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Home Chapter Fourteen
With the type of week it had been, it didn't surprise Giles very much when someone knocked on his door a few minutes after he got home. What did surprise him was that it was Sarah on his doorstep. She had her fists jammed in her pockets, and her expression was battling between anger and sheepish. "It's not a good idea for me to be around people when I'm this angry," she said grumpily.
"Wonderful. So instead, you find me. I guess that means I'm not categorised as a person."
"No, that's not it," she said, but she had to think a moment. "But you already don't like me, so I don't have anything to lose in pissing you off."
"That has to be some of the strangest logic I've ever heard," he told her and let her in. "Besides, who ever said I didn't like you? Trust you, well, that's another thing, but that has nothing to do with liking."
Sarah gazed at him impassively, then shook her head. "And you say my logic is strange."
The habit of politeness kicked in. "I was making dinner. Would you like some?"
"If it's not an imposition," she said, equally as automatically.
"No, of course. After all, I have people dropping in all the time." He disappeared into the kitchen.
"Was that meant to be sarcastic?" she called after him. "It's kind of hard to tell with you."
"Yes, so Buffy says." Giles leaned over the counter, looking into the living room. "Is your car a complete loss?"
Sarah shucked her jacket with a sigh. "No, I think it's mostly cosmetic. A good body shop should be able to fix it. Once the tire’s replaced it should be drive-able." Then she added in a sudden wail, "But it was my car!" She plopped down on the couch dejectedly.
Giles, who had thrown more money into his Citroen than to buy a new car a couple of times over, sympathised.
"Do you have any idea how much time I've spent in that car?" Sarah raked her hair away form her face. "It's more of a home than anywhere else."
"You must be exaggerating," Giles scoffed, but Sarah looked away, her eyes and jaws tightening, and he realised she hadn't been. "How long has it been?" he asked, more gently.
She lifted a shoulder in a casual shrug that was too calculated for him to believe. "A couple of years, maybe. It's not really home anymore."
"That wasn't very convincing." Giles took out a couple of plates. "It rather sounded like Buffy saying she loves exams."
She leaned forward, elbows on her knees and her chin resting on her fist. "How do you keep living here?" she asked suddenly, as if she wouldn't ask the question if she gave herself time to think about it. "I mean -- she was killed here, wasn't she? How can you stand staying here, with that memory?"
Giles paused in the midst of stirring a pot of sauce on the stove. "Because there are good memories here, too. Yes, I see her shadows sometimes, and remember her voice, but I'd rather have those memories than be somewhere else where they weren't. Another place would seem... sterile without the memory of her presence."
Sarah stared past him. "I can't stand it," she said softly. "Can't stand walking through the house. I keep thinking I see him out of the corner of my eye. And no matter how much the 'Hold changes, it doesn't change the face that he would be there if I had... just... been faster."
"That's guilt, not memories."
She shrugged again. "What's the difference?"
There was a knock on the door, and Giles tossed the spoon in the sink. "I might as well throw a bloody party," he said in exasperation.
The knocking turned into pounding, that grew frantic n the short time it took Giles to cross the room. He pulled open the door, and Xander nearly fell in the doorway in mid-pound. He caught himself just shy of stumbling. "Hi!" he said brightly.
Sarah wondered if that God-help-me expression would eventually become permanent on Giles' face. "What do you want, Xander?" he asked with infinite patience.
A look of puzzlement creased Xander's face, and he sniffed experimentally. "Do I smell something burning?"
It was amazing how fast Giles could more when he needed to. Before Xander had finished speaking, Giles was in the kitchen, clattering pots. Then he came back in, still with that expression of patience, as if rescuing his kitchen from fire was a common, everyday occurrence. "Yes, Xander?"
"Buffy needs help," Xander announced, bouncing on the balls of his feet expectantly.
Giles closed his eyes briefly. "Yes. Now why is that not a surprise?"
"Well, actually, she doesn't think she needs help, but I tend to think that being outnumbered that badly is a definition of needing help. So I elected myself as cavalry-fetcher."
"More vampires?" Giles asked, but he had already pulled on his coat was and sorting over weapons in a chest in the corner of the room.
"Um ... I don't think so," Xander hedged. "At least, I've never seen a vampire that had wings ... or tentacles."
"Sounds more like my area." Sarah bent over Giles' shoulder. "Bring in what distance weapons you can. I know Buffy's hell on wheels with those stakes, but some of these, you're not gonna want to get that close to. Xander, would you call my place and get Meli and Wren in on this?"
Xander tried the phone while Sarah and Giles rapidly went into some kind of weapons-speak. "Line's busy," he said after trying a couple of times.
"Damn. I told them not to hook computers to both lines."
"Ill run over," Xander offered and dashed out the door.
"Xander!" Giles bellowed.. Xander stuck his head in again. "You shouted, oh mighty Watcher?"
"Where is this taking place?" Giles asked mildly, his tone belying his expression.
"Oh." Xander ducked his head sheepishly. "Remember that picnic Willow dragged us to? The one on the overlook by the beach, when Buffy made those cream puffs, except they weren't because she misread the recipe and used sour cream instead of whipped cream? There. Shall I go now?"
"Yes, by all means," Giles said faintly. Xander bounded away, and Giles glanced at Sarah. "I know it seems that we're very disorganised, but..."
"Hey," Sarah said with understanding, "you should see some of my guys." She looked at the pile of weapons with satisfaction, then stood up again. "Can you get all of these there on your own?"
"I believe so."
"Good." She grinned, fanged and feral. "I'll meet you there." And she was gone through the door Xander had left open.
Buffy just wished she could catch her breath.
Sarah had been right. This wasn't like fighting vampires. She had fought demons before, but it was usually just one or two at a time. Sarah had said demons were territorial and didn't often attack in packs. But this time was apparently different.
And they moved differently than she was used to. These creatures had the wrong number of arms and legs, and their sense of balance and movement were different. At least vampires were still built like humans, despite their speed and strength.
Her side ached where a reptilian thing had hit her with its tail and knocked the air out of her. She could keep moving, but her stomach muscles kept clenching in protest. Not for the first time, she was thankful that Giles has pounded moves into her until she could flow through them without thinking. If she could just catch her breath, she'd be fine.
There was a blur in the peripheral vision, and the demon that had been approaching her from behind suddenly flew over her head. From its expression, Buffy gathered that it hadn't been a planned flight, and she spun around. Sarah grinned at her, her eyes and face as feral as a vampire's , and Buffy realised that the other woman was enjoying the fight with a glee that was inhuman. Sarah caught another demon around its throat, in the same grip Buffy had seen her use on the vampire in the alley. The demon's skin parted as she squeezed, her eyes blazing green. The demon twitched, and she tossed it aside to die.
The demons paused, not sure which of the two targets to pursue, but those precious few seconds were all that Buffy needed to catch her breath. She slipped into cold, unthinking slaying.
Sarah had no stake, and in another of those split seconds, Buffy held up one in offer. Sarah shook her head, grinning through her fangs, and the horrified little voice in the back of Buffy's head that never quite went away, screamed that Sarah was enjoying ripping them apart with her claws. Then someone over in the sidelines shouted, and the demons moved in as a pack again.
"Do we have an audience?" Sarah shouted over the din of fighting.
Fortunately, just about anything will die if it is stabbed through the chest with a stake. However, it was more of a problem when you couldn't tell where its chest was. Buffy danced rather helplessly around a furry blob that oozed hissing goop, then darted in and drove her stake through the topmost part of it. It gurgled and disintegrated into a pile of moldy gelatin. "I'll never eat Jell-O again." Buffy made a face. "Yeah, there's a group of vampires over there. under those trees."
Sarah shoved her hair out of her eyes and ducked a tentacle. She grabbed it as it went by and bit it. The demon squealed and pulled back sharply. Still yipping, it ran. Sarah grinned after it.
This time, the blurs came from either side. and Meliaka and Wren flanked them both. They had grins almost identical to Sarah's, their hands clawed. They never shifted out of human form, but the three of them flowed into fighting patterns that fed off of each other, with the familiarity built in years of fighting together.
Buffy felt left out.
Then there was a whoop as Xander bounded into view, armed with a baseball bat, then Oz appeared on her other side, a stake in one hand, and a pair of sharpened drumsticks tucked in his pocket. Willow stood behind him with her own armload of stakes. She began chanting furiously, her eyes blazing similar to the half-demons. Buffy had a brief second of recognition; the spell was similar to the one Willow used to float pencils. These words were sharper, harsher, and the first stake in her arms rose and flew over Oz's shoulder and into the demon he was fighting, as straight and as true as the crossbow bolt Giles fired into the one Xander was fending off with his bat.
They stood together in their own team, fighting with their own rhythm, and Buffy felt her own, almost inhuman, grin pulling at her face as she staked a demon coming at Willow.
Then Giles suddenly shouted, and blue light blazed around him. Everyone on the field broke away in surprise, as the Watcher held the Globe above his head.
Then he spun and threw it. One of the vampires on the sidelines screamed in protest, then again in panic. The Globe blazed light like a comet, hung briefly in the air, then plummeted off the cliff to the jagged rocks below. In the sudden silence, they all heard the tiny shattering of glass.
In ten seconds, the field was empty of anything less than half-human.
Buffy stared at Giles in disbelief from her half-crouch on the ground. Giles smiled slightly at the dumbfounded faces around him. He help up his crossbow. "At least we didn't break this one," he said with satisfaction