Interlude Two

When You Cast Upon A Star

Author: Tenhawk <tenhawk[at]>

Disclaimer: All characters belong to their rightful owners... none of which are me. If they knew what they were doing I wouldn't have to write this stuff.

Summary: This short story follows a few days after the events in Home Again. No Big Bad will be rearing his head, this is a character piece... or characters as the case may be.

Warning: I'm a B/Xer and this will be a B/X Series, but NOT FOR A WHILE. The Characters do as they will in this bit, I just toss stuff at them and see how they react. I swear. No really... I'm serious. For the moment X/P just wants to happen... I didn't plan it, but I'm enjoying it myself and hope you are too. At any rate you can expect some serious B/X friendship and confrontations to come as I try to iron out the differences between these two friends. Hang on, its going to get a little bumpy in the months ahead.
Crossovers ahead. (Yes Plural.)

Rating: PG-13 to PG-16; for mild cursing, violence, and demonic horror content... in other words a bit more grown up then the series... but only cause I don't have to suck up to censors.

Faith lunged forward, intending to catch her opponent off guard with palm strike. She was surprised when her target pivoted and delivered a reverse elbow strike that winded the dark Slayer.

"Whoof!" Faith crumpled, cursing her blunted reflexes.

"You're getting faster, Faith." Phoebe grinned down at her and offered the fallen Slayer a hand.

Faith accepted the hand, grimacing inwardly as she clamped down on an impulse to slap it away. "Thanks. I think."

"I'm serious, Faith." Phoebe said earnestly, "You've advanced by leaps and bounds in the last four days."

Faith nodded, accepting the praise as the truth she knew it to be. The coma had taken its toll on her body, but her Slayer healing had started to kick in as soon as she started moving again. After the first day she was cramped up so badly that Xander and Giles had to carry her to her room. The second day left her in pain, but still mobile. Yesterday had left her a little weak, but mostly fit, and today she felt almost normal. And yet the brunette witch had continued to defeat her in sparring matches with annoying consistency.

Faith had been surprised when Xander suggested that she spar with Phoebe. Surprised and more then a little skeptical. The young witch had surprised her though, easily taking her down in the first match despite the Slayer's increased aptitude for hand to hand combat.

When she had inquired about Phoebe's skill the young brunette had shrugged and replied, "Out of my sisters and myself, I have the least active power. Seeing the future tends to get us into trouble, not help us out of it. Learning to fight was my only recourse... That and spending a lot of time learning the in's and out's of witchcraft." Phoebe grimaced at the memory of the late nights spent studying the book of shadows and practicing her craft in secret, even from her often doubting sisters.

Xander's answer to her inquiry left her even more confused. "Sorry, Faith." He had replied easily, "But my style of fighting doesn't lend itself well to sparring. I get my ass kicked a lot unless I'm willing to let out the stops."

Faith shrugged off the thoughts as she shifted back into a combat stance and faced off with Phoebe again.

Xander watched the sparring match with a certain level of interest beyond the standard fascination any male had with two beautiful women trying to put each other to the ground. <Phoebe's style is very good. But Faith is more adaptive... When her strength and speed make a full return neither of us will stand a chance on the mats against her... just like Buffy.>

He winced as Faith landed a jarring blow to Phoebe's jaw, stunning the young witch, and then followed up with a foot sweep that dropped Phoebe to her butt on the practice mats. Even with the padded hand guards and head protection, Xander figured it must have hurt.

"Time!" He yelled as Phoebe hopped back to her feet, looking for a rematch.

"Come on!" Phoebe complained, "I'm not going to get many more chances to taker down a few pegs before she's at full speed."

Xander chuckled, "Just accept that I'm saving you from some of her payback later and be happy."

Faith grinned nastily at the young witch and spoke to Xander, "Oh, your not saving her from much, lover. I still owe her for putting me on my ass in front of Red, Jeeves, and B."

Phoebe shot a glare at Xander. "Why does she keep calling you THAT?"

Xander winced. <Shit. I'm so screwed.>

Faith grinned at the pained look on Xander's face and decided to twist the knife. <If she's the jealous type I'm not going to like her anyway... lets find out.> "He hasn't told you?" Faith asked with a mock innocence that sounded completely evil coming from her.

"Told me what?" Phoebe growled.

"About us."Faith said simply.

Xander instantly objected. "Whoa! What us? I seem to remember you kicking me out of..."

He trailed off as he realized what he had started to say. <Fuck.>

Faith watched as Phoebe's face reddened and grinned. <This is getting fun.>

"Kicking you out of WHAT?"

Xander sighed, he honestly didn't see anyway out of this. <Time to come clean.>

He opened his mouth to speak, but Faith beat him to the punch. "My room of course. Didn't need him hanging around once we were done."

At that point Xander was seriously trying to sink into the floor. He cast a plaintive look at Faith but all he got in return was an unrepentant grin. <Payback.> He though glumly. <For me and Phoebe... Faith isn't one to let a debt slide.>


Xander had to try. He didn't expect anything to work, but he had to try. he raised his hands in supplication, "Phoebe...this happened almost a year ago now, long before I met you."

"That's supposed to make it better?" Phoebe growled, half turning away from him. "You invited an ex-lover to stay in your HOME!"

Xander actually laughed bitterly. "Lover? Hardly." He looked at Faith, a touch of old resentments flaring up.

This time it was Faith's turn to wince. Kicking Xander out of her room wasn't precisely what she thought of when she imagined her finest moments. She spoke into the silence, her words halting as she fumbled for the means to express herself. "Xander... I...Well, I'm sorry for that."

Xander's eyes widened in surprise, he didn't remember Faith ever apologizing before.

"For what?" Much of Phoebe's anger was temporarily gone, curiosity having replaced it on her tone.

Xander stared at Faith for a long moment before she broke and started to speak. "I used him." She admitted painfully.

"How?" Phoebe demanded instantly.

Xander, wisely, kept his mouth shut for once, reasoning that he had somehow shifted from the villain of this piece to its victim. And while he wasn't happy with the role of victim, it was yards above the role of Villain when he was facing down Phoebe.

Faith actually lost some of her bluster by the point, admitting guilt of any sort was her Achilles heel. She would never have done it, even now, if she didn't think that she owed something to Xander. "I was fight some apocalypse demons... trying to open the hellmouth, ya know?" Faith shrugged, its was a common place occurrence around Sunnydale, she knew.

"They had me..." Faith grated this out, loath to admit that she had been as close to death as she had been that night. "I was as good as dead when X-man over there," She nodded toward where Xander was leaning against the wall, "Pull one of his shining knight moments and rammed the demons with his car."

Phoebe actually snickered at that. It was a perfectly Xander moment.

Faith smiled too, grateful that some humor had broken the tension in Phoebe. "Ya, I guess you know what I mean, huh?"

Phoebe nodded, struggling to regain her earlier imposing aura.

"Well," Faith continued, feeling surprisingly ill at ease for someone who had actually initiated this line of talk in the first place. "He drove me home...patched me up... and..."

"One thing led to another." Xander finished, deciding that Faith had made enough of an effort.

The Dark Slayer smiled at him, gratitude showing itself again in her countenance.

"You slept together." Phoebe's voice was flat.

"No sleeping involved." Faith smirked, Xander's help had reinstated some of her confidence.

"Faith!" Xander reproved her instantly, but soon found himself under the glare of the witch once again. "Dammit Faith! You have to keep stirring things up, don't you?"

Faith grinned back at him, unrepentant this time.

He growled and turned back to Phoebe, "Yes. We slept together... or rather we would have slept together if she hadn't kicked me out of the room in my underwear after we finished... the... ah... pre-sleeping part."

The couple ignored Faith's barely contained laughter when she heard Xander describe the event as 'pre-sleeping'.

"So..." Phoebe drawled, stretching the word to torture Xander. "There's nothing between you two?"

Xander looked at her, knowing that he was in a catch-22. he couldn't say yes or she'd be pissed with him for having feelings for another woman, and he couldn't say no without her being pissed with him for sleeping with someone he had no feelings for. He looked plaintively toward Faith, hoping against hope that he'd recieve some help from that unlikely direction.

Faith snorted again, but decided to take pity on Xander. She turned to Phoebe and said, still grinning, "No. There is nothing between us."

"Good." Phoebe said, acting satisfied.

Xander breathed a sigh of relief, <It's over,> he breathed.

Then Phoebe flashed an evil grin of her own and asked Faith, "So, why'd you kick him out? Was he that bad?"

Xander collapsed onto the floor, groaning. "I don't want to hear this!"

"Tough." Phoebe said, "I do."

Faith laughed, grabbing Phoebe by the arm, and walked out of the Dojo. "Come on, I've got some snacks in my room...we can compare notes away from his tender ears."

Xander was still moaning when the two left the room.

Willow leaned heavily on the door of her dorm room after she closed it behind Tara. She actually began shivering as she let out a long breath that she hadn't realized she had been holding. <Gaia, Earth Mother... What am I doing?>

She could still remember the single instant in time as perfectly as if it were happening in every passing heartbeat. She and Tara had just solved a major problem with a Wiccan ritual they had been researching and they had been so excited that they hugged each other. No big deal right? Of course not... she hugged Buffy all the time. <But I don't come a few millimetres from kissing Buffy... EVER.>

She forced herself off the door, still shaking as she considered how close she had come to Tara's lips. How the blond's breath had felt against her mouth as her eyes locked with the young Wiccan. How she had wanted to lean those few millimeters that it would have taken to brush against the redness of Tara's lips.

Willow shook her self free of the imagery as she fell back onto her bed and tried to figure out what she could do about the whole situation. <Buffy! I can talk to her.... No... No! How can I tell Buffy that I'm attracted to a girl!? Xander? So not going to happen... He might actually understand, but how can I talk to *Xander* about sex stuff?? Giles then... EWWW! Not going to happen.>

The Red Wiccan rolled off her bed and stared out the window of the dorm room at the milling students in the Quad below. <What am I going to do?>

"He actually did that?" Faith laughed as she popped another chocolate into her mouth.

Phoebe laughed, "Uh huh. Charged right into a fight with a major demon with nothing but a machete."

Faith shook her head, it was so much like him that she wondered that he was still alive. "It's a miracle he's still breathing you know. He's been like that since B walked into his life from what I can tell."

"Buffy?" Phoebe said curiously, "Why her?"

Faith shrugged, "Well... what I know is all second hand you know? I wasn't here during that stuff..."

Phoebe nodded at Faith to continue.

"From what I've been told, Xan-man was the first of the 'scoobies' to find out about Buffy being the Slayer. And, true to the form he would later pursue, as soon as he realized it was for real he threw himself into the fight." Faith shook her head, "I never got that about him, ya know? He doesn't just do it because it feel's right... Something drives him into the fight, more surely then 'destiny' pushes any of us."

Phoebe nodded, "I know what you mean... It's like he takes the darkness personally or something... as if it's an affront against him that it exists..."

Faith nodded, "Exactly. I don't know... maybe we're just reading too much into it..."

"Maybe...." Phoebe didn't sound convinced.

"Like I said, I wasn't here then..." Faith paused before continuing, "But from what everyone told me it sounds like when he first saw the darkness was a moment of... what do they call it? A... revolution?"

"Revelation." Phoebe said, instantly connecting the word with Xander. She thought about it and nodded. "You're right I think... I wonder what the revelation was though?"

"Dunno." Faith admitted with a shrug. "But it's something that burns inside him. You can almost feel it when he drops his guard.... Even though that's a rare occurrence."

Phoebe grimaced, "I know. If it wasn't for my powers I wouldn't know about what happened to him last summer at all."

Faith looked up in surprise. "You know?"

Phoebe nodded. "He told me about your conversation... and what he told you... so, yes. I know."

Faith shook her head, "It's a real mind job, ya know? He killed fourteen people... innocent people... and the only reason he didn't kill more was because he ran out of bullets."

"I know. I saw it from his perspective. Felt what he felt... lived his nightmares." Phoebe said quietly.

Faith looked at the witch blankly. "How?"

"You remember I told you that I can see the future sometimes?" Phoebe asked and, when Faith nodded, she continued. "Well, it can work the other way too... I get flashes of the past too... And One night he was having a nightmare..."

Faith grimaced. "Mind job." She said flatly.

"You have no idea."

Xander moved through his Kata with lightning fast movements, swinging Elanthielle through a series of complicated movements in an attempt to burn the image of the discussion he knew must be going on in Faith's room from his mind.

<ARRGH!> He screamed mentally as he spun the ancient weapon through a series of three hundred and sixty degree spins, passing the weapon from hand to hand behind his back and striking out at an imaginary target on his left flank. <God! Why me!?>

He could hear Elan's smirk before she even spoke, something that he rarely thought about but occasionally confused him. <How can you hear a smirk anyway?>

<You 'hear' my emotions because your mind isn't sufficiently advanced to process simultaneous visual inputs.>

"Huh?" Xander stopped in mid motion, confused.

<Your mind fills in my emotions and postures as sounds because it would produce a form of vertigo if I were to overlay my visual cues onto your brain's visual centers.>

Xander jammed Elan into the floor, leaning on the seven foot staff. "Oh, that *really* helps."

<You'd get dizzy if I tried to present myself visually.> Elan said, sounding frustrated.

"Oh." That made sense. "Why didn't you say so?"

<I did.>

"I meant in English."

Elanthielle didn't bother to dignify that with a response.

"Hey Willow." Buffy walked into the room, smiling at the red head as she did. "How's it going?"

Willow looked up from her desk, startled and... guilty? Buffy shook her head. <Just my imagination... that's all.>

"Oh! I'm good... very good... yep, no badness here... none at all."

"Ooookay." Buffy said slowly. "Spill."

"What?" Willow said, entirely too innocently.

"I don't know, but your weirding me out here... and coming from Hellmouth girl that's saying something."

Willow shook her head. "Nothing weird... well, nothing Hellmouth weird anyway. Just something I'm trying to figure out."

"Oh." Buffy said, smiling. She sort of *bounced* over to Willow's side with a grin on her face. "Anything I can help with?"

Willow stared at Buffy's blond hair, her mind overlaying Tara's face on Buffy's. She swallowed and turned away, her face turning beat red. "No!" She said forcefully.

Buffy took an involuntary step back, looking at Willow, perplexed. "Will...? What is it?"

Willow didn't look at her, she could feel the heat rising from her red face. "It's nothing, Buffy. I swear. I just have something to work out for myself... that's all."

"Oh." Buffy sounded disappointed but she stepped away from the Red Witch. "Ok. I guess I can handle that."

Willow turned back around, her head bowed, and Buffy could barely catch a glint of the grateful smile that was hidden under her scarlet locks. "Thanks."

Buffy nodded, "No problem, Will. You'll come to me if I can help though... right?"

Willow nodded.

"Promise?" Buffy said, her voice earnest.


Xander was finishing up his routine, his eyes shining with a silvery light as he looked around the darkened Dojo.

<So... I can copy the features of my hunting mask with this?>

<No.> Elan's voice was firm. <Only certain aspects. You can't, for example, see thermal images or into the x-ray spectrum... or see air pressure changes.>

"How come?" he asked as he moved through his Kata again, this time in the dark as he fought to maintain the focus on his eyes.

<Because your eyes are unable to perceive those things. Your mind still depends on what your senses feed it, I'm just showing you how to better process the data.>

Xander didn't respond. He was concentrating so hard on maintaining his focus that he didn't have the desire to make Elan dumb down her explanation. Besides, he had to admit, he was getting used to her manner of speaking. It wasn't too far removed from Giles-speak, and he had eventually managed to decipher most of what the Watcher had to say.

He wound down the kata, his body covered in a thin sheen of sweat, and shifted into his cooling down routine. As he allowed his focus to drift the silver glimmer in the pupils of his eyes slowly ebbed away in time to his accelerated heartbeat.

<Excellent session, Alexander.> Elan complimented him, her emotions washing through him... satisfied, pleased... approving.

"Thank you, Elan... thielle." Xander said, his tone almost formal.

Willow dug into her books, pulling out some old tomes that even Giles didn't know she had. They had cost her a small fortune, forcing her to buy old books for her 'normal' classes. She smiled to herself, it had been worth it.

She carefully cracked open the largest of the old tomes, breathing in the smell that clung to the book as she did. She slowly flipped through the pages as she looked for the spell she needed.

Finally finding it, Willow opened the book flat and read the spell carefully. <This is the answer to my problem... I know it.>

Xander shook his head as he nervously walked past the door to Faith's apartment, flinching when the sound of giggles and raucous laughter filtered through the heavy door. He shook his head and checked his watch. <Sundown was twenty minutes ago... I'm going on Patrol.>

He turned and fled to the basement.

Buffy did an about face when she stepped to the door of her apartment and saw the flickering of candles and heard the sound of chanting from the other side.

<Wiccan tupperware party. I'm out of here. Patrol sounds good.>

Xander jogged slowly through the park, letting his eyes roam through the trees as he passed, looking for hunters with the practiced eye of a Hunter. His dual Colts were concealed easily under his long black trench coat. He felt strange, moving through Sunnydale looking like one of the enemy, but it served its purpose. Experienced residents, the cops included, shied away from him as he strode past. They all breathed a sigh of relief when he didn't look in their direction.

The ones who did pay attention to him knew that he wasn't one of them. They watched him with dead eyes, eyes he could feel as they moved along with him. <Three... in the woods.>

<Four.> Elan corrected, <There is another tracking just beyond them.>

"Really?" Xander whispered under his breath, "How do you know?"

<I hear and see what you do... but I'm better at assembling the data then you are.>

Xander frowned, "Was that an insult?"

Elan laughed lightly into his ears but didn't respond otherwise.

He shook his head, snapping out of his reverie as the snap of a branch indicated that the Vampires were making their move.

"So come on," Faith grinned, "Spill. You spent some *quality* time with the X-man... What's he like now?"

Phoebe blushed slightly, thought not as much as Faith expected. <Damn. Wiccan lady is harder to phase then I thought.>

"He's.... nice."

"Nice!?" Faith scowled humorously, "Nice is for old married couples. Come on... dish already, Girl."

Xander ducked under the first Vamp's clumsy swing, lashing out with a heavy booted kick that shattered the vampire's left kneecap. He spun into a footsweep that dropped the second vamp to the ground on its ass, then he slowly straightened up and ooked pointedly at the third vamp.

"Ohhhh..." Xander drawled, brushing some dirt off the arm of his coat in a casual gesture. "A smart bloodsucker... surprised you were bright enough to hold back."

"I'm gonna rip you apart blood bag!" the vampire threatened as he helped up the vampire Xander had foot-swept earlier.

"Promises, promises." Xander said, "You know, if Angelus wasn't willing to go one on one with me I don't give you for your chances."

"Angelus?" The Vampire's eyes flickered around in fear. "You fought Angelus?"

Buffy froze in her tracks as she listened to Xander calmly taunt the vampires. <Angelus? When did he face Angelus?>

She watched from the trees as the lead vampire actually took a step back. "You fought Angelus?"

Xander shrugged, "Not quite. I faced the bastard down. He was after a friend of mine... was going to kill her finally... while she was helpless in the hospital. Real prince of a guy that Angelus. I stood my ground, he ran. Maybe he knew something you don't, huh?"

Buffy silenced a gasp that came with Xander's revelation. <He faced down Angelus? To save... me? It must have been...>

The lead vampire got some of his composure back. "You're a lying little puke. Angelus would never run from the likes of you."

Xander shrugged, pulling his silver staff from under his coat and snapping it to its full length. Buffy's breath caught a little as she caught sight of the weapon properly for the first time. It was a beautifully crafted weapon. She shook her eyes clear of the weapon and focused on Xander again.

He was smiling at the vampire, who now looked very... very nervous.

"You guys really picked a bad night to mess with me... usually I'd just dust ya and walk away... but tonight I need a workout."

The vampire with the shattered kneecap winced as he limped to his feet, "Why?"

Xander grinned apologetically, "You ever have an ex meet your current love interest?"

The three vampires winced. "Damn. You are having a bad night."

Xander sighed, "Yeah... and it's worse then that..."

The limping vampire looked at him, a vague fog of sympathy in his eyes. "You don't mean....?"

Xander nodded. "Yeah... they *like* each other."

"Oh shit." The lead vampire said. "That's really harsh."

"Tell me about it," Xander lowered his staff as he complained. "I mean... right now they are back there sharing stories about me in and out of bed. What kind of justice is that anyway?"

Buffy's eyes widened as Xander casually turned away from the vampires as he ranted, ignoring them as he continued his tirade against the injustice of the world. The two vampires looked at each other in surprise, then shrugged and charged him.

Willow finished her spell preparations, rereading the Latin incantation for the eighth time to commit it to memory. Her candles were lit, and all the components were in place.

She took a deep breath and spoke the first phrase.

"I invoke the name of Inanna. I summon forth her wisdom. Blessed Will Be Done."

Buffy burst clear of the woods, charging the closest vampire with a Stake in hand. In the corner of her eyes she could see Xander react to the threat with a casual sweep of his staff that cracked across the two vampires faces.

Xander grinned at her, "Hey Buff. What brings you to this neck of the woods?"

Buffy smiled back, "Oh, you know..." She backhanded a vampire casually away before turning back and flipping her hair out of her face. "Just chilling.."

"Cool." he grinned, reversing his grip on Elanthielle and jabbing it into the limping vampire's chest. He turned away as the shocked vampire burst into dust. "I'm just running from Phoebe and Faith myself..."

She laughed but looked oddly at the staff in Xander's hand. "That thing can dust Vampires? How? It's metal..."

Xander shifted to her side, holding the two vampires at bay with Elan. "Magical I guess... haven't asked to tell you the truth... Just happy that it does."

Buffy shrugged, jabbing her stake into the second vampire and ripping it out before it could dust with the demon. "Cool."

"Yeah." Xander grinned. "So..."

"So..." Buffy returned, smiling slightly.

The two friends grinned and turned to the, very nervous, leader of the vampire 'pack'.

"Inanna I call upon your star. I call upon your star. Grant me the wisdom to see the path before me and to choose wisely. Remove from me the strictures imposed by society for one night so that I may know my own heart. I invoke thee Inanna. I invoke thy wisdom."

In a dark place an ancient being felt a once familiar tug and look around for the source.


The woman turned from the source of the pull and smiled, "Yes?"

"What is it?"

"A Wiccan." Inanna responded. "Invoking my name... and for rather petty reasonings as well..."

"Don't they all do that?"

"Yessssss..." She said slowly, hissing in anger. "But none so powerful... Her power is such that it should have long since been tempered by greater wisdom."

Her companion moved back from the anger of the ancient being. "I recognize that look, Ina. What are you going to do?"

"I don't know." Inanna glared at the source of the tugging, slowly expanding her view by degrees until she saw what she was looking for. Then her face was creased by a slow cruel smile.

"Uh..." Her companion faltered at that look. It had never been indicative of good tidings any of the times he had seen it in the past. Once it had even led to his own 'death'. "Ina..."

"Hush." She said as he channeled her power to the Wiccan.

Willow's eyes darkened as the power washed through her, a slow smile forming on her lips. She slowly got to her feet and picked up the phone.

After dialing a number she smiled into the phone. "Tara? Hi! Can you come over?"

Buffy and Xander staggered as a strange sensation swept over them, their eyes going black for a few seconds. As they slipped the third vampire turned on his heel and ran.

On their knees the two warriors turned to each other, their eyes clouded with lust, and embraced as their mouths sought each other out. They fell to the ground under the dark of the moon, pulling each other tight.

The Next Morning

Xander woke slowly, an odd sensation in the back of his head. He felt like he had a hangover and couldn't remember how he'd earned it. He pried his eyes open when he felt a soft chuff of breath against his ear. He smiled at the blurry image. <Phoebe.>

Then his eyes suddenly snapped wide open when they recognized the source of the breath, driving a spike of pain through his brain as too much light was admitted.

<Buffy!? What the hell?>

He stared at her, she was beautiful as she slept. Innocent. He gently shook his head to clear it, but was only rewarded by another sharp pang of pain. He froze in place when a motion on the other side of him attracted his attention and an arm thumped down across his side.

<I'm in bed with Buffy and someone else? Who? Oh god. If that's Riley I'm throwing myself out a window, I swear it!>

Slowly he turned over. His eyes widened in shock, fear, and panic. <What the FUCK happened last night!?>

On the other side of him lay not only Phoebe, but Faith.

Xander's breath caught and a ring of pain sliced through his scull as his heart suddenly upped the blood to his brain with a panicked thumping. He jumped up as fast as he could, staggering as his vision went black from the suddenness of the move.

"Uhhh..." He thumped into the wall of the room and just leaned on it for a long moment. At least until he felt the cool air around his... lower extremities.

Shit! I'm naked!

He grabbed for the blanket he had left behind, ripping off the bed and wrapping it around him. Then he looked back at the bed and realized that he had left two Slayers, and one Wiccan Witch naked on his bed. And they were waking up.

Buffy and Faith were already moving, their eyes opening slowly.

"Shit." Faith mumbled. "What the hell hit me?"

"Yeah..." Buffy drawled in response. "and why am I so cold?"

Xander panicked. He threw the blanket back over the three women, forgetting for a moment that he had his own clothing issues at the moment.

"Wha?" Faith sat up as the blanket hit her.

"Uh..." Xander mumbled as the Dark Slayer's breasts came into view again.

Buffy propped herself up and look at Xander, her eyes widening as she took in his unclothed status. "Xander!?"

"Xander?" Phoebe mumbled as she shook herself awake.

"Xan-Man!" Faith grinned. "Looking good!"

Xander glanced down, turning bright red as he realized again that he was nude. "Shit!" He covered himself and ran for the bathroom.

"Was that Xander?" Phoebe asked as she caught sight of his buck naked form running for the washroom.

"Uh huh."

Buffy looked over at the Two brunettes. "What the hell are you doing in my..." She stopped, looked around. "Uh... who's room are we in?"

Faith was grinning. "Looks like the X-man's to me. What I want to know is how we got here and why I can't remember what a hot time we must have had last night?"

Phoebe was silent.

"Hot time!?" Buffy screeched. "No way. Not possible!"

"Wanna bet, Twinkie?" Faith said as she glanced under the covers. "Your looking pretty good yourself, Phoebe."

Phoebe turned a light pink as blood rushed to her face. "Thanks."

Buffy turned on her, "How can you be so calm about this!?"

Phoebe turned a little redder, "I've woken up in stranger situations."

"Whoa! Wild girl!" Faith kept grinning.

Buffy looked at the witch unbelieving. "Huh?"

Phoebe shrugged, "I had a wild streak in me when I was younger... had some fun times when I moved to New York... sometimes too much 'fun'."

"I'll say..." Buffy mumbled as she clenched the blanket tight to her, looking furtively around the room for her clothes.

Xander grabbed a towel, wrapping it around his waist as he looked at himself in the mirror. <What the hell happened? Love spell? God I hope not.... but what else could it have been?>

He turned and left the bathroom, not wanting to look at his reflection any longer.

Tara smiled as she opened her eyes and looked at the gently slumbering form beside her. <Willow.>

She hadn't been certain of Willow's feelings, but now she was. She gazed fondly at the peaceful smile on the redhead's face, one she knew was mirrored on her own. Slowly, so as not to wake her lover, she laid her head down beside Willow's and closed her eyes.

The last thing she remembered before slipping back to sleep was the unique smell of Willow's hair in her nostrils.

"What happened, Xander?" Buffy demanded, a little angry, when the towel clad young man emerged from the bathroom.

Xander shook his head angrily. "I don't know. What's the last thing you remember last night?"

Buffy thought about it. "Three vampires... we got two of them..."

"Right." Xander agreed. "But my memory blanks out after that... can't remember if we got the third one."

Buffy nodded slowly. "Yeah... Me too..."

Xander turned to the other two girls. "You two?"

Faith shrugged, "Same here. Was chatting up a storm about your... skills..." Faith grinned as Xander's entire upper body blushed. "Then... nothing."

Phoebe nodded in agreement.

"Great." Xander looked around, but didn't see what he was looking for. He reached out his hand, "Elan."

The silver battle staff shimmered into existence in his grip. Faith stared in shock at the weapon. "What the hell?"

Phoebe nudged the dark slayer, shaking her head slowly as she did. "Later." She whispered.

"Elan, what happened?"

Xander stared at the weapon for a moment. "Spell? A Love spell then?"

Another few seconds passed. Buffy looked at the other two women uncomfortable and shifted to the side of the bed.

"Ok, so it wasn't a love spell... fine. Fine. Well what was it?"

Faith stared at Xander as he talked to a stick in his hand. "Boy's flipped right off his rocker."

Phoebe actually smiled, "Wouldn't say that too loud. You don't want to tick off Elan."

"Who's Elan?" Buffy asked, subdued.

"The Battle Staff." Phoebe said simply, "She's got a pretty weird sense of humor... and the power to back it up."

"Ooookay." Faith drawled slowly, "So maybe I'm still in the coma... cause now everyone is talking like they're insane."

"No. No! Look, that doesn't make sense. I haven't done anything to piss off a God..." Xander was objecting strenuously. Then he stopped, considered, and spoke again. "Well... not lately anyway."

The three girls looked at each other, confusion on their faces as they each repeated one word to themselves. <God?>

"Damn it!" Xander cursed, "I need to see if anyone else got mixed in this."

Jarod woke up slowly, the racket from down the hall penetrating his sleep dulled senses. He could hear Xander yelling, then a door slamming open and footsteps coming down the hall. There was a quick banging on his door, which abruptly swung open. <Damn! I couldn't have closed it right last night!>

Xander stuck his head in, a bit wild eyed. "Jarod? Are you alright, man? Some major crap is going down...."

"I'm fine, Xander." Jarod said, resignedly. "What is it?"

Xander's eyes widened as he caught sight of the second body in Jarod's bed. Miss Parker glared at Xander with a look that could melt steel. Xander cursed. "Damn. The spell caught you too!?"

Jarod looked between his friend and his lover in confusion. "Spell?"

When Xander got back to his room, muttering something about opposites attracting, the three girls had managed to split up the bed cloths long enough to start pulling on some of his old clothes. No one had the slightest notion of where their own garments were. Xander was still speaking to Elan when he re-entered the room.

"What happened? No, I know you don't know *how* it happened... I mean *What* happened?"

Phoebe and Buffy shifted a little nervously as Xander asked that question, but Faith just grinned and looked interested.

"You can do that?" Xander said to thin air. "Ok... No, I understand. Let me sit down first."

He sat down on the bed and the three girls looked at him oddly. "What's going on, Xander?"

"Elan is going to jumpstart my memories. The Spell locked them up, but they're still in there."

"Wait!" Buffy objected. "Your going to ummm.... remember everything?"

Xander nodded, "That's the idea Buff. Maybe I can dig out a clue."

"But..." Buffy was more comfortable with the notion of amnesia, "What about...?"

Xander winced. "We have to know what happened, Buff. This might have been an attack or something."

"I know..." She said, almost meekly, "But... well..."

Xander nodded, "I know... Look... With Phoebe's help we might be able to restore all our memories... If you want them."

"I sure as hell do!" Faith sat up, grinning. "Looks like it was one helluva night to remember."

Buffy rolled her eyes, but otherwise ignored the dark Slayer. She bit her lower lip and looked back at Xander... "Ummm... I don't know."

Phoebe moved to Xander's side, "It's your choice, Buffy. Come over here, Faith."

The Dark Slayer slid in beside the two , grinning from ear to ear. "Cool."

Buffy winced, but finally sat down with the other three. "O... ok. I'm in."

Xander nodded, "Here's what we do..."

Jarod walked into Xander's room, and stopped in his tracks at the odd sight. Xander, Buffy, Faith, and Phoebe were sitting in a rough circle, apparently in a trance of some kind. His eyes swept the room and picked up on several details that were quite odd.

<Why are the girls wearing Xander's clothes?> Jarod puzzled over that for a moment, <And more importantly... why is Xander only wearing a towel?>

He was shaking his head when Miss Parker stumbled into the room behind him. "Jarod, why are you in here? Xander said that since we weren't affected by the 'spell' he'd let us know if he needed our help."

Jarod didn't answer right away, still looking around the room in confusion.

Miss Parker stopped and looked around, then she broke into a feral grin. "Wow. That must have been some 'spell'."

"What do you mean?"

She smirked at Jarod, "Come on Rat Boy, look around. The bed has been well 'used', none of them are wearing their own clothes, I can smell the sweat in the air, and Xander's reaction to seeing us in bed together puts all the pieces together."

Jarod's face twisted into a parody of concentration. "I'm not sure I follow you?"

Parker grinned even wider. It wasn't everyday she was a step *ahead* of Jarod. "They were doing the same thing we were last night."

Jarod turned pink. "Oh... Oh! Are you sure?"

"Oh yeah."

Jarod tilted his head as he considered the possibilities. "Interesting. I wonder how..."

Miss Parker cut him off. "Keep wondering Rat Boy, but I'll have to kill you if you try to 'simulate' *This*."

Jarod's face went blank and he just nodded. His face turned kind of white when he heard Parker's parting shot as she left the room.

"Well... if you try it without *me* anyway..."

Xander opened his eyes, he could already feel his face burn as the blood rushed to it. Around him the three girls were doing the same.

Faith's eyes snapped open first, and she just stared at Buffy. "Whoa Buff! Where did'ja learn that one!?"

Phoebe looked between the two Slayers and spoke a little tentatively. "Was *that* a Slayer thing?"

Faith hands came up, her palms outward. "Hell no! I ain't never done nothing like THAT before!"

By this point Buffy was a bright red, matching and exceeding the best Willow could manage on a bad day. "I.... I... I..."

"You certainly do!" Faith grinned wide, shaking her head in amazement. "I mean... wow..."

Buffy tried to deflect the conversation, glaring at Xander as she spoke. "You didn't say it would be like that! I thought we were just going to remember it! Not actually do IT again!"

"Buff..." Xander looked shocked, "We didn't do anything again... you're still dressed..."

She looked down. "Oh... but... I... well... it felt like..."

Phoebe shrugged, "Recovering memories magically has some quirks."

"Quirks!?" Buffy stood up, backing away from the group. "I'm getting out of here. That didn't do us any good... except give Xander a cheap thrill."

"Hey!" Faith objected, "Speak for yourself. I ain't cheap. And you seemed to get a few thrills of your own... Lover."

Buffy half shrieked and half growled as she retreated from the room. Xander covered his eyes and shook his head. "Man... this can't be a good development."

"What are you complaining about X-man?" Faith grinned, "You can't say that wasn't an experience a million guys wouldn't kill for."

"That's not the point, Faith." Xander said as he got up. The fact was she was right on the one hand. The memories Elan had unlocked would provide him with pleasant memories for the rest of his life and probably a few steps beyond. But now what he had struggled so hard to avoid on that fateful valentines day had come true. He'd strained his relationship with Buffy... perhaps to the breaking point.

Phoebe didn't really know what to say. She watched as Xander tossed a few clothes on, apparently oblivious to the two girls in his room, and left. She couldn't blame him for what happened, but she definitely had to sort out her own feelings before she could even attempt to help Xander with his. Phoebe got up slowly, heading for the bathroom, her own face as pensive as Xander's.

Faith watched as the room emptied, a slightly confused and bemused expression on her face. "Damn. You guys take this shit WAY to seriously, you know that?"

Neither answered as they left.


Giles woke up with a start as the scream ripped through his apartment. He shook his head and grabbed for his glasses as Buffy rampaged through his living room. "One moment!"

The watcher staggered out of his room, pulling his robe tight around him, to find a very distraught Slayer in his living room. "My God, Buffy... what happened?"

"Spell... Bed... Xander... Faith... Phoebe... Woke up... didn't remember..."

"Slow down... Someone cast a spell?" Giles tried to piece things together from the ramblings of the blond Slayer. "What kind of spell?"

Buffy turned red. "Ummmm... It was... was..."

"Was what?"

"Itwasasexspell! Ok?Isaiditoncepleasedon'tmakemesayitagain!" Buffy babbled.

"Sex spell??" Giles looked horrified. "Wait a moment... You say Xander was involved? Did he cast another love spell?"

Buffy shook her head, "I don't think so... he was caught up in it too..."

"You're certain?" Giles asked sternly.

Buffy nodded. "Is there anyway to find out what happened?"

Giles shook his head, pulling his glasses off and wiping them clean. "I'm really not sure... I suppose we can try..."

"Please." Buffy was firm. "I need someone to slay over this."

The roar of the twin Colt's rang in his ears as Xander unloaded the two weapons down the range, obliterating large chunks of the targets with frightening ease. He hadn't bothered with ear guards this time, hoping that the echoing roar would drown out the constant barrage of guilt and images that assaulted him.

<I slept with Buffy.> Xander shook his head. <I couldn't have... I swore I wouldn't... Goddamn IT! I promised myself...>

His lips curled up into a low snarl as he ejected the clips to the ground and slammed the two weapons down flat on the small table in front of him. He turned away, leaving both guns smoking in his wake.

<Elan!> His hands curled around the cool metal as the weapon appeared in his hand. <Please tell me that you've figured out a way to track this spell?>

<I am sorry, Alexander.> Elan did sound very sorry, <But I have not. It was empowered by one of the Petty Gods. Even I am not powerful enough to find the source of the spell if the God has decreed it be hidden.>

Xander nodded, then a thought struck him. <Has he?>


<Has the God decreed that the source be hidden?>

Elan paused, <I would presume so... it was a very powerful spell... The caster must have been favored for it to be granted.>

<So you haven't actually checked?>

<No... I hardly see the need...>

<Do it.> Xander thought firmly.


<I said check.>

<very well.> Elan muttered doubtfully.


Willow smiled as she walked along the road toward Giles' place. Tara had just left for classes a few minutes earlier and she just couldn't sit still even though she had no classes until late afternoon. Since she hadn't seen Buffy since the night before she thought that perhaps something hellmouthy might be going down, and in that case she would find the gang at Xander's or at Giles'.

She opted for Giles first, if Buffy found anything on patrol last night she would head there.

Willow smiled as she walked into the small apartment, taking the flurry of books and papers that seemed to center around the coffee table as a sign that she was right. "Hey guys, what's up?"

Buffy barely looked up from the books she was buried under. "Evil spell stuff, Willow. Someone's trying to torture me..."


Giles looked up, his face grim, "Someone targeted Buffy with a spell last night... the effects were... disturbing."

"Really?" Willow asked, far too cheerfully for Buffy's liking. "Like how?"

"Don't ask." Buffy growled as she continued to di through her books.

"Umm... but I already did?" Willow said, a little plaintively.

"Well, pretend you didn't."

"Oh..." Willow sounded disappointed, "Well... how can I help? I mean... if you don't want to tell me I can't really look anything up..."

Buffy almost snapped at her to leave, feeling the blood rush to her face at the mere thought of telling Willow what happened, but Willow was the best they had when it came to research and magic.

"It was a sex spell." Buffy growled.

"A what!?" Willow's eyes bugged out.

"Someone cast a sex spell on me when I was patrolling..."

Buffy was turning a beat red for the umpteenth time in less then four hours, and Willow's shocked look wasn't really helping.

"Wh...what happened?"

Buffy winced, trying to block out the images that question brought up. "Can we not talk about it, please?"

Willow's eyes widened, "O... ok... Maybe it's a demonic effect?"

"Yes..." Giles said from the depths of a book, "I had thought of that... Start with the watcher's guide to aberrant demons, if you please?"

Willow nodded and pulled up a seat and dug into the books.


Xander felt a wave of surprise wash over him and instantly recognized the source. <What is it, Elan?>

<The energy of the spell is like a beacon. No attempt has been made, even by amateur standards, to hide it.>

"That's a good thing..." Xander said slowly, "Right?"

<It means that we will be able to track it back to it's source. You could do it yourself with the San'Quai or even with the focused vision I've shown you... The magical energy would stand out like a beacon in the aura of anyone touched by it.>

Xander smiled. "Cool."

He gathered up his equipment and geared up, "Time to go hunting."

Jack Crow was halfway up the walkway to Xander's building when the kid came blasting out of the place like he a man with a mission. Crow ducked back as Xander swept past with Phoebe and Faith in tow.

"Sorry, Jack." Xander said in passing. "No time to chat. Hunting."

Crow noted, with some curiosity that Xander's face was grim. The kid looked like someone had killed his best friend. Phoebe seemed rather neutral, and Faith seemed positively pleased with herself for some reason. He shook his head and called out to Xander.

"You need a hand, Kid? I've got some time to burn."

Xander hesitated. "I don't know, Jack...this one got a little personal."

Faith laughed, "Come on, Crow. You're gonna love this story..."

Xander groaned, but nodded and waved Crow into the back of the Mustang. A minute later the engine roared tolife and Xander pealed out of the driveway, heading toward UC Sunnydale Campus.

"Nothing." Buffy moaned. "Absolutely nothing."

"Indeed." Giles said as he slammed a book shut. "None of the demons with this...ah...modi operandi would have left it as you described, Buffy."

"You *described* it to GILES?" Willow asked.

"Willow!" Buffy looked at her, scandalized.

"Well... I want to know." The red Wiccan said petulantly.


Giles wisely elected to stay out of the argument that was brewing. In the middle of a fight between two women was no place for a man to be... the sidelines on the other hand was the perfect position. Giles shook his head as unwanted thoughts slipped past his guard, shuddering. <Down, Ripper Ol Boy.>

"Why not?" Willow whined.

Buffy growled, "Because I said so. I *so* want to forget this ever happened."

"Was it that bad a time?" Willow grinned at her.

"Will, I liked you better when you were meek. This confident you is really annoying."

Willow didn't seem apologetic in the least, instead opting to grin at the Slayer and repeat the question. "So was it?"

Buffy blushed. It had been along way from 'bad' but that didn't make it right. So she tried to ignore Willow's question.

Willow caught her blush and grinned even wider, as she pushed even hard, it didn't occur to her that the spell she had cast still was affecting her judgement. "Aha! It wasn't that bad was it? You had a good time, didn't you?"

Giles quickly hopped to his feet, "If you'll excuse me, I don't think I need to hear this."

Buffy glowered at him, "What? and I do?"

"You don't go anywhere until you dish up, Buffy." Willow smiled at her, an uncharacteristically feral smile.

"Nothing." Xander growled, looking around the campus with an almost imperceptible silver glow in his eyes.

Beside him Phoebe was examining the red blurred display of the San'Quai to little avail. "I'm sorry Xander... I don't see the trace that led us here anymore. It's faded out."

"I know."

Crow watched the proceedings with some interest, and a great deal of amusement. "I still don't see what the big deal is... No one got hurt, you had a good time... and it was about time you had a good old fashioned fucking... You guys are way to stressed out."

"Do I LOOK relaxed to you!?" Xander demanded as he continued to examine his surroundings intently.

"No." Crow admitted, "But you would if you just accepted it as a nice time had by all."

Beside him Faith was grinning ear to ear, "I'm starting to like this guy, Xan-man. Don't see why Buffy calls him a jerk..."

Crow grinned down at the young Slayer, "Me neither..."

Xander snorted, finally distracted from his study of the environment. "I think it might have something to do with you assuming she was a hooker the first time you met her, Jack."

Amid Faith's braying laughter Crow just shrugged, "Sue me, I can't be blamed for her fashion sense."

Faith stopped laughing for a moment, studying her own clothes. "And what, pray tell, do you think of MY fashion sense?"

Crow backpedaled quickly, "Well... at least its more functional then than the Blonds... fits you better too, I think."

Faith nodded slowly, a wicked smile forming on her lips. "Good save."

"There!" Xander said, pointing off in the distance. "I can see the power glow from that direction."

Faith looked intently but didn't see anything, "How do you do that trick anyway, Xan?"

"Practice." Was all he said before jumping back into the car and starting the engine again.

"So?" Willow pressed again.

Buffy studiously ignored her, trying to appear focused on the book in front of her. Willow leaned forward and glanced at the text. "Buffy, unless you recently learned that rather obscure Celtic dialect, I think you're trying to ignore me."

Buffy glared at the redhead, "What was your first clue?"

"Come on." Willow wheedled, "Don't be like that... we share everything... you told me about Angel, I told you about Oz..."

"This wasn't a date, Willow." Buffy growled. "This was something else entirely."

"Yeah," Willow grinned, "It was more like what happened between your mom and Giles."

"Willow!" Giles outraged voice echoed from the kitchen.

"I thought you weren't listening, Giles!" Willow yelled back.

There was no answer.

Willow was leaning in to push a bit harder when the door to the apartment suddenly burst open, the lock smashed clean off. Buffy jumped up to a combat stance as they saw Xander and Faith burst in, Xander's pistols tracking across the room. They both saw the silver light glowing in his eyes as his twin Colt pistols came to rest, pointing directly at Willow.

A disappointed look crossed his face as his eyes shifted back from silver to chocolate brown. "Willow." Was all he said, in a mournful voice.

Xander got more and more worried as they got closer to the source of the magical signature they were tracking. It was becoming obvious that it was currently planted directly in Giles' apartment. That was a serious problem.

"Unknown magic user. Giles' Place. Chaotic magic. Shit." Xander said flatly.

"What?" Phoebe asked, concerned at the tone in his voice.

Xander hopped over the car's door and planted his feet firmly on the ground as he stared up at the building he had parked beside. "Ethan Rayne. The last time something even close to this happened it was an old 'friend' of Giles come to pay his respects. I wound up with forty years of combat experience crammed into my skull."

"That's not so bad." Jack Crow said, "Explains your fighting style."

Xander nodded, "Yeah, but the rest of the town were turned into demons, ghosts, and helpless eighteenth century noblewomen for the night."

"Ah..." Crow said, "That sucks."


As they approached the door Xander pulled his guns and motioned Faith forward, "Kick the door in."

Faith quirked a grin, "You sure?"

Xander nodded grimly.

Faith chuckled, "I've wanted to do this to tweed-man for a long time."

Xander got ready, his eyes glowing with the eerie silver as he focused his vision, and Faith planted her foot right where the deadbolt was on the other side. The door splintered and swung open and Xander charged in, swinging his guns to sweep the room.

Xander stopped as his vision identified the power signature present in the aura. A signature that was so strong that even without Elan's instant confirmation he knew it had to be the caster. His face dropped almost as fast as his heart.

"Willow." Was all he could say.

Buffy snapped into action, placing herself between Xander's guns and Willow. She didn't know what was going on but the glow in Xander's eyes simply wasn't natural.

"Xander..." She started slowly, "I don't know what's wrong with you but you can't hurt Willow."

Xander sighed, flipping his guns toward the ceiling, flat side toward Buffy and Willow. He held them there for a moment before he slipped the two guns back into leather. "It was Willow."


"She cast the spell. I can see it in her aura, if I hadn't toned down my sight she would have blinded me, the power is that intense."

"No... NO." Buffy said, shaking her head. "She wouldn't."

"That's right!" Willow said, "I wouldn't... I didn't!"

"Willow," Giles said slowly, "Did you cast ANY spells last night?"

Willow was silent.

"She invoked Innana, Giles." Xander said flatly, moving to sit in the closest chair. Behind him Phoebe, Faith, and Crow grabbed seats around the room.

"How did you...?" Willow trailed off as Buffy stared at her.

"Willow!" Buffy stared at her in shock.

"I.... I didn't cast it on you..." Willow defended herself, "It was on me... I was the only target..."

"Then how...?" Buffy asked slowly.

Giles started to speak, but again Xander beat him to the punch. "Innana is a very... fickle Goddess. She probably thought that Willow needed a lesson... and she used us to provide it."

"Erm... Yes.... precisely." Giles said, "Xander... how did you know that?"

"I have a... friend with some experience in magic." Xander smiled.

"Oh... ummm... Yes." Giles looked at Phoebe and Xander smiled a little wider at the obvious mistake.

<I'll tell him later.> Xander thought as he turned his attention back to Willow. He pulled her out from the group, against Buffy's objections, and spoke to her privately. "Let me guess, you cast the spell to remove your inhibitions?"

"Umm... not exactly..." Willow said. "It was a..."

Xander cut her off. "Stop. I already know, and I don't think it's a good idea for you to bring it up right now."

"But..." Willow looked confused, "Why?"

Xander glanced between Phoebe, Faith, and Buffy. "Because it would cause a lot of trouble if they found out you cast a 'Know your heart spell' that led to... what it led to..."

Willow looked at the group, her eyes widening. "Oh my god. Xander! I'm so sorry... I didn't mean..."

"I know that, Willow. But you've screwed up in a big way this time. Buffy was so pissed off earlier that if she had gotten her hands on you..." Xander shook his head. "There are going to be consequences this time, Willow. Big ones."

Willow looked stricken. "I... I really didn't mean..."

Xander glared at her, all the softness gone form his voice. "Buck up, Will. Intentions are irrelevant at this point. You hurt your two best friends, and the Goddess only knows how many others got tangled up in your spell. I'm going to have to do something about this."

Willow looked at him in shock. "W... what? I mean... what can you do?"

"You'll see." Xander said and walked away.

Buffy glared at both Xander and Willow as they rejoined the group. "What was that all about?"

Xander just shrugged and pulled Phoebe gently away from the group. "I need to ask you something."

Phoebe looked at him curiously, but followed him into the kitchen. "Ok..."

"Can you get Leo here?"

"Sure." Phoebe called for the Whitelighter, who almost immediately orbed into the kitchen with them.

"What's up?" He looked at the duo curiously.

"Leo," Xander began, "I need a favor."

"Uh... If I can..."

"Can you get a Whitelighter assigned to a witch?"

Leo stared at Xander for a moment, "Witches are assigned Whitelighter guardians at Birth..."

"No, I mean to a Practitioner, not a natural witch."

"That's... very rare." Leo said slowly.

"Can it be done?"


Phoebe spoke up, "His friend, Willow, is dabbling in magic for personal gain. And she's getting stronger. Without guidance... I agree with Xander. She needs someone who knows more about witches then the group here does."

Leo sighed, "All right. I'll see what I can do." And he orbed out.

"How could you!" Buffy glared at Willow, who had lost all her earlier confidence and was cowering before the Slayer's wrath.

"I... I'm sorry..." She said quietly.

Faith, who was enjoying the show, couldn't help but put in her own crack. "Cut her some slack... She did give us a good time... Lover."

Buffy turned red again, shaking as she turned on the Dark Slayer. "You stay out of this."

Willow stared, open mouthed, between the two Slayers. "Lover? Oh Buffy.... I'm SO sorry!"

"Hey!" Faith objected to the Wiccan's apology. "I didn't hear any complaint last night... from any of them."

"Them!?" Willow kept sinking into the couch. "W... who?"

Faith kept on speaking, grinning as she dug each crack into the young witch, despite the desperate urgings from Buffy to shut up. "Phoebe and Xander of course. I really have got to hand it to ya, Red, when you throw a party for your pals, you go all out."

"Xander?" She whispered in a soft voice.

"That's right." Xander growled as he emerged from the kitchen. "You've managed to single handedly alienate almost all of your friends with one screw up. Welcome to the club."

"No!" Willow had regained some of her confidence when presented with Xander's proposal. "I do not need a babysitter!"

Buffy arced an eyebrow in her direction, "You could have fooled me."

"I said I was sorry!" Willow responded, "I screwed up.... Don't act like you've never done it!"

Buffy flinched back, hurt.

"We all have." Xander stepped in, "And that's part of the point... I screw up, what's the worst that happens? You guys hate me. But damn it Willow, if you flip out you could probably do a serious job on this town!"

"I'm not going to 'flip out'!" She protested.

"Willow..." Giles began.

"No!" She cut him off, "I'm careful with magic... This was just one mistake."

"Some mistake." Faith cackled in laughter from where she was sitting.

"You shut up!"

"Make me, Red!" Faith leaned forward.

Willow spun on her, her hand coming up and a spell on her lips. Xander intercepted her hand, pulling it around behind her back and slipping his palm over her mouth.

Faith grinned gleefully, she loved it when people reacted exactly as expected.

"Is this your idea of careful use of magic!?" Xander tossed her back into the couch and drew one of his Colts from its holster. He let her eyes widen as they followed the nickel plated pistol for a moment, then he slammed the weapon down on the coffee table hard enough to make her jump. He pointed to the weapon and demanded, "What does that look like to you?"

She stared between Xander and the gun in shock, unable to respond.

"I asked you a question, Willow."

"A... a gun..."

"Is it dangerous?"

She looked at him as if he were insane. "O.. Of course it is."

"What is it for?"


"Do I use it for anything else?"


"Do I," he repeated, "use it for anything else?"

"I...I don't understand..."

"Do I shoot out the lights at my place when I don't feel like getting up to turn them off? Do I use it to scare away Jehovah's witnesses and annoying salesmen?"

"N... no, of course not..."

"Do you know why!?"

Willow shook her head, too confused by the off center question to formulate a response.

Xander continued, relentlessly. "Because It's a loaded gun! And if I did any of those things then sooner or later there would be an accident and someone would DIE!"

Xander paused, took a deep breath, and watched Willow where she sat. "Willow," He continued in a much gentler tone, "Magic is a thousand times more dangerous then a loaded gun."

Giles stepped into the silence and continued, "You have to realize that he's right, Willow. Magic is not a toy, you can not simply use it to make your life easier. The powers that you are attempting to harness will not let you go unchanged. Life is hard sometimes, yes, it's true. But there is a reason for that, without the trials you go through now how can you expect to meet the challenges that come later?"

"But... I can control them!" Willow protested.

"You can't." Buffy said, "Last night was proof of that. You tried to tap powers from something so much greater then yourself, and it was a disaster."

"Indeed." Giles cleaned off his glasses, looking at Willow for a moment, "Control is an illusion, child. These powers grant you only so much control as they desire. Why do you think we stay away from Black Magics? Those powers tend to corrupt and control the wielder..."

"But it wasn't black magic! I swear!"

Giles sighed, "I know that, Willow. If it were then we would be having a much different conversation. But even White Magic is quite capable of controlling the caster. Especially when the Caster is tapping the power without clear purpose. You must have a powerful focus to maintain control over these forces... and I'm afraid that trying to fix your love life is hardly a sufficient focus."

Willow's eyes had lost a lot of their bluster, and she finally nodded in agreement. "Ok... so I need to cut back on my magic use... but I still don't see why I need a watcher to make sure... don't you guys trust me?"

"Willow..." Xander said slowly, "This isn't about trust.... well... yes it is. But its not all about you either. Magic is some powerful stuff, and it can be hard to resist temptations like that. We just want to make sure that you have the best chance of staying in the driver's seat."

"Listen to them, Willow." Phoebe said earnestly, "They're trying to help. When I first became a witch I tried using magic for personal gain... It was never pretty. White Magic doesn't tolerate that kind of dabbling... it will corrupt your spells and eventually even your soul simply by association. White Magic is meant to help others... not yourself."

Crow sat, watching the argument with some interest. He considered the argument interesting from an outsiders point of view, and was getting a decent idea why the Church had a heavy leaning against the use of magical power. He was still uncertain whether the policy was the right thing to do or not. After all, only a fool doesn't use ever weapon at his disposal when he's being beat to death... still, power could be a bitch to resist.

<The kid is lucky she's got some people here to keep her on the straight and narrow. A few more fuck ups like last night and she'd start a whole new series of witch hunts single handedly.>

"Willow," Xander said, pain lacing his voice, "You've only got two choices here. Take the Whitelighter and accept his guidance... or..."

"Or what?" She asked timidly.

Xander took a breath and forced resolve into his face. "Or we bind your powers."

Willow looked at him in shock, and even Buffy and Giles were taken back. "What?"

"You heard me, Willow. I don't want to do it, but if you are so far gone that you can't even accept help... then your not giving us a lot of choice."

"I... I..." Willow stammered. "You can do that?"

Phoebe nodded, "We can... but we don't want to... Please believe me... I... I hate the idea of taking away someone's powers... it was done to me once... I spent my entire life living and feeling like something was missing from me... like I had a hole in my soul. Please. Take the help that's being offered."

Willow was quiet for a long time, absorbing the information she had just been given and the impact of the spell she had cast. Finally she raised her head, her face streaked with tears but showing resolve under the sorrow. "Ok... I'll... Accept help."

Xander reached down, his face creased in a pure smile for the first time that day, and pulled her up into his arms and whispered, "Thank you."

Buffy stepped in and soon Willow found herself being hugged by her two best friends.

Phoebe watched, a little melancholy, at the show of how deep the friendship went. When she glanced at Faith she could see that the scene had hit her even harder as the Dark Slayer watched with undisguised envy.

Rupert Giles smiled, looking at his three 'children', feeling pride at the outcome. Pride in all three of them. <Good Show.>

Crow shifted in his seat, looking undeniably bored now that the fireworks were over. Underneath his exterior was a markedly different reaction however. A lump that he simply could not force down had formed in his throat as he thought of his own family, and how close they had been before the Vampires came. He hardened his heart and kept his outward demeanor of uncaring boredom intact as he watched the scene before him.



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