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Ars Draconis

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Dragon’s Reverie: Opium-laced dreams of flame, plunder, power and fury: dragon’s blood resin, poppy, amber and ylang ylang.

The road south of out Death Valley was a straight line of cracked asphalt, with sand blown up into drifts across it every now and then. A single broken yellow stripe split it, the paint faded by the sun. A group of motorcyclists crouched over their tanks blew past Giles’ car at nearly double their speed. Buffy saw the riders, gaudy parrots in leather, stopped at the Badwater marker ten miles further on.

Giles slowed the car, and took a long look at the group, but didn’t pull over. Buffy thought about asking him to. Lowest point on the continent. Salty pools of water on the valley floor. Pupfish. Buffy wondered what it had looked like before the dragon had died here, and blighted it. Salt and borax. Sand and rock. Then they were past the marker, and the moment to stop, and Buffy straightened in her seat.

The riders passed them again fifteen minutes later, engines doppler-shifting from whine to drone, and were gone. The road twisted left, and the late afternoon sun glared behind them.

The sword was in the back seat, wrapped in a loose leather sheath Giles had brought for the purpose. Giles kept twisting around to look at it. The driving wasn’t demanding, but it made Buffy nervous anyway.

“You want me to drive?” she said. “You seem kinda distracted by your new toy.”

Giles glared at her, as she’d hoped he would, with the affection underneath that said he knew he was being teased. He settled down and drove the rest of the way more calmly.

They reached the interstate not too long after sundown. I-15 was Los Angeles and Las Vegas traffic, trucks arriving in California from points east, headlights and busy life. Barstow was blocky lighted signs, unnatural mustard yellows and flare reds, cement-box buildings on swathes of asphalt. Both were hideous after the stark beauty of the valley. And of the dragon bones, rising smooth and white from the sand. That sight would stay with Buffy a long time.

Giles checked them into a chain motel in the strip of businesses catering to travelers. The motel room was cold from the air conditioning. It smelled aggressively of laundry detergent. A shower to get the dust and sweat off, that’s what Buffy wanted. And then dinner, preferably involving a gigantic burger with barbecue sauce and fries. She let Giles hit the shower first, though, while she called Willow with the news on her cell.

She gave Will the full story, ending with Giles holding the sword, looking gobsmacked and dangerous at once. Giles had left it on his bed, laid out across the leather. Buffy described it to Willow, carefully, with the attention a warrior devoted to her trade’s tools. It was everything the legend had said it would be, so graceful and deadly. It could be used with two hands or one. The silver chasings on the pommel and hilt were somewhat tarnished. The blade looked sharp, completely untouched by the millennium in the sun. It smelled… interesting. The swords Buffy used smelled like the clove oil Giles treated the blades with. This scent wasn’t cloves. It smelled like dry smooth spices, like the bones in the canyon, like heated metal, like sulfur. What kind of spices? Willow wanted to know. Buffy didn’t have the vocabulary for it.

Buffy wanted to touch it again, explore for herself its balance and weight, but held off. It was Giles’ now. You didn’t mess with somebody else’s magic sword, not without asking. Especially not one you’d been unable to claim because you didn’t qualify.

An hour later, both scrubbed and refreshed, hair wet at the edges, they walked across the access road to a chain restaurant, not fast-food. Giles ran through the menu several times, looked grumpy, then finally ordered a vegetarian burger.

“Even the bloody salads have meat in them,” he complained to her.

Buffy thought about that, running over four years of pizzas and sandwiches and donuts and nourishing meals in the Oakpark flat. “Giles? How come I never noticed until now that you’re veggie?”

“Well, I haven’t always been,” he said. “Started a couple of years ago. And I don’t make a fuss about it.”

Buffy emptied her glass of ice water. Must have sweat more than she’d thought. “That’s like you. No-fuss Giles. You wanna talk about it?”

“About what?”

“How come you qualified to take the sword and I didn’t.”

“Oh.” Giles fidgeted with his flatware. “I suppose it was that, that your love for Angel was, um, not unrequited.”

“Just the one time, and oh boy. Every consequence but the one people usually worry about.” Buffy sighed.

“You couldn’t have known.”

“You just keep telling me that, Giles. You’re a sweetie. But that’s only the why not me. Why did you qualify? What was the curse-thingie again? The heartsick lover?”

Giles’ hand was closed over his bread knife. He slid it along the table, back and forth. He shrugged. Buffy decided to pry for another minute or so, to give Giles a chance to talk if he’d take it. He sometimes opened up to her, when they were away from the others like this.

“Jenny?” she said, making a reasonable guess.

“Perhaps. She and I never… though I’ve never been sure if she was… True love is such a slippery notion. I’ve never—” He broke off when the waitress arrived with their burgers. By the time she’d gone, the moment was over. The rest of the dinner conversation concerned possible avenues of attack to use against Glory, and the modifications to their tactics they’d have to make with Giles the swordsman instead of Buffy. The sword of Ryd the Wanderer was alleged to have been a skill-stealer: it drew from the blood of its victims, and passed their powers and skills along to the person who wielded it. Buffy made Giles laugh by speculating on the list of people he’d want to kill just to learn from them.

Giles unlocked their motel room door, and waved Buffy through. She hit the lightswitch. The first thing she saw was the sword, laid out on the bed nearest the door. Giles shot the bolt.

“Oh, yeah. Willow says there are a couple of discrepancies with the book. The color of the gems, for one. She also wanted to know what you thought the material of the crossguard was. The sword smelled weird to me, but she said there wasn’t anything in the description about that.”

Giles pinched the bridge of his nose. “The author of the text might not have thought to include it. Or the scent might come from its long time spent deep inside the body of the dragon. Or… let’s take a look at the gems.” He broke off and went to unwrap the sword.

“Giles. Not tonight. Right now, we drink some more water, and I rub some aloe vera lotion on the back of your neck where it’s sunburned, and then we lie on these awful little beds watching something horrible on cable. And then we fall asleep. Tomorrow we drive back, and then you get to do your research.”

Giles looked rueful, and put his hand to the crescent of skin on his neck he must have missed with the sunblock. He sat still and let Buffy rub her lotion over it. She didn’t often get a chance to be so close to Giles out of combat. In training, they touched— or collided would be a better description— but never outside it. Hugs between them were rare. Giles was not the sort to be physically casual with anyone when he didn’t have business with them. So Buffy enjoyed the moment of closeness with her mentor, performing this minor service for him. She smoothed her lotion over his neck and up to the edges of his hair. When her fingers slid below the neck of his henley, he stiffened up and told her, “Good enough.”

“You’re too tense,” she told him. “You need a massage in a big way. So do I. Can’t afford it, though.” She sighed, thinking about hot tubs and facials and full-body massages. Hank Summers sent them money, but it didn’t cover luxuries like spa treatments. Or college tuition. When this Glory thing was over, Buffy was going to have to get a job.

Buffy skipped the bad late-night television stage, and fell asleep immediately on her narrow bed. Giles was still awake when she dropped away, writing in his leather-bound journal.

Flame and smoke, below her. She twisted in the air, rolled, and dodged the first javelin thrown by the warrior below her. Why? Who was her opponent? Why was he angry with her? She could smell the sorcerer and taste his magic rippling around the man. Had the human betrayed her? The second javelin, sped by magic, pierced her wing, and she fell. The face of the warrior rushed up below her, and her last thought was that the expression on his face was despair. He raised his arms as if to embrace her. Flame spiked from his right hand. Then she hit—

Buffy sat up. The air conditioner ticked. Light trickled in the window from streetlamps. Giles was asleep in the other bed, face down, one arm dangling over the side. His hand twitched in his sleep. The sword stood propped against the wall between the beds. She pulled the blankets over her head and went back to sleep. She dreamed of hunting vampires. But she always dreamed of that.

When Buffy awoke, blinking in sunlight, Giles was seated at the little table by the window, folding over a section of the LA Times. She could smell coffee. Giles smiled at her, and nudged a paper cup on the table. She rolled out of bed and padded over. Vanilla latte. Her favorite. Buffy slurped.

“What time is it?”

“Just gone nine-thirty.”

“Shoulda woken me up.”

“You looked like you needed the sleep,” Giles said. Buffy didn’t argue. This trip felt like a vacation, a short relief of the unbearable strain she’d been under every day since her mom had died. It was just she and Giles, and that was always calm time for Buffy.

Giles had also brought her a croissant. She ate that and read the comics. Giles had laid the sword across the table. His fingers brushed against it, every now and then, while he read the paper.


The Magic Box, with the gang present: at once peaceful to Buffy, and a weight returning to her shoulders. The job of raising Dawn without her mom was hers again. The Hellmouth duty now resumed. The battle with Glory now resumed. At least this time they had a weapon, and hope.

The shop was homier than even the library had been, perhaps because Giles had stamped this place more firmly with his personality. Books and ritual daggers, statues to gods from many lands, candles and incense, red brick and feng shui crystals. And an inner sanctum, where one found the weapons and the secret life of the owner. The only place Buffy felt better in was Giles’ flat. That was an interesting thought, that Giles’ flat felt more comfortable than her own living room. Since her mom had died there, at least.

Buffy hugged Dawn, kissed her on the nearest cheek, generously ignoring the unsisterly grimace Dawn pulled, then plunked herself in a chair at the tarot table. Giles laid the leather pouch on the table, then the sword across it, carefully. Only Anya seemed uninterested. Even Tara, in whose hands one would likely never see a sword, leaned forward to look at it.

Willow had a book in her hand, on the swords made by al-Biruni of Damascus. She opened it to a page with a drawing of something that looked a lot like Giles’ sword. “Not in the typical style of the smiths of the area, commissioned by a Cornish adventurer and a famous one, Ryd of Carn Towan, also known as Ryd the Wanderer. Bastard sword, or a Scottish sword. Patterns on the blade, check. Tangs on the blade near the hilt, check. Blood gutter, ugh, check.”

“So we’ve definitely linked Ryd with the warrior of the Pueblo legend. Most interesting.”

“Maybe. Your sword is slightly different. The blade wasn’t black when al-Biruni forged it. And the gems here in the hilt are supposed to be some clear thing, not red.” Willow reached for the grip, and yanked her hand back with a yelp. “It bit me!”

“Pardon?”

Willow stuck her fingers under her arm. “Ow. Is the geas still on it?”

“I shouldn’t think so. It kept the sword pinned in place, in the bone, but I broke it when I removed the sword.”

“The bone disintegrated,” Buffy said.

“And you were able to touch it before. Could you try again?”

Buffy reached for the hilt confidently and lifted it. “Huh. Yeah. No problem.” She put it back down immediately. She looked at her opened palm.

“Is anything wrong?” Willow was still rubbing at her fingers.

“No, I just didn’t feel like holding it for long. It belongs to Giles, not to me. Impolite to be casual with it.” She’d had the oddest feeling it had been evaluating her, and had found her tolerable. Ridiculous.

“Interesting.” Giles sucked on the earpiece of his glasses.

“Giles, could the blade be turned black magically?”

“Oh, certainly. And the gems could also be colored. This is Ryd’s sword, Willow. There’s no doubt about that. I think we may assume that Anaoc sweated over his lover’s blade, layering on the enchantments.”

Giles’ hand rested on the hilt, and he bent forward to look at the damascened patterns. His eyes went unfocused. Buffy touched his arm, to draw his attention back—

Two men, in a high tower, open to the sky, the dark moon rising. Resins smoked in a brazier. Charged crystals lined the blade, still polished bright. They leaned together over the sword and kissed as their blood mingled on their clasped palms and dripped down onto the metal. With every drop, something awakened. The next ritual would involve more than this simple touch—

Buffy shook her head for a moment, but whatever it had been was gone.

“Pardon? Oh, yes, Willow, I think these are variations in the blade’s appearance we may accept as the work of sorcery. There are some non-invasive ways we can probe the enchantments. Let me show you a technique…”

Buffy rolled her eyes. That was it for coherent conversation from those two. She took Dawn home for dinner, and went out for a long and thorough patrol, and slept as the sky began to lighten.


Giles was dancing with the sword on the mats, barefoot, in loose trousers, moving in some stylized pattern Buffy didn’t recognize. She loved watching his footwork. Her Slayer gifts ensured she learned weapon skills quickly, but Giles’ many years of training still told. His handling of the blade seemed different than usual, to her eye. Buffy had spent so many hours sparring with Giles that she knew his style well. Ordinarily he was tight and economical. Today he was showier, almost pretty. Buffy watched and enjoyed, and contemplated what it might be like to duel with him. Probably he would kick her ass unless she could overpower him. Or outlast him.

He came to rest eventually. Sweat had darkened his t-shirt under the arms and down his chest. He fetched a towel from the pommel horse and came over to her, grinning.

“I’m a little out of practice,” he said, scrubbing at his face. “Must remedy that immediately. If I’m to be the one who kills Glory.”

“Yeah. Let’s do more one-on-one in training. Trying to keep up with the Slayer will get your ass in shape. So what was that you were doing? A kata?”

“Of sorts. The Council preserves a style of swordfighting long forgotten in Europe. Eastern styles are still real, still effective in battle. But Western styles have devolved into tournament fighting. Completely degenerate. Fencing instincts would be dangerous for you. Even the extant German style— Well. Suffice to say that the Council maintains its own school.”

“And that’s what you taught me.”

“Yes. You learned some tai chi somewhere. Angel?” She nodded. “Aikido also teaches a viable swordfighting style. But it’s not suitable for use with this sword. Two edges and a point for thrusting.” He gestured vaguely at the sword, which he’d laid on the mat below the pommel horse. “Dawn is?”

“Safely in the care of Janice’s mom overnight. They claim they’re studying for a biology test. I hope they at least get their homework done.” Buffy’s study parties with Willow had included actual studying, as well as giggling and nail-polishing and Slaying, but Janice was no Willow.

“Have you dinner plans? Let me just pop into the shower and we’ll go get something.”

Buffy wandered out to the now-darkened shop front to wait for Giles. Anya had finished her accounts and gone home, apparently. Buffy played with the tarot card sampler decks. Giles emerged from the training room about fifteen minutes later, carrying the sword on a baldric she’d seen him wearing before on patrols.

“You taking that with?”

“Don’t like to leave it. This place is too easily broken into.”

“Though I don’t think anybody else could pick it up. Not unless it wanted to be picked up.”

“Possibly not.”

In the parking lot of Fiesta del Sol, Giles dithered about what to do with the sword. He couldn’t just carry it into the restaurant. Or maybe he could; he started doing so when Buffy objected.

“Trunk,” she said, and he acquiesced. “God, Giles, you’re obsessed! Men and their toys.”

“I object to that characterization. Swords are not toys.” He held the restaurant door, and Buffy poked him as she slipped past.

Once seated in the booth, Giles fidgeted. He’d positioned himself where he could watch the car through the window. “I need to get a proper scabbard made. Something that fits it. Black, I think. It’s not the sort of sword one wears on one’s hip. Too long.”

“Black, huh?”

“Mm, with silver chasings. Perhaps picked out with red. To match.”

“Are you sure you’re not obsessing?”

Giles put down his menu. “What are you implying?”

“Hey, calm down. Just that you’re pretty worked up about your new magic thing.”

“Buffy, it’s not just a magic sword. It’s a legendary sword. Literally. Legends are told. I have been granted the privilege of wielding a legend. And I am going to use it to slay a hellgod. I think I have the right to want proper fittings for it.”

Put like that, Giles had a point. Buffy had to admit it. In the moments before she’d learned the sword was not for her, she’d had her own dreams about it. About how she would look spinning it over her head. Striding through a cemetery with it strapped to her back. It had called to her, in those moments. Now it had moved on from her to the man who’d broken the geas, but it still deserved to be shown off a little. Strutted with. Giles deserved to be seen as the hero he would be. She reached across the table and squeezed his hand.

“Yeah. Who you going to go to for it? The cobbler who does your boot mods?”

Giles’ shoulders relaxed. “No, I met another crafter recently. A woman who does some lovely jewelry as well. And I was thinking of teaching Willow some basic permanent enchantment skills. We could give the sheath some beneficial properties. Nothing like what the sword has on it. Lord! Anaoc was more powerful than the stories make him out to have been. I thought if anything they’d have exaggerated.”

The waitress appeared. Giles made as if to pick up his menu again, then didn’t bother. “Enchiladas nuevas, de queso. Y un Tesoro Añejo. Gracias. Buffy?”

“Uh, right, the chicken nachos, please. No sour cream. And a diet Coke.”

Their drinks came. Buffy stared at the glass the waitress put in front of Giles, which was definitely something that contained alcohol. She hadn’t seen him drink since that episode with Spike. No, wait, he’d had wine with her mom at Christmas, but otherwise… the single malt bottles had vanished from his house. She and Willow had been relieved.

Giles tasted his tequila, and looked pleased.

“Drinking again?” Buffy asked, with a complete lack of suave.

“Hmm? Oh. You, uh, mean… Not in my flat, and never alone. Not since. Well. I did learn my lesson.” His voice wasn’t biting, at least. If anything he sounded amused.

“You’d, uh, you’d tell me if you got that unhappy again, right?”

“Oh, my dearest silly Buffy. Yes, I’d tell you. I’m rather happy at the moment. Worries about you and Dawn aside.”

The busboy came by with a basket of chips and three stone bowls of salsa. Buffy had a chip. The salt tasted good. She had another, with some of the green salsa. It was spicier than it looked.

“Giles, are your parents alive?”

“No. My father died when I was a teenager. With his Slayer.”

Buffy made a little sound. That topic was off-limits by silent mutual agreement. “And your mom?”

“About a year before I came to Sunnydale. It wasn’t unexpected.” Giles blew out a breath. “We all go through it, Buffy. It hurts, but we muddle through.”

“Yeah. It’s not… it’s not fun. But I begin to see how it’ll be okay again. I just wish we could get this thing with the stupid hellgod out of the way. I feel like I can’t feel anything all the way through as long as this is hanging over me.”

“It, it does get easier, Buffy. You probably feel a little numb right now. It’s normal. I remember, uh, feeling that way. I— I’m here, to talk to. Any time.”

“Yeah. I know. And speaking of hellgods, let’s get back to business.” Talking tactics was, Buffy would admit, comforting.

“To business,” Giles said, and he lifted his glass and took a drink. There was spark of something in his eye that Buffy hadn’t seen there in a while. Humor, playfulness? The corners of his eyes were crinkled.

“So your sword packs a wallop?”

“To say the least. Willow and I were completely outclassed in attempting to understand its enchantments. We are fairly certain that it’s latent at the moment. Most of the magic is inactive. Some of it might trigger when needed, in battle. And some of it might need to be consciously invoked by me.”

“Do you know how?”

“No. For instance, the skill-stealing aspect. I have no idea how to use it.”

“Research?”

“Will only get us so far. We do have some of Anaoc’s writings to consult, but he wrote little directly about the sword. I suspect I’ll have to use it, become familiar with it. Perhaps take it out on patrol with you soon.”

“Kay.” Buffy drank some of her soda. Giles had another sip of his tequila. She could smell it from across the table. She leaned forward to sniff. He pushed the tumbler to her and smiled. She tasted it. Smoky and dark, biting and smooth at once. For a moment she saw the desert again.

Buffy sneezed. She handed the tequila back to Giles and made a face at him. His shoulders shook in a silent laugh, and he drank some more.

“Hey, isn’t it traditional to name magic swords?”

“Yes.”

“So?”

“I have an idea. But I’m not sure. Perhaps after fighting Glory I might know. I have the sense it’s waiting for something. It’ll tell me what its name is later.”

“You didn’t mean that literally.”

“Of course not.”

Their food arrived, and Buffy dug in.


Did other Slayers ever have to spend the day washing the kitchen floor? Buffy thought not. Other Slayers, she reminded herself, mostly did not see their twentieth birthdays, so even with the floor-mopping and the toilet scrubbing and the Lemon Pledge patrol, Buffy was ahead. She finished in plenty of time for her four o’clock training appointment with Giles.

The splotch of bright color behind the Magic Box counter was, for once, Giles and not Anya. Giles was not wearing a jacket, and his shirt was a deep green.

“New shirt?” Buffy fingered the silk. Silk?

“No, actually, was hanging in the back of the closet. Caught my eye this morning.” Giles shrugged. His body language, despite the shirt and the gold loop glinting in his ear, was self-effacing. His hands were in his pockets.

“It’s been good for business,” Anya said. “Women customers have spent more time in the store today. He’s decorative.”

Giles blushed, but Buffy noticed he didn’t deny it. “Well, Anya, you’ll have to do without my powers of attraction until closing. Okay, then?”

“Go train with Buffy. Improve our chances of averting apocalypse, please.”

Giles vanished behind one of the two screens in the back room, to change. Buffy was already in workout clothes. She took off the edge of her restless energy by doing a quick routine on the pommel horse, the kind that showed off Slayer balance and power. The sort of thing she’d been working on with Giles this year. When she came to a halt, she saw him standing and watching.

“Good,” he said, in his detached Watcher voice. “Smooth, controlled. This is the best form you’ve ever been in. Shall we?”

Buffy got out two of the weighted blunted broadswords they used for sword training. Hers was massy enough that she noticed it. Especially when Giles made her lunge and hold the lunge until the sweat dripped from her nose. She wondered if he’d want to work on muscle stuff today or technique. Probably technique plus endurance.

Giles took his practice sword from Buffy, then frowned. He put it back in the rack and stepped away from it. “No. I should get used to the weight and balance of my sword. Let me just…” He slipped a plastic sleeve over the blade. It was thick at the edges and point; it would prevent the worst injuries. He could still break bones with it. Though so could she. More easily, given the mass. This training was dangerous.

“Sorry,” he said, seemingly addressing the sword. “Don’t want to injure Buffy.”

They stretched first, with weapons in hand, and yes, Giles made her hold the lunge for longer than she wanted to. He was doing it alongside her, and grunting, which made Buffy feel better. It was always nice to have somebody suffering along with you. He didn’t wear them out, though. He had worse plans for them both: a long series of exercises. When they were finished with that, and only then, came the treat: sparring.

Pleasurable frustration, that was swordplay with Giles. Dueling with him was every bit as fun as Buffy had imagined it would be yesterday. He always seemed to know what she was about to do, and if he gave anything away to her, it was to mislead. Buffy fought with one part of her mind, and tried to learn with the other part. The Slayer-energy in her responded to the challenge, as fascinated by this as it had been bored by chemistry class. The Slayer-energy in her wanted to be that good, so that she could hunt vampires and take their heads.

Buffy laughed with what spare breath she had. Giles laughed back. He understood. He understood everything.

Finally Buffy got through and smacked him one, at the last moment remembering to pull off.

“Gotcha!” She let her blunt swordtip rest on the mats, and swiped at her forehead.

“You’re dead three times over, of course, from earlier touches.” Giles lifted the hem of his t-shirt and rubbed his face, exposing his flat stomach and a red mark across his ribs.

“Yeah, yeah.”

“I don’t think you’re fighting at full capacity.” He had two hands on his sword again.

“Giles, it’s training. I don’t want to kill you.”

“Glory will. And she won’t hold back.” And he attacked. No warning, no flicker in his eyes, no shift of his feet. Just his body and the sword in concert, coming at her.

Buffy blocked and sidestepped by instinct. Then she let slip her control. The previous sparring had been croquet at a garden party. This was rugby in the mud. Twice the speed. Full contact. Shoving. And Buffy couldn’t keep up. Giles kept finding ways past her guard. Only Slayer reflexes and speed saved her; her grasp of technique had vanished in the adrenaline rush. If this were real, she’d be in trouble. If he were a vampire, she’d be dead.

“Fight to win,” he snarled at her. How he found breath…

Buffy finally beat him down, through sheer strength. Brutal hacking, her blade flat against his and pressing back, and a foot hooked through his that made him stumble. Giles was driven to his knees.

“Pax! I yield!”

Sweat soaked Giles’ hair and shirt. His face was bright, his breath fast but slowing. Buffy knew she looked the same. But Giles somehow looked magnificent like that. Shirt clinging to his chest, broad shoulders, the smell of clean sweat, corded forearms laid along his thighs as he recovered himself. Buffy shook her head; that line of thinking would go nowhere. She grasped his arm to pull him up—

The two men from the tower, this time in hot daylight in a shadeless courtyard. The warrior was bare-chested, in rough trousers. He moved smoothly, dripping with sweat, a black sword held in both hands. The sorcerer laughed at him. “Only madmen go out in the heat of the day here,” he said, in the language of their homeland. “And only you would train in it. Come. I’ve conjured ice for you.”

Giles blinked. “Ice?” he said.

“Ice. Woah.”

An hour later they were in the kitchen at Revello Drive, showered and changed but still wigged. Buffy dumped the pasta into the boiling water and set a timer. Giles sat at the kitchen island, staring at a glass of ice water.

“I’ve conjured ice for you,” Giles said, softly. He drank his glass down. “How many times?” he asked again.

“I don’t know. A couple. I don’t actually remember them. It was more a sense that I’d seen those two guys before. In a tower? Maybe. If you hadn’t said anything, I probably would have forgotten this one, too.”

“I believe it’s happened to me much more often. It’s fascinating. I think we’ve been getting little pieces of the sword’s story. Things that have happened that touched it.”

Buffy got the sauce into a pan and heating, then sat at the stool across from Giles. “Aren’t you freaked?”

“Goodness, no. Visions sparked by artifacts are rather the rule, Buffy. The sword is attempting to establish a link with its new owner. Perhaps show me how to use it.”

“Why me too, then?”

“Not sure. Perhaps it knows you’re my, my Slayer. My pupil. If I were to fall, I’d want it to go to you.”

“Morbid. Anyway, I’m more likely to die first.”

“Yes, do let’s argue about that.” Giles rolled his shoulders, then winced.

“Injured?”

“Merely bruises. You caught me in the ribs.” He pressed a hand tentatively to his side.

“Sorry.”

“Don’t be. You were fighting the way I wanted to see you fight. Though next time I’ll wear protective gear.”

“Macho idiot. That was crazy and fun, Giles. Totally out of control. How come we’ve never done that before?”

“I’ve never needed to challenge myself before. That was as much for me as for you.” Giles examined the knuckles of his right hand, which apparently he’d barked. That last fight had been stupid. Nothing like any training she’d ever done with Giles, which was usually so purposeful and focused. Buffy couldn’t wait to do it again.

“So we spar like that until you learn to beat me?”

“I likely never will. You’ll always be the Slayer. But I’ll improve.” He sighed. “In many ways it would have been better if the sword had gone to you. I’ll be at a severe disadvantage facing Glory, with merely human strength and speed. Particularly if I cannot discover how to awaken it.”

“Seems like it’s plenty awake to me.”

Giles sat up straight on his stool, then winced. But he was obviously excited by whatever had just occurred to him. “No. It’s dreaming, Buffy. Those are its dreams we’re sharing. My goodness.”

“Your sword is dreaming?”

“Dreaming of its past, while it waits. I broke the geas, Buffy, but all that did was bind the sword to the bone. Now I must discover how to awaken it.”

The timer went off. “Eep!” Buffy spun to turn off the burner and drain the fettuccine before it turned to mush. Giles slipped off the stool to call Dawn down from her room. They ate dinner, the three of them at the table in the dining room, the way they had almost every night since Buffy’s mom had died. Dawn rambled on about what a piece of cake the biology test had been. Buffy teased her. Giles ate the food on his plate without seeming to notice it. He was somewhere else, somewhere in the archives in his Watcher-mind, probably running though everything he’d ever read about magical items that slept.

Giles stayed late that evening, to guard Dawn for a paranoid Buffy while she patrolled. The patrol was long and hard; the docks had an extra-big helping of newbies. Buffy didn’t get back until the night had nearly ended. She crept in through the front door, as quietly as she could. The lights were on in the living room, but she figured everybody had to be asleep.

Giles was sprawled on the couch, on his stomach, face turned out. The sword lay on the floor along the couch, bare. His glasses were askew on his face. Buffy put a hand over her face to contain a giggle. His left hand was curled into a loose fist at his neck. It twitched in his sleep. Giles said something, shifted, and clenched the fist briefly. Buffy slipped the glasses from his face, turned out the light, and left Giles and his sword to dream.