Disclaimers: Buffy the Vampire Slayer belongs to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy & Fox. Numb3rs belongs to Cheryl Heuton and Nick Falacci…I think. (NOT me!)
Warnings: Again, I can't think of any. This chapter's a little weird, but you guys have been putting up with my muses' flights of fancy for a while now, and I don't think this is too much weirder. If you see something you think you should've been warned about please tell me.

AN: Hi everyone!

OK, this time I'm going to recommend a HARRY POTTER/BATMAN crossover called The Wizard of Gotham by Skysaber on . It's not finished, but so far it's been a very interesting—and amusing—read. The author's sense of humor can be a bit outrageous now and then, but it's a lot of fun to read as long as you remember that it IS supposed to be humorous and don't take it too seriously.

And, if anyone's interested in reading an interesting drama, I'd also like to recommend the book Orbit by John J. Nance. It's a fast-paced and fairly amusing read that I really enjoyed.

Sorry for the long wait! :-( It REALLY wasn't intentional. In fact, I feel pretty stupid now, because I really thought I'd already posted this chapter! -_-*

Also, I would have had it posted this MORNING if hadn't gotten rid of all of my formatting AND punctuation when I uploaded it. I seem to remember this happening the last time I posted a chapter here. Anyone know why? I tried uploading both a doc and an html file, neither worked.

Also, has anyone else had problems with the adds on this site? The add-blocker used to actually block adds for me, but now, no matter how many times I sign in and activate the add-blocker it doesn't work. :-(

Once again, thank you to NeverTooOld for beta-reading! :-D

Enjoy! ^_^


A Call Away

Part II in Mathematics & Magic

By Jess S

Chapter 11: Frienemies – Part II


Outside the FBI Headquarters, Los Angeles, California – Friday, October 25, 1997

Don knew he was frowning as he stepped out of the elevator and into the parking garage, where his partner was waiting. But he really couldn't help it.

Getting called up to the office of your boss's boss at the very end of the day probably isn't supposed to leave any good feelings in your gut or your head. That he was called up there to talk to a complete stranger about completely ridiculous stuff didn't help at all.

"You're still my partner, right?"

Don started, grimacing as he tried to shake off his inattention and focus on his partner. Coop'd said he'd be waiting in his car, but Don wasn't too surprised to find him waiting right outside the elevator. Don had his own car, but it was really just easier to let Billy drive most of the time. Plus the federally-issued SUV was a lot nicer than the Jeep he'd been driving around for the last few years.

"You are, aren't you?" Cooper asked again, raising an eyebrow at the younger agent's continued inattention. "'Cause I'd hate to have ta break in a new partner when I only just finished whipping you inta shape."

Don nodded, chuckling slightly in amusement. "Yeah, they didn't fire me." He raised an eyebrow. "Not that I can think of any legitimate reason they could use to do so."

"Normally I'd agree. But with all the busy work they've been giving us lately?" Billy grimaced, "I wasn't so sure. I mean, burying us while leaving half-a-dozen other teams with nothing to do is a lot dumber, and more obvious, then I'm used ta seeing the higher ups act." Then he shrugged, "'Course I've only been with a Bureau a few more years then you, so I can't really say much more then you."

Don nodded in agreement, "Yeah," then he sighed. "At least they've stopped burying us since I stopped looking into Charlie's assault."

"Yeah, tough-luck there," Coop shook his head again. "Though it's given the conspiracy theorists in some of our brethren a chance to come out of hiding."

That surprised an actual laugh out of him, "What?"

Coop shook his head yet again, though now shared amusement had taken the place of the frustration Don himself was still feeling plenty of, beneath the surprised amusement his partner's off-the-hand comment had inspired. "Yah, you gotta spend more time in the break room. Some of the theories flying around are really wacky."

Don frowned at him in slight bewilderment for several moments, but before he could ask, the older agent spoke up again.

"So what was the meeting about, anyway?"

Don winced, disliking the reminder of the very strange meeting he'd just suffered through, but obliging his partner nonetheless. "Some consultant from the NSA—or maybe the army, Weiss wasn't too clear on that."

"What'd he want?"

"She," Don corrected, then shook his head. "She was a psychiatrist, or something like that, I guess. Kept asking me a bunch of questions about my commitment to my job. To my country." He shook his head again, unable to stop the slightly confused expression that twisted his face. "Then she started talking about monsters."

"What, like, some of the con's we run down?"

"No, that I'd've been fine with," he grimaced again. "But she was asking about Dracula and Big Foot."

"What?"

"That's what I thought!"

"And she was a shrink?"

"Ye—Well, I think so. At the start she said she was considering outlining an advanced psych class for Quantico. She didn't actually say she was a psychiatrist."

"I'll drive," Cooper insisted as they reached the car, and seeing as Don's mind was really elsewhere he didn't bother arguing. "And she had official backing?"

Don sighed as he buckled his seatbelt, shaking his head yet again, "Well, Weiss introduced her, so I wasn't gonna ask for her credentials. Wanted to near the end there, but somehow I don't think she'd have given me anything."

"Huh," now Cooper was shaking his head as he put the key in the ignition. He turned the car on, but then he sat back in his seat and turned to raise an eyebrow at Don. "You haven't been investigating anything about what happened—"

"In Sunnydale, no. I said I wouldn't."

"What about what happened to your brother?"

Don glared, "I'm pretty sure you worked that into your little talking-some-sense-into-the-junior-agent speech." He shook his head again. "Besides, our workload's normal now, isn't it?"

Cooper sighed, but nodded as he put the car in reverse, replying as he looked over his shoulder to back up. "Yeah, I guess." A moment later they were out of the space, and he switched gears to drive and started driving out as he continued. "But then I don't have any idea on why they might sick a crazy lady on you."

"I don't know," Don frowned, looking out at the parked cars they were passing on their way out. His frown deepened, "But I'm gonna find out."

Coop sighed again as he pulled out into the fading sunlight and the traffic that always accompanied the twilight in LA. "I'm gettin' really sick of busy work, bud."

Don smirked, "I didn't say anything about Sunnydale or Charlie, did I? They can't punish me for looking into Dr. Walsh's background after a meeting as weird as that one was. I can't imagine any sane person not wanting to know who that bitch is."


Giles' Apartment, Sunnydale, California – Saturday, October 25, 1997

It was shortly after midnight and Giles was pouring himself yet another cup of tea when the knock he'd been waiting for all evening—though not entirely expecting—finally came. Oh, he certainly expected Buffy and Faith to be back some time tonight, and hopefully with the glove, it was really just the knock that he wasn't expecting.

"It's unlocked," the bemused Watcher called, smiling slightly as he poured a dollop of cream into the 'LUV THE LIBRARIAN' mug that Willow had given him last Christmas. "Would you care for some tea?"

"I think we wanna sleep tonight, Giles," Buffy replied immediately, a light laugh in her tone that was echoed in Faith's reply also.

"Yeah, none for me neither, G-man."

Giles shook his head as he put the cream back in the fridge before collecting his steaming mug from the counter on his way out of the kitchen. He nodded as he noted the obviously filled bag on his coffee table. A bag which he knew contained several more bags, all wrapped around the cloth he'd instructed the Slayers use when collecting the dangerous artifact.

Truthfully, he probably should've gone himself, but he hadn't been that sure about this lead when the Slayers had set out. Only Buffy's certainty that the cult crypt was where they needed to look had made him agree to the investigation. So he'd kept researching while the Slayers started digging their way through one of Sunnydale's nastier crypts. The more he uncovered however, the more he'd found pointed to his eldest Slayer being right. Thus, he'd agreed that 'checking out' the Von Hauptman family crypt was undoubtedly a good idea.

Which was why now, nearly four hours later, he wasn't all that surprised to see the girls had, in fact, succeeded. "I take it your venture was successful, then?"


Giles' Apartment, Sunnydale, California – Saturday, October 25, 1997

Buffy nodded, a bit tiredly after several hours of digging through several of the nearby cemeteries. Though it was, of course, more in the mental sense of over-exertion then physical, as physical tiredness was a very difficult state for a Slayer to reach. But it was the younger Slayer that answered the Watcher's query.

"Yup," Faith was grinning as she dropped down onto Giles' couch in a sprawl that somehow looked completely controlled and graceful. "Glove was right where you said it'd be. Kinda."

Buffy rolled her eyes, smiling slightly in amusement at the other teen's antics. Since apparently all of the brunette's earlier complaints—many of which Buffy had more quietly commiserated with—had been completely forgotten now that the damn glove had been found. She hefted the surprisingly heavy bag containing said artifact. It wasn't too, too heavy, of course. At least not to a Slayer. But it weighed enough to be noticeable on the walk back. "Where'd you want this?"

Giles blinked, but then set his tea cup down and moved quickly over to the trunk he'd picked out for the chore. "In here, please," he indicated the open trunk, waiting until Buffy'd set the glove—wrappings, multiple bags and all—in, before snapping the lid closed. He nodded in clear satisfaction as the pre-set spells immediately activated, making the trunk glow through a rapid series of colors before the glow disappeared entirely. "Yes, that should keep it for the time being."

"Why don't we just destroy it now?" Faith asked with a small frown. "Isn't keepin' it around here kinda just askin' for the Lagos guy to attack G-man? I mean, we have the ruby urn thing for the flame already."

"We do," Giles nodded again, before sighing. "But I've yet to find a full description of the ritual we need. And Mrs. Post is quite right in saying that we shouldn't rush into any ritual involving Living Flame. It is a very dangerous magic to call upon."

"What's the glove do, anyway?"

Giles took his glasses off and began polishing them in a move made graceful by plentiful practice even as his thoughts turned inward to the topic at hand. "Well, as Mrs. Post said, not many specifics are known about Myhnegon. We know he was a considerably powerful war loga*—an ancient warlock and merchant of war—in Ancient Rome. In the, um, first century before the common era, I believe. We do know he created several artifacts of great power, though we don't know the names he gave them. Which is important, because without a mystical artifact's name, full control of it can never really be achieved." (1)

"Didn't he keep any records?"

Buffy was the only one that wasn't startled—having empathetically sensed Willow's presence moment's before when the redhead had stopped just outside the open doorway. Though neither Faith or Giles actually jumped, they just tensed a little, relaxing as Willow passed through the doorway uninvited.

"I thought most of the ancient sorcerers' did that," the redhead finished.

Giles nodded as he set his glasses back on the bridge of his nose. "Yes, most sorcerers and wicca did, but warlocks are much more secretive. Though many believe Myhnegon did, in fact, keep a Grimoire."

Buffy didn't quite get the relevance of that, and she sensed Faith didn't either, though the term sounded familiar. She thought it might be some kind of magic-book, but Willow obviously understood the significance, because she didn't need to sense realization dawn on the witch-in-training as she saw it clear across her face.

"But he wouldn't have sold that."

"No," Giles agreed. "While he did, in fact, sell most of his creations for profit, his Grimoire would undoubtedly have been a treasured family heirloom."

"And you don't know Myhnegon's real name?"

"Huh?" Faith said before Buffy could, looking back and forth between the watcher and witch in confusion. "I thought it was Myhnegon?"

"No, Myhnegon was his mage-name, my dear. The name he did business and the like with. But he would've shared his real name with very, very few." The Watcher told him, continuing as they just kept staring at him in obvious confusion. "A person's real name can be used against them."

"What? Like gossip?" Buffy asked, still frowning. She knew it couldn't be something like that, but didn't stop the comment from slipping out anyway. She knew it was ignorant comments like that that kept Faith from feeling completely out of the loop and/or stupid when their smarter friends started smart-talking. It was something Buffy'd gotten used to just accepting, while struggling to understand, but if little displays of her not understanding made her sister-Slayer feel better occasionally she didn't mind. Besides, after awhile more and more of the 'smart talk' started making sense without being simplified.

Charlie had been a big help in that regard, when it came to anything mathematical or scientific. Literature and the like, however, often confused him. Frequently enough that she'd understood some of it before he had and had gotten the chance to explain it to him. A part of her thought he might've been pretending/exaggerating his ignorance some of the time since he knew she liked to be 'the one that knows' occasionally, but since Buffy herself did that more often then not for Charlie and all of her smart friends, she really couldn't hold it against him.

"No," this time it was Willow that answered. "Magically. A witch or warlock can use your name to do just about anything if they have enough power."

"Yes, though it was more a threat in ancient times, or even in the middle ages. As names were considerably more important then." Giles shook his head. "In this day and age most simply do not put as much store in their personal identity. Not beyond acknowledgement of their identity in regards to what belongs to them, banks accounts and the like. So that means most are much less vulnerable to a very dangerous field of magic. Of course, mages with that power and ability have always been rare."

"But it means we don't know who he really was," Faith finished.

"Yes," Giles nodded.

Buffy shook her head again, "But how do you know he created stuff then?"

"Oh there were records detailing the Roman Emperor's transactions with the war loga. But they were, unfortunately, lost to the ravages of time." Giles shook his head, "And as such, nearly everything we know about them is at least second-hand."

"Oh." Buffy nodded slowly, then sighed before repeating her earlier question, as she was pretty sure the Watcher hadn't actually answered it. "Okay. So what's the glove do?"

"Oh, well Myhnegon was considered a master of the elements. Most of his artifacts were created to harness the raw powers of nature, in the case of The Glove," Giles gestured towards the sealed box. "It is believed he was intending to imitate the powers of Zeus. As after the Greek Pantheon lost interest in this dimension—"

"Wait, Zeus like the god Zeus?" Buffy asked, eyes wide as she took another step away from the chest. "It can turn people into a god?"

"Yes, the god. And no, The Glove merely mimics Zeus' power to control lightning." Giles shook his head. "It may have other abilities, but that is the only one we can be certain of, based on historical evidence."

"Control lightning?" Faith asked, and her voice held some of the wariness Buffy could still sense radiating off of the brunette. Not that she didn't understand. The idea that someone could weaponize the raw powers of nature was more than a little scary.

"Yes, Myhnegon's glove grants it's wearer the ability to funnel lightning into it, store it for what is believed to be a very short time, and they can thereafter direct the lightning at any target of their choice."

"Oh." Faith glanced at the magically sealed chest again. "Cool. I guess." Though her voice was, again, more honest then her words. As her tone implied that it was about as 'cool' as a bazooka aimed in your direction might be.

After a long moment Buffy nodded again, "So how do we destroy it?" she glanced at Giles as she picked up on a distinct note of uncertainty from him. "We are still destroying it, right?" Like her sister-Slayer, she really didn't like the idea of keeping the thing around.

"Yes, of course," Giles nodded, then sighed. "There are, in theory, two possible methods for destroy Myhnegon's creations. The first being a ritual involving Living Flame, which should certainly be more than capable of immolating the glove." The Watcher then gestured towards the tiny red urn the two Slayers had finally managed to find after several excruciating hours of digging through Angelus-the-mystical-pack-rat's treasure horde. "Having a vivus* urn in our possession will certainly make this easier—" (2)

"So why don't we just destroy the thing, then?" Faith demanded, and Buffy nodded in agreement to the younger teen's idea again.

"Any spell or ritual involving Living Flame is extremely complex and intricate. It may take me some time to select the correct ritual for the procedure, and longer still to research the ritual thoroughly enough to perform it." Giles gestured towards the phone, "I have already informed Mrs. Post of your mission this evening, and we have agreed to research the rituals separately."

"So..."

"So we will, hopefully, be able to complete the ritual some time tomorrow evening."

Buffy nodded slowly, "You're sure we can't do it tonight?"

"Yes, I'm quite certain. It is unlikely that the ritual itself will be all that difficult. But Living Flame is a very dangerous substance. " Giles shook his head. "Many mystical scholars have studied it, and the best summation of its power I've heard to date was one that likened it to the core of the Sun in raw power, with the additional point that it drains a great deal of a caster's power and in so doing attains a life of its own."

"That why it's called 'living?'?" Faith asked with a frown, one eyebrow raised. "Is it actually alive?"

Giles shook his head, his glasses sliding easily off his face as he took his handkerchief out to clean them. "That is the general idea, yes. Though we really have no way of knowing how sentient it actually is. Most scholars agree that the seemingly sentient actions of living flames are actually tied to the casters subconscious. Which is, of course, a very real possibility as the subconscious mind can have just as much power over one's magic as the conscious one, if the caster isn't careful."

"Subconscious?" Buffy frowned at him, "You mean like the Id, stuff like that?"

"Yes, precisely," the watcher replied, giving her an approving smile as he put his glasses back on. "The possibility of a spell-caster's subconscious desires filching control over the conscious mind—or to use Freud's terminology: the Id bypassing both the ego and super-ego's control—has always been a very real danger with magic. Which is, of course, why those who do use magic have to be so very careful. At least, the vast majority are. Thankfully."

Buffy nodded again, slowly as she considered her watcher's words. To some extent she already knew this. After all, she now knew several very powerful witches that lived in the nearby city. And Madam Ward—for some reason neither Buffy or Charlie could think of her with any other name, not her given name or even just 'Mrs. Ward,' no, it had to be Madam Ward—she'd been very firm in the need for them to learn and regularly practice meditation. Which, with their still growing empathetic powers and especially after her return to the Hellmouth, was understandable. After a few moments of thought she spoke up again. "OK. So we'll do this tomorrow? Maybe just after sundown?"

"Yes, that will do," Giles agreed, before glancing between the two of them. "Now perhaps you should turn in for—"

"It's barely past midnight, G-man," Faith cut him off with a smirk as she rose up off the couch in graceful looking move that most people simply wouldn't be capable of. "We still got ourselves a demon to find and at least a little bit a Sunnyhell ta beat red."

"Yeah," Buffy nodded her agreement, smiling slightly in amusement at just how pleased Faith was at the idea of hunting Lagos now that they didn't have to worry about him getting the glove before they found him. "We should probably split up though. Cover more ground that way."

Faith shrugged, "Sure, B. Whatever you think." She moved gracefully over to the door before turning to the watcher, eyebrow raised once more. "Should we both check back here later, G-man?"

Giles blinked, but then nodded quickly. "Yes. Yes, of course. But I shall expect both of you to turn in no later than half-past two, as you need to be in full form tomorrow evening."

"Sure, Giles," Buffy grinned, before nodding to Willow, "Come on Wills, I'll walk you home. See you in a little bit, Faith."

"OK, B," Faith nodded in return, giving Giles a small wave as she made her way out the door. "See ya later, G-man."

Just as Buffy was about to follow her sister-Slayer out the door, a strange noise made her pause.

*BEEP*

"What was that?" she asked with a frown, looking around in slight confusion.

Giles blinked at her, "I really haven't slightest—"

*BEEP*

"—idea," the watcher finished, but his eyes were focused on the blonde Slayer even as she frowned down at her jacket's pocket.

Reaching into said pocket, Buffy pulled her cell phone out and flipped it open, frowning as what looked like the outline of a battery appeared on the screen. She'd seen the symbol before, but usually it was green. Now it was red. "Will, what's—hey!"

*BEEP*

The redhead had taken the phone out of her hand only to roll her eyes as she looked at the screen. "Your battery's low, Buffy. Haven't you been charging it?"

"Yeah, I plug it in every night!" the Slayer said defensively, only to frown in thought as it suddenly occurred to her that might not be true. "Except last night. And the night before. And—" she shook her head, "OK. I guess I don't plug it in every night, but Charlie said you weren't supposed to... and I guess I just keep forgetting."

"Well, your battery's about to die. You need—"

*BEEP*

"Die?" Buffy couldn't help but glare at the offensive little device in her friend's hand. "It can't die. It's a machine."

"Yes, Buffy," Willow replied, and Buffy could sense the redhead's amusement just as clearly as she could hear it in the barely suppressed laughter behind the other girl's tone. "But machines need power to run. And this one is almost out of power, therefore it can't run until you give it more power."

*BEEP*

"Oh." Buffy blinked, unable to stop the deep frown that made it's way over her face then, suppressing a wince as the offensive sound started to get on her nerves. "So what do I do?"

Willow rolled her eyes, "You need to charge it." She shrugged. "I mean, you could just turn it off now and—"

"No, Charlie wouldn't be able to call me—"

"He has your home phone number doesn't he?"

*BEEP*

Buffy shrugged, "Well, yeah. But he never calls it. No matter how worried he is or how much trouble he's in, he always seems to think I'm worse off if I'm not capable of answering my phone." She shook her head. "And he never wants to be a problem for my mom, so he'd get a ride down here before calling my home phone."

"That doesn't make a lotta sense," Faith was frowning, though she also seemed more than a little amused.

The elder Slayer shrugged again, "That's Charlie." She couldn't help but smile as she shook her head yet again. "His math's all about logic, but sometimes emotional stuff doesn't fit into his thoughts."

*BEEP*

"Um, OK," Willow sighed, frowning down at the little phone. "Well, you need to plug it in soon, then. Otherwise it won't matter where it is, it won't work until you get some power in it." She cocked her head to the side. "I've been looking through some technopagan sites on the web, that, um," she glanced at Giles as she continued hurriedly, "a friend told me about. Supposedly there's all sorts of ways you can use magic to help with stuff like this." Then she winced, "Not that I know any of it, not really. I mean, I've read about some of it, but it sounds like a lotta that sort of stuff you have to figure out on your own. Other technopagans will help, sometimes, but the anonymity of the Internet makes it a little hard for a newbie to gain anyone's trust too quickly." *(3)

*BEEP*

"So should I just run h—"

"If I may interrupt," Giles smiled as all three teenagers stared at him in clear surprise as he held up a power cord. "Might this be of use?"

Willow blinked, but then plucked the phone out of Buffy's unresisting hand and moved over to where the Watcher was standing. Looking at the part that should plug into the phone, she blinked again. "Yeah, actually. Why do you—"

*BEEP*

"The Council equips all field-Watchers with a great deal of equipment that might be of use in an emergency." Giles shook his head as Willow took the phone from him and plugged it into a nearby outlet and then into the phone, shaking his head as the little device made a little noise in response as she set it down on the countertop, which was right next to the plug. "I, of course, have never needed to use it. But," he shrugged, "there you have it."

After a moment of silence, Buffy sighed. "OK, so Faith and I'll do a quick patrol before turning in." she frowned at where her phone was innocently sitting on Giles' side table. "Giles, I'll try to stop by in the morning, but—"

"Should you forget or be deterred I shall, of course, return your phone to you," her Watcher assured her kindly, the warm smile on his face fortunately keeping her from feeling like she was being patronized.

"OK, thanks," Buffy nodded, before raising an eyebrow at her redheaded friend. "We'll walk you home on the way, Wills. How'd you get here anyway?"


Giles' Apartment, Sunnydale, California – Saturday, October 25, 1997

Faith waited a moment after her first knock sounded through the watcher's door, then she rapped her knuckles lightly against it again, listening to the sound echo through the door as she did so.

*KNOCK* *KNOCK*

For a slayer, at least, knocking was yet another thing they had to be careful about. She and B had to be careful about doors, handshakes...and the list went on. But the alternatives to not being careful were things like broken hands—of whoever was unfortunate enough to be shaking with them—and broken doors, so they really tried.

*KNOCK* *KNOCK*

When still no answer came, the brunette glanced towards the parking are to confirm tat the Watcher's midlife-crisis car was, in fact, there. Then she looked towards the nearby window, where light from inside the apartment was shining through into the darkening twilight.

She didn't try to resist the frown that found its way across her face as she knocked a fourth time.

*KNOCK* *KNOCK* *KNOCK*

"Yo, G-man! You in there?"

Several long seconds of silence were all she received in response. Not that she was expecting an invite or anything from someone who was born and raised to Watch, but she would've liked something other than silence. If only to sooth the unease that was rolling around in her gut.

After a few more moments of indecision, the slayer reached for the doorknob and twisted it open, only a little—unhappily—surprised when she was met with no resistance.

The door wasn't locked. And Giles always locked his door when he was out.

Once the door was free to do so, Faith gave it a gentle nudge to swing the rest of the way open while she stepped cautiously into the room. "Giles?" she called, wincing slightly as the fear she was feeling found its way into her voice. "You here?"

It was only after she'd made a few more steps into the room that her inner slayer seemed to jerk at something, just as she noticed a faint and unpleasant, but unfortunately familiar, coppery smell in the air.

Taking a few more steps forward, the first thing she saw was the chest Giles had them close the glove in. It was open, and its shape was deformed, which made her realize she could sense more of that dark magic all around the room.

But the second thing she noticed, as she looked nervously around, was the crumpled form on the floor by the couch.

"Giles!"

When she looked back on it, she wouldn't be able to remember how she'd crossed the room. Had she leapt over the couch or darted around? All she knew was that she saw the watcher's body, lying face-down on the ground, and then she was suddenly kneeling beside him.

She gently rolled him over, resting his head carefully on a pillow that—it was usually on the couch but—happened to be on the floor nearby, only to gasp as the hand she'd carefully moved his head with came away bloody. "G-Giles?"

Later she wouldn't be able to say what made her zone out, but suddenly her mind was months back. Before she'd come to Sunnydale. When Di was still alive, though just barely.

At that point in her life Professor Diane Dormer had been the only one who'd ever believed in her. The only one who'd ever believed she was special. And she'd firmly insisted it wasn't just because she was Chosen. That she was Chosen because she was special, not the other way around. It'd been one of her favorite things to hear from the watcher who'd been ten times the maternal figure her own mother had never managed to fit.

And Kakistos had taken that from her.

Faith would always remember the terror she'd felt flooding her veins as she'd run through the catacombs of the Master Vampire's mansion in the swamps. Fighting off alligators, fledglings and regular minions as she followed her watcher's shrieks of pain and Kakistos' horrible laughter.

Finally she'd managed to catch up to the bastard, had found herself in a huge open area of the catacombs, where a massive stone was topped by an altar, which was topped by a throne of massive skeletons.

That'd been the first time she'd seen the monster, as she'd been fighting too many other vamps when he'd grabbed Diane and started the chase through his mansion and down into the catacombs.

He'd been sitting there, on a disgusting throne of death. He was like an animal with the hideous face of a vampire, but somehow he'd changed over the centuries of his existence. He'd become more animal-like then any vampire she'd seen in person or in the books Di had pushed towards her. His hands had become hard and thick, like hoofs. But he was still able to hold her watcher hostage in them.

She was propped up in his lap, facing me, the fine clothes she favored now in tatters. Worse, her body was mangled and bloody, with bite marks all up and down her from. Clearly at least half-drained, but still alive, and her eyes were wide with terror that shone through her pain.

"Faith," she couldn't speak above a whisper as blood bubbled out of her mouth, "Run! Don't—"

But suddenly he ended it, slamming one of his sharp, massive hoofs down to rip through her stomach, impaling her before he tore her open and then in two.

And she was gone.* (4)


Eppes' House, Pasadena, California – Saturday, October 25, 1997

Charlie shifted uncomfortably for the third time in the last ten minutes. Try as he might, he just couldn't seem to find that peaceful state Madam Ward had taught him to reach for. Regular meditation had greatly helped both he and Annie with their new abilities, making it much easier to both use their empathy and understand it. It also made learning and understanding magic feasible, which was why it was the first thing she insisted on teaching him.

According to the very old wicca, Charlie was apparently a natural at meditation. Annie had already been instructed in it by both her Watchers, though she hadn't been as loyal about regular practice as she undoubtedly should've been. But Charlie had never even tried it before, and he still managed to find 'inner peace', as Madam Ward dubbed it, in their first session together not too long ago. It'd honestly surprised him, since he'd seen the world in a never-ending intake of numbers and patterns all his life, so it was a little strange that he was now able to switch them on and off at will. Madam Ward had theorized that Sineya and his unusually strong—and still growing—bond with Annie might have something to do with his ease with this newfound talent, but she couldn't be sure.

Still, tonight that clear calmness that he was supposed to attain before bed every night, and normally had little difficulty achieving, just would not come.

The genius finally gave up, releasing a disgruntled sigh as he opened his eyes and unfolded his legs from the yoga-based position he'd been sitting in to set his feet on the floor. He gave his legs a moment to adjust to the change, then pushed himself off his bed and moved over to his computer chair in a few quick steps. He tapped a key on the keyboard as he sat down, dismissing the screensaver. As the computer came to life his eyes fell on his cell phone, which was also sitting on the desk, plugged into a nearby outlet to charge for the night.

Charlie blinked as he realized that he suddenly felt worried and afraid. Much more so then the normal worry that haunted him whenever he knew Annie was patrolling. Which didn't make sense.

They'd managed to find the glove the night before and left it in Dr. Giles safekeeping. He knew that, because Annie had called from her home phone in the late morning, just to chat, but mainly because she was worried that he might need to talk to her and not be able to since her cell phone was at Dr. Giles' house.

Honestly, he didn't think he was all that helpless. But he knew better then to say as much to Annie. At best, she'd be angry and defensive at the perceived reprimand for caring about him, at worst she'd be hurt. Neither of which were feelings he wanted to evoke.

But nonetheless, this fear seemed to only be growing.

More importantly the worry and fear felt strange. It didn't feel like Annie.

Or Sineya.

Or anyone nearby he might be sensing.

His parents were sleeping, untroubled by dreams. Lily was sleeping, only a little fretfully, which he'd noticed seemed to be her norm. Especially when she fell asleep while watching TV late at night, though it wasn't actually that late. The Fletchers were away on vacation in Miami or Malabo or some other place like that. The McKinnon's were still the happiest people he knew—since he'd never sensed anything less than total contentedness from them—and they were sleeping, too.

And he didn't really know any of the other neighbors well enough for his empathy to connect with them, as most of the other families he'd known here growing up had moved away sometime since then, and he'd never felt like making the effort to get to know them. His mother also hadn't mentioned any of the neighbors having any troubles, financial or otherwise, so it wasn't something like that.

Unlike Sunnydale, Pasadena had always felt like a generally safe, content area. The one time he was attacked by vampires and the few times bullies had braved his brother's wrath being the rare exceptions to the rule. Going downtown could be much more unnerving, but even though he was attacked by vampires in this very house it'd just never had the general aura of danger that Sunnydale teemed with, though even that, he'd found, was significantly muted by Annie's presence when he visited.

But considering all that, what was he picking up all this worry and fear from?

'Maybe Annie knows?' he thought, as he finally gave in and picked up his cell, flipping it open to hit speed dial #2.

He remembered the possibility that Annie might not have her phone with her on the second ring, but someone picked up on the third.

"H-Hello?"

Charlie blinked. The shaky voice wasn't Annie's. But it was still familiar enough that it took him only a moment to place it. "Faith?"

"Yeah, who's..." the younger Slayer trailed off into a long pause, and then she asked, "Charlie?"

"Yeah, hi, Faith," the genius replied quickly, noting in the back of his mind that he was glad that his voice sounded a lot calmer than he felt at the moment. He was already a bit worried himself when he started the call, and having a frightened Faith answer him didn't make him feel better. "Is everything all right?"

"No! Giles, he...h-he's..."

Charlie felt his frown deepening, but took a deep breath before cutting in, hoping said frown wouldn't find its way into his voice. "What happened to Dr. Giles, Faith?"

"H-He's not moving! Th-There's blood..."

A dozen different scenarios flashed through his mind at that, but Charlie shook them off to ask, "Is he still alive?"

"A-Alive?"

He was pretty sure the brunette was shaking her head here, and equally sure she was in something resembling shock, which made some degree of sense considering what happened to her last watcher right in front of her.

"N—I-I don't know. I don't know."

Charlie closed his eyes as he continued slowly, "Is he breathing?"

"I-I don—"

"Faith, I know you're scared," he cut her off, keeping his voice as gentle as he could, "I'm scared, too. But we need to help Dr. Giles. OK?"

"Help? H-He was like this when I got here!" Faith suddenly started babbling, "He didn't come to the clearing and I said I'd go get him. And he w-wouldn't wake up! He won't wake up! He's bleeding a-and I don't know what happened to him and Buffy's gonna be so angry and I c-can't—"

"You can help him, Faith." Charlie finally cut in again, even as his brilliant brain struggled to process all the babble it'd just taken in.

"But I d-don't even know what hurt him! How—"

"That doesn't matter. He doesn't need you to slay right now, Faith. He needs to get to a hospital."

Faith was silent for a second, before asking, "You want me to carry him to the hospital?"

Charlie grimaced, closing his eyes again. Yup, definitely in shock. Unfortunately the last time he'd taken a first aid class was several years ago, and the instructor has mostly emphasized calling for professional help in an emergency then anything you could actually do yourself. But he was pretty sure the best thing he could really do was get Giles the help he needed, which would hopefully have the dual affect of helping the wounded watcher and calming the young slayer down. "No, Faith. Giles has a phone, doesn't he?"

"Yeah, but wh—"

"Dial 911. Call for an ambulance. I'll stay—" He stopped as a loud noise suddenly cut him off, frowning before the dial tone and operator came on, to tell him his call had been dropped.


A Clearing in Sunnydale, California – Saturday, October 25, 1997

Willow frowned, sighing as she glanced around the darkening clearing again. Except for her and the two slayers, it'd clearly been deserted for quite a while before Post had chosen it to destroy the glove in. But it wasn't the clearing itself that was bothering her. No, it was the fact that Giles and Post hadn't shown up when they were supposed to and now Faith, who'd run off to 'fetch G-Man and Poppins'—Buffy's words, not Willow's—wasn't back. And it wouldn't take Willow more then ten minutes to get to Giles apartment from here. So half-an-hour was worrisome.

"I mean, it's perfect for the set-up you guys have going. It's a really powerful RDBMS* and probably something that could be really, really useful for the kind of research he'd be doing as a mathematician. But how did he even get version Filemaker 4.0v1*? It just came out and he gave it away like-like, I don't know, something that wasn't really cool! I know he's a pretty high-end mathematician even though he's only a year older than us—which is really cool, by the way—" (5) (6)

Neither Slayer had mentioned the Watcher's tardiness until well after the sun had set. Though both had probably been looking forward to teasing the usually timely Giles to no end.

"—Have you used any of the new programming that's supposed to be in it? I mean, I know the plug-in architecture probably doesn't mean much to you, 'cause you probably don't do much—or, um, any—programming yourself, but—"

But when almost half-an-hour had passed and the clearing was darkening well past what one might consider 'twilight', and into true night, Faith had spoken up. Had volunteered to go 'fetch' the errant pair, swinging down from the rather high tree limb she'd settled herself in some time before, before gesturing to the two older teens as she made her way across the clearing towards Giles' apartment, telling them that they needed to talk just before she disappeared.

"—the things you can do with it are supposed to be really, really cool. And Dr. Eppes' must have used the new feature to create the program you use to send him your reports in—"

Willow had remembered frowning deeply as the two slayers had exchanged looks, sensing a silent conversation she wasn't part of seeming to take place as Faith had cocked her head to the side, an eyebrow raised, and then Buffy had nodded. Then Faith had taken off at a pace that most profession runners would be proud of, though it was one that wouldn't even wind the slayer.

"—Do you know if, maybe, he's consulted for Claris Corporation? Cause that's the only way I can think of that he might've gotten access to the program so early. I mean, if they're just working out of the kinks and bugs in the new program now, maybe he got a copy to try out himself? Of course—"

Seeing the serious look in Buffy's eyes, Willow had immediately started talking about everything and nothing. A large part of her afraid she knew exactly what Buffy wanted to talk to her about, and wanting to avoid it at all costs. Not that she wasn't honestly interested in the computer program Charlie had installed and set-up on Buffy's laptop for her to send him reports on Slaying, but it wasn't something she'd usually try talking to Buffy about. Oz, yeah. But he was into the computer stuff just like she was. Buffy and Xander really weren't. The only times Willow had seen either of them actually use computers before Buffy met Charlie was only in computer class. Xander liked to play solitaire and Buffy had liked looking at the latest fashions online, but any time they'd really needed to use technology it'd fallen to Willow to get what they needed.

"—if that's the case, you probably shouldn't show the program to too many people since he probably wasn't supposed to give it to you. Which was really, really sweet of him. Though the laptop itself is pretty high-end, too. So maybe he's consulted for Apple Computer as a whole? That'd be really, really neat! Do you think he might be willing to let me take a look at the program—"

Personally, even she was kind of impressed that she'd managed to keep babbling, pretty-much non-stop for almost an half-an-hour. That was a record even for her. Sure, she didn't really have any idea what she was talking about before she said it, her mouth had taken over completely. But she'd effectively commandeered command of the conversation and kept it for a considerable length of time.

"—I'd just like to know how he's set up the storage architecture and I could probably improve the firewalls that he's setup for your computer as a whole. Since Dr. Eppes said he's not a hacker or anything like that. So he might not know all the ins and outs that hackers might use. And some of the technopagans I've been talking to online have shown me some neat things you can do with magic and computers that'd really help any firew—"

"You know I have almost no idea what you're talking about, don't you?"

Willow stopped, cheeks reddening as her friend's question sank in. The gig was up. "Uh, yeah... Sorry."

Buffy shook her head. "So?"

Willow winced, "What'd you think is keeping them?"

"Giles and Faith? Hopefully something research-related. Post?" The slayer shrugged. "Don't really care. But that's not what I was asking about."

Willow winced again before she could think to stop herself, but this time remained silent.

"Come on, Wills. What's the sitch?"

"The Lagos demon wants the glove to—" Her obvious attempt to divert the conversation again wasn't allowed, as she was again interrupted.

"With you and Xander."

"Oh. Um—"

"Actually, hold that thought," Buffy interrupted her yet again, before darting across the clearing just as a demon suddenly stormed in from the opposite side.

Willow knew she really shouldn't have been grateful for the demons arrive, but one really couldn't control their feelings, could they? And the momentary reprieve was appreciated.

Instead of meeting the demon head on halfway across the clearing, Buffy darted to the side and kicked around with one leg to sweep its feet out from under it, sending it crashing to the floor. It just barely managed to roll out of the way when she swung the staff she was carrying at his head, smashing it into the ground instead. She pulled back as he climbed to his feet.

It was always kinda neat to watch Buffy wipe the floor with demons that had no business trying to fight her. It was, of course, terrifying to watch her fight the ones that were good enough to hold their own against her. But the ones that really couldn't and were clearly on their way to meet their maker were fun to watch.

With all the hype the ex-watcher had put into the problem this Lago-guy was supposed to be, though, it was kind of surprising. Cause, axe versus staff, you'd think he'd at least be able to hold his own, but he barely seem to know what to do with the weapon in his massive hands when facing the slayer.

When Lagos swung the axe at her head, Buffy merely dropped down again to knock his feet out from under him—and surprisingly he hadn't learned the first time, cause he went down just as easily—and this time she also caught his axe with the staff and sent it flying away.

Seeing Buffy was then in between where Lagos had fallen and where she'd sent his axe, Willow helpfully ran around the clearing to grab the weapon. Figuring keeping the axe away from him, no matter how little skill he had, could only be a good idea.

Though she needn't have bothered. Since this time Buffy managed to slam her staff into his head. Several times. Till his head kinda wasn't the right shape anymore. And he was obviously very dead. Even though his limbs were still jerking around, but that seemed to be mostly in response to each time she slammed the staff into what was left of his head.

"Uh, Buff?" Willow asked after her friend had nailed the monsters head a tenth time.

Finally the slayer stopped, and took a step back at the sight that was presented to her. "Okay, I know Giles didn't want us carrying weapons made of metal around when were bringing the glove out to burn it up, cause there was a chance that someone might try to use it against us..." She shook her head. "But I really prefer decapitation. Or staking. Cause, ewe."

"Yeah," Willow agreed with a nod, before shaking her head again. "But why'd you hit 'im so many times? I mean, his head was practically flat after the fourth hit, so..."

Buffy shook her head. "His brain's not in his head."

Willow blinked, "What?"

"He's a Lagos demon. Brain's in his neck. That's why decapitation is better with most demons. No matter what, it tends to kill 'em. Well, most of 'em. There's a few it's a really bad idea with."

That made the redhead blink again, but incited her nearly inexhaustible curiosity. "Like the Hydra*?" (7)

"Huh?"

"The mythological creature Hercules fought? When he cut off its head, more heads grew back?"

"Oh. Yeah. Like that." Buffy shrugged, grimacing as she looked down at the end of her staff, which was covered in demon blood. "'Cept Giles promised that there aren't any demons like that still around."

"There aren't? Wait, was Hercules real? Are the Greek gods and the Egyptian—"

"You did hear Giles talking about all the groups of gods that lost interest in our world a long time ago, right?"

Willow frowned, thinking back on it. "Uh, I think so." She shook her head. "Was I looking for something—"

"Oh yeah, you were actually researching the glove, I think. I was just listening to some of what Giles said."

"Some of what he said?" Willow raised an eyebrow. Though, in reality, 'some' was much better than the Slayer used to be when it came to anything historical. Still, for the most part, all she wanted to know was what she had to watch out for when fighting something and how to kill it. Which was understandable, since that was really her job.

"Well, yah." Buffy shrugged, "I usually only understand half of what he says anyway. So I hear all of it, but most of the historical stuff isn't that important to me." Then she grimaced, "But it's something Charlie'd want to know, and I haven't had any luck on getting Giles to send him the information that I don't want to listen to—probably because he thinks it'll make me really listen if I have to report all of it back to Charlie myself."

Willow nodded, "But Hercules was real?"

Buffy blinked, "I don't know. You should—"

"Ask Giles?"

"Yup. All he told me was the really big, pure demons aren't around anymore because they were driven out. That the ones that made it into modern myth—"

"Modern myth?" Willow repeated, shaking her head. "Most of the Greek myths are thousands of years old."

Buffy shrugged again. "And some of the Slayer myths and the demonic stuff the Council keeps track of are millions of years old, Will. I don't think two or three thousand years mean too much to the Council."

"Oh." Willow blinked, nodding slightly. "I guess that makes sense. But all of the big demons are gone?"

"Yeah. Giles said all of them were 'driven out when humanity inherited the Earth, or something like that.' That most of the ones you hear about in popular myth are actually variations of much older myths, of demons that Slayers probably took care of. But some of the gods did keep a few around as guards."

"Like Hades kept the Hydra as a guardian to that entrance to the Underworld?"

"Yeah. But most of 'em never actually brought the demons into our world, cause they could cause too many problems there. So it didn't really live in this dimension, it woulda been stuck in the place between our dimension and the Underworld, since Hades probably wouldn't want it to enter either world."

"But Hercules found it because it was terrorizing nearby villages."

Buffy shrugged yet again. "Maybe he did. Or maybe that part was added to the story to make it sound more heroic. I mean, if a major demon was terrorizing humans—"

"A Slayer would've been sent to handle it," Willow interrupted, nodding slowly in understanding. "And you're right. It sounds better that he went to kill a monster that was terrorizing poor villagers than that he went to kill a guardian to a Hellmouth." Then she shook her had. "That's, um. Kinda neat, I guess." But again she frowned as something else occurred to her. "But we haven't fought a Lagos before, how'd you know it's brain wasn't in its head? And why'd smashing its head in kill it if its brain's not there?"

"I smashed its neck up a lot, too, Wil. And I don't know," Buffy shrugged, grimacing as her efforts to wipe the demon blood off the staff by rubbing the gory end in the dirt prove unsuccessful, only making it look worse. "I just knew."

That didn't make her frown fade, "But—"

Buffy sighed, "Some things about Slaying just come to me. Yeah, I have to work at it to become any good, but I've never really had trouble staking a vamp. I don't have trouble with new weapons. And some demons, even ones I've never seen before, I just know how to kill. I know what their weaknesses are, even if I don't know what they're called or how I know what I know." She shook her head again as she finished. "I guess it might be knowledge from Si—past slayers, you know? That kinda makes sense, right?"

After a moment of thought, Willow nodded slowly. "Yeah. Yeah, I guess it does."

"Anyway, you were saying?"

Willow blinked, "Huh?"

Buffy rolled her eyes, "Xander. You. The sitch. Now."

"Oh..." Willow winced, and all she could think was, 'Oh, crap.'


Outside Lily's House, Pasadena, California – Saturday, October 25, 1997

Charlie grimaced as the distinct sound of Lily falling off her couch after being waken from a deep sleep—by his knock on her front door—came clearly through said door.

He'd known that even though several of her lights were on and the TV in the living room was, too, that didn't mean the over-worked young woman was actually awake. No, this wasn't the first time Lily had fallen asleep while watching TV after a long day, and it certainly wouldn't be the last. But he knew something was happening in Sunnydale, and since his call with Faith had been cut short and he hadn't been able to get a hold of her again, he didn't know what to do.

He'd thought of calling the Watcher's home phone, only to discover he didn't know the number. Which also was not listed. And he didn't want to call Annie's home phone as it was likely that the only thing that could come from that is Joyce Summers would be awake and pacing with just as much worry as he was. Maybe more.

Still, he felt a little bad as he listened to—and felt—Lily's sleepy grumbles as she shuffled around inside, struggling to wake up.

Thinking something to focus on might help her, Charlie started to knock again.

*KNOCK*

Only to stop immediately after the first knock, not letting his clenched fist hit the wood a second time as a sharp spike of irritation from inside the house warned him that focusing her wrath on him might be stupid. But then again, he kind of deserved it since he was waking her up from her well-earned rest, regardless of his reasonable reason.

After several more seconds of strained silence, the door finally swung open.

"Charlie?" the blonde asked softly, still sounding and looking more than a little drowsy, as she rubbed her eyes before continuing. "What are you doing here?"

Charlie very deliberately kept his eyes focuses on her over-tired face, knowing that any attention to the state of total disarray her hair and clothes were in would only offend her. "I'm sorry to wake you, Lily. But I need your help."

Lily stifled a yawn even as she took a step back to nod him in, the worry he'd sensed growing in her from the second she opened the door visible in her eyes. She closed the door behind him as she asked, "Can I make some tea?"

Charlie shook his head. "I don't know how much time—something's happened in Sunnydale." He tried not to wince as Lily's own alarm joined his own worry thanks to his empathetic senses, despite the fact that the slightly older woman visibly controlled herself very well.

"Is Buffy—"

"I don't know. Can you drive—"

Lily cut him off, "I would, Charlie. You know I would. But my car's in the shop. Bob gave me a ride home." She shook her head. "I guess I could try calling him, but—"

"But he's supervising the Watch's patrol tonight." Charlie sighed, trying to think of something—anything—else he could do. But he came up empty. "I have to help somehow, Lily." He insisted, trying to think of some way to explain why. But then he stopped as he noticed the speculative look that'd come across her face as he literally felt her think of something.

The blonde glanced behind her, at the nearby desk that he knew she kept some of her equipment for meditation and minor witchcraft.

"Lily?"

Lily nodded slowly. "I started experimenting with astral projection a little while back, I'm not very good at it, but..." she shook her head as she met Charlie's eyes again. "Since you and Buffy are psychically connected, maybe—"

"I should be able to find out what's going on through astral projection?" Charlie finished, nodding in agreement. "Yeah. That should work. Let's—"

"It's not easy, Charlie. I mean, I can barely project myself out of my body right now. I think the bond will definitely help you, but—"

"I have to do something, Lily."

After several long seconds of silence, the blonde nodded again very slowly. "OK. This'll just take me a minute to set up." She waved over to the center of the living room, where a thick rug had been placed specifically for meditation. "You should meditate for a bit, try to clear your head."

"Can I help you—"

"No. Meditate." Lily nudged him gently towards the rug. "If you're not able to focus, you won't be able to project yourself, even with the bond and the ancient spirit helping you." At that, she stopped. "What does—"

"Sineya's not here." Charlie shook his head. "I think she's focused her attention on Annie right now. She tends to do that: focus on whoever needs help the most."

Lily sighed, but nodded. "I guess that makes sense." She sighed again. "But try to get her attention if you can. She'll—"

"No. I'm not taking her help away from Annie if I can help it," Charlie interrupted firmly.

Lily grimaced, but nodded again. "OK, well. Meditate then, facing northwest."

Charlie nodded, carefully sitting himself down in the pose Madam Ward had insisted he get used to using for mediation—something about it apparently kept his body relaxed but didn't let anything fall asleep either—so he tried to use it. Hopefully it wouldn't take him too long to get used to it. He'd never been especially flexible, but hadn't been particularly inflexible either.

He watched as Lily slowly made her way around him in a deosil* direction, laying a long white cord down on the ground as she mumbled a blessing under her breath as she went. She sent him a small glare as she then moved to the box of crystals she'd brought out, and he shook himself out of his slightly dazed observations. (8)

As Lily started setting up small crystals around him, he closed his eyes and carefully regulated his breathing, trying to focus his attention on each breath as it entered his body and then rushed back out. Gradually, he managed to slow it down, silently counting out each breath as he'd been taught. Though the emotions that'd been troubling him all evening were still there, but the increasingly practiced activity definitely helped.

"Charlie?"

Lily's voice called him back out again a short time later, and he opened his eyes, only to blink several times as took in the sight she'd set up around him.

At least a dozen small, clear crystals were set up in a circle around him, each emitting a soft white glow that somehow stretched itself so that each crystal's light was touching each of the two nearest to it, all of them encircling him in white light. Four larger crystals, each a different color, were also set up around him. It took him a moment of looking around to realize each was set in specific directions from him. A large green crystal was set a few feet north of him, just outside of the circle formed by the white cord. To the west Lily'd placed a large blue crystal. Charlie had to turn his head a little to the right to see the yellow crystal to the east, and back around, though not quite as far to the left to the see the red crystal to the south. All four were a little larger than his fist and also glowing, though their glow seemed more natural, in that it stayed within the immediate vicinity of the gem that was emitting it. (9)

"Charlie? Are you ready?"

Charlie nodded slowly, "I think I'm ready."

"Are you sure—"

"No," he cut the understandably nervous witch-in-training off. "But I need to do this, Lily."

The blonde sighed, but then nodded her head in understanding. "OK. Remember, you have to keep checking your connection to your body. You can't stretch yourself too thin. If you become lost while in your astral form and remain away from your body too long—"

"I'll die. I know."

Lily grimaced, shaking her head. "Charlie, maybe we should try to call the elders. I'm really not qualified t—"

"Please, Lily." Charlie held his friend's gaze for several long seconds before she finally relented, yet again.

"OK..." Lily sighed. "S-Since you haven't done this before we'll have to use a beginner's chant to get you started, and the bond should pull you to Annie."

Charlie nodded. He knew they really shouldn't be doing this, but he needed to help and as Lily's car was in the shop, this was really the best they could do. If they needed to go to Sunnydale to help, they would. They'd take one of his parents' cars. But as that road had plenty of blocks—for one thing, needing to explain why they needed the car so suddenly—they didn't want to venture there without reason. Which Lily didn't think they had just yet.

"R-Remember, you have to focus on the entire chant for it to effectively guide you."

"Right," Charlie nodded, taking a deep breath that flooded his senses with the subtle incense Lily'd lit a little while before, then started reading the chant she'd chosen for him, carefully speaking the ancient words out loud. "Ego sum procul pacis. Ego sum universa. Ego peto scientia. Ego transporto meus phasmatis absentis—"* (10)

And suddenly everything around him—from the incense-weighted air and carefully placed crystals to the lights of the streetlights outside—blurred.

Charlie tried to close his eyes, hoping to stop the confusing onslaught of imagery or at least the painful pressure that had suddenly built up behind his eyes. Physically, he was sure he felt his eyes close, but the muddled impressions kept coming and the pressure kept building and he couldn't stop the cry of pain that sprang from his throat.

Then, just as suddenly as it all started, the chaos stopped and the genius was left in darkness with Annie's warm concern washing over him.

"Charlie?" Annie's startled voice echoed through his mind.

"Wha—Buffy, there's nothing there." Willow's equally startled reply seemed much more distant, but also echoed.

"What are you talking about? He's right—Wait. Charlie, why can I see through you?!" the sheer terror in the eldest slayer's question rang across their bond, her words echoing behind it, and finally gave him the strength to try to look around.

"Buffy, there's nothing th—"

"He's right there, Willow. Floating. And see-through-able. You better not be a ghost, Charlie."

It took a surprising amount of effort to direct his gaze at all, but when he did look down he found both ladies were several feet below him, Willow looking around in bewilderment as Annie's stared up at him, fear clear in her gaze. The corpse of some kind of fairly large demon on the ground behind them was probably responsible for the damages he could see in the clearing around him, but neither lady was hurt so he didn't really care.

"Annie, are you OK?"

"Of course I'm not OK, you idiot! How'd you become a ghost?!" Buffy demanded, her eyes noticeably bright.

"I'm not—" Charlie stopped as he finally managed to see himself, or actually, didn't. Because when he looked where his legs should be, he found nothing. What his present form consisted of seemed to end at his waist, and was as a whole blurred at the edges and almost transparent.

"Charlie?" Annie's nervous inquiry brought him back to the present.

Returning his 'gaze' to hers, Charlie finally managed a reply. "I'm not a ghost. I'm, um. I'm projecting myself. Astrally."

"Oh." Buffy's confused blink was endearingly familiar, and somehow made him feel a little better. A little more sure of himself as she turned to Willow. "He says he's projecting himself. That he's astral?"

"I needed to see you," Charlie told her. "I was worried."

"But that doesn't make any sense," Willow complained, shaking her head. "How come you can't see him and I can't?"

The Clearing, Sunnydale, California – Saturday, October 25, 1997

Buffy shifted, a little uncomfortable with the area Willow's questions could take them into, but didn't let her gaze waver from where limbless and see-through Charlie was hovering a few feet over her head. "He's there, Wills."

"But I don't think astral projection—" Willow's wide eyes were darting around the air above them. "I don't think people can see astral forms. And it's supposed to be really hard. Giles always gets really tetchy whenever I ask about trying it."

"It's really hard?" Buffy repeated, her already present frown deepening as she eyed her barely-visible friend worriedly. "Charlie is—are you OK? Why—?"

"Something's wrong." Her brilliant, not-quite-boyfriend cut in, his words not seeming to come from his immobile mouth, but instead echoing through her mind. "Can't you feel it?"

Buffy shook her head, frowning up at him. "You shouldn't—"

Charlie interrupted again, and she could feel his frustration along their bond. "You need to help Faith! And—"

"Faith? What's wrong with Faith?" Buffy demanded, glancing rapidly in the direction the younger slayer had gone quite a while before to retrieve their missing-watcher, before looking up at her incorporeal friend again.

Charlie's eyes were still locked with hers, but she got the feeling he wasn't actually looking at her as he asked, "Is that the Lagos-demon you were worried about?"

Apparently he could see the cooling corpse on the ground without looking around, though she noticed off-handedly that he seemed to be a little closer than before. "Yeah, that's him." She shook her head. "He was kinda pathetic, really. Don't know why Post was so worried about him. But what happened to Faith? And how—"

"Someone attacked Giles. He needs—" Charlie stopped abruptly, and Buffy gasped as he suddenly disappeared.

"Charlie?!" Her panicked call rang through the clearing even as she tried to focus on his distant presence.

"What? What happened?" Willow demanded, but another demand stole the slayer's attention before she could respond.

"—Help. He needs to get to the hospital." Charlie finished, appearing just as suddenly as he'd vanished a moment before.

"What?" Buffy blinked, that spike of sheer terror his disappearance had inspired still dominating her mind as she noticed he was almost a foot lower than before.

"You need to help Giles!" Charlie insisted, "And Faith. Sh—"

And suddenly he was gone again.

Buffy looked around, reaching out with her senses as she tried to find her friend. To no avail. But he'd given her a task to focus on before she went crazy trying to find him, so complete that task she would. Though she probably wouldn't have been able to focus on that all if a reassuring pulse from Sineya sent her the silent message that she'd look after Charlie.

"Buffy, what's—"

"Faith and Giles are in trouble," Buffy cut her off, turning towards Giles apartment complex. "Come on!" She forced herself to keep her pace down to a swift jog that Willow could keep up with. Even with the fates of three dear friends troubling her, she couldn't abandon another friend to the dangers in Sunnydale's streets.

Giles' Apartment, Sunnydale, California – Saturday, October 25, 1997

Charlie was sure that the weird compression of chaos that motion in astral form became would make him sick if his mind wasn't separate from his body as he experienced it. As it was, it took him a long second of staring to figure out where he was when he suddenly wasn't in the clearing anymore. But at least this time he was closer to the ground, so it was easier to turn his attention to the trembling form that was kneeling next to the apartment's owner, staring at the blood that was slowly seeping into the carpet from the wound on the top of his head. A look at the crunched remains of Annie's cell phone in the brunette's still clenched right-hand told him what had ended their earlier conversation.

"Faith!" he called, but the shaking slayer didn't seem to hear him, as her dark eyes remained down while tears slid slowly down her cheeks. "Faith!" he tried again, but she clearly couldn't hear him anymore than Willow could in the clearing.

But that didn't make sense. If Faith couldn't hear him at all, why could he sense her terror/pain so very clearly? Annie was definitely worried now, too, but it was definitely Faith's emotional state that had kept him awake and called him here.

"No..."

Charlie barely heard the brunette's muttered denial, which came to him a little more clearly than Willow's questions of Annie had, but nowhere near as well as Annie herself had in the clearing.

"No. No Di'. Di'."

"Die?" The genius wondered, as bewildered as he was worried. Yes, Dr. Giles didn't look good—that's why he wanted her to call an ambulance—but he wasn't dead or dying.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Di'."

"Oh," Charlie could've hit himself as he suddenly remembered the young slayer's first watcher. "Diane Dormer?" He was pretty sure that had to be who the girl was talking about. But then again, he'd only heard Annie mentioned the late Watcher's name once or twice. Still, even with this knowledge he was worried. If she couldn't hear him, how was he supposed to help her?

"Touch. Feel."

Had he been capable of physically jumping, he would have. Charlie was certainly startled enough as a young black woman—who was also transparent, like him—suddenly appeared beside him.

As it was, he could only stare, until her frown—and the burst of irritation it sent along the bond she was part of—made him ask, "What?"

"You touch." Sineya told him, before waving a barely visible hand—though it pointed out that unlike him her spiritual form was apparently whole—towards Faith. "She feel."

Charlie really fond his inability to move—especially since she clearly could—disconcerting, but he tried to ignore it and focus on the task at hand. "Faith can feel me?"

The ancient, but ever-young spirit didn't respond.

Charlie wanted to roll his eyes or shake his head, but tried to ignore the unfulfilled habit of expression yet again. "How do I touch her? I can't move."

He was fairly sure she was mocking him as she rolled her eyes, but that thought quickly left his mind as she reached forward, her hand plunging into where his limbless-chest was floating. It was very strange sight, but any thought he might've given beyond that realization, towards the sight itself or the possible reasons behind her actions, vanished as the horrible emotions he'd been feeling from Faith were suddenly three times more poignant, with a little bit of inexplicable bemusement mixed in. Which was just as quickly over powered by a burst of alarm as Faith all but flew to her feet.

"Who's there?" the slayer demanded, none of the alarm he could sense visible to him or in her voice. "What are you?" she continued, looking around, her figure tense. "…Some kind of ghost?"

"What want?" Sineya suddenly asked, and he saw that she was still staring at him.

"What do you want?" Faith echoed, making Charlie stare a little incredulously even as he forced a reply out.

"I—She needs to call for help."

"Help?" Sineya frowned towards Faith, before looking back at Charlie.

"I don't know what you think you're gonna do here, but if you think you're gonna finish your buddy's job, think again!" Faith called out again.

"Yes," Charlie confirmed, though he was watching Faith with no small amount of worry now. And it was only then that the genius realized—through the flood of feelings still coming from Faith—that not only was Sineya's right hand still buried in his chest, her left was in Faith's, too. Though her left arm seemed to have stretched to an unnaturally long length, since Faith was more than twice as far away from the ancient spirit as Charlie was.

"Help for man?"

"Help for Giles?" Faith sounded a bit lost again as she blinked down at the downed watcher.

"She needs to call for help," Charlie emphasized, struggling for a way to get the appropriate message through Sineya's understandable ignorance. Honestly, he didn't know how she understood as much English as she already had demonstrated. But, then again, maybe the active bond with two modern people helped in that regard.

"Call for help for man," Sineya nodded as she repeated his request, nodding again as Faith echoed her.

"Call for help?" Faith blinked, then started looking around rapidly as understanding finally dawned. She spared the destroyed phone in her grasp a momentary glance before disregarding it, though she didn't set it down anywhere. After a long moment of looking, she dodged around the couch to reach the landline phone on a nearby table.

Charlie wanted to release a sigh of relief as he watched her dial in the three emergency numbers most six-year-olds knew. But, again, Sineya managed to distract him from his inability to physically express anything. This time, though, she was physically moving him: pulling him away from Faith and towards the nearby door.

"What—"

Sineya cut him off, speaking over his question and Faith's urgent phone call. "Need go."

"I need an ambulance..."

"But—"

"Need go. Now."

"My friend needs help now!"

Charlie wanted to blindly refuse, but he could sense Sineya's growing discomfort. Which meant she really had a reason for want him out of astral form. Even though he couldn't think of one at the moment. "Why?"

"Need body." Sineya insisted firmly. "Not spirit."

"His body—someone hurt him!"

"Sineya, I want to help!" Charlie tried to object as they neared the door. Though he could sense the ancient spirit's impatience, she apparently couldn't drag him along any faster than she was already. Which was about the speed one might be able to swim through molasses at.

Still, she seemed to respect his wishes more than her unhappy expression indicated, since she immediately stopped dragging him towards the door. "Have help." She pointed out, gesturing towards Faith's continuing phone call.

"He needs help!" Faith insisted into the phone.

"But—" Charlie stopped suddenly, more than a little bewildered by the irritated—but rapidly becoming frightened—expression on the ancient youth's face. "Why do I need to go—?"

He stopped as that overt, overwhelming sensation overtook his senses once again.


The Streets of Sunnydale, California – Saturday, October 25, 1997

Buffy grimaced as an ambulance passed them, headed in the same direction that she and Willow were. On one hand, it meant that if Giles needed medical help—which he probably did, if the ambulance was headed to his place—it'd be there. On the other, if she were by herself she'd know that already. Because she'd already be there.

"Buffy," Willow panted as she struggled to set the quickest pace her not-overly-athletic and all-too-human body could manage, "you don't have," another pant, "to wai—"

"I'm not leaving you, Will," Buffy cut in, sighing as she picked up on the worry and self-doubt that the redhead was radiating even as she struggled to keep her expression clear as she let Willow set as quick a pace as she could manage. "This is Sunnydale, and it's almost eleven. It's not safe."

"But—"

"Buffy! Everything alright?"

Buffy stopped abruptly, gently catching Willow by the shoulder as her friend stumbled, before turning towards her towards Xander's voice, a smile splitting her face as she saw all three of the other Scoobies sitting in Cordelia's car. "Hey guys, good timing. Will, tell them what's going on, OK?" She didn't even wait for Willow's affirmation, certain that the entirely reasonable order would be obeyed. Instead she immediately took off, running as fast as she could, which was only slightly slowed down by the two inch pumps she'd chosen to slay in this evening.

That slight decrease in speed was OK though. 'Cause she really needed the extra two inches these shoes gave her. And they looked great, too. It was really too bad that her super-powers couldn't extend themselves to protect her wardrobe, though. Buffy herself, with the great agility, balance and dexterity being a Slayer gave her, had no problem crossing any kind of terrain at whatever speed necessary in any shoes she wanted. Unlike most women, she also never suffered from any kind of problems that were commonly associated with beautiful footwear. It was a part of being Chosen that she greatly appreciated. But most of her shoes, hell most of her wardrobe in general, really took a beating when it came to the actual Slaying.

Dust, she could live with, even though it somehow worked its way into the weirdest places. Still, dust she could shake out. Heels that broke under the strain of over-usage could be fixed. But blood, slime, guts and goo were much more difficult to fix and impossible to ignore.

Buffy sighed as she saw Giles street up ahead. She knew full well that the only reason she was concentrating on her poor footwear and wardrobe was because she really didn't want to think about what she might find when she got to that apartment. She'd started sensing Faith's fear and anguish several blocks back. And they felt just like the same kind she remembered picking up when she was asking the younger Slayer about her previous Watcher, Which really wasn't a good sign.

And she was also getting really strange feelings from Charlie and Sineya over the bond. Like both were really close by, but not. Both were worried. Actually, Sineya felt scared, and that scared Buffy because it wasn't something she was used to sensing from the ancient spirit at all.

Astral projection was something like the spirit leaving the body, right?

Why the hell would Charlie do that?!

Buffy shook her head again as she cut the corner and kept going down the street, grimacing again as she saw that the ambulance had, in fact, stopped in front of Giles's apartment building. She'd really already known they'd be there, but that didn't mean she had to like seeing it.

Of course, the police car that was there to didn't help either.

When she'd lived in LA, she'd never really had much of an opinion towards the police. More often then not, they were just there. That simple fact was something she'd appreciated in junior high when she'd somehow gotten separated from her classmates on a field trip and gotten hopelessly lost in a part of the city she'd never been in before. But that was the only time she really saw them, save when they were directing traffic or stopping speeding cars and writing tickets. Buffy, herself, had never even seen a crime scene or had any reason to go near a police station.

Before she'd become the Slayer, she hadn't really even noticed them. Afterwards she had, and had been a bit irritated that they didn't seem to do anything to deal with the vampires that preyed on the city's populace, but Merrick had pointed out that that was her job, unfortunately. But she'd started noticing them a lot more during the day, and while they were still just there the part of her mind that the Slayer actually appreciated why they were there, so Buffy herself had, too.

But here in Sunnydale, it was a very different story. There wasn't much crime in Sunnydale. What with the vampires and demons dealing out death on a fairly regular basis, the human populace was almost disturbingly sheep-like, and completely determined to ignore the supernatural activity. Meanwhile, most of the cops were just sheep with guns most of the time, while she was convinced some of them actually covered up everything supernatural that happened. Maybe they'd be more useful if there was more actual crime that wasn't somehow tied to the supernatural in Sunnydale, but there just wasn't. And it was the cops that had tried to arrest her and shoot her based on Snyder's words only a few months ago.

"No! I won't let you hurt him. He need's help!"

Buffy frowned as Faith's words reached her ears, and had to consciously focus on slowing down instead of speeding up, knowing it'd look strange if she came through the door at a full sprint but wasn't sweating or breathing hard at all.

"We want to help him, Miss," an unfamiliar, female voice replied just as Buffy reached the steps leading up the Giles' door. "Please step aw—"

Knowing there were police officers inside, too, Buffy thought it probably wouldn't be a good idea to just burst into the room in anyway, so she consciously made herself slow down to a regular walk even as Faith's anxiety spiked again.

"No! I won't let you hurt him!"

Buffy raised an eyebrow as she entered the room to see Faith in a protective stance, Giles just behind her feet, on one side of the room, facing off against two paramedics and two cops who were all reluctant to move any closer then halfway across the room from her. She glanced around even as all four of the strangers looked towards her sharply, and was a little surprised at the increase in the anxiety she was sensing from the four of them as they saw her. The two patrolmen's guns were in the holsters on their thighs, but their hands weren't far from them. While the paramedics were just behind the cops, a gurney and a bunch of medical equipment in hand.

"Buffy, Giles—"

"I know," the older Slayer cut in gently, giving the four strangers another quick glance before making her way around them, easily stepping around the hand one of the patrolmen started to raised to stop her. Not that she needed to, since his partner had immediately caught his elbow and pulled him back, shaking his head, which earned him a longer look. Buffy suppressed a frown as she took in the cop's face, knowing he looked vaguely familiar but not sure why. Though Sunnydale was a relatively small town, and she could have seen him off or on duty just about anywhere, the wariness he was radiating made her think otherwise. But the hysteria Faith was already halfway into was more important, so she returned her full attention to the brunette. She stopped just a few steps away from Faith, forcing herself not to look at Giles and instead waiting till the younger Slayer's gaze finally locked with her own before she continued, "He needs help." She nodded her back towards the paramedics. "That's why these guys are here, right?"

Faith glanced at the paramedics, frowning as confusion bent her brow a bit, but then she nodded. "Y-Yeah. I, uh. I guess?"

Buffy nodded again, holding a hand out. "So why don't we let them do their job, OK?"

Faith glanced down at Giles, still obviously worried, but Buffy could—thankfully—already sense that the fear that'd been dominating Faith's half-aggressive, half-defensive psyche had faded just enough for the Slayer to take control. "Yeah," she nodded again, moving towards Buffy but not taking the hand the blonde had offered. She just followed, placidly as Buffy took a gentle hold of her elbow and pulled her further back.

Immediately, the two paramedics rushed forward and got to work on Giles while the two cops approached them. The younger cop was annoyed, but the slightly older and vaguely familiar one was worried.

"We'll need to take your statements, Miss—?"

"Summers," Buffy replied immediately, though she was frowning as she tried to remember where she'd seen the slightly older cop before. He was probably in his late thirties, a little over-weight with curly-but-short brown hair. And he was sweating bullets to accompany the worry she could feel rolling off him. "I'm sorry, but have we met, Officer—" she glanced at the nametag on his uniform, "Officer Stevenson?"

"You're Summers?" the younger cop stared at her, and suddenly his irritation vanished, to be replaced by an echo of the wariness and fear his partner was feeling, but also by a bit of very clear amusement.

"Yes," Buffy replied, biting back the much more sarcastic retorts that wanted to come out, since they wouldn't help in this situation, "Buffy Summers." Suddenly the reason the older cop seemed so familiar clicked, and Buffy couldn't stop a wince. "You were at there at the high school, when Kendra was killed, weren't you?"

The older cop nodded, finally speaking up, his barely-familiar voice just enough to confirm her suspicious even without his nod. "Yeah, that was me."

After a moment of tense silence, Buffy shook her head. "Sorry about your arm," she offered, remembering the pained cry he'd made as she'd grabbed him and flipped him down onto the floor, just after she'd punched backwards into his face. "And your nose."

Stevenson nodded again, a little bit of irritation and embarrassment seeping into his emotional state, but not enough to dismiss the wariness and fear that were already there.

Buffy blinked, having expected a little more than that, but then turned her attention to the younger cop, hoping this wouldn't take too long. She needed to figure out what the hell had happened here. Though it looked like what she really needed to find was the damn glove, since the vault-thing Giles had built for it was destroyed by something, and now hanging open, empty. "You said something about statements?"

"Uh, yeah," the younger cop; McNally, a belated look at his nametag told her as he nodded, pulling a small notebook out of his pocket.

"Can we make this quick?" Buffy requested in what she hoped was a reasonable tone. "We'd like to get to the hospital to check on Dr. Giles ASAP."

McNally grimaced, a bit more displeasure and disbelief slipping into his psyche at her question, but his partner replied before he could. Though Buffy was a little interested to note that McNally's predominant emotion was still amusement.

"Yes, ma'am. Just as soon as your friend answers a few questions. Miss—"

"O'Connor." A strange feeling, stirring in her gut made Buffy replied before Faith could. "This is Faith O'Connor. She's my cousin, just moved here from the east coast. Gi—Dr. Giles was helping her figure out what she'd be doing for school here." She looked at Faith, pleased to sense that the brunette seemed to be following her made-up story fairly easily and didn't appear quite as hysterical as she had only a few minutes ago. Though hearing the paramedics working in the background didn't make either of them feel any better. Not to mention the fact that she wasn't entirely sure of why she didn't want the cops to know Faith's real name.

"Sunnydale Medical," the female paramedic started talking a little more loudly, and Buffy spared her another quick glance to see that she was talking into a radio. "Patients is a Caucasian male, mid-forties suffering from blunt object head trauma*. Notify ER, we're bringing him in." (11)

"That's what I thought you guys were doing tonight," Buffy continued, nodding at Faith as she forced the pained-expression that wanted to come out as the paramedics raised the gurney up higher, with Giles snatched securely onto it. "I was gonna come by a bit later, Oz told me you might be in trouble—" she forced a fake frown as she held Faith's gaze, "Why didn't you call me, anyway? Instead of—"

"I didn't call Oz, B. He called your cell," Faith interrupted, before pointing to the crushed cellular device a few feet away form them, grimacing a little as the paramedics rolled Giles pass them and out the door.

Buffy blinked, staring a little longer at her destroyed phone then she really needed to, partially to mourn it's all-too-early demise. "Oh. How did—?"

"Remember, Red had ya plug it in here yesterday?" Faith shook her head.

"Oh yeah," then Buffy shook her head, abruptly turning back to the cops that were still watching them nervously. "Sorry, what was your question?"

McNally stared at her for a second, but then shook his head. "Yeah, uh—We really only need to ask Miss O'Connor a few questions, since you arrived after we did, Miss Summers. If you'd step outs—"

"Giles was 'sposed ta meet with me at the high school library," Faith interrupted, continuing quickly before the cop could object, not bothering to slow down as he hurriedly took notes in his little notebook. "When he didn't show, I thought he musta forgotten or maybe we got the day mixed up or somethin', so I came here." She stopped for a second here, swallowing, but continued again before anyone could interrupt. "All the lights were on, so I knocked, like, three—maybe four—times. No one answered, so I tried the door handle. It wasn't locked, so I came in and, h-he was th-there, on the ground," she stopped, glancing over at the spot where the Watcher had been laying, where only a large pool of blood on the floor remained to show for it. "I uh," she shook her head, "I think I might've spaced out for a bit. Th-Then B—uh—Buffy's cell rang."

"We'll need your friend's full name, please," McNally spoke up. Unlike his partner, the wariness he seemed to feel towards her had steadily abated as he got into the note taking. More than anything, he was still really amused. Still a little wary, but very polite.

"Frien—Oh. Oz?" Faith blinked, then frowned at Buffy after shaking her head. "What is his full name, anyway? You just told me he was Red's boyfriend."

Buffy blinked, thinking back on it for a second before she realized the younger teen was right. "Oh, sorry. Oz is actually short for Osborne," she continued, turning back to the cops. "His first name's Daniel." Then she frowned again, "Is this gonna take much longer? The ambulance's already gone."

"We really only need to speak with Miss O'Connor, ma'am, you're free to—"

Faith interrupted him, "There's really not much more to tell. Oz told me to call for help, I did. 'Cept I, um, kinda crushed your cell, B." she grimaced, looking at the remains of the cell phone. "I'm—"

"Don't worry about it," Buffy shook her head, "I can get a new one." It might cost a bit of time and money, but she could manage it. And she, herself, probably would've destroyed a few things if she found Giles like this, too.

"What happened after that, Miss O'Connor?" McNally called their attention back to him. Buffy sensed a spike of irritation from him as he glanced at his partner, but it was quickly suppressed as he looked back at Faith. Apparently he wasn't used to his partner being so quiet during these kind of interviews. Which didn't surprise Buffy anymore than the clear fear she could sense from him bothered her. From her vague memories of him he was normally a real jerk.

Faith shrugged, "I waited for you guys to get here," then she winced again. "I'm sorry I was so, so—"

"Jumpy?" Buffy suggested in the mildest tone she could manage, and Faith nodded.

"Yeah. I'm sorry I was so jumpy when you guys got here. It's just, I guess I was worried wha—whoever hurt Dr. Giles might come back, and," Faith shook her head. "Anyway, sorry."

McNally nodded, "It's understandable, Miss O'Connor. Though most people relax when they see the uniforms, traumatic situations can cause unexpected responses." He shook his head, glancing at his partner again. "Have you got any questions, Stevenson?"

The older cop shook his head, jerking it from side to side. Then he turned and walked out the door, which earned a scowl from his younger partner.

Vastly irritated with his partners rude—and probably against-protocol or something like that—exit, McNally shook his head again as he turned back to the two teenagers, "Then I'll just need your place of residence, for now."

Faith glanced at Buffy, but beyond that didn't hesitate as she replied, "Sixteen-thirty, Revello Drive."

McNally nodded, pulling a card out of his pocket as he did so, and them held it out to Faith. "My numbers on there, if you think of anything more, call me. We'll be in touch." Then he stepped slightly to the side, clearly indicating he expected them to precede him out.

"Thank you, officer," Buffy nodded and quickly walked by him, Faith a few steps ahead of her. A part of her really wondered if the cops would investigate this. But another part really didn't think they would. Not in Sunnydale.

Not that it really mattered to her. All she wanted to do was make sure Giles made it to the hospital and that the doctors were helping him, then destroy what-or-whoever did this to him.

So she wasn't sure how to feel when she got outside to find all of the Scoobies arguing with Officer Stevenson, who clearly wasn't sure of what to do with the bunch of them, and was apparently confused at why they were all here. It was obvious to Buffy herself, but then she knew these people. And she could see how it might seem weird that so many teenagers were showing up so shortly after Giles—a bachelor in his late forties—was injured.

"Buffy! Faith!" Willow spotted them over the older cop's shoulder. Though the redhead was apparently still impressed enough by their authority that she didn't try to brush past them to reach her, she did quickly give up trying to get answers out of the jerk that was afraid of the Slayers upon spotting them just as Officers McNally was locking up Giles place behind them. "What happened to Giles?"

Buffy sighed as she saw the ambulance speeding off down the road. Obviously, the Scoobies had seen him and therefore knew just as much as she did. Only they didn't know that the only thing she knew that they didn't was that the glove was gone.

...Though that was a fairly important fact.

"Are these friends of yours, Miss Summers?" Officer McNally asked, the amusement that had seemed to dominate his psyche ever since he learned her name becoming a bit stronger again as he took in his partner's clearly chagrined expression.

"Yeah. Sorry. I was supposed to meet them at the Bronze," Buffy was a little disconcerted at just how easily lies—white lies, but still lies—were rolling off her tongue while she talked tonight. She wasn't even entirely sure of why she wasn't telling more of the truth.

Obviously the demonic aspects of their lives might be harder than hard to explain, but for some reason she was sure it was more than that. That there the same instinctive part of her that had wanted to go patrol over into Pasadena—a good distance from her tiny, hole-in-the-wall apartment in LA—the night Charlie had been attacked, hadn't wanted the cops involved here. Involved with Faith. With Giles. Or the Scoobies.

Why?

She didn't know, really. Though she did know both the cops were a bit more wary of her then she thought they should be. Stevenson had been explained, she'd broken the guys arm and nose just a few months ago and he'd probably only just gotten his cast off fairly recently. But even though McNally seemed amused more than anything else, he'd still been wary. Too wary.

Unless he knew who she was, but didn't know she'd never hurt humans?

Buffy shook her head, forcing her attention back the present even as she frowned as she sensed Faith's fear and self-condemnation escalate again at the sight of the rapidly departing ambulance and the panicked Scoobies. "You don't have to worry about them, Officer. We'll be leaving shortly."

McNally looked at her for a long moment, but then nodded. "See that you do. And make sure Miss O'Connor calls me if she thinks of anything."

"She will." Not. She didn't add it out loud, of course, but it wasn't like she'd promised or anything. And this was her Watcher. This was the supernatural world. So it was her turf, not there's. "Have a good night."

"You do the same, Miss." McNally nodded again, before moving quickly down the steps and waving his partner to follow him to where their patrol car was parked.

Buffy and Faith moved down the steps at a more sedate pace, while the Scoobies hurried up to meet them. But most of Buffy's attention was on the departing cops. Which was probably the only reason she heard McNally's gibe at the older cop.

"That's the girl that broke your arm a couple months back? From the way you'd talked about her, I was expecting some kind of Godzilla-chick. I bet she doesn't even weight a hundred pounds!"

Buffy frowned at that. She did weight more than a hundred pounds. Charlie had all but ordered her to put a lot of weight on, and keep it on, saying the Slayers metabolism meant she had to eat a lot more than most women her age. Though she hadn't really liked the diet he'd prescribed, which had involved more than doubling the portions she'd been taking at most meals and eating some kind of snack every two to three active hours (which was whenever she wasn't asleep), but she couldn't argue with the results. She'd only put a little weight on, and it'd all gone into her still lean muscles. And yet she'd also had a lot more energy to spare then she did before. She was also at least a bit stronger and a little bit faster even without the adrenaline boost that Charlie was convinced ramped her up during all actual fights. Plus, her recovery time from every injury she'd gotten recently had been a lot faster than before.

Her Mom hadn't said anything, but the kitchen had had a lot more snacks loaded into it then before. And her Mom always cooked plenty for the three of them, enough so that both Slayers could eat till they were stuffed and they'd still have leftovers.

Her friends had noticed the increased portions, too. Willow had quickly realized the reasoning behind Charlie's demand when Buffy had told them of it. Oz and Xander had approved. Cordelia had been jealous. Not that Buffy could blame her. And Giles had highly approved, which had felt really, really good.

"Buff? You with us?"

Buffy sighed, nodding her head forcefully as she brought her attention back to the Scoobies, frowning only slightly when she noticed that Faith was staring off down the road in the direction the ambulance had gone. "Yeah, I'm here." She sighed again, "Obviously, we've got more trouble."


High School Library, Sunnydale, California – Saturday, October 25, 1997

Charlie was highly disorientated when he finally stopped moving again, so it took him several long seconds to recognize Sunnydale High School's library. He had, of course, been there at very strange hours before—as Annie had needed the research for two different (though later dubbed 'pathetic') adversaries when he'd last visited, and that didn't include the time they'd spent trying to figure out who, exactly, had placed a bounty on Faith and Annie's heads—but all the times he'd been here with Annie's 'Scoobies' the lights had been on.

And after a long moment he realized his 'head' was almost a foot closer to the ground then it would be on his physical body. Which was rather strange, since he'd appeared high in the air all in all of his previous locations. But he was much more concerned with the fact that he obviously had very little control over his astral form's movements.

Lily had warned him that, as he'd never intentionally done this before—had, perhaps, only drifted into it while in REMS sleep from time to time, as many unknowingly did—he wouldn't have much control over this form. And he'd known that already, from Madam Ward's mentions of it. He knew that this form was directed by an area of the brain that simply wasn't accustom to taking conscious commands: so it would take a considerable amount of practice to gain any real control over it, and his subconcious would always have greater control over his astral state. He'd heard Madam Ward mention it, heard Lily say it, and really thought he'd understood it. But it was one thing to hear it, and a totally different thing to experience it.

"Need go now!" Sineya's demanding voice startled Charlie out of his troubled musings, and Charlie again noticed that it was strange not being able to move in response to that startlement. He could change the direction of his gaze, but that still seemed to be all he could intentionally direct in this form, and only with great effort and no great amount of speed.

Unlike Sineya, who in her complete, barely-visible form was glaring down at him since his head was now at least half-a-foot closer to the ground than her head. He didn't need the physical contact that so dramatically magnified the emotions he could feel from her, to see that she was pissed. But it was only as she stuck her hand into his chest again that beneath that anger was terror as she started dragging him away.

"What—"

"Go back! Now!"

"But what about Faith and Ann—"

He was cut off again by that horrible sensation that seemed to signify his astral forms instantaneous movement from one place to another. This time he appeared outside of Giles' apartment, to see a cop car pulling away from the curb while Annie's friends gathered around her.

"But, Buffy," Willow was shaking her head, frowning deeply. "You killed the Lagos already, didn't you?"

Annie sighed, nodding. "Yeah, I did." Her weary displeasure rolled down their bond. "So it looks like we've got another baddie around here somewhere."

"They have the glove?" Xander asked, and it seemed weird to Charlie just how faint the other teenagers emotions felt to him. But then again, they were actually hundreds of miles away from his body, and they weren't bonded to him in any direct way.

"Yeah," Annie confirmed again, her frown and her displeasure somehow deepening.

"We've gotta find that thing," Willow stated the obvious.

But it didn't seem to bother Annie, as she immediately nodded again. "Yeah, we do. Whoever hurt Giles' is gonna pay." This time it was righteous anger rolling along their bond, making Charlie more than a little uncomfortable. Even though he knew it wasn't remotely directed at him.

"We need t—" Annie stopped abruptly, and Charlie sensed a little tingle along the bond that he knew meant she was aware of his immediate presence just before she spun around to see him. "Charlie?" She frowned down at him, and shook her head. "What're you doing here?"

Faith was frowning as she looked around, "B, math-man's not here. Just Red, X-man, Oz, Cordy and us."

"Dr. Eppes is back?" Willow asked, her eyes wide as she, too, tried to see him. But she was also shaking her head. "But I didn't think anyone was supposed to be away from their body this long! Especially not when he's so new at this."

"Why?" Annie asked, worry as clear in her voice as it was on her face. But she shook her head before the redhead could respond. "Never mind. Charlie, you need—"

"Need go back body now!" Sineya appeared again, cutting Annie off in mid-sentence. And very obviously confusing her, though she shook off the surprise a second later: unknowingly making her incorporeal friend a little envious of her easy movements.

"Yeah, what she said." The elder living Slayer agreed, ignoring the bewildered looks her physical companions sent her way as she frowned at Sineya. "Who're you, anyw—" her eyes widened as realization hit, "Sineya?"

"The First Slayer's here, too?" Willow asked, looking rapidly around, before frowning again. "But that doesn't make sense! She's been dead for millions of years, so she can't astral project. So if she's a ghost, shouldn't we be able to see her? And why can't we see Dr. Eppes? Wh—"

"Later, Will," Annie cut in, shaking her head again. "Charlie, you have to—"

"What happened with the glove?" Charlie interrupted.

But any response he might've gotten wasn't heard as he was yanked away yet again.

End of Frienemies – Part II.

AN: *sigh* I really, REALLY didn't want to make Frienemies a three-parter, but it kind of insisted. The next part is longer than this part.

Anyway, I'm really sorry for the long wait, I hope this chapter (and the following one, which really should be done soon) makes up for it.

On another note, I generally don't reply to reviews in the chapters themselves, but I felt some of this needed to be said, as I've been straying closer and closer to Xander-bashing the last few chapters.

Honestly, I never liked Xander that much. There were times he was great, but it wasn't until he was with Anya that I started liking him at all on a regular basis. The more mature Xander that's becoming a common fanon figure for post-Season 7, I like. But that's not the Xander I'm writing now. I'm writing the Season 3 Xander, who, to me, often came off as more than a little self-centered and a jerk. And yes, I think he was jealous of Angel for the time Angel was with Buffy, though he also disliked him simply because he was a vampire, soul or no soul. The hating vampires-thing is understandable, considering the stuff with Jessie, but that doesn't necessarily make one more inclined to forgive it. After all, I'm pretty sure Anya said at one point that she was probably responsible for more deaths, and certainly more creative ones, then the Scourge of Europe. And even if she didn't, the fact that she was evil for nearly four times as long as Angel (and that she, as a human, CHOSE to become that in the first place), makes Xander more than a bit of a hypocrite.

That Angel did little more than make cryptic statements to Buffy, while generally refusing to offer real help, is a point. But his not wanting to go to the Master's Lair is also understandable. He was SCARED. And personally, I think that the fact that Xander was able to convince him into going anyway goes a long way to show that he did care about Buffy. After all, soul or not, he's a Master Vampire. Xander was little more than a bug to him. But said bug was Buffy's friend, so Angel listened to him, instead of crushing him. Or just throwing him out, etc. Crucifix or no crucifix, Xander was just human and really didn't have the experience to take on a Master Vampire at that point. They're stronger, faster and more resistant to stuff like crosses than younger vampires. And Xander wasn't the one that usually fought them. The fact that he was willing to try and bully Angel into saving Buffy was certainly commendable, but I firmly believe Angel couldn't have been persuaded to do anything if he hadn't wanted to in the first place.

Also, we must keep in mind that Joss only got so much money for producing the show, especially in the earlier seasons. As a result, 'minor' characters like Angel, Spike and Faith, weren't always around. The show probably would've been more interesting if they could've been, but money matters. So yes, Angel didn't do that much fighting until closer to the end and in his own show.

As to Buffy and/or Charlie sensing that Xander's feelings regarding Angel might be more than jealousy, a major problem is that Angel isn't around. So other than occasional snide comments, there really isn't much thought of Angel. And Xander's currently semi-cheating on Cordelia right now while crushing on Willow. So his emotional state is fairly chaotic, as is Willow's. Thus the reason Buffy liked Mr. Platt's suggestion of some time alone with the two of them.

And Charlie's in LA most of the time. When he's around Buffy, his and Buffy's empathetic senses tend to focus on each other more than anyone around them.

But as you said, when Buffy's alone with the two of them, she could have a better chance at sensing more.

But, really, the bottom line is that for each of the segments where I'm focusing on specific episodes, I read the transcript of that episode several times. I watch that episode many, many, many times. And in the Buffy episode Frienemies is tied to, S3E7 'Revelations,' Xander came off as jealous, pig-headed, and generally just not very likable for me. And sending Faith after Angel, knowing how Buffy feels about him, kind of just sealed him in that 'lowest of the low' spot for me.

In my mind, Angel, the vampire with a soul, is essentially a human trapped in a vampire's body. So by labeling him as 'just a vampire' and telling Faith about him, then wanting to watch Faith slay him...

Yes, the fact that Xander actually told Faith that they shouldn't jump to conclusions on who'd attacked Giles a little later in the episode redeemed him a bit. But he almost immediately recanted on it as soon as he saw Buffy again, his exact words being "Your boyfriend's not as cured as you thought."

Sheer stupidity bothers me, but stubborn stupidity is even worse. And it's kind of hard to say I'm jumping the gun on this when even Willow condemned him for it.

Anyway, apparently my opinion leaked into the chapter. If that makes the story seem less plausible/likable to you, or makes anyone seem out of character, I sincerely apologize. But it's not an aspect of my writing I can really control. Yes, I will undoubtedly be keeping a closer eye on how I handle Xander, but after re-reading through Frienemies Part 1, I honestly didn't have any problem with how I wrote Xander. Yes, he's in the background with the other Scoobies a lot, as I focus on Buffy and Charlie. And yes, I'm a bit harsh on him, but like I said, there's not much I can do about it if I think it's right. I'll promise to try to curb it a little, but that's all I can do for now.

Until we get into the later parts of the show, where Xander's grown up a bit more, he just generally irritates me. And that will probably effect how I write him. Sorry.

...OK. I'm done ranting now. *winces* I really didn't mean to spend close to a page on that, but I thought a lot of it required the drawn out explanatory bit.

Anyway, I hope everyone liked the chapter and will try to get the end of Frienemies out ASAP.


NOTES FROM CHAPTER:

(1) "A dangerous male witch is called a warlock. The word comes from the Old English word war loga, meaning "liar" or "deceiver" …" I got this little tidbit from Judy Allen's Fantasy Encyclopedia: A Guide to Fabulous Beasts and Magical Beings—From Elves and Dragons to Vampires and Wizards. The idea seemed to fit in pretty well, and if Myhnegon lived in ancient Rome, which isn't canon but I decided he did, then why wouldn't he be considered a 'war loga'? Plus, when the Roman Empire was expanding militarily and whatnot, someone like him who made magical weapons would definitely be appreciated.

(2) Vivus is also Latin, and adjective for "alive" or "living," which seemed to fit fairly well with the idea of a conduit for Living Flame. (URL: /translator/latin_to_)

(3) Technopagan stuff – I've read a whole bunch of fan fics where Willow uses magic to enhance/outwit technology. Stuff like cellphones that never die, computers that CANNOT be hacked, or even hacking herself. Enough so that I'm pretty sure it's been accepted as a fanon staple, even though there really isn't (as far as I remember) too much in the canon to draw it from. Yes, Willow's gifted with computers early in the series and a super-witch later in the series, but I didn't see the combination in canon. Still, I find the idea interesting and wanted to use it. Therefore, I went back to Jenny's roots as a technopagan. I know she was a gypsy too, but she first introduced herself as a technopagan, so it's something that is, in fact, canon. The name itself basically labels it as the combination of magic and technology, so I'd think this is where Willow would've gotten the idea to start with. Thus, we see her starting here in this chapter...

(4) Most of the scene for Diane Dormer's death was paraphrased from Robert Joseph Levy's Go Ask Malice: A Slayer's Diary. I honestly didn't like most of the book, but that scene kind of fit for this, so I used it.

(5) RDBMS = Relational DataBase Management System – A database model that's based on E.F. Codd's relational model. Mr. Codd invented the model specifically for database management for IBM in 1969. (URL: wiki/RDBMS)

"Its core idea is to describe a database as a collection of predicates over a finite set of predicate variables, describing constraints on the possible values and combinations of values. The content of the database at any given time is a finite (logical) model of the database, i.e. a set of relations, over one per predicate variable, such that all predicates are satisfied…"(URL: wiki/Relational_model)

Nothing anyone says will convince me that that isn't something Charlie would have studied and been interested in. It sounds so much like something he might say while we watched 'Charlie vision' on NUMB3RS it's ridiculous. Thus, the slightly lengthy direct quote.

(6) Filemaker 4.0v1 is a RDBMS that, according to Wikipedia, was released in September 1997 by Claris Corporation, a subsidiary of Apple Computer. According to Wikipedia, the major improvement in this version of the program was that 'plug-in architecture' was introduced, which Willow talked about a little. Basically, this would have enabled Charlie to set up a program that's easy for Buffy to use and, at the same time, easy for him to keep all the data she sends him organized. (URL: wiki/Filemaker)

And, according to the Filemaker website, "schools using FileMaker software throughout their institution—including student information…make better decisions based on accurate data." That being the case, it really does sound like a program that Charlie would've been interested in anyway, and one that just happened to suit his needs when he started setting Buffy's laptop up, intent on helping her with Slaying in anyway he can. (URL:?homepage=1009)

(7) "The Hydra was a massive snake with nine heads on nine separate necks... The Greek hero Heracles (called Hercules in Roman mythology) was given the task of killing it. He and his companion, Iolaus, found its lair. But not only was the Hydra venomous, each time Heracles cut off one of its heads, two more grew in its place..." Another tidbit from Judy Allen's Fantasy Encyclopedia... But this was really just me having fun with mythology and whatnot. But for basic facts on the Hydra, you should check out Wikipedia. (URL: wiki/Lernaean_Hydra)

(8) Deosil = Sunward/Sunwise AKA clockwise. As in, the way the sun would move around a sundial.

(9) I did a bit of research for the crystal-coloring that Lily used, but couldn't find that much I really liked. Don't get me wrong. I found a LOT of information. I just didn't find a lot that I liked or a lot that people seemed to agree on as a whole.

What I did find was that each direction on a compass is apparently associated with an element. North is Earth. East is Air. South is Fire. And West is Water. Therefore, I figured green signified Earth, as plant-life is so integrally part of it. Red obviously signifies fire, just as blue signifies water. I had a little trouble with air, since I was already using clearish-white crystals to represent purity and protection, but I ended up deciding on yellow since the sun rises in the east and is definitely considered a part of the sky. I hope no one finds that too far-fetched.

(10) Honestly, I don't like the spell I came up with very much, but it serves its purpose. I got the translation form an online translator, so it's probably not all that good, so I apologize to anyone who actually knows Latin (and welcome suggestions as to how I might improve upon it).

Anyway, "Ego sum procul pacis. Ego sum universa. Ego transporto meus mens sicco. Eco transporto meus phasmatis sursum altus, tutus quod serenus. Ego transporto meus mens sicco. Ego peto scientia—" is Latin for "I am at peace. I am complete. I send my mind out. I send my spirit up high, safe and serene. I send my mind out. I seek knowledge—" (URL: /free_online_?from=English&to=Latin)

(11) "Suffering from blunt object head trauma" sounded a little weird to me, but that was exactly what the paramedics said in Revelations, and the same thing happened here, just in a different place, so I stuck to the script... Though I didn't have Giles wake up suddenly to tell her to destroy the glove. That seemed a little too far-fetched for me.


Again, hope this was worth the wait and I'll try to make the wait to come considerably less.

Bye for now! ^_^

Jess S


NEXT: Chapter 12: Frienemies – Part III.