Lair of the Stealth Bunnies
Home Chapter Twelve
Giles shot awake the moment someone touched his shoulder. He went through the stomach-plunging disorientation of not recognizing where he was. The exotic face looking at him had a touch of familiarity to him amid the confusion, and he wondered for a brief second if she was someone from a dream. Then he realized he was stiff from sleeping in a chair, and once he realized that, the rest of the reality flooded back. He rubbed at his face, then fumbled for his glasses.
"I hated to wake you," Meli said in that soft, soothing voice that made him promptly forgive her for waking him, "but I have to go back to the 'Hold, and I didn't want to just disappear."
"Literally, eh?" Giles finally found his glasses under the chair where he had put them to protect them from feet.
"Yes, there's that, too." Her voice was filled with amusement. "Would you tell the Cat I'll be back later? I will want to cheek on Willow again."
"Yes, certainly." He put his glasses on and blinked at her, hoping he didn't look quite as disconnected as he felt.
Meli stood up and swung her bag up on her shoulder. She stepped back, then closed her eyes. The same green glow that seemed to accompany all her magic began to build around her, drifting her long hair in a current of some sort of energy. Then the glow solidified around her, and then suddenly, it was gone, and Meli with it. The room went back to the dingy grey of pre-dawn, with slashes of warm golden light as the sun began to stream in through the windows.
"Just another day in Sunnydale," Giles said under his breath. He closed his eyes again and started to sink back into the chair, then pulled himself out and stood up when he realized just how easy it would be to fall asleep again. He didn't really think that a watch was still needed this far into daylight, but he was shaken by all the injuries the night before, and he just felt that he should watch over them.
After all, they were only teenagers.
He felt, more than he heard, the bedroom door swing open, and Sarah came out, her mane of hair even more tousled than usual. She jammed her hands into the pockets of her robe and nodded toward the kitchen. "Something to drink," she said in short explanation, then Giles heard her add in a mutter, "preferably something with caffeine."
She didn't move like she had been injured, and Giles flexed his wrist thoughtfully. "It sure saves on trips to the emergency room," he murmured.
He heard the sound of something in the kitchen falling, although from the sound of it, it wasn't something very large or heavy. Then Sarah swore in a soft, tired voice. He deliberated for a moment, then looked in the kitchen.
Sarah was crouched on the floor picking up spilled tea bags. "Why did I ever think that getting a hundred count box was better than tiny boxes? At least there wouldn't be as many to pick up."
The entire kitchen floor was scattered with the bags, and after another careful deliberation, Giles went to help her pick them up. She shoved a handful of the bags into the box, then looked at the sea of them coating the floor of the tiny room, and slid back on her heels to sit on the floor. She raked her hair away from her face. "Ah, hell," she-said and laughed weakly, burying her face in her hands.
Giles quietly placed his own handful of tea bags in the box, heartily wishing that anyone else was in his place. "At least it wasn't loose tea," he ventured.
Sarah gave that same weak laugh, that barely hinted of any emotion, then rested her chin on her fists.
"I'm tired," she said, still without any emotion. "I'm just so very tired."
Giles looked at her, and in the growing light from the windows, he saw the glints of grey in her burnished mane, and suddenly wondered if this would be Buffy in ten years.
If Buffy lived another ten years.
"When the Twins died," Sarah said suddenly, "only one of them had been hurt. She died from the injuries, and the other just... died with her. They had always been more of one person in two bodies, then two separate personalities. And just before the second one died, only seconds after the first, she looked at me and said, 'I'm sorry, Cat, but she's waiting for me.' And she just died. Like she had found some sort of switch to turn off. And I've been trying to find that same switch ever since Grey died, because if one Twin was kept back, waiting for the other, is Grey stuck somewhere waiting for me?" Her fingers curled up around her chin, and she bit one of them, sharply, its pain drowned out by the one that had been devouring her for years. "I'm just so tired of living," she whispered.
They heard the murmur of voices in the other room. Sarah abruptly shook her head. She quickly climbed to her feet and went out. "How're you feeling?" Giles heard her say. "Now, you're not to go casting any spells like that in the near future, right?"
There were some giggles, and by the time Giles had finished picking up the other tea bags, he heard enough voices to determine everyone was awake.
When he came out of the kitchen, Sarah was sending Oz and Xander down the street to the Dunkin'Donuts to bring back breakfast for them all.
"After breakfast, we really should get back to the library," he said. "We still have research to do."
"I'll help!" Willow eagerly began to climb out from under the blankets, but Buffy pushed her right back down. "No, you don't," she said severely. "I heard Meli say you were to stay put and rest."
"But I can rest at the library," Willow protested. "All I'll be doing is reading. That's staying put!"
Sarah arched an eyebrow at Giles, all traces of her earlier anguish hidden. "Can you bring some of those boxes that are left over here? I'd rather she not go out. I don't want to have to be the one to explain to Meli, if Willow has a relapse."
Giles nodded thoughtfully. "Oz can walk to the library with me and drive his van back with a couple of boxes."
"And I can do more stuff on the computer, too," Willow chirped.
"Not if I throw it out the window first," Giles grumbled, but he smiled in relief at seeing Willow back to her normal self. "Just no more casting spells until I look at them first."
"Yes, Giles," Willow said meekly, but her eyes sparkled. Then Oz and Xander thundered in with enough food to feed an army, which they were, so it worked out well. Cordelia demanded a shower before she did anything else, and by the time they were all finished, it was midmorning, and Giles was impatient to get back to the research. He, Xander, Cordelia, Buffy and Oz went back to the library, and about half an hour later, Oz returned to the apartment with a box of books. "This is it," he said, setting the books down beside the couch. "The others have two boxes between all of them." He handed Willow a shoulder bag that turned out to hold her laptop computer. She sat up, still buried under blankets, and happily turned the computer on. She absently handed one end of a phone cord to Sarah, who shook her head in amusement and found a phone jack to plug it into. Within a few minutes, Willow was completely immersed in the screen, and had stopped paying attention to anything else. With an adoring smile, Oz watched the lights from the screen play across her intense face, then reluctantly picked up the nearest book and began to scan through it.
It was late afternoon when the phone rang, startling Willow awake. She gave Oz a cross look for letting her fall asleep, but couldn't hold it for long. She made a face at him, then turned to Sarah as she put the phone down again. She came over to lean against the back of the couch. "That was Giles. They haven’t found anything yet, and they're out of books. Cordelia has to make an appearance at her family's, but will be back tonight. Willow, she says to tell you that she told her parents she slept at your place last night."
Willow nodded wisely. "Which means that I spent it at Buffy's. Whose mother already knows what's going on, so Buffy doesn't need an alibi."
"I'm not going to be able to stay much longer," Oz said hesitantly. "I have a rehearsal for the band, and I'd really rather not miss another one, especially since we aren't finding anything."
"Ill keep looking," Willow offered. "After all, I'll probably be staying at Buffy's tonight, too."
Sarah shook her head. "What happens when your parents all find out about this."
"We're hoping they won't," Oz said.
"Sunnydale Denial, y'know," Willow nodded.
"Anyway, Buffy and Xander are coming back over here to help Willow. There's two phone lines here, so they can pound on my computer for a while. I'm going to the university library with Giles to check out the rare books division. He says sometimes he has luck finding information there." She stopped talking for a moment, looking distant.
"What's wrong?" Willow asked gently.
Sarah gave herself a little shake. "Oh, nothing. I was just thinking how different it is here. We never really do this type of intensive research. We seek, find, fight, and kill. Is this typical for you?"
"Yep," Willow said cheerfully. "Like Cordelia said, we spend as much time in the library working as we do out on the streets, working."
"Hmmph." Sarah thought for a moment more. "Perhaps we should take a lesson from you. Maybe we'd be more prepared, if we knew more about what was happening, rather than facing it blindly."
"Well, we do a lot of that to," Oz admitted. "You gonna be okay, babe? I hate to run out, but..."
"I'll be fine," she assured him. "Vamps can't come in here. They haven't been invited."
"True..." but Oz hesitated a moment longer, before kissing her on the forehead. As he walked out the door, Giles, Buffy, and Xander came in. They ducked around each other good-naturedly, while Giles shooed them inside. Xander was carrying a pizza box, and Willow whisked her laptop out of the way just before he plopped the box on her lap. "Dinner," he announced. Sarah leaned over Willow's shoulder and snagged a piece, before hurrying out to catch up with Giles, who was already heading back to the car. She stopped at the door. "Is he always like this?" she asked in a loud whisper.
"Get used to it," Xander said. "He lives for this type of stuff. As for me, I'm completely sick of the smell of moth-eaten books." He grabbed a piece of pizza for himself, and Sarah ran down the walk to the car.
Buffy settled herself down on the floor next to the couch where Oz had been sitting. "Any idea where on the Web to look?" she asked Willow.
Willow, who was certain she had not felt hungry ten minutes ago, was starting on her second slice. "There are a couple of sites you can try, that I haven't gotten to, yet." she said after swallowing her mouthful. "I'm really hoping Giles and Sarah find something, 'cause I'm running out of places to look, too."
Buffy started to answer, but she suddenly cocked her head. "What?" Xander asked, then they all heard the humming noise. "Oh, good," Buffy said happily. "Meli's back.
Willow watched in fascination as the green glow materialized, grew, and disappeared with its gentle "pop". There was someone else with Meli, a petite woman even smaller-boned than Meli, but who moved with the same dancer's grace. Meli smiled at Willow who grinned back. "You certainly look better today," she said and came over to place her hand on Willow's forehead and gaze into her eyes. "Yes, you're doing much better. Xander, how's that arm?"
Xander, his mouthful of pizza, wiggled his fingers to show her everything was working.
The other woman came to look over Willow's shoulder at the computer screen. "Nice little 'puter, " she said absently, then grinned at Willow. "I'm Wren. Meli thought I might be able to help." She rather looked like her name, Xander thought. She had long brown hair, and didn't seem to be able to sit still for very long. She upended the bag she was carrying on the floor and several disks, both floppy and for CD-ROM poured out. She began to shuffle through them. "I spent a couple of hours going through our backup files for anything that might have something on this Orb of yours. I didn't get a chance to actually look through them. I just grabbed possibilities." She divided the pile into two smaller ones, then looked up. "Is the Cat's computer up and running?" Then she saw it on the table and flowed to her feet to hurry over to it. "Good, it's going." She waved at Xander and Buffy. "You two wanna start on this pile? You know how to access info from a disk, right? Good. I'll help Willow with the other pile and we can exchange trade secrets." She bounced back over to the couch and perched on the back of it, sitting somehow in perfect balance while holding the rest of the disks in her lap. She handed the first one to Willow. "Well, go on," she said to Buffy, shooing her towards the other computer.
Buffy looked at Xander who shrugged, took another piece of pizza and followed her to the computer. "We can't escape it," he murmured to her.
"Yeah," Buffy said, pecking at the keyboard, "but at least it doesn't smell of mothballs." The computer hummed and text began to spill over the screen. The room quieted down to the sounds of the computers reading disks and Meli's occasional humming from the kitchen. As it grew darker, Buffy stood up for a stretch and went around the room, shutting blinds and turning on lights while Xander took a turn on the keyboard. Buffy rested her forehead against the cool glass of the last window, tiredly looking out at the dusk. She wondered if she should stay here and look some more, or go out on patrol. The glass against her skin warmed until it was no longer cool enough to be comforting, and she pushed herself away from the wall and lowered the blinds on that window, too.
"Hey, wait a minute," Xander said suddenly. "I found something about a blue crystal I ball." They all looked up eagerly, and he sighed and shook his head. "No, this is something called an Ikit's Globe. Nothing about this Gekkos thing-or-another."
"Yeah, but--" Willow tried to sit up straighter and got tangled in the blanket. She pushed it impatiently aside, and stood up to come over and look over Xander shoulder. "Sarah and Giles were saying something about maybe it might be called something different. What's the one you found?"
"An Ikit's Globe," Xander said, with some satisfaction. "Y'know, if they thought it might be something else, why didn't they just tell us to look for anything about a blue globe?"
"They did," Willow said in exasperation. "Weren't you listening?"
Xander had a what-do-l-do-now expression. "Um... obviously I was overcome by the smell of mothballs at that point. But I'm sure I haven't seen anything else on any type of blue globe." Willow continued to gaze at him steadily. "I didn't," he insisted. "At least, I'm reasonably sure I didn't," he added in a smaller voice.
Willow pushed him aside and sat at the computer. "Ikit's Globe..." she said thoughtfully. "Here. 'A blue crystal globe that glows brightly at the presence of a magic worker. For properties and abilities, see Eeffoc's Guide, volume seven."
She looked up. "Volume seven?" she asked in a weak voice.
Wren was shuffling through disks. "Wait, I have some of that here. Of course, the majority of the set has been lost over time."
Xander rested his head on the table. "And just what hasn't been lost over time? This stupid Orb. It's hasn't been lost. No, we manage to find it!"
Willow absently smacked his shoulder.
"Okay, here," Wren said excitedly. "Volumes 1 through 4, six and -- Ha! -- seven!" She held up three disks. "It'll be somewhere on these."
Xander raised his head up to look at her doubtfully. "It could take a while, to go through all those, couldn't it?"
"Yes." Buffy said, standing up with purpose. "That's why we're going to the university to find Giles and Sarah. Maybe Giles already knows what this Ikit's Globe is, and we can get back here before too long."
"And just how are we going to get to the campus?" Xander asked.
Buffy deflated for a moment. "Well, we have to think of some way. Oz isn't here, none of us have cars. Can Meli teleport us?"
"Only if she has an idea where she's going," Wren said. "She knew where the Cat was staying, so she could find her way here, but she's never been to this university.”
Buffy paced the room urgently. "Well, we have to think of something. Mom's out of town and she has the car... Cordelia?"
"Trust me, unreachable for a while." Xander shuddered. "Not even I am brave enough to pull her away from her family."
"Willow, can you get a hold of Oz?"
Willow shook her head. "I know the number, but they can never hear the phone during rehearsals."
Buffy sank into a chair, drumming her fingers on the arm of it impatiently. She gazed around the room trying to think of an idea. Her gaze fell on the battered coffee table where Sarah had left her keys that Xander had brought to her from the library. She sat up brightly. "We have Sarah's car!"
“Now wait a minute," Xander began.
Buffy cut him off. "This is an emergency, Xander. You have a license, we have the keys, the car is in the driveway... what's the problem?"
"It's not our car," Xander said patiently.
"This is an emergency," she repeated, just as patiently. "Willow, can you and Wren, and maybe Meli keep looking through this volume seven thingie? Just use one computer, so we can call on the other phone line if we need you." She grabbed the keys off the table, and caught Xander by the back of his jacket as he was about to sneak into the kitchen. "C'mon," she said, all pretense to patience gone. She hauled him down the walk to the black TransAm and unlocked the door. She shoved the keys in his hand, pushed him into the driver's seat and ran around to get in the other side. "Well, hurry up and start it." she said.
Xander leaned forward and rested his head on the steering wheel. "I know I'm going to regret saying this, but I see no way around it. Buff, I can't drive a standard." He looked at her hopefully. "Can't we just call a taxi?"
"No time!" Buffy waved him out of the scat. "I'll drive."
"That was exactly what I was afraid you were going to say," he said weakly. "Buff, if anything happens to this car, Sarah will kill us. That's not an idle threat, Buff. She has big claw-type things."
"Nothing's going to happen," she snapped. "And I've driven this before with no problem. Now move!"
He climbed out of the car again. "Ill just go and wait inside and help the others," he said.
"Xander," she said warningly.
Xander sighed deeply. "Yeah, yeah, I know. Get in the car, Xander. Shut up, Xander. Xander, be prepared to be arrested for grand theft auto. I know the drill, Buff." He walked around the car and swung in the seat Buffy had vacated to crawl over the gear shift into the drivers seat.
"Just relax," Buffy said as she started the car. "What could happen?"