The New Adventures of Buffy and Xander
Episode Eight: "Dance with the Devil - Part One"
Summary:Buffy and Xander find that things are spinning way out of their control.
Xander started when he suddenly found himself no longer attached to Buffy's lips, but instead found himself seated at a large, oak desk that was covered in pieces of paper - documents Xander realised when his eyes adjusted to the dim light, the only lamp turned on in the room being the bankers lamp on the desk.
The desk he sat at was just off centre in the study he was in, the walls of which were lined with bookcases, all filled with old and dusty volumes of some text or other. The only window in the room was behind Xander and it was framed with plain brown and slightly worn curtains. A few end tables were against some of the bookcases; one had a dying potted fern, one had a stack of telephone directories on it; two had piles of newer looking books piled on them; and one other hand a framed picture of possibly some one's family. In the one place on all four walls that wasn't a door or a window, was a black, rickety looking filing cabinet
One thing that wasn't in the room was Buffy.
Xander pushed his chair back and got up from the desk. "Buffy?" he called out softly. "Buff?"
There was no answer.
Xander moved from behind the desk and headed towards the door. He tried the handle and the door opened easily, leading him on to a dark corridor. Xander left the study door open to give him some light as he walked cautiously out, trying to adjust his eyes and see where he was.
He carried on a few more steps, studying the walls to see if he could make out a light switch, but had no luck. All he could see was the peeling wallpaper. "Buffy?" he called softly again. He waited a few moments for an answer, but when there was none he tried calling Sean.
There was no answer from the hologram either.
Xander continued along the dark corridor. The light from the study was quickly fading and Xander couldn't see any light further up.
No one answered.
"Xander?" was the first thing Buffy said once she opened her eyes, realising that Xander was no longer before her.
He didn't answer.
Buffy looked around the room - she was the only one in it. Frowning, Buffy looked down at what she held in her hands, a large sketch pad with a half finished pencil drawing of somebody Buffy had never seen before on it. Buffy placed that and the pencil she had also been holding to one side of the bed she was sitting in the middle of.
Buffy cast another look around the room. It was a bedroom, decorated in a colonial style - lots of blues and creams and dark woods, the light provided by a bright bedside lamp. The bed she was sitting on was a large four poster with cream drapes that ran along the top frame and down around the posts. Against the walls stood a large wardrobe, a bookcase, a dressing table with perfumes and cosmetics scattered over it, framed pictures - some pencil sketches and some water colours hung on the walls as well as a large, guilt framed mirror. Most of the left wall was taken up with a large bay window over which currently hung heavy dark blue curtains and through a tiny gap in them Buffy could make out the black night sky and a fragment of a bright white moon.
"Xander?" she called out to the room again, hoping that he'd come through the door. Still there was nothing. "Sean?" she tried "Sean, get your holographic butt down here." Buffy waited a moment but no one appeared.
Beginning to get a little worried, Buffy got up off the bed and walked to the door. She tried the handle and found that the door was shut tight. Buffy checked for a key in the lock and ended up peering through the keyhole, finding one… on the other side of the door. The door had been locked from the outside.
Buffy banged her fist hard against the heavy wooden door. "Hey! Hello?" Buffy hit the door again "Anyone there? Hey, come on let me out." Buffy stood back from the door, staring at it. "Xander?" she tried "Come *on*. *Any*one?" Buffy hit the door a third time and waited, but no one answered or rushed to her aid.
"This is ridiculous" Buffy exclaimed, "What the hell is going on here?" Buffy quickly headed to the window, pushing the curtains aside so she could see out of the window. All she could make out were trees highlighted by the moonlight and in the distance she could see a large cluster of lights that seemed to indicate that there were near a residential area. Buffy tried the catches to try and open the side windows, but they were stiff and wouldn't budge. She tried the sash window in the middle, but that wouldn't move either. But that wasn't just stiff - it had been nailed shut.
"O-kaay" Buffy took a step back from the window, "Getting slightly worried here." Buffy took another couple of steps backwards and caught the backs of her legs against the bottom end of the bed, making herself jump a little. She turned quickly as a result and finally caught sight of her self in the mirror.
Her reflection showed a tall, willowy, plain looking woman with long, wavy, dark hair who looked as if she was in her late twenties. She was dressed in a long black skirt and a pale blue blouse; a thin silver chain hung around her neck. Buffy took a step closer to the mirror when she noticed a faint red mark just the woman's neck met her left shoulder. Buffy pulled back the collar of the blouse to see more clearly and saw the red mark was faintly purple in places. Frowning, Buffy slipped the blouse off her shoulder and turned, twisting her neck so she could see the back of the shoulder in the mirror and saw three similar red marks on the skin there.
Still frowning, Buffy pulled the blouse back up and stared back into her reflections brown eyes for a moment before she went back over to the door and hit her fist on it again. "Hello?!" she shouted "Anybody!"
Deathly silence apart from the sound of Buffy's bare foot kicking the bottom panel of the door.
"Crap! Ow!" Buffy hopped back to the bed and sat herself down, bring her foot up onto her lap and rubbing it gently with her hands. "This is wonderful" she muttered to herself "I've gone from having the run of a huge mansion, to being locked in a room and one I probably didn't want to go in judging by the marks on this woman's shoulder". Buffy sighed "And I'm all by myself."
Buffy stopped massaging her foot and sank back on to the bed. She closed her eyes and sighed again. Buffy brought her hand to her mouth and gently touched two fingertips to her lips briefly before letting her hand rest on her stomach.
"Where are you Xander?"
Xander was, in fact, trying to open his own window in the study. It wasn't nailed shut like the window in Buffy's room; it was just stuck. He'd gotten it open at least three inches, but after that the sash window had refused to move anymore.
After a couple more minutes of trying, Xander gave up. He sat back down heavily in the leather-upholstered chair by the desk and sighed. "Sean?" Xander called weakly, more out of habit now than in hope that the hologram would actually appear - which he didn't, needless to say.
"Maybe I should turn my thoughts to the more simpler task of wondering why I decided to kiss Buffy" Xander muttered sarcastically to himself. He groaned and covered his face with his hands before pushing them pushing the up over his forehead and leaving them clasped atop his head. Xander swivelled himself and the chair around so he was facing the window and stared out at the night sky.
He couldn't see much; just the tops of trees, moonlight glancing off the bare uppermost branches and in the distance he could just make out a group of flickering lights on the horizon. A few stars shone dimly out from behind the many clouds; only the moon appeared bright against the blackness.
Xander took a deep breath and found himself breathing some fresh air that wafted in from the small gap in the window, before he exhaled slowly, letting his hands fall to the arms of the chair. "So… thoughts about kissing Buffy…" he mused "OK, first one… which is probably that I didn't *think* at all. Two; she's my best friend, one of them anyway. I don't go around kissing best friends. Anymore." Xander sighed. "Three; In the moment… it felt… right?… not *such* a bad thing?" he closed his eyes "And four…" Xander chewed on his bottom lip a little "Four… the fact that Buffy didn't seem to be going anywhere…"
Xander opened his eyes, staring out of the window again. "Another fact…" he continued "One fact I'm very clear about. That I have a girlfriend. One that I miss" he said softly. "One that I love."
He sighed. "In conclusion? I'm still as confused as hell."
Xander stayed sat infront of the window in reflective silence for a few more minutes before he thought he heard something outside the study. Something very much like the sound of footsteps on creaky floorboards.
Swivelling around slowly in his chair so that he was facing the door to the study, Xander hoped that the person he was about to get a visit from was Buffy. He didn't know what he was going to say to her if it was; he just wanted to know if she was OK.
But it wasn't Buffy.
Instead Xander was greeted by the sight of an elderly man who stood about half a foot shorter than Xander. The man had a band of thinning white hair that ran around the bottom half of his otherwise completely bald head. He also wore glasses that were currently perched half way down his large nose and he was dressed in a pair of dark grey trousers, a grey shirt and a black cardigan with leather patches on the elbows.
The man also carried a chipped mug of black liquid in one hand and a lit candle in a holder in the other; both of which were placed on the desk where there was a space amongst all the mess.
"I thought you could use one of these," the old man said.
"…Thanks." The smell of too strong coffee drifted under Xander's nose as he leant forward, his forearms resting on the desk. He nodded towards the candle "You managed to find your way here with just that?"
"I've lived here for years, Harry." There was a slight tremble in the man's voice. "I know every damn knothole in this place" he smiled a little "That's why I thought *you* might appreciate the light for later. Plus it saves on the electricity."
Xander offered a smile back. "It's appreciated."
The old man looked down at the documents on the desk. "Have you had much luck them?" he asked "I know your father left things in a bit of a mess and it was too much for me to take on…" he trailed off, looking at Xander oddly. "You aren't wearing your glasses?"
"Oh…" Xander's gaze flitted quickly over the desk before he spotted a pair of oval shaped, wire rimmed spectacles that sat on the desk by the lamp. He hadn't seen them before. Xander picked them up, just holding them infront of him. "Yeah, uh, had a little bit of a headache."
"Well just so long as you got a start on all this" the old man gestured to the papers spread out in front if Xander. He paused, his smile fading a little; his expression became more sincere "You know, I get the feeling your mother really is glad to have you here. No matter what she says."
"Well… that's good to know. Um…" Xander looked down at the papers; there were account sheets and what appeared to be land deeds and other official looking documents. He looked back up at the old man. "And this does look like it's going to be a big job…" Xander trailed off when the other man looked like he wanted to say something. "What is it?"
The older man scratched his head "Your mother… she-she didn't want you to know…"
"Its Maggie" the man lowered his voice as if expecting to be overheard. "She had another… episode… attacked your mother, or so your mother said. I wasn't there, I-I didn't see… but your mother wanted her taken to her room. She got Tom to help…"
"And why wouldn't my mother" Xander said, "Want me to know this?"
"She knows what you're like about the way she deals with Maggie" was the reply. "But the girl's not right, you know that." The old man paused, looking at his watch. "It's late. Maggie's probably asleep by now anyway. I know I should be…" he started towards the door.
"So why tell me if I wasn't supposed to know?" Xander got up and walked around the desk.
The old man turned to face him. "You're working so hard for this family, even after… well, you know" he gave Xander a sad look. "But this place has been falling apart for years. Maybe there isn't anything that can be done" the man raised a hand in a farewell "Good night Harry."
"'Night". Xander watched the old man start to leave before he looked back to the pile of papers on the desk. //Do I really want to stay here tonight?//. "Hey wait up" Xander took the candle off the desk, grabbing the spectacles as an afterthought, before turning off the lamp and hurrying after the other man. "You can tell me more about this thing with Maggie."
Xander saw the hesitant look on the other man's face as the candle light flickered across it. "There's not much more I can tell you Harry," the old man said in a low voice as they walked, Xander holding back just a little, letting the old man lead the way. "I wasn't there" the old man continued "I think its that your mother can see your sister going the same way as your father. She didn't know how to handle that either."
//Oh great// Xander thought //Just exactly what am I getting myself into here?//. Xander scratched absently at his head. "I don't suppose you have any ideas as to what I can do about it, do you?" he asked.
The old man chuckled "You've been here a week Harry and you're working almost night and day as it is and you want to take on counselling as well?" Another chuckle. "Maybe I'm wrong and it's not the genes, maybe it's just the house that makes the people here crazy."
//Crazy?// Xander groaned inwardly. //Oh boy//.
(One hour later)
"O-kaay" Buffy murmured quietly to herself as she crouched infront of the door, her eye line level with the keyhole. "This works in movies and books…" continued as she adjusted the sheet of paper she'd torn from the sketchpad and had placed on the floor under the door. "Just got to nudge it a little…." Buffy started to gently probe the keyhole with the implement she'd constructed (a hair grip straightened out and then fastened to the end of the pencil - as the pencil was too large to go through the key hole).
Buffy bit her lip a few moments later when she felt something hit the other end of the device. "Uh huh…not too hard…" Buffy began to chew on her lip as she pushed and twisted the device just a little and heard a faint sound of metal against metal. Hoping that it was the key actually moving out of the lock and pushed some more, finally hearing an audible click. Buffy smiled a self-satisfied smile "And thank you Giles for teaching me some non-Watchery skills."
//And help me avoid thinking about certain mackage between me and Xander. Damn!//. "Great" Buffy muttered, ending with a sigh. "And that lasted for all of ten minutes." Managing to focus her attention for a moment more on her current task, Buffy gave the key one final prod and felt it move and then heard it fall to the floor on the other side of the door. "*Please* let it have fallen on the paper" Buffy clasped her hands together and prayed to someone, *any*one who was listening.
Placing the makeshift lock pick on the floor, Buffy gingerly took hold of the edge of the sheet of paper and began to pull it towards her, all the time hoping that even if the key had landed on the paper, it was still small enough to get though the small gap under the door. "And then hopefully" she murmured "I can get myself out of here and try and figure out what the hell is going on here." //Not to mention finding Xander//.
Buffy stopped pulling on the paper when she heard something clink lightly against the door on the other side. "Score" Buffy hissed quietly, Buffy bent forward so her head was almost on the floor and so she could see under the door. She smiled. "Oh I'm good." Buffy sat back up again and pulled the paper the rest of the way through; complete with key.
She picked it up and then stood, just looking at the key. A slight frown crossed her face. "But then" she reflected "If I do find Xander…" she trailed off, chewing her bottom lip again. "Can I look him in the eye?"
Buffy sat down on the edge of the bed, toying with the key in her hand. "I can't even remember who kissed who." She smiled ruefully. "And would it matter anyway?"
Buffy knew it definitely wasn't something she'd planned. How could she plan something like that? Xander was her friend. A close friend. One who had a girlfriend. Who was an ex-vengeance demon. You definitely didn't plan to steal an ex-vengeance demon's boyfriend.
//Wait. *Steal*? Suddenly I've gone from just *kissing* to *stealing*?//. "Ughhh" Buffy groaned as she flopped backwards onto the bed. She put her hands over her face, key still in one hand, and sighed deeply. "Why me? Why does my life have to get complicated?"
Buffy spread her hands out to her sides and stared up at the ceiling. "Sean, if you're there, I'd really appreciate some advice".
Buffy waited. But there was no answer, no advice.
No advice that she would've been able to hear anyway.
"Buffy come on" Sean was beginning to sound anxious "I'm here OK? I don't have any advice on the kissing situation and what the hell am I doing?" Sean threw his hands up into the air. "You can't hear me!". Sean groaned loudly in frustration and then looked hopefully at Buffy as she still lay on the bed. "Can you?"
Buffy didn't answer. She didn't even acknowledge his presence.
Which just confirmed what Sean had known since he'd first got to both Buffy and Xander only a few minutes after they'd leapt into their new lives and hadn't been able to communicate with either of them…
… that there was something very wrong here.
Sean cursed under his breath and tapped a few keys on Gizmo's illuminated keypad, waited a few moments and then scoffed loudly at the information that returned. "Yeah, you don't say. Like I can't *tell*".
Sean sighed and tapped a few more keys. "I'm getting a sinking feeling here guys," he said. "And nobody is throwing out any life preservers."
Sean watched Buffy as she stared thoughtfully at the key and he wished he knew what was running through Buffy's head that made her place the key on the dressing table before she climbed back on the bed, pulling the blankets up around her and then laying her head on the pillows.
"Thinking things will be better in the morning huh, Buffy?" Sean pondered, still watching her as she closed her eyes. Sean sighed tiredly and gave a shake of her head. "You and me both Buffy" he said "You and me both"
(Early hours of the next morning)
Xander hadn’t been asleep for the last hour, yet he still lay with his head on the pillow and his eyes closed, hoping that any minute now would be the minute he’d fall asleep. His night had been restless, Xander spending most of his time tossing and turning, unable to catch more than an hour at a time of sleep.
If he was honest with himself, the reason for his restlessness wasn’t just the thought of not being in able to get in touch with Sean or apparently anyone from the project, it was also the prospect of what he was going to say to Buffy when they finally found each other.
Did ‘I’m sorry. I was a prick. Don’t hate me’ sound plausible enough?
//Maybe I should add the part about not telling my girlfriend//. With that thought Xander groaned, screwing his eyes shut as pinpricks of guilt started up in his head. //I *am* a prick// Xander sighed with resignation //Forgive me Ahn//.
Deciding that now he was *definitely* not going to get any sleep with the guilt he was feeling, Xander sighed again and kicked the bed covers away from himself. He’d not bothered to get undressed the previous night; simply kicking off his shoes and falling onto Harry’s bed and spending a good while staring at the ceiling and asking questions that he wasn’t getting answers to.
And now he opened his eyes to a room that seemed to depict his mood; the battleship grey of the paint on the walls and the dust that still clung to the skirting boards combined with the lack lustre furnishings seemed to set off the room’s whole despondent ambience.
From what he gathered from the old man the previous night, Xander knew that he - Harry - had only been in the house for a week and, it seemed, that Harry had come back home to try and sort out some family mess. Xander hadn’t been able to ascertain whether Harry’s father had died or had simply left the household and the family. Whatever the reason, Xander had been sure it hadn’t been a happy departure. In fact, nothing about this house seemed happy. Bleak, seemed to sum up everything quite well, Xander thought.
Xander stood up and looked around the room hoping that there was something for him to see his reflection in, but there was no mirror apparent. Deciding that maybe he should look into at least changing his shirt, Xander stepped over to the closet that stood against the wall by the one and only window in the room. Inside hung a selection of clothes; two half-decent looking suits, with plain and checked shirts in understated colours and a selection of dark trousers hanging alongside them. Xander pondered over them for a moment before picking out a simple grey shirt to replace the dark blue one that he wore now.
Xander changed as he took a chance to look out of the window. His view hadn’t improved since last night. He couldn’t even tell if he was still on the same side of the house. It was grey and foggy, there were still trees that covered most of the landscape and the ground was covered with an early morning frost.
"And somewhere around here is a vampire slayer" he murmured. Xander did up the final button on his shirt and turned away from the window, picking up his shoes and starting to put them on. "Now I’ve just got to find her."
Xander picked up Harry’s spectacles before opening the door and stepping out into the hallway. It was still dark but not enough that he couldn’t see. He made his way along the hallway quietly, thankful that no floorboards creaked underneath his feet as he passed a few closed doors. Xander was quite surprised at the size of the house; the hallway seemed to go on for a while before he found himself on a large landing from which two more hallway led off and a flight of stairs provided the way down to the next floor whilst up above there was a hatch in the ceiling to an attic.
Xander started to make his way down the staircase carefully. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to be discovered by those who lived in the house, Xander would just rather have the chance to look around by himself.
Once downstairs, Xander flicked on the lamp that sat on a table by the front door and began checking out the hallway. It seemed a little bit neater than the rest of the house; the walls were wood panelled and the floor was hardwood panels covered at the foot of the stairs with a red toned swirl patterned rug.
Xander ventured towards the room nearest to him and opened the door carefully. He stepped inside what he found to be a sitting room and was immediately greeted with the smell of stale cigarette smoke. Xander coughed a little as he went to the window and drew open the curtains and got his first view of what lay outside the front of the house. It wasn’t the view from his window; instead here he saw a large circular gravel driveway - a small grassy island in the middle and a road leading from the circle away from the house and disappearing into a mass of trees.
Xander turned back to the room. It wasn’t a big room - only about the size of the main part of Xander’s own apartment. It did seem to be well used though - a few personal odds and ends were scattered about, a blue pullover hung over the back of one of the sofas that faced the coal burning fireplace and a couple of china cups and saucers sat on a tray on the coffee table that sat between the sofa and the fire. There was also a large mirror that hung over the fireplace.
Xander made his way over to it and caught side of his head and shoulders in the reflective glass. Harry seemed to be the same build and about as tall as him, maybe an inch shorter. He had dark, almost black hair that hung in unruly waves around his face and on the nape of his neck and he had green eyes that seemed just a little too old to belong to the young man’s face. Harry wasn’t that attractive, some would say interesting looking and there were a few old acne scars on his cheeks and Harry's nose that had been broken and not set back quite straight. Xander took Harry’s glasses out of the top pocket of his shirt and put them on, surprised that he could see reasonably well out of them - Harry’s prescription didn’t seem to be that strong.
Xander took them off though and looked around the room again and, deciding that there wasn’t much more of interest, he went back into the front hallway again. He went into the room opposite and found it to be a dining room, a large oval table in the centre of the room surrounded by high backed chairs gave that one away. Xander walked around the table and tried the door that was in the corner near the back of the room - it was open and Xander stepped through into a small narrow passage way with another closed door at the other end a few feet away.
Xander tried that door to and found it opened into a large, rustic looking kitchen where he happened upon a young man just maybe a year or two younger than himself who seemed to be quite happy rummaging around in one of the many cupboards that lined the walls of the kitchen.
At the noise of the door opening and Xander’s footsteps on the stone tiled floor, the young boy turned around, almost tripping over the untied laces of his work boots. He was dressed in blue jeans and a tight black t-shirt, had pale skin and sandy, blond hair that fell over his face, obscuring most of his features.
"M-mister Grantham?" the young boy stuttered "I-I didn’t expect-" the young boy shook the hair out of his face "Anyone to be up this early. Even your grandfather doesn’t…" he trailed off "Um, did you want me for anything?" The teenager shifted awkwardly "’Cause your mom, I mean Mrs Grantham said I sh-should just get whatever you wanted"
"No, it’s fine" Xander smiled as he spoke, trying to ease the boy's obvious nerves. "I’m good. Don’t need anything. Just couldn’t sleep that’s all". Xander took a few steps closer towards the boy and gestured to the cupboard that the teenager had been searching through. "Do you need any help finding something?"
The teenager looked behind him to the cupboard and then back to Xander. "Oh, n-no. I thought I’d put something i-in there last night. I must have left it somewhere else when Mrs Grantham wanted me to help with Ma-" suddenly he stopped short and a guilty look flickered over his face. "I-I should really-" the teenager turned and started to gather up a couple of things from the counter top, not bothering to finish his sentence before bolting out of the kitchen and through a door that led to somewhere else Xander had yet to discover in the house.
"Uh huh" Xander stood still for a moment. "Well that was interesting. Obviously someone was very jumpy about me knowing he’d ‘helped’ Harry’s sister into her room last night." Xander walked the length of the counters, drumming his fingertips on the marble tops as he ran thoughts through his mind. "And that would probably make that guy Tom. The old man who I met last night is most likely Harry’s grandfather. So I’ve got a mother of the household to meet and an apparently crazy sister" Xander stopped and sighed and looked out of the kitchen windows, still not able to make out anything of interest - just more grass and trees.
Xander headed towards the door that Tom had gone through. The door was banging to and fro in a breeze and Xander pushed the door and found himself in a small porch that opened out onto the grounds at the back of the house, a path leading from the couple of steps from the porch and following the circumference of the house until it curved around the corner and disappeared out of sight.
Xander shoved his hands in his pockets and shivered against the slight breeze that swirled around him before starting along the path to see where it would take him.
Buffy stretched and yawned, pushing hair out of her face before sitting up in the bed, the covers pooling around her middle. "And don't I just love sleeping fully clothed." she muttered to herself, scratching her arm absently. "Ugh, OK, lets see what else this woman has got to wear. I'm not taking a shower in this place until I know what the hell is going on."
She yawned again as she got out of the bed and cast a quick look at the window and the grey morning that greeted her. "Yup. It looks about as cheerful outside as I feel."
Buffy took a pair of dark trousers and a thin, pale pink sweater from the wardrobe and grabbed some underwear from the chest of drawers by the bed and changed into them, leaving the other clothes on the bed. She grabbed the key from where she'd left it in the dressing table and was about to let herself out of the room when she heard voices on the other side of the door. Buffy held her breath and stepped back from the door and stood by the window, hoping that whoever it was wouldn't notice that the key was no longer in the lock the other side.
But whoever it was didn't notice and the voices began to head away from the room and became more distant. Buffy exhaled slowly. All she wanted to do was find Xander, she didn't need the aggravation of having to make small talk with people she didn't know and had also apparently locked her in this room.
Buffy ran a hand through her hair //But *where* do I start looking for Xander?// she asked herself //I don't even know where *I* am//. She sighed and turned to gaze out of the window and at the outside world. It was the same view as the previous night.
Except for the strangely familiar form that she spotted walking along a path just below where her window looked out.
Xander wished he'd swiped that pullover he'd seen in the sitting room earlier as he shivered again against the biting breeze that blew around him. He kicked a large stone and watched it tumble down the path. He thought it odd that the sound of the stone carried on even after it had stopped. Then he realised the sound was coming from above him.
Xander stopped and looked up, but couldn't see anyone or anything immediately so he took a step back and strained his eyes a little further.
Buffy was looking back down at him from the window above.
Xander felt his whole body fill with relief and a smile broke out on his face, all thoughts of awkwardness between the two of them forgotten for a while. He raised his hand in greeting and saw Buffy smile back down at him, raising her own hand in reply.
He thought he saw Buffy trying to say something to him, but he couldn't make out anything. He frowned and cupped his ear, shaking his head to let her know. Buffy then went to try and open a window and he saw the effort on her face; then she stepped back and shook her head. Buffy pointed to herself then downwards and then to Xander. He frowned again until he realised that she meant she was going to come to him. Xander nodded and indicated that he'd stay where he was. Buffy gave him a thumbs up sign and suddenly vanished from the window.
Buffy's whole mood had lifted. She hurriedly slipped on a pair of mules that she found by the door and, unable to hear any noises the outside the room, unlocked the door and stepped out onto the hallway.
"Geez, talk about your fixer'upper" Buffy mumbled as she got her first look of the house outside the room "Does no one around here know how to use a duster?"
Buffy slipped quietly past all the closed doors and made her way quickly to the large landing and then down the stairs, quickening her step even more when she heard another voice coming from somewhere above her on the first floor.
Once at the bottom, Buffy realised that she didn't know which way was going to be the fastest route to Xander. The front door was an option, but she worked out that the room she'd been in was somewhere nearer to the back of the house - and she didn't know where the back door was, or even if there was one. Buffy hedged her bets and tried the front door, flipping the latch back that locked it on the inside and stepped outside, closing the door quietly behind her.
Buffy headed along the path that ran along by the house, stooping as she passed windows, not wanting to be seen by anyone who might have happened to be inside. Someone obviously had good reason to have locked her, or whoever her reflection belonged to, in that room last night and Buffy guessed that whoever it was, wouldn't be too pleased that she was now roaming about outside.
The moment he saw her appear from around the corner, Xander felt that smile appear again on his face. "Hey" he greeted, closing the distance between them "Good to see you."
"Finally" Buffy smiled a little ruefully. She touched her hand to his arm briefly "By the time I was able to get away last night, it was late"
"Same here" Xander replied "I don't suppose you've seen Sean?"
Buffy shook her head "You?"
"No. I tried all last night" Xander told her "I don't like it" he added "Even if he has nothing to tell us, he usually appears if we call."
"I know" Buffy looked up at the house, tucking some hair behind her ears as the wind started to blow it in her face. "This place is a little creepy." Buffy hugged her arms to her chest as she started to feel the chill.
The house was built of dark brown brick with the black framed windows and doors edged with black bricks and the roof was covered with black slate. Reasonably neatly trimmed ivy clung to the wall in many places and on occasion threatened to start covering the windows.
"Yeah…" Xander looked around the grounds "I managed to get a look around this morning…" he turned back to Buffy who was still looking at the house "And I know that I'm called Harry Grantham and that Harry has only been here a week. There's at least three other people who live here, um, Harry's grandfather, his mother and his sister. There was another guy I saw a little earlier, Tom I think, but I don't know whether he lives here or not. He's not family though."
"Wow" Buffy smiled a little, turning back to him "You've done well. I haven't had a chance to get about anywhere. I arrived to find myself in a locked in some woman's bedroom. I got the door unlocked, but like I said, it was late and… and why are you looking at me like that?"
"I think you might be Maggie." Xander realised.
"Harry's sister" Xander informed her. "Harry's grandfather, at least I'm ninety-nine point nine percent sure he was anyway, informed me last night that Maggie had attacked her mother. Apparently" he added. "The old guy didn't seem too convinced."
"And she got locked in her room" Buffy finished. She frowned and looked quizzically at Xander "Why would she attack her mother?"
"Uh… well, judging from what the old guy said last night, I think Maggie might be a little bit, um-"
Buffy blinked "Wonderful. And I think you're supposed to say she has mental health issues" she sighed. "But… whatever…" Buffy shoved put her hands in her pockets and scuffed her toe against the stony path and stared out at the trees. "I just wanna know what we've got to do and get out of here."
There was a moment of silence between them before Xander spoke. "Buff?"
Buffy noted the hesitant tone in Xander's voice before he had spoken. //Oh please Xander don't//. Buffy didn't look at him. //I can't get into what happened before… that kiss…//. Then there was a hand on her shoulder and Buffy found herself turning her head and looking right into Xander's eyes.
Or rather she would have been had he not put on Harry's glasses.
"D'ya think they're me?" Xander asked, trying to sound serious.
"Very nice Xander" Buffy said dryly. She looked at him questioningly "Where did you get them?"
"Oh, they're actually Harry's" Xander told her "And I can wear them OK if people start to get suspicious as to why Harry's eyesight has suddenly got better overnight."
"Hey, keep them on" Buffy urged when Xander went to take the glasses off "Really, they do actually suit you"
"Really?" Xander didn't sound to sure, but he pushed the glasses back up his nose anyway. He looked at Buffy in silence for a moment before giving her an awkward smile "So… do you think that there's much more stuff we can talk about before we have to have that inevitable conversation?"
Buffy smiled ruefully "Do we have to? I had a whole conversation worked out about how we might be here to redecorate."
Xander gave a little half-hearted laugh and looked down at the ground briefly before looking back at her. "Do you want to go inside?" Xander nodded his head back towards the house "The wind's picking up a bit out here."
Buffy nodded and was just about to start following Xander as he started back towards the house before a shrill voice calling…
… stopped them both in their tracks. Both she and Xander turned to see a middle-aged woman who was leaning with her head and shoulders outside of the window and was looking at them both with shock.
"Maggie!" the woman called again "What do you think you're doing?!"
"So I'm guessing that's mom?" Buffy said to Xander in a quiet voice.
"I'd say that's a pretty good guess" Xander replied "Do you think we can ignore her?"
"Up to you. But then," Buffy added "Which conversation would you rather have?"
"Want to see what mom has to say?" Xander didn't even seem to hesitate.
"I thought so."
About a minute later, both Buffy and Xander found themselves being immediately confronted in the front hallway by the middle-aged and big built woman who shouted to them outside. She was as tall as Xander and wore a black dress that seemed to tent her entire figure. Her once black and now greying hair in a tight chignon and she had the same green eyes that Harry had.
The fierce expression that she wore made Xander wonder if he'd made the right decision in choosing to speak to her rather than talk to Buffy about their little indiscretion, until he noticed that the look was directed at Buffy rather than him.
"I don't know how you got out of your room young lady," the woman's voice boomed out across the hall "But you can be *damned* sure you're going back there."
"She's fine right here." Xander said firmly, meeting the woman's fierce look that immediately became kinder as she looked at him, although there appeared to be some reluctance in giving it. "Why didn't you tell me what happened last night?" Xander continued "It would have been nice to know." //And the Oscar goes to…//
Mrs Grantham squared her shoulders, crossing her arms just under her ample bosom "You were in your father's study." she replied with a touch of haughtiness. "You had said you didn't want to be disturbed." Mrs Grantham turned her gaze back to Buffy, but still addressed Xander. "Your sister was dealt with as per usual."
"Yes, I appear to have the bruises to prove that." Buffy made sure she bored her glare right back at the older woman.
Buffy turned her head to see Xander looking at her with concern and realised that she hadn't mentioned it to him. "I'm fine." she reassured him "Really."
Xander shot a dark glare back at Harry's mother "So where are yours then?"
Mrs Grantham faltered; appearing a little alarmed by the look in the young man's eyes "W-where are my what?"
"Your bruises." Xander replied "If Maggie attacked you like you said, then surely you'd have some evidence?"
"She flew for me Harry!" Mrs Grantham exclaimed, shooting an accusatory look at Buffy. "You know what she's like." She looked back at Xander almost imploringly "You've seen her do it before."
"What is going on down here?" The old man's voice was surprisingly loud as it carried down the stairs. "All of you are enough to wake the entire house."
"We're sorry," Buffy said as the old man began to make his way slowly down the stairs. Buffy ignored the glare Mrs Grantham was giving her. "We didn't realise."
"We were just trying to straighten things out" Xander shot a pointed look at Harry's mother "I just think I should know what goes on" //And boy am I getting into this//.
"I know" the older man said "But try and keep it down the next time you want to talk about things" he continued "Your grandmother doesn't need this when she's trying to get her rest"
"The doctor said she was getting better, Herbert" Mrs Grantham said to the old man "I do wish you'd stop fussing over her"
"When was the last time you spent even five minutes with her alone, Lizzy?" Herbert asked, peering over his glasses with a steely look. "And I wouldn't trust that doctor as far as I could throw him."
"Doctor Greenburg is a perfectly reputable man" Lizzy declared, her tone daring he old man to challenge her. "And don't call me Lizzy. It's Elizabeth."
Buffy glanced sideways at Xander, almost at the same time as he looked at her. "Are you thinking you'd've rather had the other conversation?" she murmured so only Xander should be able to hear.
"The moment I walked in the door" Xander muttered back.
"What are you two whispering about?" Mrs Grantham cut in and Buffy and Xander turned their attention back to her.
"Something for later" Xander replied "And perhaps that's when we should finish this conversation" Xander looked at Herbert "If my grandmother needs rest, then she can have it."
"Fine" Mrs Grantham said snippily "But you know I'll be mentioning it to Doctor Greenburg." And with that she turned on her heel and headed into the dining room.
Herbert stood at the bottom of the stairs, watching after Harry's mother as she stormed off. When the dining room door slammed closed behind her, he shifted gaze to Buffy and Xander. He sighed "Maggie, you know you're not well and you know that that idiot doctor is going to be out here this afternoon" Herbert turned to Xander "You should get her back up to her room out of your mother's way"
"I think I can manage to stay out of her way down here" Buffy said and added, "She's not an easy person to miss"
Herbert looked at Buffy oddly "But you usually take any chance you can get to shut yourself away there" he frowned a little "But saying that, you have been a little better around the house now that your brother is home". Herbert looked warmly at Xander and then at Buffy "I remember you two when you weren't even knee high. Inseparable you were."
Suddenly a crashing sound and a shout from outside changed the nostalgic look on the old man's face to one of shock. Both Buffy and Xander turned and dashed back out the front door, another shout alerting them where to go.
They hurried around to the left of the building, Herbert and Mrs Grantham's voices not too far behind them, and Xander found himself looking at the young man he'd spoken to a little earlier in the kitchen, as he clung desperately to the drainpipe that ran across the top of the house, his feet scrabbling to gain purchase against the high wall of the house. On the ground beneath him was a ladder that had fallen and now lay in two halves and also several broken tiles from the hole in the roof the young guy had obviously been trying to repair.
"Oh my God, Tom!" Herbert cried.
"Oh this is not good" Xander looked up. "That's a nasty drop."
"What can we do?" Buffy looked at the ladder on the floor and then to Herbert "We need another ladder. Anything!"
Xander was still looking up at the roof. "Try and find something, hell even something to catch him with" he started back towards the house.
"Where are you going?!" Buffy called after him.
"Up to the roof!" Xander called back over his shoulder "I can get up to the attic!"
"Be careful!" Buffy called after him. She then looked back up at the guy hanging from the roof "Hey, just try and keep calm, OK?!" Buffy shouted to him "Just… hang in there" she ended up finishing lamely. Buffy turned to the old man "So, how are we on that ladders front?"
Xander made his way quickly up to the landing and jumped up to grab the handle on the attic hatch. He stepped back quickly as it opened easily and stairs folded down from the opening to meet him. Xander took the steps quickly, nearly banging his head on the ceiling. He stooped as he stepped carefully onto the exposed beams. He was able to see as the hole in the roof provided sunlight enough to see by.
Xander made his way to the low gap in roof and poking his head through, he could see the other man's hands gripping for dear life on to the less than safe looking drainpipe.
"Hey" Xander called, trying to see if he could get more than half his body out - the roof sloping at an awkward angle, preventing him from just being able to take the other man's hands. "I'm going try and get myself balanced, OK?"
"The ladder just snapped" came the shaky response "My h-hands hurt"
"Don't worry about it, OK?" Xander replied, "I'll get you up"
Buffy watched anxiously as she saw Xander lean out of the gap and lay flat against the tiles. "Please be careful Xan," she said softly.
She bit her lip, her hands fidgeting by her sides, finally letting out a sigh of relief when Xander managed to grab hold of one of the Tom's wrists.
Then she cried out when suddenly the drainpipe gave way, the sudden weight of the other man just hanging onto his wrist, pulling Xander even further out of the gap and down the roof towards the edge.
Xander was trying desperately to grab hold of the other man's hand as it flailed about at the same time as Xander was also trying to stop himself going any further down the tiles.
"Try and keep still!" Buffy called up to the young blonde guy "You're going to bring both of you down!"
But Tom was getting panicky, swinging from Xander's hand and Buffy saw Tom slip a little from Xander's grip. Buffy heard Xander shout to him to just try and keep calm but he still scrabbled wildly.
"Just keep still!" Buffy called up "I'm coming up there!"
But just as Buffy started to run to the house, Tom cried out as he managed to kick himself away from the house just a little too far and his slipped from Xander's grasp.
(A couple of hours later)
Buffy stood in the doorway to the sitting room, looking in on Xander, who sat in one of the arm chairs by the fire. His back was slightly to her and Buffy could only see a little of his face. Buffy's brows knitted in concern when she saw the harrowed look on his face.
Buffy took a deep breath and started over to him. "Hey" she greeted in a soft voice.
"Hey" Xander replied, but continued to be fascinated by a particular spot on the wall sitting room wall, even as Buffy stood by him. "Has everyone gone?"
"About twenty minutes ago apparently" Buffy replied, perching herself on the arm of the couch nearest to Xander. "Herbert came up to Maggie's room to let me know. He said he was worried about you" she continued softly "Said you'd barely spoken to anyone since the police."
Xander pulled his gaze away from the wall and turned to Buffy. She saw the pained look in his eyes and touched her hand to his arm gently. //I shouldn't have let them hustle me upstairs// Buffy berated herself.
Buffy had been the first to reach Tom after he'd fallen, and quickly felt for a pulse. She'd found one, but it had been incredibly weak. Mrs Grantham had rushed inside to call an ambulance while Buffy and Herbert and stayed with Tom, but Buffy didn't hold out much hope that Tom would last until the paramedics arrived - she'd heard the crack of his head hitting the stone path and Tom's blonde hair was matted with blood and his neck lay at an awkward angle.
When Xander had made his way down, he'd just stood and stared at Tom as he laid unconscious on the ground, a thin line of blood slowly trickling from the man's lips.
Paramedics had arrived too late and the police arrived soon after them along with the coroner. Mrs Grantham had also apparently called Dr Greenburg and a still shell shocked Xander couldn't stop Buffy from being manhandled up the stairs and back to her room. She hadn't been locked in, but Buffy didn't want to argue with the doctor who was even taller and larger than Mrs Grantham. The police had been up to see her, asking routine questions about what she saw; she'd told them and they'd gone, seemingly satisfied with her telling of events.
And as Xander looked back at her now, Buffy just wanted to wrap her arms around him and tell him that everything was going to be all right. And Buffy would have had Xander not got up before she had the chance and gone and stood infront of one of the windows that looked out at the front of the house.
Buffy followed him and put her hand on his shoulder. Xander continued to stare out of the window for a moment more before he looked at her.
"How can it happen like that?" he agonised. "One minute I had hold of him, the next-" Xander couldn't finish the sentence. He looked down at the floor and closed his eyes, swallowing hard. "Everything was so quick."
Buffy rubbed her hand comfortingly up and down Xander's arm. "Xan, it was an accident, OK? An accident."
Xander opened his eyes and looked back at her "I just feel like it was all my fault" he whispered. "I just keep thinking that I should've been able to hold on, just a few moments more and I would've been able to get him back up, I should've-"
Buffy cut Xander short as he began to get emotional by putting one of her fingers over his lips. "Xander, don't" she implored. "Don't let it eat you up. It was an *accident*."
Xander closed one of his hands around Buffy's, pulling it gently away from his mouth, and squeezed it tenderly before letting it go. "Buffy, right now, I feel… I feel like the *worst* guy in the world."
"But you're not" Buffy told him. "You're one of the best, OK?" she cupped either side of his face with both hands. "Listen to me Xander. It was an accident. It *wasn't* your fault. I *know* because I was *there* and I *saw*."
Xander tried to find words to reply. He could feel the pinpricks of tears in the corners of his eyes as Buffy's words started to hit home. Xander drew in a shaky breath an closed his eyes as he rested his forehead against Buffy's.
Buffy dropped her hands to his shoulders and closed her own eyes. She felt Xander's arms around her, his strong hands firm against her back. "It'll be OK" she whispered softly. "I promise" she added as she then wrapped her own arms back around Xander.
"Great. These two share anymore moments like this, I'm gonna be officiating at their wedding. Just good friends my ass; there's sparks enough here light up L.A. I just hope they don't want any advice from me, the state of my love life at the moment and *yes* Juan, I'm talking about *you*, you cheating Spanish wanker. Just make sure you keep your tongue out of that steroid addled bastards mouth long enough to fix this problem we're having here."
Upon hearing those words, both Buffy and Xander pulled back from one another and looked at each other briefly, frowning, then turned to look about the room.
"Sean?" Buffy ventured "That you?"
"Oh, for the love of Ricky Martin in leather pants, you can see me!" Sean exclaimed "*Finally*, we're getting somewhere. Juan must have been feeling guilty. Good."
"Uh Sean?" Xander said quietly, stepping away from the window and looking about the room. "We *can't* see you"
"But we can hear you loud and clear" Buffy added and looked to where she thought Sean's voice was coming from. "What's happening Sean? Why can't we see you?"
"We think you've gone, what we call, 'In Deep'" Sean replied. "It's hard to explain" he continued "It's like, uh, well it's like, OK imagine that the leaps you usually do are on kind of an outer orbit and all the project has to do is stick it's head through the clouds and there you are living these peoples lives. But sometimes leapers find themselves on an inner orbit. Leaping on is no problem" Sean reassured them, seeing them frown again. "But, you're just a little harder to get to. Sometimes we just get sight and no sound and, well, vice versa."
"But you're not going anywhere now, right?" Buffy asked.
"I hope not" Sean replied. "I've been trying to get your attention since you got here. I think you two know who you are. Maggie and Harry?"
"Grantham" Xander nodded. "Grandfather called Herbert, mother called Elizabeth and a grandmother I haven't seen yet" Xander paused. "And there was… Tom."
"Yeah" Sean said slowly. "That was unfortunate. But Xander" Sean added quickly, seeing Xander's expression. "It was going to happen. Just last time, there was no one that tried to help. It wasn't your fault."
"We weren't here to stop… to stop what happened this morning?" Buffy asked softly, hearing Mrs Grantham's voice outside in the hallway.
"We're not sure why you're here" Sean replied. "Look, I don't think we should do this in the middle of the sitting room, and I can hear that Mrs Grantham is on her way back. We need to go somewhere where we can talk uninterrupted."
"Uh, sure" Xander said. "There's the study. It seemed pretty quiet and out of the way."
"Then let's go" Sean said. "I'll meet you two up there."
"Buff?" Xander whispered softly to Buffy as they headed out of the sitting room and towards the foot of the stairs.
"What?" she whispered back.
Xander made brief eye contact with Mrs Grantham who had just disappeared into the dining room. Xander turned back to Buffy as they both stood at the bottom of the stairs and cleared his throat. "Um, I just wanted to say, uh, thanks" Xander gave her a sincere smile. "For what you said just now. I still feel like crap" he admitted, "But there's light at the end of the tunnel now. I-I don't know what I'd do if you weren't-"
"Me too" Buffy cut him off, smiling warmly. "Come on" she said quietly, starting up the stairs, "I don't where we're going remember?"
Xander let his eyes dart around the house as he followed Buffy. "Y'know, something here is beginning to give me the wiggins" Xander remarked. "I just can't put my finger on it."
"You too huh?" Buffy murmured back.
Once they reached the top of the stairs, Xander led Buffy along the hallway that lead to the study. Buffy was careful not to make eye contact with Dr Greenburg as he came out of one of the rooms that led off the landing. And either he hadn't noticed her or had decided not to say anything as 'Harry' was with her.
Sean's disembodied voice greeted them as they both finally entered the study. "You two might want to take a seat" he suggested.
Buffy closed the door and took the only chair, as Xander seemed quite happy to perch himself on the edge of the desk. "Where are you Sean?" she asked, "I want to at least be looking in the right direction when you give us the low down."
"By the dead plant to the right" Sean told her. "OK, first, let me tell you about who you are, " he began "It might clear up any holes you two have. OK, it's January 20th 1984. Maggie's twenty five, she'd never been more than thirty miles away from this house" Sean began reeling off information like a list as he read it from 'Gizmo'. "She's never left alone for more than two hours during the day. There's a family history of mental illness, and imbalance of something in the brain. Maggie and Harry's father, Harry senior, had the same illness; his was less pronounced than Maggie's but he did have more and more psychotic episodes in his later life. He died of a heart attack though a month ago, just before Christmas. Maggie's episodes are controlled now with medicine. Maggie's mother wanted her put into her nursing home, but on condition of Mr Grantham's last will and testament, that's not going to happen" Sean paused for breath "Especially when her big brother is back home to sort out the family finances. Harry is twenty-six and had been living in New York City for five years, until he came back for the funeral and now he has to save the family estate because of some bad investments he'd made. Also-"
"Sean, I hate to interrupt your flow and everything," Buffy cut in "But can you tell me if Maggie *did* hurt her mom last night?"
"She did" Sean replied. "Although it wasn't as bad as Mrs Grantham made out. Maggie's medication makes her a little slower in everything. The family finds her easier to handle that way. Which means" Sean added, "You'll have to try and be a little less lucid. Maggie is not known for her jaunts about the house, let alone her conversation skills. She just keeps out of everyone's way in her room. She likes it like that too."
"Yeah?" Buffy sounded a little dubious. "Well that Doctor Greenburg seemed ready to shoot me full of drugs if I so much as looked at him funny"
"He's a good friend of Mrs Grantham" Sean said. "She doesn't handle Maggie's illness too well, never has done. She'd rather someone else took care of her."
"So she just keeps Maggie drugged up enough so she can have quiet life?" Xander remarked.
"Nice lady" Buffy added. "OK, fine. I can keep out of trouble. So? What's else is there?" she asked, her brows furrowing a little "I mean, have you guys got any idea of what we're here to do?"
"Well, we don't think its anything to do with Maggie." Sean told them, "I'd keep an eye on Herbert though if I were you. He keeps coming up a lot when we run the scenarios."
"Scenarios?" Buffy shot s puzzled look in the dead ferns general direction. "Are you making things up now?"
"Well, some of the things the tech guys come out with some times, "Sean replied "Make *me* wonder sometimes. But, no, that particular thing isn't made up." He added. "Usually when we first leap people in, we know exactly what we're doing, our volunteer leapers know exactly what's in their remit. But with you two, because you're here, and under duress it sometimes seems, we have to revert back to the doing a general analysis of the situation and then seeing what pings up when we run certain situations through the computer banks and see which one have the higher percentage rate of actually happening"
"Uh huh" Xander paused "I don't suppose there's like a booklet for all this is there?"
"Yeah" Buffy added "Like Leaping for Dummies." Buffy was glad to see that made Xander crack a little bit of a smile.
"I'll see what I can do" Sean replied dryly.
"So… Herbert, yeah?" Xander said "I guess that shouldn't be too hard a task to keep an eye on him. The old guy seems nice enough."
"Yeah, and it looks like it'll have to be your job" Buffy told him "If I want to keep up appearances, I'll have to keep a bit more to Maggie's room."
"Not necessarily" Xander disagreed. "If they're used to having her hanging around with Harry, then if Buff's with me, they shouldn't suspect anything, should they?"
"Maybe Buffy could take a look around the house" Sean suggested.
"Or maybe Buffy can decide what *she* wants to do" Buffy remarked, raising an eyebrow.
"So what do you want to do?" Xander asked her. "I was going to head downstairs. Let Herbert see I'm OK. Sort of" he added with a sad smile.
"If that's what you want to do" Buffy smiled back warmly. "I guess I can take up Sean's idea. I might find something, you never know."
Xander nodded. "Sounds good. Look, why don't I meet back with you in a couple of hours?" he suggested. "Compare notes or something."
"Sure. We can meet back in Maggie's room" Buffy replied. "It's the middle hall way off the top of the stairs; the door right at the end." She sighed, her concerned gaze meeting his. "You'll be OK?"
"I'll manage" Xander replied. "I can mosey off now, before they get too suspicious as to what we're talking about up here."
"Good luck" Buffy wished him as Xander headed out. "Don't let Mrs Grantham bite."
Buffy smiled to herself when she heard Xander chuckle out on the hallway. Buffy took a deep breath and then exhaled slowly as she looked about the room.
"I'm still by the dead plant, Buffy."
"I wasn't looking for you, idiot." Buffy sighed again. "Any chance you could help by telling me what I'm supposed to be looking for?"
"You're the one who wanted to play detective" Sean pointed out. "I don't know. Uh, those papers on the desk are what Harry was looking at last night right before Xander leapt into him and I've just realised why you don't want to go with Xander, it's so you don't have to talk to him about you two swapping saliva"
Buffy's mouth opened and closed a few times before she got sound to come out. "We did *not* *swap* saliva" she protested. "Th-there was *no* *swapping* of-of bodily fluids of *any* kind" Buffy paused. "And we do not have 'sparks enough to light up L.A.'"
"What am I suddenly blind?" Sean scoffed. "Please. And if you heard that, what about an 'I'm sorry about Juan', huh?"
"I'm sorry about Juan" Buffy said, somewhat half-heartedly as she sat back down in the chair behind the desk. "OK," she started looking over the papers "So what exactly have we got here?"
"I see we have an avoidance specialist" Sean observed. "And those are just house deeds and bank statements. I don’t think Herbert had anything to do with them. Harry senior was in charge of the finances."
Buffy sighed and pushed herself back from the desk, sinking back into the leather chair. "So what now?"
"You could check in on grandma" Sean suggested.
"Why the hell not?" Buffy said softly. She got up and headed towards the door. "Which room is she in?"
"First on the left at the top of the stairs" Sean told her, following her out into the hallway. "Want my disembodied voice to keep you company?"
"I think I've got it Sean" Buffy replied. "You go keep an eye on Xander."
"Fine." Sean said, "I'll be off. Give us a yell or whatever if you need me."
Buffy heard the faint sound of 'Gizmo' bleeping, signalling Sean's departure as she rounded the end of the hallway. She crossed the landing, ready to make an entrance into Maggie's grandmother's room, when something caught her attention out of the corner of her eye.
Buffy frowned a little when she heard a slight noise accompany the small moving shadow at the end of the hallway that led from where she stood. Buffy let go of the door handle she held and began to make her way along the narrow hallway, squinting a little in the dim light.
She heard a floorboard creak and then the sound of someone humming. "Oo-kay" she whispered to herself "What have we got here?"
Suddenly Buffy was surrounded in more light as a door near to the end of the hallway opened. And Buffy though she could make out someone standing in the small gap in the now open doorway.
"Hello?" Buffy took a step forward.
And then she saw a young woman, about the same height as Xander, with long reddish hair and piercing blue eyes. She was dressed in black, slightly flared trousers and a black, gypsy blouse with billowy sleeves.
"Uh, hi?" Buffy said again, taking steps closer to the woman who just stood there looking at her, a strange smile on her lips and Buffy began to feel a little on edge by the way the woman's eyes seem to bore into her.
But the woman didn't say anything and with one last look at Buffy, she disappeared into the room, abruptly shutting the door behind her.
A determined look settled on Buffy's face. //Oh no you don't missy//. Buffy stood infront of the door and rapped her knuckles loudly on the wood. "I know you're in there," Buffy said softly in a singsong voice.
Buffy waited a while, knocking again on the door, but still no one came to answer it. Buffy took hold of the handle and turned it, a little surprised that it opened easily. But once inside, her surprise grew even more.
The room was empty save for a couple of pieces of dust covered furniture in the middle of the floor. No windows were open and there was no other door.
And there was no one in the room except for Buffy.
"What the hell is going on here?" Buffy stepped back out into the hallway and looked back down from where she had come from. There was no one there either. Buffy stood in the doorway, looking with confusion into the hallway and then into the room again. "I *saw* her" she muttered to herself. "She can't have just disappeared…."
Buffy shook her head and then pinched the bridge of her nose, closing eyes. She waited a moment and then look again. Still there was no one.
"Who am I kidding?" Buffy murmured, heading back to the grandmother's room. "Of course she could have disappeared" Buffy sighed. "I kill vampires for a living. This really shouldn't surprise me and I'm going to have to stop talking to myself or I'm gonna get myself shot full of sedative."
"But you talk to yourself all the time Maggie"
The booming voice of Dr Greenburg caught Buffy off guard as he appeared from around the corner. Buffy stopped in her tracks and stared up at the large man standing in front of her and couldn't stop herself from swallowing nervously.
"Well, y'know, I'm crazy" Buffy started to step around him. "I'm just going back, to, uh, to my room." She cleared her throat. "I like it. It's pretty there."
Dr Greenburg caught hold of her shoulder in a strong grip. Buffy looked down at his hand and then up at him. "I can get there by myself," she said, trying to look and sound innocent.
"Your mother's been very worried about you" Dr Greenburg said, his hand still on Buffy's shoulder. "And who can blame her when you're talking about ghosts, Maggie?"
//Oh boy//. "Can't I just go to my room?" Buffy tried to keep her voice even. "No more talk about ghosts. I promise."
"Your mother told me you attacked her the other night. She wanted me to come straight away, to see if I could up your medication, but I couldn't get here until this morning." He smiled thinly at Buffy. "And after the dreadful thing that happened this morning…" he trailed off, moving his iron grip from Buffy's shoulder to her arm. "Not too mention the ghosts, I think I can oblige your mother."
"Hey, *ow*!" Buffy exclaimed as Dr Greenburg pulled her roughly with him as he started to move. "What the hell do you think you're doing! Let go of me!"
"It's better if you don't struggle" Dr Greenburg commanded as Buffy tried to prise herself out of his strong grip, "My bag is just over here and I've got something that'll make you feel so much better"
"You're not giving me anything!" Buffy said, trying to kick out at the doctor as he got to his bag that sat on a small table by the top of the stairs. "I'm not sick!"
Dr Greenburg pulled Buffy roughly around to face him "Listen Margaret," he said in a cold voice "I'm the doctor here. I'll decide who's sick."
Buffy's darted to the syringe that he held that seemed already full of some clear substance. "Uh huh" Buffy's looked straight into the doctors eyes "Looks like somebody already came prepared"
"Shame he's not going to get to use it."
Dr Greenburg whirled around and glared daggers at Xander who stood a couple of steps down from the top of the stairs. "Your sister is a very sick woman" the doctor said, his grip still firm on Buffy's arm and the syringe still in his other hand. "She's needs this to make her better."
"Really?" Xander went up one step. "Because she looks fine to me."
"And I suppose because you think you're here to stop the bank taking away this house, that that makes you in charge?" Dr Greenburg replied shaking his head. "Where were you when your mother was having the most trouble with this girl? Too busy with your own life in the big city to make a phone call, that's what."
"Can I just say that's not really the issue here?" Buffy pointed out.
"Let her go" Xander was now in front of the doctor, but he was in no way at eye level with the larger man. Xander raised his gaze and glared stonily at the other man, putting his hand over the doctor's trying to get him to let go of Buffy.
But Dr Greenburg didn't budge. He glared back at Xander. "She's having her shot."
"She is not" Xander tried again to move the doctor's arm, manoeuvring himself so Buffy stood a little behind him. "Me and Maggie are going back to her room."
Dr Greenburg simply pushed Xander's hand away. "Sorry, but you're not." He began to move away with Buffy, who was still struggling. Xander tried again, but Dr Greenburg just stopped and pushed him away. Hard.
Xander staggered back, and his foot slipped on the rug at the top of the stairs. Buffy watched on wide-eyed, as the hand that Xander reached to the banister to steady himself, missed.
Xander cried out as he fell backwards, his back crashing painfully on to the steps below before the momentum began to carry him the rest of the way down the staircase.
"No!" Buffy finally managed to wrench herself away from Dr Greenburg's grasp. She'd gone down two steps before Xander hit the bottom, his head slamming hard onto the wooden floor below. "OhGodohGodohGodohGod" Buffy started down the stairs again.
Reaching the bottom, she immediately fell to her knees by Xander's side. He was laying with his eyes closed, one leg bent underneath him at an awkward angle and one arm that looked completely out of joint.
"Xan?" Buffy put her hand to his forehead and his eyelids fluttered open the briefest amount. "Xan?" Buffy tried hard to keep the emotion out of her voice when she saw the small pool of blood beginning to form on the floor, coming from underneath his head.
"Buff" Xander's voice was barely audible and his eyes closed again.
"Sshh" Buffy put her hand to his cheek. "Sshhh, It's OK. I'm here," Buffy felt a tear roll down her cheek "I'm here". She looked back up the stairs to where Dr Greenburg was staring back down at her. "What are you doing?!" she cried "Get down here and help him!"
Buffy turned back to Xander. "Xan, come on" she urged, choking back a sob as she heard his breathing becoming slower. "Don't you leave me here."
Suddenly Buffy found herself being hoisted up and away from Xander. "No!" she cried, turning her head to see it was Dr Greenburg. "He needs me!" Buffy struggled out of his hold, and tried to get to Xander again, but the doctor pushed her to the side and Buffy fell back on her butt near the wall.
"Oh my God!" Mrs Grantham exclaimed, suddenly arriving on the scene "What's happened?"
"He's stopped breathing" Dr Greenburg touched his fingers to Xander's throat. "I'm not getting a pulse." He put his ear to Xander's chest. "There's nothing here."
"Then try CPR!" Buffy cried, tears streaming down her face. She got up and rushed to Xander's side, "I'll do it, just please don't let him die" Buffy sobbed "Please don't let him die."
Dr Greenburg grabbed hold of Buffy's arm and dragged her back away from Xander again. "You did this!" he claimed "This is all your fault!"
"No!" Buffy tried to get back to Xander. "You have to keep trying!"
"You killed him" Mrs Grantham whispered softly as she knelt by Xander's side. She looked up at Buffy "Look what you did"
Buffy stared back at Xander's face, and the pool of blood that was spreading fast from underneath his head. "He's not dead," she said softly. "He can’t be. I'd know… I'd know…"
Then Buffy suddenly felt a prick in her arm. She blinked slowly and then looked down at her arm and saw Dr Greenburg withdrawing a syringe from her flesh. Buffy looked back up at him "What did you…" Buffy trailed off when she suddenly felt whatever the doctor had injected her with kick in.
As she started to feel limp, Buffy tried to focus back on Xander. "Xan?" she said, her voice feeling thick in her throat as blackness started to descend around her. "Xan answer me…" was the last thing Buffy managed to get out before she slumped to the floor by Xander's feet.
There was a slight whistle in the air as a cold January breeze started to pick up pace as it blustered around the grounds of the Grantham house. A few skeletal leaves got caught up with it and danced in the air as if on invisible strings for a few moments before they finally fell back to the frost covered ground.
The breeze continued onwards and upwards, blowing through the bare branches of the deciduous trees and then getting caught up a little in the more fuller and greener limbs of the tall fir trees that stood closer to the house before eventually making it's way through and on towards the house itself, making it's presence known as it whipped against the window panes and sought entrance at those windows that dared to be even the slightest way open.
A small gust of wind found it's way under the gap in one of the sash windows belonging to a bedroom on the first floor of the house, escaping the greyness outside, only to find that it was no better inside. Slowly losing it's momentum the breeze flustered around, it's dying breath to be whispering against the forehead of the figure lying on the bed.
Xander stirred as the wind ruffled his hair and he sleepily raised his hand to brush his hair from his eyes before turning his head and burying it into the pillow as what few shards of sunlight there were fell across his eyelids.
Then Xander frowned into the pillow, his eyes still shut, as an odd feeling began to seep into his brain. Groggily, he pushed himself up onto his elbows and opened his eyes, rubbing the sleep out of them with the heel of his palm before he yawned and turned his head to look out of the window.
Staring out at the nondescript grey morning, the wind rattling the windows in their frames, Xander was beginning to get the distinct impression that something was very wrong. Still frowning, Xander sat up and then looked down at himself before turning his gaze about the room.
"Why do I feel like I've done this all before?" he whispered softly. Xander looked down at himself again. "I could've sworn I changed clothes... but-" Xander broke off and looked once again around the room "I only got here last night… didn't I?"
Xander swept a hand through his hair and scratched absently at the back of his head for a moment before he stopped. He took his hand from his head and held it infront of his face then waved it from side to side.
"Why do I get the feeling…" he trailed off, putting his hand to the back of his head and tentatively prodded the back of his skull. "OK, now I'm imagining things" he muttered, dropping his hand. "I've just had a bad dream, that's all" he paused "I hope."
Xander got up and put on some shoes and walked over to the wardrobe. He grabbed a dark blue shirt off the rail and started to change into it. Xander stepped over to the window and looked out as he buttoned his shirt.
"This déjà vu is giving me serious wiggins" he sighed.
He was about to step away from the window when a movement below caught his eye. Xander pressed his face up to the glass and saw the back view of a tall woman walking along the path that ran by the house. She had long, waist length ruby red hair and she wore a long black skirt and a black, billowy blouse.
"I wonder if that's… no, wait… that's *not* Maggie…" Xander trailed off, frowning that he somehow knew that. "Buffy's Maggie."
Xander's thought digging slowed for a moment when the red haired woman stopped in her tracks and turned around. Xander blinked as she stared up at him. Not just in his general direction, but right into his eyes.
Xander's breath caught in his throat and he took a step back from the window. He hesitated for a moment before moving forward again. This time when he looked out of the window, he saw no one.
Xander scanned the area in his view outside but saw no trace of the woman, not even a flash of red hair amongst the trees or a scrap of black material disappearing around a corner of the house.
"Fantastic" Xander stated without any trace of enthusiasm. "I'm imagining beautiful women and I've got the feeling I'm missing a chunk of my memory." He sighed and headed towards the door "What more is this day going to bring?"
Xander walked cautiously along the narrow hallway that led from his room, trying to discern whether there was anything else that would cause another ripple of déjà vu to coarse through his body.
There was nothing until he reached the large landing at the top of the staircase and it wasn't so much as a ripple that went through as a shockwave.
Xander sucked in a sharp breath and his hand clutched at his chest as he staggered backwards away from the stairs. He kept going back until he felt a wall behind him and he placed one hand palm flat against the cold surface as if making sure it was actually there.
As he stared at the top of the staircase, Xander's breath came in ragged gasps. "No… this can't be…" he managed to get out, shaking his head, his hand still clutching at his chest. "It can't…"
An assault of images flashed infront of Xander's eyes. Him coming out from the sitting room talking to an old man and seeing Buffy being hassled by another man at the top of the stairs; him looking up into the man's face as he tried to get Buffy away; him struggling in vain as he was overpowered by Buffy's aggressor; him being pushed and staggering backwards towards the top of the stairs; the shooting pain along his back as he crashed down onto the steps; looking back into Buffy's shocked face just before he fell the rest of the way down, pain shooting through is body at every jolt against his limbs and skull; the loud crack his head made as his skull came into contact with the floor and the wet, sticky feel of something trickling down the back of his neck and the numbness he felt from the waist downwards; hearing Buffy cry out and then looking up into her face when she whispered soothingly to him that everything was going to be OK; remembering that the last thing he saw before darkness over took him was Buffy's tear streaked face and the broken look in her eyes.
Xander closed his eyes and slid slowly down the wall, his legs coming out infront of him. His breathing was still ragged and he tried to take a couple of deep breaths to calm himself down. Xander opened his eyes, trying not to look at the staircase, but he couldn't seem to draw his gaze away.
"This isn't ha-happening…" Xander whispered shakily. "I'm not dead… I'm not…"
Xander took a couple of deep breaths and then ran a hand nervously through his hair, his gaze still centred on the stairs, the images still flashing through his head. "This is just a bad dream" he murmured to himself "None of this is real… it's not real…"
Xander used the wall as a prop to get to his feet. He stood leaning against it for a little while, glancing around at everything else around him. "…I just seem to have really real looking dreams, that's all" Xander tentatively took a step forward. "Just a dream" he repeated "I'm gonna wake up. I didn't fall down those stairs… I didn't see Buffy crying…"
But even as he said those things to himself and as he looked down the staircase, Xander knew that he was just lying to himself. The tiny pinpricks of fear kept darting up and down his spine.
Xander gripped the handrail tightly as he stood right at the very top of the stairs. "What's happening?" he whispered, tentatively taking one step down and then another. Xander swallowed hard and looked down at the floor at the bottom of stairs. Nothing look disturbed from what Xander could remember from before, everything looked exactly the same - the red rug at the bottom of the stairs; the matching tables either side of the front door, one with flowers and the other with a lamp; the family pictures hanging on the wood panelled walls.
And not a soul around.
Xander took another deep breath and continued slowly and hesitantly down the stairs, his hand never leaving the handrail until he reached the bottom step. Xander stood looking down at the floor where he'd lain, battered, bruised and bleeding.
He felt sick. Actually, physically sick. Xander held his hand to his stomach and sat down on the stairs. He closed his eyes and rocked back and forth gently. //Why is this happening? Why is this happening to *me*?//. Xander put his other hand to his mouth to stifle a sob as he remembered the look on Buffy's face; the feel of one of her tears as it splashed onto his cheek.
He had to find her. If she was still here. He had to let her know that he was OK. Xander turned around and looked up the stairs. But where was she? He couldn't remember if Buffy had even said where Maggie's room was. Then something clicked in Xander's head; he'd been outside when he first found her before. He knew which window would be Maggie's if he looked from outside.
Xander stood up and took a deep breath before crossing the floor and heading towards the front door. He tried the handle, but found that it was locked. Xander frowned and tried the latch but he couldn't find the mechanism to release the lock. Xander tried the drawers of the tables by the door, looking for a key, but found nothing.
"Crap" he muttered as he turned and went towards the dining room instead, knowing that there was an exit from the kitchen. He went through the door in the corner of the dining room and along the small passageway that led to the kitchen.
But when he stepped through into the kitchen, Xander's heart stopped.
Xander's breath got caught in his throat as he stared at the other person in the kitchen.
Standing at the far end of the kitchen, searching through a lower cupboard and humming to himself, was Tom.
Suddenly though, Tom realised that he was no longer alone and he stood and turned to look back at Xander. He looked exactly the same as when Xander had first seen him; the same clothes - blue jeans and black t-shirt and big work boots still with the laces untied, the same nervous movements as he peered out from underneath his mane of sandy coloured hair.
"M-mister Grantham?" the young boy stuttered "I-I didn’t expect-" the young boy shook the hair out of his face "Anyone to be up this early. Even your grandfather doesn’t…" he trailed off "Um, did you want me for anything?" The teenager shifted awkwardly "’Cause your mom, I mean Mrs Grantham said I sh-should just get whatever you wanted"
And he spoke the exact same words. Xander simply stared back at him, finally managing to get the breath out, but unable to think of anything to say.
Tom was real. He was standing in front of him as large as life. Tom wasn't gripping onto Xander's hand because his life might just depend on it, he wasn't lying on the ground, his neck bent at an unnatural angle and no blood trickled from his lips.
"Are you OK?" Tom scratched at him arm as he looked at Xander with concern. "You look sick."
"I'm feeling a-a little queasy, yeah" Xander replied, running a hand through his hair. His gaze darted about the room, hoping to find something that wouldn't strike so much familiarity and consternation into him.
"Did you want me to get you something?" Tom asked, "Or I can get your mom-"
"No, no" Xander interrupted Tom gently "It's OK, it's just…" Xander trailed off and exhaled slowly, running a hand through his hair. "I had a bad dream which pretty much turned into a nightmare."
"I hate those too" Tom offered him a smile "The one's where you wake up sweating and your heart thumping?"
Xander nodded and smiled ruefully "One of those" He sighed "Don't s'pose you know a way to stop them?"
Tom shrugged "Not really. I try thinking of pretty girls when I fall asleep. Sometimes that works" he added with a sheepish smile. "Anyway, I have to get going. Your mom wanted me to try and finish what I started yesterday, I had to leave the waterproof sheeting up 'cos it started raining, but I should get the roof done with-"
Tom looked alarmed at Xander's outburst. "B-but your mom said-"
"I don't care" Xander said firmly "I don't want you going up there"
"No buts" Xander gestured to the window "Have you seen that weather out there? That wind'll pick up and if you're up on that roof…" Xander trailed off, looking earnestly at Tom "It's not safe"
Tom blinked. He looked out of the window and then back to Xander "Well, i-if you say so…" he trailed off then shrugged "Although I could check up in the attic, the sheeting might need securing…" he trailed off again seeing Xander's firm look. "I-I guess I could clear out the old coach house instead." Tom began gathering up what he'd taken from the cupboards "I'll um, get going then… leave you to um," Tom glanced around the kitchen "Whatever you were uh…" he cleared his throat "I'll just…" Tom mumbled something under his breath as he grabbed a waterproof coat off the hook on the back door and then headed outside.
Xander realised that his head was very nearly on the point of implosion. He'd just had a conversation with a guy who'd he'd seen lying dead not more than, well what seemed to him, a few hours previously. And this was on top of Xander realising that he himself should be lying in a pool of blood at the foot of the stairs.
Xander rubbed at the vein he could feel throbbing at his temple as he walked a little more into the kitchen and leant back against one of the counters. Xander closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"This is un---------believable." Xander groaned softly and covered his face with his hands before pushing them back over the top of his head, keeping them clasped at the base of his neck.
Then Xander heard soft footsteps on the stone floor. He opened his eyes to see Buffy staring at him, her eyes wide and her face was drained of all colour.
"Buffy," Xander stood up straight and dropped his arms, his voice barely above a whisper.
Buffy clamped a hand over her mouth to stifle a sob. She stared back at the man standing infront of her, the man who looked so much like Xander, sounded so much like Xander, yet couldn't be. Couldn't be because when she'd woken she'd known, she'd known he was dead. The memories were so real, so vivid; she'd had his blood on her fingertips.
"X-xan?" her voice was strained as she tried to hold back the sobs "Oh God" Buffy hugged her arms around herself "Oh God."
"Buff, it's OK" Xander stepped towards her "It's OK"
Buffy started shaking her head and she stepped back "What's happening?" she sniffled, a single tear rolling down her cheek. "I woke up a-and everything was strange. I-it was like before, but-but it wasn't" this time Buffy didn't hold back her sob "It wasn't 'cos I re-remembered" she stared back up at him as Xander took a step closer "I saw you… you lying there and-and there was a-all this bl-blood a-and…" Buffy trailed off as she allowed herself to be pulled into Xander's arms. She clutched gently at his shirt by his shoulders and buried her face into his chest.
"Shush" Xander gently cupped the back of Buffy's head "I know, OK? I know."
"You smell real" Buffy murmured into his chest. Buffy looked up at him, she let go of his shirt and raised one hand to touch his cheek with the tips of her fingers "You feel real"
Xander smiled warmly back down at her "I am real" he tucked a strand of hair behind her ear "But I don't know what's happening" he exhaled slowly "You wouldn't believe who I just-"
Xander was cut off when Buffy pressed her mouth to his own. She slipped a hand around the back of his neck as she gently massaged her lips against his. Xander closed his eyes as he felt Buffy's tongue flick out against his lower lip. He kept one hand cupping her head while his other hand settled on her waist as he kissed her back, his own tongue darting out and mirroring Buffy's as they began to deepen the kiss.
Buffy was the first to pull back, her lips just barely an inch from Xander's. She was slightly breathless as she gazed up at him through her lashes. "You taste real."
Xander felt his heart beating hard in his chest as he gazed back down at her. //What the hell am I thinking about getting myself into?//. Xander took his hand from behind her head and cupped her cheek, wiping away a stray tear from her face with his thumb. "It's all real" he murmured back before brushing his lips softly against Buffy's.
Buffy responded, kissing him back, her other hand holding tightly onto his arm. Buffy closed her eyes as the kiss became more insistent, more passionate. She didn't care what the repercussions were. As she relaxed into Xander's embrace, all that mattered was right now. And right now she needed Xander; to feel him underneath her fingers, against her body and to feel his lips against hers.
But it couldn't last forever. They both broke away from each other, breathless. Buffy swept both her hands through Xander's hair before resting them on his shoulders whilst Xander let both his hands settle on Buffy's waist.
"Xand…" she rested her forehead against his chin and Xander began to stroke her hair. Buffy closed her eyes and tried to gather her thoughts. She sighed softly "I really hate it when I think you're dead."
"Well I think we just established that I'm not" Xander smiled back down at Buffy when she lifted her head to look up at him. "I guess now we just have to try and figure out why not" he paused "And why Tom isn't either."
Buffy's eyes widened "What?"
Xander placed his hands over Buffy's and lifted them off his shoulder and brought them down to their sides. "I just had a conversation with him" Xander replied "It was exactly the same as before" Xander closed his eyes for a moment then opened them, looking back at Buffy "It was *Tom* and he was *alive*"
"Oh my God" Buffy let go of Xander's hands and ran her hands through her hair "We need Sean."
"Who would have been here by now if he could…?" Xander trailed off, raising an eyebrow.
Realisation dawned. "He would have, wouldn't he?" Buffy replied. She sighed "Oh this is all screwy." Buffy sighed again "We just lost God knows how many hours, defied the laws of death and-and appear to have started the *completely* day over again. There's creepy red-haired women-"
"You saw her too?"
"You mean you… long red hair, all in black-"
"Stared right through you?"
Buffy nodded "I wasn't imagining it" she whispered "I saw her last night. She just disappeared on me. Right into thin air."
"Same here" Xander replied "Are we thinking ghosts?" he shrugged "It could be tied in with all this craziness."
"Craziness like us making out?"
Xander looked warmly back at Buffy "That wasn't crazy"
Buffy gazed back into his eyes "Then what was it?"
"I don't know" Xander replied honestly. Xander was about to add something else when he heard voices coming from the other side of the kitchen door.
"We should head somewhere less public" Buffy suggested, then catching Xander's eye she added quickly "To talk."
"I know" Xander gave her a reassuring smile "Come on, we can use the study"
Buffy followed him out of the kitchen and out into a narrow hallway that then led into the main foyer. Xander slowed when he came near the foot of the stairs and Buffy put her hand on his arm.
Xander turned to her and smiled gratefully. "It's just feels weird"
"I know" Buffy smiled back and kept hold his arm as they made their way up the staircase.
When they reached the top, Buffy was about to head off towards the study when Xander stopped "Y'know I'm just gonna grab a sweater or something from Harry's room" he said "I don't know if it's just me and having just walked over my grave, but It's real cold in here"
"I think it's the wind picking up" Buffy replied, beginning to realise that she didn't remember it being it as strong yesterday "Pick up one for me too"
"Sure" Xander gave her a quick smile and headed off.
Buffy stared after him for a moment before she took the hallway towards the study. She shivered slightly as she neared the door and frowned when she touched the handle and found that it was almost freezing.
Buffy pushed open the door and stepped inside. She blinked slowly at what she saw.
Behind the desk, seated in the chair with her feet kicked up onto the desk and her hands behind her head, was the mysterious woman in black.
Buffy tried not to wilt under the woman's piercing gaze. "I'm sorry, I didn't know anyone was in here."
The woman didn't say anything; she just kept staring at Buffy.
Buffy stared back at her for a moment more before she turned to leave, only to see the door slam shut infront of her. Buffy stood looking at the wood panels of the door for a moment before she turned back to the woman behind the desk who now sat with her hands clasped together in her lap.
"Ookaay" Buffy said slowly "So, you're a ghost. Gotta say though, I've seen scarier."
"I'm not a ghost" the woman replied, sounding amused.
Buffy raised one eyebrow "Really? Then who? I know you don't live here."
The woman raised her own eyebrow in response "Neither do you Miss Summers"
Read the second part of this two parter here...
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