‘Thoughts like water. Energies currents. The leaf floats. Undisturbed, yet knowing the water that carries it. Be the leaf.’
The humans sat facing each other, inside another sacred triangle that was set in a peaceful glen under the mellow morning sun. They breathed deeply and in unison, listening to the instructions of their Hora’Quan tutor. As the energy that had been protecting them was slowly lifted, each fought to control the chaos that flooded into their minds.
Giles tried to follow the instructions, imagining himself in a small boat on a tossing sea. Soon the sea calmed and he looked into the water.
‘Can you hear me?’ he found Willow’s clear thought.
‘Yes, Willow, I’m here,’ he answered in his thoughts.
‘Wow, this is cool. I’m sharing my thoughts with Giles and I’m not hurting him or anyone else. And I’m not even evil. And, oh crap, he can probably hear all of this and I should try to focus on something else so I don’t freak him out. Geez, now they get to listen to me babble in my head, too.’
Kennedy started laughing out loud and Giles couldn’t help the grin that crossed his face.
“I’ve missed that,” he whispered reassuringly.
Willow blushed as both her companions looked at her with affection.
‘All support gone now. Only you.’
‘We’re doing it, Guys!’ Kennedy thought excitedly.
Giles nodded, ‘It seems we are.’
“I wonder what else we can do,” Willow chirped.
‘Thoughtful Warrior injured.’
“Um, yes. Just a small scrape and a few bruises,” Giles answered with a frown.
“No,” Kennedy shook her head. “You’re still in pain. I can feel it.” She grabbed her chest and inhaled a sharp breath. “That’s not a scrape. That thing tried to take you apart.” An accusing glare suddenly shot his way. “And you made the Doc just bandage you up so you could go back out to try getting yourself killed.”
“That’s not exactly what I was--”
“Giles,” Willow whispered, “You think this is normal. You’re always in pain. Not this much, but it’s always there.”
The Watcher chuckled. “I tried to warn you I was an old man.”
‘Thoughtful Warrior injured. Steel’s Daughter has healing power.’
The Slayer had tears in her eyes. “Please tell me I can help him.”
‘Calm. Focus. Give your strength. Feel pain. Want to help. Need to help.’
Kennedy closed her eyes and did as she was told. She focused on sending Giles all of her slayer healing. After a moment, she could hear him gasp as he began to feel the power flow through him. He could feel his skin and muscle begin to knit and grow together. He could feel the bruises on his legs fade and the ache subside. Even the constant pain in his neck and shoulders eased and disappeared. Tears pricked in his eyes. He’d never imagined having the opportunity to feel the power of the slayers, now it was being gifted to him freely and with love.
When he opened his eyes, tears were streaming down Willow’s cheeks. “I could see it,” she choked. “The energy flowing between you. And I could feel everything.”
“It’s a trip, isn’t it?” Kennedy smiled at him through her own tears.
“I, I never could have imagined. Thank you, Luv,” Giles whispered. “Thank you.”
That night, when their training was adjourned for the day, they went to their separate rooms to bathe and change for bed. But, when Giles settled in to sleep, his companions were soon there with him. It felt more natural all the time, being constantly in their company. For the first time in as long as he could remember, he was pain-free and warm in the arms of people that cared for him. This time sleep came with no thought at all.
“I knew I should have sent you away with the rest!” Buffy shouted.
“I would never have let you!” Dawn screamed back. “I belong here. This is my home and I’m gonna defend it.”
Her older sister fumed. “Home or not, I’m not gonna let you get yourself killed over it!”
“It barely grazed me. Just ‘cause I like this place more than you ever--”
“What are you talking about? Just, just listen to me for once in your stubborn life. The slayers do the fighting. If you insist on being out here, stay back with Xander and the other watchers.”
“I was, you dork! It had shooting barb thingys.”
Xander waved a hand between the sisters. “Woah, let’s break it up here. Stressing much?”
“Stay out of this, Xan,” Buffy growled.
“No. You love each other and you’re snapping at each other like a pair of wet cats. You’re both tired. I’m sending you to your separate corners and both to bed.” Two sets of eyes glared at him. “You heard me. Scat. Now!”
The two Summers girls looked at each other, huffed, and stomped toward their rooms. When they’d reached a sufficient distance, Xander released a sigh of relief. “Where’s the cavalry already?”
‘We’re never going to get this!’ Kennedy’s mind shouted in frustration.
“Patience,” Giles murmured.
The Slayer frowned. “It was just a stray thought. I’m trying.” She couldn’t help adding the thought, ‘Geez, get off my back.’
“He’s only trying to help, Ken. I know this is frustrating, but we have to learn to stay in control.” Willow reached out to grip her hand.
“None of us are used to sharing our thoughts,” Giles said. “I apologize for responding to what I’m sure was an errant bit of emotion.”
Kennedy sighed. “It’s not your fault. You are wisdom after all. It’s kinda your job. I just don’t understand why we aren’t getting this.”
“We’re human,” Willow smiled. “We’re used to being a me instead of an us. It’s going to be tough to work as one.”
Giles smiled reassuringly. “I’m sure we’ll master this exercise very soon.” ‘Never happen. The Earth is doomed.’ “All we can do is try again until we’re ready to do what we must.” He was startled when his companions suddenly began to giggle at him.
“Giles,” Willow laughed, “Your emotions are showing. You have doubts, just like us.”
He couldn’t help a small smile. “True, but I never doubt what all of you can accomplish. So, let’s try again. Buffy and the others are waiting for us.”
“It starts with me, the power,” Willow stated as they turned to attempt the simple magick again.
“Then Wisdom gives it form. I decide how much is needed to accomplish the task,” Giles added.
Kennedy stared at their target. “And strength focuses everything. I add the purpose and direct the magick as it passes through me.” They smiled as the small stone began to rise from the ground and drift toward the top of a larger stone. ‘We’re doing it,’ she thought excitedly.
‘Concentrate,’ the Watcher caution. He moved to shield his companions as the stone suddenly shattered and sprayed them with tiny shards.
“Crap!” the Slayer growled.
The sun was dipping behind the mountains when Foundation’s Stone arrived to further their instruction. Giles could feel his companions’ exhaustion. They were as weary and exasperated as he was.
Kennedy huffed, “Yeah right. We have the blowing-up-rocks trick down pat.”
That brought forth a new sound. Their demon friend was laughing at them. ‘Try once more.’ The three humans got to their feet and turned toward the pile of stones. ‘Not stone.’ It glanced down at a small chinchilla sitting at its feet.
“That may not be the best idea,” Willow whispered carefully.
“Unless you want the little guy puréed.” Kennedy’s frustration had fully released her sarcasm.
Giles hoped to calm them both with a gentle touch. “Are you sure we’re ready to attempt this?”
‘Hearts of heroes. Stones mean little. But you will not let innocent be harmed.’
Giles could feel Willow’s fear growing as if it were his own. She knew what it felt like to take life with magick, and he knew she never wanted to feel it again. He looked into the demon’s huge, violet eyes. “We trust that you know what we can accomplish. However, I’m sure you can sense our apprehension. Tell us we can do this, and we will.”
‘Apprehension is useful. Needed for control. Power can lift or crush. You will always choose to protect little friend.’
Giles nodded. “We have to try, Willow. We are here for a purpose and must press on.”
“I know,” the witch whispered. ‘Even though I’m just a dirty murderer.’ “Buffy’s waiting for us.”
Both Giles and Kennedy moved to embrace her. “You are a beautiful goddess,” her girlfriend murmured into her ear. “With you here, we can do anything.”
With a nod, they stayed in the comforting embrace and focused on the small animal. It began to twitch and glance around as if it sensed something. Then, slowly, it lifted off the ground. After some frightened scrambling of its small legs at first, it seemed to clam, as if it suddenly felt secure and at ease. The little creature drifted toward them until it alighted safely in Willow’s arms.
“We did it,” she said to her companions, tears in her eyes. “I can’t believe it.” Willow gently set the animal down and flung her arms around Kennedy, kissing her passionately. She then turned to hug Giles as well, and placed a tender kiss on his lips. The Watcher was stunned at first, but smiled as she left him and ran to hug Foundation’s Stone. Her joy flowing though him was like nothing he’d ever felt before. It was glorious.
That night, his two companions only went to their room to collect their night clothing. They bathed in his bathroom and came out ready for bed. Giles then took his turn to prepare for the night. He joined them in his bed, settling comfortably as the two beautiful women wrapped their long limbs around him. It was getting harder to be without them for any length of time. Now, his heart had stopped listening to the concerns of his mind. These wonderful ladies wanted him with them, wanted to be with him. It was a need for human contact that he had given up on and put out of his thoughts forever. But now they pressed in closer to him, fell asleep cradled in his arms. He wanted to weep at the marvelous peace they shared with him.
Faith was making plans with Tilly when Miss Harkness found them. “We can’t go on like this,” the coven’s priestess stated without preamble.
“Tell me about it,” Faith sighed. “It seems like your protection mojo isn’t even slowing anything down any more.”
“Yes. It’s true,” Miss Harkness admitted. “That’s because the tear has been expanding and we’ve been concentrating all our power on trying to keep it contained to its original area.”
Tilly nodded in understanding. “But you can’t anymore.”
“It’s gotten too dangerous. My young students are giving everything until they fall unconscious. I fear we will suffer some serious injuries soon. I know you have taken many losses, but we are not soldiers.”
“We get it,” Faith said thoughtfully, flexing the fingers that protruded from her cast. “When you’re a slayer, taking the hits is your job. Thanks for the help, but if you have to pull out…”
“I’m not suggesting we want to abandon you. We’ll help you defend this place, if only because Rupert and Willow called on us. But this thing is going to grow until it threatens the world.”
“You have a new plan?” Tilly asked.
“As much as I hate to lose ground to this evil, we have to move back.”
Faith agreed, “Expand the perimeter. We were just talking about the same thing. The girls are reacting weird. All this tension is making best friends try to bite each other’s head off.”
“It’s coming through the rift,” the witch said. “I have felt the malicious energy for a while now. It’s growing in strength. We must stay strong of mind to fight it.”
“How could we not have noticed,” Tilly sighed. “It has been those spending the most time near the rift who are the most effected.”
“That’s it,” Faith thumped her fist on the table. “New plan. We move everyone’s housing as far across the compound as possible. Only those on duty are to come anywhere near here. Everyone else stays away unless the alarm is sounded. Miss Harkness, move your people back as far as you feel comfortable. Make a rotation that gives them the rest they need. Tilly, you go fill Buffy in. I’ll find Xander and get the watchers in motion.”
The Malian Slayer gave a curt nod started away with the tall witch.
Alone, Faith looked up into the cloudy sky. “Come on, G. Whatever you guys are up to, we’re losing it here.”
A wild flower floated in the midst of the three humans. It danced for them, then shot straight up into the sky where it exploded into beautiful butterflies. The companions smiled at each other. They had worked hard and could now demonstrate perfect control.
‘Wonderful.’ Their teacher praised.
“Please don’t think us ungrateful for all you’ve done to help us,” Giles spoke for the three of them. “But we hope you’ll find us ready to receive the magick we came for now. We’re…we’re not sure how long we’ve been here, but we do know that we are needed.”
‘Yes. Evil growing. You’ve shown control. Tomorrow we train in the dimensional magick.’
“Tomorrow?” Willow asked.
‘Rest now. Magick dangerous. Focus complete needed.’
“We are a little pooped,” Kennedy smiled at her girlfriend’s frown. “I don’t know if we can keep completely focused anymore today. At least, not on the magick thing.” The final statement was accompanied by a raised eyebrow.
Giles shivered when he felt a spike of Willow’s lust shoot through him. He shook the feeling from his thoughts, knowing it was not meant for him. The Watcher turned away, not noticing his companions look at him with sadness in their eyes.
That evening’s meal was spent in the company of friends. It seemed to be another celebration. The entire community could feel that the newcomers were ready to graduate to another level. They were about to be given a powerful weapon against evil. The communal joy carried the humans with it, and Willow and Kennedy spent the time making Giles laugh more freely and with unbridled pleasure than they had ever known from him. Even Willow had never seen him smile so much, and witnessing it was intoxicating.
Giles exited his restroom, ready for bed. He crossed the darkened room and slipped into the large bed next to Willow. Before long, he realized his two companions were kissing and giving one another loving touches and caresses. The Watcher turned onto his side away from the lovers to give them a semblance of privacy. He had no desire to disturb them, but knew that his heart couldn’t take leaving the room and being separated from them. Giles attempted to make himself as small and quiet as possible, hoping not to be sent away.
The first light tug on his shoulder made him jump. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “I’ll be in the--”
Kennedy was standing by the bed in front of him, preventing him from exiting. Willow tugged harder at his shoulder to coax him onto his back. When he did roll over, Kennedy slid in on his other side, blocking any escape, and Willow propped herself up to look down into his face.
“I’m sorry,” Giles whispered again. “I’d hoped not to--” Willow’s slender finger on his lips silenced him.
He lay still and watched her eyes as her soft fingers began to roam, tracing the lines of his face. Her tender touch caressed every deeply engraved worry line, every stress line, every physical manifestation of pain and sorrow. Giles closed his eyes and let the warmth of her touch settle over him.
Eventually the lovely redhead stroked her fingers through the greying hair that began at his temples and continued back. “We did this to you,” she murmured softly.
Giles reached up to caress the back of her hand. “Time did it to me.”
She smiled as he looked up at her. “Maybe, but we didn’t help any. Everything we’ve put you through.”
“I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”
The young witch dipped her head, caressing his lips with her own.
He gently pushed her back. “Willow, I, um thank you, but I don’t want your pity. I understand that the two of you need time to be intimate. You don’t have to worry about me.”
“Do you really think this is pity? Is that what you think you’re sensing from us? You’ve got yourself so convinced that being alone is how it’s supposed to be, that being lonely is your place in life. It’s like you can’t even understand that we could just simply love you.”
“I understand that you’re feeling closer to me because of the ritual and everything we’ve been sharing. B-but I know what I am. You are both lovely and young. I can’t see how it would be possible for you to…”
The girls looked at each other and sighed. This time it was Kennedy who leaned over and kissed him. It was not as tender as Willow’s kiss, but no less surprisingly pleasant.
“Shut up,” the Slayer ordered gently. “We know you can’t see it. But, right now, I’m seeing you through Will’s eyes and I can see everything. We… we know you’re afraid to let anyone close to your heart anymore. We know what you’ve lost. But we can also feel your heart calling out for us. You need this, need us. And we need you.”
“Please, Giles. Let us love you.”
Tears were blurring his vision as he gazed into their earnest faces. “Nobody loves me,” Giles breathed.
“You’re wrong,” Willow whispered, her silky lips grazing his cheek. “You’re so very wrong.”
His head began to whirl as two sets of velvet lips alighted on the tender skin of his neck. God, he did love them, but never dared to imagine what it would feel like to have that love returned. Now he was being told that this pair of Earth-bound goddesses found him worthy to be graced with such overwhelming love. He thought his heart might pound out of his chest. Then Willow began to unfasten his shirt.
“Please,” he begged breathlessly, grabbing her hands. “I-I don’t want you to see.”
“But we have seen,” Kennedy said, gently pulling his hands away so Willow could continue. “We’ve seen everything. Every mark, every scar, everything you’ve suffered protecting this world. And we’ve already decided you’re beautiful.”
As if to give proof to the statement, Willow’s lips began tracing the jagged lines of his chest. And the two of them continued on for what must have been hours, kissing, almost worshiping every mark on his body. Attempting to thank him for each sacrifice. Endeavoring to wipe away every pain of his past. It was more than Giles could bear. Exhausted from mentally shutting them out, he at last gave himself over to the love they offered. The exquisite joy was something he knew he could never deserve, but it was a bliss that consumed him entirely. Finally, he was loved.
To Chapter Seven