WDWG - Chapter 40: Research

Buffy, Xander, and Willow gathered in the library and settled in to research Giles' apparent recovery. Upon their arrival a couple hours earlier, Buffy had introduced her friends to Seamus, who'd accepted them readily, but it was clear that neither Willow nor Xander were entirely comfortable with his presence and Buffy decided to keep the dog by her side until the two got used to him being around. Of course Seamus wouldn't let his mistress out of his sight and kept his body between her and her friends.

"I can't get over how huge he is!" Xander exclaimed, eyeing the great wolfhound warily from across the library as he looked for books relevant to magick and healing. "I know I've said it before, but, wowsers!"

Buffy sat opposite Willow at the research table with Seamus sitting next to her, his head resting on her shoulder while his attention shifted from Xander to Willow and back again as if he was watching a tennis match.

"He's a big baby," the Slayer dismissed. "Seamus, down." The big hound settled down next to Buffy's chair, and she leaned over and scratched his head, whispering "Good boy."

"I-I don't know. I wouldn't want to cross him in an alley. I mean he sorta has that big bad wolf thing going on, you know, in a-a 'my what big teeth you have' kind of way," Willow stammered nervously over the large first edition folio of The History of Neolithic Stone Monuments in Britain she was cross referencing with Mystical Healing Sites in Stone Age Europe, sounding much more like the girl she'd been in high school than the confident young woman she'd become.

"He likes you guys," Buffy reassured her friends. "If he didn't, he wouldn't have let you in the house. He's not a big fan of the guy who delivers the milk and eggs from the farm up the road and barks at him a lot, but I think it's because he won't let Seamus get into the eggs."

Reaching across the table, she picked up the scythe Willow had placed there a few minutes before. It felt good to have it back in her hands, and she hadn't realized how much she'd missed it until that moment. The Slayer could never describe how it made her feel, just that there was great power contained within it and she knew without a doubt that it was hers.

Turning back to Willow, she asked with concern, "It glowed, huh?"

"Yup. I guess it's never glowed in your hands then?" the Wiccan surmised. "Not even when you pulled it from the stone or... or when you or the other Slayers were killing the übervamps in the Hellmouth?"

"Nope. If it glowed when the others had it, I'm not aware of it."

"Remind me to ask Giles how this library is arranged," Xander interrupted from the second story ledge across the room, the exasperation clear in his voice. "It's not alphabetical and there's no Dewey decimal system going on so I'm a bit lost."

"Right wall, a third of the way down the room and four shelves up should be the books on earth magick," Willow answered loudly before turning back to Buffy. "I spent a lot of time up there after recovering at the Coven."

"I envy you your time here," the blonde said wistfully.

"It wasn't all sunshine and flowers," Willow mumbled, looking down at the text before her and grimacing.

"I know," Buffy sympathized as she covered her friend's hand with her own. Not long ago the Slayer had been jealous that her best friend had left with Giles after nearly destroying the world. It had seemed like she had gotten a vacation out of the deal and Buffy had gotten... well, more real life to deal with. Yet, Willow's fate had been uncertain, and her time with the Coven and with Giles had been filled with self-loathing and angst. It was only after recently opening up with her fiancé about that time that Buffy had learned the true extent of Willow's recovery.

"Whatcha talking about?" Xander asked, making his way back to the table with a stack of books in his arms when Seamus let out an excited bark, jumped up, and ran out of the room, scaring the wits out of him and sending the books crashing to the floor. "Jesus! Get a leash for him or something!" he complained as Buffy passed him, chasing after the dog.

Willow got up from her chair to help him back up. "Xander, are you okay?"

"Damn dog blindsided me... literally," he grumbled.

"Something clearly got his attention. He obviously didn't mean it," his best friend explained, bending down to retrieve the books. "You never were much of an animal person, were you?"

"I managed just fine with Amy-rat," Xander said, defending himself, "and that one time Anya and I watched Miss Kitty for you and Tara. But then they weren't the size of a small horse."

When Buffy caught up with Seamus, he was sitting by the front door, his tail thumping wildly on the floor. A moment later, the door opened and Giles walked through, or rather tried to, as an extremely happy wolfhound barked his welcome and moved to lean against the returning Watcher, looking up at him in adoration.

"I think he missed you," Buffy laughed.

"Yes, well," Giles started as Seamus nudged him, knocking him off balance and causing him to stumble into the house. The Watcher groaned as he righted himself, "He's trying to herd me. You're a sighthound, you silly mutt, not a border collie!"

"Seamus, stop," Buffy commanded, inserting herself between her hound and her husband-to-be. "He's not the only one who missed you," she stated, pulling him down for a long, languid kiss. When they finally came up for air, she took his right hand and led him into the library, a happy hound following closely behind.

"Hey, Giles," Willow greeted, as she got up to give him a hug.

"Hey, Giles," Xander parroted as he thumbed through one of the books he had dropped a few minutes earlier. "Keep your small horse away from me."

"Sorry about that, Xand," Buffy apologized. "He must've heard the car approach and gotten excited."

"Looks like you've all been busy here," Giles noted, eyeing the books. "Research?"

"Yeah, um, Buffy told us about your hand, so we thought we'd see what we could find out about Stonehenge and the healing thing," Willow explained with a shy smile.

"Speaking of, you're later than we expected," Buffy mentioned with concern.

"Anna insisted I not take the train and had her driver bring me home, which was a lovely thought, but traffic getting out of London was miserable and there was an accident on the M4. I had the driver drop me off at the train station in Bath so I could retrieve the Rover," he explained. "It's been a long day."

"Poor baby," his fiancée fussed. "You missed dinner, but there's some leftover pizza and a bottle or two of beer left. Hey, did you know there is a pizza place a couple villages over and they deliver?"

"It's England, Buffy, not outer Mongolia."

"I know," she pouted, "but it's... rural."

Giles shook his head in defeat. "Beer anyone?"

"Yeah, I could do with one, thanks, Giles," Xander replied, looking up from the text he was engrossed in.

When the older man returned, he balanced a plate and couple glasses of the local porter in his hands. Xander quickly jumped up and took one of the glasses from him, grunting his thanks.

"So, hand," Willow prompted.

"Yes, right," the Watcher said, swallowing a bite of his pizza. "All healed up, no evidence of any damage on the x-ray scans. It's as though it had never been broken. Ever."

Buffy bit her lower lip. "What does Anna say?"

"Nothing she really could say," he shrugged, taking a swig of his beer. "She has no explanation for it and suggested I ask Willow and her contacts at the Coven to see what they knew."

"I sent an email to Jane and she said she'd talk to Ailla about it. She seemed to think it was important enough to ask her."

Giles nodded, raising his eyebrows in worry as he contemplated the weight of that statement. Jane Harkness had been Willow's mentor during her recovery from the dark magicks and she was one of the strongest magick practitioners he'd ever met - which had been important during that dark time in Willow's life, and a strong bond had formed between the two women. If Giles was the redhead's Dumbledore, then Jane was her McGonagall.

But it was Jane's involvement of Ailla Pendarves that really unsettled the Watcher. Ailla, an extremely powerful woman both magically and through her own influence, was the head of the Coven, a position largely ceremonial as the Coven was an egalitarian organization where matters were resolved through consensus. Rarely concerning herself with day to day matters anymore, she preferred solitude and research, and ventured out only to attend the ambassadorial duties required of her position. The only other time she had inserted herself into matters in recent years was during Willow's crisis.

"Did Jane happen to mention why she would get Ailla involved?" Giles asked after downing more of his brew.

"Not specifically, but she was the one who came up with the plan to use the power at Stonehenge to loan you the magicks and send you back to Sunnydale... you know, when..." Willow trailed off with a distressed look and turned away from him.

He reached out and put a reassuring hand on her shoulder and she reached up covering it to let him know that all would be well in a moment.

Xander, seeing the need for a distraction, asked, "So, Giles, Buffy said you got a magickal high while you guys were at Stonehenge."

Giles turned to face his male friend. "Y-yes," he answered as a blush rose from his collar to his cheeks. "It, er, was quite extraordinary."

"How about you, Buffster?"

"Nothing like Giles. I could feel the energy, and I felt balanced, but no high," she clarified. "It did feel really good though."

Xander folded his arms across his chest thinking, while Willow came back to the table and sat down next to him after having composed herself.

"I got nothing. I'm so tired I can't even think about thinking straight," he declared, throwing his hands into the air before giving in to a huge yawn.

"You look positively shattered, Xander, go on up and get some sleep. We're not going to figure any of this out tonight."

The younger man nodded and got up, hugging each of his friends in turn before heading up to his room.

When they heard the door shut upstairs, Willow said, "Geez, he looks like he hasn't slept since... well sometime before Sunnydale imploded."

"I dare say he probably hasn't," Giles commented, shoving his hands in his pockets.

"Poor Xander," Buffy added. "What are we going to do?"

"The only thing we can at the moment," Giles answered, "Give him time to rest and recover."

XxXxXxXx

The small group didn't see much of Xander over the next several days, he only emerged from his room for the necessities, and even then his appetite wasn't anywhere near his normal levels, eating only what he could quickly grab before heading back to his room while avoiding social interaction. He slept the rest of the time, finally giving in to the mental and physical exhaustion.

Giles, Buffy, and Willow continued to research in the evenings. Willow had been unable to provide Giles with more information on the matter of the glowing scythe, and all three of them kept their eyes on the weapon whenever they were in the library, hoping to catch it if it as much as flickered.

During the days, Willow insisted on discussing wedding plans and pushed the couple to commit to dates and color themes. The whole ordeal was enough to make their heads spin. She'd made an appointment for later in the week to meet with Father Knowles, and one afternoon she'd even taken Buffy into Bath to the wedding boutiques, though they hadn't had much success in finding anything suitable. Giles, thankful for the reprieve, had gone out for a long drive in the roadster to clear his head.

Two days later, Willow had absconded with Buffy to Bristol for more wedding planning fun and he saw them off before turning the horses out into the fields so he could work on making some much needed repairs and changes to the stable.

It was the lure of the buzzing table saw that roused Xander from his malaise and he cleaned himself up before joining Giles outside.

"Whatcha doing?" the younger man asked as he approached Giles in the old barn.

Giles turned off the saw. He was covered in sawdust and sweat and pulled his safety glasses off before addressing his friend. "Hello, Xander. Working on a couple of projects, actually," he said, taking another piece of wood out from the corner behind him, inspecting it for straightness and proper length.

"There's a knot at the bottom of that one," Xander stated.

"Won't do," Giles muttered, putting it back and picking up another.

"Since when are you Mister Handyman?"

"Since always," he answered with a trace of indignation.

"And yet you left me with all the hard work of building out the training room in the Magic Box and the clean up and repairs to the Summers' house in Sunnydale without saying a word?"

"One doesn't get in the way of a master craftsman," Giles answered with a wink.

"Ha ha. So tell me, what are you working on?"

"Well, the southwest corner of the stable has some rot, so I need to replace several of the boards there, and then I need to clear out the fourth stall and refit it. It's been used for storage for the better half of three decades and is unfit for horses at this time."

"Getting another horse? Buffy introduced us Otto and Gabriel yesterday."

"Buffy needs a horse. Gabriel is suitable, but the relationship between horse and rider is a very personal one. Gabe was my sister's and while he's been such a gentleman to Buffy, the spark between them is not there. I'm not sure whether to keep him or sell him, but for the moment he is here."

"Why would you sell him?"

"He needs his own person, and the truth is, he wouldn't get the exercise or attention he needs staying here. It's not fair to him," Giles explained, trying to detach himself from the memories the horse provided. "I'd certainly miss him. Miri had kept him at father's until I moved back here. He was her excuse to keep an eye on me, I think. We spent a fair amount of time riding together during that time."

"Keep him around a while longer. Maybe he and Dawn will get along," Xander suggested, patting Giles on the back. "Speaking of horses, where's the mini one?"

"Seamus? He's around somewhere. Probably off on the hunt... or patrolling. He likes to guard the perimeters," Giles answered, noticing his friend's uneasy body language. "You're not comfortable with him, are you?" he asked, putting down the length of wood onto the table saw and placing a hand on his hip.

"Well, you know, he's kinda big and he's sort of got the run of the place." Giles continued to stare at his friend. "And he's like über protective of Buffy. Which is good, I mean really good, but..."

"Has he hurt you?"

"No. I guess I'm just a bit nervous around him."

"How do you want to handle that?"

Xander picked up the wooden board and eyed the length. "You've got some warpage in the middle of this one."

"Oh for the love of-" Giles took it from him and checked it before setting it back in the corner. "Maybe I can find some other use for it later."

"Willow was right. I'm not so good with animals. I mean there was Amy-rat and Miss Kitty, but they were small and kinda non-threatening. Seamus is..."

"Seamus is a very large dog and he's clearly been bred to protect Buffy."

"Yeah, she told us how he threatened you, Giles, and she told us that you helped train him when he was a puppy. I mean, that's kinda schizo."

"He gave me a warning. Had I been a real threat, then yes, I suppose he would've attacked without one, but he knew I wasn't, and he'll protect those that the Slayer considers her own. That includes you, Xander."

"Good to know. Just don't go challenging Buffy."

"Just don't go challenging Buffy to any duels," Giles clarified, the corners of his mouth twitching into a teasing smile.

"So, how does training work with a big, overly protective wolfhound around?" Xander asked, eyeing the wood selection before picking out one he felt was suitable and checking it over.

"We haven't really trained since coming home from Hawkingridge, so I don't know."

"No training?"

"It had been something of an issue. We can talk about it later. Right now I need to finish up this project. Care to make the cuts?"

"Sure. Let me know what length you need."

They worked in companionable silence for a while. Admittedly Giles was concerned about Xander's lack of depth perception, but the dark haired man took his disability in stride, making adjustments and taking his time working with the saw. After they had all the pieces they needed, they took them over to the stable and started to replace the rotting boards, keeping their conversation to the work at hand and mundane things.

Xander stood and stretched his back and shoulders before wiping the sweat from his brow while Giles nailed the final board in place. "You know, Giles, I think I'd like to go see the new digs for the Academy and start drawing up plans. I need something to do. I've missed working with my hands."

"We can go tomorrow if you like, and I can show you around. We can start drawing up plans then."

"Yeah, that sounds good. Let's make sure we have the girls with us too. Where are they anyway?"

XxXxXxXx

Buffy and Willow watched the sun set from their table as they finished up their dinner in a restaurant overlooking Bristol Harbour. They'd explored the city and exhausted the bridal boutiques, coming up with a few ideas, but not finding the perfect dresses to mark the occasion of a Watcher/Slayer wedding, much less something that shouted Buffy and Giles.

"I can't believe how late it is. I mean the sun sets so late here in the summer," Buffy observed, finishing up the wine in her glass.

"We'd better pay the bill and get going. It will be about an hour before we're back at your place."

As they walked back to the car park in the dark, Buffy heard a low growl come from behind them. "Will, back to wall," she instructed.

Turning, she faced their attacker and sized him up. It was a single vampire and he was huge. She'd faced bigger, but there was something intimidating about him and she instinctively reached out to ensure that Willow was pressed up safe against the wall of the old warehouse. After pulling the stake out from her purse, she handed her bag to her friend.

"You picked the wrong chicks to mess with, fang boy!" Buffy said, as she waited for the vamp to attack. He just growled louder and smirked, showing off his impressive teeth. "You know, you really should see an orthodontist about that smile, I am sure they could get those teeth aligned, but that takes years, and your time is about up."

With that, the vampire lost patience and attacked. At the last possible second, Buffy shuffled to the side, and he missed his target, running further into the alleyway before turning around to mount a second attack. As he approached, more cautiously this time, the Slayer shoved the stake into her belt before letting go with a vicious roundhouse kick to the ribs, knocking him off balance. She then unleashed a slew of punches and he dropped to the ground.

As she jumped her attacker, she pulled the stake out, getting ready to dust him, but the giant vamp grabbed her upper arms and held them against her body as he twisted himself around and rolled her beneath him, causing her to lose the stake.

Buffy saw Willow move to reach for it, but the demon did too and kicked out, knocking the Wicca back against the wall with a laugh before turning his attention back to the blonde beneath him. She struggled with him and he repositioned himself trying to get a purchase on her neck. As he did so, he had to let go of her arm and in one quick movement, she broke free and threw him off.

They both moved swiftly and she was able to grab the stake in her left hand on her way up. As they came together, she got in a good right cross knocking him back and she approached again, leading with her right, her left arm cocked to deal the death blow. The vamp, however, recovered quickly, grabbed her right arm, and twisted it, dislocating her shoulder as he threw her against a dumpster.

Buffy went down in a world of pain and she noticed blood running heavily down the side of her face from just above her temple. The vampire caught scent of the blood and growled in anticipation, his eyes shining murderously in the low light as he approached his prey.

"And now you are mine!" he crowed, grabbing her shirt and pulling her to him.

She winced as her right arm fell useless by her side and she looked over to where she had last seen Willow. The redhead was still there, standing with her back to the wall, and Buffy gave her a slight nod. In an instant there was a flash of light, blinding them all and the Slayer brought her left hand up quickly, having moments earlier sized up her enemy, and struck the stake into his undead heart.

She fell back forcibly onto the ground, covered in dust, coughing, and writhing in pain.

"Buffy!" Willow cried as she ran to her friend.

"It's okay, I'm alright, Will," she groaned in return as she slowly rolled over and pushed herself up and onto her feet. "Thanks for the assist!"

"Kinda like old times, huh?"

"Not the good old times, that's for sure," Buffy muttered as she held her battered arm close to her body. She bent over, taking in air to try to relieve the pain, only to remember too late that breathing in hurt her shoulder more.

Pulling off her light sweater and using it to wipe the blood from Buffy's face, Willow asked, "Was he solo?"

Buffy looked up, her eyes wide. "I-I don't know. I don't feel anything. But, Will... I didn't feel him."

Willow saw the fear in her friend's eyes. "It's okay, Buff. Hang on." The Wicca muttered something in Latin and Buffy suddenly felt warm and protected. "Okay, we're safe. Nothing can see us. Now, let's get out of here and get you to A&E."

"A&E?"

"Sorry, the ER."

"No, just get us home. Giles can fix me up."

"Buffy-"

"Please, Will, let's go home," she pleaded as she started back for the car.

"Okay, Buff, we'll go home," Willow relented as she bent down and picked up Buffy's purse before following her.

XxXxXxXx

Seamus started barking, scratching frantically at the front door. Giles and Xander looked at each other with concern and hurried over to open it. The wolfhound bolted into the drive with the two men on his heels as Willow drove up and parked the car.

Giles opened the passenger door and held his breath as he looked at his fiancée, bloody, battered, bruised, and passed out in her seat. Seamus nudged him and he leaned in, carefully pulling her out of the car and into his arms.

"Willow, what happened? Are you okay?" Xander asked, wrapping his arms protectively around her.

"Yeah, I'm okay. We were attacked by a vamp. She wouldn't let me take her to the hospital. Giles, I'll go get the medical kit and meet you in the kitchen."

"She'll be more comfortable in the library,"

"She's bleeding and we'll need the lighting in the kitchen. She can lie on the island. Xander, get her a pillow and bring some blankets. We can pad the counter with them."

Giles nodded, assenting to Willow's command, and carried Buffy into the house, followed by a fretful wolfhound.

They regrouped in the kitchen, Giles still holding Buffy in his arms as Xander laid out the blankets and set down the pillow. The Watcher gently laid her down and grimaced as he saw her arm bent at an impossible angle. She was still bleeding, but not as profusely, and there was a large bruise surrounding the cut.

Willow dropped off the medical kit and went to fill a bowl with warm water. She pulled a tea towel out of a cabinet and then brought it and the bowl over and started to clean Buffy's face.

"How long has she been out?" Giles asked.

"About fifteen minutes," Willow responded. "We hit some rough road and the pain got to her, I think."

He nodded. "While she's unconscious, we should pop the shoulder back in."

"Oh god!" Xander exclaimed, turning a little green.

"I'll need your strength to hold her, Xander."

"What's the dog going to think? He needs to go. I'm not having him attack us for helping." Xander snapped, shaking his head.

Giles raised his eyes to meet Xander's. "Right." He took the dog's collar and tried to lead him out into the hall, but Seamus wouldn't budge, placing his great paws out in front of him and pulling backwards. "Seamus, come!" Giles bellowed, but the dog still wouldn't move. Giles gave up and faced Xander. "He won't leave her. We're just going to have to trust him to trust us."

The younger man swallowed nervously and looked to the wolfhound. Seamus' body language had relaxed since Giles let go of his collar, but his eyes were trained on his mistress lying on the counter as Willow gently cleaned her up.

"Fine. We don't have much of a choice." Xander relented, moving into position and holding Buffy in place.

"I'm so sorry, love," Giles whispered against her ear before placing a tender kiss on the top of her head. He then quickly maneuvered her arm, popping the ball of her shoulder back into the socket. She woke with a startled scream of pain.

Two sets of nervous eyes immediately looked to the overprotective wolfhound to gauge his reaction. He rocked nervously back and forth on his front paws, but made no threatening moves towards any of them, his gaze never leaving his charge. Xander and Willow breathed a sighed in relief and looked back up to Buffy who had her left arm wrapped around Giles neck as she worked to get the pain under control.

"Better?" Giles asked her in a soft voice. She nodded and pulled away from him, her eyes, bright with tears, searching the room anxiously for Willow.

Upon finding her, the Slayer relaxed. "You okay? You got banged up, too."

"I'm fine, Buff. Maybe a bruise here and there, but you got the worst of it."

"Xander, I think we need some steri-strips to close this wound." Giles said, still in medic mode. "Thankfully, I don't think it needs stitches."

Once Buffy was patched up, Giles helped her into a sling to keep her arm immobile. After they'd cleaned up and Xander had made tea, they moved into the library and sat down on the couches near the fireplace to discuss the evening's events.

"So what exactly happened?" the Watcher questioned.

"We were walking back to the car when we were followed by a really huge vamp. We fought in an alleyway. He was strong and had some fighting skills. He tried to pull my arm off and threw me against a dumpster after knocking Willow against the brick wall. She was awesome and provided a little magick back up, causing a distraction so I could dust him." Buffy recalled concisely, taking a sip of her herbal tea.

The Watcher looked over to Willow who nodded her corroboration.

"Giles, I didn't know he was there until I heard him."

"He ambushed you?"

"No." She lifted her eyes to meet his and he could see the worry in the deep green depths. When she spoke again, her tone was dead serious, "It's like my Spidey senses were off."

Giles' blood ran cold. His initial reaction was anger as he looked down at his left hand, assuming a connection between his healing and her inability to detect a vampire, but he steadied himself and covered her left hand with his. Right now she needed his strength and his comfort.

"We'll figure this out, Buffy," he promised in a soothing tone. "But not tonight. It's late and you and Willow have been through quite an ordeal. It's time to get some rest."

She nodded in agreement and they all said goodnight. There would be more research in the days ahead.