The gang gathers together at the Magic Box after an eventful night, during which Giles comes across an interesting tidbit of information. (Complete)
Spoilers: Nothing in particular, this takes place before Glory appears so Joyce is alive and Dawn's 'Key' status is still unknown.
Time line: During Season 5
Disclaimer: This is a fictional story. Joss & ME own the characters, I own nothing and make nothing from this story. In other words; Don't want them. Don't need them. Couldn't afforded them if I did.
A/N: Also I got the demon queller for this story from a book on ghosts and spirits and has nothing in common with the queller demon from the episode "Listening to Fear"
From his place by the cash register, Giles looked up from the page of Chinese and Japanese folklore that he was reading when Xander, followed by Buffy and Riley wandered into his store. He noticed out of the corner of his eye that Anya, who was standing beside him, stopped counting the money in the register just long enough to watch her boyfriend enter the door.
Turning back to the three, Giles took note of the anger in Buffy's stride and posture, From the dark glares he could see Buffy sending Xander, he would hazard a guess that the young man, either by himself or with Riley, did something during their patrol that infuriated the Slayer. The fact that the both Xander and Riley were ignoring her while trading demon hunting stories, was probably another contributing factor to Buffy's current emotional state.
Giles glanced down at the entry of the Demon Queller once more and then back up at Xander. With that information still fresh in his mind, Giles found himself studying the young man with an intensity that he had never used before.
"Xander!" Buffy hissed. "You should've waited for us before going in there."
Giles watched as Xander shrugged his shoulders and glided over to Anya, where he interrupted her efforts to count the money by lifting her face up and planting a chaste kiss on her lips.
"Don't Xander," Anya said, pushing Xander back. "you almost made me lose my count."
"Almost?" Xander smirked and then dove in again, giving her a more passionate kiss. When he released her, Anya stared at him in a daze for a moment before looking down at the cash in her hands. "Damn it Xander," Anya pouted. "Not only do I have to start over now, but I won't to be able to stop thinking about that thing you do with your-."
"HEY!" Buffy barked.
Xander sighed and turned around. "I told you that it wasn't anything to worry about."
The look that Buffy directed at Xander suggested to Giles that this particular argument has been going on and off again all the way back here.
"Calm down, Buffy," Riley spoke up. "Xander's okay and he did destroy that vampire nest."
Vampire nest? Giles continued to quietly observe from behind the counter as Xander moved away from the couple and joined Willow, Tara and Dawn at the table that was set up near the back of the store. He sat down next to Dawn and gave her a nudge, whispering something into the teenager's ear. Dawn suddenly giggled earning a pair of confused looks from the two Wiccans and a dark glare from the Slayer.
"Well Xander?" Buffy demanded, pulling his chair around to face her.
The brunette gave her a flat look that clashed with the gentle tone in his voice when he answered. "Look, Buffy, I understand where you're coming from but everything turned out okay."
"OKAY?!" Buffy screeched.
"Calm down Buffy," Riley interjected.
"Don't," Buffy growled, turning and waving an angry finger at her boyfriend. "I have a pretty good idea where Xander got those flash bombs from so you'd better watch what you say."
Riley gave her his most innocent look but held both of his hands up in surrender.
Xander started coughing but seeded within were words like 'whipped'.
That caused both Riley and Buffy glared menacingly at Xander. The blatant promises of violence from the two were interrupted at the last second when his childhood friend spoke up.
Riley glared at Xander for second before answering. "Well, we were doing a routine sweep through Ridgecrest Cemetery, following a lead we had gotten about a sizable group of vampires gathering in one of the larger crypts."
Buffy picked up where Riley left off. "After a while, we noticed several vamps coming out of one of the crypts there so Riley and I decided to take care of them. Now while we were busy with them, Xander decides to scare the life out of me by going into the crypt and yelling, 'Dinner's here!'. " At this point Buffy stops and pins Xander with a very dark look.
"Hey like you said, you guys were busy so I decided to take a look," Xander defended himself.
"Take a look?" Buffy exclaimed. "Announcing yourself to an unknown number of vampires is not what I consider 'taking a look'."
Xander shrugged. "You say po-tay-to, I say po-tah-to."
Buffy bristled at Xander flippant response and turned to stalk into the backroom.
The soft tone of Xander's voice stopped the Slayer cold but she refused to turn around.
"I'm okay. They didn't lay a finger on me," Xander spoke in a soothing voice. "You know that I wouldn't throw myself into a situation like that if I didn't have a plan."
"You would if one of us was in danger," Tara spoke up from where she sat at the table.
"I would gladly throw myself into a den of lions to save an angel as beautiful as you."
Xander's heartfelt and honest declaration to the shy Wiccan caused her to blush faintly. Willow moved closer to Tara and draped an arm around her shoulders. With a sly smile, the redhead turned to address her childhood friend.
"Now Xander, what did I tell you about flirting with my girl?"
Xander grinned in response. "That I'm supposed to kneel before you and beg for that esteemed privilege?"
"Darn tootin'." Willow nodded emphatically, which caused Tara's face to grow more heated.
"Xander," Anya grated out.
The young man in question turned away from the two witches to face the ire of his current significant other. Before anyone could speak, he quickly left the table and stopped before Anya, He leaned in close, touching his forehead to hers, and softly spoke to her.
Giles couldn't hear what was being said, even though he was less than a foot away but whatever choice of words that Xander used must have been just what Anya needed to hear because she immediately smiled, kissed her boyfriend hard, and then happily went back to counting the money from today's sales.
"I can't believe that I'm about to say this Buffy," Giles looked toward the blonde as Xander went back to his seat, next to Dawn. "but I find that I must agree that Xander does not recklessly endanger his life unless one of us is in mortal peril or when," Giles paused, directing a pointed look at Xander. "he isn't ruled by his hormones."
"Hey!" Xander complained.
Buffy sighed in defeat. "I know Giles but he still should've waited until Riley and I were free to atleast help." Buffy then turned to Xander. "You scare me more than you know when you jump blindly into situations like that."
Xander stood there silently and took in everything about Buffy at that moment. The anxiety in her voice. The nervousness in her posture. The small trace of almost child-like fear in her face that was mostly covered by the anger that she directed at him for making her worry. Looking around at his friends, Xander could remember seeing similar reactions in each of their faces at various times in the past couple of years.
Sighing heavily, Xander got up and faced Buffy. He laid his hands on her shoulders and gently squeezed, reassuringly. "Buffy, I'm sorry that I scared you. At the time, I honestly didn't think that there was any danger in the plan that I had. And you have to admit that I was right."
"This time," Buffy stated.
"This time," Xander agreed.
Buffy searched Xander's face for a moment and then nodded, satisfied with whatever she saw. With a bright smile, she gave Xander a tight hug and then stepped back.
"I take it that we're okay?" Xander asked.
Buffy paused for a second, as if in thought before answering. "Yeah, we're cool."
Both were startled when a different voice rang out, "Finally!"
All eyes turned to Anya as she tidied up the piles of money that she had been counting. "What? All your arguing kept interrupting my count."
Giles held his hand out. "Why don't you give me the money so I take it in back and put it in the safe."
"No!" Anya shouted, her eyes wide. "I don't completely trust you with my money."
Giles and the rest of the female occupants in the room, stared at Anya in disbelief as she entered the back room.
"That's my An," Xander said.
"She's such a money hog."
"Dawn!" Buffy exclaimed, throwing Xander an apologetic look. "What did Mom teach you to do if you have nothing good to say about someone?"
"To say it really, really loud?" Dawn responded, innocently.
Buffy glared at her younger sister before noticing the grin on Xander's face as he leaned back in his chair. "No she didn't but I can guess who actually did."
"What can I say Buff?" Xander shrugged his shoulders. "Dawn is the only Summers woman smart enough to take my teachings to heart."
Buffy saw Dawn preen under Xander's praise and, in a fit of sibling irritation, decided that it was time to pull the chair out from under her, metaphorically speaking. "But Xander, that's not exactly what she dreams about you teaching her."
"BUFFY!!!" Dawn shrieked, mortified.
"Yes?" Buffy looked innocently at her sister.
Dawn, flushed from humiliation, narrowed her eyes to keep from tearing up. She was about to rip into Buffy when an arm settled around her shoulders. She turned to give the arm's owner a piece of her mind but stopped when she realized that the arm belonged to Xander.
Her first instinct was to get away from him but his calm, steady stare captivated her. The shame that she had felt about her crush being openly declared by her sister, slowly drained away by compassion and understanding that she saw in his eyes. When she felt better, Xander winked mischievously and whispered once more in her ear.
"If you want to get her back, just follow my lead."
Dawn smiled and nodded as Xander backed away from her. Then he lazily grinned at the Slayer.
"Don't pay any attention to the old hag, Dawnie. She's just jealous."
The very moment that Xander's words left his mouth, Willow and Tara quickly exited the table area, fear shining in their eyes. Dawn and Xander, on the other hand, continued to sit there calmly and ignored Buffy.
"I understand Xand," Dawn replied in an offhand manner. "You're just too much man for her." Then Dawn looked up at the shocked expression on Riley's face. "You agree with me, don't you Riley?."
The soldier look towards his girlfriend and followed her glare to Xander, who shared a roguish look with Dawn, who was looking up at him expectantly. After taking careful consideration of the situation, Riley saw the only safe way out of the discussion and quickly walked over to the only other male in the room.
"So, what are you looking up Giles."
"Nothing of any real importance," Giles answered with a chuckle, allowing the younger man his diversion. "This is just a book about folklore. There's an interesting section about a demigod named Shoki."
"Really?" Riley moved to join Giles behind but stopped at the corner when Buffy shouted his name, her voice sounding very much like the crack of a whip. He turned around, seeing the dark look she was giving him and slowly trudged up to her side.
Dawn watched Riley with a big grin, then she turned to her co-conspirator. "I think you're right Xander. Buffy does have him pretty well trained."
"Yep," Xander chirped, ignoring the hateful glares that the commando sent their way. "It's sad really," he observed sagely and then closed his eyes and leaned comfortably back in his seat. "but I can guarantee that is something that'll never happen to me."
Four sets of female eyes turned to regard Xander. Willow silently stalked up to the brunette's side at the same time that Buffy did.
"Oh really?" Dawn asked with just a hint of a challenge in her voice,
"Hey, it's like you said Dawn," Xander spoke confidently, unaware that he was surrounded. "Your sister just isn't woman enough to handle me."
"Xander," Buffy growled.
"Yes Buffy?" Xander responded pleasantly, aware enough to know that she was standing behind him.
"I'm going to kill you. You do realize, don't you."
"I'm not worried. Willow will protect me."
"I don't think so, Xand," the redhead spoke up.
Xander twisted around in his chair to find both Willow and Buffy behind him wearing identical determined and almost eager expressions. It was that eagerness in their faces that sent chills down his spine. Xander scrambled out of his chair, keeping the piece of furniture between him and the two girls.
"Ah Dawn, a little help here?"
"Sorry Xander, but I'm with them on this."
Xander quickly glanced at the teen next to him, finding Dawn standing there, wearing a small smile that looked strange when combined with the evil gleam in her young eyes. He quickly backed up, holding out his hands in front of him.
"Now girls," Xander began in a soothing voice. "try to stay calm. There's no need to get violent."
If anything, his words caused Dawn's smile to become predatory which was quickly reflected on the faces of Willow and Buffy. Those looks alone was enough to convince Xander that it was now time to panic. He began looking around for an escape route when he noticed Riley just standing there, watching.
The soldier smirked at Xander, "Sorry. I'd like to help but I can't. Too well trained, remember?"
"Turncoat," Xander muttered as he slowly backed away from the trio of girls standing in front of him.
"I think it's time that we teach Xander a lesson," Buffy declared. "Get him!"
Giles watched calmly as the three girls tackled Xander and wrestled him down onto the floor of his shop. All the noise from the groups antics succeeded in drawing Anya out of the back room. Giles tried to ignore the ex-vengeance demon as she demanded that they stop fondling her boyfriend, and let his gaze to return to the short description of the demon queller, Shoki. He reread the last paragraph of the article, amused at how close parts of it described Xander's character.
The demon queller is a fierce demigod hero of Chinese and Japanese folklore, who is dedicated to saving others from evil demons. This hero is large, has a beard and wields an enormous sword. The first appearance of the demon queller dates back to China, in the eighth century where it is said that he first appeared in a dream to Emperor Ming-huang.
The demon queller soon became popular in Chinese folklore and was adopted by the Japanese in as early as the 12th century, who named him Shoki. Early artists portrayed him as a fearsome-looking man subduing writhing demons.
There is also an amusing side of the demon queller tale. He is sometimes portrayed as a comical figure who does not scare demons at all and who, occasionally, loses to them. Chinese artists shows him as a drunk being helped along by a group of goblins and ghosts, while Japanese artist liked to draw the demon queller being quelled himself by beautiful courtesans.
Cries of 'mercy' and 'uncle' drew Giles' attention back to the group. Dawn and Willow was standing together while Buffy had bent over to offer a hand to Xander. Anya quickly pushed the Slayer out of the way and onto the floor as she tried to gather Xander into her arms.
The looks of disbelief and anger that were set in Buffy's expression, as she sat on the floor, was enough to send Dawn into hysterics. The younger Summers girl had to hold on tightly to Willow or, in her mirth, she would have joined her sister on the floor.
The group slowly settled down after that and soon everyone was leaving, either to go home or to head back to their dorm rooms, until the only two left were Giles and Xander. The ex-Librarian was in the process of putting several book away while Xander was busy tightening the legs of one of the wooden chairs that came loose during his impromptu wrestling match.
"Yes Xander." Giles answered, turning around to face the young man.
Suddenly he saw Xander's form seem to shift and fill out until finally a bearded, mountain of a man was standing there, in his place, with a large sword strapped to his back. With a humorous glint in his eyes, the man turned and bowed respectively to him.
"Hey, you okay Giles?"
The sound of Xander's voice startled Giles out of his daze. He blinked a couple of times and found Xander standing in front of him looking at him with a worried expression.
"Yes Xander," Giles took off his glasses and pinched the brow of his nose. "I'm just tired. I think I'll close up and head home."
"Are you sure," Xander asked.
"Yes, quite." Giles replied, donning his glasses.
Xander shrugged. "Okay. See you tomorrow."
Giles watched as Xander disappeared out the door and then proceeded to lock up. Before finishing, he walked over to the counter where the volume of myth and folklore remained, opened to the page that held the description of the demon queller. He stood there for a moment, thinking furiously about what he thought that he saw.
Ultimately he decided that he was indeed very tired and, after reading about Shoki several times since Xander had come back with Buffy and Riley, his mind was simply playing tricks on him. Giles then closed the book and sighed, then turned to head for the door.
A few moments after Giles locked the door, a soft breeze came out of nowhere and ghosted over the book that he had left on the counter. The cover flipped open and pages seemed to follow it's movement until stopping about halfway to the middle of the book. When the pages settled down, the book was once more opened to the listing of Shoki, the demon queller.