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Chapter 2 of X ... 'The Cost of Giles'

 

The Cost of Giles

Ch 2 – Xander and Tara

 

 

Xander walked up the aisle of the Summers’ sidewalk, grimacing at the work that was awaiting him. It appeared that someone had been trying to keep the lawn from getting too overgrown, and he felt badly that he hadn’t thought of it before. It was obvious that things were being let go, though, and he decided that he would mow this morning after he had seen Spike, assuming the vampire wasn’t already down for the day. It appeared that Tara (he assumed) had planted flowers around the front of the porch as well, but weeds were quickly dominating her bed.


 

Trying the front door handle, he found it unlocked and with a quick knock, he let himself in. Outside, the sun was shining brightly and it was already a little too hot. By the afternoon, they’d be in a scorcher. The interior of the living room was dark and cool, though, as the front room drapes were pulled tightly, even though the porch would keep any stray rays of direct sunshine from finding the undead within.


 

“Hello, Xander! What are you doing here so early,” Tara smiled from the entrance between the living room and the kitchen. A nearby clock said it was only a few minutes past eight.


 

“Well… being off from work, I thought I’d see if there was anything that needed doing around here. I think I’m going to go ahead a mow the front and back.”


 

“That’s really sweet. I’ve been trying to keep it mown, but there’s just been so much to do. Come on in the kitchen; let me pour you a cup of coffee. You want breakfast? I can cook you up some eggs?”


 

“Just some toast, please. And coffee would be great. I actually stopped by to share some news from Anya,” he said, following behind her.


 

In the kitchen, his eyes swept the room, taking in the dirty dishes sitting in the sink. It looked like she’d been doing them when he’d entered. The tile floor was looking a bit in need of a good mopping, as well. There were still crumbs on the counter and he grabbed a paper towel to wipe them away.


 

“I’ll get that, Xan. Sit down,” she said as she grabbed up a wet rag and began swiping. After drying her hands she placed two slices of bread in the toaster and then set to getting him his coffee.


 

It wasn’t until she’d refilled her own cup and sat down across from him at the island that he was able to take note of the dark circles under her eyes and the strain lines around her mouth.


 

“Tara, don’t take this the wrong way, ‘cause your always beautiful,” he said lightly to cover his concern, “But you look exhausted.”


 

“Oh, don’t worry about me. There’s just so much to do… I don’t know how Joyce ever managed. But tell me about Anya… it’s been weeks since I’ve received anything from her.”


 

“I’ll tell you everything, but I’m not letting this drop,” he grinned at her. “You don’t look like you’ve been sleeping. You sure you’re okay? Maybe you’re trying to do too much. You know, if everyone else in the house isn’t pulling their share, I’d be happy to play the bad guy, for you. Especially with Dawn, she’s old enough to do chores around here.”


 

She seemed to deflate just a little, almost like it was against her will. She gave him a small smile of her own, but it did nothing to alleviate the signs of exhaustion on her pale face, “I-It’s just… I’ve been afraid of being demanding with her and I know I should at least be expecting her to keep her own room picked up. She’s been through so much though, lately. And right now, I’m just trying to get her through summer school.


 

“And there’s just so much to do, all the time. I mean, you can’t imagine how messy she is and the constant clothes that need washing…. I just wasn’t expecting things to be so… overwhelming, when Willow and I moved in. Not that I’m complaining,” she quickly pointed out. “It’s just between the housework and trying to keep the finances straight, thank goodness for the Buffybot’s stipend…; and there are other things that I need to talk to you about, Xan. I shouldn’t have waited this long, but…,” she gave him a shrug.


 

As she got up to retrieve his toast and to gather strawberry jam from the refrigerator, he gave her a small, only half joking groan, “Don’t tell me Dawn’s in trouble at school… again! Or that the Buffybot has completely blown her artificial nature to the wrong person?”


 

“No, it’s not Dawn this time,” she said with a tight and half-hearted smile, sliding the plate over the counter in front of him and retaking her seat. “I’m afraid I need to talk to you about Willow.”


 

She cast a sideways glance at the basement door and added, mysteriously low-voiced, “But not here and now. I’ll take you to lunch and we’ll talk then.”


 

Before he could push her on the ‘hush-hush’ vibe he was getting from her, she got up and refilled her not-even-half-empty cup. With her back turned, she asked lightly, “So what’s happening with Anya, these days?”


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Across town, Willow scoured the internet from the Espresso Pump. In front of her, mostly ignored, were a tall coffee and a half-eaten cinnamon roll. Surrounding her was a small incantation. A little buffer zone that kept the waitress that roamed the tables looking for someone needing assistance or wanting to order from bothering her.


 

Ordinarily, she would never use a public terminal, but Tara had been (deliberately, she was sure) sneaking up on her lately. Ever since Willow had used the Tabula Rasa spell, Tara had seemed on edge about the amount of magic she accessed. The presence of Dawn and the needless worrying that Tara had over using magic around her mystical nature was only dragging down her attempts to locate an Urn or some other means of bringing Buffy back from the dead.


 

Willow loved Tara. She had since shortly after she’d met her and she wanted to spend her whole life with the other woman, but that didn’t stop the resentment at her attitude. It was like she didn’t want to bring Buffy back, at all! She was sure that Tara was only looking to protect her, but Willow also felt more than capable of wielding whatever magic may be necessary… if only she could find what she needed.


 

She’d also come to suspect that Tara wasn’t entirely convinced that Buffy was actually trapped in Hell, somewhere. She hadn’t said anything blatant to lead Willow to that conclusion, but her comments and overly-innocent sounding questions seemed to indicate she wasn’t ready to act without some sort of hard confirmation.


 

It was obvious that Willow’s nightmares weren’t enough to convince her. Well, as far as Will knew, they didn’t have live-feed video cameras in Hell and her one attempt at a scrying spell to locate Buffy had only revealed a non-seeing void. She wasn’t sure if Tara just didn’t trust her or if the thought of Buffy being tortured was just too much for the sensitive woman to take.


 

Will was working hard to give her the benefit of the doubt. It wasn’t easy when Tara was throwing her looks every time she ran another mystical scan of Dawn.


 

She closed her eyes with a sigh and sipped at the lukewarm beverage. The Watchers Council had an extensive list of contacts and with the digital age here, they had a lot of linkages to other’s databases to sift through. It was a strain, even on her, to keep up the cloaking-magic she was using to keep anyone from noticing her presence in their systems. But still, there was no sign of an Urn of Osiris and no indications of any other items that may draw Buffy from an unknown realm back to Earth.


 

She was keeping an eye out for anything on Glory, as well. With all of their research into fighting the Hellgod, they’d never actually come across the name of her dimension. Without that specific detail, a lot of summoning magic was rendered useless.


 

As Willow’s hand lowered from rubbing at her tired eyes, it rested at her throat where she tried to rub away the lump that seemed to reside there all of the time now. She always seemed to want to start weeping when she realized how much her searching wasn’t turning up something useful.


 

Her fingertips brushed against the charm dangling from the thin chain around her neck. She wore it nearly all of the time, so much so, it was barely registered by her anymore. Now though, the blunt edges of the star caught her attention and she fingered the symbol for several moments, thinking.


 

Maybe what she should have been doing this whole time, was seeking a little divine intervention? She hadn’t been a practicing Jew since she’d turned eighteen… magic consumed her focus, but now she shrugged to herself. Maybe she could get a little help from God….


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“Wow,” Tara said, in relation to Xander’s update on Anya and Oz.


 

“My exact words.”


 

“W-well… I mean, this is good. It’s good that Anya is finding love and of course, it’s nice for Oz, too.”


 

“Yeah… it’s just not so nice that they’re finding love together. I mean, not that I have any problems with it… but….”


 

“… Willow, I know,” Tara nodded. “It may come out sounding awful, but I was hoping that we wouldn’t see Oz again,” she admitted. “Not that I’m afraid of him and Willow getting back together… I trust Will, but, he does make things a bit more… interesting.”


 

“I don’t blame you, really. But, she did choose you over him. I’m more worried about how she’ll react to Anya. It seems like they can’t help but snipe at one another, lately.”


 

“I think that was mostly her worry over what Anya would do when you knew you needed to break up with her. And, of course, once Anya realized that Willow never thought you two belonged together, anyway… I don’t know why Will felt the need to blurt that out loud.”


 

“I think Giles’ brandy had a lot to do with that,” Xander smiled. “Are you going to be okay, though, around Oz, I mean. I know he sort of ‘wolfed-out’.”


 

“I think we’ll be fine. It was just… he came here to make up with her and she wasn’t up front with him about what was happening in her life. The way he sort of just stumbled across the fact that we were in a relationship now… I’m sure it blindsided him.”


 

“Yeah. Listen, I want to see Spike before he goes down for the day, is he upstairs?”


 

“Down,” Tara nodded toward the basement door. “He’s smoking and I don’t allow it up here.”


 

“Good for you.”


 

“Well, it was sort of Joyce’s rules,” she smiled shyly. “It feels like I’d be disrespecting her if I allowed cigarettes up here now.”


 

“He hasn’t given you any trouble about it, has he?”


 

“Oh, not at all,” she quickly exclaimed. “If anything, he sort of exiled himself before I could even mention it. I think he respects Joyce’s memory too much to smoke up here, too, even without my making it a hard rule.”


 

“Well…,” Xander looked momentarily unsure, “Uh… you think you could keep any visitors away from the basement… I mean if Willow comes home sometime soon. I know that’s her robot work station, down there.”


 

“I-I guess.”


 

“Good. Uh, I wanted to, uh… some alone time with the boyfriend,” Xander turned a little pink and smiled nervously.


 

“Oh!” Tara gave him a good-natured laugh. “Well, good for you. I’ll just be in the living room, vacuuming really, really loud. Take all the time you need,” she grinned at him as she left the kitchen.


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End Ch 2

 

Tags: btvs, buffy, harsens-rob, spander, spanderverse, the cost of giles, writing
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