Chapter 10

Disclaimer and Authors Note: Refer to Chapter 1.

Note: indicates telepathic conversation

It was growing.

Buffy brushed her hands together absently, smearing the still-moist dirt, then reached into her pack and pulled out the digital camera. Quickly, she turned on the camera and began taking pictures. When she finished, she pulled out the cell phone and dialed Giles.

"Wah - ?"

There were some strange garbled noises and Buffy remembered the time change. New York was three hours ahead so that would make the time . . . Oh. Ouch.

"Giles. Wake up."

"Mmmmph. Wait. Buffy? What happened?" He was sounding more awake by the second.

"I've found something."

"Already? Are you sure?"

The silence on her end seemed to finish waking him up.

"Of course you're sure. Why else would you be ringing at this time of the night."

"It's some kind of rock. It was under a bunch of moss and it is throwing out some nasty vibes. There are carvings on it, like what was on that thing in my vision. The monument thing."

"The cairn?"

"Yeah, that thing. Right now this rock - or whatever - is still fairly small, but I think it's growing. In fact, I'm sure it's growing. And it feels - Giles, it feels almost like when the Hellmouth is opening. And why is this happening on my summer vacation? Nothing happens in the summer. Summer is supposed to be my time off. You know, go to beach, work on my tan - "

"Growing. Growing how?" There was a thoughtful tone in Giles' voice as he interrupted; a 'it's on the tip of my brain' sorta voice.

"I don't -" She cut herself off as flashes of her dream came to her, along with a certainty that this was right. "It was growing up. Like that Karny thing in my dream. When it's finished, it's going to be like that. And we don't want it to finish what it's doing, Giles. Not if I get vibes like this from it now."

"No. No, you're right. Not like it is, but - Buffy, I think I remember something about this from one of my books. This is important, Buffy. Damage it somehow, but DO NOT destroy it. Smash some of the glyphs; slow down the growth, but don't demolish it. I - I think to completely destroy the portal that you feel forming, we are going to have to let it grow a little."

"That doesn't make sense, Giles."

"I know. Just let me consult my books for a bit. I have a hunch that I read something about this during my research in the last week, but I can't quite remember where. It would be much easier if I were able to see the carvings."

"That's easy enough. I took some pictures on Willow's digital camera. As soon as I get back to our room, we'll e-mail them to you."

"Yes. That would be very helpful. Providing I can get the infernal thing to work properly."

With a small laugh, already knowing that she had lost Giles' attention, she said goodbye and put away the phone. Not really wanting to stick around the creepy thing more than necessary, she grabbed a small sturdy-looking rock from nearby and began smashing some of the runes. They crumbled away fairly easily.

Must be because it's still growing and hasn't 'set' yet. It has to stay soft enough to move into its next shapes. She didn't question how she knew that it would be a lot harder when it was done.

On the way back to the mansion, she noticed, with a grimace and a nod to Giles, that the intensity of the nastiness had diminished. She could probably even sleep, which really sucked, because now everybody else would be starting to get up.

She exited the forest silently, only to be met with a unexpected sight that twisted her insides.

Jean stretched just a little further in her stride, enjoying the feel of running in the still-cool early morning air. As she came around the path to the back of the mansion, she saw Buffy in jogging clothes. For a moment, she was simply shocked that the young woman was a jogger; she didn't seem the type. Then she noticed that the blonde was just standing there with a look of pain creeping out from her eyes. She had wrapped her arms around herself and one small part of Jean cheered that she was able to read this body language so easily. The rest of her just ached for Buffy.

Turning her head toward the house, she spotted Logan in the middle of his morning Tai-Chi routine. Confused, she started to glance back at Buffy, to make sure they were looking at the same thing when Logan turned his head so smoothly that it appeared that the movement was part of the routine and stared at Buffy. Freezing in position, he tilted his head challengingly and Jean had just a moment to wonder 'What the heck. . .?' before Buffy's eyes widened, then narrowed, her chin shooting up as she marched forward, pulling off her small pack. Once she reached him, she dumped her things in a pile on one of the chairs, toed off her shoes and socks before matching Logan's position, chin still firmly tilted.

Logan began moving and Buffy matched him, unsteady at first, but within a minute flowing from one move to the other with an ease that astonished Jean. If she had thought that Buffy didn't seem the type to be a jogger, then this possibility hadn't even been on the chart. As a California girl, she might have fooled around with the moving meditation of Tai Chi; but to match Logan so perfectly indicated much more than any words could have.

Logan was a master.

A master with decades of practice in this ancient art. For such a young, seemingly frivolous woman to match Logan gave Jean chills on a primal level despite the incredible beauty of it.

Who WAS this girl?!