A Little Uncalculated Weirdness

Chapter 3


Chapter 3

They found a largely abandoned coffee shop on the pier, and sat down together at a table by the door. It was still too early in the morning for there to be many people around, and Buffy relaxed happily, content to drink a surprisingly cheap cup of coffee, and not have to think about Math tests. Even vampires had to be better than quadratic equations. They were certainly far less trouble. It was nice, to relax here and listen to Michael talk. She had only known him a few minutes, and already she was feeling more than comfortable in his presence. He had nice eyes, bright and deep; and she found herself gazing at his hair, and the way the tight black curls wobbled about when he moved his head. Whoa girl, she thought to herself. Entering major crush zone. The trouble was, he seemed to be looking at her in the much the same way. When a feeling was mutual, it was a shame not to act on it.

“Mark Hutten was a local kid. He was sixteen.” Michael leaned back in his chair, gazing at the plumes of steam unfolding from out of his cup. “He was taken over by one of the local vampire gangs, and he couldn’t fight the craving for blood. He was lost for good.”

“Did you kill him?” Buffy asked, studying his face for a long second. He looked troubled, haunted even.

“No, I didn’t. How could I? That was me once.” He sighed. “Edgar Frog did it. He and his brother Alan are our local vampire fighters. They were real big horror comic fans, and then when they saw that the stories were all happening for real right here, they went into business. Course, nobody really pays them any attention, but they’re kind of useful to have around, if you believe all this stuff.”

“They staked him?”

“Yeah. About a month ago. We were down on the beach one night, trying to have a barbecue, and the vamps were really out. Serious blood sucking nightmare. Mark tried to go for my little brother, and Edgar iced him. Not pretty. Slime all over the beef burgers. Man, those creatures really are gross when they get wiped.”

“Really?” This was interesting. “Mine usually just sorta… go flop, and combust. Sort of ashy, rather than gloopy.”

“Yeah? Must be something in the air locally. Round here they explode green goo and blood all over the place.”

“Wow.” Buffy took another sip of coffee. “I’d actually quite like to see that.” She frowned slightly. “But you said Mark Hutten was a local kid. So how come he’s buried in Sunnydale?”

“Sunnydale? That place you come from? He’s not, he’s in the local graveyard. How could he be buried in some town nobody’s ever heard of?”

“Weird…” Buffy nodded slowly. “Makes sense though. I guess his grave must be right on the site of the gate. That doesn’t explain why I wound up on the beach though…”

“I shouldn’t worry about it. Nothing round here makes a whole lot of sense. Kids growing long pointed teeth, adults not noticing. The whole place is crazy.”

“Sounds very familiar. In Sunnydale the vampires can massacre a whole room full of people and it’s like nobody else notices.” She shivered slightly, despite the heat. “Hey, did you say that Mark Hutten died about a month ago?”

“Yep. September 12th, it was. I’m not going to forget that in a hurry.”

“But his gravestone says that he died in 1987.”

“Er… yeah. What else would it say?”

“You mean…” Buffy’s eyebrows shot upward towards her blonde, slightly straggly fringe. “Wow.”

“Wow what?”

“Oh, nothing.” She grinned. “This is, like, totally cool.”

“It is? I’m glad you think so.” Michael drunk his coffee slowly. “I have to say that I find it a little weird, even if you don’t. A grave from my town appears in your town, you fall through it and land on the beach… Does this sort of thing happen often in Sunnyvale?”

“Sunnydale.” She grinned. “All kinds of weird things happen there. We call it the Hellmouth. There’s this dead guy called the Master, and he’s been trying to break out from under the town for ages, and I killed him, but he tried to come back. Of course, he’s dead anyway, technically, so killing him isn’t too easy, but Giles understands it. At least, he says he does, but I’m not too sure. Then there are all the other weird things. Never trust a substitute teacher. Most of them seem to be bloodsucking psychos. And then there are the creatures. The Master sent this totally huge snaky thing with tentacles to break into the library once. That was a little kooky.”

Michael laughed. “We only have vampires,” he told her. “But believe me, they’re enough to be going on with. They’re always on the look out for other people to convert.” He smiled his small, sad smile again. “More and more of them are appearing all the time. Kids mostly. They feed off tourists, and off the adults. Seems like every Friday or Saturday night there’s another new vampire on the town. The Frogs try to keep the numbers down, but it’s a losing battle. There’s just too many of them.”

“Ugh. Who’d want to be a vampire? Cold, slimy, not to mention having bad breath.” Buffy made a face. “Not my idea of a great destiny. And imagine not being able to see yourself in the mirror. How would you know if you were looking okay?”

“Pretty rough, huh?” He grinned. “It’s not that hard to understand, though, really. What’s your greatest fear? Except being caught by a vampire of course.”

“I don’t know. Getting old, maybe. Not being young anymore. Slowing down and stuff.” She shrugged. “Usual stuff, I don’t know.”

“Exactly. Picture it. You’re a normal kid. You think vampires are storybook stuff. Suddenly some kid you’ve made friends with gives you a shot at eternal youth. Immortality. The only drawback is that you have to suck blood to stay young. Question is, do you do it, or do you fight the craving?” He sighed. “I was there, Buffy. They showed me such things… Always being young, being able to do whatever I wanted, never having to think about getting old, or anything like that. Nobody to tell me what to do… Plus the other things of course.”

“Such as?”

“Flight, super-strength, indestructibility; well, nearly. Great night vision.” He grinned. “It was pretty cool, for a while. But I never really liked the sight of blood all that much. Couldn’t have drunk it. Once I caught myself looking at my kid brother like he was a mobile snack store, I figured I had to do something.”

“So what’d you do?”

“Simple.” He grinned again. “Well, okay, not quite. See, if you’ve been turned into a vampire, but you haven’t sucked blood yet, you’re still only a half-vampire, so if somebody kills the head of your vampire gang, or clan, you get your soul back.”

“Oh right. Cool.” Buffy nodded her understanding. “So how many half-vampires do you have round here?”

“I don’t know. No way of telling unless you can speak to them. Half-vampires are usually able to go out at daytime, but they don’t ‘cause it drains them. The Frogs just kill ‘em all. Nothing else to do, really. I don’t like it, though.”

“Yeah. It was pretty rough for me too, at first.” Buffy remembered how odd it had felt to be entrusted with the responsibility of actually going out intending to kill something. Once she had been just an ordinary school kid, if extraordinarily cool and exceptionally attractive. Then overnight, thanks to some bizarre man who had appeared out of nowhere with news of a somewhat inconvenient destiny thing, she had become a vampire-staking, high-kicking, mean-punching school kid with attitude. She could well appreciate another’s squeamishness when it came to being required to kill possible acquaintances in such a gruesome manner. “You know, it’s really odd, meeting somebody else who understands it all. Back home, I can only really talk to Giles about it. And my two friends, Willow and Xander, but even that’s not the same.”

“Yeah. I get kind of used to having to avoid the issue.” He grinned. “You should have heard some of the excuses we used to have to come up with for my mother. She found out about it all one day though, when she came home from a date and found the house full of dead teenagers, and blood and gooey stuff all over the place. There was blood coming out of all the pipes, and out of the bath, and the basins and everywhere. Totally awesome. Then her date turned out to be the head vampire, so that pretty much ruined her evening.”

“Bad luck.” Buffy sighed. “My date turned out to be a vampire too, so I know how that feels. I thought he was just an ordinary guy; twenty, maybe twenty-one… Seemed a bit of a night animal, but that was okay. Then it turned out he was a couple of centuries older than me, which was a bit more of an age gap than I was bargaining for. I mean, I wanted to listen to Nirvana, and he was wanting to listen to Beethoven. Not good.”

“Nirvana?” There was a questioning look on Michael’s face. “That some local band?”

“Not exactly.” She smiled. “Look, er… I’m not sure I should be telling you this, but this isn’t quite the way it looks.”

“You’re going to tell me that being zapped through an inter-dimensional gate that was hiding in a graveyard isn’t weird enough, aren’t you. That there’s something else as well.”

“Yeah.” She nodded. “You catch on fast, Mike. Ever considered becoming a demon hunter?”

“Thanks, but just trying to stay alive is tough enough. So what is it?”

“Well… See…” She sighed. “I was born in 1981.”

“1981? Yeah, right.” He laughed, draining his coffee and beckoning to the woman behind the counter that she should bring another couple of cups over. “That makes you one almightily mature six year old.”

“Well, not exactly. When I left Sunnydale, it wasn’t 1987. It was 1998.”

“19… 98?” He blinked uncertainly at her, then shook his head. “No way. That’s time travel. That doesn’t happen.”

“Explain the logic in believing in inter-dimensional travel and not believing in time travel.” She smiled at him, her eyes teasing. “You believe in vampires. Why is this any different?”

“You came from 1998?” He sighed, sounding tired and resigned. “I knew I should have stayed in bed.” He allowed himself a small, faintly dazed smile. So, er… am I supposed to keep an ear open for this Nirvana, in a year or two?”

“You could do.” She shrugged. “Depends. What do you listen to round here?”

“Whatever. INXS, Echo And The Bunnymen. Some of their recent stuff… you could believe it had been written specially for this place. It’s uncanny.”

“Yeah?” She leaned back in her chair and took the fresh cup of coffee enthusiastically. “We’ve got to talk, Michael.”

“Isn’t that what we are doing?”

“Well not really. I don’t see how comparing music is going to get us to beat this thing.”

“What thing?” He looked confused. “You mean about how we’re going to get you back to your town?”

“That and other things. See, this gate is here for a reason. Giles figured that it set itself up between Sunnydale and Santa Carla because of the high instances of nasty goings-on in both towns. What if your vampires come into my town, or my vampires come here? The prophecies that Giles found said that the streets would scream, and that it would be seriously unpleasant. We have to try and find out what’s going down.”

“Sure. I’m right with you.” He drained the cup of coffee and stood up, reaching for his leather jacket. Not exactly this year’s design, Buffy thought with a smile, but on reflection that was hardly his fault. She drank down the rest of her coffee.

“Where are we going?” she asked, as they left the shop.

“To see the Frogs. They’re the experts around here. They’re much better at all of this than I am.” He glanced about nervously, as if he suspected that they were being watched. “Sorry, I get a little jumpy in public. Some of the stronger vampires are okay with daylight. You have to have eyes in the back of your head, you know?”

“Okay with daylight?” Buffy felt a cold feeling in the pit of her stomach. No wonder her sixth sense had been so disturbed by her arrival here. If Santa Carlan vampires were able to resist sunlight, they were a serious breed indeed. Not the sort of creature that she wanted roaming around in Sunnydale. “I’ve got a really bad feeling about this, Michael. I really hope your friends can help out.”

“So do I.” He quickened his pace, as if afraid that the early morning Sun was about to vanish, and bring night time to the pier. “I do not want to be around if the streets are going to start screaming; and I have no intention of becoming a vampire again.” They both smiled at each other, but there was little humour visible on either of their faces. Worry quickened their step, and they hurried on across the pier.

“You okay, Giles?” Standing up suddenly at the appearance of the librarian, Willow felt a sudden burst of irrational fear as his cold eyes swung around to stare at her. “Prison alright?”

“Hardly.” He pushed past her, hurrying on down the road. “Did you go back to the graveyard last night?”

“No. My parents wouldn’t let me out of my room after that cop took me home.” She smiled. “It took everything I had to sneak out of the house this morning without anybody seeing me. Xander couldn’t make it. He’s been grounded for the next six months. His mother will let him off though; she always does.”

“Fine. Then go home now.”

“Huh?” Willow had to quicken her step to catch up with Giles, who was walking faster than seemed humanly possible. He didn’t look like Giles anymore, she thought with some concern. He looked… different somehow. His eyes were brighter, filled with something very like rage, and his face was cold. There was none of his usual comfortable eccentricity. After a night in prison he appeared to have taken on a whole new personality, and she was reminded briefly of Ethan Rayne. The thought made her shiver.

“Giles, wait!” She caught up with him finally and grabbed his arm, forcing him to stop. “What is wrong with you?”

“Go home, Willow. I have to get to the graveyard. Didn’t Xander tell you anything?”

“He didn’t have a chance, Giles! You know what happened; we were grabbed by the police just after I got back to the library to tell you what had happened to Buffy. I haven’t spoken to anybody except my parents since then.”

The librarian’s shoulders sagged slightly, and for a second she thought she saw something of the old Giles beneath his sudden, hard veneer.

“Okay.” He glanced about to check that nobody could hear. “The, the gate. I f-found something about one in the books last night. There was a similar gate that opened in a place c-c-called Santa Carla, eleven years ago. Santa Carla has more vampires in it than ten Sunnydales could hope for, and they’re a good d-deal stronger than anything we’ve ever faced. Now our gate is set to link us up with some other town that’s just like Sunnydale.” He sighed. “I’m not sure, Willow, not totally; b-b-but I think that Buffy found the gate last night. I th-think it was that grave she was so drawn to. Now Santa Carla’s gate opened in 1987—the, the date on the grave, remember? So, w-what’s the betting that it opened right into 1998, and right into our local graveyard. ‘One hell shall lead to another.’ That’s what the prophecy said.” He turned away again, once more walking at an almost impossible speed. “I’m going to the graveyard, and I’m going to see if I can follow her through the portal. I have to try and help her.”

“Then so do I. She’s my best friend.” There was an edge of resolve in Willow’s voice again. Giles stopped, and swung round.

“That so? Well then how about it if we take Xander along too, because he’s in love with Buffy, or Angel because he used to go out with her? Or Buffy’s mother? I’m sorry, Willow, but you just don’t qualify for this mission.”

“Oh, right. So it’s another one of those Watcher-Slayer things?” Willow sounded bitter. “She’s my friend too, Giles. You can’t be responsible for her every time something bad happens.”

“Yes I can. D-d-don’t you see, Willow? This, this is why I was born. This is the whole reason why I am here on this Earth. I-I-I was born to help my Slayer. I could have a slogan like the police force; ‘To, To Serve And P-protect’. Buffy’s destiny means that she has, has to put her life at risk to help fight vampires, and my, my destiny d-demands that I do what I have to do to help her. There is, is n-no necessity for you to risk yourself as well. I won’t let you. Go home, Willow.” He turned again, once more heading for the graveyard.

“Giles!” She shouted at him, and he spun on his heel, eyes burning into hers with ice cold fury at her continued disobedience.

“Go home, Willow.” His voice was harsh and unfamiliar. She felt her resolve falter. How could Giles be so different now to how she knew him? She felt an irrational fear grow within her. How capable was the quiet librarian of being so completely different to the image he liked to project? Somehow, she did not feel able to summon up the nerve to pursue him. She stayed where she was, frozen almost, as the Watcher’s tall, determined figure vanished into the distance. She wanted to help Buffy, but right now what she really wanted was to go home.

Giles reached the graveyard just before the rising Sun reached its highest point. It had already been so long since Buffy had disappeared; twelve long, angst-ridden hours. He cursed whoever it was that had seen an intruder at the school, and he cursed Snyder for being so damned enthusiastic about investigating it all. How many nights had Giles and Buffy met in the library? How many long hours had they spent there after everybody else had gone home? And on the one night when somebody chose to report it, Buffy went missing. The Watcher hurried to the gravestone by the gate. He remembered it so well from the other day, when Buffy had been drawn to it. He should have guessed then. The Slayer had instincts that were supposed to be acted on. He could see her so clearly in his troubled mind; leaning over the stone, trying to read the bright, new inscription. In Innocence Shall He Sleep. He read it now, staring at the words, trying to make sense of it all. Where could she be? Was his half-baked theory really the right one? Was she in Santa Carla, eleven years ago, at the other end of the gate? There was only one way to find out, but it was not easy just to throw oneself into oblivion in the vain hope that a vague idea might be the truth. He thought about Buffy, about the images that had leaped in and out of his mind all night long. Alone, lost in Santa Carla, where vampires roamed the streets in organised gangs; alone in the town where one native vampire was stronger than ten of the usual breed that wandered about in Sunnydale. Alone against the massed forces of who knew what, with nobody to protect her. He shivered, despite the growing heat, and ran his hand through his rumpled dark hair.

“No choice…” he mumbled softly to himself. “No choice. Couldn’t, couldn’t turn away. S-sorry Buffy. Should, should have been there. B-b-blasted books. B-blasted library.” He shook his head, painfully conscious of the stammer that confused his words every so often. “Dammit. No, no other way, I suppose.” He straightened his back, and gazed down at the inscription on the stone one last time. “I hope you know what you’re doing, Giles.”

Haven’t a clue… his subconscious answered, and with a wry, half grin, he stepped forward, and felt the fusion of light and darkness overwhelm him. Somewhere out there was the small girl who had become the other half of his destiny. He struggled to reach her, but all that he found was confusion.

“Oh dear…” Rubbing his head with a feeling of growing trepidation, Giles experimentally opened one eye. What the hell had happened? He felt like he had been out partying with friends, but that hadn’t happened in a long time, had it? Was it all just a dream? Maybe he was still lying on the floor of that little bedsit in… Soho, wasn’t it? Where Ethan had taken him one night and got him completely out of his mind. A vision of clouds of marijuana smoke and… peacock feathers? flitted tantalisingly through his mind, and then he became aware of sand beneath him, and the sound of waves in the distance. There certainly weren’t any of them in Soho. Well, not usually.

“Hey, mister. You okay?” Giles allowed the other eye to open in response to the voice, and found himself blinking up at a boy of about fourteen. Maybe older, maybe younger. He was dressed in blue chinos and a knee length, blue and yellow checked jacket. A yellow tie hung loosely knotted about his throat, and something else was just about visible, inside the jacket. A wooden stake. Relief flooded through the Watcher’s mind. At least he seemed to have landed amongst friends.

“Buffy…” he muttered questioningly, and the boy frowned.

“What did you say?”

“Pardon?” His mind suddenly clear, Giles stood up. “This, this is Santa Carla?”

“Hey, you’re British. Neat.” The boy nodded. “Er, yeah. This is Santa Carla. You’re in the murder capital of the whole damn United States. I’m Sam.”

“Hello Sam, I’m Giles. Er, look, I er…”

“Hey, spit it out, man.” The voice was more forceful than Sam’s, and Giles spun about to face it. Another kid, this one about sixteen, stood looking at him. He was dressed in jeans and a battered denim jacket, and his whole demeanour suggested a challenge. An unlit cigarette dangled from his lips, and Giles saw an impressive array of stakes arranged in the boy’s belt. A cross hung around his neck, and there was an unmistakable smell of garlic. Not exactly Slayer material, but these kids obviously knew what they were doing.

“Sorry. You are?” Giles blinked at this new figure in interest. “My name is, is Giles. I have to find Buffy. She c-came through the gate too, some time last night.” He blinked up at the sky. “Wait a minute. It’s nearly dusk.”

“Exactly, wise guy. That’s why we’re here. To get to you before the crawlers do.” The older boy waved a stake in the air. “It’s nearly the witching hour, man. Magic time. You have got to get inside before the bad guys start to fly.”

“Fly? They fly here?” The excitement was clear in the Watcher’s voice, and the boy rolled his eyes.

“Another one. Yeah, they fly. So come on, before they fly on down here and try to rip our heads off. See, they do that as well.”

“Fascinating.” Giles did not object as the two boys grabbed an arm each, and began to lead him off the beach. “How did I c-come to be on the beach?”

“Is everybody from Sunnydale a complete nut?” The taller of the two boys shot his companion a disbelieving look. “I told you your brother was trouble, Sam. You shoulda staked him in the summer. When he’s not turning into a vampire he’s finding weirdoes on the beach.”

“Buffy is not a weirdo.” There was a note of defence in Sam’s voice. “She’s cool. You’re just jealous ‘cause she’s a professional vampire killer, and you’re just a part timer.”

“Oh yeah?” There was belligerence in the other’s tone, but Giles ignored it.

“Buffy?” he questioned hopefully. “Do you know where she is?”

“Sure. We’re taking you right to her.” Sam smiled reassuringly. “My brother Michael found her on the beach this morning, and she told him all about the gate, and Sunnydale, and about you. We’ve been waiting out there all day for you to show up.”

“Sorry. There was a delay.” Giles glanced about as they reached an amusement pier. There was a decidedly unfriendly feel to the place. Wild young eyes seemed to stare out at him from every window, every shop, and the merry-go-round spinning nearby was crowded with hostile figures, youthful and strange. “This place is most peculiar.” “Tell me about it.” The taller boy strode ahead, an air of authority taking him over. Giles saw the large wooden cross in his hand, and saw the others on the pier back away from it in rage.

“Edgar Frog, coming through. Come near me and I’ll stake you good, you bloodsucking creeps. Get back.”

“It’s okay, don’t worry about them. They won’t try anything with Edgar here.” Sam smiled up at Giles, but his young face did not carry much confidence. He quickened his pace, and relaxed only as they reached the end of the pier. “We’ll be okay for a while now. They won’t leave the pier until it gets properly dark.”

“Those were the Santa Carlan vampires?” Giles glanced back, marvelling at the sheer number of baleful pairs of eyes fixed on the three fugitives.

“Some of them. They’re one gang anyway.” Sam gestured to a car. “Here, we’ll be home in no time.” He slid behind the wheel, barely waiting for his two companions to climb in before he started the engine, and headed the vehicle out of town. “Buffy and Michael are waiting at our house. We’re going to have a council of war.”

“I say bomb the gate.” Edgar giggled happily, an odd, humourless laugh that rested somewhere between extreme adult cynicism and youthful glee. “Nuke the sucker. Then the bloodsuckers’ll never make it through.”

“Don’t be so sure.” Giles tried not to wince too noticeably as his young chauffeur took a rather unpleasant corner much too fast. “Is Buffy alright?”

“Sure seemed to be.” Edgar stretched luxuriously, smirking at the older man’s reactions to the hair-raising ride. “Not a bad looker, if I may say so. Nice legs.”

“Don’t tell her that.” Giles imagined the scene that would likely result from such a comment, and got no small amount of pleasure from the thought.

“Whatever.” The sudden jolt of the brakes slamming on did not seem to disturb Edgar at all, and he sprang from out of the car. “Come on, people, it’s nearly dark. I don’t want to have to scrape what’s left of your mangled brains off of the driveway once the bad guys have had their fill.”

“Leave it out, Edgar.” Sam led the way up a path towards a patched and unsteady looking wooden house. Stuffed animals lined up along the windowsills, grinning manically out at the world. “This way, Giles.”

“Thankyou.” The tall Briton almost ran through the door, looking about for his young charge. “Buffy?”

“That Giles?” The voice was another young one, and a second later a tall boy of about Buffy’s age appeared in an inner doorway. “Hi. Name’s Michael. You’re Buffy’s Watcher, right?”

“Right. Where is she?” Giles shook the proffered hand mechanically, glancing around in the hope of spotting his friend. “They said she w-was here.”

“Yeah, she was.” Michael looked slightly troubled. “Don’t worry, though. She’ll be fine. She went out for a wander round. Wanted to try out her skills against a vampire or two. She’s pretty tough.”

“Maybe n-n-not tough enough.” Giles spun around and headed once more for the door, but Edgar Frog materialised in front of him, posture designed to intimidate. Unimpressed, Giles tried to push past him.

“Hey, hey hold on, Giles. You can’t go out there.” Hurrying forward, Michael pulled the Watcher away from the door. “This isn’t Sunnydale, man. This is Santa Carla. Our vampires would have you torn to pieces before you make it past the gate. It’s only ‘cause they’re scared of us that they leave the house alone. Otherwise we’d have been vampire snacks a couple of months ago.” He gestured to a chair. “Look, I know you’re worried about Buffy, but there’s no sense in going out there. You don’t know these local gangs like we do. They go for outsiders in a big way. Especially adults.”

“What makes you think Buffy will be safe if I won’t?” Giles sat down in the indicated chair, but the concern in his face was still obvious. Michael flashed him a rueful grin, and rubbed the back of his head.

“She, er… showed me a few moves. Pretty hot stuff. Don’t worry about her, man. Sit back, relax. She’ll be back soon. Then we can talk about what we’re going to do.” He gestured to a boy standing nearby, looking like a smaller version of Edgar. “Alan, get the man a drink.”

“Sure.” The boy turned to walk away, then glanced back at Giles. “And don’t forget, Giles. You weren’t invited in. We never invite anybody in. So first you gotta drink the Holy water, to prove you are who you say you are.”

“Holy water?” Giles smiled faintly. It felt as though he had landed in the middle of an episode of some crazy kids TV show. Mad children running around town, setting up secret societies to fight vampires, all of whom looked like children themselves. “L-l-look, don’t g-get me wrong, but where are all your parents?”

There was a silence. Michael answered in the end, his voice subdued. “Sam and me live here with our mother and our grandfather. Our mother is out of town at the moment, trying to find a job some place else so we can move. Our grandfather is off someplace. The vampires never bother him. Most of the other adults in town are either dead or have pointy teeth.” He tried on a crooked grin, which failed. “The whole town’s vampired out. They keep enough things going to get the tourists to come in, and that’s about all.”

“And you stay here?” Giles was incredulous.

“Sure we stay here.” Edgar sounded angry. “I was born here, man. I’m not going to run away and hand my town over to a bunch of bloodsucking nuts. They killed my parents. I’m supposed to turn my back? Why? Because I’m a kid? Those vampires out there are kids too, man. I was at school with most of ‘em.”

“I’m sorry.” Giles was beginning to understand all of those cryptic references to innocence that had been in the prophecies. This was certainly a place where innocence had died, in more ways than one. “Look, er… did Buffy say when she’d be back?”

“Soon, man.” Sam sat down in the chair next to Giles. “It’s okay. Just wait here, and she’ll be along in no time.”

“If you say so.” Giles turned his head, trying to see out of the window to catch a glimpse of his Slayer. He missed her. Odd, how quickly she had taken over his life. He wondered where she was, and whether or not he would ever see her safely home, to take up her stake once more against the vampires of Sunnydale. Worry was second nature to him now, but that did not make it any easier. He glanced up at the clock, watching the second hand spin slowly round. Somewhere out there she was on her own, doing what he had trained her to do. He wished that he was with her, but all that he could do was to sit here and wait, and try not to imagine. That was rather like trying not to breathe. He fingered the cross around his neck with a cold hand, and settled himself to wait for the morning.