Ben sat in slightly dirty clothes in a small pub on the outskirts of the downtown district. In front of him he played with a mug of beer, only occasionally taking a sip. Mostly he just pushed the mug around in distracted circles and watched the golden-yellow brew slosh around.
He’d managed to reach a stored pile of clothes and change from the ratty tatters of Glory’s dress without making a fool out of himself. He’d expected one of the scab-crew to pop out at any moment while he walked back into town, but he’d been left to himself.
Ben noted the tables that surrounded the bar in a semi-circular pattern. Most were filled by young men and women laughing and flirting. They were so happy; they didn’t know how close they were to losing everything. Or, that there was a man in their midst who was considering turning an innocent girl over to her death just on the off-chance that it might save his own ass.
He sickened himself.
A group of intense men in a back corner caught his interest, though he didn’t understand why. They were just… oddly incongruent with the crowd around them. There were eight of them crowded around a table for five for one thing. For another, where everyone else in the place were laughing and talking with the ones they were with, these men were downright dour. A pitcher of beer had been delivered to the table, and yet none of them seemed anxious to partake of it.
Ben took another swallow of his own beer. As he replaced the mug, he realized all of the men were wearing stocking caps pulled low over their heads. They spoke low to one another and cast suspicious and restless gazes around the room from time to time. When the waitress had brought an order to them, they nearly all seemed to pull at their caps, adjusting them lower over their foreheads. Like some nervous tic that had grown contagious, Ben watched as they all seemed to be pathologically concerned with their caps being low over their foreheads.
He turned back to his own beer. He’d allowed himself to be distracted long enough. It was time to get back to brooding on whether he could go through with it. Even if he survived a deal with the devil, could he live with himself knowing he’d killed Buffy’s sister?
In the car on the way back to Xander’s place, Giles turned up the heater to drive away the desert chill which seemed to cling to their exposed skin. Buffy sat pensive and staring at the darkness as they headed toward town.
“Wasn’t it useful,” he asked.
“I didn’t think so. Basically, I’m full of love and violence. But there was this thing about death… like maybe she was trying to tell me something and I’m not seeing it.”
“Hmm… they often speak in riddle, I’m afraid. Perhaps if you could relate exactly what she’d said?”
“I will, Giles. I just need to sit with it for a few days first, okay? The important thing is she indicated that I could beat Glory. Of course, just telling me ‘hey, what you want to do is recite this incantation while dancing the hula’ would have been too simple. But still, I was beginning to wonder if there wasn’t anything I could do, so it’s a relief to know there’s a way.”
“I’ve been thinking, while waiting for you… and trying not to freeze,” Giles gave her a small smile before returning his attention to the road. “Perhaps
“Maybe. We should check the basement tomorrow; see what Glory missed in her destructo-rama. And I still need to get clothes packed for Dawn. We need to stay somewhere other than our house. Glory’s been there… it’s too easy for her to find us there again whenever she wants. Going to school is also out of the question.”
“I’ve been thinking on that, as well. I believe there is a rather powerful coven in
“Thanks, Giles. Not just for what you’re doing now, but for everything.”
“Oh, w-well… I am your official Watcher again, after all,” he cleared his throat.
“You’ve gone way above and beyond over the years. You’ve taken care of all of us, not just your Slayer. I-I know sometimes I can seem… distant,” Buffy swallowed. “I just need you to know that I love you, Giles. You and the gang are the closest thing Dawn and I have to real family left. I just want you to know how much you mean to me. I don’t think I tell people how much I care about them nearly enough.”
“W-well… I certainly have come to see you as more than just my student, as well. If I were to have a daughter some day, I would hope that she is half of the woman you’ve become. I am so proud of you, and of the others, as well.”
“Maybe you should tell them that,” Buffy pointed out before turning back to the window. “I think that Xander could especially use hearing that right now.”
“Yes…, I may have been a little harsh about his… uh… pronouncement.”
“Spoken like a true Brit, Giles….”
End Chapter 8