I dropped the book onto the floor, and boy did it ever make the most satisfying crash.

"No, Giles, it's not this one." I told him for at least the fifth time this morning, not that I thought he'd heard me the other four. He was being almost insane in his relentlessness, in his need to find out just what had been able to…able to…rape me.

Yeah, it'd been over two weeks, and I still had problems saying it. Rape. Me. The raping of me. Nope, still hurts.

I mean, I could walk around; I could do stuff…but deep down where the antiseptic couldn't reach, the wounds still hurt like a bitch. And now Giles was expecting me to help him identify the bastard who did this to me. Wee…whoop de frigging do. Just what I want to do now, with parts of me still aching and my head in fifteen places at once: find this thing again.

It's not like I didn't want to kill it with extreme prejudice, but to be honest, I was scared shitless of this thing. It took me like I was nothing, like I was the Chosen Whore, and I hadn't been able to do a damn thing but lie there and take it.

"Not that one then?" Giles asked suddenly, his head rising up from the large black tome it'd been hiding in since we'd started this crazy whirligig of research fun, "I was quite sure it was that one since it had the right sized scales, just as you described…they're a rare size, as well as a distinctive type of texture that only exists in-"

"She said no, G-man…" muttered Xander from his spot only a foot away from me; he never really got any farther then that except for my visits to the ladies' room. His voice was gruff, almost angry, and I wondered why.

Yes, Xander has for the last two weeks appointed himself my personal guardian, and I had a feeling he knew I felt really uncomfortable about the research. He'd actually protested it from the start, and only several appeals from Giles had gotten me here, but that was rough coming from him. Really rough. I had a feeling the 'G-man' had been added just to keep some sort of odd peace.

"But-"

"Giles, drop it…" He continued, never taking his eyes out of the book in his lap. He was pissed. I didn't know why, but he was pissed.

A grunt from my Watcher finished the conversation for a while, and I was left to merely watch the two of them pore through all the gigantic leather-bound books scattered around the room.

Giles was almost manic. I'd noticed it earlier, but he was even worse now that I really looked at him. Fingers twitched and shook as he flipped pages, his eyes racing over the parchment in hopes of finding something, anything about the creature.

Xander, on the other hand, was the familiar rock I'd gotten used to over the two weeks. He no longer fiddled and squirmed around me like he always had; instead, he was just there, as if every moment not with me was spent waiting for me.

I still had no idea how he was keeping his job, or where the hell Anya was. I hadn't heard her voice, or a single mention of her the entire time I'd been staying in Xander's apartment, sleeping in his bed while he took the constant post on the couch.

"So Xander, how's Anya?" I finally asked, my curiosity at the limit. It was something I'd meant to ask him, and for some reason, hadn't. But now, in my aggravation with this stupid search and my boredom in having no new book to look for the bastard in, I asked.

His head quirked immediately, and then rose like some sort of animatronic puppet, eyes instantly meeting my own.

"Why you asking, Buffster?" he answered with an odd note to his voice. Why was he acting like this?

I shrugged. "I was just wondering…I mean, she IS your girlfriend and all, and-"

"No. She left."

And that was it. That was it from him. No explanation or regret, no worry or care. Just those three words, as if he was telling me to go eat dinner, or that he'd just gotten his hair cut. Dear God.

"She left?"

"Yeah."

My stomach dropped out of it's place.

"And your job?" I asked, terrified of the answer.

He smiled at me, and then reached out to smooth my hair. "Don't worry about it. I have plenty of time saved up, so I'm just calling in EWD days…"

"EWD days?" I asked, unfamiliar with the term. I don't know much about time off from jobs or anything like that, especially since both of my parents were self-employed, but even I could figure out that two weeks of no work could be seriously bad for Xander.

"Emergency days…" Xander answered matter-of-factly, "I joined the union a while back, and since I'm union, I get EWD days to cover me for stuff like this. It helps that we're between contracts too. Don't worry about it, Buff."

I nodded. "Just checking."

He nodded as well, and then went back to the book, his eyes scanning the page almost in a daze. I don't know if he was actually looking, or just trying to placate Giles by pretending to help, but there was something going on here beyond Xander's concern for my mental stability. Not that it wasn't important, but it wasn't the real reason why he was so still.

Giles interrupted my thoughts by shoving a very large and smelly book underneath my nose. Immediately, I drew back from the sudden movement and nearly fell out of my chair. He noticed, frowned, then placed the book on the table.

"Ever so sorry, Buffy, but I was rather excited to find another demon which might fit the description so quickly after the last one…" he got out in one long, nervous British stream of apology, "But take a look at this one."

I looked down, took in something that was just about the farthest thing from whatever the hell attacked me (except for the scales, he had gotten that right) and shook my head.

"Sorry…" I told him, meaning it, "The ears are much too big. And the face was wider."

And I was so not expecting to hear a growl from my Watcher.

"If you knew that, why didn't you tell me before?" Giles said angrily as he grabbed his book, spun, and walked back to his desk, dropping it on the surface with a loud crack that only ancient tomes can really pull off.

"Cause I didn't remember it?"

"Obviously, you did," he insisted as he snatched his glasses off of his face like his life depended on it, "otherwise, you wouldn't have been able to tell me, would you?"

"Giles…chill." I told him carefully, "It's not like I'm holding back information on you. It's just that it's hard to remember what it looked like in the dark, and a lot of the time, I'm just going on what pops up when you show me a picture."

"Surely…"

I didn't like his tone, and I didn't understand why he was so angry. I mean, I understand that he wanted to find this thing and exterminate with extreme prejudice, but this was over the top, especially for him. I was about to open my mouth, but suddenly, Xander spoke.

"She's not being difficult on purpose, Giles, and you know it. Now calm down and stop getting British with us..."
Immediately, Giles' eyes snapped towards Xander, whose head was still in the book.

"Xander," he said, his patience obviously straining, "I'm merely trying to find out what did this to Buffy and-"

"And we're helping you as best we can," Xander cut in, finally raising his eyes to the Giles, "I mean, I know I'm not at Willow-level with the research ability, but I'm doing my best, and Buffy's doing all she can with what she remembers. So just quiet down and keep looking. Anger won't help anything."

If anything, this seemed to make Giles even more upset. If I didn't know any better, I'd say that he desperate to find this thing for some reason.

"No, I will *not* quiet down, Xander!" Giles growled, "For weeks, you've kept her…cooped up in your apartment like some sort of china doll. I understand that you don't want her hurt, but she's got to get back into her normal habits, or she won't heal!"

I wondered if he realized I was still in the room.

"All I want is to find the thing that did it to her and help her kill it so that this sort of thing never happens again, and so that maybe she'll find a little closure. Just because you have misplaced guilt about what you *almost* did while you were possessed *years* ago--"

Another crack, and Xander was standing, the book at his feet.

"This has nothing to do with that!"

Wait a minute! What on earth are they talking about? I mean, they couldn't be talking about the hyena incident, could they, I wondered. Wait. Hold up. Xander said he didn't remember…

"Don't try that with me, child. I'm not an idiot."

"I don't care! It doesn't have anything to do with that."

Giles sneered. Honest to God sneered. Oh my God, I'm so in the middle of the Twilight Zone©.

"Xander…"

But he didn't hear me. Dear God. He's not listening to me. This has been boiling beneath the surface all night, and I know that I'm not going to be able to do anything. Even if I'd stood up, pulled them apart with Slayer strength, and put them both in time out or something, it still wouldn't have stopped it. I could only watch on in complete shock.

I looked to Xander and found him glaring at Giles, which was just so wrong. I mean, they've disagreed in the past, but I know that Xander kinda thinks as Giles as his father-figure-type-person. But he was. Twilight Zone©…fucking Twilight Zone©…

"Don't 'Xander' me!" my friend yelled back at the reasonable tone, "It's not about that. And even if it was, you're the last person to be accusing people about agendas."

Giles looked startled, then brushed it off. What on Earth was Xander getting at?

"I have no idea what you're-"

"You don't think I haven't thought about it, Giles?" Xander said, his voice suddenly deathly quiet. And cold. Painfully cold. I've only heard him like this a couple times ever, and whenever he uses that voice…

Never in my life do I ever want that voice directed at me.

"I've been around Buffy" he pointed at me, the first sign that they remembered I was in the room since the book dropped "the entire time, and you don't think I haven't been wondering how something could get the Slayer like that? Come on, Giles. I might be lazy, but I'm not stupid. I knew there had to be some sort of trick to this, and I figured it out last night, when we were all over here for dinner.

"Someone stole the rest of the bottle, didn't they? You couldn't send it back after the whole ordeal. Your ties were severed, you had no one you trusted to take it, and so you kept it…"

Giles crumpled, his body folding in on itself as he sunk into the chair. And as much as I wanted to go over and grab him as he did, or move, or do anything, I couldn't. I couldn't move. Something was going to come out now, something that was going to hurt me, and I just couldn't move.

"Someone stole the rest of the stuff…the stuff that makes Buffy a normal girl. Someone stole it from your house, and used it to rape her."

And my world fell apart to sound of gravely laughter.
TBC