May your Season be full of love and laughter!
Survivors, Part 6
See Part 1 for details.
Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 & Part 5.
Xander tugged his hand, slightly surprised and greatly relieved when Spike's body came along for the ride.
His grin blossomed into a full smile. "Looks like I'm being paged by His Majesty." Fingers found Spike's hand and squeezed gently. On impulse, he issued the invite: "Wanna share the Voices?"
Spike had ample experience with such duties. They exchanged a grin, remembering Dawn's pre-adolescent fascination with the blonde's repertoire -- she had kept him busy for hours every Saturday evening telling tales with all the appropriate voices for each character.
"Good times, helped break up the non-stop terror, eh?"
Moving back into the living room, Xander wasted no time in locating Gulliver's Travels for his boy. He paused before continuing on to Corey's bedroom. "Hey Spike... I don't know how to say this without sounding like an ass so I'm just going to say it and hope you won't take it the wrong way." A deep breath, not looking at his friend. "If you're not gonna be around Corey much, or maybe think you'll change your mind, we might not want to get his hopes up. This reading thing, I've been doing with him every night since taking him in..."
"And you don't want him to feel abandoned if I don't show up regularly." Spike's fingers lifted Xander's face to meet his eyes. "Luv, I know all about that feeling, yeh? I'll be here til you toss me out. Promise is as good as the ones I made to Bit and the Slayer."
With a relieved sigh, Xander felt his smile return. "Thanks, that's what I needed to hear." He aimed another fast smile at the blonde, noting the expression of surprised pleasure his casual show of affection brought.
Maybe we've got the same bad luck in love, but it seems like Anya was a bit better at returning kisses and everything than Drusilla. Buffy too, since she was so terrified of being caught with him. Oh gods! Gotta show Spike that I'm not embarrassed to be seen with him. And eventually, after I forgive them, tell the girls -- and I can only imagine how well that's going to go over. Huh... maybe I can casually mention to Andrew that I've dated a few guys, then let the little gossip-monger spread the news for me. Set up the groundwork. Mwhahaha!
Spike shot him a sideways glance, making Xander wipe the wicked smirk off his face. "Just planning ahead. Thought I'd send some juicy gossip via Andrew so the girls won't check for curses when they find out I've gone bi."
He was treated to the eyebrow trick. "Still haven't clued them into that part of you yet? Don't envy you, mate," Spike drawled, his normal sardonic self once more evident. "Red's still carrying a tiny bit of a torch for ya, and Slayer's too used to you pining away for her. Can't see either of them accepting this as anything close to normal."
Xander smiled sadly. "If they even let themselves hear me. I tried to tell them a couple of times, but... they blew it off." With a mock-casual shrug, he attempted to brush aside the worries. "It's not at the top of my To Do list right now anyways. First, we have a story to read. After that, maybe watch a movie... or you can meet the Lowenski's. They're great, but really protective of Corey, and me too. Sooner or later I'll have to introduce you so they don't shoot first and call the cops as an afterthought."
Spike could tell that Xander was only half kidding, but refrained from asking questions. Yet. "Then let's get started on Item 1, yeh? Shouldn't keep the lil one waiting too long."
Xander looked at the spot on his wrist where a watch should be and gasped in horror. "Omigod! It's been almost ten whole minutes! Whatever shall we do?!"
"Luv, you know as well as I do, those ten minutes matter alot to the little tykes," Spike's voice softened, " 'specially to the ones who've had too many promises broken."
Almost at once, Xander's teasing turned solemn. "Yeah, I do know. Hopefully Corey's gotten past that now... at least with me. But I'd rather not take too many chances."
Seeing the complete agreement on his friend's face, Xander knocked lightly on his son's door, sticking his head around the corner when he was bid to enter. "Hey buddy, how do you feel about Spike helping me with the Voices tonight? He's got loads more experience than I do-"
"Will he be here for the whole story?" Corey interrupted. " 's 'mportent to be con... cons..."
"Consistent," Spike offered from the doorway, "And yeah, it's very important to keep the Voices the same through a good story." He leaned against the door frame, looking casual. "If you just want your Da to read, I'll stay in th' other room, k?"
The youngster looked between his father and this new person, and seemed to accept that his daddy trusted the blonde. Slowly nodding his head, Corey pronounced, "Then s'ok if you join us."
Spike inclined his head with a small smile and moved to sit in the chair beside the boy's bed, leaving Xander to sit at the headboard so that they could all read the book at the same time. It forced the adults' heads close, and Corey nearly had to crawl into Xander's lap to see well, but none of the trio made any complaints.
"I'll do the narrative, you do the Voices?" Xander asked for verification -- they had done the routine often enough for Dawn. "Alright then, here we go...
"Gulliver's Travels, by Jonathon Swift. Chapter 1. My father had a small Estate in Nottinghamshire; I was the Third of five Sons. "
Xander smoothed a light blanket over his son's shoulders and kissed his forehead, then cocked his head toward the door. Quietly Spike followed him out into the hall and waited with a grin as the brunet gave Corey one last, utterly besotted smile.
They shuffled back into the living room, where Xander put in an old reliable favorite -- Monty Python's Life of Brian -- and grabbed a couple of sodas before getting comfortable on the sofa. It was so easy, just relaxing there together, that he couldn't honestly tell when they'd moved closer. Thighs touched, shoulders brushed, and he waited for the internal freak-out.
At one point, Spike got up to rummage around in the kitchen, emerging with a bag of steaming buttery popcorn. He placed the bowl on the cushion between them, and tried valiantly to ignore the little twinges of pleasure each time their hands touched.
As the credits rolled, Xander got up to carry their discards into the kitchen while Spike stretched his legs and replaced the DVD in its case. Their tasks complete, they met in front of the TV. And simply stood there, staring at each other.
"This shouldn't be so... awkward, should it?"
Spike cocked his head, then shook it once. "Beats me, luv. Never been in this particular situation before. Sorta missed out on the whole Dating Game part of being human, an Hell knows there really isn't much foreplay in the demon world. Not for vamps, at least." He brought a hand up to stroke Xander's arm. "Not that I'd want to jump in feet first, but... dammit Xan, I'm lost here."
Dark hair swayed as Xander nodded his understanding. "I know what you mean, Blondie. Seems like we've both been marked for life as the whipping post for strong, overbearing, dominating women." He paused for a moment, then broke out in healthy laughter. "Well," he began, then snorted before continuing, "except for that thing you had going with Harmony."
"Hey now!" Righteous indignation just didn't look right on the vampire's face, so instead he tried for morally injured. "I was in a rough patch, what with being freshly chipped and all that-"
"Yeah right, except you weren't chipped when you first got together with her. And man, I don't know how you put up with her non-stop chatter. Sure, me and Wills have the megababble thing, but at least we have a topic for most of it! Harm was just plain dumb."
Sadly, Spike couldn't disagree. He shrugged, his eyes focused on a patch of carpet at their feet. "You know what it's like to be lonely, Xander. It gets bad enough, and even the most unlikely people start to look good... 'specially if they make ya feel like you're wanted."
Xander's fit of hilarity ended at those words : he truly did know, intimately, how it was to be so lonely. Which made him think a bit about what was happening between them. "Uh, Spike." Oh, this is going to go over real well. "D'you think that's what might be going on here?"
Expecting more of the Scooby's inappropriate humor to lighten the mood, Spike nearly missed the hangdog expression that crossed Xander's face as he asked the question. It was possible, of course, that they could be latching on for the wrong reasons. Possible, but unlikely. "Luv, look at me." He waited til the beautiful brown eye met his stare. "Does it feel like we're just convenient for each other? Not to me, don't think it does to you either. We'll take it slow, right? An slow just ain't enough for any sort of convenience. That sorta thing don't last, yeh? So in a week or two, think about it again an see what ya feel."
"A week?!" Xander had to forcefully lower his volume before he managed to wake up his son. "A week," he made a show of whispering, "Damn Spike, there went your promise to finish off the book for Corey. Gah! Shoulda known, never get my hopes up, never lower my guard-"
Cool fingers sealed over his protests and recriminations, silencing the fuming man.
"Didn't say I was going anywhere, luv. Just said to spend time playing catch-up, a week or so, let us get used to each other again. Figure out if this is what we really want, or if we're following a well-known trend and latching on to the first person who shows us a bit of attention." He softened his words with gentle strokes along Xander's jawline, letting his fingertips rest below a warm ear. "Already know that there's fireworks waiting for us, don't we? Just gotta make sure. Don't want ya to regret anything." He sighed and dropped his head to Xander's shoulder. "Regret's a funny thing, luv. Makes a person do all sorts of oddities. Like me an this barmy soul."
Standing in the circle of Spike's arms, Xander let himself absorb the comfort and reassurance offered. Another fine moment for the Xan-man. Let's make an ass of ourselves on the first date, shall we? After all, a lasting impression is important... Oh shut the holy hell up, Watcher-Wanna-Be! This is Spike we're talking about. And he's right -- we're both bad about the thing with people showing us any sort of attention, good or bad or ugly. And some of them have been pretty bad. Lucked out, I guess, that none have been truly ugly. Anya was a gorgeous woman, and so was Faith. Cordelia, gah! The various demon ladies too, before they shed the human skin to have their wicked way with me. Not too pretty there, but hey, none of them managed to sully my bod with their... Ok, getting a little worked up here. Spike. Right. Back to Spike. Wait a sec, did he just say-
"Soul?" Xander asked. "I get how you regretted that thing with Buffy's bathroom -- and having seen the state of her grout, can I say how much I understand that? -- but how does it equate with you making a mistake, plus soul, ergo soul equals mistake? Lucy, you got some 'splainin' to do!"
Xander flopped back against the sofa, a deep huff of air leaving his lungs as he thought over the tale told by his only male friend -- un-chipped, re-souled, undead, punk rock wanna-be. Who hadn't even gone looking to get his soul. Wow, I feel bad for him, even if I shouldn't, cus we wouldn't ever have become friends if he hadn't... Except we did! Back when Buffy was... gone. Me and Spike, keeping Dawnie entertained, patrolling, going to the Bronze. Jeez, Bleach boy's luck is even worse than mine. Huh.
The blue light of the blank TV screen was enough to let him see his own toes, flexing and popping and wiggling together. He crossed his legs to stop the fuzzy digits from their games, but couldn't stop his wayward thoughts.
So, wow... A wish-granting demon in Africa -- no big surprise. Wonder why I didn't hear about it when I was there. Worse though, a wish-granting demon with a sense of humor. And Spike said he wanted to be 'the man he once was' -- meaning pre-chip Spike, all demon -- and ended up with a soul instead. Bet he never told Buffy about that little oops! But after the soul, he wasn't too hot on her, was he? Huh. Again.
He stretched until his spine popped several times. This thinking thing was hard work!
Maybe he became too much like Buff to be attracted to her anymore? The whole 'tortured soul' business, out to save the world from itself, exceptionally strong but with none of the superhero benefits to go along with it. Or maybe... maybe the soul -- William, the 19th century scholar -- just couldn't handle the idea of a modern woman. And of course, the way Buffy treated him when he got back was less than friendly. Not that she ever really treated him like a friend, even when she was using him for a confidante and sex toy. Hold on a minute, Xan-man! You're making her sound so... cheep. Yeah, she screwed up by using him, but he did his fair share of using too. So he was all demon, which makes the using part pretty much mandatory, but it wasn't all her doing the bad. Have I been this bitter about Buffy's less than nice personality traits for so long? Jeez.
Work-roughened hands scrubbed his face, while Xander took a few deep breaths to regain his composure. The prospect for a spontaneous make-out session with the not-so evil undead (male!) was a walk in the park to this sort of soul-searching.
Alright, Buffy -- lovely girl turned into beautiful woman, inhumanly strong but emotionally weak. All those times she pushed me aside to 'protect' me hurt, I can admit that. But... she had reasons. I just wish I knew for sure that they were the right reasons. Cus feeling fray adjacent doesn't get any easier over the years. Like that thing with the Sisters of Brie, or whatever they were called. Buff and Wils telling me to keep out cus I was 'just normal' and would get hurt. Which, ok, I might have... but look what I managed to do without their help that same night. Hmm. Shoulda told them about that later. 'Cept they probably would have assumed I'd made up some sort of fantasy heroics just to make myself look like less of a loser.
Bouncing off the sofa, he grabbed a beer from the fridge. Just one, since he'd have to be alert enough to get Corey's breakfast before taking him to school in the morning. He chugged half of it before he'd made it back to the living room. A trick learned from the Harris household : if you drain the first beer fast enough, it gives a quicker buzz to the rest of the case. Not that he had much practical knowledge of finishing off a full case of beer, but his parents were pro's at it.
While I'm on this pity trip, might as well take a stab at Giles and Willow too. G-man is easy. Father figure who only saw the 'oldest child' -- until Wills made him see her as a potential threat, forcing him to spend time with him about her magic. Buffy the Slayer, Giles the Watcher. Should be simple, right? But then me and Wills came into the mess, and other than the occasional donut run, I got pushed into a corner like a chastised toddler. Yeah, Giles' first duty was to Buffy -- as it should be -- but couldn't he have taken just a few minutes each time he trained his Slayer to give me and Wils a few pointers on how not to get hit so often? And whatthefuck was that stunt he pulled with Wood, trying to kill Spike? Thinking about it now, it sounds more like a badass case of jealousy. Huh. Giles jealous over Buffy? Uh... I can see that. And wish I didn't just have a really graphic mental video now. In full technicolor. Gah!
The beer wasn't really helping him relax any. Another trip to the kitchen transpired, with Xander double-checking every other step to make sure his boy was still asleep. It just wouldn't do to let the kid know where his personal stash of goodies were kept. What alcohol wouldn't take care of, Twinkies and Reeses would cover.
Alright, so... Giles. Other than the most obvious problem -- Watcher vs. Vampire -- what does he have against Spike in particular? It can't just be that, a species prejudice. He tolerated Spike more toward the beginning... til Buffy came back. Only it wasn't just that, was it? Omigod, it started after the music thing with Sweet! Where everyone found out all those secrets. What was Giles' main one? That he cared for Buffy more than he should... We all assumed he saw her as his daughter, but what if it was more than that? Jeez, it could explain so much! But gah, some things I'm just not ready to think about.
Sure he looked a little green around the gills, Xander grabbed a half-full bottle of water to ease the gag reflex. Not that he really felt ill per se... but the whole Giles-n-Buffy thing was a little too easy to picture. And his brain was really good with graphic images of the NC-17 kind.
Moving swiftly along... Willow. She so badly sucks at keeping secrets. Except when she thinks she's protecting someone, and even then there's some hint of a secret badly held. Why would she keep it from me though? If she and Buffy and Giles know, then it's just me and Dawnie that were left in the dark. And I can sorta see the point of not telling Dawn right now, but boy is she gonna be pissed!
Xander's face changed expressions slowly, as if each thought held its own progression : idea -- consideration -- deep thought -- worried frown -- tentative conclusion -- dull light bulb dimmed by the depression of fearing he was right.
Oh Giles, what have you done? The girls didn't even know, did they? You are going to have some seriously pissed, super-powerful women on your hands when they find out, and for once I'm not going to play damage control. Yeah, I sorta understand the whole 'leaving the undead to stay dust' thing, but Spike paid his dues. Even before getting the soul, he was more into the saving the world gig than Angel. Hells, half the time I think he took it more seriously than we did!
Well, nothing else to do than to confront Ye Olde Watcher Dude, right? Gah, I don't want to do this, but if I don't, we'll never know who to blame. Spike is probably dying, thinking the girls left him to Angel's fate. No, no way can I leave him -- I mean it -- like this...
Fine then, what time is it in England right now? Damn. Perfect time to catch Giles. Well Xan-man, no more excuses, right? Find your cell and make that call.
Locating his cellphone took less than a full minute. He knew exactly where he'd put it -- out of reach of sticky little fingers, out of sight of one-eyed former carpenters, out of mind so he didn't have to anticipate the guilt bearing down on his shoulders for abandoning his post. Stop that! They withheld information, which you need to check out for yourself to make sure it's real or bogus or some fabrication of Andrew's over-trekked imagination. No guilt necessary, no added preservatives either. Just make the damned call and get this ball rolling before Corey wakes up.
Xander picked up the phone from its resting place lurking place, more like on the faux mantle, holding it warily as if it was a snake ready to strike. He'd sent in reports once a month, or as near as his wanderings allowed, but hadn't actually spoken to his father-type figure in right at a year. Only male friend without Spike in the picture. Is that why Giles wanted to keep it quiet? Surely this farce isn't about simple, stupid jealousy! Oh G-man, say it ain't so...
One-touch dialing number 11 -- just a quirk that made it simple for him to remember, but hard to accidentally call -- brought a ring tone almost immediately. On the third ring, a crisp female voice answered, "Watcher's Council, British Central Headquarters. How may I direct your call?"
Xander swallowed hard, then cleared his throat before attempting a calm, cool reply. "Hi Grace, this is Xander Harris. I need to speak with Rupert Giles, if you wouldn't mind patching me through."
"Of course, Mr. Harris. I'll transfer you at once."
And that was that. He couldn't back out now, not after giving his name and everything. The tell-tale beeps of call transfers soon turned into a much more subtle ring tone. Xander caught himself fidgeting with his sleep pants and forced his hands away from their nervous picking. It's just Giles, come on! It's not like he's going to scream murder or anything. Besides, you've done a helluva job in Africa, longer than any other field operative without a break. He can't begrudge this request. He wouldn't-
"This is Rupert Giles speaking. Xander, is that you?"
Oh shit. Where do I start?
"Xander?" the Brit's voice sounded relieved. "By all that's Holy, son, we've been worried sick! Joilet said you hadn't checked in after your last Call... Xander, are you there?"
His chest hurt. It felt as if a large car had rolled over his rib cage and parked there. Spike's old Desoto, maybe. The evident concern in his mentor's voice only made it worse. Giles for us, Ripper for Spike. Damn, I used to like his alter-ego! He reached for the nearly empty beer bottle, then withdrew his hand. Alcohol would solve nothing this time.
"Yeah, it's me, Giles. I'm here... well, here is where I am, but not here where you think I should be." And Xander-babble strikes again, yay. "Listen, are you alone? Cus for this conversation, I need you to be by yourself and without the possibility of distractions, ok?" There, that sounded all adult-y. Gods, this is gonna be so hard!
There were sounds of doors shutting, followed by the mellow voice he knew so well telling Grace to not let him be disturbed for the rest of the day. Finally, after a long creak of leather (indicating that he'd squished his middle aged rear into the most comfortable position in his chair), Giles answered, "Whatever you have to say, I will always be here to listen. Xander, you know you're like... the son I wish I'd had. Don't you?"
Oh, and that's supposed to make me feel better?
"Huh. No, I didn't. Always thought I was just some kind of accessory. Like one of Buffy's purses or something." He ignored Giles' sputtering denials. "So," the hard knot in his chest squeezed, but he had to ask, had to know, "do you always lie to your adopted kids? Cus really, if I wanted that kind of treatment, I'd ask Wills to resurrect my folks. Up until now, I thought that you were the one adult who'd never lie to me. Talk down, yeah. Even ignore my questions as being too stupid for a response. But blatantly lie? Nope, not very fatherly of you, G-man."
A purple, dancing elephant waltzes into the room...
The older man too a long, deep breath -- then another. His tone much less cordial, Giles asked, "Concerning what, exactly, do you believe I have given you misinformation?"
And that's the Old Watcher Dude I know. When confunded, revert to painful politeness. Just how long will he last before saying 'Dear Lord'?
"Y'know, my stint in Africa was tough. Alot worse than anyone expected." Not on topic just yet, Xander felt the need to offer some background to his anger. "Anyone with white skin is viewed with suspicion, but when one comes in asking about their young, marriage-age girls? Well, them's fightin' words, par'dner!"
"I am terribly sorry, Xander! We never even thought-"
"Shut up! Just... just... don't speak. Let me finish before it all falls to Hell on me."
Trembling, Xander sank into a tight ball on his sofa, his grasp on the phone causing the occasional creak of distressed plastic.
"It took most of the first four months for my tan to get dark enough not to be the subject of instant hatred. After that, I started learning enough of the local dialects to not offend someone by trying to say 'hello'. And y'know, if it was just the little thing like skin tone and communication, I'd have been alright. But then they started to let me in... let me see the Africa you won't find in National Geographic. See the abject poverty, diseases like you wouldn't believe... and the unbelievably brave people trying their hardest to survive the... atrocities brought to their continent by white men's boredom.
"Not counting the problems Nature guarantees." He took a deep breath, but felt no more calm for it. "Drought, hunger, wild animals, extreme temperatures... I wouldn't have believed how many babies were born there every year if I hadn't seen. Did you know that they start marrying off the girls about a year after their first period? Live fast, love hard, die young : it's not just a slogan on some bumper sticker, Giles. That's the whole of their existence!
"And here are these girls, most with babies already, who suddenly have super strength and healing. And as long as their tribe doesn't kill them for being possessed, they're practically worshiped. Which means they're passed around the line of warriors, hoping to breed stronger babies."
His voice trailed off, pain evident as he continued in a more subdued frame of mind, "But no matter the whole Slayer healing thing, some diseases get through. And the tribal elders keep them pregnant to the end. Did you know that a Slayer isn't immune to AIDs? They don't get measles, chicken pox, whooping cough, or a dozen other nasties, but they can survive twice as long after the first obvious signs of HIV. And still, they're used as brood mares, passing on the deadliest of viruses to innocent babies, who pass it on again -- cus Health Ed, not even an elective in the laughable roaming schools that rarely hit the most remote tribal lands.
"Giles... I spent almost three full months with the last Slayer, watching her body fight a losing battle. Watching the sores partially heal, break open, spread and try to heal again. Watching her miscarry twice during that time, cus they still believed her capable of beating the odds. And at the end, I'm the one who had to drag her baby away from her corpse, as he screamed for the milk she could no longer provide." Another deep, ragged breath. "They asked me to bless them before I left." A rude snort lacking the humor he tried to interject. "How's that for irony?
"When I finally got back to civilization, all I wanted was to drown myself in hot, soapy water for a week, maybe locate some chocolate-y goodness, then take a break from it all. But some kind of strange impulse made me hook up my laptop and check email." The muted gasp from his listener did not bode well, but Xander had gone too far to stop now. "Wanna take a wild guess at what I found, G-man? Sure was a shock, lemme tell ya. But with all the nifty fail-safes Willow placed on my 'puter, there's no way I could believe it was a hoax."
Coming to the end of his impromptu speech, Xander straightened up and ran a hand through his hair. Now I'll know, one way or the other, how he's gonna handle this. Deny or justify. Guilty or misguided attempt to protect... but still guilty. Damn.
There was no sputtering attempts at denial, but no immediate rebuttal either. Xander almost broke the cross-continental silence, then finally...
"Just less than a year ago, shortly after you and I last spoke, as a matter of fact, Angel called the Council headquarters, asking for help with one of their more troublesome clients. He mentioned, almost as an afterthought, that we should try to find some way to return Spike to his body before Angel did -- the elder vampire's patience was worn so thin that he desired a permanent reprieve from his grandchilde. Upon hearing the details of Angel's 'deal' with the demon-based lawfirm, I made a command decision to refuse all help, all communications, between the Watchers Council and Wolfram & Hart. As Spike was unable to physically manifest, he could not voluntarily leave the building in which Angel's company was housed, nor could we afford to divert a team of researchers to searching for ways to re-incorporate a vampire who may or may not still contain his soul.
"Xander, I have made numerous decisions in my life, with many regrets along the way. You also know that there is no love lost between Spike and myself. However," here he paused, as if at a lost for the right words, "however, it was not my intention to leave him adrift forever. I... I was going to look for a means to return him to the physical plane. But with our weekly apocalypses, magical crises, and the cyclical disaster of too many mature females under one roof... I must confess --" his blush was heard across the world "-- I forgot."
It took a minute for the declaration to sink in. Of all the possible ways this could've gone, those two simple words hadn't even made it into the Top 100. "You... forgot..." shell-shocked, his voice monotone, "Spike -- souled, died in a blaze of Holy sunlight -- and you forgot?"
"I-I-I will most assuredly begin the search at once!" Flustered but rallying, Giles tried to redeem his poor choice of inaction. "There must be a ritual that would recreate the body of an immolated undead-"
"Giles, he's got his body back now," Xander made himself interrupt. It just felt... off, hearing the Watcher stumble around for ideas to return a vamp into being. "And he knows that you told Angel off for asking for help."
A soft snort came down the phone line, and Xander felt better all at once. That's Giles' snort of disbelief! He and Angel never got along, especially after the whole torture thing, so of course they'd butt heads about this, just like everything else.
As if reading his mind, Giles returned with a slightly scolding tone, "Really Xander, that is not how events occurred. Not at all. If you have the patience, I am quite sure I can recall our distasteful conversation accurately enough."
Relieved beyond belief, Xander found himself chuckling out loud. "Sure, I've got a few hours to spare."
"Very well. If you think you can withhold any loud outbreaks of hysteria until a natural pause in the story." Giles manfully ignored the giggles, ready to begin his tale. "It was late one evening. I had just closed a file to be sent off to our sister coven concerning an odd surge in energy that they had expressed concern over..."