Welp, feelin' a bit better about my general layout and plan for this story. I suspect it's going to continue past the end of August, which ought to make some of you lot happy. Now that I'm not working with that particular thought in mind, I figure I can do this up properly.-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-
Since the incident with Angelus, Giles had asked Cameron if she could adjust her schedule for her other missions in order to assist Buffy during her late evening patrols. After a brief calculation, she concluded that she could safely accommodate both missions. She simply moved some of her evening activities to early mornings. It was fortunate that she didn't sleep.
As promised, Giles arranged a comprehensive explanation separating literature and popular mythological theories regarding vampires, versus the physical facts. Buffy was present, as was Xander. According to Giles, his presence was required to 'translate from Buffy to English'. She wasn't quite clear on how Buffy's command of the English language differed from anyone else's, apart from her non-standard turns of phrase and addition of unnecessary suffixes.
"So, my conjecture regarding fire, sunlight, wood through the heart and decapitation was correct. However, garlic will only repel when combined with a religious ceremony, running water has no effect, and holy water will burn but requires total immersion to inflict sufficient damage for a confirmed termination. Is this correct?" Cameron asked.
"Those are the essentials, yes," Giles agreed.
"And debilitating injury to a human is an inconvenience of varying degree to a vampire, depending on the location and severity?"
"Yep. You pretty much have to beat them all the way to stupid and halfway into oblivion before they'll admit they have a scratch." Buffy nodded in confirmation.
Cameron was fairly certain she could deduce the context of that statement, but she still looked to Xander for confirmation.
"They can take a lot of damage before they're unable to fight or run away." Xander rolled his eyes at Buffy. "You're doing this on purpose.
"It's, y'know, a test! To see if she can figure out the context from slang," Buffy protested.
"That would be colloquialism, actually. Slang implies that someone other than you uses those phrases," Giles corrected dryly.
"I think we call those, 'Buffy-isms'," Xander added.
"Oh yeah? What about Xander-isms?" Buffy snorted. "You're just as bad as me, y'know!"
"Yeah, but I try to avoid me-isms when I'm explaining something to Cameron!" he retorted.
Now it was Buffy's turn to roll her eyes. "What about the time you were explaining about Halloween, and told the poor girl that you 'went all Schwarzenegger'?"
"Hey, I never said I was always successful! I just don't go out of my way to-"
"Yes, fascinating though this is, perhaps we could finish providing the fundamentals of vampire abilities for Cameron," Giles interrupted as he returned his attention to Cameron. "Any questions thusfar?"
Cameron nodded. "I don't understand why you restrict yourself to archaic weapon usage."
Giles nodded as if he'd anticipated the question. "Firearms and more modern devices of warfare have the unfortunate side-effect of attracting the attention of local law enforcement."
"If it's the noise that's the primary risk factor, why not use silencers and other sound dampening attachments?" she asked.
"Because all too often, these battles take place within populated areas. The Slayer is instinctively capable of using any weapon that can be held in her hands, but even Slayers make mistakes. I believe the firearms schools have a rule that dictates, 'be aware of your target and the area behind it', or something to that effect. In an urban setting, that's infinitely more difficult." Giles settled into a chair, removing his glasses. He seemed oddly cheerful to Cameron. Perhaps he was happy to have something to do that distracted his thoughts from Jenny.
"I never hit anyone that I don't intend to," Cameron stated.
"But do you always hit your target?"
Cameron responded immediately. "No. Targets are capable of dodging small-arms fire, even from me."
"And a vampire is more capable of doing so. All it would take is one bullet hole in someone's window to result in a call to the police." Giles rested his elbows on the back of the chair he was seated upon.
"I understand. When we have a mission, once the target is engaged, we ignore opposition that is insufficient to delay that mission." Cameron nodded.
"Do you mean to say that you walk through any human opposition, friend or foe?" Giles' eyes narrowed.
"Yes." She knew that response would not be well received.
"Well, I'm afraid that's not an option here. Not only are we attempting to remove the vampires as we're able, but we also must take care not to reveal the existence of the supernatural to those that aren't already aware of it. Humanity simply isn't ready to cope with that knowledge." Giles expression was understanding, while clearly demonstrating that he meant what he said.
"I understand." Cameron paused before offering an alternative. "May I keep one silenced sidearm as a backup when helping patrol the graveyards? Even vampires cannot run if their knee joints have been shattered."
"Ouch." Xander rubbed his own knees in sympathy.
"We'll have to discuss this in more detail before I'd be comfortable with that idea." Giles removed his glasses and peered intently at Cameron. "You see, my job is as much about preserving the secrecy of the Slayer and the supernatural as it is to train the Slayer. While swords, stakes and bows aren't inconspicuous weapons, they don't garner nearly the attention of a firearm. Do you understand?"
"Yes. We will have our discussion before I add any firearms to my arsenal." That she carried in public. Cameron was never without at least one semi-automatic pistol.
"Thank you." Giles gave her a tired smile. "Please understand, I'm not disparaging your marksmanship or ability to maintain security. But when vampires are involved, modern contrivances have a way of backfiring on the humans using them."
"I understand. You don't have to worry about offending me, Giles. I have no ego to bruise."
"For which I simultaneously envy and pity you."
Buffy suddenly leaned forward and placed her hand on Cameron's wrist. "All joking aside, I really appreciate your helping out. Since Angel decided to do a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde-"
"She means, since he changed," Xander murmured.
"-she knew what I meant!" Buffy sniffled through an apparently stuffed nose, cleared her throat and continued. "Since he changed, vampires have been working overtime. I'll really appreciate the backup."
Cameron nodded. "You're welcome. Also, your body temperature is three degrees above normal."
Buffy looked startled. "Wait, what?"
"You have a fever," Cameron explained.
"No, I can't be sick. I never get sick. I have too much to do." Buffy jerked her hand back.
"Cameron, how do you know that Buffy's temperature is elevated?" Giles interrupted.
"I am able to analyze someone's physical condition through tactile contact. Body temperature, heart rate, perspiration levels," Cameron explained.
"Remarkable. Buffy, are you sure you're feeling well?" Giles looked at Buffy intently.
"Yes! I mean, I've been feeling warm all day, but I figured it was getting to be about time for another visit from Aunt Flo." Buffy abruptly appeared to regret her choice of phrasing as her facial capillaries released blood into her cheeks.
Cameron looked at Xander again and he shook his head. "I got nothin'."
Giles coughed, appearing uncomfortable. "She's referring to her menstrual cycle."
Cameron didn't understand why he abruptly decided his glasses required cleaning. "The average female only experiences temperature increases of a degree or so. Three degrees is indicative of a fever, possibly due to a virus or influenza."
Buffy was about to say something when Giles interrupted. "Influenza is the clinical term for the flu, Buffy."
"I move we ignore the queasy-making girly stuff and get Buffy home so she can get some mom-medicine or make a doctor's appointment," Xander interjected.
"Seconded," Giles agreed emphatically. "Buffy, you should rest. If you don't feel better by morning, please speak with your mother and schedule an appointment with your physician."
"Buffy, the Slayer is highly resistant to disease, but not immune. You can't afford to patrol if you're coming down with something." Giles gave her a stern look. "I'll accompany Cameron tonight so she knows what to look for. In the meantime, you make sure to take care of yourself. Other students have been coming down ill, and it's got many of them confined to bed or even hospitalized."
"And the last thing you need to be doing is trying to go out and slay when you're Typhoid Buffy," Xander added.
Buffy began a vigorous protest, but was talked down by Giles and Xander. Cameron decided that this was within her directive to protect humans. Though she may have super-human abilities, the word 'human' was still in that phrase. She elected to avoid mentioning to Xander that Buffy's condition was not indicative of typhoid, assuming that he was employing hyperbole. Cameron waited patiently until they could turn Buffy over to the care of her maternal parent. She found herself curious to learn how she would be able to handle solitary patrol.-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-
Cameron had a new facet of human behavior to add to her ever-increasing store of knowledge. Buffy was sufficiently stubborn to try and continue patrolling after she'd been asked not to endanger her health. This resulted in a confrontation with Angel when Cameron had been elsewhere, and Buffy was now remanded to the care of the local hospital.
Reasoning that since Angel was aware of Buffy's infirmity, he may attempt to acquire her as a target while she was convalescing, Cameron divided her time between covering Buffy's patrols and watching the hospital. Xander also had this idea and was on watch inside the building. Cameron had extracted a promise that he'd page her if anything happened that could potentially endanger Buffy.
After a successful patrol during which she'd eliminated two newly risen vampires and one that Cameron suspected was in the employ of Angelus, Cameron returned to the hospital for her turn at watch there, so Xander could go home and get some sleep.
When Cameron arrived on the floor that Buffy's hospital room was assigned, she discovered Angelus facing off against Xander. There were other humans around, which may be why there wasn't currently a fight in progress.
Cameron approached Angelus from behind while Xander was outlining the various humans that Angelus would have to dispose of in order to obtain access to Buffy's hospital room. He ended his observation with a challenge to Angelus to try and begin an altercation. Cameron noted the unexpected development that Angelus seemed to be starting to back down from the challenge.
She concluded that Xander, while he had more than enough courage, was not physically prepared for the rigorous physical effort that subduing or killing Angelus would require. Cameron decided she should make her presence known.
"You can fight me. I will not be harmed by the hospital staff," Cameron offered.
Angelus spun around, startled. He glared at Cameron, then at Xander, before he shoved a fistful of decorative flora against Xander's chest and demanded, "Tell Buffy I stopped by." He then departed.
Cameron was calculating whether or not she could catch him alone and render his potential threat non-existent when Xander exhaled convulsively. "Your timing really doesn't suck," he breathed, dropping the flowers onto the table beside his chair.
"Your hands are shaking," Cameron noted. "You're experiencing the aftermath of your body's production of adrenaline."
"Unavoidable side effect of being scared out of my mind." He was still trying to maintain his facade of bravery, his hands fidgeting with his shirt buttons.
Cameron studied him for a few moments and determined that he was trying to avoid admitting that he required assistance in calming down. She elected to circumvent the difficulty by ignoring it and stepped closer to Xander, wrapping her arms carefully around his shoulders.
"You did the only thing you could do. You made him stop and reconsider attempting to harm Buffy. It was very brave," Cameron murmured into his ear.
"Funny how 'brave' seems to involve shaking like a leaf." Xander seemed disgruntled with his body's natural reaction.
Cameron leaned back so she could look at him. "My programmer often said that only those that are unintelligent or people suffering from psychosis can claim that they are never afraid. Bravery is doing what needs to be done, despite your fear. I repeat: You were very brave." To emphasize her point, Cameron arched her neck, rose on the balls of her feet and kissed Xander.
After a few moments, she withdrew again and Xander exhaled loudly. "Thanks, Cam." He finally relented and returned her embrace. His body still trembled with the after-effects that overproduction of adrenaline caused, but he did not seem as upset about it. Cameron judged this to be a successful conversation.