A Day At The Hellmouth
written by Malnpudl

Rating: FRT
Spoilers: No spoilers indicated.
Summary: It's just another day.
Thanks: Special thanks to LostGirl who helped me get past early panic and see how I could turn an unfocused fragment into a coherent story, and to Ruth and Pat for beta duty; this is a better fic for your input.
Author's Notes: Written for the Abandon Ship! Giles genficathon, for Jesmel.
Feedback Author: Malnpudl
Author's LJ: Passing For Normal

The soft "thwap" was followed by the sound of toppling books knocking into each other and then hitting the floor. Giles stuck his head out of his office and saw Xander on his knees surrounded by several dozen scattered books, his arse in the air as he pawed under a bookcase in search of something Giles couldn't see.

"Xander, what *are* you doing?"

Xander looked up and threw him a sheepish grin, holding a small, misshapen ball up for inspection. "Sorry. My hackysack made a daring escape attempt, but I've foiled its evil plan." He tucked the thing in his pocket and started gathering the fallen books and shoving them back onto the bookshelf at random.

Giles winced. "Just stack them, please, Xander. I'll re-shelve them properly later. Now do you suppose you might get back to your research? Or would you rather play with your toy a while longer? It's not as though we have an apocalypse to avert, after all."

Xander shrugged and grinned again, apparently oblivious to sarcasm. "Sure."

Giles slipped off his glasses, tossed them on the library table and rubbed at the back of his neck. His head hurt, his left thigh ached fiercely where Buffy had nailed him earlier that afternoon during their workout he'd had an instant of scrotum-tightening fear when she'd failed to pull her kick and very nearly caught him full in the groin and he was beginning to wonder whether his right wrist was sprained, after all.

He glanced at his watch for the third time in half an hour. Buffy still wasn't back from patrol. He knew he shouldn't worry; it'd been a long time since she'd needed supervision on patrol, so it shouldn't matter that he wasn't with her and Wyndam-Pryce, that pompous, arrogant twit, was.

The research wouldn't finish itself. Giles turned to check on the others.

Willow stood behind Oz's chair, her arms wrapped around his slight body, nuzzling him and muffling a soft giggle against his neck. He sat in front of her laptop, his hands unmoving on the keyboard, his serene Buddha smile belied by his flushed cheeks and unfocused gaze.

The computer's cursor blinked stubbornly, stupidly, ignored by its unheeding owner, and as Giles looked at it he suddenly missed Jenny so terribly that it almost stole his breath. It wasn't just what they might've meant to each other; it was having another competent adult with whom to share responsibility for saving the world.

He closed his eyes for a moment and drew in a deep breath, then let it out slowly. "Willow," he said, "what have you turned up?"

Willow looked up at him, managing to appear both abashed and self-satisfied at the same time. "Well, actually, um, see..."

An odd metallic clatter distracted him. The doors opened and Buffy strode into the library, a metal helm in one hand and an unwieldy suit of armor slung awkwardly over her shoulder, clanking with each step she took. Wesley followed closely behind her, all but treading on her heels, a sheathed sword clutched in one hand.

"Hey, Buff," Xander said. "Don't tell me you slew Sir Lancelot."

"Buffy, what on earth " Giles began.

"No clue," she interrupted. "Found it lying next to a couple of dead smelly, oozy, demony things in the park. Icky-somethings."

"Ichthyoids of some sort," Wesley interjected. "I'm not familiar with the species."

"Whatever," Buffy said, and tossed the helm to Xander who fumbled it before finally fielding it.

He tucked it under one arm and pumped a fist in the air. "Caught by Harris for a seventy-yard touchdown! And the crowd goes wild!"

"Xander, do sit down," Giles said.

"Demon fish?" said Oz.

"Er, not fish, precisely, but fishlike, yes." Giles reached to take off his glasses, then realized he wasn't wearing them and rubbed at his forehead instead. His headache, a nagging presence since he'd awakened that morning, was exacerbated by the raucous clatter when Buffy casually dropped the suit of armor on the library floor.

Wesley busied himself with straightening the suit of armor, the rattle of metal against metal ringing painfully in Giles' ears.

Giles located his glasses on the library table and attacked them with his handkerchief in lieu of kicking the suit of armor into scrap metal, and returned his attention to the puzzle at hand. "Whatever would aquatic demons have been doing in the park?"

Xander poked his head into the helm; it settled on his shoulders, listing a bit to one side. He swung his head around and peered at Giles. The visor dropped with a loud clang.

Giles frowned. "Xander, will you please stop playing with the armor and assist Willow and Oz with research."

Xander flipped the visor up, revealing a foolish grin that made him look closer to twelve than eighteen. He shrugged and the visor clanged down again. He lifted it again. "Oops," he said, and took a seat at the research table across from Oz, who slid him a book.

"Outside of a dog," Xander said, "a book is man's best friend." He bent his head to read, and the visor clanged down yet again.

"Inside of a dog," Oz said, "it's too dark to read."

Giles shot them both a look.

Xander lifted the helm off his head and set it on the table. "What?" he said to Giles. "You didn't think we knew the classics?"

The library doors burst open and Cordelia dashed in with a clatter of high heels, shrieking, "Vampires!" She tripped over the suit of armor and went sprawling. "Lots and lots of vampires!"

"Mr. Giles," Wesley shouted, and Giles spun around just in time to spot the sheathed sword sailing toward him and snatch it out of the air.

The next moments were a blur, quick glimpses through the flash of the rapier slicing through air and vampire flesh, through the cloudy haze of vampire dust.

Cordelia in the book cage, passing out weapons to the others. Buffy a whirlwind of flying leaps and kicks and thrusting stakes. Xander taunting vampires and setting himself up as bait; Oz calmly and methodically aiming the crossbow and making every bolt count. Willow standing atop the library table, slamming the helm down on the head of a snarling vampire, startling it into immobility long enough for Wesley to drive a stake home.

Seeing the others holding their own, Giles took on the two biggest vampires and held them at bay with his sword. He heard a snarl behind him break off into a choked gasp and a cloud of dust drifted past his head, and then Buffy was at his back, holding off still another vampire with fists and feet.

"Remember what we were practicing this afternoon?" he called.

"Yep!" she said. "Go for it."

He waited for the right moment, dropped his guard just enough to tempt his opponent. "Now!" Trusting Buffy to duck on cue, Giles swung the rapier in a powerful arc, cleanly decapitating first one vampire and then the other two as he made a full circle with the blade.

He whipped his head around, looking for another opponent, but saw only his exhausted companions, dusty and disheveled and panting for breath.

He gazed at each of them in turn Oz with a predator's quiet intensity, lips slightly parted and nostrils flared, his cheeks still flushed, but no longer with arousal; Xander, bent over with his hands on his thighs, breathing hard and looking sober and serious and every inch a young man; Cordelia, adjusting her clothing and smoothing her hair, already wrapping her poise and dignity around her again like armor; Willow, looking slightly dazed as she picked up scattered chairs and set them back in their proper places; Buffy, matter-of-fact as she gathered the weapons and returned them to the book cage; and even Wyndam-Pryce managed to look unaccustomedly competent and self-possessed and suddenly Giles was so deeply and immensely proud of them all that it was all he could do to remember to breathe.

He tugged the handkerchief from his pocket and swiped it quickly over his glasses before settling them back on his face.

"Good," he said, not quite meeting any of their eyes. "Good job. Well done. All of you." He turned away and bent to pick up some fallen books. "Now, then, if we might get back to the research at hand."