Title: Of Frogs and True Love

Rated: PG-13

Author: Etoile

Summary- Buffy/Spike. During As You Were. Buffy breaks up with Spike before Riley and Sam leave. The actual "doctor" was the Troika. They strike back at the Scoobies after Buffy blew up the eggs.

Disclaimer: I don't own Sunnydale or anyone that lives there. They all belong to Joss Whedon.

Chapter One

"Shit! Shit! Shit!"

Jonathan turned to the source of the voice and cringed. These were the times he didn't really enjoy the whole arch nemesis…es business. Jonathan once again asked himself why he was sitting there in Warren's basement. Was this really a choice he made? It seemed so long ago. Was he angrier then? More lonely? Confused? No, he was confused now. He didn't know what he was doing trying to take over the world, starting with Sunnydale. Warren was a dictator and Andrew was annoying. How was he to know what he was getting into? Jonathan braved a potential storm and asked, "What's wrong?"

"What kinds of minions are you? Weren't you watching the video feeds?" Warren shouted.

Andrew looked slightly miffed, his blonde hair sticking up in tufts from lying on the couch. He stretched his limbs and crossed his arms. "We're not minions, we're the Troika. That means we all have 33.3333333…" he trailed off at Warren's glare. "Anyway, we have equal power."

Warren moved into Andrew's space and jabbed the blonde's chest with his finger. "We don't have equal power if we don't do equal work, alright?" Andrew fell back into the couch on the power of the last jab. Warren began to pace back and forth in the basement lair. "I'm the one that thinks up all the ideas. I'm the one that makes all the equipment. You two just sit around and eat my food and watch my TV!"

Andrew, sulking on the couch and rubbing his chest, muttered, "It's your mom's food and tv…"

"THAT'S NOT THE POINT!" Warren bellowed.

"It's not like they're great ideas anyway."

Warren swiftly turned around to face Jonathan. "You want to say that again?" he asked dangerously.

Jonathan held up his hands. "I'm not trying to rag on you, man. But you're obviously pissed because one of your plans blew up in your face again."

"Literally blew up, you ass! And you would know that if you were watching the monitors. The fucking slayer found the Suvolte eggs. Now we have no money! Your little brains can figure out what that means, right?" Warren sighed and took a seat on his recliner. "You know what? You think my plans are so shitty? It's your turn. You guys think up something. I'm gonna watch Enterprise."

With that, he switched on the TV.

---

It was a full store and it was driving Buffy Summers crazy. Were Sam and Riley ever going to leave? Or did they just want to rub their cutesy married life in her face? In her secretly newly single face? Luckily, everyone was in the back checking out the new features of the training room. Buffy was left alone to think about what transpired earlier that afternoon. She never would have imagined that "breaking up" with Spike would be as hard as it was turning out to be. All she could see was his face. She couldn't remember ever wanting to cry because of something Spike felt. And she knew how he felt. Did she ever. But it couldn't be helped. They couldn't go on the way they were. Not while she was the Slayer and he was a vampire. And that wasn't ever going to change. Anyway, it was only sex wasn't it? Wasn't it?

"Wasn't it what?"

Buffy was jarred from her inner conversation, which obviously was so inner after all, to face Sam Finn. Buffy had to hold herself back from glaring at her. "Nothing," she said lightly. "Just thinking to myself is all."

"About what?" Sam asked.

This time Buffy couldn't help but glare a little. Why was she so nosy? "Just this and that," Buffy bit out.

Sam shook her head in an apologetic manner. "Sorry to pry. You just seemed upset about something. Then you started muttering 'wasn't it?' I just wanted to help…"

Buffy could feel herself turning pink. What was she doing acting odd in front of Riley's wife? Now they probably had all sorts of stories to exchange about the peculiar ex-girlfriend from college.

Sam was still talking. "…I do have a Masters in psychology if there's anything you'd—"

"Not thanks," Buffy interrupted shortly. "Just a little stress is all."

There was an uncomfortable silence for several seconds until thankfully Tara came back in from the training room. Buffy was able to retreat to her thoughts once more while Tara and Sam talked quietly. She was interrupted yet again by a bang at the front door of the shop. But when Buffy looked up, she saw nothing. She turned to the other two at the table. They looked confused too.

Anya came in from the back, "Welcome to the Magic Shop, how—uh?"

Suddenly there was a cloud of smoke. Buffy sprang to her feet. A loud ominous voice began chanting in Latin. Buffy went toward the voice and felt like she was falling. An instant later, there was another loud bang. Buffy tried moving toward the door but she was impeded by something. Something was holding her back… She tried to get her feet free but she couldn't. The smoke was beginning to clear and Buffy found herself face to the floor. 'What the hell?' She was laying on the ground with a massive cloth draped over her. She wondered if the others were in a similar condition. She called out, "Tara? Anya? Sam?" What came out was a loud "rrrribbbitt!"

There were answering ribbits around her and Buffy was surprised that she could understand them. "What's happening?" "Where are you?" "My money!"

A mini stampede could be heard coming from the general location of the training room.

"What's going on?" Xander's voice. "Anya? Ahn?"

"Sam?" Riley. "These are her clothes. What's going on in here?"

Buffy felt the cloth around her moving. "Oh! Ewww! A frog!" Dawn's voice shrieked.

"Here's another frog!" Willow said from the other side of the room. "Oh! And another!"

Xander groaned. "Oh no! Here's another one. Four frogs, four missing women, and four pile of clothing. You don't suppose they're all out there naked somewhere, do you?" The frog by the counter began ribbiting in earnest. Xander leaned down and looked over it. "Ahn? Is that you in there?" There was another ribbit. Xander looked up at the remaining humans. "I'm gonna take that as a yes."

"Who turned them into frogs?" Dawn asked. "And why did it have to be frogs, anyway. Frogs are major gross!"

Willow picked up the frog sitting on Tara's skirt and stroked its skin. "Frogs aren't so bad, Dawnie. Feel her skin. It's kinda soft."

Dawn made another sound that sounded like 'eww!' "That's 'cause it's slimy. I mean, you can't really want her to stay a frog."

Willow sighed. "No. We've got to get to the bottom of this." She paused to listen to all the ribbiting going around her. "But I don't know how to start. I'm not all that fluent in Frogese."

At this Riley spoke up. "Can't you just do a spell to translate their croaks?"

"Um…well…not really."

Riley made a 'huh?' face.

"I'm kinda off magic right now… Sorry." Willow ended awkwardly.

"Well," Xander paused. "I'm sure everyone would understand."

Willow shrugged. "Maybe. I just don't think I'm ready for it yet. I want to help but I don't know how I can."

Dawn rubbed her back. "It's okay, Willow. You don't have to if you're not ready."

"Wait! What's this? Why's Willow off magic?" Riley asked, completely confused with the conversation.

"It's a long story," Willow said. "And we don't have time to tell it. We need to get to the bottom of the frogs. Whoever did this might be planning something bigger. It's just the question of who."

"Who? Well we can narrow it down to the whole demon population of Sunnydale." Riley said.

"Not all demons are bad," Dawn said. "Spike's friend Clem wouldn't hurt anyone. Well, maybe kitties. But not people."

Riley looked about ready to say something at the mention of Spike's name but managed to keep it to himself.

Xander got the look that meant 'eureka!' and rubbed his hands together. "Okay demon population minus Clem. But we also have to add our three human "supervillians" to that list."

"Oh! Of course, those little twerps would do this." Willow said. "It's just lame enough to be them."

"What supervillians are these?" Riley asked.

"Warren, Jonathan, and Andrew."

"Warren with the robots and Jonathan of the alternate universe?" Riley asked and they nodded. "Who's Andrew?"

"Tucker's brother." Xander and Willow replied.

Riley shrugged. "They don't seem very supervillainy to me."

"They're not. But they are very annoying. Case in point," Willow said glancing at the frogs around the room.

Xander nodded. "I wish I could read their minds so that I can be out of town when they think up their stupid ideas."

Willow got her own 'eureka!' face. "Read their minds! I can read their minds!"

"You can?"

"No! I mean, yes! I mean, not the dorks' minds. But the frogs! Or," Willow gave pause. "At least I think I can."

"What do you mean by that?" Riley said, by now stroking his Sam-frog.

"Over the summer, when Buffy was…gone, we used to patrol together. And I connected myself to everyone's minds so that I could warn them if something was coming. It's not really magic. Or if it is, it's not anymore since it was already cast." Willow began to walk to the bookshelf. "It should just be a matter of concentration to get myself on that mindlength again." She began flipping through a small book she picked from the stacks.

"Uh, whatcha got there Wills?" Xander asked, moving closer.

Willow looked up. "Oh! Just a meditation book. No worry."

"I wasn't worrying." She rolled her eyes at him "Not much anyway," he amended.

"I never connected myself to Buffy or Sam. And I don't know if I did to Anya since she was in the shop most of the summer. But I know I did to Tara. Aha!" Willow put the book down and went to the front counter. "Quartz, quartz, where are you? There you are!" Willow held the crystal in her hand. "I haven't done this in a while so I'll probably need some quiet."

The rest nodded and Willow sat on the floor, Indian style. She began breathing deeply until her breaths came in slow even beats. Her mind reached out to find Tara's. She reached…and reached… Willow? She jerked.

Tara, hon? She asked.

Willow, thank goddess. Came the reply from Tara.

Willow felt relieved. We'll get to the bottom of this. Hold on a sec. She turned to Xander, Dawn, and Riley. "I got her," she said excitedly. She spoke to Tara again, What happened before you became frogs?

I'm not sure really. There was some Latin. It was a spell. But we couldn't see the caster. Tara replied.

Willow grabbed a pen and paper. What did they say?

Uh…there was the word 'rana'…Tara paused as Anya ribbited over on the counter. Anya says that means frog. So that's one part. There were also the words 'fidus' and 'verus'. Um…faithful and true.

Willow scribbled the words down. "Anything else?" She said aloud. Sorry, anything else?

I can hear you when you talk out loud. But I, I don't remember much else. Wait. The frog in Riley's hands began croaking. Sam said she remembered amor. Oh yeah! It said a lot about love! Right after all the faithful stuff…And Anya said there was something on mating?

"Okay," Willow said to the whole room. "Here's what I've got: frog, faithful, true, love, and mating. That's what the, whoever it was, said to cast the spell."

"Well," Xander began. "The frog part is the end result."

"Thank you, Mr. Obvious."

"No problem"

"What if?" Dawn asked and stopped. Everyone looked at her expectedly. "Well, what if it wasn't a spell? But a curse?"

"Sort of the same thing Dawnie," said Willow.

"I mean, well, yeah. I guess they're the same. It's just, we've had to read Grimm's fairytales for the past week in Lit and it just sounds like one of those curses, you know? The prince into the beast or frog or whatever."

Willow's face lit up. "Dawnie, you're a genius!"

"I am?" Dawn looked confused. "I mean, I am."

"Yes! A genius! The words: faithful, true, love. I don't know about the mating thing though—" There was some ribbiting to her left.

Tara spoke to her. The word was 'juntus', Anya thinks. She says it could just mean to join or unite.

Hmm, that works better. Hey ask Anya if she remembers anything about kissing. Something like basium or basiatio.

Willow waited through the croaking until Tara returned to her. Yeah, not entirely sure because everything happened so fast, but it sounds familiar.

Well, I hope it is. Willow said. "Okay guys. This definitely has to be the work of the three nerds because only they would think up something this dumb."

"What is it?" Riley asked, a little impatiently.

"I think it might be that curse Dawn was talking about."

Dawn looked mighty proud of herself. But Xander still looked confused. "Score one for the Dawnster, but what you're saying is that the nerds turned the girls into frogs like the guy in Beauty and the Beast?"

Willow shook her head. "He was turned into a Beast. Hence the name, Xand. Anyway, I think he just needed her to say she loved him. No, I think this one is more The Enchanted Frog. A kiss from his true love turns the frog into a prince."

"Or wakes the princess up from a deep sleep?" Xander observed.

"Okay, fairy tales are a little repetitive. I still think this was the idea," said Willow. "So," she said brightly. "Who wants to kiss a frog?"