This Time Around
Chapter Three - Laws Of Physics

written by Rainne

Newton's Third Law of Motion states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is visible, for example, in the game of billiards. The cue stick is used to strike the white ball, thus exerting force on the ball. The ball rolls forward, striking another ball. Equal force is exerted on the second ball, which rolls forward as well, while opposite force is exerted on the first ball, which stops.

The Law of Conservation of Energy states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It can, however, be changed. This law can also be demonstrated by using a game of billiards. The original force exerted upon the white ball by the cue stick is lessened to a degree when it is transferred to the second ball and then to the third and subsequent balls. Where does the energy go if it is not destroyed? It is transformed into sound energy, which is heard as the audible click when two balls strike one another.

Murphy's Law states that anything that can go wrong will go wrong at the worst possible time. For an excellent illustration of Murphy's Law, one need only look as far as the billiard game which is Buffy Summers's life. Every time things seem to be going well in Miss Summers's life, something akin to a wrecking ball, generally beyond her control, comes flying through to destroy everything. Once it was her sacred calling; once it was a vampire called the Scourge of Europe; this time, though, it's just the room she's waking up in.

Buffy rolled over, blinking at the brilliant sunlight, and lifted her head, confused. Her room wasn't anywhere near this bright, even in the middle of the day, and this sunlight had the look of morning to it. She looked around in confusion and gaped at the bedroom she was currently occupying. It was huge. The bed itself was king sized; massive, soft and warm. The bedding and linen was all white, which contrasted beautifully with the natural wood of the frame and the rest of the furniture in the room: desk, dresser and chairs. The walls were a deep tan stucco, the floor gray marble shot with blue veins and covered with white throw rugs. A set of French doors stood open nearby, white gauze curtains billowing in a warm breeze and affording tantalizing glimpses of a stone balcony and brilliant blue sky. "It's like something out of an Angelina Jolie movie," Buffy mumbled to herself, dragging herself out of bed and padding barefoot over to the doors. She hesitated before walking out onto the balcony, dressed as she was in only an oversized man's work shirt, but then she shrugged. It hung down to her knees, so she was decently covered; besides, whoever had brought her here had obviously dressed her and had therefore already gotten a peek. What did it matter? She walked out onto the balcony and stared.

"Rome?" she whimpered, unaware that she was speaking out loud. "How did I get to Rome?" She stood there for a long time, perhaps fifteen minutes, simply staring at the spectacular view of the Colosseum, then swallowed hard. "Giles. Giles. I need Giles." She spun and went back into the room, looking around carefully for anything that could be used as a weapon. She found something better: a cellular telephone. She snatched it up and began to dial with shaking fingers, then listened to the clicks of the international connection. Her heart leapt as the phone rang once, then twice, and then connected, only to freeze in terror at the sound of a woman's recorded voice. "The number you have dialed is not a working number. Please hang up and try your call again."

She hung up the phone in numb shock, checked on the screen to verify that she'd dialed correctly, and then dialed again in a daze, this time trying her mother's number, then the dorm room she shared with Willow, and finally Xander's basement. At all three places she received the same recording. She was shaking hard when she placed the telephone back down on the desk and tried the nearby door. It opened into a spacious bathroom decorated in Mediterranean blues and ocean greens. Another door on the other side of the bathroom opened into a closet full of women's clothing. Buffy searched through the clothing until she found a pair of jeans she could fit into, then took a deep breath and tried the main door of the bedroom.

To her surprise, it opened easily and the long hallway outside was empty. She looked back and forth, then decided to brave the downstairs. She padded down the hall and silently crept down the teakwood staircase. At the foot of the stairs, hanging on the wall, was a display of knives, obviously decorative. Buffy took a small one and slid it into her waistband at the small of her back, then palmed a larger one, brandishing it openly. There was a sound of pots banging in what was probably the kitchen, so she moved toward the sound.

There was a young woman in the kitchen, about twenty-one years old, with bobbed brown hair and a willowy figure. She was hanging copper pots on a rack over a stove with her back to Buffy. The Slayer firmed up her grip on the knife, swallowed hard, and cleared her throat. "Who are you and why am I here?" she asked loudly.

The girl jumped and screamed. Several pots went clanging to the floor. "Damn it, Buffy," the girl shouted, dropping to her knees without looking at Buffy and beginning to gather up the pots. "Don't freaking scare me like that! It's not funny! I thought you were still upstairs sleeping off last night!"

Buffy was taken aback. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"You, stumbling in piss drunk as usual, only more so, after you saw Giles," the girl replied acidly, standing up to hang the pots back up, still with her back to Buffy.

The Slayer reeled slightly. "Giles? Giles brought me here?" She flashed back in her mind instantly to her eighteenth birthday, her heart breaking at the idea that this could possibly be another Council-mandated test of some sort that she was going to be subjected to against her will. It was suddenly very hard to breathe.

"You idiot, you brought yourself here," the girl snapped, hanging the last pot. "Giles went back to England… last… night…" her voice trailed off as she turned around and took in Buffy's appearance, her face displaying open and blatant shock. "Oh, my God, Buffy! What did you do?"

Buffy gaped at her. "What did I do? What do you mean, what did I do? You kidnapped me and brought me here, and now you're telling me my Watcher is involved, and you're asking me what did I do?!"

"You're such a liar, Buffy! You did a spell or something, didn't you? You know Giles will find out. Or Willow will. She'll smell the magic on you."

Buffy's world tilted slightly farther on its axis. "Willow's involved in this, too?" she almost whimpered in disbelief. Then she brandished her knife as the dark-haired girl approached her. "Don't come any closer. I don't know you but I swear to God, I'll hurt you."

"Buffy, stop it!" the girl shouted. "You're acting like you've lost what little mind you have left! I swear to God, I'm gonna get them to lock you up!"

"Who are you?!" Buffy almost screamed.

The girl stared at her, suddenly seeming to realize that she wasn't acting. "I'm Dawn," she said softly. "I'm… your little sister."

Within five minutes, Dawn was able to reach Giles on his cellular telephone. "I'm so glad Willow makes you carry that thing," she told him when he answered. "How soon can you be back in Rome?"

"I haven't left," he replied. "My flight was overbooked and not even the considerable leaning power of the Council could get me a seat."

"Oh, thank God. I need you here now."

"What's wrong, Dawn?"

"You'll never believe me," the girl replied. "Just get here."

Buffy felt like some kind of strange animal on display as Giles and the girl called Dawn stared at her across the huge living room and consulted in whispers. She had been curled up on one end of the couch, her knees drawn up tightly to her chest, when he came in, looking older and angrier and not like her Giles at all. He wasn't the trusted Watcher she had tried to call for help from upstairs. No, this man who looked at her like a particularly distasteful specimen under a microscope was a stranger who simply wore Giles's face.

When he walked in the door and set his bag and overcoat down in the floor, her first instinct had been to come off the couch and fly to him, seeking comfort in his presence and begging him to make everything better. Then he had looked up at her, effectively arresting her forward motion, pinning her to the couch with his stare much like a butterfly is pinned by a collector to a card. She'd curled back in on herself almost instantly, feeling the cold hand of fear clutch at the pit of her stomach. Who was this man?

"What have you done, Buffy?" he demanded in iron tones, and for the first time in several months, she suddenly found herself wanting to cry.

"I didn't do anything!" she defended herself. "I patrolled last night and then I came in and went to bed and when I woke up this morning I was here! I swear, Giles, I didn't do anything!"

"Yes, well, that remains to be seen." He dug into his overcoat pocket, pulled out a bag of powder, reached into it, and cast a handful at her, shouting a sentence in what might have been Greek.

She sneezed.

He stared at her. Then he looked at Dawn. "That should have reversed whatever spell she did," he said, sounding dumbfounded.

"I told you I didn't do a spell!" Buffy shouted. "Why can't you believe me?"

Giles just looked at her for a long time. "Buffy… things have changed."

"Yeah, that's a big DUH," she snapped. "I guess things have changed big time, if I'm here in Rome in this huge house with some girl I don't even know and you're far away in London and you… you come in here like… like… like me needing help is some kind of… inconvenience to you." She swallowed hard on these last words, feeling once again the sucker-punch she'd received just a few weeks previously – in her own mind – when she had been just such an inconvenience to him.

He apparently saw it in her eyes. Whatever else might have changed, he still retained his ability to read her mind when he needed to. He stepped toward her. "Buffy, no, it's not like that. It's just – "

"Then tell me what it's like," she spat, the tears which had been threatening all morning finally breaking through the dam and spilling down her face. "Tell me what it's like for you in England with the life you always wanted that you couldn't ever have because of me! Tell me what it's like that you hate me so much that you left me here and you didn't even believe me when I told you I didn't do a spell, and you know Hellmouthy stuff happens to me! Sure, Giles! Tell me what it's like!" Pushing past him then, she ran upstairs to the room she'd awakened in, slamming the door shut behind her and throwing herself on the bed to sob out her fear and confusion alone.

Read the next chapter: Old Habits Die Hard