Reading shouldn't fill a room with activity and sound. Of course, normal people don't read like Buffy, Xander and Willow.
"I never thought I'd say this, but this one is almost... cute," Xander said, squinting at the book in front of him. Chatter ensued as Willow and Buffy got up to crowd behind Xander and look over his shoulder.
Buffy focused on the dangers listed under the picture of the so-called 'cute' demon. "Six inch claws, snake-like hollow teeth which inject venom – no distance weapons."
Willow continued her thought. "It's definitely carnivorous, so it probably uses it's cuteness to attract prey."
"I assume you found a picture of a Vicnorite demon? Looks kind of like a big cat, but with small wings at the shoulder and a stubby, fluffy tail? Willow is exactly right. Its preferred prey was young females, human of course. It purrs, and when the girls walk up to pet it, it bites, injecting paralyzing venom. Then it can eat at its leisure." Giles kept flipping pages as he described the feeding habits of the demon.
Xander looked at Giles in horror and disgust. "It definitely has lost its cuteness."
"Fortunately, we aren't looking for a suspiciously attractive demon," Giles rebuked. "We're looking for the decidedly unattractive demon Buffy spotted last night."
Willow and Buffy sighed, but seated themselves once more, flipping page after page in hopes of finding the enormous scaly eel-like thing Buffy claimed to have seen swimming just off shore. The search had been going on for several hours now, book after book scanned and discarded, and Giles was trying to figure out a gentle way to suggest that she may have let the dark, the ocean fog and her own fatigue get the better of her.
"Found it!" Buffy crowed triumphantly. "Not imagining things," she muttered under her breath. Apparently, Giles hadn't kept his skepticism as hidden as he'd thought. "It's called a Thelma. I wonder if it has a friend named Louise?"
Willow slid the book away from Buffy. "I think it's pronounced Thalemia, Buffy." She kept reading, concern obvious in the way she chewed at her lip. When she failed to say any more, Giles cleared his throat to get her attention.
"If I may?"
"Sorry, Giles." Willow blushed and passed the book over.
"What? A demon the G-man doesn't recognize instantly? I'm disappointed, Giles, truly disappointed." Xander could always be counted on to fill the silence.
"Yes, indeed, I'm sure my lack cause you great distress," Giles said distractedly. He was also caught up in the description of the demon. "Are you entirely certain this is what you saw, Buffy?" She looked mutinous and he hurried to reassure her. "It's not that I don't believe you, but this type of demon isn't typically found off the coast of California. In fact, it's never been spotted here. It's indigenous to the Sea of Japan and even there has been seen so rarely it was recently assumed to be extinct."
"I'm sure of it, Giles. At first, all I could see was the shape in the water, moving against the waves. But then it reared up out of the water and did a Loch Ness type thing, and I got a really good look. Its head was exactly this shape, and its neck was long enough that it stuck about five feet out of the water."
"Five feet of neck? Man, it must be like an enormous, scaly giraffe! How are we supposed to kill a sea giraffe?" Xander worried.
"Oh! If it's like Loch Ness, we might not even have to worry about it? Nessie's never been suspected of hurting anyone, right Giles?" Willow looked hopefully at Giles.
"Unfortunately, a Thalemia demon has very little in common with Nessie, Willow, were Nessie not a myth."
"Way to ruin my fantasies of proving her existence, Giles."
Ignoring her, Giles explained what they were facing. "A Thalemia demon is predominately a sea creature, yes. For most of its life it survives by hunting fish in the ocean. But it is also amphibious. Every 150 years, it slithers on land and feasts on human flesh, usually the entirety of a small Japanese fishing village. It then lays its eggs in the ruined town. The eggs hatch 25 years later, just long enough for the village to be repopulated. The offspring slither towards the ocean, eating everything and everyone in their path. Fortunately, the numbers of Thalemia demons has always remained small, or they would devastate the entire coast of Japan."
"And now there's one that wants to devastate the coast of California. How do I kill it, Giles?" Buffy asked.
"It may just be passing through, Buffy," Giles warned. "I'll need to confirm when its last known attack was."
"It seemed awfully close to land and awfully interested in Sunnydale to be just passing through," Buffy argued. "I definitely got an 'up-to-no-good' vibe off it."
"I'll have more information tomorrow, Buffy. For now, the only thing we can do to prepare is get a good night's sleep."
Giles rubbed his eyes and settled his glasses back in place. Both exhaustion and worry were taking their toll – there wasn't a single part of his body that didn't feel... wrong. His muscles groaned from tension and being in one position too long; his face felt greasy and unwashed. His eyes were gritty and burning, while his stomach screamed from the lack of food and the plethora of coffee.
He expected Buffy to turn up in a few minutes, demanding answers. He had some for her; but the only thing worse than not knowing the method of slaying was knowing the impossibility of carrying out that method.
He'd just managed to settle his stomach with a little tea and toast when Buffy's enthusiastic knocking sounded. She bounded through the unlocked door with only that warning; he'd tried to get her to wait until he answered it, but mere good manners were not about to slow down the Slayer.
"You were right, Giles. One good night's sleep, and it's like the world is fresh and new. So what have you got for me?" She finally paused long enough to take in Giles's dishevelled appearance. "Wow. You look..." His sharp look cut her off. "Were you up all night researching?"
"Yes, thank you for noticing. I'm glad you slept well."
"Sarcastic Giles. Never a good sign. How bad is it?"
Giles sighed. "Bad. Bad enough that I don't know how you're going to manage it. I don't suppose you are SCUBA certified, are you?" Buffy looked at Giles incredulously. He sighed again. "I was afraid of that."
He slipped into lecture mode to explain his findings. "While the Council has no idea why it would be off the coast of California instead of Japan..."
Buffy interrupted. "Actually, Willow had an idea about that last night." Off his look, she said, "yes, we do talk about slaying while you aren't around to keep us on topic. We just talk about clothes and boys too. Anyway. Willow wondered if it might have something to do with Nina. You know, like the wind and water in the Pacific. Willow explained it last night and it seemed to make sense."
"El Nina is particularly strong this year. And with the additional climate changes due to global warming and the thinning of the ozone layer, there's no telling what effect that would have had on the Thalemia's usual food sources and habitat. I must pass that on to the Council," Giles mused, making notes. Buffy's eye rolling brought him back on topic again, however.
"As I was saying. The Council has been able to confirm that the last known Thalemia attack was around 150 years ago, so it is most likely searching for an appropiate place to feed and nest. While Sunnydale is a larger town that the usual Japanese fishing village, it is by no means the largest town ever attacked and is on a par, population-wise with the most recent attacks."
"So it's here to kill us all. Big surprise."
"In addition," Giles continued as if the interruption had never occurred, "the Council was able to estimate the size of the creature based on your description. It's a rough guess, but they suspect it's in the range of seven meters – 23 feet in Imperial."
"Whoa." Buffy's eyes were wide. "How the heck am I supposed to kill that?"
"It gets worse. The scales harden to a completely impenetrable shell when dry; even bullets won't pierce it. It's only vulnerable when it's wet, and it dries quite quickly. Really, the best chance to destroy it is when it's still submerged. However, it is highly manoeuvrable in the water."
"Is there any good news, Giles?"
"Once it approaches shore, it is completely fixated on its goal. We have a brief window of opportunity when it's swimming towards shore but not yet dry."
"So I get in the water, and wait until it heads for shore. Any particular place I should hit it?"
"Its most vulnerable point is its neck. It's quite slim, and can be severed with some concentrated effort. The other thing to do would be to puncture its gills."
"How deep in the water do I need to get? Like, am I going to need SCUBA gear?"
Giles stared at Buffy, a strange light brightening his eyes. "Buffy, what's your sign?"
"I don't like this plan," Willow said, wringing her hands as she stood on the beach. "We should be there with you, Giles. If nothing else, Buffy should be."
"I'm with Will, Giles. This is a bad plan. What if something happens to you?" Buffy gripped her long sword tightly, a look of worry on her face.
"None of you are qualified to do this. Besides, all I'm doing is distracting it while Buffy decapitates it." Giles was actually excited about his plan. It was a bit of simple magic that he'd never performed or seen performed, but had heard it was very successful. The opportunity to see the world from a different perspective invigorated him. He wouldn't admit it, but even if Buffy were a water sign, he'd still do the magic himself.
Giles swallowed his potion and waded into the water. Far out to sea, the dark shadow of the Thalemia started to move towards shore. Suppressing a grin, he ducked underwater, revelling in the feeling of oxygen passing through his skin. It only took a few moments for the dark shape of the demon to speed past him. Kicking his flippered feet, he grabbed the tail as it passed by. The wedge shaped head whipped around, trying to see what had attached itself to him. Giles hung on for dear life as the tail flailed, ducking and weaving to avoid the sharp teeth. The thrashing didn't last for long – soon the shallows were filled with dark blood, black in the moonlight.
Giles rose to the surface to see Buffy scanning the waves anxiously. "Well done, Buffy!" he shouted cheerfully.
"Are you coming to get dried off?" she hollered back.
"It'll take a couple of hours for this to wear off. After all, as a Pisces, I've already got a bit of fish in me!"