Season of The Witch: Epilogue---




Slowly waking, Piper disentangled her arms and head from the confines of the sleeping bag in which she'd spent the night. Pushing up to a sitting position, she groaned quietly, but it was still enough to rouse Paige, wrapped in another bag beside her.

"Bad night, sis?" Paige mumbled, finally poking her own head out.

"Is there such a thing as a good night sleeping on someone else's living room floor? Remind me to make a chiropractor's appointment when we get home."

"I warned you not to sleep on your back." The redhead gloated, sitting up and stretching her hands high.

"I love you, even when you're insufferable, Paige."

"Nice to know. I was so worried about that."

"Enough!" Piper moaned. "I've got a pain in my back. The last thing I need is one in my butt! I don't know if I can even move, never mind stand...."

Rising easily to her feet, Paige moved behind her sister, tugged on her hands and walked backwards, sliding her out of the sleeping bag. She then lifted Piper to her feet by her armpits. She got nothing but a dark glare for her trouble.

"What? You're standing up aren't you? Go take a hot shower while I get the bags out of the truck. You'll feel a lot better."

"She's right, ya know." Spike drawled as he sauntered into the living room, sipping carefully at a mug of heated blood. "House full'a women, a free bathroom's a valuable commodity. Best lay claim to it while ya can."

Still wary, Piper shuffled past him and out of the room, trying to keep as much distance as possible between them. Paige merely watched him until he chose a chair to drop into then she settled on the floor a few feet from him. He grinned lightly, took another sip and spoke softly to her.

"You're not afraid, then?"

"I was."

"What changed 'tween yesterd'y an' now?"

"I don't know. Maybe it's knowing what you were willing to do for all of us." She told him, tilting her head slightly as she studied him. "Maybe it's knowing you couldn't hurt me, even if you wanted to. It could be your voice. I'm a sucker for an accent." She admitted, grinning wickedly.

"Right." He snarked, suppressing a laugh. " 'Aven't heard that one in a while."

"Paige? Piper?"

Pheobe's uncertain voice rang out from upstairs, prompting Paige onto her feet again.

"Okay. So maybe I just think you're cute." She told him, actually daring to playfully tweak the end of his nose as she passed on her way to reassure Pheobe. Spike's eyes widened in shock and he half turned around to give her a piece of his mind, but she was already gone. Frowning, he sank back into his chair.

"Cute? I am not!" he growled to himself. "Hot.... sexy p'raps. Dangerous definitely.... I'm William the Bloody, fer Lord's sake, not the Slayer's stuffed pig! Cute.... I'll show you cute, little missy...."

Despite his protests and grumblings over the title Paige had laid on him, it was only a few seconds before a smile returned to Spike's now ruddy lips and his mutterings took on a much lighter, far more bemused tone. "Thinks I'm cute. Criminy.... Tweak my nose willya.... rookie witch. She'd drive me straight up the wall most likely. Not like I 'aven't been there before.... leastways she's sane. We'll jus' have to see.... that we will."



"Please eat something, Xander. I made pancakes. You like pancakes.... at least you used to. Or I could make instant oatmeal. I looked but there doesn't seem to be much else. The angel said one of the women who lives here is a chef, but I don't see much evidence of it. You'd think she'd keep some decent food in the house...."

"Anya. Stop, please. I already have a headache."

"What exactly is that supposed to imply, Xander Harris? Are you saying I give you a headache?"

"Frequently, but right now it isn't because of you. I'm still not a hundred percent, but Buffy.... she's trying to deal with what happened to Dawn and she's.... Just try and be really quiet for a while, okay?"

When Anya's lower lip began to tremble, Xander swept her into his arms in hopes of preventing her from disturbing Leo and Buffy, who were talking in the living room. "I'm sorry, baby. I didn't mean it."

"Yes, you did, but I can forgive you. I don't understand about Dawn. Explain it to me."

"I don't get it myself. Not totally. All Buff would say is that some bunch of high-and-mighties took her away and they're gonna kill her. Something about it being safer if neither side could use The Key anymore. It doesn't make any sense to me.... but nothing they do ever does."

Over Anya's shoulder, Xander stole a glance toward the living room, wondering how much success Leo was having counseling Buffy.

"It's hard, I understand that...."

"No you don't. You can't. You're dead. Isn't that what you told me? How can you possibly know what I'm feeling? How can you feel anything at all?"

Leo's expression grew somber and he stared out the window for a long moment before he responded to the Slayer's challenge.

"Do you remember what I was telling you about the Halliwells? How they're all sisters? That wasn't quite the truth. Paige's last name is Matthews and she's only their half sister. Their full sister, Pru, died not too long ago. I felt like I knew her almost as well as Pheobe and Piper did. She was my sister too. When they lost her, so did I.... and I cried and I got angry just the same as they did. Being a WhiteLighter doesn't mean I don't have emotions. My body died... my soul didn't."

"I... I'm really sorry. I had no way of knowing, but I still shouldn't have said...."

"It's okay. You have a right to be angry. What the Elders did wasn't fair.... but it was the right thing. While you're still hurting, you can't see that. You will in time."

"Thanks, but I can't afford to piss off even one potential ally right now. Apology accepted?"

"Of course it is, and you have more allies than you think you do. Just understand that you do have a support system. Don't let all the losses you've suffered make you push everyone away. Let your friends in. Like Xander said... that's what they're for. Speaking of Xander.... you two have something pretty amazing in common. Once you get home, spend some time with him. He needs to talk about what happened at your house yesterday."

"He did try to say something to me.... about what he saw."

Abruptly, Buffy realized what Xander had been so anxious to get across. "No... you're not saying he.... Was he actually.... "

"It's his story. I'll let him tell it. It wouldn't be too much of an insult to your Slayerness if I offered to take your bag back out to the car, would it?"

"Absolutely not. I'll go round up Xander and Anya. Leo. Thank you."

"No problem. It's what I do, remember?" he chuckled, hefting her small overnight bag and heading out the front door.



"We'll find a way to work out this power personality clash." Willow told Piper from several feet away as the Halliwells prepared to head for home. "We'll work on it, I promise. I don't wanna lose a new friend when I just found her. Found *them*, I mean. I've never known any Naturals. I'm kinda... curious. Not in an icky way... strictly in a normal way. No experiments or bloodletting or anything...."

"It's okay." Pheobe assured her, laughing and giving her a quick hug. "Same here. We'll be doing some serious study on our end too."

"We'll be able to keep in touch through e-mail at least."

"True, but I will have to come back sometime. These clothes are only on loan. You're sure it was alright for me to borrow from your friend's closet?"

"Buffy wouldn't mind. It's just lucky you and she are close to the same size." Tara added, receiving her own brief embrace from Pheobe.

"Speaking of new friends...." Piper intoned ominously when she spotted Paige in deep, intense conversation with Spike.

"Oooh. That's a definite uh-oh. Shall we save our youngest sister from herself once again?"

"As if today's any different." Piper intoned wearily as they moved in unison to pull Paige away from the vampire.

"Excuse me? I'm having a private conversation." The young woman said, twisting out of Piper's grip.

"Not anymore, you aren't. It's time to go, Paige."

"Fine. Go. I'll see you at home in a couple days."

"Paige!" Piper admonished, pulling the other woman a step or two away by force. "This is not P3 and he is not somebody you just pick up on a whim because he's hot and he has more than ten brain cells left!" she hissed close to the redhead's ear. "He's not even alive."

"Neither is Leo."

"No, Paige, it isn't the same and you...."

"Stop it! I know exactly what Spike is and isn't, Piper. He won't hurt me. If I want to stay here, that's my choice to make."


"He needs me. I think..... I feel like I'm supposed to do this. Leo said if I'm ever going to be a WhiteLighter I need to learn to listen to my instincts. That what this is; instinct. I'll be alright."

Though she didn't believe a word of it, Pheobe could see that belief clearly in Paige's expression. Despite this, she questioned her one last time.

"You're absolutely sure?"


"And you will come home soon? We need you too. They don't call it the power of three for nothin' you know."

"I know. Yell and I'll orb back on a moment's notice. Until then.... I need to be here."

"Okay. Keep in touch, alright?" Pheobe requested, tightly embracing her sister.

"I will."

"Pheobe! We can't just leave her here with.... that!"

"Yes, we can. He's her first charge, Piper. She can obviously see that, even if we can't. If she thinks she can help him, we have no right to try and stop her."


"Would you stop Leo from helping someone?"

"Leo knows what he's doing..."

"He had to have a first charge too, sis, and I'm sure he was as clueless then as Paige is now. He got through it. So will she."

"How can you be so sure this isn't just normal, lust-crazed Paige?"

"I don't have to be sure. She is and that's all that counts. The look in her eyes.... I see it in the mirror every day. I thought I copyrighted the 'He-has-a-good-heart-and he's-not as-evil-as-everyone-thinks" look, but... it's hers now too. C'mon. Let's go home."

After one last fearful glance back at Paige, Piper reluctantly followed Pheobe out of the house.



"The bags are in the car. You and I are right here. What is she looking for?" Anya asked Xander, confused by the way Buffy kept circling the first floor of the Victorian mansion, obviously searching for an item she thought she'd forgotten.

"She said she dropped a hair clip, but that's not it."

"Why would she lie.... Oh. She's looking for Dawn isn't she? I'll just go remind her where she is..."

"Anya, no! Buffy doesn't know what she's really doing. I told you she's having a hard time with this. You go get in the car, okay? I'll grab her and we'll be there in a minute."

Though her lower lip moved into "about to pout" position, Anya obeyed. "Buffy? C'mon. Time to go."

"I can't. That clip has to be here somewhere. I have to find it."

Gently, Xander gathered Buffy into his arms and held her tightly.

"Buff.... stop, okay? She's not here. I know it hurts.... but you have to stop, now. We gotta go."

"I can't...." Buffy sobbed suddenly, burying herself in her friend's embrace. "They had no right.... no damn right to just take her...."

"I know. We're all gonna miss her, Buffy, but they didn't take away our memories, that's the important thing. We'll miss Dawnie..... but we don't have to forget."

"I want to. Make me forget, Xander, please...."

"What? Why?"

"It's better than this.... anything's better than this...."

Xander held her for close to half an hour, reassuring and soothing her while praying at the same time that Anya would not get bored and come bursting back into the house. After all he'd been through in the past day and a half, a misunderstanding and a pointless argument were the absolute last things he felt he could handle just then. Finally, Buffy calmed and peeled herself away from Xander's dampened shirt, smiling ruefully.


"It's okay. It's just a t-shirt. You're way more important to me than Rudy's SteakHouse. Ready to go?"

"I guess." Buffy conceded, taking one last glance around the foyer of the old house. "I feel like I'm giving up on her. I hate giving up."

"No way, Buff. You did everything you could. Wherever Dawnie is now, she knows that. C'mon. Let's go home."

Letting her head drop to Xander's shoulder, Buffy trudged out to her car at his side.


END..... FOR NOW. eg