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"I don't know whatever possessed me to do this." Giles gazed gloomily at Cordelia's BMW pulling into the school parking lot.
"C'mon, Giles, it'll be fun," Buffy said cheerfully. "Well, as much fun as anything could be with Cordelia around."
"Yes, but she'll be off shopping at places we can't even begin to afford," Willow pointed out. "So we can still have fun."
"I'm not sure spending the day watching teenage girls shop is my idea of a splendid afternoon," Giles muttered.
"That's because you have no life, Giles. You need to get out of that library more often, and if this is the only way we can do it, we will." Buffy waved at the car and it veered toward them.
"And we'll force ourselves to enjoy every minute, won't we?" Willow chirped.
"Oh, absolutely," Buffy answered. "Look, there's Sarah. Good. I was afraid she'd be late."
"Maybe... maybe I could just meet you there?" Giles took a step towards his car, but Buffy grabbed the back of his coat and steered him towards the BMW. "Not a chance, Giles," she chirped. "You get to spend most of the week lecturing me into training sessions. Turnabout is fair play."
Sarah was walking up the sidewalk. She waved when she saw them and broke into a trot. "Hi," she said when she reached them. "Am I late?"
"No," Willow assured. "Cordy's probably still trying to decide if she's actually going to let us in."
Buffy pounded on the door. "Open up, Cordelia!"
"Oh, dear," Giles murmured.
Sarah caught him by the arm. "Here. I got something for you." She pulled out a discman and handed him a few cds. "Nothing very loud. Celtic stuff, very soothing."
Giles gingerly took them from her. "Er.. Thank you... but I really don't think..."
She leaned closer to him. "You are going to be stuck in a car with three teenage girls. Who will be listening to music. THEIR music. Loudly."
She never saw anyone put on a set of headphones faster. She showed him how to load a cd, pointed out the play button, and he smiled gratefully before Buffy shoved him into the front seat and clambered into the back. Cordelia looked over at him and said something, but he couldn't hear her over the music pouring over the headphones, but he smiled brightly and nodded. She gave him a peculiar look, and he wondered what he had just given permission to. Then he decided he really didn't want to know, and opened the book he had brought with him. For him, at least, the drive was peaceful and uninterrupted.
Apparently it wasn't quite so with the others. By the time Cordelia had parked the car at some mid-way point between the store he wanted to go to and the stores she wanted to go to, Cordelia and Buffy weren't speaking to each other (Giles thought his day might continue in peace after all). Willow's face was frozen in concern. Of the four of them, Sarah was the only one who seemed unconcerned. He carefully pulled off the headphones and gave the set back to her. "You spend much time around teenagers?" he asked.
"You are remarkably unfazed," he said dryly, nodding to the three girls, two ignoring each other, and the other trying desperately to mediate. "Poor Willow," he added thoughtfully. "She always ends up being the peacemaker. And usually fails miserably."
"It will be good practice for her," Sarah said, unconcerned.
"What, failing miserably?" Giles looked at her in surprise.
She chuckled. "No. Diplomacy. But I rather like your look at it."
"Now," Cordelia said, posed with one hand on her hip, obviously taking charge. "You four go do whatever uncool thing it was that you were going to do. I am going shopping. We meet for lunch at two, then we head back home, so we can get back long before nighttime, and I can go to the dance at the Bronze. And if anyone sees us together, I do not know who you are. Got that?"
"Did we have a choice?" Buffy asked icily.
"Well, of course we have a choice," Willow said anxiously. "We could always just go shopping with Cordelia. You know, follow her every movement. Go with her everywhere."
Cordelia gave her a withering look. "Don't you start thinking you're the Queen of Come-backs," she sniffed and walked away.
"There," Willow said happily. "She's gone. Which way is the store, Giles?"
"That was definately cool, Will," Buffy said with satisfaction.
"How did I get stuck with this?" Giles wondered.
"Because you're the Watcher," Buffy said decisively. "It's part of the job."
"I don't recall reading in any of the journals about Watchers taking their Slayer shopping," Giles informed her as they walked down the street. "Unless, perhaps, if it was for weapons."
"You are not taking me shopping," she pointed out. "I am going shopping with you. There's a difference. I am not buying anything. Besides, you could be starting a whole new wonderful tradition, here."
"Lord help us," Giles muttered. Willow and Sarah shot each other mischievious glances. "This way, girls," he said and turned the corner down a little side street. Despite the fact that it was just off a major street, with many stores and businesses, this street seemed quiet and little-traveled. Somehow, that didn't surprise Buffy in the slightest.
About halfway down the block, Giles stopped in front of a small storefront. "Here we are," he announced and went lightly up the steps.
Buffy didn't really know how to categorize the store. It was a sort of blend between a New Age store, with crystals, sparkly jewelry and candles, with a book store, from old-looking volumes behind the counter in a glass case, and new paperback books on various religions, psychologies, and recipies, with a coffee/tea/herbal counter to one side, complete with a couple of small tables with chairs scattered around them. There was even a counter with some of those fantasy card games that had become so popular lately. The store smelled of incense and herbs, with the rich smell of coffee weaving through it, and the faint whift of chocolate chip cookies.
"Rupert!" came a call from the back of the store, and a plump little man came up the crowded aisles. "It's good to see you again."
"Hullo, Thomas," Giles said pleasantly. "These are... um... these are... Buffy, and Willow, and Sarah."
"And you were about to say something else," the man chided, "but I won't push you on it. I never do, do I? And you are Buffy?" She held out her hand hesitantly, and it disappeared in both of his. "I have heard a lot about you, young woman."
"You have?" she asked, shooting a panicked look at Giles.
"It's all right, Buffy," Giles assured her. "Thomas and I have known each other for quite a while."
"And I have a package for you, just like you said there would be," Thomas said. "It was dropped off just yesterday. The holy water, I believe? Anyway, it sloshes. But come, come." He scurried up to the front of the store and put a "Closed for Lunch" sign in the window. "Come have some tea. Miriam has blended your favorite, with a bag for you to take back with you. And we have soda for the young ladies, if they do not prefer tea. You do have time to stay a few minutes, don't you?" he ended plaitatively. "It would be such a relief to have someone to talk to about the real stuff, and not Oujii boards, love spells, and magic wands."
"Magic wands?" Willow asked. "I didn't know there were actually such things."
"Willow is in magical training," Giles said. "We will also need some of the basics packaged up for her."
"Do I get a magic wand?" she asked eagerly.
"Come, come," Thomas urged, and they followed him to the back of the store. He pushed aside a long clowing tapistry-like curtain and opened the door behind it into a larger room. He winked at Willow. "This is where we keep the Real Stuff," he said in a whisper to her.
This room was even more cluttered and filled than the store front. He waved them to a few overstuffed chairs. "Miriam sends her wishes, Rupert. She has treatment today, and couldn't be here, but she made cookies and left tea for everyone." He bustled around a small kitchenette, pouring mugs of water while dodging the large grey cat that batted at his feet,.
"How is Miriam?" Giles asked softly.
Thomas paused in mid-bustle. "As can be expected," he said simply. "I'll be right back." He ran up a set of stairs.
"His wife has cancer," Giles said in a low voice. "Terminal, actually. " He took off his glasses and absently cleaned them with a handkerchief. "Not even the strongest magic can fight that effectively." He put his glasses back on. "Beautiful woman. Very kind. The world will miss her."
Footsteps clattered down the stairs, and Thomas emerged with a tray of cookies and some cans of soda. "Now, just enjoy yourself, while I put together a kit for young Willow here."
"But you should have some cookies too," Willow insisted.
Thomas patted his overlarge stomach. "Trust me, my dear. I already have." He winked at her, and hurried around the room, gathering items and putting them in a large bag. "I have no doubt Rupert will teach you about these, so I won't explain what they are, but they will certainly be a good start for you." He stopped at a long table with large glass jars of herbs, and filled several small plastic bags with various contents.
"Oh, and Sarah has a list of herbs, as well," Giles remembered, starting on his third cookie. He had forgotten what a good cook Miriam was, and the wonderful talent she had with blending teas.
'Oh, my, well, let me take a look." He came over and took the list from Sarah.
"You might not have some of them," she said hesitantly. "But I've made it without the rarer ones before."
"But that must not taste very well," he said, scanning the list. "Those are the ones that hide the medicine taste, aren't they? Your throat, is it?"
She nodded, and he smiled. "Well, don't you worry, now. I have them all in stock, and I'll give you a gracious plenty so you won't run out. And I'll also give you my card. Whenever you run low again, just give me a call. If you can't get in, I'll mail them too you. I know our people are a transient lot."
Sarah went flustered. "Oh, you don't have to go to such trouble --"
"Nonsense," he said quickly. "You're a friend of Rupert's, and of Buffy's, and of young Willow. We help each other out, don't we, Rupert?"
"Indeed," Giles said, still looking fondly at the plate of cookies, before he sighed and took another one.
By the time the plate was empty between the four of them, Thomas had put together a large bundle of bags for Sarah, and gave another larger bag to Willow. She peered into it eagerly. "And, of course," Thomas said with a grin, "a magic wand." He produced it with a flourish, and Willow had to laugh at the plastic stick with irridescent ribbons from one end. "Or fancy cat-toy," he added as the cat streaked over to bat gleefully at the ribbons. "Rupert, your items are up front." He looked regretfully at his watch. "And I am sorry, but I do have to go pick Miriam up. He looked sadly at Rupert. "It was good to see you again. I just wish it was in better times."
"Give my love to Miriam," Giles said gently.
"As she does to you." He looked at the empty plate. "There's also a bag of the cookies in your packages, too." He smiled. "Miriam always did know how much you love them."
He saw them out the door and locked it behind them. He waved at them from the window, then let a curtain fall in front of it. Giles sighed, then forced a smile at Willow. "Come," he said softly. "I think it is about time to meet Cordelia, isn't it?"
They couldn't decide on a place for lunch, so after several minutes of Cordelia and Buffy bickering about it, Giles decided for them, and rather loudly, that they would just drive back towards Sunnydale, and if they saw something they all agreed on, they'd stop for lunch. Otherwise, they could all stay hungry until they got back home. He would be fine. He had chocolate chip cookies. Perhaps he might share them with Willow and Sarah. They were being quiet. He was discovering even more and more that he liked quiet. He also noticed that the headphones seemed to be an unspoken order along the lines of leave-me-alone. No other bothered him when they were on. He rather liked that. Perhaps, he mused, he should get one of these for himself.
Al\bout halfway home, he noticed that a lot of frantic talking and hand waving was going on. This was nothing really unusual, and he wouldn't have even taken notice, except that Sarah seemed to be instigating it this time. Cautiously, he lowered the volume on the player.
"Look, we have plenty of time," Sarah was saying. "It's not even three yet."
"I wouldn't be caught dead there," Cordelia shot back.
"Then you don't have to go," Sarah said pleasantly. "Just let me out for a few minutes."
"And what am I supposed to do, wait in the car?"
"You," Sarah said equally as pleasantly, "can do whatever you like, so long as it is pulling this car over and parking."
For a moment, Giles thought that Cordelia was going to refuse, but then she seemed to remember that Sarah was among the adult ratio in the car, and sullenely nodded.
"Where are we going?" Giles asked warily.
"A flea market," Sarah said happily. At Giles' confused look, she asked, "Don't you shop them?"
"Oh, you poor thing," Cordelia gushed, with apparently real sincerity. "I didn't realize."
Sarah turned and looked at her blankly.
"That things were so bad for you," Cordelia said earnestly as she pulled into a parking space. "that you'd have to shop at a flea market."
Sarah closed her eyes. She opened her mouth for a moment to say something, then apparenlty changed her mind. "Give me strength," she muttered.
Giles knew exactly how she felt.
"Anyway," she went on, "One never knows what one might find at flea markets. Once I found a crossbow, really cheap. Another time, I found a recurve bow, which are really hard to find now. And once I found a real sword, not a costume lookalike. Antique stores are another place to look, but they are ferociously expensive. They might need a little more repairing if they're bought from a garage sale or flea market, but I can send them home for someone to take care of." She shooed Buffy out of the car so she could slide out. "But mostly, I look for books."
They walked up to the first stand, and Sarah leaned closer to Giles. "Are most of your reference books old or new?"
"Older, mostly, of course."
Sarah pointed to a box with "Old Books 25 cents" written on one of the flaps. "See? Now the chances of finding something are almost nil, but I'm never in a hurry to get anywhere, so I poke around when I have a chance. Anything that looks vaguely interesting, I buy and send home. I've found some really old books on witchcraft, magic, demonology, you name it. I don't know what's worth keeping or not, but at twenty five cents, who cares?" She sat down on the ground by the book of boxes and shifted through. "Nothing much here. Just Reader's Digests, stuff like that. But one never knows what's at the next stand."
"Awww..." Willow had picked up a big stuffed rabbit. "It's so cute..." Everyone looked at her, and she quickly put it back down.
Cordelia had followed them in spite of herself. "You mean, we're actually going to look for things to BUY here -- oh, look! Jewelry!" She made a bee-line to another stand. Sarah watched her go and shook her head.
"Right. Anyway." She glanced over the table. "I don't see anything else here. Shall we go to the next --"
"Cool!" Buffy cried. She was already two tables down. "Willow, c'mere, quick!" She held a leather jacket up against her, then slipped it on. "It fits! Will, can I borrow some money?"
"You may have created a monster or two," Giles observed thoughtfully.
"Yeah, well, they're all agreeing with each other," Sarah pointed out. "I was getting sick of the arguing anyway. Are they always like that?"
"No," he considered. "Sometimes Xander and Oz join in."
Sarah stopped near another box of books and crouched down on her heels. She let out her breath in a quick laugh and held up a book about love spells and astrology. "Helpful?" she said sarcastically and tossed the book back in the box.
Willow and Buffy walked past going the other way. Buffy was wearing the leather jacket. "Well, if you get the jacket, then I get the bunny," Willow was saying in a determined voice.
Sarah watched them go. "At least two monsters," she agreed.
They came back, Willow clutching the stuffed rabbit triumphantly. Cordelia came back. "You guys, just look at this ring. And if you tell anyone where I got it, I'll deny it. And then kill you."
"Three monsters," Sarah amended.
The flea market aparently closed in half an hour, and some vendors were already starting to pack their wares. Some were merely spreading tarps over tables and tieing them down, while others were loading boxes into the backs of station wagons and vans. It didn't take very long to wander through. "Like I say," Sarah shrugged at the last table, "not much of a chance of actually finding anything worth while." She smiled at Giles. "Sorry to waste your time."
"Not at all." Giles tried to look sincere. "It was very... interesting."
"Hey," Willow suddenly pointed. "Look at that paperweight. My aunt collects paperweights. Do you think I should get it for her?"
Buffy shrugged. "I don't know, Will. I mean, Christmas is coming and all. "
"Here, hold this." Willow shoved the rabbit at Buffy, who took it gingerly. Willow leaned over the table, and picked up a deep blue glass globe that was hidden behind a box of games, a stuffen elephant, and a set of three crystal goblets, one with a crack in it.
The minute she touched it, the globe spilled out a bright globe that lit up her hands. Her eyes went wide and she jumped back in shock. Sarah caught the paperweight before Willow could drop it. The glow instantly died down.
"Did you see that?" Willow shrilled under her breath.
Sarah stared at the globe in her hands as if it was going to rear up and bite her. "Somehow, I don't think it's a paperweight," she said slowly.
"Gilescomelookquick," Willow said all in one breath, waving him over frantically.Hegave her a wary look, having missed the interchange, but walked up to them.
"Look," Willow whispered. She held out a finger and touched the globe. It glowed in reponce to her finger, but stayed dark and cold where it touched Sarah's hand.
"Good Lord," Giles said quickly.
"Do you know what it is?" Willow's eyes were so wide that it looked painful.
Giles touched the globe too, and it warmed to his touch as well. "It senses magic," he said softly. "Sarah you said you didn't have any magic ability?"
"None whatsoever," she said, looking like she would really rather someone else held it.
"Can I help you?" called the boy behind the table.
"Do we take this?" Sarah hissed.
"Let me handle this, then." She closed her fist around the globe, knocking their hands away. The glow disappeared like she had hit a switch. "Yeah, hey, how much for this paperweight?"
The kid stopped wrapping the set of dishes he was packing and came over. "I don't know. I'm just watching the stand for my gramma. Isn't it marked?"
Sarah held it up and turned it a couple of times. "Nope."
He groaned. "I hate it when she does that. I dunno. What do you think?"
Sarah hesitated. "Well, it's got a chip out of the bottom..."
"It does? Where?" Giles leaned over to look, and Sarah kicked him.
The kid thought a moment. "Most of this stuff came out of some old lady's house a while back. Gramma's been carrying that from sale to sale for over a month now." He shrugged. "Five bucks? Just so I don't have to pack it back up again."
Giles made a spluttering sound. Buffy stepped on his foot quickly. "Sorry," she said brightly. "He doesn't get out much. He's from out of town."
"Out of the country, actually," Cordelia said helpfully.
"God help me," Sarah muttered. She dug a five out of her pocket and handed it over.
The kid dropped it in a cash tray. "Would you like anything else?" he asked hopefully. "Can opener, radio?"
Sarah smiled and waved, then took Giles's. Buffy grabbed his other shoulder, and together they
steered him back to the car.
"Five dollars?" they heard him hiss. "Bloody thing's priceless!"
"What'd I tell you about flea markets," Sarah hissed back. "Just get in the car and let's get out of here before Gramma comes back."
Giles looked furtively over his shoulder. "Do you think she knows what it is?"
"Would she be selling it if she did?" Buffy asked. She wrenched the car door open and shoved him in. Sarah climbed into the backseat and handed the globe back to him with a sigh of relief. The inside of the car lit up in a dim blue glow. "Here, Buffy," he said urgently, "I think you'd better--"
Buffy took it from him. The light disappeared again, and Buffy dropped it in a pocket of her jacket. "So spill, Giles. What is it?"
"I'm not sure," he said slowly. "I have an idea, but I'm not sure exactly." Then he smiled slyly. "But I'm going to have fun finding out."
On to Chapter Five