Forever Rules : Book One
Lena was first up the next morning and had already been down in the office for an hour reading through the book that Adon had been looking through the previous day.
With a sigh she finally closed the large tome, expelling some dust from the pages as she did so, before she pulled one of the laptops towards her. Yawning, she tapped at a spot on the screen and immediately a new window opened up for a new email message and she started typing.
THE SITUATION HERE IS AS DIRE AS WE THOUGHT. I CAN FIND NO WAY TO MAKE ANYMORE MONEY OUT OF THIS PLACE AS IT STANDS (SHORT OF SELLING THE CASTLE). THE ACCOUNTS ARE STRIPPED; ANY MONEY IS ALREADY GOING TO THE COMPANY.
I KNOW YOUR WISH WAS FOR US TO FIND SOME WAY TO RECOUP, BUT I CAN SEE NO WAY AT PRESENT HOW THIS CAN BE ACHIEVED.
I AM ATTACHING A REPORT, DETAILING ACCOUNTS AND THE MACHEN BHRENS 'DEALINGS' GOING BACK THE LAST FEW YEARS.
WE WILL STAY HERE UNTIL YOU LET US KNOW HOW YOU WISH TO PROCEED.
After attaching her reports, Lena clicked 'send' and then shut down the computer. She got up and made her way to the door, but hesitated before hitting the button on the intercom. //Maybe I should do some exploring. If we're going to sell it, I should at least try and find some of its more redeeming features.//
Haxor waited until Lena had left the office and was out of sight before he ventured in. He ignored the computers that sat on the desks, instead he started rummaging around in the drawers, hoping that they might have left a certain remote portal opener lying about where any self-respecting demon could remove it to a much safer place. Like to his back pocket.
But they hadn't.
Grunting in frustration, Haxor started on the briefcases next, but, short of ripping out the lining, thus alerting the visiting demons that something was amiss, he still couldn't find anything.
Haxor exited the office, remembering to close the door behind him. Rojhar joined him almost immediately.
"Did you find it?" Rojhar asked.
Haxor shook his head. "We'll search their rooms once they're out. Surely they can't keep it on them all the time."
"Let's hope not," Rojhar replied. "The elders are already making plans."
Esta, an elder of the Machen Bhren, sat at the head of his makeshift table formed of the surrounding rocks deep inside the cave system. The clothes he wore, and those of the ten others of his rank that surrounded him, were a grade above what the rest of the demons that now dwelled in the caves.
Esta looked around at all of his colleagues before speaking. "So? Who's up for killing the Slayer?"
Eleven hands were raised.
"Excellent." Esta rubbed his hands together. "Now, who wants to eat?"
Tara ambled around the Magic Box, occasionally picking up items and studying them, until she saw that Giles was free of customers. She walked over to the counter and gave him a warm smile.
"Hi," she said. "Busy as ever I see."
"Well, I am feeling a little rushed off my feet," Giles replied. "I'm not usually here by myself."
Tara saw the sad look that quickly flitted across his face. She also noticed that he looked decidedly more haggard than he would normally do running the store by himself.
"Ren still feeling ill?" Tara asked. "I mean, I tried to call her earlier, to find out if she was feeling any better, but she wasn't answering. I didn't know if she would be here… o-or… not" Tara trailed off, feeling distinctly awkward for some reason. Maybe it was the slightly dark frown that Giles was wearing.
"I wouldn't know," he replied curtly. "I didn't see her this morning."
"Oh. Oh, um… well-" Tara began fiddling a little nervously with a lock of her hair. "Can you tell her I asked wh-when you do?"
Giles cursed himself when he could see he was making Tara feel awkward. He swallowed back some of his bad mood. "I will," he replied, smiling a little this time. It seemed to work as Tara eased off playing with her hair. "Um, was that all you came in for?" he then asked. "I forgot to ask how that spell went the other day. Do you need anymore ingredients?"
"Oh, we're fine for salamander eyes and stuff," Tara replied, smiling brighter this time. "And it went better than the last time. Well, we got a bigger orb anyway."
Giles frowned again, but this time in sympathy. "Any clues as to how you can get it bigger?" he asked as he simultaneously served a customer.
"Not at the moment," Tara replied. "Willow seems to think we might need Xander. Y'know, for, like, extra oomph."
"It's a possibility," Giles said, handing over the customer's change before looking back to Tara. "But, if you're planning on-" Giles glanced around and then continued in softer tones, "-using this in battle, then having three of you conjuring could prove difficult if we're up against it."
"I think there's major kinks to wear out first before we even start trying that," Tara replied. "Anyway," she shrugged. "We'll ask him when he gets back. It's Saturday night isn't it?"
"I think it's more like Sunday morning," Giles corrected her. "But I'm sure he'll be willing to oblige. I know he's always looking to further himself in that field."
Buffy yawned as she drove up the dirt track towards their villa. It was later than she'd hoped they'd be back. The sun was already getting high in the sky and the heat made her feel even more tired and dirty. She glanced over her shoulder briefly at Xander who lay asleep on the back seat. An affectionate smile crossed Buffy's lips before she looked back to the road.
Their second bout of trouble the previous evening had turned into a lot more than just a bout. It appeared that the vampires they been fighting had been scouting for the large demon that they'd found in the next alley.
The demon was about eight feet tall, had scaly, green skin and weighed about six hundred pounds; most of it sheer muscle. When it realised that Buffy wasn't just an ordinary girl after she sent it flying backward ten feet, it took off. Buffy pursued it, but it was fast and she couldn't keep up. Especially when it jumped into a car and raced off at top speed.
She and Xander had jumped into the jeep and began to chase it down. Eventually getting alongside it, Xander had forced the demon to a stop in the middle of nowhere and God knows how many miles from their villa. They'd followed again after it took off on foot, but found it had only led them to two of its friends.
It had been a long battle. Xander wielded the only sword they had, which had luckily been in the back of the jeep, while she relied on brute force. Eventually Xander managed to chargrill one of the demons with magic, but when a second one went up in flames, it seemed to drain him and he just sank to the floor. When Buffy finally managed to kill the remaining demon, driving its head repeatedly into a rock, Buffy went to Xander, only to find him barely able to stand.
And then came the icing on the cake.
She had to drive them back.
It had taken her three hours, in the middle of the night, to actually find which was the right road to get them back and then she'd gotten a flat that then had to be changed.
As she finally pulled to a stop in the driveway. Buffy groaned and let her head rest on the steering wheel. Everything about her was bruised and achy. And she was still hungry and so tired. She yawned and stepped out of the jeep. And then winced when she saw the scratch marks that ran the entire length of the body and the point where the metal had actually been ripped through.
"Oh great," she muttered. "Like we're covered for demon damage." Buffy groaned again when she saw the dent in the hood of the car. "You see," she said to the still asleep Xander, "This is why I don't drive."
Buffy yawned again and reached through to the back of the jeep and ruffled Xander's hair. "Hey hun? Wakey wakey." Buffy sighed when Xander just mumbled something in his sleep. "Great."
With a great deal of manoeuvring, Buffy managed to get Xander out of the jeep and over her shoulder before making the short trip to the front door of the villa. She patted her own pocket for the keys before she remembered that Xander had them. Buffy grinned when she fumbled in the back pocket of Xander's trousers and she heard an appreciative moan.
"I thought I was supposed to get carried over the threshold," she muttered good-naturedly as she finally got into the villa. Heading straight to the bedroom she let Xander fall softly onto the bed, whereupon he immediately snuggled down into the covers.
"I think you've got the right idea," Buffy yawned, bending down to place a soft kiss on Xander's forehead. "But, you're hurt." She glanced at the makeshift dressing over the large cut that was on Xander's forearm. "C'mon," Buffy yawned. "Let's get you cleaned up."
Buffy disappeared and came back with a first aid kit. She sat down on the bed beside Xander and took his arm into her lap and unwrapped the dressing. "I didn't realise that the spell took it out of you like that," she said softly as she began to clean his wound. Xander still didn't stir. Buffy placed a small gauze pad on his cut and taped it down. "Guess the bigger the demon, huh?"
Buffy was answered with a soft snore from Xander. She chuckled and set the first aid box on the floor. Turning Xander slightly so his bad arm wasn't underneath him, Buffy spooned up behind him. She rested her head against his shoulder and curled her arm around him, tucking it against his chest. She'd just closed her eyes when she felt Xander stir ever so slightly.
"Buff?" he murmured sleepily.
Xander bent his injured arm upward to his chest and covered Buffy's arm with his. "Thanks."
"Welcome." Buffy kissed his shoulder. "Now shut up and go back to sleep."
Buffy felt Xander's chest rumble slightly with laughter and she smiled before she let herself drift off to sleep.
Cordelia hummed as she made her way through Sunnydale's main park. Even with the slightly dismal weather, it was still definitely a change from the hectic pace of LA. Even if she was still trapped in the hotel all day, she could still feel it in the air all around her, buzzing in through the doors whenever they had visitors or clients. Here, despite it being a Hell Resort, as Ren so aptly put it, Cordelia couldn't feel the buzz as much. She wasn't too sure if she liked it or not, but Cordelia put that thought on hold when she saw a familiar figure sitting alone on one of the swings in the children's play area.
As she neared, Cordelia frowned a little when she saw the unhappy look on Ren's face. Mainly because it was a new one for Cordelia to see the redhead wearing. She'd seen Ren in varying degrees of happiness and had seen her angry enough to put her fist through a plate glass window, but nothing quite like the little girl lost look that graced the other woman's face right now.
"Hey," Cordelia gave Ren a small smile when she looked up. "You know you have to actually put some effort in to make those things work." Cordelia nodded towards the empty swing next to Ren. "That taken?"
"Not that I know of," Ren replied. She attempted a smile as Cordelia sat next to her on the empty swing. "What brings you out here? Thought you were revisiting old haunts or something today?"
"Which I am," Cordelia stated. "I'll have you know that many a memory got made out here. Mostly at night before I was completely aware of what lurked in the bushes." She paused briefly. "Well maybe some after…" Cordelia grinned.
"With a certain newly married man by any chance?" Ren raised an eyebrow.
"Oh yeah." Cordelia was still smiling. "Me and Xander rounded a few bases out here."
"But not quite all, huh?"
"Uh, no." Cordelia chuckled. "We got pretty darn close a couple of times though." She raised a questioning eyebrow at Ren. "I gather I missed out?"
"Quite a bit." Ren managed a smile.
"Well, lucky Buffy."
Ren sighed. "Yup."
Cordelia studied the other woman's face for a moment, making Ren give her a curious look. "Sorry," Cordelia said, shrugging. "Just wondering what's up with you."
"Couldn't find a witty way of asking?"
"I'm on vacation."
"So are you gonna tell me?" Cordelia asked, watching as Ren kicked up some of the woodchips beneath her feet. Cordelia paused. "This isn't, like, a bad fall out from a question you might have asked, is it?"
"No." Ren began playing with a lock of her hair. "I didn't ask." She gave Cordelia a smile that the other woman didn't know how to interpret. "Rupert's been, I don't know, pre-occupied with something." Ren sighed and turned her gaze to the ground. "He's been a little off since before the wedding."
Cordelia saw that lost look again on her face and then heard Ren say in a small voice, "I thought he was happy about it."
"Happy about what?" Cordelia asked quietly.
Ren looked up at her, hesitating for a moment. "I'm ten weeks pregnant," Ren said with a small smile.
Cordelia blinked and her eyes went wide. "Oh my God," she said finally. "That's so… so *wow*. And would explain the whole sickness thing. That's…" Cordelia trailed off when she saw the sad look behind Ren's smile. "Great?"
"I was happy about it," Ren replied quietly.
Cordelia frowned when she heard the sad tone in Ren's voice. "But you think Giles isn't?" the brunette asked tentatively. "Why? What's he said?"
Ren sniffed delicately, trying to hold back the tears. "Nothing," she admitted. "It's just, at first he says he's glad, y'know, like, we're going to be a nice happy family. B-but then he's cut off and-and pushing me away and so I don't know what to think." Ren sniffed again. "Last night, I was at the Bronze. I-I collapsed. I thought… I thought that I could have… could have miscarried."
"Willow and Tara told me about last night." Cordelia pulled out some tissues from her purse and handed Ren one. "Have you been to see a doctor?"
Ren nodded. "Just been. She said everything seemed fine. Just told me to rest, that's all." She wiped at her eyes. "I was so angry and *hurt* last night. I mean, Rupert didn't even *ask* about the baby." Ren sniffed. "I don't what he's thinking. Except that maybe he doesn't want this."
"And you do?" Cordelia asked softly. "You really wanna keep the baby?"
Ren nodded as she wiped her eyes. "I want to be a family. I *want* Rupert." Ren looked back at Cordelia, her eyes glistening with tears again almost as soon as she wiped them away. "I've been alone all my life. I never had the chance to be with someone the way I wanted. Then I-I met Rupert all those years ago a-and I thought… I thought that he might be the one, y'know? O-or at least as close as I was gonna get." Ren managed a wry smile. "But that didn't work out. I was too much of a demon for him. He couldn't quite handle it, couldn't quite get his head around it, I guess." Her tears subsided briefly. "Same went for Xander. He was the first guy since Rupert that I thought… I really fell for him, I loved him. But there was…"
"Yeah." Ren saw Cordelia give her a look of understanding. Ren sniffed again. "And then there was Rupert again, wanting me, this mortal me and everything was so good." Ren's tears began once more. "I just don't understand why this all happened, why it's all starting to go wrong just so quickly and-and why I'm *sitting* on a bloody swing in a-a park *crying* about it and making a complete *idiot* of myself." She rubbed at her eyes with the heel of her palm. "Stupid, bloody hormones no doubt."
"Maybe." Cordelia offered her another tissue. "Ren, you're not making an idiot of yourself." Cordelia smiled sympathetically at Ren when she met her eyes. "And I'm sure there's a perfectly good reason why Giles is apparently acting like a complete asshole."
Ren choked out a strangled half laugh half sob. "I bloody well hope so." Then with that she started crying again and Cordelia got up and tried to comfort the other woman as best she could with Ren still sitting on the swing.
"Hey come on," Cordelia rubbed soothing circles on Ren's back as the red head's back as Ren leaned into her embrace, still crying. "You'll go talk to him, make it all right."
"But I love him," Ren sobbed quietly. "What if he really doesn't want me?"
Cordelia sighed softly and rested her chin on top of Ren's head. She was beginning to wonder if the word 'vacation' actually applied to her.
Lena managed to find her way back down to the office. She'd given up trying to find any redeeming features of the castle. As far as she could tell, the place was falling to pieces.
When she opened the door, she found Raif and Adon situated in front of the computers. "Gentlemen, I see you finally managed to get up."
"Funny." Adon shot her a pained look. "You've got an email by the way. It's the big boss man."
"So soon?" Lena frowned. "I only sent him the reports this morning." She looked at Adon. "What did he say?"
Adon shrugged. "How should I know?" he replied. "It's your email. You almost ripped me a new one the last time I opened one of yours."
Lena sighed in frustration. "Do I have to do everything around here?"
"Well you did get made the boss on this project," Raif interjected, shooting her a smug smile when she frowned back at him.
Lena pulled her lap towards her and grabbed a seat. "Sometimes you two really annoy me."
"Only sometimes?" Adon pretended to sound hurt.
"Imbecile," Lena muttered under her breath as she opened the email and began to read.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR REPORTS. I AM UNDER THE SAME OPINION AS YOU ARE THAT THIS SITUATION DOES, IN FACT, LOOK HOPELESS.
HOWEVER, I FEEL THAT WITH A NEW APPROACH TO THIS, SPECIFICALLY OUR APPROACH, WE CAN BRING THIS 'BUSINESS' OF THESE DEMONS TO FRUITION.
TO THIS EFFECT, I FEEL WE SHOULD TEST THE WATER BY ACTING ON SOME OF THE CASES THAT YOU SENT OVER AS EXAMPLES. I AM MOST INTRIGUED BY THE ONE INVOLVING THE SLAYER. PERHAPS IF WE WERE TO ACT ON THIS WE COULD ASSESS THE SITUATION AGAIN AFTERWARDS.
I LEAVE IT UP TO YOU TO MAKE THE NECESSARY ARRANGEMENTS. LIAISE WITH THE MACHEN AS NEDED.
I HOPE TO HEAR BACK FROM YOU SOON.
Raif looked up from his minesweeper game when he heard Lena sigh. "What? No promotion?"
Lena shot him a dark look. "No. More work."
Adon groaned. "What? You've gotta be kidding?"
Lena shook her head. "Mr Pagaelian wants us to take up the Machen's old work."
"The prophecies?" Raif's eyebrows shot up. "What for?"
"Probably for another one of his crazy hobbies," Adon suggested with a snort. "OK, so what does he want us to do?"
"Take up that Slayer case," Lena replied. "See how that works out."
"And we do that how?" Adon asked wearily.
"Let me guess," Raif said. "We make nice with the big blue people?"
When Lena nodded, Adon groaned. "Oh goody."
Haxor's mouth spread into a wide grin exposing his rows of sharp teeth when he checked the breast pocket of one of the male demon's suit jacket's that was thrown over the bed in the room he'd been given. He held up the slim black device and turned it around in his hands. It wasn't quite the Holy Grail…
But it was a start.
Giles sighed in relief when the last customer in his store had departed. Once he'd taken a moments breather, he headed towards the door in order to lock it //Further custom be damned// he thought, //I need a cup of tea.//
But he only got as far as turning the sign around from 'Open' to 'Closed' when he saw Cordelia on the other side of the glass. Reluctantly he stepped back and let her in. "And what can I do for you?" he asked as she walked past him and into the store.
Cordelia turned around and fixed Giles with a firm look as she crossed her arms infront of her chest, even managing to seemingly flip her short hair over her shoulder. "You and I are going to have a little chat."
"I'll take a wild guess and say its not about the weather," Giles replied dryly and headed back over towards the counter. He could feel Cordelia's eyes following him and trying to bore into his skull as he walked past her.
"No, it's about why I've just spent the last hour with Ren while she cried her eyes out on my shoulder." Cordelia's gaze was fixed back on him. "You know, I thought you were different. Now I'm thinking that you really are just a guy."
Giles' jaw opened and closed a couple of times before he managed to get words out. "What in God's name are you talking about? And what about Ren? Where is she now?"
"At home," Cordelia replied. "Sleeping. Getting rest like she should, y'know, being pregnant an' all."
"She told you," Giles said quietly. He took off his glasses and began to clean them. "Did she seem alright when you left her?"
Cordelia's stance softened a little when she recognised the genuine concern in his voice. "Not really." Cordelia sounded less accusatory. "She's hurt, upset and confused. She wants to know what's going on."
Giles looked at Cordelia before he put his glasses back on. "Going on?"
"Yeah. With you." Cordelia dropped her arms to her sides and tilted her head to the side, studying Giles for a moment. "And so do I. Because I really don't want to believe you're the love 'em and leave 'em type, OK?"
"I'm not," Giles replied quickly. "Cordelia, whatever you think is going on, it's not-" Giles broke off when Cordelia suddenly staggered backwards, clutching her hands to her head. "Cordelia?"
"Vision! Oh, oh God! Cordelia staggered backwards again and bumped into one of the display cabinets. "I think it's a doozy!"
Giles rushed to her side and caught her before she stumbled again and fell. "What is it?" he asked, lowering her to the floor as he crouched beside her with her in his arms.
"Vampires," Cordelia replied, screwing her eyes shut against the throbbing pain in her head. "There's a nest... a girl… no, two girls."
"Here?" Giles asked anxiously as he held a still convulsing Cordelia. "Now?"
"No." Cordelia managed to shake her head. "In L.A. and soon. Need to call Angel… need to be there."
Giles got up; leaving Cordelia sitting on the floor as the vision started to pass. He went to the counter and dialled Angel's number on the phone. It took a couple of rings for someone to pick up and he'd got as far as, "An-" when Cordelia snatched the receiver from his hands. He just sat back on the stool behind the counter as Cordelia rattled off details and directions to Angel.
He hung his head and closed his eyes. Cordelia was right, he reasoned and also made a mental note never to reveal he'd ever thought that, well to Cordelia anyway. Giles sighed inwardly. Ren deserved to know what was slowly driving him around the bend.
Buffy and Xander lay naked and curled around each other underneath the soft quilt on their bed as they exchanged soft, lazy kisses.
"'is is nice," Buffy mumbled sleepily against Xander's lips before he kissed her again. She closed her eyes as she let Xander's lips gently massage hers. "S'cosy."
Xander broke off his kiss and looked Buffy in the eyes when she opened them a second later. He smiled. "Well, it's s'posed to be cosy after you make sleepy love."
"Mmm, sleepy love's good," Buffy agreed, smiling back down at him. "S'just usually, we make with the wild monkey love after a good time fighting the forces of evil."
Xander started to stroke her hair. "Yeah, but, usually," he replied, "We aren't dead on our feet. The things we fight are," he added with a grin. "Usually we make it back with a spring in our step."
"Well, I had a spring," Buffy corrected him, referring to their battle with the demon and his friends just less than twelve hours ago. Buffy poked him in the chest lightly. "*You* were asleep."
"Well, I haven't flamegrilled anything in a while," Xander replied, sounding a little defensive. He added a pout for good measure. "I'll have you know it's very tiring. Especially with demons built like mutated quarterbacks."
Buffy leant forward and kissed away his pout and Xander moaned softly in appreciation. "I'd just like a little warning in future," she said when she broke away, the serious tone in her voice softened a little by her affectionate smile. "I don't want you catching zeds in the line of fire, OK?"
Xander mirrored her smile and tone. "Promise." He wrapped his arms back around her and Buffy happily snuggled down into his embrace. "Maybe I should talk to Wills?" Xander suggested after a moment. "She might be able to give me some handy hints for keeping it up." He immediately regretted using that particular phrase when he heard Buffy snicker. Xander emitted a small exasperated sigh when Buffy then began to giggle. "Out of the gutter please, hun."
Buffy managed to control herself and lifted her head to look at him. "Sorry," she said, but didn't sound the least bit convincing. "But, anyway, wouldn't you be better asking Ren?"
"To help keep it up?" Xander tried to sound serious.
Buffy swatted him playfully on the thigh. "Yeah, like she never did that before."
Xander played the innocent. "Well, she was the one to teach me the spell in the first place. Maybe you're right."
Buffy pinched him on the thigh this time and Xander yelped. Buffy stuck her tongue out at him, which Xander then quickly took as an invitation to suck into his mouth. Buffy groaned as Xander deepened the kiss, one of his hands creeping up her back to her head, his fingers tangling in her hair at the same time as Buffy's nails dug into his chest.
Buffy groaned again when they finally broke apart. "Ooh, can we have more sleepy love now?"
Xander cleared his throat and gave her a sheepish look. "Uh, I think I might be kinda *too* drained."
Buffy blinked. "Huh?" she said, sounding surprised. Then a 'don't be so stupid' tone crept in as she added, "You can't be." Buffy lifted the covers and glanced down… at what was staying down. She frowned and looked back at Xander who just shrugged apologetically. Buffy's eyes glinted with determination and a predatory look spread over her face before she kissed Xander back just as passionately as he'd kissed her only moments before. Her hands caught hold of his when they began to roam over her body and she pinned them above by his head as she continued to plunder his mouth.
When Buffy finally relented, she looked back at Xander. He looked thoroughly debauched. His eyes were glazed over and his kiss swollen lips were parted as he gulped in much needed oxygen. "Mmmphazzatkabibble," was Xander's incoherent response.
"I know." Buffy smiled smugly. Then she lifted the covers and looked again. "Damn." Buffy sighed, not really hiding her frustration and looked back at Xander who still seemed to be shaking off the kiss he'd just received. "OK," she stated, "You definitely need to talk to Willow about keeping it up."
Xander shot her a pained look. Buffy just laughed and a moment later Xander joined in and Buffy snuggled back against him, her head against his shoulder as she still chuckled softly.
Xander wrapped his arms around her and rested his chin against the top of her head. Then Xander stilled for a moment, thinking. "But you've got your Slayer stamina, right?"
There was a soft rumble against his chest from Buffy's laughter. "I was wondering when you'd remember that." Buffy giggled louder as Xander dove under the covers. Then she moaned. "O-oh, you do remember that."
"Well," Lena began, her gaze flickering back towards Raif and Adon who sat at the desk behind her before she looked back to Rojhar. "That doesn't sound too complicated. I think that we can do that."
"Why do you have to watch your intended victims first?" Adon asked, getting up and going to Lena's side. "Why not just snatch them and bring them back?"
"We like-" Rojhar broke off and paused for a moment. "We *liked*-" he corrected himself, "To see how they worked, if there was anything we could use against them. Sometimes it paid off. And they were never *victims* until they were found guilty." Rojhar looked directly at Lena. "And if you are planning on trying the Slayer's case, I suggest that you find out everything you can."
Lena's brow furrowed. "Why can't you just tell us what you found out last time?"
"Because every Machen who was there is now dead." Rojhar stated simply, although his face darkened a little. "We know very little. Only what a few insignificant Cavgor demons that were working for us and managed to get back could tell us."
"Would Haxor know anything?" Lena asked.
"Probably not," Rojhar replied. "I could ask him when he gets back."
"He's on an errand." Rojhar smiled, exposing his teeth. "I think he'll be pleasantly surprised when he gets back to find out that you're taking up our work."
"It's just one case," Lena reminded him. "Mr Pagaelian wishes to see how it works out before he makes a decision."
Rojhar just kept smiling. "But it's a start."
(Later that evening)
"Ren?" Giles called out as soon he arrived home and opened the door. "Ren, I want to talk to you." Giles closed the door behind him and looked around. The place seemed decidedly empty. Giles sighed and climbed the staircase. "Ren?" he called again, listening for any indication that she might be home. There weren't any.
Giles sat down on the bed and looked around at the room. It was strange how much it had changed over time since he'd first moved in. It was pretty minimalist at first - the life of a Watcher was uncertain but when it became clear that his Slayer wasn't going anywhere anytime soon; odds and ends and been accumulated and made it more than just somewhere to sleep. And then Ren had moved in and suddenly it was *their* room and it wasn't just his things in the room anymore. The closet was half filled with her clothes, her make up and perfume sat on the dresser, the bookcase also housed her complete collection of Jackie Collins books that she'd insisted were 'novels' despite his laughter.
His gaze lingered on a framed photograph of Ren, one taken about six months ago when they'd taken a brief trip back to England. It had been January and the weather had been abysmal, which was depicted in the photo. Ren was standing on the sand of Holkam beach; she had demanded they go there so she could pretend to be Gwyneth Paltrow. She was looking towards the camera; her hands shoved into her coat pockets, hiding them from the biting wind that also made her hair fly behind her. And she was smiling.
Giles leant over and picked up the photograph from where it sat on the dresser and held it between both hands, studying it for a moment before he got up and headed back downstairs. Once at the foot of the stairs, the quiet he'd just gotten used to was then disturbed by the ringing of his telephone.
He kept the photo in one hand as he picked up the receiver. "Hello?"
"Xander?" Giles was pleasantly surprised. "Well, this is unexpected."
<And not exactly a social call either.>
"No?" Giles frowned. "No trouble I hope?"
<Probably not,> Xander replied. <Buff and me had to do a bit of slaying last night. We just wondered if you knew what kind of demons we'd killed and if you knew a better way to kill them in case we run into them again.>
"I take it you two are all right?"
<Fine and dandy. Me and my wife are all recuperated.>
Giles could almost *hear* the grin on Xander's face as he spoke and it made him a little envious. "Good." Giles sighed and placed the photo of Ren on the sideboard and walked with the phone over to his bookcase. "Alright, what distinguishing features did this demon have?"
As Xander began to describe the demon, Giles began to pull books off his shelf, setting them on his table. It was when he put the books on the table he noticed a folded up piece of paper with his name written on it propped up in the centre of the table. With Xander talking in one ear, Giles picked up the note and read it.
I'm at Willow and Tara's. Back in the morning.
Giles sat back down and tuned back into Xander, who was then telling him that the demon had three heads, the middle one of which had an oak tree growing out of it.
"Damn," Giles said dryly. "If it had been a Scots Pine I might have had it."
<Funny,> Xander replied. <Just wondering where you drifted off to there for a moment.>
"Sorry," Giles sighed, opening one of his books. "It's been a long day." Giles glanced across at the photo he'd brought down and sighed again before looking back to his books. "Let's start again shall we?"
"It's not very big is it?" Ren's remark was immediately followed by a frustrated groan from Willow and a badly hidden smirk from Tara. "I've seen bigger balls on a gnat."
As Tara's smirk became a fully-fledged laugh, Willow waved her hand and the glowing orb of sunlight disappeared. Willow glared half-heartedly at Ren. "I was hoping you'd be a tad more helpful."
"Willow, you know as well as I do," Ren replied, getting up off the floor and seating herself back on the couch, "That my magicks are less enhanced than when I was a demon." She shrugged. "Sorry, but I'm out of ideas. Why not wait 'til Xander gets back?"
"'Cos now she wants to get it done before they get back," Tara said as she cleared up the living room floor. "Sort of like a surprise."
"Yeah, like an extra wedding present," Willow continued as she set the ingredient jars back on the shelf. "Y'know, being newly weds an' all, they might like some extra time, y'know, boinking the living daylights out of each other…"
"And if you can provide the *actual* daylight on patrol…" Ren carried on, realising.
"Then all's well in happy coupledom," Tara finished as she took up position on the opposite end of the couch from Ren, smiling appreciatively when Willow bent down by the video cabinet.
"OK," Willow called over her shoulder and grinned when she caught Tara looking. "Do we want a chick flick or something that requires brain function?"
"Anything, so long as its not that copy of 'The Princess Diaries' I saw you hide when I got here," Ren replied.
There was a suspicious silence from both witches before Willow narrowed her eyes playfully at Ren. "Well, I'm not watching anything with Steven Seagal in it either," she shot back. "You're worse than Buffy when it comes to fight scenes." Willow grinned when Ren pulled a face at her.
"Do you want me to choose?" Tara said. "Nothing with Julie Andrews in, I promise," she added, looking at Ren. "And seeing as how me and Willow were going for a cheer you up evening… which you weren't supposed to know about so now I'll just shut up and try and blend into the couch."
Willow cleared her throat and looked sheepishly at Ren. "It's just you seemed a little down last night and can you not be mad 'cos we made chocolate crispy treats 'specially."
Ren looked between the two, not quite sure how she was feeling. Then one corner of her mouth twitched up a little in a smile. "So you didn't just invite me up here to show me your spells?"
That earned a chuckle from Tara. "Well we did, but there was an ulterior motive."
"Sorry," Willow said meekly and gave her an apologetic shrug.
"I see," Ren said quietly. Then she sighed. "So? Have you got hot chocolate to go with the chocolate crispy things?"
"And marshmallows," Willow replied, smiling back. "I'm on it."
As Willow left for the kitchen, Tara looked at Ren and gave her a hesitant smile. "We don't want to pry," she said. "It's just we noticed that Giles was a little…" Tara trailed off briefly, "Just a little distant. We kinda wondered if everything was alright… is it?"
Ren hesitated and glanced down at the floor before she looked back at Tara. "Not really," she admitted. "But I'm not really looking to… to talk about it… not again today anyway."
Tara held a hand up. "Hey, not prying remember?"
"Just here," Willow said, standing in the doorway to the kitchen, leaning against the frame. "With chocolate and ears."
"It's appreciated," Ren replied, smiling softly. She tucked her legs up underneath her and settled back into the cushions of the couch. "So how 'bout we put 'Shakespeare in Love' on?"
"I think I can live with that," Willow replied with a grin as she made her way back into the kitchen.
"I just pretend I can’t see her looking at Gwyneth Paltrow's ass," Tara said, rolling her eyes and she went to put the tape in the VCR. "Actually, I didn't think it was your kinda film."
Ren gave Tara a small smile when the blonde sat back down. "I watch it with the hope that someone will throw a bucket of water over Colin Firth… it's a 'Pride and Prejudice' thing," Ren elaborated when Tara gave her an odd look. Then Ren smiled, almost to herself. "Plus some other memories. January to be exact." She just kept smiling when Tara gave her another curious look. "I'll tell you later."
"I think last night must have been a fluke," Xander said before putting another forkful of spaghetti in his mouth. He then almost spat it out again when Buffy delivered a sharp kick to his shin underneath the restaurant table. "Ow," he mumbled as he hastily swallowed. "What was *that* for?"
"Have you learned nothing?" Buffy sounded a little incredulous and went to kick Xander again, but he anticipated her move so she hit fresh air. Buffy settled for scowling a little at him. "You just jinxed us."
Xander refrained from rolling his eyes, knowing that he'd probably get kicked again for it. "Buff, I think we've established that we're *always* gonna have demons around to fight," he reasoned. "I think jinxing is kinda null and void here."
"Yeah, I know," Buffy replied. "But it's the demons I want null and void around here for tonight." She pouted a little and began playing with her cannelloni. "It's our first proper night out as a married couple. I don't want to haveta wonder if I'm gonna end up using toothpicks-" she pointed to said items in the middle of their table, "-as vamp-be-gone."
"I have got a stake in my pocket, y'know."
Buffy couldn't resist it. "And I thought you were just pleased to see me."
"Y'know me hun, I've always got wood for you," Xander shot back with a grin and Buffy laughed and blew him a kiss. "And, yeah, I'm not counting our last night and our run in with the vamps and the Incredible Hulk wannabes either as a night out."
"What did Giles say they were called again?" Buffy asked through a mouthful of food.
"Um… pasty... pasta… oh, Pasturak. Native to this area and allergic to water and, um, something else, but we can still kill 'em the usual way. You have bolognaise on your chin."
"Thanks," Buffy replied, wiping her chin with her napkin. "And, I mean, seriously, who thinks up names for these demons anyway?"
"Does my face look like it belongs to someone who cares?"
"Maybe there's like a committee or maybe they all played, like, some big game of Scrabble and chose and you really don't care, do you?"
Xander shook his head and grinned at her. "As long as my wife can kick their evil asses then, no, I don't."
"Y'think we should just shut up about our dangerous life and enjoy the evening?" Buffy asked with a smile. "Gaze adoringly into each other's eyes?"
Xander reached out across the table and took her hand. "It's a beautiful evening," he said, entwining his fingers with hers. "I just wanna wine and dine you."
Buffy smiled back. "Then let's not talk shop anymore."
An involuntary shiver went up Xander's spine when Buffy ran a foot slowly up the length of one of his calves. "OK, I think my stake just got company."
Raif glanced out from underneath his baseball cap and towards the couple sitting in the open-air restaurant on the other side of the road from the bar he was sitting in.
He rolled his eyes and sighed.
OK, so at least he was out of the Dimension of the Castle of Gloom, as he and Adon had dubbed it, complete with capital letters. But now, now he had to sit and watch the Slayer and her husband… and that was pretty much it. Watching was Boring - enough so that deserved capitals as well.
Raif turned over his empty shot glass and stacked it on top of his other empty glasses to finally form a pyramid.
And what the hell was he supposed to be watching for anyway? He was pretty sure the only action the Slayer was going to see that night was under the sheets with her husband, especially if the waves of arousal rolling off the two were anything to go by.
Raif shook his head and signalled to the bartender for another drink. He had a feeling this was going to be a long night.
Xander looked up from his magazine when he heard Buffy come into the living area where he sat; his bare feet kicked up onto the couch as he took up the whole length of it. He smiled at her, openly ogling what parts of her he could see due to the fact that her bathrobe had fallen open at the front.
Buffy caught him looking and flashed him properly before tying her robe closed again. "How come you're up so early?" she asked, going to the refrigerator and taking out a carton of orange juice.
"Honey, I think the question should really be, why are you up so *late*?" Xander replied.
Buffy set the juice on the counter and rummaged around in the cupboard for a glass. "There's no such thing as getting up late when you're on holiday, which, therefore, completely justifies my question." Buffy turned to him and gave him smug smile before adding, "And it's not like you can talk anyway, you're not even dressed yet."
"Boxer shorts are clothes," Xander stated, gesturing at his underwear and only form of clothing. "Made of cotton and everything."
Buffy pulled a face at him and then started poured herself a glass of juice before heading over to where Xander sat, taking a seat in the recliner next to him. "OK, we've got some hours to kill before we should really start packing. Whatcha want to do today?" she asked. "Beach? TV? Hot tub? Gratuitous sex?"
Xander dropped his magazine to the floor and turned on his side so he was looking at Buffy. He gave her a wide grin. "The last two together sound good."
Buffy grinned back. "Cool," she replied, getting up and setting her drink down on a side table before she went to join Xander on the couch. Xander grabbed her arm and pulled her down to him so they laid chest to chest. Buffy groaned when Xander slipped a hand inside her robe and was about to claim his lips in a bruising kiss when a loud sound from the veranda snapped their attention away from each other.
"What was that?" Buffy asked, frowning as she kept looking towards the veranda.
"Probably something fallen over," Xander said, trying to draw her attention back to him, his hand roaming again underneath her robe. "Maybe the wind caught something."
"There is no wind Xander," Buffy replied. She pushed herself up from Xander, closing her robe again as she headed over to the doors to the veranda. Through the glass she could see a chair lying upturned on the floor. Still frowning, Buffy walked outside and glanced around.
"What is it?" Xander asked, coming up behind her.
Buffy turned back to him. "I don't know, she said. Buffy glanced around again before standing the chair back upright. "My spidey sense isn't tingling but…" Buffy stepped up to the veranda railing and looked yet again at the landscape before them. "I don't know."
"Something like that," Buffy replied. With a moment's hesitation she hurdled effortlessly over the railing, landing neatly on the other side and in the barely there garden that consisted mainly of shrubs. "Grab something heavy," Buffy called back to Xander. "I'm gonna take a look around."
A tiny bit of a grumble snuck into Xander's sigh before he headed back inside in the search something which was presumably to whack whatever Buffy thought she might find over the head. "So much for me not jinxing us last night," he muttered, glancing around quickly. "Heavy… heavy…" He looked around, but couldn't find anything that would be easily manageable. "Looks like it'll just have to be something sharp."
Xander headed into the bedroom and grabbed his jeans from the floor and pulled them on. "I really hope she finds something," he muttered, grabbing the sword Buffy had used two nights previously on the demon they'd followed. Xander unsheathed it and swung the sword in a controlled arc. "Sex in a hot tub is not something I give up for no good reason."
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