The slayers stood, staring into the towering, chaotic vortex of the rift. Their watchers took position among them. There was no more point in holding reserves back, no thought of leaving anyone out of this fight. It was the end, the last stand, and everyone knew it. The portal was expanding at an ever-increasing rate. Even those members of the coven who had chosen to stay now took up arms.
Buffy, Faith, and all of the ragged and battered slayers stood as the front line. In their midst, Xander took position beside Dawn. The youngest Scooby had pushed Andrew onto the battlefield in his hospital wheelchair. He now sat with his crossbow at the ready. A feeling of resignation lay thick over the weary army.
Sensing the mood of defeat among the frightened warriors, Andrew yelled out, “We just have to hold them off! Mr. Giles will be here!”
Buffy turned to look back at him. The blonde slayer was bruised and covered with mud. “It’s been nearly a month. Giles’ stupid demons probably ate them. If they do come waltzing back, we’ll be good and dead.”
“We’re not defeated yet, Buffy,” Dawn called loud enough for those around to hear her. “It’s the rift. It’s making us all feel like we’ve already lost. But, as long as we stand together…”
The clatter of swords and armor could be heard from the other dimension. It sounded like the army they’d been waiting for.
Faith shook her head as the rain began to beat down on them again. “Even if the cavalry does make it back, this fight is gonna be a rough ride. This looks like the big one we’ve been waiting for.”
“Stand ready!” Xander yelled when the first signs of the advancing demon force became visible through the vortex. The enemy army charged and the Earth’s young defenders prepared for the clash.
Time slowed as a brilliant flash of light blinded everyone on the battlefield. The slayer force stared in awe at the three figures that had appeared between them and their enemies. The newcomers were all dressed in the same simple clothing and seemed to have a golden glow about them. One stood at the front with the other two flanking close behind. The heavy rain fell around them, as if even the basic elements obeyed and respected these strange beings. They moved as one, and when they turned to look at the slayer army, their eyes glowed with the same golden fire.
“Giles? Will?” Buffy breathed when she recognized the faces.
The three didn’t respond, but turned their focus on the invading demons. Time resumed and the demon army rushed forward. But, as the ocean crashes against a cliff-face, the rushing force broke on an invisible barrier protecting the weary humans. Angry, they turned on the new prey.
“No! Watch out!” the Scoobies sprang forward, but were blocked from helping by the same energy field.
Kennedy glanced sharply to the left and raised her hands, palms out. A wave of magick shot from her and engulfed a large portion of the attacking creatures. Weapons and armor dropped to the ground as a flock of black birds rose into the sky. The magick was then focused in the other direction, leaving the ground littered with armaments covered with a writhing mass of cockroaches and earthworms. The large, ugly demon commander howled his rage and lunged toward the calm three, his huge sword raised high.
The companions looked at him with unmoved, focused expressions and the angry demon was caught by an invisible force and lifted off the ground. He watched and howled, helpless as his remaining soldiers fell around him. But, perhaps the worst part for a demon warrior, they didn’t fall to wounds and death, but every last one of them was transformed into a natural part of the world they were trying to invade. The commander’s eyes blazed with hatred as he saw his remaining two lieutenants strike wildly at the strange beings before exploding into hundreds of black butterflies.
The last of the invaders, he was pulled closer and the three spoke as one. “You were called here. Told this place would be easily conquered. Now you understand this world is defended. Go back and spread the word. The Earth will not fall to you.”
With a slight flick of Kennedy’s fingers, the huge demon flew backwards and through the rift. A loud, joyful cheer went up from the slayer army. But the three heroes weren’t finished yet. Now they focused their attention on the rift. The magick they sent toward it visibly flowed from all of them, spreading out to the edges of the tear. Everyone held their breath, waiting to see what would happen next. After a few moments, the edges of the rift began to collapse inward. It closed slowly at first, but as the magick worked, the doorway to the other dimension raced to slam shut.
In the blink of an eye, as Kennedy stepped forward and turned around excitedly to look at her companions, the three ethereal beings were once again humans. All the magick disappeared.
“We did it!” Kennedy bounced and grinned at her companions. “That felt amazing.”
Willow giggled at her lover’s excitement and put a hand up to affectionately rub Giles’ arm without thinking about it. Her eyes went wide with concern when she felt him suddenly go into motion.
Kennedy had been saying, “Hey, and I made it, too. Guess those slayer dream aren’t always--” Her voice cut off in shock when Giles’ arms suddenly flew around her and he spun her around.
He whispered in the Slayer’s ear, “Take care of them.” The next instant, something thin and whip-like wrapped around his waist and yanked him backwards.
Kennedy was on the run, chasing the retreating figure of the man that had become so much to her. She reached out, barely able the brush the tips of his fingers. His eyes glistened with the pain of being separated from them, but she could see his conviction in them.
‘I’ll lose no more,’ she felt his thought as he was pulled away.
She lunged forward, determined not to lose him, but, as he was pulled through the rift, it blipped out of existence. Kennedy slammed into the stone wall that reappeared where it belonged. She got up, slamming her body into the wall again and again, as if she thought that if she could only knock it down Giles would be standing on the other side.
“No!” she screamed, her voice ragged and breaking. “It was supposed to be me! Give him back, you Bastard! We still need him. Give him back… Please.”
Willow had crumpled to the ground, wracked with sobs as the stunned onlookers slowly processed what had just happened. Dawn ran to her devastated friend and wrapped her in a tight hug, rocking and crying with her.
Giles’ young honor guard walked forward and fell to her knees. It was Xander who put a large, comforting hand on the young Slayer’s shoulder. He knew what she was thinking.
“It was what he wanted,” he murmured as Tilly looked up at him, tears in her eyes. “You couldn’t have done anything to stop it.”
“He did it. He saved us,” she whispered with awe in her voice. “How can I not feel I failed him?”
Xander shrugged, knowing nothing could ease her pain at that moment. He was feeling it, too. The loss of a hero, a mentor, but most of all, a friend. “Remember him,” the young Watcher finally answered. “I think he’d like that.”
Faith carefully approached Kennedy, skirting around the angry flailing and wild strikes. Seeing an opening, she threw her long arms around the younger girl, pulling her away from the crumbling stone before she could do real damage to her bloody arms and knuckles. Kennedy fought for a few more minutes, screaming her pain.
“Shh,” Faith squeezed with her strong arms. “G knew what he was doing. The brilliant and suicidal bastard had the whole thing planed. He was waiting for his chance.”
“You don’t understand,” Kennedy was breathing hard. “Will and I, we need him.”
Faith looked at her, clearly not fully comprehending. But then, how could she. “He sacrificed his life for you. He would have done it for any of us. It’s who the guy was.”
“Kennedy!” Willow called out, anguish in her voice.
Her lover rushed across the battlefield to her. “I’m sorry,” she cried. “I lost him. Willow, if I could get him back for you…” The Slayer dropped to her knees, holding the witch as she began to shake.
“Hold me,” Willow pleaded. “It hurts too much.”
“I’ll get him back for you. I swear.”
“No,” Willow moaned. “We sealed it. That portal can never be opened from this side again.”
Kennedy began to shake as badly as Willow while the rain beat down on them. Everyone in the devastated quad was now gathering around the two heartbroken heroes. There were tears and grief enough for all, but none could understand the display of loss playing out before them. Dawn tried feebly to rub her friends backs, sharing their pain, but completely inept to stop it.
“I can’t accept it,” Kennedy bawled. “I can’t accept that he’s gone.”
“I’m sorry,” Andrew ventured, the loss and pain ripping his heart out.
“No!” Kennedy howled at the sky. “They need to know their father!”
A slight, startled murmur rumbled through the assemblage.
Buffy stepped forward, looking confused. “Giles never had any kids.”
“No. But he’s going to,” Kennedy shot at her, holding Willow in such a protective way that there was no doubt which one of them was expecting.
“You’re pregnant?” Dawn breathed in awe, her joy at the prospect nearly breaking through her sorrow. “And Giles is…?” Willow nodded in response, relieved at the small display of joy and acceptance.
“You’re…” Buffy bellowed, not quite so accepting. “What did he do to you?”
Willow’s red-rimmed eyes shot up to her best friend. “What did he do to me?” She stood angrily to face her. “What do you mean by that? And just what are you accusing Rupert of?”
Buffy stammered, taken aback by the sudden anger. “Well… Well you guys have been gone less than a month. And I think I know how people get pregnant. And you and Giles would have had to…” She shuddered. “And you don’t even do that with guys anymore. And Giles doesn’t do it period.”
“Giles does it very well, if you ask me.” Willow shot back just to make Buffy uncomfortable. It appeared to have worked. “You’re a brat, you know, Buffy! You’re just like a little brat kid and he was always your toy. You would just leave him alone in the corner to get dusty until someone else came along who wanted to play him, and then you would snatch him up and chase them away. You never really wanted him, but no one else was ever allowed to have him.”
“That’s not fair,” Buffy countered.
“Not to him, that’s for sure,” Willow didn’t miss a beat. “You don’t know, Buffy. You could have never felt it like we did. When Ken and I were able to feel everything he did, it was overwhelming. The pain, the loneliness… He believed he was completely unlovable.”
His gathered friends were blinking back new tears. It wasn’t hard to understand he’d felt that way, even though they all held love for him. All but Buffy, who’s expression had hardened for the argument. “So what, you guys decided to give him some kind of pity fuck?”
Buffy didn’t see the slap coming because it was Kennedy who hit her.
“No,” Willow answered calmly. “We fell completely in love with him. And he finally dropped all his walls and simply let us love him. Just as much as he’s always loved us.”
Buffy rubbed her cheek and saw in all the eyes around her that she might have deserved that slap. “So you couldn’t love him without getting all horizontal?” she squeaked.
Willow had a look of near pity for her friend. “Why is it so hard for you to think of Giles as a man? A human with the same needs we all have? It always has been.”
“I don’t know,” Buffy admitted. “It just wigs me. How do you know you’re pregnant anyway? It hasn’t been long enough…”
“We can feel them,” Kennedy said with certainty.
“Them?” Xander asked. “Twins?”
“Triplets,” Willow sighed happily.
Dawn frowned, “Did Giles know?”
“He felt them, too,” Kennedy nodded. She turned to Willow. “And he loved them as much as he loved you. His last order to me was, ‘take care of them’. I intend to follow it.”
Andrew looked around. “Those kids are going to have the best bunch of aunts and uncles ever. And we’ll be sure they know what an awesome guy their dad was.” A small cheer went up in agreement with his statement.
Willow smiled gratefully at him as Kennedy embraced her. Both suddenly straightened and looked to where the rift had been.
“He’s alive,” Willow gasped. “We can feel him.”
Buffy’s eyes lit up for a moment, then darkened. “But you said we can’t go after him.”
“We can’t re-open the rift,” the witch answered. “But he’ll find a way back to us. I know he will.”
To Chapter 7b.