Ring on her Finger

By Nickeltaffy

Disclaimer: I would like to thank Joss for the use of his characters. They are still his and will never be mine. (heavy sigh).

Chapter 30

"Huh?"

The sand shifted slightly under her knees as Buffy abruptly jerked her head up to see where the voice had originated. Her eyes instantly drying from her small display of emotion as they landed on the mature looking woman coolly standing across the pool. Buffy's face wrinkled in suspicion as she regarded the woman calmly standing across from her.

"You're.. you're a person. Not a demon?" she sputtered, bracing her hands on her knees to brace against the unusual circumstances unfolding around her.

"Yes. I believe that is quite apparent. Are you alright, child?." The woman in the cloak responded, looking at her with an air of steady patience.

Still trying to recover from her shock, Buffy's eyes traveled over the woman starting with the cloak pooled up at her feet and all the way up to the tiny braids that lay on top of her head that were wound around a large bun at the nape of her neck. With a slight frown, she carefully measured the woman appearance as to detect her intent. As far as she could tell the woman looked like an ordinary human except for the dreadfully out of date hairstyle and some questionable fashion choices. She pondered exactly why she had encountered this woman in such an extraordinary setting. Observing the perceptive gaze of the woman, Buffy did not exactly feel threatened; but instead felt slightly intimated. She had that uneasy feeling that you have when your name is unexpectedly called by the teacher for talking in class, something that Buffy was very familiar with. It was a feeling that she did not like to experience, especially now when there were other ongoing events that should take precedence. In such instances, Buffy brought her usual tactic of deflecting the attention back to her opponent. Clearing her throat, she sat forward to take things in hand.

"Um…Hi. Would you mind telling me what's going on?" Buffy asked, trying hard to keep the nervous quiver out of her voice.

"My dear girl, I would think that would be obvious." The woman in the cloak calmly responded.

"Excuse me, but I'm a little confused here. So, could you make with the explanations? Like how did I get here? What is this place? Who are you? Why can I see Spike in the pool?" Buffy paused and glared at the woman's outfit. "And by the way, what's with the whole Grim Reaper outfit? Or did I manage to land in a Def Leppard video?"

"Grim Reaper? Leopards? My, you do speak…colorfully." The woman replied, tilting her head. "It was of the utmost importance that you look in the pool. How else was I to get you to look in the pool without launching into a lengthy conversation?"

Buffy looked upwards as she twisted her mouth to the side, tapping her fingers against her knees. "Oh, I don't know… How about 'Hey, please look in the pool!'. Ever hear of that one?" Buffy did little to contain her sarcasm. "You got a really dysfunctional way of communicating, lady!"

"You're singularly abrupt." The oddly dressed woman sighed as she looked down to smooth the front of the cape and then lifted her head to regard the slayer. "I had hoped my nephew, William would have found an appropriate girl of class and breeding. Oh, well, he has always been given to recklessness. He favors his parents in that aspect, they always got so carried away in the moment. I fear he gives too much credence to his heart, and not his head."

"Okay, you lost me. Who are we talking about?" Buffy looked confused as she gave her a head a little shake. "William who?"

"William is my nephew." The woman answered, tiredly.

"Yeah, I got that part but that doesn't seem to clear anything up for me." The Slayer screwed up her face and shrugged her shoulders.

"William…" The woman paused, waiting for a reaction from Buffy. Upon seeing none, she then continued. "You were just watching him."

"I was watching..you mean…Spike?" Buffy said slowly as she tried to sit back on her heels but missed and fell over ungainly over on the side of her hip onto the sand. Her jaw dropped as she stared over at the woman across the pool and blurted. "That's right. I forgot Spike's name is William. You're Spike's aunt! Wow! You gotta be really old!"

"Hmm. Yes. I am William's Aunt Charlotte." Leaning her head forward, she asked. "And your name would be?"

"Oh, I'm Buffy. Err…I mean Elizabeth." Buffy responded as her mind was reeling as she tried to regain her balance physically and mentally. "No, wait. No, just call me Buffy. Everyone does."

"I think it's is a blessing you're so lovely." Aunt Charlotte stated as she looked at the slayer across the pool. "I suggest that you try to capitalize on that. It would draw attention from your education and manners."

Buffy's forehead wrinkled as the woman's statement sank through her skull.. The sting of the statement finally settling in, she pulled in her lips and scowled. "Now, I believe it! You have to be related to Spike. You managed to go from oddly perverse to really irritating in one minute or less." she muttered. Taking a bracing breath, she asked. "So are you going to tell me why you brought me here?"

"I didn't bring you here. You did that all on your own." Aunt Charlotte stated as she folded her hands in front of her.

Holding up her hands in front of her, the Slayer shook her head in disbelief. "N..now, wait a minute. I did no such thing. I think I would have remembered something like that."

"My dear, your presence here is proof that you, and you alone, called upon the ring." The older woman smoothly replied.

"Grr! That stupid ring! I knew it! Wouldn't you know the first ring I get from a guy and it turns out to be some kind of science fiction thingy! Your family are actually aliens, aren't you? That explains so much about Spike." Buffy breathed through her teeth as she thrust her hand into the pocket on the front of her jeans. She enclosed the ring in her fist and jerked it out and angrily stared at her hand. The ring lay in her open palm, the dark stone lying inert. She thrust her hand toward the woman. "Tell it to take me back!"

"I don't understand you." Aunt Charlotte sighed. "The ring is only a servant of your desires."

"Huh? My who of a what?" Pulling her gaze back down to the ring, Buffy's face wrinkled with confusion.

"My dear, you must realize that you called on the power of the ring. How else do you explain why you're here."

"That's what I was asking you! Are you saying there's like a genie in this thing?" Buffy picked up the ring between her fingers and began to shake the ring as if she could shake the magical being out. "That would be really…neat! I mean, just think of all the fantastic shoes I could get!"

"Please. There is little time for this! There is no genie." Aunt Charlotte's sharp voice brought Buffy back to the conversation. "Your feelings for William are what brought you here."

"What…Huh? Oh, yeah. William.. I mean Spike. Sorry, I kinda got lost in a shoe version of candyland there for a second." Buffy raised her eyebrows as she shrugged apologetically. Then blinking, she asked. "You were saying something about feelings?"

"Yes, I said that your feelings for William brought you here."

Buffy gave an odd sounding guffaw at the statement. Holding her hand against her chest, she answered. "Hey. I don't know where you're getting that? Feelings? I don't have any feelings for Spike."

"You don't?" Aunt Charlotte raised her eyebrows at the last statement.

"Well, the feelings I do have are strictly lean more to irritation, if anything. Our chemistry is similar to a paper cut and lemon juice." Buffy paused to consider her feelings, she began to blather. "I mean Spike and I… Nah! I couldn't have… I mean.. Him and me, it's just …ICK!"

"Me thinks the lady doth protest too much." Spike's aunt muttered as she shook her head.

"Hey, I'm okay with the protesting. And by the way, it's 'I think'. Complain about my education, will ya?" Buffy griped. "I, at least, speak English very good."

"Very well." The woman corrected.

"I am glad we agree upon something. Now, could you tell me how to get this ring to take me back?" Buffy said nodding and pointing to the ring.

"The ring will bow to your heart's desire. If you wish to leave this place, then by all means do." The older woman sighed.

"Okay, so I just have to tell the ring that I want to go back, right?" Buffy said slowly as she looked over to the woman with wide eyes.

"If that is indeed what your heart wants."

"Okay, Ring! Take me back to Sunnydale!" Buffy clinched her eyes shut and after a second, peeked out to see that she was still with Aunt Charlotte. "It didn't work."

"So, it appears." Aunt Charlotte replied, deadpan.

"Maybe, I don't know…I should put it on." Buffy stated with a grimace as she slid the ring onto her finger. Staring at the ring on her hand, she waited for a reaction. Seeing nothing, she sighed. "Okay. I don't feel any different."

Suddenly the ring began to glow a deep crimson. Holding it up in front of her, Buffy's eyes were drawn to the pool that lay beyond it again and the image of Spike wandering in the other dimension. Ignoring Aunt Charlotte, Buffy leaned once again over the pool.

…..

During the time that Buffy had conversing with his aunt, the atmosphere had thickened around Spike as he swaggered along looking for the creature. A fog rolled up as he marched through the strange dark landscape slowing his progress and any search for the creature. It swirled in colors of pink against the dark muddled background. Spike was getting increasingly frustrated as he peered around him looking for the entity.

"Spike! Spike!" an insistent and strangely familiar female voice cut straight to his ears.

"Bu..Buffy?" Spike stammered as he looked around in the swirls of fog. He spun around, looking wildly around for the Slayer.

"Yes, it's me!" Buffy's voice carried a note of triumph.

"Are you here, luv? Did you get sucked in here too?" Spike narrowed his eyes as he peered into the distance.

"No, I am not there." Buffy replied

"Where are you?" Spike asked, raising an eyebrow as he turned his head right to left, looking for the slayer.

"Well, that's where it kinda gets interesting. I am using some kind of interstellar intercom system."

"Oh, how did you manage that? Did Willow and Giles mange to rig something up?" Spike's brow wrinkled as he continued to walk.

"No. They didn't. Um. You see. Funny thing happened." Buffy's voice broke as she began to breathe a nervous laugh.

"I'm kinda busy now, pet. You just better tell me. Just get it over, quick and proper." Spike said, disregarding the unease in Buffy's voice.

"Okay…Um, I am kinda standing here with your Aunt Charlotte."

Spike suddenly froze in his tracks, his eyes widened, his lip pulled in as he held his breath. All swaggering pretense fell from him and his face took on a look of fright.

"Hey, what's with the face?"