Xander didn't really know what to say to ~Buffy. They'd walked in virtual silence, ~Buffy only saying that she didn't want to go back to try and explain things to her mother right now. So they were going back to Xander's apartment.
Xander checked for messages as soon as he got in and ~Buffy sat down on the couch.
Xander heard nothing on his machine. He shot ~Buffy a quick glance. ~Buffy sighed and sank further back into her seat. Xander picked up his phone and dialled Giles' number. It only rang once before the other man picked up.
"Yeah, it's me Giles. We have no messages."
"I take it you didn't either."
<"No. No, neither did Willow or Tara"> Xander heard Giles sigh <"How's Buffy?" >
"Hard to say. She hasn't said much."
<"Buffy's strong Xander. She'll manage. I have no doubts. How are you coping?" >
"I'm totally weirded out. But that's to be expected right?"
<"Yes Xander. I'm uh… a little 'weirded' out myself. I've been trying to think of people who I can call but so far … Xander I may have something tomorrow. Willow and Tara are coming round first thing…">
"We'll be there. I can call in sick."
<"I'd best be going. Calls to make and such like… I hope… Xander… It'll be fine. We'll fix it">
"I know. Bye Giles" Xander hung up.
"He hasn't heard anything either?" ~Buffy asked.
Xander shook his head and ~Buffy sighed again before looking down at herself "Obviously she's having a lot more fun in my body than I am in hers" ~Buffy looked back at Xander "Y'know this is not really the way I envisaged today ending. I had plans that didn't involve-" she broke off, seeing a sad look in Xander's eyes "I guess it's hard for you too huh?"
"You mean the fact that my fiancée is wearing the face of my ex?" Xander said with raised eyebrows "Noooo, that's not a problem at all" he ran a hand through his hair "That kinda thing happens everyday."
"Xander, Giles said it can be fixed and I believe him" ~Buffy sat up a little straighter "We've face bigger problems. I *died* once, OK?"
Xander looked at her a little surprised "Buffy, you seem to be… taking this… well, better than earlier."
"I think that before it was mainly shock" she said, "Now it's sunk in a little more… well, I realise it could be worse" ~Buffy stood up and went to stand in front of him "Someone did this" she gestured to herself "To get at me. To get at *us*" ~Buffy's voice was calm "We're not going to let them. I'm not going to let them have the satisfaction."
"You're really not freaking anymore are you?"
"Well, I am a little" ~Buffy admitted with a small grin "I think it's you who's stopping me from letting it run free" ~Buffy took hold of one of Xander's hands "The main thing is it's me in here. I *know* it's me in here" she tapped the side of her head with her free hand "Ren has entirely left the building"
"How does it feel?" Xander asked, "Does it feel weird?"
"Kinda. I mean, if I touch you" ~Buffy ran her thumb lightly across his left cheek "It's *me* touching you. *I* can feel it. No second hand touch here" she grinned "Plus it's kinda weird being able to look you in the eyes. Sometimes I get a crick in my neck when we're kissing" ~Buffy admitted "But it's cool, I always wanted to be taller."
Xander gave her a half-hearted smile "Yeah. Cool."
~Buffy sighed "It's because I *look* like her isn't it?" she sighed again and waved her free hand in front of his face "Xander, it's *me*, OK? I only *look* like her. I mean, come *on*, *I* would *never* wear *these* pants" ~Buffy indicated her lower apparel and smiled at Xander.
Xander laughed a little "She's probably saying the same thing about *you* right now"
"There's *nothing* wrong with *my* clothes"
"No. Of course not" Xander said quickly then he looked a sadly at ~Buffy "But you know there's one thing she's wearing, that I wish *you* were"
~Buffy smiled sadly "The ring?" she squeezed Xander's hand "It's up here" ~Buffy tapped her head again "I don't need a ring to know you meant what you said Xander" ~Buffy smiled "I love you. That's all that matters."
Xander smiled "All that matters" he said and leant forward and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead.
~Buffy smiled "No second hand touch remember?" she said. Xander gave her a confused look and Buffy traced the line of his upper lip with her thumb "It's *me* who feels it remember?" ~Buffy cupped his cheek and leaned forward slightly, closing her eyes and brushing her lips against his briefly.
~Buffy pulled back slightly and smiled at him again, looking into his eyes "Do you see me in here Xander?" she asked.
"I can. Sort of" he said looking back at her "There's definitely no Ren in there. But I can see you. It's like Buffy essence" Xander took a step back from her "Definitely an essence" he said again looking at her "Ren always seemed on the defensive, but it's not there anymore. You move like *you*. You speak like *you*-" he broke off and smiled "It's very weird to see"
~Buffy smiled back "I'll bet" she ran her fingers through her hair and yawned "This has been a *big* day Xander" she said, "I-I know we still have a lot more to talk about. But right now" she took his hand "All I want to do is go to sleep and think about all this again in the morning"
"Ah" Xander said "So how do you want to do this?"
"Sleep? Well" ~Buffy said, "I think basically it just involves me lying down and closing my eyes."
"No. I mean" Xander said, "Did you want me to take the couch?"
"Oh" ~Buffy gave him a small smile "No. I-I'd like it if you'd hold me."
~Buffy smiled "All you have to do is *hold* me, OK?"
Xander smiled back "I can do that."
"Good" ~Buffy pulled him towards the bedroom then she stopped and turned back to face him "OK. You do realise however that I'll be changing with my eyes closed don't you?" she said "Coping I may be, but seeing your ex naked isn't going to help" she scrunched her nose up "Can I borrow one of your T-shirts?"
"Sure. Although if you think getting changed is bad I hate to think what the bathroom activity is going to be like tomorrow."
~Buffy looked at him "Gee thanks for that honey. I'll sleep better now" she sighed "Come on" ~Buffy started pulling him back into the bedroom "We'll just deal with everything else tomorrow"
Giles was seated at his table re-reading yet again a passage on Cathanian spells. He sighed, giving up for now, and he closed the book.
Willow and Tara, seated on the couch, looked up from their own book and turned around to look at Giles.
"They just say the same thing" he said "A Cathanian spell can only be undone by a someone performing a Cathanian counteractive."
"So we're back to square one?" Willow said.
"No, no" Giles quickly "I still have some-"
"People who *haven't* called you back?" Willow interceded.
"Yes. I mean, no. Willow, these people can't just produce someone out of thin air."
"Mr Giles is right Willow" Tara said, looking at Willow and putting a hand on her girlfriend's shoulder "Finding someone could take some time" Tara turned to Giles "Willow and I contacted the nether realm last night. Just to see, to double check," she added quickly when Giles looked at her in alarm.
"You contacted the nether realm?" Giles gave them both incredulous looks.
"Don't get testy," Willow said, "We knew what we were doing. We were trying to see if it would show us where Ren was. Y'know if she was all right or having trouble contacting us"
"Well we saw her but we couldn't see *where* she was" Willow answered Giles. She stood up "Plus we couldn't stay very long. The nether realm is tiring y'know?" she paused "And now if you'll excuse me, nature calls" she added quietly before heading off to the bathroom.
Tara watched after her girlfriend for a moment before turning to Giles. She spoke to him in hushed tones "There's something I want to tell you" she said, getting up and pulling up a chair next to him. Tara sat down "I haven't told Willow this. I thought it might worry her more than she is already." She took a deep breath "Usually when you try and see someone in the nether realm, if you're searching for someone, usually you can see them clearly. Their image is sharp. But when we saw Buffy and your friend Ren, their images were kinda fuzzy. Like blurry around the edges. I-I don't know quite what it means…" she trailed off.
"Fuzzy you say?" Giles asked and Tara nodded "Well, it could mean one of a few things" he said after a moments thought, "I'll look into it"
Tara looked at him imploringly "I don't think Buffy should know about this" she said, "It could make her worry more"
"I think you're right" Giles head then turned to the direction of the door when he heard a knocking. He was about to get up when the door opened and Xander came in, followed by ~Buffy who looked entirely uncomfortable wearing a pair of Xander's jeans that were bunched up around the middle and also one of his shirts with the sleeves rolled up and the tails tied at her waist.
"Sorry we're late" Xander said, "We had a few problems getting started"
Giles gave them an understanding nod "Have you heard-?"
"Nothing" ~Buffy replied "No messages. You?"
Giles shook his head. He stood up "How are you?" he asked.
"I'm fine" ~Buffy answered "We had a couple of emotional moments last night and this morning, and the using the bathroom is not something I really want to experience again anytime soon, but essentially" she looked at Xander and smiled before turning back to Giles "We're doing fine"
"How's the research going?" Xander asked "Anything?"
Giles shook his head "We have to have someone who has the strength to perform a Cathanian counteractive. They're very powerful spells."
"Can't you just get a lot of witchy people together and do it?" ~Buffy asked.
"Unfortunately not" Giles replied sadly "It can only be done by *one* person. Which leaves us in rather a bind I'm afraid"
"Buffy, Xander hey" Willow greeted her friends as she returned to the room "How are you doing?"
"We're good Wills" ~Buffy replied, giving the red-head a smile "Just getting the low down from Giles."
Willow's face fell a little "I know it doesn't look good Buffy, but we're going to keep at it."
"I know… I appreciate it" ~Buffy smiled at the others gratefully. She turned to Giles "I've been thinking about *why* someone would want to do this. What would someone have to gain by doing this?"
Giles sat back down "Actually Buffy I've been going over the same thing myself" Giles took off his glasses, cleaned them and then put them back on "Whoever did this had an ulterior motive, obviously, but I really can't think of anything else except for the fact it must have been to hurt you on an emotional level. Physically or strength-wise, you and Ren were… are equal. If someone wished to hurt you in a physical sense I would have assumed they would have switched you with well, a *normal* person"
"So someone wants to hurt me *emotionally*?" ~Buffy said. She looked to Xander "Who would want to do that?"
"There's something else" Giles said "This *attack* as it were, well… there is the possibility it may not have been directed entirely at you in the first place. It *may* have been directed at Ren herself"
"There is the fact that Ren hasn't gotten in touch…" Tara looked at the others.
"Something might have happened to her?" Xander asked quietly.
"And if something did" ~Buffy said "*If* she's de…" she didn't finish the sentence "What would happen then?"
Giles looked at her sadly "If Ren is…" he sighed "Then even if we could find someone to do the spell-"
"You couldn't switch me back" ~Buffy finished for him
Giles looked at the floor in answer.
~Buffy exhaled slowly then turned into Xander's offered hug. She held him tightly for a few moments before pulling back "Y'know I-I think I'm going to go for a walk"
"Do you want me to come with you?" Xander asked.
~Buffy shook her head "Thanks, but… I think I need to be alone" she turned to the others "I won't be long" ~Buffy gave them all a quick smile and then headed to the door. Xander followed her. He put a hand on her shoulder and she placed on of her own hands on top if it and turned back to face him "I'll be fine honey."
"Sure" she leant forward and kissed him quickly "Back soon, OK?"
Xander smiled sadly and Buffy took her leave.
Xander sighed as he came back into Giles. He walked over to the couch and sat down, leaning forward and burying his face in his hands.
Willow sat down next to him and put her arm around his shoulder "Hey" she said softly and Xander raised his head to look at her "They're *both* going to be OK, Xander"
"Can you promise me that Will?" he whispered back.
Willow hung her head "No. I can't" she looked back up at him "But I can promise that we'll do everything we can to fix it."
Xander gave her a grateful smile "Thank Will" Xander then sighed and slumped back into his seat "What is it with me and relationships, guys? Why can't I just have a nice normal one?"
"'Cos we're on the Hellmouth?" Tara offered.
"Exactly" Xander said and sighed "Do you want to know what *else* happened yesterday that was pretty big?"
"Bigger than this?" Willow said, "I don't think anything-"
"I put a ring on Buffy's finger" Xander said.
"W-well, t-that's pretty big" Tara said finally.
Willow gave him an incredulous look "You guys got *engaged*?"
"Yup" Xander said, "Got down on one knee, the whole sha-bang."
"Xander…" Giles said "I… I honestly don't know… well obviously congratulations, but-"
"The timing sucks?" Xander finished "Yeah, I already had that one" he sighed "Joyce knows. We were going to tell you guys last night but…" he trailed off "Kinda got eclipsed."
"Oh Xander" Willow took hold of his hand "Xander…"
"Buffy and I talked about it last night, I mean, *after*" he said, "We're dealing."
Willow squeezed his hand "I'm happy for you Xander. The engagement part… not the other part" she gave him a warm smile "I'm here if you want to talk, OK? You and Buffy."
"Thanks Will" he smiled back. Xander sighed again and stood up "OK. So what can I do? Give me any book. I'll read it cover to cover"
"Something we've already done sadly, Xander" Giles said "We're waiting on some phone calls…"
"Giles, I *need* something to do. Give me something. Anything."
"You could make some tea" Giles suggested.
Xander looked at him "Tea? OK, I can do tea" he looked at Giles again "Where can I do tea?"
Giles smiled at him warmly and pointed to the kitchen. Xander gave him a sheepish smile and headed to the kitchen.
Giles exchanged glances with the two witches. Willow was about to say something but there was a loud crash from the kitchen followed by some loud cursing. Giles got up and went to the kitchen where he found Xander picking up the remains of one of his china cups.
"Sorry Giles" Xander said without looking up "I'm just… I'll get you a new one."
"Xander leave it" Giles said "Leave it" he said again quietly "It doesn't matter."
"But-" Xander felt himself being pulled up gently. He looked into the face of the older man. Giles was looking at him sadly. Xander sighed heavily and ran his hand through his hair "It's not fair" Xander said.
Giles reached out and gave Xander's shoulder a comforting squeeze "I know it's not"
"Hi honey, I'm ho-ome" Tay said cheerily and literally bounced into her apartment. She spied Spike lounging in one of her chairs and she flashed him a brilliant smile.
"Taken a happy pill this mornin' 'ave we?" Spike said as Tay sat on his lap.
"Nope" she grinned at him again, grabbed the back of his head and claimed his lips in a bruising kiss.
Spike got quite lost in the kiss until he realised he had something to tell her. He broke away abruptly and she grumbled in protest "Tay, the witches were up to something last night" on her raised eyebrows he added "And not the stuff I *like* to watch"
Tay's face became more serious "Show me" she said, getting off Spike lap.
Spike stood up and began to head to the bedroom where the monitors were set up "I started taping as soon as they whipped out the mojo stuff" he told Tay who had sat down in front of the VCR. Spike handed her the tape and she put it in the machine. She watched the tape in silence, peering closely at the screen.
"Hmm" she said when the tape finished "Interesting. Didn't think they'd *actually* do it"
"They contacted the nether realm" she told him.
"That ain't a bad thing right?" Spike asked, "They couldn't have found out anythin' could they?"
Tay shook her head "No. I had that aspect covered" she turned to Spike "Best we watch that blonde witch though" she said.
"You think she could be trouble?" Spike asked Tay as he followed her out of the bedroom "You said there wasn't going to *be* trouble"
"There isn't" Tay said "Just *watch* her" Tay turned and leaned against the wall. She grinned at Spike again "How's our captive?"
Spike grinned back "Sleeping like a big, blonde baby" he said "What the 'ell did you knock her out with?"
"Home brew" Tay smiled "She won't be awake for another 36 hours at the least."
"How did it go? Y'know, last night?"
"Couldn't have gone better" Tay replied, "I should get an Oscar"
"Don't think they give 'em to demons luv."
Tay laughed "Should do. I was fantastic. You didn't see?"
"Watchin' the witches" Spike replied "Saw you earlier though" he grinned again "Never thought it would be as easy as this."
Tay looped her arms around his neck and pulled herself closer to him "Spike, we've only just begun."
Everyone, minus ~Buffy, was still at Giles. Xander, Willow and Tara had decided to keep at the books, going over and over everything they could find on Cathanian spell of any type, and were seated on the more comfy chairs. Giles still sat at the table researching possible reasons for the way Tara said she had seen Buffy and Ren's images. So far he hadn't found anything.
They all read in silence until Willow broke it.
"Ooh" she said, not looking up "Here's something"
The others turned to Willow. "What have you found?" Giles asked, going over to her.
Willow looked up at him "It's what we've been reading over and over again. I guess it's had to be the twentieth time before it sank in" she said, "The switching. It's wrong. It's Cathanian but I think it's been altered."
"Altered how?" Tara asked, "You can't alter it" she looked at Giles "Can you?"
"Not in theory" Giles said to the blonde witch "I never known it to be done, but then I've not had that much dealing with it."
"What about the switching?" Xander asked, "What's wrong? Apart from the obvious" he added.
"Well" Willow said "Technically, if I'm reading this right at all, we shouldn't *have* *Ren's* body *here*" the others looked at her and Tara's eyes widened.
"I get it" Tara said "What we should have is *Ren* in *Buffy's* body"
"Yes" Giles said slowly "But-but instead we have Buffy in Ren"
"Is isn't the *bodies* that switch. It's the mind. The *inside*" Willow said, "Buffy shouldn't be here. She should have gone wherever Ren was when the spell happened and we should have Ren here in Sunnydale in *Buffy's* body"
"Now the other question is" Giles said, "Why would someone have wanted to change that?"
Tay and Spike both sat watching the monitor that showed Giles' home. Spike sighed and slouched back further into his chair.
Tay turned to him "Spike, if this is boring you, why don't you go check on our new house guest?"
"No fun 'til she wakes up" Spike said. His eyes flicked back up to the monitor "Hey. What are they doin' now?"
Tay looked as well "Seems like they found something" she motioned for Spike to be quiet and got up, going to stand directly in front of the screen. "Huh" she said after a few moments silence "Would have thought they'd have seen that sooner. It's bloody obvious."
"What is?" Spike asked, getting up and going to her side "How do you know what they're sayin'?"
"It's called lip-reading Spike" Tay said "Handy when these things have no sound."
"Well what have they figured out that was bloody obvious then?"
"The anomaly with the switching."
"I take it you're not worried by the fact they know this then luv?"
"Hardly. They'll be too busy trying to figure out *why* someone would want to change the spell to realise it's not even the spell they think it is"
Spike grinned "I also take it you're going to do everything you can to keep them thinking they're on the right track then?"
"Too bloody right" she grinned back "Next thing I have to worry about is when the Watcher decides to call your friend."
"Angel is *not* my friend" Spike said, "Anyway, he hasn't called him yet. I checked the phone records like you showed me. I'm guessing it won't be long before he does though."
"You're right. I can think of something though."
"You'd better. I don't want that bloody wanker showing up 'ere and spoilin' me fun"
"He won't" Tay said, "I'll make sure of that"
"Good" Spike replied "And while we're on the little subject of people we don't want here, what are you gonna do if little sis shows up?"
"I've set up sentry spells. Even if she does get wind of this, she won't get within twenty miles of this two-bit town without me knowing about it" Tay looked back up at the screen "Guess I'd better get going" Tay turned around and walked out of the bedroom and Spike followed her.
Tay picked up a small object off the coffee table "I'll take this" she said, showing Spike the pager she now held "It's on vibrate. You're the only one who has the number" Tay handed him a slip of paper with the number on it "You call that when the Watcher rings Angel"
Spike gave her a mock salute "Will do" he said, "Have fun"
Tay grinned back then headed towards the door "I'll try and get back later."
When Tay left, Spike shook his head and shoved the scrap of paper into the pocket of his jeans "That's me. Spike the Lackey" Spike searched around for his cigarettes. Finding them on the kitchen counter, he took one out and lit it. He took a long drag on it and exhaled slowly "And if she hadn't promised me a few things, I'd tell 'er where she could shove it."
(A little later that day)
~Buffy knocked once on Giles' door before entering. "Hey" she said "Only me."
"Hey" Xander said, getting and going over to her "I was getting worried about you"
"I kinda lost track of time" ~Buffy said, letting Xander guide her to an empty seat amongst the others. Xander took the bag she had and ~Buffy sat down "I just started walking. It was nice. I know it's not going to change the situation but I think I just needed… y'know" she smiled at Xander "How are you?"
"I'm OK" Xander sat down next to her "Where'd you go?"
"The park mostly, then through town. I thought maybe… a little retail therapy" she gave them all a quick smile "Didn't really work like it usually does… but at least I now have pants that fit" she smiled a little wearily at the others "Anything new?"
"One thing" Giles said "The spell, it seems, was altered somehow. Altered to make *you* stay here but to swap bodies. Technically you shouldn't be *here*"
"I should have gone where Ren was?" ~Buffy replied.
Willow nodded "Uh huh" her face then saddened a little "We still haven't heard anything from her"
"I gathered" ~Buffy said, "Not looking good is it?"
"Oh now don't say that" Xander said, taking her hand "We'll sort this out."
~Buffy squeezed his hand "I know " ~Buffy sighed "I'm going to go tell mom later. I-I don't know how long this" she gestured to herself "Is going to last. She should know even if we get this sorted out tomorrow" she turned to Xander "Will you come with me?"
"Of course I will" Xander said, "You didn't even have to ask you know"
~Buffy leaned against him and Xander put an arm around her shoulder "Thanks" she said, "I really don't know how she's going to take it"
"I'm sure she'll take it in her stride" Giles said "Have you… told her about the… other thing?"
"Other thing?" ~Buffy looked confused.
Xander cleared his throat "I kinda mentioned about our change in relationship"
"Oh" ~Buffy smiled and batted his knee playfully "We were supposed to tell them together" she looked at the others "So what do you guys think?" she asked hesitantly.
"I'm happy for you Buffy" Willow said, smiling "Really."
"Yeah, congratulations" Tara said, "It's really great."
"Well it was a bit of a shock at first" Giles admitted "But" he smiled "I have no doubts you two will be very happy."
"Thanks. Everyone… you guys" ~Buffy smiled "It really means a lot."
"It'll all work out Buffy, you'll see" Willow said.
"Oh I know it will" ~Buffy said, "I know it will."
(Later that evening) (Summers Residence)
"You sure you don't mind?" ~Buffy asked.
"I already told you that I don't mind Buffy" Xander said, stepping back on to the veranda "Your mom's in shock, of course you should stay."
~Buffy leaned against the doorframe "I just thought…"
"Buffy, it's OK"
"I'll come by in the morning," she said.
"Oh… um. I'm-I'm actually working" Xander said apologetically "It'll have to be lunch. I'm sorry."
"You can't call in sick again?"
Xander shook his head "Not really. I wish I could. Look" he said taking her hand "If you do need me for anything. Just call, OK?"
"OK" ~Buffy said, "I'll be at Giles' anyway in case you need to call me."
Xander smiled and brought her hand to his lips and kissed the back of it "I'll see you tomorrow"
~Buffy smiled back "Love you."
"Love you too" Xander dropped her hand and gave her a little wave before heading back down the path.
~Buffy watched him for a few moments before quietly shutting closing the door.
"You know, you two girls should really go home" Giles said to Willow and Tara who were still pouring over his books "I don't think we're going to find anything new tonight"
Willow closed her book "I know. You're right Giles. I just think… keep thinking we'll find something… or-or hear something from Ren."
"I know Willow" Giles said "But until I hear from… anyone… we're at a dead end."
"Did you call Angel?" Willow asked.
"After I spoke to Buffy, yes, I called him" he replied "Buffy said that it would be stupid not to, but-but she didn't want me to tell him why we wanted someone"
"I guess she didn't want him coming down here, huh?" Willow said "What with her and Xander…" she trailed off.
"What did Angel say?" Tara asked, "What did you tell him?"
"I told him we needed someone who could perform the spell. That it was urgent and for a friend. He couldn't think of anything or anyone off hand, but he said he'll keep on it."
"Oh well that's good then" Willow said. Then she yawned "I guess there really isn't anything we can do."
"No." Giles said, "Hopefully it'll be clearer in the morning."
(Back at the Summers residence)
Joyce did a double take as ~Buffy walked into the kitchen "Hey… Buffy."
~Buffy gave Joyce a warm smile "Don't worry mom. I've been doing it all day."
"It must take a little getting used to " Joyce said "But… but I guess this it what happens when you live… well, where we live" Joyce walked over to ~Buffy. She took a strand of ~Buffy's dark, almost black hair and twirled it between her fingers "It's a powerful spell, huh?"
"Yeah. It is."
Joyce sighed and tucked the strand of hair she held behind ~Buffy's ear "Who'd want to do this?" she asked "*Why* would someone do *this*?"
"That's what we're trying to figure out" ~Buffy replied.
"What about the person you swapped with. This friend of Xander's. Can she do anything?"
"We don't know where she is. We haven't heard from her yet" ~Buffy sighed "And she wasn't just his friend. She was his ex."
Joyce raised her eyebrows "Oh. I-I didn't realise" she paused "It must make it harder. On you both."
"A little" ~Buffy said "But we're both adult. We're OK"
"I'm glad," Joyce said with a small smile "You and Xander… you're so much in love. He's good for you and you for him."
"Thanks mom that means a lot" ~Buffy smiled "Xander has been really great. If it wasn't for him… I don't think I'd be doing half so well."
Joyce smiled back and placed a comforting hand on ~Buffy's shoulder.
//Not half so well at all// Tay thought as she let Joyce lead her into the sitting room.
(Later that night)
Tay laid on her back on top of Buffy's bed. Her eyes were closed but she wasn't asleep. She was listening for the sounds that would indicate that Joyce had fallen finally asleep.
Tay didn't have to wait much longer. As soon as she could identify the rhythmic breathing and the slightly slowed heartbeat, Tay opened her eyes and looked at the clock on the bedside table.
"Jeez" she said softly "Half one in the morning. Its about bloody time."
Tay sat up and looked at her surroundings. She didn't need to examine anything; Tay had been in here enough times over the past two months to know it well. Tay got off the bed and went to the window, which she'd opened previously to avoid it making a noise now. She sat on the ledge, swinging her legs over so they were dangling on the outside before pushing herself off and dropping silently to the ground.
Tay made her way quickly across town, using the lesser-populated routes, to the apartment she and Spike were working out of. Not bothering to knock on her own door, she let herself in.
"Spike" she hissed as she shut the door behind her "Spike?"
"You don't have to whisper pet," Spike said, flicking on a light as he emerged from the bedroom that housed the monitors.
"Yeah well I don't want to go annoying the neighbours" she said, "The less people notice us the better."
"Well we wouldn't have had neighbours if you'd have had this operation working out of a nice little crypt" Spike pointed out "I like a nice crypt."
"Spike, I told you this before. The reason why your 'Death to the Slayer' schemes never worked is because the moment the little munchkins get wind of any big bad happening, the first places they check out are the cemeteries, crypts and the abandoned warehouses. And *where* is the *last* place they're going to check, huh?" Tay gestured to the luxurious apartment they both stood in "This place. This nice, respectable establishment with fantastic views and no overpowering stench of death."
Spike shot her a look "Whatever" He pulled Tay to him and wrapped his arms around her waist "No problems getting away tonight?"
"None" Tay replied "I'm staying at mommy dearest's tonight and she's out like a light"
"So how long can you stay then?" Spike gave her a suggestive look "Time for a quickie?"
Tay grinned and grabbed a handful of his hair, pulling Spike closer to her before devouring his lips in a kiss, but any further groping broke off abruptly when they heard a groan from one of the other rooms. They both exchanged glances and Tay pushed Spike to the side as she went to investigate the sound.
"Tay" Spike said as he followed her into the room "I thought you said she wouldn't be coming around at least until *tomorrow* evening!"
"She shouldn't be."
"All right. *Why* is she coming around?! You said she wasn't-"
Tay waved her hand in an arc infront of Spikes face and Spike suddenly found himself unable to speak.
"Sorry, but I need to think here," Tay said. She moved to the side of the bed on which their captive lay with her hands and feet chained to the corners of the bed "She's semi-conscious" Tay stated "She must be stronger than I thought" Tay walked around to the other side of the bed. She looked at Spike and waved her hand in an arc again, allowing Spike to speak.
"*That* wasn't very nice" he said "And what do you mean 'stronger than you thought'? I thought you allowed for Slayer strength" Spike went to Tay's side "Can't you just shoot her up again?"
"Not much point" Tay replied "She won't be going anywhere anyway" she indicated the chains that bound their captive's limbs "These I... *prepared* myself. She would *definitely* need twice her Slayer power to get out of these" she paused and raised an eyebrow at Spike "And considering I don't even intend to keep her at half her usual power..."
"We should be OK" Spike finished "Well that's all lovely and good but what the hell are we supposed to do with her now? We were working to a schedule that involved her *not* being awake yet remember?"
"*Yes* I *know* that Spike, but the way things are going it doesn't *matter*. They think that's it's some kind of Cathanian transfer spell that has *swapped* them over. Spike, they've accepted that I'm *her*" Tay indicated Buffy on the bed "So we've fast forwarded a little" she smiled when Buffy's eyes began to flutter open "It doesn't change our plans"
"You'd better be right," Spike said.
Tay looked at him "You're really a glass half empty kinda guy aren't you?"
"Well over the past few years of knowing her" Spike pointed to Buffy, who still hadn't managed to get her eyes fully open "I don't set my expectations quite so high."
The chains clinked as Buffy began to try and move her arms. As if realising something was wrong, her eyes finally flew open, although her vision was still slightly blurry "Huh? What the..." she squinted and looked at the figures standing to her side. She pulled on the chains "What the hell is this?"
"She's not very bright is she?" Tay said to Spike.
"I always had doubts" Spike replied.
Buffy recognised the male voice. She blinked a couple of times and then focused in on his blond hair "Spike. I am so gonna kick your ass when I-" Buffy broke off when she saw the woman standing next to him "Ren?"
"'Fraid not" Tay said. She smiled and held out her hand "Name's Tay" she gave Buffy a mock apologetic look and pulled back her hand "Gee sorry forgot" Tay clapped her hands together "Right. We're going to be your hosts for the duration of your stay here. If you should need anything-"
"What do you want?" Buffy interrupted "Why have you done this to me? *How* did you-"
"I'll answer your first two questions later" Tay said "As for the third... I merely shot you with a tranquilliser when you went to investigate that rather splendid light show I put on for you and your friends benefit."
"Where's Xander?" Buffy asked "If you've so much as-"
"Your little boy toy's fine" Spike said.
"What have you done to him?!" Buffy wrestled with her chains again, but to no effect.
Tay smiled "I haven't done anything. Yet."
Buffy scowled at her "You won't get away with this. They'll come looking for me and when they find-"
"They won't come looking for you" Spike said, grinning evilly "They don't even know you're missing"
Tay chuckled "Oh look Spike she's all confused" Tay sat on the edge of the bed "You see Buffy. They don't know you're missing" she smiled "Because they all think *I'm* *you*"
"This is the clever part" Spike said "They all think you've switched bodies with this Ren bird" Spike grinned "Tay here was very convincin'. All she had to do was insist that she was poor little Buffy all trapped inside someone else's body."
"Someone else being Ren" Tay added "And to top it off, they all think it was a big, powerful spell that changed us over when in reality it was an aura changing spell. I now have your aura, your natural energy as it were. And it's strong enough to convince your friends that I'm you."
"So how did you get Ren's body?" Buffy asked, "You steal that too?"
Tay shook her head "'Fraid not. Didn't have to borrow a thing" Tay waved her hand in an arc in front of Buffy's face so Buffy couldn't speak "Now I'm going to tell you a little story" she grinned "Stop me if you've heard it"
"I've 'eard it" Spike said "I'm going for a smoke" Spike smirked at Buffy before heading out of the bedroom.
"Now, I think you're familiar with this part... I think it goes something like 'Into every generation there is born…'" Tay smiled "But that's about as much as our stories are similar. Now, this will surprise you. I wasn't *born* a demon. Well, not whole demon, I had demon genes, they just laid dormant, but for all intents and purposes *I* thought I was human. Until I hit my 24th birthday. Then my world as I knew it suddenly turned all the darker. I get whisked away in the dead of the night and find myself in someplace filled with all kinds of creatures that I'd never seen before. Some had horns, some had more than one head, but y'know that's not really important here." Tay paused for breath "The main thing is *I* get told I'm a *demon*. Wasn't too impressed with that at first I can tell you. Then I get told I can choose... go back to a normal, human life or I can venture forth into a bright new world. A bright new world where I can have superpowers, never age and become virtually un-killable."
Tay ran a hand through her hair "Now I wasn't a very happy human. My *family* weren't the most well off of people and they had some very interesting views on life which, two hundred years ago, many people didn't take to kindly to, so we were basically outcasts as well. Not fun. So I think to myself 'Huh. Do I want to go back to a shitty life where as a woman I have no rights or say in anything? Or do I want to stay beautiful, become strong and try out this demon thing?'"
Tay grinned "Obviously I chose the demon thing. Now of course they didn't tell me what other choice I was going to have to make at that time. I found out a year later. The choice I could make was which path I would then walk. The North path or the South path. The North path, the Borealis, was the *good* path. You're still a demon but not the destroy the world kind. The perks with this path mainly consist of the power to self heal and to heal others. Very handy, especially as North's are used as guardians. The South path, the Australis, however is the *bad* path. The path where you don't fight the good fight, the path where chaos and mayhem happens. The fun stuff. You don't get the healing perk with this path but you get a chance to have a major skill in a certain area. You don't know which until you decide to take the path" Tay paused "I took the South path, which surprisingly not many Aurora demons do. My aptitude was magic. And I'm very, *very* good at it"
Tay sighed "Now I'm guessing you're wondering what this has to do with *anything*. Well I'll tell you. I wasn't the only one who was born into that generation. I had a twin and as twins do we shared the same genes. She chose to be a demon too but she took the North path" Tay grinned and waved her hand back in front of Buffy to allow her to speak.
"Ren" Buffy spat out.
"Yup. Serendipity's my little sis. My real name is Tranquillity. Stupid I know, but I said our parents were weird."
"Why are you doing this?"
"Because I can" Tay replied "And because it's fun."
"But *why*? What have *I* ever done to you?"
"Oh you've done nothing to me" Tay said "But occasionally I tune into my sister's thoughts" Tay leaned in closer to Buffy "Do you know how much she was hurting after you and Xander got together. She *loved* him and you just walked right in and took him away"
"She put you up to this?!"
Tay shook her head "Dippy doesn't know a thing about it. She still thinks I'm in Europe" Tay laughed "It's typical of her. As soon as she finds out where I'm causing trouble she just has to try and stop me. Trouble is, she just always ends up clearing up the mess."
"For her twin, you don't seem to like her much" Buffy said.
"I don't. She's annoying. Always was" Tay replied, getting off the bed "But I got to thinking a while ago about families and all that crap and I figured this would be a nice way for me to get some kind of revenge for her and hurt her at the same time"
"Thanks" Tay grinned.
"Y'know there's nothing stopping me from screaming the place down"
"Sorry Buffy, but I really don't see that happening. Soundproofed the room" Tay told her "By the way I wouldn't struggle too much in those chains. Save your wrists, you won't be getting out anytime soon."
"So now you're concerned for her welfare?" Spike asked, coming back into the room "You are a very strange person"
Tay turned to him and smiled "You're only just figuring that out, Spike?"
"Yeah" Buffy chimed in "And I think you're stretching it with *person* as well"
Spike grinned "Ooh the little Slayer's quite the wit isn't she?"
"At least I'm not a half wit like you." Buffy retaliated "Tell me Spike, what do you have to do with all this?"
"Spike just wants to see you dead" Tay replied for the Vampire.
"Too damn right" Spike said "Look Tay I'm going to check the screens. See what the others are up to" Spike smirked again at Buffy and headed off into the other room.
Buffy narrowed her eyes at Tay "Y'know, with any scheme that has Spike involved, it's going to go bad sometime" Buffy stared evenly at Tay "You won't get away with this. They'll figure you out. You won't fool them for long."
"Oh, but I don't intend on fooling them for *long*" Tay replied "I just intend to fool them for long *enough*" Tay walked slowly around to the foot of the bed "Y'know your boyfriend-" Tay broke off and grinned "Actually I guess I should say fiancé, right? Congrats by the way. You're a lucky girl. I can see what Dippy saw in him" Tay rested her hands on the bed rail and leaned forward "He's cute. Very cute. Eyes you could swim in" Tay laughed when Buffy struggled in her chains "He's the hardest to convince you know. But a well placed hypnotic suggestion never hurt anyone."
"You leave him alone" Buffy hissed "Don't you touch him."
"But he's so very touchable" Tay taunted "And after all I *am* his fiancée"
"Leave him alone!"
Tay walked round to the side of the bed again. She leant forward and whispered in Buffy's ear "Make me."
"I *will* kill you" Buffy hissed back when Tay walked away from her
"I look forward to it" Tay said, leaning against the door frame "Spike here" Tay added as said Vampire walked back in to the room "Will answer any more questions you have. Alas I now have to go before anyone misses me" Tay went to leave but stopped and turned back to Buffy "I hope your mother makes a good breakfast."
Spike grinned at Tay and she gave him a little wave before she left.
Buffy glared at Spike "So what does the monkey have to say now that the organ grinder's gone?"
"This is a *team* effort Slayer" Spike replied "I play my part"
"And what's that? Sidekick?" Buffy laughed in spite of her predicament "You're a joke Spike" she gave him a look of mock concern "Still having problems biting people?"
"That's none of your business. And your life, or what's left of it, will be a lot easier if you try not to piss me off."
"Oh please Spike. Let me piss you off. It's not like I've got anything else to do" Buffy rattled her chains pointedly
Spike simply smiled at her "Oh sure you do. You get to worry about what Tay's going to do to your boyfriend. Now that's something to look forward to isn't it?"
Xander couldn't believe how quiet and lonely his apartment was without Buffy. It wasn't like he hadn't spent night without her in the past, but this was… it was different.
Xander picked up a framed photo of himself and Buffy. It had been taken a few weeks ago. They were both sitting on the steps that led onto Joyce's veranda. Buffy was leaning against him; her head turned to him. They were both looking at each other like nothing else mattered in the world. Xander ran his thumb lightly over the picture and sighed sadly.
//What am I going to do if they can't be switched back?// Xander put the picture back down //She may be here in spirit but I want her here in body too//
Xander felt that what made it worse was the fact that if Buffy's body was nowhere to be found that meant something could have happened to Ren, and although Xander had been angry at her for not wanting to come back, he still missed her like crazy. Buffy had been right. He had felt guilty for missing Ren. He'd felt guilty for letting her leave the way she had and the fact he hadn't realised how deep her feelings ran for him until it was too late.
Xander wandered aimlessly into the kitchen. Flicking on the light, his attention was drawn to the small gift box on the kitchen counter. He picked it up and opened it. The earrings were still in it. Not forgotten, just overshadowed. Xander snapped the box shut and placed it back on the counter.
Xander wandered back out of the kitchen and in to the sitting room. He sank down on to the couch before leaning forward and buried his face in his hands. This wasn't supposed to be happening. He was supposed to be enjoying his engagement to the woman he loved, the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.
He just wanted all of her to be here.
Xander stood up. It was no good. He couldn't stay here tonight. Xander picked up his coat and a stake. //Let's just hope Giles is burning the midnight oil// Xander thought as he left his apartment.
Buffy shifted restlessly in her bonds. All her appendages were chained to the four corners of the bed. The chains ran through steel loops and were all joined at a central point underneath the bed. Buffy was raised only slightly with a pillow behind her back. She believed Tay when she said that she wouldn't be getting out anytime soon. Buffy could feel in herself that she wasn't all there. Her power that was, not her mind. No, she had full control over her mind and she knew that she was in the weaker position here.
Buffy glanced over at Spike briefly. He was lounging in a chair he had brought into the room. Spike wasn't saying anything. He was just quite content to sit there, chain smoking his cigarettes. So Buffy didn't say anything to him either.
Buffy didn't know how long she had been unconscious either. There were no clues in the room; no clock and she really didn't want to ask Spike. And not knowing how long she'd been out meant she didn't know how long Tay had been impersonating her. How long Tay had been with Xander. Buffy was *trying* not to think about *that*. But Buffy wasn't having much success.
And Spike had noticed.
"I see you've taken my advice" Spike said "That's good. I'm glad you're taking us seriously."
Buffy just glared at him. Spike smirked and continued "Just so you know. Tay's *very* good with her hands. I'm sure your boyfriend will find that out."
Buffy continued glaring "Just shut it Spike" she said evenly.
"Ooh, harsh words from the Slayer. I'm quakin'" Spike laid on the sarcasm thickly "What are you gonna do? Glare me to death?"
"Stranger things have happened."
"That they have" Spike replied "I mean, I bet you never thought you be in" he gestured around him "This position a little less than two days ago"
//Well at least I wasn't out for long// Buffy held Spike's look "So how long are you planning to keep me in this *position*?"
"Just long enough."
"Way to be vague Spike. Jeez, what? You're just gonna keep me tied up here? Why not just kill me?" Buffy then added cajolingly "Come on, y'know you wanna"
"True" Spike said "But there's a few things I wanna do before I get to the fun killin' part."
"And what's *that* Spike? You and what's-her-name going to throw a few barbed comments my way? Slap me about a bit? Come on *what*?"
Spike stood up and moved to the doorway. He looked at Buffy for a few moments, took a long drag on his cigarette before dropping it on the floor and stubbing it out with the toe of his boot. Spike didn't smile at her "It's simple Slayer. We're just gonna wait 'til Tay gets her hands *all* *over* your little boy toy. Gonna make you watch. Then we're going to make you watch her kill 'im. Gonna make you watch the expression on his face when he realises that his beloved killed him. And *that* Slayer, will be the *last* expression you ever see before we *end* you". Spike then smirked and walked out of the room.
Buffy stared after him before closing her eyes to hold back the tears that threatened to roll down her cheeks. But it didn't take long before they finally fell.
Spike sat down in one of the chairs in the other bedroom and looked up at the screen that showed the interior of the room with Buffy in it. He grinned with unadulterated glee when he saw Buffy unable to hold back her emotions.
Spike leaned back and put his hands behind his head //It's times like this that make unlife worth living//.
Xander rolled over in his sleep and promptly fell off Giles' couch onto the floor.
"Ow" he mumbled into the carpet.
"Morning Xander" came Giles' voice above him.
Xander pushed himself up onto his knees and looked up at Giles "Morning" Xander sat himself back on the couch "What time is it?" he asked.
"You've got time for a shower and food before work if that's what you mean" Giles replied and received a blank look off of Xander "It's half eight" Giles continued "Coffee?"
"Please" Xander swiped both hands down his face "Has there been any-"
"No" Giles cut him off "No calls."
Xander closed his eyes and slumped back in his seat "Crap."
"My sentiments exactly" Giles said as he headed into the kitchen "I find it very disturbing that amongst my many contacts in this area that nobody knows anyone that can perform the spell"
"What about if we try and find the person who cast it in the first place? You told me that Tara *felt* it. That she'd been having bad vibes before we even went on patrol. That means if Tara felt it that strongly- "
Giles stopped his coffee making "That whoever did this to Buffy could still *be* in Sunnydale?" Giles finished for Xander "I suppose it's possible. Highly unlikely but not impossible."
"What would someone need to do this spell? We could check to see who bought stuff to do it."
Giles left the coffee altogether and came back out to join Xander "It requires more actual *power* than ingredients. Of course you need the items of the person you want to switch and I think" Giles picked up an open book off the table and looked for the passage he needed "Uh, no. It just seems power and personal items *are* all it takes"
"So back to square one then?" Xander said gloomily.
"Maybe not" Giles said, "You've raised an interesting point. Willow and Tara are coming over again today. I can get them to check by the magic shop. See if anyone's bought anything unusual" Giles put the book down "Whoever it was may have been doing more spells of a different nature."
"What about Willy?"
"Buffy said she'd do that today" Giles sat down next to Xander "Ren *will* be OK Xander"
"Then why hasn't she got in touch?"
Giles sighed "Maybe… maybe she can't get to a phone."
"You're reaching Giles. She didn't even have to *call*. She could have just got on a plane and have *been* here by now"
"Xander you have to think positive. Buffy needs you to be positive about this whole thing. She needs all of us, especially you."
Three hours later and Xander had gone to work and Willow now resided at Giles' along with Tay in her Buffy persona. Willow and Tara had the same idea as Xander and Tara had already seen fit to enquire about any more than unusual purchases from the magic shop. There hadn't been any.
Tay had to stop from smiling when Willow had told her this //Well of course you wouldn't. My god, if someone went to all that trouble to do the spell they wouldn't go and buy stuff from the local magic shop to do it now would they? Well I wouldn't. Maybe some of the more stupid people they come up against have//
"Hmm?" Tay flicked her eyes up from the book she was pretending to read and looked at Willow. Tara and Giles had gone out on a food run an hour ago and Tay had been left with the redheaded witch.
"Are you OK?" Willow asked, "I-I mean apart from..." Willow trailed off.
Tay smiled "I'm fine Willow" she reassured the other girl "Why?"
"Oh.. I was just wondering... I thought since you hadn't said much about what happened with your mom last night..."
Tay closed her book and set it on the coffee table "Well mom didn't take it too well, but after Xander and I calmed her down she was a little better. She kept doing double takes of me all this morning... I don't think it's sunk in quite yet"
"Oh I know how she feels" Willow said, "You look like her but-"
"I have Buffy quality?" Tay finished for Willow and gave her a brief smile "Yeah that's what Xander said"
Willow set her own book down on the table "Giles said Xander stayed here last night"
"I know" Tay sighed "I called him earlier " she sank back further into the couch "I-I thought he'd be OK at his place. He said he would."
"Well Xander says a lot of things" Willow replied then her eyes widened as she realised how that sounded "Oh-oh I didn't mean about y'know.. I-I'm sure he meant-"
"I get what you're saying Willow" Tay tried not to smile too brightly "He's affected by this as much as I am"
"Buffy, you know he bottles things up. You have to remember to get him to talk to you about things."
"I know" //OK, so I didn't know. But I do now. Note to self. Talk to temporary boyfriend//.
Tay looked at the clock and Willow followed her gaze "Are you meeting Xander on his lunch break?" Willow asked.
"Yeah" Tay replied "I'm also wondering where Giles and Tara have got to."
"Oh, I think Giles mentioned going to have a look at the place where the switching badness happened" Willow told her "See if they could find any clues or anything."
//Not bloody likely// "What are they hoping to find?"
"Anything" Willow said, "Oh, also Giles said to ask you what you wanted to do about patrol tonight. He thought seeing as how we know you have no change in strength that it would be OK for you to go. If you wanted to," she added.
Tay thought about this briefly //OK, demon killing. Not really sociable to kill fellow demons but on the other hand I'm not going to get another chance to kick some butt. Plus you never know when one of this lot might choose to show up// "No" Tay said, "Patrolling won't be a problem."
"Do you want us to come?"
"I think I can manage" Tay said, "You don't mind do you? It's just I think if I can get out on my own, do some violence, it might clear my head a little. Y'know gain some focus, some semblance of normality"
"Not a problem for me" Willow replied "You might have some convincing to do with Xander though"
"Don't worry" Tay replied "I can convince him"
Tay had met Xander for lunch and they had relocated from the restaurant to a nearby park. Currently they were seated next to each other on the grass under the shade of a tree and Tay had decided to repeat to Xander what she had said to Willow about patrolling that night
"You don't mind do you? It's just I think if I can get out on my own, do some violence it might clear my head a little. Y'know gain some focus, some semblance of normality"
Xander raised an eyebrow "Normality?"
"Well, more like keeping to the same routine" Tay replied.
"Buffy I really think I should come with you."
"I don't. Have you seen yourself honey? When Willow told me Giles said you looked like hell this morning, I didn't believe her but-"
"Gee thanks Buffy" Xander rolled his eyes and laid on his back.
"Hey I didn't mean it in a *bad* way Xander" Tay moved on to her side facing Xander and she propped herself up on her elbow "That was supposed to be my concerned voice"
Xander looked at her and Tay smiled warmly "I'm concerned about you" she continued and Tay placed her free hand on his chest and began playing with a button on his shirt "You've barely been sleeping at all recently"
Xander closed his eyes "'Cos of the dream" he stated "Guess we know now what that was about"
Tay stopped playing with the button and placed her hand flat on Xander's chest //Thank the dark lord for lip reading// "Guess we do" Tay replied softly "I'm not *all* here like I promised, huh?"
Xander's eyes flew open and he placed his hand on top of hers "Hey, *that's* *not* your fault" Xander met her eyes "We didn't have *any* idea what was going to happen"
"No. I-I guess not" Tay moved herself closer to Xander so she was practically leaning against him.
"*Not* at *all* Buffy, OK?" Xander said firmly "We couldn't have stopped any of this" he gave her hand a reassuring squeeze "We just have to concentrate on fixing this"
"Yeah" Tay smiled warmly
Xander did a double take when she smiled. Just for a second he thought of Ren and how many times he had that same smile from her. //But it's not her you moron. It's *Buffy*//
"Guess I should be getting back" Tay continued, but she didn't move away from Xander "Giles and Tara hadn't got back by the time I left and I've left Willow by herself" Tay paused "What time do you finish tonight? You didn't say."
"Not until late. They sprung a double shift on me. I tried to get out of it" Xander said, "I really want to be helping you guys. But Giles told me this morning that there was nothing that I could do so... here I am working and still feeling useless"
"Hey, enough of that" Tay said softly and pulled her hand from Xander's hold and brought it up to cup his cheek "We've practically exhausted all means of research and research material, not too mention wacky ideas of how to do this spell a different way. We just keep covering the same ground" Tay moved her hand from his cheek and began to brush her fingers through his hair //Lets butter the kid up here// "You're not useless. We're all doing what we can, OK?" she smiled at him again.
"OK" Xander complied. He studied her for a few seconds "I thought you were going"
"It's nice here" she murmured, holding his gaze.
"Nice?" Xander's lips twitched up at the corners.
"Mm hmm" Tay smiled and lowered her lips to his, placing a quick kiss on them. She pulled back and smiled again "Nice."
Giles took one last hopeful look round the grassy area by the mausoleum where they'd been two nights previously.
Giles sighed and then turned to Tara "I can't see anything here at all" he said, "It's like nothing happened "
"I don't like it" Tara said, "It's not right"
"I agree" Giles replied "Perhaps we can talk to Buffy see if she noticed anything… more unusual" Giles began to head back towards where he had parked his car and Tara followed.
"I've been trying to think of reasons for the way you saw Buffy when you and Willow contacted the nether realm" Giles continued "There isn't much in my books that describes why things may appear different I'm afraid"
"There wasn't anything?"
"There were a couple of instances where they mentioned that someone tampering with the realm could cause-"
"You can't *tamper* with it Mr Giles" Tara interrupted then she gave Giles a sheepish look "I-I'm sorry but I don't think it's something you *can* tamper with"
"I-I didn't mean with the *actual* realm" Giles explained "I meant that someone could *change* the way someone *else* saw it"
Tara thought about this "If someone did do that" she said after a while "Then this whole thing just got a lot more confusing"
Buffy wished that Spike would come back into the room again. At least if he was there she would have some one to verbally take her anger and hurt out on. Buffy didn't want to be left alone with her thoughts.
Her thoughts hurt. They made her ache. She wanted Xander. Wanted to see him, touch him. Tell him not to believe Tay. Tell him to stay away from the psychotic bitch.
But she could do none of these things.
So Buffy was still left with her thoughts.
Tay had parted from Xander just over half an hour ago and now she was slowly making her way back to Giles’. She was taking her time because she really had no wish to get back to that little group and make small talk with them while they all discussed the ins and outs of Tay’s little spell. Tay already knew everything about it and she was getting tired of them repeating the same stuff to each other over and over again //And if that Watcher complains one more time about people not calling him back I’ll beat him to death with the damn phone//.
A sign outside a building on the other side of the street caught her eye "Willy’s Place" she said softly under her breath "The guy I’m supposed talk to" //Well, no time like the present and all that// Tay checked for traffic before finally crossing the road. She figured the place would be open and she was right.
Not wanting to be in the place and only going in on the off chance that one of the Slayer’s friends might check, Tay went in. Willy had recognised her as Ren and had addressed her as such. Tay just asked whether he had seen anything or heard anything unusual about the Slayer (Thinking that it might be useful to know which demons knew what was going on). Willy hadn’t wanted to say much but after Tay threatened to rip out his spine he mentioned that one of his patrons had seen the light show she’d put on at the graveyard the other night.
Realising that this was all that Willy knew Tay made to leave but she was grabbed from behind by two larger than unlife Vampires, one of whom then span her around and smashed his fist into her jaw, sending her crashing to the floor. But before the other vamp could deliver his blow, both of Tay’s arms shot out in front of her and an invisible force flowed from her hands and connected with both Vampires, sending them flying back across the room. They both hit the wall hard and slid to the floor, unconscious.
Tay spat out some blood and as she stood up she rubbed her jaw "I’m very adverse to getting hit" she said "If anyone else tries it I shall be forced to get violent" she pointed to the two still unconscious vampires "If you think that was bad then you haven’t seen me really angry" Tay turned to Willy "You really should do something about your decor. I think it attracts the wrong type of clientele" she gave him a saccharine smile and walked out of the bar.
(Later that night)
"You want to do *what*?" Xander sat down heavily on to Giles’ couch. Xander had just finished work and had gone straight to Giles’ to find out if there had been any news. Willow and Tara were listening from the kitchen as they prepared drinks.
"I want to try and find Ren" Giles repeated "The letter she sent a month ago came from Spain. Some place just over the border. I can ask around. See if anyone recognises seeing anyone matching her description *and* Buffy’s. If that doesn’t work out, I can try a little further afield" he sighed "I've finally heard back from the only promising leads on finding someone to do the spell and no of them panned out" Giles continued "I’ve already booked the flight. I go tomorrow morning. I fly from Los Angeles to London then to Gerona."
"Are you really sure you can find her Giles?" Willow asked.
Giles sighed "I have to try."
"Does Buffy know about this?" Xander asked.
"No she doesn’t" Giles replied "I was hoping you might tell her. Perhaps sometime tomorrow? After I’m gone."
"Way to be brave Giles" Willow commented.
"Do you really think she’d object to you going Mr Giles?" Tara asked.
"I don’t know Tara" Giles answered truthfully "But I think it would be easier if I just went. Less complicated" Giles looked back to Xander "And she’s less likely to yell at you."
Three hours later a T-shirt and boxer clad Xander lay atop his bed and propped up by a pillow. He was looking out of his window at the stars twinkling in the nearly midnight black sky.
Xander yawned and looked at the clock beside his bed. It was eleven in the evening. Xander yawned again //Buffy said she'd be back by now//. Xander rearranged the pillow behind his back so he laid flat with his head on it //I wish I'd gone with her// Xander sighed //But I promised her I wouldn't intrude on her need to clear her head//.
Xander closed his eyes and soon he felt himself drifting off to sleep.
Tay closed Xander's door quietly. She could see a dim light shining from underneath the bedroom door and her more sensitive hearing told her that Xander was asleep.
Tay took off her jacket and threw it on the couch before she kicked off her shoes. She padded barefoot to the bedroom and opened the door slowly, revealing a peaceful looking Xander lying on his back on the bed.
Tay walked up to the bed and sat on the end of it. She studied Xander's face, which was lit slightly by the soft orange glow from the bedside lamp. //Well my little sis sure can pick 'em. Too cute for words, this one//.
Tay smiled //It's going to be so much fun breaking him//.
Xander stirred only slightly when his radio alarm went off. Half awake, he soon realised that he wasn't able to move very much. Xander opened one bleary eye and found the reason. There was fully clothed, dark-haired woman with her head resting against his chest and one leg of hers entwined with one of his.
Xander did his zillionth double take over the last two days and he felt his heart quicken before realisation set in and it slowed again. He managed to get one arm from underneath her body before putting it around her and pulling her gently closer to him. With his other free arm Xander reached out and intended to hit the snooze button on his alarm. Unfortunately he missed and knocked the volume control, turning the radio up.
"Noise… bad" a muffled female voice said.
"Sorry" Xander managed to turn the volume down "I thought you were asleep"
Tay shifted slightly so she could raise her head to look at Xander "I woke up about twenty minutes ago. I was just dozing."
Xander moved the hand that was near her waist up to her hair and began stroking her hair absently "I thought you were going to wake me when you got back from patrol"
"You were asleep."
"Hence the waking."
"Honey, I told you yesterday that you needed to sleep. And you were, so I didn't wake you" Tay looked at the clock which told her the time was ten minutes past nine "You don't have to work this morning?"
"This afternoon" Xander answered.
"OK" Tay yawned "How goes everything on the research front? Are we all headed over to Chez Giles this morning?"
"Ah. Uh… well we'll be there but… Giles won't."
Tay frowned "What do you mean?"
Xander sat up so Tay had to move to sit beside him "At this very moment Giles is boarding a plane. He's going to Spain. To try and find Ren."
"He went to Spain….?" Tay trailed off "Why Spain?"
"That's where the letter that Ren sent came from. He's going to follow up what leads he can"
"But what if he does find her? What then? We still need someone to do the spell."
"That's where we come in. Giles hasn't had any luck with any of his contacts but he told us to keep trying and to take no prisoners."
"Maybe Ren'll know someone" Tay said //But by the time the Watcher finds her, even if she still is in Europe, it'll be too late fore his precious little Slayer and her boyfriend//.
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