the bunny warren v. Faith

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One Owner

Author: Mikelesq
Concept: Giles' red BMW wasn't his first choice for a new vehicle. Takes place at the beginning of Season 5, between "Buffy vs. Dracula" and "Real Me."
Rating: PG-13.
Legal disclaimers: "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" characters and situations are owned by Joss Whedon and the producers of the show. The story is entirely fiction. Distribute if you like.

Prologue


"So, if we can make a deal today, my manager tells me that we can give you our lowest interest rate, if you qualify, which could amount to savings of...."

"I won't qualify," Giles interrupted. The car salesman was growing tiresome. "I have no employment or income. I'm not even an American citizen. I'm here on a work visa, and I'm not working. It may only be a matter of time before your government realizes this incongruity and sends me back to England. I will be paying cash, and therefore interest rates are irrelevant. I simply need to purchase a motorcar."

"Well," the salesman continued, "it's just that BMW is offering great factory-to-dealer incentives on their new line of...."

"I won't be purchasing from their new line," Giles responded. "I came here to purchase a reasonably priced used vehicle. Which I've been waiting for you to show me. For the past twenty minutes. Of course, if you'd prefer I go to another dealer...."

"Well, I'm sure we can find something to fit your budget," the salesman quickly interjected. This obviously wasn't going to be a big commission, so the salesman decided to take his shot at a small one. "Our used lot is around the side."

Giles followed the salesman out the door. I could stake Spike, Giles thought, for wrecking my car. It was bad enough having to actually drive in this country, with it's right-sided lanes and lumbering sport utility vehicles monopolizing the road. But having to deal with the artificial enthusiasm of some bloody American salesman just to obtain a new automobile was unbearable. He'd put off replacing his car, especially since, until recently, he'd expected that he'd be leaving Sunnydale. Now, while he was pleased that he would be staying (at least, as long as he could), the details of maintaining his stay were proving a bore.

"This baby," the salesman said, gesturing toward a TownCar and returning Giles' attention to the matter at hand, "only had one owner."

"A little old lady who drove it to church?"

"Actually," the salesman replied, "it was a little old man who drove it to his stockbroker. Same difference. The sticker is twenty-two thousand, but I could probably...."

"...not get it to anywhere near what I'm willing to spend," Giles said. "Look, I just need a small vehicle to run errands. I don't care how many bloody kilometers it has."

Damn, the salesman thought, this commission really is going to be low. "Well, sir, you certainly know what you want. Here, let me show you this."

The salesman walked over to a green, two door car. The paint was faded, spots of rust appeared randomly on the body, and the fabric top was worn in several places.

"My God," Giles said, "that's a Spitfire!"

"Yeah," the salesman said. "I think it's English. It's got about a hundred and twenty thousand miles on it. I don't know what that is in kilometers."

"Higher numbers, same distance," Giles said. "How much?"

"We got it down for fifteen hundred," the salesman said. "I don't know if my manager would...." "Sold."

There, Giles thought. Problem solved.


Part I.


"So...where's the back seat?"

"There isn't one," Giles responded to Buffy's inquiry. "It's a sports car."

"Interesting," Buffy said, walking past Riley and around the car, which was parked in front of Buffy's house. The engine let out a throbbing, irregular growl. Giles had left the car running to show off the impressive engine sound unique to vintage English motorcars. Buffy wasn't impressed. "Um, Giles, don't you think that, after all the mechanical difficulties you had with your last car, maybe you should have...?"

"It was running fine until Spike crashed it," Giles replied, running his hand across the hood. "Besides, this a Triumph. A classic. It's worth twice what I paid for it."

"Well, how much would it have been worth if the passenger door closed all the way?"

"Merely cosmetic," Giles said. "The engine runs perfectly." "I think it's classy," Riley interjected. "You know, timeless beauty from back in the day."

"It's a nineteen seventy-four," Giles said.

"Yeah," Riley said. "That's what I mean. From way back in the old times when a car...oh, sorry."

"Look, Giles," Buffy said, uncertain of how to proceed on this subject. "I know you haven't been...well...working. Since the school blew up, I mean. If you're strapped for cash, I could ask my mom if she needs anyone at the museum to...."

"That's not it at all," Giles said.

"No, really. I'm sure they could find something for you to do. I mean, who knows more about old junk than you?"

"Buffy, money is not an issue," Giles said. "I'm from a very old, very stuffy, very English family. I've got more money from inheritances and trusts than I could possibly know what to do with. It just seems foolish to expend a large sum of money on something as temporary as a car."

Buffy recoiled. "Temporary? I thought we agreed you were staying?"

"I'm sure that's not what he meant," Riley said.

"I am staying," Giles replied. "I agreed to become your Watcher again while you explore the nature of your powers and...."

"...and then you plan to leave?"

"That's not what I said."

"Look, I like the car," Riley said, trying to change the subject. "Chicks dig convertibles."

Buffy pursed her lips for a moment, then said:

"I've got to get my gym bag. I'll be right out."

Buffy turned, briskly moved up the sidewalk to her front door, and then when inside.

"Well," Giles said, "I didn't think my choice of vehicles would inspire such controversy."

"It's not you," Riley said, but only half believed. He silently regretted that Willow had seen no problem in telling Buffy that Giles had planned to return to England. Willow thought that the secret was irrelevant once Giles decided to remain in Sunnydale. It wasn't. Not to Buffy.

"It certainly seemed to be me," Giles said.

"It isn't," Riley replied. "Buffy's just feeling a little insecure. It's natural. She has some abandonment issues with her father. She just found out that he's dating some secretary. Apparently they're going to Europe."

"I don't see what that has to do with me."

"You're kind of a surrogate father," Riley explained. "Buffy once told me that she thought her father hung around until he thought she and Dawn were old enough to handle a divorce. When she heard that you were going back to England because she didn't need you anymore, there was an emotional memory triggered."

"Thank you, Professor Finn," Giles said. "And exactly how do you propose I deal with that now?"

"It'll take care of itself. You and Buffy will be training together. You'll bond. Eventually she'll get the idea that you're around for the long haul."

"Um, yes. I can see how that would work."

"Anyway," Riley said, "I'll let you two get over to the gym."

"Oh, Riley," Giles said, "would you mind picking up Buffy around three? I have...an appointment."

"Sure," Riley said. "No prob. I'll borrow Joyce's car."

"I'll just run in and get Buffy," Giles said, reaching into the open window, turning off the engine, and taking the car keys. The engine let out several late sputters long after Giles removed the keys, and then finally became silent. Riley said:

"Uh, running a little rough, isn't she?"

"Nonsense," Giles retorted. "That's not at all uncommon for a car as old as...I mean, a car of this classic vintage."

"Right," Riley said, walking away. Giles walked towards Buffy's front door, and entered the house.

Outside, the car waited for its new owner in silence. For a moment. Then a short cough came from the engine. No one was present to hear the engine, or to see the steering wheel make a slight turn to the left, an equally slight turn to the right, and then finally settle into quiet stillness. No further independent movement came from the car.

Not then. It wasn't strong enough. Not yet.


Part II.


"I can certainly see your problem, Mr. Giles," Anthony Lerman said, "but I may be somewhat limited in the ways I can help you. I wish you had consulted me sooner."

"Well," Giles replied, "I've never been one to consult solicitors. I'm sorry, I mean lawyers. I understand a 'solicitor' has quite a different meaning in this country."

"Not that different," Lerman said. "Look, I'm sure the INS would be sympathetic to your situation. At least, as sympathetic as government agencies are inclined to be. After all, you didn't choose to have the high school blow up."

No, Giles thought, it was a group decision.

"But the fact remains," Lerman continued, "you're here on a work visa. Quite frankly, I'm surprised you got one in the first place. Normally a high school librarian isn't the kind of profession which would require the unique skills necessary to qualify a foreign national for a work visa."

"I used some connections to obtain that. Unfortunately, those connections are now...disconnected."

"Well, the INS is too overloaded to check on everyone. But, eventually, they will ask for an update as to your work status. I assume that you wish to continue to live in this country, even though your old position is no longer available?"

"It is imperative that I stay in this country," Giles said. "I have...responsibilities. Personal obligations. I cannot leave."

"Well, then, we'll need to find some way of getting you qualified again for that visa."

"So what do I do?"

"That's a problem," Lerman explained. "If you were to apply for another job, you'd have to tell them that you're a resident alien, which would require them to report your application. Unless your new profession somehow qualifies you to stay in this country, you're really just drawing attention to yourself."

"Again, what do I do?"

"Officially, as an officer of the court, I'm limited as to what I can advise you," Lerman said cautiously. "Technically I should advise you, and on the record I am advising you, that you should inform the INS of your current work status."

"And off the record?"

"You've got to find something that the INS would find to require to your individual abilities, and somehow get into it without them finding out. That is, until you're ready to tell them."

"So I have to work without working, and be unique without being noticeable?"

"Well, yes," Lerman said, "unless there's an American woman you'd consider marrying."

"No," Giles said. "There was...that is...no. That's not an option."

"Well, then, let's start with your skills. Is there any specific area in which you have some rare expertise? I mean, what was your degree in?"

"I have a Master's degree in Library Science. My thesis was on the indexing and listing of medieval tomes on the occult."

"Hmmm," Lerman said, stroking his chin. "The occult, eh? Have you ever considered starting your own business? It's one way to work without actually being employed."

"What sort of business did you have in mind?"

"Oh, I don't know. Something occult-ish. Did you ever see those commercials for nine-hundred number psychics? What could be more unique than the ability to tell the future?" Giles closed his eyes, exhaled, and asked, with more than a little sarcasm in his voice:

"Are you suggesting that I charge people money to exploit their problems and give them false hopes?"

"No," Lerman said. "That's a lawyer, and I don't need the competition. I am suggesting that we may have to start thinking outside the box."

"I'm sorry," Giles said. "I understand that you can't change the law. It's not your fault."

"But I can help," Lerman said. "The INS isn't giving you any trouble yet, so you have some time. Starting your own business seems like the best way to go. Think it over."

"I will," Giles said, rising from his seat. "Thank you."

Giles exited the building and started his new car. It took three turns of the key to get the engine to start.

Giles sighed. Buffy was right. His last car, and this one, were indicative of the instructions he was given when he was first sent to America:

Grow no roots. Have nothing that you would be sorry to leave behind. Do not form attachments to anything or anyone. Not a home, not a job, not a woman...

...and especially not the Slayer. Maintain a distance from the girl in your charge. She WILL die. Forget this and it will only be more difficult when it happens. That is the reality, and those are the rules.

Damn the rules, Giles thought. I cannot leave.

Giles put the car into first gear and drove away.


Part III.


"So when do we get one?"

"Well, Anya," Xander said, shifting the car into third gear, "it would help if I actually had a steady job before I had to make payments on a car. Until then, we'll have to rely on Giles to loan us this one when we need it."

"That's stupid," Anya said, slouching in the passenger seat. "Money is stupid. I don't see why people can't just have whatever they need."

"They tried that," Xander said. "It didn't work out. There were a bunch of wars and censors and borscht shortages. Besides, money can be fun."

"Fun? How?"

"Well," Xander said, "some people actually enjoy making money. That way, the more you make, the more stuff you can have."

"Interesting," Anya said. "I may try that someday if...ooohhhh!"

"What's wrong?"

"When you stepped on that thingy and the car went faster," Anya explained. "There was this kind of vibration that shot through the seat."

"Sorry. It's an old car, and the engine's a little rough."

"That's OK," Anya said. "In fact, can you do that again? Only...longer. And maybe, hold my hand?"

Xander looked at Anya, then faced forward, put the car into second gear, grabbed Anya's hand, dropped the clutch, and said:

"The things I do for my girlfriend."


Part IV.


Xander pulled up to the curb in front of Giles' apartment. He looked over at Anya and asked:

"So, was it good for you?"

"You have no idea," Anya said, trying to catch her breath. "Are you sure cars that can do that cost less money than cars that don't?"

"There's a difference between price and value," Xander said, removing the keys from the ignition. Xander got out, walked around the car, and opened Anya's door. She exited. The pair turned to walk toward Giles' apartment when the engine sputtered.

"Hey," Anya said. "I thought you need the key to make it move?"

"You do," Xander said. "Sometimes older cars...."

The engine of the car roared to life, and the headlights illuminated the street.

"OK," Xander said. "Now that I can't explain."

"Give me those," Anya said, grabbing the keys from Xander's hand. She walked behind the car, held up the keys, and jangled them, saying:

"Stop that! You've got to wait until we...."

"Anya!"

Xander lunged for Anya, tackling her to the ground just as the car flew into reverse and ran over the ground where Anya had been standing.

Xander threw his arms around Anya, covering her body with his, and looked up just in time to see the car speeding away into the night.

"I take it back," Anya said. "You don't need to buy one of those."

"C'mon," Xander said, standing up. He helped Anya to her feet, and the two of them ran to Giles apartment.

In the apartment, Giles, Willow and Tara were putting Giles' books back on the shelves. Most of the books that Giles had stacked for Willow to scan were back in their proper places.

Xander and Anya burst into the apartment. Xander exclaimed:

"Giles, your car left!"

"I know," Giles said. "I gave it to you. I assume you brought it back."

"I did," Xander said.

"He did," Anya agreed.

"But then it started by itself," Xander continued.

"It did," Anya said. "Then it started moving," Xander explained. "All by itself," Anya chimed in. "It threw itself into reverse," Xander said. "It nearly ran me over," Anya added. "Then it sped away," Xander said. "And," Anya said, "it gave me an orgasm." Giles, Willow, and Tara all stared blankly as they tried to form a mental flow chart that could possibly have included the last event Anya described. "Sweetheart," Xander said, "that wasn't anything supernatural." "I think I should be the judge of that," Anya replied. "Hold on," Willow said. "Let's just stay calm." "Willow's right," Tara said. "There's got to be an explanation." "Yes, there must be," Giles said. "We'd better call Buffy."


Part V.


"Alright," Buffy said, with Riley sitting by her side. Dawn sat on the couch next to Xander. Right next to Xander. "Tell me everything."

"OK," Anya replied, "Xander made the car go faster, and that's when I felt...."

"Ahn," Xander interrupted, "you can skip that part."

"The point is," Giles said, "that after Xander and Anya exited the car, it started itself, tried to run them over, and then drove away with no driver."

"Cool," Dawn said. "It can find its own parking space."

"Dawn," Buffy admonished, "Mom said I had to bring you. I say you have to keep quiet."

"So it's haunted," Riley declared (privately thinking that he had become the designated subject-changer for the group). "Or possessed. So we kill it."

"It's not that simple," Willow explained. "When an inanimate object is haunted, it usually has some kind of purpose. And you can't really kill it. Cars don't have a pulse or a heart or a brain. You have to get rid of whatever is possessing it."

"First we have to find it," Xander said. "And before it tries to hurt anyone else. The last thing we need is some little English roadster out there going all 'Christine' on everybody."

Anya asked:

"How do you know it's name?"

"It was a book," Riley said. "And a movie. Classic car goes berserk. Kills people."

Tara asked:

"Wasn't that the one with John Travolta, before he became famous?"

"No," Riley corrected, "that was 'Carrie,' with the girl who could start fires."

"No, no, no," Xander chimed in, "Carrie could move things with her mind. It was Drew Barrymore who started fires."

"Wait a minute," Riley said. "I distinctly remember that Carrie burned down her school."

"No," Dawn said. "That was Buffy. Twice."

"Dawn," Buffy said, "I told you not to...."

"Carrie burned down the school with telekinesis," Tara interrupted. "The fire hose set off the electrical work. The one with the little girl from E.T. started actual fires with her thoughts."

Willow asked:

"Carrie was the one that began in the girls' locker room, right?"

"Yeah, that's the one," Xander said. "She got her first period, everyone made fun of her, and before you know it the entire student body's a burn victim."

"Interesting metaphor for social repression of pubescent impulses," Riley-the-psych-major chimed in. "A young girl's unguided sexual awakening results in the endangerment of everyone she knows."

"Now THAT was DEFINITELY Buffy," Dawn said.

"Excuse me," Buffy said. "Can we possibly put the comparison-contrast between my life and Stephen King movies on hold long enough to stop the crazy haunted car?"

"Willow," Giles instructed, "go to the internet. See if you can find out anything on the history of the car."

"It'll help if you have any information on it," Willow responded, opening her laptop.

"The registration and bill of sale are in my top desk drawer," Giles said. "The rest of us should split up, and try to find the car."

"Sure," Buffy said. "But what do we do once we find it? Willow's right. It's not like I can drive a stake through its carburetor."

"We need some heavy artillery," Riley said. "A couple of taser blasts and that thing would be toast."

"Even if we had the Initiative's weapons," Giles said, "I doubt that they would do any good. Willow was quite correct. This machine is defying all mechanical laws by operating itself. Physical damage is unlikely to stop it."

"Wait," Willow said, pointing to the laptop's screen. "Here's something."

"That was fast," Tara observed.

"There's a lot of information online now if you have a car's VIN number," Willow explained. "It's mostly there to let car shoppers know if a used vehicle has been involved in an accident. I got a list of the prior owners, and then cross referenced news stories involving those people. This is what came up."

"Let's see," Giles said, looking at the screen. "According to this, the car's first owner was a Hollywood actress named Wendy Carmichel. She was an up and coming star until she crashed her car into a station wagon. Apparently there were drugs involved. The family died. She was disfigured, but survived."

Buffy asked:

"When did she die?"

"There's no obituary," Willow said. "Let me check the online telephone directory." Willow made a series of keystrokes and mouse clicks, then said:

"According to this, she lives in Palm Springs."

"So," Buffy said, "this car is haunted, probably by the people that actress killed, and now it's payback time."

Tara asked:

"Why did it wait until now to go after her?"

"Probably because it wasn't parked on a Hellmouth until it got sold to an auto dealership in Sunnydale," Giles surmised. "The mystical energies in Sunnydale probably allowed a lingering spirit to manifest its desires physically."

"So it leaves Sunnydale," Xander continued, "and goes after this actress. Won't it run out of juice once it leaves the city limits?"

"We can't take that chance," Giles said.

"Hang on," Willow said. "According to this report, the car's been involved in five accidents in the last twenty-five years."

"That's understandable," Giles said. "When the car takes control, it's probably reported as an accident, since there's no other explanation that seems rational."

"But they're all the same accident," Willow said. "I mean, they were in different places, but what happened is identical in every case. In each accident, the car was speeding around a hairpin turn, another car came around from the opposite direction, and the Spitfire skidded, flipped, and hit the other car head on."

"Wait a moment," Giles said. "Go back the original story on the accident."

Willow scrolled back to the original story as Giles read over her shoulder.

"According to this," Giles said, "despite the overwhelming evidence of her intoxication, Ms. Carmichel maintained that the steering of the car malfunctioned. She even found an engineer to testify that, had the steering been working properly, she would have made the turn with no problem."

"So maybe she was right," Xander said. "This car has a mind of its own. Maybe it did...."

"Unlikely," Giles responded. "According to this, Ms. Carmichel's car was brand new at the time of the accident. Most inanimate objects require some kind of history in order to develop a supernatural aura."

"So, what," Riley asked, "this car discovered that it liked killing people, and decided to give it a try every now and again?"

"It's defending itself," Buffy said.

Everyone looked at Buffy. She continued:

"You said this actress blamed the accident on the car. That's what it's doing. It's setting up the same accident, making the same turn, doing it all over again, trying to prove that it COULD have made that turn if someone sober had been driving."

"Buffy," Willow said, "according to this, the car was going about seventy when the accident happened. She was probably too drunk to realize her speed, not too drunk to make the turn."

"Tell that to the car," Buffy said.

Tara asked:

"Is that even possible, for a car to haunt itself? Doesn't a haunting usually happen because of strong emotions? I mean, in order to have hurt feelings, doesn't there need to be something with feelings to hurt?"

"Normally, yes," Giles said. "But, to an extent, our perceptions of reality shape that reality."

"Like the invisible girl," Xander said. "We didn't see her, so she became invisible."

"Exactly," Giles replied. "And if we perceive motorcars as pets or companions, eventually, they'll start acting like them. We address cars as 'she;' we choose them based on our personalities, or what we would like our personalities to be; some people even name their cars. If we think of them as living things, it's perfectly reasonable to believe that they could echo our sentiments at some basic level."

"Alright," Riley said, "so this car is riddled with latent guilt, deep-seeded denial, and compulsive impulses. How do we stop it?"

"Willow," Giles instructed, "check for roads that the car might use to recreate the accident."

"On it," Willow responded, clicking away at her keyboard.

"Everyone else," Giles continued, "start researching."


Part VI.


The Spitfire rolled slowly down the street. Watching. Waiting. It had made a cursory run through Sunnydale, and selected a road that would do quite nicely. Provided, of course, it could find someone to complete the one factor remaining to simulate the conditions on that fateful night.

Footsteps echoed on the sidewalk. Someone was approaching. The car turned off its lights, shut down its engine, and waited.

The footsteps grew louder, and then stopped. A shadow was cast across the hood of the vehicle. Someone was present.

"Well, well, well," Spike said, taking a drag off his cigarette. "I haven't seen one of these in awhile."

He strutted around the car, admiring every line.

"You're a beautiful thing, aren't you? I knew a bird in Liverpool who had one of you. Lovely girl. I mean, she kicked and scratched while I was killing her, but that's to be expected."

Spike took a final look at the car, and then began to walk away. As he did, he heard a strange clicking sound behind him. He spun around.

The driver's door of the Spitfire slowly drifted open.

"Now isn't that careless," Spike said. "Anyone who would forget to close the door of such a fine machine clearly doesn't deserve it."

Spike took a quick, but careful look around, and then climbed into driver's seat.

"I'll just take you for a spin, luv," Spike said, reaching under the steering wheels to find the ignition wires. "Then I'll take you down to the scrap yard. You should be worth enough cash to keep me in plasma for the next couple of months."

The engine of the car howled. Spike sat straight up.

"Alright," he said. "Now I know I didn't do that."

Spike felt himself pressed against the seat as the car suddenly accelerated.

"I was just kidding!"


Part VII.


"I think I found the road," Willow said, hitting the 'Print Screen' key. "There's a stretch of highway to the north in the woods that looks about right. None of the other roads in Sunnydale seem to match. I'm printing a map."

"Cool," Buffy said. "Now all we have to do go there and wait for a convertible without a driver to try and take the turn at seventy miles an hour."

"I don't think so," Willow said. "About the no-driver thing, I mean. There was a driver behind the wheel in every other accident that we know about."

Tara asked:

"Why would it need a driver? I mean, it can drive itself, right?"

"It's trying to recreate the accident perfectly," Giles responded. "It probably wants the weight."

"Wait a minute," Riley said. "Who would be stupid enough just to jump behind the wheel of a car they'd never seen before?"

"God, I thought we led a sheltered life in Sunnydale," Xander said.

"My friend, Jason Sneeder," Dawn said, "He took his brother's car once, and drove right into a pond on a golf course."

"Even if we know what it's going to do and where," Anya said, "what do we do about it? I mean, how do we stop it?"

"And without hurting the driver," Riley added. "I mean, it's not like we can shoot anything at it with a person in inside."

"Well, I found an exorcism spell," Tara said. "But I need to throw some magic ashes on the car. We'll need to make it stay still."

"Xander," Buffy said, "you're still working at that construction job, aren't you?"

"For now," Xander replied. "The job isn't wrapping up for another couple of weeks."

"We'll stop there on the way," Buffy said. "I've got an idea."


Part VII.


"Listen, luv," Spike said, gripping the door handle with all his might, "I see we got off on the wrong foot. When I said I'd take you to the 'scrap yard,' I only meant...ahhhhhhh!"

The car turned itself off the highway, throwing Spike against the driver's door.

"Bloody Hell," Spike said, trying to force the door to open, "warn me if you're going to do that!"

The car slowed, and then finally came to a stop. In front of it, several orange cones blocked the road, and a sign said:

"DETOUR"

"It's working," Giles said, hiding behind a tree next to Buffy. "The car doesn't know what to make of it."

"It's possessed," Buffy said. "That doesn't mean it's smart. NOW!"

Buffy and Giles sprang from their hiding places. On the other side of the road, Riley and Xander did the same.

The four of them pounced on the car. Buffy rammed a stake through one of the tires. Giles hacked at another tire with an axe. Riley clubbed at the car's hood with a baseball bat, and Xander ran to the passenger door with a crowbar. He slid the crowbar between the door and the chassis, and said:

"Don't worry, Mister. We'll get you...Spike?"

"Get me out of here," Spike exclaimed.

"Spike," Buffy said. "We're going to all this trouble to rescue Spike?!?"

"Get me out!"

The car shifted gears and started to move backwards, although considerably slowed by it's flat tires.

"Great," Buffy said. "Just great." She climbed onto the trunk of the car, and tore through the fabric convertible top with her stake.

The car started spinning violently, throwing Buffy to the ground. Buffy jumped to her feet and backed away as Giles, Xander and Riley scurried.

"Spike," Buffy shouted. "Get out of there!"

Almost immediately, the hole in the fabric tore even more as Spike sprang out of the top, and jumped to the ground. He ran next to Buffy. The car came to a stop.

"Thanks," Spike said. "I thought I was a goner."

"If I knew it was you...," Buffy began, before Giles interrupted.

"Keep it surrounded," Giles said.

The car's engine growled. It faced the Scoobies as it plotted it's next move.

Giles shouted:

"Willow! Tara! NOW!"

Willow and Tara jumped from behind a thicket, and Willow said:

"Spiritus ex machina itae!"

Tara threw a handful of a fine powder at the car. A purple sparkle enveloped the car, and the engine went silent.

"Well," Riley said, "that wasn't so...."

Suddenly the car's engine raced, and the Scoobies were bathed in the car's headlights.

"Giles," Willow shouted, "the Spell didn't work!"

"It's not possessed," Giles said. "It has a mind of its own. It must not be susceptible to an ordinary exorcism spell."

"Look," Xander said, pointing to the car.

Suddenly the car rose ever so slightly higher from the ground as the tires inflated. The hood of the car flexed, eliminating the dents from Riley's attack.

"Giles, that thing is fixing itself," Buffy said. "We can't hurt it."

"Everyone, wait here," Giles said, holding his hands in the air. He walked toward the car, and stood directly in front of its headlights.

Giles dropped the axe, and walked toward the driver's side door.

"Giles," Buffy screamed. "What are you...?"

"It's alright," Giles said. "I know how to stop this."

Giles stood before the car. The door opened itself before him, and Giles climbed in.

"Giles!"

The car sped through the cones and toward the sharp turn.

Giles looked down at the speedometer. It was approaching seventy.

"Let me take control," Giles said, placing his hands on the wheel. "It doesn't prove anything if you do it."

After a moment, Giles felt resistence in his hands. He had control.

The turn was coming up. Giles quickly did a mental checklist of the facts of the accident: The actress had approached the right turn at a high speed. Skidded and flipped, hitting another car head on. Americans drive on the right side. That meant that she had probably under-steered into the turn. The key then was to begin the turn sooner, keeping the car in its own lane and on all four wheels.

Assuming, of course, that at seventy miles an hour, it was possible at all.

The Scoobies ran up the road, Buffy in the lead. Then they stopped in their tracks as the screech of tires and brakes cut through the night air.

The Scoobies stood silent. Then Buffy exclaimed:

"There was no crash!"

She began running again, the Scoobies behind her. They approached the turn and saw Giles exiting the car about a hundred yards ahead. He walked to them.

"That was crazy," Buffy exclaimed. "You could've gotten killed!"

"Not really," Giles said. "That stuff about the steering being defective is rubbish. It handles like a dream."

"Well, I wouldn't go trying that again," Xander said.

"That won't be necessary," Giles said. "The car has proved its point. It has nothing left to...."

At that point, an explosion rang through the night. The Scoobies turned to see the car engulfed in flames.

"Um, Giles," Riley said. "You wouldn't happened to have bought insurance, would you?"

"I have an appointment with an agent tomorrow," Giles sighed. "Well, had an appointment."


Epilogue


"How long has it been?"

"About one minute since the last time you asked," Giles responded. He and Buffy sat on a fallen log by the side of the road.

"It's taking them forever," Buffy said.

"They have to drive all the way to my apartment," Giles said. "Then Riley will come back for us. There was no room for all of us in your mother's car with Spike along for the ride."

"I still say we should have let him walk," Buffy said. "He's ageless. What's the hurry?"

"Well, look at it this way," Giles said, "after I get my next car we won't have these problems."

"Uh, Giles," Buffy said. "Do you think this time you could get a car that's a little less...."

"Classic? Yes. The next one will be straight off the assembly line. One owner. Me."

"Sure you don't mind wasting money on something so temporary?"

"It's not temporary," Giles said.

"It's kind of sad, really," Buffy observed. "I mean, I know it wasn't a person, but, still. I just don't understand why it blew up."

"If I had to guess," Giles replied, "I'd say it increased the fuel pressure until...."

"That's not what I mean," Buffy interrupted. "I mean, why did it blow itself up? It spent so many years trying to prove itself innocent, and once it did, it destroyed itself. It won. You'd think that it would be ready to move on. Instead, BAM! It doesn't make sense."

"It probably didn't feel that it had anything to move on to," Giles said. "It's the nature of obsession. If you believe that you exist for just one purpose, you can't imagine yourself outside that role. If you have only one reason to go on, and that reason disappears...."

The two sat in silence. Then Giles said:

"Look, Buffy, I want to stay. I don't feel like I have to. Well, I do, but that's not the only reason I'm staying. I hated the idea of leaving, but it seemed like what was best. If I didn't have to train you, there seemed no reason to be around. I realize now that it had nothing to do with you, and everything to do with me. I was still clinging to the old habits instilled in me when I was trained to be a Watcher. I abandoned the job, but I didn't abandon the habits. That's going to change. I realize that I need to be with you, to help you. But I need more than that. So I'm going to start finding something. Here. I'm not going. Ever."

Buffy smiled.

"First things first," Buffy said. "You need a car. Something practical. Four doors. Hard top. Domestic. Boring. Downright stodgy."

"I'll go to the dealership tomorrow."

Buffy and Giles sat silently. Buffy watched for Riley's return, and Giles tried to remember what that horrid salesman had said about factory-to-dealer incentives.

THE END


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