Author's Notes: Written for Summer_of_Giles. See Pt. 1 for full notes in header. Antennapedia is a Goddess. Without her this would be a tragic heap of format fripplitude.
To Giles’s relief, he found a large packet of geimacha tea in the top cupboard, still fresh in its original wrapper and not older than a few months. One of his favorite book dealers lived in San Francisco’s Japantown, and always included some little gift with his orders: tea or sumi brushes, ink blocks, and once a sheaf of the most beautiful handmade papers included with a graphically illustrated manuscript on a Sri Lankan demon cult that collected testicles from every known sentient species.
Giles almost poured boiling water over the leaves before remembering that green tea needed cooler brewing temperatures. He pulled out his kitchen thermometer and added cool water until he got the desired 180 degrees. The tea smelled very different than his usual Assam or Keemun brews. Toasted rice kernels added a pleasant, if peculiar, undertone to the fresh botanical scent of the green leaves. He poured it into the warmed pot and found a bowl to serve it in, hoping to make the offering as familiar as possible to their visitor.
When he return to the lounge, Giles found Buffy sitting with the Tengu’s left hand in her lap. Carefully, she filed and shaped the two damaged talons with tools from the nail kit in her duffle bag. Slaying kept her from having nails as long as she’d like, but she did keep her hands well groomed in spite of that. Giles settled on the floor opposite her, watching her confident strokes of the file remove the shattered areas and smooth the elegant black claws into a truncated form of their natural shape. Fortunately they had not broken to the quick, which would have added a small but piercing agony to his already significant inventory of damage.
Giles poured out the geimacha into the bowl and looked up to find the Tengu awake, watching Buffy from hooded eyes in which smoldering anger was rapidly giving way to bafflement at the spectacle of this petite person carefully restoring the dignity of his only working hand. His nostrils flared when the scent of the tea reached them, and Giles bowed slowly, offering the bowl.
“Konbanwa, o-sensei,” he said softly, keeping his eyes respectfully down. The Tengu’s piercing gaze locked onto on him, taking in his size, Anglo features, and the scarred, powerful hands that held the steaming tea. Buffy looked up, saw their patient was awake, and immediately took her cue from Giles to bow, although she could not echo his greeting. They waited patiently for their guest to respond if he could. He looked back and forth between them, then finally spoke in a strained, soft voice
“Domo arigatou gozaimashita.” He had to catch his breath afterwards, the binding on his ribs making speech difficult.
“Dou itashimashite,” Giles answered, realizing he had nearly exhausted his arsenal of Japanese courtesies and had no idea where to go from here. Instead, he gestured to the bowl, and offered an arm to help the Tengu sit up enough to sip. Buffy paralleled his movements perfectly, and the Tengu nodded agreement, allowing them to brace him while he drank, his long fingers completely enclosing the small bowl. The tea soothed him immediately, and he relaxed into their supportive arms. Giles took the bowl and refilled it, and the Tengu drained it each time until the pot was empty. Giles gestured toward the kitchen to indicate that he could bring more. The Tengu shook his head and patted the pallet, asking them to lay him back down. Even through the glaze of pain and desolation in his eyes, he managed a small but genuine smile for them both, and his tidied hand squeezed Buffy’s tiny one in gratitude before he drifted off, this time into true sleep.
Giles quickly gathered up the tea things, and Buffy followed suit with her manicure supplies. Together they draped another blanket over their guest, then settled side by side on the couch to keep vigil.
“That was a brilliant idea, tending his broken talons,” Giles said quietly. Buffy’s hands twisted in her lap, dismissing the complement.
“He’s lost his son, been assaulted for no reason by my country’s finest, and I feel,” she paused, her brow darkening in anger, “I feel ashamed.” She looked up at Giles and said
“We aren’t on the same side anymore. What the Initiative is doing is just wrong.”
“Well, it’s certainly indiscriminate, and that makes it ethically questionable, yes.”
“They attack anyone who sets off their alarms by being different. Being different isn’t the same as being evil, or even dangerous. Hell, I’m ‘dangerous’, but there are, y’know rules about who I’m supposed to kill.”
Giles caught her eyes and studied her for a very long moment. She held his gaze, the Slayer’s fire shifting within the hazel, its burn more focused then it had ever been. My Slayer is growing into a paladin, he thought, the weapon with a maturing mind behind it.
“They’ve got their own set of rules, as you say. You just stated the most basic one: different is dangerous. What’s another one?”
Buffy thought about that for a moment, her eyes flicking to the still form before them. She cocked and eyebrow, then got up and went over to her neatly folded, damaged clothes and pulled the small notebook out the back pocket of her jeans. Folding herself up closer to him, she opened to tonight’s page and held it so they could look at her small notations together. At one point she flipped back two or three pages and recounted something. Then she handed the book to him as usual, so he could enter the observations in his own record.
“God, Giles, could they be killing all of these people? I mean the animal ones maybe, like Polgara, the predators. And certainly the vamps. But the Braachen? And those others, the sss-ones –“
“—yeah, the ones that carry little satchels of eggs, or whatever they are.”
“They are eggs. Their young.”
“What, like they’re taking the kids out for some fresh air and moonlight?”
“Not at all. I have a theory about it, but I want to hear the rest of your thoughts on this first.”
“Well, worst case scenario, the Initiative is killing all these people. But that isn’t what I’ve actually seen. What I see is them using tasers, nets, whatever – in fact, they seem to go out of their way to use non-lethal methods. They don’t even stake the vamps. But once they’ve got the ‘em down, they pack these demons up and haul ‘em away. And I never see them again.” She considered this for some time. “It’s damn difficult to catch a Polgara. And dangerous. They nearly lost a guy last time they took one. Why risk that if all you’re gonna do is off ‘em?”
“How many specimens could they possibly need for that, though? They’ve taken way more than enough if that’s what they’re doing. So that’s got to be another rule: bring ‘em back alive. We just have no clue why, or even if they’re keeping their prisoners alive once they get them back to their base. Which must, by the way, be freakin’ huge to hold everyone they’ve got by now.”
“True. Anything else?”
Buffy considered this, then gave him a sideways glance.
“You’re making me do the Sun-sue thing with this, aren’t you?”
“Sun Tzu, yes. The Art of War.”
“Know the enemy. Right.” She sighed and closed her hand over his for a moment. “Are they really ‘the enemy’? I mean, this is the Army. Okay, a very weird little branch of it with extremely bizarre toys and a mission that makes no sense whatever as far as we can see, but, the enemy? Giles, that’s scary.”
“Because they’ve got so much power, very big guns, and we have no clue what they are actually doing or why. And, after tonight,” she nodded toward the sleeping Tengu, “I don’t think they really have a clue, either. Innocent people – really important innocent people, are getting hurt and maybe killed.”
“All innocents are important, Buffy,” Giles said very gently. She sighed and looked down at the notebook in his hand.
“Yeah, I get that. So this goes from ‘scary’ to ‘horrible’.”
“Indeed. Come see what I’ve been doing with the information you’ve been bringing me.” He stood and led her over to the desk, pulled out the chair for her and then leaned over her where she sat staring at his meticulous tabulations. Giles let her study it for a moment while he added tics in the appropriate columns for the numbers she’d brought him this evening, and then made a notation in a different section: the date, the astonishing appearance of two Tengu in Sunnydale, the known status of the one across the room, and the unknown status of the other.
“Wow. When you lay it all out like this...Giles, are these families? I mean, you’ve got things divided here by species, and then under each heading by sex and age. And it looks like families.”
“Yes, it certainly does.”
“Is there a prophecy that the Sunnydale Hellmouth will be The Vacation Destination this year, bring the wife and kids?”
“No. I don’t think they are trying to get to Sunnydale at all, actually, at least not to stay. I think they are trying to get from one place to another and Sunnydale is just a stop on the way.”
“Why would they do that?”
“That, my dear, is what I am trying so hard to figure out. You can see that the pattern is extremely clear, but the reason? Well, I have my theory, but I want to know what you think first.”
“Me? Since when have I been analysis girl?”
“Since you started earning the right to be so,” he said, squeezing her shoulder reassuringly.
“Oh. Silly me. How did I let that happen?” she mumbled, sending an elbow back to poke her Watcher lightly in the tummy. He snorted affectionately in her ear.
“You look at that for a few minutes while I go make us some tea.”
“And toast. The Thinking Slayer needs toast.”
“As far as I can tell, the Conscious Slayer needs toast,” Giles murmured fondly as he wandered toward the kitchen.
“Damn straight. Secret Slayer energy source. Don’t tell the Council or they’ll cut off my supply.”
“They won’t hear it from me,” Giles said, flipping on the kettle and rummaging in the cupboard for bread, plates, and the key ingredient, blood orange marmalade.
Some time later, Giles bore a laden tray of steaming tea and golden buttered toast back into the living room and set it on the end table near Buffy, who had returned to kneel beside their silent guest. She touched his hand lightly, then lifted the blanket a bit to touch his feet, and finally laid the inside of her wrist against his forehead before rocking back on her heels.
“He’s staying warm now, but doesn’t seem to be too hot. Not that we’d know if there was something wrong anyway,” she said sadly, tucking her bare feet neatly beneath herself as she settled on the sofa. She spread marmalade on a slice of toast and offered it to Giles, who traded her a cup of milky tea. They ate and drank slowly, studying the Tengu, counting his deep, slow breaths. Once his eyes moved rapidly beneath his pale eyelids, and Buffy moved back down beside him, ready to soothe him should the dream be soured by the terrors of the night. When his face was quiet again, she topped up her tea and began a silent circuit of the room, her fingers pale and tight around the dark mug.
Giles watched and waited. Now and then her eyes flashed or her brow would furrow, then she would leave that thought for another. Giles stirred the embers in the grate and fed them a cedar log. Reaching into an enameled box on the mantel, he picked up a pinch of herbs and tossed them on the fire, the scent of sage rising first, brave and protective, rosemary following, hints of grace and safety. He felt the night turning, one hour to the next, and wondered if a stolen son still lived locked deep in the hidden prison of the Initiative compound.
Finally Buffy returned to the couch and set aside her emptied mug.
“Polgara migrate, don’t they?” she asked.
“Yes, they do. Not often, but predictably.”
“Do Ssirial migrate?”
“I don’t know. But even if they did –“
“They wouldn’t be moving during nesting season, would they? I mean, if they have a season?”
“No, they wouldn’t. And yes, they certainly do. It’s the only time when they can be considered dangerous, and then they’re definitely a threat to anyone or anything that disturbs their nests.”
“So not the kind of folks to be carrying all their eggs in one basket, so to speak.”
“Not at all.” Giles was delighted by the way she was working through this mystery.
“Braachen don’t migrate. They just are wherever they are, right? Maybe some trading, but mostly they stay put?”
“So we have a species that we can expect to see in waves now and then, a species that might migrate, but not while in a family way, and a bunch of homebodies. Plus a list of miscellaneous species we know to be uninterested in humans but have never been seen in these numbers, and in one case, we’ve never seen their young before, but here they are. And almost no vampires at all.”
“That’s what I see, too.”
“Leaving out the Polgara and the vampires because they’re just normal Hellmouthy stuff – is that an oxywhatsit?”
“Oxymoron. Not really. The Hellmouth does have a kind of ‘normal’ as odd as that sounds. Go on.”
“Well, aside from those two, I think maybe all the others are refugees. Maybe it’s some other dimension’s turn to have an apocalypse, or maybe just a war, and it’s not going so well, and these families are trying to get away. They’re trying to get to safety and instead they get tangled up with the Initiative’s bizarre campaign.” She met Giles’s eyes and gave a slight nod to indicate that this was her conclusion. He grinned at her.
“What?” she asked, slightly peeved at his glee.
“You, that’s what. As difficult as it may be for you to believe, it is quite wonderful not to be the only one picking through the puzzle now and then, especially when you reach the same conclusion that I did, and by almost the same line of reasoning.”
Buffy sighed dramatically.
“Shoot me now. I’m becoming a Watcher.” The gleam in her eyes gave her away, but it faded quickly and she looked down.
“Seriously, Giles. That’s what you think, too? You’re not just, y’know –“
“Teasing you? No, I certainly am not. Remember I promised that I wouldn’t do that in matters of this kind.”
“So what was that about then? If you already had this theory, why’d you make me work that all out?”
“Tonight’s training exercise. Thought we’d spend a bit of time on strategy since you’re in superb fighting trim, you’ve been able to maintain surveillance on a secret military operation undetected, you single-handedly rescued a rare and extraordinarily skilled warrior from a brutal ambush –“
“But I didn’t save his son,” she said softly, the sorrow in her voice cutting him off. Giles sighed. What is it with gifted women and wretched self-esteem? he wondered. Why can’t she ever really believe me when I tell her she’s done something right, and done it elegantly as well? Mum and Gran did the same thing, dismissing out of hand the most astonishing accomplishments. He reached over and stroked her cheek with a fingertip.
“Neither, dearest, did he. And as gifted as you are, I think it would be some long years before you could best a Tengu. Their skill is more than legendary, it’s mythic, and you saw yourself what he can do. Don’t degrade your other successes by focusing on that one incident.” Buffy wouldn’t look up.
“What is Sun Tzu’s First Rule of War?” he said softly, but with an edge in his voice that she couldn’t ignore.
“Know yourself,” she answered by rote, startled by his tone.
“And that means?”
“Know yourself,” she repeated. “Know your skills, your weaknesses, your strengths, and how to apply them.”
“And do you? Truly?” This time he caught her eyes and wouldn’t relent. If self-confidence was merely a muscle, he’d have exercises to help her strengthen it. But it wasn’t, and all his faith in her abilities would not save her if she hesitated at some crucial moment because she’d second-guessed herself.
“Is there a right answer to that?” she asked, her voice barely audible.
“You tell me.”
“Then no, I guess I don’t know myself the way you know me.”
“That’s not exactly what I’m after. But it’s a place to start. I’m going to be asking you that question again, soon. I want a different answer.”
“Shorter or longer?”
“No hints. It must be your answer.”
Below them, the Tengu twitched suddenly and cried out, wakening with wild eyes and his hand on his sword. Buffy sprang from the sofa to his side, her hands capturing his arm and holding it down against the bundled weapons, Slayer strength cloaked in tenderness. She spoke softly to him, rapid soothing words just above a whisper, and Giles wondered how many times she’d wished for someone to do the same for her when the nightmares shredded her sleep. Giles knelt beside her, his hands in plain sight, gesturing that the wounded Tengu should stay down.
“Kudasai, o-sensei, kudasai --,” he said, desperate for more precise words to help the warrior understand that he was safe, and needed to let his body rest. Surely there was some other language they might have in common?
“[Please, Great One,]” he tried in Drenthic. The Tengu’s attention snapped to him, his tension rising. Giles tried again using Murmeninon. Recognition flared in the Tengu’s eyes and he responded in a language that would have been exquisitely musical if its speaker had not been so hoarse and frantic. Korvine? Giles had never heard it, but had read descriptions of those intricate clicks and whistles. Maybe Arthac? Some ptinoids use it. It took him a moment to get the cadence of the clicks right, but in that time the Tengu visibly relaxed, clearly understanding what Giles was trying to do.
“[Can you understand me now?]” the Tengu asked in Middle Kiro, close enough to Arthac that Giles could parse the meaning if they both kept things simple.
“[Yes!]” he answered, licking his lips to moisten them and hoping he was equal to all the whistling vowels. Taking a moment to compose his statement in a language he had rarely spoken though he had often read it, Giles said
“[Master, you must rest. Can I help you with the pain?]” The Tengu immediately relaxed back onto his pallet, easing his grip on his scabbard. He glanced at Buffy and she nodded, releasing his arm and settling back to bow in apology for having taken such liberties with his person.
“[Forgiven, musume, you were wise to act as you did.]”
Buffy looked over to Giles.
“He is more fluent than I am, so I hope I get this right. I believe he said that he forgives you for touching him, and that it was probably a good idea under the circumstances. He, um, also called you his daughter, perhaps a recognition of your kinship as warriors. I think you should feel honored.”
“Could you thank him for me? I’ll go put on water for tea since there is no way I can follow this conversation.”
“Call me when it boils so I can show you how to make green tea correctly. If one does it wrong, the stuff is vile.”
She moved to stand and the Tengu reached to take her hand for a moment, tapping her palm lightly with the two talons she had tended. He smiled his gratitude and she bowed again, no words needed for them to understand one another. Buffy beamed at him, then snatched up the tea tray and bolted for the kitchen.
“[She is remarkable,”] the Tengu said, watching her go. [“Is she what your people call a Slayer?]”
“[Then Fortune favored me on one claw and shattered me with the other,]” he said softly. “[No other warrior could have helped as well as she did in that moment.]” Although he was already lying down, it seemed as though he slumped even further, collapsing inward as grief and pain shook him. Giles worried that he might lapse into shock again.
“[She said many soldiers attacked you, took your friend --]”
“[My son. My youngest child.]” His began breathing rapidly through his mouth, his eyes clenched shut. Though he shed no tears, Giles knew he was sobbing. Tentatively, Giles touched the Tengu’s sound shoulder.
“[We are sorry. We will do all that we can to help you find him.]” Giles did not voice his suspicion that the young Tengu had probably not survived. He waiting quietly while the warrior released his anguish, knowing there were no words in any language equal to such loss.
Buffy called softly from the kitchen and Giles gestured that he would go and return. He was discovering that, while his vocabulary served for research purposes, it did not include verbs useful for daily life, simple courtesies, or the nouns for mundane but necessary objects.
Together he and Buffy brought out the geimacha, and he poured a bowl while she settled herself on the Tengu’s wounded side, bracing him so he could drink without choking. He downed the first bowl quickly, and the second, his breathing calmer by the time he started sipping the third. Gathering himself, he said
“[It was to be his first great task. He showed such promise as a – ]” he paused to search for words and Giles was oddly relieved that he wasn’t the only one with a vocabulary problem. “[—as a bringer of peace to those without peace. A speaker for people set against one another.]” The Tengu’s deep, soft voice matched the exotic, delicate beauty of his face. The whistles, clicks, and melodic intonation were oddly hypnotic, even when the rhythm of his sentences faltered in his search for clarity. Giles said
“[For months now we have been seeing people we never see here in such numbers. Families with children. Is this part of what you were traveling to repair?]”
“[Yes. A boundary between two worlds has been torn open, and one people has overrun another, destroying everything, and killing anyone who opposes their advance. We were part of the...the group of judges sent to heal this great wound in the order of things.]”
“[We thought these people might be displaced by war. But we do not understand how they came to be here. This is a dangerous place, a Hellmouth. And now there is the new danger of the ones who attacked you and your son, although they are not part of the Hellmouth, just part of the...darker nature of our species.]” Giles was finding it difficult to speak fluently while struggling to form the delicate sibilants of the language.
“[The fabric of the worlds is torn here already, so it is easier for the unskilled to find ways from one place to another. It is not the best way to make that journey, but for the desperate, it is often the only way. We chose this path so that we might see the extent of the...displacement. How many are fleeing and what is happening to them. But no one knew of this other danger, this cult that preys on the weakest like cowards, like those who walk the battlefield to steal and feed on the broken and dying.]”
“[They are new here; they act in pride and without understanding. They do not know these people are innocents fleeing battle. They attack them just because they are different. I say this not to excuse their actions. It makes their actions seem much worse to me that they would do this to others without first learning who they were and why they were here.]”
“[What they are doing is a crime. Even if they had not taken my son, I would report this. I will cry this cause before the...the...Powers...]”
The Tengu’s voice subsided and his breathing eased. He leaned heavily against their supporting arms. The hand holding the tea bowl relaxed abruptly, but Buffy caught it before it fell. His eyes were still glazed with pain and sorrow, but exhaustion once again overwhelmed both and he was slipping back into sleep even as they arranged him on the pillow and tucked the blankets carefully around his extremities. Silently Buffy gathered the tea things and took them back into the kitchen while Giles studied their guest, his eyes dark with worry. On her way back, she turned off the room lights.
Watcher and Slayer settled beside one another on the sofa again.
“We were right,” Giles said. “He says these families are refugees. He and his son were on their way to negotiate the end to the war that’s ravaged the respective homelands of these people.”
“Oh.” Buffy pulled her legs up onto the cushion and wrapped her arms around her shins as if shrinking away from this news. “I suppose he and his son are, like, the authorities, aren’t they? I mean, more important even than just being Tengu.”
“Yes, I suspect that’s true. They might even be ‘the Authorities’ because they are Tengu. The species has a reputation for great wisdom. Those whom they gifted with teaching about lore or weaponry were considered quite blessed.”
“So this is ‘Hello, fine sirs, welcome to Earth, where we kill what we fear and we fear what is different.’” Her voice was quiet, but the bitterness shocked Giles to his core. I don’t know what bothers me more, the intensity of her cynicism or the fact that I agree with it so completely. Dear lord, aren’t we a pair.
“I bet this means we’re in trouble,” Buffy said. “I mean, someone sent them, so someone will notice that they’re missing. I’m guessing that would be very bad for us.”
“It might be one way to stop the Initiative’s nonsense.”
“Yeah, but what else will get stopped with it? Whaddya call it, ‘guilt by association.’”
Buffy shuddered and Giles draped an arm around her so she could lean into him. This kind of contact was new between them, and calmed them both though neither discussed it. Why should I give a flying fuck about the Council’s prudish rules? Giles thought. Her greatest fear is being alone. I cannot – will not -- deny her whatever warmth she needs from me. They sat that way long enough for the cedar to burn down.
“Why don’t you go get The Jungle Book and we’ll have a story,” he said softly into her hair. “Then you need to get some sleep. You have, what, psych tomorrow morning?”
“Later today, actually. At eleven fifteen. It’s gonna be very hard to see Riley and not throttle him.”
“Was he leading the patrol that did this?”
“No, thank God. I don’t think there’s any way he would have missed me dropping in on them and stealing one of their victims right out from under their damn ATV.” She snorted her contempt.
“Go on, get the book. Then you can take the bed and I’ll keep an eye on our guest. I get you up in time for breakfast.”
“Thanks,” she leaned more firmly into him for a moment, then uncoiled herself and went to find the book. Giles turned back the thermostat a bit, added another cedar log to the fire, and opened two other small boxes on the mantel. This time the scent of roses and fennel whispered out together, rest and reassurance; followed by the stronger statement of sandalwood, his hearth and home; and finally a precious pinch of frankincense, the ancient blessing for all who wander far in search of peace.
Buffy pulled the afghan off the back of the couch and curled up against Giles’s flank. He clicked on the reading lamp and glanced over the table of contents.
“Ah, this one. I mentioned it to you once before. It takes place before Mowgli kills Shere Khan, when he’s still a boy in the Seeonee Pack and learning his lessons from Baloo. It’s called “Kaa’s Hunting.”
“Kaa. He’s the one who watches the jungle, like you.”
“Yes, this is the story that begins his friendship with Mowgli.”
“Mmm,” Buffy said, nestling down. As ever, Kipling prefaced the story with a poem, this one taken from the Law of the Jungle. Giles read
Oppress not the cubs of the stranger,
but hail them as Sister and Brother,
For though they are little and fubsy,
it may be the Bear is their mother.
"There is none like to me!" says the Cub
in the pride of his earliest kill;
But the jungle is large and the Cub he is small.
Let him think and be still.
“Fubsy?” Buffy asked.
“A Kipling word. It means someone whose paws are larger than their motor control. With fur.”
“Huh. Good word.”
Giles eased her into the sweet safety of Mowgli’s world, where Baloo the bear taught him the Master Words of all the jungle people that he might be safe from them and hunt their lands without giving offense. Giles’s voice rumbled deeply for Bagheera, then raced for the wild flight through the high treetops when the Bandar-log whisked Mowgli away to the ruined city be their king, or their plaything, if they could ever distinguish the two in their foolish monkey-minds. Next he became Kaa, the huge python who feared no one, and in whose strike and coils lay the only hope of Mowgli’s rescue, for the monkeys were legion and Bagheera only one against them. Buffy was so absorbed she was barely breathing by the time Kaa raised the man-cub from the cobra pit, and the boy fled with the wounded panther. Then Kaa began his dance of death across the ancient, broken stones, and Buffy shuddered, drawn by her Watcher’s intense voice toward the twisting, elegant power of the great snake as surely as the monkeys were, step by step, lured into Kaa’s glittering, fatal embrace.
She was so quiet at the end of the story that Giles only knew she was still awake by the way she clutched his sleeve under the afghan. Finally he nudged her. She shook herself and looked up at him, and he could see something complex forming behind her eyes.
“What are you thinking, dearest?”
“Lots of things. There’s stuff in there I need to think about. But one thing, right away: those Master Words he used to greet the bird people, and the snake people, and the other hunters.”
“I need those. I need something like that right now, to be able to warn these people here, to give them help, and ask for it if I need it from them.”
Giles’s eyebrows quirked and he grinned.
“That, my Slayer, is a superb idea. I will put something simple together for the main types you are finding out there. You can learn them tomorrow. Some are really simple, like Braachen, but some are going to be harder, like Fyarl, because we don’t have the right kind of vocal equipment.”
“And let’s not forget those tusks, and the, um, snot thing they do. I won’t have to blow boogers at ‘em or anything will I?”
“Ah, no. Some good assertive grunts ought to do it. Backed up with a punch, if necessary. It can be hard to get their attention; Fyarl aren’t too bright.”
“I just need enough to get them to move along. No sense slayin’ ‘em if they’re just passing through anyway. And if I can tell them it’s dangerous here, I think they’ll listen and leave.”
“And you could redirect the peaceful species away from the Initiative, speed them on their way to wherever.” He grinned down at her. “This is a terrific idea, truly. I’m proud of you.”
“And I’m completely whacked. Bed. Now. I’ll skim my homework chapter in the morning.”
“So get you up about nine-thirty then?”
“Yeah, I can read over breakfast.”
She slid her arm around his lower back and gave him a squeeze.
“G’night, Watcher-mine. Come get me if you need any help with Himself, okay?”