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Chaos continued

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“I take it all back” Ethan says, stretching out luxuriously on the sand. “Staying in California was a wonderful idea.”

“Yes, I thought so.” Giles is sitting up beside him on the beach, glasses on, focused on his writing.

Ethan rolls over onto his stomach. “Now, if only we could extend our stay…” A hand makes its way up Giles’ thigh. Giles sighs and sets his notes aside, then gently detaches the hand. “Ethan, you were the one who didn’t even want to come here!” This place is a compromise: Ethan had wanted to go to Tijuana for a week. Instead they’re spending a long weekend staying with Stephen in the quiet Californian costal town he moved to soon after graduation, a town that Ethan had initially been rather dismissive about. Of course, get him on the beach in the sunshine and Ethan turns into the proverbial putty.

Picking up his notes again, Giles tries to ignore the soft, derisive huff his lover makes.

Ethan rolls onto his back again, and shields his eyes with one hand as he looks up at Giles’ papers. “That’d better not be a training schedule, love.”

“I’m almost done.” Giles crosses out some time set aside for demonology and replaces it with mixed martial arts. Better for Buffy to have practical knowledge than another class to skip. Faith, on the other hand, once she’s back, might do well to learn the worst demons are capable of, to keep her from being seduced again. He scribbles a note on her schedule, which is currently far sparser than Buffy’s. No word yet on when she’ll be back, after all.

“Rupert, we’re on holiday! Put it down!”

“This is important, love. I want Buffy to receive as much training as possible over summer, and then being at college should afford her more time than when she was at school. This is a chance to really prepare for the next threat.” He frowns, considering the practical implications of more hand to hand training. No library means such training will take place at the flat, which means more privacy but also less space. Still, Giles intends to make the best of it, especially given that college will change patrolling. The campus is further out the town centre than Buffy’s home, allowing the vampires more opportunity to take cover before she reaches the cemeteries and jump out at her once she does. Not to mention, any vampires living nearer the campus themselves won’t be able to rely on the opportunist tactics of those in the more populous downtown area: they may even employ the complex con-artistry of the rural vampire, luring victims in whilst avoiding any attention to themselves. That or not killing at all: Much as it pains Giles to expose Buffy to that sort of thing, it might be time to make her aware of the bite-house, just do give her a more detailed understanding of the habits of the undead.  “Ethan, how do you feel about an excursion to the vamp house once we’re back?”

“Why? You feeling the need to spice things up?”

“Thank you, but I’ve quite outgrown near-death experiences. No, I was wondering if Buffy should see the place.”

Ethan laughs. “Ah, yes, I’ll just go up to a gang of vampire and say, “Just giving the slayer a tour of the establishment, don’t mind us” and then they can kill me, Buffy can dust them and carry my corpse home and you can start organising the funeral.”

“Ah. Yes, well, I suppose I’ll just tell her about it instead.” Giles writes another note.

“Rupert, how about you put that down? We’re on a beach in California – blue sky, blue sea, white sand and all you can think about is the bloody undead!”

“I’m just doing my job.”

“We’re on holiday! No-one’s supposed to do their job on holiday!”

“If I write this now, Buffy can start her training the day we get back.”

“But we only have three days! Gods, I’d have gone away with Oz and Xander if I’d known you’d be this dull all summer!”

Giles shakes his head: the postcards Xander has dutifully sent from each state the two young men have reached so far might make their trip seem fun but, “You’d rather spend hours on end in Oz’s van listening to Xander talk?”

“Well” says Ethan, “when you put it like that…it still sounds more fun than watching you plan a training schedule. Put it down.”

“I’m almost finis – oi!” Giles snatches at the pages Ethan has unceremoniously plucked from his hand. Before he can grab them, Ethan is up and sprinting towards the sea. “Ethan Rayne, don’t you bloody dare!”

It's too late: Ethan is in, and chuckling gleefully as he submerges first the pages and then his himself. Cursing, Giles follows. “That’s three hours work, you bastard!” Only as the water hits his knees does he realise that – unlike Ethan – he’s still fully clothed. Coming up for air, Ethan grins and presses close, getting him soaked anyway. Giles tries unsuccessfully to shake him off. “Ethan, you sodding git! Now I’m going to have to write it all over again! You realise that was completely counterproductive to me spending more time with y –” He’s cut off by a kiss. Suddenly the new training schedule doesn’t seem so terribly pressing.

*****

The Strolak demon who always comes in for virgin saliva after the shop closes to humans looks so miserable that Ethan risks asking, “Something wrong?”

The Strolak blinks at him. “’S’not for unbloods to question” it says easily, the standard reply to a being of another species prying into a clan matter.

“Ah, I see.” Ethan sets out the vials on his counter. “That’ll be Thirty-seven dollars.”

“Price’s gone up” the Strolak complains.

Ethan shrugs. “My source moved away.” He takes the money, waiting patiently as the demon counts it out, its clawed fingers clumsily rooting through a leather pouch. Human currency is unfamiliar to most demons but Ethan insists on it, unless they really have an alternative of value to offer. No damn kittens for a start; he’s not running an animal sanctuary here.

“My clan-chief” The Strolak grunts as it hands over fistfuls of small change. “Got taken by those bastard soldiers.”

“Sorry to hear it” Ethan counts through the cash and opens the till.

The demon nods the glum nod of someone confiding it a near-stranger for the sake of simple unloading. It adds, “Now the whole clan’s fighting over should we rescue him or give someone else a go.” It shrugs its massive shoulders. “Me, I say let someone else take the chiefship. Guy was a first-class bastard but we can’t go losing any more.”

Ethan frowns. This isn’t the first time this summer he’s been listening to a demon complain about a military presence, but this Strolak is as massive and mystically powerful as any of its brethren.

Then again, so was its chief.

“I’m sure you could take them” Ethan replies, carefully wording it as a statement of faith in the Strolak rather than a question as to whether they’re a match for a bunch of humans. But the Strolak just shrugs again. “I dunno. They took a Ghora last week. Don’t want to go messing with those things and they just snapped it up. Shit’s getting real.”

Ethan nods and packs up the vials in silence.

Honestly, he’s starting to wonder if he ought to tell Buffy about all this. If some idiot soldiers have decided the magical world’s ripe for invasion, it won’t lead anywhere good. On the other hand, the soldiers are human so there’s not much Buffy will be able to do.

No, Ethan decides, this doesn’t quite seem like slayer territory. He’ll wait and see what happens.