Time Off Is A Myth

"As you can all see, I am now wearing pants," Giles announced as he entered the living room of his house.

"And a shirt, too," Xander joked, though his eyes remained focused on the far wall after taking a quick peek in the older man's direction.

Giles settled himself into his easy chair and fixed the group of young people – and one old, ornery vampire – with a heated glare. "Might I inquire as to why you felt it necessary to break into my apartment?" he said with venomous politeness, even as he absently noted that they looked far more out of sorts – save for Spike – than one brief incidence of unexpected nudity should warrant.

From his position leaning against the wall, Spike snorted. "Might I inquire as to why you didn't have a bloody towel on when you were fresh out of the shower?" he snarked.

Giles sighed long-sufferingly and rolled his eyes toward the ceiling imploringly. He knew that if he ignored Spike, the digs would just get worse. "They are currently being laundered. I thought I'd left one in the loo, but after I got out of the shower, I found I was mistaken."

"I was mistaken when I thought the Egyhon thing was the only tattoo Giles had," Willow muttered in an aside to Buffy, her face flaming redder than her hair. It was entirely possible she should rethink her stance on her newfound lesbianism, since if Giles, of all people was…revving her motor, perhaps she was bisexual. It didn't mean she loved Tara any less, however; she'd never do anything about the…revvingness.

Not with Giles.

Buffy's face was also slightly flushed, though she was able to cover her embarrassment more easily than Willow. She was also able to look Giles in the eye – well, in the middle of the forehead, which, from four yards away, didn't look much different to him with his glasses off. "Well, clothed or not, we need your help, Watcher-mine."

"What with?" Giles asked, leaning forward and going immediately into research mode.

"There's been a whole lot of wiggins-worthy stuff happening lately, G-man," Xander replied. "Just yesterday morning, a cat appeared on my doorstep."

Nonplussed, Giles said, "Strays often wander the streets seeking sustenance from friendly people, Xander. I, myself, have some squirrels in the courtyard that I feed occasionally." Eyes slanting sideways to Spike, he added under his breath, "And a bloody leech that just won't leave."

Spike's face morphed and he bared his fangs at Giles, but remained silent.

"Yeah, but the cat was sitting on a copy of the paper – today's paper. Yesterday," Xander emphasized.

Picking up the tale, Buffy continued, "There was a burglary – well, going to be a burglary; it was on the front page – at mom's gallery, and when we got there to stop it, we found the woman who broke in on the roof. But she was fighting this guy with a sword!"

"And then she cut off his head," Willow added, her excitement making her go into babble mode. "And then she just stood there while lightning came down, only it wasn't raining, and it was like she expected it to happen!"

"Yeah, and then this guy reminded me a lot of you, G-man, showed up, and said he was a Watcher," Xander put in. "Only he watched Immortals, and not Slayers. And he said that we should never ever tell anyone about what we'd seen, and when Will here started demanding answers, he finally gave in and gave us his business card and told us to call him.

"He works in a bookstore," Buffy grumbled. "What, is it some rule that stuffy Watcher-types have to work with books?"

"He didn't seem stuffy to me, just stiff," Xander said.

"Probably had to do with tha bloke not havin' legs," Spike said idly.

Xander blinked disbelievingly. "Wha–?"

"B-but he was walking," Willow objected, face red as she tried to figure out if she'd inadvertently offended the man with any oblique references to disabilities.

"With a cane," Buffy muttered. "I just thought it was some kooky fashion accessory, like the suede patches on Giles' tweed jackets."

Giles forewent mentioning that he hadn't worn tweed in over three years.

"I didn't say he was missin' all of his legs; just the part below the knees, if I had ta guess," Spike corrected.

"Anyway, we're getting off-track," Buffy said, shaking her had.

"If this gentleman told you not to tell anyone what you'd seen, why are telling me?" Giles asked, inwardly composing his report to the Watcher's Council. Despite the fact that he'd broken ties with them, this information – that his Slayer had become aware of the other branch of Watchers – was fairly innocuous, and yet something they needed to know. Those involved with Watching Slayers didn't correspond much with those involved with Watching Immortals, except in cases of Immortal Slayers. Such as a warrior woman from ancient Greece known only as Xena, the legendary Cathain of Ireland, and Mulan of China, who had fought off a horde of vampire Mongols. Whole demon armies had been decimated by those fearsome fighters, before they'd fallen victim to other Immortals, or demons who just liked to behead their victims.

Buffy snorted. "Duh, much? We don't have clue one what's the what, and you know everything. Or at least have an idea where we should start."

Giles couldn't help a pleased smile; it was so rare that Buffy ever admitted that there might be a thing or two she could learn from him, however vague. "I appreciate your confidence, Buffy. Perhaps you should tell me what happened after that?" he prodded gently.

Xander nodded. "'Kay, G-man. Once the other Watcher guy gave us his contact info, there were these other guys that showed up, all with the same tattoo on their wrists as him."

"And they started cleaning things up and…disposing…of the body," Willow said, grimacing as she remembered the…veritable carnage that had been caused by the petite brunette cat burglar.

Buffy nodded. "Yeah, and while they were doing that, the woman–"

"I heard the guy call her Amanda," Willow put in.

"–Amanda," Buffy said without missing a beat, "took off with the urn she stole. And those guys didn't even try to stop her!" She huffed.

"Yeah, but you lot did, didn't ya?" Spike asked, lolling back laconically against the wall as he rolled a cigarette between the thumb and forefinger of his right hand. It was patently clear that he was bored out of his skull, listening to the teens recall their previous nights' adventure.

It was also patently clear that he thought sticking around for it would net him one of the bags of pig's blood in Giles' refrigerator.

"It was Egyptian or something, but with symbols on it no one had ever seen," Buffy said. "I remember Mom telling me about it."

"Anyway," Willow cut in before Buffy could take them even more off-track. "We followed Amanda, and she met up with these Army guys–"

"Air Force guys," Xander corrected in the tone of voice he used whenever either the soldier memories or hyena instincts came to play havoc with his mind.

"Air Force guys," Willow continued, having decided long ago to just act as though Xander's propensity for being possessed by dead spirits was normal – which, considering everything else that happened in Hellmouth Central, it sort of was. "Three men – one tall and black, one guy with gray hair that looked like he was in charge, and another guy that looked bookish and wore glasses – and a woman. And they took the urn, and gave her some money. But after she left, the guy in charge and the bookish guy started arguing about what to do with the urn, and the urn fell onto the ground and broke."

"Well, I can see how that would be upsetting," Giles started to say.

Buffy shook her head. "No, Giles, it gets weird. The weird part was there was this snakelike…thing…inside, and then the woman pulled out this weird-looking gun and shot the snakey thing. And then the put the…corpse…back in the urn they left, but they were all arguing this time, except for the big black dude. They were calling the snake-thing a Goold or something."

"Goa'uld," Spike threw in, lazing laconically back on Giles' couch.

"Whatever," Buffy said grouchily. "But that wasn't even the weirdest part about what's been happening lately."

"It wasn't?" Giles asked faintly, trying to figure out how a parasitic demon that had supposedly gone extinct thousands of years ago once again showing up, and with a connection to the government, could be topped.

"We had to head up to Chinatown this morning to stop a Shaolin temple from being burnt down," Xander took over the explanations. "I saw it in the morning paper – you know, the one from tomorrow?"

Buffy nodded. "Yeah, and when we were walking back to the car – because parking sucks in the city – we ran into this really old guy who came running out of a pawnshop or something. He gave us that." She pointed over at Willow, who had taken a small bamboo cage, about the size of a toaster, from her tote bag. Soft chirruping sounds came from inside; it clearly held something alive.

Willow took up the tale as she warily watched the box. "He said that Cordelia had a vision about all of San Francisco being taken over by gremlins, and she called him to let him know that she thought we could keep Gizmo–" she jiggled the cage to indicate its occupant, "–out of trouble."

"He told us it wouldn't be hard to take care of him," Xander said. "We just had to follow three simple rules: don't feed him after midnight, don't get him wet, don't let him get hit by sunlight."

"It's that last bit that worries me," Buffy revealed. "Sunlight kills vampires, after all. I mean, is it a demon? It looks so cute, but so did those Hansel and Gretel kids."

"Gizmo is a gremlin," Willow said grimly. "Or…sort of. I did some research last night. He's a proto-gremlin. The gremlins that cause trouble are caused when a proto-gremlin gets wet. Gizmo by himself is a benign entity, but he can spawn some real trouble."

"And we still haven't decided who has to take care of him," Buffy added, which started off an argument among the three teenagers.

"I don't know if Gizmo would get along with Miss Kitty Fantastico," Willow said worriedly. "And we're not supposed to have pets in the dorm to begin with."

"Well, Mom's allergic to both dogs and cats; I don't know if she'd let me have Gizmo," Buffy said, shrugging.

"If that cat that keeps showing up with the newspaper didn't skedaddle after I fed him, I don't know what I'd tell my parents," Xander said, exasperation tingeing his voice. "If they found out about Gizmo…I don't even wanna think about it."

Giles sighed. Seen naked by his…students…for lack of a better word, and his day had only gone downhill from there. As the three mortals clamored for his attention, Giles saw Spike smirk at him, as if he was enjoying seeing him in this situation.

Which, the vampire probably was.

Giles scowled back at Spike and sunk deep into his chair, trying to block out the noise. Time-displaced newspapers, Immortals, Goa'ulds, and now gremlins. What was next? Gargoyles in New York City? Aliens from outer space?

And he had to deal with all of it on his day off, too.