the bunny warren v. Faith

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Candy in the Freezer

Author: Mikelesq
Concept: Giles' alter ego 'Ripper' makes an unexpected return.
Rating: PG-13.
Feedback: Please
Legal disclaimers: "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" characters and situations are owned by Joss Whedon and the producers of the show. The story is entirely fiction. Distribute if you like. The song "So Young" is by the Coors, who own the publishing rights, from their album, "Talk on Corners."

Prologue


Anya tiptoed up the stairs, and quietly turned the knob on the door. Xander would kill her if he knew that she was sneaking up from the basement to his parents' kitchen, but she didn't have time to go to the store.

Anya opened the door and peeked down both ends of the hallway. The coast was clear. She walked down the hall toward the kitchen and looked at the list in her hand. Flour...eggs...sugar...walnuts...every item on her list had a checkmark next to it, with one exception:

Chocolate.

Anya opened the refrigerator. There was an empty gallon of milk, several tupperware containers, but no chocolate. In fact, not much of anything. Xander was right when he said that his mother wasn't much of a cook. Of course, it was difficult to know anything about Xander's family based upon the brief and infrequent comments he made about them.

Closing the refrigerator door, Anya turned her attention to the freezer. She opened the freezer door, pushed aside several of the frozen pot pie boxes, and in the back she saw a rectangular bar of...something. She picked up the bar, wiped away the frost, and read:

"Milk chocolate. Support your High School Marching Band!"

Perfect. She closed the freezer door and turned to walk away. She jumped back as she saw a stocky man in a bowling shirt standing behind her. He held a beer can in one hand, and a TV Guide in the other. Anya regained her composure, and said:

"You must be Xander's father. I'm Anya."

Xander's father looked Anya over from head to toe, and then said:

"You must be the girlfriend. Hmmm. I wonder how that loser son of mine got a girl so pretty?"

Anya, unfazed, said:

"It's his sexual prowess. He's godlike in bed. Nice meeting you."

Xander's father, who was normally more than willing to offer a retort to any complement paid to his son, stood stunned as Anya walked down the hall and back into the basement.


Part I.


"Now mix the flour with the spatula," Joyce instructed, "and make sure that it mixes evenly with the eggs."

Anya complied, as Buffy stood in corner of the kitchen, watching her mother and Anya at work.

"Thank you for doing this, Mrs. Summers," Anya said. "You're the only person I know that can cook."

"Hey," Buffy chimed in, "I didn't hear you complaining when I made Thanksgiving dinner."

"Xander said your feelings would be hurt if I mentioned how dry the turkey was," Anya responded. "I decided to offer pleasant premeditated complements rather than offend you with a frank evaluation of the meal."

"Thanks for that," Buffy said. Joyce shot a perplexed glance at Buffy, who responded by rolling her eyes.

"Well," Joyce said, trying to change the subject, "I think it's wonderful that you're both interested in cooking. It's a lost art."

"A bit of a sexist art," Buffy replied.

"Nonsense," Joyce said, nibbling on a handful of walnuts. "It's a good way of expressing yourself."

"And for keeping a man," Anya said. "I was listening to a radio talk show, with this woman who talks to other women about how to keep men...."

"And you were thinking: 'Oh, how I wish I could still deliver vengeance for them,'" Buffy interjected.

"Well, of course," Anya said, "but since I can't anymore, I figured I should pay attention. Anyway, the woman said that cooking is a good way to keep a man interested. She said: 'The way to make a man hard is through his stomach.'"

Joyce held a hand up to her mouth to prevent her sudden gasp from sending the walnuts in her mouth flying across the room. After a pause, Buffy said:

"'Heart,' Anya. It's 'heart.' 'The way to a man's heart is through his stomach.'"

Anya considered this, and asked:

"Are you sure? I mean, were you listening to the show, too?"

"It's an old saying," Buffy said. "Trust me. It's 'heart.'"

"Oh," Anya said, looking down at the mixture of flour and eggs, wondering if she'd been wasting her time. "But it has the same general meaning, doesn't it?"

"In a roundabout way, yes," Buffy said.

"Um, OK, let's pour the mix into the pan," Joyce said, once she was sure that she could speak without spraying the room with chewed walnuts. "That's it," Joyce said as Anya poured, "use the spatula to get the whole mix in."

"OK," Anya replied, "now what?"

"Well, we've preheated the oven," Joyce said, opening the oven door, "so we put it in, and then wait twenty minutes before taking it out. Then you pour on the melted chocolate, sprinkle on the walnuts, and let the whole thing cool."

Anya put on a potholder, slid the pan into the oven, and closed the door. She asked:

"So I should start melting the chocolate now?"

"Well, we've got the saucepan on the burner," Joyce said, "so yes. Just be sure to turn the heat from medium down to low after the chocolate is all melted, so it doesn't burn."

"Thanks," Anya said, going into her grocery bag.

"Um, Anya," Buffy said, "I've got to talk to my mom for a few minutes. We'll just go out into the living room...."

"Fine," Anya said, "I've got this under control."

Buffy and Joyce left the kitchen just as Anya found the chocolate bar in her grocery bag. She unwrapped the candy and broke the chocolate bar into several pieces. She then dropped the pieces into the saucepan, threw the wrapper into the garbage can under the sink, and picked up a spoon so she would be ready to stir.

"Sorry about Anya, Mom," Buffy said as they entered the living room. "She asked if we could do this, and I...."

"Don't apologize," Joyce interrupted. "I like it when I get to meet your friends."

"Yeah, but I know Anya can be a bit much."

"Oh, I understand," Joyce said. "I made some pretty unusual friends when I was in college."

"Mom, Anya's a demon who delivered vengeance on unfaithful men who lost her powers and got trapped in human form."

"Well, OK, maybe not that unusual. So I guess she's looking to find some more...conventional ways of dealing with people."

"Yeah," Buffy said. "Giles invited us to the coffee house to watch him sing. Afterwards, we're going back to his place for dessert. Anya wanted to bring something."

Buffy was happy that Giles felt comfortable enough to invite them to watch his performance. She remembered the dream in which she was attacked by the First Slayer, and she couldn't find her friends. It was good that they were getting closer.

Buffy then remembered her mother's role in the dream. Trapped in the wall. Waiting for Buffy to break through. Buffy had walked away.

"Mom," Buffy said, "why don't you come?"

"Oh, Buffy, I don't think so."

"C'mon. It'll be fun."

"I don't know if Rup...I mean, if Mr. Giles would feel...comfortable."v "Oh," Buffy said. "Mom, I'm sure he's over that by now. I mean, when the two of you...well, when you...anyway, that was a long time ago. And you were under the influence of the magic band candy. It caused you both to become adolescents again. I don't think he'd be wigged out if you...."

"Buffy," Joyce said. She tried choose her next words carefully, but then just said:

"Buffy, I'd be 'wigged out.' It would just be strange. It's one thing when Mr. Giles has news about something you're working on. But just to be social...."

"Oh, mom. It's no big deal. It happens, and usually people don't have magic candy to blame it on. Look, if you come, I promise that we won't walk past any police cars, so you and Giles won't feel tempted to have sex on the hood."

"Buffy! Please!"

"Well, OK. But if you change your mind, just come."

Buffy tried to hide her disappointment. Both Giles and her mother seemed lonely, and Giles was already like a father to Buffy. After the initial shock of finding out about her mother and Giles, she'd always hoped....well, apparently it just wasn't going to happen.


Part II.


"We are chasing the moon
Just running wild and free."

Giles strummed his guitar, and took a breath. He continued singing:

"We are following through
Every dream, and every need."

The song was a little modern and a bit upbeat compared to what he usually sang, and the arrangement was a little difficult to convert to an acoustic song. But Giles was making a conscious attempt to get away from the depressing classic rock that he normally sang.

"And it really doesn't matter
that we don't eat
And it really doesn't matter
that we don't sleep
No, it really doesn't matter, it really
doesn't matter at all."

Now came the part that Giles felt a little silly singing at his age:

"Cause we were so young then,
we are so young, so young now
And when tomorrow comes,
we'll just do it all again."

He used the bridge as an opportunity to look out across the crowd. Some of the regulars, who were into the depressing classic rock, and came to the coffee house to get their depressing classic fix, seemed a little perturbed. Well, Giles thought, let them succeed in averting yet another demon apocalypse, and see if they wouldn't feel a little perky. Most of the other people seemed to be responding positively. In the back he saw Buffy, Xander, Anya, Willow and Tara. They were smiling.

Giles smiled back. He was glad he'd invited them.


Part III.


"Well, that was fun," Xander said, sitting on Giles' couch.

"Thank you all for coming," Giles said. "I'll get the coffee on." He went to the coffee maker, and flipped the ON switch. He'd already filled the filter and the water.

"And I'll get dessert," Anya said, walking toward Giles' refrigerator. "I made a cake."

"She did," Buffy said. "I'm a witness."

At that moment, Tara and Willow walked through Giles front door.

"Buffy," Willow said. "Just as we were leaving the coffee shop, we heard some people talking. The police have been to Sunnydale High. Something about some vandals in the old library."

"It's probably nothing," Tara said. "I mean, they didn't mention anything unusual, but...."

"I guess I'm on it," Buffy said. "Willow, check the internet. See if you can find out if there's been anything unusual going on around the old school in the last few days."

"My laptop's back at the dorm," Willow replied. "Tara and I will head back."

Tara and Willow left as quickly as they had come.

"Xander," Buffy continued. "Go over to the frat house. I heard Graham got back yesterday. Make sure that whatever's poking around the high school isn't any of the Initiative guys gathering up supernatural stuff before the government shuts them down."

"Too bad Riley's not back yet," Xander responded.

"Yeah," Buffy said. "They kept him a little longer for the debriefing, since he was the highest ranking surviving officer. But Graham should know if anything's up from the Initiative end."

"C'mon, honey," Xander called to Anya. "There's work to do."

"But no one's tried my cake," Anya protested.

"Sweetheart," Xander explained, "between tasty dessert items and checking on possible Hellbeast uprisings, dessert comes in second. A close second, but second nonetheless."

Anya stomped her foot, then followed Xander out the door.

"I'd better get going, too," Buffy said to Giles, who stood alone by the kitchen.

"Do you need weapons?"

"I have Mr. Pointy," Buffy said. "There's no reason to start breaking out the heavy artillery yet. It could be nothing."

"Very well," Giles said. "I'll begin to research...."

"We don't know anything yet," Buffy interjected. "But I'll call as soon as I've found out something. Who knows? It could just be some kids hanging out or something."

Buffy grabbed her jacket and ran out the door.

Well, Giles thought to himself. Alone at last. Alone again.

Giles tried not to feel too left out. After all, they'd been down this road before. If the battle against Adam had proven anything, it was that Buffy still needed all of her friends, including her former Watcher.

Still, those moments when Buffy truly needed him seemed to be fewer and farther between as time went on. He'd picked up the guitar again to try to fill some of the empty hours. It hadn't.

Giles paced a bit around his living room. He could begin to check his books for prophecies about the Hellmouth. Or at least get some of his materials on the Hellmouth organized. He had some laundry to do....

He wandered toward the kitchen. The coffee was ready. He normally preferred tea, but he'd made coffee because he'd thought it was what the others would prefer. He poured himself a cup of coffee, and as he walked past the refrigerator, he opened the door. Anya's cake sat on the top shelf.

"Well, Rupert," he said to himself, taking the cake out of the refrigerator, "nothing to do but wait."


Part IV.


Buffy walked down the hallway of the charred ruins of the school toward what had once been the library of Sunnydale High. Yellow police tape marked off the area. She looked at one of the few remaining walls, and saw, written in white chalk:

MITAR CZANTA RITANI QINDA PORODAE

Buffy took a pencil from her purse and wrote the phrase on the back of a piece of paper. She put the paper and pencil back in her purse, and then heard footsteps coming from the distance.

She walked toward the sound, pulling Mr. Pointy from her purse. She paused, and looked up toward the ceiling. Enough moonlight came into the building to light up the hallway. She saw a moving darkness crawl across the roof. While vampires had no reflections, fortunately, they did cast shadows.

Buffy turned around just in time to see a vampire lunging toward her. She gave the vamp a high kick to the face, and sent him sprawling backwards.

The vamp jumped to his feet. He stood facing Buffy, and said:

"It is pointless to fight! Narlach will destroy you!"

"Well," Buffy said, "I guess you're right. I surrender. Bite me, drain me, send me to my doom."

The vampire's eyes widened. It wasn't the reaction he was expecting. Buffy then exclaimed:

"I'm being sarcastic! Duh!"

The vamp growled, and threw a punch at Buffy. A quick move to the side allowed Buffy to dodge the blow. She kneed the vamp in the stomach, and as he doubled over, Buffy plunged the stake into his back. The vamp let out a final howl as he turned to dust.

Buffy dropped Mr. Pointy back into her purse and walked toward the exit.


Part V.


"Could you repeat that last word?"

"Porodae," Buffy said into the speaker of the payphone. "Look it up, and see what...."

"Oh, I know the language," Giles said through the telephone. "It's an ancient Persian dialect. Some vampires have adopted it as a second language, sort of as a code. The rough translation is: new plan, meet at the tomb of Qindar."

"And where do I find that?"

"It's at the cemetery. Qindar was a sorcerer who lived in Sunnydale in the early 1930s. I've researched him extensively. His real name was Leon Pondell. He's buried in one of the larger mausoleums. You shouldn't have any trouble finding it."

"So why do you think they're meeting there? Do you think this Quidar guy had some sort of magic...?"

"Oh, no," Giles said. "He wasn't very powerful. It's probably just an alternate meeting place. The Hellmouth opening was the primary place, and when this Narlach chap found the school blown up, he picked Qindar's tomb."

"OK," Buffy said, "Look up this Narlach guy, and see...."

"Oh, I know about him, too," Giles said. "He's a vampire, and a kind of a merchant. He goes around from town to town, selling minor magic items to vampires. Kind of like a door to door salesman for the undead. Not too bad of a git. Lord, this cake is wonderful!"

"Excuse me?"

"This cake! Anya's cake. It's marvelous! You see, most people put the walnuts in the mix. Anya put them on top, with the chocolate."

"Yeah, right," Buffy said. "It's my mom's recipe. Anyway, I'll go check out this tomb...."

"Yes, yes. Do go. They'll be a few vampires there. Just kill them all. Good opportunity, really. Did you say this was Joyce's recipe?"

"Giles, are you OK?"

"Oh, yes. Quite well."

"Are you listening to the radio?"

"No, it's an album," Giles responded. "One of my old vinyls, actually. Clapton, bootleg, before he sold out and started doing mushy ballads for the bloody cinema."

"Um, look," Buffy said, "I'll call you after I've checked out this tomb."

"Righto," Giles responded, and hung up.

Buffy hung up the receiver. Giles was acting strange, and the worst part of it was, it seemed oddly familiar. She made a mental note to check up on him as soon as she finished slaying all the vamps at the undead flea market that had sprung up at the cemetery.

Giles walked away from his telephone and took a drag off his cigarette. It was a bit stale. He then reminded himself that he was lucky to have found half a pack in his old jacket pocket. He hadn't smoked since Olivia had gone back to England. Too bad about that. He was feeling a little randy.

Then he remembered. Joyce. She was quite the bird.

Giles looked down at the empty plate on his table that had once held Anya's cake.

And, Giles thought, licking a spot of chocolate off his index finger, she apparently can cook, too.


Part VI.


Joyce shut off the television, and walked upstairs toward her bedroom. She looked down at her watch. Eleven-thirty. She'd missed Giles' performance at the coffee shop. She'd fought herself over whether or not to go. It's over by now, Joyce thought to herself. The decision's made.

Joyce entered her room, and began to unbutton her blouse.

"I could give you a hand with that, luv."

Joyce gasped. She turned toward the voice, and saw Giles sitting on the sill of her open window.

"Rupert," Joyce said, "you startled me."

Giles hopped through the window into the room. He wore faded jeans and a leather jacket, and held a cigarette in his left hand.

"Sorry to give you a jump, luv," Giles said, taking a drag off his cigarette. "Thought I'd pop by, see if you want to have a night out."

Joyce felt a mix of apprehension and curiosity.

"Rupert, are you alright?"

"Never better," Giles responded. He walked over to Joyce, threw an arm around her, and pulled her body against his.

"Rupert, what are you doing?!?"

"Something I've been putting off," Giles replied, and then pressed his lips to hers.

Joyce was too startled at first to protest. Then, a familiar pleasure began to arise. She began to return the kiss, and then remembered why the pleasure felt familiar.

"Rupert," Joyce said, pulling away, "what's happened to you?"

"Nothing you can't fix," Giles said, as he leaned forward to kiss her again.

"Wait," Joyce said, pushing Giles away and taking two steps back. "Rup...Mr. Giles, if we did go out tonight, what would you want to do?"

"Oh, I don't know," Giles responded. "Maybe catch a band. Have a couple drinks. Then, maybe, go back to my place, put on a couple of albums, and...."

"Oh, Christ! Not again! Listen, Rupert, wait right here. I've got to make a phone call."


Part VII.


Buffy crept toward the door of the mausoleum. The door was cracked open. She knelt by the door, and listened. She heard:

"My friends," a voice said, "I have been providing you with quality merchandise for centuries. However, this particular item I have acquired surpasses the most valuable merchandise that I have ever had to offer."

"Yeah, right," a voice chimed in sarcastically.

"I've heard that before," another voice said. "That talisman you sold me forty years ago was a piece of junk."

"Yeah," a voice said. "And you sold me a potion which was supposed to keep me from needing blood for six months. Hell, it just made me hungrier."

"My friends," said the original speaker (who Buffy deduced was Narlach), "I understand your skepticism. I too, have been a victim of false representations. However, this item is the genuine article. I give you...the Bracelet of Amara!"

Buffy heard the vampires gasp (an unusual reaction for creatures with no breath). Buffy let a tiny gasp out herself. Amara. As in the Ring of Amara. The ring that made vampires unkillable. Apparently this Amara guy had created an entire ensemble.

"As you know," Narlach continued, "Hollywood has usually portrayed vampires as shapeshifters who can turn into wolves, bats, and clouds of mist."

The vamp crowd chuckled. Buffy, hoping that the vamps were too engrossed in Narlach's sales pitch to notice anything else, pushed the door to the mausoleum open another inch so she could peek inside. She saw Narlach (an tall vampire with a goatee, wearing a grey tuxedo) standing at the back of the room, and at least twenty vampires gathered to listen to him. Too many vamps to take on at once.

"Now," Narlach said, "we have always assumed that shapeshifting was simply a combination of superstition and cinematic embellishment. Not so! Myths about vampire changelings are rooted in the magic spells of Amara, who created this Bracelet, which gives any vampire who wears it the ability to change form. Behold!"

Narlach held his arm in the air, and pulled down his sleeve, revealing a silver band around his wrist. He closed his eyes, and began to melt into a glowing blob. As the blob melted toward the floor, it began to take the shape of a dog. The glow faded into a dark brown, and when it was gone, a wolf was standing in the center of the room. The vamps stared at the wolf, which then began to glow again, and Narlach returned to his original form. He said:

"Can you image the power of this marvelous device. As a bat, you can fly to any location. As a wolf, you can blend into the woods. As a mist cloud, you can enter any building, without regard to locked doors. Also, I understand that Sunnydale has a bit of a Slayer problem. How can she stab a cloud of mist? How can she follow a flying bat? With this bracelet, the world is at your fingertips. And it can be yours, for a price. I will be here until one hour prior to the rising of the sun. The vampire among you who can bring the greatest amount of cash can have this bracelet. You have five hours, gentlemen. Let the games begin!"

The vampires were stirring as Buffy crept away. She'd need help.


Part VIII.


"Thanks for coming guys," Buffy said to the assembled Scoobies in Giles' living room. "Does anyone know where Giles is?" Fortunately Buffy had a key to Giles' front door.

"Your mom called," Willow responded. "She said Giles was at your house. She said you should call her."

"First things first," Buffy said. "The cops at the old high school, they weren't chasing away vandals."

"Well," Xander interrupted, "I found Graham. He and a bunch of the other Initiative guys are packing up their stuff from the frat house. Graham says there's no possibility that it's any of the Initiative guys poking around. They're all under orders to disband, and go their merry way. I dunno. Graham seemed a little reluctant to talk."

"There's a first," Willow said.

"It's not that," Xander said. "I asked him what he was planning to do, like whether he was going to stay in college, or move away from Sunnydale, and he really didn't answer. I have a feeling he's not done with the spy guy stuff. Maybe...."

"It's not the Initiative," Buffy said. "There's a vamp in town who's peddling a bracelet made by the same sorcerer who made that ring Spike was after. The bracelet allows a vampire to change shape. You know, like, into a bat."

"Great," Xander said. "We finally figure we've got the rules down, and some vampire comes along who can do other stuff."

"We've got two problems," Buffy continued. "First is getting that bracelet. It's going to be tough. If this guy can shapeshift, he's going to be tough to kill. And we can't let any other vampire get hold of it either."

"So we go and we stake him," Willow said.

"No," Buffy replied. "I go and stake him. I need everyone else out on the town. About twenty vamps are scrambling around town trying to get as much money as they can in about four hours. That means that there's going to be a lot of vampire attacks tonight all over Sunnydale, and I can't fight all of them and get to Narlach. Xander, get on the phone with Graham. See if any of the Initiative guys still have their weapons, and tell them we need them to help us with one more job."

"That's the least they can do," Xander said, "after we saved them all from Adam."

"Willow," Buffy continued, "find Spike. He's always on the lookout for a chance to fight something that won't set off that chip in his head. Then start researching. We need to find out about this bracelet, and how we can fight it. Dammit, what's Giles doing at my mom's?"

"Call her," Xander suggested. "Then I'll call Graham."

Buffy walked over to the telephone, and dialed her mother's number. Buffy heard her mother say:

"Hello? Buffy? Is that you?"

"It's me. Let me talk to Giles."

"I don't think that's a good idea, honey," Joyce replied. "He's...not himself."

"What?"

"You remember the band candy?"

"Yes?"

"Well, he's had a relapse."

Buffy's eyes widened. She asked:

"You two aren't...I mean, you haven't...?"

"Of course not! I'm fine," Joyce said. "It's Rupert who's got the problem."

"How do you know it's come back?"

"He came over here smoking cigarettes, wearing a leather jacket, and at least five times in the last twenty minutes, he's asked me if I wanted to have a 'shag.' God, I didn't know British people really used that word."

"Are you alright?"

"Well, I'm keeping him busy. I've got him listening to the radio. It took me fifteen minutes to find a station that played music he didn't dismiss as 'poofter crap.' Buffy, we have to do something."

"Keep him there," Buffy said. "I'll be over as soon as I can."

Buffy hung up the phone. She turned to the Scoobies and said:

"Ripper's back."

"I take it you mean 'young Giles,' and not 'Jack the,'" Xander said.

"Apparently whatever happened to him with Ethan's adolescence spell has come back," Buffy said. "I've got to get over there."

"Maybe it's like a flashback," Willow opined. "Like the hippies used to get years after they dropped acid."

"I don't think so," Buffy said. "It hasn't affected anybody else. The whole town was running around like Menudo fans last time."

"Well, something must have caused it," Tara said. "Maybe this Narlach guy cast a spell on Mr. Giles to keep you off track. Or some other...Buffy?"

Buffy was staring down at the table in Giles' hallway, oblivious to Tara's words. Next to the telephone was a plate with nothing but crumbs.

"Anya," Buffy said, still looking at the plate. "Is this the plate you brought the cake on?"

"Looks like it," Anya responded.

"Where did you get the ingredients for the cake?"

"At the grocery store, of course."

"Even the chocolate?"

"No," Anya said. "The chocolate I got from Xander's freezer. I forgot to get it at the store."

"Oops," Xander said, dropping his face into his hands.

Tara and Anya were oblivious to the significance of the chocolate, but Willow and Buffy glared at Xander like parents looking at a child who had just glued the cat to the couch. Willow exclaimed:

"Xander! Why did you save the Band Candy!?!"

"I didn't mean to," Xander explained. "When we first got it, I threw a few bars in the freezer so it would keep. After the...problem...I though I'd gotten all of them and thrown them away. I must have missed one."

"Well, that's just great," Buffy said. "You have a cluttered fridge and now I have a teenage Watcher at my house hitting on my mom! I've got to get over there."

Willow asked:

"What about Narlach?"

"One problem at a time," Buffy said. "You guys keep the vamps from tearing the town apart. I'll take care of Narlach after I get Giles squared away."


Part IX.


Joyce watched as Giles lay on the couch listening to the radio, smoking a cigarette. Damn, Joyce thought, it's going to take me forever to air this place out.

"Um," Joyce said, "would you like some coffee?"

"That's not really what I want," Giles said, sitting up.

"Look," Joyce said. "Last time we were both under the influence of the Band Candy. I'm not now. It isn't going to happen again."

"Band Candy? Has that bugger Ethan been at it again?"

"I don't really know," Joyce replied. "But whatever it is, it's temporary, I'm sure."

"Bloody shame," Giles said. "Of course, there's no reason we can't enjoy this while it lasts. C'mon, Joyce! Let me be your stevedore!"

Joyce's eyes widened. "Who told you...I mean...how did you know I thought...?"

"Buffy told me," Giles explained. "She could read minds for awhile, remember?"

"You talked about that?"

"It couldn't be helped. She had to prove that it was really her when she switched bodies with Faith."

"Great," Joyce sighed. "Just great."

"So what? So I know you had a good time? I had a good time. Let's have another good time. What's the big deal?"

"The big deal is that I'm not a sixteen year-old this time," Joyce said. "I'm mature enough to understand what's going on. I'm mature enough to know that it would be a mistake. And I'm mature enough to still be mad as Hell at you."

Giles recoiled. "You're still angry at me because I was Buffy's Watcher?"

"Of course I am," Joyce said. "She lied to me, her whole life was a lie she told me, and you helped. We were growing farther and farther apart. We're still not close. And you let it happen. You made sure it happened!"

"Well," Giles said, "for what it's worth, she doesn't have much use for me lately, either."

"Oh, don't be silly. The things you two have shared...."

"She gestated in your bloody womb, and you grew apart! You think it's been easy for me? Watching her grow up to the point where she's outgrown me? We're not so different, Joyce."

"I'm her mother! I have a right to my relationship with my daughter! You don't have a right to your relationship with Buffy. And you sure as Hell didn't have any right to get in the way of my relationship with her!"

Giles considered this, stood up, and said:

"Well, then, I guess that I don't have any right to be here, either. I'll be off, then."

"Wait," Joyce said. "Buffy's on her way over here...."

"I'll let you two have some quality time, then," Giles said. "I wouldn't want to interfere with your right to quality time with your damn daughter!"

"She's coming to help you," Joyce said. "Whatever's happened to you, it will fix, just like it did last time, and then it will be like it never happened. You'll see that...."

"I'll see nothing," Giles interrupted. "Do you really think that I just came over here on a lark? That I never thought about us until an hour ago? I've wanted to call you a million times since our night together. Tonight was just the first time I had the nerve."

Joyce didn't know how to respond.

Fortunately, she didn't have to. The front door burst open, and Buffy ran into the room, a crossbow in her right hand.

"Giles," Buffy said. "Listen, that cake Anya brought. It had some of the Band Candy on it. Xander had some left at his house that he forgot to throw out, and Anya didn't know that...."

Joyce's jaw dropped. She said:

"Xander kept some of the Band Candy? What is he, an idiot?"

"Apparently," Buffy said. "Look, Giles...."

"It doesn't matter," Giles said. "It wore off by itself the last time. It will do so again. I'm getting out of here."

"Giles, wait," Buffy said. "I need your help."

"Not bloody likely," Giles said.

"It's Narlach," Buffy explained. "He's got some bracelet that was made by Amara, that guy who made the ring. It allows vampires to change into bats and wolves."

"Bollocks," Giles said.

"Judging by your tone," Buffy said, "I assume that 'bollocks' is a negative comment."

"There's no Bracelet that does any such thing," Giles responded. "Amara didn't research shapeshifting magics. Myths about shapeshifting vampires have an entirely different origin. Gypsy magic and Bram Stoker, mostly."

"Well, some vamp is down at the cemetery, and I saw him change into a wolf. So, bollocks to you!"

Giles laughed. "Bollocks to me, eh? Well, let's go see this vampire, shall we?"

"Giles," Buffy said, "I'm not taking you anywhere."

"Oh, really? Then how are you going to fight this vampire when he turns into a bat and flies away? I'm the only one who knows anything about Amara, shapeshifting, or anything else to do with this mess."

Buffy considered this, sighed, and said:

"Alright, you can come. But do exactly what I say."


Part X.


Buffy and Giles moved through the shadows of the cemetery toward the mausoleum. Buffy still held the crossbow. Buffy whispered to Giles:

"Stay close."

"I will," Giles whispered back.

"And be careful," Buffy added.

"I will," Giles agreed.

"And don't have sex with my mother in this condition."

"Alright," Giles said sarcastically. "When I have sex with your mother, what condition would you like me to be in?"

Buffy turned to face Giles, and without any sarcasm, said:

"Just be you."

Buffy turned toward the mausoleum and kept walking. Giles absorbed Buffy's last comment, and then followed.

Buffy and Giles came to the door of the mausoleum. It was half open. They observed Narlach take a pocket watch out of his vest, check the time, and then put the watch back in his pocket. He took the silver band off his wrist, and threw it onto the marble slab of the tomb.

Narlach then stooped to lift a large box onto the slab. As he lifted, he lost his grip on the box, and it fell to the ground and opened. The sound of clanging metal echoed in the mausoleum as several silver bracelets, all identical to the bracelet Narlach had been wearing, fell across the floor.

Buffy and Giles exchanged glances. Buffy kicked the door entirely open and walked in, Giles close behind her. She faced Narlach, and said:

"So it was all a scam?"

Narlach looked up at Buffy. "You must be the Slayer. I wondered if I'd run into you. Yes, I'm afraid that I am pulling one over on the undead of Sunnydale."

"I saw you change," Buffy said. "How?"

"A simple potion. Not terribly sophisticated magic, actually. Gypsy herbs and a few quick incantations. Unfortunately the ingredients of the potion are rather expensive, and the ability to change into a wolf only lasts about ten minutes. Hardly useful magic for a warrior. For a salesman, however, it can be a rather persuasive tool."

"So you did your little show," Buffy said, "and every vamp who comes back is going to get one of your fake magic bracelets?"

"Exactly," Narlach said. "The shapeshifting potion cost me about a thousand dollars. After I sell the 'magic' bracelets to about twenty vampires for all the money they can grab in a night, I expect a profit margin of roughly fifty thousand."

"That won't do much for your reputation as a merchant," Buffy said.

"Well, I didn't have much of a reputation to begin with. Besides, I'm ready to retire."

"Retire? You don't age!"

"Not physically," Narlach explained. "But everyone gets tired. Look, the vampires who get my bracelets will only be getting useless junk. They will be of no threat to you. Why don't you just let me go through with my little business venture?"

"You started a vampire rampage," Buffy replied, leveling the crossbow at Narlach. "And anyway, you're a vamp yourself. Inherently evil. I'm the Slayer. I'll lose my Union Card if I let you go." She pulled the trigger on the crossbow. The bolt found it's mark, and Narlach disintegrated.

"Come on," Buffy said, walking around to the back of the mausoleum and crouching behind the marble tomb. "We'll use the tomb for cover. The vampires that the gang doesn't dust will be coming back one by one. We'll slay them as they come in."

Giles walked around to the back of the tomb with Buffy, crouched down, and said:

"I told you the bracelet was bollocks."


Epilogue


Joyce opened her front door. Giles stood in the doorway. He was wearing a faded grey sweatshirt that Ripper wouldn't have worn on a bet. Joyce could tell that the effects of the previous night's Band Candy had worn off.

"I just came by to apologize," Giles said. "My behavior last evening was simply...."

"Don't apologize," Joyce said. "It was the candy."

"Not entirely," Giles said. "We both know that. I said things...well, that I cannot unsay. It's of course better that we not speak of them. I just wanted you to know that I will understand if you prefer not to associate with me further."

"Oh, Rupert, no," Joyce replied. "Look, for what it's worth, I said some horrible things last night, and I wasn't under the influence of any magic."

"You said nothing that was not perfectly justified," Giles said. "I understand your anger. Now that Buffy has become more independent, I understand what it's like to lose a relationship you once had with a young person who used to look up to you. I interfered with your relationship with Buffy in a way I cannot repair. I followed centuries of tradition, tradition that I now know is both unfair and unnecessary. You have every right to hate me."

"I don't hate you," Joyce said. "Look, I said what I said last night to dampen your...advances. And I won't lie to you, I meant a lot of what I said. But those aren't my only feelings for you. You may have led a secret life with Buffy, but you also guided her through it. You kept her safe. From what Buffy tells me, Watchers are supposed to treat Slayers like expendable weapons. I know you didn't think of her that way. You lost your job because you didn't think of her that way, and she's alive today because you cared enough to look out for her. Also, you were like a father to her. You still are. Most single mothers have to be both father and mother to their daughters. It's a good thing you were there to be the father, because I wasn't much of either."

"Nonsense," Giles replied. "You have no idea how much Buffy values her relationship with you. You're the one person who has always wanted nothing but her safety."

"Rupert," Joyce said. "There's something else. You have no reason to be embarrassed because you've thought about us, since the night we were...together. I've thought about it, too. I've wanted to pick up the phone and call you. I never worked up the courage. I guess we both have some unresolved feelings about that night that we keep hidden away."

"Like Band Candy in the back of the icebox," Giles said.

Joyce laughed. "Yes. Way in the back."

"Look, Joyce," Giles said. "I know that you have mixed feelings about me. They may never resolve. But if you do come to a resolution, please, call me."

Giles turned and walked to his car.

Don't leave, Joyce thought. Stay. Persuade me. Argue with me. Win me over.

But Giles got in his car and drove away. Joyce closed the door.

Joyce stood in the hallway, frustrated and confused. Why, she thought, did things always have to be so complicated?

The doorbell rang. Joyce's heart leapt. He'd returned! She opened the door.

Anya stood on the porch, and said:

"Um, hello, Mrs. Summers. Look, I know that things went a little haywire last time, but if I promise to get all of the ingredients from the store, can you teach me to make lemon squares?"

THE END


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