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Chapter Eleven - Why Do I Feel So Sad

'You want me to travel in a bloody coffin?'

'Yep, that's about the size of it,' Riley told Spike.

'Look, I don't know what they told you back home, but some of us vamps have standards,' Spike said.

'You'll have to introduce me to them some time,' Riley replied. 'You're still going in that coffin.'

'You have to admit the idea has some merit,' Giles said. He kept glancing back towards the counter, ostensibly to check on Anya, but in reality to hide the growing smirk on his face.

'Yeah,' Xander agreed. 'With the lid on you'll be protected from sunlight and if they do open it up, what're they gonna find? A dead body, what else?'

'And if they happen to open it up outside?' Spike asked.

'Well, I'm not gonna lose any sleep over it,' Xander replied.

'I think you'll find that they'll treat a dead body with a certain amount of respect,' Giles commented. 'They're hardly likely to open up a coffin in the middle of the runway.'

'Just remember,' Spike warned, 'if I do go up in smoke I'll be back to haunt the bloody lot of you.'

'And you just know he would,' Xander quipped.

'Enough already,' Riley said. 'You're William Harris, recently deceased and being shipped back to England by your brother to be buried with the rest of your family.'

'Hey, how come he has to be my brother?' Xander demanded.

'Because I made the arrangements,' Riley replied. 'With a little help from Willow, I've managed to get us all booked on a flight to Heathrow tonight. The plane leaves at ten-twenty so we'll need to be there for eight. Think you can manage that?'

'I'll be there,' Spike answered grudgingly, 'but you lot owe me big time.'

'Whatever,' Xander said dismissively. 'I just hope they've got a decent movie.'

* * *

Willow plunged the plate into the soapy water and wiped it clean. She handed it to Tara who proceeded to dry it and set it to one side.

'Willow,' Tara began, picking up a glass from the draining board, 'are you okay. You seem a little…'

'A little what?' Willow asked as Tara trailed off.

'Oh, I don't know. Tense, I guess.'

'Tense? Me?' Willow asked. 'Whatever gives you that idea?'

'Willow, if you scrub that plate any harder there won't be a pattern left,' Tara remarked.

'Oh. Right.' Willow passed the plate to Tara for drying. 'Maybe I am a little tense, but hello, Dawn's missing. And there's these Tuatha things tearing up town. And, well, the monsters normally stay out of our room.'

'That got to you too, huh?' Tara put down the plate and began to stroke Willow's hair. 'That explains why you had trouble sleeping last night.'

'So, you noticed that.'

'What, you think I could sleep either?' Tara remarked.

'You should have said something,' Willow responded, looking up at Tara from hooded eyes. 'Maybe we could have helped each other.'

'Vixen!' Tara moved her hands down from Willow's hair and began to massage her shoulders. 'That better?'

'Mmm, yes.' Willow leant back into her companion, head tilted back, eyes closed. A smile spread across her face, exposing her front teeth.

'You know, you look like a chipmunk when you do that,' Tara said.

Willow opened one eye and looked at her.

'A very sexy chipmunk,' Tara amended.

The eye closed.

'It's not just the monsters,' Willow said as Tara worked the tension from her shoulder blades. 'It's this whole thing. I mean, Holy Grail. That's something pretty special.'

'We've come across magical artefacts before,' Tara said.

'Yes, but they were all really ancient, y'know, like Egyptian and Sumerian and whatever,' Willow explained, 'but this? This is different. This is supposed to be the cup used by Jesus Christ. It just takes the weirdness to a whole new level of, well, weird.'

'I didn't think you believed in Christ?' Tara said.

'I don't,' Willow said. 'But, if the Grail exists then doesn't that mean I'm wrong? And then there was Giles' stunt with the cross yesterday. It freaks me out.'

'Ah, poor baby.' Tara stooped down to whisper in Willow's ear. Her breath was ticklish. 'My mother taught me that all faiths have some elements of truth in them, but they're all distorted reflections of a much older belief system.'

'That explains why you're always so calm about this stuff.' Willow frowned. 'Mom always told me to respect other people's faiths, but that ours was the true one. What with all the stuff I've seen since Buffy came along, I guess I'm just finding that harder and harder to accept. But what am I supposed to believe?'

'You'll figure it out,' Tara assured her. 'Give it time.'

She bent forward and nipped Willow's earlobe with her teeth.

'Hey!' Willow cried.

'What?' Tara looked hurt.

Willow glanced around the communal kitchen area.

'Don't you think we should go somewhere a bit more private?'

* * *

Xander lay in bed staring at the ceiling. Anya, lying next to him, was tracing circles on his chest with her finger.

'Do you really have to go?' she asked.

'An,' Xander sighed, 'for what must be the six hundredth time, yes, I really have to go. It's fate of the world stuff.'

'You sure I can't persuade you to stay?' Anya said, sliding her hand beneath the covers.

'It's not that I don't appreciate the effort, honey,' Xander explained, 'but - and I really can't believe I'm saying this - there's only so much a man can take in one afternoon.'

Anya pouted and rolled over on to her back.

'Fine, be like that then,' she said. 'I bet Buffy doesn't have this problem with Riley.'

'Now that's not fair,' Xander exclaimed. 'Riley's like a chemically-enhanced super-soldier. Y'know, like Captain America. Only I'm guessing that's not what they had in mind when they made him. Besides this isn't about the sex.'

'No?' Anya asked sceptically. 'Why else would you want to spend time away from me? You practically jumped at the chance to fly away.'

'An, I don't want to be away from you,' Xander insisted. 'It's just that, well, sometimes there are things that are bigger than both of us and it's important that you make a stand for what you believe is right.'

'And you think it's right to leave me?'

'Yes. No! It's not like that,' Xander replied. 'Dawn's in trouble. Demons are tearing up Sunnydale looking for the Grail. Don't you want me to put a stop to it?'

'Well, yes,' Anya answered, 'but couldn't you do it from here?'

'I don't know what the big deal is?' Xander continued. 'I'll only be gone, what, a few days.'

'I know, it's just, well, I keep feeling there's something I should remember, something important,' Anya said, 'and I'm worried that if I can't remember then you're going to get hurt and it'll all be my fault and I'm scared and I didn't get scared as a demon and it's a horrible swirly feeling like someone's installed a washing machine in my stomach and…'

'Hey, take a breath, Anya,' Xander suggested. 'Come here.'

He wrapped his girlfriend in a comforting embrace.

'I'll be fine,' he promised. 'You'll see.'

'You're sure?' Anya asked. 'I don't want them sending you home in lots of little boxes.'

'Not exactly high on my wish list either,' Xander said. 'Now, come on. We'd better hurry or I'll miss my plane. Unless that was your cunning plan all along.'

Anya gave him her most innocent look.

* * *

Giles was sitting on the edge of the bed doing up his shoelaces.

'I just feel I'm missing something really obvious,' he said.

'I'll say,' Jenny called back over the noise of the shower.

'I never really gave much thought to the Arthur legend,' Giles continued, moving on to the other shoe. 'I knew parts of it were true, but most of it I classed as invention, something to be put in the same category as The Lord of the Rings.'

'Rupert! You've actually read something published within the last hundred years? I'm impressed.'

'Skim-read it,' Giles admitted. 'What puzzles me is why the Tuatha de Danann think that the Grail is Sunnydale.'

Jenny turned off the shower.

'Maybe it's just a coincidence,' she said. 'We are on a hellmouth, after all. Maybe it's just a convenient portal between their dimension and ours.'

'No, there's more to it than that,' Giles said. 'One of them specifically told Willow and Tara that he had been told that the Cauldron was here. Now who would have told them that, do you suppose?'

'Does it matter?' Jenny asked as she entered the bedroom. She had a large towel wrapped around her and was using another to dry her hair. 'You don't happen to have a hair dryer around here, do you?'

'No, sorry about that,' Giles apologised.

Jenny shrugged.

'Whatever. Anyway it's probably just some demon informant giving these guys duff information. So long as they pay up front, what does he care?'

'You're probably right,' Giles admitted, 'but it would be reassuring to know for sure.'

'I wouldn't worry about it.' Jenny bent down and kissed the top of his head. 'Now, aren't you supposed to be taking Buffy to the airport?'

'Yes, of course,' Giles said. He glanced at his watch. 'Dear Lord, I'd better be going. Are you sure you won't come with me?'

'Dressed like this?' Jenny joked. 'No, I'll stay here, thanks. I doubt the others are quite ready to meet a ghost yet.'

* * *

The gang stood in the car park next to Giles' BMW watching the sky. The plane carrying Riley, Xander and Spike roared overhead and disappeared into the distance.

'How are you holding up?' Giles asked Buffy.

'Honestly. Not a clue,' Buffy replied. 'I mean, I guess I should feel something. Dawn's missing, Mom's not speaking to me and now Riley's gone. But I don't feel anything much. Just kind of numb inside. Is that wrong?'

Giles shrugged.

'I've never been very good at understanding the human condition,' he admitted.

'Yeah, that's right,' Buffy agreed. 'You prefer the company of books to the company of us real human beings.'

'That's a little harsh,' Giles protested. 'Fair, but harsh.'

He shared a smile with Buffy.

'At least I've still got you,' Buffy said.

'For as long as you need me,' Giles agreed. 'How is your mother?'

'Stressed,' Buffy replied. 'Panicky. Trying to hide it. She's throwing herself into her work at the gallery, but she's falling apart. I guess it must have been like this when I ran off, huh?'

'That was a difficult time for all of us,' Giles told her.

'It doesn't help having the police around asking all sorts of stupid questions,' Buffy continued. 'And it's not like they're going to do anything. They're too busy trying to solve these murders. That's probably the only question I could have answered for them.'

'There were fifteen more deaths last night,' Giles explained. 'Our Tuatha friends are stepping up their activities.'

'I spotted one of them on patrol last night,' Buffy said. 'I fought him to a standstill and he eventually ran off, but boy was he strong. I don't think I can kill these things, Giles.'

'Then we must make researching their weaknesses out next priority,' Giles told her. 'We can beat this thing, Buffy. We just need to work out how.'

'Yes sir, general, sir.' Buffy saluted. 'I feel suitably inspired.'

Giles frowned.

'Joke,' Buffy explained.

'Ah yes, of course. How silly of me not to notice.' He gestured to his car. 'Right then, everybody in.'

Tara, Willow and Anya piled into the back seat.

'They never seemed this keen to ride in my old car,' Giles remarked.

'And that still surprises you?' Buffy asked as she climbed into the passenger seat. 'I despair.'

Giles started the engine and eased the convertible away from the airport.

'So, what's the plan?' Buffy asked.

'Well, I'm going to drop you all home and you're going to get a decent night's sleep.'

Buffy began to protest, but Giles cut her off.

'You'll need the rest,' he insisted, 'because tomorrow we start to tackle this problem in earnest. Not only do we need to locate Dawn, but we need to find some way of fighting the Tuatha, find out what they want with the Grail and we have to try to stop them from killing any more people until Riley returns.'

'Just a normal Tuesday night in Sunnydale, then,' Buffy remarked.

 

 
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