Letters from Ireland
Part 13

Buffy rifled through the back seat of the Citron, arranging arrows in canvas pouches, and she grunted with irritation as Giles took a drastic corner.

"Could you take it easy, Giles? I have all the body piercings I want at this point,"

"Sorry," the Citron puttered as they waited for the light to change, "Perhaps you could explain this strategy again,"

Buffy sat up in the front seat and put her seat belt back on. "Just like that game, Go. It's an ancient Asian game. It's not like chess. All the men on the board have equal power. It's about strategy, it's a series of surrounding your opponent's men with yours and then capturing them. They're going to work in circles, surrounding us with different groups that will fall in behind each other. That's why-" she pointed to the paper bag on the seat between them, which contained communion hosts.

"We'll construct a circle of safety," he said.

"No. You will. Then I'm going to take them from the outside. The strategy is very predictable. All I have to do is work behind it. Of course, that's the beauty of Go...it's really a great game. It's all about watching all the directions around you. But that circle is only going to be good until they figure it out, and that won't take long. You need to be careful, Giles,"

"Of course,"

Buffy had seen him fight, plenty. He was fabulous with weapons and he was still strong and quick, but it made it harder the longer they knew each other. She could never pretend she was fearless when it came to him. Losing him would kill her.

"I mean it," she said.

His glasses glinted as he glanced at her. "I promise, Buffy," he said patiently.

Men. They always pulled the condescending thing sooner or later. It was Giles' version of "Yes, dear," Angel did it too, but with him it was just a look. They were both irritating. She couldn't imagine her life without them.

Giles parked the car in the parking lot of the gift store by the bridge. Buffy began strapping Velcro quivers of arrows onto her back and planted stakes in her pockets and up her sleeves; she slung her favorite silver cross over her sweatshirt and pinned up her hair. Giles was fully armed. They looked at each other. Buffy picked up her crossbow and looked at her watch.

"Start out in fifteen," she said, "And be careful, Giles,"

She took off running. She had to cover two miles in just a few minutes, so she launched into it, pumping her arms and keeping her strides long. It was a clear night, which was a good break. Good break for them, though, too. Vampires could see in the dark, but not through fog. The air was fairly light, not too damp at all. A nice evening, really. She had an idea how the attack might proceed and she'd hopped on the net and played a couple of games of Go before she and Giles had left. Simple, but like a lot of things, simple didn't mean easy. She just hoped that Giles could stay safe in that circle for at least three minutes. That would give her time to work her way in.

She leaped fences and skirted backyards. Some military personnel still lived here, even though it wasn't an installation anymore. They'd built it up; now it was a full-fleged housing development. She opened her nostrils wider, groping for a hint on the air. There had to be a few very close to here. She hoped they were counting on one element to be a surprise attack, and that they'd assigned a lot of minions to it. She laughed a little; she'd be so satisfied if her hunch was right. It would be so convenient.

She was nearing the waterfront park. She slowed gradually, scanning buildings. There; a line of bumpy shadows on a roof, people-size. Buffy gripped her crossbow and aimed. She coughed, loudly.

The shadows sprung up, glancing around. They saw her and spread out; one of them leaped off the roof and landed on it's feet. A waste of time to wait for a sure sign but it couldn't be helped. She had to be sure it wasn't just kids smoking pot up there. She fired and dusted each of them with a single shot; they went up in little plumes of dust. She stayed where she was, waiting. Nothing. How many had there been? She had developed a bad habit, she liked to count. It was distracting and she'd have to stop it. Eleven, though. Not bad, she thought.

Giles should be almost in position by now, if everything went smoothly. She leaped another fence and scoped the park. It was clean. That couldn't be right. Just one battalion?

She squinted and the moon, as if in answer, emerged from a cloud. There was a figure crouching by the water. That would be Giles, planting the little wafers in the sand, sealing himself off from attack. Good, thought Buffy, here comes the fun part.

She ran lightly through the sand toward him. She looked behind them, into the park, then toward the water. And then, she noted with satisfaction, they began the real assault, exactly as she had expected.

Vampires were emerging from the water. They glistened in the moonlight. They were pathetically easy to dust as they trudged through the waves, trying to rush her. She and Giles let arrows fly in rapid succession. Buffy crinkled her nose as she reloaded, because vampires, when wet, didn't burst lightly into dust. They plopped into the water like handfuls of mud. ICK. There were a lot of them, though...Buffy counted twenty-seven kills between Giles and herself, and they were still coming. So now would be about the time that the second and third units would close from the land side. Buffy turned toward the park.


Buffy stepped between the advancing vampires and Giles and began to fire. Twelve, thirteen, fourteen-

-a chain came singing through the air, wrapping itself around her neck with slithery speed. She grabbed it. Another chain, from the opposite side, winging it's way around and around; she was being choked from two sides by vampires who pulled with all their weight. Buffy's air was completely cut off; she was out of time. She pushed panic aside, snaking her arms around the chains and giving a sudden jerk on both; two vampires collided with each other and sat in the sand, stunned. Buffy bowed her head and twisted quickly to toss the chains off. She staked one, and couldn't run after the other, because Giles had been caught by the same method and was being dragged out of the safe circle with steel chains around his throat.

"Take the one on your left!" she shouted, and Giles followed the code perfectly, taking the one on his right instead. Buffy closed in on the vampire grappling with the chain on Giles' left and staked it. She kicked a spray of sand into the eyes of the other vampire that still had Giles by the throat, then she blasted out it's knee with a front snap kick and thrust wood into it's heart. She was hit from behind with the full weight of a very large vampire; she twisted and pushed her stake upward. She was engulfed in dust that dissolved. She sneezed.

"Buffy!" shouted Giles, and Buffy whirled, facing a circle of about twenty.

"Fifty, huh, Vicky?" she said under her breath, "This would make it just a little over the mark. I hope you're right," she groped in the sand, dragging up a chain and wrapping it around her wrist as she slid her crossbow into position with her other hand.

They advanced. Buffy looked for weapons, and she was happy not to see any. Giles fired from behind her, making nice progress, taking them out methodically. Buffy was forced into hand-to-hand with three at once; they closed in with a triangle formation. Mistake. It made it easier, to have them all so close. She thrust a kick into the sternum of one, then side-kicked another in the temple and spun, throwing a nice, neat punch into the nose of the third.

"Giles!" she yelled.

"I'm in the circle!" he shouted back. He always knew what she was thinking, she just needed to know he was OK. The chain-wielders must have been a small group of specialists.

Buffy staked, turned, and staked. The third, and last of them all, backed off.

"C'mon," coaxed Buffy, "YOU can take me, right?"

"We'll take HIM," it said.

"You'll die trying,"

"We're very efficient," it bragged, "And we've got help,"

Buffy yawned. "Sorry," she said, "But you hear that from a few thousand undead before you stake 'em, and it gets a little repetitive. Don't you guys know any jokes or anything?"

"Angel. He's the joke,"

Buffy had never thrown a chain before, but it was a weapon, and all weapons were her friends. She just had a feel for them. She tossed the chain; it whirled around the minion's throat several times. Buffy dragged the vampire down the beach. It kicked and choked.

"Giles, toss me the holy water?"

He threw it, and Buffy popped the cork off the bottle with her thumb and held it high.

"Torture's not really my thing," said Buffy, "You know? I mean, goody-two-shoes people like me, we don't see the thrill. Oh, sure, we get angry," she sprinkled, and the vampire sizzled and tried to scream, "But we don't really get off on inflicting pain and helplessness on others. Just doesn't do it for us. Most of the time," she reached down, tore the shirt off the minion, and poured. It writhed desperately, smoking. "So, what I'm gonna do is this. You tell me everything and I'll stake you. Nice and quick. You hold out on me and I'll just take my time and use up this whole bottle on little old you. It could take hours,"

She unwrapped the chain. By this time Giles was standing beside her.

"LA," it said hoarsely, "The base is in LA,"

"Duh," said Buffy.

"It-it's another Monaghan,"

"Holy cow," said Buffy, "How many Mondrians ARE there?"

"Huh?" it scowled in confusion.

"What?" said Buffy.

"Mondrian's a painter,"

"You're not the sharpest knife in the drawer, are you?" demanded Buffy, "Don't correct the girl with the holy water!"

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry! But it's Monaghans! There's still one left. And he's big, I mean really BIG-"

Buffy jammed a stake into his chest. Dust sifted onto the beach. She looked at Giles.

"Deal's a deal," she said.