Buffy jogged up the sunny path heading further up the mountain side. It wasn't really a mountain so much as a gently sloping hill, but it was a big hill so the maps called it a mountain. Buffy didn't much care. It was just a nice good route for a run. Away from the house, away from her friends and away from the other Slayers. Another new girl had just arrived as Buffy was setting out. Everyone else was crowding around her doing the big welcoming committee thing so Buffy had slipped out the back.
She followed the path ever upwards, running through sunny glades and areas where dappled shadows took over as she made her way to the summit.
"Wow," she breathed when she finally reached the top.
The view was magnificent, especially for a girl born and raised in cities. She shielded her eyes from the bright sunlight and looked across the stunning vista.
Mountains, or maybe they were hills with big ideas, stretched away in front of her. She could make out lodges or cabins in the surrounding foothills. The panorama sloped downwards until relatively flat land met the dark blue surface of the lake. Despite the lack of breeze, even up on the top of the hill, she could see white crested waves catching the sun and making the surface of the water sparkle.
It looked so inviting that Buffy wanted to run towards it. How better else to shake off the crappiness of the day than to bathe in those cool, refreshing waves.
"Yeah and it would probably take me a couple of days to run there, even if all the other hills are only babies compared to this one," she said aloud.
The scene looked like a painting she could reach out and touch, but in reality the motor boat she could see zooming about on it looked like a toy from this distance.
Making a mental note to find the lake another day she stretched a few times to keep herself limber then set off again along the track, this time heading down the far side to where she could see some cabins nestled into the hill side. If there were cabins there must be a road, which logic would assume would take her into Boudenver. She hadn't been into Boudenver yet and exploring seemed a good way to avoid going back to the house.
Faith grabbed two trays of breakfast and handed one to the new girl trailing after her.
"If you're hungry you have to be quick. This stuff doesn't stay hot for more than five minutes and if you think it looks inedible now . . ." She sat down at a long bench table and the new blonde sat down the other side.
"I'm not hungry," said the young blonde pushing her tray away from her and staring down at her shaking hands.
Faith pulled the tray towards her. "Yeah well if you don't want it, I'll have it. This place always leaves me hungry and they're about as thrilled at you asking for more as Mr. Bumble."
"Huh?" Asked her confused companion.
"Oliver Twist. It's a favorite of mine. You should eat Janey, starving yourself won't enhance you're prison experience, trust me, it'll just make you feel worse. I tried it when I got in here . . . heh heh I lasted about two days then I was shoveling up as much of the slop as I could get my hands on."
"I'm not starving myself, I'm just not hungry. You have it if you want."
Faith eyed Janey for a moment wondering if she should push the issue, but Slayer metabolism won in the end and she dragged the sausages and hash browns onto her own plate quickly.
A hand slammed down next to her elbow that was propped on the table. The Slayer rolled her eyes and sighed. Janey jumped about a foot in the air and her trembling got worse. Faith figured even if you weren't in prison Lolitta's face could have that affect.
The Italian-American inmate was really beginning to piss Faith off. All week she and her hench women had been everywhere Faith had been. She'd received two or three beatings from them since Buffy's visit and each time Faith dropped to the floor that little bit quicker. They thought they were wearing her down and that was exactly what Faith wanted them to think. What she didn't want was this frightened kid opposite her caught up on it all.
"You stealing food offa the new fish, Wilkins? That's not good manners. Didn't your mama teach you any better?" Lolitta growled out next to Faith's ear.
Inwardly Faith flinched once at the mention of her false surname and again at the mention of her mother, but outwardly she acted like she hadn't heard and just kept shoveling hash browns and baked beans into her mouth.
"It's . . . it's okay, I said she could have it," Janey told her in a shaky voice.
"Well that's very generous of you, sugar, but Faith here knows the rules better than you do and she knows any free feeds come to us, not her."
Janey looked horrified that she'd made some kind of pecking order blunder and Faith burst our laughing.
"What you laughing at Wilkins?"
"The crock o' shit that keeps on falling out of your mouth," Faith told her, still laughing.
'Damn me and my big mouth,' she thought as she sat there face first in her breakfast. Lolitta's hand was still mashing her face into the bean juice and it was stinging the fresh cut on her lip. Aware of inmates and guards all watching this she kept her temper with great difficulty. The second the pressure was released on the back of her head she scraped her chair back with enough force to push Lol off balance a little. Standing she wiped her face with her sleeve, orange sauce mingled with red blood.
A guard was approaching them as the two women stared at each other. "What's going on?" He barked, even though he must have seen the whole thing.
"Who the hell is she sleepin' with?" Faith wondered.
"Seems Faith spilled some beans down her chin. You should let her have a bib," Lolitta said with a ninety watt smile.
"Wilkins?" The guard turned to her.
"Messy, messy me," she told the guard sarcastically. "I should go get cleaned up." Faith stalked off back to her cell.
Janey got up to rush after her. Lolitta moved quick and got a hand on her shoulder before she could get very far.
"If you know what's good for you Blondie, you'll stay away from that one as much as you can. She's bad news, if you know what I mean. You'd be better off sticking with us. We'll watch your back, she'll only get you stabbed in it." Her smile turned dangerous. "Trust me on this."
Janey grabbed the larger woman's hand and wrenched it off of her shoulder and squeezed it. Lolitta grunted in pain and pulled her hand away, Janey let her. For a minute there she lost the scared little girl expression she'd been wearing for what seemed like forever, but now it came back. She hurried back to the cell after Faith before anyone else could say anything.
The cabins turned out to be a hotel of sorts, with a separate restaurant and tennis courts around the back. Out the front was a police jeep with a flashing blue light and parked next to it was another jeep with the words Animal Control emblazoned on the side. People were milling about aimlessly.
Buffy slowed to a casual walk just before reaching the small crowd. She came to a stop by a pair of middle-aged women dressed in hiking gear, and they were talking quite loudly to one another. Buffy felt it would be rude not to listen.
The woman wearing the royal blue wet weather jacket was saying: "Well if they don't catch it soon, they never will. All this noise going on, it'll want to be as far away as possible; but then who's to say it won't come back and strike again when it all calms down."
Her companion wore a thick green sweater despite the heat of the day. "Well if they don't find it by nightfall then I think we should curtail this part of our trip and move on to Cleveland. I won't sleep at night knowing some savage killer is roaming around."
"I agree," said Royal blue coat. "Let's go out to the veranda, I need a stiff drink after that."
The two women left the crowd and Buffy drifted closer to where the track disappeared back into the trees. A young man dressed as a waiter was speaking to an older man with wild grey hair and a wild grey beard to match. Buffy listened.
"Well it's not good for business, I can tell you that now. Mr. Alfonze is going to hit the roof if all our guests up and leave," said the young man.
"Well Simon it's not like I can do a lot about it. Animals attack where they want to attack. That's the way it is, but we got this situation under control and we'll have it all cleared up and forgotten before any of your guests get a chance to leave," the older man assured him.
"I know Animal attacks happen. I've lived here my whole life and I've seen what a momma bear will do if you look wrong at her cubs and I heard what happened to the Thomas' boy when he got to close to that wolf, but this couple were ripped apart. What animal around here would do that? Rip a couple apart and just leave them there. No animal I know of." The waiter seemed pretty shaken up.
"I'm not sure." The older man admitted. "But that's why we got animal control here, they know about this stuff. Maybe it was something rabid. That'd do it."
Buffy had heard enough. As casually as she could she started to walk down the track past the talking men. Before she could get any further the older man put out a hand to stop her. For the first time she noticed the sheriff badge stuck to his shirt.
"Sorry Miss, you can't go that way today."
"Oh, okay. Sorry. Uh, why?"
"We've had a bit of trouble with some of the local wildlife. Nothing to worry yourself about. It'll all be sorted out in due course and you can carry on your holiday like nothing happened," the sheriff explained, mistaking Buffy for a guest.
"What was it? What type of animal I mean?" Buffy asked politely.
The sheriff hesitated. "We think, that is the animal control experts believe that it must have been a bear."
"Gosh, and it hurt someone?" Buffy played the tourist to the hilt.
"Killed someone more like, two someones," said Simon the waiter.
The sheriff turned on him in exasperation. "Do you want all of Mr. Alfonze's guests to go home?"
"No, but you didn't know them Sheriff. Shaun and Debbie were good people and they come all the way from England to holiday with us and this happens to them. They got kids at home too, three of them. They showed me the pictures just this morning." Simon let out a little sob and dashed back in the direction of the hotel.
The Sheriff looked a little embarrassed at the young man's outburst. "Uh maybe you should be getting back yourself Miss. There's really no more to see here."
Buffy nodded and started back up the track. 'No, not here,' she thought. 'But maybe somewhere else.'
She waited until she was around the bend once more and out of sight of the crowd before she ducked into the shadow of the trees. She moved as quickly and as quietly as she could, wincing at the crackling of branches beneath her feet, but it didn't take her long before she could hear voices in front. She eased carefully around a large bush and could easily make out the blue and white jacket with 'Sheriff Department' on the back. The man wearing it was stood with his back to her while two other men in green uniforms were talking to him. She guessed they were animal control.
Leaping high, she caught the lowest branch of the tree above her and pulled herself up. From there she crawled along towards the end before reaching up and grabbing the sturdy limb of a different tree slightly higher. She continued like this until she was about twelve feet off the ground but only a few feet from the forests edge. She made herself as small as possible on the branch while she listened.
The large man in the police coat was talking. "They were dragged here, and I'm guessing it was from the caves. There's a blood trail to suggest it, but why would an animal go to that much trouble? Why not kill and eat or kill and leave?"
From her current vantage point Buffy could now see two mangled corpses lying side by side by the edge of the track.
"Maybe it was dragging them back to its den, that could explain it," one of the animal guys said.
"What, both bodies?" Asked the cop.
The other animal guy was holding a handkerchief over his nose and his skin looked pale and waxy. His voice came out slightly muffled. "It could have been a pack of something."
"Something's not making sense. When was the last time we had packs of wolves attacking?" Asked the cop.
"Last week Alex," the first man in green said simply.
"Okay, attacking tourists in daytime then?" The cop rubbed his messy thatch of hair and looked over at the two chewed bodies. "I'll get forensics to see if any of the blood isn't their own."
Animal guy number two pulled the hanky away; he was getting a bit of color back in his cheeks now. "Good let us know what we're looking for, meanwhile we'll check the area, but if whatever it was is in the caves, I don't know how much luck we might have."
"You know how far those tunnels go," his colleague agreed.
Sirens could be heard approaching, nearly causing Buffy to fall off her branch.
"About damn time." The tall cop moved over to the bodies. "Let's get these poor bastards out of here.
Buffy crawled away across the branches, not dropping to the ground until she was far enough away to not be seen.
Second day nerves were worse than first day nerves, Dawn decided. All the people you had met the day before had had time to formulate their opinions. She bet half the girls that had seemed so friendly yesterday had spent the better part of last night bitching her out on the phone. With a deep breath and a nervous smile she opened the door to her homeroom and got ready to face whatever was thrown at her.
It turned out to be a fuzzy yellow football.
She dropped her bag when her arms instinctively flew up to catch it before it hit her on the nose, then she looked around to see who had it in for her already.
Three guys were stood on the far side of the room; she vaguely recognized them from the day before. Two of them were sniggering openly while the third was turning red as she watched.
"Nice catch," one of the sniggerers called across the general hub-bub of the teacher less room.
"Sorry," said the red guy with an apologetic grimace.
"S'okay." She smiled and chucked it inexpertly back.
Gathering up her bag, she made to sit in the same seat as the day before just as the teacher strolled in.
Dawn had already decided Mr. Roberts was a hottie, even if he was kind of old. As he went to his desk now the rest of the class automatically settled into their seats with minimal fuss. That kind of respect for a teacher was rare, Dawn knew.
Halfway through role-call Sethos sauntered in, gave Mr. Roberts a nod and went to lounge in his seat.
"I'm glad you can join us Seth." Mr. Roberts' tone was light enough. "Do you want to share with me the reason for your tardiness?"
"I was doing my hair," the young man replied without a hint of sarcasm.
Titters spread through the classroom. Dawn turned in her seat to look at his hair. It was short, cut close to his dark skin. It looked good but she couldn't see how he had to do more than possibly run a handful of wax or gel over his head in the mornings.
"Is that supposed to be amusing?" Mr. Roberts didn't smile.
"No," Sethos answered, impassive. His fingernails scraped the desk top leisurely.
The teacher glared at him. "You were late your first day and you're late again today. Maybe detention this afternoon will make you think twice about being late tomorrow. I'll get the office to inform your parents. This goes for everyone; I expect punctuality unless you have a damn good reason otherwise. If I can make it here on time so can you."
Sethos just nodded looking bored and Mr. Roberts went back to role-call.
Dawn smirked and shook her head. 'God, he thinks he's such a bad boy. What a dork!' She thought.
After homeroom Dawn hurried off to her locker and spotted a familiar face from the day before.
"Fen hi, why weren't you in homeroom?" She asked the tall blonde girl she'd sat with in most of her classes and for lunch.
"Hey Sunny Summers," the blonde greeted as she slammed her own locker shut. "Dentist." She winked. Off of Dawn's look of disbelief she added, "Hey I got a note."
"Who from?" Grinned Dawn.
"Our maid, but who's to know? She's been to more parents/teacher evenings than my mom has. So what did I miss?"
Dawn finished in her locker and they started down the hall to their first class.
"Other than saying yes to your name, not a lot."
"Well they can't flunk me for that, can they?" The buckles on the Fen's leather jacket jangled as they hurried.
Dawn thought that maybe attendance did have something to do with it, but she didn't want to look like a total geek in front of her new cool friend, so she said: "Guess not. Ooh Mr. Roberts and Sethos had words." She went into gossip mode.
"Sethos is so cute," Fen said as they entered their classroom.
"Oh he so is not," Dawn replied.
After the manly lunch of burger and fries at 'The Mouth' in town Giles, Xander and Andrew were in the largest of the barns preparing to turn it into a dormitory for the new Slayers. The house was already overcrowded and they were finding more every day.
Xander was measuring out wood, going over plans and overseeing the lesser experienced. Giles had offered to cut the actual wood as he was worried Xander would lose a thumb. It was a private concern he hadn't mentioned to the one-eyed man, but Xander had seemed quite happy to load the more manual jobs onto him and Andrew while he concentrated on the designing. Andrew was in charge of nailing up the new support beams into the old timber of the roof.
Over the past week Alison, Miranda and Cici had been washing down the insides of the walls and then whitewashing them. Despite many grumbles about the girls having to do all the hard work and lame Karate Kid jokes, they'd got it done and looking respectable, ready for the men to take over.
"Ow!" Andrew hit his thumb and dropped the hammer again, having to come down the ladder and retrieve it. "I don't know why I have to work up here and you two get to work down there," he grumbled.
"Because the only time I'm letting you have control of anything sharp and damaging is in the middle of the apocalypse, and then it's with a heavy heart," Xander told him, handing him up another length of planking before walking back to grab his beer and go over the measurements again.
"What if the ladder falls? It's not like anyone's holding it," the blonde whined.
"Then obviously you'll fall with it. Giles, I've marked up the next sixth lengths and that should be enough to finish the roofing, but we can't get any of that up until the rest of the beams are in, which is taking so cotton-pickin' long." He shot a glance at Andrew. "So what's say we start the partitions next?"
"Whatever you think," Giles answered over the reverberating saw.
"If we can get one of the girls in here to hold the ladder then I'd be able to let go of the wall and hammer faster," Andrew tried.
Xander looked shocked. "You mean let a woman come into our barn of manly, testosterone-y, belching, scratching-in-personal-places bonding?" He looked up as a shadow fell across the doorway. "Buffy hi. Come on in."
Giles put down his saw and drew closer to the door to give her a hug. "Buffy, hello. How was your trip?"
She pulled back aware of how sweaty she was and how dusty he was. "I found demons. Or at least I found their empty take-out cartons." She told him brightly.
"In L.A.?" Asked the Watcher.
"Nope. Guess again."
"On the airplane?" He asked horrified.
Buffy rolled her eyes and looked around at what they had accomplished in the barn.
Xander used a stubby pencil to mark a line on a long piece of wood before letting his tape measure zip back in. "I think she means here, big guy, on the happy, happy Hellmouth."
"Oh of course," Giles said, catching on.
"And what did they fancy for dinner Buff? Chinese babies, Italian babies, perhaps something spicier." He took another pull on his beer before picking up some more wood.
Buffy picked up a spirit level and started to fiddle. "None of the above. Adults, English."
"That's nice," Giles said with a homesick smile.
Buffy and Xander both turned to look at him. "Huh?" Was said in unison.
"Well not now they are dead obviously," spluttered Giles. "I assume they are dead?"
"From what I could tell dead is an understatement. I couldn't get that close, I was pulling a Tarzan in the woods, but from what I could see they had been shredded and then sucked dry of all their tasty goodness. One of them didn't have a head." Buffy turned the spirit level first one way and then the other watching the little bubble inside.
Xander wondered why he felt sick just at the description where as Buffy really could have been discussing the remains of her egg-choo-yung.
"Well I guess this calls for research," Giles said. "Was there any other sign of demonic activity that would help us pin-point what we are looking for?"
"Nope, just a blood trail. I can follow it later tonight if you want," Buffy offered.
"Yes okay, you can take the girls with you. Give Kennedy a break."
"No thanks, Giles, I'm not really social girl at the moment. Besides, it'll be quicker on my own."
Giles looked at her with something between concern and annoyance, his usual look for her. Xander could see he was itching to say something but the older man bit his tongue, instead saying:
"Well I'd better get started on the research then, check for more reports of animal attacks." Giles started to leave the barn but Xander stopped him.
"Oh no you don't. I'm measuring guy, you're cutting guy and Andrew's hitting his thumb with the hammer guy. If you want to get this finished before any more girls arrive and avoid a return to the dark days of six in a bedroom, then you can't break up the team."
Giles pondered this for a minute, clearly eager to get away. He sighed. "Kate has just arrived; Vi should be joining us next week. I suppose you're right." He turned to pick up the saw again. It wasn't there. Puzzled, he looked around for it.
"It's alright Giles, I'll get Willow and the others on the case, see what we can dig up. Although I'm pretty sure it's just another dopey demon stupid enough to wander onto the Slayer's territory."
"Ow! Buffy can you hold the ladder for me?" Came a whine from the rafters.
Buffy gave a derisive laugh. "No." She tilted the spirit level again. "Y'know they should put little women in the bubble that get naked when something's not level. It would make carpentry much more appealing." Giles gave her a look. "Okay I'm going." She sighed, chucking the tool to him.
Faith dried off her face then dealt with the dribbles that had gotten on her shirt. After a minute she was satisfied she couldn't make it any better and she turned to where Janey was hovering in the doorway.
"I can clean my own face, you didn't have to come running after me like that," she told the new girl slightly annoyed.
"I . . . I didn't. I . . . I just didn't want to . . ."
"Be to close to the stink rising from Lol. Yeah, I can relate." Smirking, Faith threw her towel onto her bunk and started to comb through her damp hair.
"She's not too nice, is she?" asked Janey, quietly.
Faith shrugged. "She's as sweet as cherry pie if you do what she tells ya."
"But you don't, of course." The blonde managed a little smile.
"Got it in one kid. The only master I got is me." Faith laughed at herself, she hadn't been her own master since becoming a Slayer and if she had just accepted that instead of trying to fight it all the time, she probably wouldn't be where she was now. "You don't want to mess with her though. I'm not saying do what she wants, but just be careful. You're only a little thing and if you piss her off she'll eat you for breakfast."
Janey looked very interested in that. "Is she really strong then, like super strong?"
Faith laughed again. "Nah she's just regular strong, but that's still more than you want to mess with, believe me."
Janey sat thinking about what Faith had said. Faith sat there on the edge of her bunk not really thinking about anything; she wasn't in any hurry to go back on the wing.
A woman appeared in the doorway. "Faith, mail for you." She handed the Slayer two letters and disappeared.
Faith looked them over carefully. Two letters in one day. She hadn't a single letter since she'd been back and now two. Cool. She checked the post marks for a clue to the senders. One was from Los Angeles, this was the bigger and the heavier of the two, she laid it down carefully beside her. The other was a small slim envelope which barely weighed a thing. It was from Cleveland.
Her heart started its usual double beat rhythm it did whenever she was close to anything that had been close to Buffy. These days that counted as the whole state of Ohio. She placed the small envelope down on the other side of her. Buffy wouldn't write, would she? Not after the way things had been left. Actually Buffy probably would write, but the contents were uncertain. Was she writing to tell her she still loved her, or was she writing to tell her she hated her all over again?
With shaking hands she picked the letter back up and just held it.
Buffy flicked idly through the book of demon lore; one of the several shipped from Giles' home in England. She could see no point in actually reading it considering she hadn't seen the demon, but by pretending, she could avoid looking at anyone else and joining in any of the conversations.
Willow at the other end of the table was so intent on her research that she too was ignoring everyone else. As she zipped through pages on the net her face grew increasingly concentrated until an all out frown was visible.
Kennedy stopped chatting to the new Slayer Kate when she noticed Buffy's pensive flicking, spotting that the blonde's eyes weren't even focused on the pages but on the table top beside the book.
Her girlfriend's thumb was in danger of breaking right off with the speed it was using the mouse ball, or whatever fancy name it had. Willow had mentioned that they'd had words before. She'd made out like it was no big deal, but looking at the two of them now she wasn't convinced.
Standing, the small brunette went behind Willow's chair and massaged her shoulders gently.
"Mmm nice." Coo'd the redhead without taking her eyes of the screen.
Buffy looked up, twitched her lips a little in disapproval, and looked back to the text in front of her.
Kennedy peered over her girlfriend's shoulder to see how she was progressing with the research. What she saw confused her.
"Will, am I missing something? Since when did Tibetan Monasteries have anything to do with our demons?"
"Um," Willow hedged. Buffy looked up.
"Actually when did Tibetan monks start building websites?" Kennedy asked with a light chuckle.
"You'd be surprised," the new girl said. "There are loads of demons referred to in Buddhist texts. There's the Yakshas which are generally good demons although if you need something from them they'll give you a riddle and if they don't like your answer, they can be a bit uppity." Kate's soft Irish lilt was excited and confident as she pushed her short brown hair behind her ears, obviously getting into it. "Then you've got your Rakshasas, they're the really nasty ones. They feed on human flesh and they're like . . . The Anti-gods or something. Then you've got the Kumbhandas that feed on the human spirit, they should be pretty easy to spot though considering they've got human bodies and horse heads. Kishimojin is a bit of a puzzler; she's known as the 'Mother of the demon children' but she's not evil anymore. She used to eat babies but Buddha showed her the error of her ways and she protects them instead or . . ." Kate realized everyone was staring at her and trailed off. "Is that okay?"
Buffy stopped staring at Kate, who she hadn't really noticed before, and smiled at Willow. "Obviously one of your team, Will."
Willow turned her rapt attention from the newcomer to frown at Buffy. "What do you mean 'my' team? Like you're not dying to be on it yourself. Short . . ."
"What? I think I've done my bit for the team. Short what?" Asked Buffy caught between confusion and irritation at Willow's attack.
"What, you call a couple of months of having sexy thoughts about Faith your stint for the 'team'. . ."
"Sexy thoughts? . . . whoa there missy. Firstly I'm not having any sexy thoughts about Faith. Mutilating ones possibly, secondly . . ."
"Shoulda known you'd get scared and jump straight back over the other side of the fence . . ."
". . . What the hell . . ."
"...There's plenty more women out there. Just 'cause Faith's a waste of space . . ."
". . . are you talking about?" Buffy's voice rose as she finished.
Willow stopped her babble and blinked at the shouting Slayer. "What?"
"What are you talking about Will? Why are you bringing up personal stuff at a research meeting?"
Willow looked dejected. "I thought you were. You were, weren't you? You know with all the 'which team are you playing for' stuff." Seeing Buffy's blank look Willow ducked her head a little bit. "You weren't," she surmised.
"No Willow, I was declaring Kate fit to be enrolled in Team: Research meaning she could tread in your hallowed footprints as she's obviously got the smarts for it." Buffy stood up, "But thanks for airing my sexy thoughts in public. You've been a great help," she finished sarcastically and left through the back door.
Kennedy dropped a small kiss on the top of Willow's head and resumed her massage. Willow's eyes turned back to the screen.
Kate gulped, unsure how she had just caused the little explosion between the witch and the elder Slayer, but feeling responsible never-the-less.
"So how do you know so much about Tibetan demons?" Asked Kennedy, breaking the tense silence but not the tension itself.
"I always liked stories about them; I guess a lot of it stuck in my brain. I'm not sure I would have been so keen had I known they were real, though," Kate said.
Willow kept her head down as she worked through the web pages. Not everyone who went to the monastery near Ngari for help had a mention on the page she'd found but the one she was looking for was there, there was even a picture too. He was standing there with that cryptic smile of his surrounded by bald-headed monks in orange robes all about the same height as he. She smiled fondly at the picture and stroked it with a finger tip. Feeling the pressure change on her shoulders, she clicked onto something else. The page hadn't told her any more than she'd already found out anyway. She would find what she was looking for though, or her name wasn't Net-Girl.
Giles was still looking around the barn, lifting up pieces of wood and pieces of paper covered with Xander's scruffy handwriting and little diagrams, but he couldn't find the tool anywhere.
"Damn and blast it. I only put it down a moment ago. What the devil has happened to it?"
"Giles is this your way of telling me you've lost my best saw? Hang on, let me rephrase that: my only saw?" Asked Xander.
"Not lost, mislaid," he assured the carpenter, still looking around wildly. "Andrew have you taken the saw?"
Andrew's voice floated down to them. "Mr. Giles you know I'm not allowed to touch the saw, ever since . . ." He held up his left hand which sported a white bandage below his little finger.
"It's like the bloody thing grew legs of its own."
Buffy was sitting behind the barns in the sun, brooding. All she wanted to do was bury her head in Willow's neck and cry her heart out, but her best friend was just being mean. Okay, so she hadn't exactly opened up this morning, but it was the best friend's job to pry it out of her when she wasn't feeling forth-coming. All the redhead had done was snap at her and said nasty things. Just because she had a girlfriend who loved her and gave her massages and was actually here, she didn't want to know about her.
She picked a daisy and turned it around and around in her fingers. She plucked at one of the petals and the rhyme echoed inside her head.
"I'm not doing it. A flower can't calculate the intricacies of the human heart, it's just a gimmick to get us to pick you and spread your seed far and wide," she told the little flower firmly. "And if I'm not getting any, neither are you."
The grass moved by her right foot and she tensed. It stopped its rustle for a heartbeat, and then parted to reveal a pixie, Buffy was pretty sure it was the same one as before. "Hey, you're back then. Take a seat. You still can't understand a word I'm saying can you, and yet I just keep on talking." She greeted the little purple being, glad for the distraction.
The pixie regarded her for a second before responding. "Purty Biggaar, yow look sor bye." Seeing Buffy's blank look, the little pixie thought hard then said "Sor . . . saad."
"You mean sad. I am a bit," Buffy admitted.
The pixie nodded and continued. "Iy haave a giff..." She disappeared back into the grass and came back dragging a saw behind her. "Ahh giff frum Elowen." She pointed a tiny little thumb at her chest.
Buffy accepted the saw, smiling slightly. "So you're Elowen?"
The pixie repeated the gesture with her thumb and repeated the name. "Elowen. Care-ee iss shap."
Buffy looked confused and so Elowen mimed cutting herself on the saw, then shook her hand in the air as if she'd hurt it. She smiled at the little creature's antics.
Seeing Buffy smile seemed to please Elowen and she smiled big herself, a teeny set of very white teeth contrasted starkly with the mauve of her face and the indigo of her eyes.
The blonde Slayer held the saw carefully as instructed. "Thank you Elowen."
The pixie beamed almost blinding her with the white white teeth, then darted away back into the grass. Buffy turned the cutting implement over in her hands a few times; it was shiny and new, catching the sun as she turned it.
"Guess I could always cut my head off with it," she groaned, flopping onto her back to stare at the clouds.
Giles had given up looking for the saw and was sitting instead on the wooden saw horse in the centre of the barn, drinking one of the obligatory bonding beers. As much as he had protested when it was offered that he would much prefer a cup of tea, he had to admit the icy brew was going down a treat.
He set his bottle carefully by his feet and stood up to pull his handkerchief from his jeans pocket. The temperature outside was about seventy, not particularly hot compared to the summers he'd suffered through in L.A., but inside the barn with no breeze and no windows and only the door open to allow any relief, it felt like at least one hundred degrees.
"Xander, we must put some windows in, not just for light and ventilation, but for safety as well. We can't have only one way in and out if we hope to put twenty girls in here." Giles mopped at his sweat-covered neck as he spoke.
Xander was leaning over a makeshift table he had set up, writing numbers and measurements onto his diagrams. "I'm on it G-man. Two windows, one on both walls at the far end." He pointed down the barn away from the door. "Just give me a minute." He made some more marks on the paper.
Giles removed his glasses and put them down on the saw horse, while he wiped his face dry.
"Here you go. Come and have a look at this."
"Just a moment." Giles placed his handkerchief back in his pocket and reached down for his glasses. His fingers didn't immediately close around them like he was expecting. Turning in the direction his hand was groping he couldn't see them anywhere. He checked around under the sawhorse. Nothing.
"What in the seven hells is going on?" He asked in confusion.
Buffy was still lying on her back. Her hands were pillowing her head and her ankles were crossed. Her eyes were closed against the brightness of the sun. The saw was discarded to her left side. The grass rustled.
Buffy opened one eye. "I know you're there."
The pixie, Elowen, seemed to take this as hello, for she pushed her way out of the long grass strands and boldly climbed onto Buffy's flat stomach. She smiled at the Slayer.
"Hi again." greeted Buffy, regarding the forward display of the pixie. "Y'know, I don't usually let people sit on my tummy until at least the third date." She sighed and closed her eyes again. "Not that I really remember what a third date is," she added.
Elowen ignored all of this, mostly because she didn't understand a word of it, but also because she was excited to be bringing the Bigger another present; she'd seemed so happy with the first one. She leaned a little to the side and dragged a pair of glasses off of the grass where she'd hidden them.
Buffy accepted them absentmindedly. "For me? You shouldn't have," she said wryly. She leaned up on one elbow, careful not to dislodge the little pixie as she did so, and inspected the glasses more closely. "Oh, you really shouldn't have. Giles is gonna kill me." She put the glasses on and Elowen burst into a high tinkle-y giggle, it was cute. Blinking, she tore the glasses off of her nose and waved them around. "These things could seriously damage your eyesight." She was still blinking to clear the affect of the strong lenses. Elowen collapsed on her tummy, giggling uncontrollably.
Buffy smiled fondly at her, despite her current bad mood, she just couldn't help not. "Did anyone ever tell you how cute you are?"
She could hear a car engine coming and she turned her head to catch a glimpse of a big jeep coming up the driveway.
"I wonder who that is." She turned to look questionably at Elowen, but the pixie had vanished, not even a movement in the grass to show where she was. "Not in the company mood, huh? I know how you feel."
She sat up more fully when she heard a car door slam and Xander calling out a greeting.
School was finally out for the day and it hadn't gone too badly, Dawn decided. She and Fen were rapidly becoming good friends even though they'd barely known each other for more than thirty-six hours. The rest of the students seemed nice enough. Xander had been right about Sunnydale being big news, everyone wanted to know what the "Earthquake" was like.
It was getting on her nerves having to tell the fabricated version of the story all the time. Here was her chance to really shine, really be a hero in the eyes of her fellow student body. She'd faced the First Evil and won; that was way cooler than a common old earthquake, but she had to be content with telling the story that had been in the newspapers over and over.
She perched now on the wall that ran around the front of school, loosened her shirt from her pants and let it hang down, allowing a little breeze to reach her skin. It was warm sat in the sun, but someone should be along to pick her up soon.
She stopped looking at the road to see if anything was coming, because nothing was, and turned her attention back towards the school. Some students were still leaving, but it was mostly deserted now out the front. There were some after school activities just starting; Dawn could hear a trumpet being practiced somewhere. Fen had gone to a metal work class and wouldn't be finished for another hour.
As she watched, Sethos came strolling out of one of the side doors. He was in so much trouble now. Dawn called to him as he passed near her.
"Hey Seth, aren't you supposed to be in detention?"
He stopped and turned to her. "What if I am?"
"Hey, doesn't mean anything to me if you don't want to go. I just thought maybe you'd forgotten," she answered, a little annoyed by his harsh tone.
"I'm not going to sit in an empty classroom with him, and if you've got any sense, neither will you." He told her ominously, before walking off.
"Okay, that boy is just plain weird," she said to herself as he disappeared up the road.
She lay back on the wall and closed her eyes, reveling in the warmth of the sun on her face. Twenty minutes went by before she was disturbed.
"Hey, Dawn, what are you still doing here?"
She opened her eyes to see Mr. Roberts looming over her.
"Oh, I guess I must have dozed off. I'm just waiting for someone to pick me up. They must be running late." Dawn sat up quickly, embarrassed to be caught napping on the wall by her good-looking teacher.
"Well maybe I should give them detention," he said, smiling down at her. "Which is actually why I came over. Seth decided not to join me for our detention this afternoon. I know you have a few classes with him; I wondered if you knew where he was?"
Dawn looked guilty, even though she had no idea why, it wasn't her fault Sethos was such a loser and couldn't make it to school on time, and it wasn't her fault he didn't like Mr. Roberts, but now she was stuck in an awkward situation where she either had to lie to her teacher or snitch on a fellow student.
She struggled internally with the decision and Mr. Roberts, seeming to sense this, let her down easy. "It's okay Dawn, there's no reason you would have seen him. I don't think the boy has any friends yet to confide in about skipping detention. I'll just catch up with him tomorrow. Is there something I can do for you though? School finished nearly thirty minutes ago, do you want to come inside and call your parents?"
"Actually it's my sister who'll be picking me up, or possibly a friend, I'm not sure. I have my cell phone though, I can call them from here," she suddenly realized. Pulling the phone from her bag she flipped it open and groaned when she realized the battery was dead.
"I guess you need to use that phone after all," said the teacher with a smile.
Dawn gave an embarrassed smile back. "If that's okay? I'm sure they're on their way but it will be nice to make sure."
"Of course it's okay. Come on." He led the way inside, taking her to an office just down from the teacher's staff room. It was a small office with just two desks in it and a phone. "There you go." He pointed to the phone, before quietly shutting the door behind him and leaning against it.
Dawn crossed the room to the phone, picked it up and dialed quickly, smiling at the teacher as she did so. He returned the smile as he met her eyes, but then his own strayed and slid down from her face, down the front of her untucked shirt, down her tight, black pants and then up again to her eyes. It all happened so fast Dawn was pretty sure she'd imagined it. Her own smile faltered a little as the phone just kept ringing and ringing.
"No one home." The sound of the teacher's voice made her jump and she looked back at him to see his eyes sparkling and a small unreadable smile playing on his lips.
"Uh no, at least it doesn't seem like it. I guess I'll go and wait outside again." She moved towards the door, but he didn't move.
"Are you sure? If you want you can wait in here with me and try again in a few minutes."
Sethos' warning came back to her, suddenly holding a lot more weight than it had earlier. "Um, no that's all right, I'd rather wait outside." She tried to step around him to open the door, but he didn't budge.
"I really think it would be better if you stay here Dawn. For one it's not safe for a pretty girl like you to be out there alone." This time she was not mistaken, his gaze definitely dropped from her face to her chest, lingering there only a second before meeting her eyes again. She shivered. "And two, you're not really supposed to be on school property after hours unless you've got business to be here for. I wouldn't want you to get in trouble." He cocked his head to one side; his smile looked sneaky and menacing from that angle. "So why don't you stay in here with me to avoid any of that . . . unpleasantness."
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