A/N: My name for the demons came from one of my favorite video games. If you're reading this and know where the name came from, I might just be in love with you :)
“I got you some sweats. Figured anything was better than having to change into one of these flimsy gowns.” Dawn smiled her sweetest at Giles as he sat on the edge of one of the infirmary beds, trying his best to scrub the black blood from his exposed skin with a sponge and a bowl of warm water. “Not that it would be new to me seeing you like that. I just thought… You know, air of authority and all.”
He smiled, knowing she was trying to hide her worry from him. “That will do just fine. And please don’t fret on my account. I seem to be rather more resilient than anyone expects.”
“Yeah, well…” Dawn frowned. “The ‘no one’s been able to kill me yet’ line is getting pretty worn. All it means is someone eventually will and I don’t like to think about that.” He reached out to stroke a hand over her hair when he saw tears in her eyes. “It’s been bad enough that I have Andrew in here cracking jokes about missing body parts and my ax swinging abilities. I don’t want you in the next bed telling me I worry too much. My sister’s a slayer and my family’s all watchers and witches. I have a right to worry.” His large, comforting hand squeezed her shoulder as her voice broke. “And I’d really like to be hugging you so hard you can’t breathe right now, but you’re still all… gross.”
Giles chuckled at that. “Yes. I suppose a shower will be the first order of business upon my escape from this place. And I plan to collect on that hug sometime very soon.” This won him another smile, as he’d hoped it would.
“All right, Mr. Giles,” the staff doctor sighed as he walked up. “I’ve seen to every last student, from cracked ribs to scraped elbows. May I now examine the extent of the damage you’ve inflicted on yourself this time?” The Head of the Council nodded his assent.
“Don’t worry, Sir,” Andrew said sleepily from the next recovery bed. “If the doc says you have to stay, I’ll keep you company. These guys really are the best. And the drugs are awesome.”
Dawn went to watch over the young man, giving the doctor some privacy to check Giles’ injuries.
Giles sighed wearily, carefully limping back to his bed from the shower room and pulling his sweatshirt into place. A group of his young cohorts had basically slammed through the infirmary doors and were headed in his direction as they continued to argue amongst themselves.
“Hey!” Dawn appeared at his side and glowered at the bunch. “This is a recovery ward. Either shut up or get the hell out.” The Watcher failed to hide his approving grin.
“Sorry,” Xander sighed. “It’s just… we think we’ve got something.”
“You and Red fit for duty?” Faith asked abruptly, before anyone else could start talking at the older man.
“I’ll be fine,” Giles grunted, sliding on a new pair of glasses.
That’s when entire group suddenly went silent and looked at him suspiciously. The doctor walked up and Xander asked him, “How’s the old man, really?”
The doctor cleared his throat to try to hide his amusement at the irritated glare Giles was shooting at his young friends. “Mr. Giles seems to have avoided any major trauma to his bones and joints. I’m sure the bruises covering his legs will have him sore for a few days. But, as long as you can keep him from any more heroics for the time being, he should recover fully.”
Faith snorted, “Easier said, Doc.”
“Yes, I am well aware,” the doctor raised an eyebrow at his patient. “Miss Rosenberg is in perfect health. She should be joining you any time now.” He glanced at the shower room just as Willow stepped out. “Please excuse me. I have others to attend to.”
“Now… Will you tell me what the bloody hell is going on?” Giles said tersely. The angry tension in his body visibly eased as Willow came up beside him and began absently rubbing her hand along his shoulders.
The group glanced among themselves, trying to silently work out who should begin. At the back, Rona and Chao-Ahn renewed their argument, both switching between English and Chinese as if it was all one language. Their mentor couldn’t help but be impressed at how quickly they’d learned from each other. Of course, his irritation was quickly overwhelming his pride.
Xander could see the sleeping volcano start to boil. “The update goes like this, Big Guy. We’ve managed to get the quad mostly cleared. Sent some samples to the labs to see if our brainiac division can figure out what or where from. That’s when we noticed some stray lead knocked chunks off the wall where the thingy pops up. There was some kinda symbol behind a false front. We managed to knock the rest loose. Well, I did with a couple of the newer watchers. Figured we’d be mystically inert enough not to trigger anything.”
“We’ve seen the symbol before, Mr. Giles,” Chao-Ahn blurted out. “Last year, on our first mission.”
Rona grimaced. “It was at that demon cult we took out. We found a bunch of them chanting around the same thing on the floor. One must have escaped and set this up as revenge. This is all our fault.”
“No,” Giles shook his head at the young ladies. “You destroyed a group of dangerous demons bent on bringing Hell to Earth. Willow says this has been here a year. There’s no knowing if they set this up before your attack and, if so, you could not have prevented it.”
“At least now we have some place solid to start,” Willow added. “The research department will be glad to have something to focus on at last.”
“That is unacceptable!” Giles’ voice rang across the quad, drawing glances from the slayers on duty. A crack of thunder closely echoed him and threatened with more impending rain. “There must be something.” He paced in irritated impotence.
“We’ve been through everything in the library.” The slightly intimidating steel-haired woman stood ramrod straight before him. She knew his anger wasn’t directed at her, but was not going to let this man she’d at one time scolded for mistreating her books get away with making her feel any worse for failing to find the answers. After all, this was her home and these were her children, too. “There is nothing that even comes close to telling us where that symbol might have come from. Of course, we have not been able to fully rebuild our selection of ancient manuscripts…” She sighed, knowing he had always been on her side of that particular argument. “Rupert, even I’ve never seen anything like this. It might be a magick that predates what we can find in writing.”
Giles stopped his pacing and looked up at her. “Wha- what about the volumes Wyndam-Pryce sent us before his death? Didn’t he once mention something about forgotten texts?”
“That’s what Andrew and I have been looking into,” Dawn said in an exhausted voice as she joined the conversation.
“He should still be recovering.”
Dawn smiled, “As soon as the drugs wore off he decided he needed to help. I figure taking some work to him was the only way to keep him in bed.” This won a small smile from Giles. The boy certainly was a dedicated little irritant. “Anyway, we went through all the forgotten texts it would let us call up. Even asked for an index so we wouldn’t miss anything. Sorry, Giles, it’s just not there.”
“This is impossible,” the Watcher grumbled, rubbing his sore neck. “If it’s not referenced in history and not in pre-history… How do we fight something like that?”
“Perhaps…” the old librarian woman scrunched her nose in thought. “There was a time in between. After the old ones, but before anyone started recording what was happening. There are no records in existence of the kinds of magicks that were remade during that time.”
Giles’ shoulders slumped. He was feeling more defeated than he ever had in his life. “You sound tired, Dawn. Why don’t you go get some rest? In fact, I think the entire research department has earned a break.” The librarian nodded curtly and left to relay the order to her people.
“What about you?” Dawn asked with concern. “You look like you’re about to fall over.”
He let a small laugh escape. “I’ve had almost everyone here try to send me to bed over the past several days. Even when I do make it, there’s no rest for me there. Only nightmares of girls dying one by one. I prefer to be out here. But thank you, Luv.”
She took his hand and led him to sit with her on a nearby bench. “We’ll figure this out,” she whispered, pulling him to lean against her. “The Scoobies are on it. See… Will and Ken are up there helping the coven. And over there, Buffy and Faith are even getting along and making sure all the slayers stay rested and ready. And don’t even get me started on how much Xander is falling in love with that arsenal he has ready to take down anything we might face. We’ll find a way, Giles. We always do.”
Dawn felt his weight settle against her as his head finally came to rest on her shoulder. She tenderly slid her hand into his and winked at some of his guards who looked on with smiles. The Head of the New Watcher’s Council had finally fallen asleep.
“What the hell are they!?!” Buffy’s shout startled Giles awake. He could feel Dawn’s head resting against the top of his and her steady breathing beside him. Someone had draped heavy overcoats over the both of them. “How are they getting through? Just don’t let any escape the containment zone!”
“Buffy!” Willow hollered. “They’re out of phase. They don’t even notice the barrier.”
“Steel seems to get their attention,” Faith smirked after slicing one in half a sword.
Giles quickly shook himself fully awake and cast his gaze around for the new foe. He had to blink a few times to make sure his eyes were working. Hundreds of what looked like overgrown, blue tinted, slightly glowing rats were pouring out of the rift. It was like the pied piper was having a bad acid trip.
“They’re too small. Hand to hand, people!” He heard Xander call. “Let’s show these guys watchers know how to swing sharp things, too.”
Giles glanced over to see Dawn blinking at him. She gave him a tiny smile and sighed, “Well, at least you got a few minutes.”
He squeezed the hand still resting in his. “Thanks to you.” Both then took a deep breath, found some nearby weapons, and joined in the bizarre and brutal extermination.
Half an hour later, one last high-pitched death squeak sounded the end of that particular fight. Buffy sighed, “I wish they would just make up their minds on what to send to attack us. Gotta say though, while high on the ick scale, these things weren’t much of a challenge.”
Giles pulled off his glasses to rub his eyes. “I don’t think there is any attacking going on, per se. It’s more like animals in another dimension are stumbling onto the rift and falling through.”
“That’s what it is for now,” Willow joined them. “But we can’t know there isn’t an army getting ready on the other side. If this was placed here to wipe out the slayers, we have to think of everything.”
“I concur. Sadly, we might not have the resources to close it permanently.” The Watcher slowly slid his glasses back on and squared his shoulders. “I’ve decided to order the evacuation of the school.”
“Giles,” Dawn frowned, “You love this place.”
“It’s still only a place,” he slid a hand onto her shoulder. “The students will always come first.”
“But we can’t leave this hole here unguarded.” Buffy shook her head. “If it does keep growing, it might become more dangerous than a Hellmouth.”
“Buffy, I’m not suggesting we--” The next thing Giles saw was Buffy’s hand waving slowly in front of his eyes. Blinking rapidly, he huffed, “Buffy, this is no time for…”
“Wow,” Buffy voiced the words that were in every eye that was staring intently at him. “Major zone out there, Old Man. The sleep deprivation must be working overtime. Maybe it’s time to try a manual sedative on you.” She lifted her fist with a teasing smile.
“Willow?” Dawn asked carefully. “You both did it at the same time. What’s going--?”
Two slayers ran up to the group with Kennedy in tow and looking confused. “Mr. Giles! Kenney just went really freaky and said stuff in a weird voice!”
The older man took a deep breath, trying to connect the dots. “Willow, it was you, me, and Kennedy. Do you remember what we all said?”
Both girls nodded, following his train of thought. Kennedy answered, “It was words. Um, come, old magick, teach, and help.”
“The Hora’Quan!” Willow shouted excitedly. “They speak in concepts instead of sentences, use telepathy, and have connections with the three of us. Everything fits. It must be them!”
“It’s also possible they hold the answers to this forgotten time, as their race would remember,” Giles agreed with a hopeful smile.
“So, they’re calling the three of us in for lessons,” Kennedy summed up.
“Hold up,” Buffy shook her head, trying to keep up. “So what’s this Hoard of Trons? And how are they in your heads?”
Dawn patiently patted her older sister on the shoulder, earning herself a glare. “The Hora’Quan. Buffy, remember the demons Giles made friends with last year?” she chuckled.
“Yeah. The ones that almost got him killed.”
“That’s not exactly how it went,” Giles inserted quietly.
Willow smiled. “Ever since they basically made Giles part of that one tribe, Ken and I have been working to get them to share new histories and magicks with us. It’s been slow. I think they’re having trouble with the idea of us wanting knowledge without the context it’s need for. But they have always said they’d be willing if they could help us.”
Giles nodded, “I think the context has appeared.”
“So they want you three to just run up and see them?” Buffy frowned. “Why can’t they come here and help.”
“Because the entire demon world is watching this place,” Kennedy added softly. “Their main defense is being extinct. Plus,” she shook her head as she remembered first meeting them, “if they suddenly popped in on a group of us, it would be nothing but bad.” Willow and Giles nodded in concurrence as they looked around at all the slayers.
“We have to go, Buffy,” her Watcher said with a sure voice. “This may be our one and only option.”
The senior Slayer nodded. “Right. You guys pop up, grab the whozits, and get back here. No problem.”
Willow chewed her lip. “If this magick is new to us, chances are they’re gonna have to teach us how to use it. This race is slow and thorough. There’s no telling how long they might keep us until they’re sure we’re ready.”
“You sure they need all of you?” Buffy asked in a small voice.
Giles smiled, “The Scoobies have become generals. You won’t even miss us.”
Dawn smiled as Faith and Xander got curious and joined the ever-growing group. “Any final orders before you head off on your top secret mission, Boss?”
Giles shook his head at her with a small chuckle. “Have the staff evacuate the compound. You’ll find provisions for alternate emergency housing in the safe. Buffy,” he cut off any objection, “You and the others will keep all the field-ready slayers here. That will be nearly a hundred slayers to keep this contained. No one takes any risks. Just keep it under control until we get back.”
His young warriors smiled at him. “We got this.”
“Willow,” Giles whispered as he shrugged his small travel bag from his shoulder, “You’re sure this is the place?” He didn’t dare raise his voice any. There was the overwhelming feeling that they were intruding in the pristine natural setting she had brought them to. The mountain air was cold and had an invigorating sting as he inhaled. But the sun shone brightly through the evergreens and dappled the still virgin snow in beautiful patterns.
“This is what I saw in my mind.” The witch glanced around with a smile. “They’ll show themselves when they’re sure it’s us. You remember how careful they are.”
“Yes,” he frowned. “I only hope their care doesn’t cost Buffy and the others.”
“Giles, you have to relax.” Willow smiled at him and, with a wave of her hand, created a clear, dry place on a fallen tree for them to sit. “You know as well as we do that here you have to let time go. Buffy and the gang can handle anything. And, before you know it, we’ll get to show up and save the day.” She sat next to him and cuddled against his side for warmth. Giles automatically wrapped his arm around her.
“It never seems to be that easy anymore,” he sighed. “I guess, the older I get, the more I want to make sure all of you have no more need to put yourselves in danger before I go.”
“You’re not going anywhere, Giles. You’re not allowed, remember?” Willow murmured, leaning her head into his shoulder. He chuckled, holding the tired girl as Kennedy stood watch with a smile quirking her lips.
Kennedy spun around, looking for the source of the voice she could only hear in her head. “They’re here,” she said, rousing the dozing pair.
To Chapter Four