Giles looked at Buffy once they were in the car, reaching over to pat her thigh reassuringly. "I'm sure we'll be able to close it again this time," he said gently. "No matter that your strength is leaving."
She shook her head. "It's not that. I'm more worried about Willow. Her coming back will wreck the guys' relationship." She frowned out the front window. "What they have is too special for anyone to come between again." She looked at her former Watcher. "My strength getting ready to leave is nothing compared to what they share, it's going to last longer than I did as the Slayer."
Giles smiled and started the car they were borrowing from the house. Buffy had refused to ride in his ever again, especially almost all the way to Canada from San Francisco. "I hope it will, those two shine with the love they share." They headed down the driveway, heading toward the ferry dock.
Buffy looked around the motel room, grimacing. "Giles, why did you get us a dirty room?" She ran a finger over the dresser, holding it up to show off the dust that now coated it.
He shrugged. "I have no idea why it's not been cleaned, but it was the only room they had. It was this motel or travel for another few hours to the next one."
"If we had stayed on the interstate," Buffy started but she stopped when she saw his glare. "Never mind," she sighed, heading for the bathroom. "I'm going to shower."
"Maybe you should take your bag," he suggested, tossing it to her. "Why did you pack so much?" he asked with a frown. "We're not going to be gone more than three days."
"I have a crossbow in there and some work clothes as well as my usually stylish outfits." She grinned and walked into the bathroom, slamming the door. "I'll save you hot water."
"Please," Giles sighed. "At least you have something to do." He reached for the remote, one eyebrow going up when he realized it was glued to the table. He shrugged it off, turning on the TV, sighing mournfully when all that came across was static no matter which channel he tried. He turned it off, rolling onto his side as he toed off his shoes. His eyes closed of their own volition, allowing him to escape from the reality of being trapped with Buffy in a motel room with nothing to do.
Buffy walked out of the bathroom, mouth open to say something, but she stopped when she saw Giles curled up in a big ball on his bed. She tiptoed over to check on him, smiling when she saw he still had on his glasses. She removed them carefully, repeating an action she had done many times before, when their only job was to contain Sunnydale's evil. She headed back for the bathroom, shutting the door as she turned on the tap to the tub. She could relax and enjoy herself for a while still.
Giles knocked on the bar as he walked past it in appreciation. "Real wood," he explained to the confused-looking Buffy. She nodded and shrugged at the same time. "It's the sign of a real bar."
"Oh. Okay." She looked around. "They have a stage. Wonder what's played?"
"Blues," an older man said, coming out of a door in the corner. He walked stiffly with a cane but he was smiling. "You must be Mr. Giles and Buffy?"
Buffy nodded. "Yup, I'm Buffy. Where's Flame?"
"She's in class. She'll be here in a few minutes. She always skips English."
"I'm British," a hard, formal voice said from behind them as the outer door opened. "I already speak English, I shouldn't have to learn American as well." A tightly-muscled young woman, about five-seven, with red hair, strolled over to them, her walk somewhere between graceful and predatory. "Are these the people who're here to tell me the fairytale, Joe?"
"Yeah, it's them. Phone's behind the bar when you're ready to call Adam. Just don't talk for an hour this time." He waved at a table. "Sit, I'll get drinks." He looked at Buffy. "I should ask you for ID but I think you're overage."
She nodded. "Yup, twenty-four, but I shouldn't drink. Do you have Coke?"
"Scotch," Flame said.
"Like hell," Joe said sweetly. He poured two glasses of soda and looked up at Giles. "Beer or Scotch?" he asked, amusement shining from his face.
"Scotch please, neat." He looked at Flame. "I do believe I knew your mother at one time. A young woman named Silvia. She was the younger daughter of one of the Council's top Watchers. Her father ran the Slayer before Buffy."
Flame snorted, taking the soda Joe handed her before he sat. "That's just a fairytale."
"Oh, no it's not," Buffy said calmly, sipping her soda. She pulled off her sweater, showing off all the scars she had accumulated over her life. "Most of these are from those myths. Trust me, they're real and very strong." She looked the new girl over. "We decided to break the usual pattern, we're telling you beforehand so you can learn from my mistakes, and Faith's." Giles patted her hand gently. "Thanks. Anyway, you've still got six months to be normal, but you've got a lot to learn."
Flame shook her head. "I still don't see proof."
"Remember that guy that came up to talk to Adam?" Joe asked her. She looked at him and nodded. "He was a vampire. Changed in front of us and everything. A souled one."
"Oh, gee, my ex was here?" Buffy asked, just a hint of snideness in her voice. She quickly sipped her soda at the glare Giles sent her.
"Flame," Giles said softly, "I know this is strange but it is important that you listen. It's best you be prepared when the calling switches over to you, being initiated like Buffy was isn't the best means of figuring things out."
"How were you initiated?" Flame asked the other young woman.
"I was brought to a graveyard by my first watcher, he died, and sat on a fresh grave until the woman in it rose. I staked my first vampire that night. Destroyed a huge nest in LA a few months later, one of the major Masters was recruiting for his own Utopia. Unfortunately not before they got half of my class in school, including one of my friends." She looked at the other woman. "There's nothing that I wouldn't give to keep anyone else from having to do this job, but it's your turn now." She pulled back on her sweater. "These Watchers, the guys like Giles and your grandfather, they're the ones that watch out for us. They're the smart ones that have all the books, all the prophecies, and all the info we need to do our job. And they're supposed to keep us sane while we do it, Giles has done an okay job of that so far."
Giles snorted. "I have my doubts some days. Especially when we first met." He reached over, smoothing down the back of her hair. "Why do you never cut this mess anymore? It's a liability in a fight."
"Because I like my hair?" Buffy suggested dryly, making Flame laugh. "This is how it's supposed to be. He's supposed to be fatherly and I'm supposed to rail against it."
Flame shook her head. "I still don't see proof."
"There's a Goth club..." Joe started but Buffy shook her head. "You mean they don't hang?"
"Not that many, or at least not in LA or San Francisco. There's usually a few there scouting possible new members but not that many go outside their own clubs. Actually, there's usually a safe haven sort of club, some sort of neutral ground, for the demons and vamps to hang out in. If we could find that, then I could show her."
"Or we could take Joe's suggestion, she only needs to see one," Giles reminded her. Buffy simply rubbed the back of his head and he went pale. "I'm sorry, Buffy, I hadn't thought about that," he said quietly, reaching over to rub the back of her head. "Buffy was shot a few years back by a Goth kid who was trying to impress someone enough to be turned." He looked at Joe. "She's a most amazing woman, but that was not what we wanted for her. Or for Flame."
"I'd like to get her hooked up with Nick if she's going to come with us on a long-term basis," Buffy said quietly. "I've learned a lot from him when he came to help me patrol those few times."
"A vampire cop," Giles sighed. "What next?"
"A vampire PI?" Buffy suggested dryly.
"Good point," Giles said with a small smile. "No one would ever have expected Angel to have started an investigation firm or to be so good at it." He smiled at the future Slayer. "As is, there are probably a few people you should meet, not all vampires appear to be evil."
"No, my ex is kinda decent, just don't ever let him get really happy." She smiled, winking at Flame. "He has this tricky soul, it tends to leave when he gets happy." The other girl just nodded. "You'll have to wait to meet Angel, he's in LA."
"How did your talk with him go?" Giles asked her.
"Fine, he's going to drain me some so it can be done safely and passed on. If not, he'll ask Nick to do it for him but he'll definitely be there." She leaned over, kissing Giles' cheek. "The prophecy's a piece of crap but I'm doing what's best."
"Prophecy?" Joe asked, his whole body radiating confusion. "Is this something else we should know about?"
"No, just a minor glitch to the whole Slayer thing," Buffy said, trying to keep her tone light but some of the bitterness she felt for the prophecy that said she had to die on her birthday to pass on her powers leaked through. "See, the original Watcher guys put a time limit on the abilities. The super-strength and stuff. I'm running up on the deadline and it's not an automatic passover. So my birthday's going to the be the second time I die and come back, hopefully."
"You will. If I and Derek can't make sure of it, I'm sure Xander will."
"I know, he's already said he's going to make sure even if he has to take the paddles." She looked back at Joe, whose mouth was ajar. "At least this time I'm getting some warning. Last time, I had all of two days."
Flame sighed. "That sucks. Truly sucks. So what's the age limit?"
"Twenty-five," Giles said softly, rubbing down Buffy's bare arm. "We're working on the planning now so we can do it as quickly as possible and with the least amount of trauma." He looked over at Joe, nodding toward the bar. "May I get myself another drink? The girls should talk."
Joe nodded, hefting himself out of the chair and walking over to the bar beside Giles. "That sucks," he said quietly once they were at the bar and Giles had a new scotch. "I thought she was sick or something."
"No, not in the least. I wish it were that simple. The Slayer healing is most useful in that area. When she was shot, she was comatose for three days even though her doctors expected her to be down for at least two weeks. She was out of the hospital in under two weeks because of it." Giles drained his scotch and put the glass down. "I was most distressed when we learned this, but our chronicles are most clear on the matter." He held up his finger and pulled something out of his pocket, handing it over. "Here, my boss sent this. It's the diary of someone who was present when the original Watcher's Council split into our various parts." He looked at the fabric-covered book. "Immortals exist?"
"Same as vampires apparently." He looked up and smiled. "So, how's Adam?"
"He's a bit scared of the children but otherwise fine..." Giles' voice trailed off. "He is?"
"Yeah, he is. A very old one." He unwrapped the book, looking in it. "What language is this in?" He stopped at the drawn markings on a page. "So that's how we got that marking," he said quietly.
Giles smiled. "We don't have one of our own, but it's turned into a family run venture. Almost all Watchers are from a little town near Stonehenge. Or they were before they had to be destroyed for consorting with the same powers that the Slayers were fighting daily."
"There's more than one Slayer?"
"Yes, the first time Buffy died, the powers passed on but when she woke up, she still had them. The other Slayer, Faith by name, is still comatose back in Britain. The Council took her back and kept her close by in case she woke up."
"So why can't she go?" Joe asked.
"Because we're not sure that the power will pass on from her. Also, Buffy's about to lose the protection her gifts have given her. They're going to leave her on her birthday no matter whether or not she dies, but they won't pass on without her passing on."
Joe shook his head. "That truly is a rotten thing to do with her. She seems...interesting."
Giles laughed. "Oh, that's putting it mildly. It's only in the last few years that she's really started speaking English full-time. Her upbringing made her the perfect person to become a society wife but not for this calling. Not at all like most of the girls, who were taken to train when they were young. Buffy's had a normal upbringing, and a very interesting one, but she's had some problems with the calling because she was suddenly put upon to become this other person. I actually think her losing her abilities will help her find herself." He reached over, pulling the bottle of scotch up to pour himself another drink. "Though, God knows, Buffy's not the most flexible of people about some things." He looked over at the table where the girls had been sitting and groaned. "Buffy," he called. "Flame?"
Joe shook his head with a small smile. "They snuck out a few minutes ago, Buffy had your car keys."
"Dear God, I hope she doesn't have an accident. Though her driving is enough to make anyone wish for the sanity of combat some days."
"Combat isn't sanity," Joe said calmly, his face expressionless.
"Neither is Buffy's driving. But there is a certain flow to the fights we have. Not the battles that happen in wars, but the small combat that we've gotten into. Buffy's got a certain rhythm that's easy to go with."
Joe nodded. "I'm glad. Flame's a hell of a good street brawler but she's got no discipline for real fighting."
"Oh, she'll learn," Giles said, saluting him with his glass. "She'll have to. It's the one thing that will keep her alive."
Buffy pulled Flame into the club with her. "The cramps, it tells every time," she said, passing through the dark hallway into the dimly lit bar, "you'll get them every time there's a vamp around. Nice pms-y ones." She stopped to look around. "Gee, Joe was right, there are vamps here." She headed for the floor. "Come on, I'll teach you one of Faith's and my favorite games. It only works with two of us." She led her to the dance floor, smiling as she started to move, her thin, tight shirt showing her off very well. "Practical and clubbing clothes have some common ground," she said over the music, leaning in next to Flame's ear. "I'll take you shopping sometime before I pass it off to you." She pulled back as one of their targets walked up to them, blinking up at him. "Hi," she said cheerfully.
"We're not combatants," he said, pulling both girls off the floor and toward a booth. "Hunting here is a big mistake." Buffy pouted at him. "Please don't do that, I'll go find your Watcher and make him beat you for it. You girls really should learn that pouting doesn't get you everything."
"Giles wouldn't lay a hand on me," she said. "But since you know who I am, why do you think I'm hunting?"
"Because that's what you do?"
"Ah, but I also eat bonbons and take long bathes, neither of which have a thing to do with hunting."
The vampire laughed and shook his head. "Oh, Buffy, we'll miss you when you're gone."
"Gee," she said with a small smile. "You're from that bar in San Francisco, right?" He nodded. "And you must know Nick, because none of them know me."
"But you're legendary. You took down Spike and Dru. You uncursed Angel and sent him to Hell, then accepted him back at your side when he came back. You're legendary."
"Technically," she said with a small frown, "my friends took down Spike and Spike did Dru in. I wasn't there. I was fighting a vampire in the house; she has a remnant from where she was almost turned."
He shook his head. "Your friends and you are all a group, I'm sure you were there by them somewhere." She nodded. "See, and then you trained Nighthawk."
"He trained beside me. Actually, if we want to get technical, Nighthawk was a Slayerette and Spike was done in by a crossbow from a porch because he had knocked out Nighthawk and his mate."
"Oooh, I'm glad he didn't suffer. Nighthawk's not known for his mercy. We've *all* heard about your shooting." He looked over at Flame. "Haven't told the new one about us yet?"
"Not yet, she's looking for proof. See, not hunting," she pointed out.
He vamped out, making Flame squeak. "Yes, it's true," he said quietly, shifting back. "But there are better places to get proof, Buffy. There's a nice demon bar over near the harbor. I could arrange for you to be taken over there."
Buffy shook her head. "I'm on vacation, but thanks. Unless I see someone hunting or hear about one hunting a lot, I'm only in town for a few days."
He nodded sagely. "I can understand that. You've been going a long time. You deserve a rest." He waved a waiter dressed in a velvet cloak over. "Give the ladies a drink on me, Gyan. It's not often we get such a celebrity."
"Yes, Master Lyn," he said, walking quickly away.
"Huh, so you're Angel's old running partner? The one who fought to get him to get rid of his children?"
"He told you?"
"He explained it to me one long night after he got back. He's in LA if you're interested. He's doing the whole PI thing." She reached over and took Flame's hand under the table, squeezing it in warning as the drinks arrived. "He said the Powers That Be have been helping him."
Master Lyn blanched farther. "They have?" She nodded. "Hmm, I should drop in and give him my best wishes then."
Buffy stood up, pulling Flame with her. "Tell him I said hi when you see him. You'll be seeing him before I will." She looked at Flame. "Proof enough?" The redheaded girl nodded. "Cool, we're going to go home now, she's had enough for the night and I'm needing a long soak. Traveling sucks." She waved and they walked out together, Buffy quickly pulling them into shadows in the alley. "Listen, just do as I say. No vamp is that nice."
"But you were nice to him," Flame argued.
"Yeah, and I got lots of information out of him for it, but he's not going to let us go hunt his kind. A real non-feeder wouldn't have been looking down my shirt that way." She reached down and pulled a stake out from her bra, handing it over. "Just hold this for me, okay? I'll tell you when I need it." She pushed the girl behind her, stepping out of the shadows to face down the vampire that she could feel following them. "Hey," she said, waving. "Looking for us?" He charged and she kicked him in the stomach, but he grabbed her ankle, flipping her onto her back. "Not nice," she complained as she hopped back up, kicking him in the side of the head then punching him in the stomach. "Not very nice at all. And in front of my new friend too." She reached a hand back. "Now," she asked when she didn't get it. A stake appeared in her hand and she used it on the vampire, not noticing that it was covered in blood until she felt it sliding down her wrist. She turned, frowning at the vampire behind her. "Lyn, that's so sick. Couldn't you barf somewhere else?" She staked him where he stood in shock, then bent down to look at the next Chosen One. "You gonna live?"
Flame groaned and said something in Spanish, reaching a hand up. "If I don't, you'll find someone else to talk to." She was pulled up, both young women looking at the small stomach wound she had. "Not too bad?"
"Nah, not too bad. Giles can bandage those types of things in a few minutes easy." She wrapped an arm around Flame's neck, walking with her toward the car. "I'll drive us back to your place and we'll call Joe and Giles from there."
"Just don't do what you did on the way over. Taking corners on two wheels makes me nauseous."
Giles looked down at the two sleeping girls in Flame's bed, shaking his head before backing out of the room. He walked over to sit beside Joe, looking at him. "Flame's a most resilient girl, she'll be fine."
"Her dad's a bastard, but he did a good job raising her to be tough." Joe rubbed over his face. "Think she understands now?"
"Buffy did say that they staked two vampires tonight and that Flame was probably watching. Though she did mention something about clubbing tomorrow night also." He looked toward the bedroom. "What is Flame like? I'd best have a better understanding if I'm to get her off on the right foot."
"Her mother you know, her father was an illegal immigrant to Canada, where they met. He's Mexican, very tough and traditional from what she's told me." Joe shifted some, getting comfortable. "She ran away a few years ago, that's how Adam found her. She picked his pocket and he saw something he could understand in her so he took her in. Apparently he caught her in the act of picking his pocket, and then she gave him the flu. She was stealing to get food." He shuddered. "Adam felt sorry for her and was thinking about taking her in long enough to call someone to get her, but she proved she was a lot like him. They've had so many screaming fits in the bar it's not funny. She's a lot older than her sixteen years and he always treated her like an adult, after he figured out that she was one anyway." He grinned. "That man actually tried to get her a dress one time, she went into his closet and cut all of his favorite clothes up. All she left was a pair of jeans that were tight enough for him to have sold himself and one sweater she knew he adored for some reason. He just looked from the mess to her then down at the dress, then tossed it at her, ordered her to get it on so she could help him shop for some new clothes."
Giles snorted. "She's a lot like Buffy then, very full of life and a strong sense of herself. She and I had the most rotten time when we first started working together. She spoke this bastardized form of English and I couldn't understand a word she said half the time. Then she broke all the rules and suddenly had friends, ones who helped her, and a supportive family once her mother found out. She's messed with the rules so many times that I had to throw out the book governing Slayer training and behavior within a few months of meeting her." He smiled fondly. "She's grown into an amazing woman."
"Yeah, she's kinda decent," Joe admitted. "I just hope Flame's going to go that way instead of the way you described Faith. Those two share a lot of circumstances."
"Ah, but Faith looked upon the calling as a chance to steal and have fun. Buffy's always seen the calling as something to be done out of duty but not something you particularly want to do on a Saturday night. That's the difference. That they know it's a duty and not a gift."
"I can see that," Joe said quietly, looking toward the bedroom. "Think they're still in there?"
"I'm not sure, Buffy usually snores and I've not heard her."
"Flame can pick locks."
"Good, that's a very useful skill. One Buffy's needed on occasion that she's never had." He stood up. "I'll go check on them," Giles said as he walked towards the bedroom door.
Buffy looked across the table at the girl that would be replacing her, silently eating the fries that she had bought to share. "So," she said finally, just to break the silence. "You okay?"
"Yeah, my stomach's fine. Little itchy." Flame dropped her fry. "I thought that my life had ended when my father dropped me off at the mall one day and never came back. Now I understand what dying is going to be like." She looked up. "How do you do that job all the time?"
"Technically, it's a lot of shift work. I really don't have that much to do during the day except research and schoolwork."
"You're in school?"
"Yup, working on a Physical Therapy degree. Matter of fact, one of the worst fights I was in, I almost didn't make it to. It was my graduation and the Mayor was the bad guy of the year. Of course, I almost flunked out of a history class because of the job, but hey, ya know." She shrugged. "Most of the time, to answer the real question, it's not a lot of thinking. It's a lot of reacting. That's the part that sucks. A robot could do the job just as well but we've been chosen to do it."
"And now I have to," Flame said quietly.
"Yup," Buffy said, nodding as she ate another fry. "In about six more months." She looked up, smiling grimly. "I'd keep it if I could. Not because I like it," she hurried on to explain, "but because I really don't want another girl to have to beg to go be normal. Dating sucks when you're us." She pushed the fries over. "Eat, you need the calories to heal." She wiped her fingers off, still looking at her counterpart. "Any other questions?"
"Will I have a Watcher of my own?"
"Nope, the Council was disbanded for going bad. But, there's a whole house full of people who are like alternate-Watchers. They help with the research and back you up and stuff. Derek's a really good father, a strict one, but he's a good guy. He's gotten a lot looser since he became a grandfather though. Not so naggy about the diet stuff."
"What about that Nighthawk person the creature last night asked about?"
"Xander? You'll meet him when you come to the house. He's the father of the kids that are driving Adam insane." She grinned. "He's pretty cool. He just kinda stepped into the fight and said 'I'm doing it with you' once he found out what was going on. Over the years he's had a lot of stuff happen to him, and not all of it good, but now he's got Oz and they're happy. And the kids are great. One of them may become us some day."
Flame shook her head. "He's gay? And he fights?"
"Yup, very well. Not the least bit stereotypical either. Xander's...." She stopped to think. "Xander's a great friend to have. When you're down, he makes jokes. When things are tense, he makes jokes. He's the guy that just does things because they need done. Never tells you he did them but he just quietly goes and does them." She looked down at the table, using her newly painted nails to trace patterns on the ribbed plastic. "When I was shot, he and Oz reacted. They went into one of the vamp bars to find out who did it. Needless to say, they were tough and mean when they did it. Then they ran away because Derek came down on them for their methods. So Xander became Nighthawk again, he had done it one summer when I had run away to cover for me. This time though, he took out a good portion of the bad guy population from three cities. Las Vegas used to be a lot more full of bad guys before he got there. LA too. Actually, my ex, Angel, called on him to help a few times."
Flame shook her head. "I still can't see normal people doing this nightly."
"Yeah, but he didn't want me to do it alone. He figured I needed help and he was right. Not that I wasn't cruel to him sometimes because he was a normal guy. He's forgiven me for it, recently for some of the things I did, but he's always been there when I need him. Willow, the kids' mother, she used to be one of my Slayerettes too. She's gone now, but you may be getting to see her again soon if what the precogs at the house have seen is right."
"Precognitives. People with the sight?" Flame nodded. "Derek has it, two of the kids have it, another person in the house has it." She shrugged. "Willow left because she had royally screwed up Xander and was working on Oz and the kids. She may be coming back to try and atone for some of it by becoming a gateway guardian."
"Sunnydale's Hellmouth." She smiled at the shocked look. "That's why I finished high school there. That's why Giles was pretending to be the school's librarian. That's where I met Xander, Willow, Oz, Cordy, and Angel."
"Your ex," Flame said quietly. "I met him. He seemed stiff."
"He's real careful. His soul has this way of leaving when he's happy and he used to be one of the most cruel of them all." She looked around the mall's food court, checking to make sure no one was paying too close of attention. She caught the eye of someone watching them and got up, walking over to stand beside him. "Who're you watching for?" she asked him quietly.
She smiled, patting his shoulder. "We're going to try and bring her back to the house. Don't worry about it when it's just us."
"Derek and William made it clear that you two were not to be allowed out on your own." He smiled up at her. "Last night just proved them right."
Buffy snorted. "Whatever." She walked back over to the table. "House stuff," she explained as she sat down. She stole a fry, looking at her counterpart. "So, how do you want to play this since it's your life that's about to uprooted."
"What?" Flame shuddered. "I just felt like someone was trying to grab my soul."
"Could be," Buffy said simply. "Still have it?"
Flame nodded. "Think so."
"Okay, then the question of the moment is are you coming back with us now for good or for a long vacation?"
"Are those my choices?"
"Basically, yeah. See, there's some stuff you need to learn, how to do the job sort of stuff. If you choose the long vacation option, we'll be going back and forth - sometimes here and sometimes there. But I think you'll like San Francisco."
"I don't think I could handle all the gay people," Flame said quietly, looking at the table. "I was always taught it was wrong."
"Wrong is subjective," Buffy said, trying to keep it light. "After meeting Oz and Xander, I think you'll change your mind. The love they have is so clear and shining it's almost pure." She reached over, patting the still hand. "That's something that you'll get used to and will eventually make your mind up about. That's a later decision. Now's is to go permanently or not."
"I'm not sure. I'll need to talk to Adam and Joe, they're the only family I have." Buffy nodded. "Do you like it there?"
"Yeah, it's a great place. Huge garden and woods, big house. Adam slaving over a hot stove to feed us while trying to avoid being mobbed by the kids."
Flame giggled. "He doesn't like kids."
"He likes these guys, just not all the time and not in large groups. There's six of them, one infant and five older ones, and the older ones like to descend as a group on him. We all think it's really funny."
Flame snickered. "I bet." She picked up a napkin, wiping her fingers off. "We should go talk to Joe. I'm sure Giles is worried."
"Not really. I told him I was going shopping with you." She nudged the bags at their feet. "Just remember the primary rule of stylish fighting, it has to be tight enough to not be grabbed but not tight enough to hamper you."
"So *that's* why you got the backless ones," Flame said.
"Yup. I've only ended up topless once in those. And they're comfy. Same as tank tops are." She pushed everything off onto their tray, getting up to toss it out. "Grab the bags, I'll meet you by the escalator," she called over her shoulder. Buffy stopped by their watcher's table, smiling at him. "We're going to Joe's. Thought I'd give you a tip so you wouldn't have to get lost." She walked away, heading for the trashcans.
Giles looked over the full trunk of their car, then at the two girls. "I didn't think you had bought that much, Buffy."
"I didn't, that's mostly Flame's stuff. Mine's all in my bag." She lifted it, tossing it on top of Giles' in the back seat. "See?"
Giles rolled his eyes, shutting the trunk. "Any more and it'll have to be towed behind us."
"Hey, not an issue as long as we don't have to stay at that motel again."
Flame dragged a trunk out, looking at the closed trunk of the car. "Won't fit?"
"Not unless you want to sit on it," Buffy said. "Which means we have two options. Joe can bring it when he comes down in a week or we get a small U-Haul trailer thing."
"I like the trailer idea," Joe said from the doorway of Adam's building. "She's got three more cases like that, and some electronics."
Giles nodded. "Then we'll go get one and come back. Flame, get everything down here so we can pack efficiently."
"Um, problem," Buffy said, looking down at the rear of their car. "No trailer hitch."
Giles groaned, turning away from her. "I'm sure we'll be able to figure something out, Buffy. Go help her pack." He walked around to the driver's side door, standing in it once it was opened. "Joe, would you like to come with me? Let the girls have some privacy?"
"Nah, I'll be okay with them. I still have to pack some things that Adam wanted brought down to him." He waved, stepping back inside. "The rental place is about five blocks away and one street over to the left," he called as he shut the door.
Giles smiled, sliding into his seat and starting the car as he shut the door. "This may be a painless process yet," he muttered.
Giles knocked on the door of the apartment building, tired from the rental process and the arguments he had had with the men who worked there. Buffy opened the door, looking out at the small truck. "It's all I could get," he explained, keeping it simple. She didn't need to know about the men telling him a trailer wouldn't work for what they needed then arguing with him for almost an hour. "I'm trusting you to drive the car as a normal human would on the way back," he said as he pushed his way inside. "Flame, the truck's here," he called.
"She's taking a nap," Joe said from the couch. "Wouldn't let you get a trailer hitch too?"
"They tried to convince me it was impossible to put one on that make of car." Giles fell down beside him. "And the only truck they had was the medium sized one."
"So we could move me down there too," Joe asked with a smile. "I hadn't been planning on going just yet...." He looked over his shoulder at Buffy as she walked past with one of the trunks. "Want to get some of my stuff too?"
"We could," she said, sitting on the arm of the chair. "The truck's big enough to move a house full." She leaned down, resting her cheek against Giles'. "You did good, rest now and let the strong women do this part."
"Just even the load out a bit," Giles sighed, relaxing into the soft furniture.
"Hey, I can do this, I remember how." She stood up, heading out the door.
Joe looked at Giles with a smile. "Being that strong is good for something besides opening jars I guess."
Giles snorted. "Yes, so it seems." He watched as Buffy came back for another load. "I've not gotten the things from the trunk," he reminded her.
"How did you get them both back?" Buffy asked as she walked past him.
"I drove a few blocks in one then walked back to the other and went a few blocks past the first." She rolled her eyes. "It was the easiest way I could think of."
"That's why you should have made Joe go with you." She headed into the bedroom, coming out with a few boxes. "Few more trips."
"Don't forget the stuff in Adam's room," Joe said.
"Right," she called as she walked out the door. "Whatever."
Buffy walked into the house and stopped, looking up the stairs. "Hello?" she called.
Adam walked out, frowning. "You're a day late," he said, simply pulling Flame into his arms to hug. "How was your trip?"
"Killer," she said with a smile. "Buffy and I spent a lot of time talking."
"So I can tell," he said dryly. "Your room upstairs is all set up."
"So's my room with Joe."
"He's down here already?"
"Almost, Giles could only rent a truck so we ended up moving a good third of his stuff down with us. He'll be down here next week like you planned." Buffy looked around the house again. "What's going on? It's way quiet. Not even munchkin noise."
"We'll talk in a few moments," he told her. "Flame, your room is back down that hall beside mine. Buffy, Xander's in the office and I think he needed to talk to you."
"I can stay in town," Flame said.
"We'll work between the two," Buffy said. "Don't argue with him." She pulled Adam over. "Giles miscalculated the time?" she whispered. He nodded. "Where's Willow?"
"In the guest house. Alone. Alex is upstairs in bed with mourning over Philip's loss. Derek and Nick are in Derek's room for the same reason. Xander's been running the house since the portal took Philip away."
"Tibet?" she asked in shock. "Why?"
"He sent him away to control the wolf. That happened right after you left." He stepped away from her. "Don't worry about it, we're dealing. Your job is to help Flame. I'm helping Xander, as is Jon. William's been watching over the other housemembers."
"Okay, whatever. Giles will be back in a few, he had to drop the truck off. Flame needs to call Joe and tell him she's arrived. Go get her settled and I'll check with Xander to see if he needs anything before I show her around." She walked away, heading for the office.
To Be Continued...