A/N: Please thank Jo for reading numerous versions of this chapter and for BETAing it. She was really good through my computer issues and her encouragement helped get this chapter finished. She does her best but no one person can catch all my mistakes.
A/N 2: Remember that exposition is out friend.
A/N: Always a big thank you to AMS. She has been very supportive of my writing for a long time.
Giles followed the Sergeant down two long hallways and through another set of blast doors. This time, the room opened into a long, wide space that held at least twenty hospital beds and equipment that he would associate with a modern care facility. The beds were lined up in a row that gave the treating doctors or nurses plenty of room to care for the patient. What was lacking was privacy and for the first time he thought the Council had the right of it. They normally treated the injured Slayers in their own room, while the critically injured went to the hospital. He would like to have a fully functioning infirmary along with the staff to run it because hospitals asked too many questions.
As he followed the military man, he noticed that some of the beds were occupied and that each patient had a guest sitting beside them. That was amazing considering the late hour and it was also a testament to how close the SGC teams became.
The Sergeant turned around to wait for Giles to catch up. The Sergeant had already unlocked the (normal) door to the office and held the door open for him. The room was small, hardly larger than a closet. The only way in or out of it was through the door. There were several comfortable looking chairs and end tables stuffed into it. The Watcher saw that there were actually three phones of different colors.
“The Major doesn’t keep anything important in her office, so don’t worry about seeing anything you shouldn’t. She mostly uses this office for talking to patients or family members.” Giles could tell from the way the man referred to the doctor as Major
that there was a strong undercurrent of respect. “The blue phone is the unmonitored outside line, just dial it like a normal line.” When the sergeant finished his instructions, he stepped out of the room, closing the door behind him and leaving Giles alone with his thoughts.
Giles stared at the blue phone for about five seconds before pulling out his special mobile. Just because he was now willing to trust Dr. Frasier did not mean he would trust the entire US Government. Plus, one of the perks of his magical mobile was that no one could over hear the call. ‘Enough of this delaying, it’s time to find out some answers,’
he thought, then quickly hit the speed dial to the Cleveland Slayer’s house and placed the phone on speaker so he could put it on one of the tables.
“Hello?” Xander answered on the second ring. He sounded tired. It was two hours earlier in Cleveland and thus, the middle of their work night. Giles hoped the young man had been able to get a nap after their earlier call.
“Xander, its Giles--”
“Is Buffy all right? Is anything wrong? Do you need the Calvary?” Xander interrupted, his voice rising with each breathless question.
“Buffy is fine! She is actually doing better right now,” the senior Watcher tried to keep his tone calm, hoping to reassure the younger man.
He was rewarded when he heard the relieved sigh. “That’s great, Giles, really. Then why the late night call? As I said in your first call, Susan and Rocky will be there in the morning and I have Robin working on the other seven.”
The older man didn’t want to just dive into Willow’s strange behavior nor did he want to just blurt that Buffy was under a spell. So he decided to work his way around to it. “Susan and Rocky? I don’t recall meeting them?”
“They were Called just about a month ago, why?” Xander snapped. “Look Giles, I know that you said earlier that Buffy had some kind of tenuous connection with some of the older Slayers, but frankly, I can’t spare any of them right now. We haven’t been keeping up with the Hellmouth here and I need all the experienced Slayers to clean things out.” Xander’s words were sharp, like he simply didn’t want to be bothered. ‘He’s just as tired as I am,’
Giles thought, taking a few breaths to regain his composure. ‘Xander has been taking care of Buffy and running not only the Cleveland Slayer’s house but most of North America, too. He will realize how rude he is acting once he’s had some rest. Until then, it is up to me to stop this defensiveness right now. We have to figure out what’s really happening. At least Willow’s panic hadn’t reached Cleveland.’
“Xander, listen to me. I trust your judgment in keeping the Hellmouth safe. I think your handling of your duties as Second Watcher in Command has been exemplary. If you think it’s in the best interests to keep the senior Slayers at their posts, then that is the final word on the topic.” Giles tried to convey his confidence to him, hoping to defuse the situation before it turned into an argument. Xander had grown so much over the years that the older Watcher had nearly forgotten how defensive the boy could get.
He heard the younger Watcher take a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“OK, and I’m sorry for snapping at you Giles. Hold on a sec,” Xander said.
Giles heard one of the Slayers shouting, then the click as the phone was placed on mute. The Head of the Council took the time to clear his mind and gather his thoughts. Maybe he should just get right to the meat of the issues?
“I’m back,” the younger Watcher announced as he came back on the line. “Lee Ann was letting me know that, horrors of horrors, we’re out of ice cream.”
“Yes, things never really change with Slayers,” the older Watcher remembered Buffy and her ice cream addiction.
“You’re right. A Slayer will stand her ground and defeat the most hideous, fifteen foot tall, slimly creature from the mouth of Hell but runs screaming in terror at an empty freezer. Hold on another sec, please,” Xander stopped talking.
Giles heard Xander get out of the chair and walk a few steps, then the noise of the office door closing echoed through the phone.
“Look Giles, I really am sorry for taking your head off just now. I’m still tired, and things have been busy tonight. So ice cream trauma aside, I’m all yours. What’s up?”
Finally the moment for Giles to voice his concerns came.
“Two things, really. The first was Willow called from New York in an utter state of panic. She said she felt something from Buffy and claimed all of Kennedy’s Slayers could feel it too. She wanted to get the coven to loan her power to teleport into the mountain to save us,” he disclosed, quickly, before there could be another ice cream emergency.
“Nothing’s wrong, right G-man?” Xander nearly cried. “You said she was improving, right? Right?” his voice rising with every word until he was nearly shouting into the phone.
“Buffy is fine, Xander,” Giles reassured, the boy, because it was the boy who was asking if his best friend would be alright, not the man. “Buffy is actually doing quite well at the moment. Though, she did have a brief set back, which coincided with Willow’s call.”
He was actually relieved when Xander didn’t answer him right away. It meant the younger man was taking the time to regain some of his lost composure and think things through.
“You know… maybe there is something to this connection or bond or whatever between Buffy and the older Slayers. Kenny and two of her Slayers were in Sunnydale. Maybe there is some kind of small connection. The older Slayers have had more time to figure out their abilities,” he said slowly, and then it was like a light switch had been thrown. “I guess, I don’t know. Look Giles, I hate to rain on all this yippee mystical Slayer connection parade stuff, I’ve just never seen any real evidence of any kind of connection or bond. I would think that something this important Buffy would have told somebody on the Council. I’ve got to say its all news to me.”
Giles wasn’t ready to dismiss the idea. “I knew there was a slight connection when the Slayers were first Called, how deep this connection has become is news to me as well,” he had to admit that Buffy hadn’t mentioned it to him either. “However, I’ve been so focused on administration and stuck in the UK I haven’t gotten to observe the Slayers day to day like you do. Are you sure there has been no indication of it?” he asked softly, not wanting to impinge Xander’s ability or to cause another defensive outburst.
When the younger Watcher didn’t answer right away, Giles felt he needed to add, “Young Tracy and Spring were most insistent. So much so that it’s the reason the doctor claims she needs those extra Slayers now.”
“I know you wanted those Slayers yesterday, Giles!” Xander snapped, again.
“Xander, I am not besmirching your competence, I am simply asking for input,” Giles retorted. “The entire reason for this conversation is to inform you of a changing dynamic and get your opinion.”
“Darn Giles, I know that. I just don’t understand why I’m suddenly channeling the way I was in high school,” he apologized, or as much of an apology anyone got from him.
Giles heard Xander’s chair creak as he stood up and started to pace.
“Ok, back to the facts. Willow called in a panic claiming Buffy was worse, which she was, for a short time?” The Cleveland Watcher asked.
“Yes,” Giles responded, again he lowered his voice to help calm the other man. “And there is something else.”
“When Buffy was having her, ah, set back, I was able to detect magic.” There, he said it. It’s finally out in the open.
“What? Do you think Willow did the spell? No way! The Coven did the test!” Xander’s speech rose again in disbelief.
“I know, Xander, I know the Coven did the test. I also know what I saw and felt and it was magic. The magic was very subtle. It only used the barest hint, the slightest bit of power to work. It was so finely crafted that I’m sure it was a designer spell geared only to Buffy and then maybe only to her emotions. I think the spell expended magical energy only while it was actually attacking her.” Giles tried stick to the facts as much as possible. Now was not the time to truly guess, especially not with Xander in such a volute mood.
“I don’t know G-Man, that doesn’t sound like Darth Willow, she’s more brute force, you know. Why use a feather when you can use a 2--ton wrecking ball?” he stated suspiciously. “I just don’t think Willow would ever hurt Buffy.”
“I do see what you mean. Has Willow been herself lately?” Giles prodded.
“Um, I haven’t seen Willow since that UN/IOA briefing, remember? She took off with Kenny to find that lost artifact and only came back when Buffy got sick. You know, Buffy had to leave the briefing early, too. If I recall she and Riley’s guys went to Suriname to hunt a hundred foot snake demon that was eating villagers.”
Now that Xander mentioned it, Giles did remember. It was just Xander, Robin, and Giles at the private dinner with the President.
“Oh yes, I remember Buffy’s quickly scrawled report on the issue,” the older Watcher laughed, trying to lighten the mood. “Do you recall her report?” he inquired.
“Yeah, she said: no demon, just a honking big snake, Eck! The Council is sending me on vacation! AND I don’t kill critters,”
Xander sighed at the memory. “Actually, I think she just got back a few days before the dream started, so that’s a dead end.”
Giles heard Xander plop back down into his chair and knew the boy was at the end of his strength.
“I thought the Coven could find a magical taint in the blood? Isn’t that why you had me take some of her blood and Fed-Ex it to them?” he questioned.
“Yes, the Coven should have been able to identify it, even a spell like this one,” he answered him.
“No Giles. Don’t even go there! No way, no possible way Willow would hurt Buffy! There. Is. No. Way!” Xander shouted into the phone. “And I resent you of all people thinking Willow could do anything to Buffy!”
“I wish I could be as sure, Xander. I truly do.” He paused for a few seconds to give the boy some time to gather his thoughts. “So there is nothing in Willow’s behavior to set off any alarms?”
“No,” the young Watcher churlishly replied. “I really haven’t seen her in months.”
“Xander I am merely being thorough. Willow left the briefing and disappeared for several months and only recently returned, anything could have happened to her!” Giles was becoming exasperated.
“No, I refuse to believe it. Willow is the strongest Witch since Merlin. If she wanted something bad to happen…. Well, remember Warren.”
Giles did remember Warren and the shape Buffy was in when he walked into the Magic Box, and the pain he felt as Willow drained his magical energy.
“While, I agree with you, Xander, I would like to try to keep her away from Buffy until she has recovered,” he insisted.
“OK Giles, I’ll back your play, for now,” Xander agreed. “I’ll even call her and ask her to come to Cleveland right now to help out.”
“Thank you Xander,” Giles was giddy with relief because he knew if something was wrong with Willow, Xander would see it and figure it out.
“But when this is over, you will owe me and Willow an apology!” the young man said with steel, back to being the Head Watcher of the Cleveland Slayer’s house.
“It will be one I will gladly give,” Giles replied with all the love for his children he could put in his voice.
“Now you go get some rest and leave the Council to me,” Xander said and hung up
“Good night” Giles said to a dial-tone.
Buffy was in a desert. ‘I must be dreaming, I guess. At least it’s not The Dream.’
The sun was high in the sky and there wasn’t a single cloud to hide it. It should have been immensely uncomfortable for her to be standing at the top of a sand dune with the merciless sun shining directly on top of her. Only it wasn’t. The warmth of the sun on her cold skin felt so good. Since The Dream
had started, she thought she would never be warm again. She stood with her face up to the sky and her arms stretched wide in welcome to the sun’s heat.
“Um, hello?” the deep masculine voice interrupted her basking in the light.
She opened one eye and peered down at the Alteran all dressed up in robes complete with the head dress thingy men wore in the Middle East. ‘And wow, should I know the actual names of those robes? I know Hogwarts isn’t right! In my defense, the Council never allowed me within five countries of the Middle East in fear of the trouble I could cause and why is he smiling? Oh God, can he hear my thoughts?’
“Why are you smiling?” she asked, hoping to figure out the ground rules of this dreamscape before she embarrassed herself to the cute guy.
“It’s nice to see you again,” he answered her back.
“That’s it? You’re just happy to see me again? That’s the only reason you’re smiling?”
“Oh well, what a relief!” she muttered. She closed her eye and went back to the important task of letting the sun warm her up.
“What’s a relief?” he asked her, his rich voice helping to warm her as much as the sun.
“Nothing!” she said so fast that she knew she had blown it. She sighed, dropping her arms and really looking down at him, surprised to realize that he was now completely human. How did she miss that when she saw him earlier? Was her spidey sense on the fritz?
“Ok,” he said, still having that insane smile. “You know, you might want to get out of the sun, you could burn.”
She glanced down at herself and was happy to be dressed in a simple sundress and not a hospital gown or a horrible black dress. Instead of answering him, she smiled down at him. “It’s a dream, I’m pretty sure I won’t burn in a dream. Besides, Slayer healing!” she said brightly. Buffy felt light, and carefree, The Dream
was gone for now. Maybe even gone forever.
Buffy knew she still needed help and that maybe the Alteran and his friends could give it to her? ‘Dreams are not really the place to make heavy choices,’
she thought, ‘even when the dream had such great company.’
“It’s really nice to see you, as well. You know, all human and not some fourth dimension pure energy octopus thing,” she said, stepping down to his level on the sand dune. “When did that happen?”
“A few years ago,” he answered, his voice teasing. “You?”
“Same,” she answered: the one word was enough explanation. He didn’t need to know every little detail about her return, because he knew none of that mattered. She was in Heaven, and now she was not. Just like he was a four dimensional being made of pure energy and now he was not. The how and the why was simply not important.
She took his offered hand as if it were the most natural thing in the world. They started down the dune and towards a giant pyramid structure. Only, this one was in much better condition than the ones in Egypt. “So this must be your funky dream world?”
“Yes. It’s a planet named Abydos and I lived here for a wonderful, happy year with my wife,” he nearly choked on the last word.
Buffy could tell it did not end well. She let the silence between them stretch as they left the dune behind and started walking up the path to the pyramid.
“There used to be an entire civilization on this planet until everything was destroyed by an evil, half-ascended creature,” he explained.
“Yeah, evil has a way of destroying the good.” She knew it was lame when she said it. What else could she say? The battle with The First taught her to leave the rousing speeches to someone else. She gave his hand a gentle squeeze to let him know she understood and that he didn’t need to say the words.
Words. Words were obsolete in Heaven.
They were on a walk-way now, heading towards the dark mouth of the Pyramid. Out of the sun was not a place Buffy wanted to be, so she stopped, and sat on the low wall next to her.
“Ok, that explains why you are here. I used to take dream romps through Sunnydale all the time, but why am I here with you?” She asked.
He looked stricken, like he’d been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. A slight blush began to work its way up from his neck into his cheeks. He dropped her hand and turned away from her.
Then something occurred to her--she felt no badness in the man before her. No matter why she was here, sharing his dream, he meant her no harm. She didn’t need to be on her guard with the Alteran.
“Um, I hate to interrupt your embarrassment,” she stammered. “’Cause you know, you are really cute when your face turns red, and everything, and, Oh God, please stop me, Willow would be,” her rambling came to a stop when he turned back around and picked up her hand.
Now it was her turn to feel the heat rising in her cheeks. Only, she was not going to run, she was going to face him. Buffy took a deep breath, and then another one. “What is your name? I mean thinking of you as the Alteran or as a fourth dimensional pure energy being is rather long and while I think Janet used your name, everything was rather fuzzy. So what is your name?” ‘His smile would light up the world,’ she thought.
“It’s Daniel,” he answered quickly before she could begin another ramble.
“Daniel, nice to meet you officially in the flesh, so to speak.”
And that was enough of that for right now.
“So, why am I here, in your dream?” she asked again.
He dropped her hand again, and sighed. Then he sat down next to her, glancing around at the sand as if it could tell him the secrets of the universe.
“I think,” he paused, finally meeting her eyes, “I think you are here because I really wanted to talk to you.” He paused again, and Buffy knew he was gathering his thoughts. “I think I was able to bring you here because of the same reason when we touched I was pulled into your mind. The same reason I started to remember some of the knowledge I learned while I was ascended.”
When he didn’t say anything more for a few moments Buffy became impatient.
“And the reason is?” she prompted, waving her free hand in a hurry up motion.
“I don’t know exactly,” disappointment clouded his features. “I’d hoped we would have had more time together here. We have to get back.”
Thank you for sticking with this story.