Buffy had spent the rest of the afternoon trying not to think about what had happened between her and Giles. Had almost happened, she told herself. Nothing actually took place. Okay, there was the creepy ogling and all the implied innuendo, and maybe even some slight lip touchage, but she had put a quick stop to all that stuff before anything got too weird.
Willow and Tara had been true to their word. While Buffy whiled away the afternoon puttering around the house until Dawn got home from school, the witches had gone out to the Magic Box. They spent several hours helping Anya and Xander straighten up the previous day’s mess, then heading back to the Summers’ residence, they made a brief stop at a local supermarket to pick up a few items. By the time they got back to the house on Revello Drive, Dawn was finishing off the last of her homework. The teen put away her books, and joining her sister and the other two girls in the kitchen, the foursome began their dinner preparations.
In the past, the girls had gotten lazy, throwing together whatever they could find, and relying on various fast food franchises for their meals, or eating on the run. Since Giles’ return, however, dinner had taken on a new meaning. It was an opportunity to gather everyone in one place, and the girls acknowledged this by spending more time and effort on what they ate. The occasional pizza still managed to make it to the table, but so did pot roasts and mashed potatoes. Tonight’s culinary attempt was Chicken Marengo, and in spite of a dubious start, the dish had finally come together, and arrived at the table smelling yummy and looking perfectly edible.
Unfortunately, Giles wasn’t there with them to share in the treat. This normally would not have been cause for alarm, but with the Watcher behaving strangely since his demon transformation, the girls were all mildly concerned by his absence. Finishing up their meal, they set aside a portion, just in case the Brit came home, and then splitting up the remaining chores, cleared away the table and washed the dishes.
The sun set, and still no Giles. Anya and Xander showed up on the doorstep around eight, their arms loaded with video rentals and several kinds of soda. Popcorn was made, and gathering in the livingroom, everyone settle down for an impromptu vid fest.
They were barely a quarter of the way into their first film choice when a loud pounding interrupted. Buffy got up to go answer the door, and was nearly bowled over as Spike came stumbling across the threshold and into the foyer. The vampire’s clothing was stained with globs of thick, fatty-looking goo, and his peroxide blonde hair was mussed, the short locks sticking comically out in every direction.
“Oh, in’ this just peachy,” Spike grumbled, scowling at the sea of mindless Scoobie faces that surrounded the television. “Look at the lot of you, all comfy, sittin’ around watchin’ the telly while I’m out doin’ your dirty work .”
“Yeah, well, did you have to bring it here with you?” Buffy grumbled as a chunk of goo slid off the vampire’s hollow cheek and plopped wetly onto the floor. “Ewww!” she shuddered, her face wrinkling disgust. “What is that?”
“Not ‘is’, was,” Spike corrected. Casually swiping a hand across his chin, he inadvertently dislodged another fatty glob. “Not really sure, but the bugger had some pretty nasty lookin’ choppers on ‘im. So did his friends.”
“Friends?” Suddenly Buffy was all serious. She could see where Spike was going with his story. “These friends. I’m guessing they’d still be out there?” she said, nodding toward the darkness outside.
“Got that right, slayer,” Spike chortled. Pulling out a pack of cigarettes and his lighter, he took a moment to light up a smoke. “And this particular bloke was pretty popular. Had lots and lots of friends. Thought I’d swing by and pick me up some reinforcements.”
Sauntering his way across the living room, Spike made a bee-line to the slayer’s weapon chest. Cracking the lid open, he rifled through the cache of sharp implements inside, taking them out one at a time to try.
“So, what’s this thing look like?” Buffy asked as she watched the vampire testing the grip of a long handled axe.
“Big,” Spike frowned, tossing back the axe and selecting one with a longer handle. “Really big. With big claws, and big tusks and a big mouth full of lots of big teeth.”
“I take it ‘big’ is the operative word here,” Xander glibly surmised.
“Got that right,” Spike cheekily snarled. “And we’re gonna have ourselves one hell of a big funeral parade in this town tomorrow if you folks don’t get off your duffs and start makin’ with the rescue. So, come on!” he growled, throwing out a sword to Xander. “Time’s a wastin’. Get a move on!”
Catching the sword by its handle, Xander struggled to remove himself from the chair in which he was so comfortably entrenched with his girlfriend.
“Look,” Buffy said, striding forward to stop Spike as he reached for another weapon. She clamped a hand over his, arresting his arm before he could grab up another sword. “Spike, why don’t you and I handle this thing. Alone. I mean, no use ruining everyone’s night.”
“Sorry to disappoint, kitten,” Spike replied, his voice softening slightly as he paused to confront the blonde girl. “But we’re going to need all the troops for this one.”
With a heavy sigh, Buffy released her hold on the vampire’s wrist. Spike resumed handing out weapons to the various Scoobies in attendance as they stood up and began to collect around him.
“There you go. No pushing in line. Plenty here for everyone,” the vampire cheerily sang out in his street accent. Like a department store Santa at Christmas, he handed out the contents of the weapons chest to each member of Buffy’s do-gooder gang. Anya got a cross bow, while Willow and Tara respectively received a double-balled spiked mace and a winged partizan pole respectively. For Dawn he selected a slim, lightweight Japanese-style sword. The blade had a long reach, so the teen wouldn’t have to get in too close to use it, and since it wasn’t very weighty, she could wield it as easily using one hand or two.
Reaching over Spike’s shoulder, Buffy plucked a War Shark hand axe from the chest. She twirled the short handled weapon, taking a moment to admire the down-curved back spike and the fancy wave of ridges that trailed down the handle. The pommel end of the weapon sported a second blade that could be used for stabbing as well as slicing, making the axe a handy tool for someone who knew how to use it, and Buffy was certainly that person.
“Could we at least keep Dawn out of this?” the slayer pouted as she sized up her younger sister with concern.
“I suppose,” Spike shrugged. “Though we might want to bring her along, just in case we need someone to skeedaddle and go warn the town.”
“Well, she isn’t going to need a weapon for that,” Buffy observed.
Spike frowned, his eyes swinging from sister to sister. Buffy was obviously worried that Dawn might get hurt, which was a valid point considering what they were heading into. After all, it was her job to keep her sibling safe and protected. Dawn, however, was excited. She wanted to be a part of the action with the others. Spike could sympathize with the teen, and her older sister as well. It wasn’t lightly that he suggested the little niblet tag along.
“For that, no,” he replied to the slayer’s query. “But, trust me, once you see these critters, you’ll want to know she’s got something in her hands so’s she can defend herself. Should the need arise, of course.”
“Fine,” Buffy sighed, shrugging in resignation. “She can keep the sword.”
“Yay!” Dawn performed a happy dance of triumph. "I get to go!”
“You can go, but you stay back at the fringes,” her sister firmly cautioned. “Away from the fighting.”
“Right. Fringe Girl. That’s me. I promise.”
Slamming the chest shut, Spike straightened, holding up a wicked looking axe in one hand, and a sword in the other.
“Right, then,” he grunted. “That’s settled. Now, if someone would be so kind as to wake up the old geezer of the house, we can get this party on the road.”
There was a beat where the Scoobies exchanged an apprehensive look among themselves. Spike cocked a scarred eyebrow in curiosity.
“What?” he frowned.
“Giles isn’t here,” Willow finally volunteered. “He went...out.”
“So, let’s go bring him in,” Spike nonchalantly shrugged. “I mean, I know the doddering coot’s gettin’ on in his years, but Watcher Boy can still swing a mean sword, and we’re gonna need every hand we can get to fight these monsters.”
When no one moved, Spike growled impatiently, and lowered his weapons.
“Okay, now what?”
“We don’t know where he went,” Tara timidly replied.
“Well, we sort of know where he went,” Willow quickly rejoined. “He told Buffy that he was going to go out for a walk. We just don’t know where he was going to go walk.”
“He’s been gone for hours,” Dawn added. “He missed dinner and everything.”
“So, what’s the problem?” Spike grumbled. “We ask around, find out if anyone’s seen him. Can’t be that many washed up middle-aged British Watchers wandering around Sunnydale.”
“Spike has a point,” Xander agreed with visible reluctance.
“Yeah. We should probably start by looking through all the nearby stores and bakeries. He’s had a pretty bad case of the sugar munchies lately. He might have stopped off somewhere for Twinkie.”
Willow frowned at her slayer friend. “If this big bad is as bad and big as Spike says it is, we’re definitely going to need him. Come on, Buffy. After what Giles did this afternoon? How could you think about not bringing him along?”
“He did do good with the fighting,” Tara offered.
“Good? He did great!” Willow enthused. “You guys should have seen him. He practically wiped out this whole posse of demons that were tearing up the science lab. It was awesome!”
“He did okay,” Buffy grudgingly conceded. But Willow was not dissuaded.
“He was like...uhhh! And then uhhh!” she excitedly regaled as she acted out a portion of the battle. She threw a few punches at an imaginary foe, and leaped into a kick that closely mimicked the slayer, though it lacked the grace and strength of her style. “Well, anyway,” Willow finished, blushing self-consciously at her moment of exhibitionism. “He was a demon slaying demon deluxe. A regular powerhouse of evil-pummeling superness.”
A perplexed scowl creased Spike's lean features. “Some one mind filling me in? I think I’m missing out on something here. Since when is Giles super anything?”
“Since he turned into a demon,” Anya blithely returned.
Spike blinked, staring blankly at the faces around him. Suddenly, he doubled over and exploded in a burst of laughter.
“Giles is a demon? Again?” The vampire guffawed, unable to hold back his tears of amusement as he howled with glee. Wrapping his weapon filled arms around his heaving sides, he shook his head in incredulous disbelief. “So, what is it this time? Vahrall demon? Werewolf? Some disgusting slime regurgitating theriomorph with horns?”
“No slime. No horns,” Anya informatively supplied. “And no tail. Well, not as far as we can tell. But he does have wings. The feather kind. Not leathery.”
“Wings, eh?” Spike nodded, stifling a cynical chortle. “And you’re thinkin’ with something like that no one would possibly remember seein’ him wandering around?”
“This is Sunnydale,” Xander retorted. “There’s a lot of stuff wandering around here that people don’t see.”
“Besides,” Willow added. “He had his wings tucked up inside his shirt, so you wouldn’t have really noticed them.”
“Right. Well, you can fill me in on the back story later,” Spike grinned as he started toward the front door. “We need to rustle us up some demon Watcher and get on our way.”
Shouldering their various weapons, the gang obediently filed out of the house, following behind the vampire on his heels as he struck off down the street. Buffy sighed. She really had reservations about involving Giles, but there was no way she could possibly convince the others, at least not without giving away what had happened that afternoon, and it just wasn’t worth the humiliation. With a resigned determination, Buffy closed the door, and traipsing reluctantly after her companions, brought up the rear of the intimidating parade as it marched off into the night to meet its destiny.