Timeline: Aftermath of the Yoko Factor
Premise: After the argument in Giles apartment, the gang drifts back together, seeking justification for their rantings. They find something unexpected in the process.
Disclaimer: I own nothing but my imagination. Joss Whedon, WB, Mutant Enemy and/or a bunch of other people own everything else in the Buffyverse.
B/G- rated PG-13
Authors Note: I had to do SOMETHING after last weeks ep!
"Xander! What are you doing here?" Willows voice caused the dark-haired young man to shout and whirl, surprise in his eyes.
"GAH! Dont sneak up on the former Scooby, Will... Ive seen too much."
She ignored the former remark. "Sorry. But what are you doing here?" Her face took on the firm expression he knew... and feared.
"I came to check on the funny drunk." He waved his hand vaguely at the door. "Ive never seen him like that... it scared me."
"Yeah, me too. Didnt seem to faze the Chosen One, though." Her voice dripped with contempt.
"Of course not! Shes much too busy saving the world to worry about her former Watcher, or her former friends." His voice was bitter, anger at the Slayer making them partners again, for a moment.
"So, are you gonna go in? Or are you gonna check on Giles from the front porch?"
He looked at her, the corner of one lip curled into a snarl. "I would, if the door was unlocked. The one time Giles decides to wake up to life in California..."
Willow reached in her pocket and produced a shiny silver key. "Move over."
Xander gaped at her. "Where did you get that?" He continued to stare as she let them both in, barely making a sound. "Are you..."
Willow shushed him with a sharp hiss and a gesture with one hand.
He lowered his voice. "Are you and G-man hiding something? Because if you are, Im really confused now."
Willow looked at him in disgust. "Yeah, the whole Tara thing is just a front." She pocketed the key and headed for the kitchen. "Its Buffys key. I got it out of her night stand."
"Oh. Oh! So then, does that mean..."
She whirled on him in exasperated anger, causing him to back up a couple of steps. Cold fury shook her voice, and she was barely able to keep the volume down. "Youre a real poop-head, arent you? You can only think of one possible thing a man and a woman could do together in private, right? Well, that doesnt mean that. That means that Giles gave her a key because he didnt want her to feel locked out of his life any more. It means that this very key has been laying in that night stand ever since he gave it to her, because she was waaaay too busy becoming the campus ho to use it. It means that hes been sitting at home by himself in the dark for months, wondering if she came back from patrol safely, but afraid to call and ask.
"It means that youve been too busy screwing Anya to fall by and see if he was okay. It means I decided he was way too slow and cautious about teaching me magic, so instead of showing him my maturity and asking him for more difficult spells, I went out and found someone else to do magic with. And now hes all alone. Any questions?"
Xanders shoulders slumped lower and lower as she ranted in her low, hissing voice. "I guess I am a poop-head."
She turned back to the kitchen, hunting for the teapot as if making tea would calm her down. "Were all poop-heads. I just came to see if hes okay... and make some tea. He drank a lot in a short period of time, and I got worried about alcohol poisoning. I thought, if he was still awake, I might dilute the booze in his system with something non-alcoholic."
Xanders eyes widened. That hadnt even occurred to him. His parents were professional drunks, and they consumed an amazing amount of booze daily, but they were old hands at it. The only time hed ever seen Giles drink was when Olivia was here... and tonight.
Willow finished filling the pot with water and turned on the burner. After placing the kettle in place, she turned without looking at her companion and started for the stairs. "Ill be right back... I should be able to tell by his breathing if hes okay."
Xander followed her a few steps back. "Im gonna look, too. I sorta have experience with this kind of stuff."
They soundlessly climbed the loft stairs, pausing a few steps from the top. Giles had managed to get out of the jeans, and was laying sprawled on his back across the bed in his T-shirt, briefs and socks. He was snoring softly and regularly.
"Hes okay," Xander sighed in relief.
Willow stared at the older man for a long time before responding. Finally, she turned and started back down the stairs, arriving at the stove just in time to prevent the whistle from becoming too loud. She poured hot water into two cups and handed one to Xander.
As she idly dunked her tea bag up and down, she said distractedly, "Well, at least the old "boxers or briefs" debate can be put to rest."
"You wondered about Giles? How sick is that?" Xander shuddered, then jumped as Willow punched him in the arm... hard. "Ow! What was..."
She shushed him again, her eyes flashing. "Just shut up, if you cant say anything intelligent. What, do you think Giles is a eunuch just because hes over forty? God, youre as bad as Buffy." She screwed up her face in derision and continued in a mocking, high-pitched voice, "This is creeping me out... Im fighting total mental breakdown... Oooo, Giles singing... dont talk about it, its too creepy..." et cetera, et cetera... Youre all just a bunch of ageists."
"Why dont you just go home? Ill take care of the old man for ya... you wont even have to wet a washcloth for him tomorrow morning when hes puking his guts up."
"Willow..." His eyes began to film over. "Where did all this come from? Why are we attacking each other? Sure, things arent perfect, but when have they ever been? And Giles stays around because he wants to... he doesnt have to. He could go home anytime he wants."
"Yeah, sure. Except I wonder where home is for him now." She deliberately turned her back on him. "Just go. Im sure you and Buffy wanna discuss my Wicca stuff and my sexual orientation some more."
Now he looked totally at sea. "What Wicca stuff? What orientation? What discussion? And why would I be having it with Buffy? She barely talks to me any more!"
Willow turned back, less certain, but determined to get everything out in the open. "Oh, come on... dont tell me you havent discussed how Ive lost my edge with computer stuff, and how Im too busy spending time with Tara now to contribute to the group!"
"Willow, I didnt even know there was a you and Tara until tonight! And, as for losing your edge... I think that A plus average of yours more than puts the losing the edge argument to rest. Youre a genius, Will. You dont lose that."
"But Spike said..." The impact of those words caused both of them to freeze, mouths open. They stood there goggling at each other as the minutes ticked by. Realization set in... the subtle words, the innuendoes... Spike was playing them against each other. And, it had worked.
Finally Xander recovered enough to say, "Spike. Once a demon from Hell, always a demon from Hell."
"Oh, he is sooo staked. I gotta call Buffy."
"Make it fast. She could decide to go out on her own, and get herself slightly killed."
The telephone kept ringing, and finally Willow gave up and broke the connection. "Shes still not there... shes not at Rileys, either. I dont know where else to call... her mom would freak if I called so late."
"Maybe not. Call her." Xander nodded, shifting his weight nervously from one foot to the other.
Willow dialed the number she knew shed never forget, and let it ring a dozen times. No answer. She fought the urge to slam the receiver down, remembering at the last minute that Giles had just recently bought the telephone. She put it back on its cradle gently.
"Where is she? Xander, Im really worried, now... she could be anywhere... she could be hurt, or worse... Adam has all those vamps and demons working for him..."
"Shes okay... for now." Buffys flat voice floated over to them from the entrance.
Xander winced as Willow forgot to keep her voice down. He shushed her shortly, then approached the Slayer with a relieved smile. "We were trying to call you..."
"Why?" Buffy looked around the room suspiciously. "And why are you two still here?"
"We left, but then we came back." Willows voice went from defensive to concerned in a heartbeat. "We were worried about Giles. And you."
"Is he okay?" Her voice broke a little bit, but she shook her head stubbornly, letting ice creep back into her voice. "Hes probably sound asleep. You dont have to keep your voice down... he wont hear anything for a while."
"Buffy, we figured out what went wrong." Willows voice was pleading.
"Yeah, This whole thing was Spikes doing." Xander swore and turned away. "I cant believe I listened to him! He was just egging it on."
"There was nothing on that disk, Buffy. Just garbage. Spike brought me a bogus disk and watched me sweat over it for hours." Willow plopped down on the couch, exhaustion beginning to take its toll.
"Yeah, and he told me that you guys thought I should join the army and get out of your hair."
"He told me you guys hated Tara because we were all involved with witch stuff."
"And Ill just bet he had a few words for Giles, too..."
"He was trying to separate us."
"Yeah, and darn near succeeded, too." Xander threw himself down on the couch beside Willow, giving up the notion of being quiet. Above them, Giles continued to snore. Buffy didnt reply.
"Well, whatever he did and said, one things for sure," Willow stated as she watched Buffy pace back and forth. "hes not playing on our side."
Xander leaned forward, a new idea presenting itself to him. "I bet hes in cahoots with Adam! He wants to be the Big Bad again, and I bet he thinks Adam can help him."
Willow nodded solemnly. "With all that built in hardware, Adam just might be able to disable the chip."
"Oh, man... we may be facing the old Spike again." Xander said, dejectedly.
Buffy stopped pacing, her arms folded stiffly in front of her. "Rileys gone."
"What?" Willow and Xander yelped in unison.
"When I told him about Forrest, he just got up and said, "I have to go." Then he walked out. I havent seen him since. I think hes gone after Adam himself."
Willow gasped, "Oh, no, Buffy!"
Buffy whirled to face them, her voice desperate. "Oh, yeah. Look... I need you guys. I dont care what you think of me right now. I just need you. Youre the only ones I have ever been able to count on in my whole, miserable life! I dont know why I try to fall in love... every time I do, something big and ugly crawls out of Hell and nixes it. I need you and Xander, and I need Giles..." Her voice broke. Nobody noticed that the snoring had stopped.
"I really, really need Giles right now. I know Ive been pretty stupid, but I do need you all."
Willow stood and walked over to her friend. She placed a comforting hand on her arm. "Hey, its okay. We all said some pretty bad stuff tonight. Just consider tonight a sort of emotional purgative, and lets figure out how to make mincemeat out of Adam and his goons." She looked into Buffys eyes and smiled a sweet Willow smile. "Okay?"
Buffys body began to lose some of its rigidity. "Okay. Im just gonna go check up on Giles. Theres gotta be some way to stop Adam without dying in the process."
"Ill get my laptop and do some research."
"And Ill keep trying to call the Initiative guys. Somebodys bound to be home sooner or later." Xander grabbed the cordless phone off of Giles writing desk and began punching buttons. Buffy had been over at the Lowell House so much lately hed memorized the number. He figured Willow had, too.
Buffy started up the stairs, moving slowly and quietly. She didnt hear anything from the loft, and that worried her. As she neared the top of the stairs, she called softly, "Giles? Are you asleep?"
"Not really." His voice was quiet, but unslurred.
She crept up the last few stairs and caught him zipping his jeans. She flushed slightly and grinned at him as he turned toward her. He looked around, still in his white undershirt, still a little befuddled. "I cant find my sweater."
She smiled sympathetically. "You threw it over the rail. It landed on Xanders head. If we hadnt been tearing each others throats out, it couldve been funny."
"And... my glasses?"
"Downstairs on the counter."
He shuffled to his closet and pulled out the first shirt he put his hands on... a blue cotton oxford. He shrugged it on and began buttoning it up, still not looking at her directly.
"Are you okay?" Her voice sounded so young and frightened, he looked up in spite of his shame.
"As well as can be expected, after only a few hours sleep. Did I hear you say that Riley has disappeared?"
"Yeah." Her eyes grew wide. "Just how much of what we said did you hear?"
"Oh." She looked up at him, sincerity written across her face as she said firmly, "I meant what I said, Giles. I need you. Youre my anchor."
He sighed heavily and let his arms drop to his sides. "And you are mine."
"Not lately." She looked at him tearfully. "Im sorry."
"So am I."
"Spike did this... he went to every one of you said stuff... made you all feel useless and terrible and abandoned..."
"Buffy, some of us were already feeling that way." He sat down on the bed, feeling shaky and sick.
"I know. Im sorry, its my fault. I abandoned you." She took a few steps and knelt on the bed beside him, curling one leg underneath her. "I guess I took all that self-reliance stuff you said seriously."
"When did I ever say..." he stopped as the memory surfaced through the sluggish haze that filled his brain. "Oh." The day she came in and found Olivia in his apartment, he had shooed her away. He hung his head sadly. "Im so sorry... I regretted those words the instant they were out of my foolish mouth."
"I know. You said. I just didnt listen. I stopped listening to anyone for a while. Im listening now."
He smiled wanly and put an awkward arm around her shoulders. "Right now, I think we need to talk about destroying Adam. The rest..." He squeezed her gently to him. "...well deal with later."
She smiled at him, enjoying the feel of his arm around her. "I hear ya. Really."
Willow looked up from her laptop as Buffy and Giles came down the stairs. "Oh, hey, Giles, youre awake!"
She jumped up and bounced over to him. "Are you okay? Do you want some tea?"
He grinned as she hovered near him. "I shall live. And tea would be nice." He went over to the couch and sat gingerly.
Willow dashed into the kitchen, calling over the pass through window, "Ill have to reheat the water. Itll just take a second."
Xander looked up from the telephone. "Hey, Giles... Buffy, the Lowell House is empty. Not a soul in sight. I called my friend from the pizza joint... they havent even ordered in tonight. Somethings up."
Buffy nodded and sat beside Giles, pulling her legs under her by force of habit. "Theyre mobilizing. They probably found out Forrest is dead."
The three people in the apartment stared at her. Willow said, in a tiny, frightened voice, "Forrest is dead?"
"I thought I said... I saw Adam kill him. I barely got away. Riley probably went after Adam..." She began to shake. "He may be dead already."
Giles curled a comforting arm around her and drew her close. "Perhaps not. At any rate, we cant go charging into this situation without a plan."
Buffy sniffed and smiled through her tears. "Thats my Giles."
He gave her a squeeze and continued, "Buffy, are there any weapons that can effect Adam?"
She shook her head. "Not that I know of. When Forrest zapped him with his blaster, Adam acted like hed been given a recharge. He actually said, Thank you." She shuddered again. "Then he tossed me around like a rag doll until I ran." Her voice grew hard. "I didnt run because I was all emotionally freaked, or because I was hurt, like I did when I fought Sunday." She looked at him, remembering just why she was so freaked. He looked away, ashamed, but she found his hand and squeezed in comfort. "I ran this time because I knew I couldnt beat him."
"This time Im very glad you did," Giles said quietly.
She looked at him warmly. "Thank you."
"From what youve told me, Adam will have a plan. So must we." Suddenly, Giles voice sounded stronger and less wobbly. "We need weapons."
Xander added, "And bodies to use them."
Willow looked up. "Hey, I found something."
As the gang gathered around her, she pointed to a series of schematics that belonged to the Initiative base. "Look at this power junction..."
Xander gaped at the screen. "This is a highly classified, top-secret government operation, Will! How did you get into their schematics?"
She giggled a little bit. "They had to file them with the city when the place was built. They were encrypted, but after the little exercise with Spikes bogus disk, I was in practice. I hacked into the city mainframe."
"Oh, wow... you and the Lone Gunmen are going to go down in history, Will!"
"Yeah, except Im real and theyre not."
Giles put a fist against his hip and studied the maps, squinting at the small screen. "What does this mean, exactly?"
"That they have a separate power source aside from the main building. Theyre making sure that something doesnt get its power interrupted. I think that something may be Adams source of power... or maybe his guidance system."
Xander snorted. "I didnt think he had a guidance system."
Buffy was nodding her head. "It makes sense. Before he died, Doctor Angleman said Adam wasnt completely programmed, or that it was messed up somehow. My guess is hes on autopilot."
Xander held up a finger. "Interrupt the signal somehow..."
Willow added, "...by shutting down the power to the system..."
Buffy finished, "...and no more master monster messiah."
Giles looked up, a glimmer of hope on his face. "We have a plan, I think. Or, at least, the beginnings of one."
Buffy looked up at him and stepped closer, smiling. "Yeah. I like the sound of that. We have a plan."