Forever Rules : Book One

Part Two

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(Three days later)

Buffy sat on the large veranda of the villa they had for the duration of their honeymoon. It was located in a fairly deserted spot just over the border into Mexico, near enough to the coast for them to be able to drive to the beach if they wanted to.

Of course they hadn't because she and Xander had spent the last couple of days getting hot and sticky and having orgasms together in bed. And in the kitchen… the bathroom… the veranda… the roof… anywhere with a half metre square of flat surface and a good foothold…

Buffy sighed in contentment as she sat and watched the sun finally disappear over the horizon. "Y'know, this has seriously got to be the best wedding present ever," Buffy said, looking at Xander as he walked out onto the veranda. "And are you ever going to put on any clothes?"

"What's the point?" Xander sat down opposite Buffy, who herself wore only shorts and a bandeau top. Xander set the two glasses of water he carried down on the table between them. "You only rip them off again anyway."

"But I *like* ripping them off you," Buffy pouted. She got up and stalked over to him slowly, twirling a lock of hair between her fingers. "You wanna go put something on? I promise I'll be gentle."

"How 'bout-" Xander grabbed hold of her wrist and pulled her onto his lap, "I just wear you?"

Buffy giggled. "I think I'd look pretty good on you, yeah." She snuggled into Xander's embrace, resting her head on his shoulder, as he wrapped his arms around her. Buffy sighed and looked out across the flat landscape. "You know, I really am glad Giles and Ren didn't get us a toaster. This is so much nicer."

"Plus the added bonus of no vampire activity." Xander brushed aside some of her hair away from her face and kissed a spot on her temple softly. "You missing the Slaying yet?"

"Not so much," Buffy replied, tilting her head up to Xander's, closing her eyes when he brushed his lips against hers softly. "Mmmm," Buffy hummed in pleasure when Xander ran a hand slowly up the inside of one of her thighs. "I can't believe we're only here for a week."

"I know," Xander kissed her again, harder this time. "The pressures of being the Chosen One huh?"

"I'll admit it's a strain…" Buffy rearranged herself on Xander's lap so she was straddling him, her arms hooked over the top of Xander's chair so she ended up face to face with him. "Luckily," she murmured against his lips, "I'm not doing it all by myself…"

"Well everyone needs a helping hand…" Xander ran his hands down Buffy's sides, fingers ghosting over her breasts before finally settling on her waist. "Even my beautiful wife…" he added as he suckled on her lower lip.

Buffy let her eyes half close as Xander began kissing along her jaw and then down the column of her throat. As he started along the top of her shoulder, Buffy took hold of his left hand and lifted it up. "Feel like showing-" Buffy placed her lips over his wedding band and kissed it. Xander stopped in his ministrations to look at her. Buffy smiled and continued, "-your beautiful wife just how much you love her?"

"Always baby," Xander kissed her on the mouth again. "Always."

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(Early next morning)

Giles was just clearing his breakfast dishes from the table when he turned to see a kimono clad woman who had just emerged from the bathroom. "Feeling better?" he asked, smiling in sympathy.

"Not really," Ren replied as Giles headed past her, carrying his empty plate, which she took one look at before looking back at him. "Just, next time you decide to have a full English breakfast, warn me a couple of days in advance..." Ren put a hand to her stomach. "Just the smell…"

"Sorry." Giles leaned against the counter, watching Ren as she joined him in the kitchen; she looked like death warmed up, her untidy red hair now stark in contrast to her tired, pale face. "Look, why don't you go back to bed?" he suggested.

"Actually," Ren replied, fixing herself a glass of water. "I was gonna have a bath in a little while. I've got some herbal aromatherapy stuff I can put in it that's s'posed to help with morning sickness." Ren downed her drink in one and began to pour herself another glass.

Giles came up behind Ren and wrapped his arms around her waist, resting his chin on her shoulder just as she turned the tap off. "Do you need someone to scrub your back?"

Ren chuckled and leant back against him. "That would be nice."

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(Later that day)

"Oh bloody hell," Giles grumbled as he sniffed the back of his hand. "I'm going to smell like lavender all day now aren’t I?"

Ren grinned and set a cup of tea down in front of him as he sat behind the pay counter at the Magic Box going through the accounts. "It's not too bad." Ren stepped forward and placed a kiss on his cheek. "Don't worry about it."

The bell above the door suddenly tinkled. "I'm sorry, but we're closed for lunch-" Giles stopped midflow when he turned to see Cordelia coming down the steps from the door towards them. He looked at her with surprise. "I thought you were leaving last night?"

"Oh, I was," Cordelia replied, pushing her sunglasses up on to her head. "But I thought I'd extend my vacation. I haven't had time off in, like, forever."

"In that case," Ren said, "I hope you enjoy your stay at the Boca del Infierno Resort. The nightlife is spectacular and you can take a tour of the many spiritual and sacrificial sites."

"No thanks," Cordelia replied, dropping her purse onto the large table at the back of the store. "I did that trip in High School." She looked around the Magic Box as she sat down beside the table. "Do you know what would work well here? If you branched out into hot beverages." Cordelia looked back at Giles and Ren. "Y'know, 'Buy a big dusty book and get a cappuccino and cranberry muffin to go'."

Giles just stared at the brunette. "I think not." Giles took a sip of his tea. "And if you're on vacation, what are you doing loitering in here?"

"Giving you business advice, duh," Cordelia replied. "And way to make me feel wanted."

"I didn't mean…" Giles sighed. "I'm sorry Cordelia, I just meant seeing as how we don't offer coffee and cake with our purchases, you might have found something a little more exciting to do with your time."

"Well I have," Cordelia told him, now less huffy than before. "I'm meeting Willow and Tara here in a few and we're going for lunch." She looked at Ren, her eyes widening a little. "Hey you wanna come? I didn't ask before 'cos you said you've been ill. I didn't want you yakking up all over my shoes."

"I'm touched," Ren said, rolling her eyes a little, and also felt a little guilty about not telling people why she'd been ill. Ren and Giles had yet to tell anyone about Ren's pregnancy. They'd found out about three weeks prior to the wedding, but not wanting to steal any of Buffy and Xander's limelight, they were going to wait until Buffy and Xander had got back from honeymoon.

Ren turned to Giles. "Can you cope if I duck out for a couple of hours?" she asked.

"Of course he can cope," Cordelia replied for Giles just as Willow and Tara came into the shop. "Hey girls, guess what?" she called out to the witches as she grabbed her purse from the table. "Ren's coming with us. The old guy that smells of lavender is gonna look after the store."

Willow looked at Ren who was shrugging on her jacket. "Oh you're feeling better? That's great," Willow said brightly as Tara waved 'Hi' to Giles.

"Better than I was anyway," Ren replied with a smile, she gave Giles a quick peck on the cheek then picked up her purse. "See you later sweetie," she said as she followed after Cordelia and the witches. "Hey," she tapped Tara on the arm as they got to the door. "You two heard from the happy couple yet?"

Tara chuckled. "No. But I don't think…"

Giles missed the end of Tara's sentence as the door closed behind the four women. The frown he'd worn for a few seconds before it cleared when Ren kissed him goodbye had returned.

He picked up his tea and looked at the brown liquid despondently before putting the cup down again. "Old guy?" Giles muttered. "Wonderful."

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"Hey, wife?!"

Buffy laughed before she pretended to sound offended. "Xan, would you stop calling me that?!" she called back.

Xander just grinned at her as she walked into view. He leant up against the wall of the archway that joined the kitchen and main living area. "How 'bout *hot* wife'?" he suggested. "'Cos *damn* that dress looks good on you."

Buffy grinned back and twirled around on the spot, her short, white summer dress lifting a little as she did so, causing Xander to duck his head a little, hoping to get a better view. Buffy flipped her hair over her shoulder. "Honey," she said with a raised eyebrow. "You've already seen that today. And would you put some pants on?" Buffy threw him a pair of jean cut offs that had been draped over the back of a chair. "I want to at least see if we can get to the beach today."

"And not just the hood of the car?" Xander smirked as he pulled on his cut offs.

Buffy narrowed her eyes at Xander playfully. "Yeah, well, *husband*, maybe if you could keep it zipped up for the afternoon, I might-" Buffy began walking over to him, "- not get so distracted…"

"Oh yeah?" Xander leaned closer to Buffy as she ran her finger down the centre of his chest. "Buffy, you can't keep your hands off me, you know that…" he dipped his head as if to kiss her then pulled back, grinning.

"Are you suggesting," Buffy sounded amused, "That I can't go without some touch for a few hours?"

Xander shrugged, still grinning. "Pretty much."

"Fine." Buffy sent Xander a challenging look. "But, I'm not gonna make it easy for you to resist me either."

Xander matched her look. "Loser makes dinner?"

"You're on."

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"O-kaay…" Cordelia said slowly, watching in slight disbelief as Ren polished off her second plate of fries. "I guess you really are feeling better, huh?"

Ren met the brunette's look. "Guess so," she shrugged, then looked at Willow's plate and at the few fries that remained. "Are you going to eat those?"

"Well so long as you don't barf it all up again," Willow remarked as Ren took one of the fries. "I value my shoes just as much as Cordy."

"What are we talking about?" Tara asked as she returned from the bathroom.

"Ren's gluttony," Cordelia replied as the blonde witch sat back down at their table. "But if it's gossip you want…" she continued, sounding conspirital as she looked at Ren. "Why don't I see a ring on your finger, huh? Especially as I bet twenty bucks of my hard earned cash on Giles asking at the wedding."

Both Willow and Tara shot a dark look at Cordelia, who either ignored them or never noticed. They both then looked at Ren. "It's just we all-" Tara began awkwardly.

"Kinda bet," Willow continued, "On Giles asking…"

"O-or you," Tara cut in on her girlfriend, "To, y'know…"

"I know." Ren smiled, hoping to ease the witches' embarrassment. "Me and Rupert both sort of guessed."

"So you both chickened out, huh?" Cordelia shook her head before taking a sip of her diet coke.

"No money for Willow." The red headed witch pouted.

"Oh for God's sake…" Ren rolled her eyes. "OK, OK," she sighed and suddenly all three other women's attention was on her. "*I* was going to ask at the wedding."

"Ooh cha-ching!" Willow beamed.

"Sorry, no." Ren replied and Willow's face fell again. "We both fell asleep before I had the chance," Ren continued. "Once Willow's spell wore off we both kinda zonked out rather quickly." She shrugged, "And if he was going to ask… I don't know." Ren shrugged again. //I really don't know.//

The other three exchanged glances when Ren started stealing fries from Willow's plate again. "Y'know, I'm sure it's just a question of finding the right moment," Tara reasoned.

"Yeah," Willow added, "And it's not like there's any rush." She smiled at Ren when the other redhead looked at her.

Ren smiled back. "I guess not."

"Does that mean the bet still stands?" Cordelia asked suddenly. The others looked at her. "What? Twenty bucks is twenty bucks girls."

Willow turned to Ren. "Um… are you still planning on asking?"

Tara raised her hand. "Can I change my bet?" she cleared her throat, "I sorta went for Mr Giles"

"Sweetie," Willow pulled her girlfriend's arm down, "He doesn't mind if you call him Giles. And no, you can't change."

"Well that means Xander's gonna win," Cordelia complained. "That cannot happen." Cordelia grabbed Tara's hand nearest her and raised it along with her own. "I wanna change too."

"No!" Willow reached over the table and pulled their hands down. "It's totally against the rules."

Ren just chuckled softly to herself as the other three argued amongst themselves. Suddenly she caught the waitress's eye and signalled to their table. "Can I get some more fries here?"

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(A little later that day… a secluded sand dune somewhere just over the Mexican border…)

Buffy wrapped her hands around Xander's neck as she lay beneath him, trying to get her breath back. The sand she laid on was rough against her bare skin and getting into places she knew would be uncomfortable later. Buffy moaned as Xander kissed her again and she arched up, pressing her body against his.

"Did we actually decide-" Xander broke off to kiss Buffy again, "-who ended up jumping who?"

"No." Buffy kissed him again, sliding her hands down to his bare backside. "Although, I think it might have been," another kiss, "When we decided to get take out."

"I don't know what we were thinking…" Xander gently collapsed against her and Buffy held him close as he reached out one hand and began stroking her hair. "… trying to resist each other."

Buffy smiled back up at him and slid one of her hands up rest in the centre of his back. "Stupid us, huh?"

"Yeah," Xander murmured, brushing his lips against her softly. He looked into her eyes. "I love you Buffy Summers."

Buffy smacked him lightly on the ass. "Buffy Harris." She kissed him. "I can guarantee you'll never forget that in a hurry."

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Later that evening, Ren sat at one end of the couch, her legs curled up beside her and engrossed in the book she was reading. Pretending to be engrossed anyway; she hadn't turned a page for the last five minutes. Instead she was watching Giles out of the corner of her eye with a little concern, as he sat at the table sorting through the many kinds of crossbow ammunition he had laid out infront of him.

When one bolt suddenly dropped out of his fingers and onto the floor, Ren frowned when he cursed loudly, slamming the bolt back onto the table when he'd picked it up.

Ren sighed and set her book down beside her. "Right that's it," she said and Giles turned to look at her. "What's wrong?" she asked. "You've had a face like a bloody wet weekend ever since I got back from lunch with the others."

Giles took off his glasses and set them on the table before rubbing at his eyes. "I'm just tired."

"Tired the whole afternoon?" Ren raised her eyebrow when Giles put his glasses back on and returned to sorting through the weapons. "Yeah. And I'm Mary Poppins."

"Well, you are rather good with an umbrella," Giles replied without looking up. "That K'dalh demon you ran through with one, certainly wouldn't argue."

"Rupert…" Ren got up and went over to sit in the chair opposite to him. "Something's up." She put her hand over his, stilling it. "I want to know what."

Giles looked across at her. "Really, I'm just tired," he assured her, giving her a small smile.

At least it was half true, he'd just tired himself out thinking about things; things, he decided, that he wanted to stop thinking about for the moment as Ren got up and stood behind him, resting her hands on his shoulders.

She bent down and kissed him on the side of his head. "In that case," she said softly, "How about you join me for a quick nap before we head out on patrol with the others?"

Giles turned his face up to Ren as she stood just to the side of him. "You still want to go out on patrol?" A slight frown crossed his face. "What about-"

"Hey," Ren cut him off, but she smiled good-naturedly. "Pregnant lady here, still able to hide up trees and throw holy water balloons." She waved her right arm a little. "Good aim remember?"

Giles sighed and somehow he found himself agreeing as he allowed Ren to lead him up stairs. As they settled on the bed, Ren curled up against him and laid her head on his shoulder, draping her arm across his chest.

"Love you." Giles heard her murmur as she closed her eyes.

"Love you too," he murmured back, wrapping his arm around her. //But in the end, am I going to be the right one for you?//

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(Meanwhile… somewhere else entirely…)

Raif coughed a few times to clear his lungs once he stepped from the portal and onto the solid, but dusty and cracked ground that spread for a distance around him. He coughed once more when the surrounding wind picked up some dust and blew it straight into his mouth.

"Enchanting place," he spluttered in a lilting French accent.

"Isn't it?" a similarly accented female said as sarcastically as she could manage whilst trying to clear her lungs.

Raif turned to Lena, the female, and another male who had just stepped from the same portal. "Hopefully we will not be here too long," Raif said. "The job is supposed to a simple one."

"Are you kidding me?" the other male said; his accent was Texan. He brushed himself down. "And shut that damn portal off would ya? The dust's kicking up enough as it is."

Raif looked at the other male and rolled his eyes. "Adon, we are here merely to see if anything is salvageable. It is not long term."

"This ain't gonna be salvageable in a minute if you don't shut off that portal!" Adon shot back, gesturing to his Armani suit that was slowly becoming covered with the flying dirt.

"Raif?" Lena shot a look at him. "We need to get going. They were expecting us an hour ago."

"OK, OK." Raif pointed the slim, black device in he held in his hand at the portal. He keyed in a 5-digit code on the numbered keypad and then depressed a larger button at the top of the device. The portal disappeared. "Happy?" Raif said to Adon once the rushing sound had stopped and the dust only blew around their feet.

Adon smiled thinly. "Much. Thank you."

"Let's get going shall we?" Lena began to walk off, brushing dust from her hair as she went.

Both Adon and Raif spent a few seconds watching Lena's rear as before they followed after her.

Adon looked up with apprehension at their destination. He turned to Raif. "These Bhren guys really knew how be imposing, didn't they?"

Raif nodded in agreement as he looked up at the gloomy looking castle. It was built from black stone and was about ten storeys high on each of the four sides, with round turrets covering the last two storeys on each of the four corners.

Raif sighed and rubbed at the base of his left horn. "I really hope there is running water."

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"So this is them, is it?" Rojhar muttered to himself when he spotted the portal from his viewpoint in the front east turret. He shook his head and pressed the button on the intercom by the door. "Haxor!" he called into the speaker, "They're here!"

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Lena stepped up infront of the smaller door that made up part of the much larger door at the front of the castle. She glanced behind her and rolled her eyes as the two males huffed and puffed their way up the steep steps that led to the door.

"You two are a disgrace," she said, shaking her head as Adon and Raif joined her.

"Whatever." Adon ignored her. "Aren't ya gonna knock?"

Lena frowned at him, but turned back and raised the large doorknocker high off its hinge and then let it fall. All three winced when the wood below it cracked as it banged back down.

"Uh, we'll just say it was already like that, yeah?" Adon turned to Raif who nodded quickly in agreement.

"Do you think anyone is home?" Raif asked after they'd stood for a few moments.

"Patience." Lena glanced back at him briefly. "The Bhren are not the most nimble of demons."

Her statement was proved when a hulking seven-foot tall, humanoid, blue skinned demon opened the door. And he would have been a whole lot more impressive had he been wearing his full battle armour. However, this particular demon was wearing an open short sleeved shirt and Bermuda shorts.

Lena looked the demon up and down as he stared impassively at her. She coughed politely. "We have an appointment."

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Haxor returned the cursory once over he got from the visitors that stood on the doorstep. All three stood at least a foot and a half shorter than him. //And could probably pass for those disgusting humans at a fair distance too// he thought. But close up, he realised; there was no mistaking that they were demon. Even if they did carry briefcases and over night bags.

The visitors all had olive complexions and their eye sockets were deeper set into their skull than a human's and their irises were bright gold. They had hair too. The two males had short black hair and it allowed the small black horns either side of their forehead to be seen, whilst the female's long, black hair framed her face and fell over her horns. Each also had markings on their face; tiny tattoo after tiny tattoo that ran in lines from either side of the bridge of their nose and along the ridge of their eye sockets and out to their ears and then down the side of their face and then their necks. The last distinguishing mark was a band of millimetre high ridges, a centimetre wide, that ran from the centre of their lower lip, over their chin and down their throats.

They dressed like humans too. The males wore black suits; one wore a white shirt with a round collar and no tie, the other wore a white shirt and black tie. The female wore a black skirt suit with a red blouse underneath and she had a thin sliver torque around her neck.

Haxor crossed his arms infront of his chest. "You're from Pagaelian and Sons?"

"We are." The female flipped her hair over her shoulder. "Can we come in? We are expected."

Haxor still stared back at her. "I'll need to see some ID."

"I don't believe it," the male wearing the tie muttered, fishing in his back pocket for his wallet before handing it over along with the others.

Haxor glanced down at the complaining demon's company identification card. 'Adon' was all it had written down as a name, along with his picture and his job title of 'Administrator'. There was also a flashy hologram of the Pagaelian and Sons logo in the lower left corner; a filigreed 'P' overlaying a fleur-de-lis. The other two demon's ID's read the same - company name and hologram, only one name for the card holder, picture and job title, except the female was 'Senior Administrator'.

Finally, Haxor handed them back. "Everything seems alright," he said, stepping back into the castle. "Come on in."

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Willow frowned when she saw the 'Closed' sign hanging on the door to the Magic Box. She tried the handle, but the door didn't open. Sighing, she got out her key; one they all had for emergencies, and proceeded to let herself, making sure to re-lock the door behind her.

"Giles?" she called out, as she headed towards the counter. "Ren?"

She got an answer from neither. Willow set her bag down by the till and then raised an eyebrow when she saw a half a cup of tea by a notepad and pen behind the counter. Willow picked up the cup and found that it was still warm. //OK, either they've just gone out or they're hiding from me//.

Then she heard a soft, methodical thumping sound from the backroom that had been converted in a training room, mainly for Buffy, but all were free to use it. Willow headed tentatively over towards the sound. "Uh, hello?" she called out, wary that the last time she'd wandered in when the Magic Box had been 'Closed' she'd found Buffy and Xander in a state of undress and finding Giles and Ren… Willow really didn't want to go there.

But she didn't have to. When she opened the door to the training room, Willow found Giles sitting on the bench by the left wall, throwing knives at a target on the opposite wall - all of them were hitting the bullseye.

"Uh, hey?" Willow smiled tentatively at Giles, as his concentration seemed fixed on his task. "Looking good with the knives there. Not at all scary."

"Helps me think," Giles replied, throwing his last knife, almost immediately getting up and crossing over to retrieve them. But he set the knives down on the table instead of starting all over again. "Can I help you with anything?"

"Oh, not an emergency, 'cos I know with the letting myself in and everything," Willow rushed out. "Me and Tara were just working on that sunlight spell and we ran out of a few things and rather than stop and wait, I rushed out and came here for, uh-" she pulled out a list from her pocket and started to read, "Bindweed, salamander eyes, um, fleabane." She looked back at Giles. "I was gonna leave money by the till, promise."

"It's fine. Everything in the name of progress and all that. Well," Giles began as he walked past her and back into the store; "I think I have all of those…" He turned back to her as she followed. "Are you having much luck with it?"

"There's a little glow," Willow replied with a modest smile. "Not enough to dust a vamp, but hopefully enough for a little undead sizzle."

Giles handed her a jar. "Anything to put them off their guard is welcome." He rubbed his shoulder. "Especially as we're doing the patrols without a Slayer at the moment."

"Maybe you should change places with Ren," Willow teased. "Take your turn with the water balloons."

"I'd rather stay on the ground, thank you very much," Giles replied, handing her another jar. "And I thought I did rather well."

"And don't think I don't appreciate you tripping over that branch and knocking that vamp over so I could stake him." Willow's slight grin faded when she saw Giles frown at her. "W-well I did."

Giles took off his glasses rubbed at his forehead. "Well, in that case," he looked back at her and smiled a little as he put he glasses back on, "You're welcome."

Willow smiled back as she set down the jars on the table and began taking what she needed out of the jars. "So? Where's Ren anyway?" Willow looked back up at Giles. "Or did she get wigged by the knife throwing too?"

"No. She's got some errands to run." Giles placed another jar beside the others. "And can't a man get some target practice in when he wants?"

Willow just looked at him and raised an eyebrow slightly. "Thought you were thinking."

Giles frowned. "Are you going to take all of that?" he pointed to the Bindweed that Willow had in her hand.

Willow looked down and then put some back in the jar. "Not if I want to blind everyone in a two mile radius," she replied. Willow looked back at him. "You want some help with that thinking?" she asked. "Y'know, problem shared-"

"There's no problem," Giles cut in on her. "But a kind offer. And didn't you say you were in a rush?"

Willow looked at her watch. "Oh crap." She quickly bagged up the things she'd come for and put them into her bag. "That kind offer still stands," Willow called out over her shoulder as she hurried towards the door.

Giles scratched at his head as he watched Willow let herself out. Silently he began placing the jars back on the shelves then locked the door before heading back to the training room.

-------------------

Buffy hooked her leg over Xander's and pressed herself close against his side as they lay together on the bed. "Xan?" Buffy said, propping herself up on her elbow before she took another spoonful of ice cream off Xander's bare chest. "I've been thinking…"

Xander just stared back at Buffy as she put the ice cream into her mouth and sucked the spoon clean slowly. "I bet it's not what I'm thinking," Xander replied, his eyes half closed as his gaze flicked across her face and over her naked body.

Buffy grinned at his attention, then took another mouthful of ice cream. "I wanna redecorate."

Xander's gaze snapped back to her face. "Huh?"

"Not the whole house, I mean," she added. "Just the spare room."

"Buffy, that's not a spare room. It's just a really big closet."

Which was true, sort of. Their home did originally have three bedrooms, but the previous owners had knocked down the dividing wall between the two medium sized bedrooms, leaving a larger main bedroom with a small en-suite bathroom. The room Buffy was talking about was just about big enough to swing a large cat - should you want to - all it contained was a futon, a bookcase and a potted plant, that she now realised she had forgot to tell Willow to water while they were away.

Buffy chased a trickle of melting ice cream with the spoon as it ran down Xander's side and caught it just before it hit the sheet. "But it still needs doing." Buffy pouted a little. "And you ended up doing the entire house when we moved in…"

"You had school and exams and things to kill," Xander replied as he reached up and tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear. "And you *did* help."

Buffy was still pouting. "Yeah, I lifted the couch so you could lay the carpet."

"Buff…" Xander sighed as Buffy began absently spreading the rapidly melting ice cream all over his chest. "You also picked the paint, the wallpaper, the carpets, the drapes, told me where to put things… baby, you helped big time."

"So can I do the spare room?" Buffy looked at him hopefully.

"You don't have to ask you know," Xander said, raising his head off the pillow to look at her properly. His head quickly fell back down again when Buffy leant over to lick his chest. Xander groaned happily. "What I want to know is, why," he groaned again when Buffy swiped her tongue over his skin once more, "You want to."

Buffy looked at him a little guiltily. "I just felt, still feel even, that I've left you to do everything," she sighed, "With the house, the money, even though I know Giles and Ren pay me more than they should mmph-"

Xander's lips were against hers and he was kissing her hard. His arm curled around her, pulling her closer. "Don't," he said. "Don't even think that any of that makes a difference to me."

"I know that," Buffy said softly. She dropped the spoon and used Xander's discarded t-shirt to wipe his chest clean and then hers. "*I* just feel it sometimes…" Buffy tossed the t-shirt aside and reached out to run her fingers through his hair. "Sometimes I just want to look after you like you look after me."

Xander couldn't help the short laugh that escaped his throat. "Oh, baby…" He caught hold of Buffy's hand and rolled them both over so he lay over her. Xander looked into her eyes and saw her looking back at him, a little confused. Xander just smiled and smoothed back some of her hair before he laid his forehead against hers. "Buffy…"

"What?" Buffy started running her hands through his hair again and lifted his head up so she could look at him again. "What?"

"You." Xander smiled again, shaking his head. "Don't you remember what I said in my vows? What *you* said in yours? Buff, you *do* look after me. Like no one else. You rescued me." Xander sat up, pulling Buffy with him so his leg was hooked around her and his hands settled on her waist. "Baby, you saved my life. And I'm not just talking about from vamps or things with horns or more than one head. You saved me from myself." Xander brought a hand up to cup her cheek and she leaned into his touch. "I was ready to let it all go, but you never gave up on me." Xander cupped Buffy's face with both hands now. "You kept fighting for me… always you were fighting for me."

Buffy blinked back the tear she felt pricking at the corner of her left eye. "Well, you were worth it," she said softly. Buffy closed her eyes when Xander captured her lips with his. "Always worth it…" she murmured as Xander lowered her back down onto the bed.

-------------------

The interior of the castle was just as oppressive as the outside; black stone made up the walls and floors, the only variation was the green/grey stone that indicated the widely spaced, arrow slit windows. Adon cursed out loud when he stumbled over yet another broken slab of stone on the floor, his only light being the few rays of sunlight that filtered in through the tiny windows and the candle that their guide carried as he led them through the ground floor of the castle.

"Y'know," Adon said, "It wouldn't hurt to have a few lights on around here. Maybe even just some torches on the wall."

His remark caused the big blue demon they were following to turn around and fix a look on them.

"It costs money," Haxor replied.

"Your company should be pleased with that," Rojhar added as he joined them. He extended his hand towards Lena, much to the disgust of Haxor. "My name is Rojhar. I spoke to you over the communicator."

Lena smiled politely at the other demon, noting that at least he was dressed a little more like she would have expected; in a simple, long grey tunic that was tied at the waist with a thick brown belt. She took the larger demon's hand, grasping it firmly. "I am Lena. My associates and I would like to apologise for our lateness. There was a build up of inter-dimensional traffic."

"We're still using the J'polt 2X," Raif added, holding up the black device he'd used to close the portal. "We're hoping to upgrade to the 3X in a couple of months. It should cut time off our journeys."

Rojhar looked impressed. "You should be lucky to have the 2X."

"We were using the old Denzion 300," Haxor added.

"I hated those," Adon muttered with a shake of his head. "They were like the Betamax of dimensional travel. They wouldn't even work in some sectors."

Lena coughed pointedly as Haxor and Adon shared looks of understanding. Rojhar gave her an apologetic smile. "I'm sorry," he said, gesturing along the corridor before them. "You would like to see the files? Or we have prepared some rooms for you if you wish to get settled first. We did not know how long you would be here."

"We would like to get started as soon as possible," Lena replied. "Could we see the offices first?"

Rojhar nodded. "Please, follow me."

They walked for a few minutes more before Rojhar stopped outside a big and heavy looking wooden door. He reached into his tunic pocket and pulled out a large, metal key with which he proceeded to unlock the door. Rojhar pushed open the door, allowing the three smaller demons to enter first.

"I am sorry that it is a little untidy," Rojhar apologised as he followed the three inside. "And probably not what you are used to…"

"You're telling me," Adon replied as he looked around the room in the flickering candlelight and the small rays of sunlight that came in through the two small windows. The room was large, and from what he could see, it appeared to contain two large wooden desks to one side of the room and at the other there was a round table with a few chairs around it. Along the wall were what looked like bookcases, all filled with books, large and small, and also some objects that he couldn't identify.

"Here, take this." Rojhar handed the candle he held to Raif. "There should be some candles in here, I think. If you need anything else, call either me or Haxor. There is an intercom by the door."

Lena smiled graciously at the two blue demons. "Thank you," she said before laying her briefcase down on the nearest desk.

"Great," Adon muttered as the two blue demons left. "Talk about living in the dark ages."

"Adon, shut up." Lena snapped open her briefcase and pulled out a slim, flat black box. "It's a totally different culture to our own." She opened the black box to reveal it was in fact a sleek looking lap top computer.

"Lena, they use a Denzion 300," Adon reminded her. "They probably think a serial port is something you pour milk into."

-------------------

"Dark ages?" Haxor muttered as he had his ear to the door. He looked at Rojhar. "I cannot believe we are suffering the indignity of these people being here."

Rojhar pulled him away from the door. "Just leave them," he said. "It's not their fault."

Haxor scowled at his friend. "They work for Pagaelian and Sons. We have the damned *bailiffs* in for crying out loud."

Rojhar sighed. "They're not bailiffs."

"Fine," Haxor began to stomp off. "Interdimensional receivers then."

"Haxor…" Rojhar followed after the other demon. "Pagaelian and Sons loaned our kind a lot of money a long time ago to start up our little enterprise. You know as well as I do, it began to get less profitable as the centuries passed… and after that unfortunate incident a couple years ago…"

"I know, I know." Haxor stopped and turned to Rojhar. "And they took our castle and everything worth anything in it, including our means of dimensional travel. I heard the story Rojhar, I've heard it too many times."

Rojhar caught hold of Haxor's arm just as he began to walk off again. "They didn't take everything."

Haxor turned back to him, frowning. "What?"

"We still have the replicator," Rojhar said in hushed tones.

The other demon's eyes widened. "But I thought-"

"The elders took it when they were banished from the castle," Rojhar informed his friend. "We needed something to hold onto, there was always the hope that we could still get out of this world. Start somewhere new." Rojhar glanced back along the hallway to where they'd left the three demons in the office before looking back to Haxor. A wide grin broke out on his face, exposing two rows of sharp, jagged teeth. "They have a J'polt 2X…" Rojhar trailed off, raising an eyebrow.

Haxor stared back at him for a moment before he matched his friend's grin. "Do you want to tell the elders or shall I?"

-------------------

In the centre of the living room of the small apartment Willow and Tara shared, the two witches sat opposite each other, arms outstretched and hold onto each other's hands and both were wearing sunglasses.

In-between where their arms met, was a circle of red sand and above it a small ball of yellow, almost white light began to form.

"Ooh ooh!" Willow exclaimed excitedly. "We have a glow!"

Tara removed her sunglasses and looked at the small orb of sunlight that floated a foot above the carpet. "Um, Willow? I-it's not very big is it?"

"Well, it's bigger than the last one," Willow said defensively, pouting a little at Tara.

"Oh, I'm not saying it's bad," Tara tried to mollify the red head. "It's good. We did good… I mean, conjuring sunlight *wow*, but-"

"But hardly enough to give a vamp a melanoma." Willow sighed, a puff of air escaping from between her lips as she pushed her own sunglasses up onto her head.

"Did Giles have any ideas?" Tara asked as the glowing orb dissipated when Willow waved her hand over it.

"Not that he gave me," Willow said. "I think he had other things on his mind."

"What makes you say that?"

"He was trying to kill the target board," Willow replied. "He kinda blew me off when I asked him about it. I was kinda anxious to get back, y'know, conjuring sunlight an' all, so I didn't try and see if I could get anymore out of him."

"Well," Tara said slowly, "Maybe he's thinking about popping a certain question?"

Willow shrugged. "Well, whatever he was thinking about, it's not helping us with this." Willow sighed again and stared at the spot where the tiny ball of sunshine had been.

"Maybe we just need more bindweed?" Tara suggested.

"Maybe," Willow agreed. "Maybe we just need more Wicca oomph."

"What if we tried it with Xander?" Tara began clearing up their ingredients. "He got that tinkerbell spell down pretty quick." She looked back to Willow. "I know it's not the same as *actual* sunlight…"

"Well, every little helps, I guess." Willow sighed again and began helping Tara to clear up.

"Hey, do I detect a frown in that?" Tara touched her fingers to Willow's cheek.

"Eh," Willow met her girlfriend's concerned gaze. "It's I just I wish we could get to use him like that a little more."

"He has work," Tara reminded her. "And he trains a lot with Buffy. You know he loves that. And not just because it's with her."

"I know, I know," Willow admitted grudgingly. "And I've watched them spar together, they're pretty fantastic."

"But?"

"But I like it when Xander's with us too. I think he's got potential, and so does Ren." Willow shrugged as she got up and walked to the window. "He could do so much more."

"He doesn't have to do magick if he doesn't want to," Tara reasoned, standing up and walking over to her girlfriend. "It's his life."

Willow turned to face her and smiled a little sadly. "I know."

Tara reached up and brushed Willow's shoulder length hair away from her face. "Do you know what I think?"

"What?"

"I think that as much as I like Xander doing spells with us-" Tara settled her hands on Willow's shoulders, "-I kinda like it best when it's just us. I mean, there are some spells that just wouldn't work with him…"

Willow raised an eyebrow at the all too innocent look on Tara's face. "Is that so?" Willow replied, not hiding her smile.

Tara grinned back. "Oh yeah."

"Then maybe we should work on them? Right now?"

"I like the way you think," Tara replied, but Willow was already tugging her towards the bedroom.

 

-----

 

tbc…

 

 

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