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They didn't quite get back before dark, but they didn't miss it by much.  The
lights in the school parking lot were just coming on in the dark blue of
twilight as Cordelia turned in.

Oz was sitting on the steps to the school, playing his guitar to himself.
Without being plugged into an amp, the sound was soft and tinny.  He was
frowning slightly in concentration as he ran one section a few times with
alternate fingerings.  Then he looked up and saw them. His gaze immediately
sought Willow out and his face lit in a smile that was somehow more
demonstrative than if he had run to her and swung her in his arms.  The rest
of them ceased to exist as she beamed back at him.  Then he blinked in
remembrance and nodded at the others.  I just thought I'd meet Willow here,
since it's getting dark and all."  He put his guitar in its case and started
snapping it closed.

"The Dingoes are playing tonight at the Bronze," Willow said proudly and
completely unnecessarily, since she had been mentioning it every day for the
last week.

"At least your boyfriend doesn't rely on you for rides," Cordelia sighed.
"I've got to book, if I'm going to change and pick up Xander before your gig
starts."  She waved lightly at them from the car window, almost as an
afterthought, her mind obviously sorting through her closet, and drove away.

Willow was showing Oz her stuffed rabbit, and he was using one of its ears to
tickle her nose.  "Are they always this cute?" Sarah murmured to Buffy.

Buffy nodded.  "Yep, pretty much."

Willow blushed a little and knocked Oz's hand away, intertwining her fingers
through his as she did so.  "Umm... Buffy, you wanna ride over with us?" she

Buffy was about to refuse -- she felt enough like a their week anyway -- when
Giles broke in with, "Or you can help me research and find out what this globe

"The Bronze it is," she said quickly.  "Sorry, Giles, but I had promised."

"Well, actually, no you didn't... ah, I mean, no you didn't just promise, you
swore you'd be there!" Willow covered herself quickly at Buffy's desperate

"Come Hellmouth or high water," Buffy rushed on.  "Gotta be there to support
my friends."

Giles smiled wryly.  "Don't try so hard, Buffy.  Of course you don't have to
stay.  There's always tomorrow, since you don't have school."

Buffy's face fell.  "Oh... That's... great, Giles.  Yes.  I will look forward
to that.  Tomorrow."

"We'll help," Willow offered eagerly.  "We can make a day of it.  It'll be
fun."  She looked over at Buffy.  "Won't it?" she said timidly.

"Loads," Buffy said dryly.

"Well, actually, it won't be until tomorrow afternoon," Giles said
reluctantly.  "I have one of those conferences tomorrow morning."

"Aw," Buffy said.  "Only half a day of research instead of a whole day.  I'm
so disappointed.  I think we should leave now, before this gets any worse."

"Do you want to come with us?" Willow asked Sarah.

The woman shook her head.  "No, I think I am just going to get something to
eat, then go home."

Buffy leaned over to Giles.  "Ask her to dinner," she hissed.

Giles looked panicked, "Buffy, I can't just --"

"That's just what Giles said," Buffy said louder.  "That he was hungry, I
mean.  Didn't you, Giles?"  She stepped sharply on his foot.

"Ow...!  Er, I mean... dinner?" he asked almost frantically, edging away from
Buffy and her boots.

Sarah glanced at Buffy, who was beaming innocently.  "I... guess so."

"Well, that's settled," Buffy said quickly.  "Oz, Willow, before there's any
more talk of things involving lots of musty boring books...?"

"Oh, yes!"  Willow said brightly.  "Come on, Oz."

Buffy dragged them both to Oz's van.

Which left Giles and Sarah alone on the school steps, with identical
expressions of panic on their faces.  Sarah scuffed at the pavement with the
toe of her boot.  "You don't have to, just because Buffy pushed you."

"Ah, you caught that, did you?"  Giles avoided her eyes just as hard as she
was avoiding his.  "Well... I mean... we didn't have lunch, and that was
rather my fault... and I do owe you for that marvelous bargaining session..."

"Is that a yes?" Sarah asked, a note of amusement creeping into her voice.

"Well... yes... I guess it is...  Did you drive here?"

"No,"' she said.  "I live only a few blocks away.  In fact, if you'd like, we
could stop by at my place, and I'll set up a search on the computer for your
blue globie-thingie.  By the time we get back from dinner, we should have
something.  It might help you cut through some of the books."

"Oh, like Willow does," Giles said, trying to sound knowledgeable about such

Sarah shrugged.  "I have no idea how it works.  I just ask some of the folks
back home to do their computer magical woogidee woogidee stuff, and they send
the results back to me.  Sometimes I even manage to hit the right button to
print it out.  Sometimes, even without losing it once and having to ask them
to send it again."  She smiled fondly.  "Sometimes, they just send it to me
twice anyway.  One to lose and one that I actually get to read."

"I can sympathize," Giles said.  "I have no idea what Willow is talking about
most of the time.  I like books.  You can hold them and don't have to worry
about them getting 'eaten'."

"Exactly," Sarah sighed.

"Well, that's my car over there," Giles pointed to the only car left in the
lot.  They walked over to it, but Sarah stopped a few feet away from it,
studying the ancient car with her head cocked to one side.

"I think I can see why Buffy didn't want to take yours today," she said
thoughtfully.  "You can't mean this is really yours...?  I thought it was some
student's who couldn't get it started and left it here."

"Very funny," Giles said lightly.  "But it doesn't do to make fun of someone's
car when he's taking you to dinner."

"Exactly what I said," she went on.  "Great car.  Did I mention that?"

"You must really be hungry," he muttered, and she grinned over the car roof at

The car actually did start, and she directed him to an old, large house that
had been made into a few apartments.   Hers was on the bottom floor, to the
rear of the house.  It was small, barely two rooms, and it looked like she had
rented it furnished.  It didn't really even looked lived in, Giles reflected.
Sarah had dropped her knapsack to the floor to one side of the door as she
walked in, and she went over to the laptop computer that was sitting on an
ancient dining room table that looked like it had never made its way out of
the 70's.  "This will only take a minute," she said absently, turning the
computer on and letting it hum mysteriously for a moment before clicking a
couple of times with the rodent-thingamajigee, and then typing furiously.
"I'm asking for them to look up any type of blue glowing paperweight thingies,
and we'll see what they come up with."  She grinned for a second.  "Wren'll
love it.  She's the one that does special computer research for me.  She hated
research papers back in school, but once she learned this Internet stuff, she
just went wild over it."  She hit another button, then shut the computer down.
"There.  We'll see how much she can find by the time we get back."

Giles was still watching, mystified.  "That's all you have to do?"

"No," she admitted.  "Well, actually, yes.  That's all I have to do.  Someone
else does the real work.  I no longer have the time to do research."  she
sighed, then shrugged.  "I'm just one of the scouts, now."

They ran into rather the same problem that all of them had had earlier that
afternoon.  Not really able to decide on a specific type of restaurant, they
went to a Dennys, simply because it was close.  They managed to fill the first
few minutes with menu conversation, until they gave their orders, then they
looked rather helplessly at each other.  "I'm not really good at this any
more," Sarah said weakly.

"At what?"

"Conversation?"  She poked her fork around on her placemat.  "I haven't really
been around people long enough to have conversations.  I've been on the road
for a long time."

"So you didn't drive across the country just to find us?"

"Oh, no," she said quickly.  "I just got to the point where I couldn't stay
home anymore.  And I'm... not really needed like I used to be, back home, so I
thought I'd try scouting for a while."  She played with her fork a little
more, started to say something. stopped, then tried again.  "I've seen a lot
of people die, people I really loved and cared about," she said softly.  "I
just couldn't stand being around those memories so much.  And there's always
the need for some of us to travel, to be some place or another.  I went on a
trip just to get away and do something else, and I never really went back....
and it's easier when you don't get to know people as well."  She looked up at
him fleetingly, and thought she saw a flicker of recognition in his eyes
before she looked away again.

"What did you used to do," he asked, in a change of subject, "before the
otherworld took over your life."

"I was a historian," she said brightly.  "A history freak, who spent more time
in a library than out.  Early Middle Ages, especially."

And from then on, they both suddenly found the conversation much easier.
Dinner went by quickly, and they argued for a few minutes over who would pay
the bill.  Outside, Sarah stopped at the car, and looked at her watch.  "Are
you in a real hurry?  I'd kind of like to give Wren a little more time before
I nag at her."

"I was going to go back to the library and do some research, but..."  Giles
found himself smiling.  "What did you have in mind."

Sarah folded her arms on the roof of the car and rested her chin on them.
"That's the ocean I smell, isn't it?"

"Yes.  The beach is only a few blocks away."

"I've never see the ocean," she said wistfully.  "All the traveling, and none
of it on either coast."

After that, Giles could hardly refuse.  They left the car in the Dennys
parking lot and walked.  The conversation had died away again, but it didn't
seem uncomfortable, so neither of them seemed to want to break the quiet.  The
sidewalk broke off at the top of a small hill, and on the other side, gravel
and dirt gave way to sand.

"Wow," she said softly.

The air was damp and cold and salty, but the sea was calm for that late in the
year.  The waves lapped in and out, but the surf was gentle, without the usual
curls of foam.

"He would have loved this," she murmured.

"Your husband?"

She nodded, her eyes tragic in the war between the dull light from the distant
streetlight and the soft moonglow.  The wind picked up for a moment, and she
closed her eyes, tilting her head back in the misty air, breathing in the
salt.  Then she opened her eyes and smiled.  "No matter what happens to this
world, whichever side wins, that will never change, will it?  The ocean will
always be there."

"One hopes so, anyway."  Giles put his hands in his coat pockets.  When the
wind blew, the air turned nippy.  "I've always liked the ocean.  It reminds me
of home."

"England?" she asked absently, still watching the waves.

"No, the accent's Russian."

She burst out in laughter.  "I asked for that one, didn't I?  And Buffy
doesn't seem to think you have a sense of humor."

"Just not one that she appreciates," Giles said fondly.

"She's pretty amazing, you know," Sarah said thoughtfully.

"Yes," he said.  "I rather think so, too."

"When I try to remember what it was like just getting through high school,
just being seventeen, I can't even imagine piling being the Slayer on top of
that.  I didn't even make it through college, when I--"  and she broke off
suddenly, looking out over the water, but not really seeing anything.  At
least, not anything there, Giles thought.  Memories, yes.  Memories always
haunted.  They never let you forget.

"Perhaps we should go back where it's warm," he said lightly, as if he never
noticed her pause.

"That's all right," she said faintly.  "Wren probably has something for us by
now, anyway." She jammed her hands in the pockets of her jacket too, and bent
her head.  Her hair flew around her face until he couldn't see it, and he
looked away, as if he felt he would be intruding if he saw her expression.

Once back at her sparse apartment, she turned the computer on.  "I don't have
any coffee, but if you'd like some tea..."

"That would be fine," he said.  He took the globe out of his pocket.  The glow
lit up the room dimly.  He put it on the table and the glow died.  Unable to
stop himself, he touched it again.  The glow lit up.  He pulled his hand back.
The room went back to normal light.

"Will you stop playing with that?" she called from the kitchenette.  "It makes
me jumpy."

"I believe Buffy would call it 'the wiggins'," he said, but left the globe
alone this time.

Sarah came back in.  "The water will be ready in a few minutes," she said and
bent over the computer.  "Ah, thank you, Wren," she murmured, then held her
breath as she keyed in a few commands.  The printer flared into action, and
she smiled in relief.  "I must be getting better.  I didn't lose it that
time."  She leaned back in her chair and propped her feet on the table and
grinned.  "Ooh, I feel like such a computer geek."  The tea kettle started its
unholy screeching, and she let her feet fall back to the floor.  "Be right
back, again."  She disappeared into the kitchenette.

Giles timidly approached the printer and gingerly lifted the first few pages
out.  The first page looked to be a private message, and he quickly set it
aside.  He was halfway through the next page when Sarah came back with a tray
with two mugs of steaming water, a cup of tea bags, a cup of milk, and some
sugar bags that looked like she had snitched them from the Dennys.  Giles
absently fixed his cup of tea while still reading.  He accomplished it with
the air of someone who did it very often; he didn't even spill any.   "Aha!"
he said suddenly.  "Right here, it talks about the Orb of Gekkos, which among
other things, senses magic and glows brightly."

Sarah leaned over, trying to read upside down.  "What else does it do?"

Giles shuffled through the remaining few pages.  "It doesn't say."

"That's a lot of help."  Sarah scanned the first page, which had been the
private letter, and smiled at something that was written.  "Well, she does say
that it was the only thing she found that came close to that description, but
this was all she could find on it.  It looks like she found one mention of it,
and that was it.  She says she'll keep looking though."

"Orb of Gekkos..."  Giles took off his glasses and thought a minute.  "Now
that I hear it, the name does sound familiar.  I think I heard it mentioned at
a conference once, but I don't remember much about it, either."

"But this is why books exist," Sarah said wisely.

"Yes, of course."  Giles looked at the Orb for a moment, then indulged himself
and touched it again just to see it glow.  "Rather pretty thing, isn't it?"

"What was that word?  Wiggins?" Sarah said with a shudder.  "I never did
understand this magic stuff.  I like facing things I can see and fight.
Direct confrontation."

"Well, there is a certain amount of satisfaction in that too," Giles agreed.
"but there is a certain challenge in magic that can be quite... addictive."

"You're going back to the library, aren't you?"

He looked at her in surprise and put his glasses back on.  "What makes you
think that?"

"I recognized the expression."

"Well, actually, yes.  I thought I might."

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