Buffy cleared her throat to get the attention of three vampires who were starting to emerge from a crypt. They turned to see her standing confidently, hands on her hips. She noted a wooden crate they tried to put down casually.
"Grave robbers? Hard up for cash boys? I hear the Double Meat Palace is hiring. You should look into it."
As the leader pointed to her, Buffy readied herself for the attack. She traded them blow for blow as their vamp commander looked on with a satisfied smirk. When Buffy was unable to block one swing that landed on her chin, the force of it picked her off her feet, carrying her six yards away and into the back of a head stone.
She quickly shook off her disbelief as they raced over to engage her again. With two solid kicks they forced the stake from her hand. It was only a matter of seconds before she found herself in flight again. This time she landed back where she started - just a few feet away from the vamp leader. He began to menace toward her, followed by his two accomplices. She looked for something, anything, she could use as a weapon. Thinking quickly she pulled her cross necklace out, thrusting it forward.
All three vamps laughed. The leader ripped it from Buffy's neck and began to toss it in his palm. "Look fellas. Slayer wanted to give me a gift."
Buffy had to retrieve her jaw from the ground. He should be burned, screaming in pain but he played with her crucifix as if it were nothing but . . . a necklace. "What are you?" Buffy asked.
"The last sight you'll ever see Slayer." He started to advance and Buffy threw a kick he easily blocked.
Willow raced around the tomb following the voices. All three vamps looked up to see the intruder and began to back away slowly. He pointed to Buffy as he spoke. "Don't think this is over Slayer. We'll meet again soon."
With a nod to his partners, the leader and the other two vamps darted into the shadows.
"Okay," Buffy said cocking her head toward Willow, "What the Hell just happened here? They're tossing me around like a rag doll but the second they see you it's Splitsville."
Willow shrugged. "Beats me. Maybe my stakes more pointier than yours?" she replied deadpan.
Xander rounded the corner, looking winded and trying to catch his breath. "Okay. Don't say it. I know I'm out of shape on the patrol gig."
Buffy made her way over to the box they had left behind. She moved to her knees and looked inside, riffling through it.
"What is it?" Willow walked over.
"Something those vamps were taking," Buffy answered tossing them around inside the box. "It's loaded with crucifixes."
"Why would they want crucifixes?" Willow asked, kneeling beside Buffy to see for herself. "And how could they even pick them up?"
"Maybe they found Jesus," Xander offered.
Buffy stood up and dusted herself off. "Let's get this stuff home. See if we can figure out what's going on." Willow picked up the box as Xander looked down at the glimmer he saw at his feet. It was Buffy's necklace.
"Must have been a rough fight," he said as he picked it up and handed it back to her.
"Yeah, maybe too rough."
Xander and Willow didn't quite understand the Slayer but they knew from the tone that whatever it was, it wasn't good.
The next day, Xander and Willow entered the Summers house briskly, deep into their conversation.
"You mean nothing?" Xander asked.
"Nothing, Nada, Zip. It's like these vamps don't even exist. If we-."
Willow stopped mid-sentence and a small grin quickly grew wider. The reaction forced Xander to look over to the sofa. Buffy and Dawn sat on either side of Giles who had an equally warm expression for Willow. He rose slowly and made his way over. "You look beautiful Willow," he told her softly. "You have your glow back."
"Because of you," she answered.
Xander watched as the two of them hugged, a content smile on Willow's lips and her eyes closed, her head resting on his chest. Giles ran his hand down the back of Willow's head and through her red strains before pulling away and giving her a kiss on the forehead. He seemed almost lost in the redhead before his senses grabbed him and pulled back to make his way to Xander.
Giles offered his hand to Xander. "I hear your construction business is growing leaps and bounds. Congratulations."
"Uh, yeah, thanks."
Xander did the ritual handshake but the welcome that Willow just received still had him momentarily stunned to the point that he wasn't paying much attention. He knew that Willow and Giles always have a special sort of bond a love of books, a love of magic. They had a connection quite similar to the watcher and the slayer. After Tara's death and the all to near apocalypse that Willow created he knew that bond had probably grown closer when he took her to England. But this welcome it just seemed overly friendly like . . . perhaps . . . Forget it Harris. You're reading too much into it. They're just . . .
Xander looked over at Willow and saw the admiration and excitement on her face at seeing Giles. Quickly, he scanned the room. Was anyone else seeing this or was it just him? He watched as Buffy stood up and came over.
"He's not here for good," she warned everyone.
"Yes, the council sent me. There's something very odd happening here at the Hellmouth. Well odder than usually I should say. They thought it best I come to lend a hand."
"Well a watchers hand is always welcome," Willow grinned.
I bet it is Xander thought silently.
"Have you had any luck with this latest problem?"
"Nothing," Willow answered Giles despondently. "We've look at sites, in books, everything. But no solid leads. Spike is doing a little recon work local haunts, things like that. But even he's hit dead ends. No pun intended."
"One thing's for sure," Buffy offered. "Whatever they are, Willow scared the Hell out of 'em."
"Maybe it's mystical. Perhaps they could sense your magic," Giles offered.
Willow shook her head. "I don't think so. I mean I was already in the area and they were ready to pounce on Buffy. It wasn't until I rounded the corner and they spotted me that they backed off. It doesn't make much sense."
"Does the council have any ideas?" Xander asked.
"At the moment no, but they are working on it. I told them to call here as soon as they had any word," Giles explained. "Anyway," he said turning to Willow, "Are you free tonight? I'd like to take you to dinner. Keep you abreast of some things."
"Can't say my dance card is full," Willow grinned. "Can't say I've been wanting a dance card period. So tonight's not a problem."
"Around seven then?"
"Seven it is," Willow smiled.
"Well I thought I would stop by the Magic Shop. Say hello to Anya. Maybe do a bit of research." Giles began to make his way to the door and Willow followed.
"Care for some company? I have no class Quick rephrase. I have no scheduled courses today but loads of class."
"That would be wonderful. Anyone else?"
"Dawn and I have to go to school and Xander is off to the site I'm sure," Buffy replied.
"Well then looks like it's just you and me," Giles smiled to Willow. "We'll report as soon as we come across anything."
With that, Giles led Willow to the front door as she waved goodbye. Once the door was closed Xander quickly turned back to the Summer sisters.
"Okay, what's up with Will and the G-man?"
Buffy scrunched her eyebrows in examination. "What do you mean?"
"You mean you didn't see it? He couldn't keep his hands off of her."
Buffy laughed out loud and walked over to the desk, starting to look through her purse for her keys. "Will and Giles? I can sum that up in one word ewww." Buffy gave a little shake of her body at the mental image it conjured up.
"He touched her three times in a two minute conversation," Dawn offered.
Xander began to nod dramatically pointing at Dawn. "See? See? She saw it too."
"Saw what?" Buffy asked in frustration.
Xander began to mimic Willow with a lovesick voice. "A watcher hand is always welcome." Dawn giggled from the sofa as Buffy placed her hands on her hips. The speculation was beginning to bother her but it didn't stop Xander from continuing, "And did you see the way he put his hand around her shoulder when they left?"
"Well technically," Dawn began, "it wasn't around her shoulder. It was his palm against her back. And come to think of it that makes four times instead of three. I didn't count that one."
"See that? Not three but four times he touched her," Xander nodded dramatically. "I'm telling you, Buff. Something is up."
Buffy traded a few glances between Xander and Dawn before she sighed. "I think you're both crazy," she said shaking her head.
"We don't know what happened in England," Xander continued. "Willow's been pretty stiff lipped about her time over there. And we all know she was pretty torn up when she left - Tara's death, killing Warren, that whole trying to destroy the world lapse in sanity. It takes a lot outta a girl I'm sure."
"Your point being?" Buffy pressed.
"Think about it. Willow's a beautiful woman longing for something to cling to. Giles is a middle-aged man who doesn't have a steady lady in his life. Late night conversations and middle of the night confessions leads to you know "
"A rehabilitating black magic addict," Buffy answered firmly. "And if you think there's something deeper than Wicca and mentor going on between Willow and Giles I'd venture to say that Will isn't the only one whose had a lapse in sanity recently."
Buffy found her keys and motioned Dawn off the couch.
"Look," Xander said as they made their way to the door. "All I'm saying is we should keep our eyes and ears open is all. I don't want to see Willow get hurt."
"Will won't get hurt," Buffy sighed reluctantly. "There's nothing for her to be hurt over. I'm telling you there's no hot international May-December romance going on here. Beside, like I said, the 'eww' factor just creeps me out so you can be as paranoid as you like. Just don't drag me into it, okay?"
"Can we go now?" Buffy asked opening the door.
Xander held it open. "After you."
Xander finished his shift for the day and walked into the magic shop to find Giles, Willow and Dawn seated at the table. Anya finished ringing up a sale as he made his way over to the group.
"So what's the latest from the front lines?"
"Absolutely nothing," Giles answered as he closed yet another book in frustration.
"Wasn't just me," Willow added. "Seems Giles isn't having much luck on this one either."
Willow looked at her watch 6:01 pm. She turned toward Giles, "Any chance of grabbing dinner earlier? My tummy is rumbling."
"Certainly," he said starting to rise from the table to grab his jacket.
The bell jingled and the group turned to see Buffy entering the shop. "How goes it?"
"Not well," Willow answered. "We haven't heard anything from the council and the book worming hasn't dug up anything except my dormant dust allergy."
"Well you guys will find it," Xander commended. "With the two biggest brains at the Hellmouth working together it's only a matter of time."
Willow grinned at Xander as she rose and pulled her coat from the back of the chair.
"Where's everyone off to?" Buffy asked as she watched Willow zip her leather jacket.
"Great I'm famished!" Buffy watched as Giles got an uncomfortable look on his face. "Or maybe not "
Reluctantly Giles gave a sigh. "I would invite you but there's some matters I need to discuss privately with Willow. I'm sure you all understand."
"Absolutely," Buffy nodded. Her voice conveyed confidence but on the inside she had to admit she felt a bit jilted. Besides they were 'the' gang, all of them, together, one team, working for the greater good of humanity. Besides Giles was HER watcher not Willow's and where the hell did Willow get off stealing HER watcher. And while she was at it Buffy put on the breaks. This was ridiculous. She couldn't be jealous. What was there to be jealous of? So Giles wanted to catch up with Willow privately. It made sense. He helped Willow overcome a powerful force, perhaps something stronger than any of them realized.
He just wanted to touch base with Willow making sure she was on the straight and narrow well at least the narrow. Buffy hadn't asked Willow if she still considered herself gay now that Tara was gone. That would be just plain tacky. If anything, lately Willow had become asexual. Love, romance, sex the topics never came up in their discussions and Buffy assumed that was best for now. Willow had lost Tara because of her magic addiction. When Willow finally won her back Tara was dead less than 48 hours later. She watched first hand what kind of pain that caused. And like Willow said earlier that morning, she didn't have a dance card and for the time being that was fine. Besides the most important person in Willow's life at the moment should be Willow, the slayer surmised. Once the reforming Wicca was comfortable with herself, learning the true ways of the Wicca life, maybe then she could focus on bringing someone else into her circle. Buffy was so lost in her thoughts that she nearly missed Giles suggestion.
"Maybe we could all go out for breakfast tomorrow? My treat."
"You're treat?" Anya asked excitedly. "Count me in."
Giles smiled and looked around the room. "That's one."
"Me too," Dawn piped in. "It's been ages since I had pancakes. The last time " Dawn immediately looked to Willow hoping her off handed comment hadn't offended Willow by conjuring up old memories. Both knew that Tara would make Dawn pancakes in the morning and always with the same question 'Funny shapes or rounds?' Since Tara had been gone Dawn hadn't ate a single pancake. She was quite capable of making them on her own but they just didn't taste the same. They would never taste the same, ever again. "I'm sorry," Dawn whispered to Willow.
"It's alright Dawnie," Willow told her. "Nothing to be sorry for. It's okay to remember her and it's okay to talk about her. You should in fact."
"Who?" Anya asked.
"Tara," Willow answered, not taking her eyes off of Dawn. "She used to make Dawn's breakfast and her specialty was pancakes. Not to fluffy and not to thin huh?"
Dawn nodded. "I wonder how she did that."
Willow grinned. "I've tried " Willow stopped her sentence when she realized she was using the present tense. She bit her tongue for a brief moment before correcting herself. "I tried to get her to tell me the secret but to no avail. Hey! Maybe you and I can start practicing in the kitchen? Do a little culinary experimentation in the mornings?" she offered as she smiled to Dawn.
It was the first time since Willow's return that she made the attempt to do anything with Dawn - something that was for just the two of them, outside of the Slayer Circle. Dawn hadn't pressed Willow because she knew, or rather Buffy warned her, that Willow need space and time to heal. Buffy also told her that at some point Willow would 'come around'. She'd be more like her old self. The suggestion that Willow just made put a smile on Dawn's face in spite of the fact her older sister was 'right again'.
"Sure," Dawn grinned. "But we should head to the restaurant first - just for a refresher course."
"I wholeheartedly agree," Willow said with a confident nod. She turned to Xander. "You coming tomorrow too?"
"That depends," he said looking to Anya.
Anya rolled her eyes. "I can handle you being there Xander. You're standing in my magic shop right now, aren't you?"
"Our shop," Giles corrected.
"Fine - our shop. I think I can handle the social engagement of eating eggs with you."
Xander gave a small grin which melted Anya's icy demeanor if only a little when she gave a small grin of her own.
"And then there was one," Willow grinned as she walked over to Buffy. "I'm sure you'll be attending so I'm not going to ask."
"What if I have other plans?" Buffy asked. The group began to chuckle with various skeptical comments of 'sure' and 'yeah right'. "Hey! I have a life you know? Not everything I do revolves around you guys." The group fell silent, knowing the truth and waiting for her to admit it. "Okay. I have no life and yes I'll be there."
"Welcome to the club," Willow grinned as she patted Buffy on the shoulder.
"Good. It's all settled then. Tomorrow at Buffy's? 7 AM?" Giles asked.
"On a Saturday?" Dawn asked. "Better make it nine."
"Eight," Buffy offered in compromise. "Besides, I don't know how much slayage I'll have to do tonight. Might be a late night."
"Alright then," Giles nodded. "We'll see you back at the house tonight."
With that Willow and Giles left the shop. Immediately Xander turned to Dawn. "Okay what did you see?"
"Well he spent a lot of time leaning over Willow's shoulder while she was surfing for information."
"Close huh? Like too close?" Xander asked.
"I don't believe this," Buffy sighed.
"Believe what?" Anya asked.
Buffy pitched a thumb to Xander and her sister. "These two dweebs think that something is going on between Giles and Willow something romantic," she added in clarification.
"Oh yeah that," Anya said before stuffing her nose back into the accounting books.
"Okay. Putting on the brakes here," Buffy said making Anya look up. "What do you mean 'Oh yeah, that'? Did you see something?"
"Well it's not like they were kissing or anything. You could just tell."
"Well the way-."
The door to the magic shop opened and Spike strolled inside. "Spike reporting for patrol Slayer. Wanna take out some baddies tonight Love?"
"Don't call me Love and at the moment no," she answered turning back to Anya. "You were saying something about Giles and Willow."
"Giles is back? Again?" Spike asked. Buffy nodded. "For a guy determined to leave he sure makes his rounds in Sunnydale."
"Yes and for some reason these two-."
"Three," Xander corrected. "Anya sees it too."
"These three," Buffy said with a brief pause, " delusional people think Giles and Willow are having an affair."
Spike began to laugh and took a seat on the stool by the counter. "Like that old coot would be lucky enough to shag a sexy bird like Red."
"Exactly!" Buffy began, happy that someone was agreeing with her. But then the jargon he used to express his opinion sunk in. "Wait a second. For one thing, Giles is not an 'old coot' and second Did I just hear you call Willow sexy?"
At first Spike looked guilty but he let it go and started to grin. "Jealous Love?"
"Hardly. And stop calling me Love. Do it again and I'm staking you," Buffy answered. She shook her head to clear her thoughts. "Anyway, they think something is going on for some unknown reason."
"Well it's not unknown," Anya answered. "You can just see the way they look at each other all 'doe-eyed'. He had his hand on her shoulder most of the time and even rubbed her back when she started to get frustrated."
"That doesn't mean anything," Buffy countered.
"Oh no of course not," Xander answered sarcastically. "We all know Giles isn't a stuffy uptight Brit. He's all good with the touchy feely side of himself."
"Even though that did come from Xander," Anya began, "That is a very good point. Giles isn't known to be a physically affectionate person on a regular basis. I mean sure when it's life and death but while researching I'd have to say his behavior was well odd."
"There's only one thing left to do," Dawn spoke to the group.
"And what's that?" Buffy asked, getting agitated with the speculation.
Xander snapped his fingers. "The Slayer's sis comes up with a winning plan."
"Hold on!" Buffy said waving her hands. "We are not going to spy on Giles and Willow. That's just wrong. So forget it. Besides you don't even know where they went."
"The Happy Komoto," Anya added. "The new Japanese restaurant on Elm? Willow wanted sushi."
"Thank you Anya," Buffy nodded, frustrated with the 'help'. "Thank you very much."
"You're welcome," she answered, oblivious to the sarcasm.
"Come on," Xander said getting his coat. "I'll drive."
Anya made her way around the register. Dawn began to stand up and Buffy pointed at her.
"You. Sit. And you," she said pointing at Xander. "You leave them alone. Giles wanted to speak privately with Willow and you're going to respect that."
"Oh come on Buffy. This has nothing to do with respect. I think you won't go because you're afraid of what we might find there."
"Is it? Maybe you just can't deal with the fact that Giles has more interest in Willow than he does you. So now you're refusing to see what's really going on here."
"I know what you're tryin' to do. You're trying to bully me or use reverse psychology to get me to go but it isn't going to work."
"Fine, you don't have to go. But I am," he said putting on his coat and walking to the door.
"And let me ask you this Xander," Buffy asked, making him turn around. "What if you get there and you see something that proves without a doubt that you're right. Not that you will, mind you. But what if you do then what? Are you going run their lives for them? Do the overbearing father bit and forbid them to see each other?"
"I plan on having a long talk with Giles about responsibility."
Spike began to chuckle. "Oh yeah Mr. Responsible. If that's not the pot calling-."
"Nobody asked your opinion dufus." Xander turned back to Buffy and took a few steps toward her. "I love Willow, Buff. I've known her my whole life. I know losing Tara has left a gap in her life and I don't want Giles taking advantage of that."
"Giles would never take advantage of Willow or any of us for that matter."
"Okay poor choice of words. Like Spike said, she's a sexy 'bird' and I don't want Giles 'spreading her wings'. If Willow went to him looking for some type of solace from it all maybe something happened between them. And if that did happen it would only hurt her more. So if I can protect Willow from getting hurt I will. Just like everyone else in this room well except for Spike I don't give a damn what happens to him."
"Love you too hero," Spike retorted, adding a kissing noise.
Xander turned back to Buffy. "Look, you don't have to be there Buffy. I hope you would but if it seems like a great disrespect to Willow and Giles in your eyes, I won't hold it against you if you stay."
Buffy considered everything that Xander said. He wasn't doing this out of jealousy or petty games to fill his time. He was doing it out of love. Plain and simple. She also knew there was only one way for him to get past it and move on. He needed proof; evidence. She gave a deep sigh and muttered. "Alright. Let's go."
With that, the Circle left the magic shop. When they arrived, Xander parked a block from the restaurant and the group walked back trying to look as inconspicuous as a group of five people possibly could. Xander peered through the large bay window to see Giles and Willow sitting at the sushi bar, their backs to the window.
"There they are," Xander said softly.
"Why are you whispering?" Anya asked. "They can't hear you out here."
"Force of habit okay? I like to be stealth-like when working recon."
Buffy rolled her eyes to Dawn who gave a chuckle.
"Well tell me Commander Harris," Buffy began with her back against the building refusing to look through the window. "What's their position?"
"Well at the moment it appears that Giles has said something humorous and Willow is laughing. Wait! She just touched his arm and he smiled."
Spike stood in front of Buffy ignoring the show too. "I'm dead and I have more of a life than you people."
"Shut up Spike," Xander warned. "This is serious."
"Oh yeah sushi and few laughs. Tragic," Buffy retorted as she smiled at Spike who returned it with one of his own.
"Oh my God," Xander said softly, a hint of shock in his voice.
"Wow," Anya echoed.
"What?" Buffy was now interested.
"Giles has his hand on Willow's cheek," Dawn replied. "She's covering his hand with hers."
"What?" Buffy and Spike said in harmony. It was too much. They had to look too. They forced their way to the window to see for themselves and sure enough Dawn gave an accurate play-by-play description.
"Okay. Okay. That doesn't mean anything," Buffy said quickly. If Xander didn't know any better he might think she sounded a bit nervous at what they were witnessing. "It's not like they're kissing or any-."
Buffy stopped her sentence when she watched Willow turn her head slightly and place a lingering kiss in Giles palm before turning back to smile at him. They watched as his hand slipped from Willow's face and made it's way to her neckline to the charm that hung just above her bosom. They watched him playing with it as a gradual smile came to his face.
"You were saying?" Xander prodded.
"I'll be damned," Spike chuckled after the shock wore off. "Guess the old dog does have a few new tricks left in him. I have to admit though...I figured Giles would be a man to make a woman lesbian and not bring her back from the other side of the fence."
"You get extra points for tacky with that statement Spike," Xander replied, shaking his head.
They watched as Willow began to turn around to reach for her jacket and they all ducked out of sight.
"Did she see us?" Anya asked, crouched on the sidewalk like everyone else.
"I don't think so," Dawn answered.
"Well we better bloody well move" Spike whispered. "They're probably on their way out."
"Now why is he whispering?" Anya said softly. "And why am I whispering?" she added with a confused look on her face.
"We're all whispering because we're guilty of spying on our friends!" Buffy retorted in a heated whisper. "Come on, before they leave," she waved toward Xander's car.
As quickly and quietly as possible the group made their way down the street.
"So what do you think now Buffy? Are we still all crazy?" Xander asked as they moved briskly along.
"There has to be some explanation," she answered.
"I think the writings on the wall Pet," Spike answered.
"I warned you about a staking."
"I didn't call you 'Love' that time. And you made no rule about the word 'Pet'."
Spike grinned as Buffy shook her head and continued to walk on. "Giles and Willow can't be together. They just can't," she whispered more to herself than anyone in the group.
Dawn tapped Anya on the arm as they walked behind the three in front of them. "I have to admit this is more fun then egging and teepeeing." Buffy looked back at her sister with a scowl. "Not that I would know about those things first hand," Dawn said in a rush. "I've heard other kids talk about the adrenaline rush of property destruction."
"Uh huh," Buffy countered. "You better hope I don't catch those other kids out some night."
"What's egging and tee-peeing?" Anya asked.
"It's when other kids," Dawn stressed, "throw eggs at houses and rolls of toilet paper in trees."
"And this is fun because "
"The risk of getting caught doing something you're not supposed to be doing."
"Like spying on your friends," Buffy added as Xander unlocked the doors of his car. Spike, Dawn and then Anya climbed into the backseat as Buffy and Xander faced off over the roof.
"We weren't exactly spying. We were checking up on them. That's all."
"Well now that you have this new knowledge Xander what do you plan to do with it?"
"I plan to wait. See what happens while Giles is here I'm not going to make any rash accusations Buffy. At this point it's speculation only. But you gotta admit. I got more evidence in my favor at the moment than you do in yours."
Xander climbed inside the car and Buffy let out a sigh. She'd never admit it but it was shaping up that way. Quietly and without comment she sat down and shut the door. There has to be some explanation.
Willow called out as she and Giles entered the house but no one was answering upstairs. The living room was dark but there appeared to be a light in the kitchen.
"Maybe they're in back," she offered.
Willow and Giles walked deeper inside the house to find the two of them sitting at the kitchen island, eating a pizza.
"There you are," Willow grinned. "I called but you didn't answer."
"Sorry. I didn't hear. Dawn was talking," Buffy answered. "So how was dinner?"
Willow let out a ragged sigh. "Educational." However, her mood changed in an instant to one of promise. "And productive actually."
"Giles has a theory on the latest vamps."
"Great! Let's hear it."
Willow motioned to Giles who took off his glasses and began to clean them. "Well when Willow and I were at the restaurant I noticed her necklace."
Willow scrunched her eyebrows at Buffy's reply. The tone in Buffy's voice and the comment of 'really' just seemed off. But she brushed it aside and listened to Giles continue.
"Yes, she wears the Star of David."
"Well that's probably because she's Jewish Giles," Buffy grinned. He grinned in response.
"Yes she is and I think that had something to do with why those recent vampires turned heel when they saw her. You said you found a box of crucifix, o-one's they were taking from the crypt?"
"Here's the best part," Willow grinned excitedly, motioning for Giles to continue.
"What if they weren't affected because they're religious sect at the time of their deaths had no connection to the cross?"
"Are you saying we have a roaming band of Jewish vampires thugs in Sunnydale?"
"Oy Vey," Buffy sighed.
"You said it sister," Willow grinned.
Giles ignored their banter and continued, " I asked Willow if she had the Star on that night and she said yes so it's possible that SHE didn't frighten them as much as the necklace did. Most of the world religions pray to the same 'God'. The ah - the Christian God, the Judaism God and even the Islamic God are all the same 'God'. However each religion has different teaching and different symbols it uses. The Star of David is just one of many holy relics you could say."
"So where does that leave us?"
"Well at the moment nowhere," Willow answered Buffy. "I've been up since 5 this morning and Giles is exhausted from his flight so were going to bed."
"Together?" Buffy asked.
"What?" Willow asked with a slight chuckle.
"I mean you're both going to bed now?" She hopped that would be enough and not alert them to any suspicious she was having. Silently she cursed Xander for making her paranoid. Anxiously she waited for Willow to respond.
"Oh yeah," she said after Buffy's 'clarification'. "If we look at any more books tonight our eyes will fall out of our heads. We're gonna get some rest and hit it again tomorrow after breakfast."
"Sounds like a plan," Buffy nodded. "I'm gonna head out on patrol. Keep an eye on Dawn?"
"Buffy I'm old enough to take care of myself now," her sister argued.
"Yeah I know that but this is still Sunnydale after all and I don't like leaving you alone period."
"We'll be here," Willow answered, nodding back toward Giles.
"Thanks Will," Buffy said as she rose from her stool and started toward the door.
"Oh hey!" Willow called out. Buffy turned and watched as Willow walked over, taking her necklace off and put it around her own neck. "Just in case," she added with a grin.
"If I have to start carrying religious icons of every possible sect out there I won't be able to lift my head or fight," she grinned.
"Well let's hope it doesn't come to that," Willow grinned in response as she opened the door.
"So what's the latest theory?"
Buffy recognized Spike's voice as she passed a gravestone and turned around.
"Well the short version Giles and Willow think we've got Jewish Vamps on the loose. Longer version Reason being, Willow of all people scares them away. We think it might be the Star of David she was wearing."
"I meant the theory on the latest lovebirds," Spike grinned.
Buffy sighed, her shoulders slumped in defeat. "Oh no, not you too."
"Come on Slayer. You saw what happened in that restaurant just like the rest of us."
"There has to be some explanation."
"Yeah, the watcher's dippin' his wick in the Wicca."
The grin on Spike's face was too much for her. Buffy pushed Spike, sending him on his backside. "That happens to be my family you're talking about."
"Some say incest is best," he chuckled.
"And you're in denial," Spike said rising, a seriousness returning to his voice. "Think about it Buffy. Red's been through Hell on her knees this past year. Rumor has it she even killed a man. Don't know if that's true. No one's found a corpse. But the black voodoo, the loss of the cute, lil bird of hers she's had it bloody rough I tell ya."
"What's your point?"
"Point is, desperate times lead to desperate acts. Wasn't that long ago that your desperation to feel made you do things you regret. Am I wrong?"
"That was different."
"Obviously, I'm not as smart as Willow. She's got her head on her shoulders."
"She used to have her head on her shoulders. I'm willing to bet dimes to dollars that some days she doesn't know up from down."
"Since when did you become an expert on my best friend?"
"I can see the forest Buff. I'm not standing next to the trees."
"Thanks for the cryptic message Spike. I'd love to stand around and listen to cheesy metaphors all night but I have patrolling to do."
"Buffy all I'm saying is maybe you can't see it all because you're too close. Too close to Giles. Too close to Willow."
"And right now you're too close to me so go away."
"Fine," Spike sighed. "But whatever happens just be easier on Red. She's getting her soul back. And I know how that feels."
Spike turned and walked away. Buffy opened her mouth to form an apology but stopped herself. So wrapped up in watching Spike she didn't feel the vamp approach but the snap of a twig did ring in her ears. She turned swiftly, stake at the ready, as he advanced. He let out a battle cry, which Spike heard. The sound sent the reformed Vampire running back in Buffy's direction. He arrived to see two other vamps beginning to descend upon the Slayer.
He charged into battle but a single blow from one of them sent him back three feet. This bloke's got a bloody swing, he thought silently as he tried to steady himself for the next melee round. He watched as one of the vamps grabbed Buffy while the other ripped the stake from her hand. Instead of dropping the weapon, he raised it. They were going to slay the Slayer.
Spike raced over to the vamp that held Buffy captive but before he could reach her Buffy kicked the stake from his hand and tripped the other vamp that held her. Not releasing his hold as he toppled over, both vamp and slayer fell to the ground. He rolled her over but she worked an arm free and reached for the star on her neck. She pressed it to his forehead and watched as the smoke began to pour from his dead flesh. He admitted a howl of pain and jumped to his feet. Spike tackled him and they rolled to the stake. Acting quickly, Spike swiped it first and buried it quickly in his heart. Within seconds he turned to dust.
The two remaining vamps looked on slack-jawed before scurrying off into the woods. Buffy rose to her feet and walked over to Spike who still knelt on the ground but now with only ashes below him. Buffy offered her hand and pulled him to his feet.
"That fellow had one hellva jab. Same vamps you found the other night?"
"Yeah," Buffy nodded. "Minus one now."
"Head home tonight. Tell the big brains what happened. I'll see what the word on the street is."
"Have you seen them before?"
"Not in my lifetime well you get the point."
Buffy turned to leave but stopped. "Spike what I said earlier I'm sorry I got harsh. The thought of Giles with Willow is just unnerving."
"They're both adults Love," he offered shrugging his shoulders.
"I know," Buffy answered, letting the endearment float by without comment. "But Giles is like a father to us. Well, a rankish uncle, as he likes to say," she grinned. "And the thought of them together after all this time is just "
Buffy nodded. "Among other things."
"Love can be crazy sometimes."
Spike didn't add anymore. Buffy just considered all she knew at the moment. Love could be crazy but with Spike it was just lust; a lust to feel life again. Life via a dead man it was ironic really.
Spike cleared his throat. "Well if you need me you know where to find me."
She watched as he walked away slowly, "Hey Spike," she called out making him stop. "Thanks."
He gave a nod. "Just remember. Whatever happens go easy on Red."
Buffy returned the nod and headed home.
When Buffy got back she found Willow and Giles sitting on the sofa.
"Hey. I thought you two were going to bed?"
"I was but I couldn't sleep," Willow offered. "You know how you reach the point where you're too tried to sleep and too tired to be conscious. I'm right in that area at the moment."
"She's hoping I'll bore her to sleep with my stories of Bathe," he grinned.
Willow slapped his knee before resting her hand there. "That is not true and you know it." She gave it a light pat as she stood up. "I'm going to try a glass of milk. Anybody want anything?"
"I'm good," Buffy said taking off her coat. "But could you grab me another slice of pizza? I'm hungry again."
"She gets the munchies after slay time," Willow nodded toward Buffy. "It's amazing what you learn about someone after you live with them. Giles? Need anything?"
"No thank you. I'm fine."
Willow headed to the kitchen as Giles idly thumbed through a magazine.
"Teen Beat?" Buffy asked looking at the title.
He turned it over and examined the cover. "Yes, I'm hoping the feature on the Backstreet Boys will be enough of a sedative to lure me to dream state," he grinned. "How did patrol go tonight? You're home a bit early."
"Well I ran into those Vamps from the other night."
Willow had just come back to hear Buffy's comment. "What happened?" she asked as she handed over the plate.
"Well let's just say there's one vamp that will be missing Chanukah this year. Or is that Hanukah without the 'C'? Why is that Will? What's with the different spellings?"
She shrugged her shoulders as Buffy took a large bite of her pizza. "Heck if I remember. I can't claim to be a practicing Jew. And if I walked into a temple now my non-kosher diet and lesbianism I'm sure it would be grounds for the boot. Oh! And let's not forget that pesky black magic and part-time hacker thing I've got going on. I'd probably give the rabbi a heart attack if I sat down for heart to heart talk."
Buffy smiled. "Well if the synagogue won't take ya, we will."
"Absolutely but getting back to the matter at hand," Giles prompted Buffy.
"The star worked. One of them knocked me down and I put it to his forehead. It toasted him pretty good. Spike slayed him before I could get any information out of him but that's fine. Those boys are tough to contain."
"Super vamps? I mean more super than usual?" Willow asked.
"Yeah, it's like their juiced up or something. The one that Spike tangled with knocked him off his feet. That doesn't happen often. Even he remarked on how strong they are."
"We'll get it figured out so try not to worry," Willow told her.
"Nah no worries," Buffy answered finishing the last of her pizza. "Right now bed sounds good."
Willow took the plate from her. "Head on up. I'll take care of this."
"Thanks Will. I'll see you guys in the morning." Buffy said as she rose and made her way to the stairs.
"Good night," she offered before heading up.
Willow and Giles issued their goodnights and watched as Buffy slowly climbed the stairs to her bedroom.
The next morning came too soon for Buffy and she looked at her alarm clock with the one eye she managed to open. She heard her door open and rolled over.
"Giles is here," Willow grinned. "You coming?"
"Yeah just give me five minutes to hop in the shower," Buffy answered pulling the covers from her body. When she emerged six minutes later fully dressed and hair in a wet ponytail, she and Dawn went downstairs. When they came to the bottom landing they saw Giles and Willow waiting in the living room. Willow sat on the sofa; Giles on the coffee table. Her head was down and her shoulders appeared slumped. Giles hands rested on her upper thighs as he whispered something to her. He looked over and upon seeing Buffy and Dawn his hands darted away and he shot up to his feet.
"Everything okay?" Buffy asked.
"Yes, just fine. Shall we go to the restaurant?"
Buffy took a moment to examine them both before shaking it off. "Sure but don't we have to wait for Xander?"
"He's meeting us there. He's picking up Anya."
"They're riding in the same car?" Buffy asked. "Alone?"
"Anya said things are better. She's not as angry anymore and they seem to be civil with each other now and then," Giles replied with a half grin. "I have my rental outside."
"Okay, to the restaurant it is," Buffy said going to the door. She let Giles and Dawn walk ahead to the car but she slowed Willow down as she locked the door. "Everything okay Will?"
"You just looked I don't know Depressed."
"It's nothing really," she answered.
"Are you sure because you can tell me if something is wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong Buffy. A little stressful but that's par for the course lately," she managed with a half grin.
Dawn called from Giles car. "Are we gonna eat breakfast before lunchtime?"
Buffy ignored her sister. "Well just remember I'm here, okay? It might not seem like it with everything I have going on but if you need it, I'll always make the time."
Willow gave a genuine grin. "That's good to know. I hope you always feel that way No matter what I might have to tell you."
Willow began to walk away but Buffy caught her by the elbow. "So there is something."
"It'll keep," Willow said before starting down the stairs. "Let's get your sister fed before she gets too cranky."
Buffy examined Willow's departure for a few moments before making her way down the stairs. Something was definitely weighing on Willow's mind and shoulders based on the cryptic response and her body language. She just prayed Willow would come to her instead of leaving things bottled up as she had the last year of her addiction and Tara's death. With a tug of her jacket collar, putting it in place, she followed.
The restaurant was a much lighter affair. Everyone laughed and joked and Buffy had to admit it was a wonderful feeling having everyone there again. No 'big bads' to face at the moment. She mused that these were the moments that made her go out every night and why she didn't give up slaying when adversity struck like a sickle. Although they weren't joined by blood, Buffy had a family better than those that people are born into. Even Xander and Anya managed to smile at each other during the meal proving that truth could be stranger than fiction. Quietly, she sat next to Dawn and across from Giles and Willow.
As she watched them interact with each other Xander's accusations kept coming back in her mind. There was a certain closeness there, an even tighter bond than before, Buffy had to admit. Whether that bond was non-platonic, as the group had assumed she couldn't quite tell. And Giles was very 'touchy feely' as Xander had put it, more so than Buffy was used to seeing. Buffy tried to put it aside but slowly Xander's paranoia was becoming her own. Was Wills and Giles involved? Would they end up shattering the group with a romance gone bad? Things would never be the same if that happened.
But then again perhaps things could go right for them. Maybe they were what they both searched for, never realizing it was right in front of them until now? It was true that Willow was an adult now and not longer a girl but still how would Buffy handle it all? She was sure, at first, it would be much like when Willow came out about Tara - the initial shock, replaced by a denial, which in the end led to acceptance and understanding.
By the time of Tara's death Buffy had to admit she was quite fond of Tara. Not that Buffy disliked Oz. He was quite a character but Tara was different. Subtle, caring, dependable She could cry on Tara's shoulder without a sense of regret or remorse for her actions. She didn't feel like she had to be the 'Slayer' in front of Tara all the time. That was something Buffy could never do with Oz. He was a sweet guy. He adored Will to no end. But he still lacked the warmth that Tara always brought to a room. Buffy looked over and saw Dawn eating her pancakes. And Buffy felt herself choke down a tear.
She missed Tara too and in the rush of everything after Tara's death some days it seemed like it never happened. But once in awhile Buffy would peek into Willow's room and find her alone, going over her college notes and not see Tara there. At those times, Buffy could feel that flutter of loss. She felt it for Willow who sat alone studying. And she felt it for herself for losing a confidant she'd grown to love. Her thoughts must have shown on her face because she heard Willow's voice.
"Are you okay?"
For some reason Buffy felt like she was going to break inside. "Yeah," she said softly. "I'm okay. Excuse me."
Buffy got up and headed toward the restroom swiftly. The group looked around at each other and Willow rose. "I'll be right back," she told Giles, her hand running across his shoulders as she made her departure.
Buffy heard the entrance of the restroom open. "Buf, are you sure you're okay?" she heard Willow call out.
Buffy stood inside a stale, dabbing the side of her eyes with some tissue paper. She took a breath to steady her voice before she spoke. "I'm okay Wills. I'll be out in a second."
Willow paused a moment. "Okay," she answered. She opened the door to the restroom but instead of going out she stayed inside. Thinking she was gone Buffy emerged from the stall to see Willow standing by the sink.
"I thought you left," Buffy remarked as she walked to the sink and started to wash her hands and dry them quickly.
"Yeah that was the point," Willow grinned. "Had to get you out of there somehow to talk What's the matter? You know, the same rules that apply with me also apply to you too?"
"It's kinda stupid. I mean I saw Dawn eating her pancakes and " Buffy trailed off on berating herself and started to cry. Willow took two strides over and pulled Buffy into her arms. "I miss her Will and I don't want to unload on you. I know you've had a Hell of a time dealing yourself and and-."
"Shhh," Willow said running her hand over the back of Buffy's head as she held her. "I know. It sneaks up on you. There are good days and there are bad days. Sometimes in the middle of a good day I'll see something or maybe I hear a song on the radio and, and I remember But it's okay," Willow gave a light chuckle and Buffy pulled back with a questioning look. "I have to admit I wondered if you cared she was gone."
"What? How could you say that?"
"I know you've said you miss her Buf. And I believed every word but Now don't take this the wrong way. And please know that I am sorry you're hurting. Okay? I truly am But in an odd way, I'm glad to see you're hurt because I can see it's not just me. Misery truly does love company sometimes. It's good to know I'm not the only one who blubbers at what seems like the oddest moments."
"Oh Will I never meant to come off cold about all this-."
"I know. You've tried to be strong for me. I realize that and I do appreciate it. All I'm saying is it's nice to know I'm not the only one who gets weak about it once in awhile." Willow paused and started to grin. "Actually, I think Tara is watching us right now laughing her ass off at the two dorks crying in the bathroom."
Willow chuckled slightly but Buffy could still see the onset of tears in her eyes. Buffy issued a half-laugh in response until turning serious again.
"You're not alone Will. Don't think that, okay?"
"Well now I know for sure," she proclaimed optimistically.
"Absolutely," Buffy said in a chipper voice. "So from now on we're free to be depressed together whenever we feel like it."
Willow chuckled and took Buffy by the hand. "Come on, let's hurry up and get back before they send Anya in to look for us."
By the time they made it back to the table both women were all smiles and they sat down without comment.
"Everything okay?" Xander asked Buffy.
"Sure. Just girly quality time," Buffy grinned.
"Count me out," Xander replied. "Nearly twenty years with Willow and seven with you I'd like to keep what testosterone I have left." Giles smiled before taking a sip of his tea. Xander then turned his attention to Giles. "You know I say this in the most masculine and heterosexual of ways Giles, but I really miss you sometimes. I think I'm starting to become one of the girls and it's way scary."
"That's not entirely true," Willow said with a coy grin. "We do girl watch together at the Bronze."
Xander chuckled and held up his hands. "Don't take this the wrong way Will but it's just not the same," Xander replied before turning to Giles again. "At least when you were here it evened things out a bit. Any shot of bribing you to come back for good? I can get you a great deal on building a house," he grinned.
Giles chuckled. "At the moment no but in the future we'll see. It could be quite possible that I may return to Sunnydale for an extended period of time in the coming months."
"Really?" the group asked in harmony.
"Yes, really but nothing is settled with the council at this point. But if it does come to that then it appears that I'll be happily accepted back here."
"Are you kidding? With open arms and all. This is great news," Willow replied.
"It's not news. It's only a rumor at this point," Giles corrected. "We'll have to wait and see how things go."
The open arms comment from Willow forced Xander to shoot a hunched eyebrow at Buffy. Dawn started to giggle in response.
"Did I miss something?" Willow asked looking around the table.
"No," Dawn said quickly, "Just thinking of a joke someone told me. Anyway, do we have new some new theories on the latest vamps? I know you guys didn't go to sleep right away last night."
"No we just vegged out for awhile. We're gonna hit the books when we finish up here."
"Speaking of which," Xander began. "Mind dropping Anya off at the Magic Shop? I've gotta head out to the lumberyard," he said looking at his watch.
"Certainly," Giles nodded. "Are you leaving now?"
Xander rose, grabbing his coat. "Yeah I've gotta get some things in order for Monday so I better take off. But thanks for breakfast Giles. It was great getting together again for something other than an impending apocalypse. We should do this more often," he grinned. He paused a moment and looked to Anya. "I was thinking if you're not busy maybe I could take you out to dinner tonight?"
"Where did that come from?" Anya asked.
"Oh I don't know, the kindness of my shallow heart," he countered with a warm smile.
"I don't know what to say."
"I've said yes before but it didn't quite work out," Anya retorted.
Xander nodded. He wasn't going to argue and decided to just let it drop. "It was just a thought. If you change your mind give me a call on the cell phone."
He began to make his way from the table when he heard Anya say, "Yes."
"6 'o' clock sound good?"
"Sure," she nodded.
"Okay. I'll be at the shop then. I'll see you all later. Ring if you need me," he added to Buffy giving her a light pat to the shoulder.
"Thanks Xander," Buffy replied before he made his way from the table.
"Well," Willow sighed. "The research isn't going to get done on it's own."
"Right you are. We all finished here?" Giles asked the table.
With a chorus of various agreements, the group began to make their way to their feet as Dawn asked, "Can I help? Look through some books, do some surfing?"
Giles looked to Buffy for approval. "Fine by me," the slayer shrugged.
"Dawnie's become quite the bookworm in recent months. Even helped finger that flesh eating monster I got to know all too well," Willow nodded proudly.
"You don't say?" Giles smiled proudly.
Dawn blushed and Buffy patted her on the back in support. "Look Will. She even blushes like you used to when you got a compliment."
"Too true," Willow answered.
"Any chance of showing me some hacker tips soon?" Dawn asked the witch. "After all Buffy's been training with me physically. Only fair that you sharpen my mind too."
"Yeah but if we train you physically and mentally what good would we be then? That would be a threat to our egos," Willow countered. "Let's just take it one step at a time before you put us old folks out to pasture."
Giles chuckled. "You don't understand the concept of old my dear. Give it another 20 years."
"Since a Slayer rarely makes it out of her teens let alone 40, I'll drink to that," Buffy said, before downing the rest of her orange juice. "Let's get going."
"I think I found something," Dawn said as she continued to read from one of the many books. She handed it over to Willow and pointed to the section she was examining.
Willow began to read as Giles and Buffy waited for her appraisal. "The sword of Mattathias," Willow muttered.
"Mattathias? Really?" Giles asked.
"Okay Gentile Slayer here. What's the story on Mattathias?" Buffy piped in.
Willow looked up, "Oh, sorry. Mattathias started the revolt against the Greeks in Jerusalem when the Greek ruler Antiochus took control of the region and forced the Jews to worship him as a god. Mattathias who was a high Jewish priest refused and killed a Greek officer which began the rebellion."
"The rebellion which became Hanukkah, correct?" Giles asked.
"Well, yes and no," Willow answered. "Mattathias died before then but his son Judah Maccabee took charge of the army. Judah won but that was about three years later. When they got back to the temple for their victory celebration they wanted to light the menorah symbolizing the eternal covenant between God and the Jewish people. They looked for oil but only found a small flask that contained enough oil to light the menorah for one day. Problem was it would take eight days to make more oil. The miracle at Hanukkah occurred when the one day supply of oil burned for eight days and nights until more oil could be made."
"So that's why you have the eight candles," Buffy replied.
"Right," Willow nodded. "It represents the miracle of the eight nights the menorah burned."
"So where does that leave us with our latest vamp problem?"
"I haven't a clue," Willow shrugged.
"Well that was good while it lasted," Buffy retorted.
"But it may not be a total wash out," she walked over and handed the book to Giles and pointed out the passage to him. "See here. It says he who controls the sword of Mattathias will control the Jewish Army. It supposedly has mystical powers like King Arthur's Excalibur. Anyone who has this sword has the power to lead the Jewish nation. At the time of the original battle the Jews were out manned and out weaponed. Logically there was no way they could win but they did. Maybe the Jews are getting ready to battle again."
"Or a band of Jewish vampires? A group of hell demons working for God?" Dawn offered.
Willow nodded. "Perhaps. Those vamps were tough. Tougher than average right?" Willow asked turning to Buffy who nodded. "What if they got the sword? And what if this sword gives their followers unspeakable power."
"That's all well and good," Buffy agreed. "But what's up with the crucifix collection? And why did they beat the crap outta me yet run away from you?"
"Again, I haven't a clue. But it might be something to look into further Actually that's not true. I think our original assumption about religious sects is on the mark I mean the Jews don't see Jesus as the son of God. Grant it he was a swell guy and all but we view him as more of a what would you call it?" she asked resting her hand on Giles shoulder.
"A prophet or a saint?" Giles offered.
"Yeah a prophet, much like the Islamic faith . . . which is kinda ironic when you think about all the fighting between the two," Willow added after considering it. "That's the closest thing I could use to describe him a prophet. And since the cross represents Christianity and the fact that Jesus, the son of God, who died for the sins of mankind according to the Christians, then it would have little holy relevance to a pack of dead, blood thirsty Jews And please no anti-Semitism remarks to that 'blood thirsty Jews' comment."
Giles took his glasses from his face and began to chew on one of the ends. "Forgive me for asking Willow, I realize I should know, but when is Hanukkah this year?"
"November 30th to December 7th. Why?"
"There may be a connection. What exactly I-I'm not sure but perhaps these vamps are planning something of a celebration themselves."
"Well if that's the case we have two weeks," Willow answered. "The Jewish calendar is based on lunar cycles so when the sun sets on November 30th , then Hanukkah begins."
"And the vamps come out to play," Buffy added." But hey! Maybe we'll get lucky and their diabolical plot to take over the world will happen at the end of the Hanukkah. That gives us another eight days." Everyone at the table looked at Buffy. "Okay nothing ever goes according to plan but there's a first time for everything." Willow got a perplexed look on her face. "What is it Will?"
"What if that's it?"
"What if what's what?" Buffy asked.
Willow went over and pulled two books off the shelve handing them to Dawn. "Look through these. Find out whatever you can on Christian-Jewish relations."
"I thought the holy hot spots were between the Jews and the Arabian nations?" Buffy asked.
"To the outside world yes. But since we're at the Hellmouth let's expect the unexpected for a moment Consider this: thanks to the Crusades much of the world holds the Christian belief system. Judaism and the Islamic faiths are in the minority in the media spotlight. What if the Jews staged a 'rebellion' against the highest profiled religious order on earth? Would anyone expect that or see it coming? Honestly? The answer is they wouldn't."
"You raise an excellent point," Giles pointed out. "The world is focused on the relations between the Jews and the Palestinians as it has for thousands of years. What if these vampires decided to use the - what would you call it the 'back door' to world domination by taking out the Gentiles first?"
"And what if they aren't waiting for Hanukkah to stage the new rebellion? What if this years Hanukkah will be the celebration after their efforts? If that's the case that means we have even less time."
"Okay," Buffy began. "Is it too late for me to convert?"
"You have to be either be born of a Jewish mother or be honest about your conversion. Otherwise, it won't 'stick'," Willow offered.
"So I'm a dead woman walking when they decide to 'roll out the barrel'?"
"Yeah pretty much," Willow grinned with a chuckle. "Who ever thought being a Jew might actually help me in life?" she muttered in afterthought.
"Well I for one am grateful," Giles remarked. "And I'm crossing my fingers that you know more about your faith in the hours and days to come."
"Not sure if I can help you there," Willow answered. "It's been a few years since I've practiced but it might come back to me with a little more research," she added optimistically.
They heard the door of the Magic Shop open and watched as Spike walked in. "Well if it isn't the invisible man," Spike grinned, walking over to Giles. "Heard you were back in the old stomping grounds. I've got some information that you might find useful. It's not much but-."
"What is it?" Buffy asked.
"Seems your theory about the Moses demons might be right on. Word on the street is there's a gang planning a naughty shindig thanks to a big, shiny sword."
"You don't say?" Willow grinned as she looked over at Giles who began to smile.
Spike looked to Buffy. "Does Red know something I don't?"
"We've been kicking around ideas but this helps confirm a few speculations," Buffy told him. "Anything more?"
"Afraid not," he answered. "Told you it wasn't much."
"No, actually that's quite helpful Spike," Giles answered.
Anya walked over to the group. "Giles? The council is on the telephone."
"Excuse me," Giles said to the group as he quickly got up and walked to the phone. Spike took his seat and began to thumb through the book in front of him.
"I don't have a location on them yet but it's just a matter of time," Spike said, tossing the book back on the desk.
"Well if our theory's correct, time might be in short supply," Willow told him.
"We think they're planning something for Hanukkah in the next two weeks. Maybe sooner than that."
The door of the magic shop jiggled again as Xander walked in. He turned around the open sign in the window before making his way over to the group. "Any news?"
"Giles is on the phone with the council and Willow has a new theory," Buffy offered.
"Not so great," Willow answered. "If these recent Vamps have their way then you, Dawn, Buffy, Giles and Anya are all doomed."
"And how did you managed to escape the end of the world, Will?"
"Well thousands of years of persecution seems to have paid off. The Jews will be spared if our theory is right."
"So the JAP gets to live while we all get toasted?" Xander pointed to Willow while taking a seat at the table.
"I'm not a Jewish American Princess," Willow retorted as a playful grin came to her lips. "I'm a Queen," she added batting her eyelashes.
The entire table, even Spike, chuckled at the comment.
"Check out the attitude on Red," the vampire replied. "Good on you Love and about bloody time."
"What does that mean?" Willow asked.
"From what I've heard, you've got power. Lots of it. About time you started throwing it around," he smirked.
Willow closed the book she was thumbing through and tossed it on the stack in front of her. "Some powers just shouldn't be thrown around," she said softly, leaving the table. She made her way over to Giles and listened to his side of the conversation.
Buffy watched her leave and then threw a disapproving glare in Spike's direction.
"What?" the vamp asked. "It's true."
She just shook her head and went to watching Dawn read. "Anything yet?"
"Not really," Dawn answered, not looking up from her book. "It's kinda interesting though, seeing what's happened over the ages."
"Well keep reading. Once Spike and I do some patrolling maybe we'll have more information. A hideout would be nice."
The group watched as Giles hung up and motioned Willow over to the group.
"The council thinks our conclusions are on track. They've had reports of soothsayers claiming the rise of a new Jerusalem in the world. Here in Sunnydale as a matter of fact. They too feel that the sword is the key to the power. We get the sword and we strip them of their power."
"Sounds easy enough," Buffy answered. "We've faced worse, right?"
"I don't want you to take this lightly Buffy. On the surface it would appear that we have faced worse but let's not under estimate these chaps. They have super strength and a religious zealot attitude to go along with it. They lost their souls but not their faith. The council's not sure what to make of that fact and they're currently researching how it's possible. But as we know it's not impossible for a demon to regain their soul."
"Here, here," Spike chimed in. "So Buffy and I should check things out then? Find out where the holy lair might be?"
"That should be the first order of business yes. We'll continue our work here."
With that Buffy and Spike rose from the table, leaving the group to their studies. "Where should we start?" Spike asked the slayer.
"Let's cut through the graveyard. Follow their path of departure from the other night. It's a long shot but it's starting place."
Spike gave a nod and obediently followed. They made idle chit chat as they walked along but once they got to the graveyard they quieted their conversation and took a path that lead out the other side of the cemetery. They walked along, pushing past overgrowth until they came to the onset of a lake.
They peeked through some bushes and found what looked like a compound filled with trucks, weapons and vamps. Loads of vamps. On the grounds they also found an assortment of small structures and one large one filling the area.
"Bloody hell," Spike whispered. "How many of them do you think there are?"
"More than we can take on that's for sure," Buffy whispered back. "Let's get to the Magic Shop and put a plan in motion."
Buffy and Spike returned about an hour after they left to the surprise of everyone.
"What happened?" Willow asked.
"We found it," Buffy said despondently. "They're held up at Lake Higgins, just outside the cemetery."
"That's good, right?"
"Oh yeah if the place wasn't surrounded by hundreds of vamps that would be even better."
"Hundreds? You're kidding," Giles asked as he stood up. "Of course you're not kidding. What am I saying?"
"Well how many do you think?" Willow asked.
Buffy looked to Spike, "What? Around 300 or so?"
"Yeah at least. With that big building it's hard to say. It could be barracks of some kind. Maybe more than 300."
"I didn't think Sunnydale had a Jewish population that large especially not Jewish vampires," Xander answered.
"They may not all be from Sunnydale," Giles offered. "Perhaps they've been 'recruiting' from other areas."
"I think you're onto something Giles," Buffy answered. "Aren't Jews required to make a pilgrimage of some kind?"
"Yeah they are. To the holy land," Willow replied.
"Maybe Sunnydale is the new Jerusalem for the Jewish undead like the council mentioned."
"Speaking of the council they called back again," Giles began. "According to their sources they believe they have the name of a leader - someone powerful, ancient."
"Oh really?" Buffy asked.
"Yes he goes by the name of Judah."
"You mean THE Judah?" Buffy asked. "The one that Willow told us about?"
"The council is researching to find out if he's one in the same."
"If it is the same Judah, the Torah left out that small detail. You know, the one about the leader of the Jews being..all blood sucky," Willow added.
"Yes and the council believes that if we destroy Judah it will also destroy his hierarchy," Giles continued.
"He has a hierarchy now? You mean like a group of lackeys?"
"Yes and hopefully many of the ones you seen tonight would be affected. If he allowed them all to drink from his blood, which he may to give them greater power then destroying him could mean destroying this congregation."
"So all we need to do is kill the leader? Then Judah's blood becomes Jonestown kool-aid?" Xander asked snapping his fingers.
"More or less yes," Giles agreed.
Buffy took a moment for her mind to digest all the words.
"Well what's the plan?" Dawn asked when no one continued. "What are you going to do?"
"First I'm gonna get that sword," Buffy answered. "Steal their strength."
"Well it's not like you can just walk right in there," Anya added. "Not with that many demons held up."
"She's got a point Buf," Spike replied as he pulled out a cigarette and lit it. "We've got to devise something other than becoming moving targets. These boys were heavily armed. You saw the goods."
"They had guns?" Xander asked.
"A bunch," Buffy answered. "Bringing them in by the truck load."
"Well you can't just walk in there," Anya began again.
"I realize that. We need a plan," Buffy replied. "Look, it's past dinner time. Why don't I call up the Pizza Shack, order us a few rounds and figure out our next step?"
"Sounds like the best plan so far," Dawn interjected.
Giles watched as Willow put on her coat. "Where are you off to?"
"I've got a Torah at the house I want to grab and some other books. Want me to swing by and grab the pizza's?"
"A researcher and a delivery person cool!" Buffy smiled.
"Here," Xander said tossing his keys. "Take my car. Just try to bring it back in one piece."
Willow grinned. "I'll try but no promises."
"Your excellence? There's a young woman here to see you."
The vampire gave a slight bow to another who appeared to be seated on a make shift throne. The d cor was much to be desired. It was an aluminum barrack structure with no decorations with the exception of crucifix hung all over the area. Guards lined the long expansion of the wall on either side.
"Ahh," the ruler said, rising to his feet, taking his sword along with him. "The Gentile Slayer as finally arrived as foretold. By all means, show her in."
With another nod the vampire left and returned with his charge. He motioned her to step deeper into the room. With a polite nod to her escort she turned to face her 'host'.
"Shalom," she nodded politely to him.
The ruler gave a chuckled and walked several feet closer but not any great distance near her given the size of the structure.
"My prophets have told me you would come Slayer. At last we meet," he began, taking notice of her apparel. She wore black boots with black hip huggers and a solid black blouse with a row of numerous buttons up the front.
"Thanks for the villainous Darth Vadery welcome," Willow smiled. "But I'm not the Slayer I'm just a Slayerette And you've got something we need."
"Funny girl." He grinned and pointed to two guards along the wall. "Kill her please," he said politely. They charged ahead and with a simple swipe of her hand the guards flew back against the wall, shaking the crucifixes that hung there.
"You know," Willow began. "It's schlemiel's like you that create all the anti-Semitism out there," Willow began. "And what's with all the crucifix decorations? Planning some elaborate spell or concoction to knock off the Gentiles of the world?"
"You're a smart girl. But then again you are Jewish, aren't you?"
"So I m right? Go figure."
"Too bad you won't be around to see the big show," he said confidently. "And all those Christmas presents they'll be useless this year."
"I think I get it," Willow told him as she started to walk forward. "You use the 'link' of Christ to get to the Christians somehow the more crosses you have the larger a key for what you've got planned. I gotta tell ya. Ya get an 'A' when it comes to creativity. But there's no way you're gonna pass the final exam. The slayer and the Slayerette won't let that happen."
"Is that so?"
"Yeah that's so. You can call my alliance with the Slayer a merging of Christian-Jewish relations two religions with one goal - getting rid of you."
"That's not gonna happen," he said boldly. Willow just grinned and walked a few feet closer.
"Look, we can do this the easy way or the easier way," Willow told him. Subconsciously, Judah found himself moving backward with each menacing step Willow made toward him.
"Get her!" he shouted. The remaining guards darted from their position.
"Protect!" the redhead yelled, becoming shrouded in a ball of light.
As they moved in, the force that encompassed Willow pushed them back several feet, leaving them unable to harm her. They all looked at each other and then to their leader unsure of what to do next. One guard pulled his gun and fired a shot, which ricocheted off the beams surrounding Willow, hitting a guard two vamps down from him.
"Son of -! Stop that! I'm undead but it still hurts," the injured guard yelled.
Willow totally ignored the commotion. She focused on one vampire and one vampire only, getting closer step by step. She stopped in the middle of the room as Judah scrambled up to his throne. "Easy way I take the sword. Easier way you give me the sword. Either way I get the sword So what's it gonna be?"
Anger and fear showed on his face all at once. "Over my dead body."
"Well you are already dead," Willow pointed out. "So I'll take that as the answer." She reached out and the sword flew from Judah's grasp, landing in her own hand. "It's been fun," Willow replied, as she examined the sword for a brief moment. As quick as she could, she ran from the building and outside.
Judah and the guards stood by totally stunned before Judah's senses took hold of what just happened.
"Well don't just stand there! Get her!" he shouted.
The guards began to shout to their cohorts outside and gave chase on foot. Willow was already through the brush and climbing under the fence. Her protection spell however was wearing off. She spotted Xander's car parked in the cemetery to see the first wave of Vamps following her, pushing under the broken chain-link fence.
"Open," she muttered, feeling drained. She literally fell into the driver's side and started the car as she pulled her legs and feet inside. "Close. Lock" Abruptly the door slammed shut and the locks flew into place. She threw the car into drive as the vamps tried desperately to catch her. Unable to stop her departure the leader of the hunt pointed to two vamps.
"You. Follow her. Find out where she goes and report back here. Got it?"
They nodded and took off running down the street.
Willow arrived at the Magic Shop, stumbling inside with the sword. "Chest. Table," she called out. Suddenly Buffy's weapons chest from the house was sitting in the middle of the shop as the group sprang to their feet. Buffy and Spike who were the closest to the front door raced over. "Gates. Lock" she called out this time. The window security and locks of the front door closed with a loud clatter. She took a few steps but started to collapse. Spike caught her decent and she dropped the sword. Deadpan she looked up to Buffy who was knelling over her. "Damn it. I forgot the pizza."
Buffy examined Willow and spotted the sword. "What did you do? Did you go in there?"
Willow nodded. "Bringing the fight to us," she muttered. "Need to secure the back." She nodded toward the training room and pointed.
"Xander, Anya-," Buffy began.
"We're on it," Xander answered as he and Anya raced to the training room to block the back entrance.
"I can't believe you did this," Giles said as he made his way over. Willow could hear the displeasure in his voice.
"Had to," she answered as she tried to sit up. Spike helped steady her against the nearby bookshelf. "We need the sword and Buffy couldn't get it. Not with that many vamps. It was the only way."
"Yes but now you've managed to lead them right back here!" Giles answered. "They'll come for the sword."
"I'm planning on it," Willow answered, slowly getting her breathe back. "Now we fight them on our turf. By our rules."
"That doesn't matter! You still should have consulted us!"
"Back off!" Spike shouted to Giles before turning to Willow. "Listen Red. What you did took guts. And it's better than sitting here talking about what to do while they're out doing it. Good on you, I say. At least someone in this bloody group has a set on 'em."
"She still should have told us Spike," Buffy answered.
Willow gave a slight chuckle. "So, you would have let me go then?"
"I didn't say that," Buffy replied, unable to meet Willow's eyes.
"You don't have to. I know the answer which is why I did it in the first place," Willow explained. "But you can all yell at me later. Right now we need to get set for their arrival. Battling 300 badies who have to fit through one or two doors at a time is much easier than 300 in a warehouse. We've got the sword, which means we've got their strength. But that's not enough. We've gotta take 'em out."
Willow tried to stand and Buffy and Spike lent a hand by hoisting her up on either side.
"I can't believe how irresponsible you've behaved tonight," Giles sighed as he followed Willow. She made her way to a stool by the counter, clutching her temple.
"Like I said, yell at me later. Get the chest ready now."
"Willow you don't understand the ramifications of this. You-."
"No Jeeves! You don't understand!" Willow's eyes blackened over and Giles took a step back. She took a deep, calming breath, rubbing her forehead to release the tension. When she looked back to Giles her eyes appeared normal. "I'm sorry," she began. "but sending Buffy in there would mean certain death. I spent enough time around the council to know that would have been their request. I couldn't let that happen."
Giles rubbed the side of his face. "That's not true. They wanted to send you."
"What?" the room asked in harmony.
Giles nodded. "Yes," he began. "but I was against it. I told them I wasn't sure if you were ready And I didn't want to risk losing you to the darkness if it should come to that."
Willow gave a harrumph. "Thanks for the vote of confidence Giles." He reached for her but she moved off the stool, heading toward the chest on the table, avoiding his touch.
Dawn walked over with a bottle of aspirin and water. "Here you go," she said. "Figured you'd need them."
"Thanks Dawnie." She opened the top, letting it fall to the ground. The bottle was nearly empty so Willow tossed the remaining ones into her hand, not bothering to count them and popped them in her mouth before taking a big swig of water.
"We're all secure out back," Xander said as he and Anya returned from the training room. "Anything else?"
"We get armed and we wait," Willow answered.
Buffy walked over to Willow. "What makes you think this will work?"
"Well," the redhead began, "when the Persian Army attacked Greece, Xena lead them to a little house and killed 'em one by one. It worked for her." Xander chuckled but quickly shut up when the rest of the group failed to find the humor. "Come on guys. I'm joking okay?" Willow added. When nobody said anything she continued. "Well kinda Xena did beat the Persians that way," Willow muttered guiltily before her voice grew strong again, "However it makes more sense to fight them in here instead of trying to take them on unfamiliar ground or out in the open."
"Yes but in planning all this did you stop to consider this is not YOUR Magic Shop?" Anya piped in. "Do you have any idea how difficult it is to insure this place now? I had to beg and hand over a check with an enormous figure to my agent after the last time you trashed it."
"We won't let them trash it much," Willow answered. "And I did apologize. I even offer to help you with cleaning it up and the extra costs," Willow added.
"And where does a non-working student get her money from anyway? Her part-time employed Slayer?" Anya retorted.
Willow's hands immediately went to her hips in defiance. "You know Anya-."
Xander stepped between them before things went any further. "Look, we've got 300 evil Jews on a pilgrimage to kick our ass. Chances are they're not gonna be in the best of moods. So can we put the bickering on hold long enough to defend ourselves?"
"Excellent point," Giles answered.
"She started it," Willow muttered.
"You did when you ruined my shop the first time," Anya muttered back.
"Enough!" Buffy yelled. The room fell silent and they watched as Buffy went over to the chest. She picked up a cross bow and tossed it to Spike. "You in the back." Next she pulled out a sword, handing it to Dawn. "You upfront with me." Next came a series of stakes she placed on the table for Xander and Anya. "You two back with Spike."
"I don't want to be in Spike's group," Xander complained. The look on Buffy's face gave no room for argument and quietly he picked up the stakes, walking back and Anya followed suit.
"Giles, you stay up front with me. Keep watch over Dawn."
When Buffy didn't give Willow any directions the redhead issued an attention getting cough in her direction.
"Yes?" Buffy answered slightly annoyed.
"Where do you want me?"
"Does it matter?" Buffy answered flippantly. "You'll go wherever you damn well please anyway. What's the point?"
"Don't 'hey Buffy' me," the slayer began. "Giles isn't the only one slightly pissed over the little stunt you pulled tonight. For the record, I agree with you. I think we should fight them on our ground. But to go off and do it on your own to not tell anyone you've acted like a renegade Slayer who thinks she doesn't need to answer to anyone."
"Don't even compare me to Faith," Willow warned.
"And why not? You act the same."
"I did this to protect you! It wasn't a selfish whim used for an adrenaline rush."
Buffy walked over to the sword that Willow had retrieved. It still lay on the ground where Willow had dropped it. "We'll fight about this later," she said as she reached down. She wrapped her fingers around the hilt but immediately dropped it, grasping her fingers.
"What's wrong?" Willow asked coming over.
"It burned me," Buffy answered.
Willow reached down and picked it up with no problem, testing the weight of it in her hand. "It doesn't bother me."
"Buffy isn't Jewish," Giles said as he made his way over. "Perhaps only someone of Hebrew descent can hold it."
Willow took the sword by the blade and motioned toward Giles. "Don't grab it," she warned, "just touch it." Giles reached out a tentative finger. Upon hitting the metal, his hand darted away. "Proves that theory," Willow shrugged.
Buffy opened her mouth to reply but the sound of the pounding on the door stopped her. Quickly she looked over. "Looks like it's show time," she whispered.
"Flip as many as you can this way and Dawn and I will 'cap' 'em," Willow told the Slayer who answered with a nod.
When the door finally gave, three vamps worked their way inside and to her word Buffy tossed each one over her shoulder. The first two landed between Willow and Dawn. With powerful swings of the swords they decapitated them, turning them to dust. The third slid to a stop in front of Giles. Before the vamp could rise Giles buried a stake deep in his heart.
In the back, Xander ordered Anya to stand behind the door and threw her a mace. "When they come in hit them," he told her. "We'll take it from there."
As the door crashed open Anya stepped forward striking the first vamp in the head. He turned around and ripped the mace from Anya's hand. Before he could use it however, Spike sent a wood projectile into his back and through his heart. Anya reached out and grabbed the mace back before it could hit the floor as the attacker disappeared. Two more advanced on Xander and Spike. Both of them rushed forward as Spike reloaded. Xander tried to stake the one coming in his direction but his blow was easily blocked. The vamp knocked the stake from his hand and tossed him across the room. He landed with a thud and looked around for something to fight with. The wood javelin behind him caught his attention. He darted to his feet and swung it around as the vamp approached to finish him off.
Xander thrust the long spear forward and watched him turn to dust but three others had entered since that time.
"There's too bloody many of them," Spike yelled to Xander as he reloaded once again.
Willow overheard Spike's plight and she shouted to Giles. "Take over for a second."
She ran toward the training room, stopping in the doorway. Eight vamps had all three of them surrounded in the training room with more coming in. She cast her hand in the direction of the small triangle the scoobies made for themselves as they stood shoulder to shoulder.
"Protect," she yelled over to them, encasing the group in a glowing light. Seeing they were impervious now the three advanced on their attackers and in a matter of moments turned them to dust. Not resting, all three stayed ready as more vamps poured through the door, taking them out ten by ten.
Willow turned back in time to watch one vamp throw Buffy behind counter in strong heave. He advanced toward Giles and Dawn and once more Willow cast a protection spell, this time over Dawn and Giles. With her attention in two directions, covering 5 people she began to wear down quickly. She rested against the doorframe, trying her best to stay upright and conscious of what was happening. After several moments and what seemed like hundreds of vamps their numbers finally slowed down and stopped altogether. Buffy rose holding her head. With one giant leap she hopped over the counter. When no further vamps came through the front Giles looked over and shouted to Willow.
"Lift the spell!"
She glanced over to see they were okay and the light disappeared around them with a flicker. She slide down the doorframe, her legs finally giving out from under her, her body totally drained. Only three vamps remained in the training room but Spike ordered Xander and Anya out when their protection spell fell before they could finish the job. Not having to be told twice, Xander and Anya rushed over to the doorway of the shop to see how things were fairing on the other side of the building.
"How many came through?" Willow asked Xander.
"Oh I don't know? 1001?"
"No jokes," Willow said trying to regain her breathe. "How many really?"
"About 100," Anya replied. "With minimal damage it appears," she grinned happily as she looked around her shop.
Willow gave a half chuckle and tried to move to her feet but Giles put a hand on her shoulder. "Rest sweetheart. You'll need your strength."
"Oh now I'm sweetheart," Willow grinned. "I was scourge of the earth a few minutes ago."
Buffy had since joined the group and moved to her knees at Willow's side. "We know why you did it Will. Yeah, we didn't agree with your methods but we don't think you're scourge of the earth either."
"So I'm not Faith anymore?"
"You never were," Buffy confessed. "And I'm sorry my temper and mouth got ahead of my brain."
"And I'm sorry my brain got ahead of my mouth," Willow grinned. "You're right. I should have said something before I left." Buffy's grin told Willow that she accepted the apology and both women were relieved to come to a truce. Willow began to look at both doors. "We had about 50 wouldn t you say Dawn?"
The girl nodded. "At least."
"That means about half are gone," Spike added as he made his way over to join the group. "Half to go."
"Will," Xander said pointing to Willow's face. "Your nose is bleeding."
Willow wiped her nose with the back of her thumb, seeing the blood. "So it is," she sighed. Giles reached into his pocket, giving her his handkerchief. "Thanks."
This time when Willow began to stand she made it to her feet without help. Giles and Buffy followed.
"Now what? Wait for the others?" Buffy asked.
No one had a chance to reply. Judah and five other vamps entered the front door.
"You're wait is over," he told her.
He strolled confidently inside the Magic Shop, looking around. "Nice place you've got here. Lots of rare items. But I'll confess. I only came for one."
He pointed to the sword that Willow had and instinctively she tightened her hold on it.
"Sorry," Buffy told him. "We're closed and that's not for sale anyway." She picked up a stake and advanced on him. He didn't even try to fight. He watched as she buried it in his chest and stepped back. Instead of turning to dust he just looked down at the protruding wood in his body. He pulled it out and threw it at her feet.
"Silly girl," he laughed at her. "There's only one weapon that will kill me in this world. And you can't even touch it."
With that he began to engage Buffy as the other vamps advanced on the group members. At least ten more vamps worked their way back into the training room. Thinking quickly, Spike grabbed Xander's javelin and hurled it toward the door staking three of them at once before rushing into battle. Dawn and Giles could only form a defensive stance as more vamps poured inside. Buffy glanced to Willow and she tried to work Judah around so his back was to the Wicca.
"You don't understand," Judah taunted Buffy. "I'm not looking to destroy the world. Just the inferior people in it. A perfect order will finally be in line when we've eradicated the Gentiles. It will only be a matter of time before the Islam faithful and others fall too."
"So a 'master race' huh? How hypocritical and Hitler of you," Buffy retorted.
"Enough games," Judah announced as he grabbed Buffy by the throat.
Willow tried a protection spell but nothing was happening. She was far too drained. She looked around the room. Two vamps held Spike while a third pummeled him and a forth readied a stake to kill him. Xander and Anya continued to swing their weapons but failed to make a connection as more vamps surrounded them. Giles and Dawn weren't fairing much better as they backed up into a corner. Willow watched Buffy's feet dangle in the air as Judah held her above him, choking her. With what strength she had left Willow charged toward Judah, sword in hand. He looked back upon hearing her footsteps. He dropped Buffy and tried to turn to face Willow. The blow that Willow delivered came too quickly for him and took his head clean off. Suddenly, one by one, the vamps in the room and the ones who had just begun to enter started to combust before their eyes. After a few moments a quiet hush fell over the area.
Xander, Spike and Anya came to the front of the magic shop. Giles quickly ran outside as everyone tried to calm their nerves. He came back in, looking to Buffy first.
"Nothing. They're all gone."
A collective sigh when around the room.
Xander walked up to Buffy. "Now what was that you said about this one being easy?"
She just shrugged. "So sue me," she grinned.
"I just don t think I'm ready to tell them," Willow told the Watcher.
Buffy was helping the others clean the rooms of the magic shop when she overheard their conversation in the small storage room. For a moment, she considered just moving on but her curiosity got the better of her and she bent an ear to listen instead.
"We need to tell them. They deserve the truth," Giles pleaded.
"Part of me wants too. But another part isn't sure how they'll react. Especially, Buffy. I mean she's my best friend and you're her watcher Giles. How do you think she's going to take it?"
"I don't care how she'll take it," he answered.
"We both know that's not the case."
Buffy heard Giles give a long sigh. "Yes, you're right. I do care but they deserve to know the truth Willow. I haven't said anything to them but if we go on as we have It just makes it seem scandalous. They could be far more understanding than you're imagining."
"Or far worse," Willow retorted. Giles wasn't saying anything and Buffy couldn t tell what was going on. She couldn't see the exchange. She could only hear it. Next she heard a kissing noise followed by a reluctant sigh from Willow. "Okay. Let's do it now. Let's go out and tell them."
Buffy raced back to the other side of the shop where everyone was cleaning. Her arms folded across her chest as she waited for Giles and Willow to come in.
"Everyone," Giles announced getting the room's attention. "Willow and I have something we need to discuss with all of you."
Something snapped inside of Buffy. Xander was right. It was true. The two of them were having an affair. Even though she heard their conversation moments ago, a part of her still couldn't believe it.
"How could you?" Buffy began as she looked at Giles with disgust.
"Excuse me?" he asked, completely thrown off by the demeaning tone in her voice.
"How could you have an affair with Willow? For God's sake, it's Willow. And your-your Giles What were you thinking?"
Xander dropped the broom he was holding. The rattle of the wood against the tile was the only sound in the shop.
"Buffy," Willow said stepping closer. Instinctively Buffy moved back, shooing Willow's outstretched arm away. Willow gave up and let her arm drop "Why are you-?"
"Don't play dumb Will," Buffy continued. "I overheard you talking to Giles out back. I know you didn't want to say anything about it and he's putting you up to it. The looks, the touches. We all figured out what's going on."
Buffy held up her finger cutting Willow off as she turned her anger toward Giles.
"And you!" Buffy said as she started to pace and mimic Giles in a bad English accent. "Let me take her to England. Give me a chance to reform her Yeah you reformed her alright Giles. In more ways, than one obviously."
Giles started to show signs of his own anger as the pulse on his neck became visible. Willow stepped in front of him, putting her hands on his chest so he wouldn't step forward. He looked down at her and she winked with a tiny, evil grin and mouthed 'play along'. Quickly she turned around and faced the group.
"I told you this is how they would react. They would never accept us together," she said.
It took every thing that Giles had not to start smiling. He put his hands on Willow's shoulders protectively. "Bad time to tell them about the baby then?" he added.
"Oh dear God," Xander replied in which could be characterized as a high-pitched girly squeal of horror. Everyone else wore equally shocked expressions.
Buffy opened her mouth three times to say something but each time a single word refused to escape. All she managed was a 'Ba, Ba, Ba' sound.
"Baby," Willow finished. "The word is baby. I'm three months along now. Giles felt it was important for us to tell you while he's still here."
Xander stomped over. "What do you mean while he's still here? If you're having his ba ba..
"Baby?" Willow finished again.
"Right," Xander answered. "If that's the case, then he better not leave you Will."
"He's not leaving me. He's going to find a bigger place in Bathe and eventually I'm going to join him."
"What?" was the collective word in the group.
Willow nodded. "I love him so I'm moving to England."
"But don't worry Xander," Giles began. "I have done the responsible thing and I've asked Willow to marry me." Her turned her around so she stood face to face with him. "Happy to announce that she said yes."
Just when the group thought they couldn't feel more shocked they watched as Giles raised Willow's chin with his fingertips and place a slow burning kiss on her lips. A collective 'eww' went around the room. Giles and Willow lost their reserve at that point and couldn't continue the charade. They started to laugh - slowly, at first and then uncontrollably.
Buffy didn't understand but then she quickly realized what was happening.
"Sorry," Giles said between laughing. "Sorry for having you all on but we couldn't help it."
"So there's no baby?" Xander asked.
"No baby. No affair. Giles always has been and always will be the perfect gentleman," Willow told the room. She paused a moment considering it all " .My God, I can't believe you people. You actually thought Giles and I were having an affair?" Willow asked Buffy.
"I didn't! I mean, not a first. It was Xander! Xander's the one to blame!" Buffy replied quickly, pointing at him.
"Now hold on," Xander remarked. "I suspected something was going on 'Miss Come Right Out and Confront Them'. I said I was going to wait. You're the one that jumped to conclusions!"
"Me? Me?! I was the only one in this sorry lot that said they couldn't possibly be having an affair!" Quickly Buffy turned to Willow and Giles. "You gotta believe me. I was the voice of reason in this group."
"Note the use of the past tense was the voice of reason," Xander retorted.
Buffy and Xander continued to argue until Anya turned to Willow and Giles. "So what's with all the touching?" she asked. "I've never seen you two that close."
"Oh that's just part of Willow's recovery. Perhaps the others didn t tell you."
"Tell who what?" Buffy asked.
Willow had a guilty look on her face and Giles folded his arms across his chest. "You didn't tell them did you?" he asked her.
Willow shuffled from foot to foot for a moment. "Oh come on. What am I supposed to say to them? 'Look guys you gotta touch me on a regular basis or I might go psycho again'. I'm sorry Giles but asking my friends to touch me .that just sounds too weird."
"Huh?" Buffy and Xander echoed.
Giles began to explain. "Part of Willow's recover is for her to be connected to humanity. It's common knowledge in the psychology world that in order for people to be truly happy in life, they need at least 10 human touches a day nothing sexual mind you. Just physical closeness a hug, a caress and so forth."
"Okay but what about the sushi restaurant?" Buffy said. "I saw Willow kiss your hand Giles."
"The resta-. You followed us?" Willow asked extremely agitated. "What gives you the right to spy on us?"
"It wasn't my idea!" Buffy replied quickly. "Right, Xander?"
"Nobody twisted your arm to come," Xander told her. Buffy grit her teeth and snarled at him.
"You were there too?" Willow asked Xander. "Did you take the whole family or was this something that you two cooked up alone?" Anya and Dawn looked away guiltily. "Oh I don't believe this."
"Spike was there too," Dawn muttered.
"Even better!" Willow started to pace. "Okay, for the record I kissed Giles because of something he said to me. Something about being proud of me and since it was a PRIVATE conversation I'm not saying any thing more."
"And the conversation in the store room just now?" Buffy asked.
Willow motioned to Giles. "Well, that's what we originally planned to tell you a few moments ago - the council feels it would be in our best interest if Willow played more of an active role in your slayer duties. A-As she's proved tonight, she can be a powerful force to use in our fight. She wasn't sure if you would feel threatened as if she were trying to take the place of Slayer so she didn't feel comfortable saying anything. She didn't want to tell you and end up offending you in someway. I tried to reassure her that you wouldn't take it as an insult and that perhaps this would even come as good news to you. Some extra help you need in your fight against evil as it were."
Buffy looked at Xander although she was speaking to Giles. "So you and Willow aren't romantically involved in any way, shape or form?"
"Good gracious no!" Giles answered, as Willow replied, "Absolutely not!" at the same time.
Quickly Willow made up for the disgust she was sure Giles heard in her voice. "Now that's not to say that Giles isn't a dashing gentlemen. I'm sure lots of ladies would find him debonair. But he's kinda not my type, you know?"
"Well there is that 20 year difference in age too," he offered. "I realize that Willow's grown into a beautiful woman but still I'm not a cradle robber Despite what any of you may think," he threw in for good measure.
"I'm sorry," Buffy muttered guiltily. The rest of the group joined in the chorus of apologies.
"Well now that that's all settled," Giles announced. "Why don't we finish cleaning up and call it a night?"
Giles went back to the training room as Willow walked behind the register to get the dustpan. As she came back around, Buffy stopped her.
"Will, I'm sorry for a lot of things tonight," she started. "Please try to forgive me."
"I'm sorry too Buffy so don't worry about it. All is forgiven." She started to walk away but Buffy stopped her again.
"Hey Will," she whispered. She grinned to lighten the mood. "Just between you and me strictly out of curiosity and no deep hidden desires mind you Is Giles a good kisser?"
Willow grinned too and leaned down conspiratorially. "On scale of one to ten," she whispered. "An eleven Twenty years older and a little less gayer I might want to get to know the Ripper better." She pulled back and gave the slayer a wink. Buffy stood momentarily shocked yet again as she heard Willow chuckle on her way back to the training room.
Maybe Xander's right. Maybe we should keep an eye on those two.