Red Moon Rising
"Oh man, that is like totally gross!"
Anya grabbed Xander’s arm as they looked down at whatever was lying on Buffy’s doorstep.
Giles bent down cautiously.
"I think this was once Oz," he declared. "It’s the same shirt he was wearing the other day when he attacked Buffy in the woods."
"He’s been ripped apart," Xander grimaced.
"Yes, I would say the wounds were probably caused by his pack or a couple of vampires. I can’t tell without a thorough examination and I don’t think my stomach is up for that," the ex-Watcher observed.
"Joyce Mom!" Anya cried and Giles looked startled but stood up quickly and began banging on the door.
"Joyce! Joyce!" he shouted.
A few moments later they heard the door being unlocked and when Joyce opened the door Giles jumped over what was left of Oz and pushed Joyce back into the house.
"Rupert! What on earth is going on? Is Buffy okay?"
He quickly shut the door behind him, leaving Xander and Anya with the body.
"Yes, Buffy is fine," he said quickly.
"Then what is going on? Why did you leave Anya and Xander out there?"
"Well, you see…it seems that…well, there’s a body on your doorstep," he stammered.
"I think Oz’s pack killed him and left him on your doorstep," Giles explained as he went to the telephone on an end table.
"Why would they kill Oz, wasn’t he their pack leader?" Joyce asked. "And tell me about Buffy!"
"Buffy is going to be fine," he said. "I’ll explain after the police get here and we deal with them."
The next two hours were spent answering endless questions by first uniformed police officers, then detectives and then more detectives. The situation eased up a little bit when Brad Santiago showed up and took over the questioning of the Watcher, Joyce and the couple.
Xander and Anya sat on the sofa, the young ex-vengeance demon in Xander’s arms while Joyce and Giles sat at the dining table with Detective Santiago.
"So, you were at your place last night with Mr. Harris and Ms. Smith?"
"Yes, we were planning a Halloween get together tonight and we watched some videos. I spent the night on their sofa," Giles lied easily.
"And you heard nothing, Mrs. Summers?" another detective questioned.
"No, not at all. My bedroom is upstairs and I didn’t know anything was wrong until Rupert told me there was a body in front of my door," Joyce answered, pouring another cup of tea for Giles.
"Could your daughter have heard anything?" the detective asked.
"No, she’s out of town with her friends Willow and Tara," Joyce replied quickly.
"According to my notes all three of them are college students, shouldn’t they be in class?" the detective asked.
"You probably also know that Oz, Daniel Oswald, was stalking Willow and had hurt her badly. They wanted to get out of town," Giles responded.
"Where are they?" Brad Santiago asked the next logical question.
"At the beach," Joyce responded. "They won’t be back until Friday."
"You have no idea who would kill Daniel Oswald and dump his body on your door?" the first detective asked.
"No one except ourselves," Giles admitted and the detective, Robert Parsons, looked surprised. "You didn’t see Willow after Oz attacked her and you weren’t there when he broke into my home and injured several of us."
"Willow may not regain the full use of her hand and if she does, it’ll take a year to recover," Joyce added bitterly.
"Well, I don’t think any of you did it," Brad added. "Daniel Oswald was ripped apart by some kind of animal. We know he was hiding in the woods. What we don’t know, was who found his body and put it on your doorstep."
"And who ripped out his eyes," Detective Parsons added.
Giles turned pale and Joyce dropped her cup. Parsons glanced over at the young couple on the sofa and he thought Xander Harris might get sick right in the living room.
"Eyes?" the young man asked softly, holding Anya close. "What did you say?"
"Someone intentionally ripped out his eyes," Parsons explained.
"Oh dear," Giles muttered and reached across for Joyce’s hand.
Finally, the Coroner removed the mess that was once Oz’s body and the detectives finished with their questions. Detective Santiago offered to remain behind and question Buffy, Tara and Willow on the telephone when they called in.
Giles and the others knew that he was merely using that as an excuse to hang around and find out what was really going on.
Joyce turned to Giles as soon as Detective Parsons left the house. "Tell me!"
"God, I’m tired," Giles complained. "We all are. Buffy, Willow and Tara are sleeping right now and they are all safe."
The Watcher removed his glasses and ran a hand over his face.
"Willow performed a spell like she had planned only she lied to all of us," Giles continued.
Joyce quickly looked over and saw Xander lean forward and put his head in his hands as Anya placed an arm around him.
"You said they were alright," Joyce said.
"Yes, they are all alive," Giles responded. "Willow’s spell wasn’t what she described, it was a transference spell. She took the wolf into herself."
"Okay, I’m slow on the magick stuff," Brad admitted. "What are you saying?"
"Willow freed Buffy from the werewolf infection by taking it on herself, she’s now a werewolf," Giles said wearily. "She locked us out and willingly took the curse."
"Oh God, Willow," Joyce said softly. "Oh, Rupert, not like this! I wanted Buffy cured but not like this!"
"I know, Joyce," he agreed. "Tara didn’t know either and Buffy had no idea what was happening."
"What does this mean, Giles?" Brad asked with a frown.
"It means that from now on, Willow will turn into a werewolf three nights every month of every year until she dies," Giles responded bluntly.
Willow turned over and found one side of the bed empty. The redhead glanced to her left and found Buffy lying on her stomach and still asleep. She reached out and gently brushed some blonde hair from Buffy’s face.
Looking in the other direction, she spotted Tara at the camp stove and Willow’s now sharper senses took in the delicious smell of hamburgers cooking. Tara glanced over her shoulder and smiled at her fellow witch and lover.
Willow looked down and realized she was naked and began blushing. She began putting things together in her head and lost her smile as she reached for her backpack of clothes.
After slipping on a t-shirt, sweatshirt, and sweatpants she began cursing again the fact she could only use one hand again. Getting on a pair of thick socks with one hand was a task she hadn’t mastered yet.
Tara was bending down in front of Willow and helping her put on her socks in a quick movement and Willow glanced away, afraid to meet Tara’s blue eyes.
"Willow," Tara said softly as she put on the next sock and reached for Willow’s shoes.
The hacker still wouldn’t meet her eyes.
"Willow, wake up Buffy and let’s have lunch," Tara suggested. "Then we have to talk."
A muffled sound greeted this suggestion from Buffy’s side of the bed and the Slayer raised her head reluctantly a moment later.
"Smells good," she muttered. "No talking until after food, deal?"
"Agreed," Tara said with a sad smile and Willow nodded.
Lunch was unusually quiet for the three young women; normally Tara and Willow would have been discussing spells and magick or talking with Buffy about slaying. Most times it would have been even more mundane subjects like classes and homework. For Halloween, lunch was eaten in silence.
Finally, Buffy couldn’t take the silence any longer.
"I could use another six hours of sleep, I think," she commented, not looking at either Tara or Willow.
"So could I," Tara agreed.
Willow was silent and seemed to be concentrating on the card table in front of her.
"Willow, why?" Buffy finally asked.
Willow raised her green eyes to Buffy’s clear blue ones and the Slayer reached forward to wipe away the tears that were escaping down Willow’s cheeks.
"I love you, Buffy," Willow said softly. "I couldn’t let you continue as a werewolf because of me."
"It wasn’t because of you!" Buffy protested. "Oz was the one that bit me, not you."
"He was trying to bite me," Willow countered. "The world and Sunnydale needs a Slayer not a werewolf Slayer. No one will miss me being locked away three nights a month."
"I will, damnit!" Tara protested, surprising Willow and Buffy with the intensity in her voice. "You should have talked with us about it!"
"Give me a break!" Willow snapped back. "As if either of you would have agreed to it. Okay, be pissed off at me. I agree we shouldn’t do things like this without talking to each other. It’s done and we can’t change it."
Willow abruptly got up and went to the cell and leaned against the bars.
Tara and Buffy looked at each other and Tara nodded for Buffy to go to the redhead.
The Slayer felt Willow’s muscle tighten when she placed her hands on the witch’s shoulders.
"Wills," Buffy said softly. "I love you and I understand."
"You do?" Willow asked in a small voice.
"Yes," Buffy answered, leaning her head on Willow’s shoulder. "I did the same for you; I should have known you’d do the same for me. I just wish it wasn’t either of us."
Willow turned in the Slayer’s arms and began crying.
"I’m sorry, I know I betrayed our trust with you and Tara," Willow cried.
Buffy sighed with relief as Tara joined her in holding Willow.
"Willow, I love you," Tara said softly. "I’m upset either of you have to go through this but I’m not going anywhere. Let’s make a deal, no more secrets in the future, okay?"
"Okay," Willow said softly and glanced back over her shoulder at the cell. "That’s my home tonight, isn’t it?"
Neither Buffy nor Tara had to answer her.
"Did I change last night? Is that why I had no clothes this morning?" the witch asked her lovers and best friends.
"What do you remember?" Buffy asked as they walked back to the card table and Buffy began clearing away the paper plates and putting the trash in a trash bag.
"I remember the spell and you howling and screaming in pain," Willow said thoughtfully, her green eyes becoming darker with the concentration. "I saw you changing and couldn’t watch and concentrate so I turned away. I did the banishing and called it to me."
Tara reached out and held Willow’s good hand. The blonde witch was seeing a side of Willow that she hadn’t seen in a long time, the shy and skittish hacker. Willow reminded her of a deer caught in the headlights of car just before being run over.
"Next, there was this incredible pain, it made focusing really difficult. I tried to throw the curse back to Oz and called for justice against him. I guess I didn’t do that part right because I don’t remember anything after that."
"What the hell did you put in that wine and blood?" Buffy asked as she sat down on a milk crate.
"Henbane, wolfsbane, poppy seed, and some other herbs," Willow whispered, her head dropping.
"Goddess, Willow," Tara exclaimed. "Those are poisonous and mind altering."
"They sure altered my mind," Buffy agreed. "I couldn’t think or see straight."
"I know, all the old spells I found had those basic ingredients and some had worse," Willow muttered. "I changed didn’t I?" she repeated her question.
"Yes, you changed into an upright werewolf, nice reddish fur though," Buffy attempted to tease in order to try and ease the tension.
"The silver pentagram held you and the drugs kept you pretty much unconscious," Tara added.
"Good," Willow said simply.
Willow flinched when Buffy pulled out a pistol from her waistband when the three of them heard the door to the outer crypt being opened.
"It’s Giles," Willow said softly.
"How can you tell?" Tara asked with a frown.
"I recognize his walk," Willow answered.
"You heard him coming?" Buffy asked. "Nevermind, I remember what it was like."
Giles looked worse than he had the night before and both Buffy and Tara noticed he was still in the same clothes he had left in.
"What’s up, Giles?" Buffy asked as he walked down the stairs.
The Watcher waited until he sat down on a milk crate with the women before even looking at them. Willow, her head dropped forward, wouldn’t meet his eyes until he gently raised her chin.
"I love you, Willow Rosenberg, and I’m here for you," he said firmly and then wiped away a tear from each eye as Willow nodded, too choked up to speak. "We’ll talk later about where you found that spell, young lady."
"Why do you look like hell?" Buffy demanded.
"I haven’t slept yet," Giles admitted and hesitated. "I don’t quite know how to say this. We found Oz dead this morning."
Willow spilled the coffee she was drinking and only Slayer quick reflexes saved Buffy from a lap full of hot caffeine. Tara quickly grabbed up several napkins to clean the coffee up, as Buffy and Willow looked stunned.
"Oz is dead?" Willow whispered.
"Yes, I recognized his clothes and his hair," Giles answered.
"You recognized?" Buffy asked. "Giles, how did he die?"
"It looks like his pack tore him to pieces," Giles whispered, dropping his head into his hands. "They tore out his eyes and killed him."
Willow grabbed at the card table as her head began to spin. The hacker felt her heart racing and pounding in her ears, blocking out sound as someone grabbed her and pulled her off the milk crate or caught her as she fell, Willow couldn’t tell which.
When she could focus again, Willow was on the air mattress with Buffy holding her and Tara placing a wet washcloth on her forehead and Giles was watching them with a concerned look on his scholarly face.
"Oh Goddess," Willow whispered. "The pack killed him because of his eyes?"
"What do you mean, Willow?" Giles questioned, squatting down.
"I don’t remember, the pain was so bad last night," Willow muttered as the other two women held her. "I tried to throw the curse back to Oz and demanded justice. I remember something about his hatred, anger and perversion blinding him, sending his evil back to him three fold over."
"You called for him to be blinded?" Tara asked.
"I don’t know!" Willow cried and attempted to get up from the bed but Buffy and Tara held her back, forcing her to face it and them. "I don’t know!"
"Willow, you sent his evil back to him!" Tara said loudly. "It’s not your fault! You called for justice and you got it!"
"No, I shouldn’t have done that! Bad karma! Bad magick!" the witch whined.
"Willow!" Giles snapped, catching the witch’s attention. "Oz was an admitted killer. He said he hunted humans for sport; he attempted to rape you and intentionally infect you. Oz bit Buffy to make her life hell and to force her to join the pack when she got in the way of his raping you," Giles said bluntly as Willow blushed. "What you did was stop a serial killer and rapist by sending his own evil back on him. The pack killed him because he became infirm."
"What do you mean?" Buffy asked, holding firmly onto Willow.
"An alpha wolf stays the leader of the pack by maintaining his hold, his health and his strength. If an alpha wolf gets too old or is disabled, he’s challenged and someone else takes alpha position. Sometimes the alpha wolf is killed or crippled, sometimes they’re driven out of the pack or they become beta wolves. Oz’s pack killed him because he was no longer strong enough to be the alpha wolf if he was blind," Giles explained.
"It is my fault, I blinded him," Willow muttered.
"No, his own evil, his hatred and anger blinded, him, not you," Tara countered.
"What happens to the pack now?" Buffy asked.
"Hopefully they’ll move back to wherever they came from," Giles said thoughtfully. "Or they stick around and we hunt them down."
"Maybe we can sic the Initiative on them," Tara suggested.
"Excellent idea!" Giles grinned. "Speaking of the Initiative, it’s time to go somewhere, ladies."
"Where to and shouldn’t Willow stay here?"
Giles reached into his pocket and pulled out a flask. "Willow, do you trust me?"
"Well there was that test thing on Buffy’s birthday with the Council but I’ve forgiven you since she has," Willow said slowly. "Yes, I trust you."
"Hold out your hand," Giles instructed and the red-haired witch did so without hesitation. The Watcher pulled out a pocketknife and opened one of the blades.
"Hey!" Buffy protested and Tara stood up with a frown.
"Don’t worry, I’m not going to hurt her. Well, not much more than a paper cut, I hope," he muttered and pricked her finger. Next he poured some of the liquid into the palm of his hand and held it up.
"Dip the finger in the liquid, please," he instructed and the hacker did so and held it in the small pool of liquid. "Good, thank you."
Willow pulled her hand back with a puzzled look.
"Werewolf test," Giles announced. "The liquid contains silver nitrate, wolfsbane and a few other ingredients. If Willow was close to turning, she couldn’t have held her finger in the liquid," he explained as he wiped his hand on a napkin. "It usually takes a month for the change to take affect, for the DNA and RNA to alter enough for the physical change. I’m betting that she doesn’t change for another month."
"Well that would be nice except she changed last night," Buffy reminded him.
"I think we saw a magickal change, like when there were two of Xander," Giles explained.
"So I don’t have to worry about the moon tonight?" Willow asked, still appearing puzzled.
"I don’t think so," Giles nodded. "Just in case I’ll have the tranquilizer gun with me and the first sign of a change we’ll knock you out."
"Why risk it at all?" Tara demanded. "She can stay here tonight and everyone would be safe."
"I think we need to take care of something tonight and I need all three of you there," Giles said firmly.
"What is going on, Giles?" Willow demanded.
"We’re going to pick Riley up from jail where Brad has been holding him. We’ll spend some time with young Mr. Finn and drop him off at his dorm this evening," Giles smirked.
"Riley? You want us to spend time with Riley?" Buffy snapped. "He wants to lock me in a cage!"
"Exactly," Giles nodded.
"I get it," Tara smiled. "By having us there when the moon comes up you’ll be able to show him that none of us are his werewolf and he’ll be forced to leave us alone."
"But Willow is…she will…" Buffy stammered.
"Not for another month," Giles pointed out. "Riley thinks either Willow or you were bitten last month and are now a werewolf. By both of you being there tonight, it’ll throw him and the Initiative off."
"You are very devious, you know that?" Willow smirked. "It’s still too dangerous to let me out tonight."
"I think we should chance it, Wills," Buffy said after a moment. "If the Initiative thinks either of us are a ‘hostile’ they won’t rest until we’re in a cage. Hell, they’d probably stick both of us in a cage just to be safe."
"I agree, Buffy and I will be there and we won’t let you hurt anyone and won’t let anyone hurt you," Tara said firmly and leaned over to kiss the red-haired witch.
"Oh Goddess, promise me you’ll knock me out first sign I’m about to get furry," Willow insisted and Giles nodded solemnly.
Joyce forced Xander and Anya to take Willow's bed and get some sleep after Giles left. Out of the entire group, Joyce was the only one who had gotten more than four hours of sleep and the worried mother knew that everyone needed to be alert and thinking clearly.
With Oz dead, Giles was hoping the pack would lose interest in Willow and Buffy. It would depend on the new alpha male but the Watcher didn't think the pack would take the chance on trying to force Buffy to join them, werewolf or not. Since she hadn't been bitten by the new alpha wolf, he would have no control over her and she'd have to join the pack willingly. Buffy had already shown she wasn't going to do that.
Even if they found out that Willow was now the one cursed with lycanthropy, Giles didn't think they'd try and force the hacker with her friends guarding and watching over her.
That only left the Initiative as a main threat to her daughter and new daughters-in-law, Joyce reflected. Giles said he had a plan to get the government off track as well and Joyce prayed that whatever it was that it would work. She didn't think any of them could take much more.
Joyce glanced over her shoulder as she sat at her desk in the study. She wasn't sure if she had heard a noise or not but the sound of the back door shutting confirmed someone was moving in the house. The mother of Sunnydale's Slayer got up and cautiously opened the back door and found Xander standing on the back porch, leaning on the railing.
He heard Joyce step out of the house and quickly wiped at his eyes.
"Xander?" Joyce asked softly as she walked up behind him.
"Hi," he said quietly.
She leaned on the rail next to him. "You need some sleep," she commented.
"I know, it's just so hard," he said softly. "I keep seeing Willow as that werewolf, kicking and moaning inside that crypt. It hurts. I didn't know how I was going to deal with Buffy being a werewolf; with Willow it’s worse. I've known Willow since we were five years old."
"I know, it won't be easy on any of us, especially Willow," Joyce agreed, placing an arm over his shoulders. "Try and sleep, the girls are going to need you tonight."
"Yeah, another Halloween in Sunnydale," he muttered. "You going to be okay tonight?"
"Yes, I'm going to turn out all the lights, curl up with a mindless book and pretend my daughter isn't out there risking her life and my adopted daughter isn’t turning into a werewolf while Tara stands by, helpless."
Xander looked pained at her description.
"I'm sorry, Xander," Joyce sighed heavily. "I didn't mean to take it out on you. It’s not easy for me either. I love Willow and Tara, and Buffy is my life."
"I know, ours too," he nodded and gave Joyce Mom a quick hug and went back inside to try and sleep.
Joyce couldn't help but look at the sky, gauging the passage of time and how much longer it was until a full moon on a Halloween night.
Buffy resisted saying something sarcastic when Giles walked out of the police station with Riley next to him. The Slayer did hear a growl from Willow and reached out and took the witch's hand and Buffy saw Tara place a hand on Willow's other shoulder.
Riley Finn didn't look any more pleased to see Buffy and the witches either and Giles looked very stern and serious as they walked down the steps.
"Alright, Riley has agreed to spend some time with us until after the moon has risen and then everyone can go their separate ways," Giles announced when they reached his car.
"I don't suppose any of you would be willing to come into the Center for testing to prove none of you were bitten?" Riley asked with a smirk.
"You aren't getting me near those cages or needles," Willow frowned. "Needles aren't good, no way. Especially scientist types with needles, un huh, saw too many horror movies."
"For a scientific geek that isn't very realistic," Riley commented.
The redhead shrugged and turned to get inside the car as Buffy opened the door.
Tara followed Willow into the car and Buffy walked around to the other side with Riley.
"You touch either of them and I'll make the next injury to your manhood permanent, got it?" Buffy growled and got into the car before the commando could reply, but she did catch the frightened look crossing his eyes
With a scowl, Riley got into the car reluctantly. Once Giles was pulling out of the parking lot he turned to look at the women in the back seat.
"Why the hassles to keep me and the Initiative busy last night if any of you aren't infected?"
"Because you're a jerk and using the Initiative to get back at Buffy?" Willow snapped.
"That's not true!" Riley protested. "If Buffy is a werewolf, you know damned well she's dangerous. That's our job, to take care of that danger. Unless you're willing to shoot her with a silver bullet."
Willow turned bright red and Buffy quickly grabbed the witch's arm and Tara wrapped an arm around Willow's shoulder.
"A little touchy, aren't you?" Riley demanded.
"It's her ex-boyfriend that was out there trying to infect her," Tara snapped.
"That's right," Riley sneered. "The werewolf you tried to help by locking him up and then letting him run off as he pleased. Looks like you did a bang up job of helping him."
The commando, despite his training, never saw Buffy's fist. Riley shook his head and held his cut lip as Tara and Willow tried to calm an irate Slayer down.
"I'd advise we continue this short ride in silence, please," Giles snapped. "I am very tired from Slaying with Buffy last night and didn't get my nap this morning. I certainly don't intend to let this pettiness get us into a wreck! Now quiet!"
"Where we headed to, Giles?" Tara asked.
"Expresso Pump, thought we could all use the caffeine at this point," the Watcher replied. "All of you are going to be busy tonight."
"Turning furry?" Riley muttered.
"No, relaxing for once," Buffy smiled. "We plan to smile at all the little kiddies, watch horror movies until we want to kill Xander, stay up all night and sleep late tomorrow. Don't you know the rule?"
"What rule?" Riley demanded.
"Oh, every evil thing agrees to take Halloween off and let the mundanes play," Willow grinned.
"You're kidding, right?" Riley demanded.
"Well, we do have weird happenings on Halloween but the evil generally takes the night off," Buffy explained.
"How the hell...."
"Shut up!" Giles snapped.
It was a very tense group that sat down with their various coffees around a large table in the local coffee hangout near the campus.
"I had a report that they found Oz's body on your doorstep this morning," Riley began the conversation, watching their reactions closely.
Willow's hands began to shake and Tara leaned into the witch's arm, giving Willow contact and reassurance as the red-haired witch's head dropped.
"Tactful, aren't you?" Buffy snapped.
"Why should she care?" Riley demanded. "He was trying to infect her."
"I cared for Oz once, I even loved him," Willow's head snapped up, her green eyes blazing angrily. "I don't know what happened to him but I never wanted him dead, well not really."
"Why don't you and the rest of your GI Joe friends go track down the rest of his pack?" Buffy complained.
"We will," Riley said firmly.
"How long until moonrise?" Willow questioned impatiently.
"Sunset in ten minutes, the moon about a half hour after that," Tara answered and blushed as Riley looked at her closely. "I'm a witch; we keep track of the planetary shifts for magickal workings."
"So which of you is with whom?" Riley demanded.
"Off limits, Riley!" Buffy snapped.
"God, this is going to be a long hour," Giles complained in a mutter.
"Listen, this is insane," Buffy complained. "We're going to go sit over at another table, Riley and you can watch us from here."
Giles frowned but didn't dare protest that he might not be able to get a good shot if Willow started changing without letting Riley know something was wrong. He merely nodded as the girls got up and moved to another table.
"Well, what shall we discuss, Mr. Finn?" Giles asked wearily.
"Ways to kill a werewolf?" Riley quipped and Giles gripped his coffee cup tightly, resisting the urge to backhand the young soldier.
"We could talk about how ridiculous you looked lying on the ground clutching your balls," Giles suggested softly and watched Riley blush with anger. "I suggest that we not try and push each others' buttons; we're both armed and tired and you're threatening my kids."
"What happened, Giles?" Riley asked, his anger apparently leaving. "I thought Buffy and I had a good thing."
"She woke up and realized she's been in love with Willow for years," Giles shrugged. "I'm not one to discuss Buffy's relationships with, Riley."
"It hurts," Riley admitted.
"So you resorted to trying to hurt her verbally?" Giles demanded.
"Stupid, I know," Riley nodded. "I never said I was a genius when it came to romance. I just can't accept her leaving me for a woman, it's not normal."
"What is normal, Riley?" Giles countered. "It was considered normal until religion got in the way. Buffy is the Slayer and I think she should grab happiness wherever she can find it. You can leave your job, Riley. You can pack up, go home and live a normal life. You could leave the service and continue school and never pick up a crossbow again. Buffy can't do that; I don't think that's something you've ever really truly understood."
"Maybe not," Riley agreed. "This is my job. I like it and want to continue but I don't think I'll be slaying and capturing forever. I figure I'll move up into an officer position or into research."
"Buffy does figure that she'll be doing this forever, I've never heard of a Slayer retiring of old age," Giles informed the young soldier. "She was chosen for this when she was barely 15."
"She's talked about it before. You're telling me she's doomed to do this until she dies?"
"Basically," Giles admitted. "I'm hoping she lives long enough to have a life past slaying. There was one Slayer who was crippled bad enough that she had to stop slaying. Another slayer came forward to take her place."
"Crippled?" Riley frowned, watching Buffy, Willow and Tara interact at another table.
"Yes, her name was Sarah and her back was broken, she never walked again," Giles said bluntly.
"It's a little late to figure all of this out now, don't you think?" Riley asked bitterly.
"Maybe for a romance relationship with Buffy but how many people do you think truly understand what she's going through?" Giles asked. "You've slain demons, vampires and other things that even the rest of the gang haven't. You could be a friend."
"That's asking a lot," Riley frowned as he looked at his watch and began paying closer attention to the three college students.
Giles frowned as his cell began beeping in his pocket. Riley noticed all three women glancing over, their conversation halted.
"Hello?" Giles answered. "Yes...I understand...thank you."
The Watcher turned to the solider. "Did you call in the FBI to help track down Buffy, Willow and Tara?"
"No, why?" Riley answered and Giles stared at him for a moment, gauging the commando's honesty.
"Seems there's an FBI agent asking about Willow around town," Giles frowned.
Giles shook his head at his 'kids' and they returned to talking.
Willow adjusted her sling nervously, glancing at Tara's watch. Buffy leaned over the table and grabbed the witch's hand.
"Its okay, Wills," she said gently. "If you were going to change you'd know it by now wouldn't you?"
"Yeah," Willow said softly. "Oz always knew when the moon was rising."
"Then you've got another month," Tara tried to smile.
"I suggest we stay here for a bit and let Riley soak in the fact none of us here have grown fur and fangs and then you two go to the Bronze and have a good time while I go out slaying," Buffy suggested.
"We can't leave you to slaying by yourself on Halloween!" Willow protested.
"Yes you can, I'm going to swing by and grab Xander and Anya to go out with me, just in case something forgets the rule," Buffy insisted. "Go out and enjoy the night, I know you'll want to do a ritual sometime around midnight. Mom should be asleep and you can do it in the backyard."
Tara smiled as Willow looked over at her.
"It is the last full moon I'll enjoy without howling at it," Willow said slowly and leaned her head onto Tara's shoulder. "Guys, I love you both, you know. I'm sorry about all of this."
"Nothing to be sorry for, Willow," Tara insisted. "It’s Oz' fault and he's paid for it."
"Don't get into trouble on the way home either!" Buffy smiled at her best friends and lovers.
"Okay, we'll take a cab home," Willow decided. "This is one night we don't want to run into anything mean and nasty. We might stake some poor high school schmuck instead of a vampire."
"Yeah, I am kinda surprised that nothing freaky has come out this year with major plans to destroy the world tonight," Buffy mentioned.
"Shhhh!" Tara urged. "Don't give anything ideas!"
The three managed to laugh and Willow leaned up and kissed Tara gently for a moment.
"What the hell is going on?" Riley demanded as he watched the three women. "I thought Buffy was with Willow."
"You'll have to clear all of that up with them," Giles suggested. "Have you been with them long enough? The moon has been up for fifteen minutes now."
"Yeah, I guess," Riley said reluctantly. "I'll report that it was a false alarm."
"Good, I'd advise staying away from Buffy and the others for a few days," Giles said as Riley stood up. "Everyone has been under a lot of strain and we're all very tired."
"Yeah, I still owe you for that stunt of putting me in jail, Giles," Riley said seriously. "That wasn't a vacation resort either."
"We couldn't worry about you and Oz at the same time. Buffy needed to be with Willow until Oz was caught and having you stalking them wouldn't have helped."
"I still owe you," Riley growled and nodded slightly at the three women and walked out of the coffee shop.
The three were instantly over at Giles' table as he leaned his face heavily on his hand.
"Why don't we all go over to Buffy's place and put Giles on the sofa?" Tara suggested. "Then Buffy can go out slaying and we'll go out for a bit."
"Sounds good," Giles muttered.
"Why not put him in my mom's bed, already?" Buffy grinned and Giles fell off his hand in surprise. "My mom didn't come home the other night and you two have been making out whenever no one else is in the kitchen. I vaguely remember you saying something about me being your stepdaughter when I was hurt?"
Giles began to blush and stammer as Buffy laughed and pulled him to his feet.
"Did you really Mom to marry you?" Buffy asked as they walked him towards the door.
"Well, actually, yes," he confirmed. "She agreed after things settle down."
"Well that might be forever!" Willow complained as they opened the door.
"Can I bring something up, guys?" Tara asked as they headed for the car.
"Sure, like what? The guy that was in the coffee shop watching us and is now following us?" Buffy asked lightly.
Giles, startled, started to turn but Buffy grabbed his arm. "Come on, Dad," she teased. "Don't scare him off. He looks like a cop and not a vampire."
"Cop, maybe an FBI agent?" Giles asked.
Willow stopped suddenly, "FBI?"
"Yes, that telephone call I got earlier was Brad telling me that there's an FBI agent going around town asking questions about Willow, actually," Giles answered.
Tara and Buffy were looking at Willow's shocked face with concern.
"What's up, Wills?" Buffy demanded. "Your hacking caught up with you?"
"No, the FBI would just pick her up without questions," Tara frowned. "Willow, you know something."
Standing next to a nondescript rental car was a tall, good-looking man in a suit. Everything about him screamed police even as he casually leaned on the hood of the car with his arms crossed, watching them and making no secret about it.
Willow's eyebrows furrowed in question as she took in his sharp features and clear brown eyes.
"Listen, I will explain everything in a minute," Willow turned to her friends and girlfriends. "I think I need to talk with Agent Mulder."
"That's the name someone used when they called for you night before last," Giles frowned.
"I didn't know his name until that night, he's my email buddy," Willow said softly.
"Willow, I don't like this, it could be a trick," Buffy growled.
"I don't think so," Giles said slowly. "I called the number he left and I was connected with FBI headquarters and they do have a Fox Mulder."
"Fox? Like in Grayfox?" Tara asked, recognizing the name Willow sometimes mentioned.
"Yes," Willow nodded.
"What are you going to tell him and what have you told him?" Buffy asked.
"I don't know," Willow admitted. "I haven't told him anything about you or what happens here. We exchange information, not stories. Let me talk to him and see where it goes."
"Five minutes and then I rescue you," Buffy growled.
Willow grinned and leaned down to kiss Buffy quickly and squeezed Tara's hand, then she turned and walked slowly towards the stranger.
"Willow," Fox Mulder said easily.
"Grayfox, or is it Agent Fox Mulder?" Willow nodded slightly as she stood in front of him.
"Call me Mulder, only my mom calls me Fox," he grinned and Willow relaxed slightly.
"Fox?" she grinned.
"They never would explain to me why they hell they named me Fox," he shrugged.
"You've been asking about me and tracked me down to California," she pointed out as she sat down on the hood of the car next to him.
"Yup, I was worried about you and your friends," Mulder replied.
"That spell was major magick working."
"Yes, and dangerous," Willow agreed.
"Did it work?" he asked softly, not looking directly at Willow but watching her friends watch him.
Willow hesitated. Everything inside her screamed to lie to him and get rid of him, especially since he was a Federal agent but he had been a good contact and she believed him when he said he had been worried.
"You're not chasing werewolves to do testing on them and stuff like that, are you?" she asked.
"No, I would give anything to prove some of the more obscure truths out there, but I don't hurt friends either," Mulder replied. "I've seen a lot of things, Willow, and still don't have the absolute proof I need to prove any of it."
"The spell worked," Willow said softly.
"On you, of course," Mulder nodded to himself, confirming his assessment of his internet friend. "You took it for someone else. One of your girlfriends over there?"
Mulder felt his jaw muscles tightening and twitching. He had come to like the young hacker over the last year of communicating. He especially admired her stubbornness the one time he had pushed her for information about herself and her town. It had frustrated him because Mulder could sense there was more going on than just casual research with Willow's questions but he had to admit he could understand her reluctance.
Special Agent Fox Mulder of the Federal Bureau of Investigations had been doing some research on his own, ever since he had broken his word and tracked down Willow's identity. He discovered there was a lot about Sunnydale that needed investigating and he had a feeling Willow was right in the center of it.
After two days of investigating the college student and Sunnydale in general and Mulder had learned a lot about Willow Rosenberg and her friends, especially one Elizabeth Anne Summers, also known as Buffy.
"Can we talk about it or you going to stonewall me?" he asked.
"You're not going to go away, are you?" she asked ruefully.
"I'm kinda like a fox terrier on a scent," he grinned.
"Goddess," Willow said wearily. <Things were quickly becoming extremely complicated over the last month,> she complained to herself.
Willow was about to add an FBI agent to the mix.
"Follow us back to Buffy's place," Willow instructed as she got off the car. "It is nice to meet you, Mulder."
"Back at you," he smiled.
Willow climbed into the car before answering any questions. She was relieved when Tara offered to drive and Giles slumped against the passenger door.
"You what? You invited him in?" Buffy demanded.
"He's one of us, Buffy," Willow countered. "He's a believer and not like the Initiative jerks."
"Okay, okay, I trust you and your instincts on this one," Buffy grumbled and pulled Willow into her arms in the back seat. "I'll let you guys explain things to him while I go out slaying tonight."
"I love you," Willow whispered and leaned up in Buffy's arms to kiss the Slayer.
After a moment the kiss became passionate and Buffy whimpered and pulled Willow closer to her. Willow growled lightly and moved her lips to the neck of the Slayer and bit down causing Buffy's body to jerk and Buffy to moan again.
"Enough back there before we get pulled over!" Tara grinned in the rearview mirror. "Or you cause me to have an accident."
Willow grinned and leaned forward over the seat and ran her fingers through Tara's hair. She tickled the witch's neck with her fingers, sending delightful shivers up Tara's spine.
"Jealous?" Willow teased softly.
"No, envious," Tara clarified. "Wishing I was in the middle of that."
"That's something we haven't discussed," Buffy mentioned, her own hand on Willow's back, moving under the cloth of the sweatshirt and t-shirt until she touched skin.
"A large bed or revolving door, as someone put it?" Tara grinned.
"Exactly," Willow agreed as she replaced her fingers with her lips and kissed Tara's neck from behind.
"Oh Goddess, stop that!" Tara squeaked. "I'm driving!"
"We'll discuss it later tonight after Buffy gets through with slaying," Willow told both of them and settled back down in Buffy's arms. "I always feel so safe in these arms," she mumbled.
"I just wish I could have protected us both from that damned bite," Buffy muttered.