Breaking the Rules
Written by Joanne W
After the relief had washed over her, Buffy batted Xander non-too lightly on the arm.
"Xander, *grow* *up*" Buffy admonished as she made her way to the prone figure that was lying a few feet a way from them.
Xander still kept his eyes shut "I'm telling you Buff, that is *not* something I really want to get an eyeful of" He waited for her to answer but heard nothing "Buffy, what are you doing?"
"I'm checking to see if he's OK"
"How? He has no pulse and he doesn't breathe" Xander pointed out "Doesn't the fact that you can't sweep him under the door mean he's all right?"
Buffy turned to him "He's unconscious Xander. He's got a bump on his head the size of a bus."
"Hey, that means you're touching him" Xander realised "No touching naked ex-boyfriends!" Xander opened his eyes enough to be able to make out Buffy and hurried over, pulling her away from him.
Far from being angry, Buffy looked amused as Xander made to check Angel's head over for himself whilst at the same time avoiding looking anywhere else "So *you're* going to touch my naked ex-boyfriend then are you?"
Xander stood up quickly and turned to face Buffy "That's not even funny" he said and Buffy just grinned "OK. Question" Xander said "Why is he *naked*?"
"Where do you think that other guy got his clothes?" Buffy replied simply.
"Oh, good point" Xander said "So, is he going to be waking up anytime soon?"
"I don't think so" Buffy replied "I think it's best if we leave him here though. We can't exactly take him with us can we?" Buffy rolled her eyes when she saw Xander pointedly standing infront of her, blocking her view of the vampire. She grabbed Xander's arm, eliciting an 'Ow!' from him, and pulled him back into the other room. She looked at him, her eyebrows raised questioningly.
"Sorry" Xander apologised "My issues. Just y'know... you, him and… naked him..." Xander trailed off when he saw the beginnings of a smile on Buffy lips "What?"
"You're jealous" Buffy's smile grew a little wider "That is so sweet."
"Huh?" Xander replied "I mean... those aren't exactly two sentences you expect to hear together". When Buffy only grinned in response he continued "You're very complex"
"That's what Willow said."
"Well, Willow is usually right about stuff."
Buffy looked into his eyes "She is that" she said softly, remembering Willow's earlier statement about things that might make a difference.
"Why, what else has she said?" Xander asked, gazing back at Buffy.
"I'll tell you later" Buffy replied.
"There might not be a 'later' Buff."
"There's gonna *be* a later Xander" Buffy said firmly "Trust me" Buffy reached up and cupped the back of his head, pulling him down to her and claiming his lips in a fierce kiss.
Only when oxygen became an issue did they break away and Buffy smiled at him "Trust me?"
Xander smiled back "Always."
Buffy leaned against him and rested her head against his chest. Xander wrapped an arm around her waist and held her tight.
"Y'know, this is nice. I could get used to this" Buffy murmured.
"I know" Xander said "Pity we have to go kill a bunch of demons."
Buffy looked up at him "You really know how to spoil the mood, don't you?"
"What can I say? Life and death situations bring out the moron in me."
"You're not a... y'know I wish you wouldn't do that" Buffy said "From now on we'll have less, in fact *none* of the self-depreciating remarks OK?"
"It's on my 'to do' list" Xander smiled "Also on that list is 'Kill nasty demons' followed by 'Not getting dead', after which comes 'Smoochies with Buffy' then 'Talk to Ren'"
Buffy pouted "I don't like the last one."
"I didn't say *you* had to talk to her" Xander replied "Ren and I... we need to sort some... stuff out"
"I understand" Buffy touched her hand to his arm "So long as a few 'Smoochies with Buffy' comes first"
"Oh, undoubtedly" Xander replied with a grin which then faded a little and his brow creased "Uh... do you-"
"Hear that?" Buffy finished for him. She broke way from Xander's embrace and retrieved her sword "That doesn't sound good" she remarked, listening to the noise they just heard "It sounds like-"
"And from *inside* this building" Buffy turned to Xander "I'm going to go check it out" she told him "Stay here"
"No" Xander said stubbornly "I'm coming with you."
"Not until I know what it is."
"Stay" Buffy said placing a hand on Xander's chest as he made to follow her "I'll be five minutes."
"*Five* minutes" she said firmly then her tone softened a little "Please?"
Xander leant down and place a gentle kiss on her lips "Any longer" he said as he looked into her eyes "I'm coming after you."
Buffy smiled and cupped his cheek "I'll be back before you know it" she said. She turned and walked to the door that led to the main cellar. After clarifying that there was no danger she opened the door then stopped and turned back to Xander.
"Five minutes and I'm coming after you" he said "No arguments."
"No arguments" Buffy replied, holding his gaze for a few brief moments before exiting the room and closing the door behind her.
Ren began to make her way up the front drive of the mansion. She'd made it there as fast as she could, and in good time considering speed was not her forte at the present. Ren scanned the surrounding area. There appeared to be no demon activity outside. Then she spied something lying in some bushes. Curiosity piqued, she made her way over and frowned when she recognised the clothes on the headless body as those belonging to Angel.
"But obviously not Angel" she said to herself as she spotted the decapitated head hidden under a nearby bush. Ren crouched down and examined the detached head "Interesting" she remarked "A Cavgor demon" //Prelude to the main event// Ren stood up //They're going to wear Buffy and Xander out before they strike// Ren only hoped that Buffy realised that as well //If Xander has got so much as a scratch...//
Ren took a step back and stared up at the building infront of her, trying to find suss out as to how she was going to go about getting in. The front door was out as Ren figured that it might very well have been rigged. Although that didn't leave a lot of other options open to her.
"Looks like its shimmy up the drain pipe time" Ren said quietly to herself and began to make her way around to the back of the mansion.
Buffy emerged from the stairwell that led from the dimly lit cellar into a large, even more dimly lit room. Buffy took a few steps towards the centre before stopping and turning in a slow circle, brandishing her sword in front of her. After a few moments, satisfied that there was no immediate danger, she dropped the sword to her side and turned to face the stairwell again.
"Xander" she called out into the shadows "I know you're there"
Xander's head appeared from the darkness "You knew I was going to follow you didn't you?"
"D'uh!" Buffy beckoned him over.
"Then why tell me to stay when you knew I wouldn't?" Xander asked as he joined her.
"I just think it's a ritual we had to go through" Buffy answered, wrapping her free arm around his waist "What am I going to do with you?"
But before waiting for Xander to respond Buffy spoke again "I think whatever it is, it's in the next room. It's getting louder."
"Uh, Buffy?" Xander said looking around them, worry evident in his tone "I don't think it's just getting louder. I think it's getting *nearer*"
Buffy looked around as well and realised that Xander was right. It was getting nearer. The dust and small items that had lain on the floor were beginning to move, picked up by the breeze that had appeared and was all the time getting stronger. Buffy brushed away a strand of hair that had blown into her eyes and looked up at Xander "We need to get outside" she said loudly, trying to make herself heard above the rising noise of the wind that had now begun to whip around their bodies.
But as soon as Buffy and Xander began to make their way against the force of the wind to the exit, as suddenly as it had started everything stopped and the room became eerily quiet and still.
But not for long.
A few seconds later a flash of blinding white light engulfed the room and a sound like thunder and lightening combined accompanied it, causing Buffy and Xander to be thrown to the floor.
Then the light dimmed a little, enabling both Buffy and Xander to stare and what now occupied most of the room.
Ren was puzzled by the lack of activity of the three pairs of Cavgor demons that she had seen posted on the upper balconies of the mansion. What were they doing and why choose that particular demon in the first place? They were hardly the most ferocious species of demon, known more for their ability to assume identities than for their fighting skills. Sure you could get enough of them in a room together and they'd be able to kick some serious shit, but on their own or in pairs as they were now, they were no match for a Slayer.
But Ren didn't have time to puzzle this out further or to ask them up close and personal. She had one mission. Get Xander out.
Then she heard a wind-like noise coming from inside the mansion. Quickly she made her way up to and then on to an unoccupied balcony. Throwing open the door that led on to it, Ren ran into the room, only pausing to decapitate a stray Cavgor demon that happened to be in there before she made it out into the hallway. The noise sounded like wind rushing through the building, but Ren realised it wasn't as loud as it should be. That meant only one thing in her book. Badness.
She hurried along to one end of the hallway but swore when she found only stairs that led up and she wanted to go down. Turning around, Ren ran down to the other end of the hall then skidded to an abrupt halt at the sight of two slightly larger than usual Cavgor that had appeared suddenly at the top of the stairs.
"There's always *something*" she said angrily and held her position. Ren raised her sword, challenging the demons "Come on then!" she yelled "I've had a shitty day and I could *really* do with some quality violence!"
"Demon we do not wish to fight you" one of the Cavgor said, taking in the ridges that were still evident along Ren's forehead, giving away her non-human status "Why are you here?"
Ren narrowed her eyes "I'm collecting for the elderly" she said sarcastically "Why do you think I'm here?"
"Why do you need the sword if you are collecting for the elderly?" the other Cavgor said.
"You're taking the piss right?" Ren said disbelievingly.
"Forgive him, he does not understand humour" the first demon Cavgor said, "We do not know why you're here" the first one stated "You have no reason to be"
Ren lowered her sword a little "Y'know, I know you're not the actual Keepers, but I would have figured you other lot to know a little about what was going on here"
Realisation dawned on the first Cavgor to speak "You're here for the Slayer and her companion" the demon smiled strangely "They did not arrive how we expected them to. They killed our link to the Keepers."
"Your link?" Ren was not anxious to get into a conversation these guys but seeing as how there was something not right about this whole situation she needed to hear what they had to say.
"Only one is permitted to speak with the Machen Bhren and that was Ithral. He made a mistake. It got him killed."
The other Cavgor spoke "We could not help him. We were not permitted to leave the building. None of us are. We knew only what Ithral told us" he paused "Which was not a lot."
"Demon" the first Cavgor addressed Ren again "What business is it of *yours*?"
Ren took a step closer to the two demons, losing patience "I suggest you get out of my way" she said menacingly.
"We cannot do that," the second demon said.
"Then you die" Ren told them before she launched herself at them.
And die they did.
Ren didn't even give them a second glance as jumped over their strewn bodies and carried on quickly down the stairs, noting that the wind she had heard previously had suddenly picked up. Quickening her pace even more as she realised that the main source of the sound was now coming from a room that led off the main entrance hall where she was currently.
Then the noise stopped and so did Ren.
//This isn't good// she managed to think to herself before she was thrown to the floor by the sheer force of the joint explosion of sound and light.
Six pale, blue skinned, two legged, humanoid demons stood grouped together in the middle of the room. Six demons that each appeared to be seven foot tall and built like WWF wrestlers, all wearing chain-mail tunics and brandishing a great sword each. Not one of them looked happy.
"Oh fuck!" Buffy and Xander both exclaimed before scrambling to their feet. Buffy quickly got into a fighting stance and brandished her own, and tiny in comparison, sword in front of her as two of the demons began to advance towards them.
"Xander get outta here!" Buffy yelled.
"No!" Xander answered "I'm not leaving you!" and with lightening speed Xander pulled one of the vials from his pocket and threw it at the nearer of the two demons that were heading towards them.
It hit the demon in the chest, making a sound like bacon being thrown into hot fat as it made contact. Smoke began to rise from the point of impact, clouding the demon's vision and stopping it in its tracks as it tried to disperse the cloud around itself.
The other four demons remained in the centre of the room, although it showed they were concerned about their colleague who was now lying on the floor convulsing. The other demon that had been advancing with the one Xander had thrown the potion at stopped and looked at Xander with interest.
"You attack *us*? The Machen Bhren?" he addressed Xander with a low growl "That is most unacceptable" the demon, called D'nyn, turned to Buffy "We assumed you might give us the most trouble"
"Oh, I'm still going to give you trouble" Buffy said before launching herself at D'nyn. Her first blow was blocked and despite the demon's size and bulk it moved surprisingly quickly and blocked her next two attempted blows.
Xander meanwhile had snatched his crossbow from the floor. He quickly took aim and fired at D'nyn who, unfortunately, simply knocked it out of the air before it hit him and continued his battle with Buffy.
"Xander I thought I told you to go!" Buffy managed to yell at Xander who was struggling to reload.
"I'm *not* leaving you!" Xander reiterated then swore as he struggled with his weapon. A second later he looked up when Buffy let out a cry of pain as D'nyn landed a blow on her upper arm.
Buffy lost concentration for a split second which allowed D'nyn the opportunity to backhand her across her face and Buffy hit the floor from the sheer force of the blow.
"Buffy!" Xander threw down the cross bow and rushed at the demon who then immediately spun around and clotheslined Xander, bringing him to the ground, whereupon Xander let out a loud grunt of pain. Then D'nyn pulled him up by his shirt and tossed him ten feet across the room where he landed with a bone crunching thud at the feet of the other four demons, two of whom then stood over him, the tips of their swords poking into his neck.
"Xander!" Buffy cried out as she flipped back onto her feet. She was about to charge at the group of blue skinned demons but D'nyn landed another blow on her arm. Luckily the jacket of Willow's stopped any major damage to her limb but not enough to stop Buffy losing her grip on her sword. Incensed Buffy jumped high and kicked out at D'nyn, hitting him full force in the chest. It caused D'nyn to stumble back only a few steps and he immediately retaliated with a high spinning kick of his own which Buffy couldn't block. A split second later she found herself in the same predicament as Xander. On the floor with a sword at her throat.
Ren's breath caught in her throat when she saw the scene infront of her. The Machen Bhren had both Buffy and Xander at swordpoint. She saw that only one of the demons had ceased to be, although from what method Ren couldn't tell. That left five to deal with.
"Time to even the score a little" she said.
In a flash she whipped out a dagger from her belt and threw it with deadly precision at one of the demons who was standing over Xander.
It howled as the eight-inch blade embedded itself up to its hilt at the base of its neck. So much so that Xander could see the tip protruding from the other side.
All attention now drawn to the new player in the game, gave Buffy the chance to roll away from underneath the blade, only drawing a little more blood, before D'nyn had time to react. From her position on the floor Buffy sideswiped D'nyn, crashing her legs into his and bringing him to the ground. As soon as he hit the floor Buffy flipped to her feet.
Xander meanwhile had taken advantage of the fact that the demon Ren had just killed had fallen on to the other demon that had been holding a weapon to him. Xander scrambled out of the way and onto his feet
Buffy, back on her feet, realised her own sword was too far away for her to reach. Quickly, she extracted the small dagger that had been nestling between her breasts, using it to inflict a small but deep wound on the upper leg of D'nyn who had gotten to his feet.
"I'd say the odds are a little more even now" Buffy said "Wouldn't you?"
"It has certainly made things more interesting" D'nyn replied, spinning around and advanced quickly towards Ren.
"Buffy!" Ren called out as D'nyn headed towards her "Catch!" and hurled her own sword towards the Slayer who caught it deftly "Get him out of here!"
Buffy didn't need telling twice and sped towards Xander who was managing to hold off the demon, called D'haln, who had been previously felled by his dead colleague, with only a vial of potion in each hand. Buffy dodged the only two demons that hadn't seen any action yet who had come racing towards her and sent them both to the ground with two kicks to the base of their spines. When she was with in a few feet of the demon who was preparing to attack Xander, Buffy leapt into the air and somersaulted, her feet crashing into the shoulders of the demon. Buffy landed on the demon's back when it crashed to the floor from the force of her blow. Straddling it she threw the sword to the floor and grabbed D'haln in a chokehold.
"Xander, get back down to the cellar!" she pleaded as she began to choke the life of D'haln "Get out the way we came in!"
"No!" Xander said picking up the sword Buffy had thrown down "I'm not leaving either of you!"
Buffy gave D'haln's neck a hard twist to the left and felt him go limp. She got to her feet and snatched her sword back off of Xander "If you don't get out of here now, you can forget about number three on your to-do list!"
Then Buffy let out an "Oomph!" as Xander knocked her to the ground and Buffy watched as one of the other demons flew over them and then landed in a heap a few feet away.
"See?" Xander said, "You need me"
Buffy pushed Xander off of her and flipped back to her feet "I *need* you out of here" Buffy told him "Go!" she pleaded as she turned to face the demon who had just launched itself at them a few moments ago.
"No!" and Xander hurried past her and towards the other demon who was trying to decide which one of his colleagues help.
"Hey!" Xander yelled, reaching in his pocket for one of the vials "You gonna just stand there?!"
"Xander, get your fucking arse out of here!!" Ren cried as she dodged another blow from D'nyn. She'd managed to get his weapon away from him and was now fighting him hand to hand. Unfortunately she wasn't as big or as strong as he was and was realising that this was not going to as easy as killing the Cavgors.
Ren saw Buffy managing to hold her own against her foe, but it wasn't going to be easy fighting him one on one. They'd all got lucky managing to kill three. Ren herself hadn't even been sure that her strike with the dagger would have been enough to kill.
Then she watched in horror as the demon that Xander was egging on had finally had enough. Xander hadn't thrown the vial and the demon had simply launched itself at Xander knocking him to the floor and the vial out of his hand.
"Xander!!" both Ren and Buffy shouted at the same time and both of them lost their concentration enough for their opponents to get the upper hand.
Ren was sent flying a few feet through the air and she hit the wall, her head smacking against the hard surface. Ren slid to the floor and was joined quickly by Buffy who had been sent tumbling backward by the demon she had been fighting. Xander had been hauled to his feet and the demon, called Reshe, who had attacked him, now held Xander in front of him with his sword pressed up against his Xander's throat and manoeuvring him further away from the others.
Buffy tripped and found herself sitting on the floor next to a dazed Ren and being stood over by a madly grinning D'nyn and the other blue skinned demon, Javeh. Buffy looked to Ren and did a double take. "Fun facial feature you got there" Buffy said.
"Don't take the piss blondie, I look like a Klingon and now is not the time to be discussing it" Ren turned to D'nyn who now had his sword pointed at her chest "Can I just say you guys went to an awful lot of trouble for this. What, you couldn't have just killed them in their beds?"
"Oh, give them ideas won't you, Ren?" Buffy said, eyeing warily the weapon pressed too close against her own heart.
"You do realise this is all your fault" Ren answered Buffy "You couldn't have just died when you were supposed to?"
Buffy narrowed her eyes at Ren. "I *really* don't like you, y'know?"
Ren matched her glare. "Feeling is mutual."
"Quiet!" D'nyn commanded, gesturing for Ren and Buffy to get to their feet "Stand and face me. Try anything and we find a nasty and gruesome way to kill the boy. Right in front of you."
Buffy and Ren responded by quickly getting to their feet.
"That's better" D'nyn said and placed the tip of his sword against Ren's throat "Now, would you mind telling me what you're doing here?"
Ren winced slightly as the sharp blade cut her skin but she stared defiantly at D'nyn "That seems to be a popular theme around here" she replied "Those Cavgor that are around didn't seem to know a lot about what was going on"
"That is because Ithral only told them what they needed to know" D'nyn replied "I repeat. What is your purpose?"
Ren glared at D'nyn and purposely twisted her neck a little so the blade cut a little deeper into her "Why do you think I'm here, moron? I don't just go about trying to save everyone's arses."
"You're here to save the Slayer?" he asked.
"Do me a favour" Ren replied, twisting her neck even more "Demon like me?"
Buffy sighed frustratedly "Could you two please *cut* the chit chat? I thought you lot wanted to just kill us and get out of here" Buffy grimaced slightly as she felt the point of Javeh's sword press a little more into her chest.
"D'nyn is not peaking to you" Javeh said warningly "You will only speak again when spoken to or Reshe will harm your boy"
Buffy glared at both Javeh and D'nyn but kept her mouth shut.
D'nyn stepped a little closer to Ren. Close enough so he still kept the sword in place against her neck and close enough so she could feel his breath on her "I want you to answer me without another question" D'nyn demanded "And to let you know that Javeh lives to kill. Why. Are. You. Here?"
"I'm here to protect him. I'm here to protect Xander" Ren answered.
"Why?" D'nyn asked "What is he to you? Friend? Lover?"
Ren swallowed hard and moved her neck yet again, hoping that D'nyn wouldn't know what she was doing "Was a lover" she replied "No. I'm here because it's my job."
"It's your *job* to protect him?" D'nyn's eyes narrowed "He's paying you?" D'nyn laughed and called out to Xander "You pay her to protect you? Obviously you picked the wrong demon!" he laughed.
"I don't pay her!" Xander replied "She was sent"
D'nyn laughter died off and studied Ren carefully "Sent?" then D'nyn looked at her neck where blood was beginning to quickly ooze out of a growing wound on the side of her neck "If you didn't move so much you wouldn't get hurt"
Ren grinned "I live for the pain" she held out her arm "Go on, cut me" she met D'nyn's eyes "Dare ya."
Buffy suddenly realised what Ren was doing. It was what she had read about when she had researched about Aurora demons. Wound them and a noxious gas incapacitated their attackers. Buffy cleared her throat and looked meaningfully at D'nyn.
He turned to face her "Speak" he commanded.
"I was just going to say that I wouldn't mind if you made her bleed" Buffy said, "I hate her quite a lot"
D'nyn held Buffy's look for a few moments before turning back to Ren "You *live* for the pain?" he said disbelievingly then he pressed the blade of his sword a little further into her neck and Ren winced "Will this do?"
"It's enough" Ren said "A little bit more to the left though"
"You said you were sent" Javeh asked, "Who sent you?"
"Yes I am most interested to know who would value him so" D'nyn said.
Ren didn't answer, merely holding D'nyn's curious look.
D'nyn pushed his face up close to Ren's "Answer. Me. Now."
Ren didn't blink "The Powers that Be" she said finally.
D'nyn held her look for few minutes, searching her eyes for any hint of deception. Finding none, he took a step back from Ren, though still holding her look and keeping his weapon in place.
"Reshe" he called out "Let the boy go."
"You want me to let him *go*?" Reshe said incredulously "Did you take a blow to the head?"
"Reshe, do you remember the last time we killed someone the Powers That Be had under their protection?" D'nyn replied.
"It was not pleasant" Javeh added with a sad shake of his head.
"You mean we get to go?" Buffy asked, "Man, if I knew that all it would have taken to avoid this was to write you guys a letter explaining everything-"
"Silence!" D'nyn commanded "*He* gets to go. *He* gets to live. *You* don't"
Buffy glared at him "Then why hasn't *he* been let go yet?"
Holding Buffy's glare D'nyn called out to his colleague "Reshe. Let the boy go."
Reshe still held his weapon to Xander's throat "I don't like this" he replied "It undermines what we stand for"
"You'd like it even less if you had to answer to the Powers" D'nyn said "Remember what happened to Jehn when he went up against them?"
Reshe thought this over and with a frustrated grunt he withdrew his sword and pushed Xander away from him. Then he seemed to change his mind and before Xander had a chance to react, Reshe hit the young mortal over the head with the hilt of his weapon and knocked Xander unconscious.
Buffy winced as Xander slumped to the floor "That's *not* letting him go" she said.
"He's not dead though" Reshe replied stepping over Xander's body and sauntering over to where Ren and Buffy were trapped against the wall "Thought that was what you wanted." Reshe spoke to D'nyn "If we had let him go he would have come back with re-enforcements."
"That is a good point" D'nyn replied "Well done."
"Y'know, if you two want some alone time, feel free to take it" Buffy said sarcastically.
Reshe ignored her and looked Buffy over "So *you're* the Slayer?"
Buffy huffed "Why does everybody say it like that? It's not that hard to believe is it?"
Reshe didn't answer and turned away from her to look properly at Ren. Then to the wound on her neck.
"D'nyn what are you trying to do?! Kill us all?!" Reshe exclaimed.
"Oh look, *finally* someone clues in" Ren said as Reshe pulled D'nyn away from her.
Ren stepped towards Reshe who let go of D'nyn and backed away from her, but D'nyn had quickly taken up his sword again and was pressing it against Ren's back.
"Take one more step" he warned "And I'll run you through."
Ren stopped and addressed Reshe "Tell him why he won't. There's a good demon."
"D'nyn" Reshe warned "Get *away* from her. She's lethal. Her blood... it's poisonous!"
Ren took a deep breath "Mmmmm. Smell that air. All those noxious gases floating about" she turned around to face D'nyn who had backed away "Buffy, want to tell them what their other mistake was?"
Buffy grinned at Javeh who had managed to manoeuvre himself and Buffy away slightly from the rest after hearing his colleagues warning "Well I guess it could be the fact that you were only stopping us from attacking you by threatening to kill Xander..." Buffy paused "Well we know *that's* out of the window-" she never finished the sentence, instead she smashed her foot into what she hoped was Javeh's knee cap. The blow caused him to reel backwards enough to draw the tip of his blade far enough away from her chest so she could then move to the side and use her other foot to kick the sword out of his hand entirely. Whereupon Buffy immediately swooped down and claimed the errant weapon for herself.
Ren grinned again at the two demons that were keeping their distance from her "Big mistake. *Big* mistake. *Huge*!"
Buffy held her recently acquired sword up against Javeh's chest, reversing their positions "Not so funny the other way around is it?" Buffy prodded him "Now seeing as how we've got your attention now. I'm going to ask one question and remember-" she prodded Javeh again "-Oh the hell with it" Buffy spun on her heels with lightening speed and whirled the sword around her head as she did so. Javeh didn't manage to duck in time.
"Two against two" Buffy said as she stepped over Javeh's corpse and walked over to Xander's prone form, crouching down to check him over. Satisfied that he was going to be OK she stood up and faced the other two demons.
Meanwhile Ren had positioned herself so she could get D'nyn and Reshe to stand side by side. Both now were holding their weapons out infront of them as a defence against Ren. "Y'know" she said "*I* think I might ask you a question while you have the chance to answer…" she trailed off and looked at D'nyn "Feeling a little dizzy there are we?" she asked the demon who seemed to sway slightly "That's good. Now as I was saying, while I have you here, and alive, perhaps you might tell me why you take it upon yourselves to do this job? Obviously you don't get benefits or pension, so there must be some incentive, right."
"It's a hobby" Reshe replied "Gives us something to do at the weekend."
Buffy glared at him then said slowly "It gives you something to do at the weekend?" Buffy exploded and Ren jumped out of the way, letting the Slayer take a swing at Reshe while Ren kept D'nyn at a distance.
Reshe blocked Buffy's first blow and then returned her gesture, swinging his sword heavily at Buffy's head. Buffy ducked and dived between Reshe's legs. She spun around quickly on her heels and thrust the sword into Reshe's back, severing his spinal column. Buffy let go of the sword and Reshe fell forward.
Ren looked at the dead demon laying on the floor with the sword sticking out of his back "Nice moves" she said to Buffy who looked at her with an eyebrow raised in a dubious expression. Ren shrugged "What? I don't like you. You were expecting more?"
Buffy just looked at Ren, fought the urge to say something bitchy and turned her attention to D'nyn "So *hobby* boy. Mr 'I-like-to-kill-people-at-the-weekends'. Any last requests?" Buffy pulled the sword slowly and pointedly from Reshe's back as she spoke "Y'know apart from the popular 'Please don't kill me' theme"
"You won't kill me" D'nyn said.
"No, but *I* might if you just keep standing there" Ren added.
D'nyn looked at Ren "I didn't mean me personally. I meant what we, the Keepers of the Written try to do. If you kill me, eventually more will come to exact judgement because of you going against the prophecy" D'nyn swayed slightly and turned to Buffy and tried to sound menacing "You will *always* be looking over your shoulder. Always wondering when we're going to strike next. You'll *never* be rid of us"
Buffy just looked at him with a bored expression on her face "Why doesn't anyone *ever* come up with anything original?" she sighed "I'm the *Slayer*. Demons and other assorted evil people are *always* trying to kill me. You really think you're something *new*?"
Buffy took a step closer to D'nyn who blinked rapidly, trying to focus his eyesight, the sign's becoming more obvious that Ren's defence mechanism was taking it's desired effect. Buffy shook her head and grinned "You really don't get it do you?" she said, "I was only ever worried about Xander. You tried to hurt him. You tried to kill the man I love" Buffy ignored Ren's glare and continued "You then tried to kill me when you couldn't kill him. Naturally, I'm a little pissed off."
As Buffy took another step towards D'nyn, he managed to focus enough to get himself in a defensive stance. Ren meanwhile took the opportunity to hurry over to the still unconscious Xander. Sliding her hands underneath his arms she hauled Xander to his feet, propping him up against her.
"Buffy" Ren called out "Just kill him so we can get out of here."
"Gladly" and before any of them still conscious could blink, Buffy had leapt straight up into the air and somersaulted, her feet landing on top of D'nyn's shoulders. A weakened D'nyn crashed to the floor and Buffy nimbly jumped out of the way and didn't even pause for breath as she brought the blade down across D'nyn's exposed throat.
Ren just looked at the Slayer as she began to walk away from the now dead D'nyn "You really *do* like chopping off demon's heads don't you?" Ren said as Buffy joined her.
Buffy shrugged and looked at Ren "Your face is back to normal" she said "Didn't realise you went all bumpy anyway."
Ren manoeuvred Xander so she could pick him up "Don't usually. Extreme conditions and all that."
"Oh" Buffy said then indicated Xander who Ren was now holding in her arms "Want me to take him?"
"Thought you already had" Ren replied, holding the look Buffy was giving her "Come on we'd better get going" she said quietly, turning to leave. "The clear up can wait."
Buffy took a look around her at what was left of the demons who had been so desperate to see her and Xander dead. It was over for Xander but she still had a price over her head
Buffy sighed //But don't I always?// then she turned and jogged a little to catch up with Ren who had already begun to walk away. They both walked in silence until they were outside and standing on the driveway.
"Is Giles OK?" Buffy asked "And Willow?"
"All doing fine."
"That's a relief" Buffy replied then switched to walk the other side of Ren so she was nearer Xander's head. She put a hand on his shoulder and stoked it as they continued to walk "Can't you bring him round? Y'know with your healing thingy" Buffy asked.
"I can only do the healing if he's conscious" Ren answered "As soon as he comes round I'll do it. Won't need to take him to hospital then."
"I take it we're going back to Giles'?"
"It's the nearest."
They walked along in silence for a couple of minutes before Buffy spoke again.
"Was that *it*?" Buffy asked, "I mean, what happens now?"
Ren shifted Xander's weight in her arms and turned to face Buffy "For you Buffy, I don't know what's going to happen next. If it's any consolation I don't think they'll be back" she paused "As for Xander" Ren turned away from Buffy and looked at Xander "As for him, he's going to be OK" she smiled slightly.
"Which kinda begs the question 'why?' don't you think?" Buffy said and Ren looked at her. Buffy continued "*Why* the PTB felt he shouldn't have to die at those guy's hands"
Ren stopped in her tracks and Buffy turned to face her "Because I think they know what we already do about him Buffy. He's special" Ren said, "He doesn't have to do any of this. He doesn't have to go out patrolling with you nor do the research thing or anything remotely likened to fighting the forces of evil. But he does. Not because he has to, like you. But because he wants to. He would die for anyone of his friends without hesitation" Ren paused then said quietly "He's done so much more for all of you than you even know about"
Buffy gave a puzzled look "What don't I know?" she asked quietly.
Ren hesitated "Later. Right now all I want to do is get him back to Giles'."
Buffy gave her a small smile "You didn't call him Rupert"
"I've been spending too much time with you lot, that's why" Ren replied and started to walk again.
Buffy walked along with her "No, you've been spending too much time with *Xander*"
Ren sighed "And there I was thinking we were starting to have a civil conversation" Ren turned her head to look at Buffy "I don't see what your problem is. You've got him now. Be happy about it" she said bitterly.
"I am" Buffy said truthfully "But you're not."
"Go figure" Ren bit back.
This time it was Buffy's turn to stop in her tracks "Hey" Buffy began and Ren turned round to face her "It's not like you two would have worked out. For one thing ... y'know... you're a demon"
"Oh say it a little louder why don't you?" Ren let go of Xander's legs so they dropped to the floor and Xander slumped up against her "I don't think the soldier boy prowling around the bushes with his laser gun heard you! And I've three words for *you* blondie. Pot. Kettle. Black!"
"Yeah, well that's exactly *why* he and I didn't work out Ren" Buffy softened her voice a little "I realised that a long time ago. And he's *not* what I want anymore"
"What? So you *settled* for Xander?" Ren retorted.
Buffy gave her an indignant look "I did *not* *settle* for Xander! God Ren, I tried to get him to notice me for months. Do you call that *settling*? 'Cos I sure don't. I *love* him" Buffy paused for breath "Just as much as you do" she added quietly.
Ren unconsciously pulled Xander closer to her and remained silent.
"He does care about you" Buffy continued "He doesn't want to hurt you"
"Well he did" Ren replied, her voice barely above a whisper "And you got him didn't you?"
"Yes I did" Buffy replied simply.
Ren held her look for a second then took Xander in her arms again "Guess we'd better get going huh?" she said, changing the subject.
"You sure you don't want me to take him?" Buffy asked as she joined Ren in their journey to Giles' "You've had kinda a rough day"
"I'm still on the clock as his guardian" Ren replied, shifting Xander slightly in her arms "At least give me that."
Buffy did. Ren carried Xander for the rest of the way back to Giles'. Just as they neared his door, Giles and Willow emerged, arms loaded with assorted weapons. Willow, taking one look at Xander in Ren's arms, dropped her load and rushed over to her friend.
"Is he OK?" she asked worriedly. Her eyes widened "He's not..."
Buffy smiled, reassuring her "No Will. He's fine. Just following in Giles' tracks of getting hit on the head."
"Yes, very funny" Giles said, then he smiled "Glad to see you're OK. I take it that everything went well?"
"Couldn't have gone better" Buffy told him as Ren took Xander inside, closely followed by Willow "They don't want Xander anymore. They gave me the usual 'I'll be back' routine, but don't they always?" Buffy paused "I'll go into more detail later Giles. Right now I just want to wait until Xander comes around, let Ren do her healing thingy, tell Xander I love him then sleep off the last few days" Buffy yawned pointedly and walked past Giles to join the others.
Giles turned around and stared after her, a perplexed look on his face "What was the third one again?"
Ren laid Xander on Giles' couch. She grabbed the blanket that had previously been used to cover her and placed it over Xander. Brushing some hair away from his forehead she knelt down by his side "Hey Xand. Feel like waking up anytime soon?" she smiled when he stirred slightly. Ren looked up at Willow "He's coming round."
"That's good" Willow replied kneeling down next to Ren "Hey! You're bleeding" Willow said touching her finger's to Ren's neck.
"Oh that" Ren brushed Willow's hand away and closed her eyes, concentrating and Willow watched as the wound healed itself.
"You really must save on Band-Aids huh?" Willow said.
Ren turned to look at her "Yes. That's one of the many *perks* of being a demon" she said more harshly than she meant to.
"I didn't mean... oh forget it" Willow said and moved away from Ren. Willow then hurried over to hug Buffy who had just come in "Hey Buff."
"Hey Willow" Buffy returned her friend's hug "Told you I'd see you later" she pulled away from Willow and looked over her shoulder at Ren and Xander when she heard Xander groan. She quickly hurried over to his side and knelt next to Ren.
Xander opened his eyes a little "Ow" he managed before screwing them shut again "That hurt."
"He did hit you pretty hard" Buffy said.
Xander opened one eye warily "I'm not dead then?" he said and looked at his surroundings with his one eye "Oh good. We won" Xander opened his other eye slowly "That's good" he tried to sit up but Ren pushed him back down again.
"Stay" Ren said and placed her hands either side of his head "You remember how to do this?"
"I remember what happened afterwards," Xander said, catching Ren's eye.
A faint smile flickered across Ren's face "Just relax, OK?"
Xander closed his eyes and began to feel his head grow warm where Ren's hands touched him. About a minute later the pain was gone and the bump he knew was there before had disappeared.
"Better?" Ren asked when Xander opened his eyes.
"Much" Xander replied, holding her gaze for a moment before adding warmly, "Thanks."
Ren dropped her gaze from his and stood up "All part of the job."
Xander sat up "Ren..." he began and reached out for her arm but she brushed him off and she turned to Giles.
"I'm going to go back up to the mansion," Ren said "There might still be a few Cavgor lurking about. They've probably gone but still-" then she turned around to face Buffy when the Slayer gasped. "What?" Ren asked.
"Oh god, I totally forgot! Angel!" Buffy exclaimed, ""He's there... at the mansion. Unconscious but still alive... or... undead I guess"
"Where is he?" Ren asked, heading to the door "I'll get him."
Buffy stood up "One of the rooms off the cellar. There's a hidden door."
"I think I can find it" Ren replied sharply "I'll go by myself. It'll be easier. I can move quicker than all of you." she gestured to all of them "You all need some rest. Buffy especially" Ren added "You look *really* rough"
Buffy glared at her "Gee Ren, don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out"
"Would you two just stop it!" Giles said loudly "This has all been hard enough today without you two starting to bicker! Ren just go and get Angel" Giles turned to Buffy "You take Xander home. I'll take Willow and her friend back to the dorms" Giles then turned to Willow "That OK?"
"Uh... sure" Willow replied and ran up the stairs to wake up Tara who had crashed on Giles' bed having been tired out by spellcasting earlier.
Buffy looked at Giles "Y'know you'd think with all the sleep you got you'd be a little less grumpy"
Giles sighed "Buffy, please... let's just do this tomorrow" Giles turned back to Ren, only to find her already gone.
"Guess she thought you were grumpy too" Willow said, rejoining them with Tara by her side "But you're right. Let's do this tomorrow."
Xander allowed himself to be pulled up off the couch by Buffy "That's if Ren *comes* back" he said, "I've got the feeling she might not"
"She'll be back, honey" Buffy said taking his hand "I don't think she's finished here just yet"
"I hope you're right" Xander replied "I need to talk to her"
"I know" Buffy said and looped her arms around Xander's waist "Just remember what you promised was going to happen before that" she smiled shyly up at him.
Xander smiled and leant down and kissed her.
Giles looked stunned momentarily and before turning to Willow who simply smiled back at him. "I'll tell you tomorrow" she said.
Fifteen minutes later Buffy and Xander were strolling, hand in hand, along a deserted street heading towards Xander's.
Xander turned to Buffy "Y'know I'd just like to say Buffy, that being the guy here, I really think I should be walking *you* home"
"Chauvinist much?" Buffy said lightly "And anyway, I'm just following Giles' orders" She squeezed his hand "Are you complaining that we're alone together?"
Xander laughed and Buffy stopped, turning to stand in front of him "What?" she asked, "Are you laughing at me?"
Xander smiled "I'm not laughing at you Buff. I'm just a little weirded out by you saying things like that."
Xander smiled warmly at her and took hold of her other hand "Buffy, I've held a torch for you ever since I set eyes on you. And at first it was a really big torch, y'know, Olympic size" he grinned when Buffy blushed "But then came the other girls and well… you know who they were, and I guess the flame kinda dimmed" Xander squeezed Buffy's hand when her face saddened a little "But" he said "It never went *out*" Buffy's face brightened and Xander continued "You know you said you started to feel the way you do about me after I said those things to you when you started college?" Buffy nodded and he went on "Well after that and when we started to spend more time together while Willow and Oz did their stuff… Buff, we seemed to be getting on so well and I thought that… *maybe*" Xander paused for breath "*Maybe* there was something there. And now it seems I was reading the signals right, but back then you never said anything. Then you started mooning after that Parker guy and I hooked up with Anya and well… badness ensued."
"Not to mention Ren" Buffy said. "Why did you get involved with her Xander?"
Xander sighed "I… I guess because I-" he broke off "You really want to hear this?"
"I asked didn't I?"
Xander took a deep breath before starting "When Ren first got here" he said "I was like 'Wow' she's like…Wow. A crush developed, the usual young male fantasies took place" Buffy made a face but Xander carried on "I was quiet happy to admire from afar then one day I find out she likes me back. Shocked? Yes. Happy? Yes. Doubts? Not until *you* kissed me at that frat party" he looked at Buffy "You really screwed me up there y'know?"
"I guess that was when things began to go wrong?" Buffy asked, "When she got jealous?"
"In a nutshell yeah" Xander replied "I knew that it wasn't going to last when we started out, but it was… fun. I liked being around her, I liked spending time with her. I liked that someone like her would like someone like me. Then she got jealous and you… you were putting out those signals again and well, you know the rest" he paused "Is that what you wanted to hear?"
"Did you ever think you… *were* you in love with her?" Buffy asked tentatively.
Xander hesitated "There was a point when I thought I might be" he admitted "But then I realised that if I was thinking about you when I was with her… then I wasn't. I love her Buffy, but I'm not in love with her."
Buffy leaned against his chest "And I think we're done with the heartfelt talks for tonight, don't you?"
"Hey, don't even get me started on Angel" Xander said.
Buffy leaned back a little to look up at him and saw he was smiling, but she responded anyway "Hey, who's up at the mansion with naked Angel?" she began to point out "And who's standing in the middle of Sunnydale freezing her butt off with you?"
"So it should be" she grinned at him "Kiss me?"
Xander leaned down and captured her lips with his. He pulled Buffy closer, threading his fingers through her hair. Buffy responded by sliding her hands from his and around to his rear, pulling his hips closer to hers. She felt Xander smile into the kiss before breaking off the kiss. He laughed again.
"What now?" Buffy demanded with a smile.
"Your hands are on my ass."
Buffy raised an eyebrow as if to say 'And?'. Xander continued "Still in the realm of 'weirded out'" he said with a grin.
Buffy raised both eyebrows "What? Oh for…" she rolled her eyes "Xander, we've just been fighting big blue demons who wanted to kill us and the only thing you feel *weirded* *out* about is the fact that I'm now *groping* you?" Buffy stared at him "Xander Harris you are the strangest person I have *ever* met"
Xander smiled warmly "Buffy I have no problem with you groping me. In fact I plan to encourage it. It's just… Its just a few days ago it was… Ren… groping me and… I guess I'm just adjusting to the change over as well as it being well… *you* with *your* hands on *my* ass"
Buffy sighed and leaned her head against Xander's chest again and wrapped her arms around his waist "You want to take things slow?" she asked, knowing it was more of a statement than a question //Please don't say yes. Tell me you want me like I want you//
"Not *slow*" Xander replied "Just at a leisurely pace. I want to do this properly. I mean we haven't even been on a date yet" he sighed "I want to date. I want this to be a nice normal relationship. Y'know with no issues of either of us being a demon for one thing"
"I get it" Buffy smiled "OK. But you just say the word and I'll be there in a clinch, ready to put my hands on your ass" //Or anywhere else//
Xander laughed and reached behind him to pull Buffy's hand from his waist. Keeping hold of one of them "Come on. You're supposed to be walking me home remember?"
(Ten minutes later)
"How come you don't feel as tired as I do?" Xander said yawning as they stood by the door to his basement.
"Slayer stamina" Buffy said "It helps a lot with late night study sessions" Buffy smiled and placed a hand on his chest "What are you doing tomorrow?"
"Sleeping mainly" Xander said "Then I have to go to work."
Buffy looked at him incredulously "You have to go to *work*?"
"I like this job, Buffy. I called in sick yesterday" he told her "And I really don't think they'll buy, 'Sorry, but I was fighting demons last night with the Slayer and my bodyguard'."
"But Xander…" Buffy pouted "I wanted to spend some time with you."
Xander placed his hand over the one Buffy had on his chest "Buffy, it's an afternoon shift and it's only five hours. You could come and see me on my break" he suggested "Maybe I'll let you grope me again" he added with a smile.
Buffy grinned "You're so romantic" Buffy kissed him lightly on the lips //And I love you. And why aren't I telling him this? Because I don't want to scare him off that's why// Buffy smiled to herself //No, that wouldn't do at all// "What time is your break?"
"Four o'clock-ish" Xander replied.
"I'll be there" Buffy said, kissing him again and started to turn to leave. She got a few steps before she turned back "I hope you get to say goodbye to her" Buffy said truthfully.
Xander just gave her a half smile, letting her know he appreciated her gesture. Buffy smiled back and then began to make her own way home.
Ren handed Angel his clothes that she retrieved from the headless demon Buffy had left outside the mansion. Angel snatched them off her and held the bundle in front of him.
"You really don't have to stay" he said pointedly "I'm sure you have better things to do"
Ren didn't move, she smiled evilly "I know it's cold, but that's really-"
Angel scowled at her and began to get dressed "You know, I'm sure Xander-"
"Has *nothing* to worry about" Ren remarked.
The point was lost on Angel as he tugged on his black sweater "What?"
"Your bat vision obviously wasn't working earlier," Ren said following after Angel as he began his exit from the mansion "Seeing as how you never took your eyes off Buffy, I'm surprised you didn't pick it up"
Angel turned to her "What are you talking about?"
Ren shook her head in disbelief "Vampires" she said, brushing past him "You really aren't the smartest of demons are you?"
Angel reached out and grabbed her arm, turning her to face him "Listen I really don't think you know me well enough to take your bad mood out on me."
Ren glared at him "I suggest you take your hand off me before I pummel you into the ground"
"Like you could" Angel responded but he let go of her arm anyway "Bad break up, huh?"
"You and Xander."
"Piss off" Ren stalked away from him.
Angel caught up with her "Do you want to talk about it."
Ren spun around "Why the hell would I want to talk to *you* about it?" she said "Like you said, I don't know you" Ren paused "And I really don't think you'd like the reason as to why we broke up"
"Why? What was it?"
"Buffy" Ren said bitterly "Because of Buffy."
"I don't get it" Angel said, "What did it have to do with Buffy?"
"*Xander* *and* *Buffy*" Ren said pointedly.
Realisation finally dawned "Xander and Buffy?" Angel repeated.
Ren shook her head again "You really didn't see it before did you?"
"I can't believe it" Angel said, incredulously "*Xander*?"
Ren responded by landing a bone-crunching blow on Angel's jaw. She glared at him as he lay sprawled on the floor "Don't you *ever* say his name like that" Ren said angrily.
Angel stared up at her and was about to respond when he saw a figure appear behind Ren.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Angel asked the figure as he got to his feet.
Ren spun around when Angel addressed someone behind her "What the…?" she said.
"Nice punch" their new companion said to Ren as he emerged from the shadows. He then spoke to Angel who was rubbing his jaw "I guess you know what *not* to say to her now"
Angel ignored him "I'm surprised we didn't *hear* you coming with those clothes you're wearing" he remarked.
"I dare to be different" Whistler replied "I see you still favour the black. Very original I must say" Whistler turned to Ren "But Serendipity you, as always, look stunning" he leered at her "I don't suppose I can persuade you to spend some *quality* time with me later, can I?"
"If I answered you by kicking you in the bollocks, what would you think?" Ren replied.
"That it was a maybe?" Whistler grinned "But alas I have other matters at hand here to discuss with you."
"Which are?" Angel enquired.
"Nothing to do with you" Whistler responded "LA needs you" he said mock dramatically "Go, fight the evil" and when Angel didn't budge Whistler added a simple "Fuck off"
Ren smirked and Angel glared at her before reluctantly taking his leave.
When he was sure that Angel had gone Whistler began to speak "So, you really fucked this job up didn't you?"
"You and that Xander kid getting horizontal was a bad move Serendipity" he replied "Screwing the kid was not in the job spec was it?"
"What Xander and I did has nothing to do with that!" Ren said, "I was still doing my job."
"Even when you were on the job?" Whistler responded "And here I was thinking it was only guys that thought with their…" he trailed off "Well what ever the female equivalent is. You my friend did a bad, bad thing."
Ren glared at him again "You were never my friend."
"OK business acquaintance. But as a business acquaintance, I have a word of warning for you" he paused "Leave."
"I was going to" Ren replied.
"You'd stay if he asked you to though, wouldn't you?" when Ren didn't answer, Whistler continued "I thought so. Man, you have it bad for him."
"So what if I do?" Ren said, "He doesn't want me. He wants Buffy. That's the end of it" Ren narrowed her eyes when Whistler gave her an strange smile "What?" she asked then she sighed "Oh *please*, you're going to tell me that there fated to be together aren't you?" then added somewhat sarcastically "You know that their love will save the world?"
"Who the hell knows?" Whistler said with a shrug "I just meant you seem to be dealing with the fact he chose Buffy over you quite well"
"Well looks can be deceiving" Ren answered "I mean, you look like a nice guy."
"Ouch. OK, I take it back Serendipity. But jealousy does *not* look good on you"
"Is this all you came here to say? That I made a mistake and that I should go?" Ren asked, "You could have just called me"
"Serendipity, you know I never turn down the chance to leer at you" Whistler said and then proceeded to leer at her "But I do have job for you. It seems an evil twin has resurfaced. I originally got the job but I'm willing to share."
"Oh *great*" she sighed "Resurfaced where?"
"South of France" Whistler replied "Interested?"
Ren sighed and closed her eyes "I really don't have a lot of choice do I?" she said resignedly.
"Not really" he replied and Ren opened her eyes. Whistler gave her an unexpected warm smile "Go and say goodbye."
Ren began to walk off when she turned back to Whistler "Are they going to come back?" she asked, "I mean, the Machen. For Buffy?"
"Doubt it" he replied "After you two kicked the asses they'll have serious recruitment problems. And seeing as how it's mostly demons who get killed by the Machen anyway…"
"That's a no then?" Ren said. Whistler nodded and Ren began to walk away again.
(A little later that evening)
Xander hadn't yet managed to get to sleep. He was lying on his bed staring at the ceiling and his thoughts were taking it in turns to do mini presentations of themselves in his mind. The current one was the fact that for some reason or another his life had been spared. Which he had decided was always a good thing. Although *why* it had been spared was another matter. //But something that really should be debated later// he thought //Sleep is needed badly//.
Xander rolled over onto his side and closed his eyes. But no sooner had he done so though when he heard his door being opened and someone entering his room. Xander sat up and turned to his new companion.
"Forgot you had a key" he said.
Ren placed said key on the workbench "You can have it back"
Xander grabbed his sweatpants from the floor and tugged them on. He stood up and faced Ren "I didn't think you'd come and say goodbye"
"You knew I was going?" Ren said quietly.
"I thought you might do" Xander replied "Why did you change your mind? Why didn't you just go?"
"Would that have been easier?"
"I don't know" Xander sat down on his bed "I don't know what the hell happened between us either" he looked across at her "Sorry I was such a asshole in the way it ended" Ren was silent and Xander added lightly "You're supposed to now say I wasn't an asshole"
"Well you *were*. A little" she moved a bit nearer to Xander "But then I was being a total bitch so I guess we're equal."
"I didn't want to make you feel like I'd used you" he said "That's never what I wanted."
Ren looked at the floor "I know"
Xander got up and stood infront of her "But I did make you feel like that, didn't I?"
Ren looked up again. She raised her hand and placed her thumb and forefinger close together "Just a little bit" she looked down at the floor again, but Xander caught her chin with his finger and raised her head.
"I never meant that" he said softly.
Ren blinked back tears. She looked into his eyes "I'm sorry I got jealous. Obviously now I know I had reason to be, but I should never have let it get to the point it did."
"It's okay Ren. Really" Xander gave her a lopsided grin "Are we done with the apologising now?"
Ren nodded, not trusting her self to speak, and Xander pulled her into a hug. They just held each other for a few minutes before the tears Ren had been holding back forced their way out and began streaming down her cheeks.
She pushed herself away from Xander, but when he saw her tears he held onto her arms. Concern washed over his face and filled his eyes "Ren, what's wrong?
Ren used her strength to pry herself out of his grip and sat down on his bed, burying her face in her hands. Xander was momentarily stunned. He hadn't expected anything like this from Ren. He knelt down in front of her and put his hands on her shoulders, which were shaking, trying to get her to look at him. But she brushed him away.
Undeterred he sat next to her on the bed and pulled her into his arms "Ren, what's wrong?" he asked again "Tell me."
Ren pulled away from him. Her sobs fading slightly "Oh god" she said, her voice cracking still "I can't believe I'm sitting here doing this"
Xander tried again to get her to answer him. He put his hands on her shoulders again and this time she turned to face him. "Ren what's wrong?"
Ren sniffed "Do you know I was going to come here and be all stoic? Y'know, just tell you I was sorry for being a bitch, that I wasn't going to stay and… and" she sniffed again "Then you start being all nice and well *you* and… and I start crying like it's going out of fashion" Ren tried to smile "I can't believe I'm being a total *girl*"
Xander wiped a tear from her face "You still didn't tell me what's wrong"
Ren didn't answer. She just leant forward and rested her forehead against his chest. Closing her eyes she let Xander put her arms around her and she listened to his heart beating.
Xander held her tighter, letting his head rest on the top of hers "Ren, tell me" Ren still didn't answer. Then he realised. He closed his eyes and held her tighter "Oh Ren" he said softly.
Ren felt her heart ache with those words //He knows I love him//. Pulling herself away from Xander she found herself looking into his eyes again. She lowered hers quickly.
"Ren I didn't know" he whispered.
"I know" she whispered back. Ren sniffed again and stood up "Guess that's not what you wanted to hear, huh?"
Xander stood up as well "It's not what I *expected*" he admitted "I just… I don't know what to say Ren. I really don't."
Ren looked up at him "You don't have to say anything Xander" she said softly "I don't expect any instant declaration of undying love or anything. You don't love me like that. You have Buffy."
"But-" he didn't finish as Ren put her finger to his lips cutting him off. Then she leaned forward and gave him a chaste kiss.
"I'm going now. I can't stay" she cut him off "I've got another job to do. It's in France."
"Wha..? France? Are you coming back?"
"I promised Rupert a Christmas dinner. I didn't turn up to the last eighteen, I think I owe him one by now"
"Are you going to say goodbye to him?" Xander asked, trying to get Ren to look him in the eye.
She wouldn't meet his gaze. "I'm leaving now. I was hoping you might…"
"I'll tell him."
Ren headed towards the door and Xander followed her. She turned to him when she'd opened the door. Ren reached into her pocket and pulled out something and pressed it into Xander's hand. "The rent is paid up until the end of the year" she said "And I'll leave most of my stuff there. There wasn't a lot anyway and I can't be bothered to put in storage. You have it."
Xander opened his palm and looked at what Ren had given him. Her keys. "Your apartment?" he said "Ren I can't" he tried to give them back to her but she stepped away.
"Xander, look at this place" she gestured behind him "It's musty, damp and horrible. I hate your basement. I only put up with it because you were in it" she put a hand on his arm "Trust me" she said "Buffy *will* feel the same"
"Ren, I-I don't know what to-."
"I'd better get going" Ren cut him off. She stepped back "I've got someone waiting for me outside."
"Bye Xander" and Ren held his gaze for a split second before she turned and walked away.
Xander stared after her for only a second before she disappeared into the night. "Send me a post card, won’t you?" he whispered softly.
"How'd it go?" Whistler asked her.
"It wasn't pretty."
"I can imagine" Whistler replied "You ready to go?"
"I just need to grab a couple of things from my place" Ren said "Then I have one more thing to do."
Buffy opened one eye and swore. She rolled over to look at Willow, hoping that her friend was more awake than she was and willing to get up and answer the door. Unfortunately her redheaded friend was, for all intents and purposes, dead to the world.
Swearing again, Buffy made sure she was wearing clothes and clambered out of bed to go and answer the door then drop kick the person who was banging incessantly on it. Buffy yanked open the door and glared at a courier who was standing on the other side.
"Do you *know* what *time* it is?" she said angrily "I was *trying* to *sleep*"
"It's one o'clock in the afternoon" the courier said smugly "Late night was it?"
"Actually yes" Buffy replied "I kicked the ass of some guy who had pissed me off"
The courier stared at her "You Buffy Summers?" Buffy nodded and the courier handed her his clipboard "Sign here please."
Buffy signed and took the brown envelope the courier gave her and then slammed the door in the guy's face.
The slam of the door actually woke Willow. She pushed her hair from out of her face, sat up and looked at Buffy "What's going on?"
Buffy shrugged and sat down on Willow's bed and showed her the envelope "Somebody sent me this"
"Well you'd find out who it was from if you opened it" Willow pointed out lightly.
Buffy made a face at Willow and proceeded to tear open the package. She pulled out a slim folder, attached to which was a note.
"It's from Ren" Buffy said, reading the note. Then she rolled her eyes when she came to the last bit.
"What does it say?" Willow took the note when Buffy handed it to her and Willow read aloud what it said "'So much more than you know'" Willow turned to Buffy "What does that mean?"
"It was something she said last night" Buffy replied "I like the personal touch she put at the end."
Willow looked at the note again "'If you break his heart, I'll find you and kill you'" Willow turned back to Buffy "That's so… sweet"
Buffy smiled and opened the folder. Inside there was a photocopy of a picture of Xander clipped to what looked like a few general details about him. Buffy flipped over the page and read what was on the other sheet. Most of it was stuff she already knew. Stuff that her, Xander and the others had done over the last couple of years. Buffy flipped onto the last sheet and got about half the way down the page before she stopped reading.
"What is it?" Willow asked, seeing the startled expression on Buffy's face "What's wrong?"
Buffy handed Willow the folder and Willow read down the page that Buffy had just seen. "Oh my God" she said and looked to Buffy.
"He never said a word" Buffy said standing up and running a hand through her hair "Not *one* word"
(Half an hour later)
Buffy stormed into the restaurant where Xander worked. Not seeing him straight way and oblivious to the people sitting down and enjoying their meals, she yelled at the top of her voice:
"Alexander Lavelle Harris. Get your ass out here *right* now!"
The entire restaurant clientele stopped eating, staff stopped working and immediately a clatter of a tray and plates hitting the floor was heard from the kitchen. A few seconds later Xander stuck his head around the door nervously.
Buffy spotted him "Xander!" she pointed to spot in front of her "Here. Now!"
Xander emerged from the kitchen but stayed by the door "Uh, hey Buff. What's, uh, wrong?"
Buffy stormed over to him and waved the folder she had got from Ren "This is what's wrong!" she put the folder down on the nearest table "Just a little something Ren sent over. Just something you never told me or anyone else about!"
"Buffy what are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about your little adventure with a certain Jack O'Toole. Ring any bells?"
Xander's eyes widened "Oh… God."
"You never said one word. Not one word Xander! You did all that and you never said a thing!"
"I haven't finished yet!" she yelled, "You always do this. You always sell yourself short Xander, and I'm sick of it! Do you hear me, I'm sick of it! Why the hell do you do it?!"
"Because that way no-one gets disappointed!" Xander said, "I don't let anyone down"
"Did you let me down when you saved my life? Did you let me down all the other times I went to you for help? You said I was your hero Xander!"
"You still *are*"
"*Good*. And 'leisurely pace' my ass, Xander. I *love* you and you'd better *damn* well like it!"
Xander stared at her. Buffy was standing in front of him. Her eyes were blazing and she was flushed and Xander thought she had never looked more beautiful. He struggled for something to say, but not able to find the words, he reached out quickly and pulled Buffy to him, kissing her.
Immediately the entire restaurant either started cat calling or burst into spontaneous applause. Buffy and Xander suddenly realised they had an audience and broke off their kiss. They both glanced around sheepishly and Xander heard someone clear his throat. Xander turned around and came face to face with his boss, Jack.
"I'm fired aren't I?" Xander said.
Jack shook his head "No, you're not fired" Jack sighed "Go on, get out of here. You're obviously going to be useless for the rest of your shift. Just take your scary girlfriend and go."
Buffy grinned "Thank you Xander's boss" she grabbed Xander's hand and pulled Xander back though the tables towards the exit. When she reached the door she turned back to Jack "I don't suppose he can have the rest of the week off?"
"No" Jack replied. He pointed outside "Go."
"Gone" Xander said and let himself be pulled by Buffy. Once outside, Buffy let go of his hand and looped her arms around his neck "I meant what I said" she told him "I love you. I was going to tell you yesterday but after you said about taking things slowly I-"
"I'm glad you told me" Xander cut in "I do 'damn well like it'" he grinned.
"Well good." Buffy grinned back "'Cos I'm going to be saying it a lot"
*~* END *~*
Read the sequel Mirror Mirror
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