THE SISTERS OF PARADOX

TITLE: The Sisters of Paradox
AUTHOR: Robert A. Black / bbovenguy@mindspring.com
DISCLAIMER: All things Buffy are the creation and property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy Productions, the WB Network, etc. Certain guest characters are property of the BBC.
RATING: PG
TIME CONTEXT: Set between the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes "Superstar" and "Where the Wild Things Are."

| Parts 1-3 | Parts 4-6 | Parts 7-9 | Parts 10-12 | Parts 13-15 | Parts 16-18 |

Part Four

Giles was prepared for battle. Not with stakes or swords or battleaxes, for this time his adversary wasn�t a member of the undead. This time, he faced an opponent of the very English variety, and he was prepared to do battle the very English way.

"More tea, Ms. Smith?" he asked, holding up the teapot.

"That would be lovely, thank you," replied Sarah Jane Smith as she sat in Giles�s living room.

Sarah did not seem like a particularly fearsome opponent. Although she was a few years older than Giles, her face still bore traces of an excessively youthful appearance that must have made it difficult for her to gain respect as a young female journalist in the seventies. But her career spoke for itself, and it told Giles that the woman had learned a thing or two about tenacity and persuasion. He would have to be careful if he was going to steer her clear of the things he didn�t want her knowing about.

"I must admit," said Sarah, "that I didn�t expect you to be quite so cooperative. Your associate, Mister Quentin Travers, spent five weeks trying to avoid me."

"Mister Travers is, uh, no longer an �associate� of mine," Giles replied. "I haven�t spoken to him in over a year now."

"But you do know him?" asked Sarah, jotting some notes down on a pad of paper.

"I have known him, yes," said Giles. By now, he had decided that keeping his answers short and vague was the best course of action. Perhaps Sarah would decide he wasn�t interesting enough and continue on her way.

"In that case," Sarah continued, "perhaps you may also know about the organization Mister Travers plays a rather large role in. The..." She trailed off for a moment, flipping back to a previous page on her pad. Probably a dramatic pause, Giles thought.

"Ah yes, here it is," said Sarah as she found the page. "The �Council of Watchers?� For example, you don�t happen to know exactly what they watch, do you? Cricket matches, perhaps? They don�t quite seem like the type for football."

Giles tried not to let his back stiffen, but he couldn�t help himself. "I would have thought a journalist of your caliber would have discovered that already," he said.

"Oh, I know what they think they�re watching," Sarah replied, "but I was hoping I could get another perspective. Perhaps from someone who�s �no longer an associate?�"

"I�m afraid I can�t offer you anything that would be of interest," Giles answered tersely. "Being here in America, I don�t exactly have the best �perspective� on what�s happening back in England."

Sarah appeared to consider his claim. "I suppose not," she said. Flipping through her notebook again, she added, "There is another person out here that I was planning to interview, though. A Mister Wesley Wyndham-Price? I understand he�s working as a detective in Los Angeles now. Do you think his perspective would be any more interesting?"

"Oh, absolutely," Giles replied. He suddenly felt the urge to see if he�d remembered to turn the stovetop off, and got up to return to his kitchen. As he did, he muttered, "About as interesting as plateful of stale crumpets."

"Really?" said Sarah. Giles cursed his inability to mutter quietly. He turned around to see the reporter staring at him. "Struck a nerve, did we?" she asked.

"Ms. Smith, perhaps it would be better if we didn�t conduct this interview after all," Giles replied. "I�m not obligated to talk to you. I allowed you to come here of my own free will, but it was not for the purpose of having you sit there playing games."

Sarah smiled. "I�m sorry," she said. "It�s a habit I picked up a long time ago. However, I could just as easily say that I didn�t come all this way to sit here and listen to you say as little as possible."

Giles thought for a moment, then sat back down. Perhaps a different approach was needed after all. "Fair enough," he said. "Let�s start over, then. What is it that brought you here?"

Sarah appeared to relax a bit. "A few months ago," she began, "I heard about this �Council of Watchers,� and what they�re doing. About the vampires and the other creatures they track. A friend of mine told me about them."

"And you believed this friend?" Giles asked.

"She�s had some... previous experience... with this sort of thing," Sarah replied. "And as you probably know, when I was much younger I witnessed and reported on a number of extraordinary events myself. It wasn�t that difficult to believe her. My research took care of the rest. Your Council covers its tracks very well, Mister Giles, but not perfectly."

"In that case," said Giles, "then surely you must see the need for the Council to remain secret. The danger involved..."

"...is exactly why the Council should not remain secret," Sarah shot back. "We�re talking about a paranormal threat to society. Creatures with extraordinary powers, preying on human beings. Are you really going to sit there and tell me the matter is best left in the care of supernatural vigilantes who practice the same methods as their fourteenth century predecessors?"

"And what do you propose instead?" Giles countered. "Do you really want to put vampires and demons on the front page of every newspaper? Next, you�ll be wanting to ring up the FOX network so they can make one of those dreadful documentaries on the subject."

Sarah smiled slightly, in a way that made Giles uneasy. "Of course I don�t want that," she replied. "I�m quite familiar with the need to keep some things out of the public eye. But I know where the line is drawn, Mister Giles. A secret society, with no one looking after it, performing rites and rituals and things no one else knows about. That�s asking for trouble."

Giles sat back in his chair, looking at Sarah intently. He already knew what sort of trouble she was talking about. His own disagreement with Council traditions had gotten him fired, and the way the Council had handled the entire Faith debacle was even more disturbing. But did that mean the journalist might have a valid point?

After what seemed like an age, Giles finally asked, "And what sort of solution did you have in mind for this trouble?"

Sarah raised an eyebrow at him. "That depends," she replied, "on how much I know about it. Would you mind filling me in?"

******

Buffy and Riley had searched the campus together until early evening, when he left to find backup from the Initiative. By that time, Buffy had backup of her own - or at least company.

"Explain to me again why I�ve got the night shift," said Willow in a tone that was not quite half-serious. "Because, you know, the novelty of hunting vampires in the daytime sounds too good to pass up. No creepy shadows, no scary noises in the dark, and best of all, not as many bugs out."

"Well, I could have called you earlier," Buffy replied, "but that would have meant dragging you away from Tara�s, and..."

"Oh, probably a good idea that you didn�t, actually," Willow cut in quickly. "We were in the middle of this new spell Tara wanted to try," she added excitedly. "It was really intense. Plus stopping in the middle would have been kind of messy."

Buffy smiled. "I�ll have to remember that if I ever need to..." She trailed off suddenly and stopped walking. She had heard something behind them.

"What is it?" Willow asked, her voice lowering almost automatically.

"One of those scary noises in the dark," Buffy replied quietly. "No night would be complete without them." She quickly motioned to Willow that she planned to try doubling back, then took off into the shadows.

As she crept along, Buffy could hear Willow talking behind her. "Yeah, that�s right, Buffy," she said, trying her best to sound convincing. "That, uh, that spell we were trying out. You have to simmer the eye of newt for just the right amount of time, and if you let it boil over, it leaves an awful stain. Tara�s got a room deposit to think about, after all."

Buffy smiled at Willow�s banter. Whatever was following them would be well entertained by the time she killed it.

Sure enough, Buffy quickly spied a figure lurking in a nearby clump of bushes. Unfortunately, Buffy could also still see Willow, standing where Buffy had left her. Their pursuer could probably figure out that Willow was merely acting as a decoy. Buffy would have to strike quickly.

She crept up on the bushes, where the figure was still hiding, and then broke into a sprint that covered the last few feet in a flash. Buffy leaped up and delivered a swift kick to their pursuer�s backside, knocking the figure out of the bushes and onto the ground. She landed in a fighting stance, her stake already drawn and poised for the kill. A vampire would be on its feet within seconds, even after a kick like that one.

The only problem was that the mysterious figure didn�t react the way a vampire would have reacted. Instead, their pursuer rolled once and remained on the ground, moaning. An object rolled out of the figure�s hand and came to rest a few feet away.

Not wanting to take any chances, Buffy leaped on top of then intruder. She brought her stake up, ready to strike, then looked down and suddenly realized who she was looking at.

"Ow!" cried Samantha Jones. "I know it�s probably not my place to complain right now, but that hurt!"

"No, it�s not your place to complain," Buffy snapped. "We don�t like stalkers very much around here."

"What�s going on?" Willow asked as she ran over to join them.

"Our new friend from this afternoon is back," said Buffy as she stood up. As she helped Sam up as well, she asked, "What�s the matter? Need to find another building on campus and were too embarrassed to ask?"

"Listen, I know this looks really bad," Sam replied, "but..."

"Buffy! Look!" cried Willow. She had bent down to retrieve the object that rolled out of Sam�s hand, and now she was holding it up for Buffy to see. It was a stake.

Buffy looked at Sam again. "Where did you get that?" she asked.

"I brought it with me," Sam replied. "This being Sunnydale, I thought it was best to come prepared."

"How do you know about Sunnydale?" Willow asked.

"I�ve heard things," Sam replied. "It�s not like I�ve never seen vampires before. I got bitten by one, actually, when I was sixteen."

Buffy held her own stake directly under Sam�s nose, pointing it at her menacingly. "Look we don�t have time for you to play mystery woman. You weren�t really looking for the Political Science building this afternoon. You were looking for me. You knew who I was, didn�t you?"

Sam looked down at the stake for a moment before answering. "I wasn�t sure this afternoon," she answered. "Now I am."

"But why were you looking for Buffy?" Willow demanded. "How did you even know about her? Who are you, really?"

"I told you," said Sam. "I�m Samantha Jones, and I�m from London. Shoreditch, if you want to get specific."

"Oh, I plan to get a lot more specific than that," said Buffy. "We know someone else who�s from England. I think you should meet him."

Sam relaxed a bit. "If that�s what you want," she said, "then let�s go."

"All right," Buffy agreed. "But first..."

Before she could continue, Buffy felt a blow strike her from behind. She pitched forward into Sam and they tumbled to the ground. Buffy landed on top of the Englishwoman and quickly rolled off, trying to get her feet back on solid ground.

She was standing again in an instant, facing their assailant. This time, it was a vampire, one who had been smart enough to take advantage of their preoccupation with Sam. Its advantage would be short-lived, though. Buffy let her anger at Sam and at being surprised fuel her, and she let loose with a flurry of blows that knocked the vampire senseless. Slaying it would be easy. Except...

Except that she had dropped her stake when the vampire first hit her. It was on the ground somewhere, and she couldn�t exactly call a time-out to go find it.

"Buffy! Catch!"

Buffy looked over just in time to see Willow throw Sam�s stake to her. She caught it, then turned and struck just as the vampire charged her. The creature ran onto the stake and vanished in a cloud of dust.

"Well, I daresay that worked out," said Sam, struggling back to a sitting position. Buffy had to admit, the woman knew how to take a pounding.

"Are you all right?" Willow asked, kneeling down at Sam�s side.

"Oh, sure," said Sam. "This is nothing. I should tell you about this time I was in the Ardennes..."

Unfortunately, Buffy and Willow never got to hear about the Ardennes, whatever they were, because at that moment Sam fell back and passed out.

"Oh, this is fun," said Willow. "Now we have to carry her to Giles�s place."

Buffy frowned. "Maybe we can get her back on her feet and she can walk there herself."

The Englishwoman groaned slightly, and Willow looked her over again. "Are you sure about that?" she asked, looking back up at Buffy.

Buffy shrugged. So far, absolutely nothing had gone right all day. She hoped things would take a turn for the better when they found Giles - but something told her they wouldn�t.

******

Part Five

Willow had looked for Buffy in every place she could think of, but the Slayer was nowhere to be found. She traced Buffy�s usual patrol routes with no success. She checked the Bronze, but neither Buffy nor any of their friends were inside. She even checked Riley�s place, but the Lowell House was deserted. Probably off on some big Initiative thing or another, she supposed.

There was another problem, too. The more Willow looked, the more things she discovered that were wrong. Something very bad had happened to the world, and the world was showing her just how bad at almost every turn.

At first, the differences had been minor. A poster here, a sign on the wall there, but as she went on, things were rapidly piling up. The old mansion on Crawford Street looked less run-down than she was used to, as if someone had lived there since Buffy killed Angel almost two years earlier. The manager at the apartment complex where Faith lived said he had never seen the dark-haired Slayer before. And Xander�s mother had gotten the name of Xander�s girlfriend confused. Granted, the woman wasn�t the most aware person in the world when it came to Xander�s life, but surely it wasn�t that hard for her to distinguish between "Amy" and "Anya."

There were only two places left for Willow to look - Giles�s apartment and the dorm room she and Buffy shared. After what she had already been through, Willow didn�t feel ready to face what might be different about her own room. Besides, Giles�s apartment was closer and Giles might have something in his books that would help her figure things out. With that in mind, she set off toward the former Watcher�s home.

******

Giles was starting to relax a little. Sarah�s interview was going much better than he�d expected. So far, the journalist had mainly asked him about the Council�s background and practices. He continued to wonder how much he could trust her. Was she really interested in revealing the truth so the Council and others might improve the way they fought against the Forces of Darkness? Or was she simply trying to make a bigger name and paycheck for herself?

It also seemed odd that Sarah had not yet mentioned the Slayer. Surely she hadn�t overlooked the most important part of the Council�s function. The Council may not have a Slayer to watch over at the moment, but the subject must have come up. Giles had already decided he was going to do avoid mentioning Buffy at all, and he found himself wondering whether he should be relieved or tense about not having to dodge the issue.

"So," Sarah was saying, "why has the Council become so interested in a small American town over the past few years? I mean, they sent you here. They sent Mister Wyndham-Price here. There have been visits by others from time to time. What�s so special about Sunnydale, California?"

So much for being relieved.

"Well, that�s an interesting question," Giles began, still trying to think of ways that it could be interesting without giving away too much. "Sunnydale is rather a fascinating place, and has been, going all the way back to..."

At that point, there was a knock at the front door, mercifully interrupting them. Giles excused himself and went to answer it. He opened the door to find Buffy and Willow standing there, supporting another young woman between them.

"Giles!" Buffy cried. "I�m glad you�re home. We�ve got a big problem. Or several."

"Buffy, what on earth...?" Giles exclaimed. Aware that Sarah might turn around from her place on the couch and see them, he stepped outside, trying to pull the door closed behind him.

"There�s a new kind of vamp in town," Buffy began. "That was bad enough, but while we were out hunting it, our friend here was hunting us."

Giles gave Buffy a puzzled look. "Do you mean to say this woman attacked you?" he asked.

"Well, not exactly," said Willow. "But she was following us in kind of a stealthy way."

"So how did she end up in this state?" Giles asked, dreading the answer slightly.

"Oh, after we caught her following us, we did get attacked," Buffy replied. "By a vampire this time, but I think it was just a normal one. Anyway, she kind of got caught in the crossfire. Can you help us get her inside?"

Giles moved over a bit, trying to block the doorway. "Buffy, I can understand why you would want to know why this woman was following you," he said, "but now�s not exactly a good time."

"Giles!" Buffy exclaimed. "She knows who I am! She knows I�m the Slayer. This is too important to wait because you�ve got other plans."

With that, Buffy shoved Giles aside, taking the woman with her. Sarah was writing in her notebook and had not turned around.

"All right, all right," Giles said loudly, trying to think of some way to explain the situation. "You know I don�t approve of those fraternity parties, but if your friend needs a place to sleep it off, I suppose she can..."

"Sam!"

Giles looked over at Sarah. The journalist had looked up and turned around, and now she was staring straight at the young woman. "My God," said Sarah, "What did you do to her?"

Giles looked back at the woman - Sam - then back at Sarah again. "You know her?" he asked.

Buffy was looking at Sarah as well, with fury building in her eyes. "Who are you?" she demanded.

"Sarah?" Sam said groggily, as she worked her way back to consciousness. "I found the Slayer. She was right where you said she would be."

Giles stared at Sam, then back at Sarah as his mind made the connection. He left Buffy�s side and went back over to Sarah. "You knew," he said accusingly. "You knew all along, and you let me sit here talking to you like an idiot."

"I knew the stories about the Slayer, of course," Sarah replied as calmly as she could. "If there was a Slayer here, and you had been her Watcher, I knew you would never tell me anything about her."

"So instead of honoring my commitment to my duty and my charge," Giles said hotly, "you sent your accomplice out behind my back."

"I�ll admit that�s one way of looking at it," Sarah replied. "I simply wanted to confirm my suspicions before I talked to you about them. I certainly never planned for something like this to happen."

"We should have known it would," said Sam, who was now standing on her own fairly steadily. "Sometimes I think being caught snooping and then getting hit on the head by the bad guy is what I do best."

Giles fumed, wanting to let his temper explode but somehow managing to control it. Buffy and Willow were in similar states. Finally, he turned back to Sarah. "Obviously, this interview is finished," he spat. "You�re fortunate that the situation is too complicated for me to press charges against you."

"Mister Giles, you must believe me," Sarah pleaded. "Everything I�ve told you is true. I honestly do believe in the reasons I gave you for doing this story. And you can trust Sam as well. She�s the friend I told you about. The one who told me about the Council in the first place."

"She knows about the Council, too?" said Buffy.

"Believe me, they�re not our friends," said Sam.

"How are we supposed to believe that?" said Willow. "For all we know, the Council sent you here to check up on us."

"That�s preposterous!" cried Sarah.

At that, Buffy charged across the room to confront Sarah. Sam went to Sarah�s aid, while Willow followed behind Buffy. Giles wasn�t sure if Willow was going to argue or to try to restrain Buffy if the Slayer got too angry. Within seconds, a shouting match was in full swing.

Just over the din, Giles heard another knock at his door. Bloody marvelous, he thought. After all the trouble that had walked into his home that evening, he couldn�t imagine what was coming next.

******

At least the outside of Giles�s apartment building looked the same. Willow felt a boost of confidence from that observation as she walked up to his door. As she approached, she could hear voices inside. Someone was home. Several someones, from the sound of things.

She knocked at the door, and in a moment Giles answered. Willow charged through, barely noticing the half-puzzled, half-angry expression on his face.

"Giles," Willow began breathlessly, "you have got to help me. Everything�s... well, everything�s wrong. I don�t really know how, but everywhere I go things are... well, they�re different!"

"Excuse me," said Giles. "Do I know you?"

Willow stepped back as if Giles had slapped her. She managed a nervous laugh, just to keep herself breathing. "What do you mean, Giles? You�ve known me for over three years!"

Giles continued to stare at her, growing more puzzled. Willow stared back, growing more worried. At the other end of the room, the voices Willow had heard before suddenly grew quiet.

"Giles, who is that?"

Willow turned and saw Buffy walking over to join them. Her face lit up. The Slayer was her last best hope of ending this nightmare.

"Buffy!" Willow cried. "What�s going on? I don�t know why, but Giles doesn�t know me. Tell him who I am!"

Three other women walked up behind Buffy. The slight redhead and the taller blonde woman that Willow had seen with Buffy earlier were there, along with a dark-haired older woman. They were all looking at her with equally confused expressions.

"Who are you?" Buffy asked.

Willow felt time slow down. The room felt like it was spinning. The air was getting thicker and harder to breathe.

With what energy she had left, Willow cried out desperately, "What do you mean, �Who am I?� Don�t you know me? I�m Willow! Willow Rosenberg!"

In the slow-motion time frame that Willow�s brain now occupied, she saw the Slayer�s eyes widen. Buffy turned and glanced back at the redhead, whose pale skin was suddenly growing flushed.

"You can�t be Willow Rosenberg," said Buffy.

"Why not?" Willow did her best to make her question sound like a question and not a scream.

The redhead stepped forward. "Because," she said, "I�m Willow Rosenberg."

That was it. Willow�s mind refused to take in anything more. She simply stood there for a second, staring wild-eyed at the redhead who was trying to claim her identity. Then her body decided it was best if it shut down for a while. Willow knew only blackness well before she hit the floor.

******

Part Six

"I really think it would be best if you both leave. Now."

Giles had taken Sam and Sarah over to his front door while Buffy and Willow moved the unconscious new arrival to the couch. Sam, who was still a bit dazed, didn�t resist. Sarah, on the other hand, was not going to be dismissed that easily.

"Mister Giles," she protested, "you can�t just throw us out into the street. Please, give me one more chance to explain..."

"As you can see, I�m a bit busy at the moment," Giles replied acidly. "If I were you, I�d be grateful for the chance to make a clean getaway."

"And if I were you," Sarah retorted, "I wouldn�t be so quick to get rid of me. This story is going to be written, Mister Giles, whether you like it or not. You still have a chance to influence what it says. Don�t let that pass you by."

"I hate to disappoint you, Ms. Smith, but that�s precisely what I�m doing," said Giles. "Good night."

Sarah tried to say something more, but before she could, Giles hurried her out the door and closed it behind her. By the time he turned back into the room, the mysterious brown-haired girl was on the couch and Willow was hanging up the telephone.

"Xander and Anya are on the way," Willow said as Giles approached. "I figured things were getting kinda crisisy."

"Yes, that was probably wise," Giles agreed.

Willow turned her head and stared down at the unconscious young woman. "Who do you think she is?" she asked, turning back to Giles. "And why does she think she�s me?"

"Those are both excellent questions," said Giles. Now that he had dealt with Sarah and Sam, he had time to consider the matter himself. "Have you ever seen her before?" he asked.

Willow shook her head. "Never," she replied. "I mean, she looks a little like my Aunt Esther, only a lot younger."

Giles frowned. The young woman was even less familiar to him. Though she appeared to be Willow�s age, she looked nothing at all like the Willow he knew. She was shorter than Willow, with a heavier build and a rounder face. Instead of Willow�s straight red hair, long brown curls tumbled down from her head and around her face.

Buffy walked over to join them. "Whoever she is," she said, looking down at the woman, "I hope it doesn�t take too long to figure out what�s up with her. We have plenty of trouble already."

"I�m sure this is nothing," said Willow. "Just some kind of mistake." She was trying to sound confident, but Giles could see the apprehension in her face. He had a feeling things would not go much better as the night wore on.

*******

Willow shifted uncomfortably as she awoke. For a moment, she had to think to remember where she was. When she did remember, she almost wished she hadn�t.

She opened her eyes slowly, taking in her surroundings. This was Giles�s couch. She was in Giles�s apartment. She had been here often enough to know the place with just a glance. Better still, it looked almost identical to the way she remembered it. Only a few things seemed out of place, and those could easily be explained if Giles had gotten a mild redecorating bug.

"Ah, good. You�re awake."

Willow looked up and saw Giles staring down at her with a concerned expression on his face. Another good sign. He was the same old reliable Giles she remembered.

"Can I have some water, please?" she asked.

As Giles went to his kitchen, Willow sat up and looked around the rest of the room. Buffy was there as well, also looking concerned. As was Xander. Maybe everything she had seen before was nothing more than a bad dream. That was it. A bad dream, brought on by too much late-night researching.

Unfortunately, Willow�s hope lasted all of two seconds.

Sitting next to Xander, at a proximity that could only be explained in boyfriend-girlfriend terms, was Anya the ex-demon girl. Unless Xander had broken up with Amy, then gone down to USC and won Anya away from Percy, all within the last twenty-four hours, something was still wrong with the world.

Willow�s next glance confirmed her fears. She looked over toward the corner of the room and saw her standing there. The imposter. The slight redhead who claimed that she was really Willow Rosenberg.

Giles returned with a glass of water, which Willow took gratefully. He sat down on the other end of the couch and said, "Now then, I�m afraid there are a few things we need to sort out. Beginning with who you are."

Willow did her best to remain calm. Getting upset and passing out again wasn�t going to help. "I�m who I said I was before, Giles," she said. "I�m Willow Rosenberg."

Giles looked over at the redhead. Buffy, Xander and Anya did the same.

"I don�t know who she is," Willow continued, indicating the redhead. "But she�s not me. I am."

Everyone in the room looked back at her. For a moment, the silence was deafening. Finally, Anya spoke up. "Okay, she�s a crazy person," she said. "You called us over just so we could tell you that?"

"I�m not crazy!" Willow insisted. "I know all the rest of you. Giles. Buffy. Xander. Even you, Anya. How would I know that if I wasn�t who I said I was?"

"That�s what we�re trying to find out," said Buffy. "This is pretty freaky for us, too - even by Sunnydale standards. I mean, you don�t look anything like the Willow we all - "

"Your name is Buffy Summers," Willow interjected. There had to be a way to make her understand. "Your mother�s name is Joyce. Your father�s name is Hank, and he lives in Los Angeles, which is where you used to live before you got kicked out of school for burning down the gym. You�re also the Slayer, the one girl in all the world with the strength and skill to hunt vampires. Or you used to be the only one, but you died, so Kendra came along. But then she died, and Faith came along to replace her."

Buffy�s jaw dropped. She looked over to Giles briefly, but the former Watcher was just as stunned. After a moment, the Slayer looked back at Willow. "How did you...?" she began.

"I�ve known all about you from the day we first met," Willow replied. "That was over three years ago."

Buffy straightened slightly as an idea came to her. "What happened that day we first met?" she asked. "What was the first thing we talked about?"

"That�s easy," Willow replied. "You needed help getting caught up with your schoolwork."

Buffy glanced over at the redhead, who had left her place in the corner and come over to Buffy�s side. Willow definitely had their attention now.

"It was history class, actually," Willow continued. "Mister Barnes suggested I offer to help you, so I did."

"That�s not right," said the redhead. Turning to Buffy, she added, "I didn�t come to you. You came to me. And... and you didn�t mention history. Not at first."

"Yeah, but it�s close," Buffy replied. "I mean, history was my worst subject that year."

"Buffy!" the redhead cried.

"Wait, let her go on," Buffy said to the redhead. Turning back to Willow, she asked, "Okay, how did you find out I was the Slayer?"

"That�s easy, too," said Willow. "I was attacked by a vampire. You saved me from him."

"What vampire?" asked Buffy. "Where did you meet him?"

"At the Bronze," Willow answered. "He was wearing these clothes that were really out of date. You said that�s how you knew he was a vampire."

The redhead was definitely uneasy now, shifting back and forth on her feet. Buffy, Xander and Giles still looked puzzled.

"Where did this vampire take you?" Buffy asked after another moment. "Where did I rescue you?"

"We were in the auditorium," Willow replied. "He took me up on the stage."

"Aha!" cried the redhead. "That�s not right! The vampire took me through the cemetery, to the mausoleum with the door that leads into the city�s electrical tunnels."

"Wait just a minute," said Buffy. The puzzlement on her face had grown deeper. "You were attacked by a vampire on the stage of the auditorium, weren�t you?"

"No!" the redhead replied. "That never happened to me."

"But it did happen to me," Willow insisted. "And it wasn�t just one vampire you saved me from. He brought friends, and they attacked you all at once. I remember how impressed I was. You took them all on, and you stayed so cool through the whole fight. Even when one of them threw you against the wall, all you did was make some joke like..."

"�That was my favorite spine.�" Buffy finished for her. The look on her face had changed to one of astonishment.

"Buffy!" the redhead cried. "You can�t remember that! It didn�t happen!"

Buffy turned to the redhead. "I don�t understand it, Will," she said. "But I do remember. It�s really fuzzy, like I�m remembering a dream or something. But it�s there."

Feeling more confident for the first time all day, Willow turned to Xander. "Xander, you were there, too," she told him. "You came in through the back door, and you were carrying Buffy�s purse. Then a female vampire attacked us. She was about to bite you, when..."

"...when you burned her to death with a cross," Xander finished for her. Willow smiled.

"Xander!" cried the redhead.

Xander shrugged. "Sorry, Will," he replied. "It�s like Buffy said. Everything�s fuzzy, but I remember it."

"This can�t be happening," said the redhead. Pointing at Willow, she added, "She... she can�t be me. This can�t be real."

Now the redhead looked like she was about to faint. Willow felt sorry for her for a moment. After all, it might not be her fault that she was an imposter, and now she was feeling as confused as Willow was.

"Now, let�s all try to stay calm," said Giles, getting up from his seat to address everyone, just like he used to do in his Watcher days. "We�ve handled far worse things in the past. All we need to do is research the problem and I�m sure..."

"Wait!" Buffy jumped in. "God, I almost forgot! Giles, we don�t have time for this right now. The whole reason Willow and I - that�s our Willow, I mean... The reason we were out tonight is because..."

A loud pounding at Giles�s front door interrupted the Slayer. Giles went to answer it, but before he even made it halfway across the room, the door burst open. Spike, the vampire who had been caught and neutralized by the Initiative a few months earlier, charged in.

"You�ve all got a big problem," Spike announced. "There�s a vampire out there who can�t be killed, and who can walk around in the daylight. And you�re not going to believe who it is."

End Of Part Six

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