just wanted to give him something to think about."


Xander had something to think about. Once he got outside the frat house he turned back to look at it, a puzzled look crossed his face. He turned away again and began the walk home.

Xander sighed and thought about what had just happened. This had turned out to be an interesting night. Buffy Summers had kissed him. OK so she hadn't been completely sober, but she had still kissed him, no matter how you looked at it. And he had kissed her back. Yes, it may have been the sixteen-year-old Xander who had been dancing about and going 'yippee' that had given him the jumpstart but...

...but tomorrow morning they were going to have the conversation in which Buffy would tell him it was all a bit of a drunken mistake and he was going to say that it was OK and maybe they should just forget all about it and just put it down to well ... whatever.


Xander turned around and came face to face with Ren. "Hey" Xander replied "I didn't expect to actually see you tonight"

Ren smiled. "I just wanted to say sorry I've been a bit off today," she said, taking his hand.

Xander reached out and took her other hand "I'm sorry I upset you" he said.

"You didn't" she said "I've... I've just been a little edgy lately and I just let some of it go on you and-" she got cut short when Xander kissed her.

"-and" she continued when Xander broke it off "I wanted to see if we could make up" she said smiling.

Xander smiled back and kissed her again, letting go of her hands so he could pull her closer. Ren wrapped her arms around his neck then pulled away from the kiss. She looked at him and smiled "We OK?" she asked

"Sure" Xander replied, ignoring the sixteen year old him still dancing away in his head at the thought of Buffy kissage.

After all he didn't have feelings like that anymore for Buffy.

Did he?


(Next Morning) (Xander's basement)

Xander had been interrupted from a light doze by an insistent knocking on his door. He grumbled slightly as he climbed out of bed. He tugged on some sweatpants and went to the door, pulling it open to reveal an awkward looking Buffy.

"Ah" Xander said. "Hey Buffy."

"Hey" she replied, giving him a small smile "Can I come in?"

"Sure" Xander said, moving aside and letting Buffy past him. He said a silent prayer, thanking anyone who was listening that Ren had taken the opportunity that his parents were away to make use of the bathroom facilities. Xander shut the door and turned to face Buffy.

"So..." Xander trailed off, unable to think of an opener for the conversation they were about to have.

"So..." Buffy trailed off then cleared her throat "So about what happened."

"The kissing thing."

"Yeah, the kissing thing" Buffy confirmed "About that" she cleared her throat again "It was, well... it was just something that happened"

"Yes!" Xander said quickly "Just something that happened"

"Exactly" Buffy said "Things just got a little..."

"Out of hand" Xander finished "I mean you were a little... and I shouldn't have...."

"But I shouldn't have... first" Buffy paused "We should just put this behind us 'cos-"

"-We're friends."


"It's not like there was anything else behind it was there?" Buffy asked, managing to keep the hope out of her voice.

Xander hesitated for a split second before answering "No. Nothing."

They were both silent for a few moments before Buffy spoke again "You know, I think this went well"

"Better than I thought it would" Xander agreed.

"Well it's good that we're able to put this behind us" Buffy replied.


They stood for a couple of moments in silence and Buffy looked around distractedly. Her eyes came to rest on Xander's bed with it's mass of rumpled covers. Buffy looked back to Xander "Rough night?"

Xander coughed "Not really."

"Oh" she said simply and then looked at her watch "Oh, look at the time I'd better go. Things to do and everything."

"Right" Xander said and opened the door for Buffy. As she stood in the doorway about to go he remembered something "Buffy?"


"What did you mean last night when you told Willow she was right?"

Buffy merely smiled and pulled the door shut. Xander stared at the back of it listening to Buffy laugh softly to herself as she walked away.


"How did it go?" Willow asked Buffy when she met up with her in the park twenty minutes later. "Did you make nice?"

"I did" Buffy said, smiling "*And* I think I gave him something to think about"

"Well I'm happy for you" Willow said "I can't say I totally agree with your methods, but you did achieve more in one night than we have in the past few weeks" she looked at Buffy who was still smiling. Willow smiled back but she couldn't help feel sorry for her friend.

Buffy had no idea that Xander was involved with Ren. Willow had been angry when she had got Ren to reveal this via a truth spell. She wanted to blame Ren because she was the one that should have known better but Xander, however much Willow wanted to deny it, had made a choice.

Willow listened to Buffy as she started to make plans for a possible next step. Buffy had decided that she couldn't just come right out and tell Xander how she feels. Willow was beginning to think that this was a bad idea. //Maybe if Buffy told Xander how she feels it would snap Xander out of his thing with Ren// Willow figured that the torch Xander had carried for Buffy early on in their friendship had never extinguished and if he found out that Buffy now felt that way about him it would cause it to flare up again. Willow sighed inwardly //Well I can always hope//.


A little later that day Willow arrived at Giles'. She knocked on the door expecting to see Giles but got Ren instead. And she did not look too pleased to see Willow.

"Oh look who it is" Ren said, making no effort to let Willow through "Come to cast some more spells have you?"

Willow was not fazed "Actually I came to see if I could borrow some books off Giles."

"Really?" Ren said flatly

"Yes, really" Willow crossed her arms infront of her chest "Is he here?"

"No" Ren replied curtly.

"Is Xander here?" Willow asked.

"He went with Rupert."

"You know, you're being very difficult."

"Oh, I wonder why?" Ren replied sarcastically "Could it be the fact that you tricked me and then cast a truth spell over me?"

"It needed to be done" Willow said.


"Ren" Willow said pushing past her, ignoring the other woman's glare "I don't have anything against you"

"Could have fooled me," Ren said, turning to face Willow.

"Ren, I just I really don't see how you can effectively look out for his welfare because of some anonymous danger at the same time as you're indulging in ... well, extra curricular activities with him"

"And I suppose this has nothing to do with Buffy, right?"

"Buffy has got nothing to do with this."

Ren looked at her in disbelief. "Really?"

"This has got nothing to do with how Buffy feels" Willow said "Xander is my friend and I care about him-"

"-and you don't want him getting involved with a demon?" Ren interrupted "'Cos that sure sounds like one hell of a double standard to me. What? Buffy's allowed to sleep with vampires but Xander can't get involved with me, is that it?"

"I didn't say that at all Ren" Willow tried not to raise her voice "You're supposed to be able to protect him and I don't see that happening if you keep sleeping with him" Willow walked to the door "Just think about it will you?"

Ren followed her to the door as Willow got outside "I'll tell Rupert you stopped by" Ren said, slamming the door.


Ithral observed the dark-haired male as he walked with the older male. Ithral was more interested in him now. He had been intrigued to find out that the dark-haired female that he was consorting with was his guardian. Ithral did not know who had appointed her. Ithral just knew that she would have to be taken care of and if necessary she would have to be eliminated.

Especially now that the final preparations were being made to go onto the next step.


(Two days later - morning) (Ren's Apartment)

Ren propped herself up on her side and gazed down at a sleeping Xander beside her.

Willow's words a couple of days before had been digging their way into her thoughts, and she didn't like it. Ren knew this wasn't the way she had planned things to go. She hadn't thought she would be here for this long. Her guardian jobs barely lasted longer than a few weeks if that and Ren had been in Sunnydale for over a couple of months.

Ren sighed and brushed aside a lock of Xander's hair that had fallen across his forehead. She hadn't meant to get *this* involved with Xander. She didn't know if she could stop being involved.

It didn't interest Ren that Buffy had feelings for Xander. Ren had decided that if Buffy didn't have the guts to tell Xander how she felt about him then that was her problem. Ren didn't have time to feel guilty and then play fairy godmother.

Ren's thoughts were interrupted by the sound of her telephone. She reached over Xander to pick it up, smiling slightly as mumbled something in his sleep.


<"Ren? Its Buffy">

"What can I do for you?"

<"I was just wondering where you were. I thought I might run a couple of things by you">

"Like what?" Ren asked hesitantly.

<"Uh, I can't really say here. It's a bit public. Are you keeping an eye outside Xander's?" >

Ren cast a quick glance at Xander who was still asleep "Yeah, I am. I'm just waiting 'til he wakes up. Why?"

<"Oh, it's just that I can meet you ... oh no, uh... wait, I've got to go do this thing. Don't worry about it, I'll catch up with you later">

"OK" Ren said slowly "Are you all right? You sound a little strange."

<"No, I'm fine. Look I have to go. Bye">

Ren heard the line disconnect and stared at the receiver "Huh."

"Who was it?" Xander asked.


Xander sat up "What did she want?"

Ren looked at him and shrugged "I haven't got a clue."


Buffy put down the telephone receiver and stared at it //Something is very wrong//

"What the hell is going on?" she whispered to herself looking around at Xander's empty basement.


(Later that day) (Outside Ren's Apartment Building)

Buffy stood on the sidewalk and looked across the street at the apartment building. Buffy looked down at the address on the crumpled piece of paper she'd managed to snag from Giles address book. //This is definitely the place//

Buffy took a deep breath and headed across the road and then into the building. She only had to climb one flight of stairs before she found herself standing with her hand poised to knock on Ren's door.

Then her hand dropped to her side, a sudden feeling washed over her. Buffy stopped for a second then made her way back to the stairwell and climbed back down the stairs before exiting the building. When she stood outside in the air Buffy paused for a few moments before heading around to the back of it.

Buffy studied the back of the building and judged what apartment window would be Ren's. She couldn't find the ladder to the first landing of the fire escape. It didn't matter. Buffy jumped up and caught the edge, pulling herself up, careful no to make any noise. She stayed silent as she crept to the other end of the escape where Ren's window was situated. Buffy pressed herself against the wall next to the window and turned her head to peer in.

She was not prepared for what she saw.


(A little while later that day)

Willow immediately put aside the book she had been reading when she saw Buffy's tear-streaked face as the blonde Slayer entered their dorm room.

"What happened?!" Willow asked, jumping off her bed and rushing to her friend's side.

Buffy sniffed and sat down on her bed "I saw them" she said, barely audible "I saw them together"

"Saw who?" Willow asked, putting a comforting arm around Buffy's shoulder and hoping that it wasn't who she thought it was "Who did you see?"

"Xander and" Buffy sniffed "Ren" then the tears began to fall again.

Willow heart dropped and she pulled her friend into a hug and Buffy cried into her shoulder. Willow waited until Buffy's sobs had subsided before she asked her next question "How did you find out?"

Buffy pulled away from Willow and looked at her friend "I went around to Xander's to see if he wanted to do something together" Buffy's voice began to tremble "But he wasn't there and it didn't look as if he'd been there that night" Buffy sniffed "So I called Ren" she paused "I don't know why, but for some reason I didn't tell her where I was"

She stopped when Willow handed her a tissue "Why not?" Willow asked.

Buffy wiped her eyes "I don't know... I just didn't" Buffy ran a hand through her hair "I asked her if she was outside Xander's and she said yes and that he was inside" she looked at Willow "But he couldn't have been because I was inside"

"She was lying?"

Buffy nodded "He wasn't there and then I got worried. I went around to Giles and I got her address. I went round but I couldn't knock on the door. So then I went round the back and climbed on the fire escape and looked in her window" Buffy wiped her eyes again "And then I saw them..." Buffy broke off, her voice cracking "I *saw* them and they were..." she trailed off.

"Oh, Buffy I am so sorry" Willow said hugging her friend again //Oh this is not what I wanted to happen at all//

Buffy regained her composure and took some deep breaths and Willow let her friend go.

"You know it was alright when I thought that Xander just had a stupid thing for her" Buffy said, "I mean, I could handle it. It was just a thing" she paused "But now I know that there's more to it and that they're... oh god, I can't even say it"

Willow handed her another tissue. Buffy sniffed then gave her friend a puzzled look "Why aren't you more surprised?"

Willow looked at the floor.

"Oh god, you knew!" Buffy exclaimed jumping up and standing infront of her friend "You knew and you didn't tell me!" she said angrily.

"Buffy-" Willow tried to explain.

"How could you!" Buffy said, her voice cracking again "How could you not tell me?"

"Buffy, I wanted to tell you" Willow said earnestly "Really I did. But I didn't know how. I just..." she trailed off and looked at her upset friend "Buffy you were *so* happy after the other night at the frat party and I just couldn't do that to you" she paused "I just thought... I just thought I could talk some sense into one of them" she finished quietly.

"Well it didn't seem to have worked" Buffy bit out "From what I could see they didn't seem to take any notice of anything you might have said to them."

"Well Ren wasn't very accommodating" Willow tried to defend herself "I tried but she wouldn't listen. I haven't had a chance to talk to Xander" she looked at her friend apologetically "I'm so sorry Buffy, I never meant to hurt you, you have to believe that"

Buffy looked at her friend's sincere face "I believe you Will" she said then paused "I just wish you'd told me. I think I deserved to know" Buffy stated, her voice softening "I really didn't want to find out like *that*" she sat back down opposite Willow "This is just all so... horrible."

"Hey, I found him with Cordelia remember?" Willow pointed out, giving her friend a small smile.

Buffy looked at her friend and mirrored her smile "But I don't have an Oz" she then said sadly.

Willow sighed "I don't think you need an Oz, Buffy" she said "I do think, however, that you can get through this" Willow smiled warmly.

"You do?" Buffy examined her shoes.

"Yeah. No doubts" Willow said "I mean, you're Buffy"

Buffy's breath hitched and then her eyes flicked back up to her friend "You're right" she said determinedly.

"What?" Willow looked puzzled by Buffy's sudden change.

"You're right" Buffy repeated "I *am* Buffy" she stood up "And no slutty, cradle snatching demon is going to get one over on me" Buffy paused "I'm going to let Xander Harris know *exactly* what he's missing"


(That Evening) (The Bronze)

Buffy smoothed down her dress "Are we all set?"

"Uh huh" Willow confirmed "Xander is here. He is Ren-less, as per the request, and you-" she pointed her finger at Buffy "-owe Greg a favour."

"He knows what to do?" Buffy smiled when Willow nodded "Excellent."


Xander looked at his watch //Where has Willow got to?// He looked around //I know Buffy was going to be late// Xander scanned the crowd near the door but couldn't find a trace of his friends. He stared back down at his drink for a few more minutes when he heard Buffy's voice behind him.

"Hey Xander."

Xander turned around to greet his friend but was struck speechless. Buffy was wearing a crimson halter-neck mini-dress that clung in all the right places and dipped into an extremely low V at the front.

"Xander" Buffy said, an amused smile on her face "I'm up here"

"Sorry" Xander mumbled, drawing his attention back up to Buffy's face "Nice dress."

Buffy looked down at her attire and then back to Xander "What this old thing?" she said as innocently as she could muster "I've had this for ages."

"Well you look-" he searched for something appropriate and then looked at her apprehensively "Can I call you gorgeous?"

Buffy flashed him a brilliant smile "You most certainly can"

Xander grinned back then saw Buffy's eyes flick to a point over his shoulder.

"Oh no" she groaned.

"What?" Xander was about to turn around when Buffy pulled him back to face her.

"Don't turn around. Hopefully he hasn't seen me."

"Who?" Xander was puzzled.

"His name's Greg and he's in one of my classes" she explained "He's been following me about campus for the last two weeks like a little puppy."


"So I don't want him to. I've told him I'm not interested, but he still tries. Oh god, he's coming over" Buffy said "Xander you *have* to help me"

"Buffy, what-" Xander began before he heard a voice behind him.

"Hey Buffy."

Xander turned around and faced Greg. He was about Xander's height, good looking with sandy-blond hair and looked about as interesting as dishwater.

"Hey Greg" Xander heard Buffy say through gritted teeth.

Greg's eyes darted towards Xander and then back to Buffy "So... I was wondering if you-"

"Greg, I don't think I introduced you to Xander" Buffy interrupted then she hesitated "My boyfriend."


"Buffy Summers you owe me *big* time" Xander said as they were dancing half an hour later.

"Are you *complaining*?" she asked with a subtly challenging tone.

"Well... I... Uh..." Xander was at a loss for words, very aware of how close Buffy was against him.

They danced for a few minutes more "How long do we have to keep this up?" Xander asked as he cast a furtive glance at Greg who didn't seem to have taken his eyes off them for the last half an hour.

"I don't think he believed us" Buffy said "We'll have to be more convincing"

"How?" Xander didn't have to wait long for an answer because Buffy had raised her arms to they were looped around Xander's neck, pulling herself closer to him. Xander cleared his throat "Oh. I see."

They danced to the slow beat of the song for the next few minutes in silence. Xander relaxed more, his looped around her, his arms resting on Buffy's hips as they danced together.

"You know, this is nice" Buffy said, smiling serenely at Xander "Your dancing skills have vastly improved."

Xander smiled "Well I aim to please" he said and Buffy grinned back at him then rested her head against his shoulder and they continued to dance.


Ren stood on the top balcony and watched Buffy and Xander dance. Her knuckles were white where she gripped the railing.

"What the hell is that girl playing at" Ren seethed.


(Next Morning)

"I can't believe we're having this conversation again," Ren said as she stalked away from Xander.

Xander followed her "I was only asking Ren."

Ren stood to face him "Yeah. And you've been 'only asking' for the past few days now"

"Only because you haven't answered me" Xander replied.

"Xander if you really wanted to know about my kind I'm sure you could have looked it up in one of Rupert's books. God, even Buffy did that!"

"Well maybe I didn't look it up because I wanted *you* to tell me" he said, trying not to raise his voice "That's not too much to ask is it?"

Ren scowled at him "Yeah, well I'm just wondering why you never bothered to bloody ask before we started sleeping together!"

"What the hell does that have to do with anything?!"

"Oh, work it out!" Ren snapped.

"What is the matter with you?!" Xander demanded "You've been in a bad mood ever since last night."

"Take a bloody guess why!"

"Ren I don't know!"

"How about the fact that you were all over Buffy?"

"I was just helping her out" Xander explained.

"Well you were certainly doing that!"

"You know, I don't like *this* *Ren*" Xander said "Maybe you should hang back for a couple of days so you can calm down."

"You want to give us some space?" Ren asked.

"Space?" Xander said "This isn't a relationship" he pointed out.

A flash of hurt passed over Ren's face "No you're right. It isn't. It's just sex" she retorted "Just 'fun' if I remember correctly."

"Ren..." Xander started to say but she just shot him an unreadable look "Fine" Xander said "I'm going to work. Alone" and he began to walk off.

"Xander-" Ren called after him, but he ignored her and carried on walking.

Ren stared after him, telling herself that showing emotion was a sign of weakness at the same time as a tear threatened to escape.


(That afternoon) (Priory Restaurant)

"Harris, can I have a word with you?" Jack asked Xander as the latter came back into the kitchen with a dark look on his face.

Xander headed over to his boss. "What is it?"

"I just wanted to know if everything was OK" Jack gestured for Xander to follow him outside.

Xander followed him out to the back of the restaurant. "Everything's fine" Xander lied.

"Really?" Jack said, unconvinced "Because so far today you've been doing a really good impression of someone who's extremely pissed off."

Xander hung his head and slouched back against the wall.

"You're lucky that it was only customers that I didn't like that complained about you" Jack continued "But keep this up and-"

"I get it" Xander interrupted and looked up at Jack "I'll try and be cheery" he plastered on a smile "See? I can do cheery."

Jack shook his head "I'd love to know what's got into you. These past couple of weeks you've been grinning away like an idiot. Now..." Jack trailed off.

Xander shrugged "I had an argument with Ren this morning."

"Ren? Oh the hot, dark-haired chick I caught you with?"

Xander nodded.

"How long have you two been together?" Jack asked.

"About three weeks" Xander replied.

"Man, is that all!" Jack stared at Xander "And you're already having arguments. That's some relationship."

"It's not strictly a relationship," Xander said remembering his words from this morning "We're just" he coughed "You know..."


Xander flushed slightly "Well kinda, but there is more to it than that."

"More to it than sex, but not a relationship." Jack raised an eyebrow. "Glad to see you've got clear boundaries. So?" he continued "What did you argue about? She steal all the covers?"

"It was a bit more than that" Xander sighed "We had an argument about some uh, aspects of her past and-" Xander broke off, his brow creased "-And Buffy for some reason"

"What's Buffy"

"Buffy is a *she*" Xander explained "She's a friend. You've seen her actually. She was here the same day you saw me with Ren."

"The cute blonde?"

"That's the one."

"So Ren is jealous of Buffy?"

"Well I..." Xander trailed off, thinking about this "I guess she was" he said slowly.

"Does she have anything to be jealous about?" Jack asked.

"No. I mean... No, she doesn't" Xander said "Me and Buff, well... we're just friends"

Jack raised an eyebrow "Friends?"

"Yeah. Friends. Really" Xander said "I mean I used to want to be more than friends but that was ages ago and... No we're just friends. Buffy wouldn't want to be anything more. We're just-"

"Friends?" Jack said again "You keep saying that" he smiled at Xander "I just wonder if you're trying to convince me or yourself"


Part 5

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