Chapter 4 pt. 4
"Are we there yet?"
Rupert Giles sighed and shook his head in exasperation as Erin's tired voice whined out the age-old question *again*. "Not yet Erin," he managed not to snap at her, but only barely. He was greatly relieved that he'd chosen to fly into LAX and rent a car there; the mere thought of being cooped up in a care alone with Erin for longer that the two-hour drive to Sunnydale made his flesh crawl. Giles reminded himself to have a chat with Buffy for abandoning him to a long road trip with just a three-year old for company, no matter how much he loved the child.
"I want Mommy," was Erin's unsatisfied response to Giles' statement, and Giles glanced in the rear view mirror to check on the little girl. To his horror, Giles noted that the girl's lower lip was starting to stick out in her version of Buffy's killer pout. Giles was vastly relieved that the little girl didn't yet have the experience to use the expression to the same deadly affect that Buffy employed. He was reminded again why he was content in his role of grandfather; as a parental figure he was supposed to reign in Buffy's excesses, but as a grandparent he could spoil Erin and leave the consequences to Buffy.
"Erin, please," the Watcher sighed. "We'll see your mother in just a few more minutes," Giles tensed a bit as he recognized the bluff behind Angel's mansion in the near distance. He did not have fond memories of the place. The three times he'd been there he'd been tortured, searching for his missing Slayer, and standing a death watch for a former friend and enemy. Giles fought to push those memories away and relax as he turned down the drive, determined not to have Erin's first glimpse of her new home colored by his past.
Moments later Giles pulled up in front of the mansion, surprised by the sight of two vans in the driveway. One he recognized as Buffy's rental, but the other was a surprise; he hadn't thought Buffy would be ready to let people know she was back yet. The Watcher was wondering if he should turn the car around and take Erin straight to the hotel when he heard Erin unbuckle her seat belt and scramble for the car door. She managed to get it unlocked before Giles could recover from his shock, and he rushed to open his own door before she could escape the safety of the car.
"Erin!" he exclaimed, racing around to her door. "What do you think you're doing?!" Giles demanded, eyeing the nearby woods with trepidation. "You know the rules about going out in the dark." The Watcher held the little girl's hand firmly as he reached in and grabbed his bag of slaying equipment from the front seat.
"But, Poppy, I gotta go!" whined the girl as she shifted uncomfortably.
Giles's response was preempted by a rumbling growl from the shadows in the trees. He pressed a large cross into the girl's hands, pushing her back towards the car. Giles pulled out a stake and cross for himself, trying to force calm assurance into his voice as Erin clutched at his hand desperately. "Erin, lock the doors and don't open them except for me or Mommy. Honk the horn as loud as you can," he said, shoving Erin back into the car and slamming the door behind her just as three vampires rushed them.
Giles sighed with relief when he heard the thunk of the doors locking, silently thanking car manufacturers for automatic door locks as he readied himself to attack. The horn started sounding, startling all four figures, but since Giles had been expecting it he recovered first. He quickly staked one of the vampires and stepped away from the car as he eyed the other two warily. The last thing he wanted was to get pinned against the car with no escape.
The vampires, though initially surprised when their companion turned to dust, recovered quickly. They approached more cautiously, aware that their intended meal appeared to be more of a challenge than originally anticipated. Still, they outnumbered him two to one, three to one as another companion emerged from the shadows, so they moved to attack. Giles was in excellent condition thanks to his constant training with Buffy, but he was still a Watcher on the far side of 40 and not the Slayer. He managed to keep the two of them from causing serious damage, but that was all he was accomplishing when the front door burst open and Buffy came barreling out, crossbow in hand.
Recognizing the dangerous glint in her eye as that of a lioness protecting her cub, and familiar with Buffy's instincts, Giles dropped to the ground immediately. Seconds later one of the undead monsters was dust in the wind and two more figures had emerged from the safety of the house. Rupert pushed aside his delight over seeing two more of his 'children' in favor of concern for his granddaughter's safety.
Seeing that Buffy had the two remaining vampires well in hand and that Oz and Willow both had super soakers trained on the shadows, Giles knocked on the car door and motioned Erin forward. The little girl fumbled for a minute before managing to unlock the door, tears of fear staining her rosy cheeks. The sound of the door opening distracted one of the vamps enough that Buffy could stake it, so Giles waved to Willow and Oz, indicating Erin with a nod of his head. Realizing his intentions, Willow nodded in return and leaned her water gun against the wall and pulled a crucifix out of her pocket, taking a few measured steps forward, careful to stay within range of Oz's water gun. Giles pointed at Willow and the open door, telling Erin to "run!" just as two more vampires joined the fray.
Buffy staked the last one confronting her and moved to put herself between the new attackers and her daughter. Giles moved to help her as a third rushed out of the shadows towards Willow and Erin, only to be driven back by the spray of Holy Water Oz sent in his direction. Deterred, the third vampire joined the battle while Willow rushed Erin to safety and Oz took several more steps away from the door, spraying all five combatants with the water in his and then Willow's gun. Distracted and in pain, the three vampires quickly fell under the combined attack of Slayer and Watcher.
Giles breathed a sigh of relief as the last vampire turned to dust, then braced himself as he turned to Buffy. As expected, the Slayer's eyes snapped with anger and fear. Very early on, at his own insistence, Giles and Buffy had set up hard and fast rules concerning Erin being outside after dark. One of those rules was that there would be two adults present at all times; one to concentrate on the rambunctious child, and one to concentrate on outside threats. Giles had taken Erin out alone at night, and while they'd been perfectly safe while in a moving vehicle, Erin had been vulnerable the moment the car stopped. Giles should have called Buffy on his cell phone the moment he arrived in Sunnydale, and had forgotten to do so. The Watcher flinched inwardly; sure he would be lucky to survive the coming explosion.
Buffy stared at him stiffly; he could tell all her other senses were on full alert as her head cocked to one side as she listened for further movement. Consumed with trying to formulate what was sure to be an inadequate explanation, Rupert was startled when Oz approached and Buffy spoke. Though braced for a tirade, his Slayer's words were directed to their friendly werewolf. "Oz, I think the few that are left are far enough away for now. Help Giles grab a few bags and get back to the house. You and Willow are welcome to stay, or I can escort you to the van when you're ready to leave. I think we're OK for a couple of trips from the car, and I did bring the bedding down from San Francisco, even thought there aren't any beds yet."
Giles took Buffy's unspoken reprieve, and grabbed his and Erin's overnight cases, as well as the small box of Erin's favorite toys. He waited with Buffy as Oz grabbed what looked like a backpack and two sleeping bags from his van before they headed for the haven of the mansion under Buffy's watchful eye. Once inside, Giles took the crossbow Oz handed him and covered Buffy as she locked everything down and doused the cars with Holy Water to act as a deterrent. The Slayer looked longingly at the shadows, and Giles could tell that she ached to finish off the remaining vampires, but she returned to the mansion and the confrontations awaiting both of them.
Giles turned to the living room as Buffy entered, watching as Erin pulled away from where Willow was trying to comfort her to throw her arms around her mother's knees. Willow watched in shock as Buffy easily soothed the sobbing girl, opening her mouth to ask the questions burning in her eyes, but Oz quietly slipped an arm around the Witch's shoulder, a nearly imperceptible shake of his head silencing her. "Bad mans all gone?" Erin cried, clinging tightly to Buffy.
"Yes, they're all gone Sweetheart," Buffy assured her, gently wiping the tears from Erin's frightened eyes. Erin started crying quietly, her body relaxing to the point that she lost what little control the tree year old could claim. A slightly acidic odor and renewed sobs from Erin brought Giles's attention back to the pair crouched together on the floor. He was abruptly reminded why Erin had nearly bolted out into the darkness in the first place and sighed resignedly as he realized the excitement and fear had caught up with the child in an unfortunate manner.
Giles could tell when Erin realized what had happened. Her big brown eyes widened in horror, and she started sobbing again, huddling in on herself in embarrassed shame. Erin was a picture of abject misery as she hid her face against Buffy's leg, crying, "I sorry! I sorry Mama!"
Buffy carefully crouched beside Erin and cuddled her close, running a soothing hand through the tumbled brown curls, ignoring the startled expression on Willow's face. Giles noted absently that Oz didn't seem as surprised as Willow, but it was that part of his brain trained to notice unusual things; his conscious mind was concentrating on his 'family.' Giles sighed gratefully when Erin's sobs started to slow, though she still kept her face hidden against her mother. "It's okay little one," he could finally hear Buffy murmuring quietly over Erin's sobs. "It's okay. Let's go get you cleaned up and into bed."
When Buffy glanced around, Giles handed her Erin's bag and nodded towards the staircase. While Buffy carried her miserable child upstairs for a bath and clean clothes, Giles moved to clean the mess on the floor, only to be forestalled by Oz. "I'll clean it up; I know where Buffy put the cleaning supplies. You start talking. Since Will and I are staying here tonight, we've got all night."