Chapter 15 – A Moonlit Stroll
Chapter 15 – A Moonlit Stroll
Monday, March 8, 1999, Evening
After walking out of the hospital, Faith positions herself between Jack and Daniel, grabbing each by an arm. She looks between the two men. “Now this is what I’m talking about. Much better,” she smiles at them with a predatory gleam. They glance at each other over her head, surprised and a bit uncomfortable.
Willow walks up to them, grabs Faith and pulls her away. “Faith, you’re scaring the nice men. We’ve talked about that. Remember?”
“But they’re muffins,” Faith defends.
“‘Muffins’?” Jack and Daniel simultaneously ask.
Nonchalantly, Buffy explains, “That just means she thinks your edible.”
“That was figurative, yes?” Giles asks with a frown.
“Yes,” Buffy says with a smile. “She has no plans of actually eating them.”
“Right. Of course,” he responds with an embarrassed chuckle.
“Sometimes I worry about you, Giles.”
“To be fair, I was thinking of takin’ a nibble…or two,” Faith smirks before walking off with Willow in tow.
“She was kidding, right?” asks Jack.
Buffy and Oz exchange a look. “Not really, no,” answers Oz as he shakes his head.
Jack and Daniel look at each other again and shudder slightly before following the others down the street.
Buffy, Faith, Willow and Oz are walking along the streets of Sunnydale chatting and laughing back and forth, while Jack, Daniel and Giles walk behind them. Giles has a small smile on his face as he watches the interaction among the teenagers.
“They’re a unique bunch, aren’t they?” says Daniel.
“Yes, quite,” Giles responds affectionately.
“They seem very close. And they obviously hold you in high regard,” Daniel continues.
Giles faces them saying, “I realize we’ve gotten off on the wrong foot here. The stress of the last few days has been, well, stressful…on all of us. I assure you I have only their bests interests at heart. I wouldn’t do anything to hurt ANY of them, nor would I allow them to be hurt if at all avoidable.”
They stop walking and Jack studies Giles closely. “I think…you believe that. I’m just not sure I do. Look, I don’t want to fight with you but MY concern is Xander, period.” Jack sighs. “Maybe it’s a difference on how we define ‘avoidable.’ You want me to trust you? Fine, tell me what’s going on here.”
“I assure you, Colonel, what you think is going on isn’t going on. I take no pleasure in Xander’s suffering. In truth, I would take it as my own if I could. But, I cannot.”
“These kids look up to you. They’ll do anything for you. That much is clear,” Jack says.
“Yes, they are extremely loyal,” Giles concedes. “But, they are not as innocent as they may first appear.” Jack’s about to question him on that, when Giles holds up a hand stopping him and continues, “By that, I mean that they will not just blindly follow me or anyone else for that matter. As you have glimpsed earlier, these children are bright and intelligent. They question everything until they’ve reach a proper answer.”
“Well those do seem hard to come by around here,” says Jack.
“Jack,” Daniel begins but its interrupted by Faith.
“Are you guys comin’ or what?”
The three men silently walk toward the teenagers.
As the seven people turn a corner, Buffy looks around with a frown. “Didn’t we already walk down this street?” she asks. The others look around also, realizing they had in fact gone down this block.
Buffy turns to Jack and Daniel. “Okay, what gives? Are you lost? Why don’t men ever ask for directions?”
“What are you talking about?” Jack asks. “How can WE be lost? We’re following you.”
“Nooo. We’re walking you home and since we don’t know where your staying, we’re following you,” Buffy responds.
“You were following us by walking in front of us?” Daniel asks, his eyebrows raised.
The teens all look at each other suddenly realizing the flaw in their logic. Faith laughs, “So, the last forty-five minutes we’ve just been walking in circles?!”
“Apparently,” answers Jack though not as amused.
“So, where ARE you staying?” asks Willow.
“Miss Emily’s Bed and Breakfast,” says Daniel.
“Miss Emily’s is on the other side of town!” cries Buffy equally not as amused. “Why didn’t you say something!”
“Actually, we thought we were walking you home and since we don’t know where any of you live…” Daniel tapered off.
“Well, at least it’s a nice night for a stroll,” says Oz.
The group is walking pass a cemetary with eerie mausoleums and tombstones. “How many does that make now?” Jack asks Daniel, who just shrugs and shakes his head.
They walk on for a few more minutes, when Faith and Buffy suddenly stop and look sharply to their right, their eyes scanning the cemetary. After a few seconds, they glance at each other and begin to cautiously move forward again.
“What’s wrong?” asks Daniel.
“Wrong? Nothing’s wrong. What makes you think something’s wrong?” Willow asks. “So, an archeologist - that must be exciting! You must travel a lot. Do you travel a lot? Where have you been?” she asks desperately trying to distract them.
Jack completely ignores her her as he’s scanning the surrounding area. Something’s up. These people have suddenly gone on high alert. He’s seen it too many times not to recognize the signs. His hand subtlely reaches for the gun he has tucked in the back of his jeans. Daniel also ignores Willow as he looks around, too. The past three years have raised his awareness as well.
Stepping in front of Jack, Willow tries again. “So, what does it take to be a colonel? I mean what are the requirements? I’m interested. You know, ‘an army of one’ except your Air Force so is it an ‘air force of one’? No, you guys probably have your own slogan. What’s your slogan?” she babbles.
“It’s okay,” Buffy says. She and Faith are once again relaxed.
“What just happened?” Jack demands.
Buffy turns to him. “Cat.”
“Cat,” Jack echoes back.
“I saw a cat…out of the corner of my eye. Faith, you saw it, right?” she says looking to Faith to back her up.
Faith does so. “Yeah, a cat. A big cat; could’ve been a dog. Didn’t really get a good look at it.”
Jack looks at Willow and Oz, who are both nodding their heads in agreement. He then turns to Giles with a meaningful look. “Did you see a cat, too?” he asks pointedly.
Damn! This is just what they didn’t need. “No, Colonel, I didn’t.”
“But you must have!” Buffy insists forcefully.
“Well, it was really fast. You must have just missed it, Giles,” says Willow, silently pleading with him to agree.
Giles looks back at Jack, who’s practically boring a hole in Giles’ head he’s staring at him so intently. “Yes, I’m sure I just missed it.”
“Right.” Jack stares at Giles with a steely gaze devoid of all warmth.
Giles silently curses to himself as he realizes any hope of Col. O’Neill trusting any of them is now well and truly gone. He turns to Daniel hoping he can perhaps find an ally there only to see him sporting a similar though slightly less hostile look.