Thanks to Jennifer for
beta reading this
Giles gave a tentative poke at the charred objects in front of him and managed to frown and sigh simultaneously. His guests were due in fifteen minutes and it looked as if he was going to have to start from scratch if he was to have any food to offer them.
Maybe he should have splashed out on the gas barbecue instead of going for the British feel of charcoal, well moistened with lighter fuel. In California there was less need for such drastic measures to get the fire started. During these hot nights there was no denying that it would be pleasant to cook and not swelter over a hot stove with the smell of his meal lingering for hours.
Scooping the former sausages up with the tongs he took them into the kitchen to dispose of them before Xander saw them first. As he began to search the fridge for more meat to burn, there was a knock at the door. Damn! Out of time! Wondering how what had started as a graceful way of returning the hospitality he had had at Buffy's house over the months since Joyce died had ended up an expensive embarrassment, he pulled open the door with his best welcoming smile firmly in place.
As he stared at his visitor, it faded, to be replaced by a mixture of surprise and shock. He never got the chance to put his feelings into words as intense pain rendered him both speechless and, a second later, unconscious.
"Thish ish delicious, Giles" said Buffy, her desire to compliment the obviously ill at ease Giles overcoming her manners and honesty. "You have hidden depths."
"I do?" Giles replied, a little warily.
"Certainly do, G-Man!"
Xander seconded heartily. "Never thought I'd
get offered anything but tea and cookies and here you are serving up,
steak? Yes, steak. My favourite!"
Giles moved uneasily on his wicker chair. "Glad you like it," he said, fingering a long metal skewer that had held an assortment of raw vegetables ten minutes earlier and now ran through the centre of blackened lumps of crispy, yet mushy items. With some difficulty, he scraped them off and placed them next to a raw looking burger and a stale bun.
"I know what this needs," he said, matching Xander for insincere enthusiasm. "Some tomato ketchup!"
Standing up, still holding the skewer, he walked behind Buffy to get to the tray of condiments on the table behind her.
Xander, taking a long swig of beer to wash down the mouthful of gristle he'd been gamely chewing for what seemed like forever, watched him idly, wondering when Anya would come back. She had taken one horrified look at the food and had offered to go out to get "more chips and dips". Heavy chips obviously, as Willow, Tara and Dawn had instantly volunteered to help. Hah! They were probably stuffing their faces at the nearest...Whoa!
As he watched in horror, Giles whirled round and thrust the skewer downward at Buffy's unprotected back, his face a mask of murderous rage.
Xander felt as if he was moving through jello; his legs wouldn't let him stand, his throat was closed and would not let him scream a warning.
It wasn't needed. Calmly, Buffy launched herself sideways, hit the floor, rolled and stood in a fluid series of moves. Grabbing a skewer of her own, this one straight from the coals and red hot, she turned and threw it straight at her host. It penetrated his left eye and his howl of pain seemed to go on and on, until Buffy mercifully ended it by a swift snap kick to the head that broke his neck. As 'Giles' slumped to the floor, his body began to lose shape until it was a formless pink goo that melted away into the ground.
"What, who..." Xander stammered in shock. "Buffy -"
"No time!" she snapped. "We have to find Giles!"
It didn't take long. He was bound hand and foot, gagged and pushed into a closet in the spare room. When Buffy found him, he was slowly regaining consciousness. He refused all of Buffy's pleas that he go to the hospital and settled down on his sofa with a restorative single malt in his hand.
"So, spill, Giles," said Xander. "You opened the door, thinking it was us..."
"And saw a stranger whose face changed as I watched until I was looking at myself. Most odd. I must have been stunned when the creature touched me; some sort of natural taser effect."
"Why did it keep you alive?" said Buffy curiously. "And what did it want?"
"If it's the demon I think, it can only assume the form of another living thing. Doubtless after it had completed its mission - which, I'm sorry to say, seems to have been a simple attack on the Slayer - it would have finished me off."
"One thing I don't get though, Buffy," said Xander. "You were moving as soon it tried to stab you from behind and you killed it without even trying to talk to it. How did you know? That seriously creeped me out, seeing you and Giles going for each other like that."
"Was it your Slayer sense, Buffy?" asked Giles curious as well.
Buffy smiled at them both and stood to open the door as the four wimps returned from foraging. "Nope," she said, "Or not entirely. The demon said it needed tomato ketchup.."
Buffy sighed patiently. "When did Giles ever say, 'toemaytoe'?" she asked.
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