Buffy stood in the middle of the empty living room, a small smile on her face. Her gaze moved across the sunlit walls as she turned in a slow circle. She gave a nod of approval as she paused to gaze out the window at the large front yard.

"Well, what do you think?" the real estate agent asked as she watched Buffy wander around the room. Buffy opened her mouth to speak as Dawn came running into the room.

"There's like six bedrooms upstairs," she said excitedly. "We can turn one into a guest room for Giles for when he visits."

"What? I won't have to sleep on the couch?" Giles asked in mock shock, strolling into the room from the kitchen just in time to hear Dawn's statement. "It just won't be the same," he teased. Dawn giggled, and Buffy was hard pressed to suppress a smile.

"We could turn it into a computer room for Will so you won't miss out the experience of sleeping on the couch," Buffy said dryly. "A short couch," she added at Giles' grimace.

"Really, Buffy," he chastised. "After all we've been through, the least you could do is get a couch long enough for me to actually fit on."

The real estate agent watched this exchange nervously. She'd helped many people find homes, but this was absolutely the strangest 'family' she'd ever worked with. They'd been staying at the commune for the past month. The agent had heard the stories about the strange happenings out there. There were some in town who believed the commune was populated by witches. But her agency had been trying to get this house off the market for years, and if she could sell it, she was sure to get a promotion. If selling the house meant that she had to put up with some strange people, she'd do it.

"Well, the foundation's good," Xander said, startling the agent from her thoughts as he strode into the room. He was covered in a thin layer of dirt. "I went down to the basement and checked the plumbing too. It looks solid."

At the mention of the basement, the real estate agent gave a yelp of surprise.

"Basement?" she said, dawning horror in her voice. "You went down to the basement?"

Buffy and Giles exchanged at look at the worry in the agent's voice as they turned to face the tall redhead in suspicion.

"Miss... er, I'm sorry, what was your name again?" Giles asked, fixing his green eyes on the sales woman.

"Byrnes," the woman said, practically sighing. Her distress at Xander's actions melted away as Giles' accented voice rolled over her. "Kylie Byrnes." Kylie smiled warmly at him. Dawn and Buffy looked at each other and rolled their eyes simultaneously. He seemed to have the exact same effect on all the women in Whispering Pines. As usual, he was completely oblivious.

"Yes, Miss Byrnes. About the asking price..." Giles started, but was interrupted by Willow rushing into the living room.

"Buffy, did you see how close the cemetery is? Practically next door," she babbled excitedly. "That'll make your..." Willow's words stumbled to a halt as she realized that everyone was glaring at her, except the agent who was gawking in shock. "...headstone rubbings easier to get," she finished lamely, trying to act like that was what she was going to say all along. "You know, you being a history buff and all." There was a moment of awkward silence until Giles cleared his throat.

"Yes, well," he said finally, drawing Kylie's attention back to him. Buffy made a face at Willow that clearly suggested that Willow had lost her mind. Willow shrugged helplessly. "We were talking about the asking price of the house," Giles prompted.

Kylie nodded vigorously.

"Yes, it's owned by the Whispering Pines First National Bank. They are very motivated to sell," she said. The desperation that crept into her tone was not unnoticed by Giles.

"Why is that exactly?" he asked pointedly. Kylie looked startled.

"Oh, um, er..." she floundered helplessly. "The house has been on the market for quite some time now, and it has been uninhabited for so long now. The exterior siding was just repainted and the roof replaced a couple months ago. I'm sure they'd be quite willing to negotiate on the price if money is an issue," Kylie said, swiftly changing the subject.

Buffy studied the woman for a moment.

"You know, I think I need to take another look around, just to be sure," she said brightly, giving Giles a telling look. He gave her a subtle nod as she moved toward the door.

"Oh, I'll come with," Dawn volunteered eagerly, starting after her. Buffy turned and fixed her sister with a stare.

"Alone," she said meaningfully.

Dawn huffed and rolled her eyes. Xander grinned.

"You better stay with us, Dawn," he said as Buffy slipped from the room. He rested his arm on Dawn's shoulders as she flounced to his side. "You know how Buffy likes to check things out," he teased, waggling his eyebrows at her then turned toward the redheaded sales agent. "So, exactly when was the house built?" he asked as a distraction.

Kylie's face brightened, happy to be back on familiar ground.

"Oh, the house was built in 1873 by Hiram Scobie," Kylie stopped abruptly as Willow gave a snort of laughter.

"Scobie?" she asked, shooting a look in Xander's direction.

Kylie nodded in confusion.

"Yes, Hiram Scobie was one of the pillars of Whispering Pines," she said, bewildered by the looks being exchanged by the group. "He was a Civil War hero who started a thriving lumber business. He built the house and married a local woman named Grace." Kylie sighed forlornly as she remembered the local legend. "It's very sad. Grace died during childbirth, and then the baby died suddenly several months later. It was never proven, but when one of the servants disappeared shortly after, it was believed she was responsible for the baby's death." A silence hung over the room for a moment. Kylie shook herself from her musings and spoke again. "The house has been inhabited on and off since that time..." A crash from the basement echoed through the house, cutting the agent off mid-sentence. Willow nudged Giles with her elbow, causing him to step forward to distract the agent.

"If we were to pay for the house with cash, how fast could we move in?" he asked.

Kylie stared up at him in disbelief.

"Cash?" she squeaked, effectively distracted from the thumps and crashes coming from the basement. "You want to pay with cash?"

Giles nodded.

"We came into a bit of money, and thought it would be best to purchase the house outright," he said solemnly. "I wouldn't want any mortgage payments hanging over us."

Kylie nodded happily.

"Yes, I certainly understand your point," she mused in attempted sincerity. "Well, in that case, I'm sure you could move in as soon as the papers were signed," she said carefully. Giles nodded and engaged the agent in conversation until he saw Buffy sidle back into the room. Buffy grinned at him as she flicked a bright blue glob of something from her arm, and gave him a thumbs up. Hiding a smile, he turned to Kylie.

"We'll take it," he declared.

Dawn squealed with excitement, clapping her hands. Kylie nearly fainted from relief at his words. Droning on about terms and paperwork, she led the group from the house. The door slammed behind them as they trooped back to the car.

Silence overtook the house as their voices faded. Slowly, above the stairs that led to the second floor a small baby rattle materialized out of thin air. It hung suspended above the stairs for a moment, rotating lazily in the air, before floating down gently to rest on the bottom step.


Previously   Credits

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