How am I going with the time thingy?
Buffy woke slowly, a cough tickling at her throat.
The alarm on her bedside clock had obviously sounded and switched off—or hadn’t sounded at all—because not a mark reflected an angry slayer fist objecting to the time of day.
It was an effort to sit up in bed and Buffy realised she was sick. Her tummy felt woozy, her head was stuffed with cotton, her throat was raw and on fire, and just everything hurt. Nausea rose quickly as soon as she dragged herself out of her covers and found her feet, forcing her to the bathroom down the hall before she’d even had time to put on her fluffy pink piggy slippers. Retching drained her remaining strength and Buffy dragged herself up to rinse out her mouth and barely made it back to bed before she was unable to move her body any further.
She hadn’t been this sick for a long time. In fact, it was so long she couldn’t remember ever being this sick. Not even years ago when she’d landed in hospital had it seemed quite this bad—she’d been able to still get up and dress, heading off to patrol even if it was a crazy thing to do. Right now Buffy doubted she could pull her jeans on or find her shoes.
So, she didn’t have to go to class today. No biggie. It wasn’t like things were going so well this year anyway. She missed sharing a dorm room with Willow, though. Right now some good old fashioned Willow concern would have boosted her spirits to be sure. It’d probably take at least until lunchtime before anyone even realised she was missing.
Buffy sighed, and then groaned at the pain that sigh cost her. Closing her eyes, she succumbed to the weakness that washed over her and fell back toward sleep.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
“A new slayer has been Called.”
Quentin Travers’ news bounced around in his head for what felt like hours before Giles shook himself back to the present and fought to focus. “But… but what can that mean? Is Faith—?”
“I’ve already been in touch with the prison and Faith has been in the infirmary with some kind of fever since early this morning. She is apparently too weak to even move.” The Head of the Council sounded mystified even as he relayed the facts. “I’ve had a Council doctor examine her. It would seem that Faith has lost all of her slayer powers.”
Giles felt chilled. He was sure that he wasn’t even residing in Sunnydale anymore, hearing Quentin’s voice from a further distance than the phone at his ear. Buffy rushed to the forefront of his thoughts and hesitation battled with urgency to go and investigate how his own slayer faired this morning.
“I must go and find Buffy,” he muttered, already trying to sift through his knowledge for a demon that could have done this.
“Rupert, whatever this is, it’s powerful. I fear that it is magic of some kind. It’s almost as if the slayer centre has been torn from Faith and left behind a frailer girl than when she first gained her powers. Just… be careful.”
Quentin’s uncommon concern lifting his spirits somewhat, Giles’s thoughts suddenly snagged on one obvious piece of information relayed at the beginning of the conversation.
“The new slayer,” he began, filled with trepidation. “Who is it?”
“Her name is Charlotte Robinson. You might remember her mother, Susannah?” The question was pointed and Giles knew it. Travers was stepping on a part of his past that he’d buried long ago—the Ripper phase—and it made him feel ill to revisit it in even this small a capacity. A name. A child he’d never been able to have. A decision ripped away from him as if he was as inconsequential as the dirt that decorated his shoe.
An unsteady hand rubbed at his forehead and Giles wished he’d had something stronger for lunch. His best bottle of cognac would have done the job nicely.
A word bounced around the inside of his head and hope flourished in spite of his greatest fears. ‘Magic.’ The amulet Spike had sent Buffy should have protected her against whoever had attempted something so dangerous and selfish as to strip a seasoned slayer of her power. For the first time he thanked the Powers for Spike and the wisdom the master vampire carried about him.
“I remember.” The admission felt torn from his throat and Giles sat hard on the chair by the phone. He’d never forgotten Susannah. Never forgotten the pregnancy she’d ripped away from him the second he’d decided he could be a father. Within a week he’d found himself so disgusted by the sight of her that he’d taken the first bus back to London, railing against his own confused grief to put a chequered and destructive past as far behind him as he could.
Just the mention of her name threw him in a spin.
Emotions swirling pathetically inside, Giles cut the inquiry short and said goodbye, refraining with difficulty from slamming the phone back into its cradle.
Despite feeling a degree of confidence that whatever affliction Faith had suffered Buffy had escaped, Giles made his way to her campus housing with a gut twisted with worry. A quick call had been unanswered, but that might have meant nothing more than a sudden determination on Buffy’s part to attend all her classes for the day.
He’d noticed a distinct dimming of Buffy’s effervescent nature since Spike had taken his leave, and while initially Giles had been grateful Spike had done the responsible thing, he couldn’t help but wish him back. At least for Buffy’s sake.
He couldn’t help but remember the fake engagement fondly. Buffy had never confided in any of her friends the true nature of the union, so Giles felt blessed she’d trusted him so deeply as to share the details—even if it was only once Spike had left her with an ever deepening well of confusion. In hindsight, he really had to congratulate the pair of them for their courage to put their dislike aside in order to fool everyone. If the wider community had worked out the damage that magic could perform on the Slayer, Buffy might have faced many unpredictable dangers. It went against everything he knew as a watcher to allow his slayer to stay in close contact with someone as powerful as Willow, but the amulet meant much more than protection for Buffy. It kept her safe from her own friends. That was worth more than anything in the world—even if it saddened him beyond reckoning.
Giles walked with partial familiarity to Buffy’s new abode, smiling nervously to the young students that studied him with a knowing leer. He felt cheapened until he remembered he was her only paternal influence. Out puffed his chest as he glared at those that he felt challenged his right to come and visit his slayer.
His knock on the door went frustratingly unanswered. Looking at his watch, he discovered that it was past two and perhaps she’d gone from lunch to her afternoon round of classes. He hoped that’s where she was as it would indicate no difference to her usual routine and would give him a much welcomed sigh of relief.
Just as he’d determined that this was indeed the case, Willow came at a quick walk down the corridor, her face creased with concern. Giles’s every instinct indicating doom went on alert and he swallowed convulsively.
“Oh hey,” the redhead said by way of greeting. “Buffy not answering?” Her tone betrayed both surprise and worry and the knot of foreboding that was twisting his gut into a series of knots increased.
“Not as such, no. I take it by your presence that she hasn’t presented herself in class today?” It came as no surprise that he’d failed to keep the alarm from his voice, feeling only momentarily guilty at Willow’s surge in concern.
“Worry not,” she ordered, “for I have a key.”
“Oh thank God,” Giles breathed, sagging against the door as if he was a good twenty years older than he was.
The lock clicked and they both filed in, eyes immediately going to the slayer in the midst of some kind of nightmare, sweat making her hair cling to her forehead as her legs twisted jerkily amongst her bedcovers.
Giles knowingly looked to her bedside table and felt the world rock beneath his feet. The amulet sat next to a pair of hoop earrings, leaving Buffy as vulnerable in the night as a baby. Only whatever curse that had befallen her would have much more dire consequences.
Willow rushed forward, feeling Buffy’s cheeks and forehead with the back of her hand before turning fearful eyes to Giles. “She’s burning up, Giles. This looks worse than when she ended up in hospital. What could be wrong?”
The horror of the situation crashed over him and sent him fumbling for a chair, grateful to find one just inside the door.
“I fear that everything is wrong, Willow. Faith is experiencing the same illness. I… I believe… they’ve both been stripped of their powers.” He had no inkling how Buffy would deal with this—if indeed she was supposed to make it through this malady. She’d claimed to want a normal life for as long as he’d known her. With a sense that only terrifying prospects stood before them, Giles turned to his slayer and held off the urge to weep.
“She’s no longer the Slayer.”
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/218906.html