Xander hated waiting. He agreed with Kendra that they shouldn't leave for Crawford Street until Giles got home, but despite Kendra’s confidence in him, Xander held out little hope that Giles would be willing to join them in their rescue efforts.
They’d asked Clem if he wanted to be their getaway driver, on the off chance that Giles agreed to let them use his car. Clem considered it an honor to be asked, but he swiftly declined. He made it clear that he had no intentions of getting anywhere near Crawford Street, ever again. He wished them the best of luck, but he was a pacifist, and he was extremely squeamish; he’d probably faint at the first sign of blood. Besides, he didn’t deal well with pain.
They got the hint. Xander tried to hide his disappointment. He supposed it was a good thing that Clem understood his weaknesses. It was better than finding out the hard way when their getaway car was missing when they needed it, and they found Clem hiding under his bed.
He’d called himself a coward, but Xander disagreed. It had taken a lot of courage for a timid demon like Clem to show up on the Slayer’s doorstep the way he had. Xander had told him so, but although he’d thanked Xander for his kind words, Clem had assured them he held no delusions as to his own nature.
Tara retired to Kendra’s bedroom, meditating and chanting to prepare herself for the magic they’d need on their rescue. Kendra and Clem were on Kendra’s laptop, tracing down the sewer lines, in case their exit was cut off and they needed an alternate way out of the basement. The two laughed and joked as they worked, and Xander found it strange to think they’d only know each other a few short hours.
According to Puffy Spike, Dru had warded the entrance into the sewers, so that only members of the court could come in, although anyone could leave that way. They didn’t even post guards there, or at least there were none when Puffy had shown Clem the way out. Clem had marked the spot where he’d climbed out of the sewers, but it was too close to the mansion’s main doors for comfort. They were looking for a less obvious place to exit, just in case. They’d leave the car there, since it would be easy to spot anywhere too near the mansion.
Xander knew his constant pacing was annoying Kendra, but he really couldn’t help himself. After the fifth time he interrupted their search to ask her stupid questions, she set him down and gave him the task of sharpening the bladed weapons they’d be taking with them. He was relieved to have something to do, even if it was busywork. Giles and Kendra kept their weapons in good shape, they didn’t really need sharpening, but it kept Xander out of her hair while they worked and relieved her of the temptation of taking him out with a well aimed mouse to the temple.
Buddy had been sending Xander calming vibes all day, but his anxiety had continued to creep up on him as they waited. He was worried that he’d wind up in full-blown panic mode, aided by his out of control emotions. But you couldn’t pace while you sharpened swords. Well, he supposed you could, but Xander liked his fingers and toes right where they were so he didn’t intend to try it.
Once he’d sat for a while and settled down some, Buddy’s vibes finally made a big enough dent in his anxiety that he actually started to relax. It reminded him of how he felt while he was working out; when he focused on himself and the way he moved he developed a feeling of connection between his body and his mind. Only now the connection was with Buddy, and he soaked up the good vibes he was getting, letting them pour through him and revitalize his spirit. Then he sent that good energy back to Buddy again, creating a continuous loop of calm and buoyant strength.
He was sharpening a rather dangerous looking bowie knife; trying to imagine Kendra using that kind of a blade. For once, his imagination failed him. She’d picked the knife out to go into the weapons bag, though, so she must have had it in mind for someone. Xander was so lost in his thoughts that he jumped when the front door opened, and Giles came striding in. Luckily, Xander held onto the knife, but he decided it was time to put the sharp things away for now. He sheathed the bowie, and set it back in the weapons bag, just as Giles spoke.
Okay, that was more of a shout than was strictly necessary. Xander looked up to find a loaded crossbow pointed directly at him. He froze; Giles was a damned good shot, no matter how cracked his ribs were. Everyone’s emotions had been on edge for the last several days, and Xander had the strong feeling that Giles would pull the trigger if he found it necessary.
“Xander, get out of the way.”
Giles was using his Teacher’s Voice, which was totally unfair, ‘cause Xander graduated a year ago. Wasn’t there a law about that? There should be. Xander’s automatic first reaction to the power of Teacher Voice was to obey. But then his brain caught up with the rest of his body and reminded him that he’d never listened to his teachers in high school, and there was absolutely no reason for him to start now. Especially now that he knew that Giles’ crossbow was only accidentally aimed at him.
The problem was it was intentionally aimed at Clem, who was sitting directly behind Xander. So he totally disobeyed the Teacher Voice, and stood up, hopefully blocking even more of Clem from Giles’ line of sight. He tried to come up with a witty pun suitable for coming face to face with a loaded crossbow, but Kendra got there before him. Damn her Slayer speed.
“Giles, no!” Xander heard chairs scoot across the floor as Kendra and Clem stood up. “This is Clem, he’s here to help us.”
“Oh, hey. I’d be glad to leave, if that’s what you want, Mr. Giles, sir.”
Xander was impressed. Clem could grovel with a crossbow aimed at him. Xander hadn’t even found his voice, yet.
“You invited a demon into my home.”
Giles’ voice was low and kind of gravelly. Xander flinched. He knew that voice. That was the voice Giles used on Xander when he’d fallen asleep on Oz watch, or spilt nacho cheese on one of Giles’ first edition, only copy in captivity kind of books. That was not Giles’ happy voice.
Ouch. Xander cringed. Kendra had an unhappy voice, too.
“You’ve told me time and again that this was my home, as well. Have you changed your mind?”
“Of course not.” Giles looked surprised that she would even think that. It didn’t soften his angry voice, though. “That does not change the fact that you have invited a demon into our home.”
“Oh, hey. I’m not sure there was any real inviting going on.” Clem jumped in, obviously trying to defray the tension. “I kind of just walked right on in.”
Xander turned his back on Giles, despite the crossbow. He was ninety-nine percent certain that Giles wouldn’t see Xander as a target as long as he wasn’t endangering Giles’ Slayer, and he really needed to find a way to shut Clem up, because his helping was not helping.
“I could have stopped you if I’d wanted to,” Kendra told him.
“No argument there.” Clem’s head bobbed his agreement. “You are the Slayer, after all.”
She gently pushed Clem back, until he sat down in his chair, again. “That’s right. I am the Slayer.” She walked around Clem and the desk to face Giles and his crossbow. “You’re going to have to trust my judgment.”
Giles didn’t look happy about that, but he lowered the crossbow. “I do trust you.” He glanced behind her, his eyes darkening, “It’s the demons in our midst that I’m concerned with. Are you certain that you can trust them? After all, anyone can be misled.”
She smiled sweetly at Giles. “That’s true. But that’s not the case, this time”
Xander would have thought that no one could resist that smile, but half an hour later, he was ready to leave them all behind, and go rescue Spike on his own. Kendra and Giles had been back and forth a dozen times. Tara had given Giles her disappointed look just as often, and how he could face the disappointed look without even flinching, Xander would never understand. They were really killing his Buddy-induced buzz. If they didn’t leave soon, he was going to lose all his good vibes. Finally he channeled his inner drill sergeant and started doing some shouting of his own.
“Everybody shut up!” Everyone in the room turned to look at him. He was surprised that it actually worked, but he didn’t give them any chance to start up again. He had a proclamation to make. “I’m leaving in ten minutes. If you want to come along, get your stuff together, because we’re headed out.”
Giles took a deep breath and Xander could see his arguments forming, so he kept talking. “And if you’re in my way I’m going to bowl you over, so don’t cross me. I have a friend to rescue, ‘cause I know he’d do the same for me.” He stomped right past Giles on his way to the kitchen for one last bottle of water. His mouth was dry, but then it always was before a big fight. He reminded himself to go to the bathroom as soon as it was empty, ‘cause there was nothing worse than needing to pee when you were trying to be stealthy.
“It’s no big shame, you know.”
Was that Clem? He’d thought Clem had left fifteen minutes ago. Xander turned around, wondering who he was talking to. He was pretty sure that Kendra and Tara had headed for the back as soon as he’d made his announcement, and after all the shouting, he was surprised that Clem had the guts to actually say anything to Giles. He hadn’t exactly been all pro-demon tonight, now had he? There Clem was, standing right next to Giles, with an understanding look on his droopy face.
“What?” Giles looked pretty surprised that Clem was talking to him, too.
“Being afraid. There’s nothing wrong with it. Sometimes it’s the only thing that keeps you alive.”
“I am not afraid,” Giles argued.
Ohhh, pretty defensive there, G-Man. Xander leaned back against the sink and watched the entertainment.
“Sure you are, but then so are Xander, Kendra and Tara. So was I when I was there. It’s a scary place, with lots of mean demons. I'm just saying that everyone has their limits, and you’re better off if you recognize yours.
"Take me for instance: I wouldn’t be of any use if I went - I swing a sword like a girl, and I don’t mean a Slayer. Besides, I don’t deal well with danger; I’d freeze and get somebody killed, or break out in a rash. They’re better off without me.”
“This has nothing to do with my bravery. I, I, I simply refuse to be a part of this – this travesty. Slayers do not rescue vampires, that’s all there is to it.”
Clem shrugged. “Like I said, it’s no shame.”
Giles turned away and started up the stairs. He didn’t stomp, he had cracked ribs to consider, but Xander could tell by the set of his shoulders that he wasn’t happy with Clem’s words. He stopped halfway up the steps and announced: “I am not a coward.”
Clem smiled and nodded. “Of course not.”
Giles leveled the look of doom at him, and usually that could stop a person from fifty feet away, but Clem kept smiling at him, and eventually Giles gave up with an exasperated huff, and continued up the stairs to his loft.
Xander couldn't help but grin. It was hard to get in the last word when the person you were trying to argue with kept agreeing with you. He finished his water, and headed out to the weapons chest for one last look. He didn’t want to leave anything important behind.
“Xander.” Giles’ voice called him from the top of the stairs.
Xander didn’t bother turning around. “Yeah, G-Man, what’s up?”
The automatic sigh made him laugh. Oh, yes. He was Xandercles the Mighty, the bane of Watchers in two different dimensions! He was so busy congratulating himself on his status that he missed what Giles said.
“Huh?” Xander looked up at Giles, who was obviously annoyed by Xander’s inability to stay focused on one thing for more than a few seconds.
“I said, please be sure to include the crossbow bolts.”
“But we aren’t taking the crossbows.”
“Yes, well, I might be of no use in a direct confrontation with my cracked ribs, however I’ll need a weapon if I’m to drive the ‘getaway vehicle,’ now won’t I?”
He didn’t acknowledge Xander’s huge grin, turning away as he continued. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to change my clothes. I seem to remember someone announcing that we had only ten minutes to be ready to leave.”
Xander didn’t expect an answer, he wasn’t even sure Giles heard him, but as he reached into the chest for the bolts, he heard Giles’ soft reply.