Title: Season of the Witch Part Two- Changing Partners

Author:BuffyAngel68

e-mail: vg68@msn.com

Rating: G

Spoilers: None, unless, between both shows, you haven't kept score of who's died, been brought back, joined the family and such things.

Category:Angst/Adventure

Attribution: Joss Whedon owns Buffy and her crew, someone else owns the Halliwell gang. Don't sue over either one, please and thank you.

Summary: The saga continues as contingents from both groups decide to scope out the other side. Hilarity.... okay maybe mild funnies ensue, but mostly it'll be a lot of ducking and that poor clock possibly being blown to pieces one more time. (I think that grandfather clock has been ressurected more times than Buffy! Their clock repair and restoration service people must be millionaires by now.)

Timeline: See Part One

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THAT SAME NIGHT: SUNNYDALE

"Buffy? Are you here?"

Startled out of her thoughts, Buffy Summers looked up from the meal she had cooked but was not eating and listened to her best friend make her way through the house.

"Yeah. In the kitchen."

"Hey. How are you doing? Did the day go okay?"

"Could have been better.... but I'm dealing. What about you? Did you and Tara have fun shopping in San Fran?"

"Some. It was good. We found the spell ingredient we needed, did some window browsing...."

"You have but-face. Give."

"Are you up for some advice dispensing? I mean, if you aren't I can come back tomorrow..."

"It's okay. Feel free to complain."

"No complaining. I need an... opinion. While Tara and I were looking for the Hellispont powder, we ran head on into something.... someone we *weren't* looking for. Two natural witches."

"Natural? You mean they, like, run around.... clothes free?"

"No!" Willow admonished her, giggling. "Natural as in born to their power."

"There is such a creature?"

"Absolutely. Well.... I can say that now that I've met one. Before I wasn't sure, but now I say, absolutely!"

"You're really pale, Wills. What happened at this meeting of the witches anyway?"

"I made one of them kinda... sick. Tara... she read this article on it? She said that it only happens when a strong self-trained witch comes in close contact with a natural at almost the same level of power. The stronger one repels the weaker one, who ends up with a headache, an upset tummy.... you get the picture."

"And she got repelled. That's good news, right? You're stronger."

"Not by much, I don't think. Buffy... I don't like the idea of a witch that powerful being so close by if I don't know anything about her."

"You mean whether she's kissing cousins with the dark side of the force?"

"Exactly. Tara said her sister seemed really nice, but she also said that the sister felt a little touch of the repelling. You know the smoke and fire thing...."

"Where there are two there could be more.... and maybe the really strong ones stayed home today."

"Yeah. Just what I was thinking."

"Great. Research party. The only kind of party I *don't* like."

"I'll handle the research. I already have a name to make a start on."

"Goody. I needed a cheery thought and no research is the best kind. So what do you need from me, or should I even dare to ask."

Trying hard to maintain a straight face, Willow dropped to one knee in front of Buffy, bowed her head and made her request in a horrid New York accent.

"Nuttin' of any great import, Godmother. I only ask that youse send someone ta the city ta check on dese new players, so that we will know if dey will be enemies or allies. Can dis be done, Godmother?"

Laughing in spite of herself, Buffy stuck out a foot and gently knocked Willow onto her rear end.

"I'll go first thing in the morning. I need all the information you can get me by then."

Back on her knees, Willow began to fevently kiss Buffy's hand, murmuring praises in-between smacks until Buffy was screeching with laughter.

"Thank youse, Godmother. (kiss) Youse won't regret dis, Godmother. (kiss) I'll give ya a pedicure, (kiss) I'll take care of all yer hits (smack) fer a whole month (kiss) without askin' fer my cut, (smack) I'll even walk da dobermans..."

"Willow! You're crazy!"

"It's good to see you laugh again, Buffy."

"It feels good. Thanks."

"I'll go get started on that research. What should I set my alarm for?"

'Let's make it eight. That way we'll have time to eat and go over whatever you come up with before I leave."

"Okay. See you for breakfast."



"Yeah. I'll be here."

As soon as Willow left the kitchen to head upstairs, Buffy's smile faded, but her heart was not in as dark a place as it had been, and, as much as she might sometimes feel angry about what Willow and the others had done, most of the time she still blessed the fact that they were around. Gazing down at her plate, she carried it to the microwave, re-heated the food, brought it back to the table and began to eat.

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FOLLOWING MORNING

"Paige! Are you ready to go yet?"

"Coming! Jeez, can't I even brush my teeth?"

"Here." Piper replied, holding out a container of mints. "Take one and let's go."

"I don't get breakfast either?"

Piper pushed the tin of mints at her again and smiled thinly.

"Are you done whining, now, because I'd like to get out of here sometime in the next *century*!"

Turning to Pheobe, Paige grimaced.

"If you knew she was this anal retentive about road trips, why didn't you warn me?"

"I needed a laugh?"

"Ha, ha."

"Paige...."

"I'm right here, Piper."

"Which means you aren't in the car."

Paige, in a fit of pique, stuck her tongue out at Piper, grabbed her overnight bag and stalked out of the house. As Piper turned to follow, Pheobe halted her with a hand on her forearm.

"Look. I want you to promise me you'll be really, really careful, okay? What I saw.... some of it was pretty nasty. I finally worked out what all the sadness surrounding the blonde was about. She died fighting one of the.... whatevers I think these people face on a daily basis. Don't take any chances, not even a tiny one.... and come back to me."

"Whatevers? I thought you said vampires."

"Yeah, well I've had time to sort out some of the images and unfortunately vampires are just the beginning. There's something uber- bizzare going on in this town, Piper. Watch your back.... and watch Paige's everything."

"I will, sweetie. I promise."

"You better. Bye."

"Bye. I'll see you tomorrow night. I'll be home by six at the latest and if there's a problem I'll call."

"I'll be waiting." Phoebe responded as she dropped to sit on the stairs, watching the one anchor she had left in the world walk out and shut the door behind her.

{I'll be right here. All day and all night probably.}

Closing her eyes, Phoebe began to pray silently for her sister's safety, petitioning by name or title anyone she thought might listen.

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SAME TIME: SUNNYDALE

"Be really careful, Buffy. You and Dawnie both. I still don't think you should be taking her along. These women are real unknowns and unknowns are dangerous to you... to all of us."

"Maybe, maybe not. That's what I'm going there for, right? To find out. And Dawn's better off spending a couple days of her school vacation with me than running around free on the Hellmouth."

"Right. Just... keep one eye behind you all the time. You can't stop the knife you don't see coming."

"Will. I'm the Slayer. I can watch my back, do my nails and make cappuccino all at the same time. With a sprinkle of cinnamon and extra foam even."

"Buffy...."

"Okay. Solemn vow, on my honor I will be extra careful and try to stay out of Slayage trouble. Kay?"

"Good enough. Get going girl. I'll see you tomorrow."

"Yeah. Probably around five or five-thirty. I'll call if I get stuck or I'm attacked by the shopping bug."

"Call? Come back and get me!"

"I am so all over that. See you soon."

Willow watched Buffy collect Dawn and head out the door, then dropped to the couch and prayed for her friend.

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"Read me that again, Paige. Just that one line."

"In the last year there were only 32 deaths or injuries due to barbecue forks, an improvement over the numbers of two and three years ago." Paige repeated, reading from the newspaper article she'd brought up on her laptop while they drove. "Every piece I've found is like that. Now I know where that picture with the three monkeys came from."

"Yeah. Don't look at it, don't talk about it and don't listen when anyone else talks about it. I understand the attitude I guess. The fact that your town is a haven for demons isn't something you exactly want to advertise."

Still focusing on her computer, Paige's eyes opened wide at the latest article she'd discovered.

"Listen to this. They had to build a new high school for the 2000 school year."

"That's not so unusual."

'Wait 'till you hear why. At the '99 graduation ceremony, the whole school blew up."

"Blew up? As in exploded?"

"Uh-huh. The principal *and* the Mayor vanished, there were weapons and massive amounts of highly illegal explosives found in the wreckage.... the police blamed it on a war between rival street gangs who had set up competing PCP labs in the school basement. That's another pet theory of the Sunnydale media to explain away all the weird stuff that seems to happen in this place."

"Phoebe did say uber-bizarre. I guess she knew what she was talking about."

"Looks like. No wonder Tara and Willow became such strong witches. Living in Sunnydale it's a matter of self-preservation!"

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

"One more time, Dawn."

"You've already heard it twice."

"Maybe this time it'll make sense."

"I doubt it. but I'll try."

"According to this file Willow decrypted, one cop knows what these women are. He's the only one who knows and when they get in real trouble he protects them from inside the police department..... by doing stuff he shouldn't; stuff that could get *him* in even bigger trouble."

"Why would a cop do that? Why would he risk everything for them? I don't understand."

"I do. Giles did the same thing for you in school, right? He hid things and protected you from your principal. There were probably a lot of times he could have lost his job, but he did it anyway."

Stealing a swift glance away from the highway, Buffy favored Dawn with a proud smile.

"How did you get to be so smart?"

"Watching Willow and Tara and Xander."

"That wasn't the answer I was hoping for."

"Well Spike taught me some really cool stuff...."

"Don't go there! I don't want to know!"

"You asked."

"Yeah, well, I have a bad habit of opening the TMI trapdoor and falling through it into ewww-land. Just keep studying that file."

"Okay. Buffy?"

"What?"

"These women.... are they as dangerous as this makes them sound?"

"Maybe. That's what I'm going to San Francisco to find out. Don't worry. I swear nothing will happen to you. I won't let it."

Though she hid it from her sister, Dawn allowed herself a quick relieved grin.



"Thanks."

'No big."

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"We're getting close again. Look for the exit sign."

"Yeah, well if you'd been paying more attention to the map instead of the Sunnydale X-files, we wouldn't have missed it the first time, now would we?"

"Hey, when you read some of this, you'll understand. Writing Creative Fiction 101 must be a requirement to get hired as a news reporter down here."

"The cover-up can't be that massive. Other towns around have to know something at least a little weird is going on. Don't they?" Piper commented as she made the turn onto the exit ramp that would take them to their ultimate destination.

"Apparently not. Either Sunnydale has one hell of an effective chamber of commerce or the whole town has selective senses. Like you said; don't see, don't hear, don't talk."

"Being that oblivious can get you killed as easily as it protects you."

"From what I've been reading, I'd say a lot of the residents of Sunnydale have learned that the hard way. How far out are we, anyway?"

"About half an hour. You sound nervous, Paige. There's nothing to worry about. After what we've been through, anything they try to throw at us I think we can handle."

"We'll see how you feel after you get a look at the obits for the high school for the four years before it went boom. When are stopping for lunch? I mean, since I had a breath-mint for breakfast...."

"If you'd gotten up on time you could have had an egg-white omelet and cinnamon-raisin toast with me."

"Stop! That's torture! You're supposed to be a good witch."

"Why would I ever stop doing something I'm really good at? We'll find a place to eat soon. I'd rather stop *before* we actually get within the Sunnydale city limits. It'd make me feel better about what might be on my plate. I'll look over the computer stuff at lunch."

"Not a good idea to read this and try to eat at the same time. After lunch we'll switch places. You read, I'll drive."

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"What's the map say, Dawnie?"

"We're about twenty minutes away. After we cross the bridge we'll almost be there."

"You feel like stopping to eat or driving through?"

"Stopping. Every muscle in my body is cramping."

"Yeah, I know what you mean. Stop for lunch it is. You get anything more out of that file?"

"Oh, yeah, but half of it *I* don't even believe and I've seen a lot since I've been in Sunnydale."

"Should make interesting reading."

"Interesting? That is such an understatement...."

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TBC.....