Characters: Giles/Willow/Kennedy, Everyone and more
Timeline: Two years post Chosen
Summary: Sequel to ‘Cold’. When a powerful evil threatens the slayers, Giles, Willow, and Kennedy turn to their new demon allies for answers. But are they ready for the consequences of the powerful magick needed to save the slayers and the world?
Disclaimer: I don’t own these guys, I just love them so much I have to write.
Giles tossed his glasses onto his large oak desk and rubbed at his temple. He had finally reached the end of the eternal mountain of paperwork that constantly burdened the ornately carved desk. A slight smile curved his lips as his fingertips slid across the smooth surface of the wood. It was something he would have never picked out for himself, huge and intimidating, it commanded the room. But this was a gift. Crafted by Xander, and stained a rich, dark brown by Willow, Dawn, and a few of the slayers who had come out of Sunnydale with them. Each had even carved their names into the intricate designs in the desk drawers, the places where he could easily see them. This desk was their way of telling him that they knew his work was hard and lonely, and that they were still there with him, even when scattered all over the world.
The Head of the New Watcher’s Council couldn’t stifle a sigh when his door swung open and Andrew entered with an armful of new paperwork.
His assistant smiled understandingly at the look on the older man’s face. “I brought the Aspirin if you need it,” the boy stated gently. “Would you like me the fix you some tea?”
Giles smiled wearily. “I think I’m all right for now. Thank you, Andrew.” He lifted his glasses and slid them back into place. “The tea sounds nice, but it can wait until after you tell me what’s next on the agenda.”
Andrew glanced down at the papers he held, as if sorry he was the bringer of more stress to heap onto the shoulders of this man he had come to respect very much. “It’s not bad today,” he said cheerily. “The weekly reports have come in from all the regional offices. There was nothing much going on, so I’ve already written up the summary report for you to approve to be sent back out to the field directors. That way you don’t have to waste time going through them all.”
Giles took the report and began scanning the pages as Andrew went to the sidebar and began preparing some tea. “Have we heard from Buffy yet?”
The boy’s head dipped a bit. He knew the question was coming, but couldn’t bear to see the worry in the old Watcher’s eyes. “Not yet, Sir” he made sure to keep his tone cheerful. “She reported tracking the anomaly into the Ukraine last week, but we haven’t heard from her since.” He carried the tea to the desk. “Don’t worry, it’s Buffy. You know how she gets when she’s on a hunt. Soon we’ll get a message saying, ‘demon dead, be back soon’.”
“I should have never let her go alone,” Giles grumbled.
“Yeah, like you could have stopped her. She was getting all restless being cooped up here in the compound. You know sometimes she just has to go.”
Giles let a small smile tug at the corner of his lips. “Yes, I know. “ After flipping through a few more pages, Giles looked up. “Are you sure this is all? The demon community is quiet all around the world?”
“Yes, Sir. All regions were accounted for. Does that mean something bad? Like the Borg pretending they have no interest in Earth while secretly they assimilate all the surrounding systems? Or the Weeping Angels just waiting all around us? Or, oh God, the Silence!?!”
Giles blinked once, then decided he didn’t care to know. “Perhaps… I’m not certain. The report is approved to go back out. Just be sure to add a warning for everyone to stay on guard. We can’t get complacent. That will only make us more vulnerable when the inevitable attack comes.”
Andrew took the file with a grin. “I’ll make sure they know the warning comes straight from you.”
With a sip of his tea, Giles sat back in his chair, his mind still forming and discarding theories on the odd lack of demonic happenings. “Anything else?”
“These need your signature,” Andrew placed a thick stack of papers at the corner of the desk as Giles groaned.
The older man was suddenly aware that his assistant was no longer looking him in the eye and shifting slightly from foot to foot. “And…?” he asked carefully, reading the nervousness correctly.
“Well… The faculty hasn’t wanted to bother you, but I think you’d want…”
“Yes, go on?”
“It’s just. Another girl has gone missing from the compound. She didn’t report for classes today.”
“Another?” Giles eyes narrowed. “How many have there been?”
“Three in the last two weeks. The staff thought they were just runaways, you know, girls that decided they couldn’t handle it. But you’ve always made it clear that they are free to go home whenever they need to, so it doesn’t make any sense.”
“Are these their files,” he took a stack of folders from his assistant.
“Yes. I thought you’d want to know everything. It’s just… it’s easy to see how much you care about all of them.”
Giles had the files opened in front of him. “Yes, thank you, Andrew. I’ll look into it right away.”
“One more thing, Sir. The newly elected President of the Student Council is here for her meeting with you. She’s waiting outside.”
“Oh, yes, of course. Show her in.” Giles said distractedly, still studying the student files. He didn’t notice the little anticipatory grin on Andrew’s face.
Pulling open the office door, Andrew greeted the girl who stepped through, announcing, “The Head of the New Watcher’s Council will see you now.” His boss groaned at the formality, but didn’t look up. Not until a familiar and teasing voice reached his ears.
“He doesn’t expect me to curtsy, does he?”
Andrew whispered, “I don’t think so. He doesn’t like it very much when I do it.”
Giles was already crossing the room and pulling her into his arms as the girl’s musical giggle filled the space. “Dawn, my dear. It’s so good to see you.”
Dawn eagerly hugged him back. “It’s not like I never come up here to visit. Though, I guess I have been a little busy lately.”
Holding her out by the shoulders, Giles examined her with affection. “You look so grown up. Am I to understand I’m addressing the new student council president?”
“Neat, huh? Now I have official reasons to come pester you.” She grinned as they turned to head toward the small sitting area of his office and settled into a pair of armchairs.
“You know you’re always welcome. But, why didn’t you tell me you were running? I would have gladly given you an endorsement.”
“That’s exactly why.” Dawn reached over and rested her hand lightly on his. He smiled shyly at her touch, remembering that she had always made more of an effort to show him simple physical affection since that dark day years ago when she thought she’d never be able to do it again. “I wanted to win this because I could do the work. Not because I’m Buffy’s sister, or your… whatever. I knew you and Buffy would have supported me whole-heartedly, but… Well, it would have been like running for president of ancient Greece with endorsements from Zeus and Athena. Kinda not fair.”
Giles chuckled. “I’m sure I don’t hold that much sway over the student body. I’m just the old fuddy-duddy up in the office trying to keep their lights on and water hot.”
The girl smiled and shook her head slowly. “To them you’re a legend, Giles.”
“Buffy’s the legend,” he whispered. “And you, Willow, and Xander… You spent all those years in Sunnydale.”
She ducked her head and chuckled. He really didn’t understand. “Hey, that reminds me. Your new honor guard came with me. They asked me to introduce them to you.”
Giles’ shoulders slumped. “You mean two more poor girls have gotten stuck with the task of babysitting me for the next few months.” He frowned at the worry that entered her expressive eyes, almost sadness. “I know that all of you only care, but I’m-”
“You don’t know at all, do you?” the girl whispered. Dawn’s expression changed again, this time as if a great realization had come to her. “Yes, the guard was our idea. Me, Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Faith… We all wanted to keep you safe after almost losing you last year. Heck, I think it was the only way we got Willow and Kennedy to leave your side after what they went through to bring you home. But we left it to the slayers to come up with how it would all work. Giles, do you have any idea what those girls go through to get the chance to ‘have to babysit you’?”
Giles shook his head, having never given it much thought. The girls had always been kind and professional, so he’d found no reason to interfere with their system.
Dawn got up and went to fix her own cup of tea as she continued speaking. “First of all, they have to be in their final year of training here, before being sent to the field. To even be considered, they are required to be earning straight A’s in their academic classes, as well as being at the top of all their training rotations. Then, if they want even the chance of being selected, they have to write and present a full report detailing your techniques and all you’ve done since taking over the Council.” Giles looked stunned, but Dawn continued as she walked back to where he sat. “After that, there’s a secret ballot. Both the slayers and watchers in training select who they think will serve you the best. You should hear the whispered debates. They think about personality and respectfulness, about who would be the best fit for you. The election I won isn’t considered half as important. You should be congratulating those two girls, not me.”
“I had no idea,” Giles breathed.
Dawn chuckled. “That narrows it down to the top eight.”
“Eight! My lord, how many girls try for the position?”
“Among the students, it’s the highest honor in the school. Maybe even the whole slayer community.” She stopped for a moment to consider him, taking a sip of her tea. “The final step is a secret. No one on the faculty knows how we get from the eight down to two. I’m about to take my life in my hands telling you. Just know, if you blab that I told you, I’m not above killing you in your sleep.” Giles chuckled and nodded his promise. His curiosity had been piqued and he wouldn’t be able to stand not knowing now. “There is a super secret tournament. It’s always held away from the compound and on a weekend or holiday so there will be no chance that we’ll be found out. Only the candidates, the referees, and a few students chosen by lottery attend.” Dawn dropped her voice to a conspiratorial tone. “Eight go out as ‘potentials’, two come back as the honor guard for Mr. Giles.”
Giles looked to be in awe for a moment before sobering into the responsible adult again. “That’s dangerous and reckless behavior. Someone could get hurt.”
His young friend nodded. “It’s also completely part of the slayer culture now. So don’t you be stupid enough to try to ruin it.”
“But it’s not worth the risk. Especially, not for me.”
“God, Giles. You’re the smartest person I know, so stop being so dense.” The Watcher opened his mouth to object, but Dawn continued on. “Don’t you get what you represent to those girls? It’s scary, all right. To suddenly find out you’ll be fighting evil for the rest of your life. And, even though there are lots of them now, it’s lonely, too. One day, they know that they’ll be in a position where no one will be there to help them, or even just understand them. But, if they’re lucky, they’ll have a watcher. And not just any watcher, one that will live up to the stories they’ve heard about you. Someone that will be there to put them first no matter what the rest of the world has to say. Someone who will never let them die alone.”
“I was hardly a perfect watcher, Dawn.” Giles looked worried and confused.
“That doesn’t matter. How you think things happened. Things you think you should have done differently. They don’t care about any of that. They care that you were there for Buffy, and that you are here for them. When slayers have nightmares, you’re the thing that makes them go away. That’s why they all care so much about protecting you.”
Giles thought in silence for a few minutes until a small smile lit his face. “Thank you for telling me all of this. I… I had never considered any of it before. And you’re right. It’s not about me, it’s about them. I promise to strive to be whatever they need me to be.”
“Good,” the girl grinned. “See… First day as president and I’m already straightening you out. Now, about the food…”
“What’s wrong with the food?” The look on his face was an adorable mixture of shock and concern.
Dawn could hold her serious expression for about thirty seconds before descending into laughter. At last getting the joke, Giles laughed with her.
“Pleased to meet you, Katrina,” Giles smiled, shaking the hand of the tall, powerfully built Russian.
“And this is Tillu… Tilluwa…” Dawn continued.
“Please call me Tilly, Sir,” the beautiful, slender, ebony-skinned girl grinned. “I’ve actually come to prefer it since arriving here.”
The student council president blew a frustrated sigh. “How many demon languages have I learned to interpret, and I can’t even wrap my tongue around a name from Mali. I’ll go find a hole to crawl into now.”
“No worries, Dawn, my friend. Even some in my homeland have trouble with it. It is a family name passed down from long ago.”
Giles took the young lady’s hand. “And I am delighted to meet you, Tilly. But, please, no need for the formality of ‘sir’. Mr. Giles is good enough for me. Even just Giles when we’re in a comfortable setting such as this.”
“But, Mr. Wells told us to always address you as ‘sir’, Sir,” Katrina insisted.
“I wouldn’t doubt it,” Giles sighed. “Let me guess. He paced to and fro in front of you, giving you a list of rules that went on and on.” Both girls nodded emphatically. “I don’t know why I haven’t fed that boy to a demon yet,” he grumbled, sliding a hip onto his desk and pulling off his glasses.
Dawn chuckled at the shocked looks on the other girls’ faces. “Because for those two weeks you sent him to Rome on vacation, his replacement couldn’t keep up with your workload, messed up your schedule, and sent you to Mongolia when you were needed in Morocco.”
“And I don’t need you taking his side, thank you very much,” Giles huffed, then smiled at his confused guards. “Please disregard anything Mr. Wells told you about how you are to treat me. Your job is to accompany me when I have errands outside the compound, and basically make sure I don’t get myself into too much trouble. As for everything else, I’d like you to enjoy your time with me. Besides, I’ve heard you two went through a lot to get here.”
Glancing past them, he saw a look on Dawn’s face that clearly said, ‘I know where you sleep’.
“It must have been awfully dull preparing a full report on me,” he continued with a mischievous glint in his eye.
“Oh no, Si… Mist… um… Giles. It was very interesting research.” Tilly smiled.
“Your tactics should be studied by every slayer,” Katrina said with certainty. “I hope to put some into effect when I return to Moscow.”
Giles couldn’t hide a slight blush at the flattery. “Is-is that where you wish to use your skills as a slayer?”
“Yes, to help my home.”
“And you, Tilly? Where would you like to be deployed when your training here has finished?”
“Oh… Wherever I’ll do the most good, I suppose. Slayers are needed everywhere, right?”
“Yes, they are,” Giles smiled softly.
“Well, I’m sure Giles has work to do,” Dawn inserted. “We can get his schedule from Andrew.”
“That I do,” the Watcher sighed, glancing down at the files on his desk as he continued distractedly. “I believe I have a meeting with one of our specialty venders in the morning. Shouldn’t be too eventful, but his other clients might prove an interesting distraction if you girls get bored.”
“No distractions,” Katrina stated. “We will be there to ensure your security.”
“Come on, Guys,” Dawn started towards the door. “See, I told you he wasn’t that scary. You, on the other hand,” she joked with the Russian.
“Ladies?” Giles’ voice stopped them just before they reached the door. “Just curious. Do any of you know Robyn Stone?”
“Sure,” Dawn turned. “She has the room next to me. What’s up?”
“It seems she didn’t make it to classes today and no one can find her. Has she given any indication that she would want to suddenly leave like this?”
“Like Anna and Rose,” Tilly muttered.
“Yes, the two who went missing last week.”
“Giles, I don’t know the others, but I can tell you for certain that if Robyn wanted to go it wouldn’t have been today.” Dawn was looking truly worried.
“How are you so sure?”
“Well, not to make that head of yours any bigger. But she’s been excited ever since the boards went up for this week and we found out you’re giving tomorrow’s lecture. I mean, to the point of driving us all bonkers. Wild demons couldn’t have made her miss it.”
“Yes,” Katrina spoke up. “I saw her this morning. We were running late and she had to go back to her room for a book.”
Giles shook his head. “This isn’t boding well. You say she lives next to you?”
“Yes. We’re all on the same floor in North House.”
“I’ll get the master key from Andrew and we’ll go see if we can find anything.”
“Yes, Sir,” the girls said in unison, responding automatically to the no-nonsense command in his voice.
“It’s starting to drizzle again,” Andrew looked up at the overcast sky as the small group continued across the large, open quad that separated North House from the other buildings of the compound.
“You didn’t have to come,” Dawn sighed.
“No. If there’s something happening to our slayers, I want to help.”
They reached the point of the stone path that curved nearest the outer wall of the grounds and Giles suddenly stopped, holding his head for a moment. Dawn was at his side in an instant.
“What is it? What’s wrong?”
“Not sure,” he groaned, trying to shake off the dizziness. “It feels like-”
As he spoke the air next to them ripped open with the violence of a lightning strike. A moment later, huge tentacles sprang forth from the tear in reality, whipping around and grabbing at the stunned group. Giles lunged forward, taking Dawn to the ground as the two slayers sprang into action. Katrina pulled a long dagger from a hidden sheath and Tilly was swinging a hand axe. The girls moved swiftly and with courage, but the experienced Watcher knew that the small arms would be no match against the giant hell-beast trying to emerge from some untold dimension.
He rolled away from the gaping portal, taking Dawn with him. “Go,” he shouted over the sudden wind as a storm let loose above them.
Dawn nodded, staring at him with frightened, yet wise and determined eyes. Then the color drained from her cheeks as she pointed past him. “Andrew,” she bellowed.
Giles followed her gaze and saw that the boy had hit his head on the stone path and was trying desperately to regain his bearings as the battle raged around him. “I’ll get him. You stay clear,” Giles ordered.
He managed to duck the first long swipe at his head, but the next was too quick. The bone armor of the tentacle scraped across his chest, shredding his clothing and drawing blood. After a few more close calls he was at Andrew’s side.
Katrina appeared in front of them, blocking a tentacle that grabbed out for the two men. “Get back, Mr. Giles. There are too many to protect all of you.”
“I know,” Giles shouted. “Help me get him out of here. Then you and Tilly fall back until help arrives.”
The Slayer nodded, but as she bent to help lift the injured boy, a tentacle wrapped around her waist and lifted her off her feet. It yanked her backwards and through the portal. Giles was right behind, trying to grab for the girl’s flailing arms. But before he could follow her through the gateway, Tilly tackled him to the ground.
“I have to help her!” the Watcher cried out.
“No,” Tilly yelled down at him with a hard certainty in her deep brown eyes. “We fight, we die. Not you.”
Before Giles could protest, a cry of agony drew his attention. Andrew’s fingertips were leaving bloody trails across the stones on the ground as a tentacle grasping tightly around his ankle dragged him toward the portal. Tilly sprang up to continue the battle and Giles made it back to the boy. He hooked his arms around Andrew’s shoulders, pulling with all his might and trying to find purchase on the mudpack the downpour was creating.
Giles flinched as Tilly’s axe flew past his head, knocked loose by a brutal blow, but never lost his grip on Andrew. They were losing ground and the Slayer had her hands full trying to keep the monster at bay. Before Giles could think, Dawn was with them, having retrieved the axe, and hacked at the tentacle with all her might.
“It’s too tough. I can’t get through!”
Andrew cried out in agony. “It’s going to pull my leg off.” Blood ran from jagged teeth burying themselves deeper into his ankle. His eyes met Dawn’s and they both knew. “Do it!” he shouted. “It’s the only way.” He quickly looked away, bracing himself.
“I’m sorry,” the girl cried as she brought the axe down hard and sure, severing his foot from his leg.
Suddenly free of the tentacle, Giles was able to drag the convulsing boy to safety. “We’re clear!” he shouted an order to his remaining guard. “Back off!” As he did, Dawn whipped Andrew’s belt from his waist and tightened the make shift tourniquet around his wounded leg.
With a flash of extra lightning, Willow stood in front of them. She quickly assessed the situation, and, as soon as Tilly rolled free, raised a protection shield around the portal. As Tilly made her way farther from the rip, it closed and blipped into nothing.
“Is that it? Is it gone?” Dawn pulled in deep breaths.
“No,” Willow answered, deep in concentration. “I can still feel it. I think it might be power sensitive and open with proximity.”
Andrew drew Dawn’s attention back as he suddenly went completely limp. “He’s in shock, Giles.”
“I know,” the man grumbled, standing easily with the boy’s body draped across his arms. “What are you doing here?”
Willow turned and smiled guiltily.
“She warded you,” Dawn confessed for her.
“You put a spell on me…” Giles growled
The witch nodded defiantly. “So I’d always know when you were trying to get yourself killed.”
Giles’ grim expression didn’t change. “Tilly! Set a perimeter at a good distance around that spot. Commandeer as much help as you need. I’m taking Andrew to the infirmary and will be back as soon as I’ve had him seen to. You’re in command until them.” The Slayer nodded her understanding of the orders.
“Giles,” Willow frowned at the blood seeping from his chest. “You’re wounded, too. Don’t you dare come back here without letting them take care of you.”
The watcher looked at his friend, his eyes softening only a touch for her. “Willow, something has attacked my slayers, my students, in the one place I’m supposed to be able to protect them. Find out who’s behind this… So I can kill them.”
To Chapter Two