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Fan Fiction: They Also Serve
Chapter Fifteen: Cold Pizza
"He who cannot rest, cannot work; he who cannot let go, cannot hold on; he who cannot find footing, cannot go forward."
Tara turned her face against the arm of the couch and lifted a sluggish hand to rub at her eyes. Her back twinged in protest as she did so, tugging her further out of sleep, and she realized abruptly that she wasn't in her bed. Or hers and Willow's bed. So where...?
Soft sounds filtered into her consciousness from the direction of the kitchen, and Tara remembered: Buffy's couch. She'd been waiting for Giles and Xander. She heard the refrigerator close, and the ripping sound of a paper towel being freed from its roll; a plate clanked loudly on the counter, and a quiet male voice rebuked the perpetrator. They're here, Tara thought. She must have been sleeping pretty heavily to miss them coming in.
She sat up slowly on the couch, stretching out the knots in her muscles, and stifled a wide yawn. She hadn't meant to fall asleep at all, but her exhaustion had finally caught up with her after Mr. Rayne left. Which had been... she glanced toward the nearest clock... a few hours ago. No wonder she felt like the couch pattern had imprinted on her face.
"...MMmmm," she heard Xander mumble, around a mouthful of something. "We should have taken some of this with us, I've been hungry since before you volunteered us for patrol."
Giles sighed. "I'll never understand American eating habits," he commented, and did something that made a series of beeping noises. A soft whirr started up a second later, and Tara realized that he was using the microwave. Oh; they'd found what was left of the pizza.
The conversation continued as the two men ate, and she was content to sit and let it wash over her as she finished waking up. Tara wasn't used to this much late night activity, anymore. It had been second nature to sleep short and hard during the long months without Buffy, but recently she'd only had schoolwork and the occasional Wicca meeting to keep her up late.
"...tried to kill them all if she were here." Giles' voice sharpened a little with the statement, and Tara focused again, listening. "But the majority were of typically nonviolent species. They were a bit disoriented and irritable, yes, but if we killed every human with those qualities..." He let his voice trail off meaningfully.
"Yeah, yeah, I know," Xander said, sarcastically. "So we sent them to Los Angeles, where they'll be Angel's problem, not ours."
Giles sighed. "Xander..."
Tara yawned again, and slowly got to her feet. Might as well go in and say 'Good Morning'; she really didn't feel like eavesdropping on them any longer. Besides, cold pizza was starting to sound really good.
Xander paced out into the hallway before she got to the kitchen, shaking his head about something. He seemed a bit startled when he saw her, and gave her a chagrined look. "Oops. Sorry, didn't mean to wake you."
"That's all right," she said, smiling tiredly at him. "Any pizza left? It's getting close to breakfast time."
"A couple slices, I think," he replied. "How were things here, during the night? Any oogly-booglies come knocking?"
"I'm not sure," she said, and looked past him into the kitchen, where Giles sat with a cup of tea. "Giles, does Ethan Rayne count as an oogly-boogly?"
The older man turned abruptly to look at her, green eyes widening behind his glasses. "Ethan was here? What did he want?" He sounded a bit apprehensive, but there was something else in his expression that gave her pause.
Over the past few weeks, with no Tuesday night adventures to keep her busy, Tara had had a chance to catch a few episodes of that new Superman show, "Smallville". It had been an interesting storytelling choice for them to make Clark and Lex start out as best friends... but then again, best friends had more power to hurt each other than almost anyone, except family. It added dimensions to the enemies-as-adults relationship that made the story much more complex, and it occurred to her now that maybe that was what had happened to Giles and Ethan. Minus the whole Kryptonite thing, of course.
For a moment, Tara almost felt pity for them... but then the analogy ran away with her imagination. Suddenly, she was picturing Giles in a blue Spandex suit with a big red G on his chest, and she had to choke down an inappropriate giggle.
"He, um, said to tell you that he'd be seeing you," she replied, and saw him flinch. That had touched a nerve somewhere. "But he also said to watch out for your second Slayer, that she'd be a handful. And then he left. What do you think he meant?"
"What, is Faith out of jail already?" Xander exclaimed behind her, making her jump. She'd forgotten he was there.
Tara shook herself and moved farther into the kitchen, lifting the last two slices from one of the boxes of pizza and settling onto a stool. "I thought she wasn't up for parole for a few more years?" she asked.
Giles frowned. "Even if so, I am not her Watcher; Wesley is." He paused. "And if... even if she were to die, I don't believe the Council would assign me to Watch her replacement. The only reason they still tolerate me as Buffy's Watcher is because she insisted; it wouldn't do to alienate the strongest Slayer in centuries."
Xander shook his head. "Well, maybe Buffy knows something. She's in L.A., Faith's in L.A., Wesley's in L.A. I'm sure..." His voice trailed off, and his eyebrows knit together suddenly. "New prophecy, Dawn said. Wonder if that has anything to do with it?"
Giles scraped a hand over his tired face and sighed. "Well, whatever it is, I'm sure I'll deal better with it after some sleep. Tara, might I have the use of the couch? Or do you still have need of it?"
Tara glanced at Xander, and thought about the empty room upstairs and the wrecked car in a ditch several miles away. "Amy's in Dawn's room," she said decisively, "and we're still in Joyce's, but Buffy's is free," she said. "I d-don't think she'd mind. One of you stay up there, and the other can have the couch."
Giles blinked. "Ah, I rather think I'll take the couch."
Xander glanced at him, then at Tara, then at the ceiling. "Um, why don't I just crash at home? I know I'll be back again in a few hours, but fresh clothes would be of the good."
"Crash being the operative word," Tara reminded him gently, with an apologetic expression. "So unless Giles plans to die today..."
"What?" The Watcher looked a bit startled.
Xander caught the reference, however, and raised his eyebrows in disbelief. "My car? What did you guys do to it? Wills did say 'wreck', but I thought, since you didn't ask... that you must've... Oh never mind." He threw his hands in the air. "Why is this my life?"
"S-sorry, Xander," she said. Some imp of the perverse, probably the one that had shown her a comically-clad Giles a few moments before, inspired her to keep going. "It might have been salvageable before Anya ripped the door off, but now..."
Disbelief gave way to dismay in Xander's face. "Oh, that's just great," he groaned. "Now I'm feeling Willy's pain. What am I going to tell the insurance?"
"Oh, I wouldn't worry," Giles said, dryly. "In Sunnydale, they'll believe anything, as long as it isn't supernatural. You should see my insurance records."
Xander struggled with his feelings a moment longer, sending his aura dancing, then suddenly straightened, looking thoughtful. "Well, I guess I could tick another item off the X-Man's Life List: Wake Up in Buffy's Bed." He paused. "Unfortunately, this is not the way I pictured that happening."
Before Giles' expression could settle into either amusement or severe disapproval, Xander shook his head and waved the conversation away. "Never mind. Just give me a few blankets, and I'll be good on the living room floor. Remind me to give Willow the third degree later, though. I liked that car."
Just like that, he'd regained his equilibrium. "Don't worry." Tara smiled at him, then set down the slice of pizza she was nibbling on and headed for the linen closet. "You'll be drowning in cookies before you know it."
He chuckled a little, the turned to ask Giles a question before following her. "Uh, G-Man, about the Orbs? Where should I store them when I'm not using them? I don't think they came in that leather pouch Warren was using, and I didn't see anything else likely."
Giles' answer was mildly surprised. "You don't intend to keep them always with you, then?"
"Tempting as that idea is," Xander said, "I'd have to say, No. C'mon. I've seen what happened to Wills when she got all dependent on her magic. And it's not like I really need them, all the time. Just when the world's about to end, and stuff. I've done without them before, right?"
"That's... actually rather mature of you," Giles said, then sighed. "Of course. Ah, I think any small box or pouch would do. I can locate a magical container in a few days to prevent them from showing up on a scanning spell, but for now, just put them somewhere safe."
"'Kay." Xander appeared at Tara's elbow, yawning hugely. "Thanks, Tara. For the blankets, I mean. Wake me up when Buffy gets back?"
He took the blankets from Tara and headed for the living room, followed shortly by Giles. Tara waited for them get settled, making sure they didn't need anything else, then sat back down in the kitchen with her breakfast. She still felt a little drowsy and short on sleep, but now that she was moving again, the minor injuries from the wreck were making themselves felt. She doubted she'd be able to fall asleep again without waking Willow, so she might as well just get dressed and wait up for Buffy.
She polished off the pizza, then stifled another yawn and set a cup of water to heat in the microwave. Buffy kept a small selection of tea here for Giles and the girls, and some of it came in filterbags. Tara thought she remembered seeing some Tazo "Awake" in the mix; it made a good alternative to coffee.
About ten o'clock in the morning, as the soft peal of church bells rang out over the city, Tara heard Buffy's key in the front lock. She padded to the door in her sock feet and put her finger to her lips in the universal 'shush' signal as it began to open. Buffy looked a little startled to see her standing so close, but nodded and passed the gesture on to the people behind her.
Buffy, Dawn, and an unfamiliar man with blue eyes and a very strange aura tiptoed in after her. Buffy started for the stairs, but Tara shook her head and gestured for them to follow her through to the kitchen. Buffy frowned a little, but nodded, and moved to set her bag and Dawn's down by the couch before doing so.
The Slayer paused when she saw the tall form spread out on the couch, and smiled suddenly, her whole face softening with affection and a hint of sadness. "Giles," she whispered, and shot a glance at the others.
"Xander," Dawn mouthed back, and pointed to a heap of blankets nearby. "Cute!"
The corners of Buffy's mouth twitched with amusement, and a little more animation came into her eyes. She tiptoed over to the sleeping young man, and mimed pouring a cup of something over his head.
Dawn just rolled her eyes in response, then gave a startled frown to the man behind her as he gently nudged her back with an outstretched hand. "OK, OK," she whispered.
Tara smiled and led the three out to the back porch, where they could all sit down and talk without worrying about waking anyone up. She thought that the tall man must be Wesley, the ex-Watcher that Giles had spoken about, but he didn't look like the pictures she'd seen of him. Perhaps it was the fact that he wasn't wearing a suit, or glasses? Never mind, he looked much better without them, and the scar gave him a sort of roguish look.
"So, Tara," Buffy said, once the kitchen door had closed behind them. Her smile had faded, although she was trying to keep her tone light. "Slumber party?"
"Oh, n-no," Tara said, worried about the look on the Slayer's face. Whatever had happened in L.A. couldn't have been good. "It's just that they got in so late from patrol. You were right about the demons, things got a little hectic last night."
Buffy sighed. "You better fill me in first, we've got a lot to tell, and I'd rather only do it once. So..."
Dawn nudged her side with a pointed finger and cleared her throat loudly.
"Oh." Buffy blinked, and shot an apologetic glance at the man standing next to her. "Sorry. Wesley, this is Tara Maclay, Willow's, um, girlfriend?" She gave Tara a questioning look.
Tara nodded. "Yes, we're back together."
That got a spontaneous happy smile from Buffy, and a squeal and a hug from Dawn. "I thought so!" the younger Summers said, with a huge grin spread over her face. "I'm so happy for you guys!"
Now it was Buffy's turn to clear her throat. "And Tara, this is Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. He was kind of my Watcher for a little while, when they fired Giles that time, and Faith's too before she went into that coma."
"It's nice to meet you," she said, extending a hand towards him.
"My pleasure, Miss Maclay," he said, as he took her hand in a firm grip. "And congratulations, as well."
© 2004 Jedi Buttercup.