(Not so) Strangers Doing Strange Things.
Willow walked over to the knot of parents, smiling at Xander in his birthday hat. "Hey," she said, giving Giles a hug. "My mother's talking to me again."
Oz clapped. "Congrats. What's the other news?"
Willow grimaced. "She wants to meet them. She said that they're still her grandchildren and that they'd legitimately be her grandchildren if I hadn't done this for you so she deserves time with them to make sure that they know who she is."
Giles nodded. "Of course. Have her call us and we'll set up a meeting." Willow's mouth fell open. "She is their grandmother and that position is fairly important for children to have around. The elder generation does much of the teaching in many cultures."
"Stop," Xander said, holding up a hand. "Okay, have her call, just no more lectures today. Today is a happy day, not one for instruction of those of us who are dumber."
Oz nodded. "I agree, no lectures, but she can visit."
Willow smiled and hugged them all at once, as well as she could. "Thank you. I told her to call and nag you tomorrow." She danced away, pulling Buffy with her over to where Spike was standing and ignoring Angel. "They said it was okay," she said with a happy grin. "My mother will quit nagging me now, she'll have a new target."
Buffy snickered. "If you say so. How long will the new targets last?"
"Until the next time I see her," Willow said with a shrug. "My mother's apparently gotten her Rabi on her side this time. I'm due for another lecture."
"Well, pet, I'm sure I can give you better things to think about," Spike said, grabbing her to nibble on her neck.
"So am I," Angel said dryly, "but there are children in the room." He looked around at the heavily covered windows, silently thanking the boys for thinking ahead of time.
"Yup, and we're not allowed to do more than cuddle with the kids around," Willow reminded him. "We should babysit again. I miss the little ones."
Buffy patted her stomach. "Want one?"
"No," Angel sighed, rubbing down the bridge of his nose. "Go talk to Doyle, he found something out about his mother's pregnancy that you should know about."
Buffy shrugged and headed for the small clump of people that included Wesley and Cordelia. "Hey," she said, patting Wesley's shoulder so he didn't backhand her. He had been very jumpy since Vamp Willow had manipulated his demon. "Where's the other quarter?"
"He's getting a drink. Strictly juice though," Cordy added as Angel walked over.
"Oh, I know." Angel rubbed down the lower part of Buffy's back, making her sigh. "Told you it was universal."
"Yeah, carrying the extra weight will do that to one," Cordy said, looking down at her stomach. "At least I can still see my feet."
"And with a few more months to go, we all hope you stay that way," Doyle said as he walked up to the group. "Oh, good, I was hopin' you'd be here." He handed over a book. "This is my Ma's diary. I'm thinkin' that most of the problems she had were because of what I was instead of normal ones."
"Especially since it says in there repeatedly that none of her other kids were like you," Cordy said, kissing him on the cheek. "This is a good. She'll need it."
"Especially with the overprotective ones watching my every move," Buffy said, flipping through the pages. "Gas?"
"Very bad gas. With horrid smells," Wesley corrected. "It's one of the ways that we used to tell before the child was born, until someone figured out that most pregnant women had the same problem to a lesser degree." He sipped his punch. "Which one of them made this?" he said, wincing as he put aside his glass.
"And it's delish," Cordy said quickly. "Isn't it, Wes?"
"Yes, of course it is." He stepped away from her. "How are you progressing otherwise?"
"Few cravings, much kicking. Baby's gonna be Rocky soon." She smiled at him. "I haven't given myself food poisoning for real yet."
"That's a start," Doyle agreed. "Have ya made any decisions yet?"
She shook her head. "No, and I don't know if it's coming soon or not. My mind's one of those places best left alone right now. Every time I start to think about something, it comes back to 'oh, no, I'm getting fatter' or 'gee, I wonder what Bambi and Thumper taste like'."
"Yup, the more wild the meat, the better the baby'll like it," Doyle told her with a smile. "They do sell venison in the store here. We had to stop and pick some up for the cranky one." He patted Cordy's stomach.
"At least you calm him down," Cordy sighed, blowing a few bangs off her forehead. "He's been a miracle since the baby started to make itself known. It just stops whatever to let him pet it."
"It's not an it," Doyle said defensively, "it's a boy."
Miri wiggled in between Wesley and Buffy, waving at everyone, smiling at Doyle. "How babies?"
"They're fine," Cordy told her. "Would you like to talk to it?"
"He," Doyle amended.
"Me talk to her," Miri said, sticking her mouth against the bulge of Cordelia's stomach, blowing against it. "Hello," she called, her lips making the stomach wiggle. "How are you?"
"I think that's enough of that," Giles said, bursting in to pick her up. "You can talk to the babies later, love. They need to sleep too."
Cordy grunted, grabbing her stomach. "Oh, we're awake."
Buffy doubled over, falling to her knees. "Major kickage, right to the kidneys," she moaned, rubbing her back.
"Baby 'tay?" Miri asked, looking at them. "Me no talk?"
"No, Miriam," Wesley said, taking her from her father, "you didn't hurt them when you talked to them, they decided to wake up and kick. It appears to be what they do best."
"Tell me about it," Buffy grumbled as she got to her feet again. "Night and day. Very little sleep." She looked at the book in her hand, wincing as she saw she had bent it. "Doyle, I'm sorry."
"No biggie, it's a copy. My Ma's handwriting is atrocious. Not even she can read it. I had my Da copy it for me."
"How is your family?" Giles asked, taking his daughter back.
"Good enough, they're picking which one of us to be moved in with." Doyle sipped his drink, watching Buffy carefully. "You could go lay down, ya know. We wouldn't mind."
"Oh, but the baby would. He hates it."
"Girls," Miri said, pouting at her.
"Girls," Buffy corrected, rolling her eyes. She gave Doyle a smile. "She thinks Blair was a fluke and that all babies are born girls."
"I can't be sure, I've only seen one other of my kind before and he was insane." He shrugged. "Only time will tell what they are."
"And an ultrasound," Cordy put in. "I go in for one in a week. And yes, I'm going to find out what sex the baby is."
"Just as long as you're careful. The baby could be spikes-out in there." He touched the front of her stomach, right over the moving spot. "There, there, wee one, we'll be fine again."
Cordy belched. "Yup, just as soon as I can fit into my clothes again, we'll all be fine." She sipped her water, grinning at Buffy. "Your mom buy you clothes?"
"Xander did. Just a few things, but all cutish." Buffy smiled at Giles. "So, birthday dad, what else is planned?"
"Hello?" a male voice said from the front door.
"Back here," Giles called. "I hope a quiet evening after we clean up for Xander, and for us to not get out tonight," he told her, patting her on the shoulder as he went to meet Blair, Sam, and Jim. "Hello, watch out for the punch, Buffy made it."
Sam smiled. "Not everyone can be a great chef. Not even Blair."
"No, but he tries," Blair said, giving his wife a kiss on the cheek. "We brought presents," he said, holding up a bag. " Where's the twins?"
"In bed. They fell asleep in their ice cream." He and Sam shared a smile. "Of course we have it on tape if you'd like to see it."
"We'll watch it later," Jim said, looking around. "What's up with the knot of pregnant people?" he asked, pointing at Buffy and Cordy where they were feeling each other's stomachs.
"Oh, they're trading advice," Sam told him. "I and a few friends did that all the time." She waved at Miri, who shrieked and ran over to hug her. "Hello, dear. How are you?"
"Okay. Me presents?"
"Your birthday isn't for a few more months," Xander told her, walking over to stand beside Giles. "Watch out for the punch, Buffy made it."
"I heard that," Buffy called without looking.
"Can't be any worse than the stuff Blair used to make me drink," Jim said, smiling at the little girl. "How are you?"
"'Tay," she said, leaning over to kiss his cheek. "Pony?"
"No, we didn't bring one with us," Blair told her, getting his own kiss. "But we did bring you a book so you wouldn't feel left out." He reached into the bag, handing it over.
Xander took it from him, putting it back in the bag. "I don't think it was that one," he said tactfully, finding the other book. "There we are," he said, handing it to his daughter.
Blair looked down inside the bag, then glared at Jim. "Just for that, you can go put it in the car." He handed over the illustrated Kama Sutra, smacking Jim on the arm, followed by Sam. "Go put it somewhere safe from kids."
"Sorry," Jim said, blushing as he headed out to their car.
Blair shook his head. "That's the sort of accident you remember fondly for catching." He kissed Sam on the cheek. "We did the same thing to him at his wedding."
Sam chuckled. "Yeah, it wasn't a pretty picture. Grace was ready to beat me and Maria wanted to hide in the corner." She winked at Xander. "They got over it, we got a very long thank you letter about a week later."
"At least she didn't want you to read that one to her," Giles said, trying to smooth some of Mir's hair down again. "Come in and sit, you know most everyone."
"Read me?" Miri asked, giving Blair a bright smile. "Please?"
"Of course I'll read to you," Blair said, taking her from his wife. "Come on, let's go find a big, comfy chair for us." He took her toward the library, going in there to read to her.
Sam smiled at the two of them, shaking her head. "Blair wasn't sure why we were coming up here but he wanted to come, something about a sacred duty as godparents when I asked." She waved at Oz. "How are things going?"
"Better but odd," Xander said, shrugging. He checked his watch. "Um, Giles, got a few hours left."
"I'm well aware of when sunset is," Giles said, giving him a hug. "He worries, still."
"It's a natural part of him," Sam said, giving Xander a hug. "Come on, show me what you've done since we were up here last time."
Giles made his way over to Oz's side, kissing the back of his head as he watched him flip steaks in a pan. "Xander rightly reminded me that it's a few hours until sunset."
"I know." Oz turned to get a hug. "We'll be fine."
"I hope so, I don't know why I ranged last night, but I feel about the same. It's not something that I want to make a habit of."
"Both nights so far, but at least it wasn't as far last night," Oz said softly as he handed over a rare steak. "Eat. Maybe it'll help tonight." He took his own steak with him down to the library, going to hide in there. He smiled at Blair and Miri. "Hey, prechange snack." He sat in a corner chair, pulling a book over to read while he ate.
Blair cleared his throat. "How are you guys doing with that?"
"Not good," Oz said, looking over the edge of his book. "We got out both days this month, the first night we went way far away."
"You could be wanting to explore your territory," Blair suggested, letting Miri down. "Why don't you ask Uncle Jim to finish reading that one to you, sweetness?"
She nodded. "Me go find him. You talk." She blew a kiss at her father before heading out to the party.
Oz put aside his plate and book, looking at their counselor. "Sorry, but I have no idea why. I can't access memories from the wolfy times. Some books say some can, but I guess I'm still missing the key."
"Hmm, that's probably normal for the first few years," Blair said, getting comfortable. "Can Giles?"
"No and neither can any of the others I've met. It's just weird to wake up half-way up the road naked. Giles explained it as sleepwalking the one time he met someone."
"At least he had an excuse. How about you?"
"I'm going to explain it as. . . ." He shook his head. "I don't have a clue."
"Ah, but I am the champion excuse maker. You could explain it like Giles did or you could say that you were camping out and got lost in the middle of the night when you were investigating a noise, city boys can do things like that." He winked. "Or you could even say that you were chasing your dog and got lost while you looked."
"Hmm, I'll have to remember those. Of course the last one won't explain why I'm naked. Searching for a dog usually entails clothes."
"Then use the second one. Then you can shorten the distance you ran and make it all look really normal. You could even explain that you were out exploring the rest of your acreage, make it seem like you only ran a few more feet than you did. If you both claim sleepwalking, people will start to wonder."
"Huh, thanks." Oz picked up his steak, taking a bite from the mass. "Much better," he sighed, doing it again.
Blair just sat there and watched Oz tear apart his steak, wondering why his Spirit Guide had told him they had to be there that night.
Xander jumped as Jim put a hand on his shoulder. "Hey. Just watching for furry ones."
"They're loose in the barn," Jim said, turning his heightened senses on that building. "Giles is scaring the kittens."
"My kitties," Miri growled, heading for the door, until Auntie Sam stopped her. "No, my kitties!"
"He's not hurting them," Jim told her, "he's just trying to pet them."
"Which they won't even let you do," Xander reminded his daughter. "Daddies won't hurt your kitties." She nodded, sticking her thumb in her mouth. "I thought you stopped that."
"No, me do this." She snuggled into Auntie Sam's chest, hugging her, starting to blink hard. "Me nap?" she asked, looking up.
"Of course, Miri, let's go put you into bed." She carried the little girl upstairs to her room.
Blair walked out of the kitchen, handing Jim a cup of coffee. "Here, I think we'll need it." He looked outside and nodded. "Big, dark shapes."
Xander looked out. "Not them." He opened the door, jogging out. "What's up?" he asked, getting between the man and his barn. "Why are you on my property?"
"Because we need to take care of the menace." He tried to push Xander aside but found a tranquilizer dart in his stomach.
"I had it," Xander told Jim.
"Maybe, but he's not alone." Jim checked to make sure the barn door was locked, then scanned the area around them. "I hear at least one more."
"Great, hunters, just what we needed," Xander groaned. Jim stared at him. "These guys hunt what Oz and Giles are for sport and cash. Their pelts are worth a lot on the black market."
"And they're going to kill them, even though they're human?" Jim asked, getting a solemn nod from the younger man. "Okay, let's take them down." He headed for where he could hear someone moving. "Freeze, Federal Agent!" he called as he snuck up behind the man, making him jump and step into his own trap. He gave the hunter a cold smile just as the barrel of a gun brushed against his ear.
"You shouldn't be out here, my friend," was whispered from behind him.
"And neither should you," Jim said. "They're still people."
"Not right now." He nudged Jim with the gun. "Get him down."
"I can do that."
"Or I can," Xander said, rounding on the hunter, groaning when he felt one walk up behind him.
"Freeze!" Sam and Blair said together, shining the spotlight they carried on the hunters, blinding Jim. "Sorry, man, turn it down." He fired off at the feet of the one moving. "I would have thought that even people like you would know what the word 'freeze' meant."
"Blair, don't talk down to the people holding Jim hostage," Sam said gently.
"Yay," he said, firing in the direction of the other one. "I've had enough of this." He waved his gun at the man holding Jim hostage. "I'd move. I may not be the best shot but I owe Jim a gunshot wound."
Jim groaned. "Not now, Blair."
Xander shook his head, making a quick duck to the side, almost getting out of the bullet's way as he went for the man holding him. "Stupid fucks!" he said, falling on top of him, slapping him as hard as he could, he couldn't throw a punch with the burning in his shoulder. "You are *not* doing this to my family." He growled as he felt some power coming toward them. "Shit!" he said, diving for Sam, just as a bolt of energy came flowing at the hunter he held. Xander looked up, seeing an unexpected man standing there. "Ethan Rayne?"
"Yes, it's me. I need to speak to Giles."
"He's a little busy tonight." Xander got up, helping Sam. "You really want to talk to him, do something about the hunters trying to kill him."
"Gladly, my boy," he said with a smirk, bringing a root up from a nearby tree to wind it around the downed hunter's neck. "I'd leave him alone, imbecile," he told the other one, "before I do something *very* cruel, but yet very fun for me."
The last hunter dropped his gun, holding his hands up. "Hey, I don't mess with magic."
"Good," Ethan purred, "but I *was* looking forward to having a little fun."
Jim looked at Xander. "Is he someone we should worry about?"
"No, but he's better than a group of hunters." He looked at his shoulder and passed out.
Sam looked down at him and shook her head. "Okay, Jim, get these people tied up somewhere, Blair, help me get him back up to the house."
"Oh, let me," Ethan said with a smirk toward the man trapped in the net. The hunter squeaked. "I promise to leave you all . . . living."
Jim coughed. "I'll come out and check to make sure that they're fine." He lifted Xander up, carrying him up to the house. "Stay out of the barn."
"Of course. I have no wish to be bitten." Ethan waited until he was alone to release all the hostages. "I'd leave and never come back, one of them is a Watcher and the Slayer is a very cranky pregnant woman these days." All the hunters blanched and ran away.
"Yes, she is," Buffy said, walking around the end of the barn. "Why are you pushing your luck?" She tapped her crossbow against her leg.
"Because I need to speak to Giles on a professional matter." He bowed to her. "My dear, I mean no harm this time, I need to ask him to take on a future Slayer."
"*You* work for the Council?"
"No, but I'm afeared the dear girl will die if they use her." Buffy nodded, waving her hand for him to go on. "She's my daughter, Sileya."
"Tell me you didn't," Buffy moaned.
"No, I did name her. I know how a job title can be used as an epithet so I named her something close enough for her to ignore it." Buffy shook her head. "That is all that I wish, that you and he train her so that she'll live past her sixteenth birthday."
"Why? Going to give her away?" Buffy asked snidely.
"No, she's about my only heir left." She looked shocked. "I did want to carry on the family lineage, my dear girl, and she is one of my best hopes for that. I was hoping that Giles could train her as you were so that she may make it long enough to live life."
Buffy nodded. "Bring her back around ten or so. They're going to nap after they change back." She disappeared back around the barn.
"Thank you," he sighed, heading back into the woods. "This will be perfect."
Jim looked at Xander's shoulder, pushing the injured man's head out of the way. "No, you don't want to see it yet." He took the bandage Sam handed him, applying it deftly. "There, all clean and nice." He stepped back, watching as the blood sluggishly flowed up again. "Damn, again? Why did it start bleeding again?"
Xander groaned and closed his eyes. "It's okay, the bleeding will stop eventually."
Blair walked down the stairs with a small pot, handing it to Jim. "It's what we used to use on yours. Slap it on the wound and cover it." He sat in front of Xander, taking his hands. "Okay, I need you to focus for me. That stuff hurts going on, it's natural ambesol." Xander nodded. "I want you to picture a nice valley, a grass-filled one, with you and the babies riding through it. I want you to see Miri turning toward you to ask you something, maybe something about having another baby." Xander coughed. "Or not. Listen to her ask why the grass is green and why it grows so high out there." Xander nodded and relaxed, so Blair nodded at Jim to get him to put the salve on. "Now, you're telling her all about pollutants and lawn mowers and things, and the twins are listening to you, giving you big 'you're the greatest dad' looks. Little Blair asks you why are horses so high so you turn to him and start to tell him about all the different animals you know and why they get as big as they do."
Jim grunted, giving Blair a small smile as he finished putting the salve over the wound and rebandaged it. "Done, good work, Chief."
"Thanks," Blair said, nudging him lightly. "Okay, Xander, I want you to come back home now. Have a race with the ponies and let the kids win."
Xander opened his eyes and smiled. "I want horses too. I'd like to do that someday."
"You could do that," Blair reminded him. "You just have to get a better werewolf cage set up somewhere and fix the pastures."
"My wife Maria said that her Grandfather used to take her mother on rides around the woods to teach them to respect nature," Jim told them all. "They had three or four horses and took rides around the farm all the time when they had free time."
"But they're expensive creatures and we're just about making ends meet right now."
"That's a good point, Xander," Sam said, coming around to sit beside him, "but maybe you could look into it for the future, when all of you are working and everything's stable economically in the house."
"Yeah, Giles keeps promising me we'll get one someday." He shrugged, wincing as his shoulder moved. "How bad is it?"
"Simple graze," Jim said, patting Xander's good shoulder. "Expect some yelling in the morning."
"Uh-huh, I'm going to be hiding in your room when Giles and Oz walk in, I don't want to show them. They're going to yell really loud."
"They won't yell," Blair assured him, giving the young man a slight smile. "They may pamper you and spoil you until you're ready to scream but they won't yell."
"Ooh, work tomorrow night. Can I swing around and things?"
"What are you doing now?" Blair asked, frowning at him.
"Stripping again. It's the only night job I could find."
"I thought you were going to be working at the radio station," Sam asked, clearly confused.
"They wanted to switch me to afternoons but I couldn't do that so they fired me. Oh, but I found out that someone's been telling people to give us jobs."
"Do Giles and Oz know this?" Jim asked, looking at his watch.
"Yeah, that's how Giles got his job at the museum. We don't know whose been doing it though. No one would tell him who it was." Xander slumped down a little. "I kinda miss the old store some days. We were good financially then, and not just because I had settlement money still. We all had these jobs that worked well together so we talked about things like work at dinner. Now we don't talk about work and school, it's like they're scared to broach the subject with me around."
"So start a small business online," Sam suggested, patting his thigh. "Oz could run the site, you and Giles could make the whatevers, and Giles could use his contacts to get more business."
"I tried to suggest that after the store burned down, while we were fixing up the house, and no one listened to me."
"There's a time and place for every suggestion," Blair told him. "Try it again soon and see if they won't listen. I think they miss the old days as much as you do."
"We could do candles and stuff," Xander said hesitantly. "I know how to do that, I learned one year during summer school. Giles knows how to carve and things so he could help me make molds."
"That's a great idea," Blair said enthusiastically. "And if you're doing the ones for magic-workers, then Giles can use his contacts, and you'd make a lot of friends, especially around here I think."
"Yeah, we could try that," Xander said, starting to smile. "Maybe do some for the house to see if we can all do that." He reached over, hugging Blair. "Thank you." He turned to give one to Sam, hugging her just as hard. "Thank you." He looked up at Jim. "You're going to have to come down here for a hug, I can't move my shoulder that way."
"No thanks," Jim said dryly, "I'm not really the hugging sort."
"Oh, come on," Xander said, heaving himself off the couch and walking around to give the man a hug, having to chase him around the couch to do it. "There," he said when he had finally caught Jim, "isn't that nice?"
"Very nice," Jim said, getting free. "Thank you."
"Nope, thank you. But I'm still hiding in your room so Giles and Oz don't find out about my shoulder until after they've had a nap."
Buffy coughed lightly as she walked through the door. "I'd start running now." She looked at the bandage. "Bad one?"
"Graze," Jim told her. "What's up?"
"I sent Ethan running into the night and told him to come back before noon to talk to Giles about whatever it was." She nodded Xander over, giving him a hug. "Sorry, needed this."
"S'okay, I can understand needing hugs," he said as he enfolded her in his arms, rocking her gently. "Baby keeping you up?"
"Yeah, it's like it's trying to come out through my lungs this time." She sighed, clinging to him. "Thanks."
"Welcome." He slowly released her, making sure she was going to be able to stand on her own. He smiled when he realized she had fallen asleep, nodding Jim over to help him get her to a chair. He grinned at Sam as she kicked over a footstool, making the Slayer a comfy person so he could go back to his watch. Xander tried to take the tranq gun from Jim but the older man stubbornly held onto it. "I can do it."
"I know you can, but if they get out, I can hunt them and bring them back."
"Okay, point," Xander conceded, backing away. "You take watch."
"You go take a nap," Sam said, pinching the end of his nose. "You'll need energy to hide from them in the morning."
Xander nodded, heading to his room. "Night, guys, and thanks."
"No big," Blair called, pulling himself up to sit beside his wife and Jim, giving them both pats. "Good job tonight, guys."
"Thanks," Jim said, wrapping his arm around Blair's shoulders. "Does that mean I'll have to indulge the wives candle habits?"
"Oh, yeah," Blair said, nodding. "Big time."
Sam chuckled. "I wouldn't worry, Jim. I'm sure they won't spend *all* their checks."
"I hope not. You can only have so many candles."
Buffy kept trying to get Giles' attention all through their late breakfast but he was avoiding her. Finally she stood up and pulled him over to the other side of the kitchen. "Dear," he said gently, "I need to eat."
"No you need to listen. Ethan Rayne saved you guys last night. Blair and Sam weren't winning when he and I showed up. He wants to talk to you about taking on a new Slayer to train." Giles mouth fell open. "It's his daughter, Sileya."
"'Scuse me?" Oz called. "Maybe that should be a full family discussion." He looked over his shoulder. "I really want to hear about this."
Giles led her back to the table, setting her back in her seat. "From the beginning dear. What fight?"
"A bunch of hunters showed up last night," Xander said, not looking up from his oatmeal. "Jim and I went out to deal with them, we got two but we were trapped. So Sam and Blair came out to save us." He glanced up then went back to stirring maple syrup into the warm food. "It was a standoff but Ethan stepped in and magicked everyone who needed it to free us."
"Is that where you got. . . ." Xander leapt across the table to shut her up.
"Yes, and we're not talking about it."
Oz groaned. "Give."
"Nope. Not sharing that part." Xander and Buffy shared a look and he sat back down. "Anyway, Ethan said he wanted to talk to Giles, but that was before I was forced back into the house."
Blair grunted as he walked into the kitchen, heading for the coffeepot. "Morning," he sighed after the first sip. "Xander, how's the. . . ." He caught the desperate look. "Never mind." He looked at Buffy. "Telling them about what's his name?"
"Yeah. Anyway, his daughter is a Slayer in the making and he wants you to train her so she might live past the ripe old age of sixteen."
Giles moaned and sat down, shaking his head. "This is not what I wanted to hear about this morning." He looked at Xander. "Was there anything else?"
"Not that I know of. She was out there after I was apparently."
"Yup, we had words and I told him to come back," she looked at Oz's watch, "about now."
Oz nodded. "Okay, so he's asking you to train a Slayer, is he going to be around?"
"I have no doubt that he won't be," Giles said, sitting up straight. "I have no idea what he really wants. He's never done anything this simple before. You said it's his daughter?"
"Yeah, he said he wanted to carry on the family lineage and he wanted her to have a life, that's why he was coming to you."
Blair looked around as he came over to sit with them. "Where's Jim?"
"He and Sam went for a walk in the woods," Xander told him. "They left a note on the front door."
"Okay." He looked at Xander, catching his eye, then looked at Giles. Xander shook his head.
"What else happened?" Oz asked.
"We were talking about us starting an internet shop," Xander said, grinning at Oz. "Maybe something like custom candles or something simple that we can do together."
"One problem at a time please," Giles told them. "We'll discuss that idea later, Xander. This will have to come first this morning." He looked out the window as he heard a car pulling up the driveway. "Let me go talk to him, the rest of you stay in here."
Oz got up and followed him out. "Yay," he said when Giles frowned at him. He walked down to the gravel drive, standing beside Giles. "Think the other thing was about why he smelled like blood?"
"I dare say it was. I'm sure we'll find out sometime today." Giles glared at Ethan as he got out of the rental sedan, crossing his arms across his chest. "Why did you come back?"
Ethan helped a cloaked form out of the car and brought it over. "Ripper, this is my daughter, Sileya," he said as he pulled back her hood. "I wish you to train her so that she may live past her next year. I doubt the other members of the Council would be of much help to her."
"I told you it was a fairytale," the girl snorted, looking Giles and Oz over. "Well, at least you're cute."
"Taken," Oz said. "Very happily in love with him and our other lover." He patted Giles' arm, then looked her over. "What did you get arrested for?"
"How'd you know?"
"Because you remind me of Faith."
"Which is the other reason I brought her here. I knew they wouldn't be able to help her any and would harm her instead of helping her. I knew Ripper here could fix my daughter's temperament somewhat easily."
"Not hardly," Giles said, looking her over. "Are you sure she's to be a Slayer?"
"She's got the mark and I've run three Watchers away from her and her mother already."
"Where is mom anyway?"
"On holiday in Italy. I gave her and the putz a trip so they would leave you alone for a bit, dear," Ethan told his daughter. He pushed her forward a little bit. "I wanted this man to train you because he's done something none of the others have done. He's trained two Slayers at once and one of them is still living well past her twenty-first birthday."
"Yeah, she is," Buffy said as she walked off the porch, coming to stand on Giles' other side and look the new girl over. "You're not bad, you've got to do some muscle development, maybe even some weights sometime soon but you'll do the job okay."
"I've never trained *two* girls," Giles said stiffly. "Faith wasn't under my control, as you well know."
"Ripper, I know exactly who trained which girl. The same as I know exactly who trained the girl in the hospital and what the Council is thinking about her." Giles grimaced. "As do you if you'd think about it."
"They wouldn't!" Buffy said.
"They might," Giles corrected. "If they don't see her getting any better they could make her pass on the gifts. Nothing's been decided yet as far as I knew."
"The next meeting is in a month," Ethan said, giving Giles a smirk. "I'm sure they'll be dealing with her then. As for Sileya, she's about three down the line right now. She's still fairly young, and being here, she'll have more of a chance to get used to the facts before it's sprung on her."
Blair stuck his head out the door. "Buffy, someone named Doyle's on the phone for you. Said he wants to come up and talk."
"Please," Buffy called. "Ask him if he can bring Wes."
Buffy nodded toward the house. "Come on, let's go get you something to drink, let Giles beat your father up in peace."
"I doubt it, but I could use a drink. Got any beer?"
"No," Giles said firmly. "You're very much underage."
"He's not really that strict," Buffy explained as she walked the girl up to the house. "Guys, this is Sileya."
Xander looked up, nodding at her. "If you're staying, I'll get you a room ready after breakfast."
"Thanks, but I don't know why you people keep letting Dad harbor his delusions. It's just like that magic-crap he keeps going on about, a fairytale."
Blair snorted. "Just give them a week, young woman. I'm sure you'll be seeing things a little differently then."
Everyone jumped as Miri screamed and the door banged shut, Xander up and racing after her before anyone else could. "Miri," he called, running after her, stopping when he saw what she was running for.
An old red pony. One with a gray muzzle and ear tips. He shook his head, walking up behind her, grabbing her around the middle so she couldn't lunge at the animal. "Make a calling noise, let's see if it's friendly," he told her next to her ear.
She whistled, or tried to, but the pony didn't come. She snapped her fingers and patted her legs, just like you did with a puppy, but it still didn't come. She burst out in tears, reaching for it. It still stood there.
Xander made a clicking noise with his tongue, and the pony walked over to them, nuzzling Miri's wet face. "You didn't make the right noise, it's okay," he soothed, patting her. He slowly reached over, rubbing down the pony's nose. "There we are, yeah, we're very friendly." He looked down at Miri, who was giving the pony a big grin. "See, pat it this way."
She rubbed down the pony's nose too, leaning over to kiss it. "Me pony," she said firmly.
"I believe it belongs to someone," Giles said as he walked up behind them. "My, you're an old one," he said, scratching the pony's neck. "Who do you belong to?"
"Me," their neighbor, the one who had brought Giles home, said as he walked out of the woods. "Sorry, she got out." He looked from Miri's tear streaked face to the pony and back. "Let me guess, she's horse crazy?"
"Oh, yeah," Xander said, standing up with her. "She's got to go home now, Miri, tell her bye."
"No, me pony!" She kicked until she got down, hugging the animal around the neck. "Mine!" She glared at their neighbor. "Me!"
"Oh, dear," Giles sighed, shaking his head.
The neighbor laughed. "Why don't you come help me put her up," he said, helping her up onto the soft back. "Hold onto the hair really tight." He looked around. "One of you want to come with us?"
"I will," Buffy said, holding up her hand. "I need some exercise." She walked over to where Miri was beaming smiles at her fathers. "Then we can walk back. You can tell me about the squirrels you've been seeing." She put a hand on Miri's back as the pony moved, giggling as she screamed. "That's what riding is," she explained. "Just hold on."
The neighbor waved, leading his animal back home.
Giles groaned, turning to find everyone but Ethan behind him. "All right, we'll be fine on that front." He looked the new girl over, in awe of how much she looked like her father. Her waist- length black hair and facial structure were definitely from him, as was her build. In truth, she must have been her father's daughter, he couldn't see another person in her. "Come, Sileya, let me tell you about what's going on." He led her back up to the house. "Xander, I will be looking at your shoulder later," he called as he walked. "Don't even think of hiding."
"Busted," Oz whispered, leaning in to get a kiss. "Want to tell me first?"
"Nope." Xander headed for the barn. "I'm going to check on the kittens. She can have one of the corner rooms." He disappeared inside the old building, closing the door behind him. "Oh, hell!" he yelled, coming back out. "We're having kittens."
Giles walked out onto the porch. "You agreed to keep the kittens out here."
"I am," he grumped, "but that means that we're going to have to teach more about kittens. And you two are going to have to find a new place to hide those nights." He walked past his lover into the house, heading upstairs. "I'm getting Sileya's room ready. Want left or right?"
"Left," she called.
"Okay." He walked up to the rooms on the end of the hall, going through the diagonal door on the left, going over to air out the room for her. He looked around the comfortable cherry wood furniture from his old apartment over the store, nodding when he saw everything was in order. He closed the room's door, heading into the bathroom that took up the corner of the room, checking to make sure it had things like towels and toilet paper. He came out to find Oz in the room, nodding him into the bathroom. "I like those fixtures you picked out."
"Thanks." Oz touched the shoulder he could see the lump on, watching Xander's face as he winced. "What happened? I want to know before you tell Giles, just in case."
"When the hunters had us and we were in the stand off, I ducked away from one of them and he shot at me. It's just a graze," he finished quickly. "Blair and Jim both looked at it. Blair even gave me something for it. Some sort of herbal thing that kills the pain and everything."
"Yeah, that's what I thought. Giles is going to scream and throw fits."
"That's what I told Blair, but he and Sam decided you guys were going to spoil me."
"We will, after he yells." Oz pulled Xander's head down so he could kiss him. "Don't be a hero, I want a live you, not a pretty gravestone." He pulled back, seeing the understanding. "I love you, we don't want you hurt."
"I didn't plan on being hurt."
"Yeah, I know, you never do." Oz turned around to look at the room. "It all okay?"
"Yeah, she should be fine up here. Did her father leave anything?"
"Nope. Not that I could see." He shrugged, leading Xander down to their room, locking them inside and taking the shirt off the younger man's body. "Let me see. I'll retape down the side I lift." When Xander didn't move, he walked around him, lifting up a corner of the bandage to look at the wound. "Wow, not pretty." He pushed the tape back down, running his thumb across it a few times to make sure it would be fine, then walked around to look at Xander again. "It's not a good thing, babe, please don't do it again."
"They almost had you," Xander told him, pulling him in for a hug. "Ethan saved us all."
"I know," Oz whispered, patting down the smooth back. "We'll send him a card." He walked them over to the bed, laying Xander down and lying beside him to cuddle. "There, now we're fine."
Xander nodded, clinging. "I didn't want you to know."
"Would have been noticeable when we slept on you tonight," Oz said, poking him in the stomach. "Giles and I both knew as soon as we walked into the house."
"I figured you might smell it." Xander rolled, curling up against Oz's chest. "I'm going to nap again."
"Okay, babe, you nap."
Giles pulled down the Slayer's book from the library shelf, putting it down in front of the young girl who was watching him. "Come here, let me explain this to you."
She shrugged. "I've heard all this before. Why are there two anyway?"
"Because at one point, Buffy died. Her powers passed on, even though she came back. Faith's had her soul stolen in the last few years so her powers went to create the girl in the hospital here." He looked her over. "Sit, dear. This isn't the funny delusion you think your father has. Buffy is the first Slayer to live past the age of twenty-one in over six hundred years."
Sileya sat, pulling her hair out of the way. "Okay, so you're into his mind farts too?"
Giles snorted. "I wish it were so." He pulled down a book without looking, handing it to her. "Flip through that for a bit."
She did so, playing with her ear as she read, frowning as she came to the pictures. "But they're so real looking," she said, handing it back.
"That's because they *are* real. I'll allow you to go into town tonight with Wesley, I'm sure he'll be able to protect you for a bit." He crossed his hands in his lap. "Sileya, there are many things you have to know, even if you never take on the duty. One of them is that I truthfully wish your father in a Hell of my choosing. Another is that the duty is real, no matter what sort of things he's told you. The last is that magic does exist. I and your father both use it."
She snorted. "You might convince me that the demon thingys are real but not magic, man. That's just too out there."
"Maybe, but I can prove it to you. Our twins were born of magic. Buffy's child was born of evil people who wanted the demons for themselves. I myself used to doubt magic, until I saw it done."
"Then why don't you show me? Do something simple."
"Because it doesn't work that way. We can't just light a candle to prove things. We have to prepare to use the energy we'll be expending in the spell. It's a process, the spell at the end is just the climax."
"Ah. So you can't." She smirked, showing that she was definitely her father's daughter.
"I can, but it will have to wait until we can find a way to show you appropriately." He looked toward the door as someone knocked. "Come in?"
Sam stuck her head in. "We're back. Blair told me what was going on." She nodded at Sileya. "Jim's gone back out in the woods though, so would it be all right if we continue to hide here?"
"Of course it is," Giles told her with a smile. "We always appreciate your company, Samantha. Feel free to wander around the grounds. Or, Xander said that the cats in the barn were having kittens."
"I think that's where Blair is," she said with a smile of her own. "Can I start lunch?"
"No, we'll do an informal meal at lunch. Go relax. You deserve the time off."
"Thanks." She waved and left them alone, closing the door as quietly as she could.
Giles smiled at the young woman. "She and her husband Blair are our counselors. The three of them, with Jim, are all Federal Agents out of Los Angeles. They like to come up here to remember what a less stressful time was like." He looked around the room. "Actually, I could prove something to you if she would just come out again."
"Who?" Sileya said, looking around the room.
"One of Jim's wives' family used to own this ranch, we bought it off them after the town decided to burn us out. Her grandmother's ghost still lives in the house, she's rather fond of our eldest daughter, Miriam."
"Oh, ghosts, I know about them." She waved it off. "Dad said he'll send my things in a few days. Can I go wash my face and stuff?"
"Yes, go ahead. I believe your room will be the last one upstairs on the left, the diagonal door. If you need anything, we'll be down here most of the day." He watched as she walked out, critically analyzing her chances. "At least she didn't get his nose," he sighed, leaning his head back.
Sam walked into the library, sitting across from him. "So?"
"She's got the marking and the proper instincts already. She still thinks it's all a fantasy of her father's though. I was going to have Wesley take her out tonight and I'll have to prove to her that magic existed sometime soon, as soon as I find a safe way to do so."
"If you need help calming the hysteria, just call on us, we've gotten used to all this." She looked toward the door as someone's feet went running past. "I wonder what that was." She and Giles walked out to find Jim running water on a towel. "What's wrong?"
"The mother cat just got attacked by something." He hurried out, letting them follow.
Giles looked at the wounds then around at the air. "I say it wasn't something from this plane." He ducked as a dark cloud came at his head. "But that's what it was." He raised his hands, chanting with a light voice, forcing the cloud to stop moving, making a glowing ball of light form around it. "Sam, would you please get me something to contain this creature. I believe it got out somehow."
"Sure. What?" she asked as she looked around.
"The urn in the kitchen if it's not broken. I think this came out of there." He waited while she ran out, looking down at the cats. "Are any of them alive?"
"Yeah, and so is the mother. She just needs a little bit of clean up." Jim looked up as he heard footsteps. "New kid."
Sileya walked in with Oz, looking at the cloud, stopping dead when it looked back at her and tried to get free to attack her. "What's that?"
"The something that came after Xander one time," Oz said grimly. "How'd it get out?"
"I haven't a clue, but we need to reseal it in something." He nodded at Sam as she walked back in. "Wasn't broken?"
"Only the wax around the edges," she said, holding the urn open under the cloud.
"Get in there," Giles muttered, forcing it with his will into the urn, closing and sealing the lid so that it couldn't get out again.
"That was so *cool*!" Sileya said in awe, looking at the urn. "Who'd have thought that other guy would be that cool to have someone send that to him."
"For him," Oz corrected. "That cloud eats things, like people." Her mouth dropped open. "Yeah, not so cool."
"And I dare say your father was top on the list of who had sent that at one point." Giles finished sealing the urn. "Come, we need to reseal the wax seal." He started a fast walk for the house, holding the urn tightly against his chest when it started to rock as Sileya came closer to it. "Get back, I don't want it to harm you if it gets free again," he told her, taking the ball of soft wax Oz held out to him. "Be a dear and light a candle please. Oz, I'll need something to mark symbols into the wax with."
"Got it," he said, picking up a pencil, twisting it in his fingers as he watched Giles seal the urn, handing it over. "Need the candle?"
"Yes, do burn a bit of the herb in the gray pot near the window for me. I need to smudge it into the marks." Giles started to write the symbols that would seal the lid on forever, or until someone took the wax off, taking the pile of burnt herbs once he was writing the last one. "There," he said, checking to make sure all the marks were smudged in. "Now this can go back into the kitchen." He handed it off to Oz, relaxing again. "Thank you, precious one."
"Welcome." Oz walked out of the library, followed by Sam.
"So, that was magic?" Sileya asked, sitting next to him.
"The sealing was. The creature was called by magic in the first place and was magical itself." He rolled his shoulders and popped his neck. "Why?"
"Because if that was magic, then why didn't my father do something like that to prove to me that it exists?"
"Because the spell to call those things is dreadfully long and tiring. Most sorcerers who cast that spell end up being eaten by their creatures because they no longer have the energy to control it once it's here." He looked her over. "Magic isn't a sport, Sileya, nor is it a fun exercise like jogging. It's a serious calling that most people live their lives with once they have it. Including your father."
"So he's really a bad guy?" she asked, looking down at her shoes.
Giles sighed. "I'm afraid so. He taught me much about the darker arts when we ran together in our youth, but he hasn't changed. Or grown up now that I think about it." He looked her over. "Where are you from? I can't quite place your accent."
"Connecticut. My mother's marrying this absolute *dick* and my father stepped in to take me back. He's had me for the last few months, and I think mom was real pissed at him for it, but then he decided one morning that I had to come to you." She slumped in on herself. "Why?" She looked up. "What's so important about you that I had to come and leave everything I've ever known?"
"I'm afraid it's the duty," Giles told her as gently as he could. "Your father knew that I was one of the favorite Watchers to evaluate the upcoming girls. He also knew I was directly responsible for Buffy's continued existence."
"The pregnant one you met earlier? That's Buffy. She's the oldest Slayer on record as far back as we keep them."
"Okay, so he wanted me to be like her?"
"No, he wanted you to have the same chance she did," Giles corrected. "I'm Buffy's second Watcher, but her first one died while helping her defeat a Master Vampire, a very powerful one. She managed to defeat him without the aid of the Watchers Council, and since then she's formed herself a little group of helpers. Myself and most everyone you'll meet here included. Except Blair, Sam, and Jim, they're from after she left to be on her own."
"So then, I can do that?" she asked. "This duty sucks ass."
"Please modulate your language, young lady, there are children in the house and we do not want them to pick up that habit."
"Sorry." She rolled her eyes. "But it does."
"It may, but it's what you may become. I would trust your father to have figured out how far down the list you were, so I'll take his word that you're three girls down from the one in the hospital."
"What happened to her? Car wreck or something? Dad said she was majorly injured."
"Yes, she was. She walked into a vampire nest of more than a hundred of them. She managed to take out a good ten before she was injured, but her skull was fractured to the point where she's still in Intensive Care, and it's been almost six months now. The Council is quite ruthless, if they think she isn't getting better, then they will do something about the situation, in which case, you're one closer to being called."
"Ah, chosen ones," Xander quipped as he walked into the room. "Miri's coming back, I just saw Buffy at the edge of the woods, and she's talking and happy."
"I see, that may be a good thing. Maybe she can wear out her fascination with horses by visiting with the neighbor on occasion."
"Maybe, but I doubt it." He held out a hand. "Xander."
"Sileya," she said. "Why my father named me that I'm not really sure."
"Probably because a lot of vamps like to call the Slayer by her office instead of her name."
"They shouldn't know her name," Giles pointed out, "it gives them more leverage in a fight and even more so if they're using magic."
"Point," Xander said with a grin. "So, what's up for lunch? I don't feel like cooking."
"We'll do sandwiches and the like," Giles said, pulling his lover down to look at the bandage on his shoulder. "What was this from?"
Xander kissed him deeply, sliding off his lap at the end. "Ask Blair." He winked at the young girl and left, closing the door behind him.
"That boy," Giles sighed, rolling his eyes. "Some days he is quite a trial."
"But you love him, right?" Sileya asked with a grin.
"I had best, considering I'm not allowing him out of the house again." He stood up. "Come, lets go eat. We can discuss your training more after lunch." He led her into the kitchen, helping Sam and Xander to fix lunch.
End This Story..