They were back at the Magic Box. Jonathan, Andrew and Warren had been tied more securely, transferred in the back seat of the DeSoto under cover of darkness, and were now propped like packages against the back wall of the training room. XandePierre, as Willow was calling him, was perched glumly on a stool, surveying the people and things around him with thinly veiled hostility.
“J'espère que c'est seulement un cauchemar,” he muttered to himself, and Tara looked sympathetic.
“Poor thing. He thinks he’s having a nightmare.” She patted him kindly on the shoulder. “Avez-vous faim, monsieur?” she queried. “Voulez-vous du thé?”
XandePierre scowled. “Je mourrais de faim avant que je vous laisse m'empoisonner.” He shot the Magic Box another look of distaste. “Dites- moi: où suis-je? Et quel est ce pays, si pas la France?”
Willow cocked an eyebrow. “Translation?” she requested, and Tara spread her hands helplessly.
“I asked him if he wanted something to eat, or some tea, and he said he’d rather starve than let me poison him. He wants to know where he is. What country.”
“Look,” said Anya irritably. “Let me handle this, okay?” She nudged Tara out of the way and glared at XandePierre. “C'est l'Amérique. Vous êtes à l'avenir. Dans quelqu'un corps d'autre. Vous avez été mort pour pendant quelque temps. Nous nous marions , et je dois savoir si vous préféreriez une rose ou une tulipe pour votre boutonnière. Comprenez?”
“Didn’t catch that,” Buffy murmured into Tara’s ear. Tara grimaced.
“She told him he’s in America, in the future, in someone else’s body, that he’s been dead awhile, and that they’re getting married. Then she asked him if he’d rather have a rose or a tulip in his buttonhole.”
XandePierre was looking alarmed. “Excusez-moi, damoiselle,” he sputtered, sounding apologetic and incensed in equal parts. “Mais je ne veux pas une épouse. Je suis marié à la révolution.” He paused, then added as an afterthought, “Et les fleurs me rendent malade.”
“Cochon!” Anya hissed, and slapped him, hard, across the face. “Je souhaite que nous non jamais réuni!" She wheeled, stalked across the shop, and disappeared down the stairs into the stockroom. Buffy cast her eyes to the side, trying not to stare after her, and caught Spike’s gaze.
“Did you understand that?” she whispered. Spike grinned.
“Bloody entertaining, this,” he whispered back. “He said that he doesn’t want a wife, that he’s married to the Revolution, and that flowers make him sneeze. She called him a pig and said she wishes they’d never met.”
“Oh, good,” Buffy said. “Just what we need to spice things up – a lovers’ quarrel.”
Dawn, who had been watching the whole thing from a safe distance, finally spoke up. “Buff, are you and me the only two here who don’t speak French?”
“Oh, I don’t speak French,” Willow said quickly. “And neither does ... did ... Xander.” They all looked at XandePierre, who was still staring in the direction Anya had gone. He looked both put out and intrigued.
“Gross,” Dawn said. “He’s some creepy dead French guy with Xander’s face, and he’s into girls who hit him. How disgusting is that?”
“New. Topic,” Buffy said firmly. “We’re not going to get to the bottom of this until Giles gets here, and that’ll be late tomorrow. I’m thinking that the Three Musketeers can stay locked in the training room tonight; if we take out the weapons, they won’t be able to do any damage even if they manage to get themselves untied. Everybody okay with that?” She scanned the group. “Fine. Now. We need to figure out what we’re going to do with D’Artagnan here.” She indicated XandePierre with a jerk of her head. “Dawn, go get Anya, would you? Tell her we need her input on something.”
“I’m here,” Anya said sullenly, emerging from the root cellar. She’d been crying. “What do you want to know? If I’ll take this ... this imposter home with me tonight?” She shot XandePierre a poisonous glance. “The answer’s no. He’s not the man I’m going to marry. I don’t want him sleeping in Xander’s bed.”
“Fine,” Buffy said. “Then he comes home with us. Unless someone has a better idea.”
“What about Spike’s crypt?” Willow offered. “Since he’s not ... um ...” Off Buffy’s cue, she went into a fit of coughing. Tara frowned and patted her on the back.
“Spike’s not what?”
He and Buffy shared glances. What the hell, Buffy thought. This day’s been the ultimate in surreal, anyway. Why not come clean? She slung her arm around his waist, and felt a tremor of surprise snake through his lean body. “Spike’s not using his crypt these days,” she said flatly. “He’s staying with me.”
“Oh!” Anya nodded brightly. “You mean you’re having sex.”
“That’s the one,” Buffy said. “Just to clear things up for anyone who hadn’t figured it out yet: Spike and I are having sex. And plan to continue. Therefore, his crypt is currently empty.”
“Thing is,” Spike interjected, “Crypt’s right on the sewer line. His soul may be French,” he nodded toward XandePierre, “but his body still belongs to Harris. If something nasty were to crawl through, middle of the night, might not be much left of your honey in the morning,” he said to Anya. “Even if we do get his soul back.” Anya paled.
“You okay there, Tara? ‘Cause you look a little shell-shocked.” Willow patted her on the arm. Tara jumped.
“Um. Yeah. Lots of information at once.” She sent XandePierre a considering look. “I guess the best thing to do is to send him home with you guys.” She paused. “I can put a binding spell on the training room door, just for tonight.”
“Is that necessary, do you think?” Buffy asked. Tara frowned.
“Well, they must know something about magic. One of them, at least. It would have taken a spell to activate the diamond.” She made a face. “If they got loose in the Magic Box, they’d have a lot of ... supplies ... at their disposal. Maybe it’s not such a good idea to keep them here ...”
Buffy rubbed her eyes wearily. “Okay, how’s this? We put them in my basement for the night. We’ve got some old camping equipment down there – army blankets and stuff. Xander can sleep on the couch downstairs, I guess.”
Willow and Tara had been whispering to each other. Willow cleared her throat. “Why don’t you ... um, why don’t you put him in my room for the night, Buffy? You’ll be able to keep a closer eye on him.”
“Your room? But then, where would you ...” Buffy swallowed hard. “Oh. Okay.”
“No, you’ve got the wrong idea,” Tara said quickly. “We were just thinking that I’d stay over and that the two of us would sleep downstairs in the living room. So we’d hear anything coming from the basement, and also hear Xander if he tried to go outside.”
“Oh. Okay.” Buffy tried not to look at Dawn, who was radiating happiness.
“So I’m the only one that’s going home by myself?” Anya, who hadn’t been what you’d call happy for about six hours, had clearly been doing some heavy thinking since her last outburst. “My future husband has just been body-snatched by a dead guy! And one that doesn’t even believe in capitalism! I don’t want to be alone right now.”
“So come home with us,” Dawn said. “But you’ll have to sleep with Xander – Willow’s room has the only other double bed in the house.”
Anya thought for a minute. “I can live with that.”
Buffy sighed. “Guess we’d better order pizza.”
Buffy remembered her father’s old camping equipment as being outdated and motheaten. A closer inspection proved it to be waterlogged and moldy as well. As annoyed as she was with Jonathan and the pair of jokers he was hanging with, she couldn’t wish that on them.
Willow was even more softhearted – Jonathan, after all, had been a fellow outcast back in high school. So they were on the living room floor, outfitted with spare blankets and some musty old pillows Dawn had found in the back of the linen closet. They were still tied up, but Tara had fixed them each a plate and stuck plastic straws in their soda cans. Lined up against the coffee table, they looked like condemned prisoners eating their last meal.
XandePierre was looking wary but less mournful, and had tucked into the cheese-and-pepperoni without so much as a sniff of Gallic distaste. “Guess they didn’t feed him much in the Bastille,” Willow commented, watching him wolf down a third slice. He wasn’t so happy about the Coca-Cola Tara offered him; one cautious sip and he’d spat it, wide-eyed and grimacing, back into the glass.
“Can’t blame the poor bloke for that one,” Spike said. “How you Yanks can drink that stuff is more than I can suss out.” He’d cracked another bag of B positive, drunk it swiftly and in private, and was now sprawled on the couch with a bottle of beer, Buffy curled up beside him.
If you thought about it, it was kind of cozy. Warm house, soft couch, all her friends around her, cheek pillowed on her ... um, boyfriend’s, six-pack of abs. Even if you factored in a little soul displacement and a few tied- up loser villains on the floor, it was still a pretty good night.
Tara and Willow were having a low-voiced conversation in the kitchen; from where she was sitting, Buffy could see Willow’s red cap of hair tossing as she spoke and the occasional graceful white flash of Tara’s hands, gesturing. “Okay,” Willow said finally, and poked her head into the living room. “Buffy? Got a sec?”
“Well, we were thinking,” Tara said, frowning. “And I think that whoever did the spell on the diamond – one of them,” this with a wave toward the living room, “has the best chance of reversing it. So maybe we should ... question them?”
“Good plan,” Buffy said, and fixed the Trio with an evil glare. “Okay. Who’s responsible for the mojo?”
Sullen silence. Buffy cracked her knuckles threateningly and tried again.
“Look. Tell me how to undo this, the worst that can happen to you is jail. Dick me around, and I really will throw you into my basement.” She dropped to her knees and wrapped her hand around Jonathan’s throat. “You really don’t want to piss me off, Jonathan, any more than you already have. This whole mess has your name written all over it.”
Jonathan’s face was slowly going from red to purple. “Okay,” he gasped. “Okay! It was me, okay?” Buffy loosened her grip, but didn’t let him go altogether.
“Can you reverse it?”
He nodded emphatically. “It’s easy. You gotta untie me, though.”
Buffy jerked him to his feet and dragged him into the kitchen. “Here’s our wizard. Sit down, Gandalf,” she snapped, and threw him into a chair. “If it’s so easy, why can’t you do it hands-free?”
His eyes darted sideways and back; obviously he didn’t have a good answer for this. The look on his face gave him an eerie resemblance to Mr. Whiskers, Buffy’s third-grade class guinea pig. “I have to touch the diamond,” he said finally. “The spell won’t work otherwise.”
“Touching the diamond controls the spirit,” Tara said quickly. “I don’t think ...” Willow nodded agreement. Buffy scowled at Jonathan. He bit his lip.
“Okay, okay,” he said. “I don’t really need the diamond. But it’s hard for me to concentrate when I’m all tied up.” He gave the living room a worried glance. “What am I gonna do, honestly? You’re, like, a million times stronger than me, and Spike’s sitting right out there.”
Buffy hesitated. “Any funny stuff, you won’t wake up until Tuesday. Got it?”
“Got it. I swear.”
XandePierre wandered into the kitchen. He had pizza grease on his chin, and looked embarrassed. “J'ai besoin...” he began, then trailed off and began again. “Où est...” He closed his eyes, clearly humiliated. “La salle de bains,” he said grimly. “Où est-elle?”
“Oh!” Tara looked startled for a minute, then sympathetic. “Bathroom,” she explained to Buffy and Willow, who were looking blank, and pointed down the hall. “Spike, you’d better go with him. I don’t imagine he’s seen a flush toilet before.”
Anya, who had been upstairs with Dawn, appeared at the top of the staircase. “I’ll do it.”
“Thank God,” Spike said, and drained the rest of his beer. “A man’s got his limits, and showing Harris how to take a piss is way beyond mine.”
Surreal. Buffy fought back a laugh and turned her attention back to Jonathan. “Okay,” she said, and began to fumble with the knot around his ankles. “I just want you to know this is WAY against my better judgment.”
“I’m not going to do anything, I swear.”
“Hmph.” Buffy unwound the rope and had just started on the knots holding his wrists when the toilet flushed down the hall. They heard Xander yelp in surprise, just before the door crashed open and he came plunging wild- eyed into the hall, pants around his ankles. He was screaming in French. Anya was hanging onto his arm.
“What’s he saying?” Willow was biting her lip, eyes dancing. Tara grinned.
Buffy grabbed the diamond from the table. “Calm down, Xander!” she yelled, and immediately his eyes flashed that creepy gray-blue again, and he stopped in his tracks. “That’s better,” she said, and turned back to Jonathan. “What the –“
He wasn’t there.
Their eyes all shot to the front door. It was ajar. Buffy flung it open and raced out onto the sidewalk, the others at her heels. Jonathan was fleeing down the street, hands still tied in front of him. “Shit,” Buffy muttered, then clamped down on Willow’s shoulder, hard. “Oh, Jesus. Is that ...”
Fast on Jonathan’s heels was a hairy, shambling silhouette. As they watched in horrified silence, it took him down by the ankles. Man and monster disappeared into the shadow of a parked car, and they heard Jonathan cry out.
“Quick,” Spike said, already running for the street. “Red, get back in the house!”
Even before they got there, Buffy knew they were too late. There wasn’t so much as a grease spot on the pavement. No Jonathan, no Doorkeeper. Nothing. She closed her eyes hard and let Spike take her arm. “Come on, love,” he murmured. “Let’s get you inside. Nothing we can do now.”
Continued in Chapter Seven